All car enthusiasts have one, don’t we? A mental list of cars we want to own, or at least drive, during our careers as motorists. A list that can go through a radical metamorphosis simply by driving down the road and spotting something you’ve not seen in years. A list that has clichéd signs of petrol headedness (Alfa Romeo? Check. Hydropneumatic Citroën? Check) but also a selection of less beguiling cars, ones that may have been not been held in too high a regard by the motoring press at large when they were sold (Volvo 480s tend to warm my heart but not those of the majority).
I briefly combined my boundless enthusiasm with a lack of decent mechanical understanding and a desire to make money, by dabbling in purchasing a handful of cars. Inexpensive ones, with a view to restoring them back to their former glories. The MGF was quite successful, in that it looked great when I’d finished, but I’d spent so much money on it I only just broke even. My earlier XJ40 experience will feature in a future blog: so many calamities were involved, a paragraph alone would do it an injustice. To whet your appetites though, when I collected the car I realised it was being used as a Rottweiler’s kennel. That’s enough to set the scene. The amateur car dealer phase was therefore, sensibly, short-lived – the Arthur Daley sheepskin coat remains hung up in the understairs cupboard.
Having had my 728i for a year now, the time has come to sell it on for a new owner to enjoy. It has fully recovered from the problem mentioned in the previous blog – a gunked up fuel line had starved the engine. It’s been an enjoyable, engaging and luxurious 12 months behind the wheel, but I really fancy a change. But to what?
The criteria for the next one is relatively broad and therefore I’m open to suggestion, so let me know your thoughts. Generally speaking, it’s got to be something interesting or not all that frequently seen. Engine size, gearbox type, interior space are credentials free of constraint, although I could do with something more economical this time around. A detailed service history, mileage ideally under 80,000 miles and nicely (read ‘highly’) specced cabin are important. Had funds allowed, I’d be scouring the small ads for a delightful Renault Avantime now, but I suspect the budget will be around a more modest £3000. Taking my fancy lately have been:
Alfa Romeo GTV Stunningly beautiful looks tempered by fragility and reliability concerns. Saying that, even Gordon Brown would look cool breaking down in one of these. I’ve been browsing the classifieds for Twin Spark Lussos, which although its inline-four doesn’t have the lusting warble of the V6, it’s not too deficient in the performance stakes. Besides, most of the V6s seem to have that extended rear wing that spoils the pureness of Pininfarina’s work. Silver body, tarty red leather and smooth telephone dial alloys will do me nicely.
Audi A2 One of Audi’s most distinctive cars of recent years (pre same würst, different lengths ethos) and innovative use of aluminium saves a huge amount weight, making them infrequent fuel pump visitors. A diesel in SE trim would suit me well but they’re too pricey – the A2 must be one of the most bullet proof cars depreciation wise. So, that leaves me with the 1.4 petrol, which whilst isn’t bad, is maybe just too anaemic for motorway cruises with a boot full of old car brochures.
Fiat Coupé Chris Bangle’s finest work, long before he set about changing the face (and everything else) of BMW. Not achingly beautiful like a GTV, but striking in a way that you can’t help but look at it. The detailing is simply fantastic. That same concern over longevity remains though. If you have a 20V Turbo, particularly in a pale blue metallic with the tan leather interior option, drop me an email.
Fiat Multipla That gloriously ugly shell hides a novel interior with three abreast seating, making it feel a little like the bench front seat of a car from the 1950s. The original 2000-04 shape, with dolphin nosed side profile and rear lights looking like two sausages and an egg swimming in tomato ketchup (you’ll know what I mean next time you see one) is my choice, in fairly generous ELX form, with the punchy JTD common rail diesel engine. I’d have had one by now but my sorties to locate the perfect one resulted in finding nothing more than ragged examples that appeared to have had a previous life as a Tripoli minicab.
Ford Focus Fast Fords have never really lit my fire. Yes, relatively inexpensive performance, lots to choose from and cheap to fix, not many had that air of sophistication. There is a winning combination though: the excellent Mk 1 Focus chassis and fine looks, the subtle performance mods and general thrust of the ST170’s engine and with a rarity value too: not the hatchbacks but the lesser spotted estate version. An intriguing and practical combination and one I can see myself behind the wheel of.
MG TF The TF sadly gets overlooked as the über-reliable MX-5 has become a default choice for those wanting an inexpensive roadster. But there’s something exotic about a mid-engined layout, even if the space behind the seats is occupied by a K-Series engine rather than a throbbing Italian V8. Some models can look dark and stark inside but with a palette of brighter interior plastics and vibrant exterior paint, Peter Stevens’ makeover transforms the mildly cartoony MGF into a mature B-road companion. Maybe not as much fun on the limit as its Japanese rival, but rather swift in 160 format with VVC engine.
Vauxhall Signum An Elite model with 3.2 V6. There, I said it. Don’t judge me too harshly.
So what else should I consider? You’ll have to hurry with your suggestions as I’ve today rediscovered my affection for one of the most elegant but maligned cars of the 1990s – Rover’s Sterling coupé mated to the silky KV6 engine. Not much more economical than what I’ve got, granted, but rather cheap to buy so I can use the money I’ve saved to keep pumping in the unleaded… See, almost anything’s justifiable.
Rover 800 Coupé image courtesy of Rover Group