Rafael’s Real World Dream Barn

saab 9000 aero

The final Real World Dream Barn of 2012 has been flown over from Seville in Spain by long term friend of PetrolBlog, Rafael Neira. I have to say that I’m wondering if Rafael is some kind of distant Spanish cousin I never knew I had. I find myself nodding approval at just about every car in this Dream Barn – a truly elegant and beautiful selection.

Question is, do you agree? Well it will soon to be time for you to select your favourite Real World Dream Barn of the year. Stay tuned for a chance to vote and win a packet of BlogNobs for yourself and the winner.

But without further waffle, I’ll hand over to Rafael to run through his own selection.

Alfa Romeo 164 3.0 24v Super

Alfa 164 3.0 24v Super

In my opinion, one of the greatest cars ever made. I remember when the first 164s appeared in car magazines back in 1987. I was only eleven but I already knew that someday I would own one. It’s difficult to find a prettier, more elegant saloon – the basic shape being simple yet so imposing. When I read in 1992 that Alfa was finishing a restyled 164 named ‘Super’, I feared the worst – that Alfa was going to ruin it. But to my astonishment, the result was an even more elegant car.

Mine would have the glorious V6 24v engine, perhaps in Rosso Bourdeaux or Blu Genoa. But in reality, I don’t mind the colour providing it doesn’t have that hideous Zender cladding that spoiled the Q4. Image © Alfa Romeo

Rover SD1 3500

Rover SD1 3500

Another one of my all time favourites. You are probably used to seeing these formidable beasts in Britain, but they were pretty rare in Spain. And if you were lucky enough to see one, it would almost certainly be a VM-engined diesel.

Its one of those few cars that doesn’t have a single bad angle. Its proportions are perfect in every way and the detailing is sublime (headlights, rear lamps, rear screen, modernist dashboard…). The icing on the cake was the chance to enjoy a great V8 engine in an inexpensive car.

Although a Vitesse or a VDP EFI are rather tempting, mine would probably be an early carburetted 3500, with the optional alloys. And maybe yellow lights and french ’70s number plates. Image © Rover

Volvo 850 T5-R

Volvo 850 T5-R

Well I can’t complain because I bought a Volvo 850 R a few months ago and I’m very happy with it. But the grass is always greener in the other side of the fence and I prefer the limited edition T5-R with its five-spoke Titan alloys and the dark Amaretta/leather and wood interior (mine is beige with light birch wood). Anyway it’s an enjoyable car, brick-shaped as a Volvo should be and delivers good performance. Some people see my car in the street and think I have ‘Max-Powered’ the poor thing. But those in the know recognise it as one of the cult cars of the 1990s. Image © Volvo

Saab 9000 Aero

Saab 9000 Aero

Wait! I own one of this, too. I should feel lucky.

I’ve had this car for almost seven years and I still find it an amazing car. The engine is a true powerhouse – with 225bhp it makes what is actually a relatively light saloon fly. It’s also reasonable when it comes to fuel economy. At least it is when you aren’t flooring it, which is difficult to avoid. It’s pretty strong, so you may be tempted to upgrade it to a ‘soft’ 280bhp.

But it’s still a very comfortable, well equipped, safe, strong and reliable motorway mile muncher. And with the right suspension modifications it can be a pretty good cross country car. Also, it’s affordable to mantain and utterly discreet. Where are you going to find a more complete car than the 9000 Aero? Image © Saab

Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Volkswagen Corrado VR6

In the late 1980s, in a world of Celicas, Calibras and 200 SXs, the Corrado seemed a bit too inconspicuous to me. What’s more, the 16v and G60 engines weren’t all that inspiring. But when the VR6 version was introduced in 1992, it changed my mind about Corrados. The VR6 changed everything but perhaps by that time I had matured (mind you, that’s relative because I was 16). Suddenly the Corrado had an engine to match the fantastic chassis and the initial hype about being a Porsche 944 rival was true.

Nowadays the Corrado can either be considered as a modern classic or as a sales failure that Volkswagen would rather forget. I prefer the modern classic status and while it’s difficult to find a good VR6 in Spain, (most have fallen into the hands of the tuning brigade), it could be an interesting purchase. That’s if my country’s economy doesn’t melt of course. Image © VW

Mercedes 320 TE (W124)

Mercedes 320 TE (W124)

I haven’t seen a more perfect car than the W124. Every time I see one in the street I marvel at its timeless styling. When I go to the local scrap yard I spend a bit of time inspecting the engineering and the quality of the materials. And when I spot a W124 on the road driven by a Moroccan immigrant travelling with his family to spend his holidays in his native country, I think ‘there’s a man who knows his cars’.

It would be easy to conclude that such a perfect car would be boring, but I feel I could never tire of a car with a slogan of ‘Engineered like no other car in the world’. Fact is, it was true.

The multivalve inline-six introduced in 1992 seems like the best compromise beetween performance and fuel economy, so my W124 would be the 320. And while the saloon is a bit ‘Bamako taxi’ and the CE coupé too elegant, it has to be the fantastic TE estate. A car good enough to live in. Image © motor-talk.de

Fiat 130 Coupé

Fiat 130 Coupé

Now we get serious and talk about proper classic cars. I didn’t have a clue what a Fiat 130 Coupé was until 1999. I was waiting at the traffic lights in my sister’s VW Polo, when a white 130 Coupé stopped next to me. I was truly amazed. It looked like a 1970s motor show prototype that escaped from a museum. I immediately fell in love with it.

Although the Lampredi designed 3.2-litre V6 engine was no small feature, it’s that fabulous styling that I love the most. Pininfarina has made prettier cars since and seeing it you would think that somebody gave Paolo Martin (its designer) a new set of rulers and he was determined to use them. But the 130 Coupé has status, grace and severity unmatched by anything made since. I can’t think of a classier car.

It’s perhaps the only car in my Dream Barn that I would be happy to merely own it. I could sit staring at it for hours. Image © Fiat

Rover 827 Vitesse

Rover 827 Vitesse

Some readers may argue that this choice is uninformed. They’d say that this Rover is rubbish. Don’t let this banger come anywhere near your Dream Barn. Well, after reading British car magazines over the past 15 years, that would be an easy conclusion to reach. It could be argued that the Brits don’t think all that much of Rover and perhaps even less of the 800.

In Spain, however, Rover was something else. It was an upmarket brand for people who didn’t want a BMW (and didn’t have the money either!). Just like in Italy, Rover had a rather decent image in Spain.

Perhaps I have watched a DVD featuring Tony Pond’s antics in his red 827 Vitesse around Isle of Man too many times, but I truly love this car. The hatchback styling is so neat and tasteful (at least for an ’80s design) and the interior so well apointed. And the Honda V6 engine wasn’t bad at all. I have read that the chassis isn’t the best (although that didn’t seem to bother Tony Pond) and reliability leaves a bit to be desired, but I have another nine cars in my barn to use when the Vitesse breaks down. My Vitesse has to be manual, red and adorned with 16″ Roversport alloys. Image © Rover

Lancia Gamma Coupé

Lancia Gamma Coupé

A similar car to the Fiat 130 Coupé. Italian designers were on a roll in those days, especially Pininfarina.

Which car is more beautiful, the 130 or the Gamma? It’s difficult to answer. I could spend days simply looking at them in my Dream Barn trying to choose a winner. I don’t think Lancia has ever made a better looking car than the Gamma Coupé and given the present situation and the future with Chrysler, I doubt they ever will again. Which makes me sad.

When the Gamma was launched in 1976, people were worried that it would be compromised by the Lancia’s relatively recent takeover by Fiat. And it’s funny that the engine, which was a true Lancia effort and the seal of its independence, was what cursed the poor car. The 4-cylinder boxer unit was sweet and torquey, but overheating and snapping cam belts didn’t help the Gammas reputation.

Anyway, with so many cars in my Dream Barn, as long as I have the money to get them fixed, who cares if that boxer engine gets a bit rough? Image © Lancia

Ferrari 456 GT

Ferrari 456 GT

A Ferrari in a Real World Dream Barn? Well, some examples are under the £30k mark, although they won’t be the best and I’m afraid that servicing the V12 will be a bit painful.

I like my cars to be practical and confortable, but then the 456 is one of the most ‘practical’ Ferraris of all time. And best of all, the 456 doesn’t look like a typical Ferrari, which is a bonus for me. Red is the worst colour; Tour de France blue suits it very well.

In fact, I have a long standing fantasy about the 456, but it doesn’t involve negotiating hairpins on the Stelvio Pass. Instead, my fantasy is driving my 456 GT to Tesco with my family, loading the boot full of groceries and driving home. In short, using it as if it was a Mondeo. Maybe I would be better off with a 456 GT Venice as commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei? Image © Ferrari

So that’s that. The final Real World Dream Barn of 2012. There are more coming up in 2013, plus stay tuned for the vote for the best Dream Barn of 2012. Cheers!


About author

Gavin Big-Surname

The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. So you can blame him. Has an unhealthy obsession with cars of the 80s and 90s. The more rubbish, the better. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. petesuffolk 14 December, 2012 at 20:35 Reply

    A man of taste. Obviously we have to ignore how well made any of these cars was, or how ruinous they would be to own, but there are some lovely pure shapes there. I regularly add my rant to car blogs, but I still hold it to be true – if you have to add lumps of chrome or paint areas black in order to make your design ‘work’ then it’s a bad design. A pure shape needs none of these ‘fixes’. Nor does it need hidden door handles or a ‘floating’ roof! I would like to add to your group the Passat B5 Estate and maybe the Lotus/Vauxhall Carlton. I also love the Citroen GS – as a shape, not as an ownership proposition.

    • Rafael 15 December, 2012 at 16:47 Reply

      Thanks. I suppose if we could afford ten cars in our barn, we could spend a bit of money to keep them healthy, no matter their realiability (or lack of).
      An early GS would be nice, but then I probably prefer an early CX. Or a mid ´80s Turbo. Or…

    • Rafael 15 December, 2012 at 16:55 Reply

      I know it would be the most controversial car in the list.
      Andalusia is very hot in summer so if the air conditioning fails the Rovers´ built-in swimming pool can be very handy!

  2. simonpownall 15 December, 2012 at 01:06 Reply

    Meu Deus! I have a twin brother across the border!! Great selection and almost identical to my own dream barn. I’ve driven most of those and currently own one of them (clue: it’s not the Ferrari). Obrigado from Portugal :)

    • Rafael 15 December, 2012 at 17:21 Reply

      Good to know that I´m not the only one to like Italian, British and Swedish old clunkers. It seems the disease is spreading though the Iberian peninsula.
      De nada!

  3. willp1987 17 December, 2012 at 21:25 Reply

    Very interesting list with lots of cars I haven’t really considered, increasingly interested in a fast old Saab or Volvo! Only negative comment…step away from the Rovers 😉

  4. aldoliddell 20 December, 2012 at 23:10 Reply

    I’m sticking up for the 827, that’s a great choice, I never seen that coming! I think they look good, and can’t be so bad with the Honda engine, as eBay sellers are always quick to point out!

    Godd mix of modernish and classic, love it!

  5. Vitesse 6 January, 2014 at 00:55 Reply

    A fabulously off-the-wall choice of cars! Choosing both the big Rovers is inspired :-) Having toured Britain in both the SD1 and 800 big V’s, I am delighted to see them appreciated here.
    What marks you out as a true connoisseur and gentleman, however, is your choice of 456 over the more popular and flashier Ferraris. Might I share your dream barn, but swap the Corrado for a Delta Integrale, perhaps? Cordial greetings, spiritual Brother.

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