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Car Choice: Man with large budget seeks something small and exciting

Martin Gessell is at that time in his life when he wants a vehicle that is exciting, distinctive, and does that most magical thing of all – which is fail to depreciate. Luckily he has a huge budget to play with, running from £5,000 to a possible £35,000 if the car is right. He covers around 10,000 miles a year, but is not bothered about having any unnecessary extras, including a radio. He just enjoys driving.

A car for the head

It is great to get such a magnificently open-ended question. The truth is that all cars depreciate, but the clever thing to do is find one that depreciates to a certain level and then stays there, so at least you will get most of your money back. Actually, one of the most logical choices is a Caterham Seven. This is pure minimalist fun, which is what a real sports car is all about. You soon forget that the hood is a pain to fit, and also the sheer discomfort of being buffeted by the elements. Even better, a Caterham either depreciates very slowly or not at all.

Contrary to appearances, no two Caterhams are alike: side or rear-exit exhausts, flared or cycle wings, leather, limited slip differential, five or six speed gearbox, even a heater could be an option. What’s not an option is falling in love. Travelling 10,000 miles a year would be a challenge, but not impossible – Martin would certainly remember every single mile. That may affect ultimate resale value, but demand will be strong. Running costs are low, although the biggest single expense can be the exhaust. A 2001 1.6 example, with 21,000 miles on the clock, is just £9,995 and if looked after will never drop much below that.

A car for the heart

Martin tells me he loves Porsche 911s, and that would certainly make a more practical all-weather alternative to the Caterham. The 911 is the ultimate sports car for many enthusiasts. The 993 model from 1994 to 1997 embodies the company’s tradition of exceptional engineering and truly timeless styling. Its air-cooled, “flat” six-cylinder engine not only makes a distinctive sound, it is mounted where the boot ought to be and has caused “tail happy” handling for a generation, and fostered the belief that only “real” drivers can actually tame them. Certainly no other sports car delivers such high performance thrills, yet provides consistently reliable transportation.

The 911 has been successful because it has gradually evolved over three decades. Although the 911 is now a very different car from the 1960s original, the same spirit of performance, build integrity, and style remain. The 911 is a true automotive legend. The 993 model is regarded as the best, which means prices remain very firm indeed. I found a 1995 example with 92,000 miles on the clock, which had a comprehensive history and was being sold privately for £19,995. Although it came with an inspection made six months ago, it would be worth paying for another.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.