Which Car? 'Should a pensioner drive an older car?'

Colin Eyre is about to retire and wants to buy a car, mainly for driving around locally. He has always fancied a Morris Minor Convertible. Assuming he can get one in reasonable condition, he wants to know if it is realistic to expect to spend most of his time driving the older car, rather than caring for it.

Absolutely, that is why garages exist. There are no mechanical qualifications required to own a classic car and Mr Eyre is lucky he has a specialist on his doorstep.

But it would be a mistake to think that older cars require less attention, or that owners should be ignorant of what goes on underneath the bonnet. The servicing schedules for old cars are more rigorous. There are nipples to be greased, levels to be checked and, ideally, an oil change every 3,000 miles.

But overall, a Morris Minor should still be cheaper to own and run, but Mr Eyre should learn some maintenance basics to keep the Minor sweet. The simplicity of the Minor means that providing it is structurally sound, there are few mechanical parts to go wrong and it's A-series engine can deliver a 100,000 mileage without drama.

The key to prolonging the life of a classic is to use it often - they hate being neglected. Not just two-mile runs, but a journey to properly warm up the engine at least a couple of times a week.

A car for the head

If Mr Eyre is going to use his Minor all year round, he might get a little tired of a hood system that was designed more than 50 years ago. He might prefer a hardtop and maybe a slightly more powerful engine, which would make longer journeys more comfortable.

The good news is that he does not have to give up driving a classic, but can actually enjoy a more upmarket Minor. In 1957, Wolseley and Riley produced cars based on Morris Minor underpinnings. The styling was completely different, being much more square and ornate, rather than the jellymould Minor. Taller, longer and wider, these cars were also much more luxurious. Even better under the bonnet was a much larger 1.5-litre, B-series engine that boosted performance. But it was the Riley version with twin carburettors that really flew.

These cars are cheaper than Minors, and Wolseley and Riley 1,500 models in A1 condition sell for between £1,500 to £2,000 and are just as easy to maintain.

A car for the heart

So Mr Eyre has his heart set on a convertible. First of all, he has to make sure that it is the genuine article. Over the years, many saloons have been converted (not always brilliantly) to the more valuable specification.

There is no reason to pay over the odds, and the clues are in the chassis number stamped on the car and printed on the V5 registration document. Older convertibles, built between 1952 and 1958, start FC (for convertible); later Minors, from 1958, start MAT, and the T stands for Tourer. Ideally, Mr Eyre should buy a later model, from 1962, which had the larger 1098cc engine, which makes driving better.

Mr Eyre must involve an expert when buying. Minors can rust just about everywhere, and that is the most expensive thing to put right. Engines and other mechanical items can easily be swapped or upgraded, but rust in door pillars, floor and suspension points cost a lot to sort out. Good convertibles cost between £4,000 and £5,000, while average ones are about £2,500. It is also essential that Mr Eyre joins the Morris Minor Owners Club (www.morrisminoroc.co.uk).

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