How to Buy the Right Classic Car For You In the UK - Muscle Car

How to Buy the Right Classic Car For You In the UK

Car Servicing & Restoration


Written by Elise

22nd October 2020

How to Buy the Right Classic Car For You In the UK
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How to Buy the Right Classic Car For You In the UK

By Owen Pham

How To Buy Classic Cars In The UK That Are Right For You

When a young gearhead watches films and TV shows featuring flamboyant vintage cars, they might imagine themselves driving such cars on a beautiful summer evening.

But not all classic car fans are young; many older people in their 50s or 60s have unforgettable memories of their childhood or teen years in classic cars from the 1960s or 70s when they were new. The desire to live those memories could lead many to buy these memorable cars to drive them at least once a week. In addition to living their nostalgia, investing for the future is another reason (celebrity-endorsed, no less) people buy classic cars due to these vehicles’ ever-rising value.

Vintage and classic cars for sale conjure up dreams in onlookers of leisurely driving in picturesque hills but buying one without the proper amount of research or buying knowledge can quickly deteriorate into a costly nightmare. 

In this article, we will discuss what qualifies as a good classic car in the UK, a brief guide on how to choose a classic car and where you can buy it from, some hints around buying knowledge and checking the condition of second-hand classic cars, and the benefits of classic cars before concluding.

What Are Classic Cars in the UK and Why Are They Expensive?

White Jaguar XK-150 on the worn tarmac

Even though it’s unlikely to settle on a single definition for a classic car that is agreed by every enthusiast in the UK, one might consider old favorite cars from the 1950s, 60s and 70s as classic cars.

From British luxury sports cars such as Jaguar E-Type to more mainstream American muscle cars like the vintage Ford Mustang, many precious cars of that period can be put in this car category. However, it should be noted that there’s no necessity for a classic car to be precisely among the fastest or most expensive cars in its production era. 

In fact, a classic car could even be a very regular car of the old past, such as a Mini or Volkswagen Beetle. Accordingly, there are possibly hundreds of classic car models available in the UK.

Generally, the main factor that makes classic cars expensive is the rarity of their models in existence, especially the models in concours condition, which are usually not easy to find. Hence, classic cars are not just regular vehicles for everyday use to go from A to B, but rather historic, unique rides that people can buy as a long-term investment.

The diversity in classic car models and the fact that classic cars are worthy of investment might make anyone interested in buying classic cars ask themselves: “What classic car should I buy?”, “What is the best guide on how to choose a classic car?”, or “What are the best classic cars to invest in?”

Do Your Research: What Classic Car Should I Buy?

Red 1964-‘66 Ford Mustang Coupe parked down the street on a rainy day

Before asking yourself what classic car you should buy, there are more important things to settle: “Do I need a classic car for daily driving, or just on Sundays?”, “Should I choose a classic car in concours condition, or am I looking for a restoration project?”, and most importantly, “How much is my budget for buying a classic car?”

Finally, “Should I buy a high-performance American car, or a British classic grand tourer?”

For instance, if you want a classic muscle car that could be suitable as a daily drive, you may think about buying a vintage Ford Mustang. There are many Ford Mustangs for sale in UK dealerships that have been imported from the USA, and even Mustang specialists in the UK. You can get a convertible 1970 Mustang in excellent condition for under £40,000. Ford Mustangs, in particular, are good candidates for restoration projects in the UK due to their huge aftermarket and relative ease of restoration.

Whether you buy a Mustang from classic car dealers or a private sale, after purchasing your Mustang, you should take it to a Mustang specialist in the UK for service and restoration.

Buying Knowledge

A woman sitting behind the wheel of a vintage car with a man standing beside the car in a vintage car gallery

When searching for a second-hand car to buy, it’s vital to look for a car that has traceable history and all the paperwork to attest for it. Make sure that its history is all clear, and nothing is hidden. This process can be a bit confusing even for a pro, so to make it simple, follow these steps:

    Check the registration certification right after test driving the car. Read the car’s handbook to locate the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number.) Once you found it, make sure that it matches the ones on the V5C vehicle registration document, which usually is a red and blue piece of paper.

    Examine the car’s service history. Every modern car has a service book which is stamped in every service. However, most classic cars do not. You’ll need to check the MOT history online to know about how well the vehicle has been maintained over the years.

|| Tip: if you already own a classic, having it serviced regularly helps you sell it in the long-run in more than one way. Servicing helps you maintain its good condition, and builds your car a profile that will sell like hot cakes.

    Do a data check to make sure the car hasn’t been declared as a write-off. This can even reveal whether the car has been stolen and cloned. The data check should only cost you about £20 and will protect you from fraud.

    Take the car to a classic car garage so that it can be inspected by a professional mechanic. You can also inspect it on your own if you are confident to do so.


Condition Is Everything

Ford Essex V6 engine mounted on a sky blue Ford Capri

If you don’t have enough experience in inspecting a classic car’s condition, here are some tips for you.

–   Arm yourself to work with tools such as a screwdriver, voltmeter or circuit tester, wire brush, torch, and camera. It’s better to get the car into the air on a lift to look underneath, but you can also jack it up for extra accessibility.

    Check the panels and make sure they fit. The body panels on a badly crashed car are tough to align properly. Make sure there are no squiggly inner wings and shutlines all over the car.

    Rust is a big no-no! Since removing rust is costly and overall not really worth it in severe cases, check the whole bodywork for it. Rust traps can usually be found on sills, wheelarches, door bottoms, front and rear valances. Use a magnet to locate them. Also, examine the leading edge of the bonnet and trailing edge of the boot lid. On cars with MacPherson strut front suspension, look at the strut tops for corrosion. The floorpan and spare wheel well should be checked from underneath, too.

    Examine the entire chassis to make sure there is no corrosion, especially around suspension supports.

    Have a look at the interior trim and make sure that panels, carpets, and seat covers are in good condition. Same for the wood trim, headlining, and hood in case the car was a convertible. However, this step shouldn’t be vital if the car is a mainstream classic car since there are many aftermarket interior trims available for such vehicles.

    Check the tyres and wheels for uneven tyre tread wear as it warns about the tracking being off or even shows serious problems such as misaligned suspension. Another reason for this could be the worn suspension bushes, which in that case, vague steering could also be noted.

    Examine the engine for smoke. Look for oil leaks can be suspected. The knocking sound of the engine on startup shows bearing wear. If there is water collected at the bottom of the radiator, it means there are leaks. Get the engine hot, then restart it a few seconds later to know about any possible hot starting problems.

|| Tip: Be aware of the causes for blue, black, and white smoke as they mean oil problems, poor combustion, and head gasket problem, and/or blown turbo.

    Test drive the car. Change the gears up and down and note if there are any synchromesh weaknesses at the same time. Listen out carefully if there is any whining from gearbox and diff. Make sure there is no jump out of the gear when applying throttle after moving from a standstill.

    Check the entire car’s electricity to make sure everything is okay. If there have been upgrades on electrical parts, make sure that they have been done correctly. Note that fixing the electricity issues is not that difficult in cars built before 1980, but newer cars are different. Always seek help from an expert if unsure.

Buy Used Classic Cars

A metallic blue classic Alpine A110 parked at dusk

When buying cars, many people prefer to buy low-mileage examples. This is understandable, but when it comes to classic cars there are more advantages in buying cars that have been regularly used as well as maintained.

Cars are machines, and machines need action to stay in good condition. The low-mileage show cars might look fantastic when showing off, but since they have not worked often it is not a good idea to use them as daily drivers, even if they are in concours condition.

These cars are expensive to purchase, and most of their worth is directly related to their low mileage. Driving a low mileage classic car will undoubtedly lead to depreciation in its cost. But what’s the point of buying a classic car if it shouldn’t be driven? 

The Benefits of Second-Hand Cars

Silver blue 1967-‘68 Ford Mustang parked between two other classic cars in a dealership

You can buy bargain second-hand classic cars from any dealer in the UK. Although many people prefer brand-new cars to buy and drive, there are some benefits in buying second-hand cars. Here are some of them.

    Second-hand cars are much cheaper to tax and register. Since vehicle taxes are mostly determined based on the current retail value of the car, and due to the fact that second-hand vehicles are always cheaper than brand new ones, these cars are more economically reasonable from this point of view. Second-hand cars are also much less expensive regarding insurance fees.

    Many additional features are available at very affordable prices, mostly not much more expensive than similar cars with fewer features.

    Second-hand cars are much easier to fix and repair than brand new ones. The older cars have much more simple structures than modern vehicles, and their parts are easily available online or at automotive markets. By contrast, more sophisticated brand-new cars and their parts have to be sourced from official retailers, which can end up more costly.

In addition, there is unparalleled choice and variety in the second-hand car market, from classic cars and muscle cars to more modern cars. This should help choose the right vehicle while keeping options open yet within budget.

The Future Of Buying Classic Cars

White Classic 911 showing off on a sunny day

The future of the automotive industry would suggest a murky fate to vintage and classic cars, since new technologies such as autonomous driving and electric powertrain may render the older car as useless junk.

This prospect, however, seems to be a false alarm. There have been lots of advancements in the car industry in recent years, and many classic cars are experiencing an unprecedented rise in value. Somewhat perplexing, given the annual circumstances, but rather like the current stock exchange or real estate market, classic cars seem to have cast off the traditional chains of logic and economic theory.

Classic cars are an unforgettable part of automotive culture, history, and identity, so it is impossible to consign them to oblivion. Classic cars are old, and as they say, “old is gold!”

Author: Owen Pham

Muscle Car UK is the UK’s leading specialist Mustang and Muscle Car dealership. We import American muscle cars from the US, restore them here in the UK, and re-home them with our delighted customers.

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All cars on our feeds are available and up for sale. Looking for something specific? We can help.

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