Did you ever think you’d see the day when a Mini Metro, Fiat Panda or Vauxhall Astra would be classed as a classic car?
However, under Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rules, any car that’s over 40 years old is deemed ‘classic’ and owners are exempt from having to tax them each year. And guess what – all three now fall into this category.
We’ve cast our minds back 40 years to identify 10 cars that can now potentially qualify for free classic car taxation, from unlikely motors to iconic models that also hit the market in 1980 – and rated them as bona fide classics or simply crap…
The Audi Quattro became a massive success story and a cult hero, famously appearing in the recent television drama series Ashes to Ashes on BBC1 with a red 1983 Quattro driven by DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister)
The Quattro took back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984 during the legendary Group B era
1. Audi Quattro
Going in alphabetical order for this list puts one of the biggest rallying icons of all time at the top of the order- the Audi Quattro.
The German car maker, desperate for an assault on the rallying scene, introduced the original Quattro in late 1980, meaning owners of exceptionally early versions will potentially not have to tax them from this year.
The Quattro was one of the first production cars you could buy that mated a permanent four-wheel drive system to a front-mounted, turbocharged, high-performance engine.
The road car went on to be a massive success story and a cult hero, famously appearing in the recent television drama series Ashes to Ashes on BBC1 with a red 1983 Quattro driven by DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister).
As for its impact on the World Rally Championship, the Quattro took back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984 during the legendary Group B era and became one of the most popular cars of that generation.
And it wasn’t the only rally icon to launch in 1980, either. Lancia unveiled the first Delta family hatchback road car the same year – though the ferocious Integrale competition version came years later.
Bentley took the Mulsanne moniker from the famous Mulsanne Straight at the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit to celebrate the British manufacturer’s five victories between 1924 and 1930
2. Bentley Mulsanne
There are some cars in this list that you look at an instantly think: ‘That’s a classic.’ The original Mulsanne is one of those.
Bentley launched it as it wanted a luxury car that packed loads of performance.
Even the name itself is derived from Bentley’s motorsport history.
It takes the Mulsanne moniker from the famous straight at the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit – the fastest part of the endurance track – to celebrate the British manufacturer’s five victories between 1924 and 1930. It also returned to glory there in 2003.
Non-turbo models had a 6.75-litre V8 engine with aluminium alloy cylinder heads and a three-speed automatic transmission.
The Mulsanne Turbo, hitting the market in 1982, had a 50 per cent increase in power.
Bentley relaunched the name in 2010.
The Austin Metro was designed to be the successor to the original Mini, but that iconic classic car managed to outlive it – by some margin
Like the Audi Quattro, the Metro went on to have a presence in Group B rallying, with the flame-chucking 6R4 entered the WRC in 1985
3. Austin Mini Metro
The year 1980 saw the arrival of this tiny box-shaped icon, which resulted in Metro mania across Britain.
It came with big expectations and more fanfare than the original Mini and even the iconic Jaguar E-Type, as UK licence holders flooded to dealers to get an eyeful of the dinky hatchback.
The Metro claimed icon status when pictures emerged of Princess Diana driving one.
Believed to potentially be the first motor she owned, it was affectionately referred to as her ‘courting car’.
The then 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer had it until June 1981 before it was sold to be replaced with something far more regal.
Like the Quattro, the Metro went on to have a presence in Group B rallying, with the flame-chucking 6R4 entering the WRC in 1985 – though with nowhere near the success of the rival Audi.
The original Panda was on sale for 23 years before being succeeded by a new version
4. Fiat Panda
Fiat has for a long time know how to produce a low-cost small car designed to get the masses on the road – the original 500 for instance.
The Panda, which was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980, was designed to do the exact same and is a name that remains on the market today,
We’re currently in the third generation of the iconic Italian supermini – though it has been on sale for the best part of a decade.
The original was available for even longer than that – some 23 years in fact – after going on sale in Fiat’s home nation that year.
Technically, right-hand drive variants didn’t come to the UK until early in 1981, but it certainly deserves a position in this list.
Slotting below the 127 supermini, the Panda was designed to be as basic as possible, with flat glass and simple body panels for ease of production and repairs.
It also got a no-frills interior with deckchair-style seats and a hammock for a dashboard, all of which complimented a 903cc four-cylinder motor producing a pedestrian 45bhp. Bag yourself a Panda 4×4 for top dog status.
Ladas were the butt of plenty of 1980s jokes, but a lot of Rivas were seen on the UK roads back then – you won’t see many now though
5. Lada Riva
Like the Fiat Panda, the Lada Riva didn’t actually come to the UK officially until 1983 and the arrival of the 1300GL – though that doesn’t mean die hard Lada fans [chuckle] couldn’t have imported them before then.
At its height in the late 1980s, Britons were buying around 30,000 examples of the Russian brand’s most popular model – which was mainly because it was so cheap compared to mainstream rivals but relatively well equipped.
A new Riva would set buyers back around £3,000, making it an affordable – if not the most desirable to be seen in – car for families.
And it was practical too, decked out with height-adjustable headlamps, internally adjustable driver’s door mirror, velour-covered seats, heated rear window, illumination lights for bonnet and boot and a 21-piece toolkit, all as standard.
Research carried out last year suggested there were fewer than 50 Rivas with registered owners in the UK.
That makes the chances of someone having a tax-exempt import kicking around extremely slim.
The G-Class was originally developed as an uncompromising military vehicle turned civilian motor in 1979
Early models were extremely basic, with the refinements of an automatic gearbox and air conditioning not arriving until 1981
6. Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
The G-Class was originally developed as an uncompromising military vehicle.
However, following a suggestion from the Shah of Iran – who was at the time a significant Mercedes shareholder) – it was repurposed as a civilian 4X4 in 1979, with the assembly line in Graz churning out the brute.
Commonly referred to as the G-Wagen, it shot to fame outside of German when in 1980 the Vatican took delivery of a specially modified version kitted out with with a clear thermoplastic top which served as the Popemobile. The ‘Papa G’ has since taken up a permanent residence at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
When it arrived, it was a direct rival to the Range Rover, but struggled to win customers over with its high price and no-frills package.
Early models were extremely basic, with the refinements of an automatic gearbox and air conditioning not arriving until 1981. Additions such as electric windows and an auxillary fuel tank – due to poor consumption – also came later.
Morris launched the Ital to replace the long-running Marina in 1980 but was struggled to impress
7. Morris Ital
Morris launched the Ital to replace the long-running Marina in 1980 but was already deemed to be outdated by the time it hit showrooms.
The name Ital was used to reflect the saloon’s connection with the Italian engineering firm Italdesign, who reportedly penned the design – though it was in fact the work of British Leyland’s chief stylist Harris Mann.
Most Itals were manufactured in the UK, at both Cowley, in Oxfordshire, and Longbridge, Birmingham, although some were produced in Portugal.
Build quality problems were commonly reported – mainly rapid cases of rust – earning the Ital a distinctly poor reputation – as per many British Leyland products of the era.
It didn’t last long on the market, disappearing from sale just four years after it arrived.
The Ital was the last production car to sport the Morris Badge, and its successor was the Austin Montego.
The Peugeot 505 was a huge success in Africa thanks to its forgiving ride and quality suspension – and the fact the dry conditions helped to hold off rust issues
8. Peugeot 505
Verdict: Crap (‘No, it’s a classic’, says This is Money editor Simon Lambert)
Peugeot set itself a target of taking on the volume-selling Ford Granada when it launched the 505 saloon in the UK in October 1979. The fact around just 50 remain in the UK today tells you all you need to know about its success.
That’s not to say it didn’t make an good first impression when it did arrive, being praised for its great ride comfort and handling.
It shared underpinnings with the earlier 504 and both became hugely popular in Africa and other less-developed countries as the forgiving suspension was ideal for non-ideal terrains.
That means it glided over British B-road potholes like they weren’t there, and the extra ground clearance gave drivers a more prominent view of the road.
An estate version was launched in 1983 and was attractive to larger families thanks to a third bank of seats – similar to MPVs on the market today.
Examples survived better in the dry climates of Africa, while damp UK conditions resulted in plenty of corrosion – hence why few remain today.
Fewer than 5,000 Renault 5 Turbos were produced between 1980 and 1986, with it first arriving in response to Lancia’s rallying success with the mid-engined Stratos
9. Renault 5 Turbo
Another car with incredible rallying heritage and iconic ’80s status launched 40 years ago is the Renault 5 Turbo,
Fewer than 5,000 were produced between 1980 and 1986, with it first arriving in response to Lancia’s rallying success with the mid-engined Stratos,
Although the standard Renault 5 has a front-mounted engine, the 5 Turbo featured a mid-mounted 1.4-litre fuel-injected and turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine – placed right behind the back of the driver,
In standard form, the engine developed 158hp – making it the most powerful production French car on sale at the time – and was the dream motor for plenty of boy racers.
The first 400 production 5 Turbos were made to comply with Group 4 rally requirements to allow the car to compete in international rallies, and were manufactured at the Alpine factory in Dieppe.
There are believed to be around 300 registered in the UK today,
The Astra was the first front-wheel drive car built by GM Europe and was identical – bar the badges – to the Opel Kadett D
The souped-up Atra GTE arrived a few years later, but was almost completely overlooked by the the Golf GTI
10. Vauxhall Astra
It’s official – the Vauxhall Astra is now a classic car. It as introduce in the UK in March 1980 and was a like-for-like version of the Opel Kadett D available in mainland Europe.
The Astra was the first front-wheel drive car built by GM Europe and debuted a new overhead cam engine for the brand.
Until 1981, all examples were built at the Bochum factory in West Germany where the Kadett was churned out, before assembly for the UK was moved to Ellesmere Port in November that year – which remains the home of the Astra today.
The Mk1 was credited for being good to drive, both in terms of cornering ability and potent engines. However, like many others in list list, rust was a big killer – along with camshaft failures.
The souped-up Atra GTE arrived a few years later, but was almost completely overlooked by the the Golf GTI – arguably the original hot hatch.
That said, the Astra’s success story grew from this point, with it going on to become one of Britain’s most-bought family cars over the following decades.
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