Car buying: the idiot’s guide to browsing the classifieds

| 26 Jul 2012

I have to put my hands up and say, after four months at C&SC, I’ve yet to buy myself a classic car, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking.

Truth be told, having spent two years freelancing I’ve accrued a tax bill that sadly must take precedent over the four-wheeled money eaters that are the cars I love. At least I’ve got plenty of time to decide exactly what I want. And exactly what I want is something fun, frugal and cool.

There’s the obvious classic choice, of course, and that would appear to be the MGB.

Two of the boxes are well and truly ticked here. A little rear-wheel drive sports car can surely only ever be fun and oily-handed colleagues that know about these things tell me the B is easy to maintain and cheap to run.

Problem is, I’m not too sure it’s cool. This is something that seemed to be confirmed at Le Mans Classic, where there were rather a lot of them.

Next up on the wish list is a Porsche of any (frugal) persuasion, but ideally a 924S. At a glance it’s got everything, it's cool, has handling that makes it so and the much-needed frugality. Well, that’s how it appears, but dig deeper and the Porker starts to look like a pricy cut of meat.

Insurance for one is a nightmare. You can flex the truth as much as you want – not that we’d advocate this of course – but for someone like myself with only three-years no claims and, ahem, ‘a few points’ you’ll be lucky to get fully comp for less than I plan to pay for the car.

Then there’s the fixing. As Elliott kindly explained: “Brits build cars knowing they’ll break; Germans build cars thinking they’ll never break.” The synopsis being: if a Porsche breaks you can forget about the DIY and start thinking about large bills.

Talking of breaking, the next on the list is the 205 GTI. We’ll forgo the 1.6 versus 1.9-litre chat. People that know me know I’m not one for balance, and it is the 1.9 that appeals to me.

It’s got plenty of poke, has lethal – yet ‘fun’ – lift-off oversteer, is practical and cheap to run. But, like many of the best things in life, plenty have been touched by the hand of chav and that’s something I’m not wildly keen on being associated with. Cool could be a stretch…

You may be wondering why the MX5 hasn’t come up yet. It would have been perfect, topless and rear-wheel drive (or fun), cool, pretty damned reliable and cheap to run. But, sadly there’s one more clause that has to be met. If (and I do) want to write about my new steed in the pages of C&SC then it needs to be unique to the fleet and, since a certain deputy editor started, this has not been the case.

So, nothing’s set in stone just yet, and nor should it be. As all of you know, the only thing that comes close to the excitement of driving a car is choosing the car in the first place. This time I want to make sure I choose the right one.

Any suggestions?