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What the heck was that?

Out of the ordinary Classics Published: 17th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What the heck was that?
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What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?
What the heck was that?

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Fed up with the usual classics and want something both cheap and different to drive around in and display at shows with a smile? Chris Rees explains the rationale behind this a typical 20

VW Scirocco

Everyone gives the VW Golf GTI MkI respect for being an absolute icon for being the pioneering hot hatch, so coolly understated to look at and yet huge fun to drive. The Scirocco hatchback coupe hardly gets a look in, yet it was developed alongside the Golf MkI and arrived in the same year (1974). It shared its platform, suspension and power train – including the GTI’s 110bhp 1588cc engine (when badged GLI, GTI or Storm). No right-hand drive in this form until 1979 and then it was only soldfor two years. It’s even better to drive than a Golf GTI, looks super and is a real rarity – mainly because most of
them rusted away long ago.

What to pay - £800-£3000

Lancia Beta

Fiat took control of Lancia in 1970 and the Beta was the first result of the new regime, launched in 1972. Fiat donated its wonderful twincam engines but also its production values, which means that the Beta saloon was rusty and crusty before it even hit the showroom. If the owner was sensible enoughto Ziebart it from new, you might still find one alive. They’re worth chasing because the Beta is a superior drive: sharp front-drive handling, plush interiors and trim (especially the top ES) and decent pace (in the case of the 1800 and 2000 models). Sexier derivatives like the Beta Coupe and Beta Spider get all the attention but the saloon was the classy original – and it’s very cheap to buy; if you can find a good one without holes.
What to pay - £400-£2000

Vauxhall Firenza

Vauxhall’s Escort rival, the Viva, has its own loyal band of followers. It may not be the sexiest or coolest car on the planet but it’s okay and they handled well thanks to a half decent suspension. In 1971, one year after the boxier Viva HC was launched, Vauxhall made its firstever coupe Viva derivative, called Firenza. This was a real ’tacheand- sideburns sort of a car and an interesting alternative to a Capri but not half as popular. Early cars had 1200, 1600 or 2000 engines, later 1972 ones gained 1300, 1800 and 2300 units. Renamed and upgraded as theMagnum in 1973 but still pretty unpopular. Cars worth going for include the rare side-striped 2.3 Sport SL and the wonderful highly tuned five-speed Droop-Snoot Firenza, although prices are starting to rise fast on the latter. Rust was the biggest killer of these cars along with apathy – a shame because now they make interesting sights at car shows.
What to pay - £2500-£6000

Gilbern Invader

Llantwit Major was, for a time, the Maranello of Wales, producing high-quality, upmarket sports cars. The Gilbern Invader, made from 1969 to 1974, was the ultimate expression of the marque. Like the Reliant Scimitar GTE it was a bit of a hotch-potch of parts but it all worked extremely well. Early cars used MGB suspension, later ones Ford Cortina for better handling. Strong performance from the lusty, trusty 3-litre Ford V6 engine (0-60 in 7.2 seconds) and the fourseater interior was quite plush for its day. Glassfibre bodywork, so no rust and you can even find Invader as anestate as well as a coupe.
What to pay - £600-£5000

DAF 55/66 Marathon

Like the rotary engine, continuously variable transmission was championed by just one dogged carmaker for decades. Dutch oddball Dafwas known in its own country as a supplier of cars to nurses because its single-speed rubber band transmission was so easy to use. Bizarrely, Daf went all sporty after it finished 17th in the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon and it launched a new version called the Marathon in honour. This boasted a tuned Renault 10 unit, alloys and uprated suspension. Hardly the last word in excitement but its point-and-go character is actually a lot of fun. And the Michelottistyled bodywork still looks quite attractive, especially the coupes. Later 66 even featured a Rover 2000 style rear suspension.
What to pay - £300-£1800

Rover 800 Coupe

Mention the words ‘Rover 800’ to most enthusiasts and you’ll get a furrowed brow. Yes, it was a soggy saloon or hatchback with major build and reliability problems. But it is also amazingly good value and huge inside. And then there was the 800 Coupe. I remember going to Italy when the Coupe was launched (1992) and the Italians swooning over how beautiful it was. It was also a haven of good old British burr walnut and leather inside. On the other hand, it didn’t handle, was hellishly expensive and was just as shoddily made as the other 800s. Nowadays, it has rarity value on its side and is great value. Most are 2.7- litre autos (2.5 litres from 1996). Avoid the 134bhp 2.0 Sterling but the 197bhp 820 Vitesse is the quickest and is well loaded with equipment.
What to pay - £800-£4500

Renault Fuego

When was the last time you saw a Renault Fuego on the road? In the dim and distant, I’ll wager. This was a rather half-hearted attempt to make a coupe based on the front-drive Renault 18 platform, itself not noted for its excitement factor. The French Capri’s main claims to fame were its wacky sculpted front seats and wraparound rear window (which cost hundreds to replace if it was smashed). Handling was respectable and ride quality Renault soft but Renault did redeem itself with the 1.6-litre Turbo version. This boasts 125bhp and loads of urge once the oldschool turbocharger spools up to speed, which takes half a century, so it’s fun in the wet.
What to pay - £200-£1000

Saab Sonett

With Saab’s rally credentials, it seemed only natural that the Swedish manufacturer of oddball two-stroke saloons should also make a sporty coupe at some point. The Sonett was based on the Saab 96 GT850 platform and had front disc brakes and a column gearchange. Apart from some very early two-strokes, most had 65-75bhp Ford Corsair V4 engines. Post-1970 ones lost the charismatic wraparound rear window in the restyled Sonett III version. The Sonett was never sold in the UK: most went to the USA, from where a steady trickle of left-hand drive examples has been imported here over the years. A rare delicacy indeed.
What to pay - £2500-£7500

Hillman Avenger GT/GLS/Tiger

Chrysler-owned Hillman launched the dull-but-worthy Avenger in 1970 and it pootled along being moderately popular for more than a decade. Everyone would have forgotten it by now, were it not for three rather special versions. The GT got a 78bhp twin-carb 1500cc engine, front disc brakes and stiff suspension (even a vinyl roof in late two-door guise or plush GLS guises!). The one to have, though, is the Tiger made between 1972 and 1973. Based on the GT, it added a bonnet bulge (on early cars), rear spoiler, alloy wheels and black stripes-and-decals to make it a sort of overlooked rival to the Lotus Cortina. And it often came in orange – very 1970s.
What to pay - £500-£2750

Ford Consul Classic/Capri

Fins, chrome and Z-back windows looked cool on Route 66 but perhaps not quite so cool on the M6. Ford gave it a try with the Consul Classic but it didn’t wash with the British public and it lasted just two years (1961-63). The Classic saloon was made in two and four-door forms but at least it gave birth to a historic badge – the Capri. Under the window line, the Capri was exactly the same as the saloon but above it, it sported a handsome coupe upper half. More a triumph of style over substance and less than 20,000 were made before the Cortina displaced it. The one to go for is the rare Capri GT with its 1500 engine that found its way into the Cortina.
What to pay - £800-£5000

Vauxhall Cresta/Viscount

The Cresta PC that ran from 1965 until 1972 was the nearest thing to a Yank tank made in the UK. If you wanted something plusher though, you’d opt for the even more expensive and exclusive Viscount with its vinyl roof, mesh grille, power steering, electric windows, leather trim and lots of wood finishing. Plus standard automatic slushbox. Underneath it was all old-school, with a Chevyderived wartime engine, but for all that the Viscount could offer Jaglike performance and comfort but for a fraction of the price. Only 7025 Viscounts were ever built and most rusted away long ago, so finding one is challenge to say the least. As for parts…
What to pay - £500-£2000

Morris Marina

As part of the British Leyland debacle that killed the car industry in the UK, the Marina has really suffered a terrible press. It was mediocre at best when launched in 1971; early ones had severe understeer problems; it was badly built and rusted away. But let’s consider the flipside for 2005. In coupe form it has a modicum of style; they’re incredibly cheap to buy and simple to run; and in MGB-engine TC form they’re actually quite quick and fun. A friend bought one because he wanted cheap oversteering grins and he’s still smiling.
What to pay - £300-£1500

Austin Allegro

Probably the most infamous car ever made in Britain, the Allegro has come to symbolise everything that was wrong with the British car industry. It looked dumpy, was soggy to drive, very badly built and reputedly more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards. And it had a square steering wheel, for God’s sake! Its reputation is so ignominious that there is now a cult following for it and an Allegro Club International. The ones club members kill for include the twin-carb 1750, the stripydecalled 1750 Equipe and a onelady- owner-from-new Vanden Plas 1500 in Russet Brown. Nice!
What to pay - £100-£1400

Ford Zodiac MkIV

Cumbersomely wide and with a bonnet that could double up as an aircraft carrier, Ford’s 1966-72 full-size Zephyr and Zodiac had a definite transatlantic feel to them. Ford made the same body shape as the Zephyr (Transit V4 2-litre four or 2.5-litre V6) and with a 3.0-litre V6 as the Zodiac and Executive (the latter with lots of standard goodies including sunroof and power steering). While old Zodiacs have a strong following centred around a rockand- roll lifestyle, the MkIV is a bit too Mantovani for true classic status. Still, at least that makes it great value to buy. Just watch out for tin worm. And gross oversteer
What to pay - £700-£2750

Toyota Celica MK1

Toyota launched a legend with its Celica in 1970. Based on the Carina saloon, it had a great shape, decent 1600 and 2000 engines and loads of equipment. The early notchback body style was later joined by a Liftback version, which took its inspiration from the Ford Mustang would you believe. The 130bhp 2000GT version is the best one but all early Celicas are worth a look. Mechanically it’s as tough as they come and there is good support from the Toyota Enthusiasts Club; the Mk1 has a strong following now. On the downside, it rusts just about everywhere and wings are now all butimpossible to find.
What to pay - £700-£3750


MG Maestro/Montego

Austin’s Maestro was, at best, a bit of a lemon. Yet its appeal as a budget classic has been rescued by the MG-badged Maestro hatchback and its sister four-door saloon, the Montego. Launched in 1984 (with the ridiculous option of a talking digital dash), it had a useful 115bhp 2.0 fuel-injected engine but the star shining out of the void was the wicked 150bhp Turbo. The Montego Turbo lasted from 1985 until 1991, while the Maestro version, with its Tickforddesigned bodykit, did not arrive until 1989. Both were shatteringly quick, plush and decent handlers if you ignored the chronic torquesteer. They also fell apart a lot but if you’re looking for eighties ‘character’, even Duran Duran doesn’t ooze as much.
What to pay - £200-£1250

CItroen GS

Just as the DS was light-years ahead of the crowd in the fifties, so the GS was radically advanced for 1970. Here was a car in the Escort class that was ultra-aerodynamic, boasted a magic carpet ride and a futuristic interior. Its tiny 1015cc flat-four engine powered it to a 92mph top speed but the engine was its Achilles’ heel, having weak camshafts (rust was a big issue too by the way). X3 is the sporty one with a 1299cc engine. Although highly regarded in its day (it was Car of the Year) and a big seller (almost 2.5 m), the GS has all but disappeared, making it a rare and delightful delicacy today.
What to pay - £400-£1500

Alfa Romeo Six

All the ingredients were in place to make Alfa’s bold Six of 1979 a great car but in practice it was wrong in too many departments. Its boxy styling looked anonymous, its dynamics were very un Alfa cumbersome and build quality was a serious let-down. But its saving grace was its engine: the first use of the glorious 2.5-litre V6 (later to power the GTV6), although it was mated to a soggy auto gearbox. Alfa struggled to sell just over 12,000 examples in eight years, which makes the Six extremely rare. You’ll have to be brave – or silly – to own one.
What to pay - £600-£2000

Austin 1800/2200

Alec Issigonis’ front-wheel drive formula applied every bit as much to a large car as the Mini or 1100. The Austin 1800 ‘Landcrab’ was the logical extension of his ideal and it was pretty advanced for its day, with Hydrolastic suspension.A detuned MGB engine was sluggish but the 1800S twin-carb is better, or the Australian-bred in-line six 2200 model offered from 1972. Badge-engineered derivatives included the Wolseley Six and Morris 1800/2200. It was sturdy, spacious and dependable to be sure but, on the other hand, had a plain cabin, naff gearchange, poor driving position and heavy steering. They’re cheap and practical classics in today’s market as are the stylish 18/22 and Princess replacements.
What to pay - £400-£1500

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