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Top ten classics with a modern heart

  1. They don’t make cars like they used to. Because they used to be rubbish. It’s the unfortunate yin to a classic car’s swoopy, sepia-fantasy yang. Yes, they’re beautiful and tactile and smell like yesterday, but one sniff of modern traffic and you’ll pop a head gasket faster than you can say: “Where’s my damn RAC card?”

    But several companies offer a solution. They’ll leave all the delicate, chrome-plated surfaces untouched, then fit reliable, modern, and pleasingly overpowered power trains beneath. Just like the stunning Mercedes SL by AMG that’s coming up for auction.

    Read on for ten of the finest…

  2. Alfaholics GTA-R

    Eight and a half minutes. That’s how long it takes this car to get round the Nurburgring. That’s two seconds behind a 993 Porsche 911 Carrera. Which, plainly, is mad.

    To eke those sort of times out of an old Alfa Giulia requires many hours doing clever things we don’t really understand. But the headline stuff’s pretty impressive - the engine’s replaced with a 216bhp 1999cc Twin Spark four-pot, it gets a five-speed ‘box, fully adjustable suspension, and limited-slip rear differential. Think the power’s a bit miserly? It only weighs 850kg…

  3. Frontline MG LE50

    You’ve been able to buy a build-your-own MGB for years, but this is a far better idea. Get MGB, use new-original parts outside, then stick modern stuff up it so it drives properly. Which is exactly what Brit firm, Frontline, does, using a 215bhp tuned MX-5 engine, and matching six-speed box. That’s 215bhp in a 941kg car, folks…

    Also, for every model built, Frontline buys a scrap B, puts the serial number and reg on the new one, and the DVLA exempts it from road tax. Which, in part at least, makes up for its £49,900 price tag.

    Read the full story here

  4. Eagle Speedster

    You’ll recognise this from Jeremy’s E-Type film, but let us remind you of the the stats. It’s based on the Jaguar E-Type, every single component’s been replaced or upgraded, it makes 340lb ft of torque and costs half a million quid.

    It was built as a one-off, but you Eagle E-Types have generously offered it for sale to anyone willing to swap £500,000 for a car. Is sir worried about being caught short in the rain? No bother - Eagle’ll do you a rather acceptable Low Drag GT to match.

  5. Jensen International Automotive Interceptor

    From the outside, you wouldn’t know the JIA Interceptor’s new. Or fast. Stupidly, stupidly fast. Under the bonnet there’s a 6.2-litre Corvette V8 that unfurls 480bhp, which gets it from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. And underneath that, there’s upgraded brakes, and Jaguar independent suspension to keep it shiny side up.

    An exceptional use for £105,000. And one for the boys’ Christmas list.

  6. Spyder Lotus Elan

    This is the kind of recycling we like. And you don’t have to rinse out a single jam jar. Spyder takes a Lotus Elan +2 from the bottom of the scrap pile, restores the bodywork, bins the engine, and replaces it with a spicy, but thrifty Ford Zetec or Duratec lump.

    So the chassis can keep up, the company also fits its own double wishbone suspension all-round, as well as brake, differential and gearbox upgrades. And because the company only uses knackered cars, you can personalise everything to your tastes (or lack thereof).

    *original car pictured

  7. Icon Bronco

    Designed to be used hard and put away wet, the Bronco’s powered by a crate-fresh Ford 5.0-litre V8 from a contemporary Mustang GT punting out over 400bhp. Underneath? A purpose-built Atlas II transfer case and custom Dynatrac Dana solid-axle assemblies, suspended on independent coilover suspension by Eibach and Fox Racing.

    Read our drive in one. Prepare to expand your dream garage…

  8. Porsche 911 by Singer

    We’ll leave summarising this one to Top Gear mag’s Tom Ford:

    “The Tao of Singer is simple. Strip it bare, and remake it better. Identify the weak spots and eliminate them. Improve, elasticate the remit, but don’t Disneyfy the experience and asset-strip the soul. This is an early Nineties 964 Porsche 911, and there’s a confusing aesthetic tangle of earlier 911 design cues littered around the body and interior, and yet - as a whole - it’s pretty enough to be a visual punch in the guts. It’s as easy to drive as a VW Golf GTI, but as challenging to drive fast as anything you care to mention. The most exciting car ever built by Porsche… isn’t.”

    Read the full story here…

  9. Mechatronik Mercedes M-Coupe

    Like the slightly wobbly Mercedes W111 coupe, but with a 5.5-litre 360bhp AMG V8… It gets 376 lb ft of torque, a five-speed auto ‘box, 20mm lowering springs and stainless, adjustable dampers. 0-60mph’s despatched in less than six seconds, and it tops out at a tethered 150mph.

    We would do things that could never, ever be published to own this car. Click here for more info.

  10. Icon Derelicts

    Classic cars don’t mix well with the real world. It only takes a jam-fingered toddler or rogue trolley to make you (and your bank manager) sob into your Rohan gillet. Which is why Jonathan Ward came up with the ‘Derelicts’ concept - 21st century mechanicals, much hard-wearing luggzuree, modern conveniences (climate control, Bluetooth, sat-nav) but wrapped in a beautifully patinated - but ultimately a bit knackered - body, treated with clever things that stop it returning it to nature.

    Click on these blue words for more. 

  11. JE Engineering Zulu Defender

    OK, so technically the Land Rover Defender could still just - just - be classified as a modern car because it’s still on sale. But very much in the literal sense, because the experience remains akin to driving gym equipment.

    A task with added terror thanks to JE Engineering - the company fits them with a 500bhp supercharged V8 from a Range Rover Sport. Which is like fitting a mountain goat with 50 more legs then feeding it too much Red Bull.

    Hammond’s owned one. Naturally.

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