With the approach of summer the demand for good vintage cars will presumably rise and, as there are few experiences so fascinating to youthful enthusiasts as running through the small ads, and setting out to seek a bargain, may Old Father Ed. offer some advice on the subject ?
In the first place, do not be misled by the argument that today’s cost of living bears no relation to that of 1939 into paying absurdly high prices for old machinery. Remember that the counter-argument has to do with the equally true fact that a vintage car is at least 23 years old and, unless rebuilt (ask to see bills !), has obviously depreciated quite a bit during that time, whether in use or standing in a shed.
Whether to buy from a dealer or privately is a debatable point. The former has stock for inspection but has overheads to meet and must make a profit; the private seller will have only one car to sell but you may get it for less money. Once bought, generally, a guarantee is not likely to be of much value (there may be exceptions) so insist on a trial run long enough to thoroughly warm the oil — few cars should show less than 8 lb./sq. in, pressure when hot. Take the log book with you when you leave, having checked all numbers therein with those on the vehicle.
Beware of traders who deal from private premises if they pretend to be private owners, and do not be misled by dealers who advertise a big selection of cars but have few in their showrooms. As to prices, I am informed that these will rise a bit until the middle of the summer and then come slumping down to a level lower than has been reached this winter, which was pretty low — and that it is in order to offer in the region of half the advertised price by today’s standards!
The R.A.C and A. A. can arrange engineer’s examinations of cars but common-sense must otherwise prevail. Remember that wear in bores is one of the most depressing of motor ailments, along with any maladies which will necessitate stripping the entire engine — unless you seek a bargain from this standpoint, intending in any case to strip and rebuild before use.
Dates of cars often make a big difference to value and the one-make organisations will often tell a prospective purchaser useful things under this heading, including how to discover the correct year of manufacture. If you buy the specimen concerned, it is then a decent gesture to join the club or register which helped you!
Generally, the young and inexperienced should go for a car rough externally if sound mechanically, instead of vice versa, but experience suggests that cars advertised as “body needs attention” can be a shocking sight — and body repairs are amongst the most difficult and expensive of all. Worn king-pins and bushes can be replaced — if replacements are available — more easily than a run bearing in the engine. Tyre wear can tell you a lot about the condition of brakes and steering — and tyres which look new in photographs can be found to be dubious retreads on inspection. Safety-glass is essential in windscreens and nearly always has a trademark near one corner. After trying for play in the steering, look at wear on control pedals, rock the front wheels from the top, test components-drives for “play” and jack up a back wheel with a cog engaged to feel for free movement in the transmission, continuing to use common-sense while doing all these revealing things. Ask the vendor, “Do you guarantee such and such speed, this m.p.g., that consumption of oil?” and look him straight in the eyes as he replies! You will probably still be caught but it will ease your conscience later. Don’t jump to the conclusion that a vendor is a good fellow because he has a car groaning under a load of the best club badges — they often collect them off cars which pass through the emporium into one glorious display,
However, there is little on paper that will guide you. Take an experienced enthusiast along with you if you can. It can certainly be a thrill looking through hundreds of small advertisements for cars which sound intriguing, and going off to see them for the first few days after the first of each month. I shall have my fingers crossed for you.
Definitions of some advertising slogans…
“Only wants seeing ” — Make sure this applies to the car and not to the price ticket.
“Late property of a nobleman” — How late ? It may have been handed down and down and used by the under-gardener’s boy for the past five years.
“Winner of 19- – Grand Prix” — Racing cars, correctly designed, should last the distance of the race only, then fall to pieces. The vendor may excuse himself thus if you find it is almost in pieces, of course.
“Absolutely perfect throughout” — ln other words, better than a brand new Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce.
“A gift” — This probably refers more specifically to your cheque than to the vendor’s car.
“Sell or break for spares” — If you buy it, you will save him the trouble.
The V.S.C.C. Pomeroy Trophy Contest, designed to discover the best all-round over-2-litre touring car amongst the entries, which this year ranged from the venerable 1908 G.P. Itala and Sears’ 1914 T.T. Sunbeam, to modern saloons, was won by John Vessey’s 1927 Lancia Lambda. He started off well by being very brisk in the test involving driving over a wet Silvestone runway through a series of “wiggles.” Poor Pomeroy, who devises the contest had a failure of the “Prince Henry” Vauxhall’s clutch plate mechanism and was unable to continue, nor was a Hotchkiss allowed to do the Hour High-Speed Trial because its windscreen, fitted by a well-known coachbuilder, was found to be of toughened glass. The high-speed part did not mean much to an onlooker because cars had only to maintain stipulated speeds, but Dr. Ewen obviously enjoyed driving the 1908 Itala and did the entire lap in top cog, disposing of L. S. Richards’ Speed Twenty Alvis which had its screen folded flat. A 3-1/2-litre Bentley saloon cornered very effectively, the car looking as if it knew what was expected of it so unexpectedly, but E. N. Whiteaway’s Railton saloon, also fast, went to earth on one occasion. T. B. Webb’s 30/98 Vauxhall was notably quick. Gibson-Jarvie’s Fiat Forty tourer merely sedate, and no one broke down.
We took an A30 Austin to Silverstone because we wanted to use its radio to listen to the University Boat Race and the Grand National. But we knew this to be a rash undertaking and, sure enough, great persuasion was required to prevent carnivorous vintagents from dismantling certain parts or placing the wee thing on its roof, while Cecil Clutton wore a resplendent buttonhole badge most of the day which, we assumed, represented some very high office, until we discovered it to have come from the middle of the A30’s steering wheel! The results follow — congratulations, Vessey. — W.B.
Pomeroy Trophy: J. G. Vessey (1927 Lancia Lambda), 457 points.
First-Class Awards: Webb (Vauxhall), E. Sears (1914 T.T. Sunbeam), and Richards (Alvis).
Second-Class Awards: P. Binns (30/98 Vauxhall) and C.W.P Hampton (Monza Alfa Romeo).
Loyalties will need to be divided on May 2nd, when the B. A. R.C. has its second 1953 Members’ Meeting at Goodwood and the V.S.C.C, its first 1953 Silverstone Race Meeting. Vintagents who wish to support the latter must get tickets beforehand, which means today if you haven’t them already, from a V.S.C.C. member. The meeting commences at 12.15 p.m. and includes the One-Hour High-Speed Trial with “Le Mans” start, handicap races for vintage and non-vintage cars which count towards the Motor Sport Clubs Trophy and cash prizes, a handicap for vintage light cars, and the G.P. Itala Trophy Race over 10 laps for vintage racing cars. Roll up ! It sounds like a very fine day’s sport, amid the right sort of exhaust notes.