Shall we start 2016 with a heated debate amongst shed-dwelling blokes, who enjoy browsing Machine Mart catalogues in their spare time? Hell yes! So here are my top ten best value classic cars – not the greatest designs, or the fastest, just vehicles you can own without robbing the bank, enjoy.
10. Audi TT
Let’s be honest, a good one isn’t super cheap to buy or especially cheap to run, but it is a great looking car from the late 90s, which has aged well. Early ones are all manual gearboxes, and the 1.8 is the economy option. Having some shared VW group parts also helps keep the maintenance costs reasonable too. In the end, you have to say that for 3K you will struggle to get a 2-seater 150bhp coupe that’s as much fun, or looks so handsome.
9. Mazda MX5
`That’s a girl’s car mate.’ Well, up to a point yes, but if you drive an MX5, you’ll like it. Punch, gutsy acceleration, sweet handling too. It’s been said many times before but the Mazda 5 is a Lotus that’s more reliable and apart from some MX5 models suffering corrosion at the back end, there’s little to watch out for. In a word fun, all for about 4K – steer clear of the early models and get a 2 litre `06 plate onwards, or the 1.8 if you need to save £500 on the asking price.
8. Mercedes SLK
Can you believe that you can buy an SLK for under 1800 quid nowadays? Admittedly, the cheap SLKs tend to have faults and high miles, but it’s a sporty little German car for the same price as a beaten up 1.6 Mk III Ford Capri. Hang onto an original 1990s SLK because it is bound to be a classic one day and worth SL280 money in a decade’s time.
7. Austin/Morris Mini
A vast network of spares suppliers, accessory retailers, clubs and dedicated websites all help make Mini ownership an easier proposition than say owning a Humber Snipe. It’s also more fun to drive a 1.0/1100 Mini than many 1970s classic cars, as the go-kart handling and low driving position make it seem quicker than it really is.
Yes, they rot from the inside out, and yes, the small radiator blows its top if you get stuck in traffic on hot days, but the Mini has toy-like charm, everyone loves it and you’ll have a queue of buyers ready when you decide you’re had enough of being deafened by the road noise at 60mph. Ace value, runners start from about £1000, but spend £3000 to get something that’s been restored recently.
6. Toyota MR2
Early models from the 80s are getting hard to find now, so prices have shot up, but the Mk 2 and Mk 3 models are still reasonably cheap and offer brilliant fun, top-down motoring, with cheap insurance and everyday servicing/spares costs thrown in. Reliable, needs the oil level watching closely and the headlights can do that misting up thing quite easily.
5. VW Golf VR6 mid-90s
If you can bear the high insurance and fuel consumption costs, the VW Golf V6 is a fantastic car for under four grand. Try to avoid examples where men in baseball caps with strange tattoos have decided to fit smoky glass, purple spoilers and disco lighting, and you’ll love this grunty, rapid and practical classic.
There are still plenty of examples about and if buy sensibly and use the car at weekends, you’ve got a great value, kick-ass hot hatch that will last for years.
4. Saab 900
Ground-breaking car in its time and arguably saved the company from an early demise back in the 1980s, well OK…it staved off the end while GM owned the Swedish brand and wondered what to do with it.
The 900 isn’t very good looking but it’s built well and a practical thing to drive regularly too, which many late 70s cars aren’t, like say Rover SD1s, big 6 litre Jags or Alfas from way back when.
Try to buy a late ’80s Saab 900 saloon model though, as these will become true classics, whereas the GM owned 1994s-2000s 900s will fade into obscurity. Spend around 6K to get something really looked after, worth it in the long run.
3. Ford Cortina Mk III
The classic `Coke bottle’ looks of the Mk 3 Cortina define the 70s, as much as Corona fizzy pop, Spangles or TV sitcoms like `It Ain’t Half Racist Mum.’
A 1.6 or 2 litre Cortina XL is a decent car to drive occasionally and spares aren’t too expensive or difficult to find. The big problem is rust on something this old and a fully restored Cortina will set you back about 8000 quid, but it’s worth it if you want a minter.
You can get something running OK and slightly foxed at the edges for half that money. The Cortina is sure to rise in value however, especially the 2000 GXL/GT models.
2. MGB Roadster
Loads to choose from, a massive spares industry keeping them going, plus a wealth of knowledge from owners clubs. You cannot go wrong owning an MGB convertible, unless you lose your mind and decide to drive it in everyday traffic. Then it will simply break down, just like it did when new… and you’ll hate it.
Save your MGB for sunny Sundays, and keep tinkering away at it because it will always be worth ready cash if kept in nice nick. A good one costs at least 8K, but it’s amazingly cheap to insure and run as a classic – and you won’t lose money on it unless you neglect it badly.
- Austin Allegro. ( Only joking, it’s a vile contraption that should have been burnt at the stake back in the 70s.)
No the real winner in terms of overall value for your cash is the Alfa Romeo Spider from the early 1990s. True, a good Mk 4 example costs over 10K and even a slightly dodgy one is probably going to be 7K, but look at it. It’s utterly beautiful and has the lush, Dolca Vita lines that you expect when someone says the words `Italian sports car.’
Save this car for the days when your soul needs some TLC and choose a road where the usual bell-ends have all taken off for the coast. Get the top down, the music turned up loud and you’ll feel damn lucky to be alive, and driving a piece of motoring magic.
Noise, handling, beauty – that’s what classic cars should be all about and the Alfa has it in spades. It will also rocket in value as the modern GM-platform engineered Spider simply doesn’t have the uniqueness of an older model.