Matt Prior: resilience reigns supreme with classic car ownership

Repairing classic cars

Directing a film isn’t all that different from owning and fixing old bangers. Honest.

A film writer and director is interviewed. He has made a movie, seen it released to widespread acclaim and is now kicking back, enjoying the spoils and thinking about the next one.

He’s got ideas, plans, scripts various, and is thinking of locations, actors and themes. He’s visiting, talking, looking, writing, drawing; taking his time formulating a dream. For him, this is the best, most creative, most enjoyable part of the film-making process. Other bits, not always so much.

Studios have to be convinced. People have to be persuaded to part with money: sometimes, it’s not enough. Locations don’t work, dates change, the vision gets skewed during filming – this doesn’t look like the storyboard, the atmosphere in this scene is wrong, this star doesn’t get on with that one – and it’s not until it’s all done and he’s in the editing suite that it starts to come back together again. Then not necessarily as first conceived. But in the end, there is a film. Usually, it’s good.

But this bit, right now? This is the best bit.

Ah, the feels. I know how it is, mate. Because although I have not made a movie, I have bought, owned, worked on, driven, cursed, loved, wanted to douse in petrol and burn to the ground, loved again, and then sold classic cars. And non-classic cars. And motorbikes. Basically, anything with wheels that needs an element of work. It’s all much the same as a vast Hollywood production, I understand. And it’s that phase at the start, the ‘wouldn’t it be good if…’ dreamscape, that I can relate to entirely.

Because it would be great, wouldn’t it? I’ve got a few ideas of cars and bikes I’d still like to own. I’ve vaguely scanned the bank balance and am prepared to believe my credit rating is acceptable – I’m sure they’ve forgotten about that old incident by now – so the list is therefore long and appealing. The classifieds are full of potential. Classic car prices are, if anything, getting more affordable. My car assessing and negotiating skills are honed. My mechanical skills are legendary!

And from there, it’s such a short journey to ‘I’ve overpaid for a Porsche Boxster that has had 11 owners and some very questionable repairs and doesn’t work’.

There is a theory on morale during projects, and I’m sure it applies as much to buying old cars as it does to making films or redecorating a house. Optimism begins on a high, then takes a sudden and massive dive when the scale becomes truly apparent. Then, gradually, it rises again as one chips away at the work. Hopefully, it ends up in a better place than when you started.

The key to contentment, I think, is to try and learn to love that phase in the middle: the really hard time when doubt sets in, when nothing seems to be working and the end seems miles away. I’m envious of those who love it naturally, who smile and roll back their sleeves after a bolt shears inside a cylinder block, which sets me sobbing into a mug of tea.

So I’m trying to learn to enjoy that phase as much as the beginning. Because dreaming and hoping gets you only so far, and if you can’t enjoy the setbacks, you might as well forget the whole thing and go and buy a new crossover or something. And I’m pretty sure there’s no fun in that.

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Source: Autocar Online

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