Volvo, Renault and Subaru; we’ve discovered some unusual yet surprisingly affordable options in Thursday’s Modern Classics auction at Brightwells…

1996 Volvo 850R

Estimate: £6000-£7000

Those with an untrained eye might well ignore this bright red Volvo (above) in the listings, but fool be them! Granted, this boxy estate is a very practical proposition, and comes from a marque renowned for its exceptional attention to safety, but that doesn’t mean it’s dull and uninteresting.

The subtle cues of a more prominent front splitter, slim rear spoiler plus leather and Alcantara interior trim cunningly disguise the fact that this is a performance vehicle. Volvo’s 850R took its lead from the success of the T-5R, and under the bonnet you’ll find a 2.3-litre inline-five turbo developed with input from Porsche and capable of delivering a whopping 240bhp.

More affordable classics…

The result is anything but slow – as was demonstrated beautifully by the 850 estate’s high ranking in the 1990s British Touring Car Championship. This 1996 850R comes with automatic transmission and sunroof, having not long passed 109,000 miles on the odometer.

Given that there are now fewer than 80 UK-registered Volvo 850R estates, this particular listing offers a rare opportunity to purchase a highly practical yet speedy classic that will forever be associated with BTCC racing. Just don’t forget your stuffed Collie in the back!

1994 Subaru SVX

Estimate: £4500-£5500

Sub-£10k yet rare classics to go under hammer at Brightwells

For those who might find appeal in the combination of rarity, speed and a generous dose of design flair, this 1994 Subaru SVX is well worth considering. Designed to compete with the Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7 and Mitsubishi 3000GT, the beautifully engineered, all-wheel-drive coupé was expensive enough to make the eyes water when new. It was a bold package powered by a robust 3.3-litre 24-valve flat-six, and designed with the quirky feature of ‘windows within windows’ courtesy of Giugiaro.

Unfortunately, the compromise for ticking so many boxes on a petrolhead’s wishlist was punishing insurance premiums and unrelenting fuel bills. This resulted in the SVX not achieving the level of success hoped for the model, and it was generally loved only by an enthusiastic but somewhat niche clientele. Due to a lack of knowledge in modern consumers, as well as general concerns over potential running costs, the Subaru can now be bought as a classic for a relatively modest sum.

If you don’t mind paying a little extra at the pumps, this is a notably unconventional car that unashamedly showcases the innovation on display within the Japanese motoring industry a decade or two ago. This particular SVX has covered just over 74,200 miles, and comes with a full leather interior and sunroof, while 14 service stamps and recent maintenance ensure this stylish classic is ready to go.

2002 Renault Avantime

Estimate: £5000-£7000

Sub-£10k yet rare classics to go under hammer at Brightwells

Still looking convincingly futuristic but now verging on becoming a ‘design classic’, the Avantime had a bright but brief existence on the modern car market. Penned by legendary vehicle designer Philippe Guédon, the Renault was built on the Espace chassis and boasted a dynamic body, panoramic sunroof and very well appointed interior. Its purpose was to provide the load-carrying capacity of an estate combined with physical aesthetics that threw caution to the wind in a way only the French can truly appreciate.

It was bold and very differently styled – although for quite which niche no one can quite confirm. Both the handling and fuel economy attracted criticism, but perhaps that was asking too much for a vehicle of its dimensions?

Despite being an ideal purchase for those with an affinity for daring design, fewer than 10,000 units were sold new, and Avantime production ceased in 2003. This 51,500-mile, 3-litre V6 example with full Privilege specification has recently benefitted from a £900 service and is one of fewer than 450 cars sold in the UK.

View the full listings for the auction on Thursday 6 September, 2018 here