Currently reading: Five brilliant cars that are worth the trouble - used car buying guide
Some cars are sorely tempting, even though you know they may be troublesome and cost you an arm and a leg to run

Sometimes the heart must rule the head, even if it means more pain further down the road. We'd happily shell out for these motors, even if it meant even more money spent on repair bills.

1 - Mazda RX-8 (2003-2010)

The Mazda RX-8 aimed to prove there was life in the rotary engine, long after many thought it had breathed its last. Unfortunately, owners soon realised its thirst for oil and petrol was as strong as ever.

When the 1.3-litre engine is healthy, it’s super-smooth. So, too, is the gearbox, which, depending on the version of RX-8 (189bhp or 228bhp) you’re interested in, has five or six speeds.

When buying, look for evidence of servicing and of the coil packs having been changed, and check what oil has been used when topping up. Difficulty starting a warm engine can indicate worn, oil-starved rotor tips. Prices start at £2000, but warranted cars are £4000. Pay it.

2 - TVR Cerbera 4.5 (1996-2003)

It won’t surprise anyone to read that TVRs aren’t the most reliable things on four wheels, with the F1-inspired AJP V8 engines rumoured to go bang on a regular basis. Electrical and trim issues bedevil many cars, but the engines represent buyers’ biggest fear.

If the worst happens, putting one of these high-revving V8s back together is expensive. In truth, if the engine is well maintained, rumours of snapped crankshafts and rebuilds are overplayed.

Assuming we haven’t put you off, the Cerbera is one of the most practical TVRs of all — a genuine four-seater with, when the engine works, lashings of power. Around £20,000 gets you a decent choice of the best available.

3 - Citroën SM (1970-1975)

The DS is revered, rightly, as a technical tour de force and a thing of beauty, but the SM takes things up a notch. It feels far more modern than its 40 years would suggest. As you might expect, however, mixing a highly strung Maserati V6 with cutting-edge 1960s French luxury is a recipe for potentially big bills.

When working, the SM is a thing of joy, but things go wrong with startling regularity. Engines suffer oil pump failure, fuelling problems and timing chain issues. Rust is a major headache, too, and expensive to put right.

There are a few SMs about, so be picky and be prepared to spend north of £25,000 to have any prospect of getting something that won’t break your heart.

4 - Lamborghini Miura (1966-1973)

Is this the original supercar? It certainly introduced the concept of mid-engined layouts to the breed and was Ferruccio Lamborghini’s first project after he got bored with building tractors.

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However, to those people who drive Miuras, the car is better known for wandering about and trying to take off at speed. In short, it’s a great car but a difficult mistress. Early ones are underbraked and overpowered. The complex and powerful quad-cam V12 is fed by no fewer than six carburettors. They need constant attention.

Nevertheless, with only about 750 ever made, demand for this temperamental car is strong and its prices high - like £850,000 high.

5 - Lotus Esprit Turbo (1981-1987)

Light weight and ample power are the ingredients for a successful supercar recipe, and they’re exactly what went into the Turbo version of Hethel’s mid-engined missile. The turbocharger gave the naturally aspirated S1/S2 models just the power they needed.

James Bond’s Esprit may have avoided overheating, leaky head gaskets, cracked engine mounts and clutch failures, but other Esprits have not been so lucky. At least the presence of a galvanised chassis and GRP body means there are no rust worries, and suspensions hold up pretty well, too. If you’re lucky, you may find a good car for around £20,000, but expect to pay more, and expect some large bills.

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275not599 14 July 2015

Buy the SM and take it to

Buy the SM and take it to Regembeau in France who have all the fixes for that pretty poorly designed engine and suddenly you have a reliable 240 bhp. They do an in-house six speed also.
typos1 14 July 2015

I remember reading years ago

I remember reading years ago in Autocar that the Cerbera was a proper 4 seater, so I was very surprised when a friend bought one a few years back, to find that the rear seats are for small children ONLY - maybe you want to revise what can only be described as TOTALLY INACCURATE cr*p that youve put about the Cerbera being a genuine 4 seater, Mr Donnelly ?
Beastie_Boy 14 July 2015

I'd like to suggest my wife's Mazda 1999 MX5

Utterly brilliant in every way possible, almost. Sadly, rust is taking hold and will kill it off at some point. Same thing happened to her previous one. You look at any Mark I or II MX5 and you will see that rust has taken hold round the rear arches/sills. I've read online that the Mark 3 models are beginning to go the same way. No excuse for not providing sufficient rust proofing.

Shame really but it won't put us off getting another one.

Many years ago I had a Fiat X19. It made me feel I was driving a baby Ferrari until rust took hold and caused it's sad demise.

I appear to like rusty cars.

I'd happily live with the SM and Miura featured above regardless of whether they worked or not. I'd get plenty of joy from simply sitting and looking at the them.