CITROEN BX 19 GTI: Using the same injected 1.9-litre engine as the Peugeot 405 SRi (a unit closely related to the 205 GTi’s powerplant), the Citroen BX 19 GTi came in various forms. Most prosaic was the 8-valve edition (just 13 left on UK roads) while spiciest was the GTi 16-valve (25 left). Rarest of the lot is the BX GTi 4x4; just five are now in use.
VOLVO S80 V8: We salute whoever at Volvo decided to bring this thirsty four-wheel-drive 4.4-litre V8 to UK shores. It makes no sense at all, until it does: for those who don’t do many miles, such as retired folk, this is a way to travel in huge comfort and style. With a near-silent 311bhp petrol engine humming away you might even get 28mpg on a steady run. There are just over 100 of these on UK roads at present.
CITROEN XM V6 24V: The XM was a proper Citroën, with its Hydractive suspension and styling that put it a million miles away from its staid German rivals. Uniquely, when the tailgate was opened, a separate hinged window kept rear-seat occupants’ barnets intact. The XM proved a slow seller, and now that it’s a bona fide classic it’s the 24-valve V6 model that everybody wants - which is a shame, because there are just three left on the road in the UK.
ROVER 75 V8 TOURER: In its final years, MG Rover undertook an ambitiously mad scheme to re-engineer the 75 platform for rear-wheel drive, powered by a Ford Mustang V8. As long as your mileage isn’t big, 22mpg could be survivable, and it would be a gloriously smooth way to transport your family. Its MG ZT-T 260 twin has around 80 examples still on the road; this one? Just 17 in estate form. (PHOTO: Roger Smith)
BMW 550i Touring: The 407hp V8 550i may lack the glamour and power of the M5, but those model-unique twin exhausts give the game away on this ultimate Q-car. Most came fully loaded: ensure yours has the useful head-up display and adaptive cruise options. There are around 350 on UK roads today, but the one you want is the estate, with just a handful of the 2010-2017 F10 generation ever sold.
FORD SCORPIO TD: If ever there was a car perfect for tinted glass it was this one; nobody wanted to be seen driving one of these. Despite it being one of the most disfigured cars to ever grace our roads there are still hundreds of examples still running. But they’re virtually all petrol-powered; of the 572 currently taxed, just 22 have diesel power. And how many of those would survive the proposed diesel scrappage scheme?
ROVER 75 LIMOUSINE: We imagine that Rover would have rather liked then-PM Tony Blair to have ditched his Jaguar for one of these long wheelbase 75s. The car even got the 75 V8’s grille, though sadly not its engine. Rear-seat passengers did however get their own clock. Which is important. Sadly, Rover only built a handful of these before its future showed up: not a starring role outside 10 Downing Street, but inside it, as Mr Blair wrestled with 6,000 Rover staff losing their jobs as the firm keeled over.
VAUXHALL VECTRA 3.2: When Vauxhall introduced a 3.2-litre V6 engine for the Vectra it was always going to be a niche seller. Huge running costs – not least of all depreciation – meant few private punters signed up for one. And neither did fleet managers, terrified of the depreciation rates. So it was up to police forces to take them on; the 154mph Vectra V6 made a great unmarked traffic car.
SUBARU BRZ AUTO: The Subaru BRZ and its sister, the Toyota GT86, prove that you don’t need loads of power to create a brilliant driver’s car. But ideally you do need a manual gearbox, and while this isn’t the only performance car to come with just two pedals, when there’s an alternative most buyers will take it. And that's why there are just 51 BRZ autos registered in the UK.
SEAT ALTEA FREETRACK TSI: The picture here doesn’t do the Altea Freetrack any favours as it looks misshapen and frankly more than just a bit weird. But it was actually a pretty decent car thanks to its spacious cabin and lengthy standard kit list. But when was the last time you saw one? Probably never, even though there are more than 400 diesel-powered examples on our roads. Much rarer is the petrol-powered 2.0 TSI, of which there are just 70 currently in use.
RENAULT ESPACE QUADRA: After Germany, Italy and Switzerland, the UK was Renault’s biggest export market for the Espace, and we liked the four-wheel drive Quadra edition so much that it accounted for almost one in six of sales. Admittedly, the original Espace is now getting on, but despite its popularity there are just nine Espace Quadras still on the road here.
VAUXHALL ZAFIRA VXR: At one end of the motoring spectrum you have the hot hatch and at the other the MPV. One puts driving enjoyment above all else and the other focuses on practicality. We’ll leave you to work out which is which. What you can’t do is combine the two, although that didn’t stop Vauxhall trying with the ludicrous Zafira VXR. We said: “It’s too harsh a package for everyday MPV use, and still too much of an MPV to make it an effective performance car”. Still, it took the tedium out of the school run.
PEUGEOT 607 V6: Anything Citroën could do, Peugeot could match. British buyers don’t like big French cars, so when Peugeot introduced the 607 in 2000, it was never going to be a big seller. But it was likeable enough, and Peugeot shifted quite a few with four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. It was the V6 petrol units that nobody wanted, so it’s a minor miracle that there are still as many as 71 still in use.
MERCEDES-BENZ R63 AMG: The Mercedes-Benz R-Class didn’t make much sense in any form. It wasn’t that well packaged and it was spectacularly ugly, although its interior wasn’t a bad place to be. As a luxury family car for six, it was never short of power, but if you wanted an over-abundance of horses, Mercedes was happy to sell you a 6.2-litre AMG edition with 503bhp. That was enough to propel the aesthetically challenged people carrier from 0-62mph in just 5.1sec, threatening the constitution of its occupants. Just six are left on UK roads.
FORD GALAXY V6 4X4: It would be easy to assume that any Ford Galaxy will have sold in vast numbers and that as a result there’ll be no shortage of survivors of any derivative. But few buyers opted for the top-spec V6 four-wheel-drive models, which is why just 11 Ghia V6 4x4 autos are now taxed, along with 22 Ghia X 4x4 autos.
VAUXHALL INSIGNIA COUNTRY TOURER: The wealthiest Audi buyers don’t choose an A8 or R8; they buy A6 Allroads. Perhaps this fact wasn’t lost on Vauxhall’s product planners when they dreamed up the high-riding Insignia Country Tourer with its body cladding and four-wheel drive. Launched in 2013, the Insignia was axed just two years later, but that hasn’t stopped Vauxhall coming back for more; the all-new Insignia will get a Country Tourer edition later this year. If you fancy something uber-rare try to find a petrol-powered Country Tourer; there are just 19 on UK roads.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT R36: Its Passat W8 predecessor may have proved impossible to sell, but that didn’t stop Volkswagen from coming up with a sequel: the R36. Despite losing a quarter of its cylinders, power was boosted to 299bhp and as with the W8 there was four-wheel drive to get that power down. Control freaks were dismayed that there was no manual option; all R36s came with a six-speed DSG automatic transmission instead. We loved it, though, saying: “behind the running costs this is a talented, likeable car”.
AUDI A3 3.2 V6: In a world of turbocharged three-cylinder engines, the 3.2-litre A3 sports twice as many combustion chambers, so it’s the perfect antidote to downsizing. It’s also much less frenetic than the S3 alternative; built for cruising rather than tackling twisty roads, effortless mile-eating is the V6’s forte. But we found it hard to love: “for all its many virtues, don't buy this A3 if you’re expecting an entertaining drive”.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT W8: For an apparently staid company, Volkswagen certainly does some wacky things: the Phaeton and emissions fiddling spring to mind. But so should this idea of shoehorning a 4.0-litre 275bhp W8 engine into a model that has long been the byword for suburban anonymity. It even came as an estate, and in both forms only the quad exhausts hint at the bulldozer-knocks-down-garden-wall-of-vicarage-fête potential. There are only a few left on UK roads; they should be savoured and preserved.
VOLVO V70 T6: In the market for a comfortable, smooth family wagon without that horrible diesel rattle and future black pump supertaxes? Of course you are, and the 281bhp straight-six T6 fits the bill perfectly. Auto and AWD are standard, as is a 0-60 time of 7.2sec, going to a top speed of 152mph. Interestingly, of 190 on the road, it seems a full 27 of those are ‘Authorities’ spec, used by the police and ambulance services.
To someone they seemed like such a good idea at the time. These are the halo models that were always doomed to fail – the derivatives that were signed off in a fit of blind optimism, and which would lead to heartbreak in showrooms around the country.
If you’re a second-hand car dealer, you’ll be praying that none of these are offered as a trade-in, because you just know they’ll be a nightmare to shift. But all have merit, and some are future classics, if not there already, and you should get one. If there are any we've forgotten about, please let us know below.
Please slide through the gallery above, and don't forget to go full-screen to view these rare creatures