Buying an old car in Sri Lanka from an owner’s perspective

Sachithra Siriwardhane
6 min readJan 29, 2021


Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash

Some prefer owning an old car, be it antique, classic, or just an old car with either family history or other emotional bond attached to it. I have seen people taking care of their father’s and grandfather’s cars just because they bring back pleasant memories of their loved ones.

Moreover, I have my own experience in searching and buying the Datsun 140Y which was previously owned by my father in which we used to travel to school and back home in 2006. Despite the huge amounts of repair costs that I had to spend on it, the memories and experience as a whole were tremendous, and after all, it is still a pleasant experience.

The Datsun 140Y which was previously owned by my father

Although owning an old car is a preference for some, others consider buying such a car as the only option for them based on their current financial situation. Life is like a roller-coaster, it takes you up and down, stays down for long sometimes but it takes you wherever you want to, and all that matters is how people react to different seasons of it.

It is really interesting to see how some people sacrifice the luxury of traveling during their hard times by using an old car for their daily needs that cost as little as a fraction of a new one. I personally appreciate all the efforts by them and have absolute confidence that they would overcome their financial hardships at their earliest.

With that said, this article is written to share my personal experience, perks, pros, and cons in a couple of old car models that I used to roam in around the city.

My father’s Datsun B210 (120Y) in 2014

This Datsun B210 (120Y) was one of my favorites. Back in the time it was really clean and was in perfect condition that it used to turn plenty of heads on road with its classical beauty. Everything in this car was working like brand new, even the engine sounded very quiet that we didn’t usually hear our father driving it home. Those cars are over 40 years old as of today and there is a widespread concern that their carburetors tend to malfunction if the fuel injection system wasn’t properly maintained. Some cars tend to corrode with their age which can be repaired but at high costs. Its simple yet sufficient electrical system needs proper attention, parts such as platinum point, condenser might need replacements. Today, both B210 and B211 are very popular among enthusiasts, because of their classic appearance, fuel efficiency, the availability of spare parts, and wide range of applicable modifications. Despite being old, those cars are considered to be durable as well as reliable than most cars that were manufactured later.

The Mitsubishi Lancer GLX 1985

The Mitsubishi Lancer GLX is also a great choice for those who prefer comfort over fuel efficiency. This model came after the very famous Lancer, also known as Lancer Box which is still recognized as a really fast car. Despite it is relatively less fuel-efficient, which has been sacrificed for performance, the comfort it gives to passengers and the best in class handling it offers the driver is impressive. It also has a massive boot space which can be further expanded by folding rear seats. I didn’t have trouble with this car other than depreciating plastic upholstery parts with its age. This particular model came with factory fitted air condition system which was a very modern feature back then where power steering had been an option.

Datsun Sunny 140Y (B310) 1980

This Datsun 140Y is my all-time favorite. An amazingly powerful 1400cc engine that was more than sufficient to overtake any vehicle at any time, including newer ones, offered the real old-school driving experience. Initially, Datsun, then Nissan produced the same B211, B310 models (120Y, 140Y) that presented customers with a collection of body types such as Sedan, Coupé & Station Wagon that are not only fast but also appealing with their sporty appearance. These models are considered both powerful and fuel-efficient. Still, there are plenty of cars in their original condition in Sri Lanka available to purchase at reasonable prices. Similar to B210s and B211s, these models have almost the same fuel injection systems that tend to give trouble with their age, and proper maintenance could fix such issues at reasonable costs. The carburetor itself is almost always repairable and alternative replacements are also available in the market. The body tends to corrode by now, more significantly if not kept under a proper shelter.

Things to keep in mind:

If you’re on a low budget, your sole purpose is to use the car for a small period and willing to sell it once you’re able to buy a newer version, the following facts might help.

  • In Sri Lanka, the emission test is the biggest barrier for old cars. Since it is imposed for cars manufactured after 1975, going for an older car might save you from the burden. Most old cars are more likely to fail this eco test which might keep owners a couple of days in the garage to finetune the fuel system.
  • Issues in fuel injection systems are very common in such cars, which can be repaired properly, and the repair costs are relatively cheaper than newer ones.
  • Purchasing such a car with a lot of pending engine or body repairs is not recommended. Since you’re not buying a project car that needs to be parked in a garage for months, you would surely run out of money and time restoring the car itself.
  • Tinkering and painting work is costly and time-consuming. A couple of paint bubbles on the body is fine and justifiable with the age, but avoiding cars that need immense tinkering and painting work is always a good practice.
  • Some of these cars do not have air condition systems installed, which you have to install after purchase. It is nearly impossible to drive a non-ac car in traffic due to current warm weather conditions. I personally prefer buying a car with air-conditioning because installing the system from the sketch would be costly and also sometimes a trial and error approach.
  • Most cars have got their windscreens scratched, reducing drivers’ visibility at night and during rains. This can either be replaced or repaired and polished at a reasonable cost.
  • Old cars such as B310 and B211 do not have power steering, despite it is barely noticeable while driving, having power steering is extremely useful when driving in cities with traffic congestions.
  • Make sure that the tires are not worn out; if they are, make further negotiations.

Those are some of the aspects that I used to consider when purchasing an old car. If you have any particular experience, feel free to share with me and I’d be happy to hear each.