Royal Investments: 10 UK cars to buy — Henry Catchpole presents the U.K. 2023 Hagerty Bull Market

Royal Investments: 10 UK cars to buy — Henry Catchpole presents the U.K. 2023 Hagerty Bull Market

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(tires screeching) (newspaper thudding) (stately piano music) (clock ticking) (clock chiming) (stately piano music continues) - Right, let's see what's in the news. "Sunshine in Wales. "Man stands in front of ..." Good grief, whatever next? "Fiesta out of production, but Popular still popular."

Oh, very droll. "100-for-seven." Sounds like a cricket score. "Diablo linked to cosmic girl." "Saab, Mercedes, Spitfire. "Buy now.

"Gaining value like a candle in a power cut." How very interesting. Welcome to the Hagerty UK Bull Market.

After studying markets and metrics, this is a collection of 10 cars that Hagerty's experts think are on the cusp of climbing the appreciation curve. To kick us off on our journey, it seems only right to start with a very British vehicle. (rousing instrumental music) This is the Bentley Turbo R.

And a lovely place it is to be, too. Really one of the cars that started to put Bentley back on the map under Vickers' ownership, between the sort of the mid 80s and the late 90s. This reinvigorated the brand. It injected a bit more performance back into Bentley, as it should be really, hence the R in Turbo R stands for "road holding." Along with increased damping, the anti-roll bars were stiffened by 100% at the front and 60% at the rear, compared to its predecessor, the Mulsanne Turbo.

However, the spring rates remained the same. It doesn't turn it into some sort of sports car. It's still, you know, a car where you have slow inputs. You suggest something, but rather than pondering it for some time, perhaps sucking on a pipe, it does answer you relatively quickly. A large part of the appeal with this is the interior. It is very much linked to the Rolls Royces of the time.

And you have all this obviously sumptuous leather and this beautiful wood veneer. I think we have some sort of walnut here, and then some sort of marquetry or inlay going on here as well. It's not simple stuff this. You have this command driving position, a bit like in an SUV, but in something much lower. It's slightly odd, because the wheel's down here and stuff, but it gives a certain, I dunno, air of importance to the driver, I think. If all this has got you itchy to spend your small inheritance from Aunt Agatha, then you are looking at an average price of about 15,400 pounds.

And at well over five meters long, two meters wide, and two and a half metric tons, it is, quite literally, a lot of car for the money. You see the idea behind the Bull Market is not necessarily to invest in something, to make money off these cars, no, it's more that you might get hold of something before they've flown the coop, so to speak, whilst they're still there, ready for the taking, at a price that you can actually afford, that car you have always dreamed of is still just within reach. And there really is something for every budget in the UK Bull Market. Behold, the Mk1 Ford Fiesta.

The reason for getting one of these is because, well, it's just so redolent of a bygone era. It is nostalgia on four wheels, because there were so many of these around that, you know, even if you didn't have one, you probably knew somebody that did, or you were just used to seeing them on the street. This is a relatively late model, from 1983, and it's a Popular Plus, which meant you had a few extra things in here, like the clock, quartz, of course.

It's also got a rear parcel shelf that looks a bit like one of those sort of things you'd find your TV dinner on that sort of separates it all out if you were in a canteen or something like that. You also got a rear wiper. No passenger door mirror, though. Why would you need one anyway, because actually visibility in here is fantastic.

86% visibility all around is what they trumpeted in the marketing material, and yeah, I have to say I've probably been in more claustrophobic greenhouses in my life. This is the first mass market Ford to adopt a transverse engine, front-wheel drive layout. And the engine is the Valencia four-cylinder, named as such because that's where it was built. While it's not quick, it does feel quite sort of nippy, somehow.

I rather like this four-speed gearbox. Also amuses me that we've got the gear shift layout. So it's not like your modern cars, obviously you get the gear shift indicator up here. Here you just have, well, the gear shift pattern, which is down here anyway, and why you need, I don't know why you need that. Look down, where am I going next, I don't...

Who knows? This is exactly what the Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional is all about. It's just brilliant. Of course, if this is perhaps a little too ordinary for you, a little too unexceptional, then how about something with a little more je ne sais quoi? Hmm, like that.

This is the Citroën BX, the cheapest car in this year's UK Bull Market. But the reason for owning one of these is not just because it's cheap and affordable. For a start, you get a design by Gandini, the chap that designed the Countach. They were actually Citroën adverts with him walking past the Countach to get into one of these. He also designed the Volvo Tundra, which was basically this, it was a concept car, but when Volvo obviously didn't go with that, he put it into this, which is quite cool isn't it? Bit like he did with the Diablo, when he originally did the design for that, then it got changed and softened a bit, so he put his original design into the Cizeta V16.

Anyway, a Gandini design, looks a bit like it could be made outta Lego, but, I think, fascinating. Then of course, you've got the mechanical interest. For a start, this is a really lightweight car. In their lightest form, the Citroën BX weighs just 870 kilos.

Even something like this only weighs just over a ton 'cause it has some plastic body panels and stuff. Sure, you can feel it when you open and close the door, but there's something quite cool about it's such a big car that's actually so lightweight. Then of course, you have the hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension, which is adjusted by this little lever down here.

And all in its higher setting, they say you can actually change a wheel without the use of a jack because of the way the self-leveling works. And of course, the suspension system's so good that they licensed it to Rolls Royce to use. So actually Bentley has a version of this suspension on it. The chap that used to own this car used to call it his French Rolls Royce.

Bit of a stretch maybe, but for the money, pretty cool isn't it? But also, who doesn't love an obscure rally car, particularly a Group B one? And this spawned one of the least successful, the BX 4TC. While valuations of Citron BXs aren't surging quite yet, the time seems right. At the moment, the average price is just 2,150 pounds, which is exactly half the current average value of the Mk1 Fiesta, which has seen an increase of 19% in the last couple of years, thanks to strong prices for performance versions, like the XR2i. Now, after our most affordable pair, how about a couple of pioneers, starting with something 100 years young. This is the Austin Seven, Britain's Model T Ford. Designed in defiance of some bean counters, Herbert Austin and young Stanley Edge put pencil to paper on the pool table at home for this.

The reason that this is a pioneer is because 100 years ago, when the Austin Seven first came out, it was the first car really to have a layout in terms of all the controls that we still recognize today. So throttle, brake-ish, we'll get to that in a bit, and then clutch, and obviously steering wheel here, and then the gearbox over here. The car, by the way, is actually in gear.

Looks like it's about the most vague neutral you could possibly have, but it's in gear. Now gears, cross and down towards me, that's first. Up and away from me then is second. And then it's down again into third. And then if I want to reverse, that's above first, over there.

There is more movement in some light switches than there is in the clutch. But, after a bit of initial trepidation, I found that the Seven really isn't that scary or intimidating. The drive is just so much fun, right? I'm gonna try a gear shift. Here we go. From second to third.

Patience is the key with this. It's all right, here we go. It's fine. It's just so invigorating and enjoyable and interactive, even with just 10 horsepower.

We've got a 747 CC engine up the front, under the bonnet. But there's so much to do, and actually, once you're up and running, it's sort of nippy enough. You think you could kind of, you wouldn't hold up too much traffic in this. All right, here we go, we've got a corner.

Now braking, if I press the pedal, that operates the back brakes. To do the front brakes, I have to pull a lever down here as well, because the brakes are not connected between axles, which is a bit weird. A touch vague through the corners, big wheels, skinny tires. There we are. That was a full on racing line in an Austin Seven.

And the Austin Seven does have racing pedigree, because a great number were turned into specials, like Colin Chapman's Mk1 Lotus. Of course, this particular road version has all mod cons, like a fuel gauge. Fuel gauge... No indicators though, so you'd better brush up on your arm signals. As a fabulously affordable way into pre-war ownership, the Seven is really gaining in popularity.

And the average price has risen from 10,125 pounds in 2021 to its current position of 14,125 pounds. Now, the second car in our pair of pioneers is the Saab 99 Turbo. The top price for one is currently 21,700 pounds. The average is actually less than that of the Seven, at around 12,000 pounds.

Don't expect that to last long, though. The designer of the 99, Sixten Sason, I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly, also actually he designed, well, Hasselblad's first camera, and an Electrolux vacuum cleaner. There you go, quite the CV. There are certain idiosyncrasies to it, like the fact that the steering wheel seems to be sort of pointing that way, and the pedals are very offset towards the center of the car. But overall, yeah, it feels just remarkably well built.

I love these dials. The colors in them are really bright and somehow very 70s. The clock, quartz obviously, again, the 70s.

But there's some nod to Saab's sort of aircraft heritage in that, because it looks a bit like an artificial horizon to me. But what sets this car apart is obviously the turbocharging. Now, there were turbocharged cars before this, notably the Oldsmobile Turbo Jetfire. What a name! But this is often seen really as the first sort of mass production turbocharged car, certainly within Europe. Saab, apparently, originally put a V8 Triumph Stag engine under the bonnet, but then stepped outside of the box and went down the turbo route. The idea being that obviously you could have the economy of a four-cylinder, but, when the turbo came in, the performance of a much larger engine.

It has 143 brake horsepower and 173 pounds-foot of torque. Obviously, that all arrives pretty high up in the rev range. It might not sound like a huge amount, but then this car, despite the sort of the quite hefty feel of it, only weighs 1,130 kilos. It really gets going, actually, when that turbo kicks in at about 3,500 RPM, suddenly gives the front wheels quite a lot to cope with. Talking of wheels, how cool are those Inca alloys? This is proper old-school, demonstrably turbocharged performance. This car has a rallying heritage, too.

Stig Blomqvist, who else, has taken one to victory in Rally of Sweden. Now, not every car in our group needs me to drive it for you to understand just why it's appealing. Starting with the Mark One, or 8N, Audi TT, which just looks better and better, doesn't it? It's not because it's particularly bad to drive, but honestly, who wants to drive something that's based on a Mk4 Golf, that PQ34 chassis? It's really this design that's so special, the Freeman Thomas J Mays' design. It is an undoubted classic of car design, a shape that looks as good today as it did at launch in 1998. The fabulous Smith and Schreyer interior has stood the test of time equally well. Prices for TTs are only rising slowly, but at around 10,000 pounds, they look to be past the bottom of their valuation curve.

I'm playing into my hands about the fact that you really sort of don't need to drive this to find it appealing. Why not seek out one of the purest of these designs, without the ducktail and the rear suspension alterations, the dangerous early ones. Anyway, moving onwards to this, the R129 Mercedes SL. A bit of a misnomer, because this is the second heaviest car here, here in second generation 'cause it's got two strakes down here, instead of three for the first iteration. There is a reason for all the weight, the R129 is a very tech-heavy car.

Who can forget the seats with integrated seat belts and the hydraulically held rollover hoop? There was a 20% rise in prices of these post-lockdown, taking the average to 17,500 pounds. A similar rise in the next two years seems likely. You don't need me to drive this for you to be able to see yourself in it cruising along by the seaside, that wonderful M119 V8 under the bonnet. It's just appealing, isn't it? If you want a little bit more of the appeal, a bit more history to it, well, Diana, Princess of Wales had one of these.

Only briefly, though, 'cause she got ticked off for driving a German car rather than her British Jaguar. Talking of British, how about this? It doesn't get more British, certainly in terms of names, than a Triumph Spitfire. Just look at it! I mean, it's rather spoiled by the fact that it was designed by an Italian, Michelotti, but nonetheless, you just want to get into it. It's just a sort of perhaps more stylish, more rakish appealing version of an MGB really, isn't it? The four-cylinder under the bonnet. The rear axle finds some interesting camber changes on high speed corners, make it a little interesting to drive.

But it's just fun, isn't it? You know it's going to be fun, even without getting behind the wheel. Might be unreliable, but fun. The Triumph Spitfire remains a strong favorite amongst baby boomers, but there is a big price range, with cheap cars still very cheap, but often costly to restore, while at the top end, a Concours Mk1 is now worth over 28,000 pounds. Right, those are the cars that I don't need to drive. Next is another British two-seater that I definitely do need to get behind the wheel off. The Series Two Lotus Elise.

For pure driving pleasure, it doesn't get much better than this, really. I sometimes feel like the Series Two Elise gets rather forgotten. Everyone loves the Series One, the purity of it. And yes, that was a bit lighter, but this is still 860 kilos once you add in all the extra crash protection that was required for this lovely little car to continue.

It still feels really lightweight. And that lightness obviously informs everything about it, from the acceleration, to the braking, to the cornering, all the responses. It's just fabulous.

What's more, the style of the Elise, inside and out, hasn't really changed in the last 20 years, so this still feels pretty up to date. This could have just rolled out of a Lotus showroom. And to be honest, if somebody, Lotus or otherwise, launched this car today, I think everybody would be salivating over it. Initially you could get this with a K-Series engine, like the Series One, but then the Toyota engines came in with this Series Two. So you get the VVT-i, which is Toyota's version of VTEK, just not quite as snappily named.

It does sound really good when it comes in, that induction noise. There we go. A standard S2 can still be had for under 20,000 pounds, with an SC coming in at around 30,000 pounds. But the UK looks to be following the US, where prices are already much higher. Out on a B-road or something, there's not much to beat an Elise.

Not much. Ooh, hello there. Yes, the last car in this year's Bull Market is the Lamborghini Diablo, here in gorgeous, rare SE30 guise. Just listen to that naturally aspirated 5.7 liter V12. A Bizzarrini V12. I mean, one of the absolute icons.

It still feels really strong today. Surely it's worth it for this engine alone. And then there's obviously the drama of the car. It looks amazing from the outside, but to sit in as well. This driving position is actually really good.

It puts you just in that lovely sort of properly bucketed position, leaning back. The steering wheel comes a long way out towards you. And then that fantastic, iconic Lamborghini letterbox view out. And actually you feel like you've got quite a lot of visibility, purely because you've got these windows that sort of drop down to the wing mirrors there. Ventilation is interesting in this SE30, 'cause it's via this little bit here. So it's just that bit of the window that comes down at the side.

Yes, some areas of the interior are less than beautiful, and are actually shown up by the Elise, but the important touchpoints have a real tactility. And the Diablo really is good to drive as well. I'd recommend getting one of the ones after around '93, where power steering was added to them. But they're not as terrifying, I think, as you might expect. There's feel from that front end, which is the main thing. Yes, you're always aware you've got all that weight behind you, and that sort of mid-engine balance that could be perhaps a little bit terrifying if it all starts moving around a lot.

But it's a car that does feel, actually, really drivable. You're not just hanging on and enjoying the engine in the straights. It's not a supercar to carelessly chuck around.

But the lovely thing is that it feels rewarding and engaging at almost any speed. Lamborghini Diablo, snap one up while you still can. Hagerty Price Guide values currently sit at around 137,000 pounds for a standard car, and 179,000 for an SV, which is almost unheard of for a 90s supercar. What's more, 45% of owners are Generation X, and they should be at the peak of their earning capacity.

In short, in the next 12 months, prices of Diablos are expected to rise as steeply as an opening scissor door. And that is the Hagerty UK Bull Market 2023. (upbeat music) (text thumping)

2022-12-17 08:04

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