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Executive and Luxury Cars.Luxury cars have always had a good following within the hallowed ranks of preservationists, just look at the gleaming examples of Rover P4 and P5, Humber Hawk / Imperial / Super Snipe, Daimler, the odd Lanchester, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce and Bentley to name just a few that could easily be encountered at a show. But which of the more modern luxury cars should we be looking to preserve??
Let's take Jaguar for starters. The XJ Series 1/2/3 line is already firmly entrenched in the classic car world, and there are signs that its replacement - the XJ40 - is beginning to curry favour with enthusiasts who want something a little unusual that could still be used every day. I really don't understand why the two-door XJC (Coupe) hasn't taken off in value, so a good one of those might be a sound bet for future greatness. The later X300 is as much of a certainty to gain classic status in future as any other Jaguar/Daimler that has gone before, especially the last of the line (6.0 V12) XJ12, the final resting place for this magnificent powerplant. Prices of the aluminium-bodied X350 series are also dipping sharply, but I don't see them acquiring classic credentials for a good few years yet, not while there are so many X300s and X308s about. The re-incarnated S-Type is a bit "Marmite" for most people out there, with its "love it" or "loathe it" looks. A don't much rate the 3.0 V6, but the S-Type R (below) looks very purposeful and, like the XJR, is bound to become a classic IMHO.
What of the luxurious saloons produced by Mercedes-Benz? For me the company lost their way once the W126 S-Class was withdrawn, only recently re-discovering that big cars needn't look like a battleship on wheels. For me, the most preservation-worthy Mercedes of recent times are the SLs of the 1980s, the 190 2.5-16, powered by the Cosworth-reworked 2.5 litre engine, and the AMG variants. Middle-range Mercedes, such as the E and C Class, are fine cars in themselves, although IMHO are not especially memorable or remarkable, with the exception of the 5.0 litre 500E/E500. There are signs that all the W124 E-Class cars are gaining in popularity with people who admire their build quality and all-round abilities.
Luxury motors have often been subject to the attentions of tuning firms around the globe, and if you look hard enough there are wild versions of BMWs (eg Alpina, Sytner or Hartge), Mercedes (primarily AMG), and Jaguars (TWR, Chasseur, Lister and Avon).
If such vehicles are a tad vulgar in your view, then why not consider a gentlemanly carriage from the (former) Crewe works of Rolls-Royce? Early Shadow 1s and 2s are dipping into MGB money now, and although a bit heavy on fuel (you could convert it to LPG), can make for a surprisingly affordable classic experience, if you know where to source spare parts from. Available from as little as £3-4k, a very trim example can be found for around £7k and, with regular maintenance, should maintain its condition for ever more. If Rolls-Royces are a little too chintzy, then there is also the Bentley to consider. Manys the time I've perused the local Autotrader and lusted over a secondhand Mulsanne Turbo R for around the price of a four-year-old Ford Focus (zzz). Stonking performance from a 2+ ton motorcar is available here, the turbocharged 6.75 litre V8 being more than capable of seeing off buzzy little hot hatches, leaving them in its sizeable wake. Some consider the Mulsanne and the Arnage to be the last true Bentleys, as the Spirit & Seraph could be seen as the last proper Rolls-Royces, before the VW and BMW influences took hold.
Ford have usually fielded fully-loaded versions of their biggest barges, and it seems that the old square Granadas, especially the toy-laden Ghia i X, are already finding representatives on the show field, although whether the hideously ugly facelifted Granada Scorpios ever find such a welcome is open to debate. I don't think I've ever met anyone who likes their bug-eyed styling.
Vauxhall has been fairly lacklustre when it comes to offering proper luxury machines, their only attempts in this market in the 1980s and 1990s being various incarnations of the Senator, and the fastback Opel Monza, the latter sporting interiors of crushed velour for the full-on 1970s experience. The later Omega has some way to go before being a classic I suspect, although maybe a few (possibly ex-Police) Omegas are out there which may start to feature at shows (hopefully not too soon though).
In the 1980s and 1990s Rover was still in business. While in the past they had such greats as the P4 and the P5 on their books, designed to appeal to middle-managers and members of the board, the cars of later years - post-P6 - were arguably less appealing. The SD1 was a decent car in principle, let down by poor build quality, while the later 800 series maintained the brand's presence in the large-car market, but was on the whole a fairly charm-less creation and even in Vitesse form, has yet to really gain much of a classic following. The same can be said of contemporary Montegos and Maestros by and large, with just a few supporters eager to keep a small number of survivors in roadworthy condition. Rover sought to regain the glory days of the P5 with the 75, and in fairness it was a good car although the retro styling wasn't to all new-car-buyers' tastes. If I was planning on picking a future classic from the Rover Group stable, I'd plump for an MG-badged estate, the MG ZT-T, especially in 260 bhp form with its 4.6 litre V8 engine powering the rear wheels. Surely guaranteed of future classic status?!
Japanese-built cars have been a contender in the UK executive car market for five decades now, initially with glitzy gadget-laden monsters such as the Toyota Crown in the 1970s, through several forgettable barges introduced during the 1980s, culminating in the accomplished, reliable, but oh-so-bland Lexus in the 1990s, rivalled only for dullness by the Honda Legend or possibly the lesser-spotted Nissan Maxima, none of which is likely to set the hearts of car collectors a-flutter any time soon methinks. I wonder if anyone's preserving Nissan Bluebird Turbos out there? Hardly luxurious, but a perfect example of something that, at the time, was quite interesting to many yet is rarely encountered nowadays. Perhaps there are a few 1980s Nissan Cedrics out there too? Again not something I'd much like to own, but very much a car of its era and one I'd be interested to see at a show, occasionally.
American cars have always been a rare sight on the roads of the UK, the best leviathans from Cadillac and Lincoln rarely to be spotted on our tiny roads. Most US cars of the 1970s and 1980s seem to be designed with the sole intention of providing a boulevard ride in the straight-ahead position only, but launch one into a corner and Frank Bullitt-style tyre squeal is the order of the day, not something that your be-suited company exec necessarily wants when pulling up in front of the Hilton for a high-brow business conference. There is also the question of styling. It must be said that, to my British eyes at least, many American cars of the era I'm talking about possess very questionable looks, with chrome and whitewall tyres being the order of the day, and interiors that require dark glasses at all times, liberally fitted out as they are with acres of buttoned velour and slabs of 'wood' that wouldn't look out of place on a 1970s teak hi-fi unit. While cars of the 1970s undoubtably have presence and are an interesting curio, I don't see many 1980s and later American barges gaining much of a following in the UK for a while yet. If anything, I think US-built pickups are becoming more popular than cars of the same origin here.
|This is Part 4 of a 5 part article on what cars now may be worth preserving for the future     |
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