Take a look at this beast. A classic Formula 1 Mercedes-Benz, it has become the most expensive car to be sold at public auction after fetching more than £19m. This was the racing car driven by five-times F1 world champion Juan Manuel Fangio when he clinched the second of his titles in 1954. At almost double the price paid previously for the most expensive car bought at auction, it was sold over the telephone to an undisclosed bidder. Now that’s what I like, discretion. No big ‘look at me, haven’t I got the biggest yacht in the harbour’ showiness. Just somebody quietly going about their business of acquiring something utterly rare and significant in its specialist field. The other thing I like is that it’s far from untouchable. The car was sold in its current condition, with noticeable blemishes and dirt. According to motor racing historian David Nye, “What’s so special about it is that it has this wonderful, untouched patina,” Mr Nye said. The really rare cars today are the unrestored ones. Every car that’s restored has lost a part of its history because it’s been obliterated by repainting or by rebuilding. Nothing’s been obliterated on this, it’s just a beautiful survivor.” Delightfully, this car was found in ‘a warehouse’.
Can you imagine finding this in your old man’s lock up? Oh boy. The point of this posting is not about serendipity however. It’s about the blokes (and it’s almost exclusively a male thing) who drive old cars. I find they come in 3 varieties:
– there’s the old chap with a bit of old money who indulges his love for old cars by occasionally pootling around, often seen wearing his deer stalker and goggles, in his beloved Bentley from the 1920’s. A bit like this
I kind of like these guys. They seem to drive along with a wistful look (maybe that’s just their age) probably thinking back and remembering times gone by and why not eh? They probably cause untold carnage behind them but that apart they are very likeable.
– type 2 is the guy who’s been restoring a beat up old Vauxhall Victor or something equally forgettable from the mid 1960’s, for the last 3 years. Assisted by some sad mates, he’s spent every spare hour in the garage restoring a pile of junk and every spare pound in his wallet too. There’s usually a long-suffering wife in the background who’s only recourse was to withdraw conjugal rights until he got the bloody ‘project’ finished and her holidays restored. He did finish the car after 3000 hours of effort and a total spend of around £18,000. But it’s worth at least £3000 he keeps telling her as he takes her to endless Vauxhall car club shows now as her summer holiday treat…
Sex is still off the Saturday night menu but at least he’s out of the garage. He does carry the haunted look of a man who’s not had carnal knowledge of the woman he shares a bed with with for over 3 years but I suspect it’s also the look of a man who’s hungry for his next project and has been eyeing through images of Hillman Imp carcasses on the internet for the last two months. I still have a grudging respect for these guys because they have found the second love of their lives and without these car geeks we’d never see any of these old VV’s on the road, ever.
– V3 is the knob of the men and their motors pack. He’s got a bit of cash from wheeler-dealing and he thinks that by driving around in something oldish and elegant like a mature Merc he’s going to cultivate the image of a sophisticated geyser. He wouldn’t know a drive shaft from a piston rod (nor do I); the only things that matters to him are looks and price. It’s how he looks at women too. I spotted him in Teddington yesterday driving around with shirt undone, medallion glistening in the bright sunlight something like this geyser (but not him) with that supercilious look on his face which was shouting out ‘look at me, look at me’.
I’m a little shamed to say this but I was rather hoping something very big and expensive to repair would blast up through the bonnet. Sadly it didn’t. Discretion eh, it’s a lovely attribute for a man to have.