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

| 26 Aug 2011

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.


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