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I’ve been fortunate enough to own a number of classic cars thus far in my life. I’ve been even more fortunate in that I’ve driven significantly more classics than just those which I’ve owned myself. Yet – needless to say – there is still of course a huge number of classic cars which I have not yet had the good fortune to sample. Exciting and tempting classics which I’ve never had the opportunity to get any more intimate with than merely appreciating them from the outside and perhaps reading about their many attributes and charms. It leaves me wondering what I’m missing out on? And more importantly, whether one of those yet-to-be-tasted classics might in fact have been the perfect match for me? But how am I ever to find out?

This is perhaps just a variation of the question posed by Claus last week: The 100,000 Euro Question. Only where Claus’s question was a fantasy dream scenario for me (and probably most others), today’s question is indeed both very real and very relevant. Of all the fabulous classic cars out there – even limiting the selection to those which I can both afford and already feel attracted to – how do I know which one would put the biggest smile on my face while fulfilling the majority of my personal criteria?

Driving my BMW 2002 – my perfect match. But can one have more than one perfect match?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am still very much enjoying my Reliant Scimitar ownership. It’s not that I have any huge desire to rid myself of this lovely British shooting brake. It is much more a case of acknowledging that there are just so many other glorious classics out there which I would love to try owning at some point. Remember, variety is after all the spice of life! If only I had unlimited funds along with a huge barn, then it would be simple. I would of course duly purchase the next dream classic on my list while storing the Scimitar in my barn. But like most normal people, that’s not the world in which I live. So if I want a taste of something new and different, the Scimitar will at some point need to go. But which classic would then be the right choice as a replacement?

I still love driving my Scimitar too. But are there other classics which would please even more?

And that’s really the very essence of my troubled thoughts. Because without having driven the options, how am I to know whether I’m making the right decision? If I were an enthusiast who’s love for classic cars was expressed through polishing them while storing them in a climate controlled environment, then I could simply buy the classic which best pleased my eye. But I drive my classic. And I drive them much and far. So, much as I too appreciate a sexy design, I require my classic to also offer me the right driving experience and not least elements of both practicality and reliability.

Driving my Toyota Trueno 1600GT Sprinter used to always put a smile on my face. I still regret selling it and don’t want to make the same mistake with my Scimitar….

Now if I were looking to buy a new car (pfff… what a despicable notion!) and couldn’t decide between a BMW 3-series, a Mercedes-Benz C-class or a Lexus IS, then I would simply visit the various dealerships and take them all for a test drive. After this, I would know which suited me best. But this is a practice which is widely frowned upon within the classic car scene. Do this too much and you will inevitably be stamped as a so-called tyre-kicker or even worse, a time waster. Classic car dealers will often want some sort of commitment from you before they move their stock around and roll out into the sunlight the classic which you have been eyeing up. If it’s a private vendor, then it’s even worse if you visit them, look over their beloved classic, take it for a drive and then walk away. To be honest, when it’s me that’s selling a classic car, this can (depending on the general attitude of the interested party) also irritate me, so I do get it. But it all leaves me searching for answers which I’m unlikely to find.

Choices, choices…

So if the Scimitar was to be sacrificed for something else, what should it be? I’ve always had a real hankering for a Peugeot 504 Coupé V6. But will the PRV engine sound as fabulous as the Scimitar’s Essex V6? So maybe a Ford Capri II instead as it’s of course blessed with the same 3-litre Essex engine? But is the ride as comfortable? Is the rear seat of a Datsun 260Z 2+2 too cramped for my two daughters? Will an Opel Monza 3.0 GS/E be a little dull and unengaging out on a twisty backroad? The entire body of a FIAT 130 Coupé might dissolve between my fingers at first sight of a salty winter road. Would the mandatory automatic transmission of a Mercedes-Benz 450SLC eventually bore me to death? Is a SAAB 900 Turbo 16S just a tad too modern for me? Is the boot of a Lotus Excel big enough for the suitcase which I constantly have to lug to a fro the airport? Would I be disappointed with the overly servo-assisted steering of a Jaguar XJ-S 3.6? And maybe I’m not even the GT-man which I see myself as, and I might be better suited to a big comfortable saloon like an Alfa Romeo 90? The questions in my head seem never ending…

In this particular case, I won’t even achieve much by asking the advice of our very knowledgeable readers, as most of these questions are of course a matter of personal opinion. One might find the steering of the Jaguar XJ-S immensely comfortable and relaxing while another finds it dead and unengaging. There’s of course no right or wrong to that question – it’s a matter of preference. And no amount of good advice will ever tell me how will feel about the XJ-S steering. But how then do I find out which classic car is the perfect match for me? In reality, it might well have found the perfect match already in my Scimitar. Without sampling every one of the alternatives, I can’t possibly know. And selling the Scimitar only to end up with a different classic car which doesn’t please near as much would obviously be rather annoying.

So what am I to do with this dilemma of mine? I won’t ask your advise on particular cars, but I can ask how our readers deal with this issue. We’re all in the same boat here, so I’m sure plenty of other enthusiasts will have had similar thoughts? How have they overcome this challenge? Do I simply insist on test driving all of the alternatives at various classic car dealerships and then worry later about the reputation I might end up with among UK-based classic car dealers? Or do I sell my Scimitar and gamble? What have you done to find your perfect match? Is it even possible?


33 Responses

  1. yrhmblhst

    Hmmm… well, lets clarify one thing ; maybe, no , make that probably, there is MORE than one ‘perfect match’. In fact, I would just about guarantee it if youre asking the question, even tho your 02 appears to be just about perfect from your loving description[s] of it and lengtgh of ownership. BUT! Theres more perfect matches out there too… So what to do?
    Narring a massive inheritance or lottery winning, it does pose a difficult question. As stated, you cant just fly around driving everything that you think might fit the bill, which is a shame. But its reality for most of us. My best guess is to take an honest look at what qualities attract you most to a car and look for vehicles that most closely tick all the boxes. Then read, talk to those who own the vehicles in question and beg a drive if possible. Then, after long and painstaking research and logical process, buy whatever jumps up and steals your heart!
    The one bit of advice I might give tho would to consider something with a very large engine… Torque can cover a multitude of sins. :)

  2. Tony Wawryk

    Wow, what a question…I guess the obvious answer is that your perfect match is the car you’ve always dreamt about? Of course, if you then need to start to get practical, then it’s the car that most serves your needs, rather than fulfils your desires. If you need seats and luggage space for four, then it’s all about what works on a day-to-day level. Occasionally these two sets of parameters combine eg a Maserati Quattroporte if we’re not thinking about the price, or a maybe Jaguar XJ6 if we are. As for me, my perfect match is still a 1972 911E,T or S, but there are a whole host of other near-perfect matches too…

  3. Erik

    Well, I sold my beloved Porsche 912 for 1/7 the cost to own it now. I cannot afford to buy it back.
    I currently have a ’75 BMW 2002. While not perfect, it ticks a lot of boxes. After one massive mistake, I’m never selling the 2002.

    I’ve had other classics between owning these two but fear ensures the 2002 is staying.

    I wasn’t much help was I ?

  4. Claus Ebberfeld

    BIG question. No answer. If there was such a thing as a perfect classic it would at least only be for a certain time and space in your life. Maybe your old Sunbeam Imp was the perfect car at that time – and the Scimitar now? And in five years a Lincoln Continental, in ten years a TVR Griffith?

    My pragmatism applies to the price issue and other practical aspects as well: Maybe you DO indeed have that barn in five years time? Maybe you CAN afford that Sunbeam Tiger or Montreal or Pagoda by then? And so on.

    Personally I am holding on to MY Scimitar GTE because it is so many things I like, want and need – and it’s even cheap like me! And besides I DO possess that barn, so I can handle several classics – even one standing for a while without being a nuisance. Besides the Scimitar (and the Spitfire with my brother – also a keeper) I can then have fun with other cars: If you look at classics that way the question of “which classic next” is a lot less serious, as you can obviously have a lot of fun in many different classics in a lot of different ways.

    For me part of the fun is actually finding a new classic – which makes ANY change of car a bonus in itself. So I’m really easy! Anyway most of my cars were purchased on the basis of wanting to find out how it actually would be to live with one – as well as on the understanding that I’d probably move on to something else later.

    By the way: I now see your Scimitar doesn’t have a tow bar. Fit one and it’s just about the perfect car! Just kidding: I am very aware that our Scimitars only appeal to certain people and even I was surprised how rustic the car is compared to my SLC or XJ12. You have to like that (I obviously do) to enjoy the car. As an allrounder my old BMW 2002 Touring was probably the better car – but there’s more to it than that, isn’t there?

    You’re right your question is a variation over the theme of “the 100,000 Euro Question”, which led me to suggesting a Maserati Indy. But again: For many other reasons than a quest for the perfect match. It would just be the FIRST in a series of 100,000 Euro cars, if I could.

    Or maybe it’s not about the cars at all, Anders – but about the missing barn? May I suggest you try finding yourself a barn first, my friend…

  5. Anders Bilidt

    Gentleman, first of all a big thank you for taking the time to attempt coming up with an answer to my impossible question. In some respects, I’m almost relieved that none of you nailed it. Considering just how much time I spend thinking about this and still failing to answer my own question, it would have really been quite frustrating if one of you had perfectly answered the question in two or three lines… ;-)

    @yrhmblhst, I agree, there are of course more than one perfect match. I have no doubt found one of mine in my BMW 2002. Of that, I am not in any doubt whatsoever. However, I’m now seeking my perfect match for a classic car which I can daily drive all year round. And that’s actually a lot more complicated. Your tip on engine size and torque is duly noted though.

    @tony, it’s a lot more complicated than merely choosing the classic car which I dream most about. If it were that simple, I should just go buy that Alfa Romeo Montreal which I’ve always wanted so bad. But even if we were to disregard the financial aspect of things, and much as I love that stunning Gandini-designed Alfa Romeo with its tiny V8 engine, I honestly doubt very much that it would feel like a perfect match in the context of having to replace the Scimitar and thereby cope with everyday use all year round. For starters, the rear seat is a joke! So I’m taking a much more practical and real-world approach than merely looking for my dream classic. This car has to be a match in such an extent that it actually works for me as well…

    @Erik, well if nothing else, you have certainly confirmed why I – like you – will never sell my BMW 2002! :-)

    @Claus, I agree entirely that such a perfect match will rarely be a forever solution. It will depend very much on how I feel right now and how I’m using the car in question. So it’s not that I’m looking for another keeper to join my BMW 2002. I am in fact just questioning whether there is a classic car out there which will cover all the bases of my Scimitar just as well or better than it does for the life I lead at this moment? Is the Scimitar the best car for what I require of it? Or is there another classic car out there which would be even better at what I’m asking of my Scimitar? I dunno…
    What I do know Claus, is that you are clearly more risk accepting that I am. You are happy to sell one car which still makes you happy, just so you can try another car, even though you don’t know whether the next car might indeed make you less happy than the one you just sold. That’s a risk which I struggle to accept. But I envy you for doing it…

  6. Claus Ebberfeld

    @anders, I’ve found it very difficult to predict how happy a classic makes me :-).

    Maybe you recall that after I sold my 1982 BMW 628 CSi it was replaced with a 1977 Mini 1100 Special? Two very, very different cars. But I’d be hard pressed to point out which was the more fun – both made me VERY happy.

    I must admit I missed the point of driving year round. This will always divide opinions amongst enthusiasts and I guess you’d risk lynching for taking a Montreal out in a mix of slush and salt! In that respect any fibreglass bodied car in my opinion has a huge advantage over steel bodied classics. Indeed it was one of the reasons I wanted a Scimitar myself, as I also had all year round use in mind.

    So clearly you can only replace it with a Gilbern, Bond Equipe or Gordon Keeble!

  7. Dave Leadbetter

    Anders, will you ever truly settle…? Has it occurred to you that at least part of the answer may lie in joining one of those carsharing classic car “clubs”, the kind where you pay your annual membership and get access to a fleet on a pay as you go basis? It depends how much personal ownership is a factor and I suspect half the thrill in your mind is the chase towards acquisition…

    But if you’re really set on coveting your neighbour’s ox you’ll need a camel hair coat, trade insurance and premises to rent. Buy, drive, sell; rinse and repeat. You’ve probably got enough in stock now to get you going…

  8. Anders Bilidt

    @Claus, sadly a Gordon Keeble is well and truly out of reach, so I suppose it’ll have to be a Gilbern Invader then. Can I have mine as an estate please? ;-)

    @Dave, no I probably won’t ever settle. How can I when there are so many delicious classic cars out there to sample? But to answer your questions: Yes, personal ownership does matter to me. Yes, the chase is no doubt part of the thrill. But no, I doubt I’ll ever become a homemade classic car dealer. Frankly, I’m a lot better at buying cars than I am at selling them – hence why I currently own more than I really should…

  9. Claus Ebberfeld

    @anders, I am pretty sure a Gilbern Invader Estate is a step back from your (ours!) Scimitars. And they are even powered by the same type of engine, so why bother?

  10. Anders Bilidt

    @Claus, true that.

    How about the Peugeot 504 Coupé V6?
    Or a Rover Vitesse SD1?
    Hmmmm… maybe a M-B 280CE (W123)?

    I’m confused. Some one help me…

  11. Niels Jonassen

    There are so many reasons why people like classic cars. The looks, the engine, the suspension, the history behind the car. For a fair number of years I was very happy with a Jowett Javelin. For its time – and country of origin – it was quite sophisticated, and it drove well taking us on holidays to Sweden, Norway, England and Scotland. I was so fond of it that I bought an extremely deranged Jowett Jupiter to restore. But then my boyhood dream car – a Lancia Aurelia GT – turned up. Also in a very bad state. Of course I had to buy it and restore it. Why do I like it? It is a very intelligent design, it looks good and – that is important – it drives extremely well. It is well balanced and fast. I have no idea if there are other cars which might also appeal to me in the same way. I am perfectly happy owning my boyhood dream car – and having met so many nice and interesting people because of it,

  12. Claus Ebberfeld

    @anders, you know I have a weak spot for the Rover SD1. More importantly, I actually think it could fit your bill as well – especially in the Vitesse-version.

    The Mercedes 280 CE is probably the most obvious choice, but the Rover is a more engaging drive and I know you love that!

  13. Anders Bilidt

    @Niels, may I first of all congratulate you on an absolutely gorgeous classic car. I share with you entirely your fascination with the Aurelia GT. It tops the charts on both design, technology and heritage in equal measures. So much so, that if I were ever to settle with owning only one classic car, I could perhaps see an Aurelia GT as a very suitable candidate indeed.
    Which leads me to my second point Niels: Is your Aurelia GT your only classic car? Or do you still own a Jowett as well? Or something entirely different maybe? And if the Aurelia GT is indeed your only classic, do you feel it meets your every need?

    But either way, an Aurelia GT probably isn’t a viable substitute for my Scimitar. For starters, there’s the financial aspect to consider. And furthermore, it’s probably not the best suited to use as an every day car all year round…

    So on that note, yes @Claus, a SD1 Vitesse is indeed an option. I’ve always rather liked them and I too believe their driving characteristics would suit me very well indeed. The 280CE might well handle the abuse of all year driving a little better though? And I can’t deny that I’ve lately had nothing but 504 V6 Coupé fantasies filling my head…

  14. Niels Jonassen

    Anders, yes it is our only classic car. We kept the Javelin for ten years after having registered the Aurelia, but we realised that we hardly ever used it. So it was sold. As far as I know it now lives a happy life in Holland. In some ways you can easily use an Aurelia as an everyday car. It is extremely robust and very reliable. However, I prefer to use it only from May till October. After all it is 66 years old, and even if you can get the spares you need it takes some time to find them. Now our everyday car is a Fiat Barchetta from 1995. Classic? At least on the verge of being one.

  15. Anders Bilidt

    Well @Niels, I salute you Sir! And perhaps envy you just a little bit too – but in the best of ways of course.

    However, it still doesn’t get me any closer to figuring out which classic car would best suit me as an all-year-round daily classic car… Stick with the Scimitar? Try something different? And if so; which one? How can I possibly establish what is the right thing for me to do?

  16. Claus Ebberfeld

    You can’t positively, objectively and conclusively establish that, @anders.

    Having just enjoyed my own Scimitar on a 400 kilometers round trip this weekend, carrying tools, sleeping in it (!) and basking in its comparative rarity (here in Denmark, at least) at a classic car meeting I came away ensured that this is indeed MY keeper. I’ve shied away from using it year-round as originally intended, but still feel it is one of the best REAL classic car candidates out there.

    Let me quote The Clash for you:

    Should I stay or should I go now?
    If I go, there will be trouble
    And if I stay it will be double

    So there!

    But just to remind you: Out somewhere near you there should be a white 1983 Mazda RX7 Elford Turbo. While it would be difficult sleeping in an RX7 it does actually share many of the virtues of a Scimitar – bar that of the rust resistent bodywork. COULD it be a candidate?

  17. Anders Bilidt

    @Claus, sadly, the rear seat in the RX-7 is just too small for my two daughters. Other than that, yes, it could perhaps have been another great contender…

    Hmmm… I shall merely continue my somewhat confused quest for the perfect every-day all-year classic car. Until I find one which I believe can outdo the Scimitar, I suppose I’ll just continue enjoying my quirky seventies shooting brake – no hardship! ;-)

  18. Claus Ebberfeld

    If you should stay with “Sci” – maybe a VW Scirocco Mk2? They’ll probably come pre-rusted too, so you should be too worried about that :-)

  19. yrhmblhst

    The more I think about it, the more it appears [from my limited knowledge ] that the Reliant may just be a near perfect match for what youre using it for / whats important to you ina daily driven classic car…

  20. Anders Bilidt

    @Claus, I’ve actually always quite liked the design of the Scirocco II. But that said, I somehow just don’t see it delivering the same level of satisfaction as does my Scimitar. Waaaay back when I was only a 20-year-old kid, I owned a Golf 1.8GLi Karmann for about a year or so. It was a fun little thing when you dropped the roof, but that was really its only party trick, as everything else about it was a little ordinary. Later in life I drove a very boring 1.6-litre Golf II as a daily car for a bit. While it did everything the packaging promised, it was truly dull. If I were to drive a Scirocco II, it would simply have to be a top-of-the-range 16V, but even then, I doubt it’ll be near as charming as the Scimitar…?

    And on that note, @yrhmblhst, you might very well be right – perhaps the Scimitar is a perfect match for my current requirements? Guess I’ll stick with it a little longer then… Uhmmm, at least until a Peugeot 504 Coupé V6 comes up for sale at the right price… ;-)

  21. yrhmblhst

    You’ll get very little to no argument from me on the 504 Pug coupe ; think they are lovely. However, I still think the Reliant fills the bill better for what I perceive to be your needs at the time. You can send the Peugeot to me tho…

  22. Tony Wawryk

    @anders if you’re prepared to consider a handsome but (probably) unreliable Pininfarina designed French coupe, what about an (equally probably) unreliable but utterly gorgeous Italian coupe also from the House of Pininfarina – a FIAT 130 coupe in metallic blue with your beloved orange velour seats for four and a decent-sized boot, and that 3.2 litre V6? Currently available for reasonable money, pretty exclusive, and did I mention that it’s gorgeous?

    Or…a Bitter SC, not quite as gorgeous as the FIAT, but probably more reliable, still available for very reasonable money per our recent Prime Find, and even more exclusive?


  23. Tony Wawryk

    PS I see you mentioned the 130 briefly in your original piece (this is a looong thread now) but is it any more likely to rust away at this stage than the 504?

  24. Anders Bilidt

    @Tony, I have always admired the elegant FIAT 130 Coupé and I would indeed dearly love to add one to my driveway. But in terms of reliability, I’m not convinced that you can compare the FIAT with the Peugeot just because both were designed by Pininfarina… The Peugeots of the sixties, seventies and even early eighties were very different creatures than those we have become accustomed to in more modern times. Remember, if visiting Africa, there are really only three old vehicles which still roam the roads down there: Toyota Landcruisers, M-B W123s and various Peugeots such as 404s, 504s and 505s. I suppose the 504 Coupé probably won’t be much better than the 130 at keeping rust at bay, but while not wanting to suggest that the FIAT will necessarily prove unreliable, I still have no doubt that from a mechanical point of view, the Peugeot will be more reliable still. Even the ever so elegant 504 Coupé was a thoroughly tough car…

  25. Tony Wawryk

    @anders, I must have explained myself very badly, as both the 504 and 130 being designed by Pininfarina = unreliability was not the point I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make at all. I was just wondering about using reliability to make a decision between two beautiful cars from generally unreliable manufacturers.
    I recognise the physical robustness of the 404 and 504, though I also think their being simple to work on is a big reason for so many lasting as long as they did in Africa.

    Anyway, that aside, what about the Bitter? 😀

  26. Claus Ebberfeld

    For some reason I sometimes confuse myself whether the Bitter is steel bodied or glassfibre – but it IS steel and therefore no better a winter candidate that the Opel Monza / Senator which supplied the driveline and much else. I’d personally prefer the much cheaper Monza over the Bitter. It will soon be rarer too!

  27. Anders Bilidt

    Claus, I do indeed like the Monza too – I always have. But despite sharing the same driveline, the Bitter SC is still significantly cooler. Tony, find me a Bitter SC in an interesting colour (so preferably not white, silver, red or black) and make sure it has a manual transmission too. Do that, and I’ll happily try it on to see whether it’s more of a perfect match for me than is my current Scimitar…

  28. Claus Ebberfeld

    Agreed it’s cooler,
    @anders , agreed. But it has no rear hatch nor a large load area, and that’s what I feel makes the Scimitar VERY practical. But if course if that aspect is covered by another vehicle it doesn’t matter. Happy hunting as a fine Bitter is not that easy to find.

  29. Claus Ebberfeld

    @tony, :-)!

    In fact the only real and proper reason I can see for Anders changing his Scimitar GTE is that is seems strange that two editors have one and the third doesn’t. We should all have one – or only I should, methinks…

  30. Anders Bilidt

    Hmmm… so @claus, the options appear to be one of the following two:
    1) I sell my Scimitar and move onto another classic car which you don’t currently own or
    2) We have to compromise our grassroot ideals and make ViaRETRO a much more commercial identity, thereby creating sufficient income to allow a fleet of Scimitars for all of us – editors and contributors alike.

    What say you Gentlemen?


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