The imminent second Manor Park Classics auction got me thinking about my admittedly scant past action on various sales floors in the past.
The late 2000s saw me with something of a career change, as Technical Editor of Practical Classics magazine, meaning that once again motor vehicle maintenance was to the fore in my working life, a major U-turn following on from a couple of decades of scrabbling around in the professional music world.
Since my teens I’d owned a fair number of classic cars, but they’d mostly dated from the 1950s and 60s. However, my new deep immersion in the world of classics had introduced me to a lot of characterful people who were busy finding deep joy in pre-war motor cars, a category that had so far escaped my attention.
In 2008, the opportunity arose for me to participate in a feature centring around the use of ancient cars in modern times and so it was that I found myself part of a party driving a 1923 Vauxhall Kington tourer to that year’s Le Mans Classic and back, to prove that vintage vehicles could still be used in exciting, fun ways by ordinary enthusiasts.
This odyssey changed my motoring outlook, and my life, as I realised the deep joy that truly ancient machinery brought to both users and bystanders. The journey became much more of an event than any of my fleet of old crocks could generate (my then daily driver was a 1960 Daimler SP250), which came as a total surprise to me and set me searching for a pre-war car of my own.
My penchant for slightly down-at-heel, but still usable cars saw me musing over a number of dreamy moth-eaten old numbers, but at the 2010 Race Retro event I came across a car which absolutely charmed the pants off of me. EJ4231 was (is) a 1935 Daimler 15, with a Mulliner coupe body, complete with faux dumb irons to its fabric covered rear dome. It had been stored in an open fronted barn and so its front end was a tad weather beaten, but the car, as a whole, was pretty sound. Being a fan of old buses, the car’s pre-select epicyclic gearbox held great appeal and its proportions and appointments seemed just right. Importantly, it was on sale at the auction being held at the event and so I registered to bid. I wanted it, bad.
At the auction, the lots progressed until the Daimler’s turn came. Paddle in sweaty palm, I prepared for battle. Its estimate of £4,00 to £5,000 seemed reasonable, but then I was sporting the rose-tinted spectacles of a newly in love suitor. Bidding commenced and to my surprise I quickly found myself the high bidder at just north of £2,000.00, with no further competition.
The auction team duly registered my interest with the vendor, but naturally the figure was too low and so I offered an uplift to £3k. Again, this was not sufficient and so I went further towards the lower end of the estimate. Still, this was not enough and so, after mulling things over for an hour or so, I returned and made an offer at the lower estimate, only to be informed that the vendor had already removed the car from the site, but that my offer would be forwarded. Despite one further communication during the following week, I was unsuccessful in buying it.
To this day, I’m disappointed that EJ4231 didn’t return home with me, and I still hope to own such a machine, should the timing be right. But the one thing I learned from this turn of events is that if one wants something badly enough, letting an affordable few quid get in the way of something that will bring happiness to oneself, family and friends, is an act of vanity a vehicle nut should avoid.
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