It’s all about personality…


By Chris Pollitt

Classic cars have personalities. It’s just a fact. People with no interest in cars who, as such, view them as nothing more than appliances on wheels will not understand. If you say your car has personality to someone who drives a Nissan Almera, they’ll give you a look akin to the one you give a child and when they thrust a paint-splattered sheet of paper in front of you and tell you it’s a horse. Those people won’t understand. They’ll think you’re mad. But the reality, as well we all know, is that those people are wrong. Old cars have soul, they have heart and as such, they have personality. We are unshakable in that belief. 

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Inadvertently, I have carried out a sort of science experiment to prove this. I own three cars. There is my sensible Dad car, which is a 2012 Ford C Max diesel. It’s reliable, it’s safe, it’s economical and it has all the personality of a potato. So just by existing, it proves that some cars are lacking personality. 

My C Max – Zero Personality

Then we have my two older cars. There is a 1996 Citroën ZX Volcane (don’t worry, it’s being painted soon) and my ongoing project, a 1999 Rover 800 Vitesse. Both of these cars have personality, and not just one unified ‘all cars’ personality. They are different. The Citroën, for example, has been nothing but a joy. An eager puppy of a car, it has been receptive to work, it always starts up even if left for weeks and it passed an MOT after sitting in a lock-up garage for half a decade. The only advisories were drop-links and ball joints. I’ve cleaned it out, I’ve fitted new wheels and tyres, new brakes, new suspension, new water pump and timing belt and more. It has been a joy. It’s a ‘happy’ car. 

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My ZX – Quite a happy little thing (yes, I’m painting it black soon)

The Rover, on the other hand, is an absolute sod. A cantankerous, miser of a car that fights me every step of the way despite offering it the same buffet of shiny parts as the Citroën. It’s a moody car with an untraceable parasitic drain that, when it does start, usually moans about it. If it was the C Max behaving in such a way, I would have set fire to it by now. But because it’s an older car, and I think because it’s a Rover, I have embraced its constant miserable nature. It is, fundamentally, part of the car’s personality. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and now anticipate it taking me four hours to remove a fuse. That’s just how it is. 

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My Rover 800 – Quite the grumpy old man

And I’m willing to bet you’re nodding along as you read this. Your classic, whatever that may be, will have its own unique idiosyncrasies. You will have had conversations with your car while working on it, you’ll have almost certainly fallen out with it at some point. But, when everything is working and in perfect harmony, you’ll have found yourself full of a love for it. A toaster doesn’t provoke those emotions. Nor does a BMW i3. In the broad spectrum of machinery, cars are the only things to do this.

Perhaps we’ve been conditioned by popular culture? It seems silly, but the comedy hijinks of a certain Volkswagen Beetle at the very least sow the seed of vehicular personality. There’s that black Firebird from the ‘80s that talks. And then, at the other end of the mood scale, there is a very red, very angry Plymouth Fury. Yes, these cars all exist on the TV and not the real world. But by virtue of them being ‘characters’, it serves to justify our own more human interactions with our cars. Right? 

Maybe I’m mad? I’ve been called worse. If I am mad, I’m okay with it. My perception of personality makes me love (and hate) my old cars in equal measure. It adds to the richness of the ownership experience, it makes my cars more interesting. I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I suspect, neither would you.

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