Just 70 words, that’s all they wanted. The editor has asked that I advise you, dear reader, how to spend £50,000 on a car to drive along a favourite road. In 70 short, easily digested words.
It should be so easy, shouldn’t it? It’s a simple brief that demands a simple answer. So, obviously, I’ve spent four days solid thinking about it.
That’s because the brief wasn’t just limited to new cars. If it was, I’d have written ‘buy a Porsche Cayman’ and that would have been the end of things. But no, because crucially, the brief also allowed any used car within budget.
Popping used cars into the equation opens up almost as many possibilities as I’ve opened browser windows while conducting what is, I think you’ll agree, this vitally important research. Certainly it’s comprehensive research. Government policy has been founded on less thorough investigation than this.
The problem, if you’d like to call it that, is that £50,000 buys an extraordinarily broad array of cars. If your favourite road happens to be one that spans the US (and there’s no reason why not), the ideal motor might be a muscle car like a 1970 Dodge Challenger. A tidy Challenger is easily available for £50,000. For that money, you could even buy one in the States and ship it home at the end of the road trip of your life.
Maybe a southern French mountain pass is more your tasse de thé? In which case, a dainty Alpine A110 could be nigh-on perfect. Or there’s more. Lotus Cortinas look terrific on British race circuits, for example. Pagoda-roofed Mercedes SLs cut the finest of dashes and look great in the city at night, while Sunday drives to a country pub for lunch come little better than at the wheel of a 1930s MG. Every one a perfect road and a perfect car.
All of this hardware is available within budget. Any could be had. And all, of course, are absolute folly and fantasy for everyone except those who can afford it on a whim.
Only that last bit isn’t true, because these cars aren’t folly at all. In fact, if you’ve owned one recently – or any number of other classic cars – it might well have been one of the most profitable financial moves you’ve ever made.
Classic car values, it seems, are increasing at extraordinary rates. Most notably at the very top end of the market, where some faintly twatospheric numbers have been reached by famous racing cars at auction recently. An Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar C-type sold for £2.6 million last week. Even the team’s transporter made £1.6m.
But classic car values are rising across the board, so estimates say, at as much as 25 per cent a year. Classic car price rises aren’t unusual in straitened times – there was one during the recession of the early 1990s – and it could, I suppose, fall of a cliff at any time. But the current increase is strong and sustained.
Choosing the right classic car and sinking some savings into it – and at this time of year we can usually spare a few minutes to consider our finances – could be an extremely smart thing to do. And if it’s not, because car ownership isn’t really about profits, it’s at least an entertaining way of keeping some money occupied.
Mind you, I might be talking cobblers. You’re reading the words of a man who bought an Austin Seven Special three years ago, during which time I dismantled it slightly, then went on to sell it for less than I paid for it to someone who has managed to restore it within four months and quadruple its value by doing so. So perhaps best not to do as I say. And definitely don’t do as I do.