THESE once-ridiculed cars could now be worth a fortune. We delved into the archives to uncover the much-maligned motors now fetching a tidy sum on the market.
Motors like the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina struggled to attract acclaim during their heyday, largely thanks to patchy build quality and reliability issues. But that hasn’t stopped fans, eager for a dose of nostalgia, to start lusting after them.
And prices are accelerating rapidly on the classic car scene – even though owners were no doubt embarrassed to be seen in them a few decades ago.
This Top 8 ‘bangers and cash’ car selection has been hand-picked by leading UK car leasing firm Select Car Leasing, who say sky-rocketing prices should be a warning not to let the heart rule the head when it comes to motor ownership.
Select Car Leasing director Mark Tongue says: “These are cars which, if we’re being very generous, didn’t garner many admiring glances.
“And yet here we are, several decades later, with people often willing to part with five figure sums for vehicles which did well to avoid the scrap heap.
“Ironically, the fact they were largely awful merely adds to their desirability now.
“The build quality of cars coming out of factories such as British Leyland meant very few have survived the test of time.
“That scarcity, combined with potentially hazardous levels of nostalgia, means people are now willing to pay through the nose to relive memories of their youth.
“If you’re bored at home perusing the internet amid the Covid-19 shutdown and thinking of purchasing one of these vehicles, our advice is to give your head a shake.
“If, however, you like your car to start and run with regularity, we’d suggest a modern, comfortable, eye-catching lease car might be a more enjoyable way to utilise your hard-earned pounds.”
Austin Allegro: 1973-1982. £9,000
The humble Allegro won few fans when it first trundled out of the British Leyland factory, and many owners reported issues with leaky bodywork and dangerously ceased wheel bearings.
The dumpy, bulbous looks also gave it the nickname the ‘Flying Pig’, while owners who had to cope with endless breakdowns dubbed it the ‘All Aggro’. In 2008 the Allegro was voted the ‘worst car of all time’ by internet magazine iMotormag. Yet some Allegros are now changing hands for upwards of £9,000 as retro lovers start to see their appeal. If you really have to, the Vanden Plas model offers a ‘luxury’ interior.
Talbot Sunbeam: 1977-1981. £16,000
Originally known as the Chrysler Sunbeam before it changed its name, the Talbot Sunbeam was manufactured at the Linwood factory in Scotland, largely funded by a UK Government grant to try to keep production going. But while the Sunbeam looked the part – particularly the 1600ti version – owners struggled to keep the dreaded rust at bay and very few still remain on UK roads. Well loved examples now go for up to £16,000. Meanwhile the rally spec and awesome looking Talbot Sunbeam Lotus will set you back at least £25,000.
Vauxhall Nova: 1983-1993. £5,000
No urban estate was complete without a Vauxhall Nova being razzed through the streets by a budding boy racer. Many of the models that remain will have been thrashed to within an inch of their lives. And with a reputation for rust, particularly around the rear arches and bottom of the doors, combined with gearbox issues, there’s a reason why there are fewer than 1,000 left on the roads.
Yet now even the gutless 1.2 litre-engined versions are for sale for north of £4,000. Meanwhile, the much-lusted over GTE variant goes for around £10,000. Watch out for massive holes in the parcel shelf where huge speakers once sat.
Morris Marina: 1971-1980. £6,000
The Marina was supposed to be a competitor to the Ford Cortina and Escort. And it sold in large numbers – almost a million in the UK. But poor handling, bad suspension, understeer and a habit of rusting means the Marina is another chapter in the British Leyland horror story. There are now just 374 left on UK roads and prices are going upwards. A bog-standard 1.3 litre coupe can be yours for around £6,000, while the better looking 1.8 GT is slightly more sought after.
Vauxhall Frontera: 1991-2004. £3,000
The bulky Frontera was built at the Bedford van factory in Luton to satisfy the UK’s growing taste for 4x4s – and to play Land Rover at its own game. Yet the Frontera was beset by reliability problems, including a major recall in the late Nineties to remedy a fault with the steering.
Owners also complain of rust, dodgy electrics as well as poor suspension. And it was also a drain on the wallet as you’ll be lucky to get more than 20 miles to the gallon from the 2 litre-plus engines. Despite all that, a well looked after Frontera can set you back around £3,000.
Reliant Robin: 1973-2001. £6,500
One of the original selling points of the Reliant Robin was the fact it could be driven on a B1 motorcycle licence, up until the legislation was tightened in 2001. But it didn’t stop the Robin becoming the butt of most motoring jokes in the UK. It was slow, with a 850cc engine that took 17 seconds to get to 60 miles an hour. And it also had a terrifying reputation for falling over when going around corners. Fans, however, love them and restored examples can cost upwards of £6,500. But don’t confuse the Robin with Del Boy and Rodney’s embarrassing motor of choice in the long-running BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Their yellow smoke-belcher was a Reliant Regal van.
Triumph TR7: 1974-1981. £10,000
From some angles the TR7 – another effort by British Leyland – certainly looks the part, particularly in soft-top guise. But it was another vehicle hampered by reliability problems. Manufacturing was hamstrung by constant strikes at the Speke factory in Liverpool, which led to issues on the production line. Owners moaned about rusted bodies, leaking engines and worrisome oil pressure histrionics. But there are still plenty of Triumph fans who say there’s an achingly brilliant car in there just waiting to be saved. And that’s why you can now spend £10,000 on a good TR7.
Austin Metro: 1980-1986. £3,500
The Metro had big shoes to fill, arriving to plug the void left by the outgoing Mini. But this was another British Leyland car mired by production and reliability niggles. The marketing blurb billed it as a “British Car to Beat The World” – but critics soon found plenty to moan about. One review by Top Gear’s Quentin Wilson in 1991 pointed out that it was “too rough, too temperamental, too aged and too unrefined to be taken seriously as a second-hand car”. Wilson also said it “had all the finesse and subtlety of a thumb in the eye”, while “the only thing an old Metro does well is rust”. Amazingly, however, some fans are still willing to pay £3,500 plus for a low-mileage example of one today.