A very good friend of mine got me thinking about spending money on modern retro cars, rather than just a new boring car. He recently had to remove the DPF (diesel particulate filter – a very expensive part of the exhaust) and clean it out in an attempt to rejuvenate it, because it would cost £500 to replace it, and of course, having a faulty or “dirty” DPF puts the dreaded engine management light on. This got me thinking, is it better to spend money on expensive parts for modern cars or spend as much on repairing an old car? What I would call a “modern retro” or “modern classic” car is any of your typical testosterone stirring, smile-inducing, pieces of automotive machinery from the 80s and 90s. Ford Sierra Cosworth, BMW E30, Mercedes 190, Subaru Impreza, Golf Gti, Peugeot GTi, Audi Quattro, Mazda RX7, Escort RS Turbo, I think you get the picture.
I mean don’t get me wrong, I have a five-year-old Focus ST and I love it, but I do dread the day I have to buy an expensive part rather than doing a load of work myself. The ST is actually the most modern car I’ve ever bought, usually, I buy vehicles that are so far past it that no one else is interested anyway. Like the Vauxhall Zafira that we once got for putting work miles on. It was ten years old and we paid £250 for it, it needed a load of parts and an MOT, and it was just going to cost more to repair than the previous owner, or any other prospective buyers, were willing to spend. The cost of the parts wasn’t particularly bad, but there was a lot of labour involved in fitting them, and this is exactly where it became an issue for everyone else. It maybe needed £300 in parts but then £600 in labour. Add an MOT to that and you are at nearly £1000 for a ten-year-old high mileage people carrier. However, because I did all the work myself, we paid less for the vehicle and the parts to fix it than everyone else would have had to pay just for the repairs.
However, supposing you did have to pay a garage £600 just in labour to repair your vehicle, is that really such a bad deal? I think a lot of people think it is, they can’t justify paying someone that much just to turn some spanners. But what if you only had to pay £40 in labour, but £500 for a part? One single part? That goes under the car so you don’t even get to see it? Isn’t that worse?
What if you had a nice modern classic, something that’s not crazy money but getting rare enough that it is just about to go up in value, and it needs a load of welding done to it. Maybe you can’t do that yourself, so you take it to a reputable vehicle weldering person who quotes you £500? What’s wrong with that? How is that any different to spending £500 on a part for the exhaust? Where it really gets interesting is when you consider the resulting value of the vehicle in both cases. For the modern car, all you are really doing is repairing it, putting it back to how it should be. If you were to advertise it, making a big fuss about the fact that you did something you were supposed to do, I.e: buying a normal bog standard part for the exhaust, really isn’t going to increase the value or desirability of the vehicle. However, when you consider spending the same amount of money on a classic car, you do in fact add value and desirability to it. Even if it is just fitting an exhaust, and at £500 it’s going to a bloody good exhaust too! But supposing it is a load of welding, well now you have dramatically increased the chances of that car surviving longer than all the other ones out there, so you have increased the value. It doesn’t matter what area of the car you apply this process to, it always comes back with the same result. Brakes? Show me a Golf GTi or Toyota Supra that doesn’t go up in value because the owner added £500 worth of brakes to it. Bodywork? It is always the first thing you look at on any classic car, so having immaculate paint will undoubtedly increase value. Engine? A £500 service, tune-up, and rolling road session would only consolidate what an amazing investment your car would be to any prospective buyer.
Why does the value matter though? I was once talking to a friend about what our cars were worth, and his response was that if you weren’t planning on selling it, then what does it matter what it’s worth? I get his point, but in terms of an investment, which the right kind of car can be, knowing where you are at is important. But something that is possibly more important than is the justification for having to spend money on it, and knowing that should you need to sell you’ve got half a chance of coming out of it in the black. You won’t get that from a Nissan Qashqai.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.