By Mike Atwal
12th September 2019

Classic Yet Practical

Classics just feel more fun. More to play with. More to be involved with. Looking through an old fashioned glass windscreen and glancing at mirrors void of modern trickery, you feel at one with the real light level outside. Temperatures, sounds, smells and the road conditions are more intense. You actually feel the steering, the pedals and the gear lever, as if they were alive, not robotically consistent and numb like some modern cars. But sometimes we want a bit of modern too…possibly rephrased as “practical”.

The Volvo P1800, The Saint car of course, and the Volvo Amazon from the glorious era of the 60’s spring to mind. The sexy coupe and handsome saloon both hold the number one spot in my mind for delivering a usable classic car experience with a twist of modern. Both fired up on the button, felt strong and had a gear change action to rival a Mazda MX-5 and Honda S2000. The steering of each felt well weighted, the pedals precise, the handling comfortable with room to hustle along and both had excellent heaters and wipers. Parts were available, and crucially they were not in constant need of them.

The late 70’s to late 80’s SL, the R107 also stands out. The Bobby Ewing car as many fondly recognise it as. Having driven both the crisply responsive 300SL and 450 SL with its monster torque V8, I can say both are cracking cars that had modern-ish pace, auto cold start technology and offered refinement. Roof up and down required some manual labour but it is a well engineered design, and with the hardtop fitted, winter motoring will be a breeze. With lots of toys such as central locking, electric windows, electric mirror (I say mirror in non plural form because only the passenger side tended to be electric), automatic aerial and a heated screen option when the hardtop was on, coupled with a good heater and wash wipe system, you could simply start it up and go. And look good. I only recall regular servicing and a new water pump for the 300SL, and a rear silencer for the 450 in years of solid service.

What do you think, do you know of any early 50’s cars that feel this way? Let’s start a list right here!