The Independent Classic Vehicle Website 

How to Choose & How to Use Your New Car

Written by: George Eyles MBE Director of Tests (Institute of Advanc.ed Motorists)

The following article has been re-printed from the Daily Mail Motor Show Review of 1967



Buying a new car is a serious business – in a way rather like choosing a dog. One wants a trustworthy, reliable companion whose size & looks are right – also its costs – who will take kindly to us if we treat it well. It must be safe with children, never growl at us and be ready to go places when we want to. Of course there will be a much bigger impact on our bank account in the case of a car and, naturally this must be the first consideration, if hire purchase is involved it is wise to consider whether it is safe to mortgage such an amount just when for instance, the children are getting into their ‘expensive’ stage.


This is a personal problem which none but you can solve. When you have done so the field available to you can be surveyed by studying the range within the price-bracket arrived at. From this list may come perhaps 20 possibles. Think over each one carefully before you venture into the welter of dazzling chrome & paintwork of the dealer’s world.


Study each specification in detail. ‘Will it fit my garage?’ is a question too often overlooked, with, to say the least, embarrassing results. Compare the mechanics of each. How many cylinders? Is the engine at the front or rear? Which are the driving wheels? Is it fundamentally different from what I am used to – and if so, how? If you are not technically minded, a chat with a wiser friend can prove of real value to clear up such diverse matters. Lear something about gear ratios:  a farmer in the mountains of Scotland will have a vastly different demands from a commercial traveller confined mainly to Essex. Is automatic gear going to be a useful extra by relieving yourself or your wife from a chore you have always disliked? (This is often an expense that is not justified unless you cover many traffic miles in the course of duty)


The potential speed of cars today is well above the legal limit so there is no great merit in considering this factor. Do, however, find out about ‘torque maximum’ which governs the car’s ability to pick up from a slow speed. This is quoted in pounds/feet at a given number of engine revolutions per minute.


Having got clear in your mind the technical claims of the models on your short list you may now be able to choose the actual cars you will want to inspect and try out on the road. You will of course have made up your mind about the kind of body your new car will have. Consider how the interior suits your needs. Will you use it for business cum pleasure and if so, in what proportion of each? Can the driving position be set for a six-foot plus husband & a five foot four wife? How easy is it to adjust from one to another, and will the seat raise up as well as back & forth? Is the rear compartment going to suit (A) Business Needs and (B) Children?


Do you consider two door models safer than four doors or will you be happy with safety locks fitted to the rear to make them child proof?


In many cases, interior comfort has been sacrificed for a colossal boot, yet an average, it only gets full use once or twice a year – at times when a luggage rack will serve. Many other models have dual purpose bodies, which intelligently arranged interiors which can be adjusted to suit a variety of uses.


If hubby is a golf fiend, he won’t need asking if the boot of his potential car will take golf clubs. It wills whatever the sacrifice within! Is the sill of the boot of a height that the wife can lift heavy bags over it if she is motoring by herself? Study the siting of the spare wheel. So often it is tucked away under the boot floor which will be full of cases when you next have a puncture.


Look next as the fittings that go – or should go – with the cars on your list, which by now has shortened considerably. Do they include windscreen washers, air conditioning, wing mirrors, and a suitable set of tools, or are they extras? Is the jack really strong enough to do its prescribed job without danger? How long are you covered by the maker’s guarantee, and does it cover labour charges if things go wrong? Was the car undersealed BEFORE leaving the factory is another important question? It is often of little use having this done even after only works mileage unless you are happy to seal in all the dirt collected from roads en route!


Finally, the 64,000 dollar question. What is the delivery date and can it be relied upon to be kept as part of the contract of sale? Eventually comes the exciting day when your new acquisition arrives.



Go round the car carefully and give it the same rigorous inspection which (you hope) the dealer has already. Now is the time to tell him of obvious faults or omissions. Put a testing spanner to bolts and screws and avoid the future rattles and lost accessories about which we hear so many grumbles. Get on good terms with your car from the start by giving it a thorough coating of the recommended wax, sealing on the way all those vulnerable crevices which the elements seem to know about. Arm yourself with an anti-rust spray and treat any corrodible nuts & bolts under the bonnet and boot lid. Check usually ignored items like door locks and starts their life off with the application of the oil can. Moving joints in control linkages like-wise.


To revert to the similie of the dog, treat it right and let it see that it has a good master. Running-in today rarely means driving at a bare 30mph for at least 500 miles, but do consult the manufactures handbook and religiously carry out his recommendations. Drain, wash out & refill the sump at least twice in the first thousand miles, no matter what the book says. It is amazing what quantities of metal particles get carried down the cylinders and into the circulation via the oilways during the maiden voyages. The life of a new car is often made or marred by its owner during the first few hundred miles of its existence.


“Every car has its own character.

Cultivate it – don’t dominate it.

Originally published by Associated Newspapers Ltd, London EC4