The SMMT – the industry association representing more than 600 motor manufacturers and traders – recently released their latest annual report on the state of the UK automotive industry and all appears to be very well indeed. In 2014 the UK motor industry built 1.6 million vehicles and 2.4 million engines, employed 799,000 people and generated annual turnover of £69.5 billion, around half of which comes from exports. It’s a market that continues to grow making the UK home to one of the largest automotive sectors in the world.
With more than 32 million cars on our roads and the average cost of a new car hovering around the £30,000 mark there’s no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a car. But what if you don’t want to be average? This got me wondering, could you buy something completely different for the same price as the average new car? After a couple of enjoyable hours browsing AutoTrader (other websites are available) I reached a rather pleasing conclusion: The answer is a resounding yes. If you filter out all the ex-demonstrators and nearly new models, from quirky to classic, supercar to supermini, the list of possibilities is almost endless and all for less than £30,000.
Ever fancied an Aston Martin? You can pick up a 2004 DB9, one of the prettiest cars ever made, with 70k miles, a full service history and a 5.9 litre V12 engine for £29,950. Or if you’re a hamper short of a picnic you can spend £28,900 on a 1.3 litre Cygnet. You’d have to be mad because it’s just a rebadged Toyota IQ with Sat Nav and fancy cushions but it says Aston Martin on the front so it still counts.
Do you have the urge to drive something with an interesting history? You could invest £29,500 on a 1950 Bentley Mark VI with original build sheets showing it was built for Mrs George Formby. Not only that but the coachwork was completed by Mulliners and is a particularly rare aluminium body. If that’s not your style what about a car with Royal connections? You can choose from a 1984 Rolls Royce Silver Spur with a mere 10,000 miles on the clock and described as a having “one Royal owner, true Royal car”. It even has a gold plated mascot and badge and all the luxurious refinement you would expect from such an aristocratic car? Or possibly a fully bulletproof Mercedes 560 B6 used to chauffeur a “very important” Saudi Royal in total safety for the grand total of 29,000 miles? How much? The Rolls costs a distinctly un-Royal £27,000 and the Benz is an armoured snip at £28,450.
If you like the idea of the luxury but with a touch less ostentation you can stick with Mercedes and pick up a beautiful, and supremely cool, 1972 280SE with a much sought after 3.5 litre V8 that’s only done 44,000 miles for £29,950. Fancy a little French elegance then £25,000 will buy the keys to an immaculate right hand drive 1973 Citroen DS 2.3 with only two owners and 50,000 miles. If you want the exclusivity but prefer a more contemporary version of the luxury saloon a fantastically powerful and well equipped Maserati Quattroporte GT is definitely worth a look at £28,950. Classic or modern, all three are guaranteed to arrive in style.
If you hanker after something a bit sportier then there are a few decades you can revisit for a bit of fun. You can recreate a golden age of motoring in a dark green 1956 Triumph TR3 with 14,400 miles and a price tag of £28,995. If you prefer the ’60’s look and you’re a closet fan of The Saint then how about a superb 1967 Volvo P1800 in white with chrome wire wheels for £26,500. The disco decade is represented by a beautifully restored 1970 Series 4 Lotus Élan SE Drop-Head Coupe in original Lotus Yellow for £29,95 and if you’re a child of the 80’s then an uprated 384bhp Escort RS Cosworth with 28,000 miles is the obvious choice for £28,000.
If that all sounds a bit pedestrian then you can pick up some classic horsepower without breaking the bank. How about some American muscle in the form of a convertible 1968 Chevy Camaro 327 V8 that’s undergone full restoration and is priced at £28,995. Europe is covered by a freshly serviced 1984 Ferrari Mondial 2.9 litre that’s done 21,000 miles or a classic 1981 Porsche 911 3.0 SC with obligatory whale tail and original Fuchs alloys – both are on sale for just £30,000. The pick of the bunch is from Japan, a 1990 Honda NSX in glorious red for £27,995 and fully loaded with extras. Supercar performance for the price of a family hatchback has to be worth considering.
If you’re not taking this at all seriously then there are a couple of quirkier options that you definitely won’t see in the supermarket car park. There’s a gorgeous blue and white 1957 BMW Isetta for £25,000 or a 1961 convertible Messerschmitt KR200 Kabinenroller on sale for £27,995. Both have been fully restored, are in excellent condition and guaranteed to make people smile.
I am well aware that this is a unusual approach to buying a car and most people will end up in the new car with a warranty and all mod-cons because it’s more convenient, safer and reliable. Owning a classic car of any age isn’t for everyone but if you want a car that stands out and says something other than “average” there are plenty of opportunities if you shop around. I’m not recommending anyone go out and actually buy one of the examples I’ve mentioned but it’s worth noting that the UK has a long and distinguished motoring history, some of which still survives and won’t cost as much as you may think.