I guess this might seem a stupid question to ask of people in a part of the
world where fuel is so cheap - but is it safe to assume it will always be so?
Earlier this week, I had a long talk with an old friend I've known for more
than 40 years who has been the besotted owner for at least 30 of those years
of a 1930 Speed Six Bentley. Okay, that in itself is a car from the collector
stratosphere - but I was both amazed and shocked to learn he now has the car
up for sale. By his own admission, it's not that he has tired of it, come to
be less interested in it - or even that he can't afford to run it. Dave is the
first to admit that he has plenty of money and he could easily keep and
run the Bentley to his dying day. Knowing him as well as I do, I asked him why
the time had come for he and the car to part company?
His answer didn't
exactly surprise me.
"I've reached a point where I feel it's not only a very
selfish whim to continue to drive it and enjoy it but that I am finding it
difficult to reconcile the cost of filling the tank for a weekend of pleasure.
I'm extremely lucky to be able to afford to fill the tank on that beast, but
its the principle of paying such an horrendous amount of money for what is to
all intents and purposes an indulgent pursuit that benefits no-one. Simply,
the cost of pouring fuel into what seems a bottomless tank gives very little
"return" in terms of money per mile on fuel used. And at 12 mpig if I'm lucky,
that works out at 45 pence (70 cents) a mile. That figure is just plain
ludicrous, so Its time to let someone else enjoy the privilege. It'll break
my heart to see it go - but the time has come."
And that conversation reminded
me of other vehicle enthusiasts I know in similar situations. There are
Triumph and MG owners who are saying"it's been fun but we're not playing this
game any more because of fuel cost" Then there are others of whom several have
shared ownerships in specific vehicles. There's the group of six lawyers who
all have equal shares in a Routemaster Double deck London bus, another group
who lavish care and love on some superb heavy duty trucks - and the steam
engine fraternity who are grumbling (with reason) about the price of coal and
escalating costs for bi-annual boiler safety pressure checks..
All of them
are now saying to a greater or lesser extent, "this will have to be the last
year. The costs for enjoyment has got out of reach and this is substantially
dulling the pleasure."
As of today, one US gallon of gasoline in the UK is
selling in supermarkets for the equivalent price of US$6.71 of which the
better part of $6.00 is tax. Franchised gas stations with BP, Shell or Texaco
have higher prices and so I ask this either / or question of all of you who
are inclined to answer
"How high would gas prices have to go in your country
before you would seriously consider giving up your Triumph?" or
"If there was
no way you could buy gas for less than $6 a gallon, what would justify you in
keeping and using your Triumph as you do?"
I've already sold both of my
Triumphs because I simply could not justify the cost of re-fuelling either of
them for the simple entertainment value they gave.. With two cars in the
family, we now put fuel economy at the top of the list and that's why our
household has converted over the last three years to modern high-speed
turbo-diesels of less than 2000cc. They're boring, they're absolutely
reliable, they're fuel efficient and both are returning +50mpg with extremely
low emissions. That's what matters, that's how our motoring will be in the
years to come - and not because of inclinations towards a 'greener'
environment. Running a classic car that does little more than 25mpg (because
it was never designed to do it) is simply throwing good money after bad. And
that's exactly how my friend with the Bentley feels which is why he's selling
it - and it's a view being ever more widely propounded throughout western
Europe. The price of fuel is slowly killing
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