Behind the wheel of some of the great cars of the 20th century
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Behind the wheel of some of the great cars of the 20th century

Auto Tech
Owning a classic car is a costly and time-consuming habit. Even if you can afford one the upkeep and care they require can make it something totally impractical. If you still want the thrill of taking classic wheels out for a spin but don't fancy all the headaches that come from ownership, the Classic Car Club in London offers an opportunity to do just that. To get a sample of what it's like to be a member I tagged along for one of the club's night drives in central London for a very brief but intimate encounter with a few of the club's cars. I wanted to see how it felt to take these classics out on the road and why vintage cars can capture our imagination as much if not more than any modern super cars. First up, a 1973 Rolls Royce Corniche. We have an offer for us tonight. Mercedes, Aston Martin, Volvo, but nothing is quite as illustrious as a Rolls Royce. A Rolls Royce has been described to us as the easiest to drive. They say it's how you can drive this with one finger. The steering is so light. Well, yes, one finger. I'm gonna stop doing that now because this is quite an expensive car. This Corniche is a Mark I with a 6.8-liter V8 engine and a 3-speed automatic gearbox and in this condition could still set you back as much as 50,000 pounds. At XCAR we're incredibly lucky. We get to drive some absolutely amazing cars, but there's something about driving this classic Rolls Royce that's a completely different experience from driving anything like I've driven before. Being British driving a Rolls Royce, a proper olds Rolls Royce, British Rolls Royce through central London is just a different kind of driving experience. Quite often you judge how fun a car is to drive by how exciting it is hanging on to gripping corners, top speed, acceleration. This is a different kind of thrill. This is a different kind of driving experience. It's so easy. It's not a challenge and it's not the flashiest of cars. Rolls Royce can be so understated especially such a classic old one and it's not even about the looks you get from people and you do get looks. It's just an amazing sensation to drive a machine that's been so perfectly crafted to do such a great job of driving. It's amazing. We pulled up to switch cars and with it jumped forward in time by a decade into a different style of driving altogether. Right, we've moved from a classic Rolls Royce to a classic Mercedes, a 450 SL. A one-line word of warning on this is it's fast. It will surprise us. See what we all girls got in it. 3, 2, 1. This early 1980's Mercedes has a 4-1/2-liter V8 and started life with 225 brake horsepower, although inevitably some of that has been lost to time, it was indeed surprisingly fast and a world apart to drive from the Rolls. Weather be damned we're driving with a top down, one of the things you can't count on in Britain at any time is that it's gonna be good weather, but you know you don't get to drive a 450 SL every day and you wanna have the top down, so I'm gonna drive with a top down in the rain because that's what we do. Pride as they say comes before a fall. Okay. It may have been a bit premature with my damn the weather we keep the top down, it is now pissing it down and I'm getting really, really wet. Not the car's problem, not the car's fault. The car's not helping though. We are gonna try to increase the pull-over now to put the top up. Luckily this car can get there quite quickly. The 450 SL show me how a car that's been properly taken care of can have all the character and almost all of the performance it had when it was new, but with the added feeling of grandeur you get from one of these classic cars. Next up in the menu is a TVR Chimaera. It's definitely a lot younger than a lot of the cars we're driving tonight, but I've been told it's a bit mental. This 1990's TVR with a 4-liter V8 engine just wanted to be driven fast. In central London however the cramped cabin and crowed pedal box didn't lend itself to a comfortable drive. Give us a rev. It's the Rolls. When there was a brief moment to put your foot down you realize why TVR still have so much appeal. Yes. Whether or not you like TVR's, they're still a lot of fun. I've gone from my youngest ride to the oldest ride of the pack. This is the Volvo P1800S. Now we know a little bit about the P1800, but the one we had on XCAR recently was the standard version, the original which was made by Jensen in the UK. The P1800S is from Sweden. That's what the S stands for. It is incredibly fun to drive. The gear shift still feel great. The engine sounds fantastic if a little bit rattly. The brakes however they need some pushing, so we need to know that you're gonna have to stop. The weirdest thing in this car though is the clock. It has the loudest clock I've ever heard. They used to say that in a Rolls Royce the loudest thing in it was the clock. That is also true for the Volvo P1800. I wouldn't mind if it was at the right time. The P1800S launched in the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, that's the same year that the E-Type launched. Now obviously people remember that car more fondly than this one but in its own right this is a fantastic little car. And a final drive is this, a 1975 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. I've been looking forward to the Aston Martin above all the other cars that evening and it didn't disappoint. This car looks as muscly as anything that ever came out of Detroit. Unlike modern high-performance cars that have been engineered to drive as well at 30 miles an hour as 130 miles an hour, this car did not want to be driven slowly. It's a beast, an absolute beast and I'm scared to put my foot down in this car for what it's gonna do to me. Aston Martins in the 60's were beautiful, beautiful cars. Aston Martins now are beautiful, beautiful cars. This is an Aston Martin from the 70's and it's angry. Maybe it was the roar of the 5.3-liter engine egging me on or the slight lightheadedness from the fuel fumes the ageing motor is leaking into the cabin, but driving this car at the end of an evening of classic cars full of character made me happier than almost any other driving experience I have ever had. Modern cars are absolutely brilliant. They're more fuel efficient, better for the environment, cheaper to run and safe to be in. But you're watching an XCAR video which means you care about more than that. You know that driving a car isn't just about getting where you're going. It's about the ride. These amazing machines come from a lost age where it was more important to have fun than to be safe, whether it would be the comfort and excess of the Rolls Royce, that's the Rolls, or the raw power of the Aston Martin it was there to be enjoyed with as little compromise as possible. Spending an evening with the Classic Car Club reminded me of that and the smile it put on my face took a while to wear off. These cars won't be around forever and they will never build them like this again. If you truly love driving then I urge you if you get the chance to take cars like this out for a ride, then grab the opportunity with both hands. You'll be glad you did.

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