I love old vehicles. I can hear the yawns already but, honestly, old cars are part and parcel of being interested in history, art, antiques and technical innovation.
I’m a practical sort, so I get just as much satisfaction from putting a new distributor on a 1953 Austin Champ, as I do from restoring an 18th-century Derby figure; polishing a George III lowboy; or cleaning a Victorian portrait.
A love of all aspects of antiques and art usually brings with it an appreciation of the processes, design and construction that went into making them. This is particularly pertinent with vehicles which often incorporate several facets: ranging from lovingly-crafted, walnut-veneered interiors; to stylish bonnet-mounted mascots.
Big names in art and design frequently cross over into the world of motoring – although I don’t have a £10,000 Lalique Victoire mascot mounted on the front of my new vintage Citroën.
Chunk of Change
I know what you’re thinking. Old cars can take a heavy financial toll – and you’re right. Unless you either have bottomless pockets, or an aptitude for mechanics, the cost of keeping a two-ton, oil-dripping beast in roadworthy condition is scant reward for the odd day of adoration when it only goes for long enough to get to the local petrol station and back.
Add to this, tax and insurance and you might wonder if it is worth the aggravation? Luckily most of my old cars, being more than 40 years old, have fallen outside the tax and MOT bracket, but yes, I can honestly say it is worth it.
I just don’t feel complete unless I’m driving a piece of history. It’s not only about the vehicle either. It’s also about its past. As with all antiques, provenance is important. But there’s the smell, too – nothing smells like the interior of an old car; then there’s that moment when you open the barn door and the aroma of oil greets your nostrils.
The list of cars I have owned is long and varied, but my latest acquisition – Delphine is an elegant, classic piece of French automotive history – a Citroën Traction Avant 11b Normale.
Her lines are pure and sensually Gallic, she’s a head turner wherever she goes and I love her. Filling the glove box with period French maps is just part of the fun. Key to her elegance are the many ahead-of-their-time technical innovations, one of the reasons that has led me to accept an invitation as an ambassador to the Association of Heritage Engineers, an organisation that promotes and sponsors sustainable skills, apprenticeships and knowledge and awareness across engineering and heritage sectors.
It’s an amazing organisation and I’m pleased to be able to lend my enthusiasm to all things related. I look forward to us being able to resume normal service soon at some spectacular car meets later in the year.