The bright blue skies over the past couple of weeks have restored my faith in living on this island – and in its classic owners. Let’s face it, if you have an old car, and you’re not one of those who puts it on SORN as soon as the leaves start turning, then there would have been no excuse for not enjoying it.
Thankfully, it seems that many of you agreed with me because my classic sightings, those inspiring surprises that pep up even the most mundane of journeys – commuting, taking garden refuse to the tip, queuing to get into Sainsbury’s, that sort of thing – have boomed.
The classic-rich run started more than a couple of weeks ago, with a trip to Brussels and a lovely Austin-Healey 3000 that burbled through the centre of town. It came moments after I spied a red ’66 Ford Mustang convertible – a real go-anywhere car – that pulled up outside our hotel as we headed out for breakfast.
Moments later we were admiring a late-’80s Saab 900 Turbo Convertible that passed by – the rack of racing bicycles on the back making it look every bit a part of Saab's carefully cultivated 'lifestyle' image – before seeing a Fiat 500 on the side of the road and an elegant Mercedes-Benz 'Pagoda' SL just a couple of blocks later.
Of course, when it comes to Pagodas, the UK capital is in the clear lead. The demand from architects and graphic designers in the early 1990s (when having a silver 280SL was de rigueur, along with a black polo-neck and brandishing a Filofax) may have diminished, but it helped to flood the market with lots of expensively restored cars.
I've seen plenty of them were out in use recently, with an immaculate silver example spotted in Putney on my way to work (above, although I suspect it was only out because the owner needed to get an MoT) and the gorgeous light metallic green 230SL owned by Ian Hancock (Your classics, July issue) appearing in the traffic in Kennington the following Saturday (top).
The following day I spotted another: a black example that was parked near Hampstead Heath (above). It wasn’t far from another Paul Bracq-designed gem – a W111-series 250SE Coupé that its owner had pulled out of a lock-up to take the family for a picnic after a six-month hibernation (below).
And I wasn't the only one to go Three Pointed Star-gazing: next morning in the office, David Evans reported seeing C&SC’s December 2002 cover car in use around his Blackheath stamping ground.
Mercs weren't the only classics on show, of course: there was this early Porsche 911, recently sold by marque specialist Paul Stephens and looking delightfully period in its original Sepia Brown. I was pleased to hear that its new owner plans to keep it that way (10 or even five years ago it would’ve been resprayed Canary Yellow or Blood Orange!).
The early-’70s theme continued with an Colorado orange and largely original-looking BMW 1600 I spotted in Baker Street...
...and a Rolls-Royce Shadow parked up in Chelsea. Actually, the Rolls is a regular sighting because it’s a street-parked – and seriously cool – daily driver.
Tell us what you've seen out and about lately with a post in C&SC's Spotted: classic cars on the road forum.