Life Auto Gone in 60 seconds: some classic car problems

Gone in 60 seconds: some classic car problems

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If your Father’s Day treat to dad (or yourself) is a classic car, then it’s likely the best part of the experience is already over.

Finding and buying a classic car can be fun, a crusade with a beautiful shiny prize at the end.

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But living with a classic car is a view best seen through rose-coloured Aviators (Classics, of course). And even a very quick drive will be enough to have most of us scurrying back to the comforts of our modern, computer-aided four-wheelers.

The embedded technology that takes care of us each and every kilometre we drive in modern cars has become so seamless most of us simply don’t know it’s there, let alone operating.

The very simplest of these, antilock brakes, has at a stroke of a boffin’s pen reduced the number of single and multiple vehicle accidents by a magnitude. Jump into your 1960s vintage MG or Camaro and there’ll be none of that, thank you.

That refreshing summer shower or brisk icy winter’s morning jaunt will have you mentally recalculating your stopping distances as the braking potential of your classic has all of a sudden evaporated.

It’s remarkable how long those seconds seem between the time the modern shopping trolley hatchback slams to a stop in front of you and when your lovingly restored American Graffiti refugee finally follows suit.

Your 'American Graffiti' dream should stay just that.
Your ‘American Graffiti’ dream should stay just that.

And then there’s the minor consideration of comfort and reliability.

Interstate road trips were big things way back when, because cars were challenged by the requirements of multi-hour, multi-day operation. Just as the early piston engine airliners would often arrive at their trans-oceanic destination with one engine dead and a propeller feathered, it was not uncommon for ‘holidays’ to start a day or so late as our cars required TLC along the way.

Winter was a time of poor vision from breathless demisters and useless wipers. Summer you sweltered, or lived in a permanent state of windburn and chapped lips.

All of this from the ‘classics’ cars after which many of us lust today. And let’s not even start on the subject of finding parts!

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The hardy classic car aficionados will cope with all of the above – wear the travails like a badge of honour. For the rest of us there are options. Which one you choose has much to with the budget allocated to your Father’s Day treat.

Companies like Eagle in the UK and The Healey Factor (THF) much closer to home (Ringwood, Victoria) specialise in taking beautiful classic cars and bringing them up to date with carefully chosen modifications and delivering the benefits of modern technologies and metallurgy.

Former Top Gear pugilist Jeremy Clarkson famously drove an Eagle Jaguar XKE (E-TYPE) around Europe for a television series. You can buy a very similar car from the company replete with aircon that works and even a modern six-speed gearbox that makes highway cruising effortless. The engine and cooling system will cope with modern traffic – something this car struggled with from new.

THF’s re-engineered Austin-Healey 3000s are a thing of beauty inside and out. Like the Eagle cars, these ‘Big’ Healeys look original but can be specified with disc brakes that work and even period radios that feature hidden Bluetooth connections so you can look spiffy and Spotify all at once.

More of a bent eight fan? There are many operations in Australia and myriad in the USA that will build you a Mustang with all mod-cons – from a Ford approved brand-new circa 1970 Dynacorn bodyshell.

Just name you poison and your price. Mine would be a Singer Porsche. Look it up… Alas the prices are eye-watering.

Or if you want a Classic experience without the cost, mechanical angst or too many comfort compromises, you can do what hundreds of thousands have done around the word … Buy a Mazda MX-5.

The world’s most popular Roadster is the smart modernista’s quasi-collectable. Its fourth generation has just launched Down Under from around $32,000 but you can buy well-looked-after circa 1989 Series I or later Series II cars from around about $5000.

Engaging handling, enough performance, real communication between car and driver via hands and seat of the pants – and modern hatchback reliability…

There are Classics… And then there are Classics.


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