Old Gold Top Gear: ’90s coupés

Ford Cougar

This week’s Old Gold Top Gear has it all. It’s starts with a glorious MK1 Ford Capri, continues with a reference to Anna Friel and even features Guns N’ Roses’ quite brilliant Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Truth be told, that would probably be enough to keep me happy for an hour of two. But Top Gear goes further than that and spoils us with some of the best coupés of the 1990s. It even features Jeremy Clarkson in his big hair days. It’s hard to believe this was televised in 1998. Coupés and Top Gear have come a long way in 14 years.

Clearly Ford knew they’d be in for some negative comments if they loaned a Cougar to Top Gear. This is surprising given Top Gear’s lavish praise for the Puma which even resulted in it picking up the car of the year award in 1997.

Ford Cougar on old Top GearBy allegedly refusing to let Clarkson drive the Cougar, Ford not only missed out on some prime time BBC coverage, but they also had to suffer the ignominy of seeing the Puma’s big brother being replaced by a tub of lard. Even then, Top Gear held power and press offices had to think twice about refusing to loan the show a car. Guess it’s a game of Russian roulette. Risk a public beating, (remember the Vectra?), or risk your car being compared to a tub of lard.

It’s a rather engaging piece of TV though. At the time, all of these coupés were out of my reach. Thinking back to 1998 I was a student driving a Capri 2.8i, so the likes of a £30k coupe were well off limits. Given the choice in 1998, I would have probably chosen either the 200SX or the Prelude. Clarkson is critical of the Prelude’s styling, but I happen to think its aged as well as, if not better, than most of the cars on display here.

In 2012, it’s interesting to note how the cars have fared. Time is a great healer, so cars that were initially slammed for too high a price or near vertical levels of depreciation, suddenly become desirable. Even dynamic issues can be forgiven when a coupé reaches Bangernomics territory. Or maybe that’s just me?

The Peugeot 406 Coupé is, for me anyway, as beautiful today as it was in 1998. The price? Well somewhat surprisingly, you can pick up a slightly tatty early 3.0 V6 for less than £700. But if you’re prepared to extend your budget to a little over £1k, you’ll be able to pick out an immaculate later model. Seriously, looking good has never been cheaper.

Or how about the BMW 328i? German quality and a ‘bahnstorming engine for just £1,000.

For a similar price, you can get yourself a Volvo C70. Admittedly, it may not have the best chassis in the world, but remember that it has the same engine as the 850 T5 and will easily handle mileages of 200k and more. I’ve even seen C70s sell for as little as £500.

The Fiat Coupé and Alfa Romeo GTV-6 can be yours for hundreds, not thousands too. You need to take a brave pill of course, but the reward surely outweighs the risk?

Red Nissan 200SX - bargain '90s coupéFor me though, there’s only one winner. I’ve always loved the Nissan 200SX. The styling is discreetly aggressive and its dynamic qualities are undoubted. So what if the interior is a little on the dull side. I bet it has lasted better than the majority of cars of this vintage. What’s more, I think the used car market would agree with my verdict, with values of the 200SX holding up well. You’ll need to spend up to £3k for a good, unmodified example. But even at that price, it still represents tremendous value for money. The reliability of a Nissan with the same-wheel drive as a BMW. Perfect.

But enough waffle from me, sit back and indulge yourself in some classic coupé action. You’ll have to excuse the poor sound, which gives it the feel of a European TV ad that’s been badly dubbed into English.

After watching it, I challenge you not to nip over to Auto Trader to see what’s available…

Thanks to ysivyboi1 for posting the video.

Top Gear


About author

Gavin Big-Surname

The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. So you can blame him. Has an unhealthy obsession with cars of the 80s and 90s. The more rubbish, the better. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. Simon Hingston 1 March, 2012 at 20:45 Reply

    Right back again. Had forgotten about the tub of lard. Now trying to find a 200SX which isn’t a drift car. Bet the one in the press pic didn’t drive off the heather unassisted 😉

    Great idea for a Thursday feature.

    • MajorGav 1 March, 2012 at 20:51 Reply

      Thanks Simon. Last week’s post seemed to go down well, so I thought a second update would be good.

      Managed to find a few untouched 200SXs. Quite surprised. £3k is good value for a well maintained car that will undoubtedly be quite reliable…

      • Simon Hingston 1 March, 2012 at 21:27 Reply

        Worked a really early UK drift event at Rockingham. Was eventful drifting down off the banking. Had to use my vehicles to block the circuit till organisers paid up! Finally all the fancy cars were beaten by an Irishman in a Sierra P100 lol.

  2. Joseph 1 March, 2012 at 22:24 Reply

    This is a top video again! In my mind, all of the cars featured are beautiful, although the Volvo C70 and Peugeot 406 are the prettiest, in my opinion. The Prelude is nice, but I am surprised that the Accord Coupe was omitted from the line-up. Also missing the Hyundai Coupe, another nice car which is on my ‘want’ list!

  3. Antony Ingram (@antonyingram) 2 March, 2012 at 08:23 Reply

    Was about to mention that the reason the 200SX is more expensive than the others these days is due to drift scene tax… wouldn’t surprise me if there are some pretty shonky ones out there that still cost more than nice examples of the others, as they’ll have spent the last decade and a half being ragged.

    I think my choice would be GTV or Prelude. Like you, I reckon the last-gen Prelude’s styling has held up very well – heavily criticised at the time for being dull, but it’s also well-proportioned and sharp, and provided you don’t buy a rusty example it still looks modern enough today. Ironically, the swoopy 4th-gen model is the one that fits in least well nowadays – I used to really like that version, but now the 5th gen would be my preference.

    I like the 328i, but my brother bought a grand’s worth of one a few years back and it was a pile. Hidden rust everywhere, few mechanical maladies… the engine and interior were great, but it’s another car that gets driven HARD nowadays so good ones are becoming rarer unless you really stump up the cash.

  4. Joseph 8 April, 2012 at 22:57 Reply

    Fondly remembering the Rover 800 and ‘Tomcat’ coupes that they made in the nineties. Two other favourite cars on my list!

  5. Virtue 23 February, 2015 at 23:48 Reply

    One of the blokes who used to work at my band practice rooms recently bought a Cougar. The top spec 2.5 V6 version too, he took me for a spin in it and my god that thing is quick! I’m a Ford guy through and through and I’d have one in a heartbeat. Been eying up a Puma though… the 1.7 is a bit of a sleeper, 153bhp, top speed 126mph…

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