Timeless and tax-free

Classic cars may not be gold mines, but they are still a source of riches. By Roger Bell

How would you like a car that's exempt from excise duty, cheap to insure and resistant to depreciation? What if it also attracted envy and kindred spirits, even enriched your social life? Too good to be true? No. Inspector Morse runs such a car. James Bond, too. As thousands of classic car owners will testify, there's a lot to be said for a golden oldie.

Loosely defined,a classic car is anything on four wheels that's survived 10 years, better still 20. Class, style and condition count for more than age, though. Any "classic" that doesn't quicken the pulse lacks the essential tingle factor. Triumph Stags and old Jaguars have it in abundance. Ford Populars and Hillman Minxs do not. Never mind that the Stag was a dog. Classicism transcends bad reputations.

Just as rare grandees with exotic names do wonders for the ego, so also does a competition heritage. Take the humble Ford Cortina (and you're welcome to it). A few hundred pounds will suffice for a nice survivor. For a prime Lotus Cortina -- same car, superior engine and provenance - you'd need pounds 10,000. Blame Jim Clark. Cars that evoke memories of derring- do on the race track are premium-priced cars.

Anyone who buys a classic as a hedge against inflation either hasn't been paying attention or is guilty of self-deception. Nothing spectacular has happened to values since they crashed six years ago, leaving many speculators with smouldering wallets. These days, classics don't so much make money as stretch budgets. At worst, the decent ones avoid crippling depreciation - the bane of all new cars. At best they hold their own against inflation. Insure them on a restricted-mileage policy, and they cost remarkably little to cover. All right, to be exempt from excise duty (road tax) - currently pounds 140 a year - cars must be at least 25 years old. But anything more than four years old qualifies for reduced perks tax in business. A classic on the firm? Why not?

Employees pay benefit-in-kind tax on 35 per cent of their company car's original list price. So if your dream machine is a mint MGB GT - price pounds 1,428 with overdrive in 1971 - the tax incurred is a fraction that for a typical modern repmobile costing 10 times more. Take a third off for age allowance, and another third for business mileage, and you're facing a minuscule tax bill. But beware. The Inland Revenue's largesse does not extend to cars over 15 years old if their current value exceeds pounds 15,000.

Whoever's funding your indulgence, aim high. For the price of a new mid- range Ford Mondeo you could buy a cracking Sixties Mercedes 250SL, a decent mid-Seventies Ferrari 308 GT4 or various iterations of the Porsche 911. All are wonderful to drive, huge on image and strong on character. Such cars are not so much mobility as moving experiences.

On a lower plane, Ford Fiesta money will suffice for a prime Alfa Romeo Montreal, a pristine 20-year-old BMW 3.0CSL or a late-Sixties Jaguar 340 - value in top condition about pounds 9,000. The earlier Jaguar Mk2 3.8 with the same body and underpinnings would cost twice as much.

If the budget's tight go for something in good nick of a lower order rather than a tired pedigree. Five grand - Lada Samara money - will buy a nice Lotus Excel, an MGB or a fibreglass-bodied Reliant GTE. Better a healthy Humber than a moribund Maserati.

There are, of course, snags. For a start, the classic car market is a minefield for the unwary. In a recent report, the AA said two-thirds of the classics it inspected were in need of extensive repair. Finding the right car is the biggest headache, but not the only one. Old cars are not as safe as moderns with airbags and anti-lock brakes. Catless, they also pollute more. In the very long term, emission regulations could threaten their very existence. Reliability is another contentious issue. Not so spares or repairs for the more popular classics, thanks to specialist clubs offering guidance, expertise and sympathy to members. Socials and motoring events, too. You're never alone with a golden oldie.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect