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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Fatal Attraction: 3 British beauties that are cheap to buy, expensive to own

It always looks so tempting in the classifieds. A high-end classic you could only dream of buying when new, now for sale for used VW Jetta money. Of course, it's never that simple, is it? If buying a posh, sporty status symbol for family-sedan money sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/fatal-attraction-3-british-beauties-that-are-cheap-to-buy-expens...
55 REPLIES 55
MartyG1
New Driver

You are completely correct on the ridiculously high cost of maintenance ($8700 to make the check engine light go out), but my Aston Martin DB9 is worth every penny. And there have been a lot of pennies, but I love every minute in that car. I know this article is about the DB7, but I highly recommend the DB9 to anyone who is willing to spend the money on maintenance.
DaveA
Instructor

I’ve always thought the DB series were good looking cars.
1933ford
Intermediate Driver

Beg your pardon there are many more cars far superior to the DB9 in every aspect that would be equally outrageous in their repair bills.
MartyG1
New Driver

There is not a single car in the world that looks like a DB9, and I think they are the best looking cars available. I have had a Maserati, a Bentley, a number of Porsches, and several Jaguars. I still own two Corvettes. Not a single one could compare with the experience of my Aston Martin. They are the best.

BPatLeMays
Intermediate Driver

Even though I made the comment about English cars, I love the looks of the DB's. It's what a high performance "front engined" car should look like. I still haven't found the level of eye candy appeal to me in a mid-engined car, but I know the handling should be better..
hyperv6
Collector

I had noticed Low cost Aston’s in my area and it made me suspicious of the up keep cost. I checked then I found they were so cheap.

 

There are a number of cars like this. They can be very affordable to buy but prohibited to keep up. 

MAXTHEAX
Detailer

Both the Aston and Jaguar can be converted to Chev engines, small block, big block, and LS. The GM transmission can go along with it. Use a stand alone ECU and you're laughing until you have issues with the wiring for everything else and monocoque decay. Brakes, Wilwood or Brembo calipers used on every American performance car. eg Cadillac CTS-V
The Bentley is too ugly to use as anything other than a planter.
I'm not overly concerned with originality as you can plainly see.
50s60s70s
Detailer

Then why buy one.......just buy a fiberglass kit car for your aftermarket Frankenstein mobile. The price goes down even more as a collector ride.......all high end performance rides are costly to maintain which is why over time, because of the rarity of unmolested cars. The original one's only increased in value while the heavily modified one's serve as part's cars as the original builders tire of them. Not everyone is a Barris car builder.
51JaguarC-type
Intermediate Driver

Very good commend, typical for the average American that thinks that their V8 is the holy grail.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

In so many ways it is. An "LS" is inexpensive to repair, they made millions of them, parts are plentiful, performance upgrades are everywhere. In all honesty, I would probably try to keep the Austin Martin or Jag all original, but eventually as an owner, you have a choice to make, do I keep my Classic car locked in a garage to never be touched or driven because it is too expensive to maintain, or do I enjoy my car and not worry about the fact that when something breaks it is not going to be the cost of another car?
I watch this show called Car SOS, it is a British show that revolves around fixing up and rejuvenating mostly British cars, and I really enjoy it. One thing I find is a lot of people start projects only to realize it is more than they bargained for. I love an all original car, but there comes a point where keeping it on the road trumps originality.
PRScott
Instructor

We noticed.
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

Pretty much my opinion about all British automobiles… Why limit it to three?
I can attest to the XJS being a giant pile of trouble. I bought a one owner 48,000 mile V 12 from a personal friend. That car didn't nickle and dime, it $hundred' and $thousand' me to death. My wife would take it out, and it would invariably come back on a hook. Sold it a few years later with 56,000. I might as well have thrown dollar bills out the window. Took a great loss.
The V 12 is only 326 cubic inches (don't give me the cc nonsense because I understand cubes a lot better). That's what Pontiac's small V8 had.
It wasn't particularly fast, it was pretty cramped in the drivers footwell... in fact pretty cramped inside. Pretty homely car, to be honest; if they didn't put those plastic panels behind the rear windows it would look like a streamlined hearse. The tail light arrangement looks like they just took a random jumble of shapes and threw them on the back.
A car that I can truly say "been there, done that,never again".
Punk
Instructor

I am always surprised when someone says 'I owned X, and it was really ugly, cramped, had a bad driving position, was too slow, etc. etc.' Did you buy it from an internet auction? Or did you actually sit in it to see if you thought it was cramped? Did you drive it and think, wow, this is really slow - I want it! Did you look at it and decide, yeah its ugly, but I'm buying it? I don't get it.
maxmilford
Pit Crew

That Bentley Turbo R looks like a giant Volvo in contrast to the next series of Bentley that is still a Bentley. While not a $10,000 car, they can be had in this price range that the article focuses on. Ford did a lot to improve the quality of the Jag, but not enough. My old boss had an XJ that burnt to the ground in his driveway. When he complained in the media about quality issues, Jaguar sued him for defamation. The suit was thrown out. Truth is a defense!
dhaugh
Detailer

Come on now, it’s not that bad. I have both a Series III XJ12 VDP and a pre facelift XJS and it’s got the Mirelli Ignition which makes it way faster. Yes, they’re both needy from a mechanical perspective though I wouldn’t say overly complex. They do suffer though from an accessibility issue with everything from engine bay to under dash to heat and AC to rear brakes, but as I said above they’re pretty basic, and the V12 is pretty bullet proof when properly cared for. Now that being said, I spent my formative years in the service department of a Jag and Lotus dealer so the Jags don’t scare me nor do Turbo Esprits.

Now I AM a bit scared as I’m currently shopping for an Aston Martin and I have no familiarity with them at all other than to know they’re gorgeous to look at. It must have 3 pedals and I’d prefer it have a V12 though I must say the DB7 six is a tempting alternative. And, I’ve always thought the Turbo R was a cool car, I guess I like big British Saloons.

Don’t let the article scare you away from a V12 Jag, Malcom Forbes was once quoted as saying something along the lines of “everybody should own a V12 once in their life” and I have to agree. Come on in, the water’s fine! And as Ed noted, the author has a Lotus (HMMMM, glass houses, bricks?)
MATTMERICA
Technician

British vehicles of this genre are very similar to having a mistress; they are fun while riding, but the minute something goes wrong it is expensive, painful, and you always have regret lol. Even with the message boards by brand and vin you literally don't know what you don't know. And there are no happy surprises. Ask me how I know.
50s60s70s
Detailer

And who's going to turn down an opportunity to have such a beautiful, sexy, and very high maintenance lady, at least once...... Just saying 😁

Punk
Instructor

Well, owning a V-12 Jag is a hell of a lot cheaper than, say a V-12 Ferrari! Exotic cars cost money to maintain. Jags less so than other comparable, in reality. My son is a service tech at a Mercedes Dealership. Any time one from the 1990s comes in they all run! Total nightmare.
RG440
Technician

Ahhh Yes….The Service Center and the $5,000 Bagel……Gray Poupon on your pat’e Ma’me? Sign Here……………………
F360Spider
Detailer

My neighbor has an XJ-S and it's a garage queen. Not because he's keeping it for posterity but because it's difficult to find the parts and keep it running. Right now he's waiting on some unobtainium thingy that's been on order since last spring. They certainly sound great when they run. Otherwise, a good way to weigh down your garage so it doesn't fly away.
DrSchinbeckler
Pit Crew

Yes, Aston Martin service and parts are ridiculously expensive. But the car is not a bag. I bought my DB7 Vantage Volante three years ago with 55,000 miles on the clock, but nothing has happened to the car that I haven't been able to fix myself, with regular shop tools. The V-12 sings beautifully and once I sorted the alignment, tracks like a dream. It remains a reliable bargain and I, for one, have no regrets.
BCC
New Driver

I would love to have a DB7 but if they told me $8700 to make the check engine light go out I most likely would make a similar investment to drop in a Small Block Chevy...(or Ford) and not have to worry about maintenance for the next 100,000 - 200,000 miles...
Bertone780
Detailer

By its absence from the list, I'm guessing that Range Rover is a paragon of reliability when compared to these three.
JSievers
Instructor

Hah, hah, hah ...
Postie-13
Intermediate Driver

You can write all of the articles, about Britsh automobiles, that you want to.
Are they eye appealing ... some very much so.
Affordable ...to buy ... yes.
To maintain ... continuously.
Worth owning ... If you have an abundance of patience
and very deep pockets.
The Japanese automotive manufacturers learned the hard way, and look where they are.
The British industry never learned.
"Buyer Beware" has never been more truthful than when you are considering the purchase of a British vehicle!
Rocketjudge
Pit Crew

In response to Bertone about the reliability of Range Rover, this is a true story. Back in the late 60's, my brother had to have a Land Rover. He liked to go out in the woods. Of course, it came with the infamous Lucas electrical system - guaranteed to leave you stranded time and again. After a few years, he took a "church key" ( a beer can opener back when cans were steel and way before "pop-tops" for you youngsters and carved the word "LEMON" into the paint and probably metal as he was really p.o'ed and then put it up for sale.
Needless to say, it didn't sell right away!
lvc2jag
Intermediate Driver

On addition to an xke and xk120, I owned 3 xjs cars. 79 with corvette engine. My goal was to make it through a tank of gas without a problem. 89 v12, 100,000 miles without an issue. At 150,000 rubber hoses had issues. 93 a trouble free 6 cylinder car.
hb
Intermediate Driver

No need to fear the XJS. Get your books and manuals, study up and get to work. Keep your relays and connections clean and tight, inspect your vacuum and fuel lines, belt condition and tension, keep ALL your fluids fresh and full and after your drive open the bonnet to vent the heat. My 92 convertible gets this attention every drive and has been flawless. I love the hands on elements of ownership. But that’s just me. One more thing…. Get a battery tender and keep it hooked up. It seems like they really like a fully charged battery. At least in my case.
bboncke
Pit Crew

Yep, well said. From another happy 92 XJS Convertible owner.
sego
Intermediate Driver

With these cars especially, "Love is blind, marriage is the eye opener".
50s60s70s
Detailer

I have an Mercedes SLK, same thing, it's quite a high maintenance lady.... sigh.   Wouldn't part with it for the world.  Looking for a  late 60s-early 79s Jaguar XKE but prices have put that on my wish list.  

hb
Intermediate Driver

I too would love an XKE. A series 3 convertible. Definitely on the list but I need the big lottery score.

DWJ
New Driver

My '71 E-Type Series II was a definite garage queen. Seemed to spend almost as much time in service as on the road. Nonetheless, I loved that car and it was probably my favorite of the many cars I've owned over almost 80 years on the planet. I still regret selling it to get a down payment for a house. Marriage entails sacrifice. ConverseIy, I found my '87 XJ-S pretty reliable, although no sports car and one of the least satisfying cars I've owned. No soul. A few pounds heavier than a Lincoln Town Car of the same vintage, it was a comfortable, quiet, highway cruiser. Drivetrain was bullet-proof. Peripheral equipment less so as the miles piled up. Had a great Jag specialist mechanic, but it usually took $1k plus to get the car out of his shop. Traded it in on a BMW, and life immediately became simpler.
AlfasAudis
Pit Crew

The ownership experience of my many British car owning friends makes me feel better about owning old Italian cars.
Rick2
Instructor

I
Bmike
Detailer

I'll see V12 BMW 7-series in the u-pull-it yards now and then, intact with no crash damage. A shame, a lot of content going to waste (literally). Figure the owner just got tired of the $5K visits to the dealer.
Rick2
Instructor

I Always wanted a V8 Vantage since I saw one at the auto show in Grand Raids, MI I don't know around 2004 or so. Every year they have the "Million Dollar Mile" which is a room where they line up a few exotics that you have to of out of town to actually buy. When I get rich & famous? I will own one.
DougL
Advanced Driver

I have owned a lot of old cars over the years, including a couple XJ-S. I cannot imagine owning an older classic or hobby car and paying someone else to repair it. They all would be money pits. I find the XJ-S to be about as reliable as anything else, but, as an upmarket luxury GT coupe, it has a lot of stuff packed in there that might need repair or maintenance at some point. Complex, older cars are more prone to problems than simple ones. You certainly won't have any problems with the AC or power windows on a Bugeye Sprite.
Inline8OD
Technician

Right. I've known three good wrenches, one a pro with his own long respected shop, primarily fans of old US fare, who to a man said a big Healey (100-6, 3000) the one Sceptered Isle barouche that never let them down.

However, XK Jags long suffered unwarranted rep for unreliability simply as most in the US having deferred maintenance or administered to by guys with experience in V-8s and slush boxes (how sporting...) requiring naught but occasional oil change.

True, some English cars' cooling systems despite heavy export biz, better for cooler, cloudy Britain. But there are ready remedies for that.

Nothing more reliable than a Bugeye Sprite other than the gravity-powered racers we cobbled from old furniture crates on ball bearinged wheels as lads.

Too many Yanks spoilt by living on seemingly inexhaustible, cornucopian huge continent, accordingly a "having it all" mindset. They want to "cut a dash" swanning around in one of the above on the cheap, then whine when something goes wrong.
lvc2jag
Intermediate Driver

I drove my 70 xke 60 miles round trip daily until mid 90s. Probably 1 hour working on it for every hour driven.  Heater worked great in socal except in the winter. However, only left me stranded one one time due to crimp in hose in canister. 😃

hb
Intermediate Driver

With my Jag being well behaved at the moment, I took in an orphaned MGB. Wowzers….One is like working on the space shuttle, the other like working on Fred Flintstones’ machine. But both great in their own way.

DC
Detailer

Thank you, Mr Newton and following commenters on British Car truths. Sad such wonderful cars are so poorly thought out

Makes maintenance on my ‘55 BelAir and SS 396 seem to be a walk in the park.

I've always liked the Aston DB series cars but I have always understood that you have to treat it like it is a six figure car with the repair bills. Too many figure cheap car only to find out the load of money required for repairs and upkeep.

The Jaguar was one of those cars that always felt old and felt more so as time went on. I'd rather have an E Type or a new F Type.
JSievers
Instructor

The DB7/9 cars are gorgeous, and I have been tempted to pull the trigger many times ... and may yet do so if I ever decide to get rid of my Italian mistress. I worked on many XJ-Ss back in the day, and all I can say is no thank you very much. On the other hand, I am highly conflicted about the Bentley Turbo R (I owned an RL). The interior is simply magnificent and I used to go out in the garage and just sit in the car breathing the leather smell and marveling at the wood, chrome and leather surroundings. However, the mechanicals are way over the top in needless complexity and nothing is easy to service. Compounding the problem, most parts are unique to the marque, unlike many other semi- and full-exotics where many components are sourced from major industry suppliers and can be purchased at reasonable prices with a little research. This means that with a Bentley (at least of Turbo R vintage) everything is beyond expensive due to its exclusivity. These cars are fantastic when running right, and draw huge attentions even today, but they are the ultimate nightmare if service and maintenance have been neglected. If one of these cars needs work you will not leave the shop without a five-figure repair bill. If you must, buy the best example you can find with full service history documentation. I'd even go so far as to recommend getting a car from a Bentley repair specialist who has gone through the car thoroughly and will offer some sort of warranty. If you are a skilled DIYer it is possible to a lot of the work yourself, but trust me when I say you won't enjoy it. Good luck!
51JaguarC-type
Intermediate Driver

This is for all the people with negative comments about these three very nice looking vehicles, if you want to play with the big boys be prepared to be the price.
These cars are made for drivers and not for the average poser that can not afford the cost of proper maintenance and start the work on it himself with cheap parts from ebay and than start to cry when he runs in trouble, blame it on the car and of course Lucas.
964c4
Detailer

Cars for people that hate money.
jvonhaden
Pit Crew

I call my 90 XJS convertible my 100 mile car. That's the max distance I'll take it from home. Its left me stranded twice. Because I work on it myself, it hasn't been expensive. A fuel pump relay here, a grease covered crank position sensor there... Definitely not a vehicle for the mechanically challenged. The knowledge gained by fixing the XJS has saved me time and money when my 911SC suddenly wouldn't start. Immediately went to the fuel pump relay and five minutes later - vroom. The other thing you'll want to be prepared for is an oil covered garage floor. But that has been my experience with every vintage Euro vehicle I've owned. I adore the look and ride of the XJS convertible so it will stay with me even though it will never travel far from home.
audiobycarmine
Technician

Just a suggestion to anyone contemplating a Bentley Turbo R...
The article states: "the Turbo R also uses a specific size of Avon tire, the going rate for which is $500 each."

What about using different WHEELS?
CP66
Detailer

LS swapped XJ-S anybody? I've always thought about it but WAY too many irons in the fire.