Over the last 20 years Autocar India has tested some iconic enthusiasts’ cars. You can now buy some of them for about Rs 1 lakh, making them great bargain buys.
If you are a hot-hatch fan, you may remember India’s first one – the Fiat Palio 1.6 GTX with its smooth 101hp, 16-valve, DOHC engine. The facelift sold here was worked on by Giorgetto Giugiaro and looks stunning, even today. Finding spares can be difficult, though. Try to get your hands on a yellow S10 – the Sachin Tendulkar limited edition. It is sure to become a collectible classic.
Another hatchback worth considering is the first-generation Maruti Swift. It was a fun-to-drive car with a nice, crisp steering and good body control. Being a Maruti, spares are still easily available and very affordable, too.
If old hatchbacks aren’t your thing, you may be attracted to the nostalgia of a Maruti Esteem. The 86hp, 1.3-litre MPFI bantamweight sedan had peppy performance and was a favourite with the motorsport community for years, thanks to its lively engine and independent rear suspension.
If you want something with even better handling, there’s the Ford Ikon 1.6 with its punchy 1.6-litre Rocam engine and great steering that, as you might remember, first featured on the cover of Autocar India in September 1999. Finding a good example can be difficult.
Its successor, the Ford Fiesta 1.6S that launched in 2008, was nicer to drive, even though its engine wasn’t as punchy as the Ikon’s.
Speaking of icons, another must-buy is the first-generation Skoda Octavia vRS. Once highly desirable, you can have a vRS today starting at a lakh. You may end up spending twice the amount to restore it but it can be well worth the effort. The turbo-petrol engine with five valves per cylinder can easily be tuned to 250-300hp.
The car I would invest in, though, is the first-generation Honda City 1.5 VTEC that Autocar India tested in its first anniversary issue. No other car blew me away the way this one did, with its 107hp VTEC engine that could spin to a dizzy 7,000rpm. The original City 1.5 VTEC still looks the part and is extremely reliable, even today.
Even though these cars seem extremely tempting for about a lakh, restoring them to a certain level may cost you another lakh (or even more). So I’d suggest you stay away from cars that need extensive work. Also, if you decide to go about rebuilding your car, adding sporty bits – like sports suspensions, exhaust systems, alloy wheels and music systems – can drive costs up even further. On the other hand, Rs 1 lakh is what you would spend on a new iPhone now, which makes the prospect of rebuilding and driving these enthusiasts’ cars a lot more exciting and convincing.
Autocar India's mega 20th Anniversary issue out now!