1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1 vs.1969 Lotus Elan S4, 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson, 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupé W111 and 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2

2017 Drive-my.com and Laurens Parsons

Quentin’s Smart Buys 2017 Our resident expert tips the 1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1, 1969 Lotus Elan S4, 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson, 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupé W111 and 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2. Buy wisely and you could end up running one of this fabulous five for free. Words Quentin Willson, Phil Bell, Ross Alkureshi, Russ Smith, Joe Breeze, Sam Dawson and photography by Laurens Parsons. Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys 2017 Our market expert tips the clever money classics Buy wisely and you could end up running one of this fab five for free’ Appealing in their own way – but which is Quentin’s Smartest Buy of 2017?

Identifying affordable classics that will tickle up in value is getting increasingly hard. And we’re not looking for soaring five-digit appreciation here. We wanted to find motors that will rise gently enough in value so owning them will cost very little at all. At Classic Cars we’re great believers that you can use the current buoyant market to run old cars for nothing. Buy cleverly one year and sell shrewdly the next. And that’s why we trawled adverts and auction results and came up with five relatively accessible classics that we think bought wisely and in unspoilt condition will climb in value enough to wipe away any ownership and maintenance costs.


1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1 vs.1969 Lotus Elan S4, 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson, 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupé W111 and 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2

A decent Saab 900 Turbo is still only £5k and we think that might eventually move to £10,000. A nice Elan S4 convertible looks underpriced to us at £30k and £10,000 for a pretty, sweet handling Lancia Fulvia also feels behind the market. We also reckon early Interceptors look strong value at less than £50k and are surprised you can still buy a good Mercedes-Benz W111 220 SEb Coupé for sub-£40,000. Our five choices are iconic, were made in fairly limited numbers, have fine driving dynamics and are all, without exception, glam and stylish. These are the vital criteria that we believe will set them apart and help their values move upward. Track down a restored or fine original example of any of this lot at today’s current market prices and you’ll be buying with potential for gentle gain. Choosing which one, we’ll have to leave to you.


1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1

‘We’re talking refined express travel here, not drag racing hooliganism’

Jensen Interceptor. A name dripping with jet-set glamour. And the car, this 1969 MkI pouting at me across the car park, simply oozes it. Yet for as long as I’ve been writing about cars, these machines have been trapped in that place in the classic hierarchy we reserve for luxury bargains, cars to be bought for MGB money with several pairs of fingers crossed to ward away ruinous restoration costs. But that status is changing. Now they’re being sought with restorations as part of the plan, by owners wanting the job done properly. They remember the Interceptor in all of its late Sixties / early Seventies pomp, and want to taste that for themselves.

1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1

1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1 road test / PUH 126G / UK-reg / RHD

And what pomp. At its 1966 Earls Court launch, this £3742 heavyweight may have undercut the Aston Martin DB6 Vantage by £1300 but it was still the price of five and a half Ford Cortinas. It attracted a catwalk of celebrity buyers, from suave crooner Frank Sinatra to hard-partying Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, who got through five, plus a couple of four-wheel-drive FFs.

Conveniently overlooking my own skills with an electric guitar, I feel like a rock star as soon as my fingers slot into the door handle and lift its cool, chrome lever. Led Zeppelin may have had their own Boeing 720, but the view inside a Series 1 Interceptor is just as impressive, with speedometer and tachometer pods thrusting confidently from the dashboard, more minor gauges than a Seventies motoring accessory shop and an edifice of centre console bristling with a particularly enticing set of toggle switches. Flight systems – check. Cabin doors to manual – check. Ignition.

Pedal down to set the automatic choke, twist the key and after a few patient churns the slumbering V8 tickles into life, ramping up to a busy idle before calming to a warm thrum, the car gently oscillating to its rhythm. At first the driving position seems as Italian as the cabin ambience, but with a bit of fiddling I find a happy compromise between seat reach and rake, and sink a little deeper into its embrace. It’s perhaps inevitable – the Interceptor was styled in Italy by Touring, and the first 60 cars were bodied, and many of them trimmed, by Vignale before the West Bromwich workers geared up for full production during 1967.

Warm-up act over, it’s time for the headline performance. Before grasping the chrome ice-cream cone of a gear selector I give the throttle an exploratory dab, and the 6.3-litre Chrysler E-series spins up with surprisingly crisp agility. There’s more to this V8 than lazy torque, but with 425lb ft of the stuff rushing to the party from just 2800rpm it’s disarmingly easy to break traction. Best get the 1678kg moving before digging deeper. The reward is confident, easy thrust, and intoxicating urgency from 80-100mph. With the smaller-bore exhaust of the Series 1, don’t expect unseemly muscle car thunder; instead savour assertive, low-key bellow as the tacho needle sweeps swiftly from 4500-5100rpm. We’re talking refined express travel here, not drag racing hooliganism.

This is a 1969 model, built after the transition from trunnion front suspension to double wishbones, but there’s still a live rear axle on leaf springs, albeit with Panhard rod lateral control. The ride feels sophisticated, until it runs out of clever ideas when a mid-corner ridge or bump intervenes. But it’s all handled with a gentle wriggle of the wheel and shimmy from the rear.

And the Adwest power-assisted rack steers all of that mass with surprising obedience, weighting up with hefty feedback as the forces lean towards the outside of the bend. Like most Interceptor Series 1s, this one has a redundant four-position selector dial for long-gone Armstrong Selectaride rear dampers. These went out of production in 1970 and no one can refurbish them now, but modern substitutes work well. Even the Girling disc brakes front and rear cope with the momentum, though there’s always a sense that they have a lot of work to do.

The Interceptor adds up as an era-defining symbol of exclusive express travel; assertive without ever forgetting who’s boss. And to my eye the 1024 Series 1s built before the high bumper, angular-dashboard Interceptor II arrived in late 1969 have the strongest appeal. But that doesn’t translate into prices for now, according to Paul Lewis, who runs specialist Pale Classics. ‘It’s really more about condition than model, with projects at around £10k, usable cars for £30k- £35k, very nice cars at £50k and upwards of £75k for the best.’

He recommends joining the Jensen Owners’ Club for expert guidance, and starting your checks with the interior. It’s a potential £10k retrim, and undesirable if done in leather too thick or thin. Next, poke a small screwdriver through the lower sill drain holes. ‘If it goes in more than ¾in, the inner sill is gone and you’re looking at £3k per side to do it properly.’ After that, look for corrosion or poor repairs where the hatchback hinges mount in the roof structure, ‘You can’t find secondhand roof panels from scrap cars any more, and making a new one is a highly skilled repair.’

Paul also cautions against modifications that can devalue a car, such as a later louvred bonnet on a Series 1. ‘With the cooling system in good condition it shouldn’t be necessary.’

Testament to that is Martin Kennedy, who used this car to commute into his Dublin office. ‘Over the past year I’ve driven it 50 out of 52 weeks, and I’ve had no issues whatsoever.’ He started with a good example, then asked specialist Rejen to go right through it. But despite being delighted with it, Martin has asked Pale Classics to sell it for him.

‘I discovered a Dublin FF not half a mile from my office that had been off the road since 1973. It was in a terrible state, but I had to have it.’ As these beguiling cars trickle out of exacting restorations, Interceptors are regaining the covetable glamour of their youth, and with it their Aston Martin-chasing prices. If you’ve always wanted one, now’s a good time to make your move.

1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1

Series 1 interiors look best; all generations cost £10k to retrim. V8 and Torqueflite are more cultured than stereotypes suggest. Live rear axle demands concentration when you’re pressing on.

Quentin on the Interceptor

Interceptors have long been undervalued but at last they’re being recognised. Compared to a £500k DB5 a good Interceptor looks jumble-sale money at only £40k and I’d argue they actually drive better. Early MkI Jensen Interceptor 1967-1969 cars with the chrome Rostyle wheels are the most desirable along with the 232 six-carb SPs. Most of the Interceptor’s shortcomings can now be cured and bigger radiators, improved water pumps and Evans Coolant can sort the notorious overheating issues, partly caused by poor maintenance when the cars were worth nothing. Sadly, they do rust badly so avoid projects (a full rebuild can cost £150k+) and only target mint sorted cars with histories. You’re too late if you want an FF as they’ve exploded in value and I can see them nudging £200k soon. That Touring shape has aged incredibly gracefully. Throw in the fascinating financial back-story and all those celebrity owners and the Interceptor’s heritage is miles more interesting and charismatic than many period Ferraris. Birmingham’s only supercar really deserves to be more coveted and we think 2017 will be the year the Interceptor finally emerges from the shadows and basks in the sun.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1969 Jensen Interceptor Series 1

Engine 6276cc, V8, ohv, Carter AVS 4682S four-choke carburettor

Transmission Three-speed Chrysler Torqueflite A-727-B automatic, rear-wheel drive

Power and torque 330bhp @ 4600rpm; 425lb ft @ 2800rpm

Steering Power-assisted rack and pinion

Suspension Front: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, lever-arm dampers. Rear: live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, Armstrong Selectaride dampers, Panhard rod

Brakes Servo-assisted discs

Performance Top speed: 137mph; 0-60mph: 6.4sec

Length 4775mm (188in)

Width 1778mm (70in)

Weight 1678kg (3695lb)

Fuel consumption 15mpg

Cost new £3742 (1967)

Values now £10-£75k+

{module Jensen Interceptor}


1969 Lotus Elan S4

‘You can start playing with it almost from the off, without the learning curve that most cars demand’

Yes, I can see all those quizzically angled eyebrows from here. Surely the iconic and standard-setting Lotus Elan is always a smart buy? Without a doubt, at least for those of us with a measurable trace of petrol in our bloodstream. So a little explanation is needed as to why the Elan has popped up in this feature, this year. And it’s all down to numbers, of course.

Let’s look at the values of other iconic classic sports cars that you’ll find on the same Le Mans-bound ferries each June, and see how much they’ve risen in the past three years. Porsche 911E up 27%; Mini Cooper 1275S plus 33%; Jaguar E-type 40% and Ferrari 308 GTB a whopping 60%. During that same period the poor neglected Elan’s prices have crept up by a very ordinary 15%. There is surely some catching up to be done, which makes this a very good time to be sniffing round the market, before the inevitable happens and the Elan starts playing catch-up.

1969 Lotus Elan S4 road test

1969 Lotus Elan S4 road test / HRO 670G / UK-reg / RHD

Our deliberate choice of the S4 version is simple because this is traditionally the cheapest open two-seat model in the world of Elans. Earlier cars have already passed the £30k mark, but you can still pick up a great S4 for £27,500 or less.

The reason for that discount is the same one that brought us the rather sexy power bulge in the Elan S4’s bonnet, absent from earlier models – the twin Stromberg carburettors that sit beneath it. Despite their negligible downward effect on performance it was long ago tacitly agreed that Strombergs are just that bit less manly than Webers; the quiche of the underbonnet world.

There are alternate stories as to why Lotus switched to them, the more official and dull line being that it was to comply with US regulations. However, Mike Taylor’s well regarded book Lotus Elan The Complete Story tells the even more believable tale that the change happened after Lotus’s MD Denis Austin remarked to Colin Chapman that Strombergs were ‘a damn sight cheaper’ than Weber carbs. Whichever version you choose to believe, the Elan was back to using Webers after about a year, though the bonnet bulge remained for the rest of the model’s life.

I’ve driven plenty of Elans with both kinds of carburettor and from the driver’s seat the only way you can tell between them is that Stromberg-equipped cars are slightly quieter and more civilised as there’s less of that gulpy induction noise. Not much less, mind you – a Lotus Elan cabin is always a busy cacophony of good noises. My specially reserved driving-a-Lotus grin clicks into place as the metal-sawing sound of the starter motor is replaced by eager twin-cam thrum. Any time behind the wheel of an Elan is an event on the level of going to see your favourite band. I’d even enjoy driving one to the dentist’s. In the rain.

Today I have John Hutton’s well-sorted S4 pointed at the challenging twists and dips of one of our favourite handling test routes. Hutton’s Elan doesn’t disappoint. As ever the first element that grabs your attention is the steering – so precise, perfectly weighted and full of feel. The cliché is to call it kart-like, but it’s better than that. The feedback is just as pure, but in an Elan you can enjoy it all day. Twenty minutes wrestling with kart steering will jellify all but the most athletic arm muscles. What the Elan’s rack and pinion does does is instantly connect you to the machine and give the confidence to start playing with it almost from the off, without the learning curve that most cars demand.

The Lotus incites you to misbehave with its abilities. I exit every corner with the thought that I could take it quicker next time, and marvel at how much grip can be generated by those skinny 155 tyres – Vredestein winter rubber in this case, as Hutton uses his Elan all year round, commuting to Brooklands museum. When you do start to tickle the limits, the chassis informs you with the calm demeanour of a BBC newsreader that the tail is starting to push out, it’s all going to be progressive and all you need do is apply a hint of correction with either wheel or throttle pedal. This quickly becomes a well-rehearsed dance.

Nearly all the Elan’s joyfulness hinges around its light weight. There’s less for the suspension, steering and brakes to do, and though 115bhp doesn’t sound like much to write home about, it’s enough to make the tiny Lotus feel like a missile. To really put it in perspective, the Elan-aping Mazda MX-5 is no tub of lard, but has the same power output hauling an extra 300kg around. You can’t argue with basic physics.

All that weight saving, however, means that Elans operate on the edge of fragility. That doesn’t actually mean they break a lot, whatever myths and legends might claim, but they do require proper looking after by people who understand Lotuses.

‘I had to look at lots of cars before I found the right one,’ says John Hutton. ‘As a retired engineer, I’m happy to work on it myself but you do need a good starting point. This had the best door fit I’ve seen, and more importantly a fairly recent Spyder replacement chassis underneath it.’

That’s probably the car’s most important element, so you need to check any Elan’s chassis carefully for rot, especially around the front suspension towers. Most will have had a new one at some point. If so when, and was it a galvanised one? You should also try and establish when the water pump was last replaced. It’s a major and expensive job, and pumps fail quite regularly, so something you’d expect to find in a cared-for car’s history file. As a check, if water is leaking from below it, the pump is on its way out.

On the plus side, the parts situation for Elans is very good, though anything specific to Lotus rather than from someone else’s parts bin is likely to inflict pain on your wallet.

But most of all you should judge an Elan from the driver’s seat. If it fails to delight in every way something is amiss and you haven’t found the right one yet.

1969 Lotus Elan S4 road test

No go-kart arm ache here – just a thrill for your fingertips. The Elan’s steering feel has long been an industry benchmark. Tiny twin-cam is full of fizz.

Quentin on the Elan

Like a handmade suit the little Lotus feels part of you, touching every bit of your body. And it’s that total sensory connection that makes the Elan so intoxicating. The steering is the most precise in history, the tiny twin-cam spins willingly and there’s a purity of chassis and handling balance that no other car has. But ironically, the tiny size and 1600lb weight has held the Elan back from mainstream appreciation. This isn’t a macho machine but a dainty ballerina of a car that dances its way along the road with feline poise. There should be a price premium for all that prodigious delicacy but you can still buy a good S4 convertible for £30k – which we think is on the low side. While big-valve Sprints and early round-arch cars are making £50k, the very original and well maintained ’1969 S4 DHC for sale with UK Sports Cars in Kent for £30k looks top value. Most cars will now have had replacement chassis, the GRP bodywork isn’t that difficult to restore and even new twin-cam cylinder heads are being manufactured. Expect niggles – the Elan never won any build-quality awards – but we reckon the S4 Elan deserves to be much more expensive than it is.


Engine 1558cc iron block, alloy head inline-four, dohc, twin Stromberg 175 CDS carburettors

Power 115bhp @ 6250rpm; 105lb ft @ 5000rpm

Transmission Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Suspension Front: independent by double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers. Rear: independent by Chapman struts, coil springs, lower wishbones and telescopic dampers

Steering Rack and pinion

Brakes Discs, 9.5in front and 10in rear

Weight 691kg (1523lb)

Performance Top speed: 120mph; 0-60mph: 7.3sec

Fuel consumption 28mpg

Cost new £2084 13s 6d (1970)

Values now £8250-£27,500

{module Lotus Elan Club}


1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson

‘This is boy-racer obliterating, Porschechasing midrange grunt’

If car choice is reflective of personality then buying a Saab has always been indicative of someone thinking outside the traditional automotive box. Refreshingly unconventional and quirky, Trollhättan’s beautifully engineered, ice-cool output has always been hoovered up by the, well, quirky and unconventional. And as a statement nothing says member of the groovy intelligentsia like a Saab 900 Turbo does.

Personally, it’s a call I’ve never answered. And yet, every time I’ve clapped my eyes on – or strapped my backside in – one, it’s resonated with an almost gravitational level of pull. There’s simply nothing else on the road like it. Factor in that Saab is no more – sounds like a Proclaimers lament – as well the modern bent for generic design-a-like output, and never again will there be.

1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson road test

1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson road test / H418 HOY / UK-reg / RHD

An evolution of its predecessor, the 99, that elongated side profile, with its high cabin roofline, has always been reminiscent of the same purity of line as an original Birkenstock sandal; only here, in Carlsson form – with rear whale tail and front airflow spoilers, body kit, lowered sports suspension and cross-spoke alloy wheels – it’s been transformed into a Teva. That analogy may not get the pulse going, but even when new it looked classic.

There’s no sill to step over as you lower yourself into the Bridge of Weir leather covered interior and if the Egyptians had constructed pyramids from metal, then the entrance to tombs would have shut with the same solidity as the Saab’s heavy-gauge steel door. At £20,495 in 1990, it had a hefty price tag, but inside it has all the requisite electronic toys. The heater is Scandinavian winter epic, and after a couple of minutes I have to turn it down or risk roasting my chestnuts.

Turn the centre floor-mounted key and it fires quietly, settling into a low and uneventful thrum – most underwhelming. The clutch is light but the gearbox’s gate isn’t particularly well defined, and requires a measured hand to slot home, even if there’s a satisfying kink to the left between 1st and 2nd. At low speed the stiff sports suspension feels solid, edging on the harsh, as it crashes over road imperfections. Engage the throttle and, unlike earlier Saab Turbos with their epic lag, there’s instant access to high levels of torque at low revs; the low level exhaust burble disappearing, to be replaced with high-pitched aviation-like whining noise. And my, the kick to seat of the pants is epic – this is boy-racer obliterating, Porsche-chasing midrange grunt.

Unlike other model special editions – yes, I’m thinking of you, BMW M635CSi Motorsport E24 – that were purely cosmetic uplifts, the Carlsson’s engine actually received an extra ten horses thanks to its ‘red box’ Automatic Performance System. That said, it does the GT bit with long-legged aplomb, but it’s no slouch as a B-road warrior either. The steering is beautifully weighted, with plenty of feel and it seems fairly agile for such a big beast on both long sweepers or as, and when, bends tighten considerably.

Completing this smart package are large anchors, replete with ABS, that scrub off speed as assuredly. Yes, with 210lb ft through the front wheels a heavy throttle foot can elicit torque steer and it’ll understeer under very heavy cornering, but like a Swedish meatball it’s always decidedly satisfying, providing an entertaining performance boost, while feeling like you could drive it to the very end of the earth – and back again.

Owner Toby Smith’s father became warranty manager at Saab-Scania in 1974 and although Toby remembers numerous company cars, one in particular still stands out. ‘Seeing a Rose Quartz Silver 900i with burgundy velvet interior parked on our driveway I thought one day… one day, I’m having one of those. By the time my father had completed 20 years at the company – and received his second complaint – I’d acquired a black 900 T16.’

Despite looking lovely, it used to bite him on more or less every journey. ‘It’d eat its gearbox or, as dusk drew in, turn its lights off without explanation. I loved it, but the bills were too high for me just starting out, so I sold it.’ Owned six years, his current Carlsson has been the polar opposite. ‘In contrast, a minor distributor cap issue aside, it’s been very well be haved with just the standard wear and tear costs you’d expect.’

According to Glen Marks of Saab specialist Classic 900 (classic900. com), as when new, the Turbo remains the model that people want. ‘They’re fully loaded, have exclusivity and are utterly bulletproof. We look after one that’s done 460,000 miles on its original timing chain.’ Now, approaching 30 years old, corrosion is the biggest issue. ‘They suffer around the wheelarches, bottoms of the doors and despite it being triple-skinned, the bonnet. It never really kills the car, though.’

That said, buy on condition: costs to rectify rust issues will vary according to the level of work required. ‘What would worry me is if the car has been messed with mechanically,’ says Marks. ‘Some people go a stage further and fit go-faster aftermarket bits. It never really works and standard is best. Parts availability is getting more difficult, but a number of suppliers – such as Neo Brothers (neobrothers.co.uk) – have a decent amount tucked away.’

The Saab 900 Turbo and the Carlsson in particular have been undervalued for many years now, and only recently started creeping up. Owner Toby has been quietly involved in the Saab scene for a number of years and reckons, save for the odd car residing in a garage, only around ten of the original 600 examples are still on the road.

Hipsters have got it all wrong. You don’t need a beard manicured to within an inch of its follicles, lumberjack shirt, skinny jeans, boots and a mobile cereal shop. You just need a Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson, and hey presto – instant cool.

Toby’s 900 Carlsson is currently for sale at classiccarsforsale.co.uk

1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson road test

Interior is functional but underwhelming – like a certain furniture store. Quentin appreciates the steering’s welljudged weight. Turbo boost control system gave Carlsson edition 10bhp more than standard T16.

Quentin on the 900 Turbo

Most 900 Turbos cheerfully do 150,000 miles, pause for breath and do it all again. I owned one with 320,000 racked up and know how incredibly long-lived they are. Entertainingly unruly to drive hard from an era when turbos were king, that famous spooling lag before the power kicks in is one of their special charms. The supply of unmolested low-mileage cars is declining so I think anything with less than 80,000 miles is worth snapping up. The convertibles are likely to be the most wanted and the best spec is the 16-valve S model, but some of the Aero and limited edition models already have a strong following. Gearboxes – especially the autos – are a weak point, and expect niggles like sagging headliners, blown instrument bulbs and heated seats that don’t heat, but 900s are sturdier than contemporary BMWs and Mercs. Some Turbos are still being advertised on mainstream car buying and selling websites without any classic hype. That’s where you’ll find the biggest bargains. Right now they’re just on the cusp of greatness but lots of buyers don’t have them on their radar. I’ve just spotted a 1989 F-reg with 76,000 for sale privately for £3995 – what are you waiting for?

TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson

Engine 1985cc 4-cyl, dohc, electronic fuel injection and Garrett turbocharger

Power and torque 185bhp @ 5500rpm; 201lb ft @ 2800rpm

Transmission Five-speed manual, driving front wheels

Brakes Discs front and rear, ABS

Suspension Front: double wishbones, coil springs, gas dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: rigid rear axle, coil springs, gas dampers, two leading and two trailing arms, Panhard rod, anti-roll bar.

Steering Power-assisted rack and pinion

Weight 1320kg (2910lb)

Performance Top speed: 130mph; 0-60mph: 8.0sec

Fuel consumption 24mpg

Cost new £20,495

Value now £5000-£10,000


{module Saab 900 Classic}


1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupé W111

‘It’s a beautiful boulevardier rather than a B-road barnstormer’

Mercedes sent the 220 SEb coupé W111 out on to a playing field largely free of any competition in the early Sixties. Those looking for a large elegant two-door to vicariously speak of their success, wealth and appreciation for fineries were rather limited in scope. As a more tactful choice than a Silver Cloud or an S2 Continental coachbuilt to one’s two-door desires, the Mercedes communicated in a noble baritone of which Morgan Freeman would be envious.

Until the two-door W111 was revealed at the opening of the Unterturkheim Daimler-Benz Museum in 1961, Mercedes had been recovering from the same pre-war design hangover that the posh Brits were drunkenly postponing. With the 220SEb, Paul Bracq had cooked up a hearty banquet of contemporary style. Swooping wings were long gone, and the W111 saloon’s tailfins were tamed to the point of being vestigial. Some elements borrowed from Fifties Motorama remained – witness the wraparound windscreen and chrome accoutrements – but the Merc was nevertheless the car of modern, forward-thinking intellectuals. Dr Felix Wankel had one despite his enduring lack of a driving licence.

1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupe W111 road test

1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupe W111 road test / 743 LOB / UK-reg / RHD

In fact, German folklore suggests Mercedes originally intended to equip the W111 coupé with the Wankel rotary it was keeping close tabs on, but its slow development quickly put paid to that idea. The straight-six that usurped it is both the reason it’s included in this year’s Smart Buys, and the point that had us debating its inclusion. With the market in swoons over the W111’s ultimate evolution, the 280 SE 3.5 V8, values of the six-cylinder coupés have been relatively flat until recently. But does a 2.2-litre six with 120bhp not make this famously over-engineered luxury German U-boat somewhat under-engined?

Unlike Dr Felix, I have both a responsibility and an untainted desire to find out. After passing the chromed edge of the door and dropping down into a plump leather chair that gently exhales in acceptance, I take a moment to appreciate the cabin. The door slams so solidly that it could indeed belong to a submarine, silencing the cabin to the point that I can hear the richly veneered dashboard’s clock tick.

A few curious prods of the chromed butterfly-valve air vents later, I fire the starter. The single overhead cam straight-six catches quickly and settles into a cultured, if tonally underwhelming idle. Here be no Solexes; the W111 was the first mainstream production car to be offered with fuel injection. ‘As long as you’ve had the system set up by someone who knows what they’re doing, you can cover big distances without even thinking about it,’ says owner Peter Lewis, who has turned his hobby of collecting classic Mercedes into a business under the Cheshire Classic Benz banner. Reliable it may be, but can the SEb cover those distances with the refinement and performance those intellectuals would demand?

1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupe W111 road test

1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupe W111 road test

Early signs suggest so. With a single-pivot swing axle borrowed from the 300SL Roadster at the rear, the suspension gobbles up road imperfections. The front discs hide the big Merc’s heft under braking commendably given the era. Increase to modern cruising speeds, however, and you’ll quickly surpass the SEb’s natural gait. Undergearing is an unfortunate byproduct of the ‘adequate’ acceleration – the 60mph sprint takes 12.7 seconds – and by 70mph a busy 4000rpm has you mourning the loss of that cabin refinement. This car might speak volumes on your behalf, but some singing lessons wouldn’t go amiss.

And, the gearbox’s reluctance to kick down means that to avoid steep-incline embarassment on particularly undulating twisties, you have to carry a momentum through bends that feels unseemly – especially given the leisurely steering and seats with only period levels of lateral support. But the big Merc does have a surprising party trick: an ultra-tight turning circle that unexpectedly upstages every other car here at peacocking speeds.

And therein lies the Benz’s forte – it’s a big beautiful boulevardier rather than a B-road barnstormer, and coaxes out a driving persona you might never thought existed inside you. Once you accept and embrace its lethargic character, you’re rewarded by that Freeman-like velvet baritone offering words of wisdom. It proposes you gently grip the slender-rimmed wheel between your thumb and index finger, with a right elbow rested on the window edge. Perhaps you should nonchalantly throw a left arm over the passenger seat-back too – assuming a Grace Kelly-type hasn’t joined you by that point, that is.

Such a blasé approach must not be applied to the buying process, however. Even though 250s and 280s command respective 5% and 10% premiums over 220s, condition should be regarded above engine size with rust-sluething taking highest priority. The usual spots – sills, floorpans, suspension mountings and the boot floor – are the areas to focus your attentions on, but there are fewer concealed hotspots than there are on a Pagoda.

Although the W111’s original fuel injection systems can be made reliable with some modern-day know-how, they don’t respond well to long periods of inactivity so budget around £1000 for a specialist to sort out a clogged-up unit if the engine runs lumpily. It’s vital to pay attention to the condition of window/door seals, and trim pieces inside and out – there’s a lot to replace if they’re too tatty to save. A new interior can cost £7k.

Values have climbed a little recently – Cheshire Classic Benz reports two good 220s sold in recent months in the late £30ks, which would have bought a concours car in early 2016. And considering its merits against the Pagoda, which is no more glamorous or desirable yet currently fetches 2-3 times more, the big Merc should continue to reign in its little brother. This level of pillarless panache is more desirable now than ever – cultured restraint in an increasingly brash world, anyone?

1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupe W111 road test

Pillarless perfection – but only if the seals haven’t perished. The Elan’s polar opposite – but equally enjoyable in its own way. Despite fuel injection and sohc innovations, six-cylinder is trusty.

Quentin on the W111

Prices of these chic pillarless Sixties and Seventies Merc coupés are following the vertical trajectory of the convertibles. The best ones – especially the 280s – are chasing £80k now. And it’s hardly surprising. Those elegant Paul Bracq lines look better every day, radiating a Beverly Hills glamour that outshines even Pagoda SLs. We think that on looks alone the W111 coupés will carry on rising and become gold-plated classic icons – if they haven’t already. But if you look hard you can still find the odd sensibly priced example – like the ’66 250 on sale with Charles Ironside in Hampshire. In white with column-shift auto, four owners and 80k it seems very reasonable at just £30k. Next year that could be an easy £50k. They may not be fast or remotely dynamic to drive but they’re sensationally handsome. There’s a premium for UK-supplied rhd cars as most are US imports. A decent verifiable mileage and history will also be worth more. The market prefers autos – the manuals, especially the column shift, are a bit clunky – because this is a proper arm-out-the- window waft-mobile. Don’t get hung up on engine size because what you’re buying here is beauty. And for that reason alone its financial future is assured.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb coupé W111

Engine 2195cc inline six-cylinder, sohc, Bosch fuel injection

Power and torque 120bhp @ 4800rpm; 140lb ft @ 3900rpm

Transmission Four-speed automatic

Steering Recirculating ball

Suspension Front: double wishbone, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: single joint swing axle, compensator spring, coil springs, telescopic dampers.

Brakes Servo-assisted,

Front: discs; Rear: drums

Performance Top speed: 105mph; 0-60mph: 12.7sec

Length 4880mm (192.1in)

Width 1845mm (72.6in)

Weight 1510kg (3329lb)

Fuel consumption 25mpg

Cost new DM23,500 at launch (£2007 in August 1961)

Values now £12,500-£42,000


{module Mercedes Benz w111}


1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2

‘The Fulvia is the great-grandfather of the Evo monsters of the Eighties and Nineties’

It’s a conundrum I’ve never quite been able to solve. The Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé is swift, extremely pretty, technically interesting, directly related to a glamorous and successful competition car, and possessed of glassy-surfaced proportions so perfect that it’s tricky to find an angle from which it looks ungainly. And yet the other 1300cc Sixties Italian coupé you could say these things about – the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Junior – has stubbornly remained roughly twice the price of its rival from Chivasso ever since they both entered the classic fold. It can’t be the ‘wrongwheel drive’ thing, surely?

Because to dismiss the Fulvia on those lines would be idiotic. It comes from a time when front-wheel drive was about technical innovation rather than uninspiring platform-engineering. This was the era of the Citroën DS, Mini Cooper and Saab 96, and the reason for the Fulvia’s mechanical layout becomes obvious the second you ëick it into a tight corner.

1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2 road test

1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2 road test

Relaxing in its surprisingly airy cockpit with an excellent driving position defying all Italian stereotypes, the dashboard finished with ëashes of stainless steel and that wonderful script-badge, you expect the Fulvia to be all about glamorous Mercedes SL-style cruising and basking in cool ambience. It does all this with aplomb too, but you’ll never see how it won all those rally championships unless you drive it as hard as you would a hot-hatch. Slick gearshift in third, longitudinally mounted narrow-angle V4 snarling ferociously above 2500rpm, it despatches hairpins in a smooth, assertive manner. A frisson of lift-off oversteer is there if you want it, but it knits together the tangled threads of your average British B-road with dizzying efficiency and with head-reeling grip that charges the senses.

When you imagine doing the same drive in its old tail-wagging Alfa rival, you realise the Fulvia’s historical significance. While the Mini Cooper and Saab 96 may have been accidental heroes, their drivetrain layouts brought about by packaging and aerodynamics; the Fulvia is the great-grandfather of all those ‘Evo’ monsters of the Eighties and Nineties, fetishising sticky roadholding and lateral G-forces.

It’s nowhere near as fast as an Integrale, obviously, but thanks to its light weight and nose-down stance with subtle negative camber on its driven wheels, the Fulvia is still a thrillingly involving B-road companion, going precisely where it’s pointed, its unassisted steering sizzling with feedback. Don’t let its modest 1298cc displacement and 90bhp output fool you either – this is a fast car if you drive it neatly, keeping that excitable engine fizzing within its power band at all times.

‘It was my first car!’ says owner Neil Sims. ‘I bought it in 1984 for £500 and ran it for seven years before taking it off the road with the intention of solving some brake issues. It sat around for a while before I realised I needed to restore it.’ Neil’s ownership story is not unusual when it comes to Fulvias. As dealers have traditionally avoided Lancias, some of the best buys are to be found in private classified adverts, where if you’re lucky you’ll find cherished cars being offloaded by passionate long-term enthusiasts, many of whom have fettled the cars themselves.

‘Trim is hard to come by, but replacement body panels are being remanufactured now,’ says Neil. ‘Also, despite Lancia’s later reputation with the Beta they were made from high-quality steel and undersealed when new. Obviously they do rust now but not as badly as a Beta. The main part to check is the rearmost front subframe mountings – a telltale sign that they’ve rotted through is a crack in the top of the nearside rear wheelarch where the bodywork’s taken the strain. Check for rust around the brightwork too – the paint was sometimes scraped during factory assembly so water’s often got in over time.

‘The engines are tough, reliable and easy to work on, with all service parts available although carburettors are unique to the car. Originally they had Solex PHH C35s, but Dell’Orto DHL B35s are more reliable, and just £500.’ Martin Cliffe of Omicron has been restoring Lancias since the Eighties. ‘Solving the worst-case scenario of the subframe rust issue involves cutting the bottoms off the front wings– a week’s work that will cost £1200 per side before you even look at respraying,’ he says.

‘The 1300 engine is tougher than the 1600 HF’s, and is reliable with normal routine maintenance. But the automatic fan on Series 2s is controlled by an in-line fuse supported by its own wiring. If this fails, the closely spaced radiator fins block and rust, and the car will overheat rapidly in traffic, warping its cylinder head. The rebuild will involve machining and will cost £5k-£6k.’

It’s not the most refined of cars – the telltale buzz of undergearing and a 3500-4000rpm cruising speed say as much – and the V4 throbs noticeably at idle, shuddering through the interior. However, this really is a superlative all-rounder for everything you’d use a classic for. On a country-lane blast it makes MG Midgets feel crude while running rings round them. On the boulevardier’s admiration-courting slow-cruise through the city streets it shows ‘Pagoda’ Merc SLs up as stylistically heavy-handed and too obvious a choice. And in your classic motor club’s roadrally it’ll show a clean set of tyre tracks to modified Minis while making you feel – and look – like Sandro Munari.

The fact that the best one will cost you not much more than a half-share in an Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Junior is a quirk of the market that just can’t last. And you can remind the purists that it’s been a very, very long time since a rear-wheel-drive car won a world championship rally.

Thanks to: Neil Sims, Tim Heath, the Lancia Motor Club (lanciamc. co.uk), Martin Cliffe, Omicron Lancia (omicron.uk.com)

1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2 road test

Cabin is surprisingly spacious given car’s compact footprint. Quentin enjoys the feelsome unassisted steering. The unusual V4 engine fizzes with excitement.

Quentin on the Fulvia

It’s not hard to find long-ownership, minimal-mileage Fulvia coupés for less than £10k. An Italian private seller is offering a two-owner 25,000-miler ’75 for just £8990 and a chap in Solihull has a ’74 with 60k that he’s owned for 35 years for £8750. For something with such watchlike precision, sharp lines and alloy panels they feel seriously undervalued. That’s the Beta effect – all those Series 1 Beta saloons in the Seventies with terminally rusty subframes earned the Lancia brand a reputation it has never shaken off. But when it comes to the Fulvia coupé it’s undeserved, because they corrode no worse than many contemporary Jaguars and BMWs. The raspy V4 is a gem that sparkles the car along and the sweet steering, front-wheel-drive grip and Italianate interior bring charm to every journey. Made from 1965-77, the most usable examples are the post-Seventies 1.3s. The later Series 2 models have five-speed boxes and plusher cabins, but the last cars suffered from the Fiat influence (they changed the alloy doors, bonnet and boot lid to steel in 1971) with cheaper build. The earliest Sixties Series 1 coupés are our pick. Fulvia coupés are much more desirable than their low prices suggest.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2

Engine 1298cc V4, dohc, two Solex PHH C35 carburettors

Power and torque 90bhp @ 6200rpm; 84lb ft @ 5000rpm

Transmission Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Steering Worm and roller

Suspension Front: independent, double wishbones, transverse leaf spring, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: dead beam axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar

Brakes Discs front and rear

Weight 970kg

Performance Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph: 13.2sec

Fuel consumption 33mpg

Cost new £1598

Values now £4500-£12,500


{module Lancia Fulvia}



For me, choosing our ultimate Smart Buy is easy – it’s the Jensen. This is a classic that ticks every box and then some. Heave, beauty, heritage, image, attitude and enormous potential.

With so many other Sixties and Seventies supercars going into orbit the Interceptor is bound to rise in sympathy. But money and investment prospects apart, the Interceptor is a sensationally wonderful car to own, drive and look at. But best of all it has a halo of mischief that none of our other choices possesses. The reason why it’s flatlined for so long is because we thought it didn’t have enough panache and breeding. I think the Interceptor’s colourful, raffish roots are a major part of its appeal. I’d have one in a heartbeat.

‘The Interceptor, Birmingham’s only supercar, has a halo of mischief that none of our other choices possesses’

1969 Jensen Interceptor Series-1 vs.1969 Lotus Elan S4, 1990 Saab 900 Turbo Carlsson, 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220 SEb Coupé W111 and 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S Coupé Series 2

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Additional Info
  • Drive: RWD