most women would rather cry in a jaguar than on a bus
V12 E-Type Jaguar
Jaguar XJ S V-12 Convertible
Series One Land Rover
Caterham 7 de Dion
Caterham 7 with a girl riding shotgun
my other Ford Mustang
a miniature Aston Martin
I’ve owned, rented, or just driven examples of all of the above.
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;
- 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.
- 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.
On 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.
At 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).
Or 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.
If 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.
So, now we are into 2015, do you want to own the cutest little classic GT? Buy a Triumph GT6
So, now the holidays are over, do you want a reliable and practical GT? Do not buy a Triumph GT6
Some say that the Triumph GT6 is a baby E-Type Jaguar. And, that it’s practical enough to drive every day. All I know is that the Mk3 is an incredibly pretty little car. Stick a V12 up front and it could have been a Ferrari.
The Triumph GT6 was in production from 1966 to 1973. Some 25,100 were built. Like the Triumph Spitfire, the GT6 traces its heritage back to the Triumph Herald via the 6 cylinder Triumph Vitesse. All are built on a rather flexible separate chassis-frame with all-independant suspension ~ wishbones at the front and very problematical high-pivot swing-axles at the rear. This combination gives an incredibly tight turning circle and catastrophic snap oversteer at the limit of grip. A Mk1 GT6 that hasn’t its suspension properly maintained or upgraded is going to stuff you into a hedge on rainy day.
There was no plan to build the GT6 when the Spitfire was conceived, and the first iteration of the GT6 design was a coupe version of the Spitfire. Only one prototype Spitfire GT was built ~ it was too heavy and underpowered with the 63bhp 4 cylinder engine. This car was quickly redesigned to take the 1600cc six from the Vitesse.
This was still underpowered so a 95bhp 2 litre version of the six was installed, along with a close-ratio, all-synchomesh gearbox with optional Laycock overdrive. The weakness was still the chassis and swing-axle rear suspension. However, the Mk1 GT6 could be made to handle very well indeed, at the expense of ride comfort. Please do not buy a Mk1 GT6, unless you also intend to do some / a lot of work on the rear suspension. There are plenty of magazine articles and parts still available for the GT6.
In 1968 the Mk2 was introduced. This had more power, (104bhp), a revised rear suspension, a better interior and better ventilation. A GT6 can get very hot inside due to the big engine in a small body. The much prettier Mk3, (to my eyes), came in 1970. This did away with external seams on the front wings and had a much better looking tail-end.
You could drive a well-sorted GT6 across continents. The smooth straight six engine, overdrive gearbox, and high final drive make for very relaxed cruising. But in a hot country you are going to get very, very warm in a GT6. The cockpit is small, and the straight six chucks out a lot of heat. If you want to keep cool think about a GT6 with a Webasto sunroof. What the GT6 isn’t cool with is coping with roads like the Stelvio Pass at speed. Unless you are very good, and the suspension is in first-class condition, any cowardice in the corner will give you snap oversteer and see you going backwards to your doom. The handling of any GT6 can go from acceptable to lethal in an instant due to lift-off snap oversteer. It isn’t only a Porsche 911 that can send you backwards through a garden wall.
The GT6 is strictly a two-seater, but the luggage space under the rear hatch is big enough for a week’s family shopping or the luggage for a continental road trip. Unless you mess with the engine a lot, you should get in excess of 30 MPG, and the 8 gallon fuel tank will give you an acceptable range.
You can expect to pay anywhere between £2,000 and £12,000 for a GT6, depending on condition and originality. You can spend thousands of hours and thousands of £££$$$£££ keeping the thing running and improving it. There is no such thing as a GT6 soft top / convertible. That is called a Spitfire, however it is engined.
Like all Triumphs of this period the GT6 rusts. Like the Herald, Vitesse and Spitfire, the GT6 also rattles. The footwells can get very hot in summer. The six cylinder engine leaks oil and has thrust washer problems. (At least the perpetual oil leaks help protect the front chassis from rust.) The differential should not whine, if it does, it’s probably worn out. The gearbox is weak for the power it handles. The suspension requires regular and careful maintenance. In particular the transverse leaf spring at the rear will sag over time ~ this does not improve the handling. You will need an appropriate workshop manual.
Rust is the main enemy of cars from this era, with accident damage coming a close second. Rust in the rear chassis is almost to be expected, and it is terminal. A new chassis is no longer available from Rimmer Bros, although plenty of repair sections are. It’s no laughing matter taking the body off a GT6 chassis, and it’s bloody difficult to get it properly back on again. Beware of any car where the panel gaps are uneven and the doors do not hang properly. The huge bonnet is available new at something like £1,300, again from Rimmer Bros. Rust in the sills of a GT6 is very serious as there is no outboard chassis framing. The Herald / Spitfire / GT6 chassis is strictly a backbone.
There is endless tuning / upgrade potential for the GT6. Swapping the 2 litre engine for the long stroke 2.5 litre version will give anything up to 150bhp. Take this engine out to 2.7 litres and you should easily get 180bhp. Personally, I would not have the Lucas mechanical fuel injection system again for any money, (that is unless you have a wide experience of older diesel engines). Instead I would fit triple Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, (or 45’s). Putting more power into a GT6 will give you a seriously fast car, but you will also need to upgrade the brakes, suspension, gearbox, differential…. And, the already hard ride will probably get harder.
Alternatives to the Triuph GT6 include the MGBGT, Reliant Scimitar GTE, Ford Capri, Lotus Elan Plus 2, and Nissan 240Z.
Like all classic cars a GT6 will need lots of care and attention. I would suggest that, if you are going to spend money on a GT6, then cure the rust, get the suspension and brakes into first class working order, and improve the cooling. Don’t bother with wheels any wider than 6 inches.