3 Car Garage – Ones That Got Away


We’ve all owned cars that we wish we’d kept and we often find ourselves trawling the online ads in horror as we see just how much they have gone up in value over the years. Well, this latest “3 Car Garage” looks at the 3 cars I wish I’d pulled the trigger on back in the day that have how rocketed in price. We’re not talking hundreds of thousands of pounds, but just enough to take them from a bit of a bargain to completely unjustifiable today.*

*As a caveat, I am aware that there are high-milers and some rather “ropey” examples available for less, but I am looking at sub-100k on the clock and as close to original as possible.

BMW M5 Saloon (E39)

For me, BMW were at the top of their game with the E39 5-series. It was the perfect blend of beautiful design and modern technology that just made the car so desirable. The interior was brilliantly put together and every button was in the right place and it was before BMW veered off down the dreaded i-Drive path of which they have never come back. The cabin was incredibly comfortable, the cars were well built and the most desirable of them all, the M5 was a complete triumph.

The M5 only came as a saloon and was produced from 1999 and it was powered by the almighty 4.9-litre naturally-aspirated S62 V8. This produced 395-bhp that was all sent to the rear wheels which consequently launched the almost 5-meter long saloon from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds. Now, to give that some perspective, a Ferrari F355 of the same year can go from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. The E39 M5 redefined the super-saloon and it almost definitely paved the way for fast, comfortable and useable high-power 4-door cars. I still think the E39 is the best looking 5-series and even standard spec facelifted 530i Sports are starting to go up in price as there are fewer of them on the road. I’d have one of these over the later models any day for the week.

Back in the mid-2000s, early examples of the E39 M5 could be had for under £10k, but now you’d be hard pushed to find one with low mileage for under £30k. Not a bad return for those who were able to see into the future and invest in them when values hit rock-bottom.

Porsche 944 Turbo

The Porsche 944 Turbo has been around a bit longer than the other two cars listed here, and they have certainly taken a bit longer to win over the public, but like all things Porsche, their time has certainly come.

It’s easy to lust over a 911, they are and always will be the poster car for the proper Porsche purist, however, over the years Porsche has produced some awesome and wonderful other cars that often got overlooked by the 911 fanboys and girls. The 968 and 944 are probably my favourites of all the lesser-loved models, as I’ve always had a thing for pop-up headlights.

With a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, the 944 Turbo was the top-of-the-range model in the 944 model lineup and boasted 220bhp and rear-wheel drive. The 944 offered a dynamic and rewarding drive that, due to its more conventional drivetrain setup or front-engine – rear-wheel drive, made it one of the best driver’s cars of its time. This coupled with Porsche’s outstanding reliability made it an almost guaranteed future classic in the making. There are plenty of 944s out there, often with almost astronomical mileage which only supports the rumours of the German automaker’s incredible build quality. A LHD model with 184,000 miles on the clock finished in Guards Red with a fantastic history file recently sold for £12,000 but if you want a genuine RHD, low-mileage model in good condition and no dodgy past, you’re probably looking at much closer to £30,000 now – not quite the £8,000 they were back in 2006.

Audi RS4 Avant (B5)

Similarly to the E39 M5, the RS4 was first produced in 1999 and it was the successor to the Audi/Porsche joint venture-developed RS2 but with a much more commercial appeal. The B5 RS4 was only built as an estate which instantly made it more desirable to people like me, and its wide track and low suspension were subtle enough to let those who know know that this was no ordinary family estate car.

The B5 RS4 is such a special car with its Cosworth-developed twin-turbocharged 2.7-litre V6 engine that sent 375bhp to all four wheels using Audi’s Quattro system via a manual transmission. It managed to perfectly disguise its rally-derived hooligan abilities within its seemingly normal family estate body so well, and unlike RS cars of today, without the need for over-the-top body styling. The body may have been widened to house the car wider track, and the 18″ alloy wheels were also wider than standard, but other than that, it was the true definition of a sleeper car.

The RS4 may not have gone as low as the BMW and the Porsche, values were at around £12,000 but like the other two, they are rising nicely now with fewer low-mileage cars appearing. A sub-100k car with no modifications will probably set you back around £25,000 now but this is sure to rise in the coming years.

Out of the three cars in this list, the Audi RS4 Avant is the one I really wish I had bought back in the mid-2000s, and the one I would still like to own the most today. Like the BMW, I feel like it was the peak for Audi. If you imagine a Venn diagram in your head with three circles; one with Performance, one with Styling and one with Understated Appeal, in the overlapping section in the middle you will find the B5 RS4 Avant. As time has gone by, the RS4 has increased in production numbers, got a lot faster and a lot more practical, but it’s also become a lot more garish, flashy and overstated and they have lost what it is that makes them so admirable. This is the same for the M5 and also a lot of other cars that have evolved over the years like the RS6, the M3 and many, many more.

There are many other cars I could have put into this list like the E46 M3 and the 996 Porsche 911, and these are also great cars that are now finally getting the respect and admiration they deserve but like all these things, If I were to sit here and list every car I wish I’d bought back in the day it would be more of a “100 Car Garage” post.