Asked to produce a list of the most wanted classic cars and I found myself wondering where to start. The thing is, the classic car world is a clichéd one: no list can be complete, we are led to believe, without the Ferrari 250GTO on the list. Preferably at number one. I have no problem with the GTO – it’s an iconic and very wonderful machine – but when it comes to dreaming about owning one that has to remain a dream for all but a handful of souls currently living.
Put it this way, the minimum you will have to pay for one – that’s if you can find one for sale at all – will be $24 million (£15 million). No, we haven’t got that amount of money either. So I decided to concentrate on cars that you can afford. Fair enough, some of these may take some serious funding, but they are within the reach of large numbers of people. Further limitations led me to eliminate veteran cars – those built before 1919, in general terms. They are too old, fragile and – most likely – very expensive. So, what’s on the list? You may be surprised….
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Maserati Ghibli
This sublime, beautiful and very capable grand tourer typified Maserati’s output in the 1960’s. First sold in 1966 and continued in production until 1973, this is a proper car, a real star of the ilk. Designed by the great Giorgetto Guigario, the Ghibli combined elegant sweeps and acres of glass with top speed in excess of 150mph (248km/h) and 60mph (100km/h) reached in less than seven seconds, a stunning achievement for such a big car at the time.
The version to have is the SS, with the glorious 4.9 liter V8 engine, a motor that makes a noise worth the admission price alone. Wonderfully evocative of the era, there are few cars as glamorous as this on the road today. You could have one for around £50,000 ($75,000).
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Citroen SM
I know what you’re thinking: a Citroen, on a list of most wanted classic cars? Absolutely, and this is no ordinary Citroen, but the quite amazing SM, built from 1970 until 1975 when the company was the custodian of Maserati. Citroen has rarely built a car that can be considered ‘normal’ and this one is no exception.
It is a big, sleek and unusual design that divides opinion: some think it beautiful, others ugly, but all consider it original. The wonder of the machine is in the coupling of the excellent Citroen hydraulic suspension and Maserati’s wonderful 3litre V6 from the Merak. The result is a car like no other – then, or now. Glorious ride, stunning performance – 120mph (192km/h) may not sound that great but look at the sheer size of the car! This car represents innovation of the highest order, and you can buy one for around £20,000 ($31,000).
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Ferrari 308GT4
If you were to pick a Ferrari for inclusion – and there has to be at least one – the likelihood of this being the one is not great. The truth is, however, that the 308GT4 – we’ll come to the ‘Dino’ but in a minute – is a much under-rated car. If there is such thing as a bargain Ferrari this has to be it, for you can still find one for £15,000 ($24,000). That’s right – for the price of a standard family sedan you can have a Ferrari. Why, and how, I hear you ask?
Well, let’s start with the styling. Unusually for Ferrari the 308GT4 is a Bertone design. Pininfarina was not happy with that. Neither were the buyers, for the somewhat angular styling met with mixed reactions. Personally I find it rather pretty, and it is certainly different.
Furthermore, if you buy one that was made between the launch date in 1973 and the middle of 1976 it won’t say Ferrari on the badge. It will say ‘Dino’, which is what the car was marketed as initially. The 3 litre V8 gives you 140mph (225km/h), and look out for the ‘tax break’ 208 GT4 offered with a 2 litre version of the engine. The Dino 308 GT4 is becoming more popular, so get in now before prices rocket.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Renault Alpine A610
What is it with this guy and French cars, you’re asking? It’s not the fact that the Alpine A610 is French that does it, it’s that it remains – quite simply – the bargain performance car of the last thirty years. Produced by Alpine, a sporting division of Renault, for just four years in the early ’90’s, this stylish and well equipped, fine handling V6-engined car was a true Porsche-beater.
Not convinced yet? Okay, so when I tell you that you can have a 165mph (265km/h) motor car that will get you to 62mph (100km/h) in less than six seconds for around £10,000 ($15,000) will that change your mind? Truly, these are seriously undervalued bargain supercars, but the market is beginning to take off so you might have to move fast to get a good one.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – De Tomaso Pantera
For many, this Italian/American hybrid represents the poor end of the supercar market, but for me it remains one of the most beautiful designs of the era. First produced in 1971, the Pantera would soon be horribly pumped up with the addition of hideous wings and flared arches, but would gain performance all the while.
If you want perfection, you want an early version, with the sublime and very simple Tom Tjaarda styling oozing class and elegance. The Pantera looks fast when it’s standing still, but in early form is never less than very pretty. The Ford V8 may have been sneered at by purists looking for intricate Italian-built V12’s but provided stupendous performance and ease of maintenance.
To this day this is one attraction of buying a Pantera over other supercars of the era. The original gave you 160mph (256km/h) and today you could buy a 1970’s model for around £40,000 ($60,000) and that, mark my words, is for one of the very best.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Lotus Esprit Turbo
Guigario’s wedge-shaped wonder gained a turbocharger in 1981, and that development propelled the Esprit into undisputed supercar territory. There is absolutely no doubt that this is a Lotus: it’s sharp handling, built for the purpose and quite stunning in execution. It’s also very British, using just 2.2litres and four cylinders to do what the Italians could achieve only from double those figures.
150mph and scintillating acceleration that is still impressive today belie that fact this is a 30 year old car, and it can still hold its own in quite impressive company without a problem. One downside – a typical Lotus trait – is the use of ‘parts bin’ interior fittings. You won’t find another car in this class with door handles from a Morris Marina, or similar hideous machine.
However, overall the nimble Lotus represents the upper echelons of British sports car design in the 1980’s, and it harks back to that era in no small way. Today, you can have a good one for £8,000 ($12,500). Really, they are an incredible bargain at the moment. Bag one while you can.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Porsche 911
Now, let’s get something straight here: there have been so many variants and versions of the iconic 911 that it is possible to pay several thousand pounds (or dollars!) for the more desirable and sought after models. Those are not the ones we are talking about; we are looking here at a late 1970’s 911SC, with or without the Targa top.
This is a car that is still affordable today – £10,000 ($15,000) and is just about the best entry level 911 model. Capable – if you take care in the wet – and quick, with a top speed of 146mph (235km/h), this is a bargain model. The 911 has achieved legendary status because it is so different from all of its natural rivals. The engine at the wrong end is the clue. It’s also popular because tens of thousands of these cars have been built. Buy one now, and enjoy the Porsche 911 – it is, after all, one of the ‘must have’ cars on anyone’s list.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Aston Martin V8
An affordable classic Aston Martin? We have to be kidding, yes? No, not if we are considering cars costing as much as the Maserati Ghibli. In fact, you can have an Aston Martin V8 – the beautiful brute built by the Newport Pagnell factory from the early 1970’s through to 1989, for around £30,000 ($47,000) if you look for the right one. It won’t be perfect, but it will be in good condition and very usable.
Usable, that is, if you can afford to run a car with a very thirsty, but incredibly powerful, 5.3 liter V8 engine. Usable, that is, if you can find somewhere to experience the stunning acceleration and 160mph (257km/h) top speed.
These figures may pale into insignificance compared to modern supercars, but how many of those can you take the family on holiday in? The big Aston has to be a consideration, and is on this list simply because it is one of the most amazing cars of its era.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Alfa Romeo Montreal
The Montreal may not be the first Alfa Romeo that springs to mind when considering a list such as this, but it is a much overlooked, if evidently flawed, car that deserves better recognition. It is beautiful, for a start, a stylish and very neat coupe that looks great from any angle, and it is capable. That capability is delivered by a superb race-derived 2.6 liter V8 engine, the sound from which you will never forget.
The Montreal took you to 62mph (100km/h) in a very respectable 7.4 seconds and top speed was a claimed 137mph (220km/h) and while these figures are not ground-breaking – and nor were they in 1970 when the car made its production debut – but that’s not what this car is about. This is a rare, truly exotic machine that offers something different, and at a decent price. Find one, and make sure it’s a good one, and you will pay no more than £25,000 ($40,000) – and we think that is a bargain for a car so exclusive.
Most Wanted Classic Cars – Mini Cooper S
How could we have a list of affordable classic must-have cars and not include this quite amazing little car? That the Mini broke new ground when it first appeared in 1957 is the stuff of legend, but things got a lot more exciting when John Cooper got his hands on the tiny marvel. This was a car designed to win rallies, and win it did, taking the Monte Carlo crown on three occasions (four if you count the controversial disqualification in 1966).
That success helped sales, but the Mini was always going to be a big seller. The Cooper S comes in three variants, and while it may seem that the 1275cc engine is the one to have, purists will tell you that it’s a 970cc Mark 1 Cooper S that you should have. We don’t care, we just think everybody should try one of these quite remarkable cars.
Look around and you can have one for £10,000 ($15,000) and that is great price for a legend. Try one, and you will see what all the fuss is about.
So, that’s our list of ten most wanted affordable classic cars. You may have your own suggestions and we would be more than happy to hear them. Meanwhile, look out for our upcoming guide to the top 10 ultimate classic cars – the ones where money is no object!