How To Start Collecting Classic Cars

By Gareth Rees
04 November 2018
Lamborghini Miura
Lamborghini Miura
Every man dreams of owning a classic car. Miguel Llorente, Assistant Manager of Tomini Classics in Dubai, shares his top tips for making that all important first purchase

There are several myths about collecting classic cars. You have to be rich; you have to be a mechanic; and when you have purchased your dream car, you have to keep it locked up safe in a garage. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

"There are classic cars out there for as little as US$1,000 in need of some work”, says Miguel Llorente, Assistant Manager of Tomini Classics in Dubai. “I personally own a 1977 Mercedes 450SEL; you can obtain one for under $5,000 —and they are very dependable cars."

It is important to keep an open mind, and don’t lose hope if you can’t afford your dream car. 

“If your dream car is a Lamborghini Miura, a car often valued over $1 million, you might consider getting started with an Alfa Romeo Montreal,” says Llorente. “It may not feel or sound like a Miura, but it was also penned by Marcello Gandini, and it has a lot of the same design language at a fraction of the price”.

Classic cars need looking after, but as long as you have a reliable mechanic, you don’t need to be a professional yourself. “Classic cars may not need the same minimal upkeep as a new Toyota, but in its maintenance —oil, carburettors, filters, bushings— one builds a relationship with the car,” says Llorente, who drives his classic Merc every day. “I feel very proud driving my car, maintaining it is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. It is a mark of distinction, having something that nobody else has. It is beyond transportation: it is an adventure."

Here are Llorente’s five tips for ensuring you start off that adventure on the right foot:

1. Inspect it. Have a knowledgeable technician go over the car to ensure it’s genuine and in good condition. It’s not easy to find a good mechanic – usually they don’t advertise – but classic car enthusiasts will be able to provide recommendations. Events like the Motorsport Expo or the Dubai Motor Show, along with local car clubs, will put you in touch with many the right people.

2. Buy the best you can afford. Don’t cut corners. Set a budget and go for the finest vehicle for the money. Often a car’s full restoration will cost several times its market value.

3. Buy original. A car that still has its original paint and interior – even if it shows some patina – along with a matching-numbers drivetrain, will often be more valuable than an immaculately restored example.

Mercedes 450 SEL

4. Make sure any upgrades are reversible. Upgrades are acceptable to enhance cosmetics or drivability, as long as they are not permanent and don’t require cutting, welding or modifying the car excessively. As an example, an aluminium radiator is a perfectly permissible upgrade so the engine runs at the correct temperature during extreme weather conditions. Always make sure you keep the original parts.

5. Drive it. Classic cars, much like people, need to stretch their legs and exercise. Any car – new or old – that sits inactive for extended periods will not perform at its best when driven after a long slumber.