Honda S2000 2.0 i-VTEC GT, £8995: As a classic in waiting, a Honda S2000 makes a great buy. Trouble is, there are lots of tatty examples out there.
Not so this 2006/06-reg GT with removable hard-top. It has done 91,000 miles – nothing for an engine with a carbonfibre-lined block and forged pistons – and has full Honda service history, supported by tons of invoices.
Being a 2006 car, it benefits from the so-called AP1 facelift of 2004. This brought stiffer body bracing, retuned springs and anti-roll bars, fractionally slower steering and larger wheels (from 16in to 17in). Meanwhile, the gearbox gained much stronger carbonfibre synchros in place of the softer brass ones.
The interior of this one looks a little shabby. (The driver’s seat leather appears to be badly creased.) We can’t comment on the carpet but it’s known to get a little damp in S2000s from water getting in via tired seals between the hood and windscreen.
If we were to take it further, we’d pop the bonnet and have a listen. If the engine is ticking from cold, we’ll be thinking sticky hydraulic pins, which can be cured by blipping the throttle or letting the engine warm up. If it’s rattling when hot, it’s likely to be the timing chain tensioner.
Regarding the transmission, it’s likely to have had a new clutch (the paperwork should confirm this) because they can let go at 50,000 miles. Given the full Honda history, the suspension bolts and fixings should be well greased. If not, they can seize, meaning the geometry can’t be set up properly, leading to abnormal tyre wear and woolly handling. Rust? The underside can suffer but we’d also check the rear wheel arches.
Alfa Romeo 4C, £36,980: Alfa may be reconsidering the 4C’s future in the wake of poor sales and type approval challenges but it’s a gorgeous thing with the ability to make you grin like a Cheshire cat. This one’s a 2016 one-owner car with 9000 miles and full Alfa service history.
Audi A2 1.4 TDI SE, £1004: Audi thought its A2 so reliable that it made opening the bonnet a challenge worthy of Mensa. (Online guides show you how.) Anyway, this 2005 model with full service history looks a peach. It has done 164,000 miles, though, so we’d give the turbo a health check.
Land Rover Defender 90 Bowler, £39,999: Autocar’s review of the Bowler Bulldog V8 SC whet our appetite for another of its creations. This one’s engine is the standard 2.2 diesel but otherwise it’s had the full Bowler works: race seats, gearshift, suspension, exhaust and brake kit.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 3.0 CDI Estate, £6000: We must stop looking at high-milers. This one’s 290k miles: should be nothing to an E-Class, except that a recent report by warranty firm MotorEasy claimed diesels are less reliable and dearer to fix than petrols. On second thoughts, you have it.
BMW 840Ci Auto: You had to be there, when the 8 Series came out in 1989. It looked like nothing else, certainly nothing else in BMW’s line-up. It came first with a 296bhp 5.0-litre V12 and was called the 850i. In 1993, the BMW Motorsport-developed 850CSi arrived with a 375bhp 5.6. Today, this version commands the highest prices.
Not so the 840Ci of the same year. It was powered by a 282bhp 4.0-litre V8. Cheaper and less thirsty, it should have flourished in the mid-1990s recession but tales of worn Nikasil liners dogged it. This tidy and well-maintained 1996 N-reg example made £6784.
Get it while you can
Jeep Cherokee 2.2 Multijet Longitude Plus 4×4 auto, price new – £35,750, price now – £25,451: Jeep UK can’t say exactly when the facelifted Cherokee will arrive this year but dealers are already knocking chunks off the prices of current new ones in anticipation – such as £10,299 off this one. Of course, the dated and uncompetitive Chezza needs this kind of helping hand and you can be sure that if a hand can bite, it will do so at resale time. Still, this big saving makes the Cherokee reasonably attractive, especially given Longitude Plus’s generous spec.
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: Find me a car that’s relaxing on the motorway and fun on the twisties for £10,000.
Jaguar XF 4.2 V8 Premium Luxury, £8500: If you want something that’ll ease the monotony of the motorway yet still entertain you on the twisties, you really need a Jag – especially an XF with a 4.2 V8. That way, you can blitz almost anything in the outside lane while cocooned in a sea of leather-lined luxury in the comfort of the XF’s fabulous interior. Then, when you slink off to tackle some B-roads, simply stick the gearbox into Sport mode and enjoy the bark of that eager V8 and revel in the fine rear-wheel-drive handling for which this Jaguar is famous. Max Adams
Volkswagen Golf GTI, £9995: Okay, so you want something that’ll cruise serenely down a motorway all day in comfort, something that’s easy on the pocket and pleasing to the eye, but then you also want something that’ll transform at the first sign of a corner into a humdinger of a sports car? Enter the iconic Golf GTI. Here’s a 2010 Mk6 model with a low mileage and in good nick. Big alloys. Five doors. DSG. There’s a reason it’s so highly regarded, as it’s the most complete all-rounder in the world. In fact, it’s probably the best car in the world. Probably. Mark Pearson
Verdict: A Mk6 GTI… Not so sure about that, but the XF reminds me that Jaguar knows exactly how to combine pace with grace in one desirable package.