Struggling to survive without a daily dose of classics


Author: James ElliottPublished:

It wasn't only yesterday's unexpected burst of sunshine in the midst of our polar summer that has lifted my spirits.

On Tuesday, after a three-week break, I was back commuting in a classic. Admittedly one of those weeks was half-term and I was in the wilds of Devon on a family holiday stranded inside a cottage hypothetically discussing whether a drop of rain could actually fall hard enough to smash a window.

Even so, that three-week lay-off represented the longest time in living memory that I haven't driven a classic… and it depressed the hell out of me.

I know that I am hardly representative of all owners in the extent that I insist on using old cars, and that some happily go months driving nothing but moderns, but I can't go without my fix.

In fact my little sabbatical threw sharply into focus just how much these cars have got under my skin and just how dependent on them I have become.

Just like everyone else in the world I find work, life, family pressures, the economy, the performances of the England rugby team and such-like hard to cope with sometimes, but it has become clear that while others turn to booze or anti-depressants, my daily dose of classic driving is what staves off the need for such remedies.

Not by much, perhaps, but obviously enough that not driving a classic, even for as short a time as three weeks, throws me into a right old strop.

The ripple effect of my mood was, I am sure, felt at home and at work and I can only apologise to anyone affected by my cold turkey.

The irony, of course, is that the litany of silly little problems that left me classic free would be funny (in fact some people who will remain nameless thought them hilarious anecdote material) if they hadn't had such dramatic side-effects.

Silliest of all is my 'new' Elan +2. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with the car (as far as I know), but it is stranded behind a Fort Knox-thick all-mod-cons garage door that refuses to open.

The Interceptor was an equally piffling problem that took it off the road because of a potentially less piffling problem. The car started stalling again at low speed. That's never good in an auto but especially one with hot restart issues.

All the same I was happily getting by and planning to fix it until the bonnet release cable snapped meaning A) I couldn't mend the stalling issue, and B) I wasn't going to drive it anywhere and risk a breakdown if I couldn't get to the problem and fix it at the roadside.

The Triumph threw its toys out of the pram when it decided to go to max revs all the time one evening and after even a few hundred yards of hard breaking just to get it home and keep the speed down to the legal limit, I wasn't taking it out again until it was fixed.

The Elite is just the Elite.

And then I got busy, so busy that I didn't even have time for quick investigations, let alone fixes. So I drove a modern, got depressed (and before you write to the Press Complaints Commission, I am deadly serious and not taking the word 'depressed' lightly here) and then hit a malaise that just made getting round to doing anything harder.

The half term break allowed me to think and plan my attack, and it was simple: get one going and use the lift in spirits to tackle the rest.

So that's what I did. Triumph first, naturally. More air than was wanted was clearly getting in so, in as little as half an hour, I had checked or renewed the pipeworks, whipped the airbox off, sorted the butterflies and got it sorted. That's right, all I need was life to give me 30 minutes.

Job done, car working, smile back on my face – the plan has so far worked perfectly.

At lunchtime today I mended the bonnet release on the Jensen, so that is usable as-is plus the works can be done to fully restore confidence in it.

While I am doing that I will be working out what the hell to do about that garage door. I did call a supposed repair specialist, but they were taking the p*** and treating me like a mug, so all I know is that some serious violence is due to be meted out if that stupid steel door continues to keep me from my beloved Elan.

I might build a trebuchet to attack it, but I would really like to have at it with the safe-cracking drill from Thunderbolt & Lightfoot.

And then, one day, maybe, I might be able to turn my attention to the Elite.

Except that, long before that, other problems with other cars are guaranteed to emerge and my knife-edge motoring sanity will be under threat again.

Of course, the issue could simply be that I have too many cars, that as other people overdose on their prescribed medication, I have overdone it with my self-administered solution, to the extent that it has become part of the problem and not the answer.


Coventry Climax

You should think yourself lucky James. I too am suffering from accute withdrawal symptoms, but the cause of mine are more of a problem to get round.

18 months ago I moved to Germany, and here the only way to get classic car insurance is by also owning and insuring a modern car for everyday use. Living in a large city I don't want or need a modern car (I use public transport to get to work) but without one I can't even insure a classic, let alone drive one...


James, if this dire situation should happen again here is a number that you must call: 08457 90 90 90 (The Samaritans).

HWM Racer

Even with all your problems James it gets me excited as my 'racey' Hillman Imp is nearly ready which means I'll be back on the road in a 'classic'. It was meant to be a quick 'stop-gap' project but here we are nearly 7 years on...!

Nuno Granja

Excellent post James Elliot,

I share almost identical views about car ownership.

By coincidence but due to different reasons, I'm passing trough a similar situation here in Lisbon caused by the town new environmental and parking laws. Even if it's good to have some sabbatical time, free of those old car's annoying little things, I start to miss them.
( I'm lucky as I d'ont commute and only do a few business trips every month).

For the first time since I have driving license , during the last two months I only use my cars a few days when at Oporto.
We go out to the countryside for the next week-end , and for the third time we take my wife modern Golf and even if i have a special relationship with it as is the only car i ever buy new, I will prefer driving the "others". To get get the things worst we go to best portuguese open (almost desert...) roads area. What a waste of 400kms...
Since we buy the Golf in 2003 we have done 4 european trips and countless journeys in Portugal in my old cars. Tthats why the Golf have a mere 65.000km and barely cross the border one time. The 83' Audi Coupé alone had done 185.000km in the same period, going as far as Berlin or Spa.

Things gona change next month and it will be possible to have one of the Sciroccos here legally, and in one year (I hope) the full set.

keep posting

nuno granja

Add your comment

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br> <img>
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

You must be logged in to comment
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.