See that picture just up there, the Proton? Yeah, that’s my old Proton. I found it earlier this year. It was a forgotten car, left on a driveway for a few years before it was brought to my attention by a Facebook post. At £200, I thought it had to be worth a punt. With one owner and just 24,000 on the clock, it had the potential to be a little gem. Did the Proton badge bother me? A small, relatively unheard of name from Malaysia. No, not a jot. It was an old car that would bring me some joy as I tinkered on it. That’s all that mattered. And when I’d done a load of work to it, and when I put it in for an MOT and it passed, that Proton could have been a Porsche – the sense of pride and joy would have been the same. I do not subscribe to brand snobbery, and you shouldn’t either.
The thing with cars, and this is the same now as it was back in 1919, is that there is a status attached to them. The same with everything in life, really. Sadly, status matters to many, and for those many, fair enough. But in the world of classic cars, it has no place. To my mind, a classic car is never something we need, it’s something we want. And as such, why should a ‘want’ be blinkered out because it has what a wider audience may perceive to be a ‘lesser’ name on its nose and boot lid? It makes no sense to me.
Take that Proton for example. The badge didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was a car I could tinker with in my downtime, something I could fettle and play with without the need to dismantle my daily driver. The Proton was an outlet for my hobby. I didn’t care that it was a Proton, or at least I didn’t care about how people look at such a car. I cared about working on it, I cared that my Mrs. thought it was adorable, and I cared that it was a car me and my daughter could bond over while tinkering.
Generally speaking, I have awful taste in cars. I have an unhealthy obsession with 1990s Rovers, I lust after a Lancia Thesis, I think the Ford Scorpio is ace and I’ve owned and loved three Vauxhall Vectras. I’ve had cars that are ‘cool’ to a wider audience, the Capris, the Mercs, the BMWs. But even those weren’t bought because they were cool or desirable; I bought them because I liked them.
The world of classic cars is so vast and so expansive, no one enthusiast can ever experience it all. But an enthusiast can help themselves a little by ignoring the stereotypes and instead allowing themselves to indulge in their most weird motoring wants. FSO make you curious? Buy one. Like the look of that Skoda Favorit? Do it. Volvo 240s are your bag, you say? Get one bought. You do you. Buy, drive and work on the cars that interest you, not the cars that you think you should own.
There are so many cars out there, so many weird, wonderful and unique machines. Cars that you’ve wondered about, possibly. Or cars you may have been offered, but have been too afraid to take on in case your mates take the mickey out of you. Ignore them. Let them be the ‘I restored my MG from a MOSS catalogue’ stereotype. That’s their mission.
When you own a classic for no other reason than because you want to, there is something so much more enjoyable. Something more pure and honest. You force no expectations upon it, it just becomes your car for your reasons. Trying to fit in and be cool is for the school yard, it’s not for real life. Real life is about doing what we can to make ourselves happy.
And then there’s the fun you get from these cars. The Proton, for example, went viral online. Seriously, something like 7,000 re-tweets for a picture of it. I’m not saying you should buy a car to please social media, what I’m saying is that when you do get praise, it’s somehow more special and meaningful. When you get approached at the pump to be asked some questions about your car, it’s different, because this is a car you truly, honestly love and wanted. Ownership becomes even more joyful.
As I said at the start, we don’t NEED a classic, we WANT one. So don’t limit yourself. It’s about you and the joy you get from it, at the end of the day. Nobody else matters when you’re wielding the spanners or sat behind the wheel. You do you.