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Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Citroen BX 16V

Well, it’s almost 2013, and it’s good to report that, by and large, I’ve stuck to my New Year’s resolution not to buy a silly amount of cars. In 2012, my purchasing was limited to a rather sad and abused Rover 75 (which we licked into shape – largely), and a Lancia Delta Integrale to replace my old Polish-restored Rover SD1. And, er, that’s been about it. Compared with recent years, where I changed cars more often than my shoes (and that’s a lot), that’s been a fabulous performance.

My latest purchase, a very reliable LHD Citroen Xantia should be replaced in January for something a little more characterful (read unreliable), and I’m now thinking of something fun to put on my drive in the first few weeks of January. The Citroen’s been one of the best cars I’ve ever owned, and currently is being smoked around in by Mike Humble, so why change it? Why not, I say.

So, what I am looking for – something with a bit of MoT, which should provide plenty entertainment in my garage. It also needs to come in under my usual Bangernomics budget of £500. That doesn’t sound a great deal of money to play with, but the bottom of the car market is jam packed with fast, roomy, ugly, handsome and never boring metal. I’ve no idea what I want, so I’m throwing this one open to you guys for suggestions. I’m thinking perhaps something I’ve never owned before. And over the years, some of my best driving adventures have been at the wheel of sub-£500 cars – Europe in an 800 Coupe, track days in a Citroen BX 16V. Let’s have some great moments like that again…

So give me your best ideas, and hopefully we’ll get me into some interesting wheels in 2013!

Rover 800 Coupe

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

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100 Comments

  1. Some wastegate equipped Japanese banzai sports car, and you still need an American V5 under your belt young Keith.

  2. There is normally a big engined Beemer or Merc available for sub £500 on AutoTrader. From the photos they look sound and, of course, we all know that German Engineering is the envy of the world and never, ever, ever goes wrong. Ever.

    Time to check that assumption is still valid Keith??

  3. I will be so jealous if you find an Espero!

    XJ Cherokee – currently £500 with 11hrs to go… and proper engine, of course.

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Jeep-Cherokee-60th-Anniversary-Limited-Edition-Silver-2001-/251198180442?

    Or what about a Kia Shuma II – Kia’s alternative to the Rover 45. How much worse was it…

    Neons are awesome. The upside-down steering wheel and 3-speed auto aside, they’re good handling, comfortable, practical cars – and pretty tough, the main reason they’ve disappeared is sheer neglect and apathy rather than any particular failing. Mk 1 has to be the one to go for though, the Mk 2 looks too normal.

  4. I quite liked the Espero I had to drive, but then thats me. Talk about blast from the past, there was a Vauxhall Nova saloon parked up in sainsburys carpark the other day… havent seen of those in years.
    As to what to get next, is there anything built in the last 30 years you havent owned? A Police spec Senator might be nice, or as suggested one of the kei cars – theres one based on the Micra of all things. A bug-eye Granada? VW Beetle (the original, not the travesty). Lancia with the V8 Ferrari engine… cant for the life of me remember the model but I think it was the Thema, but apparently they only made 64..

  5. I don’t suppose you would consider a Princess (18/22 Series). My Dad was Sales Manager for Taggarts in Scotland and took an 1800HL on launch day. It was a fantastic car and i’ve had a soft spot for them ever since.

  6. A nice R8 Rover 216 GTi in either single-cam or twin-cam form. Or how about an early Rover 216 Cabriolet for those long summer days we can expect to enjoy? A reasonable condition 1995 216 SE version could see your bottom becoming intimate with lashings of leather, your heart melting to the sight of finely polished burr walnut on the dashboard and your left finger controlling a bit of automotive theatre in the form of a power operated roof.

    The 200 Cabriolet is a seriously underrated car and it certainly looks more elegant than the equivalent age Ford Escort or Vauxhall Astra.

  7. How about an FSO Caro? The engines are good…

    Seriously though, I’ve seen a few ads for Citroen GS/As, and they are getting rarer than hen’s teeth these days. Great little car if you have a good indie Citroen specialist in the area.

  8. @Timo:

    I will go one league better than this and suggest – an Alfa Romeo 164. Stunning to look at (thanks to Pininfarina) and with a great choice of petrol engines. My favourite will always be the post 1995 164 Cloverleaf for being daring to put 230bhp through the front wheels, although a 2-litre Twin-Spark or 3-litre V6 Lusso or Super is just as appealing.

    Nearly twenty five years after its unveiling this is still a very handsome looking car and better made than the rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo 75. However, in true Alfa Romeo tradition, finding a nice one isn’t going to be that easy…

  9. I should have explained that the reason why I rate the post 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 Cloverleaf is because this was when the range in general was facelifted, rather than being when the Cloverleaf variant itself was first introduced (1991 in the UK market).

    The facelift models saw the Lusso variant replaced by the Super, amongst other numerous changes.

  10. Metal is sooo 2012, 2013 should be plastic fantastic!

    Unless there’s a bargain in the Lotus department (thinking Excel ‘Howards Way Edition’) how about a Bond Equipe or a Reliant Fox!

    If that doesn’t make you stand out for all the right reasons I don’t know what will!

  11. I’ve had a lot of enjoyment in the last 10 months or so from a £460 Volvo C70 2.4.
    Characterful engine, lots of kit, comfy and not too pricey to run.
    Also when things have needed attention it’s a well thought out car to work on.
    Maybe a touch too reliable for you though!

  12. @37
    C70 is a car that nearly caught my eye.
    Ford Scorpio? Last of the big Fords ignoring the size of the Mondeo.
    Similarly, an Omega, now you’re into Vauxhalls 🙂

  13. Peugeot 406. They’re great to drive and £500 should get you one with an interesting engine and decent spec. Would make a nice comparison with the Xantia too…
    Failing that, I think the Scorpio idea suggested above would be a goodun’ too.

  14. @28, David 3500,

    Alfa 164 V6 would be an interesting choice. Not sure about your comment about ‘daring to put 230bhp through the front wheels’- trouble was, it only seemed to feed the power through one wheel at a time- torque steer was truly epic!

    The wonderful engine note however will have you driving through tunnels with the windows wound down, and the aforementioned torque steer was part of its charm- a hugely entertaining luxo-barge.

  15. how about something slightly older. a vauxhall carlton cdx perhaps. good looking cars, not to bad on the petrol and they a brilliant to drive.

  16. Honda Accord or Aerodeck? I was wondering about a post XX Legend but they start at £950-ish

    Or an original Freelander?

    Chrysler PT Cruiser?

  17. @ Francis Brett. There’s two types of Freelanders- The Freelander 2, and the earlier Freelander Poo. An E30 328i would be a bit of a giggle and something different. In silver or black with the factory spec cross spoke alloys please.

  18. A late 90s Hyundai Lantra. If you can find one that still works. You’ll have enough change from your 500 quid to buy us all beer.

  19. Suggesting what comes to mind this very instant as I could go on forever!! I’ll stay with ‘the firm’ too –

    Ever had a Rover 200 (SD3) Vitesse ?
    A tidy Montego Turbo?

    Both probably now as rare as hens’ teeth!!

  20. Going beyond BL>MG Rover, how about a Saab Turbo. A 99 as opposed to a 900 and a 2dr as opposed to a 3dr Combi. Again, rather rare!

  21. @59, Keith Adams,

    You know you said that your son drives sensibly? Why not give him the Volvo and drive whatever he has- it will almost certainly be far more exciting than a 700 Estate…

  22. Christ there is some boring choices on here! Isn’t Sam Glover flogging a £600 Firebird? O.K. It’s a 7 cylinder but still!

  23. I must confess that I have a bit of a soft spot for those last of the line 900/V90 Volvo estates. Damn useful motor.

    Notice that broken front number plate? Bet the other car was written off!

  24. @Rich Scorpio 24v Cosworth gets my vote, too. Never understood why they are so overlooked. Cost more than the Sapphire Cosworth brand new yet worth only 10% (or less) of what the Sapphire Co0sworth is worth. Maybe if Ford had badged it Cosworth rather than 24v and given it a manual box option then things would have been different.

    A friend had one as a £500 smoker about five years ago. Everything worked (apart from the aircon), it did 25mpg all day long and never let him down. He was doing mega-mileage so he replaced it with a four year old Golf TDI that’s been nothing but trouble.

  25. @60 – Keith – Do it – but only in 6 cylinder form, with an auto-box, and full leather. Even better, and if you can find one, go for the V90 – I used to drive one a lot in the late 90s, and it was a fantastic steer – surprisingly sporty on the twisties, and like a gentlemen’s club inside. Go on, you know you wanr to!!

  26. How about something functional and well loved by the taxi trade and cheap to buy, a Proton Persona? Also the Mitsubishi engines mean garage visits are rare.

  27. @ Steve Bailey:

    The Volvo 960 and later S90 and V90 were very underrated cars which still look rather elegant today with their colour-coded bumpers, slimmer headlamps than those on the 4-cylinder 940 and monochromatic tail-lamps. Even the interior (particularly when specified with the cream colourway) looked luxurious and welcoming but not afraid to be a practical load-lugger when asked. And, of course, in S90 and V90 form they were the last Volvos to feature rear-wheel drive.

    It was certainly a better made car than the 850 and V70 Classic models. Both the S90 and V90 had a very short production life of less than two years (thank you, Ford). Not even the Volvo classic car scene itself has progressed beyond the 240 model to give rightful ‘future classic’ status to the B230FT-powered 940 and six-cylinder 960, S90 and V90 models.

  28. @ Keih Adams,

    Going by the R registration, clear indicator lamps and assumption it has a half leather interior, this example would be a 940 Celebration, which is one of the last 150 examples to be made using the redundant 940 estate bodyshells.

  29. I have to say that the Scorpio- despite appearing very ugly during its production life, has actually aged remarkably well. OK, its Americanised styling isn’t exactly beautiful, but its quite interesting nonetheless.

    Never much liked the previous late 80’s/ early 90’s Granada/Scorpios though. Very comfortable but utterly lacking in character- bit like a very plush Nissan Bluebird.

  30. I’ve owned many Fords- and any of them made since 1995 have been good little motors.

    Some of the earlier ones were complete dogs though- but if you are skint, and urgently in need of a set of wheels, an old Ford is virtually a default purchase.

    Why not bag yourself an early Mk1 Focus? Plenty about, and unlike the Escort, even the earliest ones still look fresh (as long as they haven’t been chavved up that is).

  31. @80 – me neither – and I’ve also managed to avoid Vauxhall & VW (and will try my best to continue to avoid them!) but, I do have a soft-spot for the old Scorpio. We had one as an office hack, and it was a great motor – it had a 4-spd auto, cruise, electric seats, full (and very luxurious) leather, looked great (5-dr hatch, pre bug-eye) and went like stink! I think it was the 2.9 V6 model. Nice motor.

  32. A wonderful decision, Keith!!! Saabs of this vintage will always be special to me. After three 99s my Dad got an early 900 when I was just eleven years old. Sadly, the company car allowance was then pruned – My Dad’s next car was a MK3 Escort 1.3 Ghia. Well, it was a bit more desirable than his other choice, a Cortina 1.6L !!

  33. No to the Daewoo Espero, that car was abysmal and the parts were hard to get them. People tell you that it was basically a GM product. It is, but a worldwide one.

    The alternator was from a Holden for example and hideously expensive to get over here.

    How about something like an old Lexus, for comparisons sake with the 800’s?

  34. That SAAB looks well loved to me- and will no doubt go on forever. Amazing how such an obviously 1980s design still looks fresh today (yeah I know it has roots in the 70’s but I’m referring to the facelifted bits, the trim, and those fabulous wheels). And from the side, despite such an upright windscreen, it just looks so fast and purposeful.

    Not sure I like the position of the aerial though- I hope it is very springy, since it is likely to snap otherwise the first time you take it down a country lane with overhanging foliage (done that twice meself).

  35. Keith

    Kindly stop posting pictures of pornography with that damn 900 Turbo 16S.

    Down boy! Down boy!

    But one day… that car will be mine (laughs in a psychotic Vincent Price stylee)

  36. A 900 with a non saggy headlining? Gasp, shock 🙂 You’ve turned poor Mike into a dribbling aipeth too, but he does have a point, it is carporn

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