So the Stag is very much alive and kicking and more so because many of the better cars – prices for these start at around £10,000 – have been overhauled and fitted with modern parts. Their owners are enthusiasts who know how to care for them, too.
At its simplest, this means they use the correct coolant with anticorrosion inhibitor, whereas when the car was launched, owners and even garages didn’t know to. As a result, the alloy head and iron block didn’t rub along too well and before long the radiator started to fill with gunk, causing the engine to overheat and the head gasket to go south.
For these and other reasons, you’ll find a few Stags have had their original 3.0-litre V8 replaced with a Triumph 2.5, Rover V8 (it’s too heavy and spoils the car’s balance) or Ford V6. You’re better off finding one with the real thing but properly refurbished and fitted with an electric cooling fan and electronic ignition.
The 3.0-litre V8 produces 145bhp and 170lb ft of torque. It was fitted as standard with a four-speed manual gearbox with overdrive. Today, this is the most sought-after variant. A three-speed BorgWarner auto was optional but may at some time have been swapped for a better four-speed ZF unit. Suspension was independent all round, brakes and steering were servo assisted, the windows were electrically powered and it had a rollover hoop (for stiffening purposes more than anything). So the Stag was technically advanced, as it had to be if it was going to compete with cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SL.
A Mk2 version was launched in 1973 with a few visual tweaks that needn’t detain us here and a higher engine compression. Sales picked up but soon fell back and the plug was pulled in 1977. No matter: today, a well-sorted Stag is a seductive classic that will put a smile, rather than a frown, on your face.
An expert’s view
Kevin Fathers, founder, Faversham Classics: “A good Stag can hold its own in modern traffic, plus it’ll seat four comfortably and carry their luggage. The exhaust note is like no other. Cynics say it distracts you from the car’s poor performance but the Stag is a GT that will happily cruise all day at the legal maximum. Prices have been rising in recent years so that decent ones start at £10,000. The Stag has a reputation for unreliability that dates from when it was new but today many have been fitted with more reliable parts. For example, modern head gaskets are made from much better materials and don’t give any trouble.”
■ Body: Check for rust on the sills, wheel arches, door bottoms, bootlid edges and boot floor. In fact, the whole car.