How I got into the Vintage Car Hobby – by Terry Sullivan


Ford Zephyr Zodiac Mk II
Photo Courtesy Adrian Pingstone

The first car I can remember raving about as a youngster was a Ford Zodiac Mark II that passed by my home every day back in Trinidad……that was a very long time ago.  The Zodiac had an automatic gearbox that when coupled with its distinctive 6-cylinder exhaust note created a real treat for my young ear.  In those days the vast majority of the smallish British and French cars on the island were equipped with manual shift gearboxes, so the Zodiac really stood out.    It’s also a very pretty car.

Vauxhall Velox EIP
Courtesy Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden

The memory banks seem to recall a Vauxhall Velox somewhere.  That would have been likely an EIP model which was made between 1951 and 1957.  I recall that my dad had one of those but the car remains unremarkable to me.  It does remind you of a smaller scale GM product from the early 50’s.  Vauxhall was in fact owned by GM.

Ford Zephyr 6
Photo Courtesy Charles01

The next big automobile impression for me was a Ford Zephyr 6 Mark III which was our family transport and most notable for being in a crash on a rain-slicked highway on the way to being fitted for my high school blazer.  The car was totaled and the three unbelted occupants, including yours truly, were injured to varying degrees although none seriously. I needed a couple of stitches to patch up a busted lip that made contact with the unpadded dash…ah the good old days!  I remember the car but the memories are not fond for the obvious reason.

Peugeot 403
Photo Courtesy Wladyslaw

Our totaled Ford Zephyr was replaced by a wonderful Peugeot 403 which my family insisted was a stronger car than the crashed Zephyr and mercifully I never found out whether this assertion was correct.  The car was a lovely shade of pale gray and I remember that now familiar French sophistication and very comfy seats.  I rarely see these 403’s anymore but when I do I wonder how I would find parts for that rare bird.

Ford Prefect 107E
Courtesy Charles01

I learned to drive around the age of 16 and my trusty steed back then was a family friend’s wonderfully simple Ford Prefect 107E.  It wasn’t new but boy was it simple and easy to drive.  This is a car I would like to own just for the memory.  You don’t see them in the States at all these days though maybe it’s because I haven’t looked too deeply.  Honest, basic transportation that was really attached to so many young people as they began the journey to adulthood and mobility and therefore remain special to us in that way.

Ford Cortina GT
Photo courtesy Janderk

Ford Cortina 1600E
Photo courtesy Charles01

Next came a Ford Cortina GT mark II.  We owned a 1967 which had the 4-cylinder 1300cc Kent engine and but not the more desirable cross-flow cylinder head.   Nevertheless this simple (by today’s standard) GT brought much joy and the four extra gauges in the raised central binnacle lent a somewhat racy persona to the base Cortina.  In those days us Cortina drivers always lusted after the Mark I Lotus Cortina or the Mark II Cortina 1600E model which featured additional stainless trim, a lowered ride height and fat tires.  Although if you saw such a “fat” tire today you would certainly burst out laughing at the notion.  But at the time it looked totally different to the GT.

Ford Escort Mk I
Photo courtesy Charles01

Just before leaving for the States the family acquired a new Ford Escort Mark I.  That was the first new car I had ever driven and the silence, isolation, suspension and clutch all combined to create a very solid quiet ride that seemed far above the seemingly rough rides I had driven thus far.  Most likely because the Escort was new and it had the latest engineering and a leap above prior offerings.

1964 Cadillac Fleetwood
Photo courtesy Achird

For most of my 9 years in Brooklyn, I took the subway and didn’t have a car.  However my first car in the U.S. was a used 1964 Cadillac Fleetwood which is a very large formal car (especially in Black with a brocade cloth interior) but it was all mine and $400 plus a muffler system well spent.  I remember seeing the car on the site of a used car dealer located on the spot where the Barclays Center stands today.  The dealer informed me that the car needed a muffler and that he was using it to get parts and such and that it wasn’t for sale.  However I was in love with the thing and $400 bucks later I drove straight to the muffler shop where another couple of hundred got me a completely new system and the car absolutely purred.  The one issue was rust on a couple of panels but some bondo hid that right quick and in NYC who is looking at such a thing.  The ride was all mine and I was in New York! Fugetaboutit!


Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I
Photo courtesy Charles01

Around this time I became aware of the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud because one day I was walking in NYC minding my own business and observed a crowd of people around an elegantly dressed gentlemen who had stepped out of his Silver Cloud.  I was absolutely transfixed by the car because I had never seen one on the road.  The gent turned out to be none other than Walt “Clyde” Frazier of the New York Knicks and believe it or not that car made an impression that lasts to this day.  I just knew I wanted one.

Chrysler New Yorker
Photo courtesy VDK2010 Frankfurt Germany

Following the Fleetwood came a 1967 Chrysler New Yorker that had been very well maintained by a lady owner in Pennsylvania.  The New Yorker was a four door hardtop with the vinyl only on the side of the rear pillar and a painted roof.  A boxy but outstanding car that transported me the almost 3,000 miles from Brooklyn west to Los Angeles with no issues along the way during the 5 day journey.

After arriving in Los Angeles it was clear that the New Yorker was a bit large for daily driving.  Parking spaces seemed to be shrinking around me.  I was able to convince my employer to supply a company car which turned out to be a 1978 Cadillac Seville.  Now that was a heckuva car from GM!  With its vertical rear window and smooth ride there was nothing else like it.  I drove that car in LA for about three years before acquiring a taste for imported cars.

The imports included Toyota Supra, Porsche 928, Humber Super Snipe, Austin A55, Bentley T Type and Jaguar XJ6.  A few of these needed pretty major work much of which I was able to do.  Other than the Supra I had never owned a new car in the U.S.  Even then that was also a company car. That meant that much time was spent fiddling with the issues that frequently develop in old cars and along the way I built my expertise in all kinds of mechanical and electrical systems so that I could perform basic diagnosis, repairs and disassembly, inspection, re-assembly which is really at the heart of most repair work if you have the time and patience.  Service manuals were available and a great help.  English cars are particularly good for this type of learning because most of the parts can be opened up and rebuilt or repaired.  With some other brands you just threw the old part away.  I still have a couple of boxes of what looks like grimy junk to most people but to me they are parts waiting to be resurrected.

In the early 80’s I acquired a RHD 20 year old Bentley S2 which needed a few things and which was priced in the teens.  That began my love affair with the Bentley marque. Since then a number of pretty cool cars have been in my custody including Bentley S3, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, BMW 740, Mercedes AMG and Ferrari 550.  Most of these cars were acquired well-used which is the only way I could afford them.

An interesting phenomenon occurs at the top end of the market in which some fairly expensive cars take a huge hit in depreciation after a few years bringing their value down to the price of moderately priced new cars.  That continues today and it presents an opportunity for the enthusiasts so inclined to bypass the appeal of a new car and spend the same money for a substantially depreciated high-end machine or restored or presentable vintage cars.  Huge leaps in technology have been made in the last 30 years and cars can go much longer if well-maintained.

For example, let’s pick $25,000 as a cutoff for this exercise.  You already know what you can buy new for $25K but here are some examples of cars listed on our site that may be fully depreciated and could provide options for an entry point to the vintage car hobby.

Relatively affordable classic cars like these can bring you years of interesting vintage motoring and social interaction with like-minded enthusiasts.  The investment is the cost plus your time and energy to perform maintenance and repairs when needed but in the process you are building expertise and knowledge that will serve you well.  The old car hobby can be a lot of fun.  Feel free to look around in our classified listings. With all kinds of resources and specialist forums on the Internet you’ll be far from alone.

Enjoy the ride.

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