Your car needs you!

Why if you own an old car and enjoy driving it now is the time to pay it some attention.

Cars were made to be driven and routinely maintained. If that doesn't happen their components start to decompose, albeit in a slow and environmentally unfriendly manner.

There's been something eating away at me (well my mind) since the Covid-19 pandemic began that I couldn't quite place, but I'll try and put it into words.

This world changing event has meant that many vehicles have been sat for a period of time unused and in the UK due to extension of the annual MOT less frequently maintained than usual. Cars not moving for a period of more than a few weeks is something that makes me uncomfortable. I think it is a combination of the fact that generally they suffer for it and it also symbolises the excess of consumption that we all should be trying to limit if we really care about the planet. Of course a car not being used is causing less direct environmental harm than one in use. However the mere fact that it is something we created at significant environmental expense simply to sit in a vegetative state is troubling.

Some car owners go to great lengths to preserve them. However with the exception of a few examples of each model that would ideally make it into museums, there seems little point in preserving a car unless it is to one day be used again.

At a recent car show I chatted to a few owners whose views on their cars varied. But I was struck by how many viewed their pride and joy mostly as an investment. One owner told me he had only done about 100 miles in the half a decade he had owned his car. These are rare cars we are talking about but currently with sub 5-figure valuations. The potential for making money on these is real. But unless they are kept in a very controlled environment and not used at all they only have to suffer a random fault or a bit of corrosion take hold and it would be unlikely they'd see a significant 'profit'. I'm grateful these owners at least take these cars to a few shows for others to see, but it would be great to see them used more.

Ultimately I'm of the belief everyone has a right to do what they like with their property as long as they're not causing anyone any harm. Not using a car you own is a pretty innocuous passtime. But if you think of it in terms of the value it adds to your life rather than your bank account is it really worth it? Personally I think there's a lot more value in using your car to go places. A bird in the hand and all that.

When it comes to classics it is worth considering what value it could add to others lives too: to actually see classic cars out in the wild doing what they were intended to do and learn about them. If you can afford to have a classic car in your life (especially if you benefit from the MOT and tax exemption that provides), maybe there is some moral obligation to find a way to let others share in the experience. If you don't to some extent become an ambassador for your old car, then chances are you might find the general public eventually less sympathetic to its existence. Which is exactly what I mean when I say your car needs you.

Obviously there are countless reasons other than possible financial gain that cars are laid up for longer than intended: cash flow, health, personal circumstances etc. In these situations it really helps if a friend or relative can reach out and help an owner to keep the car going and in fact it might bring a smile to their face to see it not just gathering dust and rust.

I'm not arguing classic or older cars should be used as much as their more efficient modern counterparts, but that they get some regular use and reside in limbo for as little time as possible.

Now seems like an appropriate time to think seriously about the cars we own. Perhaps to revive and get those old cars ready for the road again. Or if necessary make that difficult decision to part with them. And if there is little hope of them ending up on the road again let the parts be used to help keep others going.

It seems a saddening but immutable fact that numbers of classics will fall. As a result a few people who hang onto theirs long enough will financially gain from this. But if we all locked them away in hope of a distant pay-day, the reality is we are just accelerating the pace at which they dissappear from our roads. Many of those laid up cars will never make it back onto the road, or at least not before it becomes more difficult (or expensive) to regularly use them.

To my mind a slightly shabby car on the road has more intrinsic value than a pristine garage queen. That's because it's demonstrably a car: a moving machine guided by its driver. Something that never or rarely moves poses an interesting paradox: how do you know it is even really a car at all? Because if there's ever a point at which you can say a car is really 'alive' is when it's being driven. And for that to happen your car needs you!

If you managed to make it to the end of this rather long and opinionated piece, thanks for reading. I'd be interested to hear what you think in the comments below.