Tag Archives: Classic car

Driving an Investment


A new report says that more and more women are buying classic cars, both as an investment, and as fun and sexy drive.  So, is it a good idea for women to buy classic cars?  Generally speaking no, or maybe yes.

Classic cars are a much, much, more satisfying buy than any ‘ordinary’ used car, and a financially much better buy than all but a miniscule proportion of new cars.  Buy a new car, and as soon as you’ve driven it off the lot you’ve lost a huge proportion of its value, (the exact loss depending on how well you’ve chosen in the first place).  In contrast, most classics will at least hold their value in real terms, and may well appreciate in real value over the years, (again depending upon how well you’ve chosen).

There are a couple of problems owning a classic car, and especially for women owning a classic car;

  1. As an investment a classic car really only offers capital appreciation.  It’s not impossible, just very, very difficult to generate an ongoing income from your classic car.  However, in most tax regimes there is no tax liability on the gain in capital value of your classic.
  2. Classic cars are difficult beasts to drive on an everyday basis.  A classic car will need regular specialised maintenance, and a more sympathetic driving style than your regular automobile.  In my experience, most women are not good at either of those.  Some will not even be able to start a classic car.

For example; your classic will likely burn oil, have suspension and drive-train joints that need greasing, carburettors that need tuning and balancing, and an electrical system designed by Heath Robinson on a bad day.  It will most likely have  manual gearbox, (stick-shift), use more petrol, (gasoline), than a more modern car, it won’t stop as well, and it will most likely leak when it rains.

1963-Austin-Healey-Sprite-Mark-IIOn the upside; it will be better looking than a ‘modern’ box, have loads more character, be much sexier, (any attractive woman looks even better getting out of a classic car), it will be cheaper to insure, and if it does go wrong a good mechanic will be able to repair anything and everything on it.  For example, take the little Austin-Healey Sprite.  I can, (and have), rebuilt one of these things from the ground upwards.  They’re cute, fun, nice looking, great when the sun is shining, and when properly looked after will keep up with modern traffic and run forever.

1975-1977-daimler-double-six-coupeAt the other end of the scale is the utterly beautiful Jaguar XJ saloon.  This gorgeous car re-defined luxury transcontinental motoring.  Lovely to look at, comfortable, blisteringly fast, and as reliable as the sunrise if properly looked after.  But the XJ is complicated ~ take one of these beasts into your usual garage and they probably wouldn’t have a clue, (if it’s a V12 they definitely won’t have a clue).

Land-Rover-Defender-90-1Or for something completely different, the ‘proper’ Land Rover is now achieving status as a classic car.  If you live out in the country, or need to tow anything, or you live in an area where it snows a lot, or you just want to intimidate other car drivers, then a ‘proper’ Land Rover may be the classic car for you.  Once again, these things are very strong and very reliable, if they are properly maintained.

In some ways a classic car is a very good investment, it’s almost certainly a much better home for your savings than any savings account / product offered by any bank. You benefit in other ways too, a classic is a great car to drive every day.  But, no real classic car is a plain vanilla, drive it and forget it, eco-box.  Classic cars need tender loving care to survive and thrive.  This is where a smart woman will find a can-do guy.

Any interesting car can become an appreciating classic, especially if it’s a sports car.  My tips for upcoming classics; Land-Rover Defender, Early Mazda MX-5, Toyota MR2, Jaguar XJS and XK8, just about any Saab, And the first generation Ford Ka.

GT6If you’re thinking of buying a classic car then, read the magazines and look at the prices, go to car shows, think about who you are going to get to look after the thing, (because it will need on-going care and maintenance at least every weekend).  When you think you’ve made your choice of car, then join the appropriate owners’ club, take specialist advice, and never, ever, wear rose-tinted spectacles.  (The Triumph GT6 pictured is a really cute and practical car for any woman to own and drive on a daily basis.)

Personally, I think I’d really like an MGB GT V8, with full length Webasto sunroof.  Or any MGB GT really.






The MGB is a reliable, understated, practical, economical, and fun quintessentially English sports car.  It can also be a little boring and old-fashioned at times, which is another reason it’s quintessentially English.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never fallen in love with the MGB in the way I have loved some other cars.  I can’t quite bring myself to believe the MGB is a cool car.  Yet the MGB is a huge success story, the biggest selling British sports car ever.

Introduced in 1962 the B is a two-door, two-seat, soft-top, sports car with the engine at the front, four-speed manual gearbox in the middle, (with optional overdrive), and a live axle at the back. In looks and construction it was modern for the time.    The monocoque construction was very modern for 1962 ~ strong, light and with built-in crash protection.  Yet, the monocoque still harks back to the old days because there large are longitudinal chassis rails welded to the bodyshell.  Belt and braces, very English.

The best I think I can say about the MGB’s appearance is ‘inoffensive.’  It was designed in-house, when an external car design studio may have had a lot to offer, and resulted in something a little less bland.

As far as the drive train is concerned, well it’s antediluvian.  The B series engine was lifted out of the 1955 MGA, and bored out to 1,798cc, which gave the MGB some 95 bhp at a leisurely 5,400 rpm.  USA specification cars came with a strangulated 65 bhp lump.

P1040654There were two major revisions to the MGB a potential owner needs to consider.  Firstly the engine.  That B series cast-iron lump originally came with only 3 main crankshaft-bearings, which is less than ideal.  In  a 5 main bearing block was introduced, and given a choice, this is what you want.  Then in late 1974 the grotesque, and very unpopular, rubber-bumpered version of the B was introduced in response to California’s Ralf Nader inspired road safety campaigns. Unless you want to do major work to lower the suspension and take off the ugly black appendages, do not buy one of these cars.

MGBGTThe MGB is a fairly practical car, but if you want real practicality and having a convertible isn’t at the top of your list, then you could seriously think about the MGB GT (what a great name for a car….???).  It’s better looking than the soft-top, has more luggage space, and was a hatchback before anyone came up with the term ‘hatchback’.  If you really must have sun and practicality, then try and find an MGB GT with a dealer-fitted full-length sunroof by someone like Webasto.  Around 125,000 MGB GT were sold.  I’ll publish a separate post on the MGB GT.

Right from the start it was obvious that the MGB could use more power, and someone had the ‘brilliant’ idea of sticking a big heavy iron six in the front to create the, inherently flawed, 2,912 cc MGC, (which was actually intended to replace the Austin~Healey 3000).  Only 8,999 of these nose-heavy brutes were ever made, so this is now a seriously expensive car.  You would have to be insane to try and drive one of these fast on an English country road.  I think you would have to be insane to buy one.

MG-RV8-2In 1970 a garage owner named Ken Costello stuck a Buick / Rover all aluminium 3,528 cc 137 bhp V8 in the front of an MGB GT, to create the legendary MGB GT V8.  Despite the clunky name this is a seriously desirable car.  Sadly only 2, 591 were produced by MG between 1973 and 1976.  A final development using the V8 engine was the MG RV8, (and for my American friends this was not a RV in your sense of the term).  Good luck finding an RV8, and congratulations if you can afford it.

Tuning and ‘personalising’ and MGB offers the keen mechanic endless opportunities.  There are a plethora of firms offering parts and specialist tuning services.  The MGB can be turned into a seriously fast car ~ it did well at Le Mans.  All one has to decide is how much you want / need originality, against how much you want a car that looks and drives really well.

mgb10From 1962 to 1980 some 387,000 MGB roadsters were made, so it isn’t exactly a rare car, even though 87% were exported.  You can expect to pay above £10,000  for a decent example.  And, you can consider an MGB as a pretty good investment.  If you’re considering buying an MGB, first join one of the owners’ clubs.  You want an example with all it’s paperwork intact.  Rubber bumpered versions may look OK, but beware of hidden crash damage and rust behind those black appendages.  Rubber bumpered cars are a lot cheaper than the chrome bumpered cars.  Look for bodged repairs and rust in the sills, which are structurally crucial, (beware of oversills, hiding rot underneath).  If you can see any bodywork rust at all, walk away unless you are prepared to do a major structural rebuild.  A good test is to jack up the car using the original jacking points, if the door gaps open up at the top, then the car is bending because it’s rotten underneath.  The suspension needs regular maintenance, and if this hasn’t been done it’s likely that much of it will need replacing.

The good news is that you can buy just about everything you need to make an MGB from scratch, including brand new bodyshells.  (about £10,000)  Personally, if I wanted an MGB, I’d look for a rubber bumpered heap of junk and rebuild the thing to my own standards and specification.  I would have £500 in my pocket and expect to have the thing trucked back to my workshop.

A long road trip in an MGB?  Magical, you can cruise or hustle along, but make certain to take your tool-kit along with you.






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