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Some cars definitely fall into the 'you should've known better' category. They're gorgeous, alluring and often thrilling to drive. They're usually rare on our roads, too, although generally for good reason.
A distinct lack of buyer interest when new is usually an accurate canary-down-the-mineshaft indicator of what to expect from them these days. Whether it's because of the spectre of unreliability, outrageous price, or simply an impractical design that never struck a chord with the masses, some cars -- now much cheaper on the second-hand market -- are probably still best avoided, but remain utterly tantalising all the same.
After all, predictability is boring. Well, when it doesn't involve being late to the office on a Monday morning because your Fiat Stilo Abarth won't start again anyway. You have been warned ...
Citroen C6 What utter gorgeousness. What chic outrageousness. What could possibly go wrong?
The Citroen C6 is the end-point of something; it represents the last time the French manufacturer put into production a car that immediately seemed linked with its indelibly rich history.
Oh yes, it has the DS sub-brand these days, as well as an unquenchable thirst for boundary-pushing concept designs. But the C6 was the last real 'Big Citroen'; a fastback sedan that aped the look of a grand tourer.
The carmaker's final push into E-Class and A6 executive territory seemed like a future echo of a classic CX and even -- if you squinted a bit -- an iconic DS23 before it.
The C6's development phase was a lengthy one (its predecessor the XM went out of production a full five years before the C6 finally debuted) and it was the most expensive Citroen made; retailing for $100,000 here in New Zealand at launch.
Also -- rather crucially -- in a sea of German sports sedans, the C6 was only ever going to be an enthusiast's choice.
Especially in our part of the world, but even in Europe, too. The car was greatly admired by buyers through the windows of Citroen showrooms ... immediately before they went down the road and bought a 5-Series instead.
Today, seeing a C6 on the road is an Occasion with a capital 'O'. There are still a few around, although you'll rarely see them for sale. Yes, scarcity is a factor in that.
But so is the idea of an oddball car, the likes of which we'll never see again cherished by its (clearly slightly mad) owner.
Citroens used to always seem out of time; beamed in from some parallel universe where wheel spats remained stubbornly en vogue and form waged an unceasing battle over function. Now Citroens are merely pretty good. Perfectly fine. Painted in interesting colours. An alternative to a Volkswagen.
What a shame.
Saab 900 Tread carefully, for here be monsters. Well, that's what Saab critics would have you believe, anyway.
The oldest model in our line-up of flawed glory (it first appeared in 1978), the slim-hipped Saab 900 series is possibly also the most ferociously defended. If you own one, you love them and no 'my service bill from hell' tale of terror will deter you.
The 900 series is the classic Saab; slightly outrageous and otherworldly when compared with anything else in production at the time, in terms of both exterior and interior design, the 900 came as close as possible to inhibiting the jet fighter heritage the Scandinavian firm was always pushing in its marketing.
The instrument binnacle was aeronautical! The windscreen was curvy like a cockpit! The ignition key went in the centre console!
There were compromises to be had in all this svelte engineering, though. Like its 99 predecessor, the engine was essentially backwards in the engine bay, with power delivered from the crank at the front of the car. The transmission, meanwhile, was bolted directly to the bottom of the engine to form the oil pan.
While this causes nightmares in terms of some aspects of regular servicing (if you want to change the headlight bulbs you have to dismantle half the front end), the unique set-up ensured leading-edge designers and architects of the 1980s appreciated its quirky leftfield-ishness and wouldn't be seen dead without their black turtleneck sweater, frameless glasses or their Saab 900.
And today, the 900 series remains a fan favourite. The first generation, which was in production from 1978 to 1994, is deemed the last 'true' Saab, before General Motors took control of the company and swiftly lost interest in doing anything meaningful with it.
They regularly show up on auction sites even now.
Surprisingly, most are not only going, but have auction listings peppered with phrases such as "regretful sale" too. Whether they're dabbing at their teary eyes with an enormous service bill however, is generally never mentioned.
MG ZR Born in the teeth of the messy insolvency and buy-out of the MG Rover Group (the details of which could be succinctly outlined in
around 10,000 words), the MG ZR hot hatch was based on the much more staidly-dressed Rover 25; a hatchback model that did little business here as all but the most hardened British car loyalists stayed well away.
Also, the ZR had to live in the shadow of the reliability-plagued MG F roadster; yes, plenty of people bought one, but few bought a second.
The proud octagonal badge had been tarnished and this, coupled with its parent company's fiscal woes back in Blighty, meant that even with racy alloys and a 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine in an eager state of tune under the bonnet, the ZR is as rare as hen's proverbials today.
That's a pity because, while it is no Golf GTi, the MG ZR was still a fun, chuck-able wee thing in the finest tradition of a sprightly -- but ultimately slightly wheezy -- city car on steroids. Settle into its snug sports seats, grab a gear and wring its neck and you'd have enough fun to make trivial facts such as uneven panel gaps and what might optimistically be called a 'flexible' warranty agreement fade into the background.
Also see the aggressively styled, Rover 75-based MG ZT V6 for a similar example of flawed fun from a firm in an unfortunate state of flux.
Volkswagen Phaeton Volkswagen's only attempt thus far at a luxury executive sedan isn't a tantalising proposition because of any hot-headed performance attributes. Nor is the Phaeton a car that excites the pulse in terms of its styling, what with it essentially being an oversized 2002-era Passat. But it will prove a more interesting model in time.
When it was announced in March this year Phaeton production was ending, the world issued a collective shrug of disinterest. Which unfortunately for Volkswagen, is pretty much how the world reacted when the thing was launched, too.
The Phaeton was an anachronism in the Volkswagen line-up; engineered under the watchful eye of then-chairman Ferdinand Piech as an S-Class and 7-Series rival when, frankly, no one that bought a Volkswagen particularly wanted an S-Class or 7-Series rival.
That's not to say it didn't feature an impressive feature set though; four-zone climate control, adaptive air suspension and the option of a massive W12 engine. It was also the first Volkswagen to feature radar cruise control.
The car stayed in production for an impressive 14 years, although its improbable survival represents a long drawn-out corporate lesson in sticking to your knitting.
Volkswagen excels at making other kinds of cars; with no successor announced for the now-departed Phaeton, perhaps the lesson has been learnt.
As for second-hand examples, they'll prove boring conversation starters in time. That's if you can stomach the service bills on that early 21st-century comfort tech.