Currently reading: James Ruppert: Sports cars don't have to be small
There's no need to cram yourself into something fun to drive, and big bruisers are surprisingly affordable
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5 mins read
30 June 2020

This was a really simple conundrum to solve: “A £12,000 sports car for a big bloke.” Thanks to Dave for posing that one. So, where did we go with that? Well, first off, my old brain told me that he wanted a roadster, or at least part of the roof missing, and I went down that track, which turned out to be just fine.

I’m too polite to ask for Dave’s dimensions, but I think we all know that he needs decent seats and leg room, really. One wrong direction was Saab, which, as everyone knows, designed and installed the best car seats known to humankind. Dave has had a bad time with Saabs in the past and, on reflection, you don’t really associate sport with Swedish cars.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a great big lump of premium metal and it does come in some exciting, big-engined AMG flavours. What is there for £12,000? Well, a whole bunch of E500 Coupés. You can get a 2009 Sport example with 80,000 miles (plus out-of-date sat-nav and a reversing camera) for £11,500. In decent condition, this is far better than an old CL, which could quite easily bankrupt the unwary.

I liked the idea of a Jaguar XK when I saw one the other day on a ramp at my local garage, and it’s essentially a rebodied XJ. It’s not huge inside, mind you. Anyway, a 2007 XKR with 85,000 miles and a ton of history from a really caring private seller is also £11,500, and that’s worth a go certainly as an Aston Martin alternative. I found a 2010 5.0 V8 car with 95,000 miles for less than £12,000 as well.

The Toyota GT86 has to be under consideration: what a great package. Uncompromising, focused and just what a sports car is supposed to be. A 2012 D-4S with just over 30,000 miles from a main dealer and a full history at £11,000 is surely a must-buy. However, Dave said his missus talked him out of it because the roof doesn’t come off and he’d get bored.

That sent me in the direction of the BMW Z4. These cars look great, and you can find a 2006 Z4 M Roadster with a full service history and just about every extra box ticked for £11,995. What a wonderful way to travel in the open air.

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Anyway, by close of play, I had learned that the Toyota MR2 was under consideration – and at that point, you begin to wonder what a ‘big bloke’ will actually fit into. I love the MR2 as well and have very-first-hand experience of one. With £12,000, you can get a 1992 example with a turbocharger, a bodykit and big fat rear wing.

The thing is that buying a used car is never a straightforward or easy business, and it goes in all sorts of exciting directions. Most of all, as we’ve seen today, buying used cars is good fun. Thanks, Dave.

What we almost bought this week

Range Rover Sport: The potential for enormous bills is enough to put most people off anything, and that’s partly why you can buy an early Range Rover Sport for less than £6000 today. The supercharged V8 is a flier and suffers far fewer issues than the diesels. And this 2006 example was registered before the VED rules changed, so you’ll pay less in annual running costs.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

Land Rover Series 3, mileage - 131,663: I’ve gone on about the Lorry a lot recently, but that’s because I’m using it a colossal amount. There’s a section of road I travel on every single day that doesn’t have centre demarcations, but I know it well enough to realise that a builder’s Ford Transit pick-up isn’t wide enough to trouble a Series 3 Land Rover. Well, maybe there was something in the back of the Transit, because there was a hell of wallop as I drove past. The right door mirror flew up in the air, landed on the base of the windscreen then fell off. There’s a job to be done to make it roadworthy for Monday.

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Reader's ride

Morris Minor Two-Seater Tourer: Roderick has been on these pages many times, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful story from the pre-Bangernomics days that he sent me. He says: “In 1959, a friend and I, both students, settled on the Morris Minor I described in your Readers’ First Cars article. It was 27 years old, and many of the cars on the road were that old or older. You bought what you could afford in cash, and borrowing was still shameful. Classifications such as ‘vintage’ were established, but to call a car a classic just because it was old was laughable and the idea of polishing it to death to take to a car show ludicrous. You bought it because it was affordable and you drove it. Even then, Bangernomics was Bangernomics.”

Readers' questions

Question: I’m interested in a used convertible to enjoy this spell of hot weather, but I worry about the roof leaking in winter. What’s the best way to test for this when I view a car? Tom Cuthbert, via email

Answer: There’s no need to wait for a rainy day for a viewing, because modern convertibles have been engineered to go through automated car washes without being damaged. This helpfully allows you to check the seals while you sit in the car. Also check the carpets to ensure they aren’t moist and beware of air fresheners being used to disguise the smell of damp. MA

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Question: We have an N-reg Ford Mondeo 1.8 with 60,000 miles. It has had a damaged rear bumper but is otherwise in reasonable condition. We’re unsure how much we should advertise it for. Would any collectors be interested? Sue Hamilton, via email

Answer: It’s hard to put an accurate price on any car without seeing it, but this won’t be one of those Antiques Roadshow moments. Collectors will want an immaculate car with very low mileage, preferably in a high-spec form, such as GLX or Ghia, and with the lusty V6. I’d suggest you appeal to people who want a usable modern classic and aim for £750-£1000. MA

READ MORE

Your first cars: Autocar readers share their stories 

James Ruppert: Trade up to an older model 

James Ruppert: How to net a modern classic

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Comments
4

30 June 2020

Maybe sports cars don't have to be small..  ..but it helps.  A lot.

 

30 June 2020
£750 to £1000. Good luck with that! More like £250 I'm afraid.
Jag represents a lot of car for your money. Shop around though.

30 June 2020

What about a Mercedes SLK?  I am 6' 1" tall and not of small build, and owned one for seven years.  It was a very comfortable car with plenty of head and leg room.  You can get the SLK 55 AMG, with the stonking V8 engine, for well under £12,000 these days.

30 June 2020

The Jaguar XK is not a sports car, it is a gentlemans GT and needs buying with great care.

It's problems are manifold, including rear and front subframe rust, multiple electrical issues and occasional but very expensive engine/gearbox problems. Even cars with low mileage and full service history can be real money pits, so don't be seduced by those fantastic looks.

Been there, done that, felt the pain. 

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