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Homepage. This page: Classic & Vintage car questions FAQ Pt2.
Classic Car FAQ CONTENTS Page 2 of 2.
Back to FAQ Page 1 11. I've got a rusty Hillman Imp, if I restore it will I be able to make a profit?  
  12. I've heard that spare parts for old cars are very expensive, is this true?  
  13. Are fibreglass (GRP) repair panels ok to use?  
  14. How do I buy from an auction?  
  15. Can I fit a larger engine and more modern brakes to my classic?  
  16. What type of events are open to classic car enthusiasts & their cars?  
  17. How safe is a classic car?  
  18. I've been offered an incomplete & rusty Cortina for 750, is it a good buy for a restoration project?  
  19. How secure are classic cars?  
  20. I only plan to use my car occasionally, so how can I keep the costs down?  
  21. Are modern garages capable of working on my old car?  
 


11. I've got a rusty Hillman Imp, if I restore it will I be able to make a profit?

Chances are no, especially if you build in a cost for the time you spent doing the work. Even without this extra cost, by the time you take full consideration of all the consumables that you will use (welding wire, gas, paint, tool hire etc) chances are you'll not recoup your full investment, not forgetting of course the sum you originally paid for the car. Restoration on smaller less valuable motors therefore only really makes sense when you're doing it for yourself, for the experience of doing the rebuild. To embark on such a project with this type of car solely for financial gain will probably end in tears, unless it has some particular historical significance. Rarer more 'exclusive' cars are more likely to command a better return when it comes to sale time, although usually the effort and cost expended on them will be equally higher and the chance for profit similarly risky.
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12. I've heard that spare parts for old cars are very expensive, is this true?

Yes and no. A lot depends on the type, make & model of car, and its perceived desirability in the classic 'market'. Take a new-old-stock (ie unused original) front wing for a car. Have a new front wing for a Datsun Cherry and you might get a few quid for it if you find someone who is into preserving such delights, whereas another NOS front wing, from a similarly aged Mk2 Escort may command a lot more, simply because these cars are popular with the sport of rallying, so demand is high. Likewise, a front wing for an A40 Farina, itself a rare car with limited following, may be worth 200+ if you can find one, whereas a front wing for a similarly aged Mini may be a lot cheaper, as there are still people with A40s looking for such panels yet unlike with the Mini's they're no longer readily available.

A lot about finding spares for your car can rely on you networking with fellow owners and getting to know less obvious ways of finding rare parts, without relying on specialist parts suppliers unless absolutely necessary. Many people consider that buying a trashed example of your car is a worthwhile proposition, as it can be an excellent way of providing yourself with a lifetime of spares at very reasonable cost, although to do this you need the room for a second immobile hulk, which could be a problem for some.

If you own something really obscure, then scouring the internet is a very worthwhile pastime as unusual parts can often be found using this method, plus your weekends should really be dedicated to attending as many autojumbles and swapmeets as possible, where old parts are there aplenty and useful leads and contacts can be made with knowledgeable stallholders and attendees alike. You can place Free adverts now on Old Classic Car for parts, so if you need parts, or have some surplus items for sale, why not list them here for free?! Just visit the online classic car autojumble at OldClassicCar today.
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13. Are fibreglass (GRP) repair panels ok to use?

Spare bodywork panels for older cars can be very difficult to find. Whereas panel re-manufacture is alive and well with the more common classics that are to be seen dotted on the show field, similar panelwork for less obvious classics can be very tricky to locate, and has meant that many potential restoration projects have ended up in the great scrapyard in the sky due to lack of panels to use. Some owners clubs embark on low volume re-manufacture of key panels, such as front wings for instance, but they invariably get snapped up pretty quickly, assuming that the high cost of producing these panels can be realistically covered. Hence many people turn to fibreglass replacements, of which there is much better supply, although it has to be said that the quality of GRP panels can vary widely.

Other possible problems include the effect that using these panels will have on the car as a whole. Most enthusiasts put great importance to a car being as original as possible, and the use of GRP panels where there would originally have been steel is frowned on by many, however it can mean that cars otherwise destined for the tip can live to see another day. However they must only be used in place of non-structural panelwork, and they are often less strong than their steel counterparts, plus you can't replace structural body members with GRP copies.
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14.How do I buy from an auction?

Buying at auction can net you a classic for bargain money, however there are plenty of risks involved. The principal risk is that you cannot often take the car for a test drive, so you are reliant on the condition statement given by the vendor being accurate, plus should the car turn out to be a lemon, you often only have an hour after the auction end to take the car back and make a case for a refund. So you really have to think on your feet, and if you're no expert in the particular car that you want, it will pay dividends to drag along someone who really knows the make and model in depth. Before the auction itself, there is usually a period of time for viewing, where you can check over the auction lots and make your assessment. Some allow you to run the engine, whereas others might not.

If you plan to bid on something, remember to register first as you'll need a bidding number to wave at the auctioneer should you be successful. Set yourself a maximum for what you are willing to spend on the car, and try to stick to it - things rattle on quite quickly during the auction itself and it's easy to get carried away. Assuming you win, you'll need to pay up there and then, and make swift arrangements for moving the car away. Leave the car at the auction for too long and you'll end up paying daily storage costs, which will eat into the saving you'll probably have made by buying at auction.
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15. Can I fit a larger engine and more modern brakes to my classic?

Many owners of classic cars do just this, without going to the extremes that customisers go to with their machines. Fitting more modern running gear can transform the behaviour of a classic, especially if a lot of journeys are made on fast A roads and motorways. But while they can make the experience more modern in feel, many argue that part of the charm of an old car is the way it drives, the whine of the gearbox and tap of the tappets. Some of the more popular classics, such as Moggy Minors, have received all manner of engine modifications over the years and, with so many original examples still around, is an accepted course of action in most classic clubs. Many would say that rarer cars shouldn't be chopped about and fitted with modern running gear, and I'm inclined to agree especially where the modifications required have been so significant that they couldn't be reversed.

A Minor with a Fiat twin cam won't offend many people, but say an MG TD fitted with a more modern drivetrain will no doubt be frowned upon, even though everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their own car. Of course while the latter is true, problems may start when you want to try offloading your classic. A while back it was popular to replace the 3.0 V8 engine of the Triumph Stag with the reputedly more reliable 3.5 lump out of a Rover, and for a while they were a sensible buy. Nowadays most of the problems associated with the V8 Triumph engine have been ironed out, and many people are returning their re-engined cars back to Triumph power.

BMC cars, such as Austins and Morrises have always been fair game for tuning or engine upgrade, simply because there are so many variations of the A and B series engines available. For instance the A series, in longitudinal format, was used in the Austin A30, A35, A40, and Morris Minor to name a few, whereas the transverse installation was used in all variants of the 1100 and Mini, the latter of which include the Cooper and Cooper S models, for which a vast market of aftermarket tuning accessories were also created, many of which can be fitted to humbler machines. A30s, with the 803cc A series, are often upgraded to the revvy 948cc version from the A35 (and the remote change gearbox), the torquey 1098cc such as in the later A40s, or even the 1275cc as found in Coopers and some Marinas.

There are also some companies that specialise in just such work, only a month or so ago I was looking over a Mk2 Jag that had been subject to some serious modernising, with its running gear being sourced from a supercharged XJR which must be quite an entertaining & stylish drive. Another consideration to bear in mind before you being to shoehorn that surplus V12 Ferrari engine into your Cortina is that of insurance. Some specialist classic insurers won't touch a modified car, and even those that do will usually require an engineers report to confirm that the modifications have been carried out safely and to a suitable standard. I had to go through this routine with the last roadworthy Spitty I had, which someone had begun to convert to 2500S saloon power, sat on a Mk2 GT6 (rotoflex) chassis and beefed up all round.
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16. What type of events are open to classic car enthusiasts & their cars?

Throughout the year there are a huge number of events tailored for fans of old cars everywhere, the most common being the car show, where entrants are invited to book in their classic car, truck or motorcycle and display them to the general public. Many take place at country estates such as those at Tatton Park, Chatsworth Hall, Shugborough Hall and Hatfield House to name a few. Of course if sitting around all day discussing parked classics isn't your thing, then most owners clubs organise 'fun' days out, which usually involves a convoy of members' vehicles cruising around the leafy byways of Britain, calling in at local places of interest along the way. And if this is a little sedatory for you, there is always the motorsport side of things to consider - whether its cruising around on a treasure hunt, taking part in autotests, nightime navigation rallies or sprints, a good time is bound to be had, although the more serious the event gets, the greater the preparation for both car and driver will be required, usually with a matching hike in the costs involved. If sitting around all day and admiring glistening cars is how you wish to spend your Sunday afternoons, then the rarefied arena of the Concours competition may be right up your street.
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17. How safe is a classic car?

Not as safe as its modern equivalent is the norm when it comes to safety. Most classics were penned on the drawing board long before much thought was given to what happens to humans should the unfortunate happen and you find yourself driving into something solid. Airbags, crumple zones, anti lock brakes and all the rest were but a distant dream, as were things such as seatbelts until 30 or so years ago.

Volvo kicked off much of the quest for safer cars way back in the 1950s when they launched their 120 Amazon range in 1956, fitted as it was with padded sunvisors, front seatbelts (and mountings for rear belts), padded dashboard top and less dangerous switchgear, coupled with a tank like structure. Therefore driving a classic does require more foreward planning, and braking distances need to be adjusted accordingly, as any modern MPV or whatever will easily outbrake a drum braked classic from decades ago, indeed many very early cars didn't even have four wheel braking, which could prove entertaining nowadays.

Generally however, older cars (so long as they are structurally solid) are made more substantially than more modern vehicles, so whereas moderns are designed to fold up and absorb more energy, meaning that the passengers don't have to, older, more solid, cars are likely to have more localised (and repairable) damage although the passengers may have a rougher time of things.

There is an argument that modern cars are so safe now, and the chances of you walking away from a shunt are that much greater, that many push the limits of the car more in daily driving, knowing that its less likely to wipe them out completely should things get exciting. It could be this reasoning that means insurance policies for old motors are (assuming you're over 25) that much more affordable - drivers of preserved cars, where there is less built in safety, are more likely to drive carefully, knowing that any contretemps with a large tree will no doubt do them some serious damage.
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18. I've been offered an incomplete & rusty Cortina for 750, is it a good buy for a restoration project?

A lot depends on what Cortina you are talking about, but for most cases probably not. If its a Mk3 or later then unless its a particularly rare model (the owners club could advise) then either get the price down a lot or go elsewhere, you'd be much better off finding a better example, unless you are feeling particularly masochistic. If its a Mk2 then the situation is a little less clear. Some models of Mk2 Cortina are quite sought-after in Cortina circles, the Cortina-Lotus and 1600E spring to mind, although as with any incomplete car it is essential that you cost up and check the availability of the parts that are currently missing. Mk1 Cortinas, with the 'ban-the-bomb' rear lights, have more of a following still, and to my eyes are the only Cortinas that have had much style to them (all IMO of course!), with base fleet models, 1500GT and racy Lotus examples probably being the favourites, with 2 dr examples usually being preferable to 4 drs.
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19. How secure are classic cars?

The locks were a lot more primitive when most classics were new, and it is highly recommended to apply some form of extra vehicle security to your revered automobile, whether its investing in a simple steering wheel lock, or having a fully alarmed motorhouse (garage) built specially. I've written more about security considerations in the following classic car article.
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20. I only plan to use my car occasionally, so how can I keep the costs down?

Well in terms of fixed costs, the 2 main ones are road tax and insurance. For most classics there are specialist insurance companies around who will offer a selection of policies based on your expected annual mileage, usually starting from around 1,500 miles pa and increasing in 1,500 increments right upto 6,000+ which for an occasional use classic, can work out very well. Some policies, on older classics, can be unlimited mileage - the A40 Somerset that I ran last year cost all of 54 fully comprehensively insured, with unlimited mileage. And, if you are fortunate enough to own a pre-1973 build car, then you'll qualify for 12 months tax at zero rate! And if you still have to pay for road tax, many owners opt to tax the car for just 6 months of the year, with the 6 over late autumn through to late spring leaving the car in the garage, not forgetting that when a car is out of use for a period of time, that a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) declaration must be made to DVLA.
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21. Are modern garages capable of working on my old car?

Many of the timeserved mechanics who worked on your old car are probably heading into, or are already in, retirement, with many of the mechanics to be found nowadays completely unprepared for when you turn up with your Austin 7, complaining of a misfire. Modern cars are just mobile computers now, with some oily bits buried deep down below the surface, and I've come across people who are bewildered at the thought of balancing up a pair of twin SUs when they discover that they can't just plug the car into a diagnostic checker.

Your best chance of finding a garage that you can trust to work on your oldie is probably through word-of-mouth recommendation, possibly through contact with an appropriate owners club. There are still garages dotted around that have time-served mechanics who remember many old cars, and how they work. Not so long ago people hung onto their autos for much longer than is the case now, so it was not unusual for garages during the 1960s to be asked to work on elderly Vauxhalls and Fords dating back to the 1940s and before, so there is a chance that older mechanics may still recall some of the finer points of adjusting valve clearances on your 103E Pop, or replacing the kingpins on your Morris.

Of course the best bet is to try and do as much work as you can yourself, then you really get to know the workings of your classic, which will hold you in good stead should you get a breakdown at any time. Invest in copies of the original workshop manual and handbooks if you can (have a look at my memorabilia for sale page!), and check the internet as there are many discussion forums for all types of cars, where other owners are usually only too pleased to help out in some way if they can.
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