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Various American

Various American Published: 3rd Aug 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Various American
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US classics that show you don’t have to compromise on style or fun – yet needn’t cost the earth either

American cars – stylish, sometimes garish, but usually inventive, well built and a little unusual. Some buyers seem put off by left hand drive but how often do you really need to overtake on our busy roads? Yes a V8 engine will be thirsty, but no worse than many performance cars plus the modern engines are surprisingly fuel-efficient – especially if kept in tune.

As for size, many new 4x4s and vans will equal or even dwarf the dimensions of many classic American vehicles.

Most Americans were offered as an automatic and came with the option of large engines to suit along with power steering and brakes. Find a car so equipped and driving it will be relaxing and pleasurable. As a legacy of having to sell cars that would run equally well across California in summer and Canada in winter pre 1990’s vehicles are usually mechanically simple; easy to fix with a basic tool kit.

Popular models by Ford and Chevrolet are still well catered for both here and in the US and many parts – especially mechanical bits for engines and gearboxes – were used for decades across a number of different models, so millions were mass-produced and remain available off the shelf.


Pickup trucks are always useful and it makes sense to have an old, classic one that’s road tax-free, has cheap insurance and is unlikely to lose you any money when and if you come to sell it – although you will get pretty tired of friends asking you to help them move house and things!

Many thought the big-engined performance cars were dead by the late 1980s as fuel injection and turbo technology was producing astonishingly fast cars with small high-revving engines. Dodge decided to take a page from the history book and develop a monstrous sports car with one of the biggest engines ever put in a production car.


Few expected the Viper to succeed but it heralded a whole new era of simple, overly powerful cars that is still with us today. Thanks to the Viper we have 900 and even 1000bhp Bugattis, Corvettes, Porsches and Dodge are producing the 700bhp Challenger Hellcat – currently £52,000 in the UK. Who would believe that Chrysler would also find a market in the UK for a heavy, fairly thirsty and large saloon car in the 2000s? Even less so one powered by a Hemi V8 engine? Yet the Mercedes-based 300C saloon and estate is a common sight on UK roads and most owners seem happy with their cars that are often mistaken for Bentley Mulsannes!

It’s always helpful to have a bit of advice so we’d recommend speaking to any of the clubs that deal with the cars we’re looking at here and if you see an example on display at a show ask the owner about their experiences and who they recommend for sales and parts, the American car community in the UK is a friendly bunch and word of mouth does a lot for reputations.

Finally, if you are looking at a pre-1960 vehicle we highly recommend you put it in for an MOT test prior to buying – that £45 test fee may save you thousands in the long run.

Three Of A Kind

Slightly smaller than a Mustang it sired using many common parts, the Falcon came as straight-six or V8 with manual or automatic gearboxes. The 1964 and 1965 coupés are especially popular as historic racecars so the UK parts supply for panels and trim is not as poor as you might expect. A good size for the average UK garage, although still with room for six adults, the Falcon, and its slightly rarer Mercury Comet brother, sell for between £7000 and £12,000 for a nice example.

Convertibles will likely be a little higher, four door saloons will of course be priced lower. As ever beware of rust, especially in floors, the boot area, around the suspension mounts and the inner wings. The rear outer wings are made in two halves and join above the wheel – any cracks or bulges in this area suggests at best accident damage and at worst a weak chassis. Watch for examples that have been in the UK for decades and are chocked full of filler!
When a car gets adopted by police forces and taxi companies you know it must be strong and reliable. The full size, rear wheel drive Caprice was one of America’s most popular four-door cars. The 1980 Caprice was downsized to a ‘mere’ 2.2 tons, available as two- and four-door and as an estate with a range of straight-six or V6 and petrol or diesel V8 engine. Impala (1977 to 1985) was the luxury version of the Caprice.

These were some of the last traditional big cars that America made, huge soft seats and a gearstick on the steering column. The boxy shape was replaced by a more rounded, still boxy shape in 1991 when the fourth generation Caprice débuted, models up until 1992 had partially covered over rear wheels but the look wasn’t popular. Third gen saloons start from around £4000 rising to £6000 for really nice examples, the fourth generation cars (including the SS) go for about the same with a slight premium on the estate models – £5000 to £7000 should get you a cared for example.
If you want something modern but with a classical twist then you can’t go wrong with this pair of Chryslers who made these two non conformists in right-hand drive. The PT Cruiser is essentially an Al Capone-like saloon that’s based upon the Chrysler Neon saloon of the 1990s. Its retro look both inside and out was a hit while the 2-litre Neon engine provided decent performance and was supplemented by a better 2.4-litre option and a 2.2-litre diesel. Despite their outlandish gangster looks PT’s are pretty ordinary to drive but they are dirt cheap to buy – from £500 – albeit not to repair.

The Crossfire is an equally odd looking coupé that’s based upon the Mercedes SLK. Some say it spoiled the SLK with its odd styling, a cheap-looking interior full of hard plastics and a much harsher ride thanks to the massive tyres fitted. Having said all that, there’s now a real following in the UK for them. Cheap too with prices from as little as £3000.

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