Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Ccw's Best Buys -

1 1992-1998 BMW M3 (E36)

WHY WE LOVE IT Ev­ery­thing an M3 should be, yet even the hottest ones are still rel­a­tively cheap Ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion, no M3 has ever been cheaper than the E36 vari­ant is now. The sit­u­a­tion is helped by a pin­cer move­ment in prices – the pre­ced­ing E30 gen­er­a­tion has al­ways been lauded for its four-cylin­der raw­ness, and the suc­ceed­ing E46 of the 2000s is so fast that it’s re­garded more as a Porsche 911 al­ter­na­tive than a hot sa­loon, and priced ac­cord­ingly. The mar­ket isn’t sure what to make of the in­terim E36 – yet. But it’s still ev­ery inch an M3. The chas­sis bal­ance is exquisite, the steer­ing in­tu­itive, and your right foot con­trols 240-320bhp of silken straight-six urge in a pack­age that looks in­creas­ingly crisp and un­adorned rather than plain and bor­ing. £10k will get you a decent one, ris­ing to £15k for the best low-mileage 3.2-litre Evos and ad­justable-spoiler (and hugely rare) GTs.


EN­GINES 3152cc/6-cyl/DOHC POWER 240bhp@6000rpm TORQUE 236lb ft@3800rpm MAX SPEED 137mph 0-60MPH 5.9sec FUEL CON­SUMP­TION 17-23mpg TRANS­MIS­SION RWD, six-speed man­ual

2 1989-1995 LO­TUS ELAN SE TURBO

WHY WE LOVE IT For once, here’s an un­der­val­ued Lo­tus that’s re­li­able, rust-free and cheap. It can’t last Although it had been plan­ning to res­ur­rect the Elan for ages by 1989, Lo­tus knew that it couldn’t take on the MX-5 with more of the same. In­stead, what emerged looked and per­formed more like an Esprit than a small main­stream road­ster, thanks to its low, wide stance. It sur­prised ev­ery­one by be­ing front-wheel drive, its clever sub­frame de­sign elim­i­nat­ing torques­teer so it drove more like a high-tech 4WD su­per­car, al­beit a light­weight one.

Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has its least-loved Lo­tus, so be thank­ful that, rather than em­u­lat­ing the likes of the 7 S4, Elan +2 and Éclat, this one was built us­ing GM cash, has an im­per­vi­ous gal­vanised chas­sis and a vice­less Ja­panese en­gine pro­vid­ing more than ad­e­quate thrust. Elises are more trou­ble­some. Buy one be­fore ev­ery­one re­alises this and gets in on the act.


EN­GINES 1588cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 167bhp@6600rpm TORQUE 147lb ft@4200rpm MAX SPEED 136mph 0-60MPH 7.2sec FUEL CON­SUMP­TION 28-33mpg TRANS­MIS­SION FWD, five-speed man­ual

3 1993-1997 VOLVO 850 T5/T5-R/850R ES­TATE

WHY WE LOVE IT It’s a rac­ing es­tate car! And it changed Volvo’s im­age for­ever Volvo had ex­per­i­mented with per­for­mance cars be­fore the 850, but they’d usu­ally been way­ward things with all the panache of a pot­ting shed. Jan Wils­gaard’s front-drive 850 smoothed off the old an­gles, and the T5 in par­tic­u­lar was es­sen­tially a gi­ant, hard-rid­ing hot-hatch.

Team­ing up with Tom Walkin­shaw Rac­ing, Volvo en­tered it in the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship in 1994, where it failed to beat the likes of Alfa Romeo and BMW but cre­ated such a spec­ta­cle that show­room de­sir­abil­ity was guar­an­teed. A lim­ited-edi­tion run of hard­core T5-R mod­els sold out in 1995, fol­lowed by the ‘pro­duc­tionised’ – and even faster – 850R. Volvo now sells on Scan­di­na­vian de­sign cool rather than fe­ro­cious per­for­mance, but to a gen­er­a­tion of BTCC fans and fam­ily mo­torists, the hot 850 es­tates were icons of si­mul­ta­ne­ously avail­able and edi­ble cake.

And they still are to­day.


EN­GINES 2319cc/5-cyl/DOHC POWER 250bhp@5400rpm TORQUE 260lb ft@2400rpm MAX SPEED 158mph 0-60MPH 6.7sec FUEL CON­SUMP­TION 22-28mpg TRANS­MIS­SION FWD, five-speed man­ual

4 1992-2003 TVR CHIMAERA

WHY WE LOVE IT A thun­der­ous su­per­car, tra­di­tion­al­ist road­ster and ut­ter bar­gain all in one The Nineties was the era of the low-vol­ume Bri­tish sports car, and man­u­fac­tur­ers like TVR laid down a tem­plate of wild glass­fi­bre body, heav­ily-tuned mass-mar­ket big-block V-en­gine and zero driver aids wrapped up in a ma­cho im­age that the bur­geon­ing track-day bri­gade adored. There were more ex­treme 1990s TVRs, but there was no chance of the Chimaera leav­ing you feel­ing short-changed by its ner­vous steer­ing, vol­canic sound­track and per­for­mance ca­pa­ble of an­noy­ing a Coun­tach.

Nowa­days, prices are sup­pressed by con­tin­u­ing de­mand for the retro-styled yet me­chan­i­cally sim­i­lar V8S and more hard­core Grif­fith. But a drive in a Chimaera re­veals that there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the three. It’s a proper bar­gain.


EN­GINES 3950cc/V8/OHV POWER 235bhp@5500rpm TORQUE 260lb ft@4500rpm MAX SPEED 152mph 0-60MPH 4.8sec FUEL CON­SUMP­TION 18-26mpg TRANS­MIS­SION RWD, five-speed man

5 1995-2002 MG F

WHY WE LOVE IT The Bri­tish en­try into the MX-5’s mar­ket, and the eas­i­est way into MG own­er­ship to­day MG chose the height of the Brit­pop era to launch the F– a car de­signed to hit back at the super-suc­cess­ful Mazda MX-5 and rekin­dle the spirit of its much-missed B.

Only it did more than that. Not only was it gor­geous – those nose na­celles re­call the B and Jaguar E-type, and the rump harks back to the Tri­umph TR7 – but it was also in­no­va­tive, with Hy­dra­gas sus­pen­sion and a revvy mid-mounted twin-cam en­gine for ex­cel­lent ride and han­dling.

They did have their prob­lems – fail­ing cylin­der head gas­kets chief among them – but the ex­cel­lent MG Own­ers’ Club can solve them all cheaply. Prices are on the floor now, but they’re be­ing kept there only by fleet­ing ig­no­rance.


EN­GINES 1796cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 120bhp@6000rpm TORQUE 122lb ft@4500rpm MAX SPEED 118mph 0-60MPH 8.5sec FUEL CON­SUMP­TION 25-31mpg TRANS­MIS­SION RWD, five-speed man­ual

6 1996-2005 Jaguar XK8

WHY WE LOVE IT Makes you ques­tion whether you re­ally want an as­ton Martin af­ter all If the MG F promised to res­ur­rect the MGB, the styling of the Jaguar XK8 – re­leased a year later – strongly sug­gested that the E-type was back.

This wasn’t quite the case – the XK8 fol­lowed on from the XJS in be­ing an unashamed grand tourer rather than a sports car – but so­phis­ti­cated elec­tron­i­cally-con­trolled sus­pen­sion and a re­spon­sive new V8 en­gine meant that it was much quicker and much sharper to drive than the old XJS ever was. Cru­cially, too, the new car was still avail­able as a con­vert­ible as well as a coupé.

Com­par­isons abounded with the 1994 As­ton Martin DB7 when new – both were evolved from the XJS af­ter all – but not only was the XK8 much cheaper than the sim­i­lar-look­ing DB7, con­tem­po­rary road testers went as far as to say that it was bet­ter to drive too. Its four-litre AJV8 later evolved into the DB7-re­place­ment AMV8’s 4.3 and 4.7-litre units, which sug­gests that As­ton agreed as well. And yet nowa­days one can be yours for as lit­tle as £5k – try find­ing a DB7 for that sort of money.


En­ginES 3996cc/V8/DOHC per bank POWER 290bhp@6100rpm TORQUE 290lb ft@4250rpm MAX SPEED 155mph 0-60MPH 6.5sec FUEL COn­SUMP­TiOn 18-26mpg TRAnS­MiS­SiOn RWD, five-speed au­to­matic

7 1996-2001 Honda In­te­gra type-r

WHY WE LOVE IT tour­ing-car nut­casery for the road, and a gen­uine han­dling master­class Iron­i­cally it wasn’t un­til the DC2 In­te­gra Type-R’s DC5 suc­ces­sor that we saw it scream onto the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship stage. But the bur­geon­ing Ja­panese grey-im­port scene of the 1990s – and a cer­tain PlayS­ta­tion game – meant that pretty much ev­ery­one knew what one was by that point any­way.

Only avail­able in white, black or red, the DC2 com­bined stiff­ened, braced sus­pen­sion with the kind of weight re­duc­tion only usu­ally seen on track cars (ten per cent thin­ner wind­screen, any­one?) and a VTEC en­gine that switched camshaft pro­files at higher revs to pro­vide a kick of peak power with­out the low-rev lag of a tur­bocharger. Mag­a­zine re­view­ers were ec­static, and it wiped away the 1980s tem­plate of forcedin­duc­tion per­for­mance cars. Sud­denly ev­ery­one wanted vari­able valve tim­ing. SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS En­ginES 1797cc/4-cyl/DOHC POWER 187bhp@8000rpm TORQUE 131lb ft@7300rpm MAX SPEED 145mph 0-60MPH 6.5sec FUEL COn­SUMP­TiOn 25-30mpg TRAnS­MiS­SiOn FWD, five-speed man­ual

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