The last 15 years has seen some fantastic cars come and go on British roads.
In that time, prices of some of the rarest classic cars have soared. And changes to the pension rules, among other things, have seen increasing numbers of investors seeking out a safe haven for their money, one where they don’t have to pay tax on any earnings.
According to auction house Bonhams, sales of classic cars were worth a worldwide total of just over £95m in 2000; by 2014 the good times were rolling and the classic car sales scene had boomed to a value of more than £750 million a year.
They can be pretty pricey, but the good news is it’s possible to buy something for the sort of money that won’t have your bank manager passing out.
So which cars are enjoyable to drive, relatively rare, affordable today and – most importantly ‑ likely to become increasingly sought after over the next 10 to 20 years?
Audi A2: Ahead of its time
This was a small car with big ideas. Many pundits believe its design and engineering philosophy were ahead of their time: a small, space-efficient car, built around an aluminium frame, that was ideal for ever-congested city living. It also looked cool and had a posh interior.
What’s more, because it was light and had small engines, it was economical and relatively clean - all the things buyers look for today. Despite critical acclaim, this forward-thinking car was never a sales success for Audi. But since its demise, the little car with big ideas has established something of a cult following.
When was it sold here? 2000-05
Price range today? £1000-£5000
Why buy one now? For its engineering ingenuity.
BMW M3 (E46): They don’t make them like they used to
There are many things that will attract car enthusiasts to the E46 generation of the BMW M3. Its impressive performance, acclaimed road holding, handsome good looks and deceptively practical four-seat cabin to name a few. But the most outstanding feature of all can be found under the bonnet.
Its superb-sounding 3.2-litre, straight-six cylinder engine is widely regarded as one of the greatest engines of all time. As the last M3 to come with a six-cylinder engine, this is highly likely to appreciate in value, making it music to the ears of investors as much as drivers.
When was it sold here? 2001-06
Price range today? £7000-£25,000
Why buy one now? For its brilliant engine.
Honda Integra Type R (DC2): So focused it split the bullseye in half
The Integra wasn’t the first Honda Type R car – that is, a sporting machine tuned for purist drivers – but boy was it the best. It still is. Highlights include a 1.8-litre engine that can rev to 8700rpm and cheap running costs. It looks meek and mild too but improvements under the skin mean it’s widely recognised as the best-handling front-wheel drive car of its era.
When was it sold here? 1997-2001
Price range today? £3000-£10,000
Why buy one now? Because it turns the volume up to 11.
Lotus Elise (Series I): Britain’s mid-engined masterpiece
Simplicity was key to the success of the original Lotus Elise. Yet the dainty roadster took some fiendishly clever brains to conceive its specially developed aluminium chassis, which was bonded and riveted together and proved stiff, safe and impressively light.
The inexpensive Elise shows how much fun drivers can have on a budget. The classic car market is beginning to look more appreciatively at the original, Series I Elise, so anyone wanting to beat the rush to the nicest examples should pull on their leather driving gloves and start taking test drives.
When was it sold here? 1996-2000
Price range today? £8000-£16,000
Why buy one now? It marked a high point for the British sports car.
Mercedes SL (R129): The time-honoured accessory for the in-crowd
It’s easy to look at the Mercedes SL and mistake it for a sports car. This is a car for high days and holidays, a stylish grand touring machine that can drop its hood at the touch of a button and turn heads from 50 paces. It’s about sitting back, relaxing and letting the world pass you by.
Older generation SLs have, ultimately, only gone up in value after their initial depreciation reaches its natural conclusion. So those who are quick to snap up a tidy example of one of these fourth generation models, known as the R129, are likely to find their investment motoring along with the solid dependability of the SL.
When was it sold here? 1989-2001
Price range today? £5000-£20,000
Why buy one now? Older generation SLs have shot up in value.