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20 best buys

20 best buys Published: 11th Feb 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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For those after their first classic car, you can’t beat this diverse top twenty selection to suit all tastes, needs and budgets which starts from under £1000 if you shop around and haggle hard. There’s bound to be a classic that’s got your name on it!


Arguably the MGB and GT is the most commonsensical 60’s/70’s sports car classic to own due to fantastic availability, easy resales and brilliant spares supply. Not fast but still enjoyable and GT is a handy holdall. Chrome bumper models are most wanted but post 1974 rubber bumper versions are greatest value. Watch for structural rust in sills and inner wings which exceed car’s worth but mechanically they’re tough and easily repairable.

Triumph stag

One of the most popular and best supported classics, the Stag used to be known as ‘Snag’ due to its engine problems but that’s largely history now thanks to ongoing refinements although you still need to keep on top of the cooling system. A good Stag is a joy to drive with silky, if not speedy, V8 power and excellent touring capabilities plus is fairly frugal if you go for a manual with overdrive gearbox. Superb owners club and specialist network.

Morris minor

The Minor is major classic for those looking for low cost fun motoring which will leave its mark as many owners can’t live without one. Available in saloon, convertible (Tourer), estate (Traveller) plus van and pick-up guises. All are pleasing to drive with crisp handling. Performance is tardy but a good number have been uprated along with front disc brakes. Easy to own with great club support, rust is the worry as is rotten woodwork on Travellers.

Rolls silver shadow

You don’t need a lottery win to own or run what’s still regarded as the best car in the world – just a realistic budget and buying the best you can from the outset rather than going for price or spec. Complex but there’s an army of specialists (such as parts supplier IntroCar) who can keep bills to reasonable levels and there’s also Rolls’ breakers for used parts. The Shadow will give you a feel-good factor second to none but 1977 Shadow II drives much nicer than earlier mounts.

Mazda MX-5

Even after 30 years the MX-5 is as popular as ever and for those after a modern classic sports car little can better this Mazda because not only can dealers supply parts but there’s a strong specialist back up – small wonder the MX-5 is being hailed as the ‘new MGB’. With it’s Lotus Elan looks the Mk1 is the most wanted but the Mk2 is the better all rounder with the Mk3 the most palatial. MX-5s are dead reliable but they can rust badly. Grey Imports are worth considering.

Citroën 2CV & Dyane

You don’t need to be an eco warrior to see the sense in 2CVs, the ‘Tin Snail’. Frugal yet fun, life in the slow lane is something to savour as is the car’s sheer practicality. The 602cc air-cooled engine is a snail alright but cruises in comfort once up to speed. Simpler than a push-bike, but have their quirks and rust like mad. Specialists are plentiful and you can have a ‘new 2CV’ built to order if you wish for around £10K. Don’t over look the larger, more palatial yet cheaper Dyane.

Mercedes-benz R107

One of the best Benzes ever and it’s a prestige car you can buy and run with few worries if you buy a good SL. Made from a time when Mercs were carved from granite, they are hard to wear out although rust can be rampant (especially the bulkheads) and extremely costly to rectify. The V8s are most preferred but the 280SL ‘six’ is fine if all you wish to do is cruise. Superb parts supply even includes main dealers but specialists can keep cost down to more containable levels.

Jaguar MK2 & S-type

One of the most desired classic saloons, the Mk2 is worth buying on its looks and interior alone. They drive well too for a 1950’s design although are heavy beasts. The 3.8 is the one they all want making them the most expensive but if all you want is Mk2, look to better value 2.4 and the post ’67 240/340 offshoots although the real bargains are the larger S-Type and particularly the 420/Sovereign. Rust, bodges, tired trim and worn engines will easily drain the budgets.

MG midget & A-H sprite

Pure simplistic fun not unlike a Caterham 7, that’s this pair of small sportsters that sell for buttons – but it won’t stay this way for long. The ‘Spridget’ is even sportier to drive than an MGB with far crisper handling although the ride and refinement suffers. Midgets are more plentiful, Austin-Healey Sprites more exclusive yet prices are similar. Like the MGB, rubber bumper (1500) models are the real bargains. Rust and poor past body repairs are the chief worries.

Triumph spitfire

Killed off 40 years ago, the Spitfire is still one of the cheapest and prettiest sports cars. Nippy and has option of overdrive to aid touring, the Triumph is much more civilised than rival Midget although its handling needs a watch if you’re used to moderns. Mk3 is the best but later ‘1500’ most affordable and best suited for today’s roads. Front hinged bonnet allows magnificent accessibility for DIY servicing. Chassis rust badly but all is repairable or renewable.

Mini and derivatives

A four-seater go-kart, the way a Mini zips along still amazes 60 years on. Coopers and especially Cooper Ss are likely to be beyond many budgets unlike the later 1990 Rover-badged ones which pack 1275cc poke, fuel injection and after 1996, a welcome lift in refinement. Mini offshoots include posher Elf and Hornet saloons, Traveller estates and vans and pick-ups. No problems running any Mini but their condition always demands careful inspection.

Bentley mulsanne

Successor to the Shadow/Bentley T the Rolls Silver Spirit and sportier Bentley Mulsanne are far superior cars although the build quality isn’t so renowned. Bentley Turbos are wonderfully rapid saloons in the mould of an Aston but its likely that the sedate Rollers have been better looked after. Can be amazing value but beware of bargains that aren’t and, like the Shadow mentioned elsewhere, needs a service history that has had its hydraulics maintained properly.

RWD fords

We’re grouping Cortinas, Capris, Sierras and Escorts as one because the designs are so similar. A boy racer’s delight and super simple to maintain at home (Burton Power can help with all the oily bits) but values wildly vary, more so for RS Escorts and go faster models. The appeal of rear-wheel drive Fords lie in their old school handling and tuning potential although some models are best left as standard and beware of fake sporting Escorts and Capris.


Both broadly based upon Fiat’s FWD Tipo, the GTV and its GT replacement have the essential Alfa character at knockdown prices. Engines are a spread of Twin Spark four pots or glorious V6s which go and sound like a Ferrari. Retro interiors are to die for and, thanks to galvanised bodies, rust isn’t the worry Italian cars are. Decide what model you want first as GTV is only one with Spider option. Ensure you get the master ignition key on all…


Is there a better bargain serious sports car than the MGF? More thoroughbred than a Mazda MX-5 thanks to its mid-engined layout, a good, well fettled MGF is deep joy to drive with fast Rover K-Series engines, superb handling and a compliant ride; the later TF, which with its conventional chassis, suffers in the latter respect. All are stonking value with even turn key refurb dealer ones rarely busting £9000. Watch for Rust, K-Series woes, neglect and spares scarcity.

VW beetle & Campers

More a cult than a mere car, Beetles and the Camper offshoot are a way of life. Always fashionable, there’s A1 spares support from both sides of the pond. Beetles were made up to 2003, Campers even later so there’s no shortage of choice although T2 Campers and ‘Oval window’ Beetles can cost mega bucks as do the Karmann Ghia offshoots. Dead easy to maintain all of them and insurance friendly for engine upgrades, it’s a case of pick your Vee Dub and enjoy!

BMW 3 Series (E46)

This ’90’s range of saloons, Touring estates, coupés and convertibles are hugely popular care of their name, dynamics, availability and strong value for money. All are good but the six-cylinder versions hold the most sway as it’s such a brilliant engine. With so many around you can afford to be choosy as most have been put through the wringer and few are left in a standard state or have been kept like a BMW should be. Provenance is everything if you want a good classic.

Jaguar XK8

E-types may be flights of fancy but the XK8 makes a great affordable alternative. It looks like the classic cat and, being 1990’s design, certainly drives better with searing V8 power that’s supercar quick in supercharged XKR form and a car that’s superior to the similar DB7. Based upon the XJ-S chassis, the XK8 isn’t dear to keep sweet although they don’t wear as well as a Mercedes and specialists advise buying later 4.2s, even then many are sadly messy.

Porsche 924/944/968

A Porsche as your first classic? Yes, it’s feasible. You can go the Boxster route if you want a sports car but the front-engined coupés and cabrios offer similar performance with pragmatism and all have excellent handling. The 924 was the runt of the litter yet now enjoy a fanbase of their own although the 944 is better developed with the 968 best of all yet it remains a bit of a marmite model. Some parts are Beetle 1302-derived so are easy supercars to maintain.

Triumph TR2-6

Rival to the MGB the TRs are a manlier range feeling rugged and rustic in the mould of a Morgan. TR6 is the cheapest of the strain and perhaps the best suited to most classic newcomers as they are the most plentiful, look the part and the six-pot engine goes well if the fuel injection is ok (there’s no need to have fears over this once infamous Lucas set up). Great spares and specialist/ club support, chassis rust, lack of PI care and gearboxes need a watch.

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