Ten of the best ordinary classic cars
Well, ordinary-ish. You can keep your E-Types and 250 GTOs when this lot are on offer
Renault 5 (1972-1996)
A car that managed to feel both ordinary and extraordinary all at once – especially if we’re talking about one of its many and numerous hot hatchback versions, the mighty 5 Turbo sat proudly (and wildly) atop them all.
The 5 celebrates its 50th birthday in 2022, and it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that its delightfully wedgy shape is coming back, this time wrapped around a bunch of batteries and motors. It’s doubtful the R5 electric will pick up the baton left by its ancestor – France’s best selling car from 1972 to 1986 – but it’ll surely fly out of showrooms if the price is right.Advertisement - Page continues below
Citroen Ami (1961-1978)
Citroen is a rich seam if you’re looking to mine iconic everyday classics. The 2CV, SM, CX, DS… blunt names for exceedingly cool cars. But let’s shine our spotlight on something with (literally) an actual name, the quirky little Ami.
‘Ami’ translates from French into ‘friend’, by the way, just in case the car’s styling hadn’t already warmed your cockles enough. While it purported to be a more upmarket 2CV, the driving experience isn’t too far off its agricultural donor car, the Ami 6's air-cooled 2cyl engine not exactly brimming power. We suspect you’ll be grinning too much to care.
Porsche 924 (1976-1988)
The uncoolest Porsche of them all? Perhaps, but these are no longer the bargain they used to be. A dodgy project now kicks off at £5,000, and the stuff you actually want is over £10k.
Which proves, perhaps, that ‘ordinary’ by Porsche’s standards is still pretty damn special. Even when the car’s infamously made in an Audi factory. And, like any good Porsche, the 924 received ever increasingly hardcore spin-off versions, the Carrera GTR and GTS – with their widebodies and glamorous motorsport careers – most exciting of all.Advertisement - Page continues below
Range Rover mk1 (1969-1996)
Land Rover recently contemplated building a two-door Range Rover again. It was to be limited run and cost north of £300,000 once you’d got jiggy with the options list. The project was scrapped not long after the car was first revealed.
Perhaps the problem was that it felt so far from the Range Rover’s origins, as a two-door car of relatively humble standing in society. Being a more upmarket Series Land Rover didn’t actually make it an upmarket car. It’s perhaps no surprise the recipe still appeals and the restomod scene has taken the original Rangey fully under its wing…
Ford Escort mk2 (1974-1980)
You know something’s achieved iconic classic car status when it can be humdrum family transport when new in the 1970s, then sold as a brand-new performance car in the 2020s (albeit not officially).
Rallying allowed the first two generations of Escort – rear-wheel drive, don’t forget – to transcend their mainstream duties on murky British roads to become something else entirely. Most of our parents drove one new, and we sorely crave a mint one now we’ve reached the same age.
Hillman Imp (1963-1976)
Sure, we should probably put the good ol’ Mini in here. But you’ll have read about that in a bazillion ‘best classic car!’ and ‘greatest British car ever!’ lists and polls. The Imp is its more rambunctious, rear-driven rival. The clue really was in the name here.
Need further confirmation Imps are cool and intriguing? They won the British Saloon Car Championship (now the BTCC) three times in a row. They were built in Scotland and Costa Rica (among other places). And there was an estate version called the Husky. Our case should be able to rest there, really.
BMW 2002 (1966-1977)
We oughtn’t need too much excuse to pop the BMW 2002 (and its various ’02 relations) on this list. It looks effortlessly suave even now, it helped debut turbochargers on showroom sports cars, and it goes without saying that it’s a corker to drive. Whichever spec we’re talking.
But the ’02 was also a significant moment in time, a spin-off of BMW’s Sixties ‘Neue Klasse’ and thus a blueprint for compact BMWs for decades to come. The 3 Series wouldn’t be the behemoth of sensible motoring it is now without this car paving the way. A true icon.Advertisement - Page continues below
Lancia Fulvia (1963-1976)
Much like Citroen, this is a company with a very strong back catalogue. But most of Lancia’s coolest stuff is all deliciously exotic. The histrionic Stratos and world-beating Delta Integrale could never be described as ‘ordinary’. A humble little front-wheel-drive saloon car and coupe, on the other hand…
But one glance at a Fulvia - the dinky two-door especially - should pop any word but humble into your head. It’s such a delectable car, propelled by game little 4cyl engines and with rally competitors and Zagato-penned specials spun from it. Prices aren’t totally zany these days either; with a little gumption you can get one for under ten grand. Maybe leave a little pot of cash to one side for potential bills, though.
Opel Manta B (1975-1988)
Keen members of the bobble-hat brigade will have spotted a minor theme running through this list. There are quite a few rally refugees, showcasing just how many everyday family and fleet friendly cars so effortlessly morphed into special stage heroes.
The Opel Manta was effectively Vauxhall’s rival to the Ford Capri, another ordinary hero. They were both mainstream rear-drive coupes, slices of focaccia from the two most bread ’n' butter brands in Britain. What we’d give to trade a couple of their current mid-sized SUVs for modern-day remakes…Advertisement - Page continues below
Peugeot 504 (1968-1983... or 2006)
The only European Car of the Year of our ten, the Peugeot 504 brought a dose of Pininfarina prettiness to the staid saloon car sector in the late Sixties. And if you thought the Volkswagen Group’s flexible platform model was novel, think again; the 504 was sold not only as a family-friendly four-door, but as an estate, coupe, cabriolet and pick-up truck.
Prices now rise with the glamorousness of the version you choose, with a 504 V6 Coupe (or yes, its rally-stage spin-off) top of the pile, turning the ‘posh French car depreciation curve’ on its head.
As for the saloon... well, it was superseded in Europe in the early Eighties but continued production in Africa until 2006. Crikey.