10 alternative 2 seat roadsters10 alternative 2 seat roadsters Published: 13th Apr 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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One to graduate to?
Replacing such an icon is never easy, particularly for Alfa back in 1996, when it introduced new GTVs and Spiders for the Millennium, albeit relying upon Fiat hardware. But somehow it worked even though they can be slightly disappointing to drive. If anything, the 2.0 four-cylinder models come off best because the far more powerful V6 is noted for its excessive understeering ways. Which is a shame because the 3-litre 220bhp V6 is a beaut posting near supercar performance with a similar Ferrari-like soundtrack but without the running costs. While not as exclusive as the original Spider (and GTV coupé,) you can’t carp about their value from just a couple of grand.
The Latin MGB
Anything Alfa could do Fiat could ape almost as well and the 124 Coupé and Spider is a case in point. Like the Alfa, the Fiat boasted a mechanical specification that made British sports cars look prehistoric plus they had a (Pininfarina) style that many rate as good as its Italian stable mate. The 124 was launched in 1966 and enjoyed a 20 year production run with pre-1975 cars the sportiest and most classically-styled as afterwards they were altered with huge bumpers to appease the US market where 85 per cent of them went. Prices are on par with an MGB or TR6 but spares and support, while good, is nothing like so comprehensive and all are left-hand drive. Will the new MX-5-based Spider become such a classic? Probably not.
Proudly saying the F-word
The thick end of two decades passed before Abingdon relaunched itself into the sports car market yet you’d think MG had never been away. A complete contrast to the old MGB and Midget, this mid-engine, gas-suspended sports car astounded the doubters with its modern driving qualities yet holding true the old MG maxim of Safety Fast! You can pick one up for pennies but that’s because of the large number that are still on our roads and also due to the car’s poor reputation for reliability and build quality. And that’s a shame because the MGF remains a fine modern classic sports car. Really fast in top VVC and Trophy guises, some specialists are now offering fully refurbished cars ready to go and there’s excellent nationwide club support.
Excellent if not exclusive
So much has been said and written about Mazda’s marvellous MX-5, it’s difficult to add any more. What started off as an Elan clone, more than a quarter of a century ago, now looks like a shrunken Jag F-type and the little roadster’s appeal is greater than ever because it’s a sports car to suit all. And there perhaps lies the rub; because of the MX-5’s universal appeal they are everywhere, liked by not simply car enthusiasts but also by mainstream motorists after something sporty but with family car reliability, ease of use and rep car running costs – a bit like the Capri. Fine, but driving one doesn’t automatically mark you out to be a serious classic car lover…
Lotus Elan M100
The 90’s Elan is a bit like the Jensen-Healey insofar that it was a complete departure from the original legend – and has suffered from that ever since. But what the Elan M100 lacks in classic status it more than compensates with its reliability and usability. In fact, this Lotus makes a great alternative to that original Elan clone, the Mazda MX-5, as well as a Spitfire for the same price. Front-wheel drive and technically advanced as you’d expect from a Lotus, it’s a GTi sports car with a unique character that’s so different to the original. The 165bhp turbo SE is the one to have; only a handful of normally aspirated ones were produced and most avoid them like the plague but you can turn this to your advantage if you don’t need Turbo pace!
True modern Healey?
You can argue that if the TR7 had stayed in production longer and the TR8 had been properly launched (only a handful of UK models were sold), then this Triumph would be looked upon as the ‘new’ Healey rather than that 70’s mix and match we feature elsewhere this month. This last-of-the-line TRs were always designed with the evergreen Rover V8 in mind. Converted TR7-V8s are plentiful and bargain value buys so long as the conversion was done well (kits are available, incidentally try Rimmer Bros,). American TR8s can be sought and bought but engines are detuned and the chassis settings softened – shades of MGB… Watch values soar for a good original TR8 over the next few years.
Overlooked sports classic
Launched during the height of the hot hatch era, this mid-engined Toyota sports car, that’s as easy to own and maintain as a Corolla (and is equally as reliable), still struggles to become a classic. A sort of upmarket Fiat X1/9 but made far better, all three generations are as user-friendly and as enjoyable as any MX-5 yet not half as popular. The Mk1 and Mk2s suffer from severe rust while the bargain Porsche Boxster lookalike Mk3 (with its non existent luggage space pictured) can have serious engine issues. Nevertheless, a cheap-as-chips sports car that deserves to become a classic one day – get one now while they’re cheap!
986 has that 911 feel
Boxster was a bang-up-to-date mid-engined roadster that has the feel of a classic 911 and teamed with the usability of a Volkswagen Golf. Lots to choose from and all drive great, even the base 204bhp 2.5-litre model which some say lacks power – just try one and you may beg to differ, although having said that, the 252bhp S is a much more satisfying drive. As early cars are over 20 years old prices have fallen below £4000 but they are expensive to repair and are a positive nightmare for kerbside repairing, so buy yours wisely rather than cheaply.
Modern miniature Hairy Healey?
With its classical long flowing bonnet, short tail, and a lusty big six up front, there’s a distinct touch of that classic Austin about the German although it’s a world away to drive. Available in a variety of four and six-cylinder engines, mated to either manual and automatic transmissions, there’s a Z3 to suit all pockets and driving styles; our personal pick is the 2.2 ‘four’ for ease of running, and the swift and smooth 2.8 ‘six’ which generates a healthy 192bhp. While the Z3’s handling was always criticised, due to its quirky rear suspension, unusual for a BMW, all are as easy as a 3 Series saloon to run and maintain and just as smooth and civilised on the move.
Such a scream
If you’re after a modern classic sports car take a long hard look at the Honda S2000, a 9000rpm screamer that can be likened to a grown up, faster and more cultured Mazda MX-5. It was launched in 1999 with a chassis upgrade and 17inch for 2004 plus a further chassis rework for 2008, a year before its sad demise. That sweet high revving 237bhp 2-litre engine is a gem and truly fast but, equally, the rear-wheel handling can be twitchy – a modern hairy Healey, anyone? Superbly built (although watch for overheating, engine light illuminating and stiff clutches) prices for a 2004 car start from around £7000 although this Honda has been tipped as a fast-rising modern classic, especially the run out Grand Prix white-coloured models and five figures are becoming common.
In simple terms, the Caravelle was a sports car based upon Renault’s Dauphine – and you can’t get much simpler than that! Rear-engined with a crude VW Beetlestyle rear suspension, the handling can be hairy and just about contains the standard 54bhp from its hardly snarling 1108cc engine. That’s the ‘fun’ part because while performance is so sedate, what the Renault lacks in go it compensates in show and they are pure class in both coupé and convertible forms. Around £6000 buys a top example, half this for a decent one – the hardest part is trying to persuade happy owners to part with them.
VW Karmann Ghia
Cut price Porsche 356?
As with the Renault, Volkswagen added fun to the Beetle and a decade before the Beach Buggy came along with its Karmann-built, Ghia-styled Coupé and Convertible. Like the Caravelle featured (left), none perform as good as they look or fast or rewarding to drive in standard tune, but that’s not really the point with these cool Karmanns, which are as easy to own and maintain as a Beetle. At well over five figures for a top car, they aren’t cheap anymore – only if you view one as a cut-price Porsche 356, that is. Then they are!
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