Choosing what make and model to buy


I'll keep this brief. Selling house in centre of Bristol (driving opportunities: nil) and buying house in Lancashire on the border with Yorkshire (driving opportunities: excellent). House in Bristol has been a nightmare to sell and the process has dragged on for years - builders, decorating, dealing with estate agents, remortgages etc. To console myself, I decide early on that once it's sold I'll buy another sports car. There's going to be some money left over, and it's always good to have something to look forward to.

In all the years of owning old cars, I've never owned a convertible. My loss, I think, so whilst the hair's still predominately on top of the head and not spilling out the ears I'd better find a soft-top.


The (total) budget is £5000, and the aim is to buy a fast soft-top. As the owner of a Scimitar SE4 Coupe, I want something a bit different in character.

An opinion is like a certain part of the anatomy - everyone's got one. Here are mine:

Alfa GTV Spider
 Alfa GTV Spider
  • Good looking car
  • Lovely engine
  • Nice interior
  • Front-wheel drive
  • Understeer
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Will depreciate rapidly
  • Not many for 5 grand, and they won't be the best
Alfa Spider
 Alfa Spider
  • Early ones look the part
  • Cracking engine
  • Will keep its value, if it's a good one
  • Rust
  • 80's body kits
  • Difficult to find a good one, and to keep it that way
Lotus Elan
 Lotus Elan
 (FWD Isuzu one)
  • Handling
  • Reliability
  • Modern mechanics
  • Front-wheel drive
  • Too wide for the lanes
  • Difficult to find for 5 grand
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Some have Alfa engines
  • Look the part
  • Cheap
  • Most have Marina engines
  • Little weather protection
  • All depends how well the kit was built
  • Not very practical
Mazda MX5
 Mazda MX5
  • Lots about, and prices are falling
  • Reliable
  • Sensible
  • Prices will keep on falling
  • No real character
  • Too sensible, too obvious and maybe even a bit boring
  • Lots for sale, often at less than the cost of restoration
  • 60's ones look the part
  • Cheap insurance
  • Lots of specialists
  • Rust everywhere
  • Not especially quick as standard
  • Don't really handle that well
  • A bit of an obvious choice
  • Modern mechanics
  • Unlikely to be rotten
  • Few around for 5 grand, and they won't be the best ones
  • Not known for their handling
  • No character
Toyota MR2
 Toyota MR2
 (Mk 1 T-Bar)
  • Fantastic to drive
  • Reliable if maintained properly
  • Cheap
  • Many are rusting now
  • Not a real convertible
Triumph TR6
 Triumph TR6
  • Fast and fun - a real driving machine
  • Character
  • Lots of specialists
  • Rust and knackered bodywork
  • Couldn't buy a good one for 5 grand
  • Too similar in character to SE4 Coupe
Triumph TR7
 Triumph TR7
  • Um ...
  • Er ...
  • Cheap?
  • Rust
  • Tractor engine
  • 70's BL interior
  • Dodgy V8 conversions
TVR 350i
 TVR 350i
  • V8
  • Brutal and fast
  • Fibreglass body
  • Beautiful (I like wedges)
  • Thirsty
  • Dodgy electrics
  • Expensive to fix V8 if it breaks
  • Difficult to find a good convertible for 5 grand

As you'll have worked out by now, I decided to go for a later Scimitar. As I saw it, prior to purchase, the car weighed in like this:

SS1 / SST / Sabre
  • Cheap
  • Handle well
  • No bodywork rust
  • 1.8 Nissan turbo engine should go well
  • As a Scimitar owner, I know the specialists and garages
  • Ugly or bland or very 80's styling
    (see next page)
  • Early SS1's - pre galvanised chassis - will rust
  • Trim and electrics likely to be a bit flaky
  • Horrible dashboard and switches

SST - Finding