Economical classics – the art of having your cake and eating it too

Back in 1972 one gallon of petrol would set you back an average of thirty five pence, so its no wonder cars like the aston martin vantage were launched to much applause that year. But nowadays in the uk the cost of one gallon of fuel is five pound fifty and this is why theres so many xj’s on ebay selling for half a grand, the money is no longer in gas guzzling cars. But how can you get more miles for your buck in a classic? , where even a 1300 cortina with no performance to offer at all will struggle to better 25 miles to the infamous gallon. Here is a bunch of cars which are small on costs but high on fun, and with prices only going one way they could all be a shrewd investment.

Citroen 2cv (47-60mpg)


One of the most perfect and pure designs ever given to a car, its the most basic form of motoring imaginable. Basic motoring these days would equate to a dull heavy piece of tat, a car you dont want to drive as much as not be seen in. It will be a cold day in hell for instance before the daewoo matiz gains entry to the classic car club. But the 2cv despite being made for empoverished gallic farmers has both style and a great drive. People from all walks of life fall for the charm of the 2cv and its derivatives, the tin snail has only 602cc of aircooled twin in its most potent form to drag it along but never has anyone said the driving experience is boring. More fun can be had in a 2cv at 30mph than in a bmw m3 at 100, you just hop in keep the engine at full revs and roll about the corners until the doorhandles scrape the road. They will go places range rovers cant and make you more freinds than any other classic imaginable. If you watch for the rot theres not very much to go wrong in a 2cv, and despite driving everywhere on full tilt the engine should provide mpg comparable with a modern car of twice the cappacity but with a fraction of the fun. The 2cv was a long lived design that lasted from 1948 all the way to 1990 and if you want to grab any of them be quick as lately the prices are on the up and a good one starts at about 3 grand , if you want even more fun id suggest an imported mehari or better yet a lomax 3-wheeler.


Berkeley T60 (45-65)


The Berkeley has always been a bit of guilty pleasure for me , its not really a car but more of a go-kart or toy. Designed by genius engineer Lawrie Bond to be a pretty sportscar that would be competitive in small cappacity racing events. The car was to be built in biggleswade by a caravan company to keep the factory moving in the slower months. An innovative design that mechanically beat the mini to transverse front wheel drive and from some angles beat the e-type to a few design cues. The Berkeley came with engines from all manner of british motorcycle stables, but for the lower weight and rolling resistance important to fuel economy the Berkeley in question here is the three wheeled t-60 with the 2-stroke 328 excelsior engine. Like the 2cv the fun is raking all the noise out of the lawn mower engine, the car is sprung fully independently and were famous at the time for the near perfect handling. Annoyingly they were also famous for blowing up there temperamental engines so one area you may want to look into is cooling perhaps fitting electric fans (especially if you see yourself driving in town). This car could never be a daily driver but as something special for those few nice weekends we get in the uk I cant think of anything that would make the journey more of an adventure. Good berkeleys seem to be like gold dust with prices fluctuating all over the place, luckily the t60 was the most popular but be warned these cars have an amazing following in the states so grab one now before they’ve all emigrated.

Austin Metro 1000 hle (40-50mpg)


A British car to beat the world? , perhaps not but the metro shortcomings may well be what makes it a smart buy today. Once out the car was miles behind the 127, polo , 5 and cherry the famous ad sent back into the ships but there are worse cars to inherit from than the mini. The a-series in my opinion has one of the nicest exhaust notes in motoring, much nicer than fords cvh it went up against in the 80’s that sounds like a bunch of spanners. The hle may not be the most fun application of the engine with its ludicrously high gear ratio’s but once you finally get up to speed you shouldn’t ever need to drop down again no matter what the road throws at you thanks to the wheel in each corner layout. Rust again is the killer here , and the hydragas suspension is famous for making comically lopsided cars but get yourself a pump off ebay and then you can have a slammed street cruiser or bouncy mini suv for very little outlay. Plus it seems theres money in kitsch! so get a one thousand pound metro while you still can.

citroen ax 1.5d (50-61mpg)

ax 2

Arguably not a classic yet but a fun car none the less , the ax is often lost behind the endless list of interesting cars from the citroen stable. But this simple car is great fun and paved the way for the immensely popular boy racer halo saxo, but it was probably better made and more fun than its successor. The Ax was especially potent in gt and gti form but with any engine they can be a hoot. Ultra light weight construction takes little power to move meaning even a measly little non-turbo diesel engine can make this roller skate go as shown by the video below.

these cars are especially popular with hyper milers with some people on the forums claiming 100mpg with special alterations to the aerodynamics of the car. It may be tempting to go for the alloy 1.4 diesel over the 1.5 iron engine but they have a reputation for eating cylinder linings and headgaskets, the peugeot engine makes much more sense, plus with the slight power advantage allegedly it will hit 60 in 13 seconds which even now is not too shabby for a car of this sector.

Bond Bug (44 mpg)

bond bug

Designed to be a cool futuristic sports coupe to appeal to younger buyers and complement the reliant range, the Bug looked like nothing on the road or even on the planet but underneath they were very old fashoined. The engine design traces its roots to the Austin 7, the bug also came with a chassis that reliant had forgotten to stop making ten years prior (with its arse cut off) and the suspension was more at home on an ox-cart. But who cares when you have an orange bumpercar with a canopy from a jet fighter. The 700-750cc engines are low powered but like the ax there is nothing to push plus as the engine (up to 850 in later forms) powered reliants until 2001 parts are plentiful and extremely cheap. But as these cars are rare and collectible the cost of purchase is extremely high for what you get but classic pricing only makes sense to enthusiasts. If it was my money I would look out for a super rare webster converted 4 wheeler bug as then I wouldn’t  have to worry about toppling over (remember you need to lift the roof to get out of the car!) but who knows, maybe the three wheeler bug can be caught.



One thought on “Economical classics – the art of having your cake and eating it too

  1. Interesting and challenging article. The Berkeley has always been the prime example of small in better and lightweight three wheelers are undoubtedly fun and very practice cars. The two wheels at the front layout is quite simply the best IMO. I have been driving cars of all types for more than 50 years and the Berkeley remains my firm favourite.

    When I rationalise my kit car collection into less than the current 15, I will buy another T60 and rebuild the car with a Suzuki 1300 bike engine or similar. I can imagine how that will fly and handle if I change all the underpinnings for modern components at the same time. Got to be done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s