Classic cars are big business these days, certain models have risen to stratospheric heights in recent years and while that is great for some, it means that those who didn’t see it coming may never be able to own one.
But wait, what if we had some way of predicting which cars today would one day become desirable classics? Well, for a car to stand the best chance it would need to meet a few criteria first. Rarity, price, performance and some unique trait that made it stand out against its peers when new are all good indicators of future stardom.
Armed with this knowledge we took a look at a cross-section of British cars that are affordable today but may one day become high-value classics. Now we know that most British brands are now actually foreign owned, but as long as they still retained some of their ‘Britishness’ we included them here.
Aston Martin DB7
Aston Martin once had strong ties with Ford which is why there used to be jokes about the DB7’s V12 being two Mondeo blocks welded together.
While the blocks may have been similar, the 420-bhp 5.9-litre V12 fitted to the DB7 was reengineered in almost every respect, some switchgear however was straight out of contemporary Ford saloons. None of it matters, Ferrari’s used Fiat buttons for years and that made them no less exciting to drive, the same applies to the DB7.
The best V12s are still under £60,000 and the 335-bhp supercharged 3.2-litre versions can be found for a third of that price. No Aston stays cheap for long.
Aston Martin Vantage V8
The new Vantage V8 has only recently been announced which means that prices of the old model may take a small dip in the coming months.
That is good news for us as even now a 10-year-old 380-bhp 4.3-litre V8 can be yours for £28,000. Never models like the V12 S and GT8 are still hovering around the £200,000 mark so it’s best to wait until they shed some value first.
The ‘80s generation Bentley Mulsanne was a massive and luxurious road train, its huge 6.75-litre V8 was aided by a turbocharger in the aptly named Turbo and fuel-injected Turbo R models. They are still imperious cruisers that whisper along even on rutted roads so it is somewhat surprising to find them languishing around the £10,000 mark.
Even the best Turbo Rs won’t go for much over £16,000. Part of the reason for this is that you will need deep pockets to keep them in good shape, but with just over 2,000 built, these values can surely only be heading one way.
Lurking in the shadow of the E-type, the XJS has suffered from depressed used prices for most of its life. Quality issues on early cars also didn’t help but post-92 models were much better and the V12 XJSs in particular are super smooth to drive.
The best very best examples are no more than £30,000 although if you are feeling brave you can find early high-milers out there for under £5,000.
The F-Type follows on from the XJS and XK8 in Jaguar’s line of sporty GT cars and while it is still in production, rare examples are virtually guaranteed to become sought-after in years to come.
Be sure to choose the right spec though, a 2.0-litre model is unlikely to become as desirable as a manual V6 or one of the top-spec V8s.
Land Rover Defender
Tata owned or not, Land Rover is still true to its original brief of providing capable off-road vehicles. The recently discontinued Defender was the most rugged and capable of the lot and just as the early Series models are now worth more and more, so too will good examples of the Defender.
Built between 1983 and 2016, these chunky off-roaders can be had in countless variations, look for limited-edition models to ensure that your Defender will stand a better chance of becoming a desirable classic in the years to come. Prices start at anything from £5,000.
The Esprit and Elise may be the more popular and well-known Lotus models but the ‘90s Elan is just as pretty and drives superbly despite the unusual front-wheel-drive layout.
Both naturally aspirated 130-bhp 1.6-litre and turbocharged 162-bhp models were sold. You can find low-mileage Turbos for under £10,000, a situation that is unlikely to last.
MG ZT 260
MG has been through a rough a time as any British marque, its fate now rests with Chinese company SAIC. It may currently focus on crossovers and hatchbacks but it has built some desirable sporty saloons and convertibles in the past.
One of the maddest was the rear-wheel-drive MG ZT 260, it had a 4.6-litre Ford-sourced V8 and was based on the front-wheel-drive ZT saloons. Rare and fun to drive, they are already trading for around £10,000. If you struggle to find one, a slightly more luxurious but almost identical Rover 75 variant was also sold.
Mini – The BMW one
The original Mini was a technological masterpiece, introducing numerous revolutionary designs that changed the face of motoring forever. The BMW-designed version may not have been quite so avantgarde but it did revitalise the brand and the first-generation models may well follow their predecessors in the desirability stakes.
The earliest 1.6-litre models can go for under £1,000 although you should ideally spend more than that if you are to secure a low-mileage example in good nick. It may take a bit of time but a mint early BMW-era Mini may be a good investment.
Morgan – any Morgan
Of all the manufacturers here, Morgan is the closest to being as British as it was the day they opened their doors back in 1909. While some of their vehicles may have BMW engines and other non-British componentry, this niche family owned manufacturer has always stayed true to its ethos of hand-building every model to each customer’s requirements.
The evergreen 4/4 is largely depreciation proof and you can find a good one for £20,000 or get one of the newer V8 powered Aero models. These start at £40,000 for a 10-year-old example.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit
The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit was built for longer than the mechanically similar Bentley Mulsanne and in even greater numbers but despite this, prices tend to be a little higher.
You can still find the Mark I (1980-1989) models for as little as £10,000 but the more you pay up front the less it will cost you down the line.
That said, a Silver Spirit requires a big maintenance budget and even the best ones can be expensive to run. Perhaps park it in your barn and ‘find’ it in 20-years.
TVR is back, well almost. When it was still around before this hiatus it excelled at building fast but frail sports cars that could out-accelerate just about anything else on the road.
The Chimaera was one of its best all-rounders, built from 1992 to 2003 and available with a range of Rover-based V8s, these convertibles offered speed and rather good reliability in one desirable package.
Early 240-bhp 4.0-litre models start at £10,000 while the big 320-bhp 5.0-litre versions with low-mileages can command up to £30,000. Still well below what most other TVRs go for and sure to rise with time.