Home cars What it’s like to have a classic car as a family car

What it’s like to have a classic car as a family car

by Clare Mansell
Morris Minor Traveller

It’s been six months since we decided to spend nearly all our savings on a 46 year-old Morris Minor Traveller to run as our second car and I thought now would be a good time to write a post about what it’s been like to have her on the road.

Just to remind you of the background to our purchase. Last spring we discovered that a change in my husband’s commute would mean he’d need to take our Volvo Estate to work everyday leaving me without a car during the week. A second car was not an essential purchase for us, but a desirable one. I do the school run every day on foot, what work I do is done at home and we have a train station at the end of the road. However getting to the doctors, post office or visiting friends and family does realistically require a car.

We decided to buy a classic to protect our savings and to keep our running costs low…. oh and maybe, just maybe cause she’s also a lot of fun!

Maggie in the Bosham sunset

Driving

My sister thought I was crazy to consider buying a Morris without any experience of what they were like to drive, but it was probably a good thing as the first couple of times behind the wheel were quite daunting! It was actually rather like learning to drive a car from scratch, but once I cracked it I realised what fun it was.

Maggie has four gears and a top speed of about 55mph. There are things about her that are a little quirky like the fact you can’t change down to first gear until she is completely stationary and that the gears have quite a wide gate, so it’s easy to crunch into third if you change in a hurry. Although she has covered long distances during her life (we know she’s visited Dunbar in Scotland) I personally wouldn’t be in a hurry to take her on a motorway and she is most suited to pottering around on local short runs.

Maintenance & reliability

When we bought her Maggie had been sitting in a garage unused for six months due to her owners death and we were well aware we’d have a few issues to iron out. She ‘failed to proceed’ (how classic car owners refer to a breakdown) just days after we got her, when a retro fitted modern part failed. However what we also discovered was the camaraderie of classic car ownership when a fellow classic owner stopped to help us within minutes, along with two friends of ours and my parents who were traveling behind us. It actually turned into a little social gathering at the roadside!

Since then we’ve had a couple more minor things that have needed fixing and we’ve had to replace the battery, but the total of all of these things is still under £200 and we believe she is now back up to full health and starts first time every time.

faliuretoproceed

Upgrades

One great thing about owning a classic is that you can (if you wish) constantly improve them and Morris Minor parts are still being manufactured and are easily accessible and cheap. The first obvious upgrade was to add seatbelts to the back seats (not a legal requirement on classic cars because of authenticity) they were cheap and quick to fix. Then we added a bleeper on the indicator which gives an audible notification when the (non-cancelling) indicator is on. We also replaced the rear chrome bumpers (we sold the old ones on eBay!) and added heated rear windows and…. heated seats!

maggiearrival6heatedrearwindscreenmaggiearrival7

Car seats and children

One of the reasons for writing this blog post is to give families some reassurance about fitting car seats. We have a four year-old and a young baby and can fit both their car seats (a Britax Evolva and a Maxi Cosi baby seat on a easy fix car seat base) in the back without problems. Obviously there are no ISO fixings, but all seats seem to have a seatbelt fitting too and the click in base we bought for the baby seat can be fixed in both ways.

Also unlike in modern cars the front seats in the Morris tip right over so you can stand in the footwell of the backseat quite easily making it more accessible than your conventional two door or hatchback. Our four year-old also loves our Morris and particularly his increased visibility compared to the Volvo.

Untitledtheomaggiebackseat

aliceinmaggie

The financial side

Our initial purchase was not cheap, you can buy a Traveller for anything from £2000-£12000 and ours was somewhere in the middle. So far Maggie has cost us £88 to insure, £30 for the MOT, £30 for roadside assistance (not yet used) and £170 for repairs and a new battery. Vehicles which are more than 30 years old are road tax exempt because the Government considers them to be “an important part of the nation’s historical heritage” so we do not pay for her. She has held her value and could even appreciate over the years. Over the last few months a huge number of my friends seem to have been landed with huge bills for their modern cars (anything from £700-£1200) and it is a massive relief that we are unlikely to ever face this. The most expensive part of a Morris is the engine and even that would cost less than £1000 to replace.

Unexpected perks

The visibility when you are driving a Traveller is second to none, as unhindered by modern plastic support columns you can see right round you at almost all angles. There is a great community of classic car owners who are willing to help and advise and I love the fact that every time I pass one on the road they wave at you. Also daft as it may sound, since we acquired Maggie I have also been reminded that if you keep a car in the garage it stays looking in great condition!

Unexpected problems

This is a weird one, but as Maggie is garaged all the time, we have found we have a problem with couriers and delivery men assuming we aren’t in because there’s no car in the drive! We haven’t actually missed a delivery, but occasionally they’ve left a parcel on the doorstep and not bothered to knock. Strangely pedestrians also love jumping out in the road in front of classic cars, seemingly because they think we don’t move very fast, what they don’t realise of course is that classics do not have the stopping distances of modern cars!

In conclusion

When we were weighing up our Morris Minor purchase with a modern 4×4, we worked out the modern car would lose about £2000 of its value almost immediately (this was based on the price the garage were selling for versus the price WeBuyAnyCar.com were offering to buy it for) we also faced paying £495 for road tax and about £250 for insurance as well as the MOT and roadside assistance which we have for Maggie. So after six months, opting for a classic has saved us an incredible £2158.50. Unsurprisingly we are more than happy with our decision!

Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them

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5 comments

Donna January 21, 2016 - 9:30 pm

Your car is an absolute beauty! I have photos of a car like this parked outside my parents’ house when I was a baby – my grandparents’ I think, and I have a bit of a soft spot for them! x

Reply
Pamela | Life With Munchers January 21, 2016 - 10:36 pm

Oh Clare…she is gorgeous! Love that colour and the wood…perfect! I worked in the motor trade for 10 years and oddly both dad’s and brothers on either side have garages so cars are just a passion of mine x

Reply
Dawn & Bean January 22, 2016 - 10:12 am

Love this post, the photo’s are great. We have a relatively modern car and don’t have isofix. Seatbelts work perfectly well 🙂

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Chloe (Sorry About The Mess) January 23, 2016 - 11:13 am

Classic cars are great fun. Our family car when we were babies/young children was a Beetle and I can still remember the attention we’d get every time we went out in it.

Reply
Jan - isisjem January 25, 2016 - 12:36 pm

Wow why is the insurance so cheap? I always assumed older cars would cost more not less to buy/maintain. As for delivery drivers – they’re just lazy. We frequently get parcels left on the front step – even though we’re in and there is a car on the drive!

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