1 - Renault Clio Williams 16v 1993
This muscular little beastie might not have had anything further to do with Frank Williams’ team than sharing its name, but Renaultsport’s 2.0-litre 16-valve Clio was a well-sorted hot hatchback from day one — and piggybacking a Formula 1 world title for ‘Our Nige’ didn’t hurt UK sales.
It was launched in 1993 as a homologation special for Group N rallying, but the press reception led to a Williams 2 in 1994 and a Williams 3 a year later. Original was best, though: 150bhp to fling around 990kg, with a modified close-ratio gearbox from the Renault 19 diesel, plus fat tyres and redeveloped suspension giving sublime poise.
A good one isn’t cheap now, though: upwards of £6500 for the best, about twice what a high-mileage car will set you back.
For Fine driver’s hatch, with one of the all-time great colour schemes
Against The velour seats and stitched ‘W’ logos aren’t exactly hard-wearing
2 - Rover 200 BRM LE 1998
It’s easy to sneer at this 1998 Limited Edition’s orange air intake — a nod to 1960s BRM racers — and diamond-stitched red leather, but it was more than a 200Vi in silly clothes. It had the same MG F-sourced K-series but sat 20mm lower, with revised damping, a close-ratio gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip diff to better transmit its 143bhp through the front wheels.
Rover and British Racing Motors teamed up for Le Mans in 1963 and 1965, but that meant little to the late teens who might have bought this car in 1997. Today, one of the 750 built can be yours for under £1k. Even clean cars struggle to top £4k.
For Just the thing for playing Graham Hill on the North Circular
Against Unlike the Le Mans cars, it doesn’t have a gas turbine
3 - Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hakkinen Edition 1998
Few cars have a weaker link to elite motorsport than Mercedes-Benz’s ‘W168’ A-Class. This dumpy mini-MPV couldn’t even successfully negotiate a few cones at its launch, failing the elk test, yet in 1998 Stuttgart celebrated the McLaren-Mercedes team’s F1 championship with 125 each of the A-Class Hakkinen and Coulthard Editions.
Each wore the driver’s name, airbrushed McLaren livery, red leather trim and AMG alloy wheels. As for buying one today, first you’ll have to find it. The only example we could track down was a leggy one in Finland — for €3300.