Classic Car Buyers Guide
MG T series circa 1940-1955
Arguably one of MG’s famous cars produced, the MG TC was actually designed before the second world war. The car never made it into production obviously as Britain’s priority was on war efforts. When the war finished, production re-started and the MG TC is widely regarded as creating the “sports car craze” in the USA and abroad in Australia.
T series MG’s (TC, TD, TF) are low maintenance cars. Parts are easily available throughout suppliers like Moss Motors in the US. Many classic car enthusiasts widely consider T series MG’s as good buying. Compared to other cars of the era, they are very affordable.
However, just because they are good value, doesn’t mean that a thorough inspection by a mechanic isn’t required. T series MG’s utilise wooden frames for their body work and although it may look nice on the outside, any rot in the timber frame will be the cause of an expensive repair. The cooling system must be in good condition, as any leaks will result in overheating and expensive repairs to the engine. T series MG’s also use hydraulic brakes. Regular brake fluid flushes (every two years at a minimum) are essential! Prospective buyers must be aware that if a car has been sitting around for a number of years not being used, the re-commissioning of the vehicle will be costly as even the carburettor seals may dry out resulting in fuel leaks.
Jaguar MK2, 3.4 3.8 circa 1959-1967
In the heyday of British motoring, you don’t get a more recognisable car than the Jaguar MK2. Famous for their scintillating performance, in fact, the 3.8 model was the fastest four door production car in the early 1960’s with a top speed of over 120 mph! In fact, the 3.8 was the car of choice for the bank robbers and gangsters, which posed a problem for the police who were utilising underpowered machinery. This was fixed by upgrading the police fleet to match the crim’s car of choice – the 3.8 overdrive.
Jaguars of the early 60’s are another well supported classic car spare wise with many easily available spares from both aftermarket suppliers and Jaguar itself. Whilst a good MK2 will be an appreciating asset, a bad example with poor service history will be a money pit.
If you are considering a purchase of one of these cars, a thorough inspection is a must. Rust is a big issue in any car not kept undercover. Oil leaks can be an issue, as the original Jaguar rope rear main seal is prone to leaking. A fix is available for this, but the engine must be removed and the crankshaft seal position ground. Automatic transmissions are problematic and parts for these are scarce, however a late model GM transmission is easily fitted and increases the driveability and give these beautiful cars extra legs on the open road. Vintage and Classic Automotive has recently fitted one of these kits to our own 3.8 MK2 and the improvement is out of this world.
Ford Mustang 1965 – first generation
If you ask anyone to name an iconic American muscle car, and their first answer will most likely be the Ford Mustang. As a classic car, the Ford Mustang is one of the classic car bargains of the modern era. Possibly to do with the fact it was one of the most successful American sports cars of all time! The 289 cubic inch V8 (in the base models) is a ripper of an engine. Minor servicing and repairs will keep this engine burbling away for many years to come. Parts are easily accessible from the USA and even body panels are available new! Luckily in Australia, many of the parts used cross over to locally built Falcons.
Mustangs were seldom sold in Australia in right hand drive so the majority of vehicles in Australia are imported from the USA. It is possible to convert a Mustang to RHD reasonably easily as they were designed as a modular platform for RHD countries. However, the main concern when buying one of these in RHD form is that the conversion is performed professionally and signed off by an engineer. Don’t expect an easy time when you present your car for registration at the local transport department for a roadworthy if your car has not been converted professionally.
Many people consider the LHD factory built examples adequate enough for cruising on the weekends and they present great buying. Once again, a thorough inspection for rust is a must as the last thing you want to be in for when purchasing an American classic is an expensive rust repair!
Mercedes-Benz SL R107 1971-1989
Classic Mercedes-Benz values have been increasing dramatically over recent years, but just because a vehicle is a good buy doesn’t mean you should buy it. The Mercedes 450SL is one of the greatest cruising sports cars in automotive history. Plenty of power, with the ability to remove the roof means that you will be in utmost comfort over long distances travelled in Australia.
The engines in these old Mercs are almost bullet proof, however, regular inspection of timing chain componentry is a must. The Bosch fuel injection system is generally reliable however, niggly issues can be costly to fix. Automatic transmissions need to be regularly services and wear on the stator shaft on the transmission will stop you in your tracks.
Once again before purchasing one of these vehicles, a thorough inspection if a must. What may look like a nice car on the outside, could potentially be a rust bucket, as these cars have a habit of rusting from the inside out due to poor sealing and a leaking roof. One of our favourites, almost bullet proof mechanically but rust can be an issue.
There is probably no more iconic sports car than the 911 Porsche. Air cooled examples are considered almost bullet proof, but the handling characteristics of the 911 mean that often drivers talents would exceed their ability. As the values of 911’s have increased over the years many have been re-built out of crashed wrecks and private imports from overseas. The province of the car will determine the value.
Australian delivered examples may cost more to purchase, but are generally a much better investment and lower risk. Whilst there is nothing wrong with a left hand drive import, an extremely thorough inspection is a must. Parts for these cars are extremely expensive. Expect an expensive bill for engine repairs if genuine Porsche parts are used, but if done right should make the car reliable for many years to come.
Morris Cooper S
Anyone who has seen the Italian Job knows what an iconic car the Morris Cooper S is. Famous in Australia for their giant killing performance at Bathurst in 1966 when they filled the top ten with nine cars! It was only until the more powerful cars arrived on the scene that their dominance was reversed, albeit only slightly.
In our opinion, the Mini Cooper and Cooper S are a great classic car to own. Once again like any British classic car of the era, parts are well supported and readily available. Mini Coopers are sought after in the classic car world and depending on the originality of the vehicle, don’t expect much change out of $50k. However to put that into perspective, that an equivalent Porsche 911 costs well into the six figure territory a Mini Cooper S offers a very similar exhilarating performance.
Finding an original Mini Cooper that has been unmolested is a bit of a challenge, and a keen eye is required to point out the real McCoy from one that has been slapped together out of parts. Not to say that a slightly un-original car is not worth buying. You may save yourself some money and time, but still experiencing the same feel with an example that isn’t quite “matching numbers”.
MG’s bread and butter car – the MGB is the perfect entry level classic car. Still affordable, and readily available parts supply is a big tick in all the right boxes for an enthusiast that may not be mechanically minded. The later cars, with overdrive offer fantastic open road touring performance. Expect a very modest maintenance bill for an MGB compared to any other classic car. Possibly why they were so popular in the first place!
Mazda MX5 1998 onwards
It’s hard to argue with the basic layout of a Mazda MX5. Wind blowing in your hair, zippy little engine and light weight with great handling. Early models are now able to be conditionally registered on club registration, and as a result low mileage examples are beginning to climb in valve. These cars are almost bullet proof with regular maintenance, and its no mistake that Mazda has sold over one million MX5’s. If you are looking for a investment and a car to use on the weekend we suggest you take a good hard look at one of these cars. Some say the MX5 is the new MGB… and it’s hard to disagree with that.
If you are looking for a low maintenance modern classic, look no further than the Subaru BRZ – Toyota 86. When introduced in early 2012, the Toyota 86 harps back to the early days with an interior very reminiscent from the 1990’s. This car is a pure sports car in all forms. Some consider the power disadvantage a negative, but get this car on a tight twisty stretch of bitumen and it comes into its own, in fact the handling of this car is considered by many to be as good, if not better than the well known German sports car manufacturer.
When looking for a Toyota 86, regular service history is a must. The boxer engine loves fresh oil, and going over the recommended service interval is a recipe for disaster. Aside from this, look for accident damage and history as this well handling sports car may have had test pilots who have been a little over ambitious with their driving.