Thursday, May 18, 2006

Travel in style

One of the joys of blogging is that it allows you to get up on your soapbox and advocate whatever cause takes your fancy. So, here is one of my odder ranty causes.

I love odd cars. Old cars (here), cars imported from odd countries (here), ones built from bits of other cars (here), I love them all. I had an early start; my grandfather, an otherwise extraordinarily frugal man who will straighten out a rusty bent nail and who keeps thirty-year-old scaffolding planks 'just in case', has one financial weak spot, and I appear to have inherited it. He has owned Armstrong-Siddeleys, Rovers, ex-Army Humber staff cars, MGS, Daimler V12s, and (most wonderfully) Rolls Royces. I intend to follow this glorious example. There is something wonderful about the scent and feel of an old car and I defy anyone with a soul not to turn their head and smile when a sedate fifties Jag glides away.

Far too many people drive boring cars and are chucking money away on depreciation (see here). Once I have finally cleared my debts it is dead cert that I will buy something thoroughly impractical. eBay is particularly dangerous in this regard. Someone recently posted, and quickly sold, a Marlin Roadster (here) with a Rover V8 in it. This rocket-powered rollerskate would get to 60mph in under 7 seconds, looked wonderful and went for £3500. £3500. That is secondhand Fiesta money.

So, why not buy something interesting? Common objections are:

Old cars break down all the time! What a load of crap. Until Ken eliminated them for dubious accessibility reasons, most of London's Routemaster fleet was around forty years old, running all day every day in appalling, engine-shredding conditions. The original winding gear in Tower Bridge was in use for over eighty years (here). Any piece of machinery that is well maintained and used within its performance envelope will keep going. Anyone who has travelled in the developing world will have seen how old cars can be kept in regular, punishing use on horrible roads by enterprising owners. See here for the record.

What about the environment?
Many old cars will run on lead-free petrol. Nearly all others can be converted to run on it. And in the meantime, you can use lead replacement additive. The more important point here is re-use of an existing resource. Building new cars is a very toxic process, involving a lot of metal extraction, plastic use and heavy metal run-off - re-use an existing one and you are doing the soil a favour. See this article.

Are they safe?
All cars have to pass a yearly MOT. All kitcars must pass an SVA. UK road safety rules are stringent. Next!

But they're expensive!
Oh, please. Let's compare some prices:
£2000: a second hand Renault Clio. Or, a mint condition Seventies mini.
£3000: a second hand Peugeot 306. Or, a seventies Jag.
£5000: a second hand Ford Focus. Or, a Porsche 944! Or, a Tatra 603, or mint condition Triumph Spitfire
£10,000: a recent Ford Mondeo (oh, the excitement!) Or, a pukka Ferrari.....

Insurance can be dead cheap in some many because the insurers recognise that people who care about their car are unlikely to be doing doughnuts in council estate car parks. You can also get agreed mileage packages for 'weekend use only' cars, and get a discount via an owners club. Parts and maintenance are often cheaper than comparable moderns, due to the lack of electronic gubbins on pre-eighties machinery.

I need to commute!
See the reliability question above.... most of these cars were designed for commuter use! Here are some good examples of excellent, fun daily drivers here, here, and here.

So, stop filling the roads with boring, overpriced crap, and be nice to yourself. Make the roads a more interesting place, and make old people and small children smile as you glide by. Buy something interesting!


Blogger The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

"So, stop filling the roads with boring, overpriced crap, and be nice to yourself. Make the roads a more interesting place, and make old people and small children smile as you glide by. Buy something interesting!"

And enjoy your exemption from Road Tax as you do so. Hurrah!

8:47 AM  

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