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Bargain V8 sports cars | Six of the Best



Marcos Mantara, 1995, 30k, £27,900

The traditional British sports car recipe – Rover V8, manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, lightweight and dramatically-styled body – is looking more appealing by the day. As everything on the road becomes ever more complicated, so the charm of raw, pared-back, simple thrills inevitably increases. The Marcos Mantara is a perfect example of the breed. Back in the ’90s, it was something a bit quirky and different with dependable, lusty power; now it looks like a hot rod from another planet, and will likely sound superb thanks to that legendary old engine. Pub lunches, car meets and coffee runs will never be the same again. Recently restored with work that included a top-end rebuild, new dash, fresh springs and dampers and clutch, plus still with very low mileage, it’s something a bit different among the usual suspects. But if it’s something more familiar you’re after, there’s plenty more of those to come, too…

Jaguar F-Type R Roadster, 2013, 55k, £28,950

It’s easy to bemoan the demise of the great British roadster, the kind of rambunctious rabble-rouser that we make over here better than any other nation.  But for the past decade and a bit, Jaguar has offered up just that car: the F-Type. Beautiful to look at, a joy to listen to and even more enjoyable to drive, the drop-top F-Types in particular have charmed a great many of us since 2013. As for that lairy British tradition of too much power and not very much traction, it’s worth remembering that there was a time when the supercharged V8 was paired exclusively with rear-wheel drive. The two-wheel-drive Roadster missed out on the later 550hp tune, but 495hp ought to be more than enough for mischief. This Salsa Red example has had just two owners from new and its history includes nine main dealer visits. For £28,950, there’s not much more theatre available.

TVR Griffith 500, 1995, 72k, £PH Auction

This sort of list was made for TVR. A Six of the Best purely comprised of V8 Blackpool bruisers would be possible. And while there are cheaper TVRs, newer TVRs and faster TVRs, arguably nothing encapsulates all that was great about the brand at the end of the 20th century quite like the Griffith. A knockout to look at, hugely fast thanks to a 5.0-litre derivative of the Rover engine, and absorbing to drive with an absence of aids, it’s little wonder – as PH knows better than anywhere – that Griffs were so popular in period and still so loved now. This 500 is being auctioned on PistonHeads later this month; in addition to everything that makes them so good anyway, this one benefits from a restoration (that also included a new interior) in the latter half of the 2010s. With few miles since, it’s hard to think of many better ways to enjoy the long summer days. When they arrive. 

Mercedes-AMG SLK 55, 2013, 29k, £24,985

Of course, the British are far from alone in making silly sports cars with great big V8s up front, a folding roof and rear drive. The SLK 55 is a great example of Mercedes-AMG’s good old silly days, where the biggest engines almost always seemed destined for the smallest cars. Don’t forget, either, that there were two generations of SLK with engines larger than 5.0 litres available – glorious, glorious madness. The final R172 era was the recipe at its most compelling, with the 5.5-litre M172 V8 (essentially a naturally aspirated version of the twin-turbo V8 from the contemporary E63) mated to a seven-speed auto. Never the best AMG in the world to drive, the SLK’s charm was pretty irresistible anyway thanks to 422hp, compact dimensions and an unmissable soundtrack. As so many AMG V8s appreciate into orbit, so £25k for a low mileage 55 feels hard to ignore. 

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2009, 52k, £26,000

More proof that the British don’t have a monopoly when it comes to manual V8 sports cars. This C6 isn’t a bonafide convertible as the others are, but there will still be removable roof panels in the finest Corvette tradition. And there’s plenty more to recommend it besides, including the largest engine here – that mighty 6.2-litre LS3 V8 – a six-speed manual and the Velocity Yellow paint that evokes the iconic (and very successful) Corvette race cars of the period. Speaking of which, this example was kept by an owner so dedicated they had it signed by James Miller of the Pratt & Miller Corvette racing team. A UK-supplied car with both the Z51 and 4LT packages, it’s believed to be a unique example. Encouragingly, too, the dealer has sold the car previously and has taken it back because the owner is moving onto a C8 Corvette. Looking great for 15 years old, too. And £26k doesn’t go far these days… 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage, 2008, 58k, £27,990

Last but by no means least, an Aston Martin can most certainly sneak into a V8-themed Six of the Best sports car selection. Yes, ideally a Vantage of this era would be a 4.7-litre car, but this stunning Roadster is also little more expensive than a 1.0-litre Polo R-Line. So you’d cope. In the Vantage’s favour, it has a lovely spec (Glacial Blue is so much more interesting than black, silver or grey, and the wheels are fantastic), the manual gearbox, just two owners, a clutch upgrade and a new roof. Even after all these years and all the accolades, there really aren’t many more arresting sports cars than the Vantage, and this one looks superb. Another one back at a dealership that has sold it before, what must have made for one very happy customer a few years back is now looking for another.

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