10 British cars you should buy whilst you can!

Strapped for cash but still want something that stands out? These cars might be perfect for you!

8w ago

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As the world starts returning to normal, car sales are slowly beginning to pick back up and for us second hand car lovers, now could be the best time to be buying. But what if you're into old British cars?

For the majority of enthusiasts, you would be tempted to buy something along the lines of a Jaguar XJS or maybe something pre-war like an old Daimler. Problem is, cars like this have recently taken a massive leap up in price.

For the average Joe, you may be led to believe that there isn't much choice in desirable classic cars. Here's 10 British cars that have managed to slip through the net and some that you may want to pick up before it's too late!

10. MGF/TF

First taking to our roads in 1995, the MGF took the mid-90's sports car market by storm and quickly became Britain's best selling sports car. It's handsome curvy looks, 1.8 K-series mid mounted engine and classic MG style made the car really appealing but a high seating position meant that to many, it felt like you were sat on the car rather than in it. Early 2000's models suffered heavily from head gasket failure and being a mid-engined car, this was costly to fix.

That's not to say they're bad cars though. I would suggest trying to get a late 90's model MGF for the ultimate MG appeal. TF's can also be great fun and cheaper to buy due to them being made right up until 2010. If you're lucky, you might even find one registered as late as 2014!

Overall these little MG's are a great modern sports car for not much money that could even be your daily car if you wanted.

9. Reliant Robin/ Rialto

This is the first of a few 'dodgy' cars on this list that you wouldn't expect to see here but hear me out.

The Reliant Robin has long been the butt of jokes ever since the early 70's, but with many people choosing to banger race them or just because of their age, they are now becoming a rarer sight in the classifieds. Plus due to the notoriety of them in programmes such as Mr.Bean, Only Fools & Horses and Top Gear, Robin's are now commanding upwards of £1000 for a decent runner (even without an MOT).

There's a lot to watch out for on these little 3-wheelers but mainly be weary of engine parts, especially on cars that haven't been looked after. One loose wire and a small fuel leak could lead to instant external combustion at the turn of the key. With the engine bay being so tight and made of fibreglass, it could end up being the last car you sit in.

Overall though a good Robin could make a great classic and are a lot more stable than most think but it is an old car at the end of the day and you should treat it as such.

8. MINI R50 (2001)

The saviour of the Cowley Factory in Oxford and one of the only mainstream British brands left running, The MINI has not only dominated the U.K. market but many markets across the world. It's probably wise then to get yourself an original MINI from the early 2000's before prices skyrocket as these are sure to become a future classic. Not only are they a big part of British culture, they are also huge fun to drive.

I personally would look for an early 2001 model. 'Y' Registered if possible. These cars in particular will become very collectable because of their early registration date and closeness to the original Rover design. Fun fact, the early MINI's were actually majorly designed by Rover Group before BMW sold it off and kept the MINI brand for itself. There were even plans to build it at Longbridge and have the car run with a K-Series engine!

Overall an understated and fun car that is bound to shoot up in price some time soon.

7. MG ZR/ ZS/ ZT

Many will think that the MG Z range of cars are merely suited for banger racing or shopping trips these days but after a campaign was set up my the MG ZR/ZS/ZT Register of the MG Car Club in 2019, their dwindling numbers has been brought to the attention of many. Over 78% of the models have now disappeared off our roads and whatever remains is slowly creeping up in value. It's not just about the rarity of these cars though. They can be massive fun to drive. I myself owned a ZR as well as many others. Heck, at one point it was Britain's best selling hot hatch!

Same as the MGF, the main thing to look out for is the head gasket which is common to fail. I have heard that the smaller engines are less likely to go, with ones like the 1.8 being the most common. Gladly though the cars that are left are now at the age where they've already had the gaskets up-rated to stop the problem happening again. Rust is also another big issue to look out for, but what car from the early 2000's doesn't have that problem.

Look out for pre-facelift models from before 2003/4 as these are better looking and more importantly better built with a nicer interior. Some will even pop up from time to time with little to no miles on the clock! Best thing I can suggest (and this applies to the MGF too) is subscribing to an MG magazine like 'MG Enthusiast' or 'Safety Fast' as these tend to have cars that have been owned by enthusiasts.

'Marcy', May she long rest in the great scrapheap in the sky...

'Marcy', May she long rest in the great scrapheap in the sky...

6. Triumph Stag

I think at some point every car enthusiast wouldn't mind having a Staaaaaag in their car collection. Mainly because of their stunning good looks and open topped sports car feel. Sadly the Stag's are disappearing off the streets and many of the ones that are left tend to have a Rover V8 fitted to it. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though.

I personally would look for a Stag that is as original as it can be. Yes the original engines overheated a lot, but if you take care of them they can become a great investment over time.

Overall the Stag is a great looking car and great for car shows. No matter what engine you get in it, your bound to don a pair of aviators, take up smoking and probably grow a pornstar moustache.

5. Rover 75/ 800

I've included two cars in one here as I feel like I can say the same thing about both of Rover's 90's executive cars.

Lets begin with the 800. Launched in 1986 (fastback came in '88) the 800 never took the world by storm and only just kept it's head above water in the home market, at least until the facelift came along in '91. I would rather have this over the 75 though as it's a car that perfectly captures the spirit of it's time. Boxy lines and grille-less bonnet's tickle my fancy more than the 50's 'gentleman's club' style of the 75.

Things to look out for on the 800 would mainly be rust. These cars tend to have bomb proof engines, especially the 2.5L Honda unit, but being a late 80's car, sometimes rust can be a pain.

That said you can't get more luxury for the price you pay with the 75. This little Bentley will make you feel above everyone else you drive by and if you spend a bit more cash, you could get the full leather interior of the Connoisseur model.

Things to look out for on the 75 would be once again head gaskets on the 1.8 but also some cars can have rust issues. Try to get one built before 2003 or even better before 2001 as after then Rover started something called 'Project Drive' which cost cut a lot of nice features on the 75.

Overall, two wonderfully cost effective, luxury cars. Which for the later 800's and all the 75's, are bound to go up in price soon.

4. Morris Marina/ Ital

Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking, 'Why in God's name is he suggesting a Marina'. Well, as much as they're one of the cars that are usually hated, the Morris Marina isn't necessarily a bad car. Yes it had it's problems, but so did many other car's from the 70's. Having a car that's not loved by many can also be a huge positive as it makes a great conversation at shows. Only downside is that you should probably develop a sense of humour before buying one.

There's a lot to look out for on these cars. As it's British Leyland in the 70's, rust is a biggie, but the A-Series engines tend to be bulletproof and spares are aplenty for them. Just look out for pianos if you get it on the road.

Overall, a Marina is a really overlooked classic and because of its feature in Top Gear, it could be seeing higher prices as examples become scarcer.

3. Austin/ MG Metro

Ah, the Austin Metro. The Mini's little, big brother. One owned by many mums and blue rinsers across the land, the Metro sold more than 1,000,000 cars before being axed in 1997. That being said, there are now only a few thousand examples left. Trying to get an earlier MiniMetro for a couple of hundred quid is damn near impossible now but a later MK3 Metro in decent nick may only set you back £1000. If you're looking for a fun little British classic with cheap parts thats instantly recognisable, I would advise a later Rover 100 (1995-'97). These cars tend to be less than £900 for a good one and are only going to go up in value.

Look out for rust and on the later models, head gasket failure. If you go to view one take a magnet in a sock and run it along the sill, subframes, arches, etc. These tend to be bodged up with filler and can cost a lot to repair

Overall the Metro is a really nippy, fun little classic and has a variety of models to choose from.

2. MGB GT

Probably the most expensive on this list, the venerable MGB has long been the classic sports car of choice for many enthusiasts. It's popularity not only in the U.K. but also in America has helped the little B become one of those cars that you just can't help but smile at. I chose the GT over the roadster though because to me, they're better looking thanks to Pininfarina and more practical. So unless having the top down is a must then this is probably a better option.

Once again, rust is a major point to look out for on the MGB GT. Gladly there wont be the sag in the middle of the car that can be known to happen on the Roadster but the sills, floor and arches are common to go on these cars.

Overall probably the most typical classic car in this article and even though it can seem slightly unimaginative in comparison to other classics, it's still a great car none the less.

1. Austin Allegro

Finally, at number one, the Austin Allegro. 'The Allegro!?' I hear you tell yourself. Yes, the Allegro. There's one big reason why I chose it over the MGB GT, which is that it's fun. Not in the sense that it will tear your face off with speed or grip tightly round corners. It's just a fun car to own. Everywhere you go you will get notice for the sheer fact that everyone thinks it's the worst car in the world. Because of this, they're actually raising in value and a really good example can set you back a few grand!

Yes, you've guessed that rust would be a good thing to look out for. Electrics too. But as with any old car, if you look after it, it will look after you. I personally wouldn't get one as I'm more of a fan of the 80's BL cars so if you like the idea of the Allegro but don't like it's pudgy style then I would go for a Maestro or Montego.

Overall this hated little car might be something that's worth shedding your love on.

So there you go, 10 British cars that you should probably consider when you next look at buying one.

What did you think to the list? Did number one shock you?

LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!

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Comments (24)

  • Get an MG 260V8, the Rover 75 shaped car with the Mustang 4.6V8 and RWD. They made three versions with sightly different frontal treatment, automatics and estate versions. Rover versions were also made with minor differences. Unlike the FWD versions, these had actual performance, were very solid and reliable cars with none of the usual MG/Rover foibles. They are also very rare and prices are rising. Buy one now, you won't regret it! Stags are beautiful if fragile cars. They're faster than the other Triumphs but look sportier than they drive. They require a lot of TLC and make excellent long distance cruisers, perhaps for continental jaunts. BUT... you must have them gone through with a fine toothed comb, by a specialist, before you start even thinking of actually firing it up! As a 'first classic' or a 'less costly' classic, the Reliant three wheelers make wonderful little companions. They are such willing little cars and despite Jeremy destroying them for a comedy moment, one needs to keep in mind that they are actually car shaped motorcycle combinations by and large. OK, not truly so, but they come with all the same limitations one must dial into one's brain before using them. They are not slow though. My own version from my teens, was a 'Supervan' just like Fools and Horses but in metallic green. It could wind up to an indicated 90mph on a straight road, still return 50mpg and was a most uncomfortable place to be doing so. Later examples such as the Robin and the Rialto, were slightly more civilised, but they were only ever minimalist transport. One thing though, they are pretty reliable, the Reliant name actually telling the truth! I think the dumpy Allegro has the most charm of the BL cars of that era. They were certainly very comfy by modern standards, had forgiving and pleasant handling and decent legroom as well. They were uncompetitive and shoddily made in their day, but the survivors have most likely had so much love bestowed on them that they'll now be little peaches to own. MGB's are ubiquitous. There are thousands of them left, like Morris Minors, thanks to the Heritage Trust and a thriving aftermarket trade. You won't make any money, but they are actually rather a lot of fun to drive. They don't enjoy being revved and fling their internals onto the road if abused thus, but the real joy is to be had from the stump-pulling torque of the old B-series engine. There's little over 90mph to be had from a standard version, but they'll still have you grinning as they drive so sweetly. The later, rubber bumpers cars sit higher and are less 'nippy' because of it, then again they're also a bit cheaper, like for like. I would steer clear of both the MGF and the 'new' Mini. They both have self destructing engines, neither of which is 'just a head-gasket, as is usually put. The K-series needs the liners reseating often (a very difficult job) and require the entire cooling system replacing after the gasket is replaced in order to get it to actually cool and also not rot bout all the new hoses. The Mini has some electrical gremlins that makes then uneconomic to repair as well as overheating and oily problems at this age of car. I know of one of the original prototypes still on the road, so it isn't impossible, but both these cars are not for keen amateurs to buy. You need some professional skills to be capable of keeping them alive. For me, the rest are interesting and can be just as enjoyable to own, but we all need welding skills to keep them there. The V6 Rover engines are sweet, but can-belt changes can be engine out, so not for the faint hearted. Any Rover with a Honda engine fitted is well worth snapping up. They don't go bang and are all the better for it, but earlier examples are scarce and trim parts, rarer still, so buy the best and let the rest become tomorrow's spares cars.

      1 month ago
  • I shall buy a Reliant Robin and sell it to at 3 times the price . After the Robins are considered illegal or are considered a classic.

      1 month ago
  • Not sure about some of them (ital, metro, etc). The 800 was a barge, literally and the MGF’s k series wasn’t that reliable.

    No doubt lots will disagree but my dad has had so many poor experiences that I can’t make myself like these.

      1 month ago
    • That's fair enough. I always find that barring VW and Skoda which are great, all brands are the same as each other. Just different people tend to have some great and some bad experiences with them.

      And then there's Renault which I steer...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • The K-series has one problem, the head gasket, but it’s not a hard fix and actually the post 2001 ones don’t seem to have the issue. Other than that it’s a very dependable engine that is quite nice to use.

        1 month ago
  • OOH the Stag pic is my car!

    Agree totally with comments as when new issues were a catalogue of what was wrong with the British Motor Industry in the 70's.

    But with Stags 50 years old this years these issues have long where resolved decades ago.

    OK I'm bias but what you are left with is a 4 seater open tourer that is a real head turner both down the lanes or overtaking on the motorway!

    Not so sure about taking up smoking but reckon I could style out the moustache!

      1 month ago
  • i own 2 rover r8's a very early 216 cabriolet and a 214 sli , they didnt even make the list

      1 month ago
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