We all have guilty secrets. A few skeletons in the cupboard. Some embarrassing facts that are best left in the head. Nothing too sinister of course, just the kind of information that can taint an otherwise blemish-free record.
Take me for example. I happen to think that A-ha’s The Sun Always Shines on TV is one of the best songs of the 80s. Not that I’d admit that on a publicly accessible website such as this. Nor would I admit to having Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman nestled somewhere in the depths of my iTunes library. That would be a foolish admission.
The skeletons aren’t reserved for music either. My mind goes back to a university trip to Portugal. Sharing a room with the lads, the conversation turned to members of the opposite sex who we had a slight crush on. Not just the obvious candidates, we were looking for more obscure crushes. Carol Vorderman popped up. As did Fern Britton. I think Felicity Kendall was mentioned. Even Jessica Rabbit got a mention. There was however a stunned silence when Judy Finnigan was suggested. The conversation stopped quite abruptly at this point.
But what has this got to do with cars? Surely there are no guilty secrets in the automotive world? Well if I’m anything to go by, yes there are. Allow me to explain. Believe me, this isn’t going to easy.
Here’s the thing. There are a few cars that in all honesty should be left deep within the vault of my self-confessed petrolhead mind. I’m not talking about the likes of the Corrado VR6, 205 GTi, Porsche 968 CS, Integrale or quattro, for these are all firmly lodged within the motoring hall of fame, nestled deep in automotive nirvana. But there are some cars that appeal to me that are…ummm…let’s just say a bit of an acquired taste. The kind of cars that would see me being blackballed from the Hall of Petrolheads. Or evicted from the House of Petrolheads. Or voted out of I’m a Petrolhead Get Me Out of There. Or fired from…oh, that’s enough tenuous TV linkage…
So what are these cars that conjure up irrational thoughts of desire in my mind? And am I alone in my thinking? Whatever, I’m sure it’ll feel better to get it out into the open. This is part one of Car Confessional, with two guilty pleasures to get things moving…
Ford Probe 24v
Riddled with quality control issues and highly questionable dynamics. Hardly a glowing reference for a car billed as the replacement for the legendary Ford Capri. But when the Ford Probe arrived on the scene in the mid 90s, the Probe looked every bit the blue collar hero that Ford had been famous for since the 1960s. Indeed, early reviews comparing the Probe with the final Capri 280 were quite favourable. But then, when you’re comparing a modern day sports car with a car with leaf springs and a design that dates back to the 1960s, the odds are somewhat stacked in your favour.
But since launch, the Probe has seemingly been on a never ending spiral to oblivion. Today, the car is kept alive by a group of loyal fans and to be honest, you only need a grand to grab yourself a very good 24v. And this is the crucial factor. My guilty pleasure Probe has to be the 24v version. The 16v might be a good car, maybe even the greatest drivers’s car of all time. But it doesn’t matter as it has the worst alloy wheels ever to grace a car. It is impossible to look past this. But in 24v spec, with the 5-spoke alloys, it actually looks quite good. Front three quarter and side profiles look rather smart – almost classic. If I see one that’s been unmolested, ideally in silver or dark blue, I always take a second look. It might have all the dynamic qualities of a blancmange on the back of a camel, but that doesn’t matter in confessional land. I just like it.
We all know that the new Skoda Superb is a supremely talented car. So much so that in estate form at least, some people are proclaiming it to be the best car in the world. For a manufacturer that only a decade ago was still somewhat of a joke, the rise and rise of Skoda cannot be ignored.
But my Superb confession happens to be the previous generation. The very same Superb that can be seen parked up on every taxi rank up and down the country. The ones with questionable stains on the back seat. With equally questionable odours. The ones with 200k miles on the clock. They might be as uncool as global warming and have as much style as a pair of jeans with an ironed-in crease, but in black and with full Elegance spec, it just oozes presence and a high level of menace. Having briefly owned one when I had to endure a 200 mile daily commute, I can honestly say it was the most relaxing and serene place to be. Even after the most tormenting of days or in the most tortuous driving conditions, it had the most calming influence. The eerily quiet interior was enhanced by the subtle ambient mood lighting and car wafted over potholes in a way matched only by Polyfilla Smooth Over. Show it a corner and it would go screaming back to Mummy in terror and it will do little to stir your imagination, but as a comfortable cruiser, it is quite simply…brilliant. See, I even resisted any superb gags.
So there we have it, my first two guilty pleasures. To be honest, it does feel quite good to get things out into the open and indeed, I may even release two more from the closet in the weeks to come. But for now, I just hope my self-styled petrolhead status hasn’t been damaged beyond repair.