Essay : Top Ten British classics for young drivers

We love cars that can be run on a shoestring. With that in mind, here are our Top Ten cheap-to-run British classic cars that won’t sting you at the fuel pumps.

We know that fuel prices are high, and the cost of living is squeezing us all, but you could beat the system with any of these cool cars, especially if sorted with some cheap classic car insurance.

1 Austin Metro

Metro GTa

Cheap to run, great fun to drive.
Cramped and prone to collapse.

The Austin Metro was considered the saviour of the British motor industry when it went on sale in 1980. At its unveiling to the Dealer Network on a ship in the North Sea, grown men were reduced to tears by the emotion of it all – finally, they had a car they need no longer to apologise for, and buyers would actually want. More than 30 years on, the Metro is perceived rather differently, with a rather matronly image, and a reputation for rot and grot. Truth be told, though, the Metro is no rustier than its opposition these days, and it possesses more charm than the lot of them

Think of it as a grown-up Mini, and you’re not far from the truth. Its A-Series engine is simple to work on, and any back-street garage you care to mention will be more than capable fixing any problem the Metro throws at you. But given its ease of DIY, it’s hard to think of a reason to go down that road anyway. On the road, you’ll revel in its direct steering and torquey engine, and marvel at how easy it is to see out of. Downsides? Rust, a cramped praying mantis-style driving position and a feeling of vulnerability. But that’s about it. And it’s getting rare now, too…

2 Vauxhall Chevette

Vauxhall Chevette

Looks cool and handles well.
Cramped, rattly and some parts are hard to find.

Okay, so the Chevette is a rusty old thing, and its engine, lifted straight out of the Viva, is hardly the model of refinement, but find a nice one (and they are out there), and you’ll be rewarded with a precise, simple, straightforward drive. In most ways, the RWD Chevette is a better option than an equivalent Ford Escort Mk2 1300, and considerably cheaper to buy, thanks to Uncle Henry’s recent jump in values on the back of the bobble hat brigade.

It’s well engineered, firm riding, grippy and an accurate steer. And also lacking a little in charisma. But we love ’em, rust and parts scarcity aside.

3 Austin Allegro

1973 Austin Allegro

Comfortable, quirky, a great icebreaker.
Dog slow in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre form.

The good thing about the Allegro is that there’s an example for just about everyone. It was in production for a decade, and the engine range spanned 1.0-1.7-litres. You have the option of two- and four-doors as well as a useful and quirky looking estate. The Allegro is also comfortable, reasonably roomy, economical and a bona fide classic, which any understanding insurer will cover without fleecing you. The Allegro also drives far better than the cliché merchants will kid on about, and is amazingly resistant to rust.

And as for that BL baggage – you’re likely only to hear whingeing from Top Gear fans and anyone over 50. In short, the Allegro is about as rational (as long as you are conversant with the wants and needs of Hydragas), and interesting starter classic as you’re ever likely to want. And usually they sell for buttons when they’re not mint…

4 Nissan Micra (K11)

Nissan Micra (K11)

For: Cute styling, legendary reliability and quality.
You might struggle getting classic insurance on it

The British built Micra K11 was a landmark car for Nissan. It replaced the cramped K10 and its Ital Design-esque origami styling with an altogether more organic 1990s look that lasted well into the 21st century – a very impressive effort. Powered by tough little engines, these cars were reliable, long-lived and loved by their owners, with loads still running on the roads today. That means justifying it as a classic to your insurer could be quite difficult, despite it being a 30-year-old design.

A brilliant car, that’s cheap to buy, effortless to run and, if you get one that’s in fine fettle, likely to last you a few more years.

5 Vauxhall Nova

Vauxhall Nova

Good engines, practical, cheap to run.
Loses out to the Metro for charm and Fiesta for coolness.

The Vauxhall Nova celebrates its 40th birthday in the UK in 2023, and hopefully it’s going to get more classic recognition than it does right now. This was a landmark product for its maker, which finally allowed General Motors to fight the Austin Metro and Ford Fiesta in the hugely important supermini market sector – and, as a rival for those, it was an excellent product.

The problem was that it hit the market around the same time as the Fiat Uno and Peugeot 205, and was instantly rendered obsolete in technical terms. Despite this, it was still a big seller and, rather like the Metro, benefited from a late-life facelift as it soldiered on into the 1990s. We’d have one over a Fiesta, but might struggle to justify it over the wonderfully idiosyncratic Metro – however, a good Nova is significantly cheaper than both.

6 Austin Maestro Clubman D

Maestro Clubman Diesel

For: Cheap diesel motoring, practical.
Flimsy, noisy, rusty.

Despite being not yet being terribly fashionable, drab to look at, slow and unrefined, the Maestro Clubman Diesel also has a refreshing honesty about it that makes it rather loveable. Think of it as Rover’s Lada Riva, and you’ll not be a million miles away, as the old LC10 is just like any other Spen King-designed car – simple and fixable at the side of the road. Yes, the Maestro rusts, but it tends to be mainly round the edges, and that’s easily sorted with a tin of underseal and Isopon P38. As for that imploding interior – think of it as an ideal upgrade opportunity.

Plus points are a bullet-proof engine, an easy 60mpg and a huge interior – and it’s so undesirable to the average man in the street, you can proudly claim you own one as a middle finger to modern-day consumerism…

7 Ford Escort Mk3 1300

Ford Escort Ghia

Sharp looking, way cooler than a Maestro.
Bony ride, CVH rattles, rust

The Ford Escort Mk3 is one of the few ‘classic’ Fords that can be bought for less than the cost of the Mona Lisa. That’s surprising when one remembers how well received it was at launch back in 1980. Even today (and just like the Fiesta Mk1), the Escort ‘Erika’ looks sharp and beautifully detailed – and far more grown-up than just about all of its contemporaries.

In typical Ford fashion, the Escort was available in a myriad of trim variations, and engine capacities, but for first time drivers, the 1.1-litre and 1.3-litre cars are by far the most insurance-friendly. They’re also nicely economical even if they’re affected by the CVH/Valencia death-rattle. Hardly loveable, but certainly likeable.

8 Triumph Acclaim

Triumph Acclaim

Swiss-watch reliable, refined drivetrain.
Cramped and ugly.

The Acclaim might have proved that British assembly line workers were just as capable of screwing together a well-engineered car as their Japanese counterparts, but it did upset Triumph enthusiasts when it was launched at the 1981 Motor Fair in London. However, less brand-aware buyers loved the Acclaim, enjoying its beautifully-engineered Honda drivetrain, sprightly performance and promised reliability. It also paved the way for well over a decade of Honda co-operation that, had it continued to this day, could have produced genuinely world-beating cars.

But as it is, the Acclaim is a lovely 6/8th scale medium-sized saloon that offers potential owners little trouble, and far less rust than its replacement, the Rover 213/216. The classic boys seem to like it too, now, and rightly so…

9 Morris Marina 1300 Coupe

Morris Marina Coupe

Looks good, with shared MG/Triumph parts.
Against: A bit dull to drive, unrefined.

That A-Series engine certainly gets around, doesn’t it? In the Marina, it’s longitudinally mounted and drives the rear wheels, just like an MG Midget, and that makes it a cinch to get hold of engine/transmission parts, should things go wrong. Not that the Marina should go wrong, nearly as much as its critics will say it does. It’s here because it looks good (in a bargain-basement Capri kind of way), is cheap to run and, thanks to that all important A-Series, easy to fix. Far less rust-resistant than the Allegro, and less comfortable too. But a Marina is capable enough, and won’t get you into trouble in 1275cc form.

Will you get up early in the morning to drive your Marina? No. Will you feel guilty about forgetting to wash it for weeks on end? No. Will you find it useful? Yes. And will you be reminded of simpler times? Yes…

10 Ford Fiesta Mk1/Mk2

Ford Fiesta

Easy to work on, a known quantity.
Rattly engines and rust, expensive.

Even more so than the Metro, the Ford Fiesta is one of those cars that littered the streets in 1980s Britain, but which have now all-but disappeared. Can you remember when you last saw one? However, like the Metro, the cooking versions really don’t seem to have attracted any classic interest, despite having loads going for them. Considering it was Ford’s first European front-wheel-drive supermini, the Fiesta truly was an inspired piece of design, and eminently practical too.

Today, though, it’s lacking the warm charm (read, idiosyncracies) of the Metro, which actually makes it a brilliant choice. Why? Well, if you can’t love it, you won’t go and do anything irrational – like commissioning a full restoration on it. Still, buy with confidence, and enjoy steering feedback that modern cars can only dream of.

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. Odd list.

    Firstly I seriously doubt you are going to find much of the list available for sale anyway.

    Secondly forget the old Escort or Fiesta as a first car – the insurance is still pure murder for a young driver!

    Looking at the list:

    Austin Metro – most rusted away now albeit there are plenty of cheap Rover Metro/100 around.

    MK 1/2 – Those that haven’t rusted away will be an insurance problem.

    Allegro – Really?!

    Triumph Dolomite – good luck finding one.

    Rover 211 – Only realistic car on the list frankly.

    Vauxhall Chevette – even harder to find!

    Maestro clubman – some about again getting rare.

    Ford Escort – exactly the same problems as the Fiesta.

    Triumph Acclaim – err same as the Maestro really. Good luck finding one.

    Morris Marina – aside from Top Gears Hatchet job again it is a totally unrealistic car for anybody except an enthusiast.

    Sensible first car choice is usually something like a Peugeot/Citreon group small car these days albeit the boy racers haven’t helped the insurance again and certainly nothing with a Ford badge!

  2. Probably your best bet, 1.0 corsa… Loved by many when it came out, low insurance, low parts cost, handled far, far better than the equivalent Fiesta mk3 (honestly that was a scary car). French cars are good but the cost of parts is phenomenal in comparison.. Of course, for sound build quality, you can’t do worse than a Polo Mk3 parts costs about the same but less likely to go wrong. Nissan Micra? Toyota Starlet? Fiat Punto Mk1?

    Interestingly, back in the early 2000’s, I think it was Gordon Murray(?) that was posed the same question in Autocar for his son and eventually narrowed it down to the Vauxhall Nova based on handling, durability, parts, insurance, and cheap etc etc..

  3. I’m not sure I’d agree that this is an odd list,a friend of mines son was getting quotes for 4k plus for clios,206’s etc-the solution?he bought his son a morris minor for £2k and insured him through a club for £650,meanwhile his mates are getting wet through on mopeds!

  4. If you like the Chevette – better to go for the near identical Opel Kadett C…if you can put up with the blunt nose, it was much better built and has more refined engines.

  5. “..finally they had a car, they need no longer apologise for, and buyers would actually want.”

    Always helpful for a car manufacturer.

    Haven’t Top Gear destroyed all the remaining Marinas?

  6. It’s easy to knock cars that we’ve no personal experience of, especially when the institutianised bullying of a model is perpetuated by an (lessening of late) entertaining show.
    Any car that sells over a million in 10-12 years was not a bad car by contemporary standards.
    I’ve owned a Marina 1300 when I was 25-ish and it was a great car to drive, pulled superbly and was roomy as hell.
    I sold it to an 18yo lad who’s mini had given up the ghost.

    I assume we’re sticking British with this list? (as there were a few Jap-German-French contenders worthy of a place on here)
    I’m suprised not to see a 1.0 Nova or even an SD3 213 on here

  7. I’ve recently bought an almost concours olive green 1.8 sdl coupe and I can assert with authority they were petrifying round corners and complete rubbish-why did I buy it after having so many of the bangers in my teens?because now I think its a cool car to be driving around in and it reminds me me how driving was- no pas aircon abs esp a purer experience really.

  8. I’ve never owned one, but I once knew a student with a Volvo 440.
    Asked him was it a hand me down, he said the insurance on it was ridiculously cheap, as it was safe, secure and unlikely to be “boy racered”.
    So given that the biggest hurdle for many for the 1st car is the insurance, a possible candidate there for a 1st timer – a 440.

  9. God my dad had a 440 between 02-05. 1.9TD S (renault engine) it was the Rolliest ride I’ve ever known. Horrible

  10. There’s many good Allegros to be found; I picked my latest (one owner from new, 60k, off the road & garaged last 8 years) for £200 & all it needed to get it going again was fresh fuel & correcting the order of the plug leads!

    I also wish to take issue with “dog slow in 1.0” – the 1.0 has the same near-overdrive ratios installed in the Mini & Metro Es, and as such I can happily cruise in mine at (oops, sorry officer) the legal limit for hours! Just hope there’s a half-decent stereo installed…

    Still, for anyone wishing to detract from the suggestion of an Allegro, just remember that they, like the ADO16 before & the Metro after, are really just enlarged Minis; mechanically (apart from the suspension) there’s massive support for everything you might need, & the A/A+ engines are ridiculously easy to keep going!

  11. @Frankie

    They have engines from 1.6, through 1.7 (inc. Turbo), that 1.8 you found, up to a 2.0 and a 1.9 Renault diesel engine. (VW supplied the bigger Volvo diesels).

    Not sure what size engine this fellas was.
    Think insurance group for a 1.6 is 6?

  12. My first car was a 1993 Rover 820Si – cheap to buy, insurance might have been relatively expensive, but fuel consumption was good, especially for such a large car, and reliability was very good as well. Definitely cheaper to repair than my 75 . . .

  13. Many classic car insurers wont touch under 21’s though and enforce strict car groupings (declining certain engine sizes and car models for younger/inexperienced drivers) as well as very strict mileage restrictions too so care is needed to research before just buying.

  14. The Fiesta Mk1 was not Ford Europe’s first FWD car. The Taunus in Germany was FWD for some time before (62-70), it was back to RWD with the 1970 Taunus due to UK influence on the shared development (Cortina Mk3).

  15. @ Will M. Thank you! I will look into a 440. Of course, I forgot about the PVR era. If got one it would be a small petrol I think.

  16. There’s a lot of Hondas and Nissans on Autotrader below £500 – for reliability reasons I think I’d look in their direction first providing the insurance costs were OK and they didn’t obviously need new parts.

  17. My first cars were a 1967 Mini then a 1972 Viva HC. I don’t fancy many on this list, but perhaps a Chevette GLS in that metallic lime green, a Rover 200 (but not a 211) or an Acclaim would appeal most, if I was in the market for a banger.

  18. With the newest versions of the Allegro and Dolly being almost 30 years old I don’t see this as a realistic list. These cars may well be available somewhere but they are hardly readily available throughout the country. I would have thought cars like low end versions of the Nissan Micra, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault 5, Peugeot 205 are more practical, and not forgetting a much more recent car like an early Toyota Yaris.

  19. I still drive my Austin 1300 on a regular basis – I had several of them as my first cars in the 1980’s and spent a fortune on welding, fibre-glass and hammerite! Anyway, time to move it on if anyone is interested! Got my eye on a SAAB 900S!

  20. @406V6

    I took this list in keeping with the site, naming options of ifrm or interesting alternatives tothe mainstream stuff.

    We all know corsa, micra, saxo etc are the obvious practical, readily available choices, but where’s the fun in compiling that list?

  21. Hi Dominic – Due to the fact that I voted the Austin 1300 as my classic car of the year, I am now hankering after one. Let me know when it’s up for sale please 🙂

  22. Corsa’s are popular, as are clio’s and anything that can be ‘Modded’.

    As to the best first wheels – It’s all a little irrelevant as they only have them a short time before they write them off. Shortest period I have heard of was two days after he passed his test and the car was insured third party only.

    Maybe if we want to preserve our heritage, we should not be encouraging those with no appreciation or respect for what they own to buy a classic.

  23. “5 Rover 211
    £300-1500 // For: it looks modern, and won’t embarrass you”

    .. and you can lob MG-ZR bumpers and wheels on it.

    Fiesta’s always had terrible insurance premiums. My dad had a MK1 Fiesta, i was offered it as a first car, but the insurance was so much it was cheaper to actually buy a Metro and insure that.

    Marina would be a dangerous choice, i mean an anti piano roll cage would be essential and as we know insurers don’t like roll cages.

  24. “In the Marina, it’s longitudinally mounted and drives the rear wheels, just like an MG Midget”

    So, why not just buy an MG Midget? As a first car for the young (providing you can get insurance that is, although classic insurance is cheap) I’d give it a go.

  25. @ Chris K. With respect I don’t really agree. If you’re a new driver and don’t care about cars and drive like a t**t, then you probably won’t be visiting this website.
    Not all young drivers want to be Ken Bloc or a member of the Fast and Furious crew.
    Those sorts will buy a Saxo, not any of these cars, because they will think them “uncool”.

  26. In the context of young drivers I will misquote Tony Blair – “Insurance, Insurance, Insurance”! My son has just passed his test at 17 and is being quoted THOUSANDS to insure a crappy 1.1 Citroen Saxo. He would have preferred something more “interesting”, a Midget was favoured tool, however all of the Classic insurers won’t touch under 21’s and/or insist on having another modern car registered in his name. If Francis Brett knows differently, please let the world know………………….!
    Cheers, David

  27. The discounts aren’t as rich as you’d think after the first year.

    Worth doing though to improve skill if nothing else

  28. @Mark

    Thinking about it – how do you fancy becoming AROnline’s tame insurance expert? It’s a hot subject right now, and well worth doing some more in-depth features about. I love the idea of car choice and policy reduction. Why, say, an Alfa 156 V6 costs less to insure than a Peugeot 406 V6, for instance…

  29. @Keith

    I’d love to, it’s a subject that always kind of gets touched upon in the forums here and elsewhere, so seems sensible to start recognising it. Good plan 🙂

  30. @ Mark Mastro. Heck-I’d be worth it just for the little badge you get to pin on your grill 🙂 Have you done the IAM test?

  31. I haven’t as I had other methods at my disposal for reducing my premium when I needed to, but I know a few people who have, like I said it’s worth it for the skills enhancement if you’re an inexperienced driver, but the insurance benefits longer term are marginal and in some cases, non existent

  32. @ Mark Mastro. But as you say, its worth it for the skills enhancement. You can’t put a price on safety.

  33. An interesting list, very much the same as I’ve been looking at over the past year, incidentally most other 20 year olds haven’t heard of most of these cars. In the end getting a land rover worked out cheaper insurance wise, and it was the right car at the right time

  34. My first call was a VW Polo, 1983 a reg (A143 RYB). 1043cc engine which I had in 1993. It cost me £800 and insurance was £450.00. It was well built, went like stink (0-60 in 13.5 secs… True, I timed it on my watch.. which felt very quick and was faster than my mates Ital Van 1.3). It was a brilliant, brilliant 1st car. Would have another one again.
    Brakes were awfull, no servo I believe. Steering was heavy too with a massive steering wheel. but it had an embossed VW badge key, which made it look like I had a Golf!..

    Great car though

  35. Can’t see this really. Can you get the parts? how many vehicles are really roadworthy and worth taking the plunge on? Would a 17 year old know what any of them were?

    In what way were any of these ever cool/interesting/desireable? I’m sorry, it’s Nissan Micras, Toyota Yaris’s and their ilk which should be the cars to look at. f you’re going a little older, how about a 10 year old Golf?

  36. For any young or new driver who has been trying to get their first car I think this is a great list. As noted by others above, the key limiting factor currently is insurance. £2.5k for a 900cc Corsa is about the norm for young male drivers.

    The easiest way around this is to go for a classic / emerging classic.

    My pick would be the mk3 Escort. If you know where to look there are plenty about in reasonable condition and as long as it’s rust proofed properly it should last a good while.

  37. @ Mike Bushell. I’d rather drive an Acclaim than a Saxo…I imagine some of the parts you could get through Rimmer Bros.
    As for the likes of the Dagenham Dustbins, I would think there’s still plenty sitting around in scrap yards.

  38. I would have to add the 1989-1995 ROVER R8 to the list. They were well built, cheap to run and now very cheap – 200 to 500 should get a good 214si. Not sure about the insurance for a young driver but no worse than others on the list.

  39. MK3 Escort – 18 year old male driver – try £5000 insurance. Anything with a Ford badge is right out.

    Also the insurance companys are getting wise to the classic/emerging classic dodge! They either refuse insurance to young drivers or place some rather difficult restrictions. The insurance companys are expecting ten year oldish metal.

    My first car in 1998 was a ten year old Fiat Uno 60S, pretty good car and it had a 1.1 ltr engine meaning it had some respectable go. When I was getting quotes for it I managed to get fully comp for £731, when I got a quote for an equivalent age 850cc Ford Fiesta the best I got was third party fire and theft for £1500.

    The problem with the insane level of premiums for new drivers is the increased risk that they won’t bother with it and drive around without it. A new driver pretty much has to do pass plus now and doing an IAM course isn’t a bad idea. The best thing I have seen recently is young driver insurance using telematics technology, a black box is fitted to the car and they monitor your driving:

    Notice on the site that they suggest avoiding older cars.

  40. @ MarinaJon. The only problem I can see with black boxes is this-what happens if you need to put your foot down to get out of trouble for what ever reason and do, say 45 in a 40 limit, even for a second, even if it was to get out of a dangerous situation?

  41. You’ve just made me feel so much better about being 31, £320 for a 290hp 4.0 Jag XJ8 almost makes up for the mysery of insuring gutless heaps when I was in my teens.
    Coincidently I got my two mates who had just passed their tests on my 2.9 Granada hearse by going for commercial insurance for only £750, which is far less than they would have paid individualy on a 1.0 saxo.

  42. 55.

    I believe they work on an accumalative principle, a couple of seconds of 45 in a 40 will register as a rapid acceleration/deceleration/exceeding the speed limit which will be taken as a negative but if its rare or a one off shouldn’t cause too much of an issue. Don’t forget there is probably a minor leeway given for speedo inaccuracy. 45 on the dial might be 41ish!

    Frankly going on my own driving all those years ago I don’t think having electronic big brother looking over your shoulder for a couple of years is entirely a bad idea!

  43. @ MarinaJon. I see, no instant bans or anything then!
    Well that’s a good point about big brother, but it’s not something I’d think of seeming as I’ve driven like a 77 year old from day one!

  44. If a son/daughter of mine were getting their first car, I don’t think I’d go for any of these. Younger drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents and I see on the news far too many cases where small/old cars with younger drivers in have been killed when in collsion with bigger/more modern cars and I feel it’s such a painful waste. What we really need is a 1.0 litre Mondeo or something but that doesn’t exist, so I’d probably go for a late-as-possible Golf. So, insurance may be a bit more than a 1.0 Metro but if that the difference between surviving a collision or not, then it’s a an easy decision.

    I like the Volvo suggestion !!

  45. I have no idea where people are getting these ideas that Fords are expensive to insure from. My first three cars (started at 17) were all Fords, (Ka, SportKa, and a Focus 1.8 WITH performance modifications to the engine) on none of them did I pay more than £1800 p/a to insure. I’ve always found that Japanese cars are expensive to insure. As too sadly are MG Rover cars.

    It’s all about shopping around. Don’t bother with the likes of Go Compare, telephone insurance companies direct and ask them to beat quotes given by other firms. Local insurance brokers are great too. I use one for both my cars and always get a good deal. I’ve just had my renewal through for my Astra Turbo (197 BHP). I’m 20 (3 yrs NCB) and they want just shy of £1100. Not too shabby in the grand scheme of things.

    The deals are out there. You just have to put a bit of effort into finding them.

  46. No car is cheap on insurance unless you can afford a post 2005 eco car that is in the new group 1.
    Though one of my mates has a MG B 1.6 which is very cheap compared to many cars cheaper than my R25 1.4 by a fair margin.

  47. Sure your parents didn’t own the insurance company Doug?Every young person I know who has tried to ensure a Ford gets hammered!

    As for the 1.0 Mondeo idea DeLorean’s Accountant that kind of solution has been around for motorbkes for a long time. Do your full test on a 125cc bike and then you can ride anything as long as it doesn’t exceed 33hp for two years. The installation of a restrictor kit drops the power, on older bikes it involved restricting an aspect of the carbs whilst more modern bikes just require a different plug in ECU. When I did my bike test I went down this route and then got a Suzuki SV650S (I liked to call it “Tomy my first Sports Bike”), two years with restricted power gave me plenty of time to learn proper biking roadcraft and how not to drop the bike at petrol stations lol ;-). I ride a Suzuki GSXR750 now…(Just for reference I still have the SV650s restricted ECU if anybody needs one).

    Considering modern cars have an ECU its a pity there can’t be some kind of plug in solution that newters the car in return for an insurance reduction.

  48. The 440 used the same Renault engine as the 5 Monaco/GTX/GTE – the F2N when in Renault kit. 98hp. Volvo had a sharing deal with renault that resulted in the 2.5i used in the Safrane in 170hp spec – and the buckminster insane Volvo T5.

    None of these cars make sense really. Half of them dissolve in a heavy dew, the others have silly insurance (idiot chavs, or large engines). I mean, if you are looking at something in the 1600 area of things, why not a Sceptre or Singer Vogue? 6 speed transmission (not to mention, as no cost option, 3 speed automatic). All the gauges you could ever want ladled all over the dash, and the engine is bomb proof (I know from personal experience).

    Not that I told you, but if you quietly get hold of a H120 engine (2 x 40DCOEs, different head, and springs) – you have over 100hp…

    Or how about the Renault 16? or even the 6 (tip: find late model 52hp supercinq engine – it drops right in). Or the 11 Electronique, the *first* talking car on the UK market.

    Look out for £500 pound bargains in the Renault Monaco/Baccara ranges, although they’re harder to find now – since the people who own them generally know what they have. R5 Monaco, 1980’s supermini with electric everything, leather seats, computer and the trusty F2N.

    Or how about a Riley 16/60…?

  49. @ Jemma. (Re Volvo engine) Was this part of the PVR thing Volvo, Renault and Peugeot had going?

  50. @ frankie – yup. the volvo/renault engines were I think the 2.0i 16v 130hp, the straight 5 2.5i 20v 170hp and I think the 3.0 engine was also a PRV engine, although I have a sneaking suspicion there were two 3.0 or so engines. Im not sure that the 3.0 (& therefore BiTurbo) in the series 2 Safrane was a Volvo based engine – not the former 2.9 N/A engine that was also used in the 25.

    Volvo dropped out of it all for reasons I havent been able to find – the 2.4i Volvo engine is the same, with the usual ‘ramp up spares’ costs changes, as the 2.5i 170. IIRC if you try to time the Renault version with the Volvo timing kit, it will try to run backwards… amongst other ‘minor’ changes.

    Then theres the really briight idea of the Safrane BiTurbo Quadra exhaust system – Renault engineers sat down and decided how to make changing the exhaust a real enbuggerance – and succeeded admirably – unlike 99% of all exhausts it doesnt come in bits.. nope.. the only way you are getting it off is with a plasma cutter (or take the entire drivetrain off).

  51. @ Jemma. Thank you, know I know…I will look into why Volvo broke off and post it here.
    Wasn’t aware of the Safrane BiTurbo exhaust woes either.

  52. From that list it would have to be the Maestro or the Acclaim – chance of reliability and something in the way of performance. You can get a decent Metro very cheaply, though, and with surprisingly low mileage.

  53. “I have no idea where people are getting these ideas that Fords are expensive to insure from. My first three cars (started at 17) were all Fords, (Ka, SportKa, and a Focus 1.8 WITH performance modifications to the engine) on none of them did I pay more than £1800 p/a to insure.”

    When i tried to insure my dads Fiesta i was quoted around 2k as the cheapest, for the metro it was £600. Both quotes were like for like, both 1300 engines and the fiesta was quoted as my own car not my dads.(it would have been transfered to me)
    Insurance is such a personal thing though, your postcode or job can make a vast difference to the premium.

    With the IAM thing it probably depends on the insurer/Broker. I’ve got a Class 1 HGV licence.I always make a point of saying it when they ask if i have a full UK licence.
    Some insurers give me a discount as they see me as an advanced driver, someone who depends on keeping my licence to earn a living, driving an artic with out constantly crashing depends on good observation etc etc.
    There are other insurers where it makes no difference at all.
    Then i’ve had some where they actually charge me more on the basis that i’ll likely be driving my own car while tired, statistically at a higher risk of hear attack etc etc.

    It’s probably the same with the IAM thing, as to whether the insurer actually ‘recognises’ it, probably down to if there is a box on their computer screen to input it.

  54. It’s jolly nice of Keith to give me all the credit for buying and running cheap affordable cars, but I know motorists have been doing that since a Benz became a banger. I just gave it a name that caught on. For me the most FAQ is first cars. Whether it is parents or their children, they all want a car that is cheap to buy and run. Oh and insure. That’s the elephant in the garage. So it becomes harder than ever to recommend anything. First timers should be in big safe Saab 9000s, or old E Classes, but that is never going to happen. It has to be small and slow and probably called Yaris, or Corsa. Oddly I was talking to a Mini specialists about all this the other day and youngsters want a cool Mini but Mum and Dad worry about the lack of airbags, unless its a late one. So yes its Metros, 205s, 214s, if you are lucky…

  55. An interesting list and ity highlights a car that I’ve long thought of as an ideal starter classic.
    The Allegro might be the butt of many jokes but it has many strengths that are often overlooked.
    – Firstly they are cheap, both to buy and insure. Younger drivers commonly face insurance premiums of in excess of £1000, 1098/998cc Allegros are dirt cheap to run and while the performance is limited the Allegro range featured an identical brake set up accross the range, making the smallest engined models ‘overbraked’ and therefore safer than many period competitors.
    – Secondly spares are dead easy to come by and in many instances upgrades fitted to later A series engined cars will bolt straight on, this includes lead free heads, electric ignition etc.
    – Thirdly they are less likely to be stolen as theives consider them as desirable as scurvey.
    – Finally many Allegros for sale have been owned by caring owners in the past, I own two and both were owned by older drivers when new who both looked after them and repaired them when they needed to and correctly, many cars can’t claim to be treated as well as an old Allegro.

  56. Generic opinions on what’s cheap to insure is one of the most pointless you can have.
    There are insurers who wont insure an individual from a particular demographic on a particular MODEL and TRIM LEVEL if they have a bad claims experience personally on the combination.
    The insurance groups published by ABI are nothing more than a wildly tamed-down guide, each individual insurance underwriter has it’s own set of grouping for each model and trim level, based losely on the ABI’s guidleines, but then more detailed loadings and stipulations are applied; loading for a particular car in a particular area has been known (not including the seperate insurance rating for area), there really is so much to it the best thing to do is do some quotes and compare against other vehicles with YOUR OWN details in; only then will you have the faintest idea

  57. Mark it all boils down to statistics doesn’t it?
    I assume that when ever you enter your details into a given insurers computer it logs everybody’s details into a great big spreadsheet. The same happens if when you make a claim. Then those occupations, or postcodes or age groups or whatever that are at the top of the list for claims are considered higher risk.

  58. it certainly does. It’s gambling. Like any other gamble it’s based on form. There’s no sharing of information between insurers at quotation stage, only when policies become live to the shared information databases start to come into play

  59. Ultimately if a first time driver has around £1500 to spend on a car and insurance, with insurance as high as it is for them it’s no surprise why many end up with cheap death traps.
    Allegros are good starter classics as while they may be cheap to buy they are generally well looked after cars, even the odd mint condition one oner car comes up now and again in 2011 and despite popular belief these cars last well and are less prone to rot than their Escort/Viva and Avenger rivals.

  60. My first car was a fiat uno 45, chosen mainly because the insurance was alot lower than its rivals because it wasn’t as fashionable. Yet in the college traffic light race it easily beat a 1.1 fiesta. My biggest supprise was when I sold it to get a Land Rover 110 when I was 18 and my insurance nearly halved. I really thing Series 3 and 90/110 should be on the list, parts are cheap and if you stick it in a hedge/ditch just reverse out again.

  61. @ keith… I loved the Chevette ever since I saw Street Machine’s Dole Money Cruiser. I wouldn’t mind a perfect one for a high powered conversion. VW VR6 engine, BMW gearbox, Manta A rear axle and Quaife ATB Diff. Body kept stock.. Could be interesting to drive….

  62. What insurers are wanting nowadays is a new driver as a named driver on a car first, I know it seems the reverse of what we expect, but if you think about it it’s sensible; rather than have some giddy new driver with a car full of friends tooling around in ‘their very own’ corsa or saxo, out til whatever time they like etc, the idea is that if you’re driving Mum n dad’s car, you’ll be more likely to be under curfew and be watched more closely (I’m not naive enough to think it always works like that) By this I don’t mean mum or dad buying an additional car for the new driver to use, I mean adding them onto the existing car only. As the car will have full NCD and be the main or only car in the household, the new driver won’t be on their own in it as much. The risk is lessened and the premium reflects this.

  63. and of course mum or dad are more likely to pay for any repairs themselves (and make jnr repay it) than make a claim. It’s like we used to hear “over 50’s are safer drivers”, now that seems to have changed to a more accurate “over 50’s are less likely to make a claim”, because they generally have a higher disposable income they can afford to pay claims themselves.

    “I really thing Series 3 and 90/110 should be on the list, parts are cheap and if you stick it in a hedge/ditch just reverse out again.”

    But if you stick it into the boot or side of someone elses car things are a whole lot worse.

  64. Surprised the Morris Minor isn’t on the list though, the saloons are pretty cheap to buy. Travellers and Convertibles go for more.

  65. Re: Thieves not going after Allegros as they are as desirable as scurvy

    How does the 70s car security hold up?
    Some thieves will just steal a car because it is easy to steal.
    Either Joyriders who will just rake the hell out of it “‘coz theres nuffink else to do innit?”, or crims who will use it as a getaway car for their dastardly deeds!

    Mind you, asking the public have they seen an Allegro should get more information than asking have they seen yet another 316i / Passat involved in a crime.

  66. Hi Dennis,

    I thought long and hard about Minors, but to get one that you can just get into and use with any degree of confidence is not quite within the £1000 remit really.

  67. My daughter, a new driver bought a 1998 Fiat Punto (first shape) 3 years ago. It is a 1.2 ELX which has the twin cam engine and 86 BHP!. It cost her £750. We were amazed at how reasonable the insurance was for her as the owner /diver and me as a named driver (having a parent as a named driver on the kid’s insurance can make a big difference in the right direction – not a lot of people know that) It was about £950.
    We had all the brakes done and a new timing belt all reasonably priced, and after It passed the mot last summer it was trated to a new clutch again not too bad a cost. The car is no oil painting but it seems willing and is resisting rust pretty well. I was always very anti Fiat before, but this Punto has really changed my mind.

  68. @ Will M. Did you know at one stage the most likely to be nicked car in the UK was the Vauxhall Belmont?

    Our car thieves have very bad taste, compare that to US thieves, whose car of choice was the Honda Integra.

  69. That’s one of the reason’s Ford Fiesta’s were high grouped at one point. It was harder to get in with the Key than without it 🙂

  70. I had a Cortina mark 3 in the 80’s. Someone else at work had one the same colour as mine. One day I got in the wrong one and started it up before I realised it was not mine!!

  71. @Frankie

    Yep, the Belmont was the most stolen, was there was some easy trick to them, either involved a tennis ball or some hidden switch in the wheel arch?

    Was offered an MOTd Belmont once for buttons, only the insurance was going to be ridiculously expensive!

    Apparently the boot was handy for ram raiding.

    Mind you, I did end up later buying an Orion, and got stopped by the police in Dundee after hurtling through a roundabout in the early hours, they thought I was a joyrider!

  72. @ Will M. I haven’t heard of the wheel arch trick, but I don’t doubt it…I’m not sure weather I should google “how to steal a Belmont”
    The ram-raiding makes sense; go in with a Belmont, come out with an Astra.

    That makes sense about the police pulling you over, many a Road Wars yoof has been driving a stolen Orion!

  73. “having a parent as a named driver on the kid’s insurance can make a big difference in the right direction – not a lot of people know that”

    Although if you do that the parent has to actually drive the car from time to time. If you never drive it and someone else can prove it then the insurance can be invalidated. The biggest and naugtiest dodge was to have a parent insure a car then put their kid on there as the named driver, even though it’s purely the kids car and the parent never drives it. I understand a lot of insurers are getting hot on checking up on that.

    Those Fords with the Tibb keys were a joke. The keys often wore so badly that just about anything of the approximate size would fit. I’ve heard, but never tried it, if you bashed a 4mm allen get in the lock you could line the tumblers up and unlock it. I also know that when you ordered a replacement lock barrel from Ford you got a kit and had to calculate and fit the tumblers. It was a very fiddly job and more hassle than it was worth for a garage, so i suspect often the empty barrel just got fitted, in which case any tibb key would open them.

  74. Have you have all forgot about the perfect car for a new young driver?

    It comes from this very parish!!!!!!!

    its modern
    abs,airbags etc for safety

    its cheap to buy
    its cheap to run (50mpg)
    its cheap to tax
    its cheap to insure

    its a

    no its not one of those

    or one of those


    I give you the Rover 25 diesel

    One of the best kept secrets in the motortrade

  75. As if you could find an MOT’d version of any of them in the list !!!

    But you missed the most crucial one of all, and still just available in sufficient quantities – the Mini!!!

  76. The problem I found with diesels when I quoted insurance for my first car about 10 years ago, was that they made no differentiation between a petrol and diesel in terms of engine size.

    So a 1.9 was a 1.9.
    Didn’t matter if the diesel was n.a. with 50bhp and less acceleration than a 1.2 petrol, as far as the insurance companies were concerned, it was the same as a 1.9 petrol 130bhp monster!

  77. OK, how many of these cars are for sale in the Netherlands:
    1) Austin Metro: just 1 (a 1985 1000 LS for € 1,450)
    2) Ford Fiesta: 16 (ranging from € 350 to 3,000 for a 1990 1.1)
    3) Austin Allegro: 0, nil, zero, nothing, nada
    4) Triump Dolomite, just 1, for € 4,500. Not a real banger…
    5) Rover 211, none. Other 200-series: ± 300, ranging from € 350 to 3,950. About 20 for less than € 1,000.
    6) Vauxhall Chevette: What is a Vauxhall? So I took a look at the Opel Kadett up to 1980: 29 examples, ranging from € 599 to 32,900 for a 2,4 litre GTE Works 😉
    7) Austin Meastro: just 1, a Diesel Van for € 1,250.
    8)Ford Escort: about 80, from € 450 (convertible! or a 1600i for scrap) to 6,750 for RS turbo
    9)Triumph Acclaim & 10) Morris Marina: zil, nil, nothing, nada. Not even a Morris Ital…
    Not comparable at all.
    Dutch bangers? anything with an Opel or VW-badge attached to it. Or Japanese cars: Starlet, Micra, Colt, Corolla. Some French small cars (106, Clio, AX, Saxo, etc).

  78. @Dennis “I’ve heard, but never tried it, if you bashed a 4mm allen get in the lock you could line the tumblers up and unlock it”
    Thanks, that’s useful to know

  79. “But you missed the most crucial one of all, and still just available in sufficient quantities – the Mini!!!”

    You’d be VERY VERY lucky to find one for less than a grand that wasn’t a total dog though. Would likely come with Oversills, footwells like a patchwork quilt and invisible front seams because they’re packed with filler. Not to say they don’t exist but from what i’ve seen 1500 seems to be about the least you pay for a decent one.

    Another one with Ford Tibb keys is any Tibb key will lock any door. We had a spate of keys being locked in transits in one of my last jobs. Turned out people were locking the van keys in the cab by inadvertantly using their car key or another van key to lock the door!

  80. I remember my Uncle mentioned at his company one of the most common problems the company car workers had was locking the keys in a car after accidently locking them with the wrong key.

    Most of the fleet were Fords so this happened a lot.

    I guess if they had a few Fords to work on & a pocket full of near identical keys it was easy to do.

    Out of interest I tried locking my Mum’s Fiesta with the spare key from my brother’s Escort, & it worked. I did make sure the proper keys were available!

  81. All these cars are virtually non existent! Rover 200 apart. Surely a 1990s Fiesta Mk3, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Nova/Corsa etc will be far more likely options

  82. Re Ford Keys, any Ford key will lock a Ford vehicle but it needs to be the right key to unlock one, or so Im told…..

  83. Shame the R8 214 is not on the list as it is a more capable car than the R3 and cheaper to buy, the best ‘practical classic’ out there right now.

  84. Agree that the Rover R8 is probably the best bet or indeed a Ford KA, handles like a real Mini. Of the cars on offer the Marina Coupe appeals but from personal experience its not a nice drive, so for me it would be the Allegro, loved both of mine especially the Vanden Plas ( wish i still had it).

  85. The Rover 200 is by far the most realistic option.

    The Allegro is , perhaps surprisingly, the most interesting, desirable from a classic point of view – how time changes things!

  86. Allegro prices are (slowly!) on the up too.
    I’ve owned 1300cc Mk2 Escorts and 1300cc Allegros and overall the Allegro is (thanks to the better ride, rust proofing, near identical performance and better economy) a better car…

  87. I went for a Maestro and I’m glad I did. I checked out a Mk4 escort, but for twice what the Maestro was going for I didn’t think it good value. And it was a 1.3 pop with white wheel trims.

  88. I wanted a Classic Mini as my first car but my Dad persuaded me that 6ft 2 chaps like ourselves would never get on with a Mini. My actual first car was an S’reg Sky Blue Mk1 Fiesta 957cc L which was so good, my second car was an E’reg Black Mk2 Fiesta 957cc Popular. My first proper car was the first automotive love of my life, a rebuilt 1980 Brooklands Green MG BGT which I funded through an evening job on top of my day job – how much retail work can one guy stomach? Still it was a means to an enjoyable end, at least for just over 7 years and saw me through courting and marriage right up to the birth of my son Oliver and the arrival of our first MGF (still with us 10 years later).

    Now my son tells me he wants a Classic Mini as his first car, he’s going to be another 6ft Warner chap but this time the Mini will be joining the family for sure!

  89. In reply to cookie1600(post 97).
    I bought my Allegro 1.5L 2 years ago for £750, after looking at quite a few. It’s in mint condition and I’ve been able to get most parts from my local motor factor or the very helful Allegro Club International. The membership of which reduced my insurance premium by more the the membership cost. So I do think this could be a viable first runabout. It is unfortunatley by no means my first car. I like the idea of a Maestro, I keep thinking about buying one as a cheap everday car. I must say my other half isn’t quite so keen, she’d much prefer me to get our Morris Minor on the road again.

  90. If you could find one, a tidy MG Metro 1300 would be a nice first car – assuming insurance didn’t rule it out

  91. How about an 1800 Marina Coupe – the TC was it?

    This would be a bit more interesting.

    How would the insurers regard this if an 18yr old was driving?

  92. A big disadvantage I see with the “classic” approach advocated for 9 of the 10 cars here is in terms of crash protection. There’s the effect of combination of built-in safety improvements in more recent cars, and accumulating rust in the classics.

    As others have indicated here already, young male drivers (and that included me many years ago) are statistically very likely to have a crash. I rolled my first Allegro in 1979.

    I know there’s been mention of the IAM course to improve driver skills. And I don’t disagree, but I would suggest that statistically they’re still likely to crash.

    Therefore, realistically if they are going to be involved in some form of crash they’re not going to be as well protected in 9 out of these 10 cars, as they would in (as examples)a newer Corsa, Polo, Lupo, Micra or – of course – the Rover 200 here.

  93. But then anything over 5 or 10 years old, which is likely to be first car fodder are likely to score low on crash testing.

    E36 beemers got 1.5 stars, as did Citroen Xantias.

    Do we get them to buy SUVs as the school runners do?

  94. I have been reading this thread with great interest, having owned a couple of these cars over the years.

    I got my first car, a 1970 Morris Mini 1000 for £475 and it cost about £360 to insure. To be quite honest, the ‘what happens in an accident?’ argument is a moot point, because in a lot of crashes it takes two to tango. Elderly drivers are as much a risk as young ones, and as someone said earlier probably have fewer claims because they’ve got the cash to pay for any repairs themselves. A mature classic driver is probably as likely to get clobbered by a newbie in a body-kitted Corsa/Saxo/106 as much as said newbie is likely to take a wheezy Allegro or Marina off the road at such a speed to cause a self-inflicted fatality.

    I honestly don’t know where folk get the cash to insure young drivers these days, as it seems the old cheap get-out of TPF & T is apparently no longer cheaper nowadays. Easy credit and big-pocketed Daddy’s are putting cars in the hands of 17 & 18 year olds that would have been well out of the reach of our generation in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Most of the cars in this list were all that we could afford.

    I think a legally-imposed CC limit for learner & new drivers up to 1 or 2 years would be a more useful tool than prohibitively priced premiums. It scares me to see BMW X5’s and Land Rover Discovery’s with L plates on them, and it just isn’t sensible. Some may say it’s unworkable, but an automatic 12 month ban and resitting the test if caught just might focus the mind.

    Incidentally, for those who may have missed it in the news last week, there was a fatal, single vehicle accident on the A697 in the Scottish Borders where an 18 year old passenger died and the 17 year old driver was left with life-threatening injuries. The car left the road and hit a tree – it was a Mitsubishi Evo, which if my knowledge is correct is effectively a road-going rally car. In the hands of a 17 year old ??? No reports of it being stolen, before anyone jumps to conclusions.

    NCAP rating for that car, anyone?

    As with any vehicle accident, the variable is the driver, the car itself is pretty much a constant and only does what the driver tells it to..

  95. I’m surprised the Renault 5 didn’t make the final cut. I bought mine for £100 and ran it around for a year, and even though it was a bit basic I loved its space, its handling and its ride quality.

    It was also by far and away the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, and I’m sure would still start even after a light nuclear blast.

  96. In the mid 1990’s my Sister’s friend’s Mum had a MG Metro 1300, which was stolen & recovered, which made the insurance so high I think she ended up selling it.

  97. David Simister – Comment 119

    My first car was a MKI Renault 5 GTL on an ‘X’ plate bought in 1991 for £550. A black 3dr, relatively rust free – outwards it was spotless but a fair bit of rot behind the scenes.

    Spent a fair bit on it – both in terms of paying someone else and DIY following trips to the scrapyard.

    At the time, it offered a lot for the money. Metros, Fiestas for the same money would have been a lot more basic but my Five offerd a 5 speed box, comfy seats (with headrests!) and luxury items like a clock and rear wiper!!

    Excellent economy and comfy ride but dire acceleration and body roll which almost made use of the plastic side cladding!!

  98. Learnt to drive in a 1.6 diesel, Mk2 Fiesta – the original with new dash, rounded front. Nice car, no signifiant faults but hardly an interesting first car. A Ghia wouldn’t be too bad. Nor would an XR2 – but,oh dear, the insurance!

  99. I know it’s not really relevant anymore as it has been more then 20 years ago:

    A girl in my class had a 10 year old Mercedes 280SE as her first car. OK, it wasn’t really a case of an old banger and certainly not for those short on cash. Insurance was not a problem back then here in Germany as it is now in the UK. When this car ended in the ditch the thought was refined by her parents: Next car was a 6 or 7 years old Mercedes 200D 🙂 Back in the middle 80s there was not much about to touch the passive safety of Mercedes (the SD1 was also pretty good mind), so the basic thought was quite simply to get the available safety…

  100. Insurance costs are based on statistics and the accident stats for young drivers, particularly 17-21 year old males are reflected in the prices. Let’s face it guys, we’ve all been there as pimply-faced youths – just passed test, bought our first car out of the local paper and wellied it a bit just to show off to our mates, and hey, it’ll always be someone else who crashes, not me.

    As for NCAP it gives an idea of how well a car behaves in carefully controlled lab conditions, but if you have a big enough crash then no amount of NCAP stars are going to save you. In any car.

    Going back to core subject, I’d choose something modern enough to have good active and passive safety for the inevitable prang, plus old enough for there to be plenty for spares in the breakers. The only car on the list for my youngster then would be the Rover 200, although off-list there are plenty of alternatives as described elsewhere.

  101. “Back in the middle 80s there was not much about to touch the passive safety of Mercedes”

    I don’t know, Volvo’s are pretty good for safety. At the time many of them even came with Active Safety systems in the mid 80’s.

    Early 80’s Mercs were a bit rust prone though, so while it might have been strong when new, it was probably a lot weaker once the tin worm had got to it. Big Volvo’s weren’t immune to rot, but seemed a lot better than the mercs of the time.

  102. @ Dennis.
    But NCAP has changed everything about the way cars are designed for safety. Go on YouTube and find the clip where 5th Gear ran a Renault Modus into a big Volvo from the 90’s. Sobering viewing for fans of big old tanks.
    That said the safest cars are going to be large modern ones with lots of stars, but clearly these are not going to be starter cars for impecunious 17-year olds.

  103. “@ Dennis.
    But NCAP has changed everything about the way cars are designed for safety. Go on YouTube and find the clip where 5th Gear ran a Renault Modus into a big Volvo from the 90′s. Sobering viewing for fans of big old tanks.
    That said the safest cars are going to be large modern ones with lots of stars, but clearly these are not going to be starter cars for impecunious 17-year olds.”

    I agree, but i was commenting on the passive safety of 1980’s mercs (in period ie. the 1980s).

    And yes saw that crash test when they first broadcast it, i would imagine in a pure head on not corner to corner the Volvo would have faired better than the Modus. Generally speaking the safest place to be is something massive with lots of the latest safety features, a Volvo Truck for example, unless of course you hit another Volvo truck or a Bridge. It just depends what you hit and how you hit it.

  104. This topic is appropriate at the mo, as a 22 year old mate has just passed his test. Everything is coming up in the THOUSANDS for premiums. He got a quote for a P reg 1.2 Clio, and it was over £3500 third party fire & theft! He does live in LS12, which is a crime hotspot to be honest, but that is bloody stupid. He owns a 1960s BMC LD Wadham ambulance that he is slowly working on, which will become a camper conversion internally, but will be restored externally, but even the classic insurers won’t touch him on that at the moment.

    And Keith, your Bangernomics list is about 15 years behind now. Cheap Shove-Its & Marinas etc are now like hens teeth, and will be terminally rotten in that price bracket. Late 205’s and late AX’s & early Saxos should be in there, simply because they cost pennies to tax, and sip fuel, handle well, and even in the small engine size, will still almost crack the ton. That 954cc engine is a little cracker.

  105. @ Marty B

    No, no no! In one sentence you’re bemoaning insurance costs for youngsters (as we all are!) and then in the next suggest cars that ‘crack the ton’!!! Is that not part of the problem in how insurers look at those cars????? I’m not ragging you, my friend, just making an observation 😀

    Your mate’s ambulance project sounds great, and it is highly commendable for someone of 22 actually taking an interest in restoring a classic. If it turns out to be a good experience for him, it might encourage to him to do some more and for it to hold his interest for a lifetime. I often get the impression restorations are more the domain of my generation (in my 40’s) and it’s nice to hear of younger folk taking an interest. 🙂

  106. Rover 25/200 Diesels… Cheap to insure? Hah! I’m late 30s & trying to insure the Rover I bought purely as a parts car was one of the most expensive propositions I’ve experienced in the last few years!

    @MarinaST – I picked up *two* one owner from new Allegros last year, one of which the owner had died but the other he was only just retiring; he’d bought it at age 30 to transport his band’s gear! Can you imagine… Top bloke though.

  107. Back in 96/97 when I was learning to drive I recall such a list of cheap ideal starter cars appearing in one of the car mags. I can’t remember them all, but two I do are Minis (at that time old Minis were cheap) and Triumph Spitfires! An ideal first car, cheap to run and fix, apparently. I wouldn’t fit in one though, sadly.

  108. I am 20 and not long passed my test. I cannot get work easily and am about to have that huge Uni debt dumped on my shoulders. I cannot complain, I took that plunge for a better future and to pay it will be my responsibility in return for society funding my study.
    Even at 20 though, three years after one can begin to drive, with no criminal record of any kind and on the smallest engined classics, it would seem insurance (or at least feels like) is the biggest blocker to a young male driving. I cannot comment for women.
    The cost of learning to drive alone and the test is not exactly cheap and then buying and running the car too let alone the insurance which on motors VDP Allegros or even less powerful things can be quoted up to 4k!
    That said, I find the best bet, would be to ring and ignore most comparison websites.
    If I was less responsible, I may take the plunge but there you go, if you cant afford it, I guess you dont buy it and if you have parents who dont earn much or are not very willing to help (which I suppose is their right)then I think you can pretty much end up stuck until you can do can work some cash. More annoying, is that rule with no longer being able to have SORN cars on public roads ( Have I got that right?) which means if you are in my boat, you have to be thinking fairly far ahead to see if you can get more then a years motoring out of it.
    Also, there are people in my generation who do care and love classics (and not just mini, VW Beetles,Golf/Camper van combination) but cannot afford to buy one that has too many underlying issues. I would love to restore cars, but to find the space and money to do so just restricts that to a dream.
    I suppose it just seems most annoying that when you do everything legally, when you wait patiently until you have passed, when you follow the rules with licenses, insurance, taxing, you find, with minimal outside help, to get a vehicle of any sort on the road and to be able to run it for more then a few months is extortionate and extreme.

  109. @ Pigeons99.

    It’s not just new drivers feeling it. A family friend is a driving instructor and has almost no work. So many would be new drivers are seeing the silly insurance prices and thinking; “Why bother learning?”

    As for the costs for women drivers. Traditionally, they had lower premiums, because they were and are statistically less likely to make a claim.
    The EU planned to stop this because it violated equality laws, apparently. Instead of levelling insurance for men and women out, so they both share the cost, all they’ve done is hiked up the costs for women, so they get the same deal as us.
    Even my Gran saw her premiums go up, and she’s been driving 50 years and never had an accident.

    As for your last point; the fine for driving without insurance is £200. Nothing compared to the crazy quotes we’ve been hearing about. You don’t need to be a genius to work out what’s going to happen there…all these companies are doing are putting more uninsured drivers on the road.

  110. @ Frankie

    Another potential problem of driving without insurance is that your car can be confiscated and crushed. Consequently you get the risk of cheap uninsured bangers/death-traps littering the road and law-abiding innocents ending up paying the price in any accidents. 🙁

  111. @ Paul T. I know it’s annoying. They have to pick up the bill all because of some thoughtless pillock.

  112. And 6 penalty points, assuming an uninsured car will likely have other faults too, a couple of bald tyres for example then that’s bye bye license.

    Driving without a licence can get a prison term i think?

  113. However, I would imagine, those who decide to drive without a licence or tax and insurance because it is too much and are not responsible enough to wait until they can fund their road going adventures, dont strike me s the kind of people who are too bothered about any penalty or charge they may incur.
    Fine them, like you say £200 is pennies compared to the 1-2K someone needs to get insured and buy an `ok` motor. They will probably do it again. Even if it got to the point where they loose the licence, or receive a sentence, they will just do it again until they get caught. Partly because the convictions will hike the price of their insurance up and the temptation is too great or the lack the respect for other road users, pedestrians and authority.

    Like the points mentioned above, it (I dont want to say forces because it is up to an individual to stay legal) `pushes` some people to drive uninsured. This is unfair and should incur a very hefty sentence (but the jails are too full right?) because they are gambling with other road users lives willingly. How very callous. However, those uninsured drivers push the price up for those who do it legally, and never really seems to punish those who are willing to gamble with every ones livelihoods and lives.

  114. I loved my 1275cc Marina that had an Ital engine. The car formerly a 1.8 had been converted when its old engine wore out. “Josephine” as the previous owner had named her was mine for £150! OK there were a few faults like a whining gearbox and an ominous knock. I took the gearbox out and fitted new bearings. Whilst I was at it I replaced the clutch which had knackered buffer springs and that got rid of both the whine and the knock! The spare parts like the road tax were quite reasonable too! “Josephine” was bought to replace a £25 903cc Fiat Uno so she was quite expensive! When I bought the phart in a tin I could see that the head gasket had been blowing as there were rusty water stains but that was no big deal. The other fault was bent door hinges as during a gale the previous owner was left holding the door grab handle as the door flew open! I took the hinges off and bolted them to a piece of RSJ in order to hammer them back to shape. After about a year and a half the engine started drinking oil and smoking so it was the end of the line but the car was good whilst it lasted. It was however difficult to drive in traffic as there was no brake servo. Stout soled shoes or boots were needed as otherwise on would get an aching foot. Parts factors claimed that all Uno brake pads were the same grade so I was stuck with the problem. Worst car I ever owned was a 1.6 Ford Cortina. Dear road tax, poor performance and build quality and a carburettor full of flat spots. At MOT the tester boasted that he could get the emissions even lower although they were within spec. The next morning the car almost catapulted me through the windscreen so I had to reset the carburettor back to how it was. I have never been back to that MOT test station as they are just a bunch of dickheads.

  115. Re post 118, I really do have to disagree very strongly indeed. I’m retired now but a few years ago I almost had a nasty head-on on my side of the road. The single carriageway road was about twenty feet wide perhaps and coming towards me on the other side was a combine harvester. I was doing a perfectly legal 55 to 60 mph in my Audi 100. The approaching combine was doing about 30 mph so the “door” was closing at 90 mph. Behind the combine was a convoy of about six cars. Suddenly I saw a glint from the windscreen of a car that had pulled out to overtake this lot. Jeez with the “door” shutting at 90 it would take Formula 1 power at least to get past that lot in time. It was now basically a game of “chicken” with a car coming towards me in my lane. Whilst I was pretty confident in the Audi 100’s ability to demolish the hot hatch WHAT ABOUT MY NO CLAIMS BONUS? By braking really hard and smoking the tyres I managed to keep the “door” open long enough for the yob to carve his way past the combine. He probably thinks he’s a good driver but he’s only alive because of my heavy braking. One only has to look at the number of shrines around here to see how many fatal mistakes people make. Quite frankly with the amount of traffic on rural roads these days overtaking is virtually a thing of the past. Reason is that there is always a pleasant phucker coming the other way!

  116. The Bangernomics winner by miles isn’t there! The Daihatsu Charade or early Sirion, 60+mpg and peppy performance thanks to the extraordinarily light weight. Group 1 insurance and unbreakable mechanicals.

  117. Re post 94 about Insurance. There are much bigger scams than that as I know to my cost! I wanted to move my 2.5 ton sailing boat and I wanted another 4×4. I also had a Rover 800 twin-cam with a broken cam-belt that needed moving from Southsea which was 180 miles away. Now I wanted to buy from a mature person who had maintained the vehicle properly, NOT some yob whose hobby was off-roading. In the pictures the car had been raised by two inches. I mentioned this and the answer was that it had been done for getting through snow in winter. As the location was high on the Pennines it seemed plausible. I caught the train and bought the car but after a few hundred miles the faults became apparent. Although the V5 had been in the fathers name it turned out later that he had bought the vehicle to lend to his 17 year old son for eight years! Judging by the dents and holes in the chassis that had got grass and mud in them it had been seriously off-roaded. In actual fact this does not need much continuous power unlike motorway work. Anyhow as soon as the Devon hills were encountered it boiled and boiled and boiled. The radiator fins had all corroded away. Absolute junk and the best part of £2000 wasted! There is nothing worse than buying a vehicle to get one out of the s#1t which then breaks down and just becomes more s#1t.

  118. Re post 145 by Steve Lee. If you can get a good Charade needing no work and run it into the ground it might be true. I bought a diesel Charade long ago and I wanted to fit a new timing belt. One cylinder was low on compression so I also needed a head gasket. I ordered the parts from a Main Dealer in the South West. I asked the price and the store-man said that it “wouldn’t be much” and asked me for my credit card number as “I haven’t quite worked it out yet”. When the bits arrived I found I’d been billed for nearly £100 and this was well over ten years ago. The car was never restored and it literally fell apart. On the back glass it still says “Daihatsu Build A Better Car” but as the doors have now fallen off this doesn’t seem to be true. Caveat Emptor (but they all rust!)

  119. Re Dennis and post number 140. Prison? It depends on who you are. I was reliably informed about what happened to a Plymouth “joy rider”. He took a car and sped at 60 in a 30 zone (two offences already – four actually as he had neither licence nor insurance) He ran red traffic lights (dangerous driving and failing to heed a signal?) Another offence of failing to stop for a police car with blue lights going is probably resisting arrest – I don’t know I’m not a lawyer. Anyhow with all that he had done you’d expect them to chuck away the key. Not so! The Judge said this is really serious so what I’m going to do is to increase your three month suspended sentence to a six month suspended sentence. The way most people would see this was that he was let-off! He certainly saw it that way as once he got outside the court he was seen laughing. Now what would happen if a middle aged middle class person did half of that? Fines, ban, points, jail? “joy riders” can’t have points put on a licence if they haven’t got one. As to fines they’d never pay. Short of YOIs for Boys there’s not a lot that the state can do.

  120. Re posts 139 to 141 In my honest opinion the points system is a farce and the Law is an Ass. Here’s why:- A couple were going through a divorce. The husband who had already left called at the matrimonial home and said “Do you want the car?” The wife naively said “Yes” and the husband said “Sign here”. He then used the car until the MOT expired, fitted four bald tyres, cashed in the tax and cancelled the insurance after parking it near her house at the end of the road she never went to. By then the V5 was already in the post. Before long someone was complaining that “There’s an untaxed car in MY parking space!”. Next the police call at her house and describe the vehicle asking “Is this your car?” She got huge fines and about TEN POINTS on her previously clean licence. I’d say that that most definitely makes the law an ass as IMHO such a case has so many mitigating circumstances that it should have been thrown out of court. Just think what her insurance premiums will be (not just for one year but for several years) after a scam like that! Just comparing her case to the one of the Plymouth joyrider that I mentioned earlier proves that life is not a level playing field.

  121. May I suggest, tongue in cheek, a Chyrsler Sunbeam, for reasons that are too long to reasonably explain, I had to drive one of these for a couple of months in the 80s.

    Whilst I appreciate the Lotus version may have been something special and rear wheel drive is apparently more fun, driving the version I drove was enough to make you never get behing a wheel again !!!! Terrifying handling, vile to drive, uncomfortable, noisy and looked horrible,although it did have tinted glass, a sunroof and a six dial instrument panel, none of the gauges actually worked, but they looked nice…..

  122. Missed one useful Bangernomics small classic which is British, still around in large numbers and can be easily found for under £ 1000. Why hasn’t the Mark 2 Nissan Micra made the top ten? This is an extremely reliable small car, can return up to 50 mpg, looks distinctive and insurance costs are low. It would make a lot more sense to a young buyer than a 1979 Morris Marina.

  123. Peugeot 205 diesel. Quite a few out there, and they don’t seem to be rotboxes either, plus the XUD is the stuff of legends, and is a miser when it comes to fuel consumption, and it’s quite stylish tbh

  124. Been a while since this blog first showed up.

    With insurance black boxes starting to get rolled out, these should reduce premiums further still.

    My own first car, the trinity seemed to be Cinquecento, Rover 100 1.1 and AX 1.0 for cheap insurance.

    Getting older, early 30s, insurance is dirt cheap. Probably at it’s lowest point before insurance companies start seeing you as a risk again. Though with trying to settle down, save up for various things and with petrol prices at an all time high, the urge to buy a V6 or V8 is tempered by the costs of commuting it.

  125. As a reliable anti style statement that is becoming very cheap now, yet quite a few are still around, how about the original Nissan Almera? Even less fashionable than the nineties Micra, but blessed with old school Nissan reliability, 40 mpg, good equipment levels and low insurance.

  126. post 1993 Nissan Micra K11, the curvy one, 16Valve twin-cam engines, the 1.3 will surprise you with its effortless acceleration and hill climbing ability. Watch out for easily damaged clutches, and the throttle body problem, poor running and power loss, the throttle body assembly is expensive to buy new, but all that will be wrong will be cracked solder joints on the printed circuit board, the joints which fail are the three heavy duty wires from the hot air mass flow sensor to the pcb, a few minutes with a soldering iron , problem fixed

  127. Ah the Almera, before Nissan decided that everything it sold had to be an SUV.

    The saloon was a mini-Primera, popular in Ireland.

    So popular, in fact, that when it was replaced by the Qashcow jeep, they had to import the Tiida saloon to cover the C segment saloon space to keep sales up!
    Some of these found their way up North and into Scotland via Charles Hurst and Arnold Clark.

  128. This is a good list of starter classics that you can run in conjunction with your ‘main’ car I think – is the 200 Bubble a Classic? Hmmm maybe not yet but it will be pretty soon , ones in good nick without rust on them are already getting rare.

  129. As a UK car nut I think this is a great article. i have a TR3, TR4A, MGF and XJRS in my garage all of which are in regular use but my daily drive is a Rover 25 from 2001. The mechanical bits are easy and reliable tbe things like paint quality and rust protection are apalling. For driving it’s a freat car and probably belongs on the list

  130. To be really cheap to run it needs to be from the pre-cat era, (no MOT / emissions costs) just good basic maintenance and tuning – which is neccessary for fuel economy anyway.
    Nothing with a diesel engine unless it is a non-turbo with pure mechanical injector pump. Insurance is a driver cost not a vehicle cost if you stay away from anything expensive. Since we are talking cheap, Third Party only.

    MGF anyone? I really fancy chopping my MR2 roadster for one, sick of it’s Toyotaness

  131. It’s amazing how cars that were once despised can become cherished when they’re really rare and almost unseen. I have a strange hankering for the following alternative top ten:
    1. Opel Manta
    2. Vauxhall Viceroy
    3. Volvo 360
    4. Wolseley 18/22
    5. Austin 1300GT
    6. Triumph TR7
    7. Audi 80 Mk1
    8. Vanden Plas 1500 (although I saw one last year in London)
    9. Ford Capri Mk1
    10. Fiat Supermirafiori

  132. I am awaiting shouts of horror.

    Old shape Renault clio. 1.9Diesel (No Turbo)

    Last forever and a day.

    Even if you cane the **** out of it….50 to the gallon easily….

    bits are as cheap as chips.

    Big engine, small light car, nice to drive….with some poke.

  133. The only thing to kill mk1 Clio diesels is if you drive one in slightly deep flodwater as a mate found out to his cost. Air intake low down in the front bumper, engine full of water, everything bent. A nice 1.9 litre paperweight. It had about 250k on when that happened though

  134. John @ 161, are any Fiat Supermirafioris still running? Admittedly tempting for the twin cam engines and the high trim levels, but rust, terrible build quality and a non existent spares situation will mean there’s lucky to be half a dozen on the roads now.
    Oddly enough another car that used to rust survives in numbers scraping into three figures, the Vauxhall Victor FD. Apparently they had a rally in Newcastle last year and it must have been like being transported back to 1972.

  135. I owned a 440 until about 2 yrs ago – decent, solid car. Cost me £575, but in the end I weighed it in. It was the 1.8 model, so insurance was high, but it was rugged, and bearing in mind some of the places I left it, it never got nicked! A young chap I know has a series-1 Landy, short wheelbase, on classic car insurance (it’s a ‘J’ reg, so tax exempt) he reckons it costs him less than insuring a 1.0 litre hatchback, plus, it’s a cool first car……

  136. Ok, so if I was to do a top 10 of odd cars I’d like to own it would be:-

    1. Austin Ambassador 2.0 HLS
    2. Vauxhall VX 23ooGLS
    3. Vauxhall Viva HC SL
    4. FIAT 127 Palio
    5. Ford Granada 2.8 S
    6. Citroen GSA Pallas
    7. Lancia Gamma Coupe
    8. Lancia Monte Carlo
    9. FIAT Strada 130 Abarth
    10 Rover Mini Paul Smith

  137. Lada Samara, FSO Polonez, Skoda Estelle (105 lux), Perodua Kenari (looks a bit like a Lancia from the front), Melinda Messenger, Amstrad TS-30, Spangles, SDP, Nationwide (anything with Richard Stilgoe), Binatone.

  138. The silver Metro pictured is identical to my mum’s that she bought new back in late ’83. A reg 1.3HLE (Silver leaf metallic if I remember correctly) never let her down once in the ten year it lasted, although it rotted like a good un, nothing could stop the relentless progress of the corrosion!

  139. Bringing this up to date, how about the first generation Toyota Yaris for first time buyers, plenty around, easy to find for under a grand, brilliant economy and so long as it’s serviced every year, totally reliable. Another one that’s still easy to find and durable, the first generation Skoda Fabia, in particular, the SDi version, an old school diesel with no complicated electronics and turbo to go wrong, and capable of 50-60 mpg.

    • I had a 2001 Yaris for a decade & was very pleased by it’s reliability, only needing the usual wear & tear parts.

      Towards the end of the time I owned it I had advisories on rust underneath on the last 2 MOTs & eventually one on the rear struts wearing out, which were going to cost more that it was worth to replace.

      I would recommmend getting the underside rustproofed if you buy a second hand one, but the rear struts seem to be a bigger issue. I dodged replacing them by part exchanging while it was still worth it.

      • @richardpd, can’t be as bad as the first generation Ka, which was notorious for rust forming above the plastic bumpers, and seems to have mostly vanished now. Generally speaking, though, most cars from the nineties and noughties are well rust proofed and rust only becomes a problem when cars reach ten years old.

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