The compulsion to own complementary classics whatever the budget

| 9 Aug 2013

I meet a huge number of enthusiasts who manage it, but for me it is nigh-on impossible to own – or to even consider owning – just one classic.

There are all sorts of perfectly sensible reasons they can proffer, of course, such as parking, maintenance and costs – the cash-sapping effect of which I am equally aware of – but many argue simply that they would rather have one car at the top of their budget.

I get that, but it’s not how my brain works.

Whatever my available resources, I have to slice them up into a ‘fleet’ and – putting aside the myriad Lottery win lists – if that means a trio of classics worth £20,000, or a pair with a combined value of just £1000 so be it.

In that respect the best set I ever had was the happy six years-plus with the option of jumping into a four-pot sports car, straight six four-door saloon or a V8 2+2 GT.

Lord knows what the next arrangement will be, but mentally am I am always carefully assembling different potential fleets in my head. And just as often, bizarrely, fleets that I know would never happen in any circumstances.

Sometimes it starts with just one car that I have never owned and would probably never buy and then struggling to work out the ideal stablemate/s for it.

Other times it is restructuring my own fleet.

Sometimes I am spending a max-out Euromillions rollover (first in the garage every time is the short-wheelbase), on other occasions it is – more realistically –how cheaply can I have anything at all that I would be happy with if finances took a turn for the worse.

It’s just a bit of fun, of course, or at least it is meant to be. The problem is because I tend to overthink everything, usually the process turns into an agonising mental exercise that makes solving a Rubik’s Cube look like child’s play.

I torture myself over infinite combinations of not-quite-right pairings, waking up in the middle of the night knowing that, irresistible though the thought of owning a Clan Crusader and a Marcos Mantis 2+2 is, somehow it just, well, right. So right, it's wrong. More cranial athletics required. No more sleep happening that night.

On the other hand an engine-sharing Jensen-Healey and family-sized Lotus Elite is close to perfect, as would be a stable of Bizzarrini GT Europa, Quattroporte I (or II, I’m not that fussy) and Lamborghini 400GT (or 350GT, see, I am not fussy at all),

As you can see, the process can seem utterly random, bordering on unhinged if you like, but I am sure many enthusiasts are playing this game with themselves all the time. I know some of the blokes in the office do.

Plus, there are one or two rules. Two is always the minimum. Thoughts of owning just one, one size fits all car, are never far from the front of my mind, but that is a completely different game. So, there goes the Stag… for the moment anyway.

While on holiday recently, while my family and friends thought my mid-distance stare was astonishment at the beauty of the place we were staying, I actually spent two weeks staring blankly into space, racking my brain trying to work out what would be the perfect complement for the fixed-head TR7 V8 that I have been fixating about recently.

The fact that the Triumph would be the antithesis of the policy of the past six years (ie accumulating family friendly classics since the little ones came along), and that that would leave me just one bargain-basement classic with which to do the school run and everything else come rain, shine or arctic weather, I will admit that I struggled like never before.

There were plenty of candidates, but none of them seemed to quite fit and then, rounding a corner and seeing an ‘a vendre’ sign on a cuboid car parked up in a side road, it struck me.

A Lada Niva.

No I hadn’t had too much sun. I have been steadily appreciating these long-derided cars for a long time, but never had the justification for having one on my ‘list’. And now I have, for some inexplicable reason, for me and my life and situation, it is the perfect accompaniment to a TR7 V8. Yes, there are more sensible, practical and desirable combinations I could have for the same outlay, but this one just chimes with me.

Increasingly rare, but steadfastly child-proof and practical, brilliant heater, something symbiotic to the TR in its quirkiness, and a wonderful two-fingered salute to the legions of pristine Landies and Range Rovers in my part of town. A badge of honour that says ‘individual’ not ‘sheep’, a price that says ‘enthusiast’ just as much as it does ‘pauper’. It is just right.

So that’s another pairing put to rest. Or it should be, except that this point is where the real shenanigans begin, especially when it is all hypothetical. So, colours, trim and spec…