1954 Volkswagen Beetle
2016 value: £11,675
The big news for the 1954 VW Beetle was a new engine, which was increased to 1.2 liters and 32 hp. Also new for 1954, an ignition switch and key that replaced the dashboard-mounted push-button starter. This coincided with upgrades made to key components including a redesigned crankshaft.
The increase in displacement and power improved the engine’s free revving capability without compromising torque at lower speeds. Concurrently, compression ratios were gradually raised as the octane ratings of fuel was raised during the 1950s and 1960s. The air-cooled engine was installed in the rear, just like in other Beetles, so its weight provided traction to the rear wheels.
According to Volkswagen’s accounts for the ’54 Beetle, the car was offered as Standard and De Luxe Sedan. Design cues of the standard model included a heater and vent wings in the front windows that pivoted so drivers and passengers can control fresh air ventilation.
Volkswagen said both vintage cars were designed for long-distance driving, with ‘finger-tip steering’ and an engine capable of 32 mpg. The De Luxe Sedan added upscale upholstery, chrome plating, and hydraulic brakes. By the early 1950s, the Beetle was being sold in 100 countries across the globe.
Aston Martin DBS Vantage
2016 value: £96,650
The DBS is a grand tourer produced by Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd from 1967 to 1972. The car was prominently featured in the 1969 James Bond flick “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and in the 1970s television show “The Persuaders!” as Lord Brett Sinclair’s ride.
The DBS was meant to be the rightful successor to the Aston Martin DB6, although both vintage cars were produced concurrently for three years. It featured four full sized seats and was a bigger coupé than the DB6, but was powered by the same 4.0-liter mill as the previous car.
Engine output was pegged at 282 hp, although a vantage engine option used Italian-built Weber carburetors, raising output to 325 hp. The DBS was designed and developed to have a more contemporary appeal than the previous series of Aston models.
It also incorporated a squared off front grille and fastback style rear end, which were atypical for Astons at the time, but very much then modish and fashionable in automotive design circles of the late 1960s. Trademark Aston Martin design elements like a hood scoop, side air vents with stainless steel brightwork, and knock off wire wheels were however retained.
2016 value: £4,450
The Mazda MX-5, launched as the Eunos Roadster in Japan and the MX-5 Miata in North America, is a lightweight two-seater with a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration. Built by Mazda in Hiroshima, the model was unveiled in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show.
The MX-5 was conceptualized as a small roadster with lightweight and minimal mechanical sophistication that’s only limited by safety and legal requirements, while being reliable and technologically advanced. The car is essentially the evolution of the British sports cars of the 1950s and ’60s, like the Austin-Healey 100, Triumph Spitfire, MG MGA, and specifically the Lotus Elan.
The original MX-5 was powered by a 1.6-liter dual overhead cam inline 4-cylinder engine, generating 115 hp at 6500 rpm and 100 lb·ft of torque at 5500 rpm. The engine used an electronic fuel injection system with a vane-type air flow meter and an electronic ignition system.
Standard transmission was a 5-speed manual, a unit sourced from the one used in the Mazda 929/Luce. In the U.S. and Japan, an optional automatic gearbox was offered but proved to be unpopular. Although it’s still possible to purchase a usable first-gen MX-5, the best of these vintage cars command a heftier price tag.