Theme: Values – Quentin Willson’s 1992 Used-Car Tips

What are they worth now? Read on to find out.

1992 Buying Cars magazine cover

Quentin Willson, writing in Buying Cars (March 1992) offered his “dealer’s choice” of the best 50 cars. It would be a work of enormous tedium to examine the fate of his entire listing. I’ll focus on his first choice in each group. Which car turned out to hold its value most?

Willson liked the Ford Fiesta 1.1 LX most out of the small cars. “Friendly, economical and well up to Ford’s usual standards and they have this endearing wrap-around quality”. He cites £6500 for one from the Channel Islands. Today a 1993 car is yours for £500 here:  but if you want something a bit nicer, you can have one for £700 here. Interestingly, a low mileage 1980 Fiesta is asking £2500.

Best of the lot is a 62,000 mile 1988 Fiesta Ghia for £2200 here . To keep things conservative, let’s say a 1993 Fiesta is about £700, give or take.

1992 Ford Sierra 1..8 Sapphire Azura: source
1992 Ford Sierra 1..8 Sapphire Azura: source

From the family saloons Willson opted for another Ford: the Sierra 1.8 LX. A 1991 was worth £7000 then. Today such a car is worth £2200, in this case a 1992 Sierra Saphire 1.8 Azura Limited Edition. That’s worth a photo (see above). The Peugeot 405 GRi 1.9 diesel stood next to the Ford as runner-up, crying into its pastis. Willson dodged the price issue on that one. For what it’s worth, £1400 is what Jake wants for this low-mileage but rather white car, destined for export, no doubt.

The ominous thing I noticed is that in advert for a 405 estate the seller said the car could be converted to a 7-seater in Africa. That’s where these cars are going. In brief £2200 is the price of Willson’s favourite here.

Now we get to performance cars. To my vast, vast, vast surprise, Top Gear’s Quentin Willson chose the Porsche 944 Turbo as his favourite. For £10,000 in 1992 you could get an example with 40,000 miles on the odometer. Today a car with rather more miles than that, also a D-plater will set you back 4250 of your Earth monies. I don’t like these cars.

1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Lusso: source
1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Lusso: source

Rushing past that sector, we find ourselves now in the “prestige” district. Top among all the cars on sale then, the Alfa Romeo 164 finds itself blinking on the winner’s podium. Why, Quentin?

“Fetching, fluent, fast and frugal, that’s the Alfa Romeo Twin Spark, one of my favourite luxury liners, and another car I would be proud to own. Breeding is the attraction with the 164. It’s like every other Alfa Romeo you’ve ever driven rolled into one [I assume he left out the Arna and the 90], a sort of distillation of all the best bits. Easy on the gas, nimble on its feet, dauntingly handsome and from the pilot’s seat it feels like a hotshoe hatchback”.

Getting to the delicate matter of the cost, one of these cars in 1992 would cost you £7500, on a G-plate (1998, I suppose). I couldn’t find any 2.0 litre twin sparks in my short search. The closest comes in the form of a 1991 3.0 Lusso for five quid short of four grand. That’s £3995 to you, sir.

Wilson’s number two: the S-Class: big, impressive, head of state material, he calls it. Second place though. “They ooze solidity and last like ancient monuments”, he says. That’s archetypal automotive prose, isn’t it? Did you also notice that the Alfa we mentioned earlier was “dauntingly” handsome?

1988 Citroen 2CV black and creamLast and least, a “cheap car”. Mr W’s premier cheap car is the Citroen 2CV followed by the Ford Granada which, as we all know can “really last”. “The 2.3 and 2.8 V6s are solid reliable motors” he writes. A 1988 Citroen 2CV in good order (the first I found, note) costs £5250 “as stated” (a lot of ads use that term).

So, what have we discovered? A punchline, it seems. The most expensive car out of Wilson’s collection is the 2CV which in 1992 counted as a cheap car. How remarkable. That’s a scientific finding exclusive to DTW.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

19 thoughts on “Theme: Values – Quentin Willson’s 1992 Used-Car Tips”

  1. That’s salutary. A bunch of cars, most of which no-one would even notice today, and younger drivers would be hard-pressed to recognise. The 2CV and the Alfa were certainly journalists choices of their time, a way of avoiding predictability. I remember trying to persuade a work colleague to buy a used 164, around 1999 – they bottled out, as I imagine most people who read Quentin’s choices did.

    Journalese is a problem for me, probably even more so for journalists. When I first started writing here I tried hard to avoid it but, recently, I’ve noticed my using certain stock phrases without thinking. In most cases, I’ve caught them and edited them out, but please chastise me if I cross the boundary. I want my prose to be achingly, even iconically, original.

    1. A British business associate of my dad’s (whose name was very snigger-inducing to my younger self) was so proud of his Alfa 164 company car that he annoyed his counterparts into a state of apathy. That was when my father understood the enormous social repercussions of company cars in the UK.

    2. With my huge output I can´t help but use certain words over and over again. A useful stratagem is to avoid the word “was” and to dodge the words that leap forward. There is a difference between re-use of certain phrases if they are at least accurate and the use of the plain wrong. Willson was being a bit daft if he thought something could be dauntingly handsome. Could it also be threateningly good-good looking or intimadatingly attractive? Maybe a person is but a car, never.
      We must have a clchee competition again sometime.
      It´s not Willson´s fault: time has not been merciful to those brown leather jackets with knitted cuffs and collars. Everyone looks slope-shouldered in them. You just can´t go wrong with a wool jacket or blazer, can you?

    3. I’ve got a brown leather jacket I’m still rather fond of, but it avoids the knitted cuffs and has a fabric turtleneck collar. The leather itself is still delightful.

  2. Is there a greasier man in automotive journalism than Quentin Willson? The increasing number of his contributions have made me cancel my subscription to (Thoroughbred &) Classic Cars magazine.

  3. Kris: Britain is quite status conscious. I can´t say I experienced much concerning my car apart from the Jaguar owner in my office who derided my car. How rude, I thought. What was behind that? Insecurity, I think. I felt in Germany that people at my work did not judge you by your car but if it the car was interesting, that was a nice talking point, whether it was a Porsche, a Volvo or a Espada. People seemed pleased to talk about them.

  4. Quentin Willson is an institution with his asymmetical smile, swept back hair and prediliction for journalese. In another world Clarkson would not have existed and Willson would be the face of television journalism. He earns a lot of money posing for car insurance adverts. Does he write a lot of articles now?

  5. Back in the early 90s, QW seemed to successfully mould the slightly risqué wordliness of the secondhand car dealer with the requisite upper-middle classness of the BBC presenter. I guess he’s a bit of an anachronism now.

    1. Yes, there was a touch of the social tourist to him. His father was an arts professor. Willson began trading in old Lamborghinis and Ferraris which lifted him up from the level of John Coates, for example. That said, I wonder how much car selling he did after 1990.

  6. I had a brown leather jacket with woolen bits too. I was never happy with it. Wool and leather aren’t complementary, they require different cleaning techniques.

  7. 20 years ago, the world of motorjournalism was more understandable than today. Quentin Wilson was on Alfa Romeo´s payroll and so he was recommending the Alfa 164. That is logical and not surprising at all.

    Today, when reading the german auto motor und sport, it is very clear that the writers have to love everything that comes from Wolfsburg, So their car reviews about every Volkswagen are written like an advertising brochure. But they have to disguise this in a pseudo-objective report.
    Must be a very unsatisfying job.

    1. AMS is also a very unsatisfying read these days. As a child, every second Wednesday (?) was a date to be cherished, but I’m now finding myself not having paid money for any German-language car magazine in about a decade.

      While AMS has never been the wittiest of readings, I was impressed to see the thoroughness of their testing in the 1980s/early 1990s. Today’s magazine’s lacking a similar raison d’etre (Laurent: apologies for not finding the circonflexe on my keyboard).

    2. Wow, a decade without German car magazines, that’s impressive. I can only look back on three, maybe four years of it. And there are still exceptions: a few classic car magazines and the Austrian Autorevue. I bought it again on a recent trip to Vienna and was not disappointed as I normally am with magazines.

      Oh, and after a long time of vegan upper-body clothing I bought a brown leather jacket two yeary ago, but without any textiles showing on the outside. It’s rather one of the heavier sort, well fitted for mild winter days or a cool spring evening.

  8. Markus: Having watched the film I am a bit stunned. It’s quite closely modelled on the humdrum style of a TG insert. That said it reminds me what a pleasant car the 164 was. It still looks “dauntingly attractive”.

    1. Possibly we might compile a list of unique to DTW motoring cliches, involving inappropriate adjectives. For a start, I propose “the Ghibli’s ride is vicariously firm’

  9. My favourite is ascribing a random fraction to pace. “At three-fifths pace the ride is relaxed, but at nine-twelveths it begins to fidget.”

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