Super Cars – We’d Never Buy These British Sports Cars Used
Scouring the used car section of any publication searching for a bargain sports car is a game every gearhead has done at some time or another. It’s always tempting to play a game of “what can I get for this much money?”
While these pages offer countless dreams of used British sports cars for less than the price of a new sedan, gearheads should pause and ask themselves a few important questions before reaching for the phone. Why is it for sale? How can the owner let something go so cheaply? If these niggles cross your mind, then usually it is for good reason. Buying a used sports car often comes with some serious hidden issues. Here are some examples of used British sports cars we think are best avoided.
9 Noble M12
Lee Noble’s supercar brand busted onto the scene in 1999 with the successful M10, quickly followed in 2000 with the much-praised M12, continuing the trend of Ford Duratec engines as their power source.
Unashamedly billed as track-biased sports cars, Noble hasn’t always delivered the best on-road driving experience, slightly compromised cabin ergonomics detracting from their overall appeal. As a used car though, buyers beware that the same explosive performance reveals a weakness in the 2.5-liter twin-turbo set-up, aggressive track use leads to oil starvation, and expensive engine re-builds.
8 Lotus Evora
The return to mass production for Lotus cars had been long overdue, the UK-based carmaker having changed hands several times in the last 30 years needed stability, that finally came with the Elise and Evora, both excellent drivers cars in their own rights.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, the Evora, essentially built on a larger Elise floorplan, has its share of gremlins, suspect electrical components leading to annoying failures of the limited creature comforts. With a range of Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter V6 engines, the Evora delivers on track, just be sure to avoid 2010-11 examples that are prone to transmission failures, suddenly that used bargain could be a potential money pit.
7 TVR Cerbera
On any given perfect day when everything just works, it would hard to ignore TVR’s Cerbera, a unique mix of supercar slaying performance and quirky design that many gearheads fall into the trap of owning. Powered by a home-grown 4.5-liter V8 motor the Cerbera can reach 60mph in 3.6-seconds before roaring onto a top speed of 196mph.
With such impressive performance figures, it would be easy to forget this is a low-volume sports car assembled in a low-tech factory just outside Blackpool. Lightweight fiber-glass bodies mounted to a tubular chassis might have been good for performance, but over time, hidden corrosion issues go unnoticed until it’s too late, necessitating a full body-off rebuild.
6 Ford Escort/Sierra Cosworth
For ten years, Ford Europe ruled the roost when it comes to affordable performance cars, both the Sierra and Escort models undergoing the Cosworth treatment to turn ordinary road cars into tarmac shredding monsters that everyone wanted.
Packing Cosworth-tuned 2-liter turbocharged motors into a run-of-the-mill family car created a cult following that attracted a lot of attention on both sides of the law. It’s a well-known fact that security wasn’t as good as Ford had hoped, any Cosworth badged car proving to be fair game among car thieves, most at some point ending up in a ditch at the end of high-speed chases.
5 McLaren 12C
For a brief fleeting moment the 2011 launch of McLaren’s first new sports car since the mighty F1, the 12C promised to be the ultimate supercar being both ferociously fast and practical as a daily driver. So good was this new generation of McLaren’s that the only fault early adopted could find was its lack of character.
Dig a little deeper and things are not as rosy as they first seemed, the 3.8-liter twin-turbo is pretty robust mechanically but those complex electronic control systems are a regular cause of headaches with owners, most necessitating extensive periods in authorized service centers. Buying any performance car used is a gamble, for the 12C a fully stamped service book and up-to-date warranty are essential, if these are missing, walk away.
4 Morgan 4/4
Quintessentially British, there is something about Morgan’s eternal 4/4 design that keeps gearheads coming back generation after generation, at one point the UK-based carmaker boasted a waiting list running into years for new customers.
To the naked eye, nothing has changed since 1955 the same hand-craft aluminum body mounted on traditional wood frames giving the 4/4 an old-world charm that has long been forgotten with modern manufacturing techniques. And for good reason too, Ash being particularly strong has lower water resistance, potentially any unloved car could be little more than a pile of rotting wood atop its chassis.
3 MG Xpower SV
Heading off in completely the wrong direction at a time when Rover was desperately clinging to its very existence, sporty sub-division MG produced this curious coupe, an odd mix of styling, power, and poor build quality.
Assembled by Modena-based Qvale before shipping to Rovers Longbridge factory for final assembly, the Xpower SV with a Ford V8 engine could have been the UK equivalent of the Mustang, only less reliable and more expensive. Priced against serious rivals, the MG never stood a chance despite being a genuine supercar, MG Rover branding and lack of development consigned the Xpower SV to history after 9 cars were completed.
2 Vauxhall VX220 Turbo
Taking the Elise upmarket with a more potent engine and revised body seemed like a great idea, after all the chassis was easily capable of handling more power as we’ve seen with more potent Exige models. Only with the VX220 built in the same factory by the same engineers, something in Elise’s handling desperately went wrong.
Whichever way you view the VX220, under the skin the same chassis construction and set-up should have been an instant success, but this sports car had an evil handling trait that sent more than a few examples to the scrap heap. Power delivery from a turbocharged 2-liter Ecotec motor was far from perfect, nearly every owner being caught out would have spun or crashed the Vx220 at least once.
1 Rover 220 Turbo Coupe
On paper, there is much to like about Rover’s insane 220 Turbo Coupe, a medium-sized family coupe with enough poke under the hood to scare even the most experienced gearhead, that coupled with a cheap purchase price would surely be a winning combination.
Packing 197hp from its 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder might sound a little tame, but it how the Rover 220 delivered its power that caused a stir in 1992. At the time forced induction was new to small compact cars, inexperienced owners often caught out by turbo lag and ferocious power could and frequently did end in fatalities.
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Super Cars – We’d Never Buy These British Sports Cars Used
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