Top five classics you can afford to love

With Valentine’s Day highlighting the sheer cost involved with running an ‘other half’, we look at five classic cars you can afford to love

Modern life presents a wide array of challenges. When you’re expected to work every hour of the waking day, certain aspects of existence can escape the forefront of your mind. It’s then you realise that you haven’t booked a table at the most expensive restaurant in town to keep your partner happy on the consumerists’ ‘day of love’, or that your anniversary began nine hours ago and you have failed to mention it to your spouse. Cue a mountain of anxiety, fighting, divorce and a year’s supply of Valium.

However, there is a resolution to the mother of all non-holidays. This Valentine’s Day, rehome a classic and show it some love. As something to bring you and your partner together, the world of classic car ownership is second to none. The comradeship, teamwork and travel required with a vehicle of historical origin can harden any already solid bond. It can also drive couples apart… but if your lover can’t develop a liberal attitude to engine components in the bath, it was probably never meant to be anyway.

It doesn’t take a shed-load of cash to get into the classic car scene, either. While the prices of an Aston Martin DB4 or Ferrari 250 would leave wealthy oil barons reaching for the smelling salts, you don’t need millions to source, buy and run a charismatic slice of yesteryear. Here’s our list of the top five classic cars you can buy for less than a weekend break for two.

5. Citroën 2CV

Charming, nimble and resilient, the Deux Chevaux – or Tin Snail, as it was fondly known – has to be approached in a completely different manner to any other vehicle. Tailored for extreme economy, the ingeniously designed Citroën is packed full of highly planned detail to ensure each journey is as comfortable, and affordable, as possible.

We admit that acceleration is non-existent; you’ll need the patience of a saint to gather any pace above 45mph. However, if you can cope with shoe shopping or watching football, chances are this feat will be child’s play.

Prices are largely consistent across the board, so budget roughly £3k for one that will recreate a loveable Parisian ambience within the cabin – rather than a cheap example that will bring all the joy of starving during the French Revolution.

4. Mazda MX-5

If the lure of drop-top motoring remains too much to ignore, head to the classifieds in search of Mazda’s first-generation MX-5. No MkI is worth big bucks, yet the amount of car you get for your money is largely unrivalled. You can find a running and dependable example for under £2000, and it’ll be capable of 120mph and 30mpg into the bargain.

The MX-5 may be a tad impractical, but for getting away from it all for a long weekend at the coast, nothing offers the same therapeutic tonic as a well heeled Mazda sports car. While it may not be perceived as the most desirable classic on the road, as a driver’s car it outclasses even the butchest Porsche or daintiest Ferrari. For all the thrills of a drop-top coupé with reliability and pop-up headlamps, you can’t go wrong.

3. Austin Metro/Rover 100

Don't laugh! Offering the most fun you can have with your clothes on – at least for less than £1k – the Austin Metro/Rover 100 series combines bundles of enjoyment with cheap running costs. Despite a serious desirability deficit, a well cared-for example will prove impressively robust and reliable. Cheaper to buy than its Mini predecessor, it boasts tight handling and instant feedback, making for a practical hatchback with the chuckability of a Frisbee.

With ridiculously low purchase prices, practicality in spades and an impressive 84mpg achievable with sensible driving, you’ll be reaping the rewards of Austin’s unloved people’s car for years to come. However, avoid the diesel like the plague if you want an endearing and fun atmosphere within. Go for a sporty MG variant if you want to feel 17 again.

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2. Jaguar XJ40

Want to go from 0-60mph faster than an angry partner’s temper? The fourth incarnation of Jaguar’s impressively smooth and graceful saloon will make for the ideal getaway car. Yet you must choose your XJ40 wisely, as while it may well showcase the best of Jaguar from the 1980s, it can also happily demonstrate why the company nearly went bankrupt in the first place.

While capable of highly desirable outright speed and handling agility, an XJ saloon can also explode in a cloud of oil and steam faster than you can say ‘Sorry, darling’. Purchase a complete wreck and it won’t be the Jag that spoils your relationship – rather, the drinking that comes with it. Bargain on 16mpg, if you’re lucky.

Still, with handsome looks and opulent comfort, for a raunchy night out in Soho’s nightclubs, casinos and bars little else in this price range can help you keep a low profile yet feel so special. It huge boot will also swallow all the gifts and flowers your significant other could possibly wish for.

1. MGB

The MGB is considered the archetypal classic – and for good reason. It is far from exclusive, with half a million spewing out of the factory gates when new, and as slow as a week in jail. The upshot is that it’s about as aspirational as a weekend spent stripping wallpaper.

However, such a view unfairly short-changes the dear ol’ B. The 1.8-litre B-series engine may submit a 0-60mph time you can register on a sundial, but the powerplant’s frugality means you’ll sail by the Mercedes driver who mocked you as they haul in for a fuel stop.

There is a rare V8 option, but expect single digits when calculating your fuel read-out, and forget about that wedding you were saving up for. Or even having the money to date in the first place.

As a romantic ideal, taking your MGB out on a sunny, crisp spring morning is the pin-up image for affordable classic ownership. You’ve got a superb view down the sloping bonnet, an exhaust note that trumps any heavenly choir and a sense of occasion that will leave you grinning inanely from ear to ear.

All you need to add is a wicker picnic basket, red and white chequered blanket, and scones and jam for the ultimate dreamy, tender day out as a pair. You could even take your partner, too.

Like the sound of this classic car romanticism?

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