Classic Car



I am wanting to purchase a convertible classic car. I have been looking at MGB and Austin Healey. Since I have no idea what is a good car and buy I would like input. Any suggestions?


If you are going to buy an old British sports car, I suggest you have a mechanic named Nigel on permanent retainer. They were fun to drive (for their times, anyway), but “reliable” was never in their dictionary.


I wouldn’t really call any small classic convertible a “good car” by any modern standards of quality, safety, reliablilty, etc. Most of those little British roadsters spend more time in the shop than on the road and unless you are very rich, you will need to do most of the repairs yourself. To really enjoy one, you need to have the mindset that this is part of the hobby.

The typical response to someone who’s interested in a roadster but doesn’t want the constant breakdown aspect of it is to look at a Mazda Miata, which are pretty similar in format, but are as reliable as anything on the road. As for other classic convertibles, a well-preserved or restored example of pretty much any American land-yacht convertible from the late-50’s to the early-70’s would be reasonably okay for a non-mechanic to own. A VW Beetle convertible or a Karmann Ghia (a roadster body on a Beetle floorpan) would also probably be okay-- if you keep up with the maintenance, they can be quite reliable and it is much easier to find parts and skilled mechanics for them.


I agree. Partly.

A Mazda Miata is as true to the old British ragtop sports cars as a man can get. Without the always-defective Lucas electrical systems. And with modern safety systems.

A Karmann Ghia, while fun in its day, is way short of safe by today’s standards. Between the drum brakes, recirculating ball steering, and the total lack of safety features, you can only plan on having one accident of any consequence.


Back in the early-mid '60s, Datsun (the original name for Nissan in the US) marketed a sports car (originally called the Fair Lady, later rebadged as the SPL-310) that was pretty much a mechanical copy of the MG. Theoretically, it was more reliable, but in practice, these were actually pretty crappy cars. Fast as all get out, and fun to drive, but not reliable or easy to repair.

However, if someone was able to massage one past its early teething stage, it is possible that a well-preserved example might be found–particularly in California. They were VERY prone to rust, so I doubt if any decent examples would be found anywhere except California or perhaps Arizona. Look and you just might find one.


Well, you have to make two fundamental decisions; first, do you really want a real “classic car” or a new car that sorta looks like a classic… from a distance… if it’s dark out… if you squint a little; second, how much money do you want to spend.

There’s nothing wrong with the new ones, if that’s what you want… I guess. Seriously, if you just want to drive around with the top down and have fun they are adequate. Just buy whichever one you like, they’re fairly cheap and very reliable.

If you really want a classic, it gets more difficult. You really want to think about what you want to own. It’s going to take a little time, check out all the forums, got to plenty of shows/auctions, talk to folks who own the cars that interest you. Decide how much you are really interested in spending and buy something that costs 50-70% of that money, you’ll probably spend the rest getting it they way you want it. If you are interested in british cars, I would probably be looking at MGAs, or XKs (if I wanted to spend a little more).


“A Karmann Ghia, while fun in its day, is way short of safe by today’s standards. Between the drum brakes, recirculating ball steering, and the total lack of safety features, you can only plan on having one accident of any consequence.”

That’s a problem with any old car/bike, if you bend it up, it will take a ton of time and money to get it correct again. I’m getting nervous about dumping my '83 BMW bike, it’s getting to be a PITA to find the correct parts. If you want to preserve one of these you do have to be a little careful.


All of the above is true, but my question is which Austin Healey are you talking about? The 3000 or the “Bug Eye” as they were commonly known. The latter being smaller than the MGB had a lot of body problems but a preety strong 4 cyl. engine. The 3000 had a fairly better body and a good 6 cyl. engine that was later used in the MGC.


I’ve occasionally been tempted to pick up a midget or a sprite, just because they are so ridiculously small.


Thanks for all of the suggestions. I think all of you have persuaded me to go a different route.


Yeah–when someone says, “They sure don’t make them like they used to”, my response is, “Yes, thank God”.


If you gave up that easily, you probably don’t want to buy a “classic car.” More than a little patience is required.


Actually I have been looking for five years or more… I think I have been patient.


If you really want to purchase a classic convertible, get something along the lines of a Mustang, Camaro, or even a BelAir convertible, MOPAR convertibles will be a bit harder/expensive to come buy. I know a 69 Camaro and MAYBE a tri-five convertible can, literally, be built out of a catalog, body and all. Just as another asked you, how much are you willing to spend?


At the moment there are 6 decent looking MGAs on ebay, all for under $20K; a dozen midgets for under $10K, also a bunch of MGBs. Can you give us some idea of what you’re looking for?


I think you should avoid anything from the 70s and probably the 80s. The car companies weren’t very good at handling the smog requirements and providing a car with decent power. If you are willing to consider a 1990s car, you might look at a 1996 BMW Z3. You might find a decent one for under $7000.


Sounds like a good reason to buy something from the 60s, it’s hard to think of anything from the 90s as “classic.”

If you like the Z3, you will probably like the M3 roadster better. A friend of mine has a couple of them (chipped), they are faster than you would expect.


I don’t think of MGs after the TF as classic. The Triumphs, Austins and Sunbeams are more like it. Good luck finding a good TR3, 3000, or Tiger for anything less than a small fortune.


Personally, if I was looking for a reasonably priced british car (which I’m not), it would probably be a XK-120, XK-140, Series I E-type, or maybe even a nice MGA. I don’t know much about the triumphs, the austins seem pretty cool but I don’t know much about them either, and I was never a big fan of the tiger (with apologies to Maxwell Smart), just too much engine for the car. I have no interest in anything from the 90s (british or otherwise).


Buy an American convertible from the 60’s . . . V-8 . . . easy to fix, parts easily available. If I were you I’d start going to car shows. Where are you? The car shows start here in PA in about April . . big ones in Carlilse, for example . . . you’ll get ideas for what you like, availability of parts, prices, etc. Good luck! Rocketman