Add some glamour to your motoring for BMW 3 Series money.
In the dim and distant past before Grand Touring became part of Drive Cult, I wrote a blog post listing my top ten favourite grand touring cars. Looking back, I'm not sure quite how I came to pick some of the cars on the list, but for some reason the analytics showed it was by far and away the most popular article, with more hits than all of the other articles put together! It probably won't surprise you which car came first, but if you're not sure it's in Drive Cult's garage. With the holiday season almost upon us (which is also the peak time for review articles and top tens) I thought it was high time to rewrite the Top Ten Grand Touring cars list.
The original parameters of the list defined a grand touring car as a front-engined two-door car with two or 2+2 seating (and American muscle cars aren't allowed). It also needs to be a coupe and not a convertible, mainly because I have a thinning hairline and don't look good wearing a hat!
I've left those parameters in place, and also added a couple of new ones. The first of these is a current value of no more than £45,000. Examples of all the cars listed can be found advertised for less than that amount or close enough over it that with a decent amount of negotiation, the car can be bought within the budget. The ads also have to indicate that the car is a viable driver (if not concours); for example, while you can buy an Aston DB5 for £45,000, it will come as a box of bits and need £150,000 and 1,000 hours to restore. So, why £45,000? This is a lot of money to spend on a car for most people, but it's about the the same amount as a new, reasonably-optioned BMW 335d coupe and I wanted to find cars that offer an interesting alternative to this predictable if excellent modern coupe.
The second new parameter is a little less quantifiable; I have decided that to qualify for this list, the cars need to make you feel glamourous. Cars in themselves cannot be glamourous, nor can they be cool. However, they are however props that can allude to a glamourous lifestyle - cars can and do make you feel cool. Driving some of the best Grand Touring cars can make you feel that your life is more interesting than it actually is, and it always feels good to arrive somewhere special in such a car. As a yardstick of cool for all the cars, I've asked myself this question: would this be a great car to arrive at the rather fancy Palace Hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland in?
Choosing the final ten cars was surprisingly hard, and some cars that I thought were obvious choices have recently appreciated out of reach for our £45,000 budget. The most surprising omission for me is the Porsche 928. I love the 928, but while it came second in my original top ten, this time it's just not quite glamourous enough to make it through. The Rolls Royce Corniche DHC fits the parameters, but remember: this is Drive Cult, where we like cars that are interesting to drive. I'm sure the big Rolls a great long-distance motor, but the cars in the list would make the journey more of an event. Finally, and perhaps most notably, there is no place for the Ferrari 456. It ticks all the boxes and is probably a better car than at least six or seven on the cars that made the cut, but there's another Italian in the list that's substantially better than the 456.
One last thing - before someone points this out this top ten actually features twelve cars, in cases where two separate models share similar architecture I have grouped them together.
10. Jensen Interceptor / Jensen FF
Although it wasn't intentional, there seems to be something of a British and Italian theme to this list, since every single car has at least some connection with one country or the other. The first car on the list takes elements of both; British built but styled by Touring of Milan, I present the Jensen Interceptor. Launched in 1966, the Interceptor was a rival to the Aston DB6 and later the Aston DBS. It featured a novel, almost shooting brake design, though convertible and (rare) notchback versions were later added to the range. Powered by various versions of the Chrysler Magnum V8, the Interceptor was produced until 1976 when Jensen went into administration. Since then, there have been a couple of attempts to revive Jensen with updated versions of the Interceptor, and now Jensen Cars is offering remanufactured original Interceptors with the Chrysler engine replaced by a modern GM LS unit - but sadly the price for these remakes falls substantially outside the £45,000 budget.
The Achilles heel of the Interceptor is the reputation it gained for horrendous thirst from the big V8, with miles per gallon often said to be in single figures! That, and the fact that the Jensen brand has disappeared from the public consciousness has always kept prices low. The £45,000 budget should buy the best Interceptor coupe around, but if you fancy something a bit different, you could look at the related but very different Jensen FF.
The FF looks like the Interceptor, but it has a longer wheelbase, slightly different front end styling and extra side vents. The reason for these changes was that the FF was the first production road car (as opposed to SUV) with four wheel drive and also the first road car with anti-lock brakes. The four wheel drive and ABS were provided by Ferguson and the FF actually stands for Ferguson Formula. With only 320 made, the FF is a rare beast and quite a desirable one, if only for the novelty value. The FF's four wheel drive would no doubt provide some assistance in reaching the Palace hotel in the winter too.
The Interceptor and FF have always had a certain glamour about them; the rakish name and styling helps, but while I do like them I'm not sure I like them enough for more than tenth place here.
Here is an example of the FF for sale for £39,950.
9. Lamborghini Jarama
I've stated before that I prefer the front -engined Lamborghinis to their more common and gauche mid-engined siblings. It seems that the classic car world has started to wake up to these early Lambos too, since prices of the 350/400 GT and my personal favourite, the Islero, have risen to far beyond the £45,000 limit. However, the Islero's replacement, the Jarama, is still available within budget. Officially, the name came from the region of Spain famous for its bullfighting, rather than the Spanish motor racing circuit.
Launched in 1976, the Jarama carried over the 350bhp 4.0 litre V12 from the Islero, which was later updated to 365bhp with the revised Jarama GTS. In a bid to meet US safety regulations the Jarama is somewhat heavier than the Islero, though its claimed performance is an impressive 162mph with the 0-60 sprint taking less than 7 seconds. It should be pointed out that performance claims from Italian manufacturers of the day could be a tad creative, however...
What holds the Jarama back value-wise when compared to its older brothers, is its styling. Marcello Gandini - the designer of the Countach and the Diablo, among others - was responsible, but it's not one of his finest works. It also shows something of a similarity to one of his other cars, the rival Iso Lele, and rather less flatteringly, the early Volkswagen Passat coupe.
Still, there are very few brand names which conjure up more excitement than Lamborghini, and the going rate for a Jarama seems to be just under the £45,000 limit. With only 328 made, you'll need to be prepared to travel if you want to find one.
Here is an example of the later and more desirable GTS version for sale in Germany for €49,900.
8. De Tomaso Longchamp / Maserati Kyalami
In the early Seventies, sportscar manufacturers were rushing to introduce mid-engined cars. However, one of the pioneers of the mid-engined revolution, De Tomaso, went the other way and launched the front-engined Longchamp in 1971. As per De Tomaso's standard practice, the Longchamp was powered by a Ford 351 Cleveland V8, and styling was by Tom Tjaarda working for the De Tomaso-owned Ghia. The shape bears more than a passing resemblance to the the Mercedes R107 SL (especially in the rare convertible form we have previously featured). In the face of the oil crises of the time, the Longchamp was not a sales success but did gain praise for its excellent chassis, which allowed De Tomaso to build a spin-off car in the form of the Maserati Kyalami.
De Tomaso had acquired Maserati from the bankrupt Citroën in 1975 with the help of the Italian Government, and the Kyalami was the first post-acquisition product. Pietro Frua was called in to provide a more Maserati look to the Longchamp, which remained in production. He achieved this by changing the front and rear ends. The Ford V8 was replaced with a Maserati 4.2 255bhp V8, which was later enlarged to 4.9 litres and 290bhp. The Kyalami gained its name from the F1 track in South Africa, the scene of one of Maserati's last F1 victories.
The Kyalami was no more of a sales success than the Longchamp and around 200 cars were made before production ceased in 1982 to make way for the new Biturbo range. The Longchamp remained on sale all the way through to 1989, though production may have stopped a few years before this, and a total of 409 were made. Later Longchamps feature flared wheel arches and revised front end styling.
Finding information about both cars is quite hard since the small sales resulted in very little independent testing of either car, but what little there is seems to praise the handling of both cars. Neither car is going to stand out in a car park of supercars but sometimes subtlety can be glamourous, and both cars could make a good sidekick for a continental tour and not look out of place at the smartest hotel. If I had bought one new, I would probably have chosen the Kyalami because of the Maserati branding and, to my eyes, better styling. However, today I would be more likely to look for an early Longchamp due to its relative mechanical simplicity. Either way, the best examples are unlikely to test the £45,000 limit, and as with the Lamborghini Jarama, low production numbers means you would need to look far and wide to find one.
7. Jaguar E-Type Series 2 Coupe
I suspect that you don't need me to go through the history of the E-Type, since it's one of the iconic cars ever made. No, what you're probably wondering is why I have only have it in seventh place? The answer lies in the budget criteria. The E-Type probably has the widest range of values for any single car type, with the ropiest but just about usable Series 3 coupe for around £12,000 up to the lightweight race E-Types which sell for millions. £45,000 will get you a perfectly good usable E-Type but I would imagine it is unlikely to buy you the car of your dreams. That budget will include all of the 2+2 coupes, but I find those hideously ugly. Instead, in this instance you're most likely looking at a good Series 2 two seater. The Series 2 E was starting to show signs of the middle-aged spread that really took hold with the Series 3 V12 cars. The covered headlights of the Series 1 were replaced by larger open items, the elegant tail lamps on the earlier cars became boxy generic items and the front grille was enlarged.
When it comes to driving, the Series 2 will have pretty much the same attributes as the earlier car, and if you prefer the later look I'm sure you will enjoy the car. The trouble is, if I owned one every time I saw a Series 1 I would get a pang of envy.
Finding a suitable example of the E-Type Series 2 coupe proved more difficult than I expected; this one fits the bill at €52,500 but would require a trip to Portugal!
6. Ferrari 365GT4 2+2
One or two readers may looking at the picture above and think that I've made a mistake and posted a picture up of a Ferrari 400. I haven't, I promise! The 365GT4 2+2 is the 400's immediate predecessor and was sold from 1973 through to 1976 when the 400 supplanted it. It shares the same styling as the later car, except it lacks the chin spoiler and has six rear tail lamps instead of the four fitted to the later car. The mechanicals were carried over almost unchanged from the earlier (and far more valuable) 365GTC/4, which means a 4.4 litre V12 with somewhere between 320 and 340bhp. The C4 also donated its dashboard and self-levelling rear suspension. Unlike the 400, the 365 was only ever offered with a manual gearbox. The engine and gearbox combination give it the edge over the later car in my opinion and I also prefer the slight differences in the styling.
Despite a recent rise in values, £45,000 is likely to buy you the very best of the 365s and 400s for that matter, which represents something of a bargain in classic V12 Ferrari terms, since you will likely pay twice as much for anything else with a carburettor-fed V12 and a prancing horse on the nose. Why the apathy? Well, again it's the styling that causes the problem. The 365, 400 and later 412 were in production for 17 years - far longer than any other Ferrari body style, and with comparatively little change over that period, which leads to some over-familiarity.
That shape has had a fair share of brickbats thrown at it over the years and in a very rough crowd-sourced questionaire we ran on the Drive Cult Twitter feed, it came second only to the Mondial as the ugliest Ferrari. Is it really ugly, though. or just not as desirable because the shape doesn't fit with the modern Ferrari idiom? I'm pretty sure if the badge on the front said Mercedes or BMW, it would be praised for being a remarkably elegant notchback coupe. I saw one recently on the M4 and it was the epitome of the Gentleman's express. They also look especially good in colours other than Ferrari's Rosso Corsa. The icing on the cake is that the 365 is one of the best-sounding street Ferraris; if you're not sure, follow this link to YouTube and listen to the sound of 12 carb-fed cylinders.
The downside to the low values of these cars is that many have not been properly maintained and they cost the same sort of money as a Daytona to restore properly, which results in a slightly below par sixth place for this Ferrari.
Drive Cult friend Mark Shannon is currently listing the 365 pictured above for £29,995.
5. Citroën SM
The only non-British or Italian car on this list, the SM does feature an Italian engine in the form of the Maserati V6 also found in the Merak. The SM seems to crop up so regularly on Drive Cult that we really ought to add one to our garage, but we'd better be quick since prices for the best ones are picking up, with excellent examples fetching between £20-£30,000.
We love the SM because it looks like no other car before or since, with Citroen's in house design chief Robert Opron responsible for the smoothed pebble style. The shape of the SM was backed up with a huge amount of technical innovation, with full-powered steering as well as the usual Citroën hydraulic suspension. European versions of the car even had headlamps that swivelled as the steering wheel turned to give a better view around corners. All of this innovation together with a Maserati V6 which has developed a reputation for fragility have combined to keep all but the most committed Citroën fans away from buying one.
That's a shame, since despite the downmarket manufacturer, the SM was one of the most glamourous cars of the Seventies and if I was lucky enough to own a French château, an SM would have to be in the garage.
SMs are somewhat easier to find for sale within the budget than some of the other cars on this list, as these search results on Car and Classic show.
4. Maserati Khamsin
The Citroën/Maserati collaboration also resulted in the SM's DIRAVI high-pressure power steering system finding its way into the Maserati Khamsin, along with hydraulic lifting of the pop-up headlamps and hydraulic driver seat adjustment. The Khamsin replaced the Ghibli in the Maserati range, and withindependent rear suspension it was a much more sophisticated car than its predecessor. Unlike the Ghibli, the Khamsin was a 2+2 and in effect the car also replaced the Maserati Indy, though both cars were sold side by side for a couple of years.
Styling was by Gandini at Bertone, and he was clearly on much better form than with the Lamborghini Jarama. The Khamsin follows the Seventies trend for wedge-shaped designs and is in my view a bit of a masterpiece. One interesting innovation was the clear glass panel at the rear of the car with the rear tail lights embedded into the glass, which was intended to alleviate the rear visibility issues that can blight these types of cars. The slippery shape matched to a dry-sumped 320bhp version of Maserati's 4.9 litre V8 blessed the Khamsin with a 170mph top speed. The Khamsin was a true rival to the Ferrari Daytona, but unfortunately it arrived just as the Daytona was about to be replaced by the mid-engined Boxer and just as the first oil crisis started. This, together with Maserati's ownership woes, meant a mere 430 cars left the factory by the time production finished in 1982. Sales were also not helped by the US versions having possibly the worst Federalized rear bumper of any car at the time.
Of all the cars on this list, this is the one with which I had the most difficulty including, entirely because I have struggled to find any viable cars within the £45,000 budget. Prices have been in the doldrums for many years because of buyers being put off by the Citroën hydraulics, but interest has picked up in the last few years with prices rising considerably for good examples. I have seen a couple on Anamera.com, one of which is listed in Switzerland for €39,900, though it is the less desirable automatic version.
It's this difficulty in finding a car within budget that relegates the Khamsin to fourth place. With wider availability it would have finished second, but if you're thinking of a car as an investment choice, this may be the best bet of all the cars in the list.
3. Bentley Continental R
All the cars I have featured so far come from the Sixties and Seventies - what I like to think of as the golden era of the GT car. GT cars went into decline during the Eighties as buyers preferred more flamboyant mid-engined supercars. However, the GT had something of a revival in the Nineties as buyers looked for cars that were both more practical and less ostentatious.
This revival coincided with another in the form of the return of distinct Bentley models rather than rebadged Rolls Royces. The first of these was the Continental R coupe launched in 1991. It was based on the Turbo R saloon, which meant the Continental R used a turbocharged version of the venerable 6.75 Litre Rolls/Bentley V8, rated at 325bhp in the original R. The styling was by British design duo John Hefferman and Ken Greenley, and was very much as you would expect from a big Bentley. Seating was on the commodious side for a coupe and it could just about be considered a full four seater.
Later developments included the more powerful S version with 385bhp and the T with a shorter wheelbase and even more power (420bhp). Sadly, I very much doubt a T can be found within the £45,000 budget, but no matter - the Continental R perfectly fits the mould of Nineties Cool Britannia. It is also very much what I feel a Bentley should be. If Ian Fleming were still writing James Bond books in the Nineties, it would have been one of these transported 007 to various encounters with villainous billionaires in exotic locations.
While it is possible to find early examples of its replacement, the Volkswagen-based Continental GT, within our budget, the Conti GT just doesn't have the same class, and you do run the risk that people might think you are John Terry. No, it has to be the Continental R.
Of all the cars in the list, this is almost certainly the most viable car to be used on a daily basis. The servicing and fuel costs may put you off, but the fuel costs at least could be mitigated by using some of the ample boot for an LPG conversion.
The Continental R is both cool and desirable, and there are plenty available within budget.
2. Aston Martin DBS
We're almost at the end of the list and this is the first entry for an Aston! The £45,000 budget provides a surprising choice when in comes to the film version of James Bond's favourite marque. Examples of the DB7 are plentiful in this range, as is the Virage and even early examples of the DB9. However, the Aston that really floats my boat is the DBS (later known as the AM V8), another car that most self-respecting car enthusiasts are familiar with. I suspect most people would prefer the more potent Vantage version of the V8, but for £45,000 you're almost certain not to find one within budget. I have seen some cars within budget being advertised as having been uprated to Vantage specifications, but I suspect buyers would need to check very carefully exactly what has been done to each car.
Instead, I'm going to concentrate on the early four headlamp DBS-badged cars, partly because I think the're the best looking cars of the series and partly for sentimental reasons since a six cylinder DBS Vantage was the first car that I ever rode in, coming home from the hospital when I was one week old!
Launched in 1967 with the six cylinder engine from the DB6, it initially lacked power, which was addressed by offering a Vantage version which switched the standard SU carburettors for Webers and increased power from 282 to 325bhp. Two years later the DBS V8 arrived, with the first version of the Tadek Marek's V8. Power was not officially released for this new V8, and while the new V8 wasn't quite in the league of the benchmark Ferrari Daytona, a 160mph top speed and a 0-60 of 5.9 seconds was far from shabby.
The DBS is very much part of late Sixties and early Seventies glamour scene, as shown by appearances as Bond's transport in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (where bizarrely Q branch forgot to fit a bullet proof windscreen?) and as Lord Brett Sinclair's transport in ITC series The Persuaders.
Running costs will always be high with these DBSs and they have gone up in value as the earlier DB Astons have climbed, but there are still a number of affordable examples within the classifieds. This one looked particularly appealing at £38,500.
1. Ferrari 550 Maranello
If I had the finance and available space to build a car collection like Jay Leno, I would be more than happy to have all the cars in this list. However, if I could only have one grand touring car for £45,000 then the choice is amazingly easy: it would have to be Ferrari's wonderful 550 Maranello. It's another car that needs no introduction to most car enthusiasts. With 483 bhp from a 5.5 litre V12, the 550 could top 199 mph rumours say maybe even more, since Ferrari didn't want to admit it was faster than the limited edition and more expensive F50. It also marked Ferrari returning the engine to the front for its top line Berlinetta.
It's amazing to me that a car that cost £143,000 when new can now be purchased for less than £40,000, let alone what is arguably one of the greatest Ferraris of all. While most are advertised for a little more, they can be found for less if you look hard enough and particularly if you are prepared to look onto the continent and put up with left hand drive. Contrary to expectations, the 550 is pretty bulletproof, mechanically speaking. Owners in Europe seem far less obsessed with keeping the mileage low on their Ferraris and it's not unusual to see examples that have 80,000+ miles on the odometer, which is huge mileage in Ferrari-speak. As for glamour, while the modern Ferrari reputation is somewhat tarnished by the numerous tacky branded trinkets, it's still the biggest and best brand name in the high-end car world, and a 550 is a fantastic vehicle in which to arrive at the Palace Hotel, Gstaad. It will probably deliver you in a far more fresh state than most of the other cars here, too!
Personally I would avoid buying one in the famous Ferrari red and instead I'd go for one of the darker metallic finishes (Grigio Titanico or Canna Di Fucile being personal favourites), and the perfect specification would include the rare Fiorano pack and almost unobtainable 18" split rims used on the 550 Barchetta.
Being a newer car, examples are found on the more modern motoring classified sites and this one on Pistonheads looks rather tasty, and right on budget at £44,995.
So, do you agree or disagree with any of the cars on the list? Let me know what you think - apologies that all comments have to be moderated, but we want to keep Drive Cult free of spam.
Maserati Kyalami production numbers are disputed, but I have used the figure quoted on Maserati's own website.
All values are based on cars advertised in November 2011, on carandclassic.co.uk, Anamera.com, Pistonheads.com and classicdriver.com.
All advert links are for example purposes only.
Information sources include Wikipedia.org, Maserati.com, Ferrarichat.com plus my extensive printed library
All other pictures by the author.