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Rob Griffin

Top five ‘poor man’s’ posh cars


New Porsche or BMW not getting you kudos from other road users? You could be driving one of those cars often dubbed the "poor man's version".

Poor man's posh cars

You’re behind the wheel of a vehicle made by a prestige manufacturer but no-one with any knowledge of cars is impressed.

If that sounds familiar then chances are you’re driving a poor man’s version of a posh car.

It might have the manufacturer’s badge proudly displayed on the bonnet but everyone knows it’s either the cheapest, entry-level version or is fatally flawed in some respect.

Either way it will come with a reduced price tag and zero kudos.

Porsche 924 - £6,999 in 1976

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The Porsche 924 wasn’t actually a bad car. It was well balanced and looked half decent.

But when it’s powered by an engine that was previously used in a VW LT Delivery Van it’s going to be pretty hard to convince the purists it’s worthy of the badge.

As well as never having enough power to generate much excitement, it also happened to be the first water cooled Porsche which also didn’t go down a storm with enthusiasts.

And at the time it was still quite a lot of money to pay for a prestige car containing parts from a VW.

BMW 3 Series Compact - £13,350 in 1993

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The perfect BMW if your budget only stretches to a VW Golf, according to Giles Chapman, author of "The Worst Cars Ever Sold".

"It comes with an unfortunate air of desperation," he says.

"It says you want to be in the 3 Series club but can’t afford the proper one."

While a laudable attempt to introduce more people to the brand in the hope they would graduate to a proper 3 Series when finances allowed, it just didn’t look right.

From its rounded headlights to squat, hatchback styling, the Compact just missed the mark.

Jaguar X-Type - £19,995 in 2001

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It proudly displayed the Jaguar badge but underneath it was basically a Ford Mondeo, points out Giles Chapman.

"It’s an object lesson in how not to do a prestige car because you can’t con people," he says.

"It’s not a bad car but it’s pretending to be something it’s not."

People with the kind of money to buy such a car wouldn’t be fooled by the X-Type, while company car buyers won’t fancy being laughed at in the motorway services.

Critics suggest the X-Type’s misgivings were a reason why the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C Class enjoyed huge sales.

Vauxhall VX220 - £23,490 in 2001

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When Vauxhall agreed a joint venture with Lotus to produce its own version of the stunning Elise it sounded like a great idea.

Vauxhall would get a high-profile car for its range at a price tag more in the reach of the company’s traditional buyers.  

And the arrangement allowed Lotus to make the building costs of the Elise more viable.

However, despite sharing many of the same parts as its more illustrious cousin – apart from obvious exceptions such as the body and engine – there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s essentially a poor man’s Elise.

Bentley Eight - £49,497 in 1984

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What do you get when you take a luxury Bentley Mulsanne and cut £10,000 off the selling price?

The answer is a Bentley Eight Sedan, which was produced during the mid 1980s as a bid to provide an entry-level vehicle for those with limited cash.

"They went around the whole car looking for ways to penny-pinch, such as making the grille wire mesh instead of chrome strips," explains Chapman.

"Only the part of the seat you actually sat in was leather, the rest was vinyl."

Buying a top-end Merc for a similar price would have probably been the wiser option but this was for the driver who wanted to yell: "Look at me – I’ve got a Bentley!"


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