This article was first published in 2003.
Once you've owned a few cars that you've tweaked with some basic exhaust,
intake and maybe boost, intercooling and chip changes, you've pretty well 'done
it all'. After your third time 'round, those mods have lost any real feeling of
excitement and it's all very familiar. Just part of the routine.
So what can you do to get off this merry-go-round, you ask? Simple - buy a
Yes, yes, the transition from a rapid modern-tech streetcar to an automotive
antique is a gigantic one, but if you're looking for an adventure that's
a little out of the ordinary, it really is a great experience. Especially if you
don't mind getting your hands dirty...
First of all, we should point out that classic cars will only appeal to true automotive enthusiasts - not those who are on the car fashion
bandwagon. An appreciation of motoring history is a prerequisite.
There is no defining quality of a classic car, but - to give you a guide -
let's take a look at some of the most widely recognised classic cars as
Alfa Romeo 105-Series Coupes
Alfa Romeo's popular 105-series sedan debuted in 1962, but the Giulia Sprint
coupe version (which is based on the sedan) didn't appear until later the next
year. Its gorgeous, flowing - yet compact - lines were sketched by the famous
Bertone and, under the skin, used mechanicals based on that of the Berlina Ti
sedan - a DOHC, 1.6-litre four-cylinder generating 106hp.
The terrific sales success of the Giulia Sprint led to the 1968 release of
the bigger and bolder 1750 GTV. The 1750 part of the name hints at the larger
engine capacity (actually 1779cc), which was good for pumping out 118hp. The
1750 was a considerably quicker vehicle than the Giulia Sprint and its
wheelbase was stretched 30mm to aid stability. The 1750 GTV was also made
identifiable by its twin headlight front-end.
The final in the beautiful 105-coupe series was the 2000 GTV, which used a
1962cc version of the DOHC four-cylinder. Claimed flywheel output was 132hp. The
2000 GTV was capable of accelerating to 100 km/h in a shade over 9 seconds, with a
top speed of 121 mph (nearly 200 km/h) and had nicely balanced rear-wheel-drive
Any in this series is a collectable sportscar.
Jaguar Mark II 3.8
The 1959-introduced Jaguar Mark II was a tremendously important vehicle for
the British marque. With almost 100,000 examples built, it established that Jaguar had the capacity to assemble very real numbers of niche vehicles.
The popularity of the Mark II can be tied to its modern, sporty body profile
and the XK-derived twin carb, DOHC, 3.8-litre six giving an output of 220hp and
a top speed of 120 mph (about 195 km/h). It was also a supremely comfortable
leather-lined/walnut timber capsule with effortless open-road cruising
abilities. Less desirable 2.4 and 2.8-litre Mark II versions were also
Production of the Mark II ended in 1967, when the 'downgraded' vinyl trimmed
240 and 340 saloons took over. Restored Mark II 3.8s fetch considerable money but tatty examples are still quite cheap.
The Fiat 124 series is probably the most accessible classic sportscar.
Designed by Pininfarina, the 124 is a pretty little sports coupe powered by an
ahead-of-its time DOHC four-cylinder. There were three models in the series -
the AC, BC and CC (the AC being the earliest, from 1967).
The early AC 124s come powered by a 1.4-litre, DOHC four with 96hp put to the
rear wheels. The engine was upsized to a 104hp 1.6-litre for the BC model and a
5-speed manual was made available instead of a 4-speeder. The final version -
the CC - got a big 1.8-litre motor but, thanks largely to low compression, it
made just 92.5hp.
Major styling revisions were made across the model's lifespan, but the older
models (as pictured) are regarded as the prettiest. These cars offer excellent
classic motoring value.
The Mercedes Benz Ponton (1953 - 1962) concreted this marque's reputation for
tremendous strength, reliability and comfort.
Following the Ponton came the first S-class series, which kicked off with the
1959 fin-tail classic (aka heckflosse). The late '60s saw the same
vertical headlight front-end retained, but the adoption of a much flatter and
lower body profile and the loss of the rear fins. Bigger engines were also
progressively introduced - namely a 2.5-litre six, a 2.8-litre six and a 3.5-litre
If you have plenty of money to spare you may well want to invest in a W109
300SEL 6.3 - easily the fastest luxury saloon in the world at the time and still
an awesome beast. Some unusual limousine versions were also produced (as
One of the most important cars for BMW was the 2002. Based on the 1600 series
- which saved BMW from imminent bankruptcy in the early '60s - the 2002
achieved great sales success in America, where the twin-carb 1.6-litre sports
versions of the 1600-2 (2-door) didn't meet emission regulations. This compelled
BMW to increase the engine capacity to 2.0-litres, thus creating the 2002 and a
Ample straight-line performance, good handling and much better practicality
than the imports from Italy meant sales were very strong - exactly what the
company was desperate for. Later versions of the 2002 - the 2002tii with
Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection and the awesome 2002 turbo - were faster
again, with the 2002 earning a reputation on racetracks. The 2002 Turbo was
built in limited numbers only between 1973 and 1974 and incorporated many aero,
suspension and brake upgrades. The 2002 turbo is a true collector's item that demands big prices, but the normal 2002 can be picked up quite cheaply.
The purchase price of a classic car varies tremendously - tabulated
depreciation rates go out the window and many
other factors come into
play. The most expensive classic cars are, of course, the ones that are the most
desirable for one reason or another - they might be sporty, something quirky
and/or simply a car that has a rich historical significance.
On the positive side, there remain quite a few desirable classics that can be
picked up very cheaply.
The humble VW Beetle has an undeniable classic car status and can be bought for as little as a few hundred dollars (in 'as is' condition), while Minis,
BMW 1600s and the 'compact' series Mercedes Benzes can also be picked up for
surprisingly little money. Of course, a lot comes down to the condition of the
The cost of insuring a classic car must also be considered. Like any car, the
insurance premium varies hugely from company to company (and from day to day!)
so it pays to shop around. Shannons, for example, is one of the most noted
insures of classic cars in Australia.
Note that Shannons also has an excellent website - www.shannons.com.au - that includes
the selling prices of various classic cars from previous auctions.
Stay tuned for Part Two - inspecting a classic car and how to maintain