Just in time for last month’s magazine I squeezed one more car into my shed. Tragically the garage is made of steel not elastic, and this just simply has to stop. But how could I refuse?
Apparently some years ago at a club picnic I had admired this very car - a 1949 Light 15 Citroen. The ‘Traction Avant’ was the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car. The first mass-produced monocoque hull. The car that was so expensive to engineer that Andre Citroen went broke and had to sell his business to Michelin.
The light green duco, wooden dash, sunroof and small boot with spare wheel meant it was identical to the car I owned as a student way back in 1975. Like so many of us, I forever regretted selling it and always wanted to know where it ended up.
The car I have just bought has been with the same owner since 1954. His widow can no longer handle the heavy steering even though she learned to drive in this very car. His meticulous maintenance throughout his sixty years stewardship was rewarded with instant approval by my club safety officer last week when he hoisted the old gal into the air. A new battery, two pedal rubbers and a pat on the rump was all that was needed.
A pleasant weekend listening to the footy finals in the shed with chrome polish, degreaser and some elbow grease and she is sparkling and raring to be used. The hardest job was rectifying loose bonnet stays, requiring lying on the floor, left hand up behind the wooden dash and into the tiny cavity behind to reach the captive nut that needed tightening.
But if you do the maths, my student wheels were actually not so old back then.
Astonishingly, when I was tootling out to uni and back, my Citroen was only 25 years old – a 1950 model on the road in 1975. So it was back then the equivalent of a 1990 model of whatever marque today. Yet then – and now – the Light 15 seemed ancient, other worldly and of an entirely different era.
This got me thinking. What is there made in 1990 that would gather anything like the same kudos and wow factor today that my car did when I first got my licence? Have a look through the ads and once you stop wheezing from fits of laughter at the usually wildly ambitious and optimistic prices being asked there are some seriously fun
quality buys that are about to or just have become eligible for club permits.
Anyone fancy a Lotus Elan for $15k?
An early M5 BMW or even more exotic and expensive to maintain and repair the V12 850 Coupe? A Nissan 300ZX or Mazda MX5? Mercs of either 500SL or 300CE variety for anything between $10k and $25k? A Bentley 8? Jaguars XJ6 or XJS or your pick of dozens of Camaros for less than $25k. And on it goes.
But each of these is within the broad category of what we would think of as modern cars. They have air conditioning, power steering, electronics and some of them ha ve ABS. None of them would be regarded by anyone as ‘old cars’, yet they now qualify for the schemes existing in most of Australia for concessional use for cars 25 years and older.
Is that a problem? Or am I just showing my age?