Some great classic cars seem destined to languish in the shadows, knocked back by prejudice or because they never hit their stride when new.
Here are the classic cars we think deserve more love.
1. Jensen Healey
On paper the Jensen Healey had it all – an illustrious name, a Lotus engine and exclusivity. The reality fell somewhat short. Despite decent dynamics and performance, the car looked ungainly. It was also cursed by Jensen’s enduring inability to nail cars together properly. Add in a criminally unreliable Lotus engine and you had a recipe for disaster. And it was – the Jensen-Healey is the real reason Jensen Motors failed. Today the Jensen-Healey is a cheap and arguably much better alternative to a MGB. But few take up the opportunity.
2. Triumph TR7
There was and is nothing very sexy about the TR7, despite British Leyland’s determined efforts, as shown here, to persuade us otherwise. Sure, it looked ok, but then on closer inspection there was something unsettling and wrong about virtually all of it – the proportions weren’t quite right, the interior was finished in brown tartan for some reason and it had an asthmatic 2 litre engine.
All this was a far cry from the carefree MGB and hairy-chested TR6. The TR7 also broke down a lot, which is not really sexy in anyone’s book. All of which endowed TR7 buyers not with legendary prowess but something of an image problem. One that sadly prevails to this day.
Building Scimitars alongside Reliant Rialtos and Robins always gave the four-wheeled cars a deep-rooted image problem. That wasn’t really helped by lukewarm branding that failed to determine whether this was a Reliant Scimitar GTE or a Scimitar Scimitar GTE. And that’s a shame because the GTE in all its guises and names was a lovely car and the later SS1 a fascinating precursor to the MX5.
Most people’s introduction to the GTE was via Princess Anne, who owned several and therefore probably stopped several people buying one. The car’s clunky interior design and questionable reliability didn’t help either.
The later SS1 was designed by Michelotti, but clearly on an off day. Glassfibre is not the greatest friend of panel gaps and the SS1 has a lot of them. But beyond the unhappy design is a dynamically impressive car and the rare Nissan Turbo versions are genuinely exhilarating. Sadly the Rialto’s doom-laden spectre hangs heavy over both cars, pushing them decisively off-grid for most classic car buyers.
4. Lancia Montecarlo
Yes, there is a low volume mid-engined Italian sports car that nobody really loves. Admittedly, of this list the Montecarlo is probably the most desirable, but it’s hardly a car that features on many enthusiasts’ wish lists.
That is all down to the car’s reception when it was launched. Despite looking amazing and being built by a legendary Italian car company, the original Montecarlo wasn’t much cop. Under-powered, slow, stodgy and not obviously targeted at anyone, it also had a tendency to lose its brakes. All of that was quickly addressed, but the image stuck. Montecarlos remain cheap – is there a more tantalising £10k coachbuilt Italian car out there? Thankfully, values are beginning to move for this great little car.
5. Renault Alpine GTA
Just like the Scimitar GTE, the Renault Alpine has a bit of an image problem. It might be a proper exotic, the equal of a Porsche 911, but it’s got a Renault badge. What may have been intended as a halo model for Clio owners turns out to be a big turn off for anyone in the market for a performance coupe.
The GTA’s success as a classic isn’t helped by its confusing branding – is it a Renault, an Alpine or a Renault Alpine?
Like the Montecarlo, values are slowly beginning to rise for this oft-overlooked car.
Sadly you can’t hire any of these cars on our fleet because demand doesn’t justify it. But we would like that to change – so show them some love if you can.