Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys of 2015 When QW points at a car and says ‘Buy this one, it’s silly not to. With the help of Team CC, he outlines why the BMW 2002ti, Daimler V8, Ferrari 456, Ford Mustang and Porsche 911 are this year’s most outstanding prospects. Think there aren’t any bargains left in the booming classic car market? Here are our five choices that prove otherwise. Words: QUENTIN WILLSON Plus: PHIL BELL, RUSS SMITH, SAM DAWSON, ROSS ALKUREISHI, NATHAN CHADWICK Photography: LAURENS PARSONS.
The old car market hasn’t paused for breath over the past year. Values just kept climbing and, every month, selling prices of the right cars edged ever higher. Which is why we’ve put together five classics we think are good value right now. Our criteria are simple: looks, driveability, image, quality and – most vital of all – market potential.
These are the classics we’d go out and buy today because they’re all undervalued and distinctive. What’s more, we think they will all keep pace with whatever the market throws at us and they will all be worth fettling and improving. Some are obvious candidates, such as the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 – a great car in the Eighties and an even greater classic now.
We chose the Ferrari 456 because it was one of Ferrari’s most glamorous and expensive road cars of its era but one that’s strangely under-appreciated. We reckon the Sixties Ford Mustang convertible is much misunderstood in the UK and makes a very striking four-seater ragtop for very reasonable money. The Daimler V8 is much more rare and less obvious than its Jaguar Mk2 counterpart and has a separate elegance and charm. And we chose the 2002tii because it’s a subtle and handsome early BMW that carries the historic DNA of every modern Beemer.
But be quick. I’m sure we won’t be the only enthusiasts who have recognised the potential in these five under-market classics – they may well not be bargains for ever.
QUENTIN ON THE 911
3.2-litre flat six delivers a horizon- A chasing 231bhp. It’s not luxurious, but it’s all you need to go fast. If you want the feel of a Seventies 911 but don’t have a hundred grand this is the perfect compromise and one that could make a daily driver. The 3.2 of 1984 to 1989 offers serious heave, delicious steering feedback and that flat-six drum roll. This is as close as you’ll get to a 1972 911S.
Galvanised bodies mean they’re less rusty, the later G50 gearbox is slick and the Fuchs wheels provide a period vintage look. Grand Prix White is the best-selling colour but watch out for some odd special-order shades, such as Diamond Blue that looks like mauve. Prices of proper ones start at £30k with low-mileage cars homing in on £60k.
A busy history file is essential for resale – and avoid imports with sketchy past ownership. The ’87-on cars are most refined but make sure valve clearances have been adjusted every 15,000 miles and expect to replace door seals, fuel lines, clutches at 50,000 and heater blower motors that don’t blow. Blue smoke from start-up is a sure sign of skimped servicing. These are engines that, if well- maintained, will run forever.
Targas aren’t as valuable as coupes and wide body, and Speedster, convertibles and Club Sports versions are getting very expensive indeed. Think of the 3.2 as a junior supercar with glorious handling poise and balance. Find a good one with a fresh feel of originality and proven provenance and you’ll own a fast-appreciating Stuttgart legend. I adore the Eighties Carrera 3.2 because it’s the last and best of the real 911s.
‘I adore the Eighties Carrera 3.2 because it’s the last and best of the real 911s’
PORSCHE 911 3.2 CARRERA PHIL BELL, EDITOR
I’ve driven enough 911s that nonchalance should have set in, yet here I am, dry-mouthed and beady-eyed because I’m about to drive another.
Along with its SC predecessor the Carrera 3.2 is about as mainstream as 911s come and has long represented the affordable access point to the air-cooled, tail-heavy, thrum-and- thresh experience. Now a new generation of buyers are chasing their Eighties dreams and prices are moving.
I’m surprised it’s taken so long. Everything about this car is focused on dynamic pleasure. Those wider rear wheels may seem a flamboyance but they tame oversteer, and those spoilers reduce aerodynamic lift by 90 per cent.
Inside, the compact cabin feels snug yet with ample room for my 6ft 1 in. It’s a black vinyl study in austere simplicity relieved by subtle white pinstripes in the cloth sports seats. With ribs embraced I retune my limbs to the offset pedals and steering wheel, fire up the flat six and soak up its deep, resonant chunter.
After being starved of development by a management with more faith in the front-engined models, the Carrera 3.2 represented 911 rehabilitation. A longer-throw Turbo crankshaft stretched capacity from 3.0 litres, while raised compression ratio (possible thanks to knock sensors), advanced camshaft timing, larger cylinder head ports and larger-bore exhaust upped power to 231 bhp. Forged pistons, a stronger crankcase and oil-fed timing chain tensioners made a tough engine almost indestructible. The 915 gearbox, born in 1972, was only rated at 181 lb ft, so it too needed improvements, including its own oil cooler and pump. This car was built in 1988, so it benefits from the tougher Getrag G50 unit mated to a hydraulically actuated Turbo clutch. So reverse is to the left of first.
At continent-straddling speeds the Carrera is even more user-friendly and economical, with just a warm thrum from the engine room to remind me where the work is going on. Wind it up and this 911 comes alive. Urgent thrust from 4000rpm, soaring flat-six machine symphony, deliciously talkative steering, darty enthusiasm for linked corners – check. But it does feel subtly smoothed, refined, tamed and heavier. Push too hard into tighter radii, today dressed lightly with moisture and damp leaves, and the nose pushes wide with a hefty warning of steering load. Meter entry speed and throttle opening just so and I’m rewarded with fluid cornering poise. Panic-snap the throttle shut, and watch your world spin.
Best not. Wouldn’t want to betray the trust of owner Oliver Ives, who realised his childhood dream after rejecting many poorly maintained examples. This one had done a lot of miles but had been well-looked after. It has a dual character, part docile, practical car for weekend trips/part road racer – nothing else feels like it.’
Holding out for a properly looked-after car was smart, according to Porsche specialist Mark Twigg of TWG Sport. Td pay more attention to the work done – particularly engine and gearbox rebuilds – than mileage. While the engine bottom end can last 500,000 miles, they need a £6-£7k top end rebuild by 150,000 miles. A gearbox rebuild is £2-£2.5k.’ While the hot zinc-dipped bodies lasted well, rust will bite eventually. ‘Check the base of the B-pillars inside the door shuts for cracks, bubbles and poor repairs, and for door gaps that get wider at the top – evidence of corrosion and weakness in the structure beneath.’
Mark says many have had the rear axle displaced sideways after spinning off the road. ‘Look from the rear of the car, lining up the rear wheels with the fronts.’ And when you’re verifying the identity of the car, don’t forget the chassis number hidden under the ashtray.
While dealers are now asking upwards of £40k for verifiable low-mileage Carrera 3.2s, crisp, fastidiously maintained cars such as this 150,000-miler can be found for £25k.
Given the way that air-cooled 911 prices are going, it represents unmissable value for what it a life-changing motoring experience. The Carrera 3.2 offers everyday usability and full-bore fun on tap.
PORSCHE 911 3.2 CARRERA TECH DATA
Engine 3164cc air-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder, oho per bank, Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection Power and torque 231bhp @ 5900rpm; 210lb ft @ 4800rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Suspension Front: independent, MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar; Rear: independent, semi-trailing arms, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar Steering Rack and pinion
Brakes Servo-assisted, vented discs front and rear
Performance Top speed: 149mph; 0-60mph: 5.7sec
Fuel consumption 22mpg
Cost new £23,366
Values now £15k-£40k
BMW 2002ti SAM DAWSON, NEWS EDITOR
BMW offers Sixties, sporting saloon and glamour for a lot less than you’d imagine. Beware iffy engines – parts can be expensive. Cockpit is fine example of polished minimalism. The prices of most small sporting Sixties and Seventies saloons shot up years ago. This makes the BMW 2002 an anomaly, and for that we should be thankful because in some ways it’s the best of the lot.
At this point, Alfa Romeo and Lancia fans will gesticulate forth with something about Pininfarina, Bertone and ex-Ferrari engineers, asking where the passione is. And to the RS Escort and Saab 96 contingents the BMW was too posh to get its tyres dirty, so missed out on true competition glory. But in order to appreciate the 2002 you’ve got to forget all the connotations and look upon it as a great piece of German design and engineering.
Its stark, neatly balanced lines, brushed with minimal chrome, intersect like the structural bars of Marcel Breuer’s Wassily armchair, avoiding all ostentation. There’s a heavy precision to the movement of every latch, handle and switch to the point where you find yourself testing their action for the sake of it. Visibility is better than any other saloon before or since thanks to a combination of low body lines, hair’s-breadth pillars and large expanses of glass.
Its fuel-injected engine fires immediately, gets up to temperature quickly and cruises comfortably at 70mph as easily as a modern car – so much so that you need to remind yourself to cadence-brake should traffic slam to a halt in front of you. It’s so competent it can lull you into thinking it’s not a Seventies car at all. In the bends it’s predictable with progressive body roll, forging its own neat channel between unsporting stodge and fast-Ford-style flightiness. The unassisted steering is communicative through the wheelrim, and the wheel’s sheer size makes it light and wieldy.
As per nearly all 2002s nowadays, this one has been fitted with a five-speed gearbox from an E21 3-series and it’s a perfect match for the BMW M10 four-cylinder engine, allowing it to cruise much more smoothly in top gear.
‘What to look for? Bodywork, bodywork, bodywork!’ says Fay Moore, managing director of BMW 02 specialist Jaymic. If you find a good shell you’re on to a winner, but they rot everywhere – inner and outer sills, where the front and rear subframes mount to the body, inner wheelarches, boot floor, A-posts – you need to check the drain holes because they tended to block when the factory dip-painted the bodyshells, although earlier cars are worst-affected.
The E21 five-speed gearbox conversion is so popular it’s become hard to find – to the point where E21 owners are getting annoyed about it,’ says Moore, it’s not a straightforward job to fit one because the propshaft needs shortening. With the cost of an E21 gearbox now more than £500 whereas once it was £200, it’s more cost-effective to rebuild the original four-speed at £800 all-in.
They’re very expensive to restore bodily – a concours restoration on a rusty wreck would be £35k – so it’s not really worth it at current market value,’ admits Moore, it’s better to buy a sound but scruffy car and do a rolling restoration, but beware of cracked right- hand-drive dashboards. They’re no longer available and need plastic-welding, which is a very tricky, involved process.
‘You can’t get complete M10 engines off the shelf any more either, although rebuild parts such as piston rings and bearing shells are available. Injectors for tiis are expensive at £450 a pop and need setting up properly – a full engine rebuild comes in at £2600.’
As a classic, the BMW 2002 is that rarest of things – a genuine all-rounder. It’s refined enough to be treated like a GT, yet sufficiently compact to be used as a city runabout. It’s powerful, tough yet balanced in a way that could win a rally, yet reliable and low-risk as an ownership prospect. The fact that a car doing all this while still retaining a strong sense of chrome-bumpered period charm can be yours for less than £ 10k is a miracle.
Engine 1990cc in-line four-cylinder, sohc, Kugelfischer PL104 mechanical fuel injection
Power and torque 128bhp @ 5800rpm; 133lb ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (original)
Steering Worm and roller
Suspension Front: independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar, telescopic dampers. Rear: independent, semi- trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers
Brakes Discs front, drums rear, servo-assisted
Performance Top speed: 112mph: 0-60mph: 11 sec
Fuel consumption 25mpg
Cost new £2650
Value now £3500-£13,500
QUENTIN ON THE BMW
Munich’s first big-selling sporting saloon still feels lively, taut and fun. And it’s the hot injection version that everybody wants. Prices vary wildly and I’ve seen small-mileage cars sell for as much as £30,000 – but you can still buy a decent, good-looking 2002tii for £10k. Best colours are Golf Yellow. Inca Orange and Polaris Silver and there’s even a rare auto version.
You’ll love the airy cockpit, comfortable seats. Seventies controls and 112mph top speed. Eager and willing, the 1990cc four-pot thrives on revs, and the chassis feels surprisingly modern and planted. The usual caveats about rust apply and interiors (especially the velvet-like seat material) can look very tired. Watch that there’s still some synchromesh left on second and third too. Easy to restore and detail, a good ten-grand example that’s bought now could easily be worth £15k next year.
There’s no significant premium for right-hand drive as European buyers love the 2002 more than we do. but a well-kept original UK- supplied right-hooker will always be worth keeping. Baur convertibles and cabriolets are much more expensive and rare but have huge investment potential. However, all 2002s are being pulled up by interest in Seventies Porsches and Mercedes so I can see values moving considerably this year. You shouldn’t hang about looking for a 2002tii – they’re getting hotter by the day.
Eager and willing, the 1990cc four-pot thrives on revs, and the chassis feels surprisingly modern and planted
QUENTIN ON THE DAIMLER
The V8 Daimler saloon is one of those classics that’s been overshadowed for too long. Mk2 hysteria in the Eighties and Nineties made the 250 a wallflower and values have just started perking up. And that sweet-spinning V8 from the Dart is a gem that gives them much more personality than a 2.4 Jag.
You could never call them fast, but they’ll sit at 80mph happily and burble round town looking elegant and classy. Early pre-1967 broad-bumper cars are the most valuable and look best in muted or dark colours such as Opalescent Gunmetal. BRG or Indigo Blue. Prices are as low as £6k for tired runners but spend as much as you can to grab a well-restored or original car as it’ll be much cheaper in the long run. £15k still buys you a fresh 50,000-miler and that’s much less than you’d pay for the equivalent 3.4 Mk2.
The manual/overdrive box is rare but I prefer the self-shifter, as it’s such a relaxed driver. Power steering is a must as without it they’re heavy on the hands. Rust is the biggest enemy and a proper body job could massively exceed the purchase price. Even tired interiors can cost £7k to re-trim. Engines are long-lived but corroded heads and worn valve guides cause overheating and smoke. A set of painted wire wheels transforms the looks.
European prices seem much higher with exceptional cars up at £30k-plus in Germany and Denmark. As a smooth-driving alternative to the nose-heavy Jaguar, the Daimler 250 saloon is much better value. I can see fine ones at £35k in the next two years.
As a smooth-driving alternative to the Jag, the Daimler is much better value
NATHAN CHADWICK, SUB EDITOR
A 3.8-litre Jaguar Mk2 with Coombs-style sprinklings sliding sideways around Silverstone, its raspy six bellowing into a crisply beautiful midsummer day. That’s a wonderful mental image, isn’t it?
The problem is, how often can you replicate that? And with Mk2 Jags now costing from £20,000 for mint 3.4s to £37,500 and beyond for concours 3.8s, do you really want to put that all at risk emulating Sears, Salvadori and Hill on a track day?
Think about how you’d actually use one and other considerations come into play. Instead of each journey turning into a fractious grapple with the Moss gearbox, which has all the tangibility of an amusement arcade grabbing machine, surely the Daimler’s three- speed Borg-Warner 35 autobox is much more appealing?
But, I hear you cry, the Daimler is the Mk2’s sedate relation – its whispering V8 a pleasing emollient to the rigours of the road. For the most part, that’s where the appeal lies. But thrust the right pedal into the thick carpet and the Daimler girds its loins before hurrying all who sail in her towards the horizon with a raspy 6500rpm snarl. And while it’s no hot rod, it’s no slouch either.
And neither should you expect it to struggle when a corner appears. The V8 is much lighter on the scales than XK engines (by around 63kg), which helps alleviate the Jag’s snout-heaviness. Yes, the 57 per cent front/rear weight distribution means the gorgeous,
fluted nose conducts proceedings, but work the steering wheel and pedals and the 250 can be danced through corners merrily. Get the blood up and the Daimler can be just as thrilling as a Mk2.
When you’ve finished larking about, you’re free to take in the exquisite ride comfort and interior detailing. The window latches, door handles and window winders are beautifully delicate but deeply solid too. There’s luxurious space for even the most outsized sub editor (ahem), while the tasteful leather and aircraft console-style switchgear combine to provide a sense of understated grace. The cigar lighter button exemplifies this – a cigarette would be seen as ungentlemanly in this opulent cabin.
Ownership can be similarly comfortable, as this car’s custodian, Chris Seabrook, explains. ‘Servicing is quite cheap if just the oils, fluids, filters and ignition parts are changed.’ But adjusting the tappets and fettling the suspension geometry take four and six hours respectively. The latter two won’t need doing every year, but they’re worth preparing for. ‘On average, budget £600 a year,’ Chris advises.
While yearly running costs are fairly cheap, it’s best to start from a good base. Corrosion is the main blight – check the door and bootlid bottoms, lower rear of the front wings, front lower section of the inner rear wings, all four jacking points and the surrounding areas. After getting your breath back, check the front and rear inner vertical sills where it meets the floor, plus the double-skinned area behind the front bumper.
A smoky engine has its own challenges. ‘Re-boring is the best course of action. Piston ring replacement is often tried because the bores and pistons, even after high mileages, show very little wear,’ Chris says. This often fails and the engine has to be stripped again.’ Corrosion to the cylinder head waterways is another issue; this can be sorted with welding and machining. Overheating is also a problem, as Chris explains. This is caused by either sludge build-up in the radiator [a cheap fix] or around the rear cylinders [costly].’
A worn viscous coupling fan could also be at fault. Chris says a total engine overhaul costs £4k-£6k. ‘Not cheap,’ he concedes, ‘but once done they last for a long time.’ This longevity leads to a feeling that owning a V8 is as smooth an experience as cruising in it. Equally pleasing is the comparatively inexpensive entry route. Good, useable 250s can be found from about £5k – try that with a Mk2 and you’ll still be finding new rust spots a year hence. Exceptional examples are about £15k – which surely can’t last for ever. Don’t miss out.
DAIMLER 2.5 V8/V8-250
Engine 2548cc V8, ohv, twin SU HD6 carburettors
Power and torque 140bhp @ 5800rpm; 155lb ft @ 3600rpm
Transmission Three-speed Borg-Warner 35 automatic
Brakes Dunlop disc brakes front and rear. Lockheed servo assistance
Suspension Front: independent, coil springs, semi-trailing wishbones, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: live axle on cantilever leaf springs, radius arms and Panhard rod, telescopic dampers
Steering Burman recirculating ball with optional power assistance
Weight 3048lb (1384kg)
Performance Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph: 13.8sec
Fuel consumption 20mpg
Cost new £2953
Value now £5500-215.000
‘Get the blood up and the Daimler can be just as thrilling as a Mk2’
FERRARI 456GT ROSS ALKUREISHI, CONTRIBUTOR
The Oxford dictionary definition of nostalgia is ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past’. Automobile manufacturers know the power of this concept, and none more so than Ferrari. Cue the 1992 Paris show debut of the 456GT, Maranello’s opulent 2+2 Grand Turismo that returned to the front-engined V12/rear-wheel-drive design last seen on the 365 GTB4 a little under two-and-a-half decades earlier.
Like its distant relative, the 456 had its gearbox mounted in unit with the differential in a transaxle at the rear – maximising cabin space and giving a 51%-49% rear-front weight distribution. Its model designation also revisited derivation from the swept volume of a single cylinder. But most of all it was the graceful Pininfarina lines of its aluminium bodywork – long bonnet, with pop-up headlights, and pert rear-end with quad integrated lights – that screamed retro-Daytona.
The all-new V12 produced a heady 442bhp and 406lb ft of torque, and although available initially only with a manual six-speed gearbox, a GTA (A for ‘automatic’) followed in 1996. Then there were the updated Modificato 456M GT and GTA variants two years later, with improved aerodynamics, cooling and interior, but crucially the same power and torque outputs.
QUENTIN ON THE FERRARI 456 GT
Prices are warming up but slower than those of most other classic Ferraris. We think that’s odd, because the 456 cost £170k when new, can hit 188mph, and Pininfarina’s alloy and composite body looks classy and elegant.
But the real revelation is on the road with a staggeringly smooth ride quality, V12 performance (0-100 mph in 11 sec) plus sharp steering and brakes. Maybe prices are muted because 456s don’t have the visual drama of the Testarossa or 308/328 – but that’s a virtue. So too are the rear seats – more useful than you’d think.
You can still buy a mid-mileage car for £30k (just) but the low milers are up towards £50k now. Purists are sniffy about the ’96-on autos but I think they drive fine and 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds is hardly sluggish. Best colours are Grigio Titanio, Argenta Silver and Tour de France Blue – they just don’t look right in red and I’m not sure about the green of our test car either.
The good news is that 456s aren’t a nightmare to own as long as the 6000-mile services and 24,000-mile belt changes have been done. Look for a service book with lots of yearly main agent or independent stamps plus piles of bills. Electric windows can fail, the Bilstein dampers need replacing every five years but can be reconditioned cheaply and remember a new clutch is two days and two grand.
The 1998-on Modificata 456M is more polished and worth seeking out with prices running at 10% more. Given that only 3200 456 GTs were built and this was then Maranello’s most powerful road car (F40 aside) I think current values are surprisingly low.
Staggeringly smooth ride quality, V12 performance plus sharp steering
Sumptuous cockpit offers Aston-rivalling refinement. Our test car is a 1996 GT in Verde Inglese, with beige hide, and has just been sold by Mike Wheeler at Rardley Motors in Surrey.
He cites low production volumes and the car’s understated nature as key buying points, its 2+2 arrangement means it really can be used as a family Ferrari, and it’s not ostentatious.’
Therein lies the conundrum. Many attracted to the marque demand a brazen visual display for their considerable financial outlay, but the 456’s neat – is there such a thing as too neat? – exterior sets the tone for the model. This is a car for the sensible classic Ferrari owner, designed when new to tease Aston Martin and Bentley GT owners over to the dark delights of the Latin side.
The generous cabin sports enough supple leather to have come from a herd of cows, while fittings and gizmos are generally in keeping with its colossal original price tag. That big V12 fires with a somewhat underwhelming aural fanfare – and at low and medium speeds, while incredibly easy to drive, the muted murmur from the exhaust ensures it’s all very un-Ferrari like. Whisper it, but this could almost be any lavishly comfy, mileage-chomping saloon.
Ride comfort is exceptional, the gear ratios are closely spaced and the metal gate action mechanically satisfying. Provoke the engine and the devilish acceleration comes as a shock, hurtling you along ferociously with the quad-tipped exhaust finally expelling its belligerent wail past 5500rpm. That you have to rev it this high to experience it makes it all the more satisfying. The variable-assistance steering and electronically damped suspension help what is a large car feel both fluid and alive. The more you drive it, the smaller it seems to become.
This is something that 456GT owner Andy Buchanan agrees with, it’s a well-balanced car to drive,’ he says, it doesn’t attract too much attention, and people’s reactions to it tend be sympathetic.’ He’s owned his Le Mans Blue example for four years and says there are no downsides to ownership. ‘Servicing is reasonable – I budget about £3000 per year, and other than a spring breaking in the gearbox it’s been reliable.’
Prancing Horse speed demons and adrenaline junkies will find their kicks elsewhere – this isn’t a blood, guts and thunder Ferrari. However, if you’re a sophisticated grown-up type of a chap who likes to come in under the radar, yet still have awe-inspiring performance readily available, then this is the ultimate sleeper.
1996 FERRARI 456GT
Engine All alloy dohc-per-bank 5474cc V12, with Bosch Motronic M5.2 fuel injection and electronic ignition system
Power and torque 442bhp @ 6250rpm; 406lb ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, rear- wheel drive
Brakes Vented discs front and rear
Suspension Front and rear: self-levelling (rear only), independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs over gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Steering Power-assisted rack and pinion
Weight 3726lb (1690kg)
Performance Top speed: 187mph: 0-62mph: 5.1sec
Fuel consumption 16mpg
Cost new £161,143 Value now £30k-£60k
FORD MUSTANG 289 RUSS SMITH, ASSISTANT EDITOR
The world has been very slow to wake up to the importance of first-series Mustangs. But that is starting to change. The 1964-66 models deserve the iconic status accorded to cars like the E-type and Mini, and that it hasn’t happened sooner is probably because in America they are so ubiquitous, and in Europe they are so American. But time has been kind; these pure early cars look better every year, and they are also no longer big cars. Park one alongside a 5 Series Beemer and see who ate all the pies.
Steadily, the fire that made the Mustang an instant bestseller and got people writing songs in their honour – there was even a 1964 album by the Zip Codes call Mustang filled with titles such as Super Fine 289 and Rally Pak – has rekindled. Prices are creeping up, yet they still don’t feel expensive. And when our esteemed and astute contributor Quentin Willson lays out hard cash on a car you know something’s going down. And following in the tyre tracks of launch-year Minis and flat-floor E-types, the smart money is buying 1964 Mustangs, particularly convertibles. Other buying points worth noting are the hotter the V8 the better, and it really helps if the original owner ticked plenty of boxes on the options list.
That’s how it is with Rob Woodall’s Prairie Bronze 1964 convertible. It has the D-code 210bhp, 289ci V8, full-length centre console and Rally Pak options such as the column-mounted rev-counter and clock. But crucially, even without those a Mustang looks and feels special, and just sitting in one is an event. The row of chunky chrome knobs, the deep-dish steering wheel and then the essential V8 rumble – it might all add up to clever Ford marketing, but it still works and you have to love the Mustang for it.
The same goes for the exterior styling, which is stuffed with performance cues – louvred gills flanking the aggressive snout, dummy grilles in the rear wings completing the increasingly scooped out side panels and ‘hips’ behind the doors that are straight out of Pininfarina’s Sixties styling manual. And never mind prancing horses – those on the Mustang’s badges are at a flat-out gallop.
It doesn’t even matter that the foot-down reality fails to live up to all that promise, because Mustangs are no longer being bought for their traffic light grand prix prowess, but if that’s what you want there’s still no shortage of aftermarket performance parts to up the ante. In truth the Mustang is a cruiser not a bruiser; sharp enough off the line but no tyre-fryer. And it’s much nicer to steer than you might expect. Yes it’s light and with a little play at the rim, but a sorted Mustang quickly dispels the myth that all American cars are frightened of corners. Even on really twisty stuff it holds a good line until you push too hard and it washes out into nice safe understeer.
It’s just as well that the larger drum brakes fitted to V8 models are good enough for normal driving (though apparently prone to fade if overworked) as long as they have optional servo assistance like this car’s. Discs didn’t become an option until late into the 1965 model year, though many cars have been retrofitted. Rob hasn’t felt the need, though; he’s happy to cruise and enjoy the ride of a car set up for long-distance use.
He’s also found ownership a breeze, because they are simple cars to work on and there’s practically nothing you can’t get for an early Mustang – even new panels with prices like $200 for a front wing, $330 for a door and $40 for a sill, all of which translate to about the same in pounds once you add the shipping and tax.
If you don’t want to be out in the breeze, the fastback version that arrived with the 1965 model year is popular – enough to command even slightly higher prices than convertibles. Or if budget’s tight, for two-thirds the price you can get a notchback coupe. Whichever you choose, as Quentin has demonstrated, there are good deals to be had by shopping in the Mustang’s homeland. But do your homework and speak to a shipping company first. For a regular dose of that infectious V8 rumble it’s all worth it.
FORD MUSTANG 289 CONVERTIBLE TECH DATA
Engine 4727cc cast iron V8, ohv, Autolite 4100 four-barrel carburettor
Power and torque 210bhp @ 4400rpm; 300lb ft @ 2800rpm
Transmission Three-speed auto (Ford), rear-wheel drive
Steering Recirculating ball, optional power assistance
Suspension Front: independent by wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers. Rear: live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic dampers
Brakes Drums front and rear, servo-assisted Weight 1303kg (2873lb)
Performance Top speed: 110mph: 0-60mph: 9.1sec
Fuel consumption 16mpg
Cost new £1105 ($3094)
Value now £7250-£27,500
If you want Sixties transatlantic swish without fins and flamboyance – here you are. The ’64 to ‘66 Granada-sized Mustang is one of the few Yanks that works well on UK roads. And the convertible is the one that looks the best value of all. I’ve just bought a three-owner 64’/2 260 V8 back from California, which when landed cost around £16k. UK prices are much higher and nicely detailed V8 convertibles with all the options are now running at more than £30k.
These slushy, wuffly four-seaters ride smoothly and hold motorway speeds easily. The six-pot manual cars aren’t as desirable and the market prefers auto V8s with PAS, power brakes (the unassisted drums are awful) and power hoods. You can retrofit brake boosters, discs and power steering so don’t dismiss a fine car with few options. Even dry-state cars can have rusty floors so expect to fit new floorpans (parts are £250 a side) and corroded torque boxes. Wimbledon White is the best colour, with Caspian Blue and Prairie Bronze (our test car) close favourites. The Mustang market in the UK is limited but there’s growing interest in original hi-spec convertibles and when you compare them to Stags and Mercedes SLs they look infinitely more charismatic.
Best of all they’re simple, sturdy and well built, with long-lasting V8s and a massive parts supply. For an arm-out-the-window purring V8 convertible I think Pony Mustangs look really cheap. They’re simple, sturdy and well built, with a massive parts supply’. May not be a tower of power, but the V8 thrum is addictive The American dream at your fingertips. So, which one would you choose? Let us know at our social network.
So which makes the smartest buy of all? I was ready to say the 456 but values have climbed so strongly since we started working on this feature that I’m not so sure. The best 456s are now homing in on £60,000 and a perfect, delivery-mileage example sold in February for £120,000.
It’s the same value electrification with the 3.2 Carrera. Prices of fine cars have moved up sharply in the past month, with mint- condition examples getting very close to £50,000 – although you could reasonably argue that such handling poise and delicacy is irresistible at any price.
Find a lightly used 2002tii and you won’t go wrong but even they Ye moving up fast too. The Daimler still looks sterling value with that sweet engine and classic Mk2 looks for less than £ 10k.
But for me it has to be the Mustang convertible, since that’s where I’ve put my own money. Go to the US and you’ll still find tidy ones for around £15,000. For the best-looking American drop-top of an entire generation, with four seats and the same V8 engine that did duty in the AC Cobra, I think it’s still a strident bargain.
Thanks to: Jaymic, Julien Sumner; Porsche Club GB, Chris Seahrook, Daimler and Lanchester Owners’ Club, Mike Wheeler at Rardley Motors, Rob Woodall, Mark Twigg, TWG Sport, Andy Buchanan, Oliver Ives and Fay Moore.
QUENTIN’S BUYING RULES
Our five forgotten classics won’t stay forgotten for long. However, crucially, we know that sensibly priced examples of each are still out there waiting to be snapped up. Remember that private-seller asking prices take a while to catch up with dealer prices, so you can use that time lag to strike a cheap deal.
While the market is starting to soften, these cars still look undervalued. So, although there’s a certain time pressure involved here, don’t be tempted to rush out and grab the first car you see.
Our argument for picking unregarded classics only really holds together if you buy a very good one in the first place – and shabby, worn examples will stay unregarded for ever.
The best cars will always appreciate, sell quickly when the time comes, and cost you less to own and enjoy. So it pays to be fussy about condition – and anal about history, paperwork and provenance. You should learn to spot fine, unmolested originality when you see it.
Buy well and carefully, take advantage of their rising values and our five buying opportunities might just give you that classic car nirvana – ownership for free.
Tor the best-looking American drop-top of an entire generation, and the V8 that did duty in the AC Cobra, it’s still a strident bargain’