Is it time to seek counselling for my classic obsession?


Author: James ElliottPublished:

We all know that classic car enthusiasm is a bit of a disease, but sometimes you find yourself in a situation where how gravely debilitated you are by it is pulled sharply into focus.

This happened to me on Thursday in the most mundane and unexpected circumstances.

Due to fly to Zurich on Friday for a work trip, I was busy booking some parking at Heathrow Terminal 5 on-line and all was going well until it asked me to fill in the registration number of the car I would be arriving in for the benefit of its booking and numberplate recognition systems.

Let's get this trip into perspective: it involved driving from Putney to Heathrow (all of 15 miles that can take hours at the wrong time of day) at 4am on a gruesome winter's still-dark morning, leaving a car in a concrete monstrosity for the day and then driving back into town at the worst possible time, Friday rush hour.

There was no sane reason not to just plug in the details for the Merc family wagon and be done with it.

Yet, the cursor was hovering over the box because I knew in the back of my mind that when the time came I would want to go in my Jensen.

Yes, the Jensen, the one that I lose money on for every mileage claim, the one that sometimes doesn't like starting, the one that would be rather more likely of the two to leave me at the side of the M4 awaiting recovery while a flight to a very important meeting took off sans Elliott.

So, naturally, I filled in the details for the Jensen, had a great run on deserted roads and even survived the hell of London rush hour on the way back.

I wasn't trying to be some sort of classic-driving hero, there just wouldn't be any point: I wasn't going to see or be seen by anybody at that time of day, it was as uninteresting a journey as is imaginable, and it wasn't like I was going to come away with an epic anecdote to regale people with.

Add to that the fact that although I am not a natural risk-taker – if I keep playing this sort of Russian Roulette with important business meetings  eventually I am going to shoot myself – and my decision seems utterly bizarre. Inexplicable.

But really it is very simple: I leave the house, I see a Mercedes wagon and a Jensen and, despite all the inconveniences, costs and potential pitfalls, I am happy to suffer them all to enjoy the experience of the latter – or not experience the non-experience of the former – whatever the weather, whatever the journey, whatever the risk.

Of course, the irony was that the whole trigger of this soul-searching was rendered a little pointless by the fact that it turns out T5s state-of-the-art cameras can't read non-reflective plates!



I may be in for a written kicking from the classic faithful here, but I seem to be missing something here. I don't know what model Mercedes you have, but for a guess it's effectively a newer, more reliable version of the comfy, auto, luxo-barge that is the Jensen.

If you still had your Elan, and had used that I would have been with you all the way, (I had an S2 myself many years ago), but the Jensen? As poor old Lou Reed might have said, you need to take a walk on the wild side again!

Chris Martin

Sorry PaulJ, no "written kicking" coming from this quarter, and I doubt I would qualify as one of the classic faithful either, but maybe you are missing something. It may seem trivial to some, but let me try to explain. I too have an inexplicable urge to take my 1976 Mercedes 450SLC on the occasional trip when common sense says otherwise. I could use a later, more fuel efficient (although I would dispute 'more reliable') model but I think the missing ingredient is 'soul' for want of a better word. Yes the Jensen would not give the same seat-of-the-pants driving feel as an Elan, but it was never meant too, it was only ever intended as a big gas-guzzling luxo-cruiser GT much like my SLC. Something to chase Buckley to the pub in his Fiat 130 possibly. Although such monsters are considered the enemy by greenies and would not impress the owner of a modern shopping multi-valve hatchback in the performance stakes they still have their place in the world for a few cantankerous old farts. Some of us like the gentle shove of an oversized V8 through an autobox while slouched in an overstuffed armchair surrounded by acres of heavy metal, but it can't easily be explained to a non-believer. The Interceptor is as far removed from the modern computerised Mercedes James refers to as it is from an Elan. Given an unlimited budget to stock my dream garage, I too would like to be able to choose between an Elan, an Interceptor or a modern robot car in which I would feel more like a disconnected passenger even while in the driving seat, but each to his own - or maybe 'Horses For Courses' says it better?
Meanwhile, I do think James is rather playing the drama queen here with his "do I need counselling?" jive, what's to worry about, just drive whatever you want. Your counsellor would most likely turn out to be a Prius owner who does not even understand the question. It could be worse, at least you don't have to justify a Land Rover for a commute!



Hi Chris,  I knew I could rely on you for a well reasoned response.  I occasionally play Devil's advocate around here in order to provoke a response, as often the blogs go ignored for ages, and I'd hate for them to disappear due to reader apathy.

I'll be 60 later this month.  Maybe that will be the trigger that re-ignites the desire to own a classic that made me run a number of them when I was in my 20s.  Until then pray for me as I continue to enjoy my motoring on the dark side in 'moderns', as the classic fraternity refers to new, fast, safe, comfortable, economical, reliable, clean, dry forms of transport.

James Elliott

If I still had the Elan, I probably would have done the journey in that. I guess the points I was trying to make were that a) sometimes how much you prefer classics (even when it doesn't make 'sense' to use any 50-year-old car instead of any relative modern) can be revealed in unexpected ways, and b) how long will it be before I end up losing contracts/my/job/something else important because of my bloody-minded insistence on driving classics all the time? The law of averages says it will go wrong at some point, it just hasn't yet.
Oh, and c) I am also just being a big drama queen! Thanks Chris.

Group Editor, C&SC

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