You summoned me. I came, Autopians. It’s your goth uncle Adrian, here. I’m afraid Miss Mercedes is very much not joining us this week because she’s incarcerate… had an attack of the vapors after gazing upon all the immobile monuments to Ferdinand Piech-excess in her stable. Yes. That’s it. No that isn’t muffled thumping and cries for help you can hear. It’s just the plumbing here at Autopian substation. I’ve been on at Beau for weeks to fix it, but he’s a very busy man. Torch can only fix things with a chainsaw, and David has gotten soft and full of yoga and doesn’t fix anything anymore.
But have no fear, for I am here to provide for what this week we’re going to call Adrian’s Auction Anarchy (actual listings being auctions not guaranteed, I just couldn’t come up with anything else alliterative). Miss Mercedes just firehoses imaginary Autopian money at anything shiny that catches her eye with such wanton decadence. This is my dominion now, and we will have rules. With rules we shall create order out of chaos. And this place could use a little more of that, don’t you agree?
I will reveal such forbidden pleasures; cars that were never available to the U.S. I have such sights to show you. But I’m not a total monster, each one will be 25 years old, so if you want them painfully enough, they can be yours.
And please, no tears for Miss Mercedes. It’s a waste of good suffering.
1999 Ford Ka 2 £1995 ($2,425)
The Ford Ka was introduced in 1996 to offer a lower-cost option below the Fiesta in the Ford range. It was an early exponent of Ford’s ‘New Edge’ design direction, basically an avant-garde three-door body dropped onto the platform of a Mk3 Fiesta. What this car was in effect was a pint-sized warm-up act for the forthcoming Escort replacement, the Euro Focus. To say it was a shock was an understatement. I’ve always thought they were a bit willfully different, but it was a design statement for black turtle neck wearers on a budget. Everyone else just bought them because it was a Ford and therefore available everywhere and cheap.
How did Ford keep the cost down? Check out the wraparound polypropylene bumpers which wrap right around the car front and rear, reducing the size of the sheet metal stampings for the front fenders and rear three-quarter panel, and the lack of much in the way of exterior trim. Oh, and the engine was a transverse installation of the old ‘Kent’ boat anchor, which had its origins in the 1959 Anglia.
No matter, that just meant they were unburstable. With a whole 59 bhp you basically only needed two throttle positions: closed or foot to the floor. And this was one of the first Fords developed under the auspices of Richard Parry Jones, who in the mid-nineties ushered in a wholesale revolution in how Fords felt and drove. These things were total inner-city go-karts. The interior is a riot of swoops, ovals and curves, and some models (not this mid-spec 2 by the look of it) had a rotary sunglasses holder on the passenger side dashboard shelf.
It was actually pretty hard to find an early survivor – most have rusted away by now as corrosion resistance wasn’t really in the Dagenham lexicon back then, and later models came with painted bumpers and don’t quite have the same charm. It’s a two-owner car and has recently had a new clutch, so should be ready for whatever ham-fisted abuse you can heap on it. Although in some of the photos the dealer has pulled the old ‘take pictures of it after it’s been washed’ trick, it looks very tidy and is extremely low mileage at just 35,500. Plus it’s a Ford, so it’ll be dirt cheap to run and easy to get parts for. It’s for sale at the Ivybridge Trade Centre Devon.
1999 Rover 75 Club 2.0 V6 Automatic £2395 ($2,910)
Have you ever desired to own a car that represents the exact nexus of an entire country’s auto industry circling the toilet pan? A car that represents the ignition point for the detonation of the company it came from? Hooooo boy have I got the car for you.
The Rover 75 was the last Big Rover Saloon released before the whole schmear imploded in acrimony and bankruptcy in 2005. Developed as a sort of 3 series/Afla 159/Audi A4 competitor, it aimed to offer a more traditional comfort-orientated approach to those cars. Instead of being sharp and flashy, the idea was to take the trademark ‘gentleman’s club on wheels’ wood and leather approach to the smaller executive sector, rather than pin sharp handling and snarling engines.
The 75 was a well-developed car that contained a lot of BMW; the rear suspension was an adaptation of Munich’s Z arm for example. The engines were all variations of the initially quite partial to a head gasket K-Series ranging from 1.8 liter fours to 2.5 liter sixes. Before BMW loaded Land Rover and Mini into a sack marked ‘swag’ and made out through the side of the building under cover of night, they realized that Rover was losing money so later 75s are not as well built, and after BMW sold the remnants of the company the 75 was bizarrely re-engineered to RWD and had a Mustang 4.6 V8 dropped in. At this point, the 75 (and it’s associated MG brethren) was a corpse being reanimated with a series of rods and strings.
Our 75 here is a mid-range 2.0 V6, good for 148bhp and a 0-60 in the tens. Not a road burner then, but that’s not what these cars are about. This one is a one-family car in an absolutely bang-on color and check out the sumptuous cloth interior. It’s got climate and a six-disc autochanger (ask your parents). The seller lists a lot of work including alloy wheel refurbishment and a recent cambelt change. Although the K series was problematic at first, the issues are solved and well known now, and they were very advanced for their time.
I’ve always thought these were an extremely handsome car let down by old fashioned detailing, something of a Leyland/BL/Austin Rover/Rover trait. They would design really great looking modern cars and then run them through the ‘middle England circa 1958’ filter and give them chrome grilles, wood dashboards and tat like that so as not to scare off the coffin dodging Union Jack flag wavers who made up their customer base. Just the thing for driving to your local ‘British’ themed pub for a Sunday roast dinner.
For sale on Ebay UK
1993 Fiat Panda 1.0 £4995 ($6,070)
If you strapped me to a chair and forced me to name my favorite car as a piece of design, the original Fiat Panda would be it. I wrote a whole article about their brilliance a while ago. Revealed in 1980 as an update of the ‘putting Italy on wheels’ ethos of the 500, I fucking love these little boxes. Designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, he says it’s his personal favorite of everything he’s done.
Flat seats, flat glass, flat bodysides, flat out everywhere. The original was so good, so well loved and so adaptable it stayed in production for 23 years. There was a four-wheel drive version, and even an EV model, the Elettra. In 1990. Later models ditched the rear beam axle for something slightly more sophisticated, and the stamped metal grill became a proper plastic piece for the newer 1000 FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotized Engine, not Fast Italian Racing Engine) powerplants that took over from the earlier units.
These are very, very fashionable cars now. If you ever come across an Italia ’90 World Cup limited edition complete with its soccer ball wheel covers you could retire. The Sisley 4x4s are becoming daft money and getting a bit Instagram hipster as well. The missing-the-pointedness of that is highlighted by the fact that during my recent road trip to Italy for the Grand Prix, I saw THIRTEEN Pandas in just three days, still out earning a living in the hills around Lake Como.
Our example here is a later model Parade Special Edition from 1993, just two years before the model was removed from the UK market. Super low miles at 32,000, it has such bougie extras as jazzy seat trim, full-length roll-back fabric sunroofs, and horror of horrors, wheel trims. The 1.0 FIRE engine makes about 50bhp, but honestly who cares? A guy I follow on Twitter has been all over the world in his. This one looks absolutely mint, and not overpriced either. If had somewhere to put it, I’d be handing over my card details right now.
If you want further proof of the little Fiats appeal, twenty five years ago when my American wife first moved over to the UK, fresh off the 747 one of the first items on her list was getting back to driving. Coming out of the automatic Toyota Tercel she had back home, she wanted to learn to drive ‘a stick’. My car at the time was an entirely unsuitable Ford Capri 2.8 injection, so we went to the local dealer to see what was on the lot. Asking her if she saw anything she liked, she immediately said in her deep southern accent (still an accent on women that makes me feel funny…) “the little sparkly purple one”.
You don’t need me to tell you what it was. And yes, I bought it. This one is for sale at Chiltern Car Sales
1969 Bedford Viva HA ‘Roma’ Dormobile £8000 ($9,723)
We love campervans here, don’t we? Well, you lot do. I like hotels. With cocktail bars. Do campers have cocktail bars? They do not. Do you sometimes feel American campers are bit too much? A bit unwieldy and hugely expensive? What if you could have the bare minimum needed–literally a steel box with an engine at one end, a pop-up roof and not much else. Keeping things minimal, isn’t that what the great outdoors is all about? Not attaching wheels and a diesel motor and a gray water tank to your house and driving that around the country.
The Bedford HA van was the commercial version of the Vauxhall HA Viva, introduced in 1963 as Vauxhall’s first small car to be released after the Second World War. The Viva HA only lasted three years before being replaced by the HB Viva in 1966, but the commercial version, as one of the original car-derived vans lived on until 1983. These were incredibly popular little vehicles; when our national utility companies were all still nationalized they all used these. I remember seeing them everywhere as a kid.
These were converted by Dormobile, basically the British equivalent of Westfalia. They started out making carriages in the 18th Century but by the 1950s had become Britain’s foremost camper van conversion company. They survived until 1994 before going bankrupt, but incredibly, and perhaps presaging our current fascination for all things overlanding, emerged from the ashes in 1997 and are still going strong.
This cheeky little thing is a 1969, and comes with a fresh MOT and engine rebuild, although at 1159cc doesn’t sound much these vans don’t weigh a lot either, about 1600lbs. The seller lists lots of other mechanical work as well including a rebuilt gearbox (I have a feeling THAT will be seeing a lot of use) and an alternator conversion, so you don’t have to choose between headlights or wipers on a rainy night.
It’s described as ready to go but there are two caveats to that. It’s been hand-painted, and the there’s no interior. But really, that just makes it a blank canvas for you to fit it out however you want: hot tubs and pizza ovens and whatever else Americans consider home away from home essentials. Soil-free mattresses, that sort of thing. I don’t know. I don’t like camping; I couldn’t get my little camping stove to satisfactorily boil my Bialetti Moka coffee pot when I was at Le Mans earlier this year so I’m not exactly the expert. But Dormobile are, and they offer support for their classic models, so you could hit them up and ask if the plans for the interior of this little tyke are lying around somewhere.
For sale at Car And Classic
1989 Ford Escort XR3i £8495 ($10,325)
Knowing that Matt likes fast European Escorts, and if Matt is happy my life is infinitely easier [Ed note: Awwww, I think? – MH], here’s one for him. This is a Mk4 Escort, basically a very heavy refresh of the Mk3. The Mk3 was meant to be the same car for both Europe and the US. At the time, ‘Maximum’ Bob Lutz was head of Ford of Europe, and after the Golf appeared he knew the replacement for the Mk2 Escort had to be FWD. After Iacocca realized he had nothing to compete in the US, it became a program for both markets, headed by Hal Sperlich. The problem was, Henry Ford II hated Iacocca, so fired Sperlich because of their closeness. Instantly one Escort became two, and the US and Euro versions ended up sharing basically nothing.
In the UK ,the Escort was basically Ford’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. It hadn’t been out of the top five best sellers in donkey’s years. The original Mk3 XR3i with its trademark telephone dial alloys wasn’t mechanically the most sophisticated device, but man alive did Ford UK ever know how to design and market a go-faster car. The engines were gruff, the steering had a bit of a mind of its own and they only had 105 bhp, but they sold and sold. And then sold some more. The Mk4 kept pretty much the same mechanicals, but gave the bodywork and interior a sort of late eighties digital sheen coupled with a more aero look in line with the more humdrum versions. It wouldn’t see which way a 16-valve Golf (let alone a 16v Astra) went at the lights, but it didn’t matter. For flash the Escort couldn’t be touched. And fun fact fans, it was available with a low cost (it was a couple of hundred quid IIRC) mechanical anti-lock brake system, when such things things were still pricy options on much more expensive cars.
The classic Ford scene in the UK has gone quite frankly, bonkers over the last five years or so. RWD sporting Escorts are now regularly commanding upwards of fifty grand. They’re good cars at fifteen to twenty, but the scene tax has seen their value proposition blown out of the water. As a comparison, I paid £36,000 for the Mondial nearly two years ago. Escort Cosworths are now approaching £100k. Any fast Ford from the seventies and eighties is making very heavy money.
This one looks to be an absolute stoater. Click through to the advert and check out the photo of all the documentation. If you look closely it still has the ‘Ford Cares’ audio cassette that presumably you listened to on your Walkman (again, ask your parents) as you drifted off to sleep, gently reminding you about three-year warranties in a whispery voice. The advert does use the dreaded ‘barn find’ (ugh) language, but it’s a genuine one owner car that starts and runs, and just needs a light refreshing. One good thing about the explosion in values of these old fast Fords is a lot of parts are now available that haven’t been in the past. They weren’t tremendously well built, so anything that is all original, as this one looks to be, is definitely one that could hold its money if a market correction ever happens.
1993 Citroen XM Si £2850 ($3,460)
You wanna get weird? Let’s get weird. You can’t handle this weirdness. Possibly the last true proper big Citroen. Okay, there was the C6 after this but that leaned into an art-deco vibe rather than being a spaceship of the future like the DS, SM, CX and the XM were. Designed and engineered at great expense to replace the much-loved and long-lived CX, the XM was introduced in 1989 and in 1990 was voted European Car of The Year.
Intended to compete in the prestige executive class against cars like the 5 series, Mercedes W124, Ford Granada and Renault 25, it was spectacularly advanced, with electronic controls for its hydropneumatic suspension, wind-cheating aerodynamics with a body by Bertone and a new type of headlight projector technology allowing for super slim lighting at the front. The five-door even featured an inner tailgate, a separate glass panel that remained in place when the rear hatch was lifted to protect rear seat passengers from the elements. There was a variety of 2.0 liter four cylinder engines, the venerable PRV V6 was punched out to 3.0 liters (and latterly gained 24v heads) as well as the usual lusty French diesels.
The suspension system was by now extremely advanced and used a variety of sensors to constantly make adjustments for pitch, roll and ride comfort. The ride height could also be adjusted from inside the car (the large slider to the right of the gear lever). The problem for the XM was two, possibly threefold: it was launched just before a huge global recession, the market for large prestige cars from non-premium manufacturers was always fickle and the electronics for the suspension were problematic. The issue was the types of connector blocks in the wiring – Citroen eventually figured out the issue but sales were already softening, a problem that also affected its platform mate, the now vanished Peugeot 605.
Our load lugging Exocet here is powered by what I think is the multipoint injection version of the 2.0 good for either 130bhp or 120bhp if it has a catalytic converter. The 0-60 isn’t going to spill your Chardonnay into your lap at 11 seconds but check out the top speed of 125 mph is proof of these cars’ great aero and typical French long legs. This is a pre-facelift model, which means it still has the trademark single-spoke steering wheel, and what I consider a prerequisite–the off-center emblem on the grill. It looks to be exceptionally clean inside and out, and clicking through the pictures shows the suspension in the highest setting, which is always a good sign. These cars settle when not running and then rise once you start the engine. If you haven’t sat in a big Citroen as it spools up its hyperdrives my friends, you have not lived. Another niggly little area with these is the dot matrix displays on either side of the wheel can play up, but you can just make out full illumination here. This one is a four speed auto, but with this kind of car it matters not one fart. The seller claims this one could do with a respray, but he’s either being picky or it’s the best five-yard car I’ve ever seen.
I had a manual 2.0SEi five door version years ago. The first one I went and looked at the suspension collapsed on the test drive and the guy had to fanny about under the hood with a pair of pliers to get the crate to start. That was obviously a no sale (but I did get a free pair of pliers out of it) but the one I ended up buying was a minter. The suspension on these cars has to be experienced to be believed. They turn in and grip like a Miata (the steering is ridiculously quick), stay completely flat and yet ride like a Rolls. I am not kidding. They are that good. Not that I’d condone it, but you can bomb over speed humps at better than forty and not feel a thing. And they’re arrow straight at high speed. This is another one of those cars whose reputation led to loads of them being scrapped, and has now undergone a renaissance as enthusiasts remember what it represents. All the problems are well-known and fixable now, and I’ve always wanted another. It’s just a case of the waiting for one to come up, which they don’t do very often as there’s only about 60 left on UK roads.
1998 Alfa Romeo 156 2.5 V6 £3500 ($4,255)
The most beautiful mass-market sedan ever built in modern times? I think that argument can easily be made, and you can’t really call yourself a car person unless you’ve owned at least one Alfa, so consider this your passport to authenticity. Introduced in 1998 to replace the decidedly boxier 155, the 159 was crayoned at Centro Stile by Walter de Silva. They came with a variety of bubbly twin spark fours from 1.6 to 2.0 liters, and the legendary Busso V6 in 2.5 and 3.2 liter forms for the GTA. There was also a Sportwagen, which hilariously had less trunk space than the sedan. An automated manual, the Selespeed was developed by Magneti Marelli for the car which was equipped with both steering wheel controls and a normal gear lever, giving you two ways of selecting a bunch of neutrals. They were utter dogshit and one of the reasons many of these cars went to an early grave.
Inside it was all hooded dials and the traditional Alfa ‘gear lever sprouting at 45 degrees from the floor’, but compared to the coal mine interiors of its German rivals at the time, inside the 156 was a fabulous place to be. Despite being FWD the 156 had double wishbone front suspension and a multilink rear, giving sharp handling that was widely praised at the time, although the six was a touch nose-heavy. The 156s main enemy as ever was reliability. Apart from issues with the Selespeed, the four-cylinder engines liked a cambelt for lunch and sometimes one for dinner. Eventually, Alfa halved the replacement interval to 36k miles. Despite being orders of magnitude better built than its predecessors, the build quality wasn’t there to get people out of the German stuff.
I always think these look best as a standard car, without any additional go-faster plastic to spoil the luscious lines. How good is the design of these? Even Giugiaro couldn’t improve it and he gave it two facelifts, in 2002 and then again in 2003. Our pick here is an early 2.5 V6 manual. I don’t think silver is necessarily the best color choice for these, but with the amount of survivors left you can’t be too fussy, and any car that has survived this long is likely to be a good one. What I do think is the best choice though, are these smaller Teledial wheels. It’s described as having no rust, but I would hold my nose at that statement at these things rusted in Italy. Whatever, it presents as very clean and straight, has a lovely velour interior with a wood steering wheel and gear knob connected to a six-speed manual (the lacquer of which appears to be peeling a little) which I think indicates this car is the slightly upscale Veloce trim pack. There’s handbooks and manuals to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for any hidden corrosion to be sorted, and look under that bonnet; you can check your hair in those intake runners. The Busso gives you about 190 Italian bhp (Italian horses are stronger) for a 0-60 of 7.5 and a top speed on the Autostrada of 143 mph.
I had one of these for a bit when I first moved back to London to study. It was a 1.6 Twin Spark, and I loved it. After I moved to the midlands again upon starting work after graduation, as well as doing 250 miles a week commuting to Gaydon it took me and my friend back down to London every weekend for months. God knows how many miles I put on that car, but I know every single one was a total joy.
2005 Ducati Sport Classic £13,499 ($16,405)
I’ve had a motorcycle license since about 2006, but after a few years riding I couldn’t really afford to have both a car and a full size bike, so the the car stayed and I’ve not been back on two wheels since. I turned fifty this year, and came to realize if I don’t get back on a bike soon, I never will as I’ll be too decrepit. I make no apologies for the fact if I do get back on a bike again I’ll only be a fair weather/for fun rider. I’ve done commuting in the pissing rain and howling rain, and that is a pursuit for a much younger person. No, I’m going to be about going out for coffee and the papers, or maybe fattening breakfast on a sunny Sunday morning. I also want to ride to the Isle of Man TT at some point.
Miss Mercedes usually includes a bike or two being a rider herself, so who am I to break with tradition? I constantly vacillate when looking at potential purchases online with money I don’t have. Something smaller capacity would be cheap to run, and easier to store down the side of the house. The problem with that is I’m tall, and I do decide to do a bit of touring something bigger might be appropriate. Something cheapish from back in the late eighties and early nineties when I got into bikes? Something newer with electronic driver aids that doesn’t need constant maintenance just to keep running? Argh I can’t decide!
Whatever, one bike I’ve always wanted is one of these, a Ducati Sport Classic. You might recognize it as the bike Sam rides in “Tron: Legacy.” An early attempt to get in on the modern cafe racer craze, the Sport Classic was offered only from 2006 until 2009. Powered by the usual 992cc V-twin making 91bhp, with upside down forks at the front and twin shocks on the rear, there is essentially three different variations on the theme. There was a slightly more upright version, the GT, the clip-on handle bar Sport 1000 in monoposto (single seat) or biposto (two seat) form, and the bikini faring-equipped Sport 1000S. I’m really not sure why these only lasted for three years. Now they seem to be extremely sought after as Ducati hasn’t really done anything quite so retro since, and no the Scrambler doesn’t count.
That rarity is reflected in the price of this one, a stiff £13,499 for an eighteen year old bike. It’s fucking yellow, and I HATE yellow on anything that’s not a Caterpillar or a 1971 Buick GSX. Ducatis are like two wheeled Ferraris. THEY SHOULD BE RED (ok not always but you get my drift). It’s had three owners, but none of them rode it very much, seeing as it’s only got 6000 miles. Maybe they’re not very good to ride? Who cares, it looks cool as hell as isn’t a bloody Triumph. Be right back, just getting the bodywork painted.
*Yes, I know this was available in the US and isn’t 25 years old. It’s not for you. It’s for me.
For sale on MCO Bikes
1986 Lancia Delta S4 Stradale £POA ($POA)
Ok enough with the dross, let’s end on something spectacular. God alone only knows what the actual asking price of this is. But of all the Group B rally monsters, this is where it’s at for me. Forget your Reliant-in-drag Ford RS200 with its Sierra bits. The understeer or death Audi Sport Quattro. The Metro 6R4 was the usual Austin Rover half-assed lash up and possibly the ugliest car known to man. I’ve never really been into rallying as a motorsport per se. It’s all a bit wooly hats, flasks of tea and generally getting cold and wet and dirty for my liking. And truth be told most of the machinery doesn’t do a lot for me either. I’ve always thought Evos and Imprezas are just Tokyo shoppers stuffed with weapons grade powertrains.
But this is an unbelievable block of light speed forest stage awesomeness. Squint hard enough and you can still just about make out the standard Delta lurking underneath the slightly awkward looking bodywork. The S4 was the Group B version of the Delta Integrale, the more modest version of which would go on to win multiple world championships. It had a mid-mounted 2.0 that was both turbo and supercharged, which goes to show you how serious Lancia were about getting as much power as possible out the engine for the works car. Remember back in those days turbo installations were very much of the ‘mat the throttle and grow a beard while the boost builds’ variety so bolting on a supercharger was meant to mitigate some of that off-boost weakness. It seems quaint now in an age of 300 bhp Civics, but in those days a quick road car probably had less than 120 bhp, and a fast one 200. Homologation was the watchword back then across lots of different road-based formulae, so if you wanted to upgrade your racer you had to offer the same parts or cars for the general public to buy. This is what gave us cars like the BMW3, the Sierra Cosworth and the like–humble saloons with racing upgrades that made them awkward on the road but devastating on the track. The roadgoing Group B monsters are the ultimate examples of homologation taken to it’s extreme, essentially works cars detuned and given enough creature comforts to make them just about bearable on the road.
This example has been given multiple goings over and upgrades by reputed specialists, is in the correct color but best of all has been driven, the odometer showing 23,650km (14,695 mile). With full-time 4WD operating through three diffs even with that short wheelbase it probably has more grip than power so maybe it’s not such a road bastard after all. The regulations stipulated you had to build 300 for sale –nowhere near that many escaped the Lancia factory –some estimates put the number as low as 70.
As the saying goes, FIND ANOTHER!
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