MARKET WATCH February 2018

Lotus Elise S1s on the turn

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When Lotus launched the Elise back in 1995 it was an instant classic – pure, distilled driving joy wrapped up in a cheekily attractive bodyshell and built with a then-radical construction technique for a road car.

Well now the market is starting to see the Series 1 as a classic, with values for the best up 20%. That means you'll pay £15k for a low-mileage, properly-maintained example. So they're still less than they cost new, and great value compared to almost anything. Entry level is £6k for something rough, with good and superb cars costing £8 and £11k respectively. Just beware that lots had hard lives as track day toys and snappy handling at the limit means you should look beneath any smart-looking glassfibre outer bodywork for signs of damage to the riveted and bonded aluminium structure.

Family classics values

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The most dynamic area of the classic car market used to be dominated by sports and performance cars, and most things exotic and rare, but demand is heating up for the sort of family saloons that we grew up with as kids then dismissed as teenagers and young motorists because they seemed too dull.

Nostalgia and affordability was the strongest driver of need, but the proliferation of glossy events to take them to and increasing scarcity of survivors is pushing values. Take the Austin A40 Devon for example, up 25% in the past 12 months to £7500 for the best – a significant narrowing of the gap to, say, an MGB MkIII chrome-bumper Roadster in equivalent condition. That old favourite is sitting at £12.5k, and that's after a recent 4% increase.

Latest market winners and losers

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The Price Guide Quarterly update in the latest issue of Classic Cars reveals 394 movers – mostly up, but a fair few down since the last installment. Of the climbers, 65 have grown in value by more than 4%, and those in the top ten gave seen gains of up to 90%.

TVR M-series cars of Seventies, ranging from the Ford Kent-engined 1600M to the hatchback Taimar and convertible 3000S are top of that pile. But even at £27.5k for a top condition 3000S, these are still an attractive buy. The more numerous coupés, regardless of engine size, top out at around £20k and can be found in good, usable condition for half that.

These cars are attractive and fun to drive, and, thanks to production engines and gearboxes from Ford or Triumph, are inexpensive to run, but they've always had niche status compared to more popular sports cars wearing Triumph and MG badges. The rebirth of TVR in 2017 with the new Gordon Murray-designed Griffith is now raising the marque's profile. It looks like a great time to get own an M-series car – just ask someone who used to have one, a 1980 Taimar to be precise.

Buy an Alfa Spider well

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Despite recent gains in value, the Alfa Spider 105 series is one of the few examples of a classic convertible being worth less than its coupé sisters. Splendid – it means that the round-tail Series 1 ranges from £5-50k depending on condition, with superb examples occupying £20-30k territory. The square-tailed S2 is cheaper still, with £8-12k buying something presentable and usable and £15-20k buying the best. Series 3s and 4s are even cheaper.

They're also easy to own – the sophisticated twin-cam engines and suspension (compared to an MGB) don't translate into poor reliability or expensive ownership costs – as long as you start off with a good one. The buying guide in the latest issue will help there.

We want this Chevrolet Corvette

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This 1964 Chevrolet Corvette is one of four cars for sale that we evaluate in the latest issue, and it looks hugely appealing for a fraction of the price of a Jaguar E-type roadster in equivalent condition. It's priced at a little under £60k to reflect the fact that it's lost its original fuel injection in favour of an easier-to-maintain four-choke carburettor. Otherwise this manual 5.3-litre V8 car is hard to fault.

Imagine firing this up one summer morning and aiming that sculpted nose at Prescott, Silverstone, Goodwood, Le Mans…