Market trends

Classic Convertibles That Won’t Break the Bank

by John Mayhead
17 March 2024 4 min read
Classic Convertibles That Won’t Break the Bank

The glories of driving season are nearly upon us. Now is the time to take full advantage by sliding into one of the following affordable drop-top classics which are likely to hold their value and deliver great fun over the summer.

Caterham Seven 170S

Caterham Seven
Hagerty Price Guide range: £10,000–£33,800
Average price change, last 3 years: +1.2%

Forget the Ariel Atom, the Caterham Seven (or specifically its Lotus ancestor) is the original pared-down road car. Added lightness, lots of power, and not much more provide a phenomenal analogue driving experience that is unlike much else out there. Values have been relatively static over the past few years, suggesting that these cars are unlikely to change much, and with prices starting at around £10,000, there are options for many enthusiasts.

Peugeot 205 CTi
Photo: Peugeot

Peugeot 205 CTi 1.9
Hagerty Price Guide range: £3100–£13,500
Average price change, last 3 years: +0.1%

The drop-top version of Peugeot’s classic 205 GTi matches its hot-hatch sibling in many ways, but values have lagged way behind. Average prices of the CTi have hardly changed over the last few years, with a Hagerty average now of £7675, which is nearly £8000 less than the GTi. The 1.9 has more grunt; buy a really good one and prices seem likely to increase.

Panther Kallista 6

Panther Kallista 2.8
Hagerty Price Guide range: £7100–£18,900
Average price change, last 3 years: -9.1%

Panther values in general have dropped a little over the past few years to a level which seems to offer great value for money. Their styling isn’t for everyone, but the combination of powerful engines, lightweight bodies, and extraordinary interiors make them unique, and ownership grants you access to a thriving and passionate club scene. Good fun, if a bit unorthodox!

Photo: Flickr/Wouter Bregman

Volkswagen Beetle 1303S Cabriolet
Hagerty Price Guide range: £4500–£40,500
Average price change, last 3 years: +27.1%

The VW Beetle 1303S Cabriolet has one of the biggest percentage price ranges of nearly any car in the Hagerty Price Guide. This means that the very best ones sell for a lot of money, but you can still pick up a ‘driver’ for an affordable price. It also means that any money you spend improving a car may well be reflected in the asking price when you come to sell on. Great fun, and the sound of the aircooled engine buzzing away behind you will make summer motoring all the more enjoyable.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Calreyn88

Toyota MR2 Mk I Targa
Hagerty Price Guide range: £4500–£12,000
Average price change, last 3 years: +27.5%

The first generation of the Toyota MR2 is a cracker and is now rightly considered to be a true modern classic. With performance that matched cars much bigger (and more expensive) than itself, the little targa always held its own. Prices have been rising, a lot – it’s shown the biggest average Hagerty Price Guide growth in our list over the past three years – but the car still seems cheap. Loads of fun for the money, and if you want more power, there’s always the supercharged version…

MGC Roadster
Hagerty Price Guide range: £9900–£31,900
Average price change, last 3 years: +1.2%

The MGC’s younger MGB brother may have hogged the limelight, but the larger engine of the C now has an attraction all its own. Rarer than the MGB, the car wasn’t a complete success with the motoring press at launch, with handling not up to their expectations, but time (and numerous tuning options) have been kind to the MGC, and it has now probably reached the potential it had hidden all along. Another slow riser in value, the MGC is likely to continue that trajectory.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/nakhon100

BMW 318Ci (E46) Cabriolet
Hagerty Price Guide range: £1000–£8,800
Average price change, last 3 years: +4.8%

The top Hagerty values for the 318Ci (E46) soft top have started to increase over the last few months. It’s a great looking car, with power and practicality in spades, and is a real emerging classic. Low-mileage, well-maintained examples are rare, which is why they demand a premium, but with great ones still well under £10,000, the 318Ci offers great value – and prices are likely to continue to go up.

Photo: Mecum Auctions

Alfa Romeo S3 Spider Graduate
Hagerty Price Guide range: £6400–£17,100
Average price change, last 3 years: +20.1%

Okay, so the S3 Alfa Spider may be the ugly duckling when you compare it to the other 105/115 series Spiders. Nobody really liked the big black bumper, the lack of right-hand-drive, or the shoddy build quality that plagued the S3, but it shares about 90 percent of its DNA with its glorious Duetto predecessor, and it’s still an Alfa Spider. So, ignore the clunky plastic switches and embrace the wonderful noise of the twin-cam engine and the superb handling, and get out there on the road.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cjp24

Triumph Vitesse 2-litre
Hagerty Price Guide range: £5100–£17,400
Average price change, last 3 years: +23.5%

The Triumph Vitesse and its Herald predecessor are almost perfect classics. They’re simple to maintain, with great access to the engine, and there are cheap, plentiful parts on offer. Even better, they are fun to drive, especially in top 2-litre spec. Average prices have risen by nearly a quarter over the last three years, but they are still affordable cars, and values are likely to remain stable or increase further.

The Vauxhall VX220 was based on the Lotus Elise chassis

Lotus Elise S1
Hagerty Price Guide range: £8700–£33,100
Average price change, last 3 years: -8.6%

The credentials of the Lotus Elise S1 as a modern classic are indisputable. At launch, the car was unlike anything else on the road and blew away everyone who test drove it (me included). Numerous special editions followed. In value terms, the car came of age after the Covid 19 lockdown, rising significantly in value in 2021 before dropping back down a little, hence the overall dip in average value according to Hagerty’s guide. That said, good ones are still in demand.

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  • Floyd says:

    Wish people would stop using word classic to describe old cars. Devalues the word, seems way of world nowadays. Epic used to mean running 4 minute mile, moon landing or Shackleton’s journey. Means a new pizza flavour or a fancy coffee now. Bonkers.

  • Roger Eastgate says:

    When I was about 7 or 8 I used to cycle down to the compound in Abingdon to watch all midget and mgb cars come out of the mg factory when I was about 18 I worked in an ironmongers and we heard a strange car drive to the back of the shop we both said lift the bonnet it was a mgbv8 they had got it in the engine compartment by using a sledgehammer to fit it in the driver was tom he used to buy bolts nuts and washers for cars they were developing I am 70 now those were the good days

  • Roger Eastgate says:

    Good days

  • Alan France says:

    I had an F registered MGB in which l courted my wife and brought my son home from hospital indeed good and happy days

  • Dean Linney says:

    I had a rubber bumper midget which was great fun to drive. Stupidly, I traded it in for an MGBGT. What a huge mistake, it looked great and sounded great but, it had wallowy suspension and handled like a pig on stilts. Awful car and extremely unreliable.

  • Frances Sewell says:

    Looked everywhere in this article for a Mercedes Benz R170 SLK 230 Kompressor. Prices currently on the floor for a very good car. Bought mine two years ago for £2500 and it goes like a rocket. Even the roof works perfectly. Sorry not to see a review here for a very noteworthy vehicle with the highest of engineering specifications.

  • Will says:

    Having had two of the listed cars (Lotus & Alfa) both fun in different ways, the car missing which I think is a sleeper is the Vauxhall VX220. These can still be picked up for peanuts and just lack the kudos because it’s a Vauxhall.

  • Peter Atkins says:

    Everybody seem to overlook the Mercedes SLK as an affordable convertible. I own a 320 had it for 22 years brilliant and also hard and not a soft top.

  • Jay Taylor says:

    Has everyone forgotten the Morris Minor convertible? Simple to work on (just as well, it’s true), lots of fun and four full seats.

  • John L says:

    Much agree. One of my gripes with Hagerty is that they generally sideline Mercedes.

  • Terry Brown says:

    I do have a Lancia Flavia but sadly not showing here

  • Robin Hunter says:

    Whay about the Mk1 Golf Cabrio, we’ve owned ours for over 22 years

  • Darren Bell says:

    MX-5, a missing contender?
    “The MX-5 was initially certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s “Best selling two-seater sports car” when production reached 531,890 units in May 2000. Guinness updated the record when production passed 700,000 and, later, 800,000 units“

  • Frances Sewell says:

    And ‘modern classic’ is a contradiction in terms!

  • Pete Thompson says:

    If you really don’t want to upset your bank account, look at a ’98 -’02 SAAB 9-3 2l turbo convertible; will see off most of the above!

  • Mr B.B.Payne says:

    I am surprised you did not include the Sunbeam Alpine in the list, build quality and ride is far superior to the MGC, especially the Tiger.

  • John Keith Young says:

    The most popular has been forgotten The humble Morris Minor coupe !

  • Ally says:

    Classic: judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. Not sure why there’s someone questioning if these cars devalue the word? Clearly amongst the best of their kind over time. And if preserved that defines them as classic. The other measure is if Hagerty insure them as such 🙂

  • Graeme Aldous says:

    My first car was a Herald Convertible (which bore the reg number that I’ve had on all my cars since), and which I traded for a Vitesse… still the swing-axle rear suspension which took a bit of getting used to with the extra power from the straight-six engine. When I heard that they were going out of production, I managed to buy to last-but-149th off the line, which with the revised rear suspension was a MUCH better car… and the Saffron colour was wonderful.
    We all have cars-we-wished-we’d kept… that Vitesse was definitely mine.

  • Jim Sheil says:

    Terry Brown,
    I am fortunate to own one of the forty or so UK RHD Lancia Flavia Vignale convertibles.
    It is a 1967 car in silver with original red vinyl interior and rubber mats.
    A truly lovely four seater convertible with its 1800 cc flat four boxer engine . I feel like I have dropped out of the fast paced modern world when I am driving it. Long may it last.

  • Jeffrey Izzo says:

    The SLK Mercedes is an awesome car but it’s hardly a classic. Also where’s the Triumph Spitfire? From this list I’ve had a VW Convertible and an MGC. Out of the 50+ cars I’ve owned probably 2 of the 5 or so I miss the most.

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