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As classic car enthusiasts, should we just accept that passion and fun is relegated to the odd summertime Sunday drive? Or should we instead strive to make it part of our everyday life? In fact, is that even feasible in the real world?

Back in November, I asked our ViaRETRO readers for advice in the article Bring the Fun Back into the Commute. I had a burning desire to use a classic car of some sort as my daily wheels. I missed the analogue and involving driving experience during my daily commute. I’m embarrassed to admit that since then I have managed to do absolutely nothing about it.

So what’s my pathetic excuse for dragging my feet? Well, it’s a constant battle between head and heart, and it’s leaving me in a thoroughly confused state of mind. I no longer know what to think of it. What is right and what is wrong? Is driving a modern car on the daily commute the only sensible thing to do? Or have I just become an old luxury-obsessed couch potato who has lulled himself into the easy-life based around comfortable and supportive seats, automated climate control, modern hi-fi, servo-assisted steering, ABS brakes, traction control, high reliability and low maintenance? I’m no longer sure which of the above is the truth, so please help me towards a bit of clarity…

Since that article back in November, I have dreamt of – and on a few occasions even gone to inspect – quite a few viable options for a classic daily. Or at the very least a youngtimer daily. Essentially, just something which would put a wider grin on my face during that otherwise boring daily commute. A Reliant Scimitar SE6 is still high on my list for this application. I’ve looked at several, but would it be reliable enough? Heh, come on… it’s a seventies low-volume British fibreglass car – who am I kidding? Would the same apply to a Rover Vitesse SD1? Possibly. Then there was the fabulous mid-eighties Ford Capri 2.8i which I just couldn’t afford? Or a couple of manual Jaguar XJ-S 3.6’s which I could in fact afford, but which were thus in a state where they might very well be MOT’ed and drivable, but would they offer my reliable motoring on a daily basis? A Porsche 944 would probably be the perfect candidate, but the rear seat is simply a tad on the small side considering I have two children. That equally rules out the first-generation Mazda RX-7 Elford Turbo which I now co-own with Claus Ebberfeld. Besides, is a force-fed early-eighties rotary truly going to be highly reliable on a year-round daily commute? Well, maybe. But maybe not. Sticking with Nippon metal, an early narrow-body Mitsubishi Starion 2.0 EX Turbo had me awfully tempted, but sourcing spares for them is a challenge at best, and that is perhaps not ideal for a daily runner. Sadly, prices of the BMW 325i E30’s which I have previously so enjoyed as daily drivers, have gone the same way as the Ford Capri’s. Oh, and then I started considering a few GTI’s from the heyday of the pocket-rocket. Peugeot 309 GTi, Toyota Corolla GTi-16, Honda Civic 1.6i-16 or maybe even a Fiat Uno Turbo i.e. Their practical hatchback designs would obviously make them ideal as a daily, they should provide bags of fun on a twisty back road, but despite being slightly newer than most of the other candidates I’ve considered, would a nineties Peugeot really offer me decent daily reliability? Hmmmm… so what would in fact be a viable option?

Maybe there simply isn’t one? Maybe that’s why I’m still sat behind the wheel of my BMW 330Ci Sport (E46) from ’02 on my daily commute? And granted, it does a damned good job of it too. It starts first time every time. Having owned the car for a bit more than a year now, it has only cost me normal servicing and a new set of Continetal tyres. I must also confess, that driving home from work at two in the morning in a timezone-confused state after a 12-plus hour workday, I do indeed appreciate the comfortable seats, the climate control, the quick defrosting windscreen and the altogether easiness of the whole experience. From a more enthusiastic point of view, the straight-6 engine still manages to be a real gem. But despite the engine, the driving experience is still on the whole somewhat dull. The car is simply too well engineered for its own good. An altogether overly accomplished piece of kit. As a driver, you are cocooned from all that is happening. There’s not much left to excite – there’s no soul. Oh, and that over-sensitive traction control drives me up the wall with its annoying orange light flickering at me while I’m robbed from the power of the 3-litre lump out front. Yet, the 330Ci is still on my drive. How come? Have I really gotten that old and soft? Let’s say some 15 years ago; I would have loved that same commute in a stripped-to-the-bone Caterham with no heater, no softtop and only a skimpy set of Brooklands screens – even on a frosty morning…

My BMW 330Ci Sport: A far cry from a classic car. Not even a youngtimer yet. But if I just keep it long enough, I suppose it will be some day…

I realise I’ve asked you this before, and subsequently failed to do anything about it: But what am I meant to do? Should I bite the bullet and sell my 330Ci? If so, what will I replace it with? Which classic car or youngtimer delivers big on smiles per mile, while still offering genuinely reliable all-year-round daily transportation and a half decent rear seat? Or should I perhaps take a different approach? Maybe I simply need to come to terms with the softer me? The me that appreciates luxury, comfort and all that is easy. Maybe I need to embrace my 330Ci, and perhaps even spend a bit of cash on it in order to better unite us. It would be a way of committing to the BMW coupé. Who knows, if I started with a professional rust-proofing of the car, it might even still be on my drive when it’s old enough to be considered a true classic, and I would have thus – albeit in a very long-termed manner – solved my worries as I would finally be daily driving a classic car. Yes, I know, that’s rather far-fetched logics for you right there…


5 Responses

  1. Dave Leadbetter

    The longer your quandary goes on, the more your choice is being made for you. You say the 330 has no soul and is too well engineered for it’s own good; a little dull even. But compare the options. Given that reliability is all important and that you absolutely must get to your place of work on time, running a proper old car is always going to be a problem, even if you spent thousands proactively replacing any components that might fail you’d always be on a losing game. Most people in your position would simply lease a brand new car for daily use, £300 a month on a new consumable to impress the neighbours. You already know how grim an option this would be but for those of us with the “benefit” of a mandatory company car governed by a low CO2 limit, this kind of car is the daily reality. So this may help calibrate your feelings towards the 330ci. What you have is the last home serviceable 3 Series, with only limited electrical nonsense to spoil the fun. The traction control can be sorted, it can be made sharper and more agile and it wouldn’t cost much. There’s a great engine and a decent chassis there and it dates from the last era of reasonable cars. I’d be tempted to stick with what you have but make it the best it can be.

    Or I’ll take it off your hands for £250 cash tonite M8 innit…

  2. Anders Bilidt

    @dave-leadbetter, I do in fact see your point. As you can probably read between the lines of the article, I am beginning to wake up to reality. It’s just so grim

    So is the whole concept of a year-round daily-driven classic car but a make-believe myth…??

    Come on ViaRETRO readers, back me up here! Surely there must be some of you who daily a classic car?

  3. YrHmblHst

    OLD?!?!? Unless your avatar photo is 30+ years old, drop and give me twenty boy… Old…[insert smiley rolling his eyes and shaking his head with a downward gaze…]

    Anyway, its all a matter of mindset – its a priority thing. I know a guy who rides a 40 something year old Guzzi every day it isnt snowing. But! Richard isnt married any more [ wonder why…], has no children and has his own small business with ‘variable’ hours. He doesnt HAVE to be anywhere at a rigidly specific time and has few other responsibilities. The enjoyment of the vintage machine and the aesthetic is of prime importance to him. Even tho the ‘Goose is pretty darn reliable, he can piddle with it when need be or when he wants. Its a priority.

    Those of us who have a job, especially a stressful one, or those fortunate to have children, have other priorities. When you get out of work, you want the car to start, to be comfortable and for everything to function well, including climate control and stereo – you just want to begin to unwind and ‘shake the day off’. Modern cars are that way by and large. Add in that traffic is so horrendous in most [urban{ised} ] places and you cant enjoy driving anyway, so the dull generic modern car begins to make more and more sense. Automobiles have regrettably become an appliance. Which brings to mind another example; I have another friendly acquaintance that collects blenders; yes, blenders. Scott has about 3 dozen of them as I remember, and can wax poetic over the features and superiority of many of the vintage ones. However, theres a new, programmable one on his kitchen counter next to the sink that he engages in the morning to make his fruit smoothie or whatever odd concoction he ingests daily. Same deal actually/kinda… When Scott is home in the evening and going to make something ‘special’ , he drags out one of his vintage units and enjoys the process; it takes longer and cleanup is more involved, but he enjoys the process, as well as the aesthetic of the machine and the sensory input[s] the vintage contraption provides. But first thing of a weekday morning, its slam the ingredients in the new, generic and soulless japanese appliance and guzzle the contents on the way out the door. Sort of like generic late model cars…
    So yes, you CAN daily a classic; my daily is what you might call a ‘youngtimer’ , a nearly 30 year old Jeep. Its reliable and fun, but not particularly comfortable and the HVAC system isnt up to par with my wifes little C class benz. But it has character in spades and I enjoy shifting, bumping along and riding high. But i dont have the responsibilities you apparently do nor the job stresses/time requirements. I can be a bit more leisurely, and if I have a problem with Jeep – which, other than water pumps its stone reliable – I can let it sit for days if need be.
    The other thing about using a classic as a daily is the old axiom ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ ; i.e. , in this case, the more you use something, the more you nit pick and notice faults. See, if youre daily driving a classic, you would tend to notice the shortcomings more – especially on bad days/real tired/dont feel well days- and would tend to lessen your enjoyment. Suddenly, youve lost your hobby/interest/passion! Its now just an old car that gets you to and fro and requires more maintenance than the new one you just gave up. [of course, on the old car, YOU can do the maintenance and its much cheaper…]
    So in your situation, I would probably advise keeping the Beemer, or getting something practical thats as interesting as possible any more, and saving the cool car for special occasions, warm sunny days and just pure enjoyment, as opposed to pressing it into service for the day to day drudgery of modern life and negating its ‘special-ness’.
    And yes, reality any more IS grim, sorry.

  4. Anders Bilidt

    @yrhmblhst, WAUW! Now that’s a proper answer!!

    Whether I’m old? Hmmm… question of perspective I suppose, but I can tell you this much: I’m older than I was ten years ago… ;-)
    I wouldn’t say that I have stressful job, nor that I’m a stressed person. It’s just that my job requires very high punctuality. As such, an unreliable daily car is off the cards. And yes, I sadly recognise that this rules out a fair number of classic cars.
    Heh… didn’t realise it was possible to have a fetisch for vintage blenders! Made me giggle a little, but I suppose in some obscure way, I do get it…

    Anywho… based on yours and Dave’s advise, I simply need to embrace my 330Ci. I suppose every time I drive it, I just need to remind myself that the alternative is NOT a manual 3.6 XJ-S, but rather a Nissan LEAF. Again it all becomes a matter of perspective, and suddenly my 330Ci might actually appear both classic and wonderfully analogue…

  5. YrHmblHst

    a nissan leaf is NEVER an alternative to anything…even a root canal is preferable!


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