Having recently returned to the UK after many years abroad, I find myself in a strange and disconcerting situation – I’m currently without classic wheels. If I’m to retain any credibility in the C&SC office, this is obviously something that needs to be resolved.
My last steed – a very early Citroën Dyane – was so quintessentially French that to remove it from its natural habitat would have been akin to ridding the country of undercooked meat, endless strikes and smelly cheese. With its faded beige paint, black numberplates and yellow headlights I really should have been sponsored by the French Tourist Office to park it in a sleepy village somewhere, so, as far as I was concerned, bringing it to England was never on the cards.
Instead, as a reformed Francophile (I much prefer Germany these days) I left it in a barn in Normandy for some lucky tourist to discover. After 40-odd years on a French farm it’s unlikely that it would have come close to passing an MoT test anyway, so I probably did myself a favour there.
Being someone who would happily own almost anything on condition that it was built before the mid-seventies, you would think that coming up with a shortlist of candidates with which replace the Dyane would be an easy enough task.
And yet, so far it has been remarkably difficult. Trawling through adverts, I’ve found hundreds of interesting cars – and have come to realise that I have quite a penchant for Rileys – but in almost every case boring practicalities have conspired to strike potential vehicles off my list.
The car, whatever it turns out to be, will almost certainly have to live outside, so anything with too delicate a body is a no-go. I don’t want to be bankrupted by expensive repairs a year or two from now and, London being what it is, I can’t really afford a garage. Nor do I want to blow my entire salary on fuel so, much as I love the idea of a big lusty straight-six or rumbling V8, I can’t see myself getting something quite so decadent. Anything with a poor parts supply is going to be rejected too, as will any car with unnecessarily fragile oily bits: I want a classic I can drive and enjoy, not something which is going to sit in the workshop awaiting repairs. Pity, because I’ve always hankered after a Panhard 24CT (comment about being a reformed Francophile notwithstanding). Finally, being perpetually broke, whatever I buy needs to be cheap – more than a couple of grand will be hard to justify, so unfortunately that strikes my dream car (a Triumph TR3a) off the list.
After much deliberation I’ve reached the conclusion that an Austin Seven might do the trick, and reckon that with such diminutive dimensions one could be the ideal London commuter car: perfect for squeezing through traffic and almost as easy to park as a Smart.
I doubt very much that I’d find a running Seven within my meagre budget though (unless anybody would like to donate one?), but an A40 might make a suitable alternative. Watch this space to see if I manage to find an affordable example.