Volvo 200 Series
Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon
Despite age and rust, some cars will just keep on going long after their second, third and fourth owners have forgotten about them. Here are five gems which bring a new meaning to reliability.
1 - Mercedes-Benz W123 (1976-1984)
For many, the archetypal Mercedes is the W123, its square-edged styling being a common sight across the world. More than 2.5 million were produced in four-door saloon, estate and coupé form.
In the UK, it was the tough 200/230 four-cylinder petrol models that dominated sales. The cars were tough but not especially fast, even in six-cylinder form.
Today, the condition of a W123 is more of an indicator of its value than its engine or trim. However, coupés and estates do command a premium.
You’re unlikely to find anything usable for under £2000 these days while exceptional cars will be ten times that. Expensive, true, but there are few classic cars less likely to leave you stranded.
2 - Volvo 200 Series (1974-1993)
Based on the previous generation 140, the 200 combined a host of innovative safety features with robust mechanicals. The four-pot engines need only minimal service attention and, compared with its contemporaries, the model has proved to be extremely rust resistant.
The 200 remained in production until 1993, but earlier models, with less electrical kit and no catalytic converters, are the most trouble-free. In terms of usability, the estate version still offers huge space and practicality, and prices reflect that. Scruffy examples may turn up for around £1000 but more cosseted cars can cost upwards of £3000.
3 - Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon (1997-2002)
The Toyota Hi-Lux has a reputation for being difficult to kill, but if you want a degree more comfort with equivalent levels of toughness, it’s hard to look past the Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon. This huge, seven-seat off-roader was sold from 1997 with 4.7-litre petrol or 4.2 diesel engines. Both shrug off high mileages without breaking a sweat.
Despite having a charm-free cabin, they are incredibly resistant to depreciation. Back in 1997, when the first ones arrived in the UK, the Amazon was around £5000 cheaper than a P38 Range Rover of equivalent specification.
Today, you’ll be hard pushed to find one for less than £5000, while you’ll struggle to find a P38 Range Rover that’s worth that much.
4 - Nissan Micra Mk2 (1992-1997)
The Mk2 Nissan Micra, codenamed K11, replaced the sharp-edged original and, said its designers, was inspired by the friendly looks of the post-war Morris Minor. However, its curvy exterior hid robust mechanicals and a choice of 1.0 or 1.2-litre 16-valve petrol engines, and a no-nonsense grey plastic interior.
Some succumb to rusty sills and floors, but the vast majority soldier on with nothing more than the essential oil changes, which the willing 16v engine demands. Exceptional early cars cost £1000, but more normal survivors without serious faults cost from £500. Nearly all of them have low mileages.
5 - Suzuki Jimny (2002-present day)
The Suzuki Jimny arrived in the UK in 1998 and, to be perfectly honest, never really found favour with road testers. Their loss, since the Jimny is a genuinely capable off-roader which, despite its tiny but hard-working 1300cc engine and Tonka Toy dimensions, climbs like a goat and leaves more impressive - and expensive - machinery embarrassed.
The version under consideration here was as tough as they come. If you browse examples in the classifieds you’ll find a surprising number have been converted into proper mud pluggers with raised ride heights, snorkels and chunky tyres.
They hold their value extremely well, too. Even 15-year-old cars cost £1000. However, sneaking beyond this figure to around £1500 gets you much more choice and fewer project cars in uncertain condition.