>Lotus Cortina MKI TIPPED BY TIM SCHOFIELD
‘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.’
>Mercedes 230SL Pagoda TIPPED BY JUSTIN BANKS
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.’
> Lotus Elan TIPPED BY EMANUELE COLLO
‘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.’
>Jensen Interceptor TIPPED BY EDWARD BRIDGER-STILLE
‘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