How to Build a Classic Collection

I admit to being a scrounger, cheapskate, skinflint, and hand-me-down king! I have shelves of worn out Triumph parts I just can’t throw away. Anyone out there need a TR3 brake caliper with a ruined hydraulic fixture, drilled out by a ham-fisted mechanic? Or a worn out water pump, or…the list goes on.

In the same vein, I have found a way to collect cars that works for me, and helps build somewhat of an investment. It goes like this:

I put around 25,000 miles a year on my work car. I had been buying a new car for $11,000 and driving it for some 125,000 miles before trading, at which I would get around $1,000 for a trade in if I was lucky. So for 125,000 miles, I paid roughly $10,000.

Several years ago, I found myself looking for a replacement car again and came upon a four-year-old Nissan with 50,000 miles for $3,500. It had amenities such as air conditioning and a stereo, and was a comfortable car to drive. I felt I could get at least 100,000 miles out of that Sentra, and 100,000 miles for $3,500 can’t be bad!

I then said to myself, “Self, now you have $7,500 left to spend.” About this time, I happened to see a 1974 TR6 for sale for $375. I was assured the engine and drivetrain were OK, and in a leap of faith, I took it! I advertised in a statewide newspaper for a TR6 parts car, and, by uncommon good luck, a grandma had to get rid of the car in her garage as she moved to a nursing home! In the garage was a fine 1969 TR6, rust-free with a tatty interior but very good paint. It had a blown engine, and for $1,200, it was mine to drag away.

A mechanic friend put it all together for $800, and with a few fixes here and there, I now have a 1969 TR6 in very good shape for $2,375. I also have $5,125 left to spend, right? So far, I have $5,875 invested in two running cars and I’m not even close to the $11,000 target mark as before. I could do this all over again!

One drawback to the plan is that I don’t have a shiny new car to drive to work and impress my co-workers. What I do have is a dependable car that I don’t feel bad driving with little maintenance, as it’s a “slam-the-hood-and-go” type of car. In addition, I have a fun sports car to drive to work on those beautiful Iowa days. When the Triumph is finally finished, I can store it and start all over again…maybe an early Spitfire or an MGB GT!

So, I have found that Japanese sedans around four to five years old with 50,000 miles make good work cars. They are reasonably priced and should run to 150,00 miles without major trouble. For me, this is a good way to build a British car collection on my salary and lifestyle. By retirement, I hope to have a number of cars to choose from for restoration projects. While this collection will not make me independently wealthy, I will do better than the long list of new cars I would have purchased and sold to the salvage yard!

I now have a TR3, a TR6, and a TR4 in parts, and would be glad to hear other readers’ views or suggestions on my method.

—Gary Natziger, Wellman, Iowa

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