VETERANS. Edwardians. Vintage models, and Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds might simply be old cars to you. but they’re all in a class of their own and touchy about it, too.
Pre-1904, it’s a veteran. Very grand. I’ll bet our grand-daddies never thought their snorting chariots would end up in the Brighton Run and being towed on trailers by 1967 Jaguars.
Edwardians are circa 1904-19. Almost as dignified. Roaring Twenties-type wagons (anything up to 1930) are vintage. Experts say 1923 (when you could buy a new Ford Model T ‘Tin Lizzy’ for £59) is a good year…
The latest pedigree is Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds. You don’t see many about. And I don’t expect I’ll ever see another from this angle. I’m underneath one. The 1932 two-litre, low chassis Continental Lagonda, owned and fussed over by Michael Scott, compere of Cinema.
I’ve flashed up by inter-city express train to his comer house in the fashionable “Cheshire Set” area of Bowden, 20minutes’ drive out of Manchester. This is where I found him — under the car, muttering away about a radiator leak.
Replies Mike: “When the depression set in in the early 30’s, car production became a bit bangerish. Only certain sports models really retained quality. And are regarded as thoroughbreds. This is one. A real lady, isn’t she?”
A sort of lady of a Lagonda. But I’m still not convinced of the appeal.
“She’s something lasting in this world of chuck-away gadgets and appliances,” says Mike. “Classic example of unsophisticated craftsmanship.”
And doesn’t the thought that they may break down constantly outweigh all the advantages and fun?
Seems not. In six years of Lagonda driving (20 miles a day to and from his studio office) he’s had to stop only once. “Was doing a dizzy 75 m.p.h. on the motorway — pre-restrictions — when there was a tremendous clang amidships,” he says. “Thought it was a shaft gone. Turned out to be a spanner dropping out through a loose floorboard!”
Mike, 34, 6ft. 2in., dark-hair streaking with grey, isn’t the arch-type, old-time motoring man. No deer-stalker, flowing moustachios, and pints-of-bitter-in-the-bar for him. He’s a member of the Vintage Sports Car Club and the Lagonda Club, but frequents them only for finding odd spares. Doesn’t race or rally. So, why use the car every day? Exhibitionism?
“No,” replies Mike. “Just the opposite. People don’t notice the driver in this sort of car. Only notice the car. Must admit. I first fell for old cars at public school because they seemed extrovert. First one I got was a Lagonda. Been in love with them ever since.”
This Lagonda does over 20 miles to the gallon (cheapest brand); has trundled Mike and family over the mountains to Italy; is good on tyres (and anyway a major company still manufactures tyres to fit old-time classifications); and with an aluminium body, doesn’t rust. And it will always be a Post-Vintage Thoroughbred.
I’ve always thought that cars attain vintage or veteran status on reaching a 40th or 50th birthday. Not so. Once a veteran, always a veteran and nothing to touch you. Never a new influx of veterans each year.
Veteran, Vintage and P.V.T. people do mix. But not a lot. Thoroughbred folk like Mike tend to think of veteran cars as show-pieces. And themselves as functional. This Lagonda is certainly functional. You can identify it simply by the crash of its gears. Gearbox is so tough to handle that the charming Mrs. Sylvia Scott (Mike met her, aptly enough, in a cinema) can’t drive it.
And talking of Cinema, Mike always keeps an eye open on old film clips for possible snips. A great yell of triumph recently from the editing room when he spotted a Lagonda like his in use during the Joan Fontaine-Cary Grant film “Suspicion.”
There’s a great collectors’ market for old cars. Few about and Americans after them all the time. Mike managed to get this Lagonda only six years ago in a swop, plus £175, for his old Rover that another collector wanted.
A great thing, the value: Veterans, Edwards, Vintages, and Thoroughbreds reverse the normal trend in car sales. They appreciate as the years go by. Today Mike reckons his Lagonda — with a respray and a general tidy up — might fetch £350-£400.
Still, old cars might be stylish. And a lot of fun. But even Michael Scott, a confirmed Lagonda man, also has a dashing mod-style sports car. Ostensibly, it’s for the wife.
But sshh. Here’s the secret. It’s the sports car that occupies his garage, while the Lagonda stands out in the Cheshire rain.
And the moral of that may be that a modern car expects cosseting. A Thoroughbred wouldn’t dream of asking for it.