Shhhh! Don’t tell the investors


Author: James ElliottPublished:

It is inevitable in times of a classic market boom that many diehard enthusiasts – the thousands of us who are never quite satisfied with the size of our fleets – look with dread at rising prices and stalk the values of certain specific models, praying that they don’t catch the wave.

Take a look at our £10k sports car test in the current issue: a couple of models exempted, that is pretty much all new metal with none of the usual suspects, many of which have sprinted well beyond our traditional cut-off price for 'affordable'.

Of course, it makes the magazine fresher for readers to see us blooding a new generation into the classic fold, but what of the older generation rather than these cusp classics that are currently cheap largely because they are bottoming out?

Sure, an element of it is natural inflation, but we all know that the recent rises are disproportionate, leaving the vast majority of us – the impecunious majority, that is – viewing the market with a degree of resentment and scrabbling around for genuinely good and desirable classics that we can still afford.

Admittedly, I have often bemoaned the missed opportunities, the myriad greats that once I might have bought that now I couldn’t put through a decent service, the Aurelias and 3500GTs that would probably have bankrupted me, but take heart because there are plenty more fish in the sea.

In fact, having already ‘lived’ through a boom or two, I am pleasantly relaxed that whatever the market does and however investors distort it, because some wonderful copper-bottomed classics are curiously yet perpetually overlooked and undervalued, there will always be something uplifting out there for me to crave and even buy.

And not just the one-day wonders that we habitually test and rave about, but no one on the staff ever seems to want to actually own. Think Reliant SS1 here.

It’s weird how, despite pedigree and desirability, some cars just never seem to take off like others, and there is a curious correlation between those and the classics that I lust after… or actually own!

I remember berating the guys at Hurst Park a few years back for a mistake in their ad when they marked up a Rover P5B for £15k. It wasn’t a mistake. But, despite that, you have to say that given some of the old tosh that is being hyped up at the moment, the big, regal Rover is still priced well below where it should be at, typically, half of that even now. If you can live with a more upright rear screen, you can get a peach of a saloon for under £7k.

Another that springs to mind is the Citroën CX, still tucked up in bed suffering from the DS hangover. Criminally underappreciated.

Audi quattros are obscenely good value, as are all TVRs that aren't eligible for historic racing, but I am shuffling too far along the timeline again, so...

Riley RMs – 2.5s especially – also fit the bill, as does the entire raft of other 1950s and '60s Brit saloons. Even Mk1 and Mk2 Jags are yet to really get off the ground, which is odd because they were two of the first to take off last time the market when crazy.

Sadly, Lancia Fulvia 1.6s have long since flown the coop and, though I expect the same fate for 1.3s, it hasn’t really happened yet so you can pick up a running and road legal 1.3 for just a few grand.

Mustangs – especially the notchbacks, that, perversely, I prefer – are still phenomenal value, as are Buick Rivieras and many other Yank icons.

And – vested interest alert! – Jensen Interceptors. They may be finally on the move, but are still rock-bottom compared to their contemporary rivals.

In the more exotic field, I can’t understand the market-lag of early Panteras (below). They may be twice the price they used to be, but they are still half the price they should be in the current climate. Ditto Maserati Mistrals, not so long ago four times the price of a lookalike AC 428, now half the value or less.

Unlike many (OK, unlike all), I have always had a soft-spot for the TR7 and, though nowadays my desire is a V8-converted hard-top with everything sorted, they represent ridiculously good value as an entry-level classic. Same goes for GT6s.

Of course, you can still go and buy any number of Elan +2s affordably even if the two-seater prices have gone potty. All Lotuses bar the 'baby' in fact seem to be in the doldrums compared to their rivals.

This in particular applies to the Esprit, which, along with the Ferrari 308 and 328, is the cream of the inexplicably price-anchored junior supercar crop.

So, the good news is that, in a heady world of £75,000 Pagodas and £130k Dinos, while so many people are talking up the market and so many others are whingeing about its inexorable rise (mea culpa), there are still (and always will be) plenty of scraps to be had for those of us who can’t afford to dine at the top table. Indeed, not just scraps, but some pretty tasty morsels.


Don Callum

That Mustang is the same as my first girlfriend's car. Lovely 289 c.i. V8 was fuss free and you could actually put humans in the back seats.

James you and your colleagues are doing too thorough a job and I will pin the blame on you lot if that GTV6, or 924 I want to buy becomes too dear!


James you are clearly a man of good taste - I am still black and blue from kicking myself over that £12k Maserati 3500GT I dithered over 15 years ago only to find it snatched from under my nose when I went back to buy it a couple of days later. I have a similar rueful tale involving a £10k Aurelia at around the same time. The lesson I have learned is that if you really like something and can almost afford it, don't fret about it, just buy it - or forever curse yourself for your cowardice!

Only last week I took my own advice and bought a gorgeous Fiat 130 Coupe for just £6k. Okay it needs a bit of work, but what a fantastic bit of kit for such a modest outlay. The build quality is superb and the orange velour interior alone is worth the asking price - what a great place to sit, especially in your purple velvet flairs and big collared shirt, RayBans firmly meshed into your sideburns. If you ever wondered what the inside of an Italian brothel looked like in 1971, just take a peek inside one of these. Chuck in a 3.2-litre V6 by Lampredi and what's not to like?

Even if it doesn't go up in value like I think it deserves to, I get so much pleasure from owning it that I've won anyway.


James Elliott

"Even if it doesn't go up in value like I think it deserves to, I get so much pleasure from owning it that I've won anyway."

And therein Zagato has summed up proper classic car ownership rather more succinctly than I ever could. Thank you.

Group Editor, C&SC

Mario Laguna

"obscenely good value"
In this category, what about a Porsche 996? Not a classic, yet, but still very tempting at current obscene prices.

Don Callum

Yes you are correct!

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