I don’t think I’m alone in having those idle thoughts – usually when you’re stuck in traffic on the way to somewhere important — about using your classic as an everyday motor. Sacrificing a little of a modern’s creature comforts and reliability in favour of driving something with a little more character than a fridge freezer and arriving at your destination in style. And then the thoughts of not arriving at all start to creep in, and usually, by the time traffic starts to flow again, you’ve forgotten the idea.
A certain Mr Charlesworth of this parish has spent many hours (mostly when he should have been working) on trying to crack this particular conundrum. We’ve been through the BMWs, the Mercs, MGBGTs. We’ve weighed up the purchase prices, the costs to run, service and maintenance, and whether we think that that particular car will start when you turn the key on some God forsaken freezing morning when you need to be at a photo shoot in two hours time. We haven’t come up with a suitable vehicle for old Leadfoot yet. But he hasn’t given up on the idea either.
If someone had suggested using the Magic Bus as everyday transport, it would have taken a while for me to stop laughing. And then I would have checked what particular medication they were taking. The 1800 is a lovely old thing, but it’s cosmetically challenged in a way that only old Seventies cars can be – a combination of years of touch ups in every variation of colour, spray paint and brush. There’s rust. In places there’s paint falling off in sheets.
Mechanically, it’s fairly sound. It had a new clutch not so long ago. The brakes are all good now thanks to comprehensive working through and servo rebuild just before Christmas. It has just passed its MoT, and with only a couple of advisories. It starts. It stops. It just doesn’t look like it could be reliable. It looks like it’s ready to let you down at any moment.
My everyday is a Rover 75 Tourer diesel. And in case you hadn’t heard (and most people have), I love that car. It’s quick enough, it handles well and it’s supremely comfortable. I truly believe they’re one of the most underrated cars ever, and anybody who’s been in it tends to agree. Well, I don’t unlock the doors until they do.
For 60k miles, it’s been incredibly reliable and has returned a steady 50mpg. And then a couple of weeks ago, it stopped. And it hasn’t started without the assistance of large gulps of Easy Start since. The injectors have been replaced, fuel pumps have been replaced, things have been tested and retested. It’s been worked on by a generous friend between other jobs to keep the costs down, but left me with the slight problem of being without transport. So I thought I’d push my luck and use the Landcrab.
And you know what? It’s been great. It has started without fail, it feels like it’s running better as every new mile clicks over on the odometer and I get to enjoy watching the jaw dropping and head swivelling everyday as opposed to the odd weekend. Alright, it’s not too happy once the speedo climbs to the 70mph point and fuel consumption is something I’d rather not consider too deeply. But buzzing along in the old blue bus, I feel, well, smug…
To everyone out there who says, “I use my classic every day, what’s the big deal?” I say congratulations, I am deeply envious. And when the Rover returns, it will be with some reluctance that the Landcrab will be tucked away in the Shed again, back to occasional rather than everyday duties. The day job involves ferrying a proper bootful of expensive and heavy photo gear to every corner of the country, so it would not only be impractical, it wouldn’t exactly be fair on the car. Or my wallet.