Affordable Europeans

November 24th, 2020

Look back 50 years and the advertising that enticed people to buy European cars wasn’t concerned with race wins or the quantity of cubic inches under the bonnet. When you bought a Renault, BMW or Volvo you bought quality, innovation and perhaps a touch of snobbery.

Take Renault’s 16TS for example. This was a ground-breaking five-door hatchback with a versatile interior layout and the most comfortable long-distance seats in the business. With only 1.6 litres it would reach 160km/h and handle indifferent Aussie roads better than any of the local products. Today, if you can find an excellent TS, it might cost $8000.

The equivalent from recent years would come from Renault’s Megane model range; most specifically the 225 Club model. These have a 2.0-litre turbo engine, so performance isn’t lacking, come in three or five door designs, also have great seats and cost $8000-9000.

BMW made its Australian debut in 1967 with a small and conservative range of models. Two years passed quietly for the German brand but then enthusiast interest erupted at the sight of the 2002. Two doors, two litres, disc brake and wonderful handling made the bland Bimmer a big seller, even if it did cost more than a 5.8-litre Falcon GT. Today you won’t buy a good one for less than $30,000 but there are modern equivalents.

M Series BMWs can be exotic and expensive, however the E46 Series M3 is a victim of its own success. New in 2001 the coupe cost around $140,000 and was technically as far from a carburettor-fed 2002 as was possible. Today the used market is overflowing with well-kept M3s and you can slice $100,000 off that original sticker price.

Most people during the 1970s did not want a Volvo of any kind at any price.  The hat-wearing, indicator-averse Volvo driver was an unwanted stereotype but it stuck until 1979 when a wild-eyed West Australian by the name of Ross Dunkerton (who also happened to be a five times Australian Rally Champion) took a Volvo to fourth place in Australia’s toughest long distance car rally, behind a well-drilled team of three Holden Commodores.

Those lumbering 240 Series Volvos were until recently some of the cheapest Euro-barges on the market. Today they are more expensive, however a 244 like Dunks used in the 1979 Repco Rally will, in outstanding condition, cost $7000-8000. So, what kind of modern Volvo can you buy for $8K? Several actually.

That amount will fund a near-perfect C70 coupe, or perhaps a convertible version that falls a little short of pristine. Dig a bit deeper but still without draining the bank balance and a car with its own special links to motor sporting legend becomes available.

The 850T-R, in the manner of a 244, looks boxy and brick-like. However, with turbo power and surprising agility these during the 1990s were winners of Super Touring races throughout Europe and also in Australia. Some teams even raced the station wagon version.

If you are content with owning a single automotive brand, then pairings like these make sense. Each includes a car suited to everyday commuting and family duty plus another for weekend cruising and car shows. And only the BMW pairing will cost more than the price of one dreadfully dull, small hatchback.

Insurance won’t be an issue either, especially if you drive less than the average annual distance. Enthusiast Insurance considers many factors when calculating your premium and limiting your annual kilometres can save money.

To check and compare Enthusiast’s rates and coverage against your existing policy, just log into www.enthusiast.com.au and select Quick Quote.

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