Jim, I do agree wholeheartedly with you on viewing the car as a 'rolling restoration' rather than the more common view that the repairs will cost more than the car is worth. I saw someone, on another forum, saying it was time to scrap his S Type as it had cost him £2000 in the past year, so I call that £170 or thereabouts a month and look at what you can get for £170 a month. Now you could lease a brand new VW Up (be still my beating heart!) for that amount of money, but at the end of the lease period you'd be left with literally nothing. To lease the equivalent of the S Type with performance and comfort would be some £400-500 a month with a deposit up front, etc. Of course you could take out a can loan. For £170 a month over 3 years, you could get £5500 which ain't going to buy you a lot of cost free reliable motoring! And of course at the end of 3 years, your purchase would have depreciated as well.
After years of buying cars based on how much I can afford to pay out monthly in finance and ignoring the up front and depreciation costs, I now think very differently. For example, some years ago I bought a lowish mileage Merc C270 CDI for £14k. I paid an upfront deposit of about £6k and in the region of £250 a month on a car loan over 4 years. Four years later I sold it for £6k. So four years of reliable, relatively comfortable motoring cost me £8k depreciation, £6k deposit, £9.6k loan repayments, a total of £23.6k, or £500 a month excluding service and on the road costs! And that was nowhere near the worst of my car purchases..... It is truly frightening when you start to look at the real cost of owning and running a car.
I then took the advice of a German friend who purchased old, high mileage, executive cars with a view to running them into the ground at next to no cost. The S Type is the third in the line of such cars I have bought over the past nine years, and so far it has paid off. My last, a Merc ML350 over four years cost me around £2k in depreciation, about £300 in repairs including a new battery, £500 for a set of tyres, and normal servicing included discs and pads front and rear, handbrake shoes and a couple of ball joints. The S Type over the past ten months of ownership has cost me £200 for the replacement of a hub bearing and £100 for a battery. I don't visualise much in the way of depreciation unless the sills rot or something serious happens forcing me to sell the car as a non runner, in fact a quick check on Auto Trader shows the cheapest 4.2 V8 available nationwide is currently £2500 (plenty of basket case 2.5, 3.0 and diesels starting from £500, mainly from the pre 2002.5 facelift period and a couple of cheaper 4.0 V8s). When I bought mine, I was only really looking for the 4.2 V8 so I can only judge on those, the 4.2 V8s within 50 miles of where I live (not nationwide) started a lot cheaper than that so I assume they have in fact gone up in price over the past year). Similarly the STRs, the cheapest currently is an early one at £3500 have also gone up in price. As a comparison, the cheapest Merc E Class on Auto Trader currently is a high mileage 1999 E430 (coincidentally pretty close in performance to the naturally aspirated 4.2 V8) at £2995.
I feel like I have stepped off the conveyor belt of car buying and my bank account feels a lot better for having done so! I also think I own a unique gem of a classic car, there is nothing else quite like the S Type.