About Acquiring a Classic Vehicle.

You have an itch and need to scratch it but where to start? You have seen your friends thoroughly enjoying themselves simply messing about with old vehicles. You have a bit of money spare so lets go looking.

Firstly there is a need to see what is available. Work out your budget, leaving enough for physically moving the vehicle from its current resting place to your own home. Allow for repairs and consider your own skill level in tackling any work which may be needed. Remember, you may able to buy an Aston or Bentley, but have you the expertise/cash to fix it when it breaks.

Try and decide on the type of vehicle that will suit you, will fit into your garage, and will be acceptable to those around you. Leave sufficient funds for possible bribery {Conservatory, new kitchen and so forth) if required.

Our Man James would probably advocate something simple to start with, possibly British, to take advantage of better spare part backup and availability of knowledge about the particular vehicle..

Once you have a rough idea of what you are looking for then the search can begin. If you have a particular vehicle in mind then join the Club catering for it. In most cases there will be a regular magazine and contact details of where help and spares can be found.There may even be some vehicles offered for sale also.

Research is everything. With the World Wide Webb and a plethora of magazines to chose from, one can spend many happy hours trying to narrow down the search. Read articles about your particular choice, go to Classic Vehicle Shows, talk to as many people as you can. There is a great deal of enthusiasm out there, you just need to tap into it.

Okay, you know more or less what you would like and how much you can spend, let us now look at where to go to find your dream.

Our Man James considers some possible ways forward.

Firstly the Private Purchase, from a fellow enthusiast perhaps, who has advertised his vehicle in one of the magazines or on a Classic Vehicle Website. This can be a simple matter of making arrangements to see the vehicle, inspecting it and agreeing on a purchase price. The first part is easy enough, but what happens when you are presented with this said vehicle. How do you know if it is a good buy and if the Vendor is telling the truth about i?. If you are not sure then take advice. A knowledgeable friend or expert from the Club, would be sensible. The choice of adviser needs thought. There are professional engineers that will come and check the vehicle over. Modern car buyers tend to call upon the R.A.C. and A.A., but for the older vehicle a respected expert is thought to be best. Expect to pay £250-350 maybe for this service.    More if the man is coming some distance. Obviously you need to have narrowed your choice of vehicle at this stage to perhaps one or two, otherwise the cost of inspection will seriously damage your budget.

You need an idea of the value of the vehicle. There will almost certainly be no form of guarantee, so you need to be quite certain of what needs doing and how much this will cost. A simple residual valuation is made based on the estimated sale price of the vehicle in god condition, less the cost of repair and possibly the cost of transportation home. Look as confident as you can and make your offer. If accepted, expect to pay a deposit to secure the vehicle. Make sure you have a receipt and arrange a suitable method of payment of the balance. Nowadays this can be done quite quickly by a simple Bank Transfer or good old fashioned cash may be preferred.

For the more experienced purchaser there is Ebay. Make sure you really understand the rules. This is a relatively new way of doing business and Our Man James, will no doubt hear from those that have been successful and those that have not. You really have to be sure of what is on offer as in most cases, there does not seem to be time to make an inspection and have the vehicle properly vetted. The price may well reflect this but above all remember that once you have made a successful bid, there is usually no going back..

Look at the Paypal method of payment. Some like it some do not. Comments welcome.

What about the Dealers and Brokers? Through many  years of trading in the Classic Vehicle world,  Our Man James has learned that this is really quite a small world. Those involved commercially are comparatively small in number, so in general cannot afford adverse publicity. Also they are mainly enthusiasts in their own right and will be pretty knowledgeable about the vehicles they have on offer. Repeat business is very important to them as the potential customer base is a lot smaller than that of the modern car trader. Expect to pay a little more for your vehicle, but you may well find that there is a certain amount of after sales help available, which would not be forthcoming from the private vendor.

Do you get a guarantee/warranty? Such a difficult topic and not adequately covered by legislation . Many vehicles are technically well beyond their ‘use by’ date, so how can a dealer offer a normal warranty without risk of bankruptcy? Our Man James found a very helpful Trading Standards Officer, who wrote a seven page letter on what a Classic Car Dealer should do. The paper has long since vanished but the letter suggested that any dispute really needed to be tested in Court ( at vast expense). Hence whilst it is a good idea to sound out the dealer about warranties, in fairness it is unlikely that the usual modern car type warranty would be offered. Having said that, many will try and help if you get into difficulties, more with practical advice than actual money, in an effort to retain goodwill. As mentioned before repeat business important and a happy purchaser will return, perhaps for another vehicle.

How is the Broker different ? The Broker is essentially an agent selling on behalf of a vendor. Where the law concerning warranties is a little grey when it comes to a deal with a Classic Vehicle Dealer, the Broker appears to be free of liability, provided that he describes the vehicle correctly, based on the information received from his Client. This then is much closer to a private sale, but in practice the Broker will also be aware that the Classic Vehicle world is small and he will seek to mediate between Purchaser and Vendor if a problem arises. His level of expertise should include a good working knowledge on how to find help/spares if required. Bear in mind that the Broker will be working on a modest commission, rather than a larger dealer’s mark up. He may have less room to move on price and part exchanges could prove a problem. Customer satisfaction is again going to be important.

Dealers and Brokers suggested contacts:

Pioneer Automobiles. A well known firm, established in the mid 1980’s and recently taken over by Mark Furneaux, with former owner turned consultant, Jim Thompson on hand, occasionally dispensing refreshments and advice. Mark handles all types and ages of vehicles and operates as a Dealer and also as a Broker, selling cars on behalf of Clients. The premises at Gidley Farm lies in lovely Berkshire countryside, a few minutes from junction 13 of M4 motorway. Viewing by appointment is recommended.

Robin Lawton has had a lifetime’s experience in the motor trade, selling new M.G.’s at University Motors, a 12 year stay running the Classic Vehicle Division at British Car Auctions and more recently moving to a lovely rural setting in the village of Passfield., where he trades under his own name.Robin’s passion is for pre war British Cars and his knowledge is formidable. Feel free to visit by appointment. Coffee and Rich Tea Biscuits often available.


Nadder Valley Classics Ltd is based in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside close to the cathedral city of Salisbury. Specializing in classic cars and motorcycles with an eclectic mix of British and Continental models. Richard Rawlingson and colleagues welcome visitors by appointment

tel: 01722 716052. mobile: 07733 088339

web: www.naddervalleyclassics.co.uk



Consider now the Auction. Maybe a place to get a bargain, maybe not. Buying at Auction needs research and a knowledgeable companion will be invaluable. Make sure you take plenty of time looking at the vehicles, possibly going to the viewing day, the day prior to the sale.Try and find out as much about any possible purchases, look at the paperwork and see if you can have the car run for you. Carefully read the catalogue description. Most auctioneers nowadays carry out an H.P.I. check to make sure the car has no outstanding finance or has not been stolen or written off in an accident. If a vehicle turns out to be not as described in the catalogue, the Purchaser may have recourse to the law to obtain a refund. There is normally a time limit for this of 24 hours from fall of the hammer. Read the special conditions of sale and checkout the arrangements for collecting, paying etc and above all check out how much Buyer’s Premium is charged. This is a percentage of the hammer price, usually 10-15%, to which V.A.T. must be added, currently at 20%.

When bidding, make sure you can be easily seen or shout if it seems that you have not attracted the auctioneer’s attention. He/she will not want to miss your bid anymore than you. If an item is knocked down to you as a provisional sale, this will mean it has failed to reach the reserve price. The auction staff will try and contact the vendor as soon as possible and try and negotiate a sale. The worry now is that you do not know if you have spent your money on that particular lot or if you are still free to bid on something else instead. Technically it appears that there is no contract in law until the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer but this can be a bit of a grey area. It is worth checking this out before you start.

The Auctioneer’s Lot.  It is not as easy as it looks! A good auctioneer will get the audience’s attention from the start and hold it throughout the sale. He will be firm like a referee or umpire, maintain command and keep the proceedings moving at a steady pace. In the classic car world there is a difference between the speed of selling a vehicle and that of an item of autojumble. Many sales now have a certain amount of autojumble for sale prior to the vehicles. A speed of 130-150 lots per hour for these items is desirable, whereas each car may need around 1-2 minutes each.

In front of him on the rostrum will be a specially marked catalogue containing notes he will have made beforehand about each car. There will almost certainly be a margin containing the reserve price, which should be achieved before a sale is made. There may also be a column containing a number of commission bids for the lot. The lot should not sell for less than the highest one of these. Meanwhile some auction rooms have installed a system of on line bidding, whereby a prospective purchaser can sit at home or in a location miles from the sale and enter a bid. There will probably be members of staff clutching telephones connected to would be buyers.

So the auctioneer has to look at his notes, maybe watch a computer screen and keep an eye on his colleagues clutching telephones, in addition to watching the good people in the room who have taken the trouble to turn up in person. All the time progress must be made and interest maintained. The odd spot of humor is usually appreciated , but should not diminish the seriousness of the job in hand. There is an element of showmanship required and a good auctioneer is great to watch. Does he/she suffer from stage-fright beforehand? Our Man James knows one who did but the subsequent adrenaline rush must equal that of a successful athlete.

These notes will not cover everything you need to think about when buying a Classic Vehicle. Our Man James is happy to try and help. With 40 years as an Auctioneer, Transport Operative ( Lorry Driver), Executive Chauffeur, Classic Car Dealer/Broker, there is a mine of information on hand, some of which may prove useful. Failing that there will hopefully be a constant flow of chatty E mails to watch on this site. Make yours one of them soon.