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Classic Cars Owners Anonymous
by the Self Made Journalist
This article appeared on the Self Made Journalist blog in August 1991.
You probably don't understand. On the table in your hallway you've no doubt got a shiny silver key that fits the ignition of something quite new - a medium-rare hot hatch, a four-wheel-drive B-road leveller, an armful-of-oppo-at-every-roundabout sports car. Whatever, but I'll wager that, regardless of type, it's not much more than five or six years old.
For me, though, that just wouldn't do. Much as I admire modern performance cars - in fact I'm fascinated by every second I spend with them - to own one would just be too... easy. Instead I choose to drive something that's fast approaching its twentieth birthday, a car that first left the showroom when my school friends and I were staring in awe at a pack of Top Trumps wondering how to pronounce "Countach". It's nothing too flash, of course, but enough to get the nod of approval from those in the know. A car that undoubtedly changed the face of motoring when it first hit the streets all those years ago. A classic, if you will.
Truth be told, I should have traded it in years ago. It's lucky to still be around. It rarely sees its brothers and its cousins have long since been converted into cubed metres of rusted metal, faded plastic and fluffy dice. But I just can't bring myself to part with it. Why? Well, there's the undeniable pleasure of driving something that is, and will remain, a rare sight on our roads
Then there's beating the system: not getting into that new-car-every-two-years cycle, not always having a loan to repay, and that super-smug satisfaction of only suffering depreciation of a hundred quid a year. And that's all before we get to the challenging, involving drive to be had from hustling an old car along with today's traffic
There are, of course, the downsides. The controls that are so heavy they would make Hulk Hogan weep if he were forced to take the wheel for a thirty-minute crawl through rush-hour traffic. Becoming such a regular at your local marque specialist that they can write down your surname and registration number from memory is nothing to be proud of either. Then there's the first time that they recognise your voice on the phone. And you think I'm joking.
Being able to call the AA without having to reach into your wallet to check their phone number is a skill you'd probably prefer not to have too. Ah, those breakdowns! The latest Mercedes super-coupé may be clever enough to chamois your brake discs dry during a light shower and feed you a full English breakfast over your right shoulder as you cruise to your first meeting of the day, but that's not a patch on the levels of (some might say humorous) intelligence an old car will demonstrate when it comes to choosing the moment it will break down. The engine that cuts out not at the end of your street, but when you are in the middle of negotiating the busiest roundabout in town. The accelerator cable that doesn't snap just round the corner from Halfords, but on the bleakest of country roads at a point exactly halfway between two villages - and therefore cosy pub fires - twenty miles apart. Somehow the car just knows. An evil, mute KITT.
So why do I struggle on when I could be driving something newer, more reliable and faster
So truth be told, I can see it being a while before I throw in my Haynes manual and join the heavy depreciation club. Until then I'll continue as I am, armed with a rather-too-comprehensive toolbox and a jumbo tub of Swarfega, safe in the knowledge that - at the very least - one part of every journey will provide me with an additional thrill that few others experience: arriving.