5 Classic Cars I Loved Owning
I Wonder Where They Are Now?
Over the years I have been lucky enough to own many cars. No, unfortunately this Maserati Ghibli was not one of them but I wish it had been!
Some were simply a means to an end but some have stuck in my memory for the pleasure and experiences they gave me.
Here are my 5 best, not necessarily in chronological order. Each was a classic car in some way.
Jaguar Mark VII
I bought this car when I was still a student in 1963. By then the car was 11 years old, and it cost me the grand sum of 50 pounds (about 75 dollars)! Considering that this was a machine that originally cost its first owner about 1700 pounds (about 2,750 dollars) you might think that I got a bargain. In a way I did, because this was a large, fast, luxurious sedan with a classic XK 6-cylinder engine of 3.4 litres. But anyone who knows about Jaguars of that vintage will also know about their built-in tendency to convert every metal part to oxidised dust as soon as possible! My car was a rust heap, but it held together long enough for me to cover several thousand miles uphill and down dale in many of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom.
Being an engineering undergraduate I also had to get my hands dirty, an easy task on that huge oily engine. I vividly remember lifting it out, taking it apart to change the big end bearings, and spending hours and hours cleaning out the gunge in the bottom of the oil sump. One or two of my engineering colleagues helped me from time to time, but most stood back and laughed at the amount of work I had given myself. But all was made good when I fired up that engine again. It was silky smooth and had bags of power. So much so that the next thing to fail was one of the half shafts driving the rear wheels! That happened when I was miles from anywhere, and the tow home cost me more than the car.
Finally, when I graduated, I managed to sell this lovely motor to another student in the year below me. He gave me 55 pounds. I think that was the only car where I made a ‘profit’.
I bought this car in an upstate NY shopping mall. More precisely, I saw this lovely red sports car on show in the mall, and immediately bought one like it. It gave my wife and me more than 10 years and 100,000 miles of unalloyed pleasure, both in the US and when we later imported it into the UK. I remember that the cost of flat-bedding it from Buffalo to Elizabeth, NJ, for shipping cost more than the freight charge across the Atlantic!
It looked like the Nissan 200SX that was sold in the UK, but it had a different (non-turbo) engine. This gave it a more relaxed driving style that I found very satisfying. The left hand drive on UK roads where you also had to drive on the left was no problem. I developed a method, when stuck behind the usual gaggle of slow traffic, of driving as close to the left verge as possible so that I could see up the inside of the queue. This made it possible for me to see if anything was coming the other way much sooner than anybody else, and I could then overtake when they all were hanging back. It used to frighten my passengers (usually my wife), who were in the 'firing line' so to speak, but it worked a treat.
That car also had a sort of party trick that always seemed to fascinate my English colleagues. It had the automatic seat belt device that allowed you to enter and sit in the car, and then wrapped the belt around you when you closed the door. Often I had to open and close the door several times to show off this feature!
I loved the look of this car, with its British Racing Green paintwork and silver wire wheels with knock-on hubs. As a young air force officer with very little spare cash, I managed to buy it new with the proceeds of a long overseas detachment which paid me generous local living expenses.
There were two problems with this machine. Being a roadster it had a fold-away canvas roof. Putting this up involved a tortuous process of wire hoops and snap-on studs. I always tried to drive with the roof down, even in the normal UK gloomy weather. But, when the rain got very heavy, I would have to stop, jump out, open the trunk, remove the bag containing the roof and all its wire hoops, rush round the car inserting these in all the right places, then haul the canvas roof over the top and fasten it down with all those snap-on studs. Then jump into the car, by then dripping wet.
The other problem was those wire wheels. They looked terrific but, oh boy, were they difficult to clean! I was proud of that car, but the wheels took twice as long as the rest of the car to wash properly. I had all sorts of little wire brushes, small sponges, bits of string, ‘clean’ and ‘half clean’ cloths and so on. Initially I used to even remove each wheel so that I could clean behind as well. Later that job tended to get put off, I regret to admit.
Like many other 2-seater vehicles, that car had to go with the birth of my daughter. I was sad to see one go but happy to see the other arrive!
The Best Ferrari Book Ever!
There are thousands of books about Ferraris. This is the best one of all, written by a man (Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame, no less) who owns and races a huge range of these wonderful cars. It is now considered to be a collector's item. I am lucky enough to own a copy and simply treasure it.
This is a Ferrari book that actually SOUNDS like a Ferrari! It includes a DVD with sound tracks of famous Ferrari engines at full chat. I really can't describe what this is like - you have to hear it for yourself. Click the button to check out this wonderful book.
Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV
This was another car bought from the proceeds of generous duty-free overseas allowances, that time being Cyprus. The roads were usually empty and, shortly after buying it, I managed to ‘prove’ its claimed top speed of 128 mph. Most of the time it cruised around at a more leisurely 70 or 80, but its lovely gearchange and great-sounding engine never failed to give me a buzz.
It was probably the most beautiful machine I have ever owned. I loved its lines and, in flame red with silver wheels, it looked absolutely right. An Italian stallion! Unfortunately, shortly before I was posted back to the UK, I was literally driven off the road by an idiot overtaking the other way. My Alfa rolled heavily, with the roof being squashed down to the top of the door sills. I was OK but the car was not. Eventually, when it was time to repair it, I asked the garage mechanic how they would ever get it square again without a proper jig. He said that the new windows would not fit until the roof had been hammered back into the right shape!
But, as with Jaguars, the Alfa had a bad reputation for rust and I was never able to completely trust that repair job. I sold it shortly after arriving in the UK. A sad end but a beautiful experience (most of the time!).
Mini Cooper S
I had three of these at various times, and loved each one. The photo is not of any of these, because I seem to have lost the negatives, but it is exactly like my 1275S, except that I did not compete at Monaco!
The first was a 1091cc Cooper with a Downton-tuned engine. It was not new, but it was in great condition, with a Webasto sliding roof and finished in British Racing Green. The engine was its selling point. All that had been done was a skilled balancing of the crankshaft and pistons, but the result was an engine that ran like a sewing machine. Smooth, powerful, with a great sound. It impressed my student colleagues so much that three of them went out and bought similar cars.
I was keen on doing some motorsport at that time, so I entered it in one rally (finishing first in class and second overall), a hill climb and several club circuit races. It always performed flawlessly and gave me much pleasure.
Wanting to go faster in races I swapped that Cooper for a highly-tuned 970S, but I could never get that one to perform properly even though it was very fast. On one occasion, with my then-girlfriend (later wife) on board, I managed to average 96.4 mph over both directions of the new Belfast M1 motorway. But then it broke down on the gentle drive home afterwards! Another time, driving on the Great North Road out of London, I was overtaken and stopped by a police motorcyclist. When I wound the window down, he said that it had taken him 15 miles to catch me. After a warning to drive more carefully in future he grinned and raced off!
My final car was a red Cooper 1275S, again very fast and very noisy, with lowered suspension, wide wheels and all the other boy-racer stuff. I think, by then, I was beginning to grow up a little so, after some hairy but enjoyable miles, I decided to sell it and buy something more sedate. I think that was a Rover 2000, but that is another story.
This Is What Minis Are Good At! - A Club Race At Goodwood For Original Cooper S Saloons
Here is a race for the original Mini Cooper 1275S version, just to show what fun can be had at club racing level. I never raced at Goodwood, as here, but I did manage a few races elsewhere, as well as hill climbs and rallying. I always drove myself to the circuit, raced, then drove home again. Luckily I never had a big enough accident to make me walk home!
Probably the most famous race circuit of all was the Brooklands track near Weybridge in the UK. It was exceedingly popular pre-WW2 because its steeply banked circuit allowed drivers with enough nerve to drive at tremendous speeds around it. The sights, sounds and smells must have been breath-taking.
But, during and after the war, it was gradually absorbed by the nearby Vickers Aircraft Works and then by a large housing estate. Now only a few parts of the original banked track remain,and the old Club House has been converted into a classic car and bike museum.
For many years the track was abandoned but one day in the early '90s, just as it was being taken over by a bunch of enthusiasts, I happened to be on a visit to the UK from my home in New York. Being close to Brooklands in my little hire car I decided to take a look. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the access gate to the track was open and - better still - there seemed to be nobody around! This was an opportunity not to be missed....
I drove out onto the track, motored along it for a few hundred yards then turned around and put my foot down. The car accelerated to about 70 mph and I managed to get it quite far up the banking before I had to drop down again (and back to the modern world!).
I was able to do something that very few people alive today have experienced. This was a moment that I will always treasure.
What Is Your Favorite Classic Car?
Everyone has his or her own list of favorite classic cars. Here is a dream list of mine - why not add your vote, and dream a little at the same time?
So, what are your favorites?
Great Classic Car Reference Books And Videos!
I love sitting down and getting lost in a great car book or being immersed in a great film. Here are some that you might enjoy too.
Fifty iconic cars whose designs had a huge impact on our favorite method of transportation. From the Model T to the 2CV, with many lesser-known designs that were engineering masterpieces too. Click the button to check out this absorbing book.
Seventy nine of the finest cars of the post-war period at their beautiful best. Some of these are rare and expensive, many more are the cars which you might have been lucky enough to own once yourself. Great photos and detailed specifications. Re-awaken those dreams and memories by clicking the button.
Stunning studio photography of some of the most significant automobiles from the classic 1910s to early 1940s. High quality portraits of some of the most important cars ever made, each with a short insight of that car's place in automotive history. Click the button to get perhaps the most beautiful pictorial history of classic cars ever produced.
An exciting hour of video and film clips about Detroit's classic autos being put through their paces. Mustang, Corvair, De Soto, Plymouth - they're all here. Click the button for a great experience!
And If You Want A Small Classic Car
Collecting small model cars is such a rewarding hobby. Not all are expensive but, of course, if you want great detail and accuracy, prepare to pay some hard cash! The upside is that, if you choose wisely, you will see a good return on your investment if and when you ever decide to sell any of them.
Top 10 Classic Cars Of All Time
Every motoring enthusiast has his or her own list of great racing or sports cars. Here is mine - let me know what you think.
- Top 10 Classic Sports Cars Of All Time
Only open 2-seaters, rear wheel drive, one per manufacturer
- Maserati 250F – The Most Beautiful Racing Car Ever!
The big, beautiful racing car that dominated Formula 1 in the mid-fifties. See and hear this wonderful car for yourself.
You must have owned at least ONE great car! Why was it so good, and what experiences did it give you? I would love to know ....