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Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of

Published: 15th May 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
Ten Classic Cars you’ve always dreamed of
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If you want to buy your next classic like a pro, then here’s all you need to know, and what you need to do! Plus we give our verdicts on over 36 top classics



Does it perform as it should, with no undue noise or wear. Is the oil pressure correct or, if a gauge isn’t fitted, does the warning light extinguish quickly on start-up and not illuminate at low speeds when hot? Under load, can you hear a rumble, suggesting a worn crankshaft and its bearings? Lighter tapping in the depths of the unit suggests big-end wear while ‘top-end’ means tappets/camshaft wear. If the buyer agrees, have an engine compression test carried out.


Some gearboxes whine (Vauxhalls are prone) but this shouldn’t be excessive. Is the change quality as it should be, do any gears jump out on the over-run ( throttle). If automatic, does the ‘box change gear smoothly without jerks and is the fluid clean and not ‘burnt’? Axles usually wail ‘off throttle’ but again it shouldn’t be excessive.


When parked up, does the car sit all square without signs of listing or sagging (usually at the rear) and when you press down firmly on each corner does the body move up and down no more than twice? Some cars, such as MGs and Triumphs, have trunnions which are prone to wear. Is the suspension relatively smooth and silent no clonks, creaks and so on?


It’s a fact! As you’re dealing with old cars then of course there’s going to be rust of some degree. The real skill lies in determining the critical from the purely cosmetic. As a rule, items like sills, doors, valances etc are easy, if not cheap, to repair or replace – the important panels are the vehicle’s structure such as chassis, inner sills and wings, suspension and steering attachment points, floorpans and so on. Have a word with an owners’ club, or check out our comprehensive buying guides (they are on the web) to find out the most rust-prone areas on the classic you are thinking of buying. Always inspect the underneath, checking for repairs, and be suspicious of thick underseal which may be masking rot. A small magnet is very handy to check for filler work. Is the paint too shiny – has a quick respray been conducted? Check everything in your own good time and in your own way. And never be hurried by an inpatient seller, who may want to hide the truth…


Is the steering responsive or does it display slack before the road wheels turn? Does the car pull to one side, signifying anything from poor steering alignment (an easy job to correct) or a bent chassis and does the car wander at speed, suggesting similar woes?


Do they pull up squarely and progressively and without grabbing or is there juddering pointing to out of true drums or discs? The handbrake should be effective.


Does the car feel ‘good’ for its model and age or flabby and loose, suggesting it’s just an MoT failure away from a restoration? Obviously it depends on how much you pay for the vehicle, and how it’s described, but always buy the best you can afford.



Private sales are still the most popular way to buy, although, unlike with a modern, it doesn’t mean you necessarily get cheaper prices. On the other hand you (hopefully) will meet the owner and so gain a better history and ‘feel’ for the vehicle, as the seller’s demure can indicate whether the vehicle is honest. Of course, there’s no warranty given – your only legal protection is whether it was described dishonestly in an ad.


Auctions are becoming increasingly popular and you can certainly get a good deal, as you stand shoulder-to- shoulder with dealers. You have more consumer protection than buying privately because the vehicle must be described with accuracy, although no warranty will be given. Unlike normal auctions, vehicles remain static and are not run – so you need to have a good grasp of cars and a lucky streak!


Good dealers, and most are, will have top notch stock or can obtain your dream vehicle if you give them time. Often as not the sold cars will come fully prepped and refurbished with a fresh MoT. Not all give warranties; if they do it’s more a ‘gentleman’s’ agreement. Don’t instantly think a dealer is any dearer because, in terms of values, it usually doesn’t work that way with classics, unlike mainstream modern cars.



BEST BUY: RS Escorts
WORST BUY: Badly modified cars

Introduced in 1959, as saloon with estate and van in ‘61. ‘1200’ engine and Super trim for ‘62. Escort replaces Anglia in late ‘67 with new look but similar mechanicals. Four- door option (69), Mexico (70) 1300 Sport (71) and RS2000/1300E (73) before Mk2 replacement in 1975 which was a reskin of the design.

Excellent starter cars although prices are rising – especially hot Escorts. Utterly sensible and practical classic transport that’s cheap and easy to fix.

Anglia feels less smooth than an Escort but ‘Max Power’ brigade has forced prices of the latter to silly levels – and it’s spreading to plain four-door and estate Mk2s now!


1. Rust is the main worry and both models suffer in the same place; floors, rear spring attachment points, front strut tops, inner wings, A and B posts. More cosmetic are doors, wings, arches, valances and so on.
2. Mechanically the cars are very similar. On all, wear manifests itself in smoking, fuming at the crankcase and timing chain and tappet noise.
3. Front suspension is a carry over from 100E but the Escort features rack and pinion steering. On Anglias, wheel wobble and steering shake is common due to wear in the system. 4. Transmissions can become noisy. The rear hub bearings are a pain to replace, make sure there’s no play. 5. Genuine AVO Escorts start with BF18 although some also wore a BB49 code. MK2, Mexicos and RS2000s wear a GCAT chassis no.


WORST BUY: Anything worn out
BUDGET BUY: Average models

Launched in 1949 but not officially sold in UK until 1974 with 602cc 29bhp. Special edition two years later, Charleston (1980) then Club. Front disc brakes 1982, R.I.P 1990.

A tremendously likeable economy car that offers more smiles per mile than anything else. Not fast but cruises surprisingly well. Hugely practical and there’s a superb club for spares, advice and a social scene.

Well you either love or hate it’s looks and ‘Green’ image. Despite its simplistic nature the 2CV isn’t as DIY-friendly as you expect. Prices for top and rare models look a bit high for what they are.


1. Rust is a worry but you can buy a new galvanised chassis for around £400. By now most pre-1980s cars will have had a new chassis fitted.
2. Rot often starts on the inside. The area where the front axle is located is the most important place as are rear chassis legs which can’t be welded. If the chassis is badly rotten behind the axle, as the frame twists the steering gets abnormally heavy.
3. The 2CV’s engine relies on its oil to keep cool. Overheating leads to piston seizure as a result.
4. The transmission doesn’t last forever. The first thing to give trouble is normally third gear synchromesh. If the gearchange is stiff, it’s probably the bushes at the base of the lever. 5. Heavy steering can be down to a twisted chassis or more likely seized kingpins if they haven’t been properly greased every 1500 miles.


BEST BUY: Convertible

Launched in 1959. Saloon and coupe initially followed by van, estate and convertible. 1200cc (1961), sporty 12/50 features Spitfire tune and overdrive. 13/60 uses 1.3-litre engine (1967). Six-cylinder 1600 Vitesse (62), 2-litres (66), more power in ‘68.

A quaint quality car that delights with its peppy nature, practicality and brilliant DIY potential. Convertibles most liked. Great turning circle and most feature disc brakes. Pep easily improved by Spitfire engine: 2-litre Vitesses are swift and smooth.

Rear wheel ‘tuck in’ leads to skittish handling but this is easily reduced and modern radials help. Separate chassis leads to surprising number of squeaks and rattles. Performance sedate unless it’s a 12/50 or 13/60.


1. The main chassis rails, at either side of the differential, are known rot spots, as are the chassis outriggers behind the sills.
2. Mechanically, the car is fairly robust, the main foible with Triumph engines is undue crankshaft end float. Check for movement at the crank pulley as an aid works the clutch pedal. Repair work means an engine strip down.
3. Reverse gear selection can be a problem when it wears and ‘boxes are noise-prone. Watch for driveshaft and universal joint wear at the rear.
4. At the front, trunnions can seize and even result in a wheel falling off!
5. Is convertible actually a saloon that’s been converted? Check to be sure the job has been done right


BEST BUY: 1500

Launched after WW2. 1200 (54) has 30bhp engine – cable operated brakes until ‘62 on Standard model. Bigger rear window (58), 1300 engine (65) along with revised suspension, wider track and 12 volts for 1967 by which time ‘1500’ had arrived with 44bhp and front discs. 1302/1303 with 1600 engine (70) plus new strut front suspension.

Said to be the most popular classic on our roads, with cracking specialist and club support worldwide. Sedate but all cruise flat out and are far more refined and comfortable than aged design suggests. Rag tops are a cult car and command big money.

Not everybody’s cup of tea and handling, especially on early models, can be interesting to say the least…


1. Body and floorpan are separate, so a new chassis isn’t out of the question. Side sills (incorporating heater channels) are a common problem area and so often bodged. 2. Other worry areas are the torsion bar tube end attachment points, strut tops on 1303 models (the least liked or least restored Beetle by the way). 3. The heat exchangers act as the heater; faulty ones can kill due to exhaust fumes entering the car.
4. An engine that sounds like an asthmatic lawnmower is normal but a badly worn motor makes the usual noises from mains, crankshaft etc.
5. Slack steering can mean a new box – or just ball joints. Check ride height and watch for listing due to worn/broken torsion bars.


BEST BUY: 1000 Convertible
WORST BUY: Sidevalve models
BUDGET BUY: 1000 Saloon

Launched in 1948 in saloon form with Traveller (estate) and convertible (Tourer) arriving in 1953. Sidevalve replaced by larger 948cc ohv (56) with better ‘box and larger window. Minor 1000 in ‘62 boasts 1098cc.

It’s the ‘British Beetle’ and as cute.

A hoot to drive despite lack of go as handling compensates. Tremendously versatile and practical – especially Travellers – so it makes good daily drivers. Super club and specialist back up plus it’s one of the easiest classics to DIY repair and restore.

Pre-1098cc cars sluggish. Drum braked until the end (but easily converted). Woodwork on Travellers is structural and dear to put right, pick-ups and vans can be overpriced, as can be average condition Minors.


1. State of the structural areas are of concern – check front chassis legs, central cross-member, leaf spring hangers (especially rear), inner sills and A-post both for rust and, crucially, poorly executed repairs.
2. Exterior panels are less critical; front wings door bottoms, bootlid but all are readily, cheaply available.
3. Woodwork on Travellers needs scrutiny as a professional reframe (which will be needed at some point) can cost up to £2000. Is it bodged?
4. Engines can become rattly over time (tappets and camshafts) yet its rarely terminal but can consume oil.
5. Front suspension trunnions can seize and cause wheel to come off. It’s worth paying a premium for a car that has been thoroughly ‘sorted’ here.


BEST BUY: Cooper and Cooper S
WORST BUY: Bodged, over-priced
BUDGET BUY: Post 1990 cars

Introduced in 1959, Traveller and van by ‘61 along with tuned Cooper; S arrives in ‘63. Hydrolastic (64), Mk2 with 998cc engine (68). Clubman and 1275GT introduced in late ‘69. Cooper back in 1990, Minis become 1275cc powered in ‘96 with taller gearing.

An all time great, who hasn’t owned or driven a Mini? Brilliant go-kart handling and agility but so is ride… Peppy performance from all and 1.3i cars are Cooper S quick. Parts and repairers abound. Later posher Minis have all the fun yet are the cheapest.

There’s many tired and bodged examples around. If you’re Cooper- hunting, watch for fakes. Rust and bodges rife. Not exactly DIY friendly.


1. Check for clever fakes. A genuine MkI Cooper chassis number prefixed by C-A2S7 if it’s an Austin or K-A2S4 if Morris. MkII Coopers used C-A2SB and K-A2S6. MkIII Coopers had a prefix of XAD-1.
2. Where don’t Minis rust? Floors and subframes are the most critical as it can scrap the car.
3. Inner sills dissolve all too readily. Cars are often bodged to get through ‘just one more’ MoT here. 4. The A-Series engine is a tough unit that will take hard use. Common wear points are oil usage, rumbling cranks, tappet noise, noisy timing chains and general tardiness.
5. Transmissions shouldn’t be too noisy driveshafts and cv joints that ‘click’ on full lock. Check for leaking ‘wet’ suspensions, listing and worn rear radius arms. Auto box dear to fix.


01 Treat that lovely classic as you would any second-hand vehicle and keep any emotional feelings out of it!
02 Drive a few examples of the car(s) you are considering to set a datum
03 Always hear the engine start from stone cold so you can detect undue noises which tend to reduce when warmed up and go unnoticed
04 Always check that the warning lights illuminate/extinguish when they should – are any not working?
05 Let the owner/dealer always drive first so you can gauge the car’s condition and not be distracted by traffic, or trying to familiarise yourself behind the wheel of a strange car
06 Take the vehicle for a good brisk drive under varying loads and speeds; a quick gallop round the block simply isn’t good enough
07 You must take into account that any old car will have some rattles and groans, be it an Aston or Austin, and won’t drive like a modern. You need to make allowances for this, but on the other hand the car shouldn’t feel clapped-out either – unless you’re buying a project, of course!
08 Try every switch, lever, and gizmo fitted (especially overdrive or powered hoods, for example) to see that they all work as they should
09 If you have a more experienced friend then let them have a drive to confirm your probably biased judgement
10 Okay, all may be well – but even if the car was okay, did you actually like it? If not then think again because otherwise you’ll probably soon sell it after the euphoria has died down…

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