It’s all been a bit depressing, hasn’t it? Watching the prices of old cars zoom up to stratospheric levels while those of us unable or unwilling to spend already vast sums on classics we’d love to own shelve those ambitions to own one as we realise those ships have well and truly sailed.
But while you might not be able to afford that DB5 or E-Type you once dreamed about, there are a few more humble or more modern classic cars that might be more budget-friendly. And while classic car values have stagnated in recent months, the day will come, sooner or later, when values will be on the rise again – and you might just kick yourself if you didn’t buy when the going was good.
So here are five modern classics that look surprisingly affordable at the moment; cars which are perhaps not investment pieces – but which you might nevertheless want to take the opportunity to own and enjoy while you still can, just in case.
5. BMW 6-Series (second-generation) 2008-2011
While it was controversial when it was first released, time has mellowed Chris Bangle’s styling treatment of the second-generation – internal designations E63 (coupé) or E64 (convertible) – BMW 6-Series. In fact, look at one today and far from looking bloated and overblown, it actually looks rather handsome.
Inside, you’ll find a typical BMW dash of the era made from high-quality materials and a reasonably spacious cockpit that’ll seat four at a push, while under the bonnet there’s a choice of straight six or V8 petrol engines, or if you pick the blisteringly quick M6, BMW’s storied 500bhp V10.
One of the joys of the 6-Series, though, is that no matter which engine you choose, it’s a gutsy performer, with power to spare in spades. It handles remarkably well for such a vast car, too, and it has long-distance travel sewn up with a smooth ride and comfy seats. Of course, if something goes wrong, you’ll have to have deep pockets, as repairs can be extraordinarily costly – and that’s probably why these Sixes are so cheap to buy. We’d set a bit of cash aside just in case, and pick up a historied, sub-100k 630i for £6,000 or so.
Price from: £4,000
Buy because: It’s a classy grand tourer with a big, old-fashioned engine and styling that’s ageing well. Drives great, too.
What to look out for: Hard on its tyres so buy one with a recent full set; electrical issues, especially airbag-related
4. Jaguar S-Type R (2002-2008)
It’s been a bit forgotten in the hurly-burly of Jaguar’s attempts to reinvent itself with the XF, XE, F-Pace and I-Pace, but the old S-Type became a truly excellent luxury car throughout its life. The S-Type R, which topped the range, is one of those wonderful old performance saloons that, because it lived in the shadow of a much more famous rival, everyone’s forgotten about.
Said much more famous rival was the third-generation, or E39, BMW M5, home of a thumping 400bhp V8. But the S-Type R had a thumping 400bhp V8 of its own, this time a 4.2-litre supercharged unit; what was more, while it couldn’t quite match the M5’s deftness, the S-Type R was just as much fun thanks to its lurid tail-happy drive and thunderous engine note.
Today, £10,000 buys you one of the best where it’d get you nothing more than a tatty, big-mile M5. Sounds like a bargain to us – so get in there while you still can.
Price from: £6,000
Buy because: You get an old-school muscle saloon – supercharged thrills with a V8 soundtrack, and a lovely wood’n’leather interior to boot. What’s not to like?
What to look out for: Hunting gearboxes; water leaks in the boot; electrical gremlins; corrosion beneath the bodykit on sills and wheel arches
3. Mercedes-Benz 190 (1983-1993)
The first baby Benz (W201 model designation) is today one of the most exciting classic cars you can buy, because it’s just such good value and so rewarding to own.
OK, you won’t get huge driving thrills, but you will get a pillow-soft ride, old-school Mercedes build quality and enough creature comforts that you can drive your 190 every day, should you so wish. What’s more, there’s more than enough room for the whole family to come along, too.
The best part, though, is that the 190 has bucked the trend for cult 1980s machinery to shoot upward in value. Prices have stayed low, possibly because there are still plenty around – but that works to buyers’ advantages, too, as it means you get a great choice.
Later fuel-injected 190Es (E for Einspritzung, German for fuel injection, rather than E-Class) offer the most modern ownership experience; aim for a 2.0, or even a rare 2.6, and team it with the automatic gearbox for the smoothest, most Merc-like drive.
Price from: £500
Buy because: It’s a genuinely usable modern classic that’s classy and comfy, and replete with traditional Merc build quality. And it’ll cost you buttons to buy and run.
What to look out for: Rust on the sills, boot floor, and around windscreen seals; lumpy idles; snapped suspension springs; cracked dashboards; defunct electric windows
2. Aston Martin DB7 (1994-2004)
Believe it or not, you can now buy an Aston Martin DB7 for less than £20,000. And while, yes, the usual caveats apply about it having bits inside from a mid-1980s Ford, that still feels like terrific value to us.
DB7s aren’t the sharpest tools in the box to drive – what did you expect from a car with Jaguar XJS underpinnings? – but they are fast, classy and perfectly suited to long-distance travel. Power in early models comes from a supercharged 3.2-litre straight six with a respectable, if not earth-shattering, 335bhp; this was replaced in 1999 by the DB7 Vantage, whose 435bhp 5.9-litre V12 made it good for hitting 60mph from rest in less than five seconds – truly quick, in other words.
Be prepared for running cost to be steep – it’s an Aston Martin, after all – but if you can stomach them, now is the time to buy, as DB7s probably won’t get any cheaper than this. And as with any Aston, as classic status beckons, prices will likely go stratospheric sooner or later, putting this classy old motor well out of reach.
Price from: £19,000
Buy because: It’s a bona fide Aston Martin with class coming out of its ears for a distractingly reasonable price.
What to look out for: Cracked exhaust manifolds on 3.2s; overheating or misfiring V12s; gearbox issues caused by worn wiring harnesses; busted air-con evaporators; rusty sills.
1. Ford Puma (1997-2002)
Anyone who’s ever driven a Puma coupé will have found it hard not to fall in love almost immediately. Not only is it blessed with fabulous, pert styling, but under the skin sits one of the finest chassis of its time and a Yamaha-engineered powerplant that’s both responsive and rev-happy.
Inside, the Puma feels pretty cheaply built, primarily because it is. But it’s also exceptionally cheap to buy, in spite of the fact that it’s not far away from achieving classic status. Rust will be a continuing battle, but with that exception Puma mechanicals were reasonably rugged – and because everything’s Fiesta-based, it’s delightfully cheap to fix when it does go wrong.
What’s more, it’s an absolute hoot to drive. The Puma turns in briskly and breezily, its steering feeding you back all sorts of information about what the nose is doing and its tail infinitely adjustable with the throttle. Despite this, the soft set-up means it rides remarkably well, if a touch noisily – but what more do you want for this sort of cash?
The values of fast Fords usually end up blasting off to seemingly preposterous levels – so spend some time with this one before you find yourself wistfully wishing you had.
Price from: £500
Buy because: You’ll struggle to find anything that’s this much fun for this little cash, and Pumas simply can’t stay this cheap forever.
What to look out for: Clonking suspension; knocking 1.7-litre engines; defunct or always-on heater motors; rust almost everywhere, though particularly rear arches and sills.