Cars.co.za correspondent and classic car aficionado Calvin Fisher has scanned the classifieds and found 8 eight affordable entry points into classic car ownership.
When we look at the metal we tend to lose sight of the nostalgia that accompanies it. Yes, the classic market is enjoying an international boom and by all means you should get involved. But you don't need to focus on bank-breaking rarified stuff to enjoy the historied patina, to smell that blend of oil and vinyl. Here's a couple of great cars that can get you started without breaking the bank. Better still, you can actually drive these without fear of potentially plundering your investment, as investors in bitcoin could attest...
1. Ford Sierra XR6
*not an actual XR6 but a regular Sierra
Do you want something brawny with six cylinders and a somewhat modern demeanour? Well look no further than one of Ford's Big Sixes, the Sierra XR6. Perhaps it isn't the best choice for a daily runner (the price of fuel the only issue here), but for a long distance Sunday cruise they're consummate professionals. Can't reach to the XR6, then choose something with a smaller capacity or perhaps even it's predecessor, the Cortina.
Negatives: They weren't built particularly well to begin with, so many of them are quite ropey by now.
2. Opel Manta
In dear old Mzansi, we missed out on the muscle car rivalry of the United States. So, there are very few Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros here. But the General did give us the Opel Manta, a classic coupe featuring a 1.9-litre inline 4 and traditional sportscar balance. They're hard to come by, but worth the effort just for those unique looks and a very special driving experience.
Negatives: They're hard to find and original trim pieces will be difficult to come by so a local fabricator may need to be sourced.
3. Ford Capri
Where General Motors had the German Manta, Ford had the very British Capri to rival it in the Euro-muscle department. If there was ever a British movie car for both heroes and villains alike it was the Capri. In South Africa it was quite beloved, spawning plenty hot versions such as the Perana and the Basil Green V8. Find a neat 1.6-litre and you'll be able to afford driving one regularly.
Negatives: Might be difficult to find one that won't need significant body panel repair, also not as fast as it looks.
4. VW Beetle
Tenacious, reliable, simple and still easy to get your hands on. Let's forget for a moment how the Beetle started off as Hitler's baby and embrace it instead as the flower-powered people's car of the 60s. There's pleasure in owning one and driving one. That fluttery exhaust note, the elegant (if rudimentary) cabin and the way it turns even a trip to the shops into a romantic trundle. Add to that simple to work on mechanics and the Beetle might be the best first classic you could buy. If put off by the now-alien shape then consider it's successor, a Mk1 Golf, but seek a 70s model if you can.
Negatives: There can be a massive price difference between a tired and restored one, so make sure you shop around for the best value.
5. Porsche 924
When you say "classic car", chances are you're picturing a Porsche 911. There are many elusive derivatives and many enthusiasts believe that a Porsche is not a classic Porsche unless it is rear-engined and air cooled, but those are the big leagues. If you really must own a starter Porsche try find a 924. Sure they lacked the flat-six engines of the 911 and styling somewhere between Japanese and American coupes, but they're still authentic Porsches and provide all the engagement Stuttgart's coupes are known for. What's more is you can still pick up a great example for sensible money.
Negatives: Just bear in mind that if you're willing to spend money to fix one up, it is not likely to ever appreciate as significantly as the 911s have in the recent past.
6. Datsun 120Y
Hear me out. If you want something with true South African pedigree, with a driving experience you won't find in anything at twice the price, then consider the 120Y. Painfully simple to operate and work on, ridiculously cheap to run and maintain, and just about as reliable now as they were then, at the start of Japan's challenge to the Western motoring world.
Negatives: Straight, unmolested ones are hard to find.
7. BMW 318i
Yes, I said 318i and not 325i, allow me to explain. You get all the rear-wheel driven goodness, and a sensible fuel injected 4-cylinder instead of the 6-cylinder in the 320i and up. That means cheaper costs come maintenance time and of course a lower fuel bill. These cars are exceptionally hardy and provide all the driver's car engagement and feedback at the helm as its firebreathing siblings just minus the performance. And you'll get one well-cared for at a mere fraction of the price.
Negatives: The E30 is such a cult car in some communities that people will stop at nothing to get one (????).
8. Toyota MR-2
Oversteering in, hard from left field, is the Toyota MR-2. It's a cheap-as-chips sports car with a supercar drivetrain layout, precise handling that will even trounce the beloved Mazda MX-5. These cars are tragically undervalued for the driving pleasure they begin. The wedgy Mk1 epitomizes 80s cool. Get one quickly before I do!
Negatives: Body panels will be difficult to source.
There you have it, a starter pack of cars that will reward you whether you're planning to restore it or customise it to your preference or if you're going down the restomod route where you endow an old car with a few modern conveniences to make it more liveable.
My own story:
Before you rush out and by a car of vintage, heed this warning....
Eight years. A mere 96 months. That's all that separates my 1983 Toyota Celica Supra and my 1975 Chevrolet 4100. And while they're both rear-wheel drive and powered by straight-6 petrol engines they're entirely different ownership experiences. There is the obvious difference which of course will first entail a short story.
When the Chevrolet arrived I figured yes it had a four-point-one litre engine versus the Toyota's two-point-eight, but at this end of the spectrum how different could they be especially since the Supra was a racier drive and the Chevy designed for boulevard cruising. But no, the Supra may as well be a Prius in comparison. It's time to unpack those points of distinction.
One; the box of gears
Where the Japanese coupe has a modern amount of 5 forward speeds, the old Yank tank must contend with just 3. Surprisingly three is plenty as the Chevy gives a great relaxed drive but fuel consumption, as a result, is gratuitous.
Two; spurt spurt versus glug glug
Perhaps an even bigger waster of fuel must be the now-archaic carburettor. Sure, they're manly, barrel-chested and such, but also hugely inefficient when compared to their cleverer successors, the fuel injection system.
Three; everything else
With the Toyota, just as its slogan once claimed, (almost) everything keeps going right, but depending on the condition of your own 80s era Japanese there'll be maintenance to be carried out. On mine, it was the starter and alternator, the fuel pump and a random electronic gremlin here and there. On the Chevrolet things got complicated. My transmission died within six months of ownership and that required an expensive rebuild. The culprit was a sticky transmission fluid dipstick that was pulled in error by a petrol attendant, breaking free and dropping the full load of oil as I drove away.
With a classic, I highly recommend performing all routine under-bonnet check-ups and top-ups yourself. Generally, use this opportunity to develop your knowledge of basic mechanical work. There's so much more reward when you're the one responsible for keeping that slice of history running. Now go find that tiny money pit and dive straight in.