Quentin Willson’s – Smart Buys of 2014 Quentin test-drives our top recommendations for classic motoring joy in the coming year. Find out if his car of choice is the Porsche 968 Club Sport, TVR 350i, BMW E34 M5, Ford Escort RS 2000 or Mercedes-Benz 500 SL R107. We nominate the Porsche 968 Club Sport, Mercedes 500 SL, Ford Escort RS2000, TVR 350SE, BMW E34 M5; Quentin adjudicates. Photography: Richard Pardon.
It’s the question everybody’s asking. Which classics are worth buying now because the rising market is ignoring them? Candidates must have three virtues: driving ability, image and looks. Only the terminally misty-eyed get emotional about unlovely wheels that handle like a pair of Y-fronts in a tumble dryer. Mechanical mediocrity and ugliness means values will always flatline. To spot an undervalued icon you need to consider the excitement created when it was launched, how it drives compared to modern metal and if it still looks hot.
That last caveat is the most important. Time can be both cruel and kind to the car designer’s art. In the Eighties we thought the Porsche 928 far too ahead of its time, now it’s a swoopy vision of the future. In the Seventies the Rolls-Royce Camargue seemed the zenith of good taste, but today it just looks like a flat-sided slip of Pininfarina’s pencil. With old cars aesthetics are everything.
We’ve chosen five cars with handsome lines, decent performance and manageable ownership costs that mark them out as potent possibilities for gentle gains. Our bets for clever buying in 2014 are the slippery Porsche 968 Club Sport, the evergreen Mercedes-Benz 500 SL R107, the tense and muscly BMW M5 E34, the rally-bred Ford RS2000 MkII and the dramatic TVR 350i. All five will raise eyebrows and deliver a special driving experience but, crucially, we think they’re all rather cheap right now. Five bargain buying opportunities you should consider carefully. And quickly.
Part 1 Porsche 968 Club Sport – road test
Part 2 Mercedes-Benz 500SL R107 road test
Part 3 Ford Escort RS2000 MkII road test
Part 4 TVR 350SE road test
Part 5 BMW M5 E34 road test
And Quentins winner is…
For me there’s a definite winner here: I know I’ve nominated it, but it’s the Porsche. I really wanted to drive it home, spin up the slightly faded trim, give it a monster service and use it as a daily driver. Once you’ve felt how gloriously balanced and surprisingly quick the Club Sport is, you’ll never look back. And that’s why I believe this is the one car in our group that will move in price the most in 2014. Its near-perfect handling and hardcore performance image are still far too underrated. Also, history tells us that all limited-edition performance Porsches always become collectable.
The Mercedes R107, BMW M5 E34 and Escort will also prove wise investments as each has wide appeal and easy ownership that will keep prices firm in 2014. And I never thought I’d say this, but the TVR actually felt quite special and engagingly brisk. And that’s what spotting underrated classics is all about. If they have the winning amalgam of striking looks, spirited performance and everyday drivability there will always be enthusiasts like you and me eager to own them.
And this is the important point we’re making here: if you buy any of these cars well, at what we reckon are currently low prices, you should be able to enjoy a year’s classic motoring and sell at least for what you’ve paid, even slightly more. Any increase in value may not be vast but could be enough to make ownership more or less free. Canny buyers who know their classics and can spot the rising stars can turn the strong market of 2014 into the gift that keeps on giving.
Thanks to: 4 Star Classics, where the SL and the RS2000 are both for sale (4starclassics.com), Sam Baileyi at The SL Shop (theslshop.com), Terry Langford (candvcars.co.uk), Philip Raby Porsche (philipralry.co.uk), Andy Hutchinson for the use of the TVR, Selby TVR (selbytvr.co.uk), BH Engineering (bhengineering.co.uk), Paul Matty Sportscars (paulynattysportsaxrs.co.uk), the BMW Car Club’s Richard Baxter (bmwcarclubgb.co.uk), and Brian and Susan Hall for the use of the MS.