Plenty of commentators will have you believe that ordinary folk have been priced out of buying a modern classic; that all the good classic cars are now stupendously expensive, and that if you want an affordable, dependable old car that’ll put a smile on your face, you’re out of luck.
Happily, that’s overstating things somewhat. Yes, lots of cars have fallen victim to the buoyancy of the classic car market in recent times, with prices for everything from Ford Escorts to Porsche 911s rocketing in ways few could ever have imagined. However, the good news is that prices for many cars have started to adjust, and even without that there are still plenty of charming, enjoyable classics out there that you can buy for peanuts.
PUTTING MY MONEY WHERE MY MOUTH IS
I’ve been saying this to anyone who’ll listen for a while now. But at the beginning of 2019 I decided to put my money where my mouth is by challenging myself to find a modern classic I could buy and enjoy for less than the princely sum of £1,000. Which is how, for around six months, I ended up owning the rather lovely Peugeot 205 you see in the pictures that accompany this article.
No, it wasn’t a GTI; of course it wasn’t, for that kind of money. It was only a 1.1 GL, in fact, which means it had a four-cylinder petrol engine with a carburettor and a heady 59bhp, and such luxuries as a pop-up sunroof and a radio cassette. This might sound like a recipe for motoring purgatory, but in fact it was one of the most joyful little cars I’ve ever driven.
ONE OF THE BEST SMALL CARS EVER MADE
The 205 is renowned for being one of the best small cars ever made, and gained fame for its sparkling handling, soft ride, spacious interior and stylish looks. All of those facets hold true today. Despite its paucity of power, that little engine is remarkably willing and punts the 205 along quite gamely thanks to short gear ratios that help with acceleration.
The chassis is brilliant, too, and an example of how well the French used to tune their suspension, with a wonderfully pliant ride; communicative, responsive steering; and plenty of grip and balance, despite copious amounts of body roll. In short, it was a delight to zip around in.
HOW MUCH DID I PAY?
Here’s the best bit, though. My rust-free example came with just 58,000 miles on the clock, a big stack of old invoices, and almost a full year’s MOT. And the cost? I paid £810, which to me doesn’t seem like an unreasonable sum for a car which made me feel so giddy. And proof positive that if you know where to look, it’s still eminently possible to buy a modern classic car that’ll bring you hours of entertainment.
Thinking of buying a modern classic of your own? Below are five modern classic gems that can still be had for surprisingly sensible sums.
FIVE MORE MODERN CLASSIC BARGAINS
A pivot-point between the idiosyncratic GS of the 1970s and the more humdrum models that came after it, the BX today offers a likeable blend of Citroen quirks and (relatively) modern usability that makes it good fun to own and great to drive. Diesels are robust and torquey; GTi and 16v versions are potent.
Search for a used Citroen BX on CarGurus
The 75 was a brogue in an era of trainers, and never quite got the recognition it deserved. BMW-backed build quality was excellent, though, and while the 75 wasn’t terrifically exciting to drive, it was wonderfully comfortable and well-equipped. Go for a creamy-smooth V6 and enjoy this fine modern classic.
Search for a used Rover 75 on CarGurus
Built like a tank and about as unstoppable, the 190 makes a terrific classic buy these days. Smooth, comfortable, spacious and refined, it’s a car you can throw the whole family into for a day out so that everyone can get a taste of its 1980s German charm. Automatics are the ones to have; the manual gearbox isn’t much cop.
Search for a used Mercedes 190 on CarGurus
Classic Saabs have never been hot property, but the first-generation 900 deserves to be, with its combination of modern usability, impressive safety and inimitable styling. Turbos are quick; naturally-aspirated versions aren’t, but all have a sense of solidity that’s most reassuring.
Search for a used Saab 900 on CarGurus
The world seems to have forgotten about the 480, which is a shame because it’s a solid classic car with quirky shooting-brake styling and pop-up headlights, and thus really stands out today. Turbos are a little flaky, so choose a late 1.7 or 2.0 with as much service history as possible.
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