Ton’s brief is both detailed and thorough. He’s clearly a man who knows what he wants from a car, but isn’t afraid of asking his friends across the North Sea for some advice.
In short, Ton wants to spend the equivalent of £5,000, but would stretch to £7,000 if required. It needs to seat four people, although the rear seats will only be used occasionally. Looks are important to Ton, although obscurity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It needs to be a proper drivers’ car, with plenty of power and because of the tax situation in the Netherlands, it should ideally have a petrol engine. Crucially, it needs to be available in the Netherlands. Oh and one last thing, Ton isn’t thinking about selling his Porsche 968. That would be silly.
I must confess to taking a sneak peak at Ton’s Real World Dream Barn before compiling this list of ten cars, so some of the cars may be familiar. But hey, if PetrolBlog can help make Ton’s dreams come true, we must be doing something right. At this rate we’ll be rivalling Disney in the dream-making stakes.
Volkwagen Corrado VR6
This seems too good an opportunity for Ton not to consider the Corrado. We already know it features on his list of top ten real world cars, so with a bag of euros in his pocket, surely now is the time for Corrado ownership?
Arguably one of the greatest front-wheel drive cars of all time, the Corrado is almost certainly one of the greatest performance car bargains on sale today. Launched in 1988, the VW Corrado was originally available with a choice of 139bhp 16-valve or 160bhp supercharged 8-valve 1.8 litre engines. The latter being known as the G60. In 1991, the 1.8 16-valve was replaced by a 2 litre version, but it was the arrival of the VR6 that transformed the Corrado from a great hatchback coupé into a legendary and iconic performance car.
Volkswagen’s VR6 engine was first made available on the Passat early in 1991, but it wasn’t until later the same year when it found its real home, in the Corrado. The narrow-angle V6 engine is more of a straight-six than a conventional V6, but let’s not get too hung up over this. The VR6 is smooth revving, has a wonderful soundtrack and could power the Corrado to a top speed of 145mph. What’s more, it could propel the Corrado to 60mph in a fraction over six seconds, meaning the little VW could humble a supercar or two back in its day.
Critics may point to the fact that its front-wheel drive nature means it can never be classed as a true drivers’ car. But they’re missing out on one of the most characterful, engaging and well constructed performance cars ever made. Take it from me, I owned a glorious 1993 VR6 a few years back. The handling was exceptional, the ride superb and the performance intoxicating. I could also get 30mpg on a good run. I would have another one in a heartbeat.
Ton’s budget means he can choose from some of the best on the market, but patience is required. There are some rough examples out there and some have been badly modified. Buy on condition rather than mileage because a well cared for VR6 can see 200,000 miles with ease. The biggest thing to check is whether or not the timing chain and tensioner have been done. It’s a big job that may as well be done in conjunction with a clutch change. If it’s been done recently, then that’s a real bonus.
It’s funny, for a car that won such critical acclaim, the Corrado was a complete sales disaster for Volkswagen. Only a little over 100,000 were ever produced, making it a relative rarity. And best of all, a Mulberry coloured Corrado looks great with a set of Dutch number plates…
Honda Integra Type-R
For some people, there’s no debating the greatest front-wheel drive car of all time. It’s the Honda Integra Type-R. Period. Case closed. Move on.
It’s certainly one of the most hardcore and driver-focused cars on the road, the likes of which we’re unlikely to see again. I distinctly remember first seeing one in 1996. It looked every inch the car for the Gran Turismo generation, even before Gran Turismo had even hit the shelves.
The stats are rather similar to the Corrado. In fact, a top speed of 145mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds are exactly the same as the VW. But whilst the Corrado was powered by a 2.9 litre lump, the Integra had a firecracker of a 1.8 litre VTEC engine. In keeping with other VTEC-powered Hondas, the Integra comes alive near the redline and is best driven at the limit. Always.
Inside, the Integra Type-R comes with a pair of brilliant Recaro seats, with a titanium gear knob completing the race car feel. Ton’s occasional rear seat passengers will have to make do with standard Honda seats though.
The Integra Type-R is a car I’ve come close to buying on far too many occasions. And by far too many I’m referring to the chances missed. The closest I’ve come to ownership is a quite brilliant Accord Type-R. If the Integra is anything as good as this, it’s hard to see where Ton could do wrong. All he needs to do is choose between red, white or black. Do it, Ton. Go on.
Volvo C30 T5
Ton mentioned to me the other day that he’s got a thing for the Volvo 480 Turbo. I naturally share that opinion and it’s worth checking out PetrolBlog’s Bangerwatch feature on the 480.
It’s fair to say that Ton will have a huge amount of change from his £5,000 budget if he gets a 480 and he’d receive an honorary knighthood from PetrolBlog to mark the occasion. But there is an alternative.
Even before Ton had mentioned the 480, I’d already selected the C30 as a potential car for Ton. It may not be as driver focused as the Integra or the Corrado, but it looks good, is relatively obscure and in T5 form, it packs a real punch. I absolutely adored the T5 Polestar I spent a week with last year. Check out the review here.
I really didn’t think Ton could achieve C30 T5 ownership within his budget, but with a little haggling I think it would be possible. Prices for the early pre-facelift cars are edging closer to Ton’s upper limit and for that he’d get a brilliant 5-cylinder unit, unique styling, a sublime interior and Volvo build quality. It may not be the sharpest of B-road instruments, but it’s an accomplished and hugely likeable hatchback coupé. And with the arrival of the V40, I’d expect prices of C30s to start falling.
Oh and don’t forget it’s made just across the border from Ton in Belgium.
Ton may have chosen an Interceptor as the sole British representative on his list of dream cars, but he did say, if money was no object, he’d prefer an E-Type.
Sadly I can’t squeeze an E-Type into Ton’s budget, but how about a 4.0 litre supercharged V8 Jag?
I’m talking about the sixth generation XJR of course, a car which is available well within Ton’s budget. For less than £5,000, Ton can own a car with a top speed limited to 155mph, 370bhp and a 0-60 time of sub six seconds. And all this within the grace and style of a big cat. What’s not to like?
As with any large barge at the bottom of the depreciation curve, it’s important to do your homework first and get one with a good history. But they’re more reliable than you may think, with the fuel, tyres and servicing likely to be the biggest ticket items. Having said that, a certain degree of bravery is required. So after you, Ton…
MG ZS 180
From one Brit to another – here’s something from MG.
Again, I’m cheating here a little as I know from twitter that Ton has been considering the MG ZS 180 as a potential next car. It would get my vote.
I remember being rather impressed with the ZS 180, with its good blend of pace and sharp handling. When new it was let down by its rather dated interior, but that matters less now that the whole car has been given time to age. I’ve always preferred the saloon to the hatchback, even with the oversized rear spoiler perched on the boot.
It’s many years since I drove it, but I seem to remember the ZS 180 being a rather convincing package. It was one of those cars that needed to be pushed in order to get the best from it, but the handling was good with minimal body roll. The ride was a little harsh, but that’s a small price to pay for an accomplished B-road car. The seats were excellent too.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love for the ZS outside of enthusiasts forums, which is why prices are relatively low. It could be an inspired choice for Ton.
BMW E36 M3
A list of practical performance cars wouldn’t be complete without a BMW, so here’s PetrolBlog’s recommendation.
Okay, so the E36 M3 is arguably the weakest M3 of the lot, but that’s rather like saying The Bourne Supremacy is the weakest of the Bourne films. What’s more, Ton’s budget means he can take his pick of the best cars available. Face it, the E36 was always going to struggle trying to replace the iconic E30, with subsequent M3s making it even tougher for the E36. Maybe it’s the PetrolBlog spirit, but I have a soft spot for the E36. For sure, there are far too many ‘chavved-up’ examples in this country, but I doubt the Netherlands has the same problem. Besides, a tidy E36 M3 in the right colour (Estoril Blue or Daytona Violet) looks the business.
A straight-six, rear-wheel drive proper M car for around £5k. Surely that’s hard to resist?
Volkswagen Golf R32
Can it really be ten years since Volkswagen released the Golf R32? At the time, it was the most powerful Golf ever produced and I remember thinking at the time that the £22k price tag represented something of a bargain. The fact that Ton will require just about every penny from his upper budget shows that prices have held up well and VW could have asked a few more grand for the R32 when new.
I see it as a more discreet alternative to the Audi S3 or Subaru Impreza, especially in silver or black. It manages to look purposeful and dramatic without shouting about its credentials. It’s a car for those in the know and it looks as good today as it did in 2002.
Its 237bhp from a 3.2 litre V6 engine may seem tame by today’s standards, but it’s the way the R32 goes about its business that counts. There’s a huge amount of torque throughout the rev range and a wonderful soundtrack coming through the twin stainless steel exhausts. Plus the R32’s 4WD system provides an immense amount of grip and pace off the line.
Perhaps a little too grown up for Ton? But the R32 is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing that’s far more interesting than most modern Volkswagens.
Another one from Ton’s Real World Dream Barn. Admittedly I can’t quite stretch to Ton’s preferred R3 model, but the RX-8 is well within Ton’s reach. The best bits are the car’s lightness, 50:50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive, rotary engine and suicide doors. Could be an interesting choice for Ton.
Volkswagen Passat W8
Yes, it comes straight out of Ton’s barn again, but hey, why not? I share Ton’s love of the Passat W8, but as yet haven’t had the courage to buy one. Over to you, Ton.
Peugeot 306 GTi-6
I know that Ton has grown up with Peugeots, so I’m hoping he’ll appreciate this choice. Not the usual 205 GTi recommendation, but instead the quite brilliant 306 GTi-6. Often regarded as one of the best hot hatches of the ’90s, the 306 GTi-6 can be purchased for little more than a few peanuts and a packet of crisps.
Some folk may say that it’s built like a packet of crisps, but they’d be missing out on a true drivers’ car. The ‘6’ of course stands for six-speed gearbox, which is mated to a 16-valve 2.0 litre engine. Power is ‘just’ 167bhp, but it’s the handling rather that the power that makes the Pug great.
The 205 GTi may have been the last brilliant hot Peugeot, but the 306 GTi-6 was a very, very good effort.
Renaultsport Clio 182 Cup
I would have recommended the Trophy edition, but that wasn’t available in the Netherlands. So instead I’m opting for the 182 Cup, which would be perfect for the smooth back roads around Rotterdam. I’m sure Ton can live with the poverty spec upholstery and cheap stereo in exchange for one of the most involving and lively hot hatches ever built? And besides the 182 Cup wasn’t quite as stripped back as the 172 Cup, meaning Ton will have the pleasure of air conditioning.
It won’t be long until Ton is tearing around the lanes with a rear wheel in the air. Lovely.
MINI Cooper S
Image is important to Ton and we already know that he runs a MINI Clubman as a company car. With that on the way out, surely it makes sense to stick to what he knows and get himself an early Cooper S?
So there’s PetrolBlog’s dirty dozen. A list of 12 cars for Ton to consider.
As is normal for an Ask PetrolBlog feature, you can almost guarantee that Ton will get something completely different and be totally happy with his choice! But whatever, we hope he shares his choice with us. Good luck, Ton.
In the meantime, if you’d like to Ask PetrolBlog, drop us a line at the usual address.