Have you ever been looking for a classic car and been to a classic car dealer and they have signs saying you mustn’t touch the cars or sit in them?
How do they expect you to decide whether or not to buy one?
When you go to see a classic car with a view to buying it, if you ask they will let you try it for size but you are likely to be only allowed to drive it around the block, under supervision. If you are really lucky, you will get to drive the car for half an hour or so. While this may be enough to assess the condition and value of the car, it is not enough time to decide whether or not you can live with a classic car.
You need to understand a few practical things when deciding to own any classic car:
- Is it comfortable – can you drive it for hours and not feel tired?
- Can you fit enough luggage in the car to go away for a weekend or a full week touring in a classic car?
- Can you cope without power steering?
- Can you cope without servo assisted brakes?
- Can you cope with a heavy clutch and a slow, heavy gear change?
- Can you cope with not having synchromesh on 1st gear?
- Is there enough leg room in the car?
- If the car is a convertible, are you prepared to put up with the hood leaking in the rain (very few of them fit properly)?
As well as owning our current fleet of classic cars, over the years we have bought and sold a number of other classic makes and models, so have extensive knowledge of the trials and tribulations of buying and owning a wide range of classic cars.
Try Before You Buy – Jaguar E-Type
For many people the E-Type Jaguar is the archetypal British sports car. As a good one will cost you anything from £30,000 to £50,000 (or more) it is vital that you won’t regret your purchase after you have parted with that amount of money. An E-Type is a wonderful driver’s car; it is extremely responsive, with precise steering and very little body roll. It is also very comfortable whether you are just making a short journey or spending a whole day driving. Our E-Type Roadster has a limited amount of luggage space, just about enough for a weekend away.
Try Before you Buy – American Muscle Cars – Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Corvette
We have had quite a few customers hiring out our American cars as a ‘Try Before You Buy’ as they uncertain whether or not they will like driving a Left Hand Drive (LHD) car in the UK. For most people driving LHD can seem a bit weird. Obviously the driver is on the wrong side of the car and the gear lever is now operated with the right hand rather than the left. The pedal layout is the same so this doesn’t present a problem. Our 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible and 1978 Chevrolet Corvette are both automatics so getting used to these is really easy. Although the gear lever is operated by the right hand, mostly this is just a matter of putting it in Drive and off you go, keeping your left (clutch) foot firmly planted in the carpet. Our 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback is a 4 speed manual (four on the floor – as the Americans say) so gear changing is the same as in a UK specification, manual car, just with your right hand.
The other problem is brain related and takes a bit of practice to get used to. You have spent years on the right hand side of the car, driving fairly close to the white line down the centre of the road, and your brain is used to this. Drivers therefore have a tendency to wander towards the middle of the road and it takes a bit of practice to nudge left and work out correct road positioning for a LHD car. The easy way to judge this is to run over the occasional drain cover on the left, without ending up in the gutter, and you can then be fairly confident that there is more than enough space on the other side of the car.
The other issue, for which there isn’t a fix, is overtaking. Sitting on the left of the car, overtaking is a challenge as you can’t pull out a few feet to see past the car in front, to see if it is clear to overtake. The solution for this on normal two way roads is just to hang back, but on dual carriageways and motorways there is enough space and visibility to overtake safely so it isn’t an issue.
Try Before You Buy – Advice and Guidance
We include a full information pack with all our cars and this includes magazine articles advising on what to look for in each model. So if you are thinking of buying a classic car, then come to us and rent one of ours for a day or a weekend before you buy one.
Tony Merrygold of The Open Road is an expert in classic car hire having been in business in the UK since 1997 running The Open Road. Tony runs courses telling people how to start up a car hire company, having trained over 200 people over the past ten years.