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Although not renowned for impeccable build quality, British carmakers have still managed to produce some of the coolest, most desirable cars of all time. While getting our hands on one of their classic models used to be a relatively cheap and straightforward process, that’s not always the case these days.
The British classic car market is an unpredictable beast, fluctuating and writhing with the chaos of a stormy sea. But if you spend enough time watching it and taking meticulous notes, you can spot trends and patterns emerging. So join us on a deep delve into our notebooks to spot what’s on the up in the world of classic British cars.
10 Late 1990s Rover Mini
We should have bought one of these when we could have. In the last five years, they have tripled in price. The last of the ‘classic’ Minis, reliability and daily drivability are strong reasons behind this leap in price. While susceptible to rust, they are fairly easy to work on and finding replacement parts is plenty easy enough.
All of this comes together to see the demand and value of this pocket rocket rise astronomically. If you can find a Sport 500 model, grab it and hold on tight.
9 Jaguar XJ-S
If you’re looking for something a bit bigger than the Mini, why not take a gander at the XJ-S. As the market for E-Types has dried up and their values topped out beyond the reach of many classic car seekers, the XJ-S has moved in to fill the void and has started climbing in price. The XJ-S was a replacement for the then aging E, and it’s following in its footsteps on the classic car market.
A driving model used to set you back about £3,000 but now a good one starts at around £12,000. The V12 is known for being a recalcitrant beast, and the three-speed GM sourced automatic gives the car a more GT-ish tone than an out and out sports car. Spec of choice? A four-liter straight-six with the manual transmission… in British Racing Green, naturally.
8 Austin Healey Sprite
A true sports car, if a little diminutive. Powered by the fizzy BMC A-series engine, these matchbox-sized two-seaters are popular on the hill climb and racing scene. The Series One is the generation to aim for; fun and fancy-free, there’s very little to go wrong, and a lot to go right.
Squeeze yourself into the compact cockpit, thread the gear lever into the tightly gated box, and relish the dynamism of a true great of the British sports car world. Although these days you’ll be paying a premium for it. Prices were once an attainable, £4-6,000, that amount will only get you a project car. For a runner, prices start at around £12,000. Worth it though.
7 Ford Capri
This was the UK’s version of the Mustang. Long, tumescent bonnet, sporty fastback styling with a cropped rear deck. Power from the front is sent aft, with a madly grinning helmsperson at the wheel in the middle of it all. Famed for its roles in The Minder and The Professionals, the Capri is now in the nostalgia zone.
The kids that grew up idolizing it can now afford one as an adult. The new demand for cars driving the prices up. We’re not talking about just the 3.0S V6 or the 2.8i, even the 1.6 Lazers have seen an uplift in prices as the surge of interest in this iconic motor.
6 Ford Escort XR3i
Like the Ford Capri before it, the XR3i is having a renaissance as its once lustful and adoring fans are now old enough and well off enough to own their dream hot car of the 80s. Designed to take on the Golf GTi, the XR3i and similarly the RS Turbo were hot property.
The boys from Dagenham had a cult following for a long while and like with the Capri, the nostalgic market has hotted up, bringing the prices with it. A few years ago a decent XR3i would have set you back about £2-3,000 these days, you best get ready to fork out £7,000 or more.
5 Land Rover Range Rover 2nd Gen
Nostalgia, as you can see from this list, is a powerful tool when it comes to inflating car prices. Children of the 90s who now have a bit of money to spend might find themselves lusting after their childhood’s Range Rover.
The prices for P38s have climbed steadily in recent years, but the market for them is fast drying up, seeing prices for the few left of forecourts climbing again. Best spec? It has to be the V8, bonus points if you get it in yellow, akin to Daniel Craig’s car in Layer Cake.
4 Pre-War Rileys
Now, this is a very personal choice. The love for this oft-forgotten manufacturer is on the up, and with it, prices for the firm’s array of tourers and sports cars. Everything from 1929 Gamecocks to the 12/4 in its many guises have seen a boost in value. We can’t find much of a reason behind this growth, but it is irrefutable.
Barn finds are popping out of… well, barns on an increasingly regular occurrence, and they are commanding ever-ballooning prices at auction. Even a bare-bones chassis could set you back a few thousand. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a certified Brooklands now fetches in the realm of £100,000. See also, the MG T-type.
3 Rover SD1
Like the Capri, it doesn’t have to be the Buick derived V8 under the bonnet of your SD1, the 2.3 and 2.6 models are also picking up traction on the classic market. A targeted rival to the BMW and Mercedes offerings of big, luxurious sedans, the SD1 was a moment of brilliance from British Leyland. Unsurprisingly, it came from the pen of Spen King, the designer who bought the world the Range Rover. The big Rover was the car of choice for not just business professionals, but also the police, who favored its motorway cruising abilities and a decent turn of speed for when it came to catching criminals.
On 8 May 1987, a brace of Metropolitan Police SD1s made the now-famous “Liver Run”, transporting a donor organ for transplant from London Stansted Airport to a patient at the Cromwell Hospital in Kensington, covering 27 miles in under 30 minutes. No mean feat at all on a busy and foggy Friday afternoon. The Rover cemented itself in the public conscience and has seen its value climb steadily since then. If you can find one in good condition, be prepared to part with around £20,000 for it.
2 Triumph TR models
Forgive us for being vague with some of these, but the renaissance of classic British motoring is a crazy world and Triumph’s TR sports car range has been swept up in it. A complete chassis with a drivetrain will set you back £3,000, and then you’ll need a body and interior to finish it off. After a complete one? Save up at least £60,000 and have a look.
TR5s regularly fetch around the £50,000 mark. The TR6 is still relatively cheap, £23,000 and the wedge-shaped TR7 and 8 are anywhere from £6,000 up for a good one. But be warned, don’t hesitate if you’re going to put some money down for one of these British roadsters, the prices on the cheap ones won’t be this low forever!
1 Rolls-Royce Camargue And Silver Shadow
This brace of Rollers are one and the same once you strip them down. Built on the same platform (one also shared with the Bentley T-Series, which held its value remarkably better), the Camargue and Silver Shadow were two different sides of the same coin. One was a wild success, too much of one. Rolls-Royce sold so many Shadows, they came dangerously close to watering down their own brand image. For a long while, if you wanted a cheap Roller, you got a Silver Shadow.
You could get runners for as little as a few grand, but now a good, low mileage example will set you back around £25,000. Still not a lot of money for something with a 6.75 liter V8 and enough luxury to make Buckingham Palace seem desolate. The Camargue is a different story. Tricky to sell courtesy of its divisive looks, this 2-door Gentleman’s express never saw the numbers that its SS sibling did. They’ve remained pretty unpopular for a while, but prices are starting to turn around. When they went on sale, they cost £291,000 in today’s money, like the Shadow you used to get these cheap, but now you’re lucky to get change from £50,000. If it is a low mileage example in pristine condition, double that figure.
There are some things that just can’t change.
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