Persuading the boss that a 2.5PI is an ideal company car
I am the manager of Cherished Vehicle Insurance Services, which is part of A-Plan insurance group; we are their specialist arm which deals with classic cars, ex-military vehicles and such like – anything from a Hellcat tank to a Reliant Robin. We also look after the TR Register insurance services, and I have a particular passion for Triumphs. Before taking on this job, I worked in financial planning and mortgages and I drove a Gitfire. The customers seemed to appreciate my choice of transport, and it was certainly more of a talking point than turning up in a modern Ford Focus or something like that. I kept that Triumph for a number of years, but it went when children arrived.
I have had other classic cars over the years too, including a Porsche 924 plus a Cortina Crusader that I inherited from my grandad and restored, so I’ve always been passionate about cars. That is what made this job so attractive. For example, at A-Plan I insured one of the first Tesla’s in the UK – that was interesting, because at the time nobody wanted to insure an electric car in the UK!
When A-Plan bought CVIS and I took over there, I had this crazy idea of getting a classic as my company car. My bosses were not keen initially, but after a year of wrangling I persuaded somebody higher up to say yes. Like a kid in a sweet shop I had a long list of potential cars in mind, but kept coming back to Triumphs, partly because I look after the TR Register at work but also because of my own interests. However, I didn’t think that a two-seater would be ideal, and decided what I really wanted was a 2.5PI estate – that would be a great workhorse for the company, but also be something that my wife and I could put our two young daughters in the back and take on family outings, (unlike the Gitfire).
I was given a £5000 budget, but I didn’t want to spend all of that on buying something because I knew that whatever I bought, I would have to do some work on it, that’s just how classic cars work. Initially I couldn’t find a 2.5PI estate that I liked, so I put the word out of what I was looking for and Andy Hollyoak of the TR Register said: ‘I know of a car you’d like, but you’ll have a hard time twisting the guy’s arm to sell it.’
However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I phoned this guy up, told him my sob story and explained that we were going to sort out the bodywork, get the car running well and put it to good use. He called the car Tippy because it was the one that had been used to haul things down to the tip, which was perhaps not the best starting point! But it had also been laid up under a tarp for two years, so after hearing my story, he decided that it wasn’t going to get any better in his hands and that he would let it go.
It polished up pretty well with plenty of T-Cut and elbow grease, though it does seem to be a mixture of Triumph shades – Carmine Red is the main one, but there’s probably a dash of Cherry thrown into the mix as well. Then again, this car is something of a mixture anyway. It started off as a 2000, one that belonged to a doctor in Scotland. He fitted a really tall diff, making it very economical for cruising but pretty sluggish off the line.
A later owner then fitted the running gear salvaged from a low-mileage but rotten 2.5PI, and also a slightly lumpy TR5 150bhp cam. He left the 2000 badges on the outside because he liked surprising boy racers on the road.
That is how we bought it. At that point it was not running brilliantly, but I figured this was mainly because it hadn’t been used for some time and that with a bit of fettling and some road miles under the wheels, it would settle down. The car made it back home to Worcester from Leicester where I bought it, but two days later decided it didn’t want to go into gear.
It turned out the clutch release bearing carrier had failed. I actually had to turn off the engine at traffic lights before I could get it into first gear.
So the box came out and we fitted a new clutch, complete with a new carrier shaft – the bushes for this were as thin as tin foil. I also gave the engine a complete service, flushed that and the gearbox multiple times, then spent a month working out how to re-connect the overdrive wiring properly as I hadn’t stopped to take any photos when it came out… All in all these repairs ended up costing quite a bit, so it was just as well that I had held back some of the initial allowance.
I bought it last August and there have been ups and downs along the way, but it has worked out pretty much exactly as I had envisaged. It certainly gets used hard for work. We can put a roof rack on for two gazebos, fill the boot with stuff, load it up with staff and head off to shows. We then rock up, set everything up, leave the car on the stand and there is no messing about with vans and trailers.
Because this car now lives such a hard life, I would like to get a spare engine and gearbox ready, just in case. Last weekend for example it did 300 miles on a weekend run, then I took it up Prescott Hillclimb three times on the Sunday. Next weekend it is off to Beaulieu, and that is normal. In addition to this it is in regular use for daily chores. Fortunately the other staff love it. Well, most of them. My wife loves it too, which did surprise me.
The current plan is that later this year it will be getting some bodywork repairs. The sills and floors had been rebuilt before I got it so they are all good, but the front wings have gone at the bottoms. There is also a bit of rust at the tops of the wings. Fortunately, working in insurance you do get to know a lot of people who are good at bodywork, so I will get one of those to inspect it and recommend the best way forwards. I think we will get away with repair patches, but the guy I have in mind will be able to weld them in invisibly.
The back end is basically solid, with only one small patch on the nearside arch, but other than that it just needs a good rub down and respraying. Oh yes, and the front screen needs to come out because there is some rust on the screen pillar. That actually explains why the parcel shelf is falling down! When I first picked the car up, it was a beautiful day and I didn’t realise quite how badly it leaked. Then at the first car show we went to, it hammered down with rain and there were several inches of water in the passenger footwell, the fuses kept blowing, the parcel shelf was full of water… I have now sealed the screen so it doesn’t leak anymore, but we will need to strip out the interior and tidy that up.
Talking of the interior, the door cappings are excellent and look like they have been refinished, the dash is good, but I am not overly keen on the seats. They are really comfortable armchairs and in good shape, but they are just so brown! I have been offered good money for them because the material is in good shape but these days it is hard to find, so I may go for leather Alfa seats instead. The problem then would be getting the back seats to match, but fortunately I went to school with a guy who now works as a trimmer for Morgan…
I may not go down this route though, and stick instead with what we have got because they are so original, and when you are on a long journey it is nice to sit on a sofa. Besides, if you change the seats, you then have to do the carpets, the door cards, the brown Furflex around the doors and everything else. Mind you, going up Prescott at the weekend did make me think that a little more grip from the seats might be a bonus – the way I was hanging onto the steering wheel going around some of those bends, I’m surprised it is still circular.
I do also have to balance what I want to do with the budget that’s available. We have already rebuilt the front suspension, and fitted CV-jointed rear driveshafts. Those are beautifully engineered, though not cheap at around £1200. Fortunately I have a maintenance budget each year and I was able to supplement what I had left in reserve from year one with the kitty that started for this second year. Not that we had much choice, because the driveshaft UJs collapsed on a recent trip home from a show and the vibration and harmonics restricted me to 25mph – a journey that should have taken an hour ended up taking three. The new shafts have made a huge difference, totally transforming the way the car rides – it is quieter, smoother, and it just seems to bed in better through the corners. It is the single most expensive cost on the car so far, but I think it was worth it.
The engine itself is pretty peppy and seems a good unit. An ex-policeman did have a close look at this during the Prescott event, and he reckoned that it was an ex-Midlands Police engine. It certainly performs as well as any I have experienced. It has a 123 distributor on it which might help a little – that came with the car rather than out of my budget – along with a Chris Witor sports manifold and stainless steel exhaust.
The wheels are 14in Minilite style. I do have a set of 15in TR6 wheels I’d like to fit, but having just bought a new set of tyres for these 14 inchers, I may struggle to justify buying another set at 15in any time soon. Mind you, it does get heavily loaded and Chris Witor does a really nice big brake conversion that will fit under 15in wheels, so that may well be the way to go. Then I’d have to look at the suspension too – visually it does look a little low at the back, but that is just the way these big estates sit and there is plenty of travel in the system. I’ve still got to investigate the options there though, and will take advice.
As it is, the car has worked out very well. I’ve been through the honeymoon stage and had to do so much work on it already – about 240 hours and counting! – that it was in danger of becoming a bit of a chore, but I fell back in love with it this last weekend. It is a great tool for work as well because people do come up at shows to have a closer look and a chat, and let’s be honest, insurance can be a rather dry subject. Even though we all need it, asking: ‘Can I talk to you about insurance?’ is not the hottest line with which to greet people. As you would expect, insurance is something I do want to talk about though!
This is a company-owned car used for business, but with Social, Domestic and Pleasure use for me too. I pay company car tax on it, but if a car is currently worth less than £12,000 and pre-1996, then HMRC bases its value on the original book value. That means company car tax liability will be way lower than it is on a modern car. It is MoT exempt, but as a company car I do choose to have it inspected, and the road tax is free. The only financial penalty is paying for the fuel – it was doing around 12-15mpg when we got it, but that has since crept up to more reasonable levels. Which is good, because I have to pay for half of it!
So yes, I can thoroughly recommend buying a classic car for work. I should point out though that it has to be done for sound commercial reasons, otherwise HMRC may regard it as an attempt at tax avoidance if you are simply trying to put your hobby cars through the books. It should be possible to find insurance, although it is likely to cost more than a policy for normal classic use of low annual miles on high days and holidays only – classic car policies are based on the value of car, age of owner, length of ownership, location, annual mileage and so on, and those are different risks to commuting and business use.
With anything slightly out of the ordinary, the best advice is to have a conversation with the underwriters and talk through the options, because every policy and the risks associated with it needs to be assessed on its own merits. That is where a company like Cherished Vehicle Insurance Services comes into the picture. We can also offer extra benefits such as a higher reinstatement value, free agreed value, and a new thing we are offering to members of the Triumph clubs we work with whereby if two members are both insured through us, they can drive each other’s cars and enjoy the protection of fully comprehensive cover. We only brought that in earlier this year, so I would like to spread the word. Or is that too much of a blatant plug…?