Bargain Classic Convertibles

Open top cars enjoy a love/hate relationship with buyers. As new cars they're highly desirable. As used cars, considerably less so.  It's all about supply and demand - used car buyers tend to be more pragmatic and practical and this generally rules out drop tops. So they're cheap.

Here are our top five bargain classic and modern classic convertibles. 

1. MGF

In its new car heyday the MGF was showroom gold. Now, with thousands languishing on eBay and Autotrader it's hard to even give them away. Which is a shame, because a well-sorted F is a great car - cheap to run, economical, fun and fairly practical. There are more sheds for sale than quality cars but careful searching will put you in a good one for well under £1000.

2. Alfa Romeo 916 Spider

Pitched as an upmarket convertible when new, the 90s Alfa Spider traded a little too heavily on its badge rather than inherent talent. But it's still a pretty car, handles nearly and reliable, if you can forgive it's IKEA self-assembly approach to fixtures and fittings. There are plenty around but values are starting to rise - £1,500 bags you a peppy 2 litre. 

3. Saab 9-3 

It's arguably blander than a bowl of blancmange but that's why the 90s Saab 900/9-3 is so cheap. Beneath the questionable image (or lack of it) is a great car with plenty of power and the usual Saab comfort and safety shizzle. Expect to pay less than £1000 for a full four seater convertible. 

4. Mazda MX5

Drop top bargain hunters benefit from the Mazda's ubiquity. There are thousands about with prices starting under £1000. The first generation is arguably the nicest, with prices firming, but the later models offer useful improvements. All are cheap to run, very reliable and only a propensity to rot knocks back buyer enthusiasm. 

5. Peugeot 306 convertible

The last crisp Pinifarina-designed Peugeot before bulbosity took over. The drop top 306 is a very pretty job that fits into the French firm's tradition of under-stated style. Never common when new, most have now been run into the ground. But take time and you can still get one for peanuts - which will give you a great four seater convertible, and a future classic. 


Graham Eason
01527 893733

A plea to all classic car owners

For the second time in as many weeks my blood has come close to boiling. Grr.  There, I feel better.  A researcher from X Factor emailed us, clearly with a blanket email, asking for a Ford Mustang for Dermot O'Leary to drive on stage.

Now normally this kind of thing is quite exciting.  We've provided cars for lots of TV shows, the BRITS being a memorable highlight. But then I got to the part where they were 'happy to provide a credit and a tweet mentioning us.' Oh, I see, so you want the car for free.

Now, perhaps you're thinking 'yes, but you'll get to meet Dermot and Simon and all the other snazzy people.' And yes, we would. All of which will actually cost us in excess of £1,000 in car hire, insurance, fuel, subsistence and time.

But there's the credit and the tweet, Graham, seen by millions upon millions of people!

Yes, there is also that. A single tweet from X Factor is like a grain of sand, nobody will notice. Likewise an end credit - we are on the credits for several BBC programmes many times a year and I can count on the fingers of one hand how often people call up as a result of it.

There is also some kudos from hiring out the car driven by someone famous on TV. But, frankly, not much.  It doesn't get more customers, it just makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.  My business and the staff I employ live on more than warm and fuzzy.

And yet, even if that did mean something and would assist us, why should we do it for free? If X Factor likes what we do, tell people about it.  But pay me first - I am a small company, not a charity.

After the email from X Factor I tweeted about it and received several replies from people with similar stories involving high profile TV programmes. It's a regular issue - Made in Chelsea wanted us to do something similar a couple of weeks ago.

The reason it persists is because someone, somewhere will agree to do it. It may be a classic car owner or another hire company. So I make this plea to anyone in a position to assist these TV shows: JUST SAY NO. If you agree to help you are helping to perpetuate a system that takes advantage of small companies and classic car owners. It devalues what we do and the cars we own.  Free cars do nothing except feed the bottom line of the large, commercial entities that make these programmes. And that isn't right.

I want to see classic cars on TV, but I want TV programmes to value and pay for the service more. We provide a lot of cars for TV and film use and we're lucky enough to work with companies and crew that value classics.  They pay for the cars and our service - and, occasionally when things go wrong, we're able to resolve it because there is a contract in place. That is a much more sustainable and fair system.

Great Escape Cars provides action vehicles for many static and film projects, including 50+ cars for Antiques Road Trip and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.

Graham Eason
01527 893733