Classic hunting in Kernow

| 4 Aug 2011

For four out of the past five years we have rented the same cottage, slap bang on the harbour front in a small Cornish village called Mousehole. The two-up, two-down boasts uninterrupted views of the harbour, and a well-aimed stone's-throw would see it end up in the water. There is, however, another advantage: all that lies between ‘our’ front room and the sea is the harbour-front road, which means that if there’s nothing to be had from seal-watching or boat-spotting, you can always opt for some good old classic hunting.

And there are plenty of them to seek out, too. While the endless trek down the A30 to the South West provides some relief in the form of VW campervan and Land-Rover spotting (we limit ourselves to bay/splittie and Series I,II & III only), the fishing villages provide quite a range of classic autos – some from travelling tourists, but a surprising amount from the residents themselves.

In the course of a week, I listed a Bullnose Morris, Minor Million, several TR6s, copious Land-Rovers, a handful of Minis and a stunning Morgan three-wheeler. In fact, the Malvern marque was undoubtedly the most visible on the Cornish Riviera. Not a day went by without a 4/4, Plus 4 or Plus 8 steaming past with rorty exhaust notes bouncing off of cottage walls and reverberating up narrow stone streets.

I should point out however, that I personally am not a huge fan of Morgans. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them and I could certainly put up with, and even enjoy, an early flat-rad example, but when the owner of a 2002 4/4 starts dressing like a Spitfire pilot and straps a vintage picnic basket to the boot, I have to question the authenticity of the whole experience – especially when the car is powered by a Ford 16-valve Zetec engine.

However, my cap is duly doffed to one resident of Mousehole. In the past five years I have never been able to catch him, yet his ageing Morgan 4/4 remains in constant use and can be seen fulfilling daily duties. More importantly, while the rest of us would probably worry about owning a classic so close to a large quantity of salty liquid, he chooses to park the 4/4 outside, come rain or shine with only a humble tonneau for protection. I am more than willing to swallow my Morgan prejudice for this respectable display of classic dedication

Further up the hill, there is another classic-owning resident. Slightly more modern, but equally as impressive is the chap who runs a Porsche 968 as his daily driver. Said owner either has a penchant for uniforms, or is a captain at sea judging by his impressive epaulets. Each night he squeezes his slightly shabby 968 onto the harbour front and retires for the evening – the combination of uniform, neatly-trimmed beard and 944-derived styling giving off an air of pure 1980s - all it needs is a whiff of Take My Breath Away from a tape deck and everything would fall neatly into place.

The whole thing got me thinking though. Like so many others I dream of living near the coast: waking up to the sound of seagulls and a short walk or drive to exercise the dogs (which I don’t even own), or catch some early waves with my 'board would be heaven.

But which classics would be ideal for such a life transformation? I wouldn’t need a campervan if I lived that close to the sea, and something with a monster V8 wouldn’t get exercised behind all of those tractors. No. In fact, I think I’ve already got the ideal fleet.

The Landie is perfect for slugging around the lanes and giving a bit of height in order that I can see over the impressive hedgerows. It would be perfectly happy pootling behind other agricultural machinery, and I wouldn’t be worried by the odd bump and scrape by naive tourists attempting to jump the big gap in the harbour wall that their sat-nav insists isn’t there.

On the flip side, the narrow village streets would be taken with ease by the Mini – no need to reverse for miles to find a ‘passing place’ if met by oncoming traffic: just breathe in and continue on your way. And while parking in coastal resorts built when transport meant foot or horse provides a challenge, Issigonis’ tiny wonder can be slotted in where nothing else will go – I even saw one parked on top of a Ford Transit near Bodmin, but that’s another story.

So that’s it then. The fleet is ready and the surfboard is packed. All I need now is for C&SC to relocate a little further south…