The undercover Audi Quattro

If the secret of being cool is keeping quiet about how great you are, then the Audi S3 Quattro has it nailed.

 Gen-2 S3 still cuts a dash, especially in this colour

Gen-2 S3 still cuts a dash, especially in this colour

To the untrained eye, the S3 can easily be mistaken for a tidy and soberly restrained three-door hatchback. Especially if it comes in one of Audi’s ’business hues’ of grey, black or blue, when it is barely noticeable. 

But hidden beneath the disguise – in the more desirable 221bhp 2001-03 gen-2 models at least – is the chassis and four-wheel drive running gear of the top-end Audi TT 225. The 1999-2001 S3s had to make do with 11bhp less, which meant that unlike the later cars they couldn’t quite crack 150mph, and are 0.2sec slower to 60mph. 

What’s really telling is in the relative values of the TT and the S3. The S3 started life two grand cheaper than the TT 225. Go shopping now and you can easily find good one-owner TTs in the £4000-£4500 range. Probably helped by being rarer, and often held onto long-term by their owners, an S3 Quattro with similar age, mileage and history will cost you around £5500 – exactly what we saw a one-owner 75,000 mile car make at auction recently. So now you know.

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Want front-drive French fun but don’t want to pay 205 GTI premiums? Step right this way


My first foray into the land of hot hatches was not a casual one. I was forever changing cars but, every winter, I’d always buy something with four driven wheels. Jeeps were the usual fare but, one year, circumstances led me to buy a Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8v. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’d always liked the early flat-bonnet 8vs, partly because they were less costly than 16vs and Evos yet offered a similar experience. At any rate, using the weather – or budget, time of day or a momentary passing interest on eBay – to justify trying something new seemed reasonable. Continually buying, fettling and driving myriad classics offered a refreshing change from the experiences offered by the new cars I tested daily, among other things. The comparatively weak values of 8v Integrales, at the time, led me to look for other similarly unloved derivatives. Cars that had much to offer but, often living in the shadows of more fabled iterations, were frequently overlooked – and far more accessible. Four years after the retirement of the fabled 205 GTI in 1994, for example, Renault unveiled the Clio II. While a perfectly serviceable and popular hatch, it was hardly one to light a fire under any passing enthusiast. Things got far more interesting in January 2000, however, with the UK launch of the Clio Renaultsport 172.

Besides bearing the performance oriented sub-brand’s badge, it quickly established itself as a highly regarded hot hatch. It weighed in at a mere 1035kg, packed a stout 170bhp 2.0-litre naturally aspirated 16v engine, a revised chassis, OZ F1 wheels and flared arches. These early ‘Phase 1’ variants, built until June 2001, were remarkably analogue machines – with cableactuated throttles and no stability or traction control, unlike later models. Even today the 172’s performance figures stack up well, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.2sec and a top speed of 138mph. Driven sensibly, it would even reputedly knock on the door of 36mpg.

Yet, despite this, a good example won’t break the bank – with presentable 172 PH1s currently selling for around £2500, while even immaculate low-mileage dealer examples command less than £5000. This is in part no doubt due to 1980s hot hatches continuing to dominate the limelight while most collectors focus on the flagship Renault Sport Clio V6. What’s also striking is that only 1357 of the 172 PH1s were sold in the UK, making them one of the less common models in the Renault Sport line-up; track action and unintentional hedge remodelling have no doubt reduced that number further since. To put things into perspective, there are currently some 6500 Peugeot 205 GTIs on the DVLA’s radar – and we all know what the prices of those are doing these days.

Up, up and away – eventually

PH1 prices won’t remain low; one dealer is asking £8990 for a limited-edition 172 PH1 ‘Exclusive’. Overly optimistic, but it echoes the early appreciation of collectable 205 GTIs and XR2s. The new Megane RS has just been unveiled, too, further drawing attention to Renault’s back catalogue. Get a history check and look for cam and auxiliary belt changes – and don’t discount costlier later iterations, including the rare 182 Trophy.

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Mercedes-benz 636-amg

Monster V8 Merc with a sub-five second 0-60mp time and room for the kids 


Depreciation really is opening the doors to some astonishing cars right now. This good-as-new C63 AMG wagon, for example. This classy hot-rod for the whole family would have set its first owner back a mammoth £55,000 including the optional performance pack (£3210). Now, ten years later, it’ll cost less than half (£25,950). That’s a serious saving on what’s still one of the fastest estate cars on the road. This C63 wagon drew my eye at Wallis & Son, Cambridge. 



Its gills, scoops and muscular wheelarch extensions leave you in little doubt as to the nature of this über-Benz. This example hasn’t been used to carry dogs to the local woods either. It's one pampered wagon. There’s really nothing to the exterior that gives away its decade of use. As it sits a little lower to the tarmac than a standard W204 C-Class, getting in requires a small stoop. There’s also some huge bolsters to the seats that need negotiating. If we’re being super picky, there are some mild signs of wear to the very edge of those bolsters. This only consists of a little colour lifting, which could easily be put right before it gets any worse.

Firing the huge 6.2-litre V8 engine (not 6.3-litre as the wing badge claims) feels like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and giving it a cuddle. There’s the same sense of a latent explosion about to go off. Excitement builds with every blip of the throttle. The quad tailpipes singing a hooligan hymn. Gingerly taking off down some greasy winter roads I’m well aware of the enormous reserves of torque nestled under that bulging bonnet. The C63 turns out to be a pussy cat though. Yes, that engine is an absolute beast, slipping the rear tyres in first, second and third gears, but it never really feels like it wants to deposit you in the verge. The traction control is pretty merciful and allows a certain amount of slide before stopping things getting silly. The upgraded brakes are excellent, hurling you forward on the belts when you bury the pedal, but if you want more control they’re easily managed. Comfort levels are of the highest level and cabin noise remains low at all times, unless that engine climbs into higher revs. We’re very impressed with this example, it’s as close to a new W204 as you’re likely to find. There’s nothing to fault from our drive and the history and mileage make this an ideal future investment.

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Is it time for the Sapphire Cosworth to shine?

You can’t have missed the enormous prices Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworths seem to trade for these days – a couple have breached the £100k mark at auction over the past year. That’s filtered down to standard 3-door Sierra Cosworths and the Escort RS Cosworth – you’re looking at big league prices for those, with values ranging from £30k to anything up to £80k for low-mileage minters.


But there is a breed of Ford Cosworth you can buy for a lot less. In fact, an absolutely mint example is attainable for the price of an entry-level 3-door Sierra or Escort Cosworth. It is, of course, the Sapphire Cosworth.

Some argue that the the two-wheel-drive Sapphire Cosworth is the best handling rear-wheel-drive car. If you fancy all four wheels driven, then essentially you’ve got a half price Escort RS Cosworth – there’s more Sapphire under the whaletailed hero’s body than Escort MkV.


Prices haven’t really reflected that, however. Many more Sapphire Cosworths were made than Escorts and Sierras, so they’ve always been the cheap way in. But time, car thefts, rust and general neglect has worn away at numbers – when was the last time you saw a Sapphire Cosworth out in the wild?


So this 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Coworth, up for grabs with Classic Car Auctions at the Practical Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show at the NEC in Birmingham in March, provides some food for thought. It’s estimated at £25k-£30k, putting it at the upper limit of where we’ve seen Sapphire Cosworths trade for, but it deserves it. Rated four stars across the board by CCA, it comes with its original bill of sale and a mammoth history. It’s also done just 36,000 miles in the hands of its two owners.

The Sapphire Cosworth may lack the visual drama of its illustrious three-door Escort and Sierra siblings, but any seasoned petrolhead will clock the subtle styling and accord the Sapphire Cosworth respect. In a way, it’s perhaps the car that added to the Cosworth legend the most – it was the Cossie you were most likely to see. Even the police got in on the act, and bought a few.


The Sapphire Cosworth – whether you’re a Blue Oval fan or not – is a key element of car culture from the 80s and 90s and we believe this is what will bring a rapid growth in values before very long. Though £30k for a Sapphire might seem strong, we believe this could well be one your last opportunities to get into a mint low-miler for vaguely sensible money. Comparable 3-door Sierras and Escorts can be anything up to twice the price. You can see where they’re going…

The sale takes place on March 24. How much do you think it will go for?

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Engaging E30 M3 heads to auction

The E30 M3 is a legend in its own wheeltracks – whether you’re an ardent fan of its highly successful touring car exploits or simply adore its rev-hungry zest in the road cars, the E30 M3 is right up there at the top of any BMW fan’s wishlist.

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Prices have, of course, increased in line with this desire. So that makes this E30 M3, up for grabs with Silverstone Auctions at its Race Retro sale later this month, all the more interesting.

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This particular M3 may have done 169,000km but it has plenty of receipts that point to good care. And, rather than being a garage queen and left to degrade beneath untouched cloth, it’s been used, loved and improved. It was upgraded to Evo 2 specification in 1988, which means it pushes out 220bhp. It also gained other Evolution 2 upgrades – front spoiler, brake ducts, cooling vent, 16-inch wheels and an M-Technic steering wheel. It’s further been improved with Koni dampers, Powerflex bushes and fresh brake discs and pads.

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However, is the marketing heading towards absolutely standard cars? Time will tell – with an estimate of £35k to £40k it’s good value compared to such Group A homologation cars like the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth and Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo 2. Interested? Head to Race Retro on February 24 and prepare to give your bidding arm a workout. Let us know how much you think it will go for via Facebook and twitter.

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Shamal breezes into Paris auction

The Maserati Shamal is a seriously rare car – just 369 were made. Despite this, for years they languished in the sub £50k doldrums, with both its styling and badge deemed unfashionable.

That’s all changed now – from the Alfa Romeo SZ to the BMW 3 Series and everything in between, the brutalist, chunky styling from the 1980s and early 1990s is in right now. Modern cars are all anonymous blobby shapes with fussy detailing – the stark lines of the cars from this era hold significant appeal to a new generation of classic buyers.


Few cars are quite as brutal as the Maserati Shamal, however. Its designer, Marcello Gandini, had form for brutal shapes – he designed the Lamborghini Countach – and his influence is everywhere, from the cheeky rear arch design to the spoiler on the top of the bonnet.


It’s not style without substance, though – far from it. The 3.2-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 gives you 326bhp to play with, marshalled through a six-speed Getrag gearbox and fed to the rear wheels. It’s got electronically adjustable Koni suspension too. It very much has the bite to match the visual bark.

This particular example is up for grabs with Bonhams at its Les Grandes Marques Du Monde Au Grand Palais sale at Retromobile in Paris, on February 8. It’s covered just 6200km and has just been serviced. It has an estimate of 50,000 to 75,000 euros, or £44k to £66k. Given that the best examples are around £75,000 even in LHD, this could be quite the bargain.

Given the price of other supercars of the era, even if it goes for the upper estimate it’s still a bargain compared to similarly special Astons. Could this year be the year the Shamal goes into the auction hall stratosphere? Let us know!


Stunning 964 Turbo heads to auction

For many years the 964 was seen as the ugly sister in the 911 range. That helped to suppress values, but as with almost everything else in the Porsche market, things have changed.


That helps explain the 250,000 to 300,000 Euros estimated for this 1994 964 Turbo 3.6. But hold your horses – don’t go thinking that it’s just market hype. The 964 Turbo is truly special.


That’s because it’s the last rear-wheel drive 911 Turbo (GT2 models aside) – the 993 follow-up was four-wheel drive. That means it’s possibly the last scary mainstream 911 Turbo.

It’s also fairly rare – built during a time of great uncertainty at Porsche, and launched straight into a Europe-wide recession and newly green-conscious society, buyers weren’t exactly beating a path to dealers’ doors. There are far fewer 964 Turbos than 993s, which has helped keep values firm.

The car before you is more special than most. It’s got the later 3.6-litre engine (sourced from the Carrera 4), which in standard form delivered a mighty 360bhp. It looked the part, with larger 18in wheels, lower suspension, front anti-roll bar. It’s a proper brute, isn’t it?

This particular car, up for grabs with RM Sotheby’s at its Retromobile sale in paris on February 7, is even more special. It’s got the X88 factory power kit, which mean modified cylinder heads, bigger cams and a larger turbocharger. That all added up to a meaty 385bhp. Just 51 of these cars are thought to exist


This one’s got heated seats, the X92 and X93 Exclusive front and rear spoilers, XE2 quad exhaust and brake cooling air intakes. It’s also been freshly serviced, had a new coat of Indian Red in 2007 and new brakes and clutch at 101,000km.

We think it looks beautiful – but will it reach its 250k-300k Euro estimate? Let us know via social media, and keep tuned for live coverage from the auction on February 7.

Pictures courtesy of Peter Singhof/RM Sotheby’s


This 325i is just the BMW to cure the January blues

We’ve seen rapid increases in all E30 values, and 325is with M-Tech kits breaching the £10k barrier for the best examples some time ago.

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We’ve found what could be a bargain, however. This 1989 325i, up for grabs with Anglia Car Auctions on January 2018, has an estimate of just £6k-7k. There doesn’t appear to be too many catches – it’s got an MoT until November, and has just been serviced at a cost of £1501. It’s also got lovely Alpina alloy wheels – it takes us straight back to the late 1980s/early 1990s in a way only seeing a bloke with boombox on his shoulder could match.

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The M-Tech kit was fitted after the car left the factory, but its history file points to loving care. There’s lots of service history, invoices and MoT results to back up the mileage – which reads as a comparatively barely used 79,407 miles.

Other cars in the same sale with tasty estimates include an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA with an £6k-8k estimate and less than 60,000 miles and a Ford Sierra L 3dr with 19k miles on no reserve. 

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Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolution II makes French auction debut

The Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolution II has had a wild value ride to match its enormous rear wing. Since Silverstone Auctions sold one for north of £200,000 a few years ago, you couldn’t move at European car shows or auction halls for Evo IIs – all freshly up for sale.


That’s quite an achievement as just 502 were built to homologate the DTM race car. For such a rare car, there were suddenly an awful lot of them on the market, all at the same time. As great as this ultimate 190E is, there are only a certain number of enthusiasts willing to spend six figures on one of these at a time. As a result, Silverstone Auctions’ record still stands. Over the past year prices have softened and many have been withdrawn from sale.


That means now could be an excellent time to buy, and if you find yourself in Paris for the wonderful Retromobile show you might just fancy a spot of post-Christmas indulgence. And what would be better than a 190E Evolution II? This one’s up for grabs with Bonhams at its Les Grandes Marques Du Monde Au Grande Palais sale on February 8th, with an estimate of £75,000 to £110,000.


This particular example, up for grabs with Silverstone Auctions at its Lancaster Insurance NEC Classic Motor Show sale from 10-12 November, is left-hand drive. Okay, not so great for UK commuting but imagine a road trip to European circuits in it… now that’s a tantalising proposition. It’s done less than 11,000km and has plenty of service history from marque specialists in Germany, Japan and the UK.


It’s not got a super-low mileage – the clock reads 97,000km – but that’s barely run in for any Mercedes-Benz. It’s freshly serviced and comes with a vast paperwork file confirming its history. If you’ve ever fancied one of these, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get one cheaper in future.

More details can be found at

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Fabulous Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale up for auction

Hardcore Ferraris track-biased Ferraris were the preserve of the very few. That all changed with the 360 Challenge Stradale.

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Designed to capitalise on the rising popularity of track days and track days cars, this was the answer to the Porsche 911 GT3. Maranello made the CS 28 per cent lighter and 40 per cent stiffer than the standard 360 Modena, enhanced the steering feel, made the throttle more responsive and added Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. That’s useful to know in a car that delivers a hefty 476bhp at a heady 8500rpm. At the top end you’ll be doing 191mph.

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Despite all this track tech this isn’t a car that punishes you on the road for the pleasures on track; it was designed to be a road car first and track car second.

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This particular example, up for grabs with Silverstone Auctions at its Lancaster Insurance NEC Classic Motor Show sale from 10-12 November, is left-hand drive. Okay, not so great for UK commuting but imagine a road trip to European circuits in it… now that’s a tantalising proposition. It’s done less than 11,000km and has plenty of service history from marque specialists in Germany, Japan and the UK.

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Okay, so a silver Ferrari may not to be everyone’s taste but screaming around Mugello, would you really care? This car’s got an estimate of £140k-160k. Could you be tempted? Would you rather have a Porsche 911 GT3 or Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera? Get in touch and let us know.

For more details on the car, head to

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Arresting Aston appears at auction

The Aston Martin DB7 look great whatever the weather, even after all these years. But despite it’s A-list looks you can still pick one up for proletariat prices.

This 2001 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante is up for grabs with Anglia Car Auction on November 4, and doesn’t it still look like a £100k car? The best news is that this one’s got an estimate of just £28,000 to £34,000.

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That’s still a healthy chunk of cash but you do get a lot of car for the money. This one’s powered by the thunderous 5.3-litre V12 engine, which means you’ll wave goodbye to 60mph in around five seconds before thundering on to around 165mph.

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But that’s not really the appeal of this car – leave the hooning antics to others, even if you do have a right toe-teasingly tempting 414bhp. It’s the torque that really matters here; a pleasing surge of naturally aspirated V12 thrust that allows you to dip out of cruising to overtaking easily.

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That means you’re free to take in the sumptuous interior, covered in lovely soft-touch leather. This particular example has done around 76,000 miles, though it’s been in a private collection since 2015 and has seen little use. We wouldn’t be too scared by the mileage – it’s the sign of a well-sorted, used car, rather than a garage queen that’s been left to stagnate.

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This might be an odd time to buy a convertible, but with the sun firmly in you may be able to pick up a bargain. Then you can waft down to Portugal and enjoy the autumn sun – and what better way to get there than in an Aston Martin DB7 Volante?

Could you be tempted? How much do you think it will go for? Let us know via our Facebook page –