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Moderns to Mothballs Published: 26th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Modern Classic Guides
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Chris Rees reckons there’s a whole new breed of classics on the horizon and now’s a great time to get in on the act

What makes a classic ‘classic’? That’s a hard one to answer – and sometimes it’s only clear in retrospect why a car becomes collectable. That makes predicting what will become a classic a very dangerous game indeed. What is faddish at the moment is no guarantee of how popular it will be in 10 or 20 years’ time. How history judges a car is something that no crystal ball can really see. So guess what? That’s exactly what we’re going to try and do! Using our skill and judgement (w e hope- ed), we’ve come up with 20 fine moderns that we think are goingto be classics in the future. If we’re right, these are cars represent a win-win situation. Apart from being good cars in their own right and a pleasure to own and drivetoday, they make strong investments. Some of these will not lose value over time while others could even gain. When you’re spending money on any second-hand car that’s got to be a good thing. And talking of prices – the general motor trade says they are “on the floor’ right now thanks to savage depreciation which has seen many perfectly good cars virtually worthless in the real world.Why else consider a modern classic? Simple: Ease of running. Cars these days are so much better built than they were even 15 years ago, which in turn are in a diff e re n t class to what they were 30-40 years beforehand. They really don’t b reak down like they used to do any more and if there is a pro b l e m , parts (be it aftermarket, main dealer or even from the breakers) are easily obtainable. Perhaps the real clincher is the p roblem of rust – or lack of it. Because most moderns are well p rotected against rot, a good one s h o u l d n ’t re q u i re an expensive restoration for a good many years to come – perhaps never if you look after it properly. And don’t you just miss thosevirtual essentials these days such as electric windows, central locking and power steering? Moderns ca keep pace with today’s traffic better where that five-speed gearboxbecomes a godsend. So if old classics do little for you, yet you want something that bit diff e rent, here are 30 nominations for cars that history will judge to have greatness stamped all over them.


Few marques attract such a loyal following as MG – and that’s great news if you want to mothball an MGF or MG TF. People will still be driving these cars in 10 or 20 years time and still keeping prices high.The earliest Fs are now extraordinary value for money, starting at just £3500. But they will need m o re spending on them as time goes by so get a good one. TF is a better a l l - round car, offering superior handling (but a harder ride), more powerful engines and plusher trim, while reliability is much superior, too. If the MG brand sadly disappears then all cars will become more collectable.
What to pay £3500-£15,000

Ford Sierra Cosworth

B e f o re the Subaru Impreza Turbo came along, the Sierra Cosworth was the natural home of the turbo nutter. It offered stunning pace from its turbocharged 204bhp 2.0-litre Cosworth engine and its rear-drive chassis was, shall we say, thrilling and chilling. Most collector interest surrounds the three-door (1985-86), which is rarer and more desirable than the later (1988-92) fourdoor Sapphire Cosworth, even with four-wheel drive from 1990 on. Most examples have been modified and/or thrashed and crashed, so finding an unmolested example and keeping it that way is the key to top future value. Mind you, enthusiasts know this and prices can get very steep for what is basically a 20-year old Ford Sierra.
What to pay £2500-£12,000


The early squareshape E30 BMW M3 has well and truly been discove red and is now capable of commanding five- figure sums. The later E36 M3 is much more plentiful and can now be bought for fairly bargain prices. But enthusiasts tend to shun the uninvolving E36, which means you should save more pennies and go for an early example of the current-shape M3, which re- established BMW’s A1 credentials. An early (2000) one could cost as little as £24,000 but it needs to be as high-spec as possible to keep its residuals up. Make it a manual transmission one rather than the SMG F1-style paddle-shift for reliability’s sake and a coupe rather than a convertible.
What to pay £24,00-£48,000

Jaguar XKR

The XKR is the dashing steed of Jaguar’s stable and guaranteed to become a future classic thanks to lithe looks, great spec and sledgehammer performance.Launched in 1998, it has a 370bhp V8 engine (later boosted to 400bhp), but you should treat it more as a grand tourer than a sports car;the handling and steering are safe rather than sporty (unless you find one with the more exciting SVO suspension package). The XKR can be boughtsurprisingly cheaply but there aren’t many around. Running costs are pretty steep but better than many other cars with this performance potential.
What to pay £19,000-£45,000

Mini Cooper S

The new Mini is that very rare thing – a small, mainstream car that people actually fall over themselves to buy. The reasons are obvious: it looks cool, goes like a roller-skate and wears the right badge. Used values have been spectacularly robust, but can’t last forever. The one Mini that will keep its value when the bubble bursts is the Cooper S, with its 170bhp supercharged engineand super- sharp suspension – and especially the newly-launched convertible. Find a well-specced one with loads of options – most of them are fullyloadedin fact – but don’t pay over the odds for the privilege. Works tuned packages are great.
What to pay £13,000-£20,000

Porsche Boxster

Buyers of Boxsters have been pleasantly rewarded with used values that are higher than virtually any other car on the market. The reason? This 911 a l t e rnative is just such a desirable package. It’s not just about the badge – this is a real Porsche, too. The Boxster backs it up with peerless build quality, strong performance and one of the finesthandling chassis of its day. Prices are starting to ease a bit now, so you can find an early one quite affordably. It absolutely must have a full Porsche history and needs to be in immaculate condition if you’re to stand any chance of selling it on.
What to pay £15,000-£30,000

Mazda MX5

Can you believe it, the first MX-5 was launched 16 years ago? Now the world’s best-selling roadster ever, it is probably your best bet for a twoseater sports that you can live with, have fun with and then sell on with little loss. It’s dead reliable, well made, in big demand and easily the besthandling car you can buy for anything like this sort of dosh. While you can now find early cars for peanuts, spend a little more on a good ’un – we’d suggest a minimum of £4000 – and then look after it. The best one is undoubtedly the new shape fixed-lamp car in 1.8 Sport trim with its six-speed gearbox but early cars have more character.
What to pay £2500-£15,000

Toyota MR2

Japanese cars generally speaking don’t make great classic car buys, as they simply don’t have the cachet. The MR2 is diff e rent: indeed it already has a following. Unlike most other sports cars, the MR2 Mk1 has a very broad appeal based on a practical, comfortable layout, strong performance, superb handling and fine build quality. The Mk2 was bigger, heavier and less sharp to handle, although post-1992 ones are better in this respect. Ones to go for? A pristine, unmolested, low mileage Mk1 is an absolute banker at around £2000 but if you want to enjoy it too, get a late-model Mk2 GT – although watch for iffy grey imports even if they are turbocharged for real Ferrari-like pace.
What to pay £1,000-£8,000

Alfa Romeo GTV/Spider

Gran Turismo Veloce: the simple moniker for Alfa R o m e o ’s sports coupe says it all. The GTV and convertible Spider are neither cosy nor derivative, but a bold statement of Italian passion. The heart of any Alfa is its engine, and the pinnacle of the range is the glorious all-alloy quad cam V6 (which slots inabove the 150bhp Twin Spark 2.0-litre four- cylinder), whose V6 soundtrack would not feel out-of-place in a Ferrari. Values now are criminally low. It’s notall good news though: build quality is hardly topnotch and running costs for high milers can be frightening,especially with that wonderful V6 in place.
What to pay £4000-£20,000

Fiat Barchetta

Barchetta means ‘little boat’ in Italian and if ever t h e re was a pleasure boat, the little Fiat is it. It looks great and can now be found for bargainbasement money. Being based on the old-shape Punto means its running costs are low but then it also ensures it’s not in the MX-5 league forhandling. Left-hand drive only is off-putting for some drivers but it really shouldn’t be in a car as compact as this. Most of the examples you’ll findare early ones (1996-98) and many are beginning to look shabby and watch for the variable valve timing going wrong. Bold colours are best.
What to pay £4000-£10,000

Bentley Mulsanne Turbo/R

By the 1980s, Bentley was languishing as the b a d g e - e n g i n e e red shadow of Rolls-Royce. The 1982 Mulsanne Turbo was the car that started to turn things around thanks to that turbocharg e r under the bonnet – something not found in Rollers. Bentley called it “the return of the silent sports car"and that seems fitting. Despite weighing 2.5 tons, its 320bhp V8 launched it to 60mph in seven seconds. The Turbo R from 1985 has even better roadholding. It looks discreet, lasts well and is now amazingly cheap to buy, if not to run. They’re about as low cost as they’re going to get, so buy with confidence, enjoy and keep it for as long as you can.
What to pay £10,000-£35,000

Mercedes-Benz SLK

When Mercedes launched the SLK in 1996, it was a revelation: the first small Mercedes roadster and the first car for decades to have a folding electric h a rdtop. And it worked: the roof especially was jewellike. Huge waiting lists developed and the patina of ‘must-haveness’ has never really faded. Values have taken a pounding as more recent convertibles offer the same folding hardtop qualities for much less cash but the SLK remains a cast-iron guarantee for future demand, especially the powerful SLK32 AMG. Just close your eyes (metaphorically speaking) and ignorethe fact that it’s actually not very sporty to drive.
What to pay £11000-£30,000

TVR Chimaera

TVR has really cornered the market for good oldfashioned British sports cars. The Chimaera was the model that really cemented that position, offeringV8 rear-drive no-frills thrills for a bargain price. Thrills also means spills too, so watch out for accident damage (frequent). And as for reliability – TVR is synonymous with problems. The Chimaera is one of the better ones (they use the simple-to-maintain Rover-derived V8 engine of between 4.0 and 4.6 litres) but it still pays to find a low-mileage example in pristine condition, fully-serviced by a TVR dealer. Otherwise be prepared to get very friendly with your local RAC man – but enjoy the drive when you can.
What to pay £9000-£30,000

Honda NSX

If ever there was a Japanese company to make a supercar, Honda was it. And with the NSX, it came mighty close to Porsche and Ferrari standards. The recipe is intoxicating: a fab V6, mid-engined layout for peerless handling balance, delightfully sharp steering and scintillating speed. Yet it is super easy to drive too. The NSX makes a superb mothball buy because its values are depressed, yet it will always find a buyer due to the fact that it’s so much more practical to own than any other exotic. Avoid T-bars , autos and grey imports and only ever buywith a full Honda service history because the bills get very scary if things go wrong.
What to pay £15,000-£60,000

VW Corrado

The Corrado was the last coupe that VW ever made – and it was a cracker. A superb chassis and excellent build quality raised it head and shoulders over any other rival of the time (1989-96). Prices start at a very affordable level yet even the last ones are n ’t expensive. The one to go for is undoubtedly the VR6 model with its 2.8- litre 190bhp V6 engine launched in 1992 – and ideally one of the run-out Storm models for collector status in years to come, although the supercharged G60s are fun. Not only is the VR6 quick, it matches the full potential of the chassisand is still one of the sweetest-handlers made.
What to pay £1800-£8,500

Lotus Elise

With the Elise, Lotus re t u rned decisively to its roots. The original Chapman ideals of light weight and simplicity made the Elise a true Lotus and road testers and racers everywhere enthused about its fabulous handling and surprising performance from just 118bhp of Rover K Series engine. Because of its fragile build quality, used buyers are wary of the Elise – which means some spectacularly low prices right now. The early Elise is unlikely to fall much below its current levels. The Elise certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s noisy,difficult to get into, ultra-basic and doesn’t have much space for luggage. But if you’re someone who enjoys raw thrills, this true Seven replacementcould be the deal of the decade.
What to pay £7500-£25,000

Lotus Carlton

In this age of 200mph saloons it seems odd to look back at the storm of controversy surrounding the 175mph full chat of the Lotus Carlton at the time (1989). Lotus concocted a 3.6-litre straight-six engine with twin turbos that pumped out 355bhp and combined with a Chevy six-speed gearbox and wide-arch, bespoilered body. LCs remain one of very few depreciation- proof classics that is guaranteed to keep its value. Easy to tune for F1-like pace, but it’s better to buy an unmolested example. Also watch out for fakes. If you want a cheaper Carlton, buy one of the Opel-badged ones as sold on the continent. They’re left-hand drive but they’re significantly less expensive to buy. LC spares are both very expensive and becoming harder to find.
What to pay £9000-£25,000

Peugeot 205 Gti

It’s hard to underestimate the 205 GTI’s effect on the hot hatch market. When it arrived in 1984, it absolutely blew every rival away. Nothing to do with its 105bhp engine – although there was little wrong with that – but its central strengths were light weight and a chassis that seemed superhumanly agile if a tad too twitchy on the limit. Innately fragile (rear axles and rust are the worries), so hard-used examples are now virtually worthless – it’s better to spend as much as you can and get the best unmodified car you can find and cosset thereafter. It will almost certainly appreciate in value as in time. That’s what happens to icons – and the 205 GTI is one of the very best.
What to pay £500-£3500

Audi TT

The Audi brand’s strong, uniquely Germanic identity is summed up in the TT. Simple Bauhausinfluenced styling matches up with a highly technological feel, featuring Audi’s famed quattro four-wheel drive system. The turbocharged 1.8- engine has enough power to defy Porsche’sBoxster in 225bhp tune while the latest V6 is simply a blast. The TT has been a sales sensation for Audi and its combination of quality, speedand striking looks endear it to used buyers. Values remain very high and are likely to stay that way, for the TT does not seem to date. Don’t worry about age, always buy on condition and service history and you’ll not go far wrong. Left-hand drive imports look tempting with prices as low as £8500 but they won’t hold their value as much and some are only front-wheel drive…
What to pay £11,000-£25,000

Porsche 968 Club Sport

What started out unpromisingly as the 924 and then developed into the 944 reached its zenith in the 968 of 1992. The 968’s combination of 240bhp 3.0-litre four-cylinder power, six-speed gearbox and a superbly developed rear-wheel drive chassis made it a winner. The enthusiast’s choice is undoubtedly the Club Sport version sold between 1993 and 1995. A sort of 911 Carrera, this was a stripped-out special with no rear seats, electric windows and central locking, but did boast 17- inch alloys and racing seats. It went even faster, looked even better and retains its value better than other 944s or 968s. Finding a good one that h a s n ’t been thrashed around track days is a challenge but when you do, keep it sweet and unmolested. And watch its value soar.
What to pay £9000-£18,000

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