Semi-classics get their own sales


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Big value for small budgets : credit: © Alisdair Cusick
LRM market expert Tom goes looking for 'affordable classics'

For those of us who love old Land Rovers but haven’t got six-figure budgets, the new breed of ‘affordable classic’ auctions are a perfect place to find interesting metal.

My two favourites are the well-established classic sale at Anglia Car Auctions and the newer rival put on at Letchworth Car Auctions. Both seem to have been started mainly to give a more appropriate outlet for some of the more niche older cars which find their way to the ‘normal’ sales.

The latest ACA Classic had plenty of Series and Defenders with results which made me raise an eyebrow.

First up was a 1993 Defender 110 which looked like a £30,000 car in the pictures – especially as it had a cherished plate to hide the age – but the hammer fell at £12,000. Most buyers like originality, and this was a real bitsa. It looked pretty but you wonder what’s under the shiny paint and the random collection of new and old parts. That’s also a question which would be asked by US customs inspectors, which means it’s far less attractive to the booming American import market.

The 110’s sale price was narrowly beaten by a 90 from the same year which had a restoration bill in the paperwork showing the last owner had spent more than £9000 in 2020. Its two-seat ‘cab and canvas’ format might not be the most desirable for the ‘leisure’ user, but the galvanised chassis means it’d make a futureproof alternative to a Japanese pick-up for someone needing a workhorse.

A Series IIA which looked as though it had just been dragged out of a pond surprised everyone by actually running and driving, but the biggest shock was the price – it sold for just under £8000. Another £2800 would have bought you an identical restored version which went through the ‘ring’ a few lots later. I suspect the algae-covered car’s nice four number/two letter registration will have added to the price considerably.

It seems you can still get an honest Defender for £5,000...

The biggest surprise for me, though, was a 1986 110 SW, which sold for £4752 – the cheapest 110/Defender with an MoT that I’ve seen for a couple of years.

It was tatty and had been messed around with, but under the rattle-can paint job there was a chassis number that identified it as once being a County V8. Hopefully someone will strip it down and sell off the later alloys and 200Tdi to help fund a return to its original spec.

For £500 less you could have had a straight-looking 2003 Range Rover Vogue V8, which sold for £266 above its top estimate. Other than some paint on the rear bumper with the texture of a badly iced cake, it was well-looked after and there was a glovebox bursting with bills which verified the 80,000 miles.

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Looks like the Range Rover L322 is coming back in vogue

Unmolested versions of the L322 are starting to look collectable now, and this one would make an interesting semi-classic that won’t lose money if maintained properly. The only reason it didn’t cause a raise of my bidding paddle was the black-on-black colour scheme. I prefer my Range Rovers to have a bit of colour.

A Freelander built in the same year as the L322 caught my attention at the regular Letchworth auction: it was the cheapest Land Rover of any description I’ve seen in months. It had too many cylinders and not enough doors to be interesting for most buyers at this banger end of the market, but at £466 the three-door hardtop V6 ES looked hilariously good value.

It even had four months MoT, eight service book stamps spread out over its 114,000 miles, a tow bar and full leather. But there was no evidence of the £700 cambelt change which is needed according to the schedule and effectively writes it off unless you are happy to play with spanners yourself. It would be tempting to drive it until it drops and then claim at least half the purchase price back from the scrap man.

Three-door convertible. Could be fun? 

All of these early Freelanders are great value now that the sun is shining and everyone has forgotten about the snow. The three-doors have a removable hard top too, so can become a convertible in a few minutes – although you need to keep an eye on the forecast and have somewhere to store the roof.

I would have been tempted myself, but I have bad memories of the V6, having had one for a week in the middle of a fuel crisis. The 22mpg average and comparatively small petrol tank meant I had some squeaky warning light gamble moments, and the thirst outweighed the smooth engine. I’d gladly have swapped it for a clattery old L-Series diesel.

It got me thinking that a cheap Freelander 1.8 would be an excellent summer hack which would then be great in winter too, once the roof has been bolted back. Find one that’s been looked after in a bright colour and I reckon you could put it through a classic auction in a few years and not lose any money.