5 Bargain-Basement Retro Barges

Many retro fans cannot resist the urge of the occasional luxury barge. Piloted by the managers of yesteryear or chauffeuring minor celebrities in plush comfort, there are certainly many bargains to be had in the current year. We like all of the extras too; leather seats, electric windows, heated seats, CD players and especially powerful engines.

With a respectable budget of  £2,000, what can we realistically expect?


5 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class 

Synonymous with the term luxury barge, the Mercedes S-Class is universally respected as the bench mark in its class. For our budget, the most sensible option would be the W140 from the nineties. Certainly this would not be a terrible choice, however retro car fans would prefer something slightly more…antique. Indeed, we found a W126 online today with only 124,000 (allegedly). More classy and becoming a rarity, the W126 has a reputation for indestructability. Powered by a 4.2-litre V8, this particular S-Class certainly fits the profile and will keep you familiar with most local petrol stations.


4 – Lexus LS 

Always a left-field choice in the barge wars, the Lexus LS was an exceedingly good choice for the time. The model responsible for the inception of Lexus into the British market fits the bill nicely. Large, luxurious and equipped with a thirsty V8. The example we found is a 1997 LS 400, with the usual 4.0-litre V8 and automatic gearbox. This model has all the extras, including; leather upholstery, electric heated memory seats, electric sunroof, rear heated seats, CD changer, climate control, air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, alloy wheels, electric door mirrors, alarm and immobiliser. In other words, all you would ever need from a modern car besides a Sat Nav and the kitchen sink for a cool £1,000. Plus, you will experience a subtle satisfaction to not conforming to German brand badge snobbery – should that be your forte.


3 – Jaguar XJ 

Potentially one of the most beautiful and gangster luxury barges ever produced, the Jaguar XJ had quite the reputation. Most notably, the XJ series has become synonymous with providing transport for many Prime Ministers. The example we’ve found is a 1997 X308 XJ8 Executive, equipped with the smaller eight-cylinder 3.2-litre V8. Very importantly, this example comes with a full service history to warrant for its low 88,000 mile lifetime. Again, expect the works in terms of equipment, including the cliché wooden dash trim. Be sure to check over with a fine tooth comb though, although well maintained examples shall remain bulletproof.


2 – BMW 7 Series 

You cannot create a list of managerial transportation vehicles and not feature the BMW 7 Series. Between this and the Mercedes S-Class, the world of luxury saloons was dominated. We’ve managed to find ourselves a lovely 1997 E38, as driven by Mr Bond himself in Tomorrow Never Dies. This 728i was powered by the smaller 2.8-litre straight-six engine, however large engines can be had for a similar price to the £1,495 asking price. Regardless, this 7 Series comes packed with all of the goodies, including Xenon headlights, a world first for the 7 Series. A full service history and fresh MOT is why we’ve chosen this model though, which is definitely reassuring when purchasing any used car.


1 – Citroen XM 

If the Lexus LS was a left-field choice, the Citroen XM is representative or pure insanity surely. Think again as the hydraulic suspension provides an extremely comfortable ride, along with all of the extra toys and equipment thrown in for good measure. The model found today comes with the 2.0-litre petrol unit, providing 130bhp. Admittedly not a rocket by any stretch of the imagination, although perfectly reasonable for motorway cruises. Plus those leather seats are to die for! At £1,250, the whole package comes as a relative bargain. Never underestimate the Citroen XM.


by Mike Armstrong



Browse our feature on this beautiful Datsun


3 thoughts on “5 Bargain-Basement Retro Barges”

  1. The XM is a great car but only in manual gearbox form. Roadholding is excellent for such a large, heavy car especially in hydractive sport mode – where it will corner almost flat. I’ve owned manual and auto XM’s and even though the auto is smooth when it works, it is inherently fragile, runs hot, doesn’t tolerate any overheating and will leave you pulling your hair out through frustration when it misbehaves…and it will misbehave as sure as night follows day. A broken auto will cost the owner in money or time as it’s an engine-out job to replace and it’s a long job too even for keen DIY’ers. I would quite happily buy another XM but only a manual.
    Just watch out for rusted strut tops and body rust despite the shells being electro-galvanised. A good one will leave you smiling but a bad one will make you want to kill it.


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