This piece of my history must invoke an enormous yawn in most people, were it not for the fact that the car of choice in 1955 was usually a Morris Minor 1000 – if it was the local vicar – or a Land Rover, if it was the local farmer.
The retro period has left its indelible mark on many of us, and now fifty some years on, the affection still remains. So what you may ask is an aging businessman doing in South Eastern Europe, importing and renovating retro motor cars? Well, what else is there?
In the seventies; broke and suffering from Ted Heath's economic disaster, the writer was forced to seek employment in a jobless paradise, only to be given the old heave ho wherever he went! So there was nothing else to do, but to do what I enjoyed the most, and that was doing up Morris Minors and flogging them at the local garage. The trouble was that it fast became a business for me, and thanks to John Madjeski's then infant Thames Valley Trader – 10% off because I was a friend – events started to take me over. However the upside was that once more I could afford to go down to the local pub!
I suppose the truth is that I have been in love with cars from the 1950's and 1960's, for as long as I can remember. After all, they were the cars of my youth, and were called new cars at that moment of my original fascination.
During a time when most people queued for buses, it was a privilege to be occasionally carted off to school by one kind neighbor or another; from the village of Burghfield where I was born.
Thirty five years on, and retired from a telephone service company, I have discovered a Greece unknown to many, but populated by very good auto mechanics, auto electricians, together with a very creditable spray shop.
The bloke down the road does the internal trim, and has made some very good car seats for me – subject to a considerable number of Greek public holidays – and Michaelis the mechanic? Well, he told me to sod off, and loose the workshop manual of both the Morris 1000 and the Series III Land Rover, because they have had these vehicles in Greece since 1950. Anyway, hadn’t I heard that the Morris Minor 1000 was designed by a Greek?
BUYING A CLASSIC?
There is some confusion as to what a Classic Car is due to the various definitions in America and Europe generally. But, the one which says it all to me is the period from 1945 and the end of the Second World War, up to and including 1980.
This gives us all a clear view of the period concerned, like a painting by Picasso does up to those of Gilbert & George, or as with the confusing words of Samuel Becket up to the similarly rambling Harold Pinter, and gives us a specific time signature! The rest is history, but with classic cars we also know where we stand, or is it park?
Apart from a vague concept of nostalgia - and the need to get back to our roots or is it routes – there is something rather wonderful about driving a beautifully maintained and preserved classic car, as it also is to behold. What a joy it is to spot one in the supermarket car park on a wet Wednesday, when we are immediately cheered up at the sight of a lost but loved motoring vision from the past. Forget all those twerps who maintain they can drive from Sofia to Varna in three hours in their Japanese tin box, or ascend Mount Olympus in their 4 x 4 with four cup holders full of cappuccino. I am talking about proper cars.
A classic car has no patience with the trite and mundane, and only holds court amongst people of character; or amongst those of us with an artistic temperament and a strong need to identify with a time and place. We are talking about a period when engineers and manufacturers were the lifeblood of almost any economy, and not b****y bankers!
But why buy a classic? Well, let’s forget all the forgoing nonsense and talk about the hard facts. And let’s not define a classic car by value or how much it cost to buy. Classic cars can go from the humble Mini to the most expensive Ferrari. What matters with a classic car is the condition it is in, and how well it is maintained and garaged. There are various degrees and conditions attached to a classic, all well defined by the now properly aware Classic Car Insurance or Heritage industry, and this as true in Greece as the rest of Europe and UK. The condition is categorized as follows:- Concourse, A1, A2, A3, B1……. And so on.
We at Albion Classic Cars aim for the A1 and A2 category, because the Concourse category is very hard to reach, and involves a vehicle in total original condition, which is only to be found at Coy’s of Knightsbridge in London for vast and unimaginable prices. A1 to us means perfect bodywork and internal trim, a good engine and gearbox, with all the normal internal functions in full and current working order, including heaters, EU standard lighting, indicators and hazard warning. We strip down most of our vehicles as you can see from the photographs, so although not a nuts and bolts renovation – which is prohibitably expensive - we carry out a good 70%, in order to achieve our good standard.
We always have work in progress, and you can follow the stages of completion if you wish, from our website. Also, if you are already a classic car owner and need a skilled renovation undertaken, you just have to contact us.