History is just a bunch of old stuff that’s already happened. That appears to be how people think these days and that’s a shame because although we can’t change it, we can certainly learn from it – although social evidence seems to show the opposite, to be frank. We keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.
You could say that about my car history. As someone who once bought an Alfa Romeo you would not be wrong in wondering why I would buy another one, yet it is so. Conversely, you could say that it is my motoring history that has informed my purchases. The heart ruling the head as it were. And I’m not alone.
There is a small but determined group of characters who still consider the cars of the past to be of eminent importance and worth treasuring no matter how horrific their reputation. I speak of course of classic car enthusiasts. They are why our motoring history survives.
Classic car ownership is an addiction. This isn’t of course to suggest in any way that enthusiasts are roaming the streets looking for shady parts suppliers lurking in doorways and alleyways offering Triumph TR6 A-type overdrives and other tasty motor morsels. They are brazenly open about it. Often there are large gatherings in big barns where all manner of treasures can found. Where it all comes from is a mystery.
These stalwarts of the past will go to great lengths to preserve that which cannot be duplicated and thus keep alive the traditional automotive craftsmanship so sadly lacking in ubiquitous modern cars.
Owners of classic motors have to devote so much of their time to the cause that it would be wrong to call it ‘a hobby’. Many, many hours and days and weeks and years of blood, sweat and tears must be put into a rebuild or restoration or just keeping the damn things motoring. Children grow up and move away with just a vague memory of an oily man. Wives take on an air of frosty martyrdom – often falling silent for long periods and staring into the gin-glazed middle-distance – in sacrifice to the engine block in the bathtub. It would be sad if it were not all so necessary.
Then, one fine day, out of the blue, without prior warning, the car is finished. There is no more that the addict can do. Suddenly there are new decisions to be made. Now that all the work is done, what, the poor unfortunate asks himself, is this vehicle actually for? Is it intended to be a practical classic car, meant to be driven every day or is it to be cherished and loved in the depths of your garage like a stolen work of art or a mint vintage copy of Knave (the car mechanic’s other workshop manual)?
A car that is in concours condition needs to be shown and seen otherwise what is the point of it all? If you use a car regularly it will get dirty and need servicing – wear and tear magnifies with age – but that comes with the territory to the car enthusiast. You, the car fan, have put in time, hard earned cash and effort into the project and deserve to reap the rewards and enjoy the rush.
But then what? Now what are you going to do with your time? Your family are fed up with you mooching around the place getting under foot and pestering the wife (car blokes always have a ‘the wife’) and thus a solution becomes clear. Sell the bloody thing and get another wreck! Make the same mistake again! The recycling of history renews. Addicts just can’t help themselves. The home vs car balance is restored.
Body paint must sorted and dents dealt with. The interior must be re-upholstered to a factory fresh finish, redolent with leather. Wood must be preserved and polished; chrome must be dipped and shone. The list of jobs goes on and on. Parts must be sourced and favours called in; this is how you must feed the habit. Don’t try and fight it; that way lies madness. Give in to the passion. You know you must. History repeating itself. If this hardy band of brothers didn’t do it, we’d have no car history at all. Geoff Maxted