Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Just how far do you go with your classic car?

THE MAN with the exploding E-Type knew how to make an entrance.

Not only had he turned up to Bretherton in a V12 convertible sports car, but thanks to a mechanical malady it came shrouded in a dramatic cloud of steam too. It was luckily, just a blown hose and nothing more major than that, but the spectacular arrival did at least highlight the stunning old Jag, which didn't look a day older than when it left the showroom. A big cat, obviously, which had been properly restored before being allowed to go on the prowl at last weekend's Bank Hall Classic Car Show.

It does, however, bring up the age-old question familiar to most fans of automotive antiques; just how far do you go and how much cash should you splash? Classics, you see, exist in three basic states; unloved wrecks which have weathered badly over a course of decades and are badly in need of a bit of TLC, everyday smokers which have a bit of wear ‘n' tear because they get used regularly by their owners, and the immaculate, big money restorations. The concours winners, basically.

My old MG would never win at concours, which is sort of like an automotive Crufts anyway. You do occasionally get the odd snob pointing out the bits of paintwork where a spot of rust is starting to show through, but that's missing the point. If you want to buy a car that looks pretty and does nothing else then get an Audi TT; I'd much rather be out on the country lanes in my old car, en-route to somewhere nice, using it as its creators intended.

I could lavish thousands on the old girl to bring her up to showroom standard but then it'd be no more useful to me than the watch my late granddad left me. It's a beautiful bit of chronography and one of my most prized possessions, but I'd never actually take it out anywhere because I'd never forgive myself if it got scratched.

I thoroughly admire the work, the love and the care that goes into bringing a 40-year-old car into as-new nick, but I just know I'd turn my own motor into a granddad's watch if I went down the same route. It'd look a million dollars, but it'd no longer be a car I could trust leaving in a supermarket car park, a place where scratches are but a misplaced parallel park away from the pristine bodywork.

Besides; why spend thousands on a classic car when you spend a fraction of that on making a memorable entrance? Man with the exploding E-Type, you've laid down the gauntlet...

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