* All prices refer to cars in a serviceable condition - technically sound, road-legal, and ready to drive.Triumph Herald - from 4,900€*
In theory, the Triumph Herald 1200 is currently the cheapest true classic convertible to be had. The body, signed by Giovanni Michelotti and adorned with cheeky tailfins, offers ample room for a family of four. The 1.2 litre four-cylinder engine delivers its power through a four speed manual gearbox, and generates enough to carry the Herald up mountain and down dale.
However, the best part of this compact 3.9m Brit? Beneath the cute exterior there lies a separate box frame chassis, to which most of the other components are affixed. This dramatically reduces maintenance and repair costs. Additionally, the entirely tiltable front end guarantees a few looks at the petrol station.
Here in Germany, where pretty much any functioning VW Beetle or Mercedes estate are classed as classics, the Herald is seen as fairly exotic! The opposite can be said of the situation in Great Britain; Just google “Triumph Herald for sale” and you’ll be bowled over by the amount on offer.
- Triumph Herald, 1959 to 1971, 39 BHP, 142 km/h
Opel Ascona B - from 4,500€*
The Opel Ascona B offers the cheapest way to feel like a rally star. The basic model can be yours for less than 5,000€, and along with it the ability to feel like 1982 Rally World Champion Walter Röhrl. The four-cylinder motor, available in a range of sizes from 1.2–2.0l, offers between 60 and 110 BHP.
The 90 BHP version of the Ascona B was the BMW-scarer of its day - it feared no competitor, not even the new 318. Thanks to rear-wheel drive and stiff suspension coils, the Opel is even capable of drifting. The sporty SR version also offers the requisite rally optic of the day.
- Opel Ascona B: 1975 to 1981, 90 BHP, 165 km/h
Autobianchi A112 - from 3,500€*
Italy’s somewhat delayed answer to the Austin Mini is the Autobianchi A112. The brand belonged to Fiat and produced well-equipped hot compacts. Thusly, even the basic model of the 3.25m micro car received a 903cm³ four-cylinder engine capable of 48 BHP. To ensure that the driver used everything this 700kg flea had to offer, it was even fitted with a rev counter.
The 1971 Abarth sports version of the Autobianchi A112 is a legend of its time. Initially it came with 58 BHP, which was later increased to 70 BHP. Well-kept specimens are today worth in excess of 10,000€. The basic model, which was renamed the Lancia A112 in 1981, is available for a more reasonable price. And a fair few of the 1,245,381 A112s produced must have survived somewhere...
- Autobianchi A112: 1969 to 1986, 44 BHP, 140 km/h
Renault 16 - from 4,900€*
Upon its launch in 1965, the Renault 16 consigned the stepback, rigid-axle, rear-wheel drive cars of Fiat, Ford and Opel to the scrapheap. The 1966 “Car of the Year” stood for a whole new generation of car, featuring front-wheel drive, individual wheel mounting and a practical tailgate.
The striking design with bold lines, and its convincing performance even in everyday driving make it a popular classic. As such, the two top models of the Renault 16, the TS with 83 BHP and the TX with 93 BHP, will set you back far more than 5,000€ in good condition. But the cheaper base models convince too - with their horizontal speedometers and cloud-like cushioned seats.
- Renault 16 - 1965 to 1980, 67 BHP, 145 km/h
Toyota MR 2 - from 3,900€*
These little mid-engined sports-fleas vanished without successors. They carried names like Fiat X 1/9, Toyota MR 2 or Pontiac Fiero, although very few of the latter made it to Europe. They all became victim to the tide of “hot hatches” - the high horsepower, practical front wheel drive compacts, which rage along the motorway at improbable speeds. It just wasn’t fun any more, cramming oneself into an expensive two-seater and getting overtaken by fully occupied Golfs and Escorts.
That makes us love the few remaining mid-engined cars of this era even more; these were the cars of the bravest of the brave. Introduced in 1985, the Toyota MR 2 is one of them, and used its 124 BHP (as of 1986 only 115 BHP) to gallantly try and defend the overtaking lane of the motorway. But such feats were unnecessary, as the removable targa rooftop made the MR 2 an ideal vehicle for Sunday driving along country roads and tree-lined boulevards. The Midship Runabout Two-Seater – that’s what MR 2 stands for – impresses the driver with its lively manner and epochal angular design with those unavoidable pop-up headlamps. This is clearly a classic of the future, as the number of well-kept examples is surprisingly low.
- Toyota MR 2 - 1985 to 1988, 124 BHP, 197 km/h
5 more classics for 5,000€* or less can be found in our slideshow.