2 - Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (1955-1974)
In the mid-1950s, if a Porsche 356 was out of reach, there was a budget alternative. The idea behind the Karmann Ghia was to create a beautiful sports car with proven running gear that could be sold at a price to suit the working man. Mission accomplished, even if these classy air-cooled motors are relaxed performers at best.
At least the Beetle-based mechanicals are tried and tested. Getting a smokey or noisy one isn’t the end of the world, but a rusty example could break your heart.
If you’re lucky, you might find a later, working coupé for around £10,000, but it will need money spent on it. At the other end of the scale, the best early convertibles nudge close to £30k.
3 - Porsche 911 Carrera (2006-2010)
The nearest that you will find to an unfashionable Porsche 911 is the 996. The first generation of water-cooled 911s isn’t loved like earlier (or indeed later) models, but that will surely change. In fact, at present they represent very good value. Engine problems are a little overstated, and most that were likely to fail will have done so by now.
Still, be wary of starting difficulties and engine rattles, and look underneath for oil spotting, which could indicate crank oil seal failure.
Unfashionable or not, a well-maintained 996 is as practical as supercar motoring gets. The cheapest ones will be four figures, but £10,000 will give you a choice of clean Carreras.
4 - Skoda Rapid 136R Coupé (1987-1990)
Much has changed in the 24 years since Skoda was acquired by the Volkswagen Group, but it isn’t only recently that the Czech brand has made well-liked cars. The Rapid 136R Coupé, introduced in 1987, attained cult status when this very magazine proclaimed it to be the metaphorical training wheels for drivers yet to acquire a Porsche 911.
Sadly, though, Skodas were sufficiently disliked back in those days that most 136s have now perished. As a result, if you can find one of these surprisingly sweet-driving motors, you’ll probably be buying from an enthusiast. Expect to pay at least £3000 and be delighted at how much fun you can have with just 62bhp and 1.3 litres.
5 - Smart Roadster (2003-2006)
Few cars still look modern after being out of production for the thick end of
a decade, but the Smart Roadster is one that can claim to. Sadly, its short career was apparently curtailed by warranty claims running at an unacceptable level. Whether that is the case or not, the majority of things that niggled when they were new have
all been sorted by now.
That said, watch out for evidence of leaks and crash damage and ensure that the gearbox works properly. Smarts appreciate being looked after properly, too, so evidence of servicing is a must.
The Roadster isn’t particularly fast and the gearchange gets in the way of enthusiastic driving, but it’s cheap (at about £2k) and handles tidily. If you look after it, you’re likely to make a profit.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: