It's been hard, but we've finally decided. Here's our top ten classic sports cars of all time.
Selecting the ten best classic sports cars ever produced is a surprisingly difficult task. So many cars over the years have pushed the boundries of what’s capable on four-wheels, so we've put together a selection cars that have re-defined their sector:
Two-seats, lightweight body, 1.6-litre engine, five-speed manua gearboxl. The MX-5 was built on the simplest of principles, yet achieved the highest of heights when it was launched in 1989. By benchmarking the original Lotus Elan, Mazda essentially refined the classic British sports car formula, adding Japanese reliability along the way. Impeccable reliability and a reasonable price remain the MX5’s party-piece, even in its latest Mk4 guise. A handy Mk1 can be found for just £3000, making it nothing short of a bargain.
The Lotus Seven is perhaps under-rated as a classic, however its significance is unquestionable. Designed and commissioned by the great Colin Chapman, the Seven was the incarnation of the Lotus principles we know and love today: lightweight, go-kart steering, and of course those fantastic wheel-arches. The Seven enjoyed several generations, with the engine evolving from a 1.2 litre to a 1.6 litre, before the blueprints to the car were sold on to Caterham after the S4 went out of production in 1973. The car is still today regarded as one of the finest track-day cars on sale, nearly 60 years on from Chapman’s first sketches. A late S3 model can now be found for £24,000 in good condition.
The F40 was the last car ever signed off by the late Enzo Ferrari before his death to celebrate the company’s 40th birthday, and so was always going to go down as a sentimental classic. The fact that it took the Prancing Horse past the 200mph-mark for the first time was a bonus, thanks to its twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Buyers loved it, and the F40 tripled its original production target, with 1315 spaceframe chassis’ leaving Maranello between 1987 and 1992. An excellent one nowadays can command up to £900,000.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Golf was a star the moment chassis number one left the factory in Wolfsburg, but it was the GTI that became the most iconic. Considered the original hot-hatch, the Mk1 GTI used a Bosch fuel-injection 1588cc engine to pump 110bhp through its front wheels, with a stiff chassis helping it to impress in the bends just as it did down the straights. The car has since amazed an enthusiast following up there with the largest, however over half a million GTI’s were originally produced, thus a good one today can still be found for £4,000.
The collaboration between little-known British manufacturer AC and the US-juggernaut Carroll Shelby was at best, an unlikely one. But it worked. The Cobra 260 was born in 1961 with AC’s chassis and a big Ford V8 brought together to create the snarling muscle car we all know and love today. Cam-and-peg steering didn’t cope well with 271bhp, really, however the later 289 and 427 models featured rack-and-pinion. Bigger engines, bulging chassis’ and advanced suspension geometry amounted to the MkIV’s birth in 1983, now under construction via Brian Angliss after years of making Autokraft replicas. An original 260 in good nick can be found for just shy of £400,000.
The E-type needs no introduction. Enzo Ferrari called it ‘the most beautiful car ever made’, however its performance figures were more than a match for its jaw dropping looks. Its 3.8-litre XK engine pumped out 265bhp, working in twine with E-type’s slipper aerodynamics to reach 149mph flat-out. A slightly tinkered-with S2 was followed up by a V12-powered S3, which sold well in America. The S1 is the true classic, with the roadster version fetching £235,000 in excellent condition. It was, is, and always will be one of the most coveted and celebrated cars of all time.
Developed at Suzuka by Ayton Senna, the NSX was always unlikely to be a flop; and a flop it wasn’t. Lauded as the first everyday-useable supercar, it was a massive commercial success, and left the Italians scratching their heads with what to next. The NSX enjoyed a mid-engine RWD layout, with its V6 engine meaning it was as quick as it was poised, with a top speed of 157mph. Built to last, the best examples today can be picked up for £37,000.
The Mini was never a sports car. Its creator, Alec Issigonis, winced at the thought of a performance version, however F1 designer John Cooper got hold one of one in 1961 and made the idea stick. The Cooper has been seen in Touring Car racing, on the podium at World Rally events, and three were featured in the most famous car chase scene that Hollywood has ever witnessed. It cost just £679 in 1961, however one nowadays in concours-condition can go for over £20,000.
Nissan Skyline R34 GTR
The Skyline name was born in 1957 under the Datsun banner, however it wasn’t until the late ‘90s/early ‘00s that it really came to the fore. The R34 was the last in a long line of Skyline’s produced between 1988 and 2002, and became the car of the burgeoning street racing scene of the time. A twin-turbocharged inline-6 helped the R34 get to 60mph in 4.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155mph. Since its production line concluded in 2002, the car has skyrocketed from its $31,000 price tag at launch. The recent death of actor Paul Walker, of whom starred alongside the car throughout the Fast & Furious film franchise, is only likely to heighten its value further.
The blue and red racing colours of BMW have never looked more at home than draped on an M3. Traditionally the performance version of the 3 series, the M3 tag was first badged of the boot of a Beamer in 1986, with the German-marque producing the car for Group A Touring Car racing. Unlike most M-cars the original M3 E30 left the factory ready for both road and track, with a 2.3 litre S14 engine chucking out 192bhp. Later Evo and Sport models pushed out nearly 240bhp, in what is fair to say was the blueprint for all sports saloons born from then on. An original can be found (if you look very, very hard) for £45,000, however Evo’s can command up to £90,000 in today’s money.
Words: Joe Diamond