Top 10

Richard Dredge’s top 10 mid-engined sports cars

Richard Dredge was given a budget of £40,000 per car and told to pick his top 10 favourite affordable mid-engined sports cars.
AC 3000MEAC 3000ME

AC 3000ME

When I was about 15 I went to Brighton for the day, and there I saw something that I'd never seen before or since: an AC 3000ME in the wild. There it was, just parked up looking all enigmatic on the seafront. A friend would (much later) buy the 1978 motor show car and while the build quality was variable to say the least, I've always loved the AC 3000ME.
Porsche 914Porsche 914

Porsche 914

You could hardly call it a looker, but the 914 was worthy of the Porsche badge when it came to the driving experience. Despite this it's largely despised by Porsche enthusiasts thanks to the fitment of a tuned Volkswagen 411 powerplant. But at least it's fitted in the middle of the car – hence the great dynamics.
Ferrari MondialFerrari Mondial

Ferrari Mondial

It's a convertible mid-engined V8-powered Ferrari that the whole family can enjoy, so what's not to like? The running costs for starters, and the chances of buying a duffer thanks to decades of low values. But if you're going to go bankrupt, what a way to do it…
Vauxhall VX220Vauxhall VX220

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

When I worked at Top Gear we ran one of these on our long-term fleet and while it was madly impractical it was an absolute blast to drive thanks to its ferocious pace. It was also less of a handful than the naturally aspirated VX220 that preceded it, thanks to tweaked suspension.
Panther SoloPanther Solo

Panther Solo 1

Here's one that didn't make it, but it deserved to. The British have made a vast array of brilliant sports cars over the years and this should have been one of them. But just as the project was getting somewhere Toyota unveiled the original MR2 and that put the kybosh on Panther's plans to take on the world.
Ginetta G32Ginetta G32

Ginetta G32

Ginetta had made rear-engined cars before, but this was the company's first stab at one with its powerplant in the middle. There was Ford 1.6 CVH power and coupé or convertible editions, but as with so many low-volume cars the economies of scale simply weren't there. The plug was pulled after a claimed 120 had been made.
MGFMGF

MGF

My brother-in-law bought a brand new MGF in 1999, did 60,000 miles in two years then flogged it to my mum. She kept it for another decade and absolutely nothing went wrong as it sailed towards the 100,000-mile mark. Cheap, fun, usable and dependable; what more could you want?
Fiat X1-9Fiat X1-9

Fiat X1/9

The Fiat X1/9 initially came with a 1.3-litre engine, but in 1978 this grew to a 1.5-litre unit. It's those earlier cars which look the best, especially in some of the lurid colours that typified the seventies. But sadly Fiat made them of water-soluble steel so there are hardly any left.
Venturi AtlantiqueVenturi Atlantique

Venturi Atlantique

Having owned an Alpine A610 for a decade, and fretted constantly about poor parts supply, I'd be far too frightened to use the far rarer Venturi in case someone smashed into me. But for its rarity and gorgeous looks I'd buy one just to put it in the garage and look at it.
Matra-Simca BagheeraMatra-Simca Bagheera

Matra-Simca Bagheera

I was going to nominate the Matra Murena, but as Richard Heseltine has done just that I'll plump for its predecessor instead; the glorious Bagheera which also comes with three-abreast seating. Early cars got a 1294cc engine, but from 1975 a 1442cc unit became optional. The very last Bagheeras were sold as Talbots before the Murena took over in 1980.
Richard Dredge was given a budget of £40,000 per car and told to pick his top 10 favourite affordable mid-engined sports cars.
AC 3000MEAC 3000ME

AC 3000ME

When I was about 15 I went to Brighton for the day, and there I saw something that I'd never seen before or since: an AC 3000ME in the wild. There it was, just parked up looking all enigmatic on the seafront. A friend would (much later) buy the 1978 motor show car and while the build quality was variable to say the least, I've always loved the AC 3000ME.
Porsche 914Porsche 914

Porsche 914

You could hardly call it a looker, but the 914 was worthy of the Porsche badge when it came to the driving experience. Despite this it's largely despised by Porsche enthusiasts thanks to the fitment of a tuned Volkswagen 411 powerplant. But at least it's fitted in the middle of the car – hence the great dynamics.
Ferrari MondialFerrari Mondial

Ferrari Mondial

It's a convertible mid-engined V8-powered Ferrari that the whole family can enjoy, so what's not to like? The running costs for starters, and the chances of buying a duffer thanks to decades of low values. But if you're going to go bankrupt, what a way to do it…
Vauxhall VX220Vauxhall VX220

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

When I worked at Top Gear we ran one of these on our long-term fleet and while it was madly impractical it was an absolute blast to drive thanks to its ferocious pace. It was also less of a handful than the naturally aspirated VX220 that preceded it, thanks to tweaked suspension.
Panther SoloPanther Solo

Panther Solo 1

Here's one that didn't make it, but it deserved to. The British have made a vast array of brilliant sports cars over the years and this should have been one of them. But just as the project was getting somewhere Toyota unveiled the original MR2 and that put the kybosh on Panther's plans to take on the world.
Ginetta G32Ginetta G32

Ginetta G32

Ginetta had made rear-engined cars before, but this was the company's first stab at one with its powerplant in the middle. There was Ford 1.6 CVH power and coupé or convertible editions, but as with so many low-volume cars the economies of scale simply weren't there. The plug was pulled after a claimed 120 had been made.
MGFMGF

MGF

My brother-in-law bought a brand new MGF in 1999, did 60,000 miles in two years then flogged it to my mum. She kept it for another decade and absolutely nothing went wrong as it sailed towards the 100,000-mile mark. Cheap, fun, usable and dependable; what more could you want?
Fiat X1-9Fiat X1-9

Fiat X1/9

The Fiat X1/9 initially came with a 1.3-litre engine, but in 1978 this grew to a 1.5-litre unit. It's those earlier cars which look the best, especially in some of the lurid colours that typified the seventies. But sadly Fiat made them of water-soluble steel so there are hardly any left.
Venturi AtlantiqueVenturi Atlantique

Venturi Atlantique

Having owned an Alpine A610 for a decade, and fretted constantly about poor parts supply, I'd be far too frightened to use the far rarer Venturi in case someone smashed into me. But for its rarity and gorgeous looks I'd buy one just to put it in the garage and look at it.
Matra-Simca BagheeraMatra-Simca Bagheera

Matra-Simca Bagheera

I was going to nominate the Matra Murena, but as Richard Heseltine has done just that I'll plump for its predecessor instead; the glorious Bagheera which also comes with three-abreast seating. Early cars got a 1294cc engine, but from 1975 a 1442cc unit became optional. The very last Bagheeras were sold as Talbots before the Murena took over in 1980.

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