Come for a spin in my classic time machine


Author: James ElliottPublished:

I really envy those enthusiasts who can browse old magazines and not pay attention to the prices for cars. I simply can't rationalise them like some people can.

If I see a Ferrari GTO advertised for £3000, I cry a little. It doesn't matter that when that advert was run in the mid-1960s, £3k might have bought you a row of cottages in South Ascot, I still weep.

Then there are the others, the hyper-rational who, regardless of the whole price thing, never visit my world of regret, and never rue their missed opportunities. And that's just not normal.

Rightly or wrongly, classics are an emotional business for me and I don't at all envy those for whom they are not – I bet they are better mechanics than me, but I wouldn't want that sense of total detachment.

How could I not wish that 10 years ago I didn't borrow £20,000 instead of £10,000 to transform the purchase of a Westfield Eleven into the purchase of a Lotus Eleven? My salary was depressingly similar to what it is now so the level of debt would have made very little difference.

Neither is it that I have any qualms about any of the classics I have owned, but (as I have bleated many a time), I am very greedy and therefore forever tortured by the hundreds that I haven't had, and especially the scores of "must-have" cars that due to the booming market, I now know that I never will.

Of course the GTO is an extreme example that the rationalisers tend to quote, but it doesn't mean that my irrational approach isn't (slightly more) justified if we look at more recent trends.

When I took the helm at C&SC, I told company bigwig Eric Verdon-Roe to find me a million quid to buy cars with. He didn't, so I never did buy the two and a half decent C-types I could have had for that money at the time.

Likewise, the other day I was browsing our 20th anniversary edition in which the team picked its dream classics for under £20k. Mine was a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT. Today it seems mad to suggest that they were ever that low, but a decade ago, when if I was bolder I could have taken on and then paid off that sort of loan, they were.

Others in the test (all sub-£20k remember) included an AC Aceca, Allard, Gordon-Keeble, Mustang GT350 and BMW 3.0 CSL!

Naturally, after reminiscing on the Aurelia et al, I spent some time damaging the pages of the Price Guide with my tears.

The only solution was to follow the advice of Johnny Mercer and accentuate the positive by turning it into a game.

So I gave myself a budget of £100k to assemble my dream garage at 2002 prices (though, some of the valuations do look suspiciously low).

And this is it (all in 'average' ie road legal but ropey condition).

1. Ferrari 246GT - £27,500

2. Alfa Romeo Montreal - £4500

3. Lancia Aurelia B20 GT - £12,500

4. Lotus Elan S1 - £7500

5. Maserati Ghibli £14,500

6. Audi 100S Coupe - £1000

7. Porsche 911S 2.4 - £12,000

8. Mini Cooper S - £3850

9. De Tomaso Pantera - £12,500

10. Jensen Interceptor - £4000

Total - £99,850

Or I could just tick all those boxes with a real Cobra 289 (£60,000) and a Ferrari 330GTC (£40,000).

Now, why don't you have a go yourself? I've started a thread in the forum so you can see the Price Guide and make your own choices.

Number of cars limited to 10, total value must not exceed £100k, and you can't use the values for restoration projects, just average or mint examples. It's a lot tougher than you would think, too, I still had to drop a whole bunch of dream cars.

No need to be negative about the pointlessness of the entire exercise either, I'm well aware of it, but it's just a bit of fun (or in my case, therapy).



Hi James,

I'd be tempted to bank it all on a Muira SV at £95k then maybe a BMW 2002Tii to smoke around in for £6k. Other choices though could be...

Lancia Flaminia Supersport Zagato £40k
Porsche 911 RS Touring £35k
Austin Healey 100M £22.5k
BMW M3 (E30 Project) £1400

I'd be happy with any of the above..



I sort of did that about 10 years ago. In my garage I've got:

1966 Aston Martin DB6 (£18K - it seemed quite a lot at the time)
1972 Lotus 7 (Not a Caterham, the real deal - £2.5K)
1990 Maserati 222E (Factory one-off special with 300bhp Karif II engine. Terrifying. £2.5K)
1974 Porsche 914S (£2.5K)
1991 Lancia Integrale 16v (£2.5K)
1976 Alfa Romeo Spider (£650 - California car, Ziebarted from new, so perfect body)

My latest two additions are modern classics that you'll kick yourself for not buying in 10 years time:

2002 Alfa Romeo Spider 3.0 V6 24v (£2K, only 161 imported into the UK in RHD and getting very rare as 160mph with FIAT Tipo suspension is not a safe way to travel!)
2001 Abarth Seicento (£450 - the true modern successor to the Mini Cooper, not that bloated BMW thing. And, ok, I bought it for my teenage son to learn to drive in, but, it's huge fun and maybe only 100 imported into the UK in RHD)

The above list doesn't include my "project" cars, they all mainly work.

James Elliott

Nick, I like plan A a lot! 

Group Editor, C&SC

James Elliott

Schneemann, what a superb selection and what amazing foresight. You did everything I am now whingeing that I could have done, but didn't. I'm very jealous.
One thing: if you could go back and do it again, what would you change? Would you buy exactly the same cars or something different?

Group Editor, C&SC


What would I do differently?

I could have bought a DB5 for £15K when I was looking for a DB6, but I'm glad I didn't as the DB5 is a terrible car and the DB6 so superior it's just not funny. Everyone in the Aston community knows this, but, it's an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation as covered extensively in "Octane" recently.

I suppose the only car I didn't go for when I could have that I've always wondered about was a restoration project AC Ace with a Ford 289 V8 for £8K in 2002. But, it was in little bits and my basic rule when buying cars is that they have to work to the extent that they can drive onto a trailer under their own power. What I call "Zombie Attack Escape Condition" - excluding whether it's MoTed, or even legal, if there was a horde of zombies abling towards you, could the vehicle be used to escape? In this case, no.

Instead, I bought the Maserati 222E with the Karif II engine - 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, like being thrown at the horizon by the hand of god. But, in air-conditioned comfort with a decent stereo. I've got the Lotus 7GTS for when I want to catch bugs in my teeth...

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