Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 9 October
American muscle at a relatively knock-down price - you'll want the Chevrolet Corvette

Muscle car fans in this country have always been starved of America’s finest V8-powered tyre-shredders. Our narrow roads, pricey petrol and grumpy neighbours make these lairy, loud and loutish cars a pain to run, so few people have taken the trouble to import them.

Happily, however, that means the examples on offer in our classifieds are usually well cared for and appealingly specified and represent fantastic value relative to comparable European and Japanese machinery.

Take the Chevrolet Corvette, for example. We’ll soon be able to order it in right-hand drive for the first time in its 67-year history, but if you can’t wait or don’t have £80,000-plus to spend, it’s older versions you’ll want.

We found a one-owner, 2009 C6 Corvette with just 35,500 miles, blemish-free bodywork and a load of coveted options for just £27,500. For context, a same-aged Nissan GT-R will cost near £40,000 and a Ferrari F430 Spider more than twice that.

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It’s not even as if you’re making any great sacrifice. The 6.2-litre V8 is good for 430bhp and 424lb ft, so you can do 0-62mph in just over 4.0sec.

What’s more, you get a removable roof panel, a Bose stereo, red leather and a Cobra performance exhaust. This is no low-cost compromise.

Sure, it doesn’t offer the dynamics of a Ferrari, nor the build quality of an Audi R8, but people will let you out at junctions and want to chat about it at the petrol pumps, plus you needn’t worry about leaving it anywhere.

This really is a lot of car for not a lot of money and, with ever-tightening emissions legislation and the advent of electrification, it’s among the last of its kind, so now is the time to buy.

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Read our review

Car review

This smaller, lighter, faster Chevrolet Corvette continues to fly the flag for the old-fashioned, all-American sports car

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Dodge Challenger, £23,900: There’s no hiding in this strikingly finished Challenger, but that’s okay: it has an Eco Mode function, so you can smile and wave at the Extinction Rebellion lot. And once they’re gone, you can explore the full reaches of that gargantuan 5.7-litre Hemi V8.

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Ford Mustang Shelby GT, £21,990: Sure, you could go out and buy a new, RHD Mustang, but it wouldn’t have quite the same stage presence as a lairy Shelby GT. Performance tuning raised the 4.6-litre V8 to 319bhp, and this well-specced example has the coveted five-speed manual gearbox.

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Pontiac Trans Am Firebird, £19,500: It may not have the same cachet as Burt Reynolds’ Mk1 Trans Am, but this 1989 car is in sublime condition and has covered just 21,000 miles. Don’t expect rip-snorting performance, though: US emission regs capped the 5.0-litre V8’s output at just 170bhp.

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Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, £54,000: It’s not the car most associated with Detroit muscle but, with the same 556bhp supercharged 6.2-litre V8 as the fearsome Corvette ZR1 and many chassis upgrades, the CTS-V landed Cadillac a Nürburgring lap record. It looks especially brawny in ‘coop’ form.

What we almost bought this week

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Rover 400 1.6: We talk a lot about cars that will one day enjoy classic status but, try as it might, the humble Rover 400 doesn’t seem to be able to get there. That’s good news for now, because it means this clean (and some might say handsome) 1993 example is listed for just £589. Its Honda-derived engine is showing signs of head gasket failure, though, so hire a trailer…

Auction watch

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Bugatti Type 59 Sports: A good deal of money changed hands at London’s Concours of Elegance classic car auction earlier this month, and a large portion of it went on this: a genuine Bugatti Type 59 grand prix racer from 1934. Its unmolested appearance, successful motorsport history and interesting provenance (it was once owned by King Leopold III of Belgium) caused quite a stir when it rolled on to the block, and its £9.535 million sale price made it the most expensive Bugatti yet sold at auction.

Future classic

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Volkswagen Golf VR6, £9995: Looking back, the third-generation Volkswagen Golf pales in comparison with its formidable Mk1 and Mk2 predecessors. As a result, the sporty VR6 range-topper has never enjoyed quite the same cult status as those iconic GTI models. It seems, though, that the often overlooked hot hatchback’s time in the limelight has arrived, with this low-mileage 1997 example asking a cool £9995. And why not? The 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine in its snout gave the Golf 172bhp to play with, making it good for 0-62mph in 7.4sec, and fewer than 500 standard UK examples remain on the road, so it’s a rare sight these days.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Can I have a reliable classic car for £5000, please?

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Volvo 240 Estate SE, £4295

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class, £4250

Max Adams: I give you the ultimate in usable older motoring. No, it’s not adorned with chrome, but if you ask anyone to think what a Volvo means to them, they will imagine the 240. The main reason Volvo came into being in 1927 was that few cars could survive the harsh winters in Sweden, so this brick-like estate from 1992 will have no trouble with our temperate climate.

Felix Page: I can match you for build quality and blockiness while beating you on bling. ‘Over-engineered’ 1980s Mercedes are revered worldwide for their indestructibility, to which this gorgeous W126 S-Class from 1985 is testament, having stood neglected outside for three years before firing right back up after a full service. The paintwork and interior may be showing their age, but James is after a usable classic, not a garage queen.

MA: Exactly – he wants a usable classic, not a rolling restoration. Your seller says the car needs repainting and retrimming inside. My gleaming red Volvo wants for none of that, plus it has a fresh MOT with minor quibbles, with the brakes corrected.

FP: Sure, my car will need that work doing if it’s going on display, but if I were to drive a classic every day, I’d rather not worry overly about door dings and bird poo. Plus, a Mercedes limo will be far more desirable than a Volvo dog-walking wagon in 2040.

MA: Your S-Class will be far costlier to maintain than you expect, and it will be only the very best examples worth the big bucks in future. I’d rather have my Volvo, which is fuelled by cheap LPG.

FP: Ah yes, everyone knows how expansive our LPG network is… I just think the 240 has yet to enter the classic car circuit; it’s still a bit of a banger barge. My Benz, on the other hand, will snap necks as it wafts down the high street.

Verdict: I’m feeling gassed up by the idea of an LPG-equipped Volvo.


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Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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