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The answer might seem obvious – but is it really that simple?

To be honest, I’m still on a high after my visit to the Parisian Rétromobile show which dished up with several of my old dream cars – and some newer ones too. Apparantly some readers thought it was all a bit too much (they’re wrong, of course) and hankered instead for more mundane automobiles. Which were there, in fact, hidden or simply outshined by some of the most brilliant gems of the automobile world.

A very representative pair displaying the possibilities of acquiring really interesting classics on a limited budget – here at Rétromobile in Paris.

Although: Why would the price be any significance, if it wasn’t because you wanted to buy? No, exactly. So today I’ll focus solely on the affordable classics for sale at these two shows. And in short: In this respect the huge Parisian show with all its international flair and prestige is the David to the otherwise much smaller and more provincial German show. Not least because the Bremen Classic Motorshow has more or less specialised in what the Germans might call “Alltagsklassiker” – or “Everyday-Classics”. Not that they use them everyday, necessarily, but it seems a fitting nomenclature for the great number of classic cars for sale and displayed within the parking house.

The span was even wider at Bremen Classic Motorshow – and at even lower prices too. It just goes to show what a hugely democratic hobby we are part of – there is something for everyone. Try discussing these three  over a glass of red…

There is certainly no glamour there – at all. It’s a concrete parking house as you will find at every expo- or indeed shopping centre: Bare, grey and – in February – very, very cold too. But if your’e looking for an affordable classic car, well, look no further: I managed to find the Prime Find of the Week there, exactly as I had promised the Danish editor. For this cause I chose a 3,500 Euro Peugeot 505 GTi, but I could in fact have pointed towards several other equally fine nominees.

Particularly intriguing was a restored Mitsubishi Pajero, and although it was well over the 10,000 Euro mark, you wouldn’t be able to build another for the same price, making it a candidate for the title as well. And German cars were here in abundance too, of course: A fine BMW, Mercedes-Benz or indeed a Porsche on a budget would be no problem to find. See a very, very small selection of the cars on offer in the gallery below – as I was in Bremen as an exhibitor I had much less time there than usual, and I only ventured out into the parking house to find the aforementioned Prime Find.

Which brings us to the subject of budget, because what exactly is “affordable” anyway? Well, at the Rétromobile they had dedicated a large corner of Hall 3 to the theme of affordable classics and had defined 25,000 Euro as the upper limit. Is that affordable? Well, you tell me… But I always find comfort in the thought, that if you put your money in a classic car, they are not actually spent in the same way as if you had put your money into beer, cigarettes or women. The money is still sitting there in the car.

Although that really is very hypothetical if you don’t actually have 25,000 Euro to spare. Or indeed 10, 8 or 6,000. I’d like to introduce my own definition of affordable classics: That’s the classic car you can actually buy at anytime without taking out a loan. Which also makes it very apparant that one man’s affordable is probably another man’s dream car. Anyway, as you might have already guessed, most of the cars at the Affordable Rétromobile corner approached the upper limit of 25,000 Euro. Which also raises the question of whether the running costs should be accounted for? For example, I’d argue that it would be unwise to buy something like a Porsche 928 for 25,000 Euro if that’s your full budget…

That said, there were some pretty interesting cars to be had well within that budget too: A reassuringly solid looking Alfa Romeo GTV6 2.5 was 18,000 Euro, and although the car was not a perfect show car (you must trust me here as I don’t actually have any photos of it) it still seemed very good value. A good Jaguar XJ40 is inherently brilliant value and the one in Paris was sold already as I got there, so apparently it qualified. Followers of market values will acknowledge that the XJC-variant has soared recently, but even sporting really nice GKN-alloys, it couldn’t really disguise the tape used to hide some defects below the rear window. I think it’s a particularly bad sign that even the tape used was apparently of quite poor quality. Another question arose as I wandered through the “affordable” section: Is it not possible for a sub-25,000 Euro car to be grossly overpriced? I’d say some where, and I certainly would not be prepared to tolerate bubbles of rust in a 25,000 Euro Fiat 130 Coupé, nor a very wrong colour for a Triumph GT6. Or am I just being hyper sensitive here? See a small selection of the cars below:

At the far end of the area, I came across the absolute highlight for me. Appropriately French, rare and refreshingly eye catching in white and sporting stripes in the French colours was a Citroën Visa Chrono offered for 18,000 Euro. The car was brilliantly presented inside and out, seemed original, and with only 400-or-so built was rare even as new and indeed a very rare beast today. But is 18,000 Euro “affordable”?

Well, let me put it this way: I did not take it home with me. But even though it’s serious money for a Visa it’s the one I’d say represented the best value for money – and a much easier and safer way to have fun for your car money than in a rusty XJC.

My alternative best find of the Rétromobile was easy to overlook as it was not in any of the areas for cars for sale, but instead to be found on a stand for spare parts. The Lada seemed very good, though.

But then again, that might just be me: Well outside the expo-centre in some Parisian side street I encountered a well-used Peugeot 304 Cabriolet parked up in the rainy night. Featuring the mandatory Parisian dents at both front corners as well as some tinworm scattered around the bodywork, it dawned upon me that budget is in fact not the important thing here anyway. As long as you can stretch to any classic, you’re good to go: It’s then more up to how you use it to determine your level of happiness thereafter. Now that was a soothing thought which went down well with a glass of red wine and a steak tartare.

Long story short: The food was better in Paris, but the affordable classics were best in Bremen.


5 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    I am frankly stunned that anyone would put a classic car of any sort which is held together by several strips of sticky tape on exhibition at a classic car show – even more so at a classic car show which is as glossy and upmarket as Rétromobile!! I sincerely hope they did NOT manage to find a buyer…

    The 505 GTi at Bremen looks tempting. The price seems very reasonable too. Just a shame that it’s an automatic. As such, the little chocolate brown Alfasud seems more appealing to me.

    The 2.5-litre Gamma Coupé at Rétromobile looks lovely too. I know they’re troublesome, but the design is just sooo stylish.

    Love the little Visa Chrono as well. In fact, we featured it’s predecessor – the Visa Trophee – as a Prime Find a bit more than a year ago. Granted, that car was ultra-low mileage and looked stunning. But still, if comparing those two, the Chrono at Rétromobile in fact seems decidedly good value at less than half the asking price!

  2. yrhmblhst

    I’ll take the GTV6; if you say its a good one, I shall trust your judgement. [as long as its not grey with a tan interior – that seems to be the most common colour combo over there from what i see for sale. Love me some GTV6, but cant quite go that combo…]

  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    Trust me, @yrhmblhst :-) – I am a used car salesman! The GTV6 was red with black interior, which I personally find too bland. There was a red with greenish velour fabric seats in Cologne around the same price point – I’d pay a 1000 Euro more for not having black, I think.

    @anders-bilidt, I clearly remember the Trophée which was almost 40,000 Euro. Granted, it was a much more special version – but I feel deep within myself that I’ll never pay that kind of money for a Visa :-).

    Totally agree on the Gamma – which was a manual as well, @anders-bilidt. And with fabric seats. I felt soft in my knees…

    The XJC was a disgrace, really. I should have bid on the wheels, though.

  4. yrhmblhst

    Red with black is perfect Mr Ebberfield ; gotta remember, Im a pretty bland person…


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