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What's the personal appeal of classic cars?

BY Richard Webber

5th Sep 2023 Lifestyle

6 min read

What's the personal appeal of classic cars?
For many people, classic cars evoke memories of simpler, happier times—an era when vehicles were shaplier and possessed a sense of personality. In most cases, such timeless classics soon become a well-loved member of the family. Here, we talk to five owners…
Rebecca Treston with her Morris Minor, Peggy
Rebecca Treston
Age: 26
Occupation: University Course Leader
Lives: Cambridgeshire
Car: 1968 Morris Minor 1000 Saloon called Peggy
“My car really has its own character and my partner and I celebrate its birthday every September 1 with cake and a little adventure,” laughs Rebecca, who records a podcast from her Minor while driving around.        

“It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the people I meet plus record their stories. Owning a Minor has provided a wonderful network of car-loving people who help out by sharing knowledge and experience.
“The Morris Minor has the unique appeal of being an everyman car. Most people know someone who had one so you discover lovely human connections with strangers.”
Rebecca believes her deep-seeded interest in classic vehicles began in childhood. “I was fortunate to grow up with classics so the Morris Minor was a great option for me. Not only does it match my style, it has the practicality of the cars my parents owned.”
"People know someone who had a Morris Minor so you make human connections "
Bought on eBay for £4,500, Rebecca finds securing parts easy. “It’s amazing. I’ve broken something on, say, Wednesday morning and been back on the road the following afternoon. Luckily, Peggy has been well-behaved with few issues.         

The car is named after a secret agent from the Captain America films and comics. “She’s a strong, independent woman and among my most inspirational fictional characters.”

Rebecca says Peggy is like a member of the family. “The emotional investment is huge. Owning a classic car brings with it much more than with a modern car. It provides so many wonderful opportunities and chances for friendship and support.         

“Actually, I jokingly refer to Peggy as my emotional support vehicle because I get worried when she’s away having work done. Every day I drive her is good for my mental health.”
Dave Watson with his Isetta called Thumper
Dave Watson
Age: 56
Occupation: Operations Director in a manufacturing company
Lives: Bedfordshire
Car: 1959 Isetta 300 called Thumper
“If you want to be noticed, arrive in an Isetta because it puts a smile on everyone’s face,” says Dave, who likes everything about his Bubble Car which he values at £25,000.        

He bought it in 1992 for £3,000 despite classing it as a “running wreck”. He’s since painstakingly restored it.        

His interest in Isettas was piqued years ago. “When I was a kid, I remember seeing my neighbour’s parked in his garage. That image stayed with me and, eventually, I bought my own.”        

Injecting new life into old items extends beyond cars for Dave. “I have a large collection of items from the 1950s and 1960s, including a jukebox, petrol pumps and scooters—I’m addicted!” he laughs.        
Dave regards the Isetta as “well-built, economical and ideal city transport ahead of its time.”        
It’s only in summer that Dave takes to the road in Thumper, a name chosen because of the noise the engine made when started for the first time after the rebuild.        
Around 21,000 Isettas were built in the UK. “They were sold via a network of sales agents—normally existing scooter and motorcycle dealers,” says Dave, adding that Isettas remain popular around the world, including Brazil, Japan, Germany and Canada.        
As for how many have survived, he estimates 2,000. “It’s difficult to be accurate because many are probably hidden away – after all, they fit into small spaces!”
Robert Elliott and his Morris Oxford MO Series called MOllie
Robert Elliott
Age: 67
Occupation: Retired compliance director
Lives: Norfolk
Car: 1953 Morris Oxford MO Series called MOllie  
Robert’s Morris has 95,000 miles on the clock, has been fully restored and is affectionately known as MOllie. “The family felt we should call it something, so we chose MOllie—the use of capitals being deliberate,” smiles Robert, whose car attracts much interest. “Due to its relative rarity, many people don’t know what it is so it’s a subject for conversation.”        
The car—valued at circa £20,000—is much-loved and part of the Elliott family. “She lives in a garage with painted walls, insulated tongue and groove timber ceiling, carpeted floor and pictures on the wall. My wife, jokingly, calls her the ‘tin tart’! But it’s not just an indulgence, it’s a means of protecting the vehicle from temperature extremes.”        
There is much Robert likes about the MO, which was designed during World War Two, such as it being the last independent Morris car. “The proportions are spot-on, it’s well-built, refined, comfortable and harks back to a gentler age. Driving my Series MO—whose intended market was doctors, solicitors, bank managers and the like—is complete relaxation and takes one away from the ‘madding crowd’.”    
"Driving my Series MO is complete relaxation and takes one away from the ‘madding crowd’     "
The MO happily cruises up to 50mph. “Like most vehicles of that time, it’s low geared so the engine works hard at higher speeds. Exceeding 50mph is achievable but not advised. This means having to be aware of modern traffic’s higher speeds, particularly when pulling away at junctions or roundabouts.”        
But he’s keen to point out that ownership of a car like the MO is a true pleasure. “It provides a trip back in time.”        
This year is going to be busy for Robert and his MO, including attending numerous classic car events. “Plus, MOllie will be the wedding car for our son’s wedding, as requested by his fiancée.”        
Around 160,000 MOs—dubbed the forgotten classic—rolled off the assembly line before production stopped in 1954. While it didn’t achieve the success expected, the car sold worldwide, but it’s estimated that just 200 are still on the road.
Nigel Sture with his red 1970 Moskvich
Nigel Sture
Age: 68
Occupation: Musical instrument restorer
Lives: Devon
Car: 1970 Moskvich 412 but not named
Nigel uses his beloved red Moskvich—which he bought on eBay for £1,500—as his local runabout.
The first car he owned was a Moskvich, too. “I bought it partly because it was cheap but also to wind up my dad, who was a staunch Conservative. Buying a Soviet car seemed like a good idea!’ he says, smiling.
“But I also regarded it as an interesting vehicle. All my friends had Minis and Cortinas so I wanted to be different; also, I perceived a certain back-handed kudos in owning a Russian car during the Cold War. I had it two years before the carburettor played up and no one locally knew how to fix it. So, I sold it.”
There are myriad features Nigel likes about his current 1500cc Moskvich. “It’s quite gutsy for its size and I love the sound the engine makes: it’s a low, smooth hum – very different to western cars of the period.”
He’s also keen on other quirky details, such as only being able to reach the petrol cap when the boot is open. “Bottom line, it’s quirky, tough, adequately comfortable with reasonable performance and reliability.”
Nigel’s interest in classics developed early. “My mother was given a Sunbeam Talbot 10 by my great aunt, who’d used it for years on her rounds as a Sussex doctor. Mum took me to school in it and I loved every minute of the drive. Sadly, times became hard and we had to sell it.”
Moskviches have played an important part in Nigel’s life. Reflecting, again, on his first “Moski”, he says: “I had some wonderful times in it as a youngster, including going to see favourite rock bands with my mates and other special occasions. That’s why getting my current Moskvich was very important. Before this one became available, I contemplated getting one sent over from Lithuania!”
Lesley Smith with her Imp called Hilda
Lesley Smith
Age: 61
Occupation: Retired  
Lives: South Wales
Car: 1973 Hillman Imp called Hilda
When Lesley bought her Imp—which has 38,688 on the clock—in 2011, it needed plenty of work. The car had been off the road for 20 years and subjected to many botched repairs. A complete restoration took over two years before the car returned to the road in 2013.
     
The Imp was jokingly christened Hilda by Lesley’s daughters but the name stuck. It’s certainly a well-travelled car, having completed four trips to Holland. Wherever she goes, Hilda attracts much interest. “We get the usual comments regarding head gasket failure—which isn’t really an issue if the car is well-maintained—and the need to put a concrete block in the front boot for better handling—again, unnecessary. Despite this, the Imp is regarded with affection.”     
"She’s totally pampered, living in a heated garage while my BMW is stuck outside!"
Lesley’s love affair with Imps—which were produced between 1963-76—began in childhood. “I was a car-mad tomboy. Also, my cousin was a fleet sales rep for Rootes so frequently returned in an Imp. He brought me sales brochures, many of which I still have. When I passed my driving test, there was only one car I wanted to buy—an Imp.”         

While finding Imps “surprisingly nippy” with “excellent road-handling” and “great fun to drive”, Lesley admits that build quality and reliability problems blighted its reputation—despite most issues being resolved with the Mk2’s introduction in 1966.          

Over 440,000 Imps were built but, sadly, it failed to reach the heights many expected. “The poor reputation of the early cars dogged the Imp throughout its production.”
         
For Lesley, though, it’s perfect. “To say that Hilda has changed our lives is an understatement. She’s definitely part of the family and totally pampered, living in a heated garage while my BMW is stuck outside!”
For more information about these makes of classic cars, visit: isetta.org.uk, mmoc.org.uk, 680mo.org.uk, theimpclub.co.uk and ifaclub.co.uk

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