It is something with an important name plus sporting or performance pretensions. As a result, it has become the object of general admiration and kept its value far better than ordinary cars.
However, it strikes me that the landscape is changing. In auctions and at high-tone classic car gatherings, you nowadays trip over E-types in clumps of a dozen. DB5s may be worth £200k, but they’re almost common. Meanwhile, the cars that used to be dismissed as 'porridge' (not least by those who had the foresight to buy their Bentleys for a few thousand quid back in the day) have become extremely rare and exciting to encounter. I get the feeling they’re about to have their day in the sun.
While wandering a north London street recently I came upon a pristine 1948 Hillman Minx, a car that had already reached basket case status by the time I’d become seriously interested in cars. Just seeing it was special; I had completely forgotten what the dashboard was like, so being reminded was a delicious experience.
A few days later I encountered a pristine black Jowett Javelin in a motorway service area (of all places) and had the same unaccountably warm feelings, especially when the proud owner lifted the bonnet to reveal the tiny and, let’s face it, puny flat-four beneath.
Now that the Healey-Aston brigade is arguably overpriced, over-bulled and omnipresent, I feel myself getting much more interested in the common cars of yesteryear. A bloke at a recent Goodwood breakfast club recently stopped the human traffic with a lovely little late 1930s Fiat Topolino, despite being packed on all sides by Porsches and Ferraris. I looked up his car’s value later: about £8000. And it was pictures of that car I was showing the Steering Committee at home the next day.
I’m not knocking old Jags and Healeys. They’re lovely. But the fact that that their burgeoning value has removed them as a realistic target for many of us who love classic cars encourages me to believe there will soon be a new crop.
Call me daft, but I’d like to propose the Triumph TR7 or MGF as examples of the new order. Currently you’ll find your choice of 50 for under £3000, yet in many ways – styling, cockpit comfort, ease of ownership, even dynamics – they’re decent cars. There are plenty of others, too. Move on, say I.