Blog : In The Doldrums – where they belong

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Sam Mace

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‘Our’ cars seem to be having their 15 minutes of fame. The BBC News featured a Mr Steve Worsley, from the Maestro and Montego Owners’ Club standing next to his Montego, and some bloke called Keith, with a Cortina and Sierra. It was all a bit bizarre.

The Owners’ Clubs, Cortinas and Sierras are something which generally lurk in the dark recesses of my bookmarks bar, for when I need my fix of talking dashboards and two tone paint jobs. Yet here they were, being broadcast to thousands (maybe even millions) of TV sets across the UK. With the usual spiel about David Cameron, the Financial Crisis and new type of app which lets you track the migration of Arctic Penguins (or something) and other vital information – were our cars.

Of course, they were only on TV for a bad reason – their numbers are evaporating faster than a vat of beer at Stag Party.  It’s sad, but inevitable.

The good thing is, there are Owners’ Clubs and devoted fans to keep these cars on the road.  We can’t save them all (not all of them will be worth saving anyway) but we can try. The segment on the BBC News probably made a few people go and google these cars. And here’s the problem: somebody probably thought they were ‘cool’.

When things become ‘cool’ they become ‘expensive’.

True, Victoria Beckham isn’t going to be clambering for an Austin Montego anytime soon, but I wouldn’t mind betting there’s going to be a peak in interest soon, with people living in studio flats deciding old chod is cool. Maida Vale and Belgravia will be a carpet of Montego Turbo Ds and Sierra Sapphires by the end of the year, mark my words.

Okay, maybe I’m getting slightly carried away, but you see my thinking.  Being sensible for a second though, once the ‘cool’ badge is applied to a car, the values go silly. Tidy Capris and rear wheel drive Escorts can go for crazy, crazy money, when frankly they’re not worth it. It’s not just our cars, it’s old Polos, 205 GTis, things that would have been Auto Trader fodder not so long ago, now command strong money.

And I don’t like it.

Why? Because I can’t bloody afford them!

The day when a Montego is out of my price range will be a truly sad one. I heard people call this phenomena ‘scene tax’.  For my generation “scene” defines a sort of girl who wears too much make up and dies her hair like a parrot. I’m assuming the two are unrelated.  This is why the image of AR and BL cars should stay in the doldrums in my opinion. Keeping them in reach of you and I. Many stay safe from destruction in the fraternity of Owners’ Clubs and forums these days anyway.

So what if low values means to odd stinker gets syphoned off to be turned into a bean can or an Astra Sport Tourer?  And anyway, in 25 years’ time, we’ll see one of those on eBay and be all over it.

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Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

37 Comments

  1. I think a lot depends on the desirability of the car when it was new. For example, whilst Life on Mars may have had a slight impact on Mark 3s, they are now back at their previous price levels, whereas Ashes to Ashes impact on the Quattro has been sustained price inflation.

  2. Been same problem for the past 5 years with the classic Mini. The 50th anniversary sent prices sky high, and even today you are talking sed BINI prices fr decent examples 🙁

  3. So in 20 years what will the new cool cars be? What present day run-of-the-mill fodder will be desirable when there are almost none left?

    Hyundai i30? Focus? Corsa? Citroen C3? MG6? Punto?

  4. Hipsters and Morris Minors. Scene tax may not seem appropriate to what is, after all, a car well over half a century old now – and yet the number of bespectacled, be-bearded, be-ironic-cardiganed Noah & The Whale lookalikes running about in Minors and Travellers is remarkable.

    IMO the Ashes to Ashes impact on the Quattro was a blip. They were expensive, they had a little jump, and then they’re pretty much at the level they were (bar usual inflationary progression) before Ashes to Ashes. And the humble Coupé Quattro has failed to gain much headway as a wannabe, either, probably not enough of them about.

    I reckon the strong prices we’re seeing for ‘grotty old bangers’ are more to do with easier access to buyers nationally and buyers being a hell of a lot smarter when it comes to optimism and prices; why buy a filler-laden £500 Princess after an expensive train drive on the strength of a 30-word advert and tiny picture, only to then spend £2000+ trying to get it up to spec, when £1750 from a good eBay advert with lots of pictures will get what you wanted faster and reliably.

    That’s not to say that the £500 dreck is not being presented on eBay for £1750, but it’s not selling.

  5. @ Keith Adams

    Nope, from what I gathered it was purely about the cars being scrapped. But am I right in saying scrapped=low value/desirability?

    @KC

    The Corsa is a good candidate actually. The earlier ones have their image in the gutter and are usually scrapped as soon as something breaks now. It means they’ll be pretty scarce in a few years.
    But a lot of people will have fond memories of them as first cars/mates’ first car, and like Minors they were once very, very popular.

  6. Over 700,000 Allegros were built (and mostly sold) here in the UK, compare that to the MG6, now THAT is going to be a rate car in future years.
    As for the Nova, I had a 1984 Nova Swing many years ago, it was totally knackered by 130,000 miles and rotting away. I scrapped it to make way for a Renault 5GTX, now there is an underrated 1980s car…

  7. That’s what happens when your vehicle climbs out the other side of banger valley – prices go up, interest goes up, what was a few years ago a disposable runabout suddenly turns heads as people say “Oh! Haven’t seen one of those in a while!”.

    Any ‘cool’ fad will soon fade away as the hipsters jump onto the next bandwagon that their trendy magazines and thick rimmed friends tell them too. Vintage does seem to be the mode du jour, and I do appreciate the effort put into recycling old clothes etc. Apple is another trendy item – put the two together and I recently cashed in on a ‘vintage’ 1986 Mac Plus that had previously been close to scrap until I got my trusty soldering iron onto it.

    I’ll sell you an Accord Coupe – too new and difficult to park in trendy urban areas to be cool, too old and badgeless to get any respect in the office car park.

  8. @5, Richard Kilpatrick,

    Agree re Minors. I’m a huge fan of them- I spent my first 11 years in Bath, so would pass The Morris Minor Centre quite often, and for many young drivers in the mid-to-late 70s the Minor was a cheap low-tech first car that could be run for peanuts (at the risk of neglecting vital maintainance such as the structural wood frame on Travellers, which were usually seen bedecked in a carpet of mosses. My fantasy garage has at least two Minors (a convertible and a Traveller, both subtly uprated)- these cars are massivly characterful compared to the run-of-the mill Vivas and Escorts of their day. I think the relatively high values that a good Minor fetch is due to the amount of work needed to keep them going this long (and there are certainly many duff ones out there with more patches than a pirates convention).

    And I don’t even have a beard.

  9. The Morris Minor isn’t particularly endangered with 14,000+ still about (according to howmanyleft.co.uk). But the same figures report (for Q4 2012) just 352 Montegos, just over 1000 Austin, MG and Rover Maestros, 133 Ausin Maxis and 177 Austin Allegros. There are 542 Pricesses but only 18 Ambassadors. For Morris, well it’s just as bad with 267 Marinas and just 48 Itals.
    The Metro fares better with 5400 models, there are about 3600 Cortinas of all varieties.

    That’s not the worst, of course. There are just 4 Matra Ranchos left on the road, and the Talbot Tagora died out last year with all the remaining ones (just 7!) SORNed.

    The Montego lost 25% of its numbers between 2011 and 2012 and 99% between 2002 to 2012. I don’t think that the poor old Montego is feeling the love..

  10. I think SAIC would be doing well introducing a low cost ‘retro’ alternative to the MINI in the form of a new Morris Minor. A lot of people have fond memories of the original.

  11. I can understand were you are coming from. After watching too many episodes of wheeler dealers and a car is born. I was bitten by the classic car bug. The problem, all the classics from the 60’s and 70’s were out of my price range. The days of a rubber bumper MGB for a grand have sadly gone. These are no longer fun vehicles for the young on a low budget. Paying 1000’s for a potential rust bucket, no thanks. There is another side to the story, however. In the end I got a 1500hl dolomite for under a grand and it needs work. The only reason I can get parts is because sprints are massively over priced, meaning it is worth making the parts.

  12. Good classics are holding their money becuase people think they are an investment. That is the psychology which is fine as long as you buy one to USE and enjoy. A friend of mine has a Bentley S2 which cost nearly £30k but it only gets used a few times a year. It might be an investment but is it worth having? I have always wanted a Rover 2000 P6 but if I got one I would use it regularly and it would be worth spending £3k compared to a modern car that is going to depreciate and not give me so much enjoyment. I would also consider an MG Midget or a Jaguar XK8 which are now very good value but again only to use not just to have as an investment!

  13. Re Morris Minors etc, perhaps SAIC would have been better naming the MG6 the Morris Marina, it also had a kind of fastback look and the MG3 the Minor?

    With regards to future investment the Reliant Robin has to be the one.

  14. The Austin era Montegos had a poor reliability and rust recod, I had to prematurely scrap mine in the nineties due to a serious rust problem and blown electrics and an engine on its last legs. Of all the Montegos worth saving, the Rover era 2.0 estates in British racing green would be the ones to go for as these looked stylish, the reliability issues had been sorted and they went well.
    Oddly enough I did read in one blog that the survival rate for Vauxhall Victors/ VXs is twenty times that of the Montego, amazing considering they had a reputation for rust and are even older.

  15. Sorry the survival rate for the Victor FE is double that of the Montego, still interesting as they were even worse sellers than the Montego and in production for a shorter period.

  16. The old car market is currently being skewed due to heavy investment in more established cars like E Types and Astons etc by investors looking for commodities which will rise in value above inflation but attract no capital gains tax.
    This is having a knock on affect on almost all older cars, much like houses as people looking for something to invest in or own are forced to either spend more money in something previously in a price bracket they might have expected to buy in or look at previously much cheaper alternatives, pushing up values of these previosly cheaper cars.

  17. Please God, don’t let SAIC hear your suggestion re naming one of thier models the Minor. I can stomach them putting an MG badge on things but to stick a Minor badge on one would be a rape of the culture too far.

  18. @8……”Climbing up the other side of banger valley”
    What a perfect way to describe things……I love it!

  19. @19

    Tempted to write a blog post on the theory of banger valley 🙂

    Not so much a V shape, but probably more of a mirrored J, takes longer to get collectable recognition then it does to slide into bangerdom.

  20. From what I’ve heard Renault 5 Turbos were becoming collectable a while back, often because too many had been thrashed, crashed & badly customised, like a lot of hot hatches.

  21. I suppose it’s a difficult equation, because if too many models survive, they are not really viewed as being classics, they are commonplace old cars. There is a floor limit when suddenly all that are left are in the hands of enthusiasts and they are then cared for and remain for, probably, the rest of time. Prices climb which removes them from the targets of bargain/banger hunters and so their future is assured. We have to remember that the ADO16 might be a classic now, but it really was just the Escort or Focus of its day and to many people of a certain age it probably still is. So whilst the original article raises the profile in the press it probably doesn’t materially change things as the enthusiasts are already on the job saving whats left (I include myself) – fascinating reading though

  22. Escorts are taking ages to climb out of the trough, mk3s and mk4s are now up in value, when not so long ago they were disposable 2 a penny.

    The mk1s and 2s are on another league, well into classicdom and saught after.

    Meanwhile, in the trough currently are the poorly executed mk5 Escort and it’s mk5a/6 facelifts. Survivors are likely to be like the mk3/4 – special edition XR3s, RS2000s and the likes, or waxoyled examples with low mileage that have been garaged.

    Mk1 Focuses are entering bangerdom too. While these are everywhere now, in a few years time they’ll be a “Haven’t seen one of those in a while!” while mk2s are still holding respectable prices, though inevitably sliding towards the trough.

    Mind you, they’re following the same pattern as the Cortina-Sierra-Mondeo lineage.

    Cortinas are saught after, Sierra survivors are starting to enter the price increase stage, mk1 Mondeos and facelift Mondeos are bangers (though the former is starting to get very rare), mk2 ‘new edge’ models are starting to enter bangerdom, mk3s are holding value though inevitably slipping over time.

  23. When I first started to get interested in cars in the late 1980s I used to look at the small ads in the local papers to see what was for sale

    It wasn’t hard to see a borderline MOT pass Mk2 Escort for £150 – 200, & even a tidy high spec Mk1 would be offered at £500-600.

  24. Mk 2 Escorts in Rally trim are upwards of £35k now,even with normally aspirated cosworth engines installed.

  25. There is a good reason why Mk1/2 Escorts fetch so much money, you can’t buy brand new shells like an MGB or Mini owner can, meaning when a classic rally car is crashed, the only way to repair it is with an existing shell from an old bog standard Escort.
    The holy grail being two door automatic cars as the transmission tunnel is the wide type for the gearboxes the rally cars use.

  26. @2 ”

    Not entirely sure the thrust of the original story was about values, mind…”

    It was, but not in so many words. For example during the 90s/00s many Metros were lost for Mini engine donors, including many MG and Turbo models, when used Metro values were very low. Now that many have been lost and the values are climbing, this practice has stopped.

    If a car becomes worth less than it’s most common fault costs to repair then it will start to disappear.

  27. @30, I think the A+ engines of later cars was a better bet being an improved engine,that said i dont know which of the two is better!

  28. @30 and 31

    Many MG metros had their 1275 engines removed as they were higher output than standard, and the turbo engine found its way in to many a mini for a cut price ERA.

    Marina numbers were also decimated as their front suspension was raided for Morris Minor front disc conversions, and I’d be surprised if a lot of their B-series engines are now in MGBs.

  29. @24 – I agree that popular ‘clasiic’ models will keep prices low in general but there are quite a few exceptions. Realistically, the Minor is a prime example – there really are thousands of the things – yet they fetch more historically than say a Standard Eight or an A35 – both competitors in their day but much rarer than the Minor. Even a Triumph Mayflower will struggle to match the Minor price today – yet there are just a handful left.
    @26 – my memories are similar – I even bought a VW Bay Window from an auction for £150 with a full MOT! It was the single most unrealisable piece of kit I have owned though – deserved everything I got at that money I suppose. When I started buying cars (I was 12) I was paying £10 for a 49 Vauxhall Ten and remember when the MOT was introduced – my poor Dad’s 1938 Jowett Eight bit the dust. The year before though Dad had dismantled a 3ft bed frame and repaired the chassis – it was stronger than when it left the factory. In those days many of us spent hours at scrap yards on a Sunday afternoon – and everything in the yard was stacked on top of each other – and had separate headlamps (apart from the early Opel which as you will all remember was one of the pioneers of integral headlamps!).

  30. @5 “bespectacled, be-bearded, be-ironic-cardiganed Noah & The Whale lookalikes” – great turn of phrase! Made me chuckle!

  31. Don’t panic.. There’ll always be people like saving the models currently dropping off at the bottom… You may have seen on the FB page, I recently traded my 9yr old Fabia for a 19yr old 520i (with 205k on it to boot)… Best thing I ever did was pass through the eye of “that” needle..

  32. I really like the metro , Maestro and Montego , the Monty is my favourite though I really love em and that Silver one above is GORGEOUS! I think I might get myself a little MG Metro as a second car to bomb about in , as you hardly see Montegos for sale , and prices are starting to creep up from what I can afford to allocate to a second car budget!

  33. What is bizzare is owners club forum memebers moan like hell when prices start to rise, unless they are selling that is!

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