Why that old Citi Golf of yours might be a goldmine

Mark Smyth was recently introduced to a few modern classics and learnt why demand for these models is revving up

15 August 2019 - 09:18 By Mark Smyth
The Ford Capri celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Ford Capri celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. Picture: MARK SMYTH

There are classic cars, and then there is the recent excitement around what is known as the modern classic. It’s already given rise to numerous websites and magazines around the world and focuses mostly on cars from the 1980s and 1990s. It can even stretch beyond that, to cars that are possible future classics or even investments.

Generally it’s about cars that were popular in their heyday and then largely ignored before becoming popular again with collectors and enthusiasts. In the SA context, think the Gusheshe BMW 3 Series, the Opel Kadett Superboss and later 200ts or even the Volkswagen Citi Golf CTI.

Recently I had the chance to drive a few modern classics at the Millbrook vehicle testing facility in the UK, including a few very sought-after icons.

Driving the Capri makes you feel like a star in a 1980s cop show. Picture: MARK SMYTH
Driving the Capri makes you feel like a star in a 1980s cop show. Picture: MARK SMYTH

First up was a nameplate that is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019. The Ford Capri first went on sale in 1969, and while it is a rare sight in SA, there are a few around, not to mention the beast that is the Perana Capri.

The one we drove is a very special one, as it was the last Capri to come off the production line in Cologne, Germany. It’s a 280, more commonly known as the Brooklands Capri because you could only order one in Brooklands Green. Its 2.8l fuel-injected engine produced a reasonable 86kW and it had a maximum speed of 204km/h.

Driving it around the more genteel city test track, the Capri required constant corrections on the steering as it rocked around on its suspension. It sat really well, though, and while its power is nothing compared to the likes of the recently introduced Mustang Bullitt, it was smooth and effortless to drive. You sit really far back with that long bonnet ahead of you and always feel like the back end is going to come around, but it doesn’t. Famed for being the favourite car of medallion-wearing blokes, the Capri has now become very collectible in international markets and it certainly made me feel like a 1980s television cop-show star.

The Audi A2 was one of the first cars to be made from aluminium, giving it a weight less than 1,000kg. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Audi A2 was one of the first cars to be made from aluminium, giving it a weight less than 1,000kg. Picture: MARK SMYTH

The Audi A2 is a car I’ve always wanted to drive — and own. There’s no real rational reason for this, except that it’s so different. The A2 was unique when it was launched in 1999 with its odd styling and aluminium space frame that contributed to it weighing as little as 895kg. It was so light and economical that it was one of the first cars in the world to achieve an average consumption figure under 3l/100km.

Space inside is still good and it was available with petrol and diesel engines, the latter being the most economical. You could even have one with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. Jumping into one, the most obvious thing was that Audi ensured it had all the typical design features of bigger models at the time. We took it out on the road and it was a joy to drive, with a great ride, responsive turbodiesel engine and very quiet interior. Now I want one more than ever.

I’m saving the best for last, though, because along with the Volkswagen Golf GTi, there is one model that stands out as a modern classic more than any other: the Peugeot 205 GTi. A much less common sight in SA than its Volksie rival, the Pug was a huge hit with its great power-to-weight ratio and fantastic handling.

The Peugeot 205 GTi is regarded as one of the greatest hot hatches of all time. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Peugeot 205 GTi is regarded as one of the greatest hot hatches of all time. Picture: MARK SMYTH

But this was no ordinary 205 GTi. Apprentices at Group PSA had transplanted the engine from the larger 405 Mi16 into it as well as a short-shift manual gearbox. We took this one onto the famous Alpine test track at Millbrook, with its tight bends and blind rises. The Pug was superb, showing phenomenal grip as the lower gears delivered the 120kW available, 23kW more than the standard 1.9. It took only a few corners to understand why the 205 GTi is one of the greatest hot hatches of all time.

But what are these cars worth? Well, the ones we drove belong to heritage collections and have special provenance, so it would be difficult to put a price on them. Audi A2 prices are the exception and the day they go up in value is some way off, but there are some scary prices for pristine Capri and 205 GTi models.

In 2017 a low-mileage 1.6 GTi sold for £43,000 (R800,000) and in 2016 a Capri Brooklands with only 936 miles on the clock sold for £54,000. These are extreme examples and most are much cheaper, but demand for the modern classic is rising. Much of it can be put down to children of the 1980s and 1990s wanting to own the car they yearned for when they were kids, but it’s also partly because traditional classic cars can be unaffordable for many and require more attention to maintain.

Whether you have an Opel Superboss, a Toyota Supra or a Volkswagen Golf GTi, best you look after it because you never know when your beloved wheels are going to become a highly collectible modern classic.


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