5 classic cars you can use every day
Owning a classic car really can be more about pleasure than pain. Even if it’ll be your only car – one you’ll rely on, come rain, come shine - driving something that has character and cool delivers more fun than a bog-ordinary modern hatchback, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. If it breaks down every couple of weeks, though, you’ll soon wish it gone.
In cars, as in life, nothing can ever be certain. But it is possible to enjoy an older car as your daily driver without too many hours spent in lay-bys, waiting for a breakdown patrol. The secret is in choosing the right model and then picking a cared-for car.
Allow us to nudge you towards some sensible choices. Pick wisely and there’s no reason why an older car should prove as dependable as a new.
Here are five that should last a while and cost sensible amounts to buy and own. In each case we’ve plucked details from the listings on motors.co.uk, choosing a car that we like the look of and that we think is fairly priced. And, even if that particular motor has sold by the time you look, with 150,000 vehicles online, you’ll easily find another:
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6
1989, F-reg, 168,000 miles £1495
The 190E sold in the UK from 1984 until 1993, until the C-class replaced it. They’re extremely tough cars and it’s possible to pick up a sound one very cheaply. This model with a six-cylinder petrol engine is relatively rare but worth holding out for because of the way it teams power with a sweet-handling rear-drive chassis. It’s capable of huge mileages provided oil changes and servicing at the recommended 6000-mile intervals are kept up.
When buying look for smoky exhausts signalling worn engine valves, and rust that takes hold under the wheel arches and at the base of the rear screen. Worn dampers badly affect handling and you should also check for broken front springs.
1978 S-reg, 29,000 miles £8950
Metal-roofed ‘hatchback’ version of this classic sports car is your best bet for whatever-the-weather use. Happily it is cheaper than the drop-top ‘B’, too. Any you see will have been rebuilt at least once so go for one that’s been worked on by an MG specialist. If it comes with a full restoration history including photos, so much the better. Even though the last cars rolled out of the factory in 198, spares are no problem because a specialist industry has sprung up to provide them. You can even obtain replacement body panels.
The B is simple and affordable to fix and it is possible to ‘modernise’ the car by fitting electronic ignition, powered steering and uprated brakes – all worth considering if you’ll be using the car every day. Before buying, a professional inspection and report on the car is well worth the £300 or so it’ll cost.
Rover Mini Cooper
1997 R-reg 39,000 miles £4995
Original Mini was (and is) a great car because of its buzzy if ancient petrol motor and go-kart steering. And while it is truly tiny – shorter and narrower than most modern city cars – it still offers fair space inside for four grown-ups. Rover had to stop making the Mini in 2000 because it could no longer meet new and tougher safety and exhaust emissions regulations. Late-build models like our example here are classy and collectable, decked out in alloy wheels, contrasting bonnet stripes and rally-style fog lamps. They also have fuel injection (more reliable than an old-style distributor ignition) and protection for the engine against road spray.
Look for a car that’s been cared for by an enthusiast but watch for rust in the front wings below the headlamps, in the door sills and under the battery (which lives in the boot). The good news here is that, even though the design is 50 years old the car still cuts in the run and flow of modern driving.
Porsche 911 3.0 SC Targa
1980 V-reg, 114,000 miles £11,995
Forget fragile Ferraris and temperamental TVRs. Porsches – even older ones - are one of the few high-performance classics tough enough to use every day. 911s have had good rust protection since the mid 1970s so a 1980s car should be sound, while its six-cylinder air cooled engine should run for a huge mileage if always serviced on time. Buy from a garage specialising in the make, look at several before you buy and go for one with few previous owners and a fully documented service record. And we’d think twice before buying second-hand imports unless they are cheap and have a good history. A pre-purchase inspection by an expert is too important to pass up.
Remember, too, that 911s of this age are quick but also dicey through bends, particularly whenever the roads are wet. For this reason, scrutinise panel gaps, which should be tight and even. If they’re not, it’s possible that the car has been rebuilt after a crash.
Volkswagen Golf 2.8 VR6 Highline
1995 M-reg, 106,000 miles £2295
Compact V6 motor dropped into the Mk3 made it a swift and civilised high-speed tourer. And if you can afford its 20mpg fuel thirst and stiffish insurance premiums it is otherwise cheap to buy and affordable to run. ‘Highline’ spec means leather seats come as part of the deal as do alloy wheels and a trip computer. This is another engine that will run and run if it’s treated to regular oil and filter changes. It’s important to find one that has plenty of paperwork to show it has been looked after because otherwise repairs could easily cost more than the car.
Watch, too, for rust getting a grip in the rear wheel arches. You should also check the roof headlining near the tailgate because the pipe supplying the rear wash/wipe often splits and leaks.
For more great car buying advice and to view and buy new and second-hand cars, click on to motors.co.uk. Surf the web using your mobile phone? Go to http://mobile.motors.co.uk/ or text ‘motors’ to 65056 and we’ll send you a link. If you’ve an iPhone, you can download the motors.co.uk app for free. Go to the ‘utilities’ section of the iTunes store.