Classic Cars (UK) - - The Hot 30 -


‘This is the first fast Ford, the orig­i­nal su­per-saloon,’ says Tim Schofield. ‘They han­dle beau­ti­fully, and with twice the power of a ba­sic Cortina they still feel quick. As a per­for­mance icon of the first half of the Six­ties they’re in ev­ery­one’s con­scious­ness.’

That’s cer­tainly true – most peo­ple have seen a photo of Jim Clark or John Whit­more hurl­ing one through a bend, in­side front wheel paw­ing the air. More re­cently Lo­tus Corti­nas have be­come a fix­ture of the most ex­cit­ing races at the Good­wood Re­vival, as the likes of Mike and An­drew Jor­dan do bat­tle with ri­vals in the St Mary’s Tro­phy. Com­pe­ti­tion cars, es­pe­cially those with ex­cit­ing pe­riod his­tory, can hit val­ues well be­yond our £50k bracket, yet re­cent price hikes in the clas­sic Ford scene have hardly af­fected the road­go­ing Lo­tus Cortina MKI, so far.

‘Look at the auc­tion re­sults for low-miles Sierra Cos­worth RS500S, RS Es­corts, even Capris,’ says Schofield. ‘They may not be typ­i­cal of the bulk of the mar­ket for these mod­els, but when a Sierra Cos­worth breaks six fig­ures and some­one pays £98k for a Es­cort RS2000 MKII, half that sum for a gen­uine Lo­tus Cortina looks ex­tremely at­trac­tive.’

Ah yes – gen­uine. Al­leged Lo­tus Corti­nas have left in­cau­tious buy­ers open to fak­ery and fraud. But in prac­tice this is some­thing you can cir­cum­vent pretty eas­ily. ‘The Lo­tus Cortina Reg­is­ter has data files on all the cars – it’s what they do,’ says Schofield. ‘Most that come up for sale in the UK will al­ready be known to the Reg­is­ter and will have a his­tory that leaves you in lit­tle doubt.’

Gen­uine cars do ap­pear on the mar­ket overseas, but with­out ei­ther a thumbs-up from the Reg­is­ter or a de­tailed in­spec­tion by some­one fa­mil­iar with the traits of a true Lo­tus Cortina bodyshell, you’d be brave to send any money. Re-shelled cars are an­other tricky area, be­cause the work may have been done long ago us­ing a non-lo­tus body shell but re­tain­ing the iden­tity and com­po­nents of a gen­uine ex­am­ple. They are also frowned on by the Reg­is­ter.

‘As a Six­ties per­for­mance icon they’re in ev­ery­one’s con­scious­ness’

‘From a col­lec­tor’s point of view, the one to have is the A-frame ver­sion,’ says Schofield. ‘The 1963 and ’64 cars had al­loy bon­nets and bootlids with this spe­cial coil-sprung rear sus­pen­sion, plus a rather tall first gear.’ The clever sus­pen­sion ac­tu­ally proved trou­ble­some in the end and was re­placed shortly after the ‘Aeroflow’ facelift launched at the Oc­to­ber 1964 Earls Court Mo­tor Show. The al­loy pan­els and parts were re­placed by steel from June to Au­gust 1964 and dur­ing the fol­low­ing 13 months a leaf-sprung rear axle and 2000E gear­box were in­tro­duced. These cars prob­a­bly rep­re­sent the bet­ter choice for those wish­ing to use them reg­u­larly be­cause they’re more civilised and nicer to drive.

At the other end of the scale, in­vestors should seek out a sur­vivor of the 1968 Spe­cial Equip­ment A-frame cars such as the one pic­tured, with tweaks to cylin­der head, car­bu­ret­tors and man­i­fold, ad­justable rear dampers and a three-quar­ter race har­ness – but ex­pect to pay rather more than our £50k limit.

>Porsche 911 (996) Turbo TIPPED BY STEPHEN HAL­STEAD

‘The days of pick­ing up a cheap 911 are long gone,’ says Stephen Hal­stead. ‘How­ever, the 996 Turbo still ap­pears to of­fer great value at a sub-£50,000 price point, al­though we would ex­pect prices to con­tinue to rise for low-mileage ex­am­ples.

‘The 996 was the first of the 911 fam­ily to have a wa­ter-cooled en­gine, im­prov­ing econ­omy and power, with the Turbo boast­ing 420bhp and a 0-62mph time of around 4.5sec.’

Per­haps the big­gest ad­van­tage over the non-turbo 996, apart from the colos­sal per­for­mance, is the Turbo’s use of a dif­fer­ent en­gine. The Mezger unit was de­rived from that of the 1998 GT1 race car, us­ing the alu­minium crank­case from the pre­vi­ous air-cooled gen­er­a­tions, and did not share the fragili­ties of the nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated 996 en­gine.

‘The tyres of any po­ten­tial pur­chase need to be checked thor­oughly,’ ad­vises Hal­stead. ‘If it’s been fit­ted with cheap rub­ber, or tyres that are ob­vi­ously past their best, then bud­get for a new set and you’ll dras­ti­cally im­prove the car’s han­dling. That’s cru­cial on a car that re­lies so heav­ily on .’

Find­ing a car with a full his­tory is an ab­so­lute must, and mod­i­fied ex­am­ples are best avoided – there are plenty of stan­dard, un­mo­lested ex­am­ples out there to choose from, so why take any un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tional risks?

There were up­rated ver­sions of the 996 Turbo made that might jus­tify the ex­tra ex­pense for their in­vest­ment po­ten­tial – the X50 op­tion added 30bhp, for ex­am­ple, and the run-out Turbo S fea­tured up­grades that in­cluded in­te­rior changes and car­bon-ce­ramic brakes, but these will bust our £50k price point.

But this is above all a driv­ers’ car and in­vest­ment po­ten­tial isn’t the main pri­or­ity for most buy­ers. ‘If you’re look­ing to drive the car reg­u­larly, save some cash and go for a cheaper higher-mileage model,’ ad­vises Hal­stead. ‘If you’re hop­ing for a se­ri­ous value in­crease in your Turbo, a low-mileage car is a must.’


Can you re­ally get a nice Mercedes SL ‘Pagoda’ for £50k? You cer­tainly can, says Justin Banks, as long as you don’t in­sist on hav­ing the largest en­gine.

‘Not only would that buy you a smart 230SL, you’d get a right­hand drive ex­am­ple,’ he says. ‘The most val­ued will al­ways be the right-hand drive-280sl au­to­mat­ics, but you get a very sim­i­lar boule­vard-style driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with a 230SL au­to­matic with power steer­ing. It’s the same six-cylin­der en­gine, just a dif­fer­ence in bore and stroke, and the ex­tra half-litre doesn’t turn the 280SL into a fast sports car.’

There’s also the 1966-on­wards 250SL, which may just creep into our £50k price bracket if you didn’t mind some pati­na­tion. All SLS are ex­pen­sive to re­store, so struc­tural con­di­tion is key. Miss­ing parts can cre­ate an alarm­ing bill too.

‘In­spect each po­ten­tial buy care­fully and be ready to keep on look­ing – there are lots avail­able,’ says Banks. ‘They could be or­dered with a soft-top, a re­moval hard-top, or with both. And find­ing a good orig­i­nal hard-top on its own can cost £2000 be­fore you get it re­painted to suit your car.’

Banks men­tions an­other tack that bud­get-con­scious po­ten­tial Pagoda own­ers may con­sider. ‘If you ig­nore the power-steer­ing, au­to­matic-gear­box cars and go for an unas­sisted man­ual-gear­box 230SL, you’ll find they cost less but are a lot more suit­able for cer­tain events. It’s the spec­i­fi­ca­tion peo­ple ac­tively choose when they want to go ral­ly­ing.

‘Be­cause some ven­dors are ask­ing six-fig­ure sums for the best 280SLS, a sound 230SL need­ing no more than up­keep and cos­metic tweaks looks a great buy at £50,000.’


‘The Lo­tus Elan is a fan­tas­tic pack­age,’ says Emanuele Collo, ‘Sim­ple, quite hum­ble in ori­gin, but it works in­cred­i­bly well. It must be one of the best driv­ers’ cars ever made, yet it’s still af­ford­able and you can work on it your­self.’

Of the mod­els Lo­tus pro­duced be­tween 1962 and ’73, only prices of the last big-valve Sprints with 126bhp and the op­tional fivespeed gear­box are close to £50k, and then only in con­vert­ible form. The fixed-head Elan is of­ten for­got­ten, be­cause it only ar­rived with the Se­ries 3 model in 1965 and is not nu­mer­ous – they tend to sell for a lit­tle less than open-top cars, of­fer­ing a claus­tro­pho­bic but ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence closer to the pre­ced­ing Elite.

‘The Elite used to be an­other cheap lit­tle Lo­tus. You would maybe pay £20k for a nice one, but the best are now touch­ing £80k or even £100k,’ says Collo. ‘The Elan is also very pretty, much stronger thanks to its sep­a­rate chas­sis, and eas­ier to live with. For now, the prices are still down to earth – maybe £30k-35k for a good, non-sprint drop­head, but I don’t think that can last.’

The Elan’s twin-cam en­gine is more of a road-car unit than the Coven­try Cli­max used in the Elite, but it still needs care­ful main­te­nance and is one of three po­ten­tially big spends for any Elan owner, the oth­ers be­ing chas­sis re­pair or re­place­ment and mak­ing a tired glass­fi­bre bodyshell look good.

‘Re­placed chas­sis are com­mon for Elans,’ says Collo. ‘Maybe for the ul­ti­mate in­vest­ment car you’d find a to­tally orig­i­nal Se­ries 1 or five-speed Sprint, but oth­er­wise I think con­di­tion is more im­por­tant than per­fect orig­i­nal­ity.’


‘The Jensen In­ter­cep­tor has not only a tremen­dous name but all the el­e­ments of a gen­tle­men’s sport­ing tourer,’ says Ed­ward Bridger-stille. ‘There’s an enor­mous en­gine with a lovely V8 ex­haust note and orig­i­nal styling by Tour­ing of Mi­lan, plus an in­te­rior that of­fers great lux­ury and the sort of in­stru­ment panel that makes you feel like a fighter pi­lot.’

It’s a tempt­ing propo­si­tion. We all think we know the In­ter­cep­tor’s story – V8-pow­ered celebrity favourite, fallen on hard times in sub­se­quent years, now re­vived in rep­u­ta­tion and gain­ing a value more in keep­ing with its place in the mar­ket when new. But there are still more edgy ones in cir­cu­la­tion than good ones, which makes this a car to buy with your head, not your heart. We tipped it in 2016 when you could buy the ab­so­lute best there was for £50k, but that’s not so easy any more.

‘There are spe­cial­ists who will charge you a great deal of money to re­store and up­grade a tatty one,’ says Bridger-stille. ‘You’re far bet­ter off buy­ing a cared-for ex­am­ple with his­tory of well-ex­e­cuted re­pairs to the side-beams in­side the sills and per­haps an en­gine re­build. They may be slow to reach six fig­ures but re­ally good ones will hold their value. They’re very cool.’

You can still get a ter­rific In­ter­cep­tor for £50k, but don’t look to As­ton Martin for fu­ture value equiv­a­lence – try an­other Brit with Amer­i­can power in­stead, such as a V8 Bris­tol. The In­ter­cep­tor is bet­ter look­ing and bet­ter known, so it should do at least as well. And Bris­tol prices are ris­ing sig­nif­i­cantly.

‘This is above all a driv­ers’ car and in­vest­ment po­ten­tial isn’t the main pri­or­ity’

You could buy a gen­uine Lo­tus Cortina MKI for just half of the £98k paid at auc­tion last year for an Es­cort RS2000 MKII

With 460bhp and 0-62mph in 4.5sec, a Porsche 911 (996) Turbo of­fers great value for £50k, reck­ons Stephen Hal­stead

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