classic cars, Triumph

How not to buy a classic car

The first car I have owned which could be classed as a classic was a Triumph Spitfire 1500 which I brought in 2003. When choosing a Triumph, I studied classic car magazines looking for ideas on the perfect starter classic. I decided to buy a Spitfire mainly because it has perfect sports car styling, it’s on a chassis so bodywork doesn’t have to be structurally faultless and most of all, they were cheap.

In the magazines, I saw that a garage called The Spitfire Graveyard had a good selection in stock. So, naively, my mate Matt and I and went off up to Sheffield with a pocket full of cash with the intention of buying a car.

We found the garage which was located in a lockup, down a side street, under a railway arch. Alarm bells should of sounded when the garage owner emerged from the site office (an old caravan) looking rather dishevelled. He was wearing an old suit that had distinctive kebab stains on the lapels, he smelt of booze and fags. We were told that we couldn’t have a test drive because he was still over the limit from the night before, but we could still have a look around.

The only car with a MOT within my price range was ALM604S. Inside the gloomy lockup, to the naively optimistic eye the car didn’t look too bad. It was taxed with a short MOT and ran well. I thought if it had a MOT then a years worth of decay would be easily fixed.

It was a cold and wet January afternoon. I had £620 burning a hole in my back pocket, so without too much inspection, I paid the man and drove back to Shropshire in the rapidly darkening winter gloom. Half way home the windscreen wipers stopped working and the hood started to leak. But I finally got there.

thumbnail_fullsizerender  The car, Matt and Yarna on the first night and the car in primer after months of welding.


After driving the car around for a week or so I took the car over to a friend who is a fantastically skilled welder fabricator. Kev was recovering from a nasty bike crash and was off work with a broken leg. Bored at home, so somehow he was persuaded have a look at the car.   As we both thought that the car only needed a small hole repaired he foolishly/kindly agreed to help for the day.

When we removed the carpets and took the seats out, the job revealed itself to be much bigger than we both initially thought. Kev bravely persevered with the project and over the course of several months he ended up replacing both of the floor pans and both of the sills plus other smaller panels Writing this now, I do have a overwhelming sense of guilt for asking a friend with a broken leg to do all this work, but we did have a great laugh doing the project. A lot of the time was spent drinking tea and chatting. Friends would pop by to say hello. I think we felt an equal sense of achievement and relief when we finished the panel work.


Painted and on the road

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Kev, we finally got the spitfire MOT’d and back on the road. The reality of the ups and down’s of classic car ownership had started to reveal themselves. It wasn’t, however, going to put me off.


motoring and cars, Uncategorized, vw camper

Why classic cars?

I have always loved cars. Much to my parent’s dismay, my first word was not Mummy or Daddy, it was Mini. Toy cars became my favourite things to play with. Even as a small child the motorcar represented freedom and adventure.

It would appear that cars made during and before the 1970’s often displayed many human characteristics. They could be temperamental, unreliable and unrefined. The construction of cars also appeared to done largely by hand. Nuts and bolts were not concealed behind plastic trim and the bare shell was clearly visible from inside which gave them a down to earth feel. Like humans, for no apparent reason car seamed to have their off days and sometimes faults would rectify themselves without any mechanical intervention.

In an old car your senses are often stimulated in a way that the modern Eurobox fails to do. Smells of oil, petrol, wood, leather or leatherette helps to give the car a personally. Poor fitting panels bring in drafts and smells from the outside. Noise and vibrations coming from the engine and drivetrain let you know the car is working. These are traits that the modern motor manufacture has tried to eliminate over years of development. Producers respond to costumer expectations of owning a silently operating, reliable, draft-free  form of transportation. But this often curates an artificial perception of speed, control and invincibility.

In the 1970’s, car’s often became to feel like part of the family. This was certainly true is my family’s case. My father’s first car was a 1967 Morris Traveller which he brought after my younger sister was born in 1975. My father called ‘him’ Denis, after a footballer called Denis Law. Denis (the car) had come out of the factory as a tortoise coloured Morris, but by the time my father had brought it (from a vicar apparently) the rust had started to set in. My father painted the wings with red oxide paint in a vain attempt to halt the rust process. After many years of ownership Denis failed the MOT. My father didn’t part with the car (maybe due to my demands?) and parked ‘him’ in a yard at the back of a friends house. For a year or so we took regular trips to visit Denis as if he was an elderly family member in a retirement home. After a while my father reluctantly sold the car for spares. I still remember going to say goodbye. I still own the chrome hub caps and ornamental bonnet handle, which I have on display in my living room.

a1 Me at the wheel of  Denis c 1977

Over time both my father and my stepfather had various cars that won my affection. At one point stepfather had three Renault 4’s (two for spares) and an very rusty Austin Healey  Sprite. I used to play for hours in these partly dismantled vehicles, pretending to drive for miles. Growing up in a very rural part of Shropshire, this was the best playground for miles. (possibly the best playground in the country!) For years my father had an 850cc Austin mini with the reg YUK 226M. Yuk became as much part of the family as Denis and took all over the country. After this family motoring became very boring, with exception of a Morris minor  convertible  my parents brought a predictably dull series of metros and montegos. leading me to conclude  that anything produced after 1979, particularly if it was British, is soulless, dull and uninteresting

thumbnail_img_20170122_192044409 Me and my mate Jim with YUK

jr26 My dad’s brand new metro  in 1984. He looks like a proud man…. It was the city x model after all!!!

As the years have past and I too had own a series of predictably dull euroboxes. After many conversations with friends I became nostalgic about past motoring icons. In 2001 my friend Chris, who owned many old vehicles convinced me to buy myself a classic car. After reading countless classic car mags I opted to by a Triumph Spitfire 1500. I will write about this at a later date  but needless to say it expanded my mechanical knowledge and highlighted how extremely fortunate I am to have such a supportive and dear group of friend around me who enabled me to experience the ups and downs of classic motoring on a shoestring budget.

joel-spitfire2 A quick engine swap in 2004

Since 2001 I have owned a few spitfires and a number of VW campervans. At home my drive is currently full of vehicles owned by myself and my girlfriend that are in various states of repair. All of which I intend to write about in the future.