Reluctantly acknowledging the classics I will never own

5

Author: Martin PortPublished:

I suspect that most of the readers of C&SC will have various lists: a list of cars they own, a list of cars they used to own, a list of cars they would like to own.

But I wonder how many have a list of cars that they would like to own but know, deep down, that they probably never will… even if they could afford it?

It seems like an odd situation to be in, but just glancing at my model cabinet and bookshelves made me realise that they give an insight into past desires that, for no tangible reason are unlikely to ever come to anything.

For instance, I have several tomes about Volkswagen Campervans and transporters. For years I have lusted after a nice ‘splittie’ or a ‘bay’ and a surf trip to the West Country often results in plenty of buses to feast my eyes on.

I can appreciate the idealism that the camper suggests is available: the sunny outlook, freedom to go where you want and stop when and where you like, space to change into your wetsuit without resorting to the tricky art of stripping off in a windy car park with just a towel to protect you from a charge of indecent exposure and of course the ever-important ability to ‘brew up’ whenever you feel in need of a good cuppa.

However, there is also the fact that, for me, owning a VW camper would mean lugging around approximately 90% empty space on the occasions that we weren’t off ‘living the lifestyle’, and realistically, that is going to be the majority of the time. So for that reason, the campervan just doesn’t really ‘fit’ the Port drive.

Working on the same principle, my yearning for a Corvair Greenbrier is also made redundant. I once had grand plans to buy one that was for sale in Scotland and have an epic road trip down to Berkshire in an amazing ‘bonding with the car’ experience, but the reality again is that I would end up with a whole lot of space following me around most of the time.

It would be a bit like keeping your caravan hitched up to the family car for a trip to the supermarket or for the school run each morning.

Then there is the MG Magnette – a car which I felt would be the natural successor to my MGB – but despite the mini-obsession that spanned several years, the car never really seemed to fit.

It could be made fast enough thanks to the versatile engine and upgrades available and it would have been the right size for a family of four. Heck, I could even have fulfilled my yearning for a rally-rep and done the Monte in my head on the way home every night, but I just never swallowed the bait and therefore I can’t really see one ever being in my garage.

I guess the same applies to the Volvo Amazon. I’ve even written relatively recently of my desire for an estate in a previous blog, but I’ve finally realised that this is yet another dream that will go unfulfilled. Once again, there is no real reason other than the fact that it is a bit, well, mediocre if I’m being cruel.

The styling can look good from the right angle and it’s potentially a curious mix of '60s Swede and surf wagon, but it doesn’t set my heart alight and I guess that’s the crux of the matter.

As with the Magnette, the engine and handling can, to a certain extent be ‘improved’ in order to get the blood going if that is a crucial element, but if modification is key to a classic being what I want it to be, then once again I’m likely to bow out before I’ve delved too deeply into the classifieds.

And there are more: Seat 600 – always wanted one until my brief ownership of a 500 at which point I realised that it just wasn’t going to be the right sort of air-cooled motor for me; Willys Jeep – another blog subject in the past, but why buy something that deep down I know that a series Land-Rover will do better and for a lot less money?

Finally though, and this is the difficult one to write, it’s time to add the Porsche 914 to the list of cars I yearn for but will probably never own.

That may come as some surprise seeing as each time I have driven one I have come away determined to own one, and that if I was to sell enough other stuff then I could definitely afford to buy one.

So why relegate it to the metaphorical scrapheap? Simple: having owned a classic Porsche before, I don’t think I can put up with the pressure of owning and running another. I say pressure, what I really mean is potential cost as even with the VW name attached to the 914, that doesn’t mean things are going to be cheap when they need replacing/fixing.

If I was to buy one, I would be foolish not to heed the advice given and to make sure I buy a good one, and really good ones that will stand up to the use it will get cost proper money. Buy a cheap one and there is a danger I could end up with a replay of the 912 experience: lots of enjoyment curtailed by a huge bill and one very rusty car.

If I had enough money to buy a really good one in the first place or to be able to afford the cost of fixing one up, then I’d be tempted to look back in the direction of the prettier 912 and that instantly puts paid to the 914.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical and also written with the presumption that my financial situation will probably not change dramatically overnight.

I will also add the caveat that I reserve the right to go back on everything I have said above – particularly if I suddenly get an email with the subject “I’m bored with my 914 would you like to buy it for next to nothing. All it needs is a little welding…”

Comments

Schneemann

I had a 914 when I was 20 for a few years until it rusted away, 20 years later, I bought another one. Not perfect, but it ran, had a MoT, and was about £2500.

In the four years since then, it's never been off the road, and the only maintenance it's needed is a couple of ARB drop link bushes (£10 and half an hour) and a clutch cable (I had a spare one from last time, and again, about half an hour).

It comes with me every year to the Silverstone Classic, where it can hold all the camping gear for me and my son, and in the PCGB area stands out amongst the rows and rows of virtually identical, and rather dull, 911 and 912 shaped cars.

As you point out, it is an awesome driving experience. Really, the last of the genuine sports racing cars that you can drive on the road (6th overall at Le Mans, and first in class) without spending a fortune.

I'm only not bringing it this year as it's the Aston centenary, and I'm bringing my DB6 instead...

Porsche 914S

Martin Port

Aarrgghh! Don't do this to me - your car looks amazing and if I found one now for £2500 then everything I have written previously goes straight out of the window!

Art Editor, C&SC

eddie124

Martin, the 600 is a totally different car to the 500. It's not aircooled, for one, it has the inline 4 that was later applied in evolved form to the 850 and the 127, and it's watercooled. The radiator sits behind a cowl ducting air to it from underneath the car, and sits next to the engine.

But why a Seat? The Fiat version is quite a bit better in terms of build quality, the Seat versions are always cheaper copies of the proper stuff.

If you're ever to change your mind and be in the market for one, I might be able to help - they were best-sellers for years here in Portugal, and they're still reasonably cheap classics. And as long as you keep the antifreeze fresh, it will be dead reliable too.

I personally am more of an Italian car nut, so the 914 leaves me cold. I have a friend who owned one for years and was never any good, kept leaving him stranded.

Cheers, Eddie

____________________________________________________________

Hybrid?! Sure, I got a hybrid... it burns fuel and rubber!

Martin Port

Thanks for the comments Eddie. Sorry - I think the wording of my blog is to blame as it does indeed suggest I am referring to the 600 as air-cooled when in fact that is meant to relate to the 500. However, I'm sure you are correct and that the 600 is very different and that it was probably unfair of me to lump it in with the 500. I probably shouldn't have written it off just because of the similarity in size!

Why Seat instead of Fiat? That probably needs some explanation too. I first fell in love with the Seat version when on holiday in Portugal some years ago. Everywhere I went there seemed to be yet another abandoned 600 on the corner of a field and I yearned to rescue one and take it home! It may just be little more than a different badge on the front but I just prefer the slight difference in aesthetics as a result. Probably mad I know!

So how cheap CAN you get a 600 for?!

Art Editor, C&SC

jhepb1

It looks like the women in the MG ad are on their smartphones.

CamaroZ28

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