10 used cars for less than £15k we found this week
It’s a numbers game, but you can play it better – with a bevy of low-power oddballs
Ah, Lancia. For years, it’s been the manufacturer of choice for misty-eyed tragics and budding Saint Judes since... oh, about a minute after the Delta Integrale went off sale, from memory.
Of course, as the years went by, and Lancia retreated into Italy, the storied brand receded from pretty much everyone’s memories. Until, of course, the classic car boom ‘unearthed’ what the tragics had been banging on about for years and put owning a nice little Fulvia Zagato right out of a certain Top Gear writer’s reach just before he was able to afford the pre-boom prices. Mm. Not that he’s bitter about it to this day or anything.
Helpfully enough, Lancia’s engineering prowess didn’t begin and end with its involvement in the World Rally Championship. Well, it probably did end then, but it certainly didn’t begin. The Appia has all the proper pre-Fiat Lancia credentials – just carried in a smaller package than something like the Flaminia or Aurelia. But like its proper luxury cars, the Appia was named for a Roman road, chock-full of innovation and ingenuity, and engineered and built to be the absolute best, not the most profitable.Advertisement - Page continues below
When we say low-power, we mean it: nought to 60mph in 11 seconds or so might not be enough to even technically qualify as a car these days. Which presumably makes this a very rakish quadricycle.
Then again, at less than a tonne and barely more than 4.1 metres long, 1.2 metres high and 1.5 wide, the GT is presumably almost as well-suited to the city as a Citroen Ami.
Well, no. This is a car from when Hendrix was still writing new music, so even the meagre 88bhp and dawdling 0–60 times don’t translate to even decent fuel economy. But take heart in the fact that you’ll be ULEZ exempt, at least.
Fun fact: a baby echidna is called a puggle, and it’s one of only two mammals in the world to hatch from an egg.
Less fun fact: the Volvo Amazon is only really properly called the Amazon in Scandinavia; for the rest of us, it’s the 122. Or the 121. Or... well, pick a number, honestly.
But then, as these things so often tend to pan out, the motorbike manufacturer that had kicked off the naming dispute went belly-up and Volvo’s numerically named saloon became an Amazon in pretty much everyone’s book.
So, cool name on a rather staid car, then? Hardly. It says all it needs to that these are still raced (and presumably flicked) by Scandinavians on any given weekend.Advertisement - Page continues below
Fiat 1200 Spider
Yes, Fiat made a convertible before the seminal 124 Spider.
Well, Pininfarina did, technically. But then a) it still does wear a Fiat badge, and b) getting Pininfarina involved is hardly a setback, as these things go.
And the result is... well, predictably gorgeous, of course, and about as quick from A to B as a toddler when their parents are running late for something. Fiat recognised this salient fact (although presumably not in the same words) and went to Italian engineering/racing/sports car company OSCA for a 1.5-litre unit that had something resembling power.
Then again, as those same parents of toddlers will likely agree, life already moves far too quickly. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could slow things down a little?
Saab 99 / 90
Hot tip: a Saab 90 is basically a late-stage Saab 99. And no, neither is a reason to wear a turtleneck.
So, you’re getting the traditional Saab stubbornness – it actually managed to make something out of Triumph’s Slant-4 engine, for instance – and superlative Scandinavian... er, ness. Scandinaviation? Scandinativity?
In any case, the 99 looks like nothing else on the road (possibly because so few are actually on the road) and is more focused on safety than your average air traffic controller. When handling is described as ‘secure’, that’s a fair indication of what to expect. Which makes it much less of a surprise to find disc brakes all round – on dual circuits for redundancy, and with a separate pair of drums for the hand brake. Needless to say, runaway Saab 99s were rarely a problem. Of course, with a 0–60 time of 17 seconds or so, you could probably catch up to them anyway.
Honda N600 / N360
If you’re looking at the tiny Honda here and thinking ‘Well, that’s very clearly a Japanese take on the Mini’, you might actually be closer than you think.
Like the Mini, the N360 was a product of privation. In the UK, we were up against fuel shortages after a small altercation called the Suez Crisis, while Japan had endured the unendurable and was rebuilding its country pretty much from scratch. Neither situation was exactly a one that suits a Cadillac Coupe de Ville.
So, armed with the same motorbike-spec gearbox-in-sump drivetrain as the Mini – likely down to the fact that it was a motorbike engine from Honda’s CB350 – the N360 delivered a series of figures that were broadly impossible in the Sixties. That is, a top speed of some 70mph (if you had absolutely zero mechanical sympathy, presumably) and the very real possibility of 40mpg. And while the Mini stuck around in one form or other for decades, Honda took lessons from developing the N360 (and the later, faster N600) and ploughed that into the Civic. Which, if memory serves, was a decently successful thing.
Peugeot 304 convertible
It’s a simple enough premise. Take solid mechanicals from a mid-sized family car, create a two-door version, make sure the roof is decapotable... et voila.
Get it wrong, you end up with the 307 CC. Get it right, however, and you have what we’re looking at right here.
Of course it’s about as sporting as an episode of Antiques Roadshow – and probably wouldn’t look out of place in the car park – but it’s a convertible. And as anyone who’s driven a convertible can attest, any speed over about 50mph is good for little more than an aural assault of Ed Sheeran proportions from the air you’re ploughing through.Advertisement - Page continues below
Fiat 850 Coupe
A rear-engined, rear-wheel drive European coupe with a fastback roof and superlative – if sometimes incredibly interesting – handling. That can only mean the Porsche 911, right?
Well, if the heading and picture haven’t already spoiled the suspense, not exactly.
Fiat’s 850 Coupe was every bit as Spartan and entirely gorgeous as Porsche’s most iconic machine, even one-upping it with an not-even-Sirens-are-more-enticing interior ambience and proper semi-trailing arm rear suspension over the torsion beams of the 911.
Speed from a standstill might rival a thumbnail for the rate at which it grows, but at the 20 to 60 miles per hour at which 90 per cent of truly entertaining driving exists, it’s a revelation. With more grip than you’d expect and just 700-odd kilograms to huck about, it’s all too easy to find yourself driving in a manner better suited to a modern race car than an Italian coupe from the Sixties.
While the Austin Atlantic might look like the product of a Man in the High Castle style alternate history (and be as well-remembered as the second verse of Australia’s national anthem), we can confirm that this slice of Streamline Moderne and American-spec ebullience is both real and a product of Austin. In the late 1940s. Which, to us at least, feels like Fortnum and Mason doing a Tequila Slammer kit.
And here’s the point where we say the Atlantic is a forgotten gem, right? Yeah, about that. It was an appalling failure in its intended market (hint: the one on the other side of the Atlantic), managing to sell better in the Antipodes – despite the fact that only about 12 people lived there at the time. So unloved was the Atlantic that it was generally harvested for parts for cars people actually wanted – Healeys, for instance – and only now, in the depths of painful rarity, has the oddball Austin found its niche in the classic car world: as a short-lived burst of enthusiasm and care-free optimism from a company (and country, if we’re honest) that wasn’t exactly famous for either.Advertisement - Page continues below
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this is not a car. And the pedantic among you might now be wondering about the headline, and its promise of 10 cars we found this week.
But Yamaha’s little 200cc Trail Way might actually have mastered the low-power philosophy better than anything else before or since, so we think it deserves its place here more than any kind of pedantry. Yes, there’s the all-important ‘better to drive a slow car fast’ facet, but there’s also something entirely more practical. And it feels odd for us to say, but that might actually be the more commendable part here.
The little Tee Dub isn’t the kind of bike you buy to head out on the main roads. Or the back roads. Or even the dirt roads. It’s the kind of bike that’s made to work completely off road, picking a path across basically any terrain, and capable of taking a human far beyond the reaches of humanity – if you have the patience to sit back and let it work. Case in point? It took Japanese adventurer Shinji Kazama to the North and South Pole.