Just joined C&SC, what classic should I buy?

11 replies [Last post]
Russell Campbell
Russell Campbell's picture
Joined: 2011-12-21

Some of you have probably noticed there’s been a new name at the bottom of the news stories so let me introduce myself expand a bit on where I came from, what I came to do and more importantly talk classic cars.

As I'm sure you have gathered, I'm Russell and I'll be covering the news for the website, looking after the forums and generally doing the work that others in the office don't want to do. If they’re lucky I might even do the odd tea run.
This is of little interest to you I'm sure. A far more interesting subject is classic cars, and more importantly the replacement of my somewhat leggy Volvo that wont cut the mustard at C&SC.

My move to C&SC has, frankly, been on the cards for quite sometime, which has given me more than enough time to compile a mental shortlist of potential new steeds. The main factor governing my decision is that it must be C&SC friendly, so bearing in this in mind here the list of candidates in the order they popped into my head:
    •    Porsche 924
    •    Porsche 944
    •    Lotus Excel
    •    MGB
    •    Peugeot 205 GTI

It's a quite a broad list, but in general I'm looking for something that handles, looks good and is cheap to run. With the Volvo's MOT up this month the clock's ticking. Here's a brief synopsis of why these cars made it to the list, and some more general thoughts:

I'm scared by the Porsches. Not because of their performance (not the ones I can afford anyway) or their reliability, nothing too worry about here I'm told; no what concerns me is fixing them when and if they go wrong. They're not easiest to work on I'm told or as a colleague put it "the British built their cars to be easily fixed when they inevitably break. The Germans don't expect theirs to break..." Then there's the matter of parts costs, and how excessive they can be. Shame really because I love the look of the 944, and the sound of its perfect transverse-gearbox handling. Not such a big fan of the 924, I must confess, but I'd be happy to swim against the tide of snobbery that seems to surround them.

Next up is the Lotus Excel. I love the looks, I love that it's British and I love that it has the kind of supercar (I walked past a Esprit on the way to school) cool that you wouldn’t expect to get for £2.5k maximum budget. Then there's the Lotus aspect, the history that surrounds the brand, the Chapman years and the fact that it still, in some capacity, has a place in modern F1. This one in particular was saying all the right things before someone cruelly took her from me: http://pistonheads.com/sales/3718656.htm

The MGB is the car that appeals to me least of the bunch, and I'm not entirely sure why... I love the looks again I like that it is British and the lure of the roadsters chop-topped motoring is a massive draw, but some how it doesn't speak to me like the others.

Which brings me to the last one on my list and current favourite - the 205 GTI. It's a car I can remember from my childhood, it's got looks, it's got pace, it will carry five people if I wish, has parts in abundance, these parts are cheap, and there's a reasonable chance I can get one for under a grand. It has the evergreen handling that small hatches will never have a again, steering feel, a playful backend, all wrapped in a small light body that can be parked easily and should be cheap to run.

So what do you think folks what should I go for or more importantly what have I missed?

The criteria is it must be a classic, it must be sporty and it must be under £25000... Thanks for the help!

Pre 80s TVR
Pre 80s TVR's picture
Joined: 2011-07-17

Is there an extra added in the last line? You could buy one of each for £25000. In the Lotus piece you mention the budget is £2.5k so I think that is it.

I fancy an Excel, my heart would say that but my head would say the 944. If you don't mind the looks a TVR 280i/350i, or a 3000M should be achievable though it might want some work - but then I am biased! I remain to be convinced that a FWD French hatchback is a classic, though I wouldn't mind a decent Golf GTI mark 1 or 2 - probably hard to find a decent one for that budget.

Sure there will be lots of opinions, happy choosing.



TVR Car Club Pre80s Editor

Don Callum
Don Callum's picture
Joined: 2011-05-30


All appealing choices Russell.

I too am looking in the future at a similar list but in the USA. I never understood the 924 snobbery myself but it does exist!  In my humble opinion it is a better looking car than the 944 that followed, though I don't hate that car either and am considering both.

I wish I had the option of a nice 205gti in the USA but alas Peugeot had gone by that time. Several of my friends had MGB's and I never understood the mystique, preferring FIAT's 124 spyder or Triumphs.


Good Luck in ant case.



plastic penguin
plastic penguin's picture
Joined: 2011-06-14

Hi Russell, and welcome to the madhouse.

Phew! your shortlist seems pretty impressive. That aside, I'm only really familiar with MGBs. After a (short) confidence-culling period with a Lotus Elan, the name, regardless of model, gives me anxiety attacks... sweaty palms and palpitations.

Having been through this process last year - albeit on a cheaper scale - it'll be, IMO, expedient to look at vehicles that won't strain your emotional and financial equilibrium.

Couple of questions: Will the prospective vehicle be used everyday or as a weekend/fair weather mode of transport? Are you prepared to look beyond your initial list?

Good luck, pp.

Nuno Granja
Nuno Granja's picture
Joined: 2011-09-13


In my opinion...

If you want to drive a lot and keep the running costs down, the 924 if you are into sports cars look or the 205 if you are into hot hatchs...

If you want to drive a lot and you can afford higher running costs then the 944, as it is realiable but as in all cars it will need some attention from time to time and Porsche parts and service are not cheap.

If you plan to writting long running reports about the eforts to keep the car on the road then the Lotus.

Somehere in the midle of  those considerations the MGB.


nuno granja

James Elliott
James Elliott's picture
Joined: 2011-03-11

Russell, if you've got £25,000 to spend we're paying you too much. Or that is one hell of a contingency fund for a Porsche brake rebuild.

Assuming you mean £2500 and giving you the benefit of all my years of experience of buying the wrong classics at the wrong prices, I would rule out the Porsches straight away.

Nothing wrong with them, brilliant cars, but even pattern parts are astronomically expensive compared to an MGB. Given that you confess to very limited spannering experience and funds, I think your biggest consideration in any purchase has to be "what if?"

And I mean that should be the overriding factor.

So "what if" the Porsche breaks? Are you going to have the smarts or the money to mend it yourself, let along paying someone else if it is beyond you? Being realistic, the moment it breaks it is off the road, or worse, scrap.

The Lotus is a slightly better prospect because bits are cheaper and the car is less complicated. It is also the most reliable Lotus ever built and a total bargain. But "what if?" still applies.

Peugeot: ditto.

Then there is the B. It's an obvious choice for a good reason.

Let's face it, if you are going down the classic path, the car you want for your first, the one that will set you up for all the years of joy and trauma to come, is the simplest: the one that you can work on yourself with a bit of guidance and, more importabtly, the one you can LEARN to work on to give you the confidence to repair and maintain all your future classics. Oh, and you might as well make it the one that is likely to cost you least, with the cheapest parts and best parts support and the one that your long-suffering colleagues (who will no doubt be called upon to help and advise) have the most experience of.

So, there you have it: everything says MGB.

Buy the Lotus.

Or the Pug.

Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

Russell, I agree with James' analysis exactly, and here's why.

The Porsche may appear a bargain at those prices but ask yourself why. Yes, the motor is tough and reliable, and probably quite cheap to maintain, as it is the same old reliable VW four that was in the LT35 commercials among others, and it's humble origins are the same reason Porsche snobs don't recognise it. The rest of the car is Porsche at Porsche prices; if you are going down that masochistic route you may as well blow the lot on a 928 and save a tenner for a lottery ticket as insurance in case it goes wrong!

The Lotus Excel, I will admit I know nothing at all about, except it is another Lotus and with a glass fibre shell, so does that mean it has the typical Lotus weakness in the electrics department? If so, and you find a car you are otherwise happy with it may pay to take a chance on the car and sign up for a part-time college course in auto-electrics.

As for the Peugeot, yes sure they were fun in their day, and maybe still are in a limited way, but although the performance was good for its time, the build quality was only average, there is a lot of plastic and velour trim that will not have aged well, and anything that has worn a GTI badge on its arse for the last twenty or more years will have been thrashed more than a naughty Etonian, so may be well past its prime.

That leaves the 'B.

I too was never really impressed with them even in period, but maybe for some perverse reason and nostaglia they are better now than than in the sixties. However, they are plentiful, cheap, and part of the fabric of classic motoring for ever. They are also one of the most basic cars to learn about, and with the ever increasing dependency on plastic and computer chips limiting the appeal of recent and current pretenders, the lure of nuts and bolts will always assure a constant fan following for more basic sixties cars like the MG; therefore keeping values up too.

Not my favourite car either, but there are sound reasons why the MGB makes the ideal classic starter. And if you need more than a two seat roadster, the MGB GT is an even better prospect.

Chris M.


Mario Laguna
Joined: 2011-08-29

Hello Russel,
Thank you for your introductory message. I whish you a warm welcome among C&SC's readers and the best of luck dealing with both, your classic purchases and new assignments.
I would go for a 924, which I believe is a reliable and classy little sports car. It should be an ideal second car for urban, short distance commuting, shopping and club meetings.
Expensive parts could be an issue, though. A friend is putting back on the road a near pristine 924 Turbo he has inherited from a departed brother and faces a €600 bill for a turbo overhaul (including a missing part).
If you fancy a Peugeot, the 1.9 looks more appealing, but why not a VW 1.6 GTI?

Joined: 2011-06-01

Hi Russell,

Good luck in the new job.  My last 5 cars have been Porsches, so you might think I'd be biased.  But think again as I'm going to cast your net a little further and suggest a Triumph GT6, or if running cost are really critical a Spitfire.  Far less ubiqitous than MG's (but even easier to work on).  I'd tend to forget your other choices for reasons already outlined.

I'll ruffle a few feathers I know, but to me an MGB GT is too close to a Morris Oxford, whereas a GT6 is a poor mans E-type!

Speedangel's picture
Joined: 2011-07-05

Peugeot 205 GTI ithe best one off your list in my opinion: reliable, easy and cheap to maintain. I had one and I can tell you, just tweak it slightly here and there and this car becomes a powerful monster.

I love the Porsche 944 as well (not a fan of the 924), But when i did get a problem with the gear box, it did literally cost me my head, so ffreaking expensive to maintain. Lotus Excel is pretty good but if you quite like the lotus range, I will suggest a Lotus Elan.

MGB are really good cars and I think I will probably buy one and keep it at my brother's place to drive around Cambridge countryside. However, they have gained value quite heavily in recent times and I don't think you will be able to get one for the budget you have, unless it is a crap one.

May i suggest you also have a look at Triumphs. Ask Plastic Penguin for some advice, he has a really good knowledge of this make. Check on this website, there are quite a few triumphs in their cars for sale section. In fact, I remember seeing the Chassis No1 of the Triumph Spitfire, which is quite nice to see.

Good luck with your search and let us know what you got at the end. But at the end, just make sure you get a classic in good condition, there is no point getting a cheap one in a bad state, otherwise you will end spending more than the price you paid for the actual car

Coventry Climax
Joined: 2012-02-16

Apart from the B they're all too modern for my liking, so an easy choice.