Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

How to buy a classic Porsche 911

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2Jeremy Clarkson once declared that “you can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo”. Not for the first time, though, Jezza was wrong. With a few recent exceptions, modern Alfas are just gussied-up Fiats. And the classics, while bursting with brio, are less dependable than a Southern train..

No, if there’s one car every enthusiast should aspire to own, it’s a Porsche 911. This quirky, rear-engined coupe has evolved – and occasionally revolved – over more than five decades. Fast, fun and engineered with typically Teutonic thoroughness, it has inspired an automotive cult all its own: witness the number of dedicated 911 magazines in newsagents. And it’s still going strong: the millionth example recently left Stuttgart, and special editions, such as the 911R, sell out before they even reach showrooms.

Video: Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 

Convinced? Now for the bad news. We’re not alone in this view, and used Porsche prices have risen sharply over the past decade – outpacing even the already-buoyant classic car market as a whole. Still, even if Brexit bites and the stock market takes a nosedive, good 911s – particularly earlier, air-cooled cars – are likely to remain highly sought-after

If you want the full, 100% proof 911 experience, you need one the original pre-1989 cars; and they don’t come much better than the last-hurrah Carrera 3.2, now available from around £30,000. The lovely 1989 example tested here was kindly supplied by Canford Classics.

How does it drive?Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

The classic Carrera isn’t an easy car to drive, but that’s key to its appeal. You need to engage your brain, exploit its strengths and work around its weaknesses. And learning those takes time.

Despite being shorter and narrower than a new Porsche Cayman, the original 911’s cabin doesn’t feel short on space. Well, not unless you’re squeezed into the toddler-sized rear seats. It’s comically sparse by 2017 standards, though, with controls scattered seemingly at random and floor-hinged pedals skewed towards the centre of the car.

Ergonomic eccentricities are soon forgotten when you fire up that trademark air-cooled flat-six, however. It whirrs, rumbles and churns: not musical, but deliciously mechanical. And the howl it makes at high revs will reverberate inside your skull for hours.

The 911’s unassisted steering and spindly gearlever demand measured, deliberate inputs, yet positively fizz with feedback. It feels lively and light-footed, effervescent even. Those characteristic front wings bob up and down, following the contours of the road, while the all-round disc brakes offer confidence-inspiring bite.

You never forget this is a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive car – one with no electronic safety aids, no less – but the Porsche is hardly the ‘widowmaker’ of urban legend. It simply requires respect and a certain degree of restraint, especially when it rains. A new hot hatch will be quicker whatever the weather, but you’ll be having more fun.


Tell me about buying onePorsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Chris Lowe, lead technician at Canford Classics, is a big fan of the Carrera 3.2: “It has better brakes and a more powerful engine than the 911 SC it replaced, and larger wheels make it more drivable day-to-day”, he explains. “Plus, it’s still air-cooled, so it doesn’t stray too far from the original formula. Overall, they’re just super-cool cars.”

The 3.2 was sold in three body styles: coupe, convertible and Targa. Coupes are generally considered most desirable, although the removable-roof Targa is now firmly back in fashion. A ‘tea tray’ rear wing was optional as part of the Sport pack, along with stiffer dampers and shapelier seats. Alternatively, buyers could go the whole nine yards with the 911 Supersport: a 3.2 with the stretched wheelarches and beefed-up brakes of the 930 Turbo. 

Rust is the fatal foe of any classic 911, so Chris advises checking bodywork carefully: the roof pillars and sills are the main trouble spots. Take a fine-tooth comb to the paperwork, too. “Originality is key to value,” says Chris, “so ask for the Certificate of Authenticity from Porsche, which details the original specification – including any options fitted.” Also, be prepared to budget for mechanical maintenance: “Many 3.2s are due engine or gearbox rebuilds, and the same goes for suspension. Bushes will usually need to be replaced.”

It’s also worth noting that the post-1987 G50 gearbox – as fitted here – is slicker and more user-friendly than the original 915 unit. As such, G50-equipped cars tend to be worth more. 

VerdictPorsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Is the Carrera 3.2 the ultimate retro daily-driver? Perhaps, even if the aforementioned rise in values means most owners now reserve their cars for sunny Sundays and special occasions. 

In truth, the G-Series 911 felt a little dated by the mid-1980s, yet it has aged remarkably well. To drive, it feels raw, vital and life-affirming, while its essential robustness stands in marked contrast to the flimsy over-complication of many modern cars.

Three decades hence, when scores of present-day ‘991’ 911s are festering on scrapheaps with undiagnosed software gremlins, one suspects the classic Carrera will still be going strong. It’s a sports car icon, both of its time and timeless. Buy one now before prices get even crazier.

Many thanks to Canford Classics (01929 472221) for the loan of this immaculate 1989 911. The car is currently for sale, priced at £55,000.

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Toyota Prius Mk1 review: Retro Road Test

Toyota Prius Mk1 review: Retro Road Test

We drive the unassuming little saloon that kick-started the hybrid car revolution: meet the original 2000 Toyota Prius

Ferrari 328 GTS

Ferrari 328 GTS review: Retro Road Test

Ferrari 328 GTSWe’ve covered a lot of bases in these reviews, from a £2,000 Skoda to a £200,000 Porsche. But we’ve never driven a classic Ferrari… until now. Welcome to the Retro Road Test Christmas special.

The prancing horse in question is a 328: the entry-point to Ferrari’s mid-1980s range, alongside the Mondial, Testarossa, 412 and – latterly – F40. Thirty years on, it remains one of the most beautiful ‘modern’ Ferraris – and potentially one of the most sensible, too.

This 1988 328 is a targa-topped GTS (Gran Turismo Spider), kindly loaned to us by GVE London. It’s for sale at GVE’s Uxbridge showroom, priced at £129,900.

What are its rivals?Honda NSX

If you were shopping for a new Ferrari 488 GTB, you might also look at the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan, Noble M600, McLaren 650S, Mercedes-AMG GT S or Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Back in 1988, supercar buyers weren’t so spoilt for choice. The 328 had just three rivals: the Lamborghini Jalpa, Lotus Esprit and Porsche 930 Turbo. Oh, and the De Tomaso Pantera, if you really must.

Perhaps the most obvious alternative today is the original Honda NSX. Launched in 1990, the NSX has an identical power output to the 328 and shares its mid-engined layout, wedgy profile and cockpit-style cabin. It’s a sharper drive than the Ferrari – and cheaper to buy, too. But it doesn’t offer the same investment potential.

Which engine does it use?Ferrari 328 GTS

Fire up this mid-mounted V8 and there are no theatrical throttle blips or showboating exhaust pops. Only when you approach its lofty 7,700rpm redline does this engine sound special. Well, needs must…

The 328 uses a 3.2-litre development of the 3.0 quattrovalvole (four valves per cylinder) V8 from the Ferrari 308. Maximum power is 274hp at 7,000rpm, while peak torque is 224lb ft at 5,500rpm. In a car weighing a modest 1,325kg, that’s good for 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of circa. 160mph.

What’s it like to drive?Ferrari 328 GTS

Ferrari’s open-gate manual gearbox looks timelessly cool, but boy it needs some muscle – especially when cold. I’m advised to short-shift from first to third until the oil is warmed-up. However, I immediately fail by forgetting first gear is on a dog-leg: down and left, where reverse might usually be. Forget your click-click flappy paddles, this car demands deliberate, decisive inputs.

The same goes for the unassisted steering, which is heavy at low speeds, and the engine, which demands to be kept on the boil. The brakes are far better than most cars of this era, though, despite the pedals being ridiculously skewed towards the centre of the car.

On damp, December tarmac, I won’t pretend I pushed the 328 anywhere near its limits. But I did escape the London suburbs and find some quiet lanes, stowing the targa top behind the seats (a two-minute job, incidentally) and relishing the rasp of the V8 as it bounced off the hedgerows.

It took a while, but here the Ferrari and I had a meeting of minds. Its gorgeous Momo steering wheel danced in my hands as we dived through a series of bends, poised and precise. If offers no electronic safety nets, and thus no excuses. Driving a 328 is physical, cerebral and utterly analogue – and all the better for it.

Reliability and running costsFerrari 328 GTS

The 328 is considered one of the most reliable classic Ferraris. An evolution of the 308, launched in 1975, it’s a relatively simple car, free from electronic wizardry. Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection was the order of the day here.

Unlike many Ferraris, a 328 can be serviced without removing the engine. This keeps servicing costs down: GVE estimates around £750 for a new cambelt, plus oil and filter change. Taking into account wear-and-tear parts, such as tyres and brake pads, budget around £2,500 a year in total.

Fuel economy is quoted as 22.5mpg at a constant 56mph – and probably low teens if you give the car a workout. Still, look after your 328 and it should be an appreciating asset. With luck, that rise in value could outweigh the running costs altogether.

Could I drive it every day?Ferrari 328 GTS

In theory, yes. Amazingly, the 328 is shorter and narrower than a current Ford Focus, so it’s compact enough to feel nimble in the city. That’s not something you could say about the wide-boy Testarossa, or indeed the majority of 21st century supercars.

Ride quality is better than modern machines, too – thank absorbent 55-profile tyres – and the 328 has enough luxuries (air-con, electric windows, um… a cassette player) to be comfortable on longer journeys. It feels like a sports car built for the road, rather than the racetrack.

The big question, of course, is should you drive it every day? There, the answer is probably ‘no’. The rising value of 328s dictates that most owners want to keep wear and mileage to a minimum. And on that note…

How much should I pay?Ferrari 328 GTS

The 308 GTS was built in large numbers for a Ferrari. In total, 6,068 left Maranello, versus 1,344 for the hard-top GTB.

Prices vary widely depending on mileage and condition. The cheapest UK-based GTS at the time of writing was a left-hand-drive car with 60,000 miles for £59,995. At the other end of the scale, a GTS with a scant 275 miles on the clock was advertised at £169,990.

GVE’s car falls somewhere in the middle. It’s covered a modest 13,000 miles from new – the equivalent of less than 500 miles a year – and is offered at £129,900.

What should I look out for?David Rai

We asked GVE owner David Rai (pictured) and the company’s leading Ferrari expert, Guy Tedder, what to look for when buying a Ferrari 328. These are their top five tips:

  • As with all Ferraris, service history is of paramount importance. Originality is vital with older cars, too.
  • Don’t be scared off by service stamps from a specialist; they can be a better bet than Ferrari main dealers, who don’t necessarily know much about the classic models.
  • All 328s had a galvanised body, so rust problems aren’t a big issue. However, check the bottoms of the doors and the back of the rear wheelarches for possible corrosion.
  • Windows can become slow and shuddery through lack of use. This can be rectified by lubricating the moving parts inside the door.
  • Always check that the air conditioning works efficiently. It wasn’t the most well-designed system in the world, and most cars have been converted to new gas by now.

Should I buy one?Ferrari 328 GTS

The Pininfarina-penned 328 is an object of beauty. I had one on my bedroom wall as a child and, unlike yours truly, it has only grown lovelier with age.

It isn’t particularly quick by 2016 standards (a Ford Focus RS would leave it for dust), but that hardly matters. The Ferrari offers a driving experience that’s immersive, invigorating and intoxicating. It’s a car you’ll want to learn more about: to discover its abilities by developing your own. It isn’t perfect, but the quirks are all part of its character.

For the price of this particular 328 GTS, you could buy a new Porsche 911 Turbo, a car that is, objectively, better in every way. But that is missing the point. The Ferrari is a car to be enjoyed on sunny Sunday mornings and special occasions. And it’s a savvy investment, too.

So, our Retro Road Test Christmas special didn’t disappoint. Let’s just hope Santa is paying attention…

Pub factFerrari 328 GTS

Ferrari built 542 UK right-hand-drive examples of the 328 GTS between 1986 and 1989. Of these, 292 had anti-lock (ABS) brakes.

According to Guy Tedder, ABS, models are slightly less desirable due to revised suspension geometry that made the car feel less responsive. ABS cars – like the one seen here – are easily identified by their convex alloy wheels. Non-ABS cars have concave alloys.

Porsche 964 Carrera RS

Porsche 964 Carrera RS: Retro Road Test

Porsche 964 Carrera RS

Porsche doesn’t use its Rennsport badge lightly. Or rather, it does: RS models are stripped of excess fat, making them the most focused and most fêted – 911s of all. And, in traditional Porsche style, you pay more money for less car especially when it comes to used examples.

The 964 Carrera RS was the first 911 with ‘RS’ on its rump since the epochal Carrera 2.7 RS of 1973, and just 2,282 were made. Today, a mint-condition 2.7 RS could set you back £1 million, versus £168,000 for this 964 currently for sale at Autofarm in Oxfordshire (01865 331234).

Could this be our most exciting Retro Road Test yet? Time to discover what all the fuss is about…

What are its rivals?Porsche 993 Carrera RS

If you’re in the market for a classic 911 RS, you probably won’t consider much else. These low-volume sports cars exist in a rarefied bubble, scrutinised by enthusiasts and investors alike. And with prices edging ever upwards, there’s no sign of the bubble bursting yet.

Perhaps the 964’s closest rival is actually its successor, the 993 RS. Despite its more aggressive styling (a huge GT2-style rear wing was optional), the 993 is a slightly softer, more road-biased alternative to the 964. It’s also rarer, with only 1,241 made, meaning prices are even higher. Good ones can exceed £200,000.

What engine does it use?Porsche 964 Carrera RS

Porsche 911 engines never look very special. But this air-cooled flat-six is meatier than most, at 3.6 litres and 264 hp. That’s modest by modern standards, but the RS is around 150 kg lighter than the standard car – plus it boasts a lighter flywheel and close-ratio five-speed manual gearbox.

The net result is 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 161 mph; hardly old-fashioned performance. There was also a 3.8-litre, 304 hp version of 964 RS, although very few were made.

What’s it like to drive?Porsche 964 Carrera RS

The 964 RS feels very different to a modern 911. It’s amazingly compact, for starters – shorter and narrower than the current Cayman – and utterly bereft of creature comforts. Infotainment? Dream on.

The pedals are offset sharply to the right in this left-hand-drive car, with the clutch positioned dead-ahead where you’d usually find the brake. UK cars came with power steering, but this Spanish RS does without, so manoeuvring between parked Porsches at Autofarm is a bicep-busting effort. A lumpier cam (the only engine modification) also makes it embarrassingly easy to stall.

Escaping onto the Oxfordshire lanes, it’s time to let the RS off the leash. The mechanical clatter of its flat-six hardens to a visceral snarl as the revs rise. Below 4,000rpm it feels merely quick – then all hell breaks loose and it explodes to the 6,800rpm redline faster than you can grab the next gear. It’s uncouth, uncompromising and utterly fantastic.

The brakes require a firm shove, but all the controls are deliciously analogue. Riding on 40mm-lowered suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels, the 964 feels totally tied-down – like a Carrera Cup racer with number plates. Perhaps less really is more, after all?

Reliability and running costsPorsche 964 Carrera RS

The Porsche 911 is famed for its bulletproof mechanicals. And the RS produces just 11hp more than a standard 964 Carrera, so its engine isn’t unduly stressed. You need to judge each car on its individual merits; some have been worked hard at track days, while others have led pampered lives in air-conditioned garages. Originality is ultimately more important than mileage, as bespoke RS parts – such as the thinner glass and aluminium bonnet – are rare and expensive.

With any luck, other running costs, such as maintenance, insurance and road tax, can be offset against the car’s increase in value. Fuel bills won’t be cheap, of course, but this isn’t a car you will drive every day. Or is it?

Could I drive it every day?Porsche 964 Carrera RS

We’d shake the hand of anyone who does their daily commute in a 964 RS, but such owners are few and far-between – soaring values have seen to that. We could live with the heavy steering (not an issue on UK-spec cars, as noted above) and lack of air-con, but the ride is only borderline acceptable on broken British bitumen. What feels taut and agile on Sunday morning could be tiresome and annoying by Monday morning.

Better to savour the RS as a car for special occasions. A car to drive just for the hell – or indeed heaven – of it. On narrow lanes in Wales or the Scottish Highlands, the diminutive Porsche could keep pace with many of today’s bloated supercars. And its driver would have more fun, too.

How much should I pay?Porsche 964 Carrera RS

You probably won’t find an RS for less than six figures, such is the demand for this classic Porsche. Expect to pay from £150,000 for a well-cared-for example, with the very best cars advertised at nearly double that. Not bad for a car that cost £61,000 in 1991.

This particular ‘matching numbers’ RS has covered 77,000 miles from new and has just benefited from a £50,000 Autofarm renovation – including a respray in the original Guards Red. As such, it looks decent value at £168,000.

What should I look out for?Mikey Wastie

Mikey Wastie is managing director at Autofarm and an acknowledged Porsche expert. Here are his five tips for buying a 964 RS:

  • Some have been used as track day cars, so check for brake and suspension wear
  • Authenticity is key. Has it got the correct numbers on the engine and chassis? History is important, too – you need to know what it’s done and where it’s been
  • Has it still got the correct magnesium wheels? Keep an eye out for poorly refurbished ones or spider blistering
  • Gauges are prone to the printed face delaminating – a problem on all 964s
  • Check for front boot floor damage. Accident repairs should be easy to spot here

Should I buy one?Porsche 964 Carrera RS

The 964 Carrera RS is the Porsche 911 in one of its purest forms. Raw and unfiltered, it distils all that’s great about Germany’s sports car into a shot of pure petrolhead adrenalin. It’s a car you’ll ache to spend time with, to learn its quirks and exploit its talents. The buzz of driving it stayed with us many hours after we reluctantly handed back the keys.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford one, go for it. There are few better investments in the world of classic cars than a 911 with an RS badge. The only problem is, you’ll never want to sell it.

Pub factRUF CTR

The previous owner of ‘our’ 964 fitted various upgrades from Porsche tuner, RUF. These included spoilers and an innovative ‘Electric Foot’ EKS clutchless semi-automatic gearbox. Autofarm has since returned the car to standard ‘Lightweight’ spec – as it left the factory.

The 911 pictured is the famous RUF CTR Yellowbird, a turbocharged 964 that starred in the famous ‘Faszination on the Nurburgring’ video (look it up on YouTube), driven by Stefan Roser.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Is this the lowest-mileage classic Porsche 911 Carrera in the world?

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

“A Porsche 911 is better than a flat in Chelsea.” So opined a classic car expert to us recently. And while nobody is suggesting you sell the house and squeeze your worldly goods into an old Porsche, the comparison between 911 values and London property prices is a valid one.

Values for the most desirable 911 of all the Carrera 2.7 RS – have climbed nearly 700% in a decade. And just this week, we learned the limited-edition 911 R is changing hands for close to £1 million. Not bad for a car with a list price of £137,000.

Now a 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 with just 4,429 miles on the clock has come up for sale. It’s described by the vendor, Hexagon Modern Classics, as being in ‘timewarp’ condition. So while £84,995 certainly isn’t cheap, who’d bet against it being worth more in years to come?

Last of the original 911s
Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

The Carrera 3.2 replaced the 911 SC in 1983 and was the last of the original 911s before the much-modernised 964 arrived in 1989. Its 3.2-litre engine produced 234 hp, giving 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Top speed was 158 mph.

Road testers at the time praised the car’s improved refinement and driveability – the latter thanks to a big hike in torque to 209 lb ft. And, of course, it still had the classic air-cooled soundtrack. It would take until 1998 and the 996-generation 911 before Germany’s greatest sports car went water-cooled.

This particular ‘Garnet Red’ 911 is fitted with the earlier 915 five-speed manual gearbox, which is often criticised for its vague shift action. The 1987-on Getrag G50 five-speeder is a big improvement, if you can find one.

Germanic build quality
Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Just look at that interior – zero fripperies or superfluous styling touches, just no-fuss functionality. It was during the 1980s that German cars cemented their reputation for build quality (compare a Mercedes-Benz of the era to one built a decade later) – and the 911 is among the best of the breed.

That said, the Carrera 3.2 is hardly an ergonomic masterpiece. The large rev-counter, red-lined at 6,300 rpm, is situated dead-ahead, in traditional Porsche style. But the minor controls are scattered haphazardly across the dashboard, or awkwardly situated behind the steering wheel.

Traditional ‘tombstone’ black Porsche seats with matching door cards give the interior of this 1985 911 a sombre air. But hey, nobody said you have you live in it…

Driven just 143 miles a yearPorsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Hexagon says the interior of this Carrera 3.2 is ‘pristine’. And so it should be, with just 4,429 miles under its Fuchs alloy wheels. Over 31 years, that’s an average of just 143 miles a year. Barely enough to keep that famous flat-six ticking over.

Fortunately, the car has a full service history and comes with a 12-month warranty from Hexagon, plus a fresh MOT.

Inside, the new owner will benefit from air conditioning, electric windows, an electric sunroof, cruise control and a Blaupunkt radio/cassette with an oh-so-1980s graphic equaliser. The original handbook, jack and toolkit are all present and correct, too.

Own a piece of Porsche history
Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

The 911 Carrera 3.2 was produced in three bodystyles: coupe, cabriolet and Targa, with the coupe being the biggest seller. So while this car will never boast the weapons-grade investment potential of a 2.7 RS or 911 R models, it’s sure to appeal to Porsche collectors. Besides, we rather like the 911 is its pure, unadorned state, without even the optional ‘Whale Tail’ spoiler to break up that classic silhouette.

Paul Michaels, chairman of Hexagon Classics, said: “This is a massive opportunity for someone to purchase a true collector’s item. It is always difficult to find 911s of this era with low mileage – they were built to be used daily after all – but to find a Carrera 3.2 with less than 5,000 miles on the clock is almost unheard of.”

Let’s hope that lucky new owner actually drives it, rather than leaving it in air-conditioned storage fro another 31 years…

Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

Toyota MR2: Retro Road Test summer special

Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road TestSummer has finally arrived and now is a good time to treat yourself to a set of weekend wheels. If your budget is limited to around £5,000, you could do much worse than looking at Toyota’s ‘midship runabout 2-seater’. In a Motoring Research Retro Road Test special, we’ve driven a first- and third-generation MR2 from Toyota UK’s heritage fleet to find out which one you should spend your money on.

Mk1: What are its rivals?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

Launched in 1984, the original MR2 was intended as a fun-to-drive car that was cheap to run. It was unusual in its mid-engined layout, but its compact dimensions complied with strict Japanese regulations. It arrived around the same time as the Fiat X1/9, Volkswagen Scirocco and Honda CR-X.

Mk3: What are its rivals?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

The third-generation MR2, launched in 1999, was a bit different to its predecessors. While it stuck to the mid-engined layout, it was a proper convertible and closer to the Mazda MX-5 and (also mid-engined) MG F.

Mk1: Which engines does it use?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

The original MR2 shared a naturally-aspirated, 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with the more mainstream Corolla. It produced 128hp in the UK and could hit 62mph in less than 9.0 seconds – quick for its time, and faster than its peers.

Mk3: Which engines does it use?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

By the third-generation model, the MR2 used a 1.8-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine. Like its predecessors, it used dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves – while the camshaft timing was adjustable using Toyota’s VVT-i system. The car’s low kerb weight meant it could hit 62mph in between 6.8 seconds and 8.7 seconds, depending on transmission (five- and six-speed manuals were available, as was a five-speed sequential ’box).

Mk1: What’s it like to drive?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

The 1987 example we’re testing here still feels incredibly sprightly, even though it’s probably lost a few horses over the years – and isn’t, by Toyota’s admission, the best example just yet. With the engine’s weight sitting close to the rear wheels, it’s clear from the start that the original MR2 offers extraordinary levels of grip. Give it the beans from a standstill, for example, and you have to be very clumsy with the clutch for the wheels to (briefly) spin up.

Despite a shortage of power assistance, the steering is light (perhaps overly so) when you increase the speed – something that’ll happen soon as you work the twin-cam engine up through the gears, changing close to the 8,000rpm redline. It has an appetite for being driven hard and encourages you to do so.

While the old Toyota won’t see which way a modern hot hatch went, it still provides one of the most enjoyable driving experiences you’ll get for the money. The sound, steering feel and unusual driving position combine to make it feel like a wonderfully analogue experience.

Mk3: What’s it like to drive?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

After driving the first-generation MR2, the Mk3 feels a little bland on first impressions. The interior is very dull in comparison – while the Mk1 is wonderfully 80s, the recent model is as we’ve become used to from Toyota. Lots of black plastics, and nothing particularly exciting.

But spend some time getting to know the third-gen MR2, and it’s equally likeable in a different way. Just like its predecessors, its mid-engined handling provides oodles of grip, while its diminutive dimensions give you lots of confidence for threading it down rural roads. While it’s not as playful as an MX-5 (if you get the rear out, you’ll probably need more than a dab of oppo to get it back in), it feels more agile. Turn into a bend and it’ll shrug off any thoughts of understeer.

Mk1: Could I drive it every day?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

We quite often say this in Retro Road Tests: you could drive the Mk1 MR2 every day, but it’d be a bit of a shame to. Its lack of storage space, general shortage of refinement and the potential to break down (yes, it’s a Toyota – but a very old one now) means you’d probably start to hate it fairly quickly. Save it for the weekend and you’ll relish every mile behind the wheel.

Mk3: Could I drive it every day?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

If you’re looking for a daily drive, the Mk3 MR2 is much more realistic. It feels like a modern car inside, but don’t be fooled into thinking its practical. The boot space is… lacking, even for a couple of weekend bags. You have to take it very easy in inclement weather, too.

Mk1: How much should I pay?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

Prices for the Mk1 MR2 are strengthening, and it’s definitely one of those cars where it pays to spend more money on a cherished example than be tempted by one at the cheaper end of the market. You can pick one up for less than £2,000, but it’ll probably need some bodywork in the near future and there’s no shortage of parts that could need replacing to make it drive as well as it did when it was new: bushes, droplinks, shocks and springs all wear with age.

Mk3: How much should I pay?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

Prices for the Mk3 are pretty similar to the Mk1. You can buy one for less than £2,000 now, but they tend to be for leggy examples that have been owned by an unenthusiastic owner who may have skimped on maintenance. Ideally, we’d be looking to spend at least £3,000 on a 2003 or later model.

Mk1: What should I look out for?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

Rust is the big issue with Mk1s. They rot everywhere: the wheel arches, wings, B-pillars, A-pillars, sills. Fibreglass skirts make it easy for rust to be hidden, so make sure you get underneath the car and have a poke in every nook and cranny. Other than that, the engine is fairly robust – but you’ll want proof of regular servicing. Listen out for a tappety engine, not a huge concern, but a sign that it might not having maintained as well as you’d like. And watch out for smoke coming out of the exhaust.

Mk3: What should I look out for?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

In the first instance, look out for signs of how well the car’s been treated. Has it got many marks on the body, are all the tyres a good brand with plenty of tread, and does the owner have a folder full of paperwork? Earlier models can often face excessive oil consumption, while abused examples that have been thrashed from cold can suffer from the pre-cat breaking up and being sucked into the engine. Costly.

Although the third-generation model doesn’t suffer from rust as much as older examples, the rear crossmember is known to corrode – and it’s usually disguised by an undertray, meaning it won’t be picked up by the MOT.

Which one should I buy?Toyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

In reality, whether you should buy a Mk1 or Mk3 depends largely on what you want from a car. If you want a project that will attract admiring glances and attract comments at a classic car show, but will need regular maintenance to keep it on the road, you should definitely invest in a Mk1 while you still can.

The Mk3, despite its limitations in a practical sense, is a much more usable buy. If you pack light and want to take it on a European road trip, you can feel pretty reassured it’ll get you there – and in more comfort than the Mk1. A tidy one is probably a good investment and you’ll love every minute behind the wheel.

If you gave this reviewer £5,000 and told him to buy a Mk1 or Mk3 Toyota MR2? I’ll take the original, thanks.

Pub factToyota, MR2, review, Mk1, Mk3, Series 1, Series 3, buying guide, Retro Road Test

The third-generation model we tested here was actually one of the last off the production line. One of 300 special editions, it’s badged ‘TF300’ and would have cost £18,015 when new in 2006. Each model came with custom leather and Alcantara upholstery, a twin sports exhaust and a dedicated vehicle number stitched into the seats.

Porsche 993 Targa

Porsche 911 Targa (993): Retro Road Test

Porsche 993 TargaFor Porsche enthusiasts, this is as good as it gets. The venerable 911 has been in production for 53 years (and counting), but the ‘993’ version lasted just four: from 1994 to 1998.

The 993 was the last 911 with an air-cooled engine – Porsche switched to water-cooling for the 996 of 1999 – and sleek styling, compact dimensions and superb handling, combined with relative rarity, make it highly sought-after today.

This particular 993 is a Carrera 2 Targa, meaning it has rear-wheel drive and a retractable glass roof. It was supplied by renowned Porsche specialists, Autofarm – and has since been sold.

What are its rivals?

The current 911 has a long list of rivals, from the Audi R8 to the Nissan GT-R. Sports car buyers weren’t so spoiled for choice in the mid-1990s, though.

BMW’s E36 M3, built from 1992-1999, comes close for on-paper performance and, as the least fashionable M3, is vastly cheaper to buy. Expect to pay from £6,000, compared to least £30,000 for a 993.

Prices for the Honda NSX are roughly on par with the Porsche, and the Japanese car is arguably even better to drive. However, its aluminium body can make repairs prohibitively expensive. The Mazda RX-7 is a less exotic and cheaper alternative – if you can find one that hasn’t been modified.

Lastly, potential 993 buyers may also consider the – much newer – ‘997’ Porsche 911, sold from 2005-2012. Prices start at around £18,000 and there are hundreds listed in the classifieds.

Which engines does it use?

Porsche 993 Targa

A 3.6-litre ‘boxer’ six-cylinder engine is mounted just aft of the 993’s rear axle. This 1997 car has the Varioram intake system, which boosts power to 286 hp (earlier cars has 272hp). It also boasts a six-speed manual gearbox, rather than the – less desirable – Tiptronic semi-automatic.

The 993 Carrera 2 Targa hits 62mph in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 162mph. Pretty respectable stats, even today.

What’s it like to drive?

Porsche 993 Targa

First impression of the 993 is how compact its cabin is – even for my equally ‘compact’ 5ft 8in frame. The pedals are very offset to the left, too.

Any minor discomforts are soon forgotten when you fire-up that flat-six, though. It’s turbine-smooth, and surprisingly quiet at low revs. But push the floor-hinged throttle a little further and that familiar hollow air-cooled bark echoes around your eardrums. There’s nothing quite like it.

On the road, the 993 feels darty and surprisingly dainty; it’s closer in size to a Cayman than a new 911. The steering is wonderfully talkative and the brakes are better than expected for a 19-year-old car.

At low speeds it understeers (runs wide), but push a little harder and the rear end comes into play. Tail-wagging oversteer is there on-demand if you want it. However, conscious that 993s lack any electronic stability aids – and that this car is worth around £44k – I back off before brimming confidence gets the better of modest talent.

Reliability and running costs

Porsche 993 Targa

The 993 comes from the era that spawned the ‘Germanic build quality’ cliche. Serviced regularly, it should prove a paragon of reliability; the most likely issue will be rust – we’ll come to that shortly.

No 911 is cheap to run, but a network of knowledgeable specialists, such as Autofarm, means you aren’t reliant on pricey Porsche dealers. Budget up to £500 for a minor service (every year), and £1,000 for a major one (every two years).   

With official fuel economy of (ouch!) 16.8mpg, filling up could be your biggest expense. At least classic insurance and pre-2001 road tax of £235 a year keep costs down.

Could I drive it every day?

Porsche 993 Targa

Assuming you could stomach the fuel bills, the 993 is comfortable, refined and practical enough to use every day. There’s less room in the front ‘boot’ than current 911s offer, but many owners simply use the child-sized rear seats as additional luggage space.

The 993 was the first 911 Targa with a sliding glass sunroof in place of a removable panel. So you can enjoy the sunshine at a moment’s notice – along with styling that’s barely distinguishable from the 911 coupe.

How much should I pay?

Porsche prices seem to be spiralling ever upwards, and the 993 is one of the biggest appreciators. That’s good news if you already own one, but less so if you’re looking to buy. GT2 versions can easily top £500k, with the lightweight RS not far behind. Even the once-unloved 993 Turbo is now a six-figure car.

Fortunately, prices for ‘regular’ Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 versions of the 993 aren’t quite so inflated. The cheapest cars are around £30k, although we’d advise spending between £40k and £50k for a tidy car with comprehensive service history.

What should I look out for?

Porsche 993 Targa

Autofarm founder Josh Sadler is a leading expert on Porsche 911s. Here are his top six tips for buying a 993 Targa:

  1. Check for poorly-repaired accident damage. These are sports cars that were driven hard and the rise in values means even damaged cars may have been repaired for a quick profit.
  2. Look for good history. Brakes and dampers wear out, which is normal, but check the car has been serviced by a specialist.
  3.  Targas can rust around the roof mounts and it’s a real pain to sort out. Walk away if these are rusted.
  4. Also check carefully for rust around the windscreen. That said, rust is less of an issue than on earlier 911s.
  5. There have been some cars with clicking door hinges. The weld cracks, possibly because the door is swung open too hard. It requires welding to fix
  6. Parts availability is good, but the two-piece alloy wheels on the Targa are specific to that model. As such, they may be harder to find.

Should I buy one?

We’ll leave the air versus water debate to the Porsche purists, but there’s no doubt the 993 is a high-point in 911 history. And when we’re talking about arguably the world’s greatest sports car, that makes it very special indeed.

The odd driving position and haphazard ergonomics would take more getting used to, but we suspect the 993 is a car that worms its way into your affections over time, transforming flaws into mere quirks, and eccentricities into something broadly defined as ‘character’.

Yes, you could have a very nice 997 for similar money. However, we doubt that car – for all its brilliance – will ever be revered like the 993. And besides, drive it carefully and the older car’s increase in value should, hopefully, more than cover its running costs. A free Porsche? Now there’s a thought…

Pub fact

Porsche 993 Targa

The first 911 Targa was introduced in 1967 and had a zip-out plastic rear window, replaced by a fixed glass window just one year later. The early ‘soft-window’ Targa seen here is actually a Porsche 912 – a budget four-cylinder 911 sold between 1965 and 1969.

Ford Focus RS

Ford Focus RS Mk1: Retro Road Test

Ford Focus RSEven today, few family cars drive better than the original 1998 Ford Focus. With its clever Control Blade rear suspension, this humble hatchback out-handled some sports cars.

Opinions of the first Focus RS, however, are more mixed. Launched in 2002, some rate it as one of the greatest hot hatches ever. Others, meanwhile, dismiss it as a torque-steering tearaway.

We borrowed Focus RS number 0001 of 4,501 cars made fresh from Ford’s heritage fleet to discover who is right about this controversial fast Ford.

Mitsubishi EvoWhat are its rivals?

The Focus is a front-wheel-drive hatchback, yet its two most obvious rivals the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo (pictured) and Subaru Impreza WRX – were four-wheel-drive saloons. Both offer more power and are cheaper to buy second-hand. However, neither will appreciate in value like the limited-edition Ford.

Fancy something more civilised? Consider the Audi S3 or Volkswagen Golf R32. These four-wheel-drive Germans outgun the Focus in terms of horsepower, but not driving excitement.

Ford Focus RSWhat engine does it use?

The Ford’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine drives through a five-speed manual gearbox Peak power of 212hp arrives at 5,500rpm, with torque of 229lb ft from a useful 3,500rpm. The 0-60mph dash takes 5.9sec and top speed is 143mph.

To tame those rampant horses, Ford used a Quaife torque-biasing differential. It works by diverting twist-action to the opposite front wheel if wheelspin is detected, improving traction and agility – at the expense of some refinement. And on that topic…

Ford Focus RSWhat’s it like to drive?

That mechanical front diff is essentially a sticking plaster – a solution to the absence of four-wheel drive. But it defines the character of the RS more than any other component, giving it an appetite for corners that’s positively ravenous.

Find a B-road and car turns in with eager immediacy, the wheel writhing between your palms. Then the diff starts to bite, hauling it around radii like an arm hooked around a lamp post. It’s pointy, purposeful and, yes, focused.

In line with its reputation, the RS also quite physical and more than a little unruly. There’s torque steer, some turbo lag and plenty of whooshy wastegate noise. But we’re inclined to see these traits as part of car’s character, rather than faults to be ironed-out  

A 212hp output is merely Fiesta ST territory now. But the 1,278kg RS is a fast car and, believe us, it still feels like one.

Ford Focus RSReliability and running costs

Fuel economy of 27.9mpg won’t impress your neighbours in their Focus 1.0 Ecoboost. But comments over the garden fence can be rebutted with a gentle reminder that, as your car increases in value, theirs is plummeting into a bottomless pit of depreciation.

Service and maintenance costs should be manageable (this is a Ford, after all), but custom RS-specific body panels mean accident or rust-related repairs can be expensive.

Reliability will largely depend on how the car has been driven. Sounds obvious, but some will have been pampered, while others will have been thrashed (and possibly crashed) by track-day enthusiasts or boy racers.

Ford Focus RSCould I drive it every day?

Wrestling the RS along a country road can be tiring. If you want to ‘make progress’, the car makes you work for it.  

At anything less than eight-tenths, though, it calms down and does a passable impression of an ordinary, vanilla-flavoured Focus. The ride on 18-inch OZ Racing alloys is firm, but not hyperactive like the current Fiesta ST.  And practicality is a match for any mid-size hatchback save for the three-door-only body (ironically, the new Focus RS only comes with five doors).

There are aren’t many classics you could comfortably commute in, but the Focus certainly ticks that box. Shame the number of Mk1 RS daily-drivers is dwindling fast, as owners eye-up the car’s investment potential.

Ford Focus RSHow much should I pay?

Just under half the Mk1s built came to the UK, so you may find cheaper left-hand-drive examples from Europe in the classifieds.

For a RHD UK car, prices currently start at around £7,500, although you should really budget five figures for a good one.

At the top end, the very best cars are nudging £20,000. For that price, you could also consider the Mk2 RS, which is faster and even better to drive. However, it’s also more common (with 11,500 made) and arguably less exciting.

Ford Focus RSWhat should I look out for?

If anything, the Mk1 RS is over-engineered. Mechanical components, including the engine and Quaife differential, are tough, but that shouldn’t stop you insisting on a fully-documented service history.

Ensure the cambelt has been changed at least once, preferably well in advance of the recommended 100,000-mile interval, and don’t dismiss cars with an additional non-standard intercooler – it can help prolong the life of the engine. Steer of any mods aiming at boosting power output, though. Winding up the turbo boost is a recipe for lots of lag and lots of trouble.

Check those unique RS body panels carefully, as some are becoming hard to source. Peer under the wheelarches for signs of rust where the bodykit meet the metal and look for uneven panel gaps due to crash-damage.

Don’t forget to check all the RS-specific interior bits, such as the two-tone steering wheel and Sparco gearknob, are present-and-correct, too. That garish blue trim might look a bit Halfords, but it’s an important part of the car’s identity. Remember, originality is key when it comes to value.

Ford Focus RSShould I buy one?

Speaking of value, fast Fords are always in demand and, in theory, this longer-term gain in the car’s worth can be offset against the cost of running one. Bear in mind, however, that nothing is guaranteed, so we’d buy a Focus RS to drive and enjoy – with any rise in value a welcome bonus.

Despite our initial misgivings, the Focus RS won us over with its old-school hot hatch charm. Handing back the keys, we ached for more time behind the wheel – a sure sign of a great driver’s car.

For our money, the Ford Racing Puma from the same era feels even more special. Look out for an MR Retro Road Test on that car soon. But the added performance and practicality of the Focus would swing it for many.

Ford Focus RSPub fact

The Mk1 RS was an effective halo car, but Ford lost money on every one sold. The exact amount is uncertain; internet chat forums (always, ahem, a reliable source) suggest anything between £4,000 and £6,000 per car.

This hole in the balance sheet is one reason the latest Mk3 Focus RS (seen here) doesn’t have custom body panels and shares a higher percentage of parts with the standard car. Ford execs insisted that even the RS must be profitable in its own right.


Porsche 911S

Porsche 911S: Retro Road Test

Porsche 911SFirst, the bad news. If you want a classic Porsche 911, you’ve already missed the boat. Prices soared skywards years ago. For one of the very best cars, like the 911S tested here, you can now expect to pay well into six figures.

However, let’s not be blinded by finance. Regardless of its material value, a vintage 911 is both beautiful to behold and – as we’ll discover – bewitching to drive. So whether you’re a potential 911 driver or a penniless 911 dreamer, sit back and enjoy our most exotic Retro Road Test yet.

Thanks to Porsche specialists Autofarm for supplying this 1971 Porsche 911S, which was for sale at the time of writing.

Ferrari DinoWhat are its rivals?

The 911S arrived in 1969, initially with 170hp. The same year, Ferrari launched its six-cylinder 195hp Dino 246 GT and (open-top) GTS. The delicate Dino trumps the 911 for sheer beauty, but not for value. Prices can easily top £300k today.

Other rivals included the Jaguar E-Type and BMW 3.0 CS. However, neither is a pure sports car like the Porsche.

Porsche 911SWhat engine does it use?

Autofarm describes the 180hp 2.2-litre flat six in this 911S as ‘the ultimate form of Porsche’s original 911 engine’. It was a modern unit for 1971, with mechanical fuel injection and an automatic choke.

The engine sits behind the back axle in trad-911 style and drive goes to the rear wheels via a five-speed dog-leg gearbox. For the uninitiated, first gear is across and down (where reverse would often be), while the other four ratios are arranged in a simple H-pattern.

Porsche 911SWhat’s it like to drive?

Turn the key and the air-cooled six coughs and chunters into life. Its turbine-like whirr fills my ears and vibrates my fingertips through the skinny, four-spoke wheel.

Old 911s don’t like cold starts, so I give the engine a few minutes to warm up, using the hand throttle (a small lever next to the handbrake) to keep the idle speed high. Did I mention the sickly-sweet smell of oil? A classic Porsche is a car for all the senses…

Pulling away, I’m struck by how light the steering is (most of the car’s weight is at the back) and – shortly afterwards – by how ineffective the brakes are. That’s to be expected in a car of this era, of course. But it’s worth acclimatising yourself before you reach that first roundabout…

The engine is smooth and deliciously free-revving, although it doesn’t really wake up until about 5,000rpm. From there, the noise hardens to a synapse-tingling snarl and it charges to the 7,200rpm redline with real urgency.

Grip is limited by modern-car standards and there’s no doubt the rear-engined Porsche could bite back if you overcooked a corner. But it’s refreshing to drive a car that can be enjoyed at sensible speeds. The 911S is as much fun at 30mph as a new 991 Carrera at 60mph.

Porsche 911SReliability and running costs

Porsches have a reputation for robustness and the 911S comes from an age where most things could be fixed with a socket set and a can of WD40. Even so, any car this age will need regular TLC to keep it running properly. Prepare to budget several thousand pounds for maintenance each year, as official Porsche parts won’t come cheap. Especially if they’re rare, deleted items, such as obscure pieces of trim.

On the plus side, car tax (VED) is free and a classic car insurance should keep costs down.

Porsche 911SCould I drive it every day?

Compact dimensions, light controls and excellent all-round visibility (thank those skinny roof pillars) make the 911S a surprisingly capable commuter. Yes, the dog-leg gearbox is a pain in town, but you’d get used to it. Ditto the old-car brakes.

However, it seems a shame to use a car this special for the daily grind. The lack of air-con would be a pain in summer, while salty roads would ravage the bodywork in winter. And, much as we hate to say it, a classic Porsche is an investment – so it pays to use your car sparingly and keep it in tip-top condition.

How much should I pay?

This immaculate 911S would set you back you £180,000-£200,000, although many are worth considerably less. It’s rare to find an old 911 that hasn’t been restored, so condition is more important than mileage. And service history is vital.

Classic Porsches are very colour-sensitive, with bold, bright hues commanding the highest prices. Perhaps that’s why this particular car was resprayed from its original beige to Blood Orange, the factory competition colour of the era.

Porsche 911SWhat should I look out for?

There isn’t much that Autofarm’s founder, Josh Sadler, doesn’t know about 911s. These are his five top tips for buying one:

  • Always take a qualified Porsche expert with you. They know the cars well and be able to assess all key aspects.
  • Heads for the paperwork first. Look for careful ownership, authenticity and whether it’s possible to contact previous owners. Get a certificate from Porsche to see what the original specification was. This is still key to values.
  • Rust, rust and rust. Older Porsches rust all over – even the roof. Check for poor repairs, plating and patching. Look around the windscreen pillars (especially on cars with a sunroof), plus the inner wings, bulkheads… literally everywhere. Putting it right costs a lot!
  • Look for accident damage. These were early performance cars and it wouldn’t be unusual. Autofarm started its business by selling parts from a crash-damaged 911.
  • Matching-number cars are worth more. Check the engine and body numbers match the car’s details.

Porsche 911SShould I buy one?

This, or a new 911 GT3 RS – plus a BMW M3 for your significant other? Put like that, a £200,000 911S seems expensive. But remember, while most modern cars will lose value faster than you can say ‘depreciation’, a classic 911 is an appreciating asset. Admittedly, Porsche prices can’t continue their rapid ascent indefinitely, but a rare and desirable car like this will always have value to collectors.

Anyway, we promised not to get carried-away with all that. And the 911S is so much more than a set of figures on a balance sheet. I loved every minute of driving it – climbing back into a modern car seemed desperately dull by comparison. Sadly, I’m firmly in the ‘dreamer’ category when it comes to cars of this calibre. But if my numbers came up…

Porsche 911 2.7 RSPub fact

If you think a 911S is pricey, try shopping for a Carrera 2.7 RS. Only 1,580 examples of this most desirable of 911s were made, and the best cars can top £1million. Amazingly, on my visit to Autofarm, I spotted no less than five.

The car seen here was sold by Autofarm in 2014. The company can also ‘backdate’ more recent 911s to make them look like a 2.7 RS – or another classic 911.


Ford Fiesta XR2

Ford Fiesta XR2: Retro Road Test

Ford Fiesta XR2Launched in 1984, the second-generation Fiesta XR2 is the plucky underdog of 1980s hot hatches. Forever associated with yoofs sporting baseball caps and Reebok Classics, it has never been esteemed by enthusiasts like many of its rivals.

However, with prices creeping upwards and bona fide classic status on the horizon, perhaps it’s time to revisit the much-maligned XR2? When an invite to a special ‘fast Fiestas’ event in Dagenham popped into the MR inbox, we jumped at the chance.

Fiesta XR2 rivalsWhat are its rivals?

The XR2 competed with sportier (SR and GTE) versions of the Vauxhall Nova, plus more celebrated hot hatches of the era, such as the Renault 5 GT Turbo, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI.

Money-no-object, we’d choose the Peugeot for its chic styling, superb steering and delicately-balanced handling (a little too delicate for some). But a 205 GTI will typically cost you more than twice as much as an equivalent XR2.

Ford Fiesta XR2What engine does it use?

The original – and much rarer – Fiesta XR2 of 1981 boasted a modest 85hp. For the Mk2 version seen here, Ford upped output to 97hp with the aid of a new 1.6-litre CVH engine from the Escort XR3.

In a car weighing just 839kg (a new Fiesta ST is 1,163kg), that meant 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.

The Fiesta also inherited the Escort’s five-speed gearbox, replacing the four-speeder in the first-generation car.

Ford Fiesta XR2What’s it like to drive?

With unassisted steering, no ABS and no electronic driver aids, the Fiesta offers a refreshingly back-to-basics driving experience.

Its rorty, carburettor-fed engine feels eager, while compact dimensions and great all-round visibility make it a joy to duck and dive through the streets of Dagenham.

Heading to open roads, the XR2’s limitations become more apparent. It thumps over bumps and leans like a listing ship in fast corners. And the brakes – front discs and rear drums, with a cross-linkage to the master cylinder that deadens pedal feel – don’t inspire confidence.

On a more superficial level, public reaction to the XR2 can’t fail to give you a buzz. Pensioners point, a lorry driver nods approvingly and two young lads even request a selfie. Everybody, it seems, loves a fast Ford.

Ford Fiesta XR2Reliability and running costs

The quality of the Fiesta’s interior trim would make even Dacia blush. There are no soft-touch plastics here. Despite its flimsiness, though, there’s little to actually go wrong. The CVH engine is pretty robust, and most problems can fixed with a spanner and a well-thumbed copy of the Haynes manual.

Fuel economy is quoted as 32.9mpg at a constant 56mph. That’s half what the current Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost achieves on the combined cycle, while producing a near-identical 100hp.

Ford Fiesta XR2Could I drive it every day?

Thousands did in the 1980s, so there’s no reason why not. But we’d keep our XR2 for high days and holidays. Its rough-and-ready charms might wear thin if used every day, and the threat of rust is ever-present – particularly if you drive the car in winter. Best not to think about crash safety either.

Ford Fiesta XR2How much should I pay?

XR2s have been vanishing from our roads (many as victims of the scrappage scheme) so – in common with other 1980s hot hatches – prices are rising rapidly. Expect to pay £2,500 for a scruffy-but-usable example, up to around £8,000 for restored cars in as-new condition.

Emerging classic kudos means the Fiesta should hold onto its value, though, and may appreciate over time. The Mk1 XR2 is a surefire investment opportunity – if you can find one.

Ford Fiesta XR2What should I look out for?

The Fiesta’s 1.6-litre engine is simple and tough. Even so, it needs regular oil and cambelt changes, so check the condition of the oil using the dipstick and look for blue smoke from the exhaust on start-up.

Corrosion is the biggest potential problem. Inspect the wheelarches and sills carefully, as dirt and moisture can become trapped between bodykit and metal. The front suspension turrets and bulkhead (at the base of the windscreen) are potential rust traps, too.

Cosmetic items, such as seat fabric or the rear spoiler, can be hard to find – and thus expensive. On that note, check the V5 registration document to ensure the car is a genuine XR2. Plenty of fakes were built by aspiring boy racers back in the day.

Ford Fiesta XR2Should I buy one?

Of all our Retro Road Tests so far, this one surprised us the most. We approached the XR2 with low expectations and it resolutely won us over.

Its engine is rough, performance is mediocre and it’s hardly the last word in dynamic finesse. But the XR2 is also a car that you can wring every last horsepower from. It connects you to the road in a way that few modern cars can.

So while would be difficult to overlook such faults in a daily-driver, in a classic car they simply become part of its character. Like a cheeky Eastender done good, the XR2 is a rough diamond. And we love it for that.

Ford Fiesta XR2iPub fact

Ford eventually replaced the XR2 in 1989 with the fuel-injected XR2i. However, it was dull to drive and roundly panned by the motoring press. In January 1990, CAR magazine ran a cover story with the unequivocal headline: ‘XR2i: another duff fast Ford’.

It would take until 2004, and the first-generation ST, before the Fiesta became a credible hot hatchback again.