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Ford Capri, Alfa Romeo GTV - dream cars from the past: The good, the bad, and the ugly in SA

2018-07-09 09:36

Duncan Alfreds

Classic cars are expensive in SA.

Classic cars are expensive in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Wheels24)

"What makes a dream car is not the same as a classic - it has more to do with the emotion it evokes - and that sometimes goes back to your youth," writes Duncan Alfreds.

There's nothing quite like the thrill of being able to finally afford the car of your dreams, doubly so if you're finally able to purchase the ride you drooled over as a youngster.

While the debate may rage as to what exactly defines a true "classic", South African petrol heads have a number of potential options for a sentimental ride.

Which car from your teens would you love to own today? Email us why

If you're in the market for classics in SA, here's what you should you know about them:

1. Ford Capri 3000 GT Mk I

First on my list is the Ford Capri 3000 GT Mk I.

Launched in 1969, the Capri immediately carved itself a warm place in the hearts of car fans and went a long way to entrench the image of Ford as a muscle car for the poor man.

It's by no means competition for the iconic a Mustang but then again, it was launched just before the fuel crisis hit SA, so few people could afford to unleash the full 95kW produced by that 3.0-litre V6 engine.

                                                                              Image: Unique Cars

If you can find one in SA today, it will cost a small fortune but there are issues you should watch out for.

Rust is the Capri's nemesis; look out for the telltale signs of rust along the bottom of the door hinges and wheel arches.

Because it's a coupé, the doors are pretty big and heavy, so rust on the hinges will cause the doors to sag and not close properly.

Remember that the Capri was a performance car and while many modern owners won't push this classic to its limits, you should still be aware of gearbox issues - particularly see if the car pops out of second gear - because this is likely an expensive fix.

Suspension bushes could also be worn on an old car and an easy way to check these is to see if the car "wanders" during a test drive and unevenly worn tyres is a dead giveaway.

Because an old Capri was likely standing for a while, there may also be problems with the carburettors that might require tuning.

They sell for anything from R50 000 to more than R300 000 depending on condition, so shop carefully.

2. Alfa Romeo GTV 1971

There is no car that evokes the spirit of the poor man's Ferrari - without actually being a Ferrari - such as the Alfa Romeo GTV from the late 60s.

These cars were amazing as little sports coupés in their own right.

First launched in 1963, the most desirable one is probably the 2l GTV.

It came with a 5-speed gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes, and had decent performance numbers of 96kW and a top end of 177km/h - pretty respectable for the love generation.

                                                                   Image: Unique Cars

These cars are quite rare to find in SA today, but if you find one, be sure to check for oil leaks.

The sump tends to knock the exhaust protection plate at high speed, so there might be a crack.

Old cars that actually get driven are likely to show signs of wear and tear so watch out for rear suspension arm bushes which might be worn.

As with the Capri, check for rust underneath the car and on doors - especially if the car has been recently painted. Some unscrupulous people will cover up rust with dark paint.

The window alignment might also be flawed on these cars, leading to worn window rubber seals. There will be an annoying whistling when you drive faster than 90km/h - even with the windows closed.

Even incomplete cars sell for over R80 000 so you should know what you're doing (and have deep pockets) if you plan to restore it.

3. Datsun 280ZX 1980

The Datsun 280ZX never received a lot of love but it was a beast of a car - even if some people think it was a copy of the legendary Jaguar E-Type.

It goes without saying that you'd want the 1980 Z that came with a turbo, delivering a healthy 134kW for a 198km/h top speed.

And yes, it is a driver's car so the 5-speed manual gearbox in the better option.

                                                                           Image: Momentcar

In terms of repairs, the manual box is easier (read cheaper) to fix anyway, but on this car, you should really look out for rust, power steering leaks, and general electrical faults.

On old cars, corrosion on the electrical relays could throw up weird problems on the instrument panel to check that everything works properly because a repair might be expensive.

These go for about R50 000 even though they're quite rare.

4. BMW M3 (E30) 1989

The first BMW M3 (E30) was a legend and gave birth to a whole new class of car.

What's not to love about a 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder producing a respectable 160kW and top speed of 241km/h?

Even today, this M will still blow some hot hatches away in a sprint from a standing start, but make sure you can stop at the end of the track.

                                                                      Image: Piston Heads

The brakes on an old car may be problematic so check pads and change the brake fluid.

Check for rust - especially on the fuel tank which tends to rust where the filler pipe joins the main tank.

The easiest way to check this is to fill up and see if you're leaking fuel. While you at it, you should give the high-pressure fuel lines a close inspection for cracks.

The vibration of braking and vague steering are likely caused by worn bushings so replace cracked ones to improve handling.

You can find these from R50 000 in SA, but give the car a careful once-over, especially if it has been customised.

5. Audi Quattro 1987

If the Beemer was legendary for rear-wheel drive excellence, the Audi Quattro took performance to a whole new level.

First launched in 1980, the four-wheel drive Audi was the kind of car that filled posters in bedrooms - and won rally championships.

First launched with an inline 5 cylinder, 2.2l engine in 1980, the one you want is, of course, the DOHC version from 1987 - especially because Audi began using galvanised panels from 1985.

This engine was capable of 164kW and hustled the car to a top speed of 230km/h.

                                                                     Image: Best Car Magazine

But with that kind of performance, you need to check the car carefully to make sure the previous owner hasn't driven the car to death.

The first thing to check for is a cracked manifold - a ticking from a cold engine is a dead giveaway.

Also, watch out for turbo failure on the Audi. One way to check is to see if there's blue smoke coming from the exhaust.

Check for worn or rusted parts on the car and ask when the cambelt was last changed. (Correct answer: Within the last five years)

Today most Quattro would be collectors items which means that they won't be driven hard, but underneath that cool veneer, the beast still lies waiting.

These cars are super rare in SA, so your best bet is probably to import one if you really must have it.

6. Toyota SE Liftback (E70) 1982

The last car on this list made no pretence of being a classic but earned itself a reputation for reliability and engendered a following that continues today - the Toyota SE Liftback.

This boxy two-door had just a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder producing 56kW and a top speed of 170km/h.

But it cemented the Toyota reputation for building simple, reliable cars that owners could customise to their heart's content.

Many of these boxies are still on the roads, but often with out-of-this-world sound systems, new engines and custom wheels.

The simple tip with these is that you don't get caught up in the hype of the car.

                                                                      Image: Car Info

Just because some guy added tons of extras, it doesn't add much to the value of the car - it's only worth what someone will pay.

Check for oil leaks and rust on a standard Liftback, especially around the door pillars, boot and windscreen.

If there's been electrical customisation done to the car, check the charge rate and battery.

An easy way to do this is to have the owner switch on the ignition and headlights while you take your time to check lights, indicators and brake lights.

After about five minutes, the car should start easily.

Expect an asking price of about R70 000 for one in good condition, or between R35 000 and R50 000 if you opt for the "boxie" sedan.

This is by no means a complete list, and while every true petrol head will no doubt have a favourite dream car, the key is never to buy a car with your heart.

That is the easiest way to be stuck with a cash-draining lemon - a lesson I've learnt the hard way - more than once.

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