Click to read more about Classic Cars and other transportation!
Classic Wheels Home
Suggested reading on this subject
Encyclopedia Classic Cars
Motor Cars .. Classic Era
Classic British Cars H/Book
Antique Auto Club America
Vintage Years 1920 - 1930
available at Amazon books
Running a classic car can be a lot of fun

Choosing your Classic Car.

Things to consider when buying your first classic

The last 20 years or so has seen a boom in the restoration and supply of parts for vintage and classic cars, with more people than ever interested in dabbling with classic cars as a hobby. Many people are also turning to older cars to run as their daily transport, simply because running and maintaining these, often much simpler, vehicles can be a lot easier on the wallet than buying new. If you have never dipped your toe in the water, there are a few things to consider before handing over any money.

Types of car

The first consideration really is what type of car you would like to run. Many people, when thinking of classic cars, conjure up visions of open top sportscars whisking young ladies down leafy country byways, wind in the hair, picnic hamper strapped on to the boot rack. With the vast choice of older sports cars available to buy there is no reason why not to indulge in this fantasy - so long as you have the required to buy the car in the first place!

However if you often carry lots of clutter in your car, or numerous passengers on a regular basis, choosing a sporty 2 seater may well end in tears as not all children enjoy being wedged behind the 2 seats in say an MGB, with the roof up and water dripping down their necks. Bootspace is not particularly generous in most 2 seaters so if you shop for a rugby team, you may want to think about another type of car.

Probably the cheapest way into classic car ownership is with a 4 door saloon from one of the main manufacturers, such as Austin or Morris for instance. Just taking these 2 makes for now, there is a good selection of makes and models to choose from, most of which are simple to work on, cheap to buy & run, and for which parts can be found reasonably easily. Any of these cars, say the Morris Minor or Austin Somerset for instance, offer real period motoring without much of the aggro that running a rarer model can involve. Thats not to say that buying something a little scarcer is a bad move, far from it (I personally prefer the more unusual stuff), but as a starter classic choosing something that has a big following and spares backup will be a gentler introduction to the old car world.

If you really need to cart a great deal of junk around, you might want to try hunting down an estate version of your favourite old automobile, although generally they are harder to find than their saloon counterparts and can command a premium due to their increased rarity.

Size really can matter

Once you have a good idea of the type of historic motoring you wish to savour, the next thing to consider is how big a car to buy. The size of your garage or driveway may well influence this decision, so make sure you know how much room you have to accomodate a classic (and move around it when parked!) at your home. Buying a 50s Cadillac may well impress the neighbours, but finding that the rear 6' of bodywork won't fit into your dinky garage will leave you feeling less than bright.

If you want a starter classic saloon and only need to carry 2 or 3 people around, with little luggage, then there are some great little classics to choose from - something like a Minor, Austin A30/35, Standard 10, Triumph Herald or Ford Anglia 105E would be an excellent choice. If however you need to carry 4 people, a large dog, and holiday suitcases, you'd be better going for something a little more portly, perhaps an Austin Cambridge, Triumph 2000, Volvo 120, Rover P4 or Ford Consul would be more up your street?

Mention of the Rover of course brings in another thing to consider - what rung of the motoring ladder would you like to be on with your first classic? a P4 will appeal to anyone who likes a very British car, with wood and leather accomodating you as you make stately progress on the roads. If you prefer more basic machinery, then Austins, Fords and Hillmans are worth looking at, whereas if you really do fancy the wood & leather environs, and can't quite run to a Rolls or big Jaguar, then you could do a lot worse than look at the very comfortable Humbers and Daimlers of the 1950s and 1960s.

Decide on a Motoring era

Many buy cars that they aspired to when they were still in short trousers, whereas others seek cars that perhaps their parents owned - either way nostalgia and personal memories count for a lot when pondering what old motor to buy. Broadly speaking cars from the immediate postwar years are usually well built and heavy, providing a sturdy if underwhelming mode of transport. However these cars often have a lot more character than later examples, although it has to be said they are usually a little slow for daily use unless a large-ish make/model is chosen.

1960s cars offer an excellent compromise between retro style, and driving comfort, although no longer having separate chassis in most cases means that their construction may not be as earthquake-proof as old dowagers from the 50s. Cars from the seventies, as you'd expect, are even easier and lighter to drive, though to many people these cars don't really have a full classic feel about them in the same way as the earlier stuff. Pre-war cars are a lot of fun, but equally require a lot more routine maintenance than their postwar cousins, and few are really suited to serious daily commutes today. Thats not to say they can't be used of course, but for a starter classic used every day, it may be safer to try out something a little more recent.

Car Condition

Informed sages will say over and over that it is important to buy the best example of whichever car takes you fancy, as the costs involved in fettling up a ropey car can easily outweigh the cost of buying a good example in the first place. There is a lot of truth in this, and if you want to get into classic driving before having to get too grubby restoring a car, it pays to find a good honest example in nice condition. Restoration projects can be found for the price of a beer, and can be a very involving project. Likewise the patience often required to find parts, for scarcer models especially, can put you off classics for life, so unless you want a big project, try and find a good MOTd runner instead, and leave projects til you have more understanding of older cars.

Where to find & buy a car

At any one time there are plenty of classic and vintage cars to choose from, ranging from real mint examples, to those which wouldn't look out of place being dredged up from the bottom of a canal. Go to your local newsagent, avoiding the top shelves naturally (!), and you'll find a wealth of old car magazines on offer, all of which run classified advertisements and, usually, a price guide to give you an idea of what is a reasonable price for a car.

Joining an owners club can be an excellent way of hearing about cars for sale that belong to other club members - these will often be well maintained and should allow you to feel a little more confident about your purchase. Probably the biggest growth area for finding old cars is online, with websites that offer old cars either for sale, or up for auction, although it really pays to go and see the cars in the metal before buying over the 'net, as photos can be very deceptive! There are some interesting old cars currently for sale over at Pedigree Automobiles, with comprehensive descriptions and clear photographs included.

Wherever you buy a car from, it will be worth paying for a professional inspection of the car before paying for it, this can save you a lot of money in the long run and, if the inspection clears the car as being good, will provide extra peace of mind too.


Please note that everything on this site is Copyright to R Jones, the site author (unless stated otherwise). All advice is given in good faith only, based on my experiences of the subject. Anything relating to legal issues should be clarified with the relevant bodies, I do not take responsibility for any losses, damages, hair loss or otherwise arising from advice found on this site, given as it is in good faith only. Articles submitted by others and published here are reproduced in good faith and don't necessarily reflect the views etc of anyone at Classic Wheels. If you'd like to see your classic car featured here, by all means send me details and a photo of it - articles about other historic or antique vehicles are also very welcome. Privacy policy, cookies & disclaimers.