Classicsandrestorations.com is a less commercial sister to the fairly sensible MiataMag.com. It reflects the potterings and amblings of author and journalist Iain Ayre. It also provides something to read during Eastenders.
Much internet information has exactly the same value as the opinion of a bloke in the pub. Some blokes in pubs and forums know what they’re talking about, some don’t. You might as well pick a straw. It’s probably a better idea to read something edited by an author who has researched and written more than a thousand car magazine articles and a dozen motoring books ranging literally from Maseratis to Minis. Although I have also been known to talk total nonsense on occasion.
ClassicsandRestorations editorial is written by and with those whose fingernails are frequently black and sometimes blue as well, when physical punishment is meted out by our noble steeds. Subjects for study will include the Ayre stable. This will become familiar as time and restorations amble on, and it contains the following: a 1950 Silver Wraith special with a recently-acquired Charlesworth sports saloon body, which probably on reflection isn’t going to be fitted after all; a 1952 MkVI Bentley, now stripped to a rolling chassis, and for which a rather fabulous aluminium boat-tail body is under construction; a very nice and fully functional 1947 Bentley MkVI standard steel saloon, exchanged for a 1938 MG TA which which the author never developed a sympatico relationship; a 1974 Mini Marcos, a 1958 Chevy Delray, a 1990 Mini Cooper RSP, and a very silly Miata-based Cobra lookalike project. They all seemed like a good idea at the time.
As to what constitues a “classic car”, that’s a fine subject for argument. An emerging rule, reflecting the putative Bugger Monocoques book, is that proper cars have a chassis. It’s a matter of spirit, flavour and survival, on Classicsandrestorations. An Austin Seven may originally only have been a cheap and feeble shopping car for poor people, but surviving for 85 years qualifies it as a classic. So does its character and design. Some people believe that Austin Allegros are classic cars: they’re entitled to their opinion, even if they’re wrong. Being horrible does not disqualify a car from classic status, but being charmless does.
CassicsandRestorations will have its own opinion on classic status, which will amuse some and appall others. It’s all part of the fun. A Trabant is is a truly ghastly object, but not without appeal, and it represents living history which you can see, hear, feel and drive. And smell, of course. A Triumph Roadster is already accepted as a classic, but its status is elevated exponentially by its visual oddness. It looks as though it was made from two different cars welded together in the middle, which turns out to have been just about what happened: Triumph’s Frank Callaby designed the front and Arthur Ballard did the back. Doubtless each was surprised by the other’s concept, but neither was prepared to compromise. It would be an intriguing exercise to design and construct the missing halves of both cars.
Posh cars will be celebrated in C&R, but so will the most accessible of classics. An eye-opener a while back was realising that an enthusiast whose collection included a Ferrari P4, a Porsche 917 and fifty or so rare Corvettes wasn’t getting much pleasure out of vintage-racing his competition-history 427 Cobra, compared to another bloke I know who has been squeezing single-figure additional horsepowers out of the same Austin Seven special for forty years. The pleasure is the key with classic cars, not the money.
ClassicsandRestorations will not have much to do with either Ferraris or Porsches, which unless they’re early and interesting, will be left to footballers and thrusting young executives.
You’ll sometimes read about replicas and lookalikes here: at worst these can be horrible plastic travesties, but at best they can catch the spirit and flavour of something otherwise unattainable. You might read here about Jag-club-approved, Jaguar-based SS100 Jaguar lookalikes, but you won’t read here about Bugatti-resembling kitcars with arse-mounted VW Beetle engines. With one grand exception – a rear-Beetle-engined Cobra lookalike. This was an elaborate joke, built with the pure and delightful purpose of waiting until they were asked to show the engine, at which point they would open the bootlid and reveal the horrible secret within. This would seriously upset the Cobra lookalike boys, some of whom take themselves entirely too seriously. We do love a joke of this magnitude and dedication. Technically, the term “lookalikes” should be applied to most “replicas”. It is possible to buy a proper replica of a 427 Cobra from Kirkham, built for them in Poland with an aluminium body, an exactly duplicated chassis and a side-oiler Ford engine. All other Cobra replicas are actually lookalikes, including my own, which is a completely different vehicle, merely bearing a resemblance to the Cobra shape. Partly in response to authenticity discussions with friends, my Cobra lookalike project deliberately retains only the sublime basic body shape and proportions of its grandad the AC Ace and will otherwise be utterly different, with aerodynamics and a computerised turbocharged propane injection V8. Something of a contrast to the Silver Wraith rescue project.
The Bentley pictured above is a fine example of doing what the author says and not what he does. As somebody wisely said, the most expensive car in the world is a cheap Rolls-Royce, and a MkVI Bentley is a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn. Or vice versa. This Bentley is slowly turning into a boat-tailed pre-war-styled special.
The idea of ClassicsandRestorations was originally to write a book with the working title of ‘Bugger Monocoques’, which would have been fairly strictly about pre- and post-war thoroughbreds with separate chassis, the monocoque representing a significant change in motoring history. However, such a book would only have been enjoyed by a small number of enthusiasts, with most of whom Iain has lunch on Saturdays anyway. It’s a much better idea to allow a webvideozine/whatever to develop that reaches much wider and includes more accessible cars, rather than a virtually Pro Bono project that would have yielded enough royalties to pay for a dynamo rebuild for the Silver Wraith, but certainly not an engine rebuild.
A much better idea is to write a web magazine as well as a book, which offers plenty of room for all the stories and cars that would have been in Bugger Monocoques, as well as useful and practical material on buying, fixing and enjoying all manner of classic cars from a scruffy MGB up to and including a 1933 Alfa Romeo with a Figoni body and Le Mans history. A paper magazine is restricted to five or six stories about a limited range of mainstream subjects on a rigid monthly schedule, but a webzine provides something new when the editor feels like it and has time.