We only have ourselves to blame. Ever since the last Peugeot 205 GTI rolled off the production line in 1994, we’ve been lauding it as the greatest hot hatch of all time: a never-to-be repeated special from the glory days of the manic hatchback.
Peugeot created some terrific follow-up acts – the GTI and Rallye versions of the 106 and 306 were absolute gems – but these were largely forgotten beyond enthusiast circles, leaving the 205 GTI to be proclaimed as some kind of automotive demigod.
This reputation has been cemented by a succession of gushing articles, to the point at which a low-mileage 205 GTI can sell at auction for £38,480, and nobody is really surprised. That’s knocking on the door of £40k for a car that is hardly on the endangered list.
To the 4,800 or so people who have a 205 GTI sat in their garage, it might be time to fix those jobs you’ve been planning for a few years. To the 1,300 people enjoying life with a taxed and tested example, you might want to adjust the agreed value on your insurance policy.
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The lion’s king?
Some context: at the same Silverstone Auctions sale, a Porsche 968 Clubsport and a BMW M5 each sold for circa £30,000, while the hammer fell on a Lotus Elise S1 with 1,633 miles on the clock for £24,750. Each one guaranteed to be included in a barroom chat about the world’s best drivers’ cars.
That’s not to say the 205 GTI isn’t worthy of the plaudits and accolades bestowed upon it. You need only spend a few minutes behind the wheel to understand the hype. It is, undoubtedly, one of the best of its breed. Whether it’s the best is a matter of opinion. It’s not even clear if the 1.6 or 1.9 is the lion’s king.
As for the price, while a raised eyebrow is a justifiable response, who are we to say that what is essentially a showroom-fresh 205 GTI isn’t worth the equivalent of two Ford Fiesta STs? Nostalgia is a wonderful thing and, as we’re about to discover, it’s creating some remarkable auction results.
We’re in this situation thanks to a number of factors, most notably low interest rates and the fact that new cars are available for less than most people spend on their monthly groceries. With more disposable income, 30- and 40-somethings can purchase what they couldn’t afford to buy (or insure) when they were new. Hey, and best of all, you can look at it as an investment.
Only you shouldn’t. Cars, especially driver-focused examples, are there to be driven and enjoyed. And while the first £50,000 Peugeot 205 GTI looks worryingly likely, history shows that classic car booms have a tendency to go bust rather abruptly. That investment might disappear quicker than a lift-off-oversteering hot hatch into a hedge.
Here are four of the most eye-watering prices at the Silverstone Auctions sale. And there’s not a premium badge in sight.
Peugeot 205 GTI: £38,480
We’ve been here before. In August 2016, a 1989 205 GTI sold at the Silverstone Classic auction for a then-record £30,938. With just 7,986 miles on the clock, it demonstrated that low mileage is a factor when shifting modern classics for a hefty price.
Fast-forward 12 months and the 1988 205 GTI sold for £38,480. Again, mileage is a factor, as this example – originally registered to Peugeot Talbot Motor Company and used as a competition prize – has a mere 5,726 miles on the clock.
Ford Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’: £55,125
Fast Fords are riding the same wave as the Peugeot 205 GTI, with the blue collar heroes achieving some truly remarkable figures. In March 2016, a Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’ with 936 miles on the clock sold for £54,000.
The restored example on offer at the Silverstone Classic sale sold for £55,125, despite having 14,680 miles under its wheels. There was a time, not too long ago, when five figures was a lot for a Capri. Today, you seemingly need to part with at least £50,000 for an excellent example of the last-of-the-line special.
Which is ironic, given the fact that Ford struggled to sell the Capri 280 for just under £12,000. Buyers were able to see through what was essentially a cosmetic upgrade based on the 2.8i Special, and many examples were left languishing in Ford showrooms.
I like the Capri 280, so much so that I bought one a dozen or so years ago. At the time they were relatively cheap – I paid £3,000 for my one-owner example – with the Capri still suffering the after-effects of a severe image crisis.
Watching values of even the lowly four-cylinder models climb ever higher is hard to take for someone who took a great deal of flak for driving Capris before they were cool. Or maybe it’s the fact that I sold my 280 for just £3,500. Ouch.
Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth: £114,750
Regardless of how you feel about a Ford Sierra costing well in excess of £100k, it’s relatively easy to justify the seemingly inflated figure. The RS500 Cosworth is dripping in homologation provence and a mere 500 road cars were built.
Each one was built by Tickford, with car number 387, as sold in the Silverstone Auctions sale, leaving the factory on 28 July 1987. This is no mass-production hot hatch or last-of-the-line special: the RS500 is a motorsport thoroughbred with an enviable competition history.
But, yes, it’s still a Ford Sierra for £115k…
Vauxhall Lotus Carlton: £72,000
Lotus Carlton values are rising faster than you can say ‘an outrageous invitation to speed’. Again, mileage and condition has played a significant part in the auction price, with car number 28 having just 4,500 miles on the clock. Another example, with 73,000 miles on the clock, sold for £23,625 at the same auction.
If the media and auction houses are to be believed, the chances of securing an affordable modern classic are slimmer than finding a genuine barn-find on eBay. But before you cry into your can of Tab Clear, the Silverstone Classic sale demonstrates that all isn’t lost.
Take the Lotus Elise S1 with 1,633 miles on the clock. An auction price of £24,750 is seemingly a good deal for one of the first off the line, and is certainly cheaper than a brand new Elise. Good value? We think so.
Other performance ‘bargains’ include a Bentley Turbo R with 27,189 miles on the clock (£8,437), Bentley Arnage Red Label (£16,310), BMW 3.0 CSI (£31,500), Alfa Romeo RZ (£42,750) and Fiat 1000 Abarth TC (£13,500). It’s all relative, of course, but a super-rare and super-exotic RZ looks like good value at £42k.
The question is, will the current boom continue for the foreseeable future? The evidence suggests that the most in-demand modern classics will continue to hold their value, most notably those with ultra-low mileages, competition history or performance pedigree. Fast Fords, Peugeot 205 GTIs, Saab 900 Turbos, Porsche 944s, German saloons and the like are examples of cars likely to ride out a future dip in the market.
For now, some thinking outside the box is required in order to secure a modern classic for a realistic price. Think Citroens of the 80s and 90s, performance Renaults, Type Rs, late MR2s, V6 and V8 barges: there are bargains to be found in the classifieds.
In the meantime, it’s time to grow accustomed to a world in which mass-produced hot hatches of the 80s sell for £40k and the hammer falls on Ford Capris for £50k. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.