Help! Facing up to the family man's classic dilemma

21

Author: James ElliottPublished:

My name is James and I am an unfit parent. Not to my kids, I hope, but to my other kids if you know what I mean. The kids I had first, the ones that used to be spoiled rotten and who were accorded all the time and money they required to live an idyllic existence. Then the other kids came along and, because all that time and money seems to have evaporated since their arrival, the original ones have been suffering increasing levels of neglect ever since. Not equally, either, which makes it even worse.

The C&SC team has been suffering my long, tortured discourses on this classic fleet malaise for about 18 months now – I even e-mail them regularly for opinions on what I should do – so it seemed about time I shared it with everyone.

The problem, very simply, is that I have too many classics. Yes, I know it is only four and some people manage with a lot more than that, but it turns out (sadly) that four is more than I can physically and financially cope with at this point in my life. I sincerely wish it weren't true, but I can no longer live in denial.

It doesn't help that I am one of those people who always buys the cheaper, less good examples of classics I can't really afford rather than a really good example of something I can afford. Don't be fooled by the pictures, none of my classics was ever going to trouble the concours judges even at their best, but recently it has become a full-time battle just to keep them road legal and running.

Worse than that, for the first time I can remember I would describe two of the four as "off the road". Albeit hopefully only temporarily, but already for far longer than I can usually tolerate.

This is a nightmare on so many levels, but surprisingly, one of the top levels has turned out to be guilt. I love these cars so much and have had them for so long (only a year for the Elite, but 12 for the Elan, five for the Jensen and 14 for the Triumph) that I can't bear to part with them. Equally, I have to accept that I simply can't cope and know that they deserve a better home, a better owner.

I hesitate to use the analogy of putting them up for adoption, but that's what it would be.

So the options are:

1. Sell everything and buy one really good example of a car that I can afford and can keep on top of. But then, what one classic covers all my needs and all the goodness that I would be losing? It must be sporting and GT-like and a superb driver's car and yet have space for a couple of child-seats in the back. I guess that's why Stags and GT6s have been flitting across my mind of late, but only the Elan +2 gets really close. Or a later, better, cheaper Interceptor with an LPG conversion.

2. Sell three and restore one. But which? The obvious choice is the Elan, but that sadly is the least family friendly of my cars and gets used less nowadays than I would ever previously have imagined possible (only 1000 miles so far this year, a record low). My brain is telling me that I should pour the cash into the Triumph and make it a minter. But then I couldn't stand not having the Interceptor – my current daily driver – or the Elite. Then again. the Jensen is murdering me at the pumps.

3. Sell a couple and keep a couple. Easy, the Elan and the Jensen. Actually not so easy. You see, these two are the only ones worth anything and, on the assumption that whatever cash raised will be primarily ploughed into white goods, a boiler and school uniforms - before what crumbs are left can be spent on a classic - this option leaves me in the same "life" quandary as I have been at the moment.

And that is the 60 Second Shakespeare version – believe me, if I covered every nuance of this debate it would be War and Peace.

So, what to do?

Today, my mind is made up: flog the lot, raise roughly £20k (no idea how far off the mark that figure is, low or high) and buy an Elan +2 for half of that with the rest going on mundane luxuries like food and water.

Then again, yesterday my mind was equally made up: flog the lot, buy some school uniforms and a really good late model Interceptor.

And tomorrow it will be just as determinedly made up again, with a completely different result.

Truth be told, every potential outcome involves a huge amount of heartbreak for me, but the current situation of all four gradually deterioriating before my eyes (or barely getting used at all) because my skills and time are spread so thin, is now worse than the prospect of losing one, or more, of my beloved kids.

Help!

Is one of these – or something else – the answer to Elliott's dilemma?

Comments

TheoMonk

Very tricky decision... Personally I'd say losing the Elite and the Triumph would be the starting point, but then as you say they're not actually worth anything, so no major fanancial filip there. The Interceptor is lovely, but the pain at the pump is unlikely to improve, so that would have to go too. The Elan is gorgeous in just about every way, but as you say, it's not a family car... So I reckon; chop them all in a buy a sorted SM- it's got a lot of the varied appeal of the current crop, plus the required practicality and it shouldn't be q-u-i-t-e so painful to fill up. Ok it's not exactly 'sporting' but then who needs 'sporting' when you're looking so icily cool? Good luck anyway!

uncle_polenta_

Dear James,
As a Japanese spent the mid '60s thru early '70s in Surrey, had the big influence by the Mr. Corvette who is the owner of the Corvette dealer in Kent, and have done quite many works as the sport car hobbyists. I would say have the two cars kept and two others to go. On the report on the C&SC, keep the Elan S2. Have the choice on the family car with plenty of room and serve for any family acts. Then sell the other two.

If Jensen stays, then have the project with the little help from Mr. Corvette in Kent for having the engine and transmission swapped with the late Chevy engine and transmission. Have this as your next project. It will bring the peace of mind or the better mileage and reliability. Keep the original engine in case of selling the car in the future.

Both cars are RHD, right ? Then offer to world wide market with the RHD nations including Japan. If those cars are in good driving condition, then chances are you might find a good buyer here. Or there, or over there. Jensens are luxury cars, I know. But somehow it doesn't tickle the people's heart here maybe because of the mileage and the car has never had the proper importer. Triumph might be sold much easier. Lotus is so incredibly popular but as on the C&SC article tells, it is better for you to keep it. It's the proper roadster, too.

If one kept and three to go, then go on to keep the Elan and get another Lotus with the +2 seating if that will do. You can save a lot of steel body fix and concentrate to the frame condition watch. A good CV joint will do better on the road, eh ? By the way, I miss the Sainsbury's Steak and Kidney Pudding and Lyons made ice cream bars. I found my Darek costume totally collapsed in the box and made me cry. I still have the gold Corgi DB5 with the little club sticker unused. If you can manage me to send a different brand which is the canned S&K Puddings, then I would help you find the buyer here. But no guaranty. I would help.

I've been to many nations in the past and I am sure to say that Great Britain is the heaven of all sorts of car hobbies on earth, period.
Regards,
Polenta

PoLeNtA

Dinsdale Piranha

Sell! As long as I've still got first refusal on the Elite that is!

Chris Martin

That uncle polenta chap has it right. Top bloke, we need more like him on here. Send him a S&K pud anyway.
But really James, you missed the easiest and most obvious answer - ditch the kids!
There, job done, no really, no need to thank me, it was easy.
See, I always have too many cars around here, sure there is never enough time and space to get everything done, but at least I don't feel guilty for not giving them any attention, 'cos I ain't got no dustbin lids to distract me.
C.M.

 

ElanSprint72

Get a grip man! I can do no better than quote DSJ after his journey to Sicily in an Elan:

"Sell the television set, the washing machine, the wife's car, give up smoking, even give up drinking, but scrimp and save and buy an Elan, you won't be disappointed."

The arrangement we have in our domicile is that the Elan is not regarded as car, or means of transport, it is just a fixture which happens to be there, like the roof on the house and it is just as vital. Adopt the same mentality and you now only have three classics to consider.

I would unload the Jensen; in your heart you know that it is a money-pit to run and even worse to maintain properly. The Elite was only ever going to be a thing that you had to get out of your system. You should be able to turn a profit on both of these at the moment.

So that leaves The Beast. Fix it up; use it.

Simples! :-)

Cheers,
Pete

Chris Martin

Well said Pete (ElanSprint72). Are you listening James? Pretty much spot on, although did DSJ give up smoking? The Elan would be your one and only link with real sports car Nirvana, I don't mind admitting I have never driven one, seriously uncool I know, but at least I have the guts to own up. For those that have more experience than I and know a bit about real sports cars, the Elan is still regarded as a benchmark. Also, probably the only one of your stable that is a guaranteed blue-chip automotive investment. And then of course the Beast is the perfect family car for your purposes, you already have an offer for the Elite, and then if you can't sell the Jensen, the best way of enjoying it without paying at the pumps, is just park it in the lounge and enjoy the view, whether from the inside or the outside.

Wish I had your problem!

Chis M.

 

gandharvas

That is a dilemma! I'm afraid someday sooner than I'd like, I'll be in the same one. At the moment, I have too many cars and not enough room for them. What I would do in your situation is sell everything but the Elan. (I would potentially kill for an Elan. I'm in America and they are few and far between here, i.e. rare as hen's teeth). I think that is definitely an investment grade classic. Sell everything else off and break the proceeds up into three parts:

1) Get the Elan sorted
2) Buy an MX-5 Miata (1990-1993)
3) Use whatever is left for life's necessities.

Unfortunately, with this plan the kids are going to have to take turns riding with dad in the classics. The Elan is only going to go up in value. The Miata is easy and cheap to work on and in my opinion the spiritual successor to the Lotus Elan. In fact, I think it is probably a "knock-off". Ours is a joy to drive, requires little work, is cheap to insure and register and is so much more fun than our other classics, if I had to keep just one, it would probably be it. Granted, it does lack the character of an older car (all that cheap plastic), but makes up for it in the fun factor. While not terribly valuable at present, I think the Miata is a future classic.

So there you go, with my plan, you get a nicely sorted Elan, an "Elan" you can drive any time, and probably a school uniform or two.

Mario Laguna

Keep the Elan, sell the three others and buy a Renault-Matra Avantime, there is room for the family. When you can afford it, buy the Jensen again.

Tinker

I like all the ideas, the most practical has to be sell the kids ...

-get an SM ... well that is out, as they are not the cheapest things to keep right (I have one)
-Sell everything - bad idea you'll regret in a few years time - no, store 3 of them, concentrate on 1 and when that is right move to the next ... this is what I've done ... and it sort of works!

AndrewWA

Keep the Elan and clear out the rest - maybe go for a Scimitar (spelling?) as the family car if you want to have the practical family experience?

Andrew Stevens

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