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A guide to American classics

How to live the american dream Published: 13th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A guide to American classics
A guide to American classics
A guide to American classics
A guide to American classics
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Our American car expert Paul Bussey sorts out the fact from the fiction on buying, owning and living with a classic from the other side of the pond

For a good many owners it’s all a question of escapism from the weekly grind of work and toil, but at the weekends you can go cruising in your American dream car. Whether it’s a 1950’s fins ‘n’ chrome land yacht, a 60S saloon, a sporting Corvette, T Bird or Mustang, arguably one of the best known Stateside classics, or perhaps a muscle car, the attraction is being different. Few enthusiasts aren’t intoxicated by the roar and throaty burble exhaust note of a V8 in full cry, more often than not it will be coupled to a silky smooth three-speed transmission, all you have to do is point and squirt - and enjoy to the full. Large saloons normally offer highlevels of refinement and comfort and effortless cruising. If you fancy being Bo or Luke Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard, then buy yourself a Dodge Charger; there’s already many clones of the ‘General Lee’ around, or you could always go for a Ford Torino, Starsky & Hutch eat your heart out! Or maybe you’d like a fabulous Woodie station wagon, room for all the family and grandma and grandpa, or even a Rat look pickup truck? The choice is endless, but you can make your American dream come true, do it now, while you can still afford to fill it up with gas, sorry petrol!

Flash and brash?

In many cases yes, but then that’s the raison d’être lots of enthusiasts run a Yank, throwing caution to the wind and daring to be different from the rest. There will never be anything quite like the fins ‘n’ chrome era again, nor the numerous variety of muscle cars whose engines produced enough torque to pull up large trees! Another attraction is the wonderful variety of twotone paint schemes that were once very much in vogue, particularly in the 1960’s, not to mention the profusion of brightwork that nowadays on modern cars is mostly void. If you pull into a petrol station (have the credit card handy), fast food outlet, local shopping parade or similar, be prepared be the centre of attraction, expect to field loads of questions. Most folk just love a Yank and you’ll never creep about quietly and go unnoticed.

DIY in the USA

Plenty of folk have gone down that route and havebeen delighted with their purchase, especially with the excellent Pound to Dollar rate right now. There’s always a risk with purchasing something unseen, and there’s also lots of paperwork to complete, getting the car UK registered, and MoT’d with specific lighting stipulations can take time. Remember as the Roman’s cried Caveat Emptor - that’s Buyer Beware to you and me and as apt now as it ever was!

Over-sized and over here!

If you own a large truck or land yacht then yes, narrow country lanes are to be avoided if possible, as are multi-storey car parks, but it’s unlikely you’ll go in them anyway. LHD is only really a hindrance when overtaking if you are in the car on your own, but most enthusiasts cope. It’s all part of the ethos of running a Stateside classic. On the plus side, the driver will always alight on the pavement and not roadside. Other drawbacks include your car not fitting into a standard garage at home, so many have to endure life under a carport or cover. Cold damp garages with no airflow can sometimes be more detrimental than an open carport… Other owners keep their cars in barns on farms, sometimes not logistically ideal, but quite popular nevertheless.

Have a nice day

If you have to cover lots of miles and the cost of petrol is an issue then a Yank classic isn’t really for you. A few enthusiasts do indeed run a variety of older classics daily, however while many moderns like the Corvette C4 and C5 for example, and later generation Mustangs, are quite practical everyday cars, as are a huge number of pickup trucks. But there’s no getting away from the fact that a large V8 engine and especially multicarburettors on a muscle car engine are going to gulp fuel at an alarming rate. But then you are essentially only driving at weekends, and probably not very much during winter months? If yourfuel budget is very limited, don’t kid yourself and purchase a muscle car. Go for something more economical instead - like a juggernaut!

It’s the pits

The older the car, the more conventional the mechanics, and should you wish, you will be able to maintain your Yank on a DIY basis. The later the car then there’s likely to be more complex electronics that will need diagnostic fault finding equipment at a specialist garage, but that’s no different to a Euro car to be fair. Most routine servicing consumables are readily available from specialist suppliers and won’t break the bank either; as a rule an old Mustang won’t cost any more than, say, a TR6 to maintain.

Joining the protection game

Lower mileage premiums on agreed value classic policies for huge V8-engined cars can sometimes work out the same as a ‘normal’ classic. Rates can vary quite wildly between different brokers and you are going to have to shop around for the best deal; don’t accept the first few quotes you receive if they seem a tad high. Naturally your age and postcode can sometimes reflect a higher premium. There are quite a few of the larger companies that offer excellent rates for Yanks.

Spare a thought

Mainstream models won’t cause any problems nowadays there are lots of specialist suppliers both here in the UK and a huge network in the USA where lots of reproduction parts are available. However, if you purchase a rarer model, then things will be more difficult and you could well be surfing the ‘Net trying to locate that elusive part. It’s all about supply and demand! Generally speaking it’s stuff like interior trim, mouldings and body panels that tend to be harder to source than running gear components. Many UK suppliers have a weekly shipment of parts from the USA so you won’t have to wait long for a part.

Home alone?

No! The interest in Stateside classics is extremely healthy with thousands of enthusiasts and numerous clubs offering a wide variety of services meaning you’ll never be on your own! Membership of a one make or multi-marque club is recommended to gain top pleasure from American car ownership. There’s also lots of specialist car shows around the country, many of which include trade stands, autojumble, etc.

Dare to dream

The bottom line is if you really hanker for a Yank Tank then there’s very little to stop you (and yes that even includes screen prices) and you’ll have enormous fun in the process. Our advice is to play it cool and test drive as many US motors as you can to get a feel the things. Then go do it for real…

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