While all the attention seems to have been on Aussie muscle cars of late, it’s easy to forget there are some brilliant buys out there in the world of Euro-Brit machinery. Cars that delight you, frighten the hell out of you, or just leave you with a silly grin on your dial every time you clamber in behind the wheel.
So far this year we’ve done value guides for Muscle Cars, Japanese Classics and Australian Family Classics and now it’s the Euro-Brits. Sure you can spend substantial money on these things, but even at the high end of the game, like the Porsche 930 shown, you can argue there is real value. Move on to something a little more modest and there are some outright bargains out there.
What follows are 60-something pages of features and analysis. Enjoy...
WITH ITS SCREAMING TURBO AND GIANT WHALE TAIL TURBO AND GIANT WHALE TAIL THE 930 BECAME THE STUFF OF LIFELONG FANTASIES.
Long-time collector, racer and owner of high-end car-storage house Makulu in Melbourne, Clive Massell, admits a Porsche 930 was on his bucket list. “When I was a little boy, dreaming of the most macho car in the world, I promised I’d always like to own one,” he says. The whole turbo production stream was more the product of accident than strategy. After some spectacular success with turbo engines in CanAm and sports cars, the company decided a homologation version of the 911 would broaden its opportunities on the track. ‘So maybe we’ll build 400 or so,’ was the thinking. That was the early 70s, and they’re still pumping them out.
However the early cars, the 3.0lt boxer sixes claiming a heady 193kW, were a huge commercial success for the company, which found itself selling a few thousand road cars in fairly short order. They were hideously expensive (think around $40,000 in 1975) and notoriously difficult to drive fast. And live. The issue was significant turbo lag, combined with that rearward weight bias, which meant a less than totally focussed approach to a turn was likely to end in tears.
Clive’s car is the second iteration, the 3.3lt claiming 221kW, built from 1978. They were a little more refined, but still a handful. “Even in this configuration they are difficult cars to drive,” he says.
“They’re not for little boys. There’s no traction control – it’s an all or nothing car. The turbo lag is still quite significant and, once you’re committed, you just have to hang in there.
“If there’s any hesitation, or if you back off, it will turn you around before you can blink. I find them sensational to own. They’re very demanding, you have to be focussed and concentrating. You can’t ease up for two minutes.” Just 2873 of the first-gen (1975-77) cars were built and there’s no doubt a fair number have disappeared. Prices, as a consequence, are sky-high.
The second gen, like this car (1978-89), were more numerous at 18,716.
According to Clive, “Porsche turbo values have been this huge see-saw, at some point they’re the flavour of the month and then they seem to take a dip. And they come back again. Although the values have dipped a little a good car like this will still achieve $220-240k in unmolested locally-delivered right-hand drive.
“If you’re in the market, the golden rule is to try and get a good one. From my experience it’s better to pay a bit more and know what you’re getting.”
And then, maybe, get some coaching on how to drive it!
If you get to meet enough MkI and MkII Escort owners, you’ll discover two things: most own more than one example and, they’re not afraid to drive them. To us that says a lot about the cars– there’s something about them that encourages grabbing the keys and heading out for a drive.
Glenn Tiedemann is very representative of the group. He owns several examples and this, a 1973 base model built up as a 1600 Mexico replica is what he calls a 40-foot car. It looks fine to us, but he reckons it’s best viewed from a modest distance because it has wear and tear consistent with being used. It’s done several interstate trips – many organised by his club – while it’s also been used to thrash around hillclimbs and track days.
With real Mexicos and other twin-cam models costing an absolute fortune, tributes like Glenn’s car have become increasingly popular.
“It wasn’t originally a Mexico,” Glenn explains. “It started off as a 1300 base model. A friend of the family owned it for a long time and I was lucky to get hold of it. The Mexicos were a twin cam with a 1600GT engine, front guards were changed, headlights were round, they had quarter bumpers and different running gear.
“This car has been taken out to 1600 and is running a 3.7 diff, twin 48mm carburetters from an RS 1600 Escort – type 40 Webers. It’s a warm engine that sees a bit of track time here and there.” It’s also running a ‘quick rack’ for the steering, which he says can make the feel a little heavier but has other benefits.
That aside, he’s also a fan of the stock base-model Escorts. He has a base 1975 1300 that’s never been altered and says it’s a remarkably neutral handler that’s incredibly easy to drive.
For someone getting into Escort ownership, joining a club may be essential. As we said, most owners seem to have several and most are probably sold by word of mouth. Glenn also reckons a lot were shipped out of the country over the last 15 years as demand, particularly in the UK, has climbed.
The quality of what it around is hugely variable, from rubbish to gems, while reproduction parts are now plentiful.
However getting a good solid car to start with is by far the most cost-effective way to go, according to Glenn and pretty well any experienced owner you talk to.
“If you find something good, you’re probably going to be paying good money for it,” he says. “The values have climbed in recent years. Even replicas like this you would have been lucky to get $15,000 for it; now, you’ll be looking at $30k or more.”
PACKING A TON OF PERFORMANCE IN A TINY PACKAGE THIS COOPER IS THE LAST OF AN ULTRA-RARE BREED.
Something seems not quite right when owner John Holloway rolls up in his Cooper. It’s got the original body shell, but there’s all sorts of modern gear hanging off it, such as airbags and fuel injection. What’s going on?
2000 John Cooper Limited Edition S Works,” explains John. “The classic Mini was in production from 1959 to 2000 – continuously for 41 years. This was one of the very last classic Minis built. This edition was an anniversary model celebrating Coopers winning the world F1 championship in 1959-60 with Sir Jack Brabham as lead driver.”
Despite appearances, a lot of engineering went into modernising the Mini. It runs 13-inch wheels and 8.4 inch brakes, which pushes out the track considerably, giving it a very aggressive stance. So it must grip like the proverbial? “Yes and no,” says John. “Because they made some changes during production, they rubber-mounted the subframes, it brought a little vagueness into the handling.
“With the six-inch wide wheels, that’s made it quite ‘heavy’ in the steering.”
However much of the mechanical tradition survives. “If you look past all the additional plumbing for the fuel injection and the electronics, the basic A series motor is still there – it goes right back to the start in 1959,” explains John.
“Cooper Garages took the motor and rebuilt it to their specifications, raising the power output by 40 per cent. We’re talking 90 brake horsepower as against 68 from the 1275.” That’s substantial in a little car.
Included in the mix is higher compression, bigger valves, ported, polished and flowed. All the breathing components are matched.
“It can be a bit of a handful to drive, especially in the wet when it wants to pick the front wheels up and spin them. It will walk sideways in first, second and third gear on a wet road.”
How did John get his hands on this ultra-rare variant? “I’d seen an ad for a second-hand one at Cooper Garages in the UK and thought I might look into buying it and bringing it back here. However it was sold. But they said, ‘We have one brand new one, and it’s the last one.
“How much is that going to cost me? They rang back and the price was less than I expected.”
What they had sitting there was a body shell, ready to be fitted out. John got hold of the ADR requirements and sent them across, so Cooper was able to build the car to Australian spec. It was number 35 or 35 special editions – yep the very last of them. Given the connection to Australian legend Sir Jack Brabham, it seems fitting it ended up over here, on the other side of the world.
FROM FAMILY TRANSPORT TO MUCH-LOVED TOY THIS TWO-OWNER COOPER HAS LED A BLESSED EXISTENCE.
Rick James enjoys some fairly eclectic tastes when it comes to cars – he also runs some tasty Japanese classics – but passion for Minis is a long-term affair.
This is quite a late car,” he says, “a series II released in late 1969 and continued to 71.
“There were a few updates with this model: synchro on first gear, different heater, and flares for the wheel arches. There’s an old story that the flares came about because a South Australian policemen refusing to register a new Cooper S that didn’t have the flares – or so the story goes.
“I got into Minis because I probably couldn’t afford a more expensive car, but I liked going fast and I liked sporty cars and these were affordable. The first one I had was in 1970, and this one I bought in ’73 from a guy in Dandenong. It was a one-owner car and I’ve had it ever since.”
Sporty? Absolutely. The Cooper S had a well-deserved reputation as a giant-killer in competition, typically seeing bigger cars roar past on the straights, only to duck down the inside of the next turn. Even today, you can see it happen at events such as the Goodwood Revival.
Perhaps the car’s most famous victories were the fiercely-contested Monte Carlo Rallies, which Mini won three times, with teams Paddy Hopkirk/ Henry Liddon (1964 – a controversial year), Timo Makinen/Paul Easter 1965) and Rauno Aaltonen/Henry Liddon (1967).
Tim’s example was used as a family runabout, until the second child turned up and it was semi-retired. He tried to sell it, but was unimpressed with the offers and decided that one day he’d restore it.
That opportunity came about several years later, when a gent called Len Read, who is well-known in the local Mini world, offered to tackle much of the restoration in his spare time. “It took him nearly 18 months. If I had to do the same job today it would probably cost double or more,” says Tim.
“Chasing detail parts is a chore. Fortunately I’d had this car for a long time and I knew what had been changed and what hadn’t. Because Len had contacts as well, we were able to piece it together pretty well. Little things like hose clamps took patience… some took me up to five years! The dipstick got lost, we had to find another and they’re slightly different on this car to other Minis. You really have to be on your toes.”
Perhaps the biggest ‘find’ for this car was the wheels. “They’re a proper set of Minilites – I got hold of them back in the 70s from a guy named Bob Scanlon, who raced Minis and had a wrecking business. I think I bought the set for $200 in about ’74 or ’75. They’re one of the nicest accessories you can get for one of these cars. I’d hate to think what you’d pay for them today – several thousand.”
While the restoration is faithful to the original, there are a few minor changes, such as the aftermarket steering wheel that’s been blended in nicely, or the slightly bigger 1.5 inch SU carburettors, which was the spec for the police-model Coopers.
What’s a car like this worth? A good example sold at Motorclasica last year for $78,000, plus fees that took it up to just over $90k. That’s the top end. Owners suggest somewhere in the 70s is quite achievable.