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CLASSIC CARS

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Classic Culture

The first flickerings of interest in classic motorcars made after the Second World War began nearly three decades ago. Now, that interest has grown into an all-consuming passion for millions of men and women all over the world. Some use their classics daily, others just on high days. Some preen them like beauty queens in the concours d'elegance, parades of vehicles to the most elegant, best designed or best turned-out of which prizes are awarded. Many owners are driven by nostalgia, a need to own or recreate a piece of their past; others by simple love of old machinery. As modern cars become ever more amorphous and as image-conscious individuals wear their classics like designer suits, as a statement, the classic is no longer the preserve of bearded, middle-aged men. To own an old car has become trendy. For some, the word classic has become debased down the years, seeming to embrace any number of awful machines. To them, classics, derided by many in their prime, are now dignified merely by rarity. In the early 1970s, however, could the pioneers of the classic-car movement have guessed that the then-new Austin Allegro would one day inspire an enthusiastic owners' club?

 



WORKING CLASSICS

The attributes that make a vehicle a classic also bring the best cars to the top in the tough world of work. This applies whether services need them to be out in all weathers rescuing stranded motorists, attending a breakdown or accident, pursuing villains and keeping traffic flowing or simply carting goods around reliably.


Each service has its favorites, each vehicle's special abilities suiting it to its chosen job. The Automobile Association (AA) (1905), finding its motorcycle-and-sidecar outfits no longer efficient, bought Land-Rovers almost from inception in 1948 to aid motorists. Likewise, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) (1897) used a selection of cars and car-derived vans: Austin Sevens, Morris Minors and then Mini-vans for lighter-duty breakdowns and Bedford CA vans and trucks at the heavier end before they universally adopted the Ford Transit in the 1970s. In the 50s, the RAC ran six Isetta bubblecars in London to reach motorists through the clogged traffic. These tiny two-stroke' towing ability is not recorded!

Policemen and postmen
The police have long used big, powerful and reliable saloons, from the classic, fast, bell-equipped and evil-handling Wolseleys of the 50s to the Rovers and Jaguars of the 70s. Various forces have at times tried to beat the villains at their own game by adopting the same wheels — Jaguar MkIIs in the 50s and Lotus Cortinas in the 60s. The police have also tried out new types of vehicle. In the 60s, forces ran an experimental four-wheel-drive (by Ferguson Formula) Ford Zodiac Mk4, which may have paved the way for the near-universal adoption of the classic, big-hearted Range Rover for motorway patrols.


In the 50s, a Morris Minor van with ugly rubber wings was a familiar sight. Britain's General Post Office (GPO) thought the wings were unbreakable and immune to minor knocks. Alas, they meant the headlamps sat up in separate pods and setting alignment was nigh-on impossible. The GPO then turned to another car-derived van, the Bedford version of the first Vauxhall Viva, the HA of 1963. In France, the entire postal service was served by a pair of rugged, front-wheel-drive hold-alls, the Citroen 2CV and Renault 4 vans.


Civilian workers

For "civilian" use, car-derived vans have long been another way for makers to sell to motorists unfamiliar with the size and vision difficulties of the large-panel vans like them. Since the 1920s, paneled-in versions of most popular cars have been available. They are often simply an estate version with the windows filled in and the back seat missing. Before Purchase Tax applied to commercial vehicles, this was the cheapest way to own an estate car — buy a van and fit side windows!
Ford's Transit of 1968 was the trendsetter whose name became generic for one-tonne (1,016kg) vans. This much-loved, tough and surprisingly fast hauler was a natural to carry everything from parcels to builders' gear. It was a big hit with criminals, too: they could hide in it until the coast was clear and carry a lot of booty. Where there's work to be done, the chances are you'll find there will be a classic that has completed it.

 

 

Classics on Film and TV

Nothing does more for a classic car's kudos than appearing in a classic film or television series. Who could forget the Volvo P1800 in Britain's The Saint series of the 60s or the Alfa Spider in The Graduate (1967) with Dustin Hoffman? Both made these cars world-famous and boosted sales. As dynamic and often beautiful objects, motorcars have always looked good on screen as set decoration or the focus of the action. The catalogue of classic-car moments is huge.


The Americans have long been masters of putting the motorcar on screen, in everything from Herbie The Love Bug (1969) to cult films like Vanishing Point (1971), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) or Duel (1971). For many connoisseurs it is the 1968 film Bullitt starring Steve McQueen that features perhaps the best car chase ever filmed: his Mustang pursues a sinister Dodge Charger at speed through streets of San Francisco to a superb V eight soundtrack. The scene lasts 12 minutes, with McQueen, a good driver, doing much of the stunt work himself. In his 1971 film Le Mans, McQueen did more driving than acting and added to the list of motor-racing films such as The Green Helmet and Grand Prix (1966) and Winning with Paul Newman (1969) that were neither critical nor box-office successes.

Cops, robbers and spies
In British films, the crime genre has long been a fertile hunting ground for classic-spotters. Robbery (1967, based on the Great Train Robbery) has a hair-raising pursuit with a police S-Type Jaguar and felons in a silver Jaguar MkII. In The Italian Job (1969), a tongue-in-cheek take of an audacious gold robbery starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward, cars outshone actors. The getaway cars are three Mini Coopers that make a cheeky escape along Turin rooftops and drains. Other motorized stars include a Lamborghini Miura, a pair of E-Types and an Aston Martin DB4 convertible. Jaguars provide aura in gangland classics like Performance and Get Carter (both 1971), while Villain (1971), starring Richard Burton, features a payroll heist: look out for the Jaguar S-Type, Ford Zodiac and Vanden Plas three-litre, all wrecked. And look out for the Lamborghini Islero and the Rover 3.5 The Man Who Haunted Himself, also of 1970.


James Bond films feature cars heavily as part of 007's equipment. The gadget-laden Aston DBS caused a sensation when it appeared in Goldfmger in 1964 with its ejector seat, machine guns and radar. Toyota built a special convertible 2000GT for You Only Live Twice (1967) but it had no real gadgets. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) new Bond George Lazenby drove a stock Aston DBS and a Mercury Cougar in an ice-racing sequence.

 

 

Choosing & Owning A Classic

Saloon or estate, two doors or four, open or closed – only you know which type of classic will suit your needs and pocket but, generally speaking, options like power steering, overdrive and air conditioning are always worth searching out if you want the most usable classic in modern conditions. Be prepared in most cases for higher maintenance costs or a lot more unreliability than with a modern car.

Bodywork bother
Rust is the biggest enemy of the older car. Before the 1980s most ordinary – and indeed many expensive – motorcars were only given token rust-proofing, so if you live in a damp climate corrosion will be much more of a problem. Unitary or monocoque construction was coming in across the board by the 60s on, mass-produced cars, and any rust in the sills, floor or inner wing areas with this type of bodywork will seriously compromise the car's strength and rigidity.


Cars with separate chassis are generally less of a worry because the bodywork is not self- supporting. That doesn't mean the chassis won't rust eventually, and removing bodywork for s not for the taint-hearted. Aluminum panels — as found on high-caliber classics like Aston Martins - don't rust in same way but do suffer from electrolytic action between the aluminum and the steel frame of the car.

Aluminum is also more susceptible to damage. Glass-fiber bodywork doesn't rust, of course, and in most cases — apart from the Lotus Elite — features a separate steel chassis, too. However, the passage of time can cause the get coat to craze, which is a specialist job to rectify. Taking paintwork more generally, look signs of over-spray on door rubbers and window surrounds, indicating a hasty respray. Bright work — badges, bumpers, grilles, etc — is notoriously costly to refurbish and many pieces are difficult to find for more unusual models.


Mechanical matters

Mechanically, older cars tend to be simpler, although by the end of the 60s fuel injection and complex air suspension was putting many of the more expensive cars beyond the abilities of the home mechanic. Generally, with the engine, you should be looking for signs of excessive smoke from the exhaust and of overheating with water-cooled engines, particularly if they are of exotic aluminum construction as with many Alfa Romeo and Lancia models. Gearboxes should be reasonably quiet, though many 50s and even 60s cars featured "crash" bottom gears which give a rather evocative whine. Automatic gear changes won't be as smooth as on a modern luxury car but, even so, changes shouldn't be rough, either. Woolly steering and soggy brakes characterize many big saloons of the classic era, but many sportscars of the 50s and 60s have handling that is rewarding.


Looking inside
Although scruffy interior trim won't stop you driving a classic, a car's interior condition is vital to its feel and ambience. A Jaguar, for instance, with damp carpets, peeling wood veneer and cracked or split leather seats loses much of its appeal. Retrims are expensive and obscure interior parts difficult to source. The generally far more basic interiors of sportscars are easier to refurbish and, again, for the popular British marques everything is usually available. Hoods are expensive to replace on sportscars — look out for tears — while a hard top is definitely worth paying extra for if you intend using an open classic all year. If you are determined to buy a classic car, do your homework. Join the relevant club, get to know the pitfalls of the model you are after, then go out and look at as many as you can before making a decision.

 

 

Future Classics

New "classics" appear all the time. These cars that, because of sheer appeal, excellence or exclusivity, is instantly memorable and desirable from first sightings at a motor show. Others, cult darlings such as the Golf GTI, have become the definitive cars of their era and have never truly fallen out of fashion with enthusiasts. Others again, such as the Mini, VW Beetle or 2CV, still in or recently out of production, are simply the modern versions of acknowledged classic designs. They don't have to be supercars to qualify, although some of the most obvious contenders clearly are: any new Ferrari or Lamborghini is so eagerly awaited that its status upon arrival is guaranteed. In these cases, simply belonging to the right marquee is enough to confer immortal desirability.


Porsche 911s all qualify as future classics because of their unique blend of robustness and drivability, even if the dashboard design is as confusing as ever. The wide-bottomed 928 will forever hover on the fringes of true classicdom, although some of the early 944 Turbos will be allowed into the hallowed club, and the Speedster-inspired Boxster is clearly on the VIP list from the word go. It's all a question of attitude.


Dodge's awesome eight-litre V-ten Viper has already made a name for itself as the AC Cobra of the 1990s, but its compatriot the Corvette has never been the same since it was emasculated after 1970. Nearly all TVRs occupy the same specialist slot - they are beefy, brutal, British and rear-drive, with that gorgeous V-eight woofle. The Ford Escort RS Cosworth and Sierra Cosworth, both astonishingly fine road cars, have won themselves a place in the hearts of the sort of people who worshipped anything that followed the rally-winning RS Escorts out of Ford's Advanced Vehicle Operation at Boreham, Hertfordshire, in the 1970s. Buying yourself a Lancia Delta Integrate gives the same full-on driving appeal with even more exclusivity. The first-shape BMW M3 of the late 80s falls into much the same bracket - a rock-hard driving machine - and effectively upgrades the reputation carved out by the 2002 Turbo in 1973, but those in the know say the later cars lack the raw appeal. As ever, the first versions are the purest.


Today's little classics
With cheeky good looks and world's-best handling. Lotus's new Elise, which sadly may not survive a difficult birth, is obviously the Elan of modern times. But for the nearest thing to a real Elan, look no further than Mazda's MX-5, or Miata. Like the original, it's a 1600cc twin-cam rear-driver with sublime handling -it even looks similar - yet nothing falls off it. MGF's, while uninspiring in looks, handles so well that people will always want them; it's also descended from the very first classic sportscar of all.
All Minis will be classics, however feebly powered; its trademark shape, unchanged since it shot to fame in the 60s by winning Monte Carlo rallies, will see to that. And so will that "Mini Cooper for the 90s" - the Peugeot 205 GTI, the best example of that 80s phenomenon, the hot hatch. The choice is huge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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TITLE: CLASSIC CARS at Auto Lemon - Used Car History Check

Cars Directory: CLASSIC CARS Auto, Automobile, Automotive, Car, Cars, Classic, Classic Car, Used Cars, New Cars, Used Car, New Car

Site Description: CLASSIC CARS Used Car History reviews and guide on classic and older model cars. Including car designers from Italy and Germany. Learn history of cars from classic, exotic, used, new to prototype model cars.

Cars Topics: CLASSIC CARS Classic Cars, Price, Prices, For Sale, Part, Restoration,
Classifieds, Classified ads, pictures, muscle car, picture, and photo , AutoCheck, KELLEY BLUE BOOK, USED CAR HISTORY, VIN number, VIN SEARCH, VIN check