Classics Never to Buy

November 16, 2016

It looks tempting I grant you, those glossy pictures in the second hand pages of Auto-Car. All the E type Jags, Aston Martins and even Austin Healey's you could own; but if Top gear or Grand Tour as I should now say, has taught us anything it's that second hand cars can be dogs.  


So we countdown the top 10 classic cars never to blow your paycheque on...



10) Triumph Stag 

This is a contentious one, hence why it's at the back of the list and not higher up. The Stag is the largest classic car owners club in the world, so i'll tread carefully here. The Stag is very well built, with rust free examples proving very sound (trick is actually finding a rust free example). It's a car with character, a cads car or pornographers , there is a hint of the rake about the driver. The let down is the reliability, the engine is regarded as one of the best sounding V8s made but its a cobbled together piece of engineering.


Back when it was designed in the 70's, Triumph were offered a V8 from Chrysler, the same engine used in the Rover P1 and the new Range Rover. But Triumph couldn't be bothered so they welded together two Dolomite engines and made do. In the process neglecting the cooling system, forgetting that V8s make a lot more heat. So give this one a miss if you ever want to arrive somewhere. 



9) DMC DeLorean 

Ok where to start here, yes the one from Back to the Future. The film is the only reason this car is still lingering on in the public psyche. John DeLorean had a dream for a stainless steel affordable sports car, setting up shop in war torn 1970's Belfast he took huge subsidies and loans from the UK government to make this dog of a car. Driving like a tank with square wheels, it has parts from 14 other manufacturers everything from Lotus, FIAT, Ford and Honda can be found somewhere on it. Drop your childhood dream of travelling through time and let this one stay in the past.



8) Trabant

Oh Yes, nothing spells engineering disaster like communism. As if bleak Communism and barbed wire weren't enough to break the spirit of the East Germans, they also had to endure the Trabant. Made of recycled cotton and wood fibre backed into plastic called Duroplast, they lacked such fancy refinements as brake lights and they smoked like they were electing a pope. The Trabant also emitted two-stroke scent like a chainsaw, their engines required an oil and gas mix. Getting one of these cars was as easy as putting your name on a 10-year-long waiting list at the government-run factory. Getting rid of one was as easy as waiting for the Berlin Wall to fall, puttering across the border and then running like hell away from that horrible little car. 



7) Rolls-Royce Camargue

Despite being styled by respected car designer Paolo Martin of Pininfarina - the Camargue’s looks were compromised from the off by the need to accommodate its 6.75-litre engine. The car’s wheels failed to fill its gargantuan arches and in profile it looked as slab-sided as a transit van. Worst of all, though, was the Camargue’s price. At £29,250 in 1975, it was by far the most expensive car in the world – a Jaguar XJ-S would cost £8900 at the same time by comparison – and it simply wasn’t special enough to warrant what Rolls was asking for it. Just 531 found homes globally during an 11-year production life. Today of course, it’s hard to imagine Rolls-Royce producing a car even a fraction below perfection - perhaps we owe a little of that to the Camargue. 



6) Austin Allegro 

Equipped with a square steering wheel and famous for being more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards, the 1973 Austin Allegro was certainly an intriguing car. ‘Intriguing’ doesn’t mean ‘good’ though, and thanks to atrocious reliability that earned it the nickname ‘All Aggro’ and looks that earned it the nickname ‘Flying Pig’ – the Allegro is a steaming turd of a car.

Some of its most notable issues were wheels which had a tendency to fall off at random and rear windscreens which would pop out when the car was jacked-up. The car’s oddly raised appearance was the result of Austin fitting its A-series engine under the bonnet, which had a tall and thin block that didn’t fit with the designer’s original coupé-like plans.




5) Ford Model T

I grant you this is more Vintage than Classic but due to its infamy, it is very desirable. Let's stipulate that the Model T did everything that the history books say: It put America on wheels, supercharged the nation's economy and transformed the landscape in ways unimagined when the first Tin Lizzy rolled out of the factory. However, you want a car to drive and enjoy, not a classic day out in history. Also don't expect to get in and go, none and I do mean NONE of the controls are where you expect them to be! A model has two speeds, "Canter" and "Bloody Hell" with very little control in between. On wooden wheels, without steering or seatbelts is terrifying. 




4) Ferrari Mondial 8

You can't put that on this list, it's a Ferrari!....It's a shit-box.

Even the legendary Italian sports car company whiffs once in a while, and the first Ferrari Mondial was a big red disaster. Based on the 308 chassis, this large and relatively heavy coupe had a mere 214 hp on tap from its V8, and its transistor-based electronics had more bugs than a budget hotel matress. Eventually, every single system would fail, not infrequently accompanied by the smell of burning wires. The factory-authorised service, meanwhile, was more like factory-authorised extortion. It hasn't helped the Mondial reputation that it was one of the "cheap" Ferraris, within reach of a reasonably successful orthodontist. 



3) 1958 Lotus Elite

Fiberglass was the '50s carbon fiber — tough, versatile, lighter than steel and more affordable than aluminum. Colin Chapman, the founding engineer of Lotus, was bonkers for weight savings. It was inevitable that he would be drawn to the material. And so, the Elite. Weighing just 1,100 lbs and powered by a punchy, 75-hp Coventry Climax engine, the Elite was a successful race car, winning its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times. It was also a lovely little coupe, which made the moment when the suspension mounts punched through the stressed-skin monocoque all the more pathetic. The unreinforced fiberglass couldn't take the structural strain. In Chapman's cars, failure was always an option.



2) Jaguar XK-E V12 Series III

The 1961 Jaguar E-Type was heavenly, dead-sexy, 150-mph supercar, a stiletto heel to the heart of any car-loving man. By 1974, it had morphed into this, this thing. In order to compensate for power-sapping emissions controls required in the U.S. and potential ban of convertibles , the car's primary export market, Jaguar discontinued the reliable 4.2-liter six for an anchor-heavy 5.3-liter V12, which was a total bitch to try to keep in tune and made the car nose-heavy besides.

Jaguar also discontinued the elegant fixed-head coupe and offered the car only as a long wheelbase or convertible. Imagine taking one of the world's most beautiful cars and sticking it in an industrial mincer. Not finished ruining the lines, Jag plumped up the fenders, spoiling the smooth, aero-sleek contours of the original. The piece de resistance, Jag affixed hideous rubber bumpers — Dagmars, really — in a lame attempt to meet 5-mph bumper standards. To which car enthusiasts can only say, "You bastards!"



1) Triumph TR-7

The final hurrah for Triumph, or it's headstone. "The shape of things to come" as it was billed, quickly became the shape that came and went, in a great cloud of "good riddance." The doorstop-shaped TR7, and its rare V8-powered sibling TR8, were the last Triumphs sold in America and among the last the company made before it folded its tents in 1984. The trouble was not necessarily the engineering, or even the peculiar design, which looked fit to split firewood. It was that the cars were so horribly made. The thing had more short-circuits than a keyboard with water spilled over it. The carburettors had to be constantly romanced to stay in balance. Timing chains snapped easily. Oil and water pumps refused to pump, only suck. The sunroof leaked and the concealable headlights refused to open their peepers. One owner reports that the rear axle fell out. How does that happen? It was as if British Leyland's workers were trying to sabotage the country's balance of trade. One road test for "Original" Top gear, had to be abandoned during filming as; the rear boot lock fell out and the boot refuse to close, the door trim dropped out and the clutch pedal stuck down. So the test car was left on a slip-road near Slough.  






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