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14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop

14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop Published: 22nd Feb 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
14 Alternatives To A Classic Droptop
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Winter’s here which, traditionally, is the best time to buy a summer droptop at a bargain price! If a MX-5 or MGF don’t do it for you, perhaps these might…

Reliant scimitar & sabre

Future frog-eye?

Reliant’s Scimitar certainly turns heads – sadly mostly for the wrong reasons. Designed by Italian Michelotti, who penned so many attractive Triumphs, the SS1 looks very kit car like and a world away from Reliant’s famous GTE-shaped namesake. Yet underneath those quirky looks lurks a very competent proper old school sports car in the Spitfire/Midget mould yet is modern where it matters. Initially Escort Mk3-powered (1.4/1.6), the design came good when it was relaunched as the nicer looking Sabre (top) with nippy Nissan turbo power. Inexpensive fun and certainly individual could this cheapie be the next Frog-eye?

Lotus elan M100

Right idea, wrong name

Who would have thought that you could own a Lotus Elan for the price of an MGF l? But it’s possible. There’s a catch of course, and that’s because it is the overlooked 1990’s replacement Elan SE (or M100). Any car wearing an Elan badge has to be something special yet being front-wheel drive, the M100 feels more like a sportier GTi but without a tin lid. Yet what it lacks in classic status like the original, this Elan more than compensates with its reliability and usability – and who would have thought you could say this about an old Lotus? Prices start from £4000 but some parts are becoming scarce. The 165bhp turbo SE is the one to have; only a handful of normal aspirated ones were produced and most ‘experts’ avoid them like the plague meaning they can be dirt cheap yet are more than quick enough…


Famous names that never got on!

This was the car that Mr Healey himself designed to replace his hairy-chested 50’s classic. A mouthwatering cocktail of Jensen and Healey names, Jensen build and Lotus power, this was the 70s sportster that promised so much but sadly failed to deliver on nearly all counts, particularly reliability. Spares supply and club support remains suprisingly good mind, and values, while still MGF low, are expected to rise, so, with most of the bugs ironed out by specialists and owners, 2017 is the time to buy before values finally surge as those famous names finally start to get on with each other!

Lancia montecarlo


The car’s full title is Lancia Beta Montecarlo even though it shared only the engine and minor interior details with that right-on but rapid rusting saloon. Actually, the Monte was originally supposed to be called the Fiat X/20 and be big brother to the similar, prettier X/19. Not especially fast but the handling was always excellent – well, in the dry at least – but brakes were a major worry because the S1 cars were prone to locking the fronts all too easily. Lancia introduced the fully sorted S2 in 1980 and it’s the one to have although spares on all are a problem – naturally…

Honda S2000

The MX-5 for grown UPS
From £5500

If you’re after a modern traditional classic sports car, then take a good hard look at the Honda S2000, a 9000rpm screaming sportster that can be likened to a grown up and faster MX-5. Launched in 1999 (1997cc) with a chassis upgrade and 17inch for 2004, with a further chassis rework for 2008, this car is a real honey. That sweet high revving 237bhp engine is a gem and truly fast but equally the rear-wheel handling can be twitchy when giving it some – a modern hairy Healey in many ways? Superbly built (although watch for overheating, engine light illuminating and stiff clutches), prices for a 2004 car start from around £5500. Most desired are the special 100 run out versions (pictured) all in Grand Prix white – and it’s a racing cert you’ll be hooked after driving one.

Porsche boxster

How a classic 911 of 30 years ago used to be…
FROM £4000

Boxster was a bang up-to-date mid-engined roadster that made many of the established specialist sports cars, not least Lotus and TVR, redundant overnight in many enthusiasts’ minds, thanks to the Porker’s classic 911 feel and character teamed up with the usability, economy and dependability of a VW Golf! There’s no shortage to choose from and all drive really great – even the base 2.5 model pushing well over 200bhp which some ‘bar room experts’ believe lacks power – just try one and you may beg to differ! Early cars are now 20 years old and prices have fallen to highly tempting levels but Boxsters are as expensive to repair as 911s and unlike them are a positive nightmare for DIY kerbside maintenance, so buy with care.

Triumph TR7

Lucky seven



Many say that the TR7 was more a replacement for the touring GT6 rather than the real sports TRs, and this civilised sportster couldn’t be any more different from the rough and ready TR4. But iffy image aside, this much misunderstood Triumph has many merits rarely found in a TR, chiefly a great cockpit, comfort and refinement, secure handling, fair pace with economy – and good looks, albeit only the latter in droptop form, all for the price of a MGF…


A miniature Big Healey?

If the MX-5 is a modern Elan, is the BMW Z3 a scaled-down Big Healey? With its classical long flowing bonnet, short tail, and a lusty big six up front, there’s a distinct touch of that British Austin about the German. Available in a variety of four and six-cylinder engines. mated to either manual and automatic transmissions, there’s a Z3 to suit all pockets; our personal pick includes the 2.2 ‘four’ and the swift and smooth 2.8 ‘six’ which generates a healthy 192bhp – enough to beat any Healey or TR6 although the handling was reguarly criticised due to its quirky rear suspension layout; unusual for a modern BMW. Apart from this, all are as easy and economical as a 3 Series to run and maintain and just as smooth and civilised. Z3s remain still strangely overlooked yet deserve more appreciation than they are currently receiving and as a result make great modern classic bargains.

Toyota MR2

Still not a coveted classic!

Time hasn’t been kind to the brilliant Toyota MR2. Launched during the height of the hot hatch era, this was the kind of modern design sports car we yearned for yet is as easy to own and maintain as a Corolla. There’s three generations and all have largely failed to truly catch on as a classic but all are as user-friendly and as enjoyable as an MX-5. Like the Mazda, there’s also a thriving racing series for them as well. The Mk1 (pictured) and Mk2 can suffer from severe rust but grey Imports boast a thrilling turbo that sorts the men from the boys… Go for the Mk3 that was around when the MGF and MX-5 were in the showrooms and you have a fine roadster that looks much like a Porsche Boxster but without the costs.

Fiat barchetta

Floats your boat?

You fancy a serious sports car but it needs to be reliable and easy to drive at the same time. You want a modern with style and something a bit different to an MX-5 but you don’t want to compromise on comfort and usability either. Then look no further than a Fiat Barchetta. Based upon the Punto hatchback, the boat-tub styled Barchetta boasts room and decent seats for a comfortable driving position that’s one of Fiat’s best yet. This likeable Latin is light on its feet, if not staggering fast. However, there’s decent power when pulling away through the gears and a sporty enough soundtrack – shame they are only left-hand drive though. Paul de Turris at DTR European Sports Cars is the specialist to speak to for a good one.


years ahead of its time
£1500- £6000+

While we still churned out antique Spitfires and Midgets, Fiat showed everybody how to make a low cost mid-engined serious sports car with the fantastic X1/9. Based upon the 128 Rally mechanicals, it was still considerably zippier than Porsche’s almost identical 914 design and handled equally well plus boasted a similar type of Targa top. A move to 1500cc along with a five-speed transmission added more urge with less frantics, but this baby Ferrari still cried out for more power because the X1/9 had the spirit of a Prancing Horse about it. Today, they still make inexpensive classics although most are rusty and tatty so buy with care. Did you know that Colin Chapman liked the X1/9 so much he bought one for his daughter?


Blackpool rocks
From £4500

The Chimaera (see guide in this issue) and the TVR S are the best of the moderns from this famous specialist because they are quick, civilised and good value. The latter (top) is classically rather than aggressively styled like the Chimaera, which is more a brutal no nonsense Big Healey replacement than an MX-5/MGF alternative. S is a great modern take of the much loved M Series from the 1970s based upon the ‘wedge’ Tasmin chassis with Ford V6 or Rover V8 power, so they are not strictly competitors to the MG or Mazda. But you can’t overlook what they offer from a pretty similar outlay with one seasoned journalist and champion saloon car racer reckoning that the S was more fun than a Ferrari – what more could you ask for? TVR Parts – – secures a continued source of spares for both classics and contemporary models so there’s few worries here. On the other hand, most have been thrashed.

Mercedes-benz SLK

A Shrunken SL

In all honesty, an automatic transmisson SLK isn’t a sports car at all but earns its merit in this group due to the Merc’s sheer popularity, great style, ease of ownership, value for money – and that magnificent metal roof that makes this car an all year round convertible. Launched 20 years ago, based upon the C-Class saloon platform, the vast majority are automatics meaning real grunt only manifests itself starting with the 193bhp supercharged 230 – the smoother 218bhp 3.2 V6 is a bit of a goer as well. The shortened wheelbase makes the handling pretty crisp but SLKs are more suited for touring. You can pick a decent car up for as little as £2000 but make sure that radical roof works properly or it can cost as much again to get it fixed. And the car was introduced just as the German’s legendary build quality was starting to slip…

Suzuki cappuccino

Your cup of tea?
£2500-£5500 +

Your first problem will be finding one because not many were imported into the UK (around 1000) and owners like them so much that they tend to hang on to them. And who can blame them, for this three-cylinder 660cc turbocharged screamer, that can rightly be called ‘Suzuki’s Frog-eye’ can’t fail to put a smile on your face for much the same reason. Only 63bhp but weighing just 725kg and geared down for acceleration, it’s as quick as a TR6 to 60 but tops out at just over 90 so you can be a legal hooligan. A great little sports car – if it’s your idea of one.

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