Currently reading: Road to regret: the cars we should have kept
Every car enthusiast’s life is punctuated by motors loved and lost. Autocar’s staff and contributors ruminate on their most painful goodbyes
Autocar
News
6 mins read
4 August 2019

Like keen fishermen, Autocar's writers are often spinning yarns about "the ones that got away", but they're not talking about elusive carp. 

If you’ve been lucky enough to own one of your dream cars, you might be familiar with longing for a machine you once owned. Whether through financial necessity, profit-hunting or just poor decision-making, these are the much-missed motors we let go.

Subaru Impreza WRX

My dark blue ‘bug-eye’ 2001 WRX stayed only a year, and that pains me. I bought it for three grand in 2011 and sold it for half that. You’d pay a bit more today, but finding a car like mine would be tricky: it was as discreet as a WRX could be and mechanically just as Fuji Heavy Industries had intended. Aside from its over-light steering, it did much of what a Lancia Delta Integrale Evo could do – accelerate, grip, turn and soak up B-roads with ease – with the significant advantages of feeling rock solid and costing buttons. Proof that beauty is skin deep.

Richard Webber

Triumph TR2 Special

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Ideally I’d have kept every car and bike I’ve owned, but selling them on has let me afford the next one, so I’ve no real regrets. Well, maybe one. Two. Three at a push. I do miss a Triumph TR2 Special (pictured), which was beautifully crafted, looked like a 1930s racing car, drove quite endearingly and was a one-off, so I won’t find another. It now lives in Germany. But if I’d kept everything I wouldn’t now have a Honda Africa Twin, which, in a ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ way, I’m bonding with immensely. I’ll never sell it

Matt Prior

Porsche 911 S

I’m probably the only person on the planet who sold a classic Porsche 911 and doesn’t like talking about it. With fantastic timing I managed to sell our 1970 911 S just before prices went crazy. Okay, mine wasn’t a perfect example by any means, but values went so high that it would have been worth investing a bit of money on sprucing it up. Doing that and then selling it on would have paid off our mortgage. But never mind. We did 67,000 miles in it, which included a drive to Sicily and back for our honeymoon.

Colin Goodwin

Nissan Micra

Hard to believe a 1.0-litre Nissan Micra Mk2 could make the cut, but when you’ve put blood, sweat and tears (all literal, alas) into turning granny’s shopping car into a rally weapon (all exaggeration, alas), you grow quite fond it of it. 

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All but the welding work was done my myself and mates, from swapping the shocks for Bilstein competition units to various safety upgrades and stripping out as much weight as humanly possible. The car cost £500 and the kit to make it eligible for the Formula 1000 (as in 1000cc – this was a 50bhp beast) Rally Championship another £1000 or so. 

I do have to admit, however, that the majority of the car you see here wasn’t the one I sold: an unfortunate roll wrote off most of this red devil, necessitating another shell… 

Jim Holder

Jaguar XJS V12 HE

I’ve never been a total fan of the XJS, which drives too much like a saloon, but its combination of velvet manners, extraordinary styling (and ever more so with time) and V12 power tempted me to buy a chestnut metallic 19,000-miler in 2007. I put 7000 totally reliable miles on it in nine years and only sold it because of a tax bill. I’ve regretted it ever since. The car’s amazingly original rust-free condition would be hard to repeat and I even liked its oh-so-’80s brown paint, despite my wife’s unprintably disparaging description of the hue. My regret led to some auction bidding for another later, but prices have risen substantially since my foolish sale. 

Richard Bremner

Porsche 911 RS Carrera

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‘It’ was a 1995 Porsche 911 RS Carrera. The 993-generation car. Rarer than a Ferrari F40 and probably the best air-cooled 911 of all to drive. I bought it in the early part of this century when such cars were cheap and sold it after two years to buy an old Chevy Camaro race car. It took two seasons of racing for the Camaro to run me out of money, so then I had no Porsche and no racing. Not good. But nothing like as bad as what happened to 993 RS prices after I sold: today my car would be worth at least £200,000. I’m too ashamed to admit in print what I sold it for back then.

Andrew Frankel

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Obviously I should have kept them all. Life happens, though, and with the arrival of our daughter we needed a big, safe second-hand Saab 9000. The 1984 Volkswagen Golf GTI I’d had for almost 10 years had done so many miles, the odometer had gone on strike. It was only an eight-valve and there was no power steering, but it was a truly wonderful way to travel. I got about £800 cash for it, which was pretty good for a tired hot hatch, which is all it was. But it was an iconic one, too, which paid for a cot and lots of nappies. 

James Ruppert

Peugeot 205 GTi

After lots of bangers, the first nice car I ever owned was a 1988 1.6-litre 205 GTi, bought for the princely sum of £2500. It gave me 20,000 low-trouble miles as a daily driver, but then I got a job in London and made the mistake of trying to bring it with me. Living on-street and covered in bird mess and tree sap, it soon started to look sad and shabby and I had to make excuses to use it. Eventually it failed an MOT spectacularly and I pretty much gave it away in 2001. It’s still alive today, though, and sold on eBay for £3500 last year. 

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Mike Duff

And then there are the cars that we wish we’d bought in the first place…

BMW M1

Shockingly, back in 1984 a BMW M1 wasn’t an easy car to sell. I know, because I tried. There was a white one in our showroom parked front and centre. I had one fairly serious enquiry and the ball-park price was around £30k, I think. You could buy a flat for that back then. 

Julian Rendell

Jaguar E-Type

Anyone born in the early ’60s or before will have dozens of missed opportunities. My biggest blunder was not buying an E-Type that had only 18,000 miles from new on its clock, was mint and was up for £1800. I even had the money as well. It was a 2+2, which is what put me off. 

Colin Goodwin

Fiat Dino

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I chose between a Ducati 748 and a Fiat Dino coupé. Both cost £7000 and both were effortlessly pretty. The car’s value would have increased eightfold, but I went for the bike instead. I loved every minute of it. 

Matt Prior

Alfa Romeo 33 1.5 Amica

The princely 1989 Alfa Romeo 33 ‘Amica’ edition: white, with a colour-coded bodykit, white rims, Momo wheel and 1.5-litre boxer four. Made a deal. Got gazumped. It still smarts 24 years later. 

Richard Webber

Fiat 130 Coupé

It was the blue of a Caribbean sea, looked out of place in a 1978 repmobile auction and, said the auctioneer, needed a wheel bearing. This otherwise immaculate Fiat 130 Coupé netted £600 – searingly cheap, even then.

Richard Bremner

Ferrari Dino 246GT

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In a previous career I worked in the City so was, briefly, reasonably well off. But I nonetheless turned down the opportunity to buy a perfect Dino 246GT for £19,500. That would be a £300,000 car today. 

Andrew Frankel

Commer Camper Van

The plan was to spend a summer driving round Europe going to various F1 and MotoGP races, and it got as far as putting a deposit on a 20-year-old Commer camper van. Alas, it became apparent the bargain £1500 price was related to the fact the seller didn’t appear to actually own it. I got a job instead. 

Jim Holder

Land Rover Defender

It was a Land Rover Defender 300 TDI County Station Wagon at pretty much the bottom of the market. I went to see it, fell in love and started trying to arrange funds. By the time I’d got everything lined up, it had gone. I never saw such a nice one so cheap again. 

Mike Duff

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Comments
12

4 August 2019

My Audi S1 and my recently traded in SMart Forfour Brabus; sometimes you only realise just how good something is when you dont have it anymore. 

My S1 went because it was yellow, and i felt conspicuous in it, and the Brabus as i wanted an Abarth... 

sometimes my desire to have something different overwhelms my common sense..

4 August 2019
keeforelli wrote:

sometimes my desire to have something different overwhelms my common sense..

I’m in my sixties and I still function like this......

4 August 2019

......but Fiat Mulipla, Mondeo ST estate, Lotus Sunbeam, Triumph Vitesse and 2CV all missed to this day.

4 August 2019

My regret is that I never bought a Fiat Multipla; I've ridden or driven a couple and just loved them, especially the interior ambience - the layout, space and visiblity.  In truth, I've never needed anything that capacious.

The car I did have and should have kept was a W114 Mercedes 280 CE.  With the same design language as the delectable Pagoda Roof 280SL it was only very slightly less elegant and so much better looking than any Merc since (except perhaps the perfectly formed 190E and a couple of S Classes).  I bought it as a present to myself for passing some exams around the mid 1980s but it quickly put me on notice that it was going to be a money pit, and then a move which made it difficult to park made me sell it on.  They are rare now, but nothing like as expensive to buy as said SL.

4 August 2019

Jim Holder shouldn't feel too bad about missing the opportunity to travel around Europe in one of those Commer vans - they were awful and he would have got fed up with it well before getting on the ferry!  I can remember a driving job with one of those - they were underpowered even by the standards of the time, very low geared and the "kitchen stool" driving position was very uncomfortable.  The company also had a Mk1 Ford Transit which was streets ahead in comfort, performance and overall ability.  No wonder the Transit went on to be the van of choice.  With that rumbling V4 engine, it also had a bit of character and it would have been fun taking one of those around Europe!

289

4 August 2019

...there were many cars I should never have parted with...several Cooper S's in the early 70's, countless Mk2 Jags (mostly bought for between £100 and £300 after being traded in for new XJ6's), Mk 1 and Mk2 Escort Group 4 Rally cars, two Dino 246's (a GT for 3 years - sold for £3,750 and a GTS after sold for £5,900), I only recently realised when looking back at old pictures of them that the GTS was a 'flairs and chairs' model!!

Would have made a pretty neat retirement package now!

4 August 2019
I've never owned anything exotic but I do regret selling my 360GLT and 440GLT also regret selling my ZT and 924lux. I regret not buying a MK2 Scirocco when I had the chance, still love them and if I could find one I could afford I'd have it. Also regret not buying a 480, same as the Scirocco, just love them, and regret not buying a 924 back in the 90s when they were cheap, I bought mine, very cheap, in about 2010 ISH but I could have had one earlier and that is a regret. Also regret never getting a puma, they all appear to be rusted out and decrepit now and I should have had one when they were 3-5 yes old, same with a T5R estate, and Fiat coupe, and Alfa 146, I drove one in Italy and loved it but never had one.

4 August 2019

Sold an A2 after 10 years and 150k miles, fully loaded sport spec with various upgrades. That and the mk2 Scirroco GTXi which i should have bought back from the insurance company after a prang and the mk1 pte facelift Golf Driver with various German market only extras..... 

5 August 2019
adrian888 wrote:

Sold an A2 after 10 years and 150k miles, fully loaded sport spec with various upgrades. That and the mk2 Scirroco GTXi which i should have bought back from the insurance company after a prang and the mk1 pte facelift Golf Driver with various German market only extras..... 

 

I just bought an A2 as a “toy”. Had one 8 years ago, and missed it. Bought a 2003 1.6 Sport with 120k, and after alloy refurbs and fixing little bits it’ll cost about £1100 to be pretty much perfect. I spent a day polishing out scratches, repairing worn buttons with Matt paint, and polishing the headlight lens haze out. Had great fun renovating all the easy stuff. It’s great fun to drive, and I think still looks amazing even at 16 years old. In classic silver. Can’t decide on whether to just go for standard silver wheel colour, or go a bit more shiny silver/chrome? 

 

My 7 year old son thinks it’s awesome too, and wants me to keep it for him when he’s 17 and can drive. 

4 August 2019

Of all the cars I've had, the only one that would make sense was a 1988 Mk1 AX GT.  Had it from 50k to 150k, nothing went wrong, was fun to drive and could still keep up with modern traffic.  Getting rare now, I wonder if it's still alive

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