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12 50’s classic cars you wouldnt have thought of

Jolly good sports Published: 28th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

12 50’s classic cars you wouldnt have thought of
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If you’re after that 50’s feeling, here’s a dozen diverse drives that may well tempt you away from a Healey or XK and, in many cases, for a lot less cash

Daimler SP250

A case of books and covers

Broadly based upon a Triumph TR3, this dowdy looking Daimler was kind of yesterday’s sports car when it was launched at the tail end of the 1950s. Looking and feeling strangely old fashioned, the SP250’s face-saver remains its gem of a 2.5-litre V8 that provided XK150 pace but in a more velvety fashion. Always underdeveloped, but the later B and C-spec models cured most of the Dart’s major ills apart from those looks… But on the other hand, the SP250 has never been slave to changing trends and tastes.

MGA/Twin cam

Best of both worlds?

The MGA was the link between the raffish war-time MG sportsters and the brave new style fit for the 50s. Based upon the MG TF chassis but with mechanicals that were to be found later on the MGB, for many it represents the best of both worlds and is certainly more the all out sports car than its replacement. Ultimate MGA is the Twin Cam that, with almost 110bhp and (Jaguar-type) Dunlop disc brakes all round, is as fast as any Big Healey and that once fickle Weslake-designed engine is now a gem, albeit still a costly one to maintain and repair. With only a small bore (1489/1622cc) fourcylinder engine, the regular MGA is frisky rather than fast but, as we all know, this is easily rectified. TCs sell for double normal MGA values but will be worth the most in the future (£40K and rising already) yet a good normal MGA is just as much fun and the more usable.

Swallow Doretti

Top tr with a dash of extra style?

If the no nonsense style of the TR2 and TR3 doesn’t appeal to you but their driving delights do, then seek out a Swallow. Based upon the TR2, the Doretti is a bit more in tune with 1950’s style and so easier on the eye. A much more expensive and exclusive car than the TR when they were rivals (care of its alloy body and leather trimmed interior); £1102 against £956 for the TR3 back in 1955 resulted in only 250 made. Rarity should ensure higher prices, yet appear not significantly so but this will change in time. Repairs and restoration are naturally harder than on a TR, especially that specialist bodywork.

Triumph TR5/6

Heir apparent to the Healey?

Once, if late in the day, this TR gained the lusty Triumph six-cylinder engine, it instantly became the spiritual successor to the Big Healey if even fuel injection problems made them less trustworthy than the TR4 – many were duly converted to carbs, like the American spec models as a consequence. The TR6 is by far the more plentiful pick and so cheaper to buy although prices on all are fast heading North. If you’re after a traditional classic that’s pretty affordable and easy to own, few do it better than this Triumph or with such gusto.


Queen BS

Never the Healey successor it was intended to be, the lazy, big-engined MGC may have had a troubled upbringing but it’s now enjoying the respect and even admiration it would have had from the outset if only the MG had not been blighted by incorrect tyre pressures at its launch. While still not regarded as the ‘new’ Healey – and unlikely to be – the MGC is a great, easy going tourer (surprisingly good in automatic form) and considerably less expensive to buy and run than its predecessor. Even cheaper, strangely, is the MG enthusiasts always cried out for – the Rover V8-engined MGB, albeit in GT form only that, in its day was regarded as a down-sized Aston and yet as easy to own as a worker B. Costello conversions, which were the inspiration of this big-engined B, hold the most value because of their bespoke builds and rarity.

Jensen 541 & CV-8

Spendthrift supercars

With its big, meaty 4-litre Austin engine, and shared components with the A-H, you can view the four-seater 541 as a Healey for all the household that’s also a brilliant GT thanks to its lanky gearing and plush interior although what a shame that convertibles were never officially made. Meat in the 541 and Interceptor sandwich is the CV-8 which is a bit of both, having the style of the earlier Jensen (as well as a GRP body) and the substance of the Interceptor. For many, this sounds the ideal mix but both performance and character is totally different to the 541 with that meaty 305bhp Chrysler V8 up front where the lazy Austin used to reside. Prices are appreciably more than the 541 but all are still good bargains given their cut-price supercar credentials and DB2-like classiness.


A class apart

A quality British specialist that died in 1967 after its Rover take over, Alvis was an Aston rival in its day yet its TD-TF cars, dating from the mid 1950s, can be bought for the price of a TR5/6. Bentley-like in style, by Swiss Graber, these are smart and swift coupés and dropheads packed up to 150bhp in TF21 guise plus sported front disc brakes – with discs all round for 1963 – along with five-speed transmissions. Remarkable value all things considering and not difficult to own either – speak to Red Triangle, the experts on Alvis models who is now making bespoke recreations to order.

TVR S & Chimaera

Blackpool rocks

If ever there was a modern Big Healey alternative then it has to be the Chimaera, a good value old school super car that’s thrilling to drive yet usable and easy to own with good specialist support. With tuned Rover V8s ranging from 4-litre to 5-litres Chimaeras can be shatteringly fast and, shorn of modern driver aids, serve up thrills by the score. TVR S is as rewarding, and even cheaper, plus sports more classical looks care of the body being a revised M shell based on an older Tasmin platform.


Modernised MGB with the most

Perhaps this MG is the true replacement to the Big Healey even though it came three decades too late? Using the logical lusty Rover V8 albeit tuned (by TVR) to almost 200bhp slotted into a revamped and more racey-looking BMH Roadster bodyshell, the MGR was the V8-powered MGB it should have been back in the ’70s. Cheapskate damping apart, the RV8 is the finest driving MGB of them all and yet this modern classic also makes a good, civilised tourer thanks to the traditional yet modernised wood and leather cockpit. Best of all, prices sit only slightly above normal MGB values but this will change we feel so buy now if this modern antique appeals.


Timewarp motoring personified

Could hardly leave out this timeworn classic, could we? But as magnificent as these Malvern marvels are, their ride and comfort level makes a Healey feel like an XJ-S. If you’re up for it, Morgans are a pleasure to drive or travel in because of their unique robust, rustic character. Plus8s will always be the most regarded yet the four-cylinder versions offer just as much fun and don’t dismiss the V6 underrated Jag-powered Roadster which we reckon is just as good as a Plus 8 plus provide the sort of modern touches many enthusiasts – even hard core Morgan types – will appreciate. DIY isn’t as easy as their vintage make up automatically suggests.

Triumph TR7-V8 & TR8

Pieces of eight is a real treasure trove

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 the TVR Chimaera and the MGR V8 may have never materialised because this Triumph would have done the job better by far. Those odd fixedhead looks were transformed once the roof was cut off plus this TR was always designed with that evergreen Rover V8 in mind. Converted TR7-V8s are plentiful and make great value buys, just so long as the conversion was done well. US TR8s are around but the engine is detuned and the car’s chassis settings sadly softened, but all can be converted.


The choice of real gentlemen

Eccentric – just like so many owners – Bristols make great but overlooked sporting classic carriages with a touch of style and dignity. They can be as potent and hairy-chested as an Aston and are as crafted as any Rolls-Royce – yet can be bought for the price of a top notch TR6 or decent Big Healey. Some aficionados reckon that the 400 is slightly better to drive than the 401, with its sweeter handling. People either love the 401-403’s slippery styling, while the 404 and 405 are lithe, attractive things boasting features like overdrive and front disc brakes to make these cars amazingly usable on today’s roads. From the 407 onwards American V8s were used; final series 411s are the most wanted V8s due to their Aston-like pace. The 1976-launched 603, which replaced the 411, looks strange to modern eyes but unlikely to go for much over £25,000. Compared to its rivals, a bargain!

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