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If you have to ask, you won’t understand

If you have to ask, you won’t understand

David Hardcastle
That’s my choice for a classic car bumper sticker. Why would any sane person rummage in dark, oily workshops in the hope of unearthing that rare sprocket-fangler, the only part needed to get a beloved Ford Popular back on the road?

Stripping down the old paint showed that 2 new wing panels and 2 door skins would have to be made
It’s easier to understand the man with a Ferrari than the man with a Ford. Restore a pile of broken bits (provide they have all the right numbers!) into a sleek and rare 1960’s road racer and you will turn all heads and make money. Maybe treble your investment! But a slow, badly-sprung family saloon which was not actually a very good car when it was new? That is indeed harder to understand.
I’ve always driven down the middle path, choosing cars which have been good yet affordable, a bit sporty, reasonably good to look at but, above all, fun to drive. My favorite classic in Europe 15 years ago was a BMW 2002 Touring, arguably the world’s first hatchback. Then it was 18 years old, handled and went well with spares available cheaply and easily. It never let me down and made me some money when I sold it.

Almost finished! Giulia sits between CL owner Khun Seeton and interpreter Khun Noy.
But have you ever noticed how elusive an item can be when you really want it? Here in Chiang Mai, weeks of searching “used car land” near the old sports stadium for a 2002 produced - nothing. But suddenly, there was a different but rather handsome shape! An Alfa Romeo! A truly grand marquee!! A 1972 Giulia Super with the optimum 1.6 liter engine. And what an engine! Not a Nissan diesel but the real thing - and the whole top end had been chrome plated for its first owner, a member of the Royal family! (Wow! A bit of history like that always enhances the value).

Classics don’t have to be sedate. You can have a lot of fun with them (Giulia took 2nd place on this recent Autotest) if they’re not too rare and don’t cost millions.
The man wanted 100,000b for this gentleman’s sporting carriage and wouldn’t budge. An impossible dream. But I wrote down the registration number and a day later called at Daychar Garage just off the old Borsang Road to consult Khun Daychar himself, fully Alfa Romeo qualified in Bangkok in the 70’s. “Well, that’s my car and although it’s mechanically perfect, that man can’t sell it at his price. It comes back here next week and you can have it for 65,000b” said he. Yipee! A done deal.
Giulia, my racy and thirsty Italian mistress, is indeed a joy to handle, but tropical sun and rain had wreaked some havoc with her cosmetics and last year came the time for a thorough bodily work out. The quote from Khun Seeton at CL Garage, Old Lamphun Road, who restores cars for the President of the Mercedes Benz Classic Club, was 100,000b and every satang has been worthwhile. New floors, re-built doors and a real red paint job have added at least 15kph to her top speed. And far more than that to her value! Why buy new and suffer depreciation? Maybe that is indeed the best answer to the ‘why’ question?
Advice on all aspects of classic car acquisition, restoration and maintenance comes from Classic Cars of Lanna, an enthusiast group which holds events every month. More info from David Hardastle on e-mail: [email protected] All photos courtesy of Alex Boyesen