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A dummy's guide to buying a vintage car

Pride of ownership and pleasure of use. These are the answers commonly received when collectors are asked what they like most about the collector car hobby. Collector cars are as diverse as the people who collect; there is a collector car for everyone, whether you want a Volkswagen Beetle, a Ford Mustang or a Rolls Royce.

There is a collector car out there for you. Collector cars are appealing because they stand out from the crowd. Try placing a 1965 Mustang in a parking lot with a 100 modern cars. Your three-year-old child will readily pick out the Mustang. She may not know exactly what it is, but knows it is different.

If you own a collector car you will not be surprised if absolute strangers walk up to you and begin a conversation because they know they will be warmly received. Passing motorists will often give you the thumbs up and folks position themselves at traffic lights to take pictures with their cell phones (there are also humorous situations when an innocent bystander may ask you "Kya Tata ka naya model hai?" or "Average kya deti hai?").

One of the great things about this hobby is that you can choose the level of participation appropriate for you. You could buy a moderately priced entry level classic that you could drive around town or you could buy a high-end throughbred classic to show at the Cartier Travel with Style Elegance.

Pride, pleasure, diversity, camaraderie and uniqueness are some of the no-cost options that come with collector car ownership. You may have an individual reason for wanting a collector car and no single reason is more valid than any other. Ultimately, it is all about how it makes you feel.

Owning a collector car and the endless enjoyment that it brings with it is quite different from the process of buying it. Buying a collector car could cause some grief if you don't make correct decisions before and during the purchase stage.

Making the right decision is not as difficult as you may think. If you make the correct decisions, a collector car is one car you buy which only appreciates and never depreciates. In fact, many collectors consider it to be a great investment hobby and our wives think we are bright chaps!

A collector car is almost anything you want to buy; it can be a vintage car such as a Ford Model T (or an Austin Chummy). It can be a pony car such as a Mustang. It doesn't have to be rare to be a collector car. It could be a Jeep like a Ford GPW or a Willys MB from an army disposal sale. It could be a 1957 Chevrolet Belair or a Volkswagen Camper Van from the '60s or a '53 Chevy Pick up truck.

There are three important questions you must answer: (1) What do you like?, (2) What are you going to use it for?, and (3) How much do you want to spend?

You will first have to find out what car you like before you start your search. Do you like small cars or large cars, two doors or four doors, convertibles or sedans? Try to be specific about what you want. Education is important and this may include reading up some books and magazines and browsing on the internet.

You could also talk to collectors who are knowledgeable. Knowledgeable enthusiasts in India include Manvendra Singh of Barwani in Indore, R N Seth, Ranjit Malik and S B Jatti in Delhi, Hormosji Cama, Harit Trivedi and Nitin Dosa in Mumbai, Ravi Prakash in Bengaluru and Sanjay Ghosh and Rishi Kumar in Kolkata. These folks are helpful depending on what time of the day you approach them! There are many more but don't know if they are easily accessible. The names I have mentioned are those who are India's important collectors and stalwarts.

The best way to find out what you want is to look at a number of cars; a broad range of cars. Walk around, look at the cars. A good place to start could be the Statesman Vintage Car Rally held in Delhi and Kolkata. The Heritage Motoring Club of India organises dozens of events through the year. After attending a few of these events you will have a better, clearer and more specific idea of what you want.

The writer is managing partner, Titus & Co. Advocate, and founder, Pro-bono Publico, a museum of vintage and classic automobiles.

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