Hiring out old crocks is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand you get to knock off your dream car bucket list, on the other you discover the reality behind those teenage poster cars. It’s a bit like actually living with a supermodel. I imagine.
Over the last 8 years I’ve had about 100 different classic cars on the fleet. Here are the best and worst, judged on a combination of character and ownership experience.
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The 5 Best
1. Alfa Romeo Spider
Hahaha you’re thinking. An Alfa Romeo is the best car you’ve owned? Er, yes.
Despite underpinnings dating back to the early 60s and the fact it isn’t really an Alfa at all (it was built by Pininfarina, who made real Alfas look well built), our evergreen 1992 Series 4 Alfa is far and away the most reliable car on our fleet.
Over 70,000 kilometres in 8 years it’s broken down just once, due to a starter motor failure.
There may be more desirable classics out there but the Alfa delivers style, a rewarding driving experience and decent reliability. And it hasn’t rusted either.
2. Aston Martin DB6
The two DB6s we’ve run brought me close to a nervous breakdown on a few occasions, thanks to their remarkable ability to break down. But while that’s usually enough to consign a car to my Worst List, it’s hard to be so harsh on a car as beautiful as the Aston. Few cars have the presence and sense of occasion as the Aston, even if it drives like a truck and is as refined as a tractor.
3. Jensen Interceptor
Lets get one thing straight: it’s only my ’74 light blue Interceptor that makes this list. The three others we’ve run – ranging from Series 1 to 3 – are easy candidates for the Worst List. Which goes to show how important finding the right car actually is. The ’74 car has covered as many miles in the last 8 years as it did in the previous 35 but has been – generally – reliable and as good to drive now as it was back then. Stuff has gone wrong, but not as much stuff as you’d expect. And much, much, much less stuff than on the other three cars. Buying a Jensen is a lottery with, it appears, a 25% success rate.
4. Jaguar XJS
I’ve had XJS’ on the fleet pretty much from day one and remain impressed with their durability and reliability. The coupe is a far better ownership proposition than the convertible, which suffers more electrical problems, but both are remarkably good cars. Being from a slightly more advanced era of auto chokes and electronic ignition the XJS is much more like a modern car than the E Type. Interest in the XJS is skyrocketing, which is why we have two on our fleet. If you’re considering buying one, don’t be put off by the scare stories: a poorly maintained XJS will rip your pockets out, so don’t buy a poorly maintained one. A good one won’t.
5. Ford Capri
When we first got a Capri back in 2011 much laughter ensued, along the lines of ‘it’s not a classic’ and ‘why?’. I stuck with it, despite a remarkable absence of hirers. That all changed in 2014 when the car hit its stride. The Capri’s achilles heel is rust, otherwise it’s a simple, dependable and entertaining classic that makes a brilliant and reliable everyday classic.
The 5 Worst
1. DeLorean DMC-12
Just typing the name of John Z’s dream car is enough to put a shiver down my spine. As a child of the 80s I’d always fancied driving one: after all no mass produced car of the last 40 years is quite as jaw-droppingly distinctive as the DeLorean.
Driving the DeLorean, which I realise isn’t really the point of it, was a pretty dismal experience. Visibility is awful, the steering is heavy and wooden and the engine, straight out of a Volvo 260, is as good as you’d expect from that build up. Although it sounds nice. I also felt quite stupid being in it: it’s the automotive equivalent of a streaker screaming ‘look at me’ outside Tescos.
Living with a DeLorean was frankly a nightmare. Bits fell off, and not just switches and trim. The gear lever (several times). The