MINI COOPER S (1964-1971)
The most famous version of one of the world’s most famous cars – so famous that to many people all Minis, regardless of age and specification, are ‘Mini Coopers’. John Cooper’s tune-turned Alec Issigonis’ ‘car for the housewife’ into a high-performance machine capable of beating the sports car aristocracy. Although Coopers did plenty of giant-slaying on the track, it was on the rally stage that they achieved the most fame, with three wins at the Monte Carlo Rally (which would have been four on the trot had it not been for the controversial disqualification of the 1966 team for using the wrong sort of headlamp filament). If its competition credentials weren’t enough, the Cooper became one of the must-have cars of the 1960s, counting music stars, fashion designers, royalty and racing drivers amongst their owners. The starring role in ‘The Italian Job’ in 1969 sealed the deal.
It’s unsurprising therefore that Coopers have always commanded high prices and that the trend for those has been almost relentlessly upward. This applies all the more to genuine and good-condition examples of the high-performance Cooper S. According to auction price aggregator website The Market, the average price for a Cooper S (across 320 sales) stood at £21,000 in 2014, which had doubled by May 2017 to over £41,000 average and some individual cars topping £50,000. The surge has slackened slightly since then – the worth of really good cars (those in highly-restored or very original condition with lots of documented history and perhaps a competition record) have held up in the high £40,000s but the price of lower-tier examples has slumped, bringing the average back down to £34,000.
FORD ESCORT MEXICO (1970-1974)
The Ford Escort took the Mini’s crown as the standard-issue rally car of the 1970s. But while the Escort spawned its own road-going rally recreations in the form of the RS models, it was the Mexico which won people’s hearts. A special edition launched to commemorate the Escort’s victory in the 1970 London to Mexico Rally, the Mexico used the standard 1.6-litre OHV Kent engine (albeit in tuned 98bhp guise). Otherwise it had the same structural and running gear upgrades as the RS. The Mexico had rally-winning performance and looks and yet it was temptingly within reach of the average enthusiast thanks to its down-to-earth engineering. It became one of the most desirable quick road cars of its time, as well as carving out a career of its own in the club and amateur rallying world.
Only 10,320 Mk1 Mexicos were built, even though the production run was extended to 1974, and many more humdrum Escorts have since been built up to Mexico spec. However the genuine article has always commanded a strong price premium and has been one of the models (across any marque) most affected by the recent boom in classic prices which really favoured performance icons of the 1970s. The average sale value of a Mexico sat at £15,000 in 2014 and peaked at just over £40,000 early this year, when some cars fetched over £50,000 and the lowest hammer price recorded by The Market was £29,000. During 2018 the prices have come somewhat off the boil – in May the average had dipped to £25,000 and the high to £38,000 – a 20 per cent decline from the same month in 2017.
AUDI QUATTRO (1980-1991)
Unlike our other two rally-derived classics, the rally version of the Quattro came before the road version, and then the road car remained on sale for nearly a decade after the model became obsolete on the rally stage. Audi engineers developed the Quattro four-wheel drive system for road use but the car named after the system was developed specifically to homolagate a high-performance rally car to demonstrate 4WD’s advantages to a sceptical public. The point was dramatically prove when rally Quattros took two gold and two silver places in the World Rally Championship between 1982 and 1985 and won a total of 23 WRC events. The road car was a steroid-injected development of the Audi 90, given a coupe body (soon made available on the standard 90), boxy wheel arch flares, a 200bhp five-cylinder turbocharged engine and all the required wings, skirts and chin spoilers that the decade required. The Quattro gained more power, more weight and more luxuries as the 1980s progressed, becoming an expensive, if very quick and very capable car in the grand tourer style.
Quattros reached their low point in values some time ago and prices have been climbing relentlessly for some time. The average price was £14,500 four years ago, £25,400 last year and a sky-high £48,000 earlier this year. Back in 2014 prices were fairly bunched up but now there is a big difference between the price for high-mileage and age-worn Quattros (£24,000) and the very best low-mileage and pristine examples (£68,000). Most of the growth in average prices in the past two years is down to increasing value for these high-end cars – more ‘real world’ Quattros seem to have reached their a plateau for now.