"Something reliable for my girlfriend's stuff"
The thinking woman's motor: the classic Saab 900 is safe and spacious, and a model with the 'roof missing' is easily affordable
Here follows an article written by James Ruppert in "The Independent", Tuesday 19 July 2005 in his "Car Choice" feature.
Mr FE Horrack has sent us a truly wonderful and witty Car Choice conundrum. His "darling girlfriend Sue", a trendy media-type in her early 40's, apparently cares not at all about the usual technical aspects of an automobile and everything about its image (his words, not ours). Apparently a Mondeo would be too conventional, a Japanese car too bland, and an 4X4, MPV, SUV or any sort of car best described in acronyms would be wrong. A large boot (for all her "stuff"), reliable (so she isn't late to her next pitch) and one that will not break down - too often. Good for reasonably long distance driving, say, Scotland or Cornwall. The budget is £7,000 and something the size of a Golf would be ideal. If the roof was missing it would be perfect.
Old FE, and his friend, have a huge problem here, but there is a way out of it, possibly. FE says that she wants something larger than a super mini and smaller than a Mondeo. Probably about the size of a Golf although a direct quote is "But Volkswagens are so boooooring!"
Sue needs to thinks classic. Very few modern cars costing £7000 can actually pass the media "cool" test. The Fiat Panda is on the small side and may not be great on an epic journey, although I would argue that it does have a classless Citroen 2CV like appeal.
There is a difference though between classless and classy. Cheap small cars signal that you don't have much money to spend when in fact the signal you want to send out is that you know exactly what car to buy.
So a classic it is, but it needs to be the right classic. A rusty MGB that will break down is not the answer. However, an older car built like a tank in the first place and with the right kind of badge will be perfect.
A CAR FOR THE HEAD
Long before the accountants became over-involved, Mercedes used to brilliantly over-engineer their cars. In the 1970s and 1980s Mercedes built some of the finest engineered and and most reliable cars on the planet.
Not only that, what once seemed a little dull now looks very cool indeed. No faux Korean styling, just solid design that has become utterly timeless. It depends whether Sue wants something sensible, or sporty, but I guarantee that both will be 'sexy cool', as media types say.
The sensible buy would be a 280C or a 280CE coupe. It is a full five-seater with plenty of room, but wind down the front and rear windows and you have a very cool coupe. The four and six-cylinder engines are very reliable and in the best possible conditions Sue would be hard pressed to pay more than £7000.
Then there are the sexy SL and SLC models. These are more of a challenge to buy within budget. This two-door sports door is cheaper in coupe form especially with the smaller 280 engine. The best examples are double the budget so I think Sue should go for the CE.
A CAR FOR THE HEART
In the media, being different is the key: a motor that means your peers have to double take is vital.
May I suggest a Saab. For decades it has been the thinking professional's choice. If you had the money, but did not want something flash, you went for the subtle and quirky Saab.
The classic 900 series which ran up until the early 90s looks as though it comes from another planet. At its heart are some fantastically strong mechanicals which means they can take plenty of punishment.
The body is bigger than a Golf, but it is fantastically safe. What should really please Sue is, along with the big boot at the back she can easily afford a model with the roof missing. Indeed, the Saab 900 convertible is now a classic and there is a good network of Saab savvy specialists who can supply spare parts easily.
At Hagstrom Saab near Norwich (01953 605661) a 1989 T16 Automatic with leather and electric roof was just £4995 and perfect for Sue.