Last weekend I was absent-mindedly flicking through the auction catalogues when I spotted an unobtrusive-looking Lancia Thema.

Admittedly I've always had a bit of soft spot for the boxy Italian saloon, which was the result of a joint project with Saab, Fiat and Alfa. What really grabbed my attention, however, was the fact that it was an '8.32' variant.

Back in the late ’80s, many manufacturers were busy releasing saloons that offered near-supercar performance. Companies like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and even Ford were all serving up suitably potent yet subtle cars, designed to appeal to well-heeled individuals who enjoyed driving.