1 Listen to your heart, engage your brain, then check your bank balance
For most people, deciding to buy a classic car is an emotionally-driven decision. Maybe you want a model that your dad used to own, one you owned years ago and remember fondly or it could be one you always yearned for but never had the opportunity to buy. Whatever the motivation, the first step is to identify the exact model you want – and that means putting pure desire to one side and getting all sensible and grown-up about it. For instance, you may lust after a ’70s Jaguar XJS V12 – but ask yourself: ‘do I really need a 5.3-litre engine with mpg figures in the teens and considerable maintenance costs?’ If the answer is: ‘yes – and I can afford it,’ that’s fantastic. Go ahead and find one. If not, maybe the 3.6-litre straight-six engine option will make more sense. 

2 Do your detective work
Look through buyers’ guides in our sister publications Practical Classics, Classic Cars and Classic Car Weekly to research the upsides and downsides of the model you’re interested in. Maybe even contact the owners’ club – they’re often keen to bring new members into the fold and are a mine of information on things like spares availability and prices. This will either convince you that you’ve made the right decision or bring about a re-think. Whatever the outcome, you should now be able to pinpoint the car that’s best for you, so make a wish list for your target car, including specifications such as: colour, engine, transmission, body shape and interior trim.   

3 What can you afford?
This is the really big question. Put your Mr Sensible head on. Think about all the stuff above – and, above all, remember you’ve got to keep the thing running once you’ve bought it. Once you’ve done that, the preparation’s over – you’ve sorted the car you want and how much you’re prepared to pay for it.

4 Where to look of course! But wherever you look, you’ll be faced with the choice of buying from a dealer (more expensive but generally safer and with more legal comeback if things go awry) or a private seller (generally cheaper but can be more of a gamble). Dealers also offer the prospect of looking at several cars in one location, although beware: there’s a chance you may be bewitched by a car that isn’t on your wish list – these whirlwind romances can end in an acrimonious divorce! When buying privately, you really need to know your onions, or take someone who knows theirs, along to any viewings. 

5 Crafty calling
The golden rule when phoning about a car is to find out as much info as you possibly can. This way you’ll avoid a lot of wasted time on cronks that make your heart sink as soon as you look at them. If the seller is evasive or disinterested, cut your call short. Enthusiastic owners keen to discuss the car and its history are what you want. To weed out driveway dealers masquerading as private sellers, use this classic ruse: when the seller answers the phone, ask about ’the car for sale’; if he says ‘which car?’ he’s probably dealing on the sly – one to avoid.

6 The nitty gritty 
The aforesaid buyers’ guides (see tip 2) will forearm you with the areas of your target car that need careful inspection. Corrosion is the enemy of most classics, so be prepared toget grubby under the car with a torch and screwdriver to prod for rust holes – or prepare to pay someone else to do it. If a car for sale ticks all your boxes but you don’t feel competent enough to carry out a thorough inspection, it’s worth paying an expert to have a proper look at it. The golden rules are: never inspect a car in the dark or when it’s raining – many an imperfection can be hidden in these conditions.

7 Making an offer
Be polite when discussing a car and its value with its owner – but don’t be afraid to put in a low offer. You never know your luck. Summarise any faults you’ve discovered on the car and use them as leverage to get the best possible price. Haggling can be fun, but going too far can put some people’s backs up. Gauge the situation and make an offer accordingly. Try to contain your enthusiasm – the buyer will take this as a sign you’re willing to pay all the money. Just try not to get carried away; stay within your budget and you’ve got every chance of becoming a deliriously happy classic car owner.      


There's nothing better than already having someone lined up to buy a car from you before you've made the purchase. You may not have much of a chance to enjoy the car if you're moving it on swiftly, but you'll be on the next rung of the classic car ladder. Do beware of income tax implications, though.

The likes of a Standard 8 may be cheap to purchase, but there may not be much profit to be had by the time it comes to selling. At this end of the market, you really need to rely on skills, time and facilities to make a profit.

Buying a classic car at auction is actually an exhilarating way to make a purchase. It can also lead you to unexpected bargains. But do remember that what you think it is a bargain may not necessarily be so in reality. Keep your own limitations in mind and know your cars.

If you're really keen to get a bargain, pick a locality and ask around. People in a local shop or a pub may well have heard that someone has an old car they might like to sell. Milk deliverers and postmen are also useful sources of unmissable local information.

It has long been acknowledged that the USA is a useful source of rust-free Brit tin. California is not the only place where dreams are made. In Australia there are many hidden gems lying idle in barns and garages and the Aussie domestic market for such delights is limited.

It might be a bot more work, but if you're importing a car, why not make it two? Then one can be sold to help recover transport costs. If you have a whole container, fill it with parts as well by finding a reliable person to strip another couple of cars for export.

If you see a car that fits your bill while out and about, don't be afraid to leave contact details. You may just find that the vehicle is available and at a decent price, thus dodging a bidding war, but don't be too intrusive. This method may take time to reap rewards.

Work outside the limitations of your own taste. Only liking Rootes Group products may well give you expert knowedge of the marque encompassed, but the usual Jaguars and Triumphs will always sell more easily and often at greater prices.

Try searching online auction and sales sites using misspellings and typos. There may not be many folks looking for a 'Tiumph' (32 items noted), a 'Damler' (five items listed) or an 'Autin' (12 items listed). It may seem a tad unfair, but as the old saying goes, that's life.

There is of course your weekly classic newspaper Classic Car Weekly and this website Classic Cars For Saleas great sources of tempting tin. But also look on type-specific forums and clus websites, as they often feature a For Sale section. 


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Police call for theft awareness as Home Office figures show modern classics are more at risk

Thieves will make short work of breaking into most vehicles – but due to rising values 1980s cars are prime targets.

Thieves will make short work of breaking into most vehicles – but due to rising values 1980s cars are prime targets.

Shock new statistics from the Home Office reveal that rapidly appreciating 1980s classics are the most likely of all cars to be stolen. Vehicles from this decade collectively make up less than 2% of all vehicles on the road, but police say that if you own an ‘80s classic, you should take extra measures to protect it.

The sobering numbers backing up these findings were released in a new report published in January by the Home Office. The publication of these findings are aimed at reducing crimes against classic car owners, but highlight the problem. For instance, 98 car thefts in every 10,000 are against Vauxhall Novas. 

The report outlined that vehicle theft offenders operating today are even more organised and capable than they were in the 1980s, something car crime adviser to the Federation of British Historic Vehicles, PC Simon Barrett, would agree with. 

‘Car crime in the 1980s was rampant and the problem hasn’t gone away. I’m pleased the Home Office has done something,’ he says. ‘The sad news is that as these cars rise in value, they become more attractive to steal. We’re trying to raise awareness so people can stop themselves becoming victims.’

 The FBHVC had a stand at last year’s NEC Classic Motor Show showing visitors the best ways to prevent classic car theft.

According to the Home Office report, ‘…newer cars make up a far higher proportion of stolen vehicles than older cars, but once this is adjusted for numbers of cars on the road, those vehicles that were made in the 1980s (before the second wave of vehicle security began) are still more likely to be stolen, even though they collectively make up less than 2%of vehicles on the road. 

‘In other words, it appears as though vehicle security may still be keeping theft rates down, with only a few offenders bypassing the security to steal newer vehicles, and some thieves still seeking out older cars with weaker security.’

Dan Keel, press officer for the Home Office, says: ‘We’ve released the statistics to raise awareness within the classic car community so that something can be done about it.’

Most stolen 1980s classics:

Vauxhall Nova - 98 thefts per 10,000 vehicles

Ford Sierra - 78 thefts per 10,000 vehicles

Ford Escort MkII - 48 thefts per 10,000 vehicles

Peugeot 205 - 34 thefts per 10,000 vehicles

Peugeot 405 - 33 thefts per 10,000 vehicles


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The numbers of 1950s cars at shows is dwindling. Classic Car Weekly's Nick Larkin shows you how to buck the trend with some affordable buys from the decade of rock ‘n’ roll.


Right you ‘orrible little readers. You’re back in the 1950s now so there’s no room for dithering, inaccuracy or acting the giddy goat. Are you of a nervous disposition? Tough!

Our subject today is motor cars, proper ones from a great era, and the purchase thereof. You weak-kneed layabouts of 2016 have been neglecting precious survivors in favour of vile, plastic filled rubbish from the 1980s and 90s, some even made in faraway foreign places such as France.

Treason! So we are going to teach you today about 1950s cars that most of you can afford with your strange modern money. It has been a major task to choose just ten so we’ve stuck to reasonably affordable models that are relatively easy to get hold of and maintain for under £10,000. Most importantly, they’re useable classics that won’t cost the earth to enjoy.

We have issued strict instructions to go for models introduced in the 1950s so have left out such glorious choices as the Wolseley 6/80 and the otherwise highly recommended Morris Minor which first sniffed the air in the 1940s.

Anything to whittle the number down to ten. The Mini, Anglia 105E, Triumph Herald and even the beloved BMC Farina are more associated with the 1960s, and what we are looking for here is cars loaded with 1950s stewed brisket and prunes on Sunday charm.

Solidly built, over-engineered and made with strong components, with the even the sidelight lenses having Made in England proudly emblazoned upon them. Big bouncy seats, polished wood and gleaming chrome on proper thick radiator grilles and bumpers, and, along with beautifully made badges.

Lovely simple mechanics and the delicious smell of hot engine mixed with warm leather or Vynide, and wonderful period dashboards and fittings. Original pre-suffix numberplates (they had better be!).

People tended to buy cars to keep long term in the ‘50s, not as something to dispose of two years later. So get off that settee, turn off the wireless, quick march and buy one of these cars. And get your hair cut while you’re at it!


AUSTIN A30/A35 (1951-1958)

A car absolutely certain to raise the same smile and as many ‘ooh’s’ as would the sight of a particularly fluffy kitten. It’s undeniably cute, with little chubby curves and a proud ‘flying A’ mascot on the tiny bonnet, which, this being such a friendly looking car, you could never imagine anyunfortunate pedestrian being impaled upon. Neither would an A30/5 ever pollute the air or leak oil, or at least you’d think so to look at them

Sorry reader(s) from Llandrindrod Wells or Macduff, but ‘Austin of England’ badges are also carried. Aww, look, teeny doors, especially when there are four, as opposed to two, little wheeltrims with Austin on.

Under all this is a surprisingly useable car, with rugged and reliable components. This especially applies to the A35 introduced in 1956, which has a 948cc version of the BMC A-series engine instead of the early car’s803cc, a stronger gearbox and a larger rear window.

Though not as fine handling as a Morris Minor, and certainly not Mini ‘chuckable,’ the A35 is predictable within its limits.

It’s also surprisingly spacious inside, if a tad narrow, with acceptable room for rear seat passengers. All this, and van and Countryman estate versions available too, along with excellent A30-A35 Owners Club support!


FORD 100E/107E (1953-1962)

Some cars have their own appeal that is a combination of many minor factors, no more so that the Ford 100E and the near identical, apart from one big difference, 107E.

It’s partly the styling, which is neat yet so period, with lovely details. And something about the size, which even to those of us who love big, bulbous vehicles just seems exactly right. Not too large or small, just perfect, maybe in the same way as BMC’s phenomenally successful 1100/1300 a decade later, originally have an Anglia (two door, basic) and Prefect (four door, bit less basic) both with 1172cc sidevalves. Basically a 1950s car with a 1930s engine, a three-gearbox and character galore. How about an early Anglia with three bar grille and kidney shaped instrument cluster. Basic heaven!

These cars were built at the rate of 100,000 a year and survived in fair numbers, although you’d be lucky to find an Escort or Squire estate today.

IN 1959 came the 100E Popular and also the model we recommend here, the 107E Prefect, looking identical to its predecessor but with the 997cc overhead valve engine and gearbox from the new Ford Anglia 105E. This makes a lot of difference, especially today, though all models are surprisingly useable around town.


FORD MK2 ZEPHYR (1956-1962)

Now it might be necessary to wave your £10,000 in cash temptingly in front of a vendor to get a good Zephyr for that money nowadays, but well worth it for this six-cylinder delight. Or you could go for a pristine example of sister car the four-cylinder Consul and have enough left over for a good lunch at Fortes.

Time has numbed the memory of the huge step forward the Mk1 versions of these cars had on the British market, with three box bodies, sleek styling and MacPherson struts. Compare them to an Austin Somerset and the word ‘revolution’ would come to mind,

In 1956 came the Mk2 range with was even more sleek and longer body, bigger engines and bigger engines, meaning the even the Consul could near 80mph,

But the six-cylinder Zephyr and even more luxurious Zodiac (to be honest above our price range and as for the convertible, er don’t even think about it) could nearly hit 90.

The cars were extremely well designed and their mechanics were super-reliable, a major achievement for Ford of Britain, and used proper thick metal.  Zephyrs are no problem on any motorway and handling isn’t bad either, the ride being superb.  Never dismiss these cars are barges for much ageing teddy boys. They are far more than that.


ROVER P5 3-Litre (1958-1967)

The Rover P5 in all its forms is among our all-time favourite classics, but we often wonder why so many people forget the lovely earlier cars in favour of the 1967 onwards P5B with its Yankee reject gas guzzling V8 engine. By 1958 the dear old P4 was looking a little aged, even the staid standards of the Rover Motor Company and its stripey suit man in the city average customer.

The P5 was even bigger and managed to be yet more imposing, and every inch a Rover. Every component was to the highest quality, and engineered for reliability at 90mph.

Inside was a wood and leather world, with sumptuous seats, a vast steering wheel with Rover central mascot, a work of art in itself, plush thick carpet and deep cloth headlining. Nothing comes close.

The well-proven Rover P4 engine was fitted in 2995cc form and if you get a manual car (recommended) there’s the ultimate in joyous Rover gear whine and the chance of topping 20mpg. Earliest cars had drum brakes but you could, and surely must nowadays get an example with servo assisted front brakes, Power steering didn’t arrive until 1960.

What a car, Imagine sitting in the back in 1958 reading The Times while proposing to your driver that those ‘ban the bombers’ should be clapped in irons and thrashed!


WOLSELEY 15/50 (1956-1958)

Here is surely one of the best classic compromises of all time, and great in its own right. Here is a car we often recommend to anyone wanting a proper classic of deep 1950s appeal but easy to maintain. We also love its sister car, the MG ZA/ZB Magnette but you’d be struggling to find a goodie for £10,000 nowadays and we think the Wolseley very much has its own appeal. In fact the visually almost identical Wolseley 4/44 (Let’s include this on the list too!) arrived first in 1952, featuring a 1250cc MG XPAG engine, a tad small maybe to power quite a heavy machine,

The 15/50 replaced this in 1956, but under the skin was a 1489cc BMC B-series engine, which would power countless models into the 1970s, and a floor rather than a column.

The overall package is superb, with beautiful Gerald Palmer-designed bodywork and an interior, down to the dashboard and seats similar to far bigger, thirstier and much more expensive Wolseleys. Mechanical spares are easy peasy, and here is a mid-size easy to manoeuvre model. Come to think of it is this car too good to be a compromise. Now we are confused and going to have one of our turns. Bring on the 1950s electric shock treatment!



The words ‘Morris Oxford’ seem to sum up cosy 1950s motoring even though cars bearing that name were made in other decades, not least the sidevalve MO Oxford built up to 1954.

We really love the Series II Oxford, which took over from 1954- 1956, and we can also include the slightly more chrome laden Series III (56-59) on our list, and the earlier Cowley, a basic Series II Oxford in 1200cc form.

Lovely roly-poly and are there not a couple of styling cues with a certain later BMC model some may remember as the Mini? Not surprising as one Mr A Issigonis was design genius of both cars.

Inside it’s a bit Mini-like too, with instruments in the middle of the dash. Of particular joy are the lovely squashy seats which you would just love to bounce up and down on for hours like a big kid in 1950s school uniform.

Rack and pinion steering and torsion bar suspension gave the car surprisingly good handling and visibility was really good too.

Today an Oxford is a joy to drive, won’t really show you up on A-roads, the gearchange isn’t bad, the brakes not startlingly wonderful but still okay if you feel like some exercise, why not stop for a seat bounce?



Mention Americans to those of us who lived through the 1950s and you’ll be harangued with tales of brash ‘Yanks’ who have everything bigger than us, and nicked our best ‘dames’ during the war.

We loved aspects of their culture however, and if we ridiculed US chrome laden monster cars but we still wanted some of their features in smaller digestible form, like Wimpy did hamburgers.

No purer example of this was there than the Vauxhall F-series Victor, some of the styling actually being carried out by GM in Detroit, which decided that a wrap around windscreen should be incorporated. The result did resemble a scaled-down Chevy but under the jazzy exterior were some sturdy proper British Vauxhall mechanics.

The 1508cc four-cylinder engine was new, and would soon gain an excellent reputation for toughness and reliability, as did the all-synchromesh three-speed gearbox. An anti-roll bar and Vauxhall manufactured hydraulic dampers helped make this a surpringly happy handling car.

Very much unhappy though was the car’s ability to rust, that Las Vegas styling hiding a near subterranean city of rust traps which soon burst out into salt-laden British roads. The car’s more chrome laden Super model has the almost shoot the creator mad idea of having the exhaust appear through the rear bumper, hardly a rustproofing brainwave, but loveable today.



It may look sporty as ‘eck but underneath the skin is basically a Hillman Husky/van derived platform. No Italian exotica can beat that and due to the inherent quality of Rootes products we are still talking about a very nice car. Most importantly, it’s the only 1950s vehicle of sports car appearance that falls within our price range. The ‘Frogeye’ Austin Healey Sprite, the obvious choice, having spiralled well above it in price.

The Alpine looks great, has independent front suspension, front discs, lever arm dampers and on its launch in 1959 a 1494cc engine from the Sunbeam Rapier. Plus proper big rear fins. Not the calmed down type of later models, which would also have larger engines.

The car is more than a match for the MGB, introduced three years and is a joy to drive, though the handling, never that bad, was later enhanced by a meatier anti-roll bar.

Alpines are extremely comfortable, well appointed and with a comprehensive display of instruments. It’s a wonder they weren’t marketed in the 1950s ‘as the sports car even a woman could drive,’ Under strict supervision of course.

Just like today 1950s motorist had the choice of losing their fillings bouncing along on some vast chassied all leaf sprung unrefined manly sports car or zipping merrily in a happy refined Alpine. A difficult choice?



Anything from 1950s Rootes is loaded with charm, style and as the company’s literature stated was ‘a better buy because it’s better built.’

So badge engineering was alive and well in Rootesville as when the new Hillman Minx was launched in 1956 you could also have a rather more plush mini limousine-likeSinger Gazelle, Rootes having just taken over that manufacturer. The earliest Gazelles had Singer engines, allegedly to use these up, but soon all were joined in 1390 and later 1494cc Series III harmony.

Rootes believed in regular styling updates, which is why the Series I-III versions represent the best bet at getting true 1950s charm. Each generation had differerent grilles, the late cars spouting larger tail fins, and there were several interior changes too.

Materials used were of good quality and often wonderfully period. Convertibles and estates were also available but rare today. The cars are all great to drive today but the bigger engine and brakes do put the Series IIIs at the front of the queue.

The are American cues in the styling, but the cars have so much British Rootsiness about them along with unbridled quality and charm. Drive one and you’ll almost forget you are in a mid-market product. And that’s just the Minx, never mind the cosseting Gazelle.


STANDARD 8/10/PENNANT (1953-1960)

Just to put you younger whippersnappers right, the marquee name ‘Standard’ meant the to an obviously high standard rather than basic spec. Standard Triumph had considerable success with its range of small four door cars in the 1950s and many felt they beat all rivals. Today these cars are largely forgotten, thus affordable. The deeply basic early 8 model came minus a boot lid, access being.  via the rear seat. The 803cc Eight was joined by the 948cc Ten, which came with its own bootlid.

The cars gradually became less basic, overdrive becoming an option on some models. A Companion estate (what an apt name for such a friendly vehicle!) van and pick-up joined the range, outlasting car production which finished in 1960. The most honourable mention has to go to the Pennant of 1956, which has two tone paint, longer wings and a Paradise of a 1950s interior, which according to Standard had ‘self breathing Vynide upholstery. Heavy breathing, obviously. What a lovely thing, and useable too! The Standard Motor Club has been commenting on the lack of all these cars at events. Now, you know how to help put things right!


All of the world's Ferrari 250 GTOs and Cobra Daytonas may be accounted for, but there are plenty of other classic cars left to be discovered. Don't let anyone tell you there's nothing left out there. We've heard enough reliable and tantalising tales to know that not to be true. Here are our top ten tips on how to unearth hidden treasures:

1. Look out for open garage doors - especially at weekends and on summer evenings when householders are more likely to be outside doing DIY or gardening. You'd be amazed at some of the things you can spot. Just last month during an after-dinner dog walk Russ Smith from our sister newspaper Classic Car Weekly chanced upon a Lotus Elan +2 less than 400 yards from his house. Apparently it's been there for years, but sadly it isn't for sale. At the moment.

2. Both local papers and the internet are good sources of information for when on-site house clearance sales are being held. Look especially for anything involving farms or larger rural properties, and the word 'deceased'. You won't be making the discovery of anything that might be lurking in barns or garages, but may put yourself at the head of the car enthusiast pack and be the first to know the value of what you find there.

3. Let your classic do the talking. You already know what a conversation starter it is, so use that when you head out searching. Stop in prominent places where people will be, like outside village shops, or during lunchtimes or evenings outside our dwindling supply of rural pubs. And when you do get people talking, drop into the conversation that you are interested in finding other old cars.

4. At risk of sounding obvious, look for clues. Older cars, either sat gathering dust or even still in use, outside a given property is often indicative of further machinery parked indoors, especially where farm buildings are involved. Even incongruous collectibles like an old phone box or rusty petrol pump can point to there being more to be found in those barns than tractor attachments and bags of feed.

5. You can do a fair bit of groundwork from the comfort of your home (or, ahem, office) computer before setting off on your vintage tin hunt. Zoom in on those remote, farmy areas using Google Earth or The resolution isn't great, but if you see a row or random collection of vehicles where you don't expect one, that has to be a spot that's worthy of further investigation.

6. While you're at the screen, monitor online auctions, classified ad sites and forums. Anything classic with an apparently low asking price and 'for spares or restoration' is worth following up. And always watch forr the magic 'bereavement' word. Even if that particular car doesn't turn out to be of great interest, it may be just one of a collection of cars, and the seller may also be tapped into other old cars in their area - never pass up a chance to gather information. People like to talk.

7. Take a look behind long-established general garages and vehicle repair workshops, more so if you know or have heard them to be classic friendly. Interesting cars are often retained in lieu of non-payment for repair work and then left to just rot. Often with the best of intentions. Garage owners are also well-known for putting stuff away for themselves as a planned retirement project or to fill quiet moments that never materialise. A DB5 project recently came to market after just such a garage owner died. Where possible find out who owns the land - never trespass on private property.

8. Take your classic to some of those displays that are held as part of larger events like country shows, fetes and so on, and stay with it in an easy-to-chat position. you shouldhave a fairly non-specialist audience, and for every 50-or-so 'I had one of those' type comments, there may just be an 'I/my dad/uncle/brother-in-law/neighbour has one like that mouldering away that I've/they've never got round to.' Russ has bagged a whole car that way.

9. At the risk of sounding a bit devious and cynical is something that really requires ownership of a decent SLR camera. You may find people talk more openly if you pose as a photographer wanting to take photos of cars in barns and happy to reveal their secret locations (like you would anyway!). No harm, then, in leaving a card on your way out and saying 'Thanks, and if you ever do decide to sell...'

10. This may sound a bit old-school, but remember the kind of people you are trying to encounter may be just that. Place a 'wanted' ad in specialist rural interest and/or local press for old vehicles or parts thereof. It only takes one hit...


Dos and Don’ts

DO gain permission from the owner before you venture on their land

DO be prepared to get dirty and meet all kinds of wildlife

DO take a friend, for various safety-related reasons

DO remember to take secateurs for undergrowth and a stick for cobwebs etc

DO be realistic about finds – it that car really worth saving or will a photo do?


DON’T trespass, however tempting that barn just a few yards away looks

DON’T take photos on private land without the owner’s permission

DON’T mislead the owner about your intentions or the car’s value

DON’T interfere with probate – you could get into a lot of trouble

DON’T expect to find exotics, it’s rare. Be happy with A30s and Minors!



Don’t tolerate a shabby or unruly classic this summer. Fuzz Townshend shows you how to bring your charge up to scratch - job-by-job...

Hurrah! It’s that time of year again, the time when we clear the cardboard boxes from the roofs of our classics, jump inside and inhale that much missed cocktail of stale fuel, cold oil, mildew and ancient rubber, perhaps with a splash of dry leather or cracked PVC thrown in too.

Pop the key into the ignition switch, turn it and marvel at how those contacts fizz before making good the battery connections with a tap from the heel of your shoe and trying again.

Set the choke out halfway, three pumps on the accelerator, then press the starter button, one more pump on the gas and pull the choke knob fully, as the engine catches its breath and you nurse it toward a steady tick-over, with well-timed blips of the throttle…

For many classic car owners these ‘foibles’ are a part of everyday life but it doesn’t need to be like this. Getting your car running perfectly will leave you to enjoy the remainder of the season doing the important bit; driving it.

Much essential fettling can easily be undertaken in your own garage or on a driveway, so here are 20 tips that should make your car feel like its new self again, and help you avoid standing in shame on the hard shoulder…




Chubby tyres that fill wheelarches have been the look for cars we now regard as classics since the mid 1960s. But back then the folks chasing this look were burly enough to wrestle an eight-wheeled Leyland Octopus tanker through tiny streets without the aid of power assisted steering.

Nowadays, to the modern driver – and that includes you former 60s and 70s youngsters – older classics fitted with fat rims and modern tyres will handle like a container ship with a welded rudder.

Heading back to the original design and fitting correct specification tyres will bring a revelation in road manners, that’ll have you falling in love with your car all over again.

Predictable and fun tail-end action, combined with lighter steering and reduced unsprung weight will all combine to reinstate pleasure, with a side effect of less wear to steering and braking components.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Better, more precise handling, with lighter steering and that original look.


IT’LL COST YOU:  From £60.00 per tyre plus fitting and balancing




From the dawn of internal combustion, folks have been trying to squeeze a little more payback from the fuel put in.

Ram-air, turbochargers and supercharging can all play a part, but perhaps one of the most significant modifications to a standard classic car is fitting a computer controlled electronic fuel injection system.

Now, before you choke on your false teeth, let’s get things straight. This modification is entirely reversible, although it does involve fitting high and low pressure fuel pumps, a fuel return line, inertia fuel cut-off switch, swirl pot, ECU, etc.

It’s not a simple task, but it is doable if you’ve undertaken your own carburettor rebuilds and fitted electronic ignition. Being able to use a laptop is also essential.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Liberate your car’s engine’s potential by doing what its manufacturer would have done.


IT’LL COST YOU: From around £1000 to £10,000




Stop the bloomin’ press. If the suggestion of computer controlled electronic fuel injection (EFI) was too much for you, perhaps the way forward is electronic ignition.

What’s the difference? EFI uses multiple sensors to determine the exact amount of fuel to supply via injectors at precisely the correct time and when to ignite it. Electronic ignition just deals with the spark bit.

Anything involving mechanical event timing is likely to be suspect because of physical wear, so electronic ignition eliminates three potential stumbling points in a classic petrol engine’s set-up.

Gone is the wearing heel of the points’ cam follower, as are the carbon points contacts and the condenser to stop arcing between the latter.

This technology was deemed radical enough to be used as a selling point for cars built between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. Now, it’s almost forgotten, except by us nerds.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Rid your car of the electro-mechanical stumbling blocks of points and a condenser.


IT’LL COST YOU: £40 to £400

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 1 and 2 working days.




Around sixty years ago, cars fitted with disc brakes wore warning badges on their rumps to let drivers of lesser vehicles know of the prodigious stopping power.

Gradually, disc brakes became the province of humble vehicles and installations may easily be retro-fitted to vehicles sharing the same lineage.

Expect to purchase and fit new stub axles, brake calipers, discs and pads, as well as a more capacious master cylinder.

WHAT’S THE POINT? When a modern car pulls an emergency stop in front, you can avoid an embarrassing exchange of details.


IT’LL COST YOU: £200 to £2000+

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 1 and 5 working days.




While some folks are scoffing at my half a day estimate of time needed to lubricate a steering system, let me say that, to achieve maximum benefits, this process needs to be undertaken properly, with stress removed from various components to allow full flow of lubricant into the areas requiring it.

Some vehicles use thick oil for steering lubrication, while others use grease or a combination of the two in different places.

First, check out the manufacturer’s specifications and then ensure that load and frictional contact is removed by jacking up the vehicle allowing the steered wheels to lift from the floor, before inserting lubricant using a grease or oil gun.

Operate the steering and then lubricate once more, making sure the lubricant has penetrated all areas.

Heavy steering may not be a result of poor lubrication alone. Always check tyre pressures, tyre types and steering geometry.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Without adequate lubrication, your car’s steering will become heavy and imprecise.


IT’LL COST YOU: £10 to £50 (including grease gun).

IT’LL TAKE YOU: 0.5 working days.




Many is the time that I have come across a classic car that has needed one push on the pedal to prime the brakes and another to achieve full operational and stopping power. Sometimes this is down to a slight fluid leak in the system, but another potential cause is a master cylinder of inadequate capacity.

With hydraulic braking systems fluid must move through pipework to operate the brakes at each wheel. If the master cylinder is of insufficient displacement to operate wheel cylinders and brake calipers, this ‘double pump’ action may become necessary.

Knowing the exact bore and travel of wheel cylinders and calipers will assist with the choice of brake master cylinder capacity. Beware though, as an oversized cylinder can cause the seals to be overcome and complete brake failure.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Buying a car in seemingly good trim doesn’t mean that all is well in every department


IT’LL COST YOU: £20 upwards

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Roughly 1 working day.




I love windscreen wipers. Those little arcs of clarity in an otherwise blurred world are something of an endless fascination to me, as sad as it may sound. I’d be happy with each tiny wiper operating randomly from an individual motor, without an automatic park facility, but I admit that that isn’t likely to be much help when trailing a fat tyred modern hatchback, chucking out as much slurry as a Shropshire farmer on a muck-spreading May afternoon.

Intermittent wipers are a start and such action can be had using a few proprietary components available from decent electrical stores.

Use of a wiper motor from a more modern vehicle can also give enhanced operational functions, as well as more rain, spray and crap-shifting power.

However, one sure fire way of making sure that your car’s wipers will cope with shifting the slurry, is to slow down.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Forward vision is everything when driving any vehicle


IT’LL COST YOU: £10 to £500

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 0.25 and 5 working days.




So many road routes have been altered over the past 20 years that it can be difficult to follow the smaller roads more suited to many classic cars. Even drivers of relatively modern classics may find themselves thrashing their car’s engine at around 3500-4000rpm for all of 70mph.

Simply raising the ratio of the final drive can leave cars with a lacklustre getaway potential, often resulting in the need for an additional gear ratio, so often a final drive change can require a gearbox change too.

The power packed by the car’s engine will also have an influence on outcome, meaning that some cars will still be eminently driveable with everything in original trim barring the final drive ratio.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Many classic cars reach a thrashing maximum speed of 60 to 80 mph, rendering them stretched on today’s roads.


IT’LL COST YOU: £100 to £10,000

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 1 and 12 working days.




The power derived from your car’s engine is in part down to the compression in each cylinder and the time allowed for air and fuel to enter the combustion chamber.

Poor compression may be the result of worn or broken piston rings, or poorly seated and perhaps corroded valves. Worn cylinder bores may also be a part of this scenario.

The first step is to ensure that the valve clearances are correct, thus eliminating any low compression readings caused by overtight or non-existent clearances.

Once this is done a cylinder compression tester can be used in turn on each cylinder to ascertain the internal condition of the bore area.

Poor valve clearance figures can be resolved by adjustment, but unsatisfactory results from the compression test not due to adjustment will likely result in major engineering work being necessary.

WHAT’S THE POINT? More power and efficiency.


IT’LL COST YOU: £20 to £50 in tools

IT’LL TAKE YOU: 0.5 working days.




Tyre pressures are one of the most fundamental aspects of a car’s handling. If they’re wrong, it is wrong.

I’ve already had a rant about correct tyres, but it’s all for nothing, if they’re not correctly inflated. Low pressures, especially in early design radials, can lead to heavy steering and dreadful cornering characteristics.

Over inflation can lead to halfpenny sized contact areas twixt tyre and road, which can be made even worse if applied to relatively unyielding cross-ply tyres.

However, if you’re out for a spot of trialing, those low pressures may help you win, so it’s horses for courses.

If your car is fitted with non-original specification tyres, please remember that obtaining the correct tyre pressure may be down to hearsay, rather than scientific fact. Personally, I’d opt for originality.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Correct tyre pressures lead to correct handling.



IT’LL TAKE YOU: 10 minutes




There are now a multitude of power steering upgrades available to owners of many classic car types and if age or illness is making driving difficult these can make all the difference.

Some kits use an electric motor, as found on some smaller modern cars, to assist the turning of the steering column and these can be less demanding to fit.

When it comes to fitting hydraulically assisted steering, things can get a bit more involved, including the welding of new brackets, etc.

Because it’s your car’s steering that we’re talking about, it is absolutely crucial that any fabrication is of the highest quality, as a lot of stress and strain will be inflicted on all aspects of the equipment.

If there is any doubt about the skills of the fitter, run away and find a professional.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Make parking a pure pleasure with added power.


IT’LL COST YOU: £600 to £2500 plus fitting

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 2 and 10 working days.




Giving your car’s braking system a bit of extra oomph is especially relevant in today’s world of ‘stop on a sixpence’ traffic and in situations where a modern car unwittingly pulls out into your previously well-judged comfortable stopping zone, leaving you to pile your antique death-horror box into the rear of that brand new Audi A3. The galling tuts of witnessing motorists would ring in your ears for months.

Fitting a remote servo could help you to avoid such situations, giving your car more pressure at the caliper or wheel cylinder for the same amount of pedal effort.

Servo kits can be had relatively inexpensively, but fitting one will need to be undertaken by someone competent and experienced, as some pipework alteration will be necessary.

Vacuum assistance for the servo is taken from the inlet manifold, so you may find a need to remove this and have a suitable take-off adapter fitted.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Increase your classic’s braking power


IT’LL COST YOU: £80 to £150

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 1 and 2 working days.




Getting your car dynamically tuned on a rolling road by operators used to working with classic cars and carburetors is extremely pleasing. But do your homework and find somewhere that really does understand that your car’s engine isn’t designed to hold together beyond 5000rpm.

A good facility should have all the means to rebuild, re-jet or re-needle carburetors on site, as well as carrying a stock of points or replacement upgrades, high powered coils, new HT leads, etc. My personal favourite is Aldon Automotive, in Brierley Hill, West Midlands.

Before taking your car along, make sure the engine is in top nick and that the cooling system is up to scratch, with good hoses and sound radiator matrices, as they will be put to hard work during the tuning process.

Also, be certain that the tyres on the driven wheels are in good, sound condition. They’ll be doing the equivalent of your car’s top speed.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Better power and fuel economy.


IT’LL COST YOU: From around £300.00 plus parts

IT’LL TAKE YOU: 1 working day.




Cooling systems are often neglected, but they are the engine’s life-support mechanism, and when they fail one can find one’s self in the Big Spends department.

Fresh hoses and new clips are a good start, but treating the entire system to a comprehensive flush can remove old debris and restore cooling capacity.

Add a new, high performance radiator and heater matrix pairing and your car will not only run at a steady temperature, but the cabin will be a better place to be, especially if your car is a convertible.

Don’t forget to renew or renovate heater taps or valves. They often look alright from the outside, but are corroded beyond function on the inside.

Ditto with the thermostat, although you can check your car’s current item by warming it up in the best pan in the kitchen, using that lovely chef’s thermometer to register its operation.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Enjoy trouble free, long distance motoring while reaping the benefits of toasty tootsies.


IT’LL COST YOU: From around £180.00

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 1 and 4 working days.




If you’ve noticed any damp patches in your car’s carpet, the problem may not emanate from below. Typically, front and rear screen seals have long lives, with owners shying from replacing them due to the risk of breaking the glass. Consequently the rubber ends up hard and fails to do its job properly.

This leads to water seeping through tiny gaps and nestling in cosy body cavities, until it finds its way through the resulting rusted panel and onto your Hush-Puppies.

If you’re going to give replacing these items a go, have a friend on hand for assistance and so that you can blame them if it all goes wrong.

Door and side window seals often are still in place way beyond their intended lifespan. Rattling drop glasses and high-pitched whistling whilst driving are key signs that something is awry.

WHAT’S THE POINT? Banish unwanted breezes and uninvited water ingress from your car’s cockpit.


IT’LL COST YOU: From around £100

IT’LL TAKE YOU: Between 3 and 6 working days.


Volvo style premium

Prices for the Volvo P1800 coupé and the 1800ES estate have moved again, up 12 and 18% respectively on 2016 numbers. That means project cars are now £4000 and the very best coupés command £28k, with the ES representing slightly better value at £24k.

Despite such rises we don’t think these handsome Swedes have hit their natural ceiling yet. They may not be exciting to drive like some of their price rivals, but not everyone wants to tear around like a frustrated touring car driver. There’s a lot to be said for cruising around, feeling good about the world.

Buying advice and market analysis is part of 18 pages of buying information in every issue of Classic Cars magazine, including Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys, Russ Smith’s Market Watch, in-depth buying guides and Ads on Test.

Phil Bell

Editor, Classic Cars magazine

For more details of the latest issue, visit

New buyers for old Porsche 924s

Younger enthusiasts are recognising the 924 for what it is – a fine-handling and easy-to-own slice of Seventies chic – waking up a long-dormant market for them. So far that’s had a greater impact on the number of cars finding buyers via the classifieds than it has on prices, so you can still find great examples for £2250-£3000.

So if you thought that a 924 would always hang around at a low price, waiting for you to get around to buying one, you might want to make your move sooner rather than later. 

Buying advice and market analysis is part of 18 pages of buying information in every issue of Classic Cars magazine, including Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys, Russ Smith’s Market Watch, in-depth buying guides and Ads on Test.

Phil Bell

Editor, Classic Cars magazine

For more details of the latest issue, visit

Don't rule out the Fiat Cinquencento!

It’s got a boot smaller than Victoria Beckham’s breakfast, it’s got a serious lack of power steering, it doesn’t work with a conventional design and is built like a wet cardboard box. Famous solely for being picked on throughout Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners, don’t rule the Fiat Cinquencento out as a great car to own. This is as close to zorbing on the road as you can legally get.

People with no money or sense could often be found buying a Fiat Cinquecento back in the day. Weak gearboxes, rampant build quality issues and Italian poilitician-esq reliability sent most customers scurrying furiously into the arms of Renault, Ford and the Japanese.  In typical Fiat fashion, Cinquecentos have all but disappeared from our roads- but it’s got a legacy that will live on thanks to Channel 4 comedy The Inbetweeners.

Almost like origami held together with a rubber band, or sitting in a helmet with wheels, the Fiat Cinquecento made for a perfect reflection in car form of our four favourite onscreen teenagers. The now famous Fiat Cinquecento first appears in episode three of the cult sitcom, a gift to Simon (Joe Thomas) from his parents upon passing his driving test. His reaction can be viewed below, although the ‘Hawaii’ edition is a fictional aspect. (Choice language rampant throughout the video - you have been warned!)

Suffering serious abuse throughout the three-season run, the Fiat eventually ends up in a lake with a smashed window  - and is never heard from again. A fitting place for it really, as the Fiat Cinquecento isn’t what you would call robust motoring.  In reality, it was downright dangerous.

The driving experience is unbearable after more than an hour, unless you are genetically engineered by Fiat purely to drive a Cinquecento, due to a rigid seating position and off-set pedal arrangement. Reliability is pretty poor, coming a lowly 29th from bottom in a Top Gear survey covering 137 models back in 2003, ending with a 74.9% satisfaction score in 2005 (18th from bottom) and making various motorists lives agony.

Oh yeah, and then there is the crash protection - or lack thereof.  If it weren’t making your life hell, it would simply send you to it instead.

In reality, chances are that Will, Simon, Jay and Neil would never have made it to school without the assistance of the AA - or indeed without being killed.

There are upsides to the little Italian Fiat, however. There is an immense sense of speed on offer despite not going very quickly, almost like a distressed go-kart. The experience is rather exhilarating too; due to the impending sense of death upon leaving first gear.

Handling is also charismatic in the same way Sean Penn is charismatic - unforgiving on bumpy surfaces due in part to firm suspension and flimsy construction; it’s the B-roads where this supermini belongs. And, at the end of the day, you have the car from The Inbetweeners at your control. Forget the James Bond Aston Martin, this is the king of showing your classy nature - in that you clearly couldn’t care less.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t expect miracles from such a budget car. Complaining about the lack of rear legroom is like bemoaning the difficulty in parking a limousine. Complaining about the trifling issue of boot space is akin to getting grouchy over a 4x4s fuel consumption - the Fiat Cinquecento is what it is. Besides, there are a number of things you can fit in the boot:

A Penny
A Bic Biro
Most of the spare wheel
A Potato  

We can’t forget that the little vehicle was revolutionary for Fiat, too. Besides updating Fiat's Tychy factory, it opened up a new market to Fiat - and can claim to have set the path towards the überpopular contemporary 500.

And of The Inbetweeners car itself? It’s still alive despite being vandalised at Thorpe Park by a party of insulted Down-Syndrome children, having the passenger door ripped off to be replaced with a mismatched colour and literally being sexually abused -  all before ending up underwater.  It was put up for sale in aid of Comic Relief, quickly becoming the most expensive second hand Fiat Cinquecento ever.

Is it time to love the Rover 100?

You may laugh at the Rover 100, but there is more to the facelifted-Metro than meets the eye. CCFS's Calum Brown has purchased a Rover 115SD - to prove you whippersnappers that it's not all bingo, church going and the smell of Old Spice. 

Words: Calum Brown
Pictures: Gillian Carmoodie

It's no laughing matter, the Rover 100-series is an endangered beast.&nbsp;

It's no laughing matter, the Rover 100-series is an endangered beast. 

If I were to claim that I had always ached for a diesel Metro, it would be an outright lie. The original model appears to encompass everything wrong with British car making. It runs on outdated mechanicals that first saw the light of day in 1949, it holds the dependability of Nigel Farage in a crisis, wears stunted looks and offers preposterous street credibility. Lolloping up the high street piloting a flaming lawnmower would attract less controversy.

 However, the main reason I never cared for the Mini’s fat cousin was that it’s revolutionary design was supposed to kill off Alec Isogonis’s beloved brainchild for good - and it looked awful like it was going to happen.  When launched in 1980 it was worshipped by those conscious of British Leyland’s likely demise and even nabbed a design award from the Duke of Edinburgh. Using optimism over common sense, BL then tried to introduce the Italians to the glory of the Metro with an Italian Job spoof - but they immediately clocked onto engines older than god and the poor build quality.

'Mother of God - I've bought a Rover Metro..'

'Mother of God - I've bought a Rover Metro..'

 Us Brits cottoned on too - yet those who are now mostly dead continued to purchase them in their droves. History and the media have not been kind to the Metro - or it’s face lifted Rover 100 brethren. Thanks largely to the opinion of others and a laughable reputation; I never once toyed with the idea of purchasing one - let alone a diesel. Yet, I now have one on the driveway - and my opinion of the unloved supermini has changed completely.

 After reader Roger Health got in touch looking for someone to re-home his Rover 115SD, I was originally reluctant. However, behind a talk with some industry experts - including Practical Classics' Editor Danny Hopkins -  and some trawling on the internet for opinions, I bit the bullet and agreed to collect the Rover from Roger in Worcester at the end of September - and, again, I would be telling fibs without owning up to questioning my actions.

 Out of curiosity to see such a car up close, CCW slaves Murray Scullion and Gillian Carmoodie tagged along for the ride. Bundled into the truly hateful Ford Puma, I prayed to Nick Larkin that the Rover would offer a smoother passage back to Peterborough. 

 It was upon inspection of the paperwork over a cup of tea in the Heath household that I felt pangs of excitement. Roger and his wife were the first registered owners and had cared for the Rover better than I usually care for myself. It only had 60,000 miles on the odometer and wasn’t held together with rust like most Rovers of this age. The interior remained a complete timewarp, and the fluids under the bonnet were all spot on.

Things got even better as we bid farewell to the Heaths and hit the road. The little 115SD had Peugeot-derived diesel technology lurking under the hood and churned out impressive levels of torque, while the Hydragas provided the usual hilarity over imperfections on the tarmac. Nipping around town towards the motorway provided countless moments of inane grinning, the tyres barking on tight turns resulting in bursts of laughter Brian Blessed would be proud of. Over a journey of 119 miles the comfort levels were surprisingly high, and you could easily sit in the top lane at 70mph without developing tinnitus.

60mpg is easily reached with a Rover 115SD. Impressive...&nbsp;

60mpg is easily reached with a Rover 115SD. Impressive... 

The best part? The journey home used a grand total of £10. My P38 eats that purely on start-up. My younger self would gawp in horror, but I adore the little Rover.

I am now on a mission to spread the good word - and prove the little 115 isn’t only tough and reliable, but also capable of more than you reckon. Not a cool car? Let me teach you a lesson. Watch this space. The first challenge is on its way…

Calum Brown: Don't Do What I Did - Audi 90

Calum revisits his time with an Audi 90. In one way, he regrets everything. In another, he still regrets everything. 

Words: Calum Brown
Photos: Richard Gunn


The Audi 90 I ended up with acted like a grumpy teenager. It hated the world and everything in it. No matter the weather, situation or location my Audi 90 refused to do anything I asked of it. Run on all five cylinders? Start on the fourth prolonged turn of the key? Won’t. 

What originally began as a cold start issue exploded into an epic saga of engine investigation – following wires from bumper to bumper in the process, with a few eyebrow raising attributes discovered along the way, such as the white household kitchen switch connected to a mystery set of wires behind the handbrake. I still don't know what they were for... 

Although the engine was far from perfect even after extensive work, when it decided to offer forward motionthe driving experience was far from exhilarating. Powering along the main road and I could feel myself drifting off to la-la land, as the weird combinations of various blues in the cabin swirled together to represent a  dentist's sickly, dated waiting room.

I found myself questioning why I hadn't scrapped it on a daily basis, eventually nestling it away with a friend who would occasionally start the engine up on my behalf.  I would occasionally appear to remove it form his sight for a week or two, use it as daily transport and then drop it off again once it had pillaged my soul of all excitement. 

However, there came a time where I ended up in a spirited jostle against a mate on twisting b-roads, and throwing the Audi into the bends resulted in a stark revelation. Taking a corner on a crest of revs found the whole car came alive. Gripping the wheel and churning it around left me with that fresh Ronin feeling, except that De Niro and Reno had an Audi S8 at their disposal and remain rather more attractive than a Scotsman in a basic 2.3-litre Audi 90E.

As much as the trim colours were never to my taste, I can't deny that the interior was comfortable –  meaning that passengers remained relaxed as the body snaked around, claiming a roundabout in the name of Audis' everywhere.

Then there was the exhaust note, which crafted the same lulling tone a pilot uses to sooth passengers of a Boeing 747 upon kickdown. The boot was quite large too, which proved useful when CCW's features editor took another pot shot at my Austin Allegro, as he ended up eating his badly chosen words upon the boot lid coming down - after being forced to try the luggage space on for size. He eventually apologised and regained his freedom.

In essence, the Audi’s future was always uncertain. I had no space or time for it in my life, but unlike the gruff Saab 9000 I also used as a daily hack, which corners like a demented shopping trolley, the Audi had a twinkle in its eye I simply couldn't ignore. I tolerated it's bad behaviour - the brakes going on strike, the engine overheating, the outside trim falling off - but eventually enough was enough. 

Piloting my Audi 90 was akin to driving John Major. Sluggish, grey and living in the shadow of the previous tyrants before it. I really wanted to like it, but finding affection for its boring, dull, thirsty, cantankerous relic-like behaviour ended up sounding the death knell.

Mine had changed hands more frequently than a five-pound note, and although the model retains its fans, it looks like I’ve lived with the only Audi 90 left that just wanted to keel over and die. And unlike John Major, it didn’t get better with a curry. 

As much as I grew to relish the looks, I didn’t particularly enjoy the engine’s addiction to coolant, oil or my skinned knuckles. Neither did I find the radiator system’s inability to function in heavy traffic a delight. 

However, the biggest problem – by a country mile – was starting the damned thing. Due to a sensor issue it would take everything I could offer to crank the engine into life, flattening the battery in the process. 

Originally intended to alleviate my older, more decrepit classics from everyday abuse, the Audi spent most of its time sat on the street – with the Allegro taking on commuting duties. Which in reality meant I ended up taking the bus. 

With space tight and my spare time non-existent, the 90 was advertised for sale and – much to my surprise – it sold within a few days to Andy Jackson, an Audi enthusiast.

Usually when I sell a car on, I get pangs of instant regret as the deal is confirmed. Yet, with the Audi I never suffered the tug on the heartstrings. Sadly, I felt indifferent – a bit like when an annoying aunt finally stops chomping cake and lumbers out of the front door.

At least, that was until I actually started to reflect on the retro-tastic chunk of German engineering – and I had plenty of time to do so, because I’d agreed to deliver my outgoing Audi to its new owner. 

It wasn’t until the mechanisms coughed into life for our final jaunt together that I started to appreciate what the car was about. I could acknowledge that the cabin was comfortable, but it wasn’t until I hunkered down into the driver’s seat that I could fully register just quite how supple the support was.

The handling, as I have said before, was direct and exciting. The engine hum mixed with that exhaust note left any pop chart ‘song’ substandard by comparison. In fact, for the first time, I was really relishing the driving experience - as I knew this was the last time I would ever see it again. I even found myself scrutinising the dashboard components in a wave of 1990s nostalgia.

By the time I arrived in Bishop’s Stortford, there was an urge to turn back for home and cherish it forever. My grouchy attitude towards the Audi 90 had masked its many merits. I had been  in custody of a brilliant vehicle and never even realised. I sat behind the wheel before turning the engine off and found emotions for the Audi - something that never happened before. I was suddenly ridden with sorrow at seeing it off with someone else. 

After my mistake of parting with my Audi 90, I can easily recommend that you keep hold of one should you be lucky enough to hold ownership.

I wish its new guardian the very best of sporting luck. Just treat it with respect, unlike I did. 

Fuzz Townshend: Think like a 21-year-old!

As I’m beginning to knock on a bit, I sometimes find it helpful to step back in time and take a look at the old me, the 21-year-old currently still happy and healthy inside my head but, in reality back in 1985, casually dismissing almost everything dating from after 1969 as banger material.


Here in 2016, I’m pretty much of the same opinion, cue controversy, but once behind the steering wheel of a modern classic, let’s say anything dating from 1990 to 2000, I can feel the joy. In my fleet there are two such vehicles. My Land Rover Disco’ Series I and my Jag’ XKR. If I 1985-ise this pair, I’m driving a 1962, Series II 88in Land Rover and a 1968 2+2 Jaguar E-type, both of which are perfectly acceptable. My Austin Seven becomes a 1903 Wolseley, with a replica body, which is also eminently acceptable. 

So, excuses for modernity made, what have I been up to recently in the old crocs? Well, let’s start with the A7. For too long, this little car has sat unfinished in various locations about the UK.

I’ll admit that I didn’t really have a direction for the project. Period replicas are compelling, but my Seven has a rudimentary and rather charmless square  cut bathtub body. However, its chassis features flattened springs and in order to allow the combination to be driven, I secured the radiator using thick steel strips bolted from the body to its shell.

Thus, suddenly, a diminutive rat-rod has taken shape. It is pure Austin Seven and it certainly isn’t quick even by post-1950 standards, but, boy, it really is a whole heap of fun.

Little more than a bit of tin on wheels, with an engine of dubious health, a slightly porous final drive housing and an unpredictable gearbox, it is a delight to drive, having been tested on the dirt track between our place and the neighbours’ houses.

Once again I’m reminded that I’m getting old because I can safely saythat knocking about in this little brute is as much fun as one can have fully clothed.

All that remains practically is to properly fit the Autosparks loom and source some headlights and a mounting bar, followed by a hopeful club-supported representation to the DVLA, registration, insurance, third party inspection and then some more fun.

The Disco’ is a car for which I have plenty of respect. My 200Tdi example has been with me for three years now and has achieved 50,000 miles in service, on trips all over the UK and to mainland Europe too.

It’s not exactly a sparkling machine performancewise, but I would trust it to get me anywhere in an emergency. Currently I’m fitting a few replacement brake pipes for perhaps its last MoT test in my ownership although, as I’m so fond of the old machine and because it’s had a new nearside front wing to replace one damaged in the brief Shropshire freeze, I might permit it a stay of execution. 


While the Disco’ may lack pace, the Jaguar XKR places dollops of full-fat whipped cream power through its custard auto’ gearbox to provide a thoroughly entertaining and capable long-distance cruiser, but its lumbering weight is made manifest by its relatively short-lived suspension joints and bushes which I’m currently replacing piecemeal.

In fact, while in the process of removing the offside lower suspension ball joint, a couple of workmates and me received the shock of our lives. Using gentle oxy-acetylene heat to assist removal of the joint in-situ, there was suddenly an extremely loud bang and the three people involved immediately turned toward the gas bottles, fearing some sort of blow-back. In the air was an acrid burnt smell that was unpleasant on the throat.

The bottles were immediately turned off, but nothing appeared to be amiss until, looking back at the balljoint, we realised that the heat had expanded the remaining grease to the point where the forces were great enough to fire the ball-pin out like a bullet. It was rather lucky that none of us had our feet in the direct line of fire, as the pin made quite an impression in the concrete below.

Nearly 40 years since I was first put to work as a numberplate maker and welding fire watch as a 12-year-old during school holidays at my cousin, John Wardrop’s, Regent Motors garage in Linlithgow, West Lothian, I’m still learning that cars can be temperamental things.



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Being a member of a classic car club is not only advantageous for your sanity and wallet, but it also holds further benefits. CCFS explain why.

The view most people take over classic car clubs is one of sheer undying monotony. Bearded ale-enthusiasts who preach about originality, gearbox ratios and the colour beige; simultaneously casting a conceited slur in the direction of a fellow member’s pride and joy. However, while this may describe a select few clubs out in the ever-expanding classic car world, the majority of these organisations are politics free, laid back and oozing with a family friendly atmosphere. 

Being social creatures, finding a group of like-minded enthusiasts not only provides a welcoming environment in which to discuss all things car, but can also offer discounts at certain parts suppliers with advice and assistance offered in droves - from individuals who have a particular hankering for the same car as you. 

Looking for motives to join your local classic car club? Here we have our top reasons, not that you really need any to join in the first place… 

You Don’t Need a Car to Join

While this isn’t strictly true for some of the more hoity-toity car clubs, 99% will welcome anyone in with open arms - even if they don’t personally own that particular vehicle.  Clubs such as the Land Rover Series One Owners Club are keen to support and encourage anyone with a love of the original Landy, but do warn that it won’t be long until the urge to own a piece of Land Rover Genesis is an itch in dire need of scratching. On the bright side, the club can locate you a Series I in whichever condition you wish - usually cost effective if a member is selling one…

Classic Car Clubs Make You More Sociable

Alongside the ideal that, if owning an MGB and joining the MG Owners Club, you’ll find yourself within a crowd who share your fascination with Abingdon’s finest, the opportunities to take your cherished classic out for the day will brim your calendar with banter-filled, tarmac-chewing days out. From a simple meet at the pub for a pint to tackling a track day set-up purely for your club, you’ll have newfound companions over to help out with that leaky coolant pipe that’s been driving you berserk for the past two weeks. You may even find love - although that could be another MGB...

Discounts Galore!

With the collective buying power of a small country, members are able to negotiate a wide range of discounts from parts suppliers and even some big-name insurance companies.  Being an active member of a car club shows dedication and love for your vehicle, helping the insurance company to relax slightly in the knowledge that you aren’t hell bent on taking every junction in a side-ways manner or leaving a £10k classic on the street for all to nick. 

There is usually an annual fee to pay, but it makes for a wise investment when running your beloved classic becomes cheaper.

Help Is Always At Hand.

We all know how it goes. You’ve got what you think is an easy job to do yet you end up making everything worse, nothing fits where it did, the house is on fire and you’ve inadvertently caused the end of the world. Don’t despair, however, as there will always be someone to ask for help within a classic car club. 

From forums thronged with information to someone being on call when you eventually break down in tears trying to get that wheel hub back in place, your new classic car club offers round-the-clock godsends with expertise and experience on tap.  The best part? Unlike the over-worked AA man turning up merely to inform you that your classic is truly beyond redemption, you’ll have someone so keen to help that despite mechanical failure, your enthusiasm won’t be dampened. 

An Added Incentive And Expanded Knowledge.

Join a club and you’ll not only learn a shedload of extra information and trivia, but the compulsion to look after your own vehicle will become an unblemished craving - improving your skills and understanding. The reward is delicious, too - with sharpened enthusiasts gazing over your classic car and appreciating all the work you’ve undertaken to keep it going, unlike your partner who understands and cares very little and is purely annoyed that the gearbox keeps ending up in the bath. 

So, what are you waiting for? Club life is just around the corner, and won’t send you off to the ale festival with Beardy McBeardface to discuss Austin Montegos and their impartial ability to use the same suspension struts as an Egyptian Lada’s ball joint mountings.  

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As Mercedes continues to build its reputation, owning a modern one is becoming an ever more popular aspiration, one that’s influencing the appeal of the classic models so we thought it was time to feature the best ones to buy now before prices move too far. The latest issue of Classic Cars magazine puts the six best models to buy in a big 15-page test, with smart choices from the W123 280 CE to the W111 280 SE Coupé. 

Inevitably the best value can be found in those models just dipping their toes in the classic car world, like the R129 generation SL. A 500SL like the one that we brought along to the test could be bought for anywhere between £5000 and £23,000, depending on how brave you’re feeling, but even playing safe and investing in the best still looks cheap for this 322bhp techno wonder – complete with pop-up roll bar – that will surge to 60mph in 6.3sec and not let up until it hits the 155mph limiter.

Buying advice and market analysis is part of 16 pages of buying information in every issue of Classic Cars magazine, including Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys, Russ Smith’s Market Watch, in-depth buying guides and Ads on Test.


For more details of the latest issue, visit

To see the digital edition for Android devices click here

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Numbers of surviving Ford Granada Mark 3s are thinner than Donald Trumps hairline. Seen by many as worthless, cheap scrap - they are anything but. Here’s an example that you can save for less than any MGB - and it’ll be a darn sight more reliable, too…


Although the Ford Sierra was proving to be a problem child on the sales front, Ford pressed forward with parallel styling for its aerodynamic third incarnation of the popular Granada. By this point, it appeared aesthetically far-removed from Jack Regan’s cult motor featured in The Sweeney, but it still lived on as the policeman’s friend and offered executive luxury on a budget. 

n the continent the Granada Mark 3 received an all-new name - the Scorpio. Ford sensibly kept the Granada name for the British market, refusing to alienate their deep-rooted buyers.  Drivers in the UK didn’t get the Scorpio name until the child-scaring frog-faced monster of 1994 arrived oh-so briefly on the market. 

In terms of pushing things forward, the Mark 3 Granada’s main claim to fame - besides being blown up in James Marsh’s 2012 drama Shadow Dancer - remains that it was the first European car to offer ABS across the range as standard. However, this is a tad dull - so let’s look at what we all love - power. 

Early four-pot 2.0-litre engines may have been lethargic to a degree that left Garfield the cat looking sporty, but with the arrival of the later twin-cams normality was restored. Then the daddy arrived - the V6. Followed by the steroid-packed Cosworth, which has rapidly become a cult classic.

The rest of the range - including the saloon and the estate - haven’t yet found their place, but we can assure you they will, and sooner than you think. So - before prices climb like all classic Fords before it - how about grabbing this one currently for sale on CCFS?

As it’s a Ford, it remains relatively easy to fix and mechanical parts are widely available. Then there are the various clubs that will welcome you with open arms and provide all the support and knowledge you could want.  And the price for this slice of retro goodness? Less than £3k. 

This may sound like a huge chunk of cash for a Ford yet to find its position in the classic car world, but this particular Granada Mark 3 has an ace up its sleeve - it’s in mint condition. 

Having covered only 18,000 miles and offered with a full MoT - alongside all original documents, a full service history and an interior that appears factory fresh - this Ford Granada Mark 3 for sale provides the perfect blend of contemporary usability and 1980s classic car virtuousness. You know you want it. We certainly do. 

Grab a look on CCFS.  


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It’s common to find that the Freelander 1’s reputation for reliability takes a bashing in car circles, however we reckon it’s a serious Modern Classic in the making, and is already laughing at the original sceptics.

Land Rover's 'baby' vehicle has an impressive following, and classic status is well on its way.

Land Rover's 'baby' vehicle has an impressive following, and classic status is well on its way.

It’s a testament to the humble Freelander 1 that such a vast number have survived so much harsh usage and still remained intact – but it makes finding a good one tricky. The petrol engines are a no-no purely for your sanity’s sake and the diesels are often abused to within an inch of their life. Prices start from as little as £800 with excellent examples selling for nearly £6k. 

And what do you get for this amount of money? Well, besides on-road mannerisms kicking it with cars twice as expensive when new, off-road performance is sublime. It can keep up with the big boys and yet only costs a quarter of the price, often shaming much more cosseted American and Japanese rivals when it boils down to battles in the mud. 

Yet, the compromises allowed by Land Rover to make the Freelander more car and less Land Rover-like led to a noticeable lack of ground clearance and the exclusion of a low range gear box, resulting in many Land Rover aficionados shunning the little Freelander  - but don’t let these little foibles deflate you. The Freelander is the only soft roader to survive the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge alongside the rigorous testing grounds in America. In the snow, nothing in its class comes anywhere close and wading depth is impressive for a 4x4 of this size. Not to mention that it was the first Land Rover vehicle to be fitted with the now commonplace Hill Decent Control (HDC).

No off-roader had managed to mix driver comforts with serious off-road performance at such a knock-down price before, but this sadly led to poor maintenance from garages and owners alike. Drivers flogged the living hell out them on long motorway sprints and then battered the handling around tight country roads, before the next owners took the vehicle rock crawling or traversing mud baths. No car can survive this for long before things start to wear away, yet very owners few paid the cost for full repair. Despite its almost car like driving quality, the Freelander was still a 4x4 and required the relevant care - sadly very few received the attention required, most run on a shoestring budget against the handbook upon entering the second-hand market. 

However, find a good one and not only will the majority of the Land Rover brotherhood accept you, but you’ll have a Modern Classic to enjoy. The evidence for this prediction? All other Land Rovers have rapidly entered the classics status chamber and the Freelander conducts a huge following, with owners of all ages indulging themselves in the baby Land Rover - now starting a preservation process to keep early examples as original as possible.

Like any Land Rover, fan clubs for the Freelander exist all over the world, not to mention all over social media, with parts and advice easy and cheap to find. Freelanders aren’t too difficult to work on either, with voluminous numbers of enthusiasts stripping, modifying, racing and rebuilding theirs, with prices for decent specimens escalating as time kills off the poorer examples currently clinging to life.

The Freelander is quickly becoming a future classic; it’s filled with character, and even though it has its issues, you’ll grow so attached that you will find it impossible not to fall for it’s charm and practicality. Not many cars can provide you with a brotherhood, but the Freelander is one of the rare ones that does – Freelander owners have a kindred spirit, which is almost as valuable as the car itself.


Using your classic to earn a few extra pennies can have implications for your insurance.

The good news is that many brokers allow a small amount of paid work as part of a typical policy, though you need to be clear about where the limits lie.

Wedding bells

Most classic car owners will be asked to involve their car in a wedding at some point. If you’re doing it as a favour to a friend or family member, that’s fine – its included in the ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ category of use.

The crucial phrase is ‘For hire or reward.’ In other words, if you get paid for it, you need to tell your insurers. But don’t assume it will cost you extra.

‘You can extend your policy to cover you for a small number of paid weddings every year,’ says Andy Fairchild of Footman James.

‘We offer free cover for ten paid weddings a year, but even paying a small fee to extend the cover is usually worthwhile. You’ll need to notify the insurer in advance of each wedding to make certain that cover is in place.’

For those whose hobby is turning into a fully-fledged business, there are separate wedding hire business policies.

On film, on screen or a night on the town?

Insurers find it very difficult to cover TV and film shoots.

‘It’s usually impossible to predict the exact circumstances, or what you’ll be required to do with your classic,’ says Andy Fairchild. ‘Therefore we can’t often cover it. Neither do we cover still photography, for example for fashion shoots – there are too many unknown factors.’

Ask the producer or the agency that books you to show evidence of their own insurance before agreeing to any filming work with the car, as it’s the only way you’re likely to be covered.

‘School proms are normally excluded too,’ says Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director of Heritage Classic Car Insurance. ‘That extends to other paid hire work like birthday outings or any other special occasions.’

This isn’t insurers being awkward, it’s due to the law: with the exception of wedding and funeral use, cars and drivers must both be specially licensed by local authorities for paid carriage of passengers.

Any other business? Beware of using your classic for occasional work trips. It might seem insignificant, but it needs specific cover if it falls outside the definition of Social, Domestic and Pleasure. Mark Wilkinson has an example:

‘A teacher may need to go to another school for a meeting, which would need class one business use. We can normally cover this for a small additional premium.’

There’s better news for occasional autojumblers. If you use your classic to transport goods to a show to sell them, it only counts as business use if this trade is your main occupation. For casual participants, it’s sensibly regarded as falling under the heading of ‘pleasure.’


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As of this year, every 1975 classic will be eligible for tax-exempt status. Here’s our pick of the ones to keep you smiling without breaking the bank


The year that brought you screaming Bay City Rollers fans, Monty Python and The Holy Grail and the original Europe referendum also gave Britain something else – thousands of great cars that now qualify for the Government’s tax-exemption scheme.

As of this Friday, 1 April, all cars of this era will be eligible for recognition as Historic Vehicles, meaning that you can go from paying as much as £230 a year to nothing at all virtually overnight. 

It’s a hugely important step for 1975 cars. Not only does it give them semi-official recognition as card-carrying classics – meaning they’ll be able to venture into London’s proposed Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) where a lot of others can’t, for instance – but the diminished running costs will also make them hot property with buyers.

So we’ve given each of our classic experts a mission to pick out the best 1975 cars you can buy and explain why they make such fantastic classic prospects today. What they’ve come back with includes everything from family favourites to V12-engined grand tourers, so whatever your budget there’s a newly tax-exempt car for you.

We’ve also got the lowdown on how to make sure you don’t miss out, and what to do if you reckon even younger vehicles should be given the same benefits. Whether you’re looking for a 1975 car or already have one in the garage, now’s the time to get out and enjoy them.


Jensen GT

Most Jensen-Healey owners have been celebrating free road tax for a few years; now it’s time for their non-Healey GT mates to join the party. 

It was in 1975 that Jensen cashed in on the GTE glory of fellow specialist manufacturer Reliant by developing a sporting estate. The GT used the convertible Jensen-Healey platform but added a fixed roof, hatchback, 2+2 seating and luxury wood-and-leather-insert cabin. Unfortunately, it also lost the Healey part of its name, as Donald and the company had parted company.

That’s a shame, because the GT is actually quite entertaining. The teething troubles that blighted the al-fresco cars had largely been sorted out by the time the GT came to market, so they were more reliable, less prone to rust and definitely more cossetting and practical. The cabin is a little claustrophobic, the rear seating is useless and the styling is a bit gawky, but these are distinctive-looking machines with a big ‘what on earth is it?’ factor. 

The 2.0-litre Lotus 16-valve engine gives sparkling performance, the solid roof improves handling and rigidity, and the five-speed Getrag gearbox provides relaxed high-speed cruising. 

Fascinating and now tax-free fun! 


Toyota Crown

There really is only one choice for the canny buyer looking for a well-equipped, well-built and competitively priced 1975 saloon: a Toyota Crown. Boasting a specification level that far outstripped what you’d find in a Jaguar XJ6 3.4 or a Mercedes-Benz 280SE, it meant long journeys would always be a delight, especially because it was much better to drive than punters gave it credit for when new. Stick the lever in ‘D’, turn up the radio and waft down the motorway, enjoying the light power steering and boss tunes blasting from the standard-fit radio.

Today, you could still be doing just that. While a combination of corrosion and cheese-paring ownership ran many of these lovely, loyal saloons into the ground, they’re still a usable and practical head-turner if looked after properly. They’re as relaxing to drive as ever, and they’ll get a bit of a move on too thanks to that beautifully built inline six. The handling’s not bad either.

And who can deny those looks? They might not be to everyone’s taste (though that actually helps the cause rather than fights against it), but they’re distinctive and endow the Crown with a likeable, brassy personality – rather like a cheerful 1970s barmaid who overdid it with the lipstick, mascara and hairspray. But there’s nothing wrong with that.


Austin-Morris 18-22 Series

Surely there was only one right and proper choice for a 1975 family saloon buyer – head to a BL dealer to get well and truly ‘wedged’.

The new model attracted positive press reviews and boasted innovative engineering and futuristic styling that was like nothing else on the road. Originally known as the BL 18-22 series, with Austin, Morris and – oh glory! – Wolseley versions, all were replaced within six months by the Princess.

Four-cylinder variants started out with the BMC B-series engine, but those blessed with the silky smooth 2227cc straight-six were the ones everyone wanted. Driving one is a joy even today – it’s beautifully flexible and makes an extraordinary, almost primeval sound. The Hydragas suspension provides a good compromise between handling and ride, the power-assisted steering is communicative and the brakes are excellent. 

Cruise on the motorway and you’ll be the envy of everyone with a modicum of taste as you bear down on them in your oasis of 1970s safety cage-clad luxury.


MGB (Rubber bumper)

All but the earliest rubber bumper (actually, I think you’ll find they’re plastic) Bs have been denied Historic Vehicle status until now, which is one of the reasons why they’re still such good value. 

Leave all your prejudices about that smattering of polyurethane plastered across its snout and rear, and focus on what you can get for less than £5000. It may not be as pretty as the chrome-nosed original, but it’s still one of the best-proportioned traditional sports cars you can get for not a lot of cash.

It tackles B-roads with considerable aplomb, despite its clumsily-raised suspension, and the combination of the muscular twin-carb engine and overdrive in third and fourth makes it a hugely effective motorway cruiser.

Then there’s the the peace of mind that’s part and parcel of all MGs from this era come, thanks to the wealth of club support, specialists and off-the-shelf parts. It’s a pity Top Trumps cards don’t have an ‘ease of ownership’ category, because the MGB would be the outright winner. 

The MGB has always been a stalwart of the classic car movement, but now really is the time for the traditionally unloved and all too often dismissed rubber-fronted models to shine.


Volkswagen Polo Mki

Driving around in an early Polo L is a real pleasure. The interior may be basic, but there is more room than you might imagine and you can soon get comfortable – although back seat passengers might not agree. The L is better appointed than the basic model, but its spec is still hardly overwhelming
– front seat headrests anyone?

The 40bhp 895cc engine makes the Polo feel quite nippy around town and a top speed of more than 80mph means that keeping up with modern traffic is no problem. The four-speed manual gearbox is sharp, the brakes – discs at the front, drums at the rear – decidedly less so, but ride quality is acceptable.

For me the Polo is at its best in pure MkI form – its Bertone styling means it’s still a great looking small hatchback. Tracking one down might take a while. When you do, expect to pay between £300 and £3000+, depending on condition. You’re unlikely to find a roadworthy MkI at a bargain price; I found a 1979 example with 48,000 miles on the clock advertised online for just under £7000.


Vauxhall Cavalier MkI

I make no apologies for once again showcasing the Vauxhall Cavalier MkI in one of CCW’s flagship features. I could give you all manner of excuses about it being the car that roundly trounces the Morris Marina dynamically, and that it’s better on the motorway than the Ford Cortina MkIV, its principal rival. But the truth is that it’s the accepted opinion of CCW that the Vauxhall Cavalier MkI is the greatest family saloon of the 1970s because it was my first car and it reminds me of my best years’ driving.

Of course, I’m being silly. But there’s a serious reason for plumping for the trusty old Cav. Along with the Chevette (see page 29), this car did much to restore buyers’ faith in Vauxhall in the UK. After years of producing underperforming cars with a ridiculous propensity to rust, these crisply-engineered, German-designed (and Luton-redesigned) saloons were just what motorists wanted, and sales success assuredly followed. 

With good reason. These days, those qualities still shine through. They’re good fun to drive, with excellent handling and devilishly handsome styling. 


Ford Escort MkII

There was a time in the late 1990s when no self-respecting student would be seen driving anything other than an Escort MkII. They were just about everywhere, cheap as chips, and no matter whether you went for the 1.1-litre Popular or an RS2000, great to drive. My mates all had one and now I wish I did.

Back in 1975, they were the must-have saloons for all hard-working drivers, adored for their low running costs, sharp styling and slick-shifting gearboxes. And it’s a combination of all of these qualities that make the Escort MkII the cream of the 1975 crop today.

OK, so the low-compression poverty-spec models could take miserable performance to new lows. Given a light sprinkling of rain, most journeys could be made more entertaining with injudicious use of the wheel and the throttle at inappropriate speeds in bends. Such good fun.

Today, the MkII is ensconced as a gilt-edged classic car. They’re hot property, too, with values of the best sporting versions challenging the Lamborghini Miura. I jest, of course, but my dream RS2000 looks set to remain just that.


Lancia Montecarlo

The Lancia Montecarlo – or Fiat X1/20, had history progressed a little differently – puts the rest of the cars here in the shade. Calum’s Jaguar XJ-S? Too thirsty. Richy’s Toyota? Jukebox on wheels. Keith’s Vauxhall Cavalier MkI? Oh, please! On the other hand, this gorgeous two-seater will turn heads everywhere thanks to its supercar styling. Only you will know that it cost less to buy than James’ Escort MkII.

But it’s more than a pretty face and pert rear. There’s strength in depth here, with sweet, uncorrupted steering and a revvy twin-cam engine that’s guaranteed to entertain. Handling is tidy, too, and can be exciting when you’re pushing it – especially in the wet.

Ah, yes. It’s not perfect. The driving position isn’t great if you’re lanky, and there’s not enough headroom. But all those scare stories about skittish handling and the dodgy stopping power of early cars really don’t matter anymore. Anyway, how many of you will be pushing this car to its limits on the way to your favourite Italian car show? Exactly. 

Take in the glorious profile as you stare at your reflection in shop windows and enjoy.


Jaguar XJ-S

Taking control of Jaguar’s E-type successor is more of an art form than a driving experience. With that never-ending bonnet stretching towards the horizon and a sense of relaxed pace unlike any Jaguar before or since, the XJ-S is the ultimate definition of a Grand Tourer. Just blipping the throttle on the silky smooth V12 sets the blood pumping.

Put your foot down and the three-speed automatic gearbox channels all 285bhp from the 5.3-litre engine in a manner so refined that your passenger won’t spill a drop of their cocktail. Any good XJ-S ticks all of the boxes – ride comfort is sublime, handling is effortless and the air of serenity within the cabin is utterly addictive.

In today’s world, the XJ-S looks better than ever before, with those controversial buttresses and lozenge-shaped headlights finally coming of age. Talk among disappointed adrenaline-seekers of a cramped and thirsty relic from British Leyland’s reign of build-quality terror is to miss the point entirely. 

The XJ-S is succulent in all the right places. It bewitches with its beauty, roars with that glorious engine and it keeps modern whippersnappers at bay with a stance that leaves lesser cars diving for the hedgerow. Buying one now secures you a prime slice of British beef – a serving of affordable Jaguar heritage before prices escalate out of reach.


Vauxhall Chevette

I could have bought one of these in 1975, but failed to do so, because at £1650 it was roughly what I was being paid annually. However, I am now curiously drawn to the Chevette, having been given a lift in one recently by a farming neighbour.

 What impressed me most about this particular Vauxhall best-seller was that it had weathered 41 years in the perpetually damp Fens and was still going strong. The driver’s interior door-pull was made from baling twine, the car lurched left under braking (drums front and rear) and there was an awful smell coming from the hatchback area, but I was assured that this wedge-nosed Opel/Vauxhall hybrid had a fresh MoT and had required little professional mechanical intervention over the years. 

Its little four-pot sounded OK – from what I could tell over the improvised exhaust repair – and the rest wasn’t all that rattly. I can see myself in one of these, but my neighbour has turned down several sensible offers. Every farmer has his price, though, especially given the unstable sugar beet market. 


How to check if your car is tax-exempt

The rolling tax exemption covers cars made in any given calendar year, but the actual date when they become exempt is 1 April. So if you’ve got a 1975 car sitting in the garage, chances are you’ll have been paying tax for the past three months.

The main thing to remember is that the switch to Historic Vehicle status isn’t automatic. You need to take a copy of your V5c registration document, a valid MoT certificate and a tax disc application form to a post office that deals with car tax enquiries.

 A good tip is to make sure you keep photocopies of all your correspondence with the DVLA. We’ve heard plenty of tales of forms, documentation and letters getting lost in the post.

The DVLA should issue you with a new V5c registration form that reclassifies your car as ‘Historic’ and it should be the same story with any subsequent V11 road tax reminders you receive. If either refer to it as ‘Private Light Goods’ or ‘PLG’ then get straight back onto the DVLA, because that means it’s still liable for tax. Once the classification has changed, the agency should refund any tax left over, but check it carefully and get in touch with it if you think something’s wrong.

Don’t forget that while Historic car tax costs nothing, the fines for not taxing your classic at least once a year – or putting it on a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) – most definitely do not. You’ll still get reminders by post or email. The DVLA admits that there’s a little leeway if your car was registered at the beginning of a given year; if the registration date is between 1 and 7 January there is an assumption that it was manufactured the year before, but it’s well worth finding out whether it qualifies, as it could save you a year’s road tax.


Campaigners: ‘It should be 25 years’

At the last count, more than 18,500 of you had signed an online petition calling for Historic Vehicle tax exemption to be applied to classics when they hit the age of 25 rather than the current 40. That’s the system used when the tax break was originally introduced by the Conservative Government in 1994. 

The rolling aspect was dropped by New Labour in 1998, then reintroduced in 2014, but on a 40-year basis rather than 25, and critics say that’s penalising younger classics.

A petition to change the rules, created by Mercedes-Benz R107 SL owner Logan Walker, is available to sign online until 24 July. It has to attract more than 100,000 signatures before it can prompt a Parliamentary debate. ‘Having to pay tax on a car can be the difference between an enthusiast deciding whether or not they can afford to save it,’ says Logan. ‘You only have to look at the number of Mondeo MkIs left to see what happens when bread-and-butter cars aren’t preserved.’

Data released by the DVLA shows that cars eligible for the Historic Vehicle tax break have been saved in far greater numbers than their younger counterparts. While there are around 14,000 classics made in 1972 still on our roads, the figure drops to just 4000 for 1974 cars. 

In its response, the Government says it is aware of the economic significance of the Historic Vehicle movement, which supports around 28,000 jobs in this country. 

‘The Government is working to deliver a long-term economic plan to repair the public finances and will continue to take the difficult decisions to achieve this goal,’ a Treasury spokesperson says. ‘Therefore, the Government currently has no plans to re-introduce a rolling 25-year exemption for this category of vehicle.’


You may have worked on your classic car for many hours to restore it to its former glory or perhaps you’ve finally had the opportunity to buy the car you’ve always dreamed of and now it sits in your garage waiting for you to drive it.

All you can think of is the pleasure you’re going to get when you finally sit behind the steering wheel and take your classic car out for a spin. But unfortunately you’ll also got to be aware of the pain you might suffer if your car is taken from you and theft of classic cars in the UK is unfortunately increasing in frequency.

Classic cars are in huge demand overseas as the value of vintage vehicles goes up so criminal gangs are ready and willing to grab your car and ship it off to a market abroad. At the same time as vehicle theft overall has fallen to its lowest level in almost 50 years there has been an increase in thefts of classic cars.

So what can be done to safeguard your classic car? We talked to the vehicle tracking experts, CanTrack  to understand how asset trackers can keep a vintage vehicle out of the hands of criminals.


Classic Cars are Vulnerable

Classic cars are of course more vulnerable to organised thieves as they lack the sophisticated security features included in newer models; they don’t have up to date security features or software while their physical security is easily overridden by the tools of thieves. But if you use an effective asset tracking device, you can foil car theft. An asset tracker can keep broadcasting the location of your classic car wherever it’s taken and make sure that it’s returned to you undamaged as quickly as possible.

There are two main options when it comes to asset tracking devices; GPS and non-GPS. Let’s look at the two choices in more detail.


GPS Tracking for Classic Cars

Most new cars are now equipped with GPS trackers of some description and some are advertised as security devices. But that’s misleading. GPS vehicle trackers are ideal for tracking the performance of a vehicle. A GPS tracker is perfect for recording mileage or providing directions to a customer’s location but it simply won’t protect your classic car.


GPS vehicle trackers depend on communicating with satellites in the sky above the car. Take that sight away and a GPS tracker is effectively blind. And criminals are now well versed in using jamming tools to stop the GPS tracker talking to the satellite. Or put a classic car in a shipping container or a refrigerated truck and the metal muffles the signal completely. These type of asset trackers also require power from your engine so have to be attached to your car battery. This makes them very easy to find and disable as well as being a drain on your engine power while you’re not using it. GPS trackers may also require using the electrics of the car for installation and potentially damaging the inside of the classic car that you’ve lovingly restored. That’s not exactly ideal for the classic car owner.


Combine GSM and RF for the Classic Car Tracking Solution

If you have a classic car, you’ve spent not just a lot of time but a lot of money on it so why would you stint in its protection? You should go for the best asset tracker on the market but what are the qualities you should look out for?

An effective classic car tracking device should use a combination of GSM and RF technologies to ensure that no matter what jamming technology car thieves use, your tracker will continue to provide accurate location details.

The vehicle tracker that you want should run on a long-lasting rechargeable battery, be easy to install and small enough to hide anywhere in your car. That means there is minimal disruption to all the work that you’ve put into your classic car and the device will be much harder for criminals to find in your vehicle.

You also want a tough working device that will continue to work even in difficult conditions and has tracking software that will alert you if your classic car moves from where it’s supposed to be without your permission. And if you can, find an asset tracking service that provides a human dimension to vehicle theft protection. Try a car tracker that comes with a team of investigators that can work for you and work with the police to ensure the quick return of your classic car if it’s stolen.


To Know More about Protecting your Classic Car, Keep CanTrack in Mind

For the latest information on asset trackers for classic cars, check out CanTrack leads the UK as a tracking solutions provider with over 10 years of experience and constant innovation to protect their clients’ assets.


1 Make the most of what you’ve got

To sell your car and achieve the highest possible price, you have to make it as attractive as possible to potential buyers. That means giving it a really good going-over – wash it, polish it and valet it (or pay someone else to do it for you). If possible, attend to all those jobs you were ‘going to get round to one day’, like replacing worn or tatty bits of trim, touching-up stone chips and oiling creaky hinges. The fewer niggles you leave for a buyer to pick up on, the less excuses you give them for haggling down the price.


2 Get your paperwork prepared

There’s no point offering your car for sale if you can’t find the registration document, MoT certificate or other relevant documentation. Buyers will expect to be able to check these when they view the car and won’t look kindly on you if you spend hours rummaging through your belongings muttering: ‘I could have sworn I put them here…’. Make sure these documents are all gathered together and ready for any possible viewings, before you advertise the car: registration document, MoT certificate and as many receipts and service records relevant to the car as you can muster.


3 Get your price right

Naturally, you want the highest possible price you can get for the car you’re selling, so don’t undersell it, but don’t be greedy – a grossly overpriced car will put buyers off. Do some research – look at the prices of other examples of the same car being offered for sale. Compare prices on and also Classic Cars magazine or Classic Car Weekly’s auction pages – they’re a barometer of what cars are fetching at auction, with expert analysis of up or down trends for certain models. The market moves according to fashion and supply, so you may be lucky enough to ask more than you paid for the car. The golden rule is: you can go down, but you can’t go up. So if you’re not bothered about a quick sale, start off with an asking price that’s slightly stronger than the current going rate – you might get lucky and you can always drop the price later if the car doesn’t sell straight away.


4 Take time to compose your advertisement

The wording of your advert is crucial to your chances of selling your car. There are obvious inclusions, such as the make, model, year, asking price and contact information, but also try to focus on your car’s particular strengths and unique selling points. Avoid clichés such as ‘first to see will buy’ or ‘mint condition’ that tend to be favoured by the less savoury of car sellers.


5 The right place and time to sell

You want to sell your car in a marketplace that offers exposure to as many buyers of the right kind as possible, so is a natural choice! Our sister publications Practical Classics, Classic Cars and Classic Car Weekly offer the same service in the world of print-based media. As regards choosing the right time, late spring and early summer are generally the best times of year to sell, when the post-Christmas doldrums are over and buyers are looking for a nice classic to tool around in during the more clement months – this especially applies to convertibles.


6 Dealing with prospective buyers

Be polite but don’t give away any details that could reveal yours or the car’s location until you are convinced you are dealing with a bona fide buyer. You’re allowed to ask questions, too, so enquire as to why the person is interested in this particular car, whether they have driven one before, etc. If the buyer’s story doesn’t ring true, don’t invite them for a viewing. Beware of conmen, scammers and thieves and don’t let anyone have a test drive if they cannot prove they are insured to drive your car.


7 Payment

Only accept a form of payment that you are familiar with. If a buyer offers you a banker’s draft and you’ve never actually seen one, insist on taking it to your bank for verification that it’s the real thing. Digital transfers by electronic banking have become more common now – if the seller offers to pay by this method, ensure that you are familiar with the confirmation necessary before allowing a buyer to take the vehicle away. Try to be firm but fair in your negotiations with prospective buyers and you have more chance of concluding a transaction that you’ll be happy with.


Place a FREE advert to sell your classic car today