Motor Show 1993: The beaten-up banger with a style all its own: Once you learn to recognise their unique timbre, old cars are a joy to run, writes James May, the proud owner of a Triumph Vitesse

I BELIEVE that an old car should feel like one. My own is a 1967 Triumph Vitesse convertible in pretty appalling condition, and that is the way it should be.

A car built to 1967 British standards should not now be in good shape: it should have been cubed in the last decade. Having it restored would somehow be fraudulent - the pleasure of owning an old car is in keeping it running against the odds. In any case, tat is fashionable and a beaten-up 1960s car is the perfect expression of the style movement known as grunge.

Not only is it immensely satisfying to be defying motoring's superbly developed process of natural selection, it is also politically correct. It is generally accepted that more pollution is caused during a car's manufacture and disposal than during its working life, so by sustaining the Triumph I am relieving the world of the need to make a new car and destroy my old one. Therefore the Triumph is environmentally friendly, even if it does run on four star and its recycling credentials extend little further than possible use as landfill.

There are a few simple rules to running a heap. First, forget the concept of servicing. Any self-respecting mechanic asked to service the Vitesse would return with a list recommending the replacement of everything save the tyres and light bulbs. Simply change the oil regularly, or rather get someone else to, as looking underneath will only upset you.

All other maintenance is part of normal driving and is performed in the first instance with the ears. You soon learn the sounds that make up the unique timbre of your own car and you will pick out the most subtle nuance of further decay. That sound like a marble in a liquidiser is normal wear and tear in the rear differential and can be ignored for a further 20,000 miles, but if you hear a spanner as well then it is about to separate into its component parts and should be replaced immediately.

Finally, ignore anything that isn't crucial, doesn't affect starting or is required for the MOT. Never mind that the door tends to fly open on left-hand bends - I'm having enough difficulty finding third gear at the moment.

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