The miracle of depreciation has put a tempting array of classic exotics within reach for many of us.

Be warned, though, that very often, the cheque you write for the purchase is just the first of many that you’ll write if you make a poor or unlucky choice. Keep in mind this maxim: The cheapest examples almost always wind up being the most expensive in the long run. Here are four that famously can be punishing on the wallet:

1966-80 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

RS 1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

At around the cost of a loaded Ford Focus for a nice one, it’s hard not to be tempted by the upper crust looks of a vintage Rolls-Royce. But go in with your eyes open:  A simple brake service can exceed $1,000, with the special Rolls-Royce brake fluid going for $125 all by itself. Try to substitute something from your local auto parts store and you could be looking at $3,000 or more to repair the damage. That famous Parthenon-like grille in front is about $2,500 used if you can find one. The hood ornament alone can cost more than $1,500 should anyone decide to make a souvenir out of yours. Ouch.

1975-85 Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS

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At around $30,000, this lovely thing represents one of the lowest points of entry to the storied Ferrari brand. Fortunately, Tom Selleck in the part of Thomas Magnum probably never had to foot the shop bill to maintain his employer’s 308. If he did, he’d likely have had to pawn the Hawaiian shirt and moustache. While Ferrari 308s have gained a reputation for being reasonably reliable cars as Italian exotics go, they are maintenance-intensive and things do break, particularly with the oldest now approaching 40 years old. That lovely combination switch that operates the turn signals and pop-up headlights? They can cost close to a grand (and they do fail from time-to-time).  A belt service including the all-important timing belt needs to happen at least every five years or 30,000 miles. Ignore it and you could be on the line for a $15,000-plus engine rebuild.

1968-72 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3

RS 1970 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL

The 6.3 is the closest that Mercedes ever came to building a Detroit-style muscle car back in the day (albeit a four-door one). Sporting a huge 384 cubic-inch V-8 with fuel injection and over 300 hp, the 6.3 was capable of a sub-six second 0-60 run and a 14.2-second ¼-mile time. All of this came at a huge price, though, both in acquisition costs and maintenance.

A complete rebuild of the air suspension system can cost more than $5,000, as can the wonderfully complex pre-computer, mechanical fuel-injection system. At least the parts are available.

1961-74 Jaguar E-Type

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The E-Type is actually nowhere near as chronically troublesome as its reputation would suggest. This gorgeous car still seems to take a punch on a regular basis (most recently in a plot arc of AMC’s “Mad Men,” where a suicide attempt was botched because the car wouldn’t start). It is, however, a fairly complex car that takes kindly neither to abuse nor fools with tools. Burn out the clutch in your E-Type and you may wish you hadn’t been born. The list of things that have to come off of or out of the car to do the job is long. The entire massive clam shell hood, headlight and front fender assembly known by the British term “bonnet” is just the tip of the iceberg. It has to come off simply to get at the engine and transmission, which also need to part company with the rest of the car — along with three grand or so of your kid’s college fund.

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Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca and you can email rsass [at] hagerty [dot] com

One thought on “Top 4 Potential Money Pits and High-Maintenance Classics

    Tony May says:

    I have owned a 1969 RR Silver Shadow for almost 17 years. I agree that, at first, it was a bit of a money pit especially with regards to the hydraulic system. I now have every confidence in my Shadow and, at least once a year, take it on a week long driving holiday (more than 1600 km) and twice a year shorter weekend trips of around 600 km. Over the past few years, besides regular service and maintenance, the majot expense (less than $1 000) was to rehabilitate the leather interior which was showing its 45 years of use.

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