The classic car has faced many challenges in recent times other than the usual rust, mechanical failure and other associated issues that come with getting old. Scrappage schemes have a lot to answer for as well, as does the environmental lobby who say older cars are too polluting and dirty.
All of these factors have combined to make many cars that were once a common sight on the roads of the UK nearly extinct.
This is according to Admiral insurance, who surprisingly discovered that there are 47 Nissan Cherrys left roaming the roads of the UK. Yes, we were shocked that there are so many left as well. Similarly, the Alfa Romeo 33 only has 38 surviving cars remaining in working order. Leaving us a little shocked at the large number remaining. As that so many small Alfa’s survived this long is nothing short of a miracle.
If you own one of the cars on this list, we salute you. Mainly for hanging onto it for so long and keeping it running – which we think deserves a bravery award of some description.
These are the cars that are most in danger of extinction in the UK in 2019.
Renault 11 – 50 left
Yes, we didn’t believe it either – there are still 50 Renault 11’s roaming the roads of the UK. These stout survivors were in production from 1981-1988, as part the Renault 9 (saloon) and 11 (hatchback) twins. This small family car that was produced in both three and five-door body styles with a design penned by French car designer Robert Opron.
The 1.4-litre turbo variant was the most powerful version, producing 115bhp. But sadly, due to the era, we are betting there are not many are among the few survivors.
Oddly, after Renault killed both models, production did continue in countries such as Columbia and Turkey for local markets until the year 2000.
Austin Montego – 48 left
In 1984, the Austin Montego was introduced to the British public as a replacement for the ageing Morris Ital and Ambassador. Available as a saloon or estate, the Montego was meant to be a rival to the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier of the era, but instead, it wasn’t.
You see it was 1980s Britain, a British built car wasn’t exactly the byword for quality and reliability. Early models suffered from poor build quality, irritating faults and weak bodywork that was known to crack in cold weather. Despite these issues, the Montego was marketed as a high-tech offering with a talking dashboard and solid-state instruments – which of course would stop working.
Given for how badly the Austin Montego was built in the first place, the fact that 48 examples survive today is nothing short of a miracle.
Nissan Cherry - 47 left
Various generations of the Nissan Cherry all suffered from the same fatal flaw, rust. With the Datsun name dropped from the N12 fourth-generation models, the Nissan version was a squared-off looking hatchback that was also produced wearing an Alfa Romeo badge (Europe only), and as the Holden Astra in Australia.
Available with three, four of five-doors, every single model had the same issue – paper thin build quality. Upon the car’s introduction in 1982, it’s rumoured that dealers completed a high number of warranty repairs for rusting body panels. There was also a hot GTI variant of which there appears to be one surviving example today. Regardless, given for the early issues with build quality, it is something of a surprise that 47 Cherry’s still exist today.
MG Maestro – 46 left
Boasting 115bhp from its 2.0-litre O-Series engine, the hotted-up MG Maestro boasted some serious kit over the standard car with uprated suspension and ventilated front disc brakes offering an improved drive over its predecessor.
As a signature piece of 1980s engineering, and as you’d expect, the Maestro wasn’t built to a high standard meaning electrical and mechanical failures were commonplace. Likewise, the rust-proofing was rubbish as well, with reports of some cars showing signs of metal cancer only a few short years after leaving the production line.
Honda Quintet – 45 left
Yes, we will admit to having to look up what exactly a Honda Quintet was as well. Essentially a Civic with a hatchback, it started life in Japan in 1980 as the Quint. Upon reaching UK shores in 1981, inexplicably its name was changed to Quintet.
Marketed as a more upscale version of the Civic, the Quintet was advanced for the era with a four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine producing 80bhp, a five-speed manual gearbox and speed-sensitive steering. Despite being sold around the world, the Quintet wasn’t exactly a success being replaced by the Quint Integra in 1985.
Alfa Romeo 33 – 38 left
The Alfa Romeo 33 was something of a landmark car for the Italian carmaker selling nearly a million of them in a twelve-year-long production run.
Its underpinnings were getting on a bit, with the chassis and drivetrain, borrowed from its predecessor, the Alfasud – including the four-cylinder boxer engine. Alfa did modify the brakes and suspension, but like all Italian cars of the era, the beautiful wedge-shaped 33 wasn’t built very well. Mechanical issues were common in early cars, and rust was also a significant issue making it clear as to why only 38 examples remain on UK roads today.
Daewoo Espero – 34 left
Boasting Italian styling, from Italdesign, the Daewoo Espero was a budget attempt at a saloon car for the masses in the early 1990s.
Underneath, the tech was all borrowed from General Motors as the South Korean carmaker tried to create itself a market share in Europe. Power came from GM series Family II engines with the most potent 2.0-litre unit producing 108bhp. The UK never really warmed to Daewoo at the time, despite its quirky advertising campaign of the era showcasing the cars low prices. Included as standard in this low price was poor build quality, meaning a lot of cars didn’t last much longer than their warranties.
Peugeot 305 - 33 left
First introduced in 1977, the Peugeot 305 was a multi-purpose car built as a saloon, an estate with a van model also available.
It had the classic Peugeot styling of the era with rectangular headlights, long bonnet and wedge-shaped body – including its model name spelt out on the bonnet. Later models used the advanced tech of the era including fuel injection and a diesel variant with an aluminium engine block. From 1980 the 305 S was introduced with twin-carbs and 88hp paving the way for the firms later GTI badged performance models.
Rover Vitesse – 32 left
When the Rover Vitesse was introduced as a flagship performance model, the firm oddly offered it with an automatic gearbox to widen the car’s appeal to customers. By 1984 though, this idea was binned with a manual gearbox the only choice. You see, a manual made a better choice for the 3.5-litre V8 engine up front. The performance was swift, with a 0-60mph of 7.1 seconds making the Vitesse a genuinely quick car for the time.
An ultrarare ‘Twin Plenum’ version of the Vitesse was also produced with two throttle bodies (instead of one). These were produced in small numbers to homologate the twin plenum racecars of the time.
Renault 9 - 26 left
The second of the Renault siblings, the 9 was the saloon version. As both the 9 and 11 models came from the same designer, you’d be on the money guessing they looked near-identical until the rearmost roof-line. Arriving in the UK in 1982, this small saloon was the result of some 14,500,000 hours of study and testing, including 44 prototypes since the idea for a model to sit between the Renault 5 and Renault 14 came about in the late 1970s.
Of course, the 9 got all the same engines as the 11 including the fire-breathing GT Turbo version that if we are being honest, really did suit the square-edged styling perfectly in a time before crash restrictions dictated car design.
All of which sorely leaves us hoping that some of the 26 surviving cars are of the GT Turbo badged variety.
SEAT Marbella – 25 left
You may recognise the SEAT Marbella from a certain Italian carmaker. Yes, of course, it’s a Fiat Panda with a different badge.
Introduced in 1986, the Marbella was a badge-engineered Panda built by SEAT with notable differences including revised front and rear end styling. Both models shared a range of powertrains, with the most popular being the 903cc four-cylinder engine boasting 38bhp. But with only 680kg to lug around the Marbella was light and nimble to drive with its compact dimensions excelling in city life according to the reviewers of the era.
Hyundai S-Coupe - 24 left
The oddity that is the Hyundai Scoupe should have been a rear-wheel-drive rival to the MX-5 of the era. Instead, it was a front-wheel-drive coupe with a nearly unpronounceable name that was all somewhat confusing.
A fusing of the words ‘sporty’ and ‘coupe,’ it was officially called the ‘scoop.’ After the confusing name and powertrain layout came the engines themselves which were all a bit feeble in early versions. First-gen cars used a 1.5-litre producing around 82bhp, with an innovative later turbocharged version utilising water-cooling for the turbo to produce around 114bhp. Regardless, the Scoupe wasn’t exactly a hit with UK buyers in the early 1990s – answering the question as to why there are so few remaining on the road today.
Peugeot 605 – 23 left
The Peugeot 605 made a brief and fiery appearance in 1998 action thriller Ronin. Struggling to remember? Yes, us too. As it was one of the first cars to get destroyed early on in the film meeting its demise via rocket launcher.
First introduced in 1990, the 605 was a big executive saloon that could be had with a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine. In this form it got 188bhp, a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds going on to 145mph. Pretty respectable numbers for the era. So why are there not many left? Well, the smaller 405 was the bigger seller of the period leaving the more expensive 605 firmly in the shade leaving only 23 roadgoing examples remaining today.
Alfa Romeo Sprint - 20 left
In 1983 the marketing people at Alfa Romeo decided to update the firm’s sports car range abandoning the Alfasud and Veloce naming. In its place came the Sprint, which with early models carried over the complex inboard braking system (where the brake discs are mounted on the chassis, rather than the wheels), before receiving a platform upgrade from the Alfa Romeo 33.
Engine choices were small with 1.3 and 1.5 units, and a range-topping 1.5-litre Quadrifoglio Verde model. Like the 33, the Sprint was best described as under-engineered with mechanicals made of glass and metal akin to paper contributing to the small number of examples left today.
Rover 2000 – 20 left
In a fourteen-year production run some 200,000 Rover P6 models were produced. Their model names were derived from the engine size, with the 2000 variant referring to the engine under the bonnet with 2200 (2.2-litre) and 3500 (3.5-litre V8) versions also available.
Introduced in 1963, the 2000 model was unusual for the era with a 2.0-litre overhead cam engine producing 104bhp. As the entry-level model of the P6 series, it sold well but was always overshadowed by its more powerful brothers who outsold it massively.
Fiat Tempra – 18 left
The most memorable thing about the Fiat Tempra is that a special 16-valve powered version was used as an F1 safety car in 1993 season. The Tempra in question was a Brazilian built model and was possibly the slowest safety car in all of human history.
Sharing its platform with the Lancia Dedra and Alfa Romeo 155 of the era, the Tempra suffered from the same issues as its siblings with rust and mechanical issues a reality of daily life. As you only have to browse the classifieds to see how many Fiats remain from the early 1990s, which is not many due to the way they were built in the first place.
Vauxhall Belmont – 18 left
The Vauxhall Belmont arrived in 1986 and was praised by the reviewers of the era for having a large boot compared to its rivals. Basically an Astra hatchback with a boot, the Belmont was never as desirable with a reasonably powerful SXi model topping the range with 112bhp.
The dull image of the Belmont does change a bit with one startling statistic. As of 2004, it has been reported that it was the most stolen car in the UK at the time. As of some 20,000 Belmont’s registered at the time, a total of 1,978 of them were stolen. The car also topped the list in 2005 and 2006 making it evident as to why only 18 examples remain today.
Audi 200 - 15 left
If you thank that the current Audi range is merely slightly larger copies of the same car, then you’d be almost right. But back in 1979, the German carmaker introduced the 200 which was very similar to the 100 model already in their range.
Mostly, the 200 was a 100 with more equipment that was a bit sportier getting a larger engine. Later models got different bumpers and headlights – but that was about the sum of the differences between the two cars. After a Wankel pre-production version was halted due to the cost, the 200 had to make do with a turbocharged 2.1-litre five-cylinder engine producing 179bhp, taking all 4.8 metres of it from 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds onwards to a top speed of 143mph.
Hyundai Pony – 14 left
Yes, the Hyundai Pony is another car we were unfamiliar with as well. But it holds the accolade of being the first ever mass-produced car to come out of South Korea with a varied range of a pickup, a saloon and a hatchback variant.
Power came from a series of four-cylinder Mitsubishi sourced engines – none of which were anything special. UK buyers didn’t really warm to the Pony, with a little known badge on the front meaning not many were sold making the 14 remaining examples somewhat remarkable as they still exist.
MG Montego – 14 left
Like its Austin badged brother, the MG Montego wasn’t built to a high standard when it hit the roads in 1985. With the standard car struggling to hold its electrics together, the MG variant had a more explosive issue with a large turbocharger under its bonnet. The firm’s engineers had managed to give this hot saloon car 150bhp, which was a lot for the time.
Due to this power hike head gasket failures were common, along with various pieces of pipework deciding to jettison randomly. Then there was the cooling system which could cause everything we’ve already mentioned and kill the engine at the same time. Ironically, with a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds, the MG Montego was the fastest car ever produced by the firm at the time.
Rover Coupe – 13 left
The Rover Coupe was basically the front of a 200 model grafted onto a swooping body with fewer seats and less practicality. A continuation of the 200 Series Coupe, but with a shorter name, it used Rover K-Series engines including an entry-level 1.6-litre and a more powerful 1.8-litre VVC version.
In its previous form with a slightly unreliable 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the Coupe was popular as at the time it was quick and didn’t really have any direct rivals for the price-tag. With a 1.8-litre engine though, power fell to 142bhp (from 197bhp) and the 0-60mph time took 7.8 seconds, nearly a second slower than the outgoing car. As a Rover of the era, corrosion was rampant with some cars rusting before their warranties were out.
Saab 90 – 13 left
The Saab 90 was a car that took a lot of inspiration from its predecessor, the 99. When we say inspiration, we actually mean both cars looked very similar from the B-pillar forwards with the rear end borrowed from a 900 saloon. Available only as a two-door saloon, it came with a 2.0-litre engine producing 100 hp.
This ‘cut and shut’ was all very unlike Saab, who was better known for producing swooping looking models while throwing around many aircraft related quotes. A little over 25,000 examples were sold with the 90 ending its three-year production run in 1987. It’s alleged that there are Saab enthusiast websites that refer to the 90 as the “least popular car Saab ever made.” With only 13 remaining 90s on UK roads, it’s not difficult to see why.
Talbot Horizon – 12 left
Remembered more as dependable family transport rather than groundbreaking, the Talbot Horizon (originally the Chrysler Horizon) was a worldwide model made in various European countries and including the USA. In 1979 the Horizon was the European car of the year winner beating the hugely popular Volkswagen Golf and Renault 14 of the time.
Power came from a trio of petrol engines, and a single diesel engine, winning the praise of the reviewers of the time with Car magazine saying the Horizon was “a very good car, competent on the road, very pleasing to drive, practical and efficient.” By 1986, the Horizon was killed off along with firm’s name giving way to the hugely popular 309 sold by Talbot’s parent company, Peugeot.
Vauxhall Chevette – 10 left
Now for the rarest car on our list, yes it’s a Vauxhall. The Chevette was a significant car for the British carmaker and parent company General Motors. It was the Vauxhall version from the ‘T-Car’ chassis family which included the Opel Kadett, Isuzu Gemini, Holden Gemini, and Chevrolet Chevette – all of which bore different styling.
From its launch in 1975, the Chevette was the UK’s best-selling hatchback for three years, costing only £1,593. Powered by a 1.3-litre 58bhp engine with a four-speed manual gearbox, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice in the Chevette range with a three-door hatchback and two-door and four-door saloon variants being the limit of the model range in the UK. While there were various editions produced, including a fire-breathing HS model, we have to assume that the ten remaining cars on the roads of the UK are all likely the standard models making them all very plucky survivors indeed.
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