In defence of old bangers…

In this day and age, when image is everything, certain individuals may be keen to cultivate an ‘anti-image’ to stick two fingers up to the generations of Ugg-boot wearing, Mini Cooper-driving hordes.

And there is no better place to start nurturing your anti-herd credentials than the ‘Bargain Buys’ section of your local Autotrader.

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With the government’s scrappage scheme now well under way and doing its best to remove anything remotely interesting from the UK’s roads and driveways, timing is imperative as supplies of these gems become even poorer.

So often, the sentimental or style value of these vehicles will greatly override such a trivial matter as their monetary value (pah), meaning that you can pay a piddling sum in exchange for many months, or even years’ worth, of admiring glances.

Not only that, the keen motorist will also discover the happy side effect, before long, of owning a car built before the EU started thumping its safety bible, when a car that weighed anything approaching a ton would have been advised to lay off the Four Star by its dietician.

Even cars that were rather pedestrian in their day, by comparison with today’s corpulent machinery, are like Formula One cars to drive. My most recent car was a one-litre Rover Metro, purchased from an eighty-five year old woman, with the horsepower of a carpet louse.

However, because it also weighed about as much, it was fantastic fun to drive. Corners approached at unnecessary haste were dealt with by no greater expedient than simply turning the steering wheel. When I drove a modern Vauxhall Astra Sporthatch, which is by all accounts a ‘drivers car’ the next day, it was like climbing from a motorised roller-skate into an articulated lorry. That little Metro went, or at least, it felt as if it did.

This is another aspect of owning a more mature motor – thanks to much lower levels of soundproofing and, in most cases, a more unrefined ride, old cars feel as if they are travelling at a much greater speed than they actually are, as in the case of a go-kart.

I like to think of this curious quality as a sort of inadvertent safety feature (although the actual safety features aren’t worth thinking about most of the time).

One further credential that the lucky owner will be able to wave in the face of all the organic sandal-wearers who say that old cars cough out planet-poisoning fumes, is thus:

A survey by Toyota in 2004 found that up to 28% of a car’s carbon footprint (at least four toes‘ worth) is created during its manufacture and initial delivery to the customer.

So, if you’re driving an old wreck that only gets thirty miles to the gallon, as opposed to ordering  some brand new, super-slick corporate-mobile that gets a smug forty, you are still better off on the environment front, which will keep Al Gore happy.

And lastly, even the sort of beardy, jazz-loving oddball (like the author) that drives such cars is not immune to the occasional attack of vanity. When I was waiting for a bus outside college the other day, an ancient Ford Fiesta, one at least twenty-five years old, burbled past, and everyone, without fail, at the bus stop gawped at it. So there you go!

One thing’s for sure, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than an Audi TT.

Author: Richard Craig

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