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10 ordinary cars more rare than a Ferrari F40

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December 8, 2016
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Some cars are too loved, or too valuable, or just too damn pretty, to ever fall from grace and fade away to extinction.

That’s why two thirds of the 800,000-plus Porsche 911s ever made are still in use today, why there are still plenty of E-Types, Beetles, Minis and MGBs proudly lodged in garages across the UK.

But what of the more humdrum cars that reliably ferried us to work, to the shops or trips to the seaside, rarely cherished by their owners and simply serving their primary purpose as a means of getting from A to B?

Many of these cars sold in their hundreds of thousands, but so few remain today that, if they were a bird or animal, they’d be on the critically endangered species list.

We take a look at the once ubiquitous cars that are now barely seen, and will allow you to tell a Ferrari F40 owner that your car is more rare than his.

Morris Marina – 294 left on the road

The Morris Marina has been the butt of almost as many jokes as the Allegro and Skoda over the years, but despite all the brickbats it was one of the best-selling cars of the 1970s and retains a loyal following today.

Replacing the beloved Minor was always going to be tough, but the Marina, introduced in 1971 with running gear mostly nicked from the Triumph, MG and Minor parts bins, pipped the Ford Escort to second place in the UK best seller charts of 1973.

The coupe version was actually a fairly attractive car for the time, and its 1798cc B-series engine even outperformed the MGB carrying the same unit.

But the Marina’s problem was its handling and steering, with its mechanical package behind the times compared with its rivals. It was succeeded by the Morris Ital, a new name for basically a redesigned Marina, of which a mere 47 are left on the road…

Austin Montego – 203 left

The car that brought us the talking dashboard (yes, really) was once the most-scrapped car in Britain, with only about 200 of the half million Montegos sold between 1984 and 1995 still on the roads.

A replacement for the Morris Ital and Austin Ambassador, the Montego shared its boxy but neat styling with the smaller Maestro, and competed head-on with the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier for the country’s fleet buyers.

The 150bhp MG turbo version was a serious sports saloon capable of 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 126mph, but big trouble lay ahead for cars built prior to 1989 with the A and S-series engines when leaded petrol was phased out.

Neither engine could run on unleaded fuel without a cylinder conversion or fuel additives, so many owners simply scrapped their cars.

Datsun Cherry – 95 left

More than a million of Datsun’s original superminis were sold across the world in various guises, from the tiny and now sought-after 100A to the later, larger Nissan versions.

Reliable and practical, the car enjoyed a 16-year production run from 1970, but rust wiped out the vast majority of the cute-looking early models, and the later versions, while also suffering from corrosion, were never destined to be true classics and have largely been scrapped.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud – 84 left

It took Alfa Romeo a long time to recover from the rust-induced damage done to its reputation by the otherwise sparkling and dynamic Alfasud, a car that rewrote the small hatch rulebook – if only it hadn’t fallen apart so easily.

It’s hard to believe this beautiful hatch first went on sale in 1972 so fresh and modern are its lines even today, but it was the driving experience that set it apart – direct steering, stunning handling and sprightly performance from the flat-four engine left its competition struggling to keep up.

Poor quality Russian steel was blamed for the car’s rust problems, and it’s almost a surprise that as many as 84 of the 1million+ produced are still on UK roads.

Vauxhall Belmont – 80 left

Vauxhall tried in vain to tell us that this wasn’t just an “Astra with a boot” in their adverts. But, well, it was.

Lured into the converted hatchback market by VW and Ford, who respectively turned the Golf into the Jetta and the Escort into the Orion by somewhat pointlessly extending the rear end, the Belmont debuted in 1986 – long after the Orion had been a sales success.

Almost as big as a Cavalier inside, and boasting a huge boot for its class, peculiarly the Belmont was listed as the car most likely to be stolen in Britain in 2003, with nearly 10 per cent of the 20,000 registered at the time being nicked.

Lada Riva – 51 left

Believe it or not, the much-ridiculed Lada Riva (as it was called in the UK) sold more than 20,000,000 cars worldwide.

Rock-bottom prices saw the boxy Soviet saloon, based on the 1960s Fiat 124, find a significant following in the UK through the 1980s, despite its outdated mechanicals and dated looks.

As well as being able to buy a brand new car for just £3,495, owners loved its ruggedness and easy maintenance, not concerned with its stodgy handling and lack of power.

A combination of rarity and Eastern Bloc kitsch have made these cars highly sought after, and a good example now will cost more than twice its price new…

Skoda 130-136 Rapid – 34 left

Younger readers will find it hard to believe that Skodas were once derided as Cold War jokes. And older readers may be equally surprised that one car from the era was seriously called “brilliant” and “a beginners guide to driving a Porsche 911”.

But that’s exactly how the Skoda Rapid series, from 130 to 136 – including the incredibly rare fuel-injected 136 RiC – was described by none less than Autocar magazine.

The rear-engined coupe, at the time the cheapest coupe available in Britain, had wild handling until rear suspension changes in the middle of the decade improved things to the extent that it was seriously compared to the 911 (only nowhere near as fast…).

Renault 18 – 32 left

We could have filled this with Renaults, as most models from the 1970s and 1980s (the 11, 25, 30 and Fuego to name a few) have found their way to the scrapheap.

But we’ve plumped for the Renault 18 because of more than 2million produced just 32 of these once-popular saloons are left cruising UK streets.

Launched in 1977 as a Cortina and Cavalier rival, the 18 replaced, and shared underpinnings with, the ageing Renault 12. A somewhat under-powered 1.4-litre model was the most popular initially, but turbo and 2-litre Douvrain models were introduced in the 1980s to boost appeal and address falling sales.

Fiat Mirafiori – 20 left

Stylishly-named after the factory in which it was built, the Mirafiori was dynamically light-years ahead of UK rivals like the Morris Marina.

As typically-boxy Fiat saloons go, the Mirafiori was nicely styled and sold well in standard form before the upgraded Supermirafiori arrived after 1978, with a 1.6-litre twin-cam engine and five-speed gearbox that put the Marina and Cavalier in the shade.

To underline the point, the Mirafiori, carrying its Italian 131 name, was a hugely successful rally car, winning the manufacturers’ World Rally Championship three times between 1977 and 1980.

The Supermirafiori is now highly desirable and will set you back about £10,000.

Chrysler Alpine – 7 left

Whatever happened to the European Car of the Year from 1976? Maybe that year’s long, hot summer messed with the minds of the judges, or maybe the Chrysler Alpine really was a better car than the BMW 3-series it beat into second place by 50 votes.

Sadly, we’ll never know how good this early family hatchback could have been as a combination of diabolical rust-proofing and trans-atlantic automotive politics saw the Alpine disappear from UK roads almost as quickly as it had burst on to the scene.

Chrysler’s American bosses got sick and tired of Britain’s strike culture and pulled out, leaving just seven left on the road today, plus a further 12 later Talbot-badged examples.

Our data was taken from the ever-entertaining How Many Left website, and is obviously subject to change as more cars meet their maker. Do you own any of these increasingly-rare motors? If so, why not tell us in the comments what you love about it, and why you keep it on the road.

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