The first snows of the winter season have now arrived, and chances are your pride and joy has already begun its annual hibernation. But just because the weather is beginning to turn doesn’t mean you need to abstain from driving old cars. These top five winter classics will take anything the British winter has to throw at them, and there’s something to suit every budget.
Subaru Impreza £10,495
The planets of performance, practicality and affordability became perfectly aligned when the Subaru Impreza first burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, coupled with a money-can’t-buy advertising campaign thanks to a very sideways Colin McRae. The only thing to change since then is that Subaru’s action packed saloon has become a whole lot cheaper.
Permanent four-wheel-drive gives the Impreza road holding that its front- and rear-drive contemporaries could only dream, coming into its own both on the race track, loose gravel stage and even – you’ll be pleased to hear – a snowy commute. A quick search on YouTube reveals Scoobies performing feats you wouldn’t think possible of a performance four-door, including dragging a stranded ambulance out of a snowy ditch.
Values are on the rise for the very best examples, as well-cared for cars become increasingly rare, but the Impreza is still firmly within the reach of the average enthusiast, and not beyond being considered as a winter hack. You’ll struggle to find a modern classic that offers quite such bang for your buck, let alone one as capable of tackling wintery conditions.
Land-Rover Series IIA £13,900
You may not have realised it, but there’s been a mass migration taking place over the past five years. Britain’s greatest workhorse, the classic Land-Rover, have been leaving their farmyard hideaways and heading for the streets of Kensington and Chelsea. Posh Spice becoming a design consultant on the Evoque was the warning shot across our bows – the classic Land-Rover has now become a fashion accessory. But don’t despair.
Prices may have shot up since the Tabithas and Tristans of this world cottoned on to the Landie’s charms, but there is a silver lining: cars that would have otherwise have been driven into the ground and left to die in fields and hedgerows are now being restored. That means there are plenty of fantastic examples currently for sale, especially if you steer clear of the big money Series I and opt for the more practical Series IIA.
Full weather gear makes it a useable – if slightly chilly – winter hack, while its off-road ability will get you out of even the trickiest situations. They’re reliable, too, if well maintained. Just ask Classic & Sports Car’s art editor Martin Port, who travels some 100 miles per day in his trans-Africa example.
Willys Jeep £27,991
Long before Maurice Wilks picked up a stick at Red Wharf Bay, the Willy’s Jeep was conquering some of the world’s most inhospitable locations during the Second World War, from the shifting sands of the Sahara to the snow swept forests of the Ardennes. It quickly became a firm favourite of soldiers for its rugged construction, incredible off-road ability and its powerful ‘Go Devil’ engine, all attributes which make it equally as attractive to today’s enthusiasts.
It’s not without its faults, of course; weather equipment doesn’t stretch much beyond a few poles and a thin piece of canvas, its top speed is nothing to write home about, and that peppy engine isn’t the most frugal lump in our lineup. Despite that – if you have the means – a Willy’s Jeep will make a fantastic addition to your winter garage. Long after your other classics have cried enough, your Jeep will still get you to the shops.
Saab 96 V4 £27,999
You’re not likely to encounter too many icy Cols and treacherous Alpine passes on the drive from your front door to Cockfosters train station on a Monday morning, but to be doubly sure of getting there we’ve chosen a Saab 94 which has recently completed the gruelling Rallye Monte-Carlo. Erik Carlsson drove a V4 to victory in the 1967 Czech Rally, as well and third and fifth-placed finishes at the Baja 1000 in 1969 and 1970, and with this stunning example you can emulate your hero – though hopefully spending less time on the roof!
While a rally version may seem slightly over the top, the standard car is still a hugely capable winter machine. Built to withstand harsh Scandinavian winters, the 96 combines front-whee-drive with skinny tyres, with the weight of the engine over the driven wheels to aid traction. On top of that, they’re as tough as old boots, with a super strong shell, a reliable Ford-sourced engine and solid mechanicals.
Audi UR quattro £43,000
The revolutionary UR quattro turned rallying on its head when it first broke cover at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980. It became the first model to take advantage of new rules allowing the use of four-wheel-drive, and within the space of just two years it was dominating competition.
Don’t let Walter Röhrl, Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist have all the fun. The roadgoing version of Audi’s groundbreaking rally car is a fantastic modern classic that makes sense as both practical transport and an investment. As well as otherworldly levels of grip and an impressive turn of speed enabled by the sonorous 2.2-litre ‘five’, the quattro offers a great deal of refinement missing from some of our other selections. A good heater, electric windows and even a stereo – luxury!