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Five cars that have left their reputations behind…

Once mocked, now loved.

Reputations are horrible things. You go into school with some shoes from Shoe Zone once, instead of Kickers, and you’re known as ‘crap shoe kid’ until you’re twenty eight. Accidentally fart in the office, and that’s it, you’re doomed. Get on Reed and find yourself a new job. Yup, reputations are horrid and with it, they’re hard to shake.

Reputations go further than the schoolyard or office though. They have permeated the motoring world for decades, with cars picking them up for all manner of things. Some cars, like the Proton Savvy, deservedly have a bad reputation. The Proton Savvy was shit. Other cars though, well, they’ve done the unthinkable and outgrown their reputations of old.

If only we could do the same. We once called out teacher ‘mum’ and people still remind us, despite it being twenty five years ago. Hmph. Anyway, on with the cars…

The Vauxhall Nova…

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Pumping bass, McDonald’s trays under the rear wheels, Novadose bodykits, jumpers for goalposts, eh, eh? Yes, the Nova was THE car with a reputation. It was the poster child of the Max Power generation, and with it, it earned a heavy reputation for being driven in a fashion about as far from ‘responsible’ as humanly possible. It was a car that was cool if you were 18, but an absolute laughing stock to anyone over the age of 30.

That’s all changed now though. The generation that used to pine for the Nova, but couldn’t have one due to be being 15 are now clammering over them. The Nova is not only a car that’s now recognised as a classic, it’s also a car that it selling for big money. The days of neon lights and Pioneer ‘dolphin’ head units might be gone, but the love for the Nova itself is stronger now than it’s ever been.

The Volvo 300 series…

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Ah yes, the Volvo 300 series. It’s an old man’s car, right? Normally seen with National Trust stickers in every window and parking dings on every panel. Even when it was new it was seen as a slow, ungainly, awkward machine. This was a car squaring up (no pun intended) to the likes of the Escort, Golf and Astra. It was never going to come out on top, despite being safe and largely practical. As such, the 300 series Volvo was never seen as anything other than a car bought in poor taste and/or by people who were older than dust.

Then it all changed. The youth realised something – the Volvo 300 series is actually pretty well built. Also, the transaxle gearbox at the back setup made for good weight distribution and, what’s that, the Renault 1.8 16-valve engine drops straight in? Yes, the Volvo has all the underpinnings of cool from the off, we just never saw it. We do now though, and as such, this once deeply misunderstood car is enjoying a motoring renaissance of sorts.

The Citroen Saxo VTS/VTR…

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When the Nova realised it was time to pass the Torch of Chav, it looked around at the cars on offer and decided the Saxo in VTR and 16-valve VTS flavour was the way to go, and we agreed. This largely because Citroen offered the little hot hatch with free insurance for 18 year-olds, which was foolish. Pretty much every 18 year-old who bought one ended up in a ditch. Usually upside down. The cars that escaped ditches usually ended up with lurid paint or something even worse – there was one famously wrapped in fake snakeskin (we’re not making this up).

As with the Nova, the boy racer hype soon subsided, and now the hot Saxos are being seen as classics, again being bought by those of us who couldn’t afford one back in the ’90s. Finding an original one is something to get excited about, and it’s  a car that’s now appreciated as a tight, fun, sharp little B road blaster. Hot hatches don’t come more fun than this.

The W140 S Class…

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There is no greater fall from grace than that of the large, executive car. Once sitting in a showroom with an astronomical price tag, it’s never long before the same car is loitering in the classifieds for Mondeo money. It’s a sad state of affairs. One car to embody this fall with all four wheels full of depreciating gusto is the Mercedes-Benz S Class. A flagship car that has historically represented the pinnacle of motoring, it simply falls out of the hands of the people who have the money to look after it, ending up dead in a scrap yard somewhere.

The W140 – the third model in the S Class’ history – was no exception. However, the W140 now has a beloved following. Regarded by many as the last ‘properly built’ S Class, it’s transcended the drug dealer/luxry taxi image of old, and instead is now seen as a bona fide classic. Prices are on the up.

The MG Z cars…

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The MG Z cars, despite their best efforts, flew well and truly under the radar. For those who took the plunge and bought one, they were rewarded with a car that had been engineered to near perfection. The ZS was a case in point – it was a car with a simply outstanding chassis that just begged to be pushed and enjoyed. The ZT took the old-man image of the 75 and threw it away and replaced it with pace and bright colours, as did the 25-based ZR. They were good cars, bust because they were seen by many as just another Rover, they were largely ignored and mocked.

That’s not the case anymore though. The MG Z cars are now enjoying a passionate following, and that’s pleasing. Yes, Rover and MG has their troubles, but the cars weren’t the source. The cars, if looked after and cared for, were good. It’s a shame that we’re only just, on a broader scale, beginning to see that now.

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