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Homepage. This page: Advice on appropriate storage options for owners of classic vehicles.

Storage of an old vehicle.

Storing an old car, or in fact any classic vehicle, can be a real issue if the option of a cosy, draught-free, and above all dry garage isnít available.
This Austin A40 has a warm garage to park in
In an ideal world, a car should be stored in a dry, secure garage on oneís own property. Not only does it allow you to keep an eye on your car, it makes working on it so much easier, even if youíve only thirty minutes available every now and then to have some fun in the garage. This page will take a look at the different options for car storage that are available, and weigh up the proís and conís accordingly. Having had vehicles stored in the road, in driveways (not just my own), hangars and farm buildings, Iím all too familiar with the problems that poor storage can create.

Parking at home.

Many people have a garage, but seem to fill it with old toys, deckchairs, empty boxes and bits of carpet, while leaving their car (modern or classic) out in the elements. Whatís the point of that? Bin the rubbish and get the car undercover. Even if the garage is too pokey to do much work on the car Ė Iíve never understood why so many modern houses on estates have such small garages Ė at least itís out of the rain. Another benefit is that low-flying pigeons and other bird-life wonít be discharging their bowels over your nicely polished paintwork either. My garage isnít the most air-tight in the world, and every year seems to attract Robins looking to build a nest, so parking indoors isnít necessarily a guarantee of poop-free parking, but itís definitely an improvement over leaving car(s) outside.
With a car parked undercover, working on it in any weathers becomes a possibility, especially useful if the car requires major and/or frequent work. Plus, if youíve undesirables living nearby, you can store your vehicle with the chances of it, and perhaps the spare parts you have for it, attracting unwelcome attention from the thieving brigade much reduced.
If parking in a garage at home isnít an option, what are the alternatives? A car port is a good idea Ė itíll keep the worst of the weather off, and, if the car is used in all weathers, will allow it to dry out much more effectively than if it was parked in a garage straightaway, without having the opportunity to dry off first. Put some doors across the front of it and youíre 80% there to having the benefits of a garage.
Driveway parking might also be an option, and from an insurance point of view, is preferable to parking out on a street. Security may be an issue, especially if your car is particularly rare and/or eye-catching, so investment in a wheel clamp, or maybe driveway security posts, might not be a bad idea either. Try and avoid parking a car on grass for any length of time. Itíll harbour moisture and will lead to dampness forming on the underside of the car in no time, with inevitable results. Driving over your lawn can also lose you significant brownie points with your other half, especially if theyíre keen gardeners, or simply like to look out at a lawn, devoid of tyre tracks, rusty pieces of metal, and oil stains (odd, I know).
If a car is to be parked for a considerable period of time outside, it may be worth investing in a quality cover. Cheap covers tend to sweat, leading to condensation forming on the carís bodywork. This can soon lead to corrosion problems and may well damage the paint Ė better to leave it un-covered, at least that way the car has a chance to dry off when the sun makes a brief appearance. Better, but more expensive, are the folding drive-in cover systems. Operating similar to a Silver Cross pram hood, you drive in, get out, and pull the frame and cover over the car. This offers a water-resistant canopy over the car, one that isnít in contact with the carís paintwork, thus allowing air to circulate around the vehicle top and bottom, essential in my opinion. If your driveway isnít suitable, it could prove beneficial to try and find someone Ė perhaps an elderly neighbour Ė who has a drive (or garage) they no longer use. In return for, say, keeping their hedges down or their lawn mown, you have somewhere to store your car. Not ideal, but still preferable to parking on a public road.
Line-up of pre-war cars parked in the road
If on-street parking is the only option, then try to protect the car as best as possible from both thieves, and from careless passers-by. Donít inconvenience pedestrians by blocking the pavement, after all their size 10 boots may take reprisals against your front wing, as might a badly-driven baby buggy. Also try not to cause disruption to neighbours or other passing motorists. Needless to say, only complete, road-legal cars should be stored on the public highway. Part-dismantled projects may not only attract the attentions of the scrap metal foragers, but also the displeasure of the Boys in Blue, patrolling in their Wolseley 6/80s, or Mk3 Zephyrs.

Lock-up garages.

Years ago I was fortunate enough to have use of a lock-up for the lowly sum of £5 per week. This proved to be a godsend, especially as parking at my parentsí house was getting a little tight. Things to remember when looking for a lock-up are:
  • Is the area secure, and do the garage locks actually work?
  • Is the garage dry, and is the structure in good order? Also, who is responsible for maintenance?
  • What effect will storing the car away from home have on its insurance? Check the postcode of any potential rented unit before signing on the dotted line.
  • Does it have electricity? Working without power can be a real toil, and will undoubtably lead to jobs taking many times longer to complete than they would otherwise do. Also check who pays for the electricity usage.
While you might not object to vehicles being worked on at random times of the day, others probably will. Cast your eye about the surrounding area of a lock-up, before agreeing to rent it. If it's in close proximity to peopleís homes, you may incur the wrath of the neighbours if you insist on operating an angle grinder, welder, spray gun or shot-blasting equipment while theyíre sat in their gardens, or have their washing out on the line. Falling out with neighbours is never a good idea.

Large vehicles.

Owners of classic buses, fire engines, lorries and similarly large vehicles in general have my sympathies. I know only too well how difficult it can be to store a large vehicle properly. Over the years Iíve had mine in a farmerís barn, a hangar, and then (fortunately) at home. With many barns being converted into living accommodation, the supply of buildings able to contain long and/or tall vehicles has been drastically reduced. The farm buildings I used to have mine at have long since either been converted into des-res dwellings, or swept away to be replaced by new buildings altogether.
Buses are especially tricky to store
Those buildings that are still available will probably command a fair sum in rent, while commercial buildings are best avoided as they'll attract business rates. While there are still farm buildings out there that can be used for classic vehicle storage, there can be problems associated with them. Theyíre often not that secure, and due to their size may well be used for the parking of several vehicles, belonging to different individuals and groups. The last thing that any lorry owner needs is for, say, the driver of a Routemaster bus, not yet au fait with reversing such a sizeable beast, backing into their pride and joy while attempting a parking manoeuvre. The two "V"s also can apply here - Vandalism, and Vermin, both of which are undesirable when it comes to vehicle welfare. Many farms are still working businesses, so donít underestimate the damage that passing cows or sheep can do to a vehicle either, not forgetting Young Farmers driving hell for leather in their commodious tractors, one hand on the wheel, the other fiddling with their iPod.

Serviced storage facilities.

If your budget runs to it, then there are companies out there offering secure storage facilities, complete with 24-hour security, CCTV, and discretion assured. This probably isnít going to be a viable option for most old-car owners, but for top-end motor-cars, that may not cover many miles in any given year, this may be worth investigating.
In summary, the nearer to home, and the drier the storage conditions are, the better it will be for the long-term preservation of your vehicle. My own lorry, referred to previously, was stored for some time in the relatively secure surroundings of a WW1 hangar. However a change of site policy led to it being unceremoniously dumped outside in the long grass, its rear door (the other had already fallen off) blowing in the wind, the rear interior soaking wet thanks to the driving rain. I found an enormous tarpaulin with which I was able to cover it in the short term, but it really hit home how difficult storing a prized possession Ė even one in parlous condition Ė can be, and how being reliant on others for storage can easily end in tears. If you have no option but to rely on the use of other people's premises to store your vehicle, always have a Plan B in mind, just in case they ask you to leave at short notice.
Sir, put your car in the driveway!

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