European cars - Staff Picks

By: Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

hillman imp hillman imp

Let loose a few dollars and a focus on Brit and Euro marques, this is what our motley crew would throw in their sheds

 

ROB BLACKBOURN:

1. Hillman Imp

While Hillmans generally haven’t nudged the needle on my excitement meter, the Hillman Imp gave it a decent flick. It was as radical a move for Hillman as Corvair had been for Chevrolet. I’m fond of appealingly styled, small, two-door, rear-engine cars, especially with alloy motors – the Coventry Climax heritage of the Imp’s engine adds to its appeal (and no, I wouldn’t try to install a Ford Windsor V8 amidships as one of the sports sedan guys did in the 70s). And where else could you find a car with pneumatic throttle actuation?

Price Guide: Around $10,000

 

2. Triumph Stag

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The syncopated beat of a bent-eight always resonates deep within me, and it doesn’t have to be a big-block number out of the USA – Brit V8s produce those lovely rhythms too. The Triumph Stag’s 3.0-litre V8 is a sweet motor (prone to a few troubles, but nice once they’re sorted). And the sportscar driving experience is a fitting salute to all that the best of British motoring represents. The Stag’s styling works for me and the handling’s fine thanks to independent suspension at all the corners. And they’re very affordable.

Price Guide: Around $15,000

 

3. Saab 9-3 convertible

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SAAB, gone but not forgotten, with an aircraft-manufacturing connection that presses my buttons. And there’s the rally history – I remember Pat Moss (sister of Stirling and wife of rally-ace Erik Carlsson) competing here in a flying two-stroke SAAB. A tidy convertible would be a lovely gentleman’s sunny-Sunday car for cruises through the hills. I’d go for a nice first-gen example (interestingly the last to use SAAB’s H-engine, the earliest version of which was basically half of a Triumph Stag V8). And as a nod to the ‘Nordic noir’ genre, it would be in black.

Price Guide: Around $6000

 

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DAVE MORLEY

1. Jaguar XJS 1992 to 1995

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I keep sniffing down this particular alley on a regular basis, but the car I want is the later, 3.6 or four-litre straight-six version that doesn’t scare me quite so much. Prices have gone up recently, but there’s still some wriggle-room, I reckon.

The look is really coming into its own and once you take the V12 out of the reckoning, the sky’s suddenly a lot bluer. Even then, I’d make sure mine comes with a pair of driving gloves with the fingers all stitched together at weird angles (patent pending D Morley). Not much good for bum-scratching or nose-picking, but at least my fingers would always be crossed when I drove the bugger.

Price Guide: $28,000-$40,000

 

2. Saab 900 Aero 1985 to 1992

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These were an absolute revelation when they were new; orthopaedically-designed front chairs, body kit, fabulous ergonomics and that laggy turbomotor that was more 80s than Tainted Love. Keeping gearboxes up to them is, apparently, the big maintenance deal these days, but I’d be prepared to stay away from the clutch kicks and racing starts and just enjoy the Aero for what is was always meant to be…a fast interstater with Scando twist.

Price Guide: $12,000-$33,000

 

3. Mercedes-Benz W124 1986 to 1993

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The last of the `proper’ Benz sedans according to a lot of folks. Who am I to argue? I love these things. They were solid and beautifully built back when they were new and seemed to be made from materials that would go the distance.

Time has shown that to be spot on. I’d even be tempted by the 230E, the four-cylinder version which would be a lot simpler to maintain and a lot cheaper to fix if it somehow went Pete Tong. That said, the three-litre six was a gem and, in the day, indecently quick for a luxo-sedan.

Price Guide: $6000-$12,000

 

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ANGELO LOUPETIS

1. Volvo 850-R

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Tamiya models and the Bristish touring car championship have a lot to answer for. The 850-R is one of the best looking "classic" Volvos to me and the more I look at them the more I would love to own one. Cars in reasonable condition are offered in the low teens and I would be opting for a manual. Choosing between the estate or sedan would be the hardest decision.

Price Guide: $10,000-$25,000

 

2. Alfa Romeo GTV6

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I have always thought the GTV is one of the best looking Alfas and the GTV6 ticks all the boxes for me. I still remember, as a child, passing a red example parked near my grandparents home and loving that swooping shape. I would find one with a solid body as I have seen some nasty ones. The great news for fellow enthusiasts is that cars in decent shape are still affordable.

Price Guide: $15,000-$40,000

 

3. BMW E30 coupe

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The BMW E30 is a wonderful machine and even though the super desirable E30 M3 is now heading into six digit territory an E30 coupe is still an affordable proposition. A manual gearbox is a must and a set of handsome genuine BBS wheels would complete the picture for me.

Price Guide: $5000-$20,000

 

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CLIVE MASSEL

1. Porsche 914

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Clive runs Makulu Car Services and is a long-term classic car nut who always has an interesting collection at his fingertips. He has a good record of picking trends in this market, so we asked for his top three. 

I know this will cause consternation, but I believe the Porsche 914 is the next car to skyrocket. The 911 series is out of reach but this mid-engined alternative is certainly a sleeper and will have growth. They’re still affordable. Good four-cylinder versions pop up on the market around the $35-40k mark. Expect to pay more than double that for a six.

Price Guide: $35,000-$40,000

 

2. BMW’s E24 M6

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BMW’s E24 M6 is still very under-rated and under-valued. It has the M1 motor in it and is an absolute treat to drive. It has the best of both worlds – it’s a great touring car and, oddly, when you take it to the limits it’s a truly entertaining and enjoyable sports car. Prices for a reasonable one start at about $80k.

Price Guide: $80,000+

 

3. E34 BMW M5

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The E34 BMW M5 is well worth looking out for. They’re very cheap, at $35-40k for a top car. There will be big growth on that model. We’re already seeing them climb in the UK, and Australia tends to follow the international trends.

Price Guide: $35,000-$40,000

 

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MARK HIGGINS

1. Mercedes-Benz E220 Coupe

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The W124 series Mercedes Benz 1986-1995, was arguably the marque’s greatest. Solid as a rock and dependable as a Labrador. For reasons I don’t understand the E220 two-door coupe hasn’t captured buyer imagination and is cheap. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder version can be picked up for a relatively small outlay and I am talking as little as $8000. Examples with one or two owners, full books and perfect history barely attract more than $15k. History shows that as Benzes age they increase in value and I am sure this will happen with the E220 Coupe.

Price Guide: $8000-$15,000

 

2. Jaguar XJ-6 Series I

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The Jaguar XJ-6 had as big an impact on the prestige car sector as the E-Type did with sports cars. It was a complete design departure from the Mk10 and 420 models and its lithe form a revelation compared to the boxy sedans from its competitors. What should have been one of Jaguar’s finest moments was let down by poor quality. However the shape is still as beautiful today, 50 years on. Under the long reverse-opening bonnet lies the silky 4.2-litre straight six. I spotted an early 70s model with four owners, service history and original papers that appeared to be in excellent order for ten grand. And I couldn’t find one for over $13k. Surely prices can only go up from here. Ask yourself when was the last time you saw one on the road?

Price Guide: $10,000-$13,000

 

3. MGB

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I used to make jokes about them to my mate Simon who owned a rather tidy mustard example. Jokes aside there was a part of me rather envious of his frequent trips to the beach with the roof down, simply loving life. To me the B looks best in red with black trim and gleaming chrome wire wheels. Under the bonnet was the same engine found in the Austin 1800, but with twin carbs for added sportiness. MGBs built between 1962 and 1967 had a non-synchro four-speed manual gearbox that takes a bit of getting used to. The MGB isn’t especially dynamic or that speedy but even after all these years they still turn heads and this car was the precursor to the world’s biggest-selling roadster, the Mazda MX-5. They won’t destroy the piggy bank with $25k snaring a neat one.

Price Guide: $15,000-$25,000

 

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ALEX AFFAT

1. Mercedes-Benz W124 E-Class

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Perhaps it was a moment of serendipity when Guido walked over and asked for my top three Euro picks. I’ll be looking for a new daily in the near future, and this generation of Benz is at the top of the wishlist. "Last of the handbuilt Mercedes" they like to say; but to me, they’re just ridiculously good value when you get a healthy dose of technology, a plush leather interior, timeless design and bulletproof mechanicals (past maintenance depending). I’ll take a six-cylinder wagon for the extra rear-facing third-row, and a long-roof for the bicycle that Angelo is persuading me to buy.

Price Guide: $5000-$20,000

 

2. BMW E38 7-Series

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Another car I’m considering as the near-future daily-driver: the E38 7 Series. Seriously, German executives from around the new millennium are just unbeatable in the amount of car you get for your dollar – literally in this case. The 7-Series was a proper S-Class rival; a six-figure car back in the day that you can now pick up for ten-and-change. They’re mostly reliable, although timing chains have a habit of spitting the dummy around 200,000kms – so pay careful attention to service history.

Price Guide: $6000-$15,000

 

3. Porsche 996 Carrera

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This last pick is a hard one as there’s a number of ‘true’ Euro classics that I’d love to own. But I have to be honest with myself – if I came across a duffle bag full of $50k in cash, a 996 Carrera is what I’d buy. And mark my words: these will be a classic! In an age when even a 914 sold at Shannons the other night for over six-figures, the much-maligned 996 seems to be the last bastion of affordable Porsche ownership. It’s a car you can enjoy for many years, and – if you’ve taken care of it – will probably give you a few dollars back when it comes time to sell.

Price Guide: $35,000-$55,000

 

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GUY ALLEN

1. BMW E34 M5

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These sixes would be ultra-high on my list, along with the later E39 V8. The E34 has huge appeal simply because it’s the last of the line of the big fast sixes that really made the company’s reputation for sexy performance cars.

Price Guide: $35,000-$40,000

2. And the E39?

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Well I already have a 540 Sport in the shed, which is the auto with M5 wheels and suspension. It’s a great touring car but there’s something appealing about having the angry manual version sitting right beside it.

Price Guide: Around $45,000

3. Jaguar XJS

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It might be the E-type’s ugly younger sister, but it’s becoming a bit of a cult car and values are starting to move. Morley would tell me to dodge the V12 and go for a six but that rather defeats the purpose of the exercise from my point of view – having the giant and utterly senseless V12 in the snout is half the fun!

Price Guide: $25,000+

 

 

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