That’s part of it. The smell. You can’t easily describe it, but you know it immediately. It’s a complex mix of plastic, leather, bri nylon, with a top note of oil and exhaust fumes. It triggers something deep inside the brain, a cluster of neurons that hark back to those childhood years, crammed into the back seat of the family saloon – remember those, with small boots rather than practical hatchbacks? Maybe a Ford Granada, Renault 12 or Austin Princess. Chrome bumpers, no rear seatbelts.

Just look at the shape… the Volvo of yester-year no longer looks like a brick. To modern eyes it’s clean lines, proportion. This baby provides enough room for a mid-length single fin, three shortboards, an asymmetric finless, two bellyboards, swim fins, two yellow buckets, handplanes and wetsuits. And there’s still enough room for an artful friend with a Super 8 and a Leica loaded with black and white Ilford to Instagram the hell out of the sunrise.

So my advice is this. The next time you need new wheels, go old. Time to start the online trawl for a more mature companion. WLTM class, style and space. The old car smell comes for free.

Top Five

Volvo 245 / 240 Estate. 1975 – 1993. Rare early cars have bags of character with round headlamps and chrome trim plus super reliable red block engines. Avoid automatics. Later cars like Torslanders are a good value option.


Mercedes 280 D Estate. W123’s ran from 1976 – 85. Estates have oodles of style, super reliable but parts are expensive. Diesels are bullet-proof. A million Moroccan taxi drivers can’t be wrong.


Ford Granada Estate. Mk2 easier to find than Mk1, ran from 1977 to 1985. Loads of room, sold well but getting hard to find now. Plasticy Ford dash. Ghia models best appointed.


Series 2a Land Rover LWB Stationwagon. 1961 – 71. Nothing says adventure like a Series Land Rover and the 2a offers go anywhere utility combined with that ubiquitous style that conquered the world. Buy one now before prices go ballistic.


Peugeot 504 Estate. Chic lines, grace, innovative design – the Pug has none of those. If that’s your bag, buy a Citroen CX Safari. This is your basic load lugger that just keeps going even when the doors fall off – an automotive terminator. “I’ll be back!”