Ben Kraal’s Real World Dream Barn

Introducing the first Australian Real World Dream Barn to appear on PetrolBlog. As you’d expect, there’s more than a hint of Australian metal in Ben’s Dream Barn, but that doesn’t stop the Europeans from dominating proceedings. Looking through the list, it feels distinctly PetrolBlog, but I’d like to thank Ben for re-igniting my interest in Holdens. Given the performance to price ratio of Ben’s final choice, I’m tempted to book the next flight to Oz. Enjoy the list.

Antipodean Nostalgic Dream Barn

I’ve been thinking about my Real World Dream Barn since I first saw MajorGav’s original post. I’ve got the same problem that most non-supercar-focussed car enthusiasts have coming up with only ten cars. I needed some sort of organising principle. Eventually I settled on nostalgia, in three categories: design classics, cars I’ve owned and since sold, and cars my dad owned.

Oh, and since I live in Brisbane, Australia, I’ve translated MajorGav’s £300,000 budget into Australian dollars which, as of early 2013, comes out to about AUD$450,000 all up, or $45,000 each.

Design classics

I’m not interested in supercars and with these three I guess I show I’m not even interested in going all that fast.

Citroën DS

Real World Dream Barn: Citroen DS

I don’t need to explain the DS, do I? Image © Citroën.

NSU Ro80

Real World Dream Barn: NSU Ro80

I’m a rotary tragic (see car five), and I’m a fan of weird orphan cars (see car six), but the Ro80 is here because it’s gorgeous and because it set the template for every other modern sedan ever. Image © NSU.

Lancia Fulvia

Real World Dream Barn: Lancia Fulvia

I’ve agonised over including the Fulvia. It’s not that I don’t love it, it’s that other than simple honest attraction, I can think of no reason to include it. The BMW 2002 (tii, naturally) could have a spot here, as could the Porsche 914. All three are perhaps the most modernist of their respective types. But neither of the Germans keep me coming back like the Lancia. At least, that’s my reason today. I’m hoping this wonderful photo will help you realise you made the right choice! – ed. Image © Lancia.

Cars I’ve owned

These four are sportier than my ‘outright classics’. But only just.

MGB MkII, on steelies, to Stage 2 spec.

Real World Dream Barn: MGB collection

When I was 20 I had an Australian-assembled 1969 MGB MkII. Red with wire-wheels and a black vinyl interior. Gosh it was fun. Make mine something other than red, with the standard steel wheels and hubcaps, with an engine built to the factory’s ‘stage 2’ spec. Image © MG.

RX-7, to GSL-SE spec

Real World Dream Barn: Mazda RX-7

My 1982 RX-7 was about as close to standard as unmodified RX-7s get in Australia. It had a nice set of extractors and a hand-made exhaust courtesy of the previous owner. But it still had the standard 12a with the standard Nikki carburettor and I always felt it could do with just a tad more grunt. So a 1984/5 model, with a fuel-injected 13b transplanted in (only the US got the GSL-SE with a factory injected 13b), would be just the thing. Plus a bunch of Racing Beat gear for the suspension. Image © Mazda.

Peugeot 405 Mi16

Real World Dream Barn: Peugeot 405 Mi16

Real World Dream Barn: Peugeot 405 Mi16 on skidpan

I bought the Mi16 when my son was born, as a ‘practical’ car. It could do shopping duty when my wife was driving, give V8 Commodores a good scare around roundabouts, pop up the inside-rear wheel around a witches hat in a motorkhana and it felt like it could comfortably cross the continent too. Oh, and get better than 9.0L/100km doing it. Mine was a 2.0-litre model which internet wisdom regards as lesser to the earlier 1.9-litre. I’d have a 2.0-litre 306 GTi-6 engine swapped in. And maybe the 16-inch wheels from the 405 Mi16x4 installed. Images © Ben Kraal.

Renault 16TS/TX

Real World Dream Barn: Renault 16

I bought a nice but unrestored 1976 16TS after I’d owned a 1969 Mazda 1500 and it was like going from an admittedly pretty truck thrown together by welders, to a piece of precision engineering designed by mad scientists. The TX came a bit later in the history of the 16 than the TS and had the 1.7-litre engine from the Renault 17, a five-speed manual ‘box, twin headlights, a sunroof and electric front windows. Oh, and a spoiler over the rear hatch.

To drive a Renault 16 is to commune with a time in automotive design when there was no template. Front-wheel drive but a north-south engine behind the front axle? Sure. Column-shift manual with a faster change than many a modern? Why not.

I’d also have a Halda tripmeter installed and do navigational and ‘classic’ rallies in the TX. And, to show how weird I am, at least half the time I’d probably opt to navigate and let someone else drive.

There aren’t too many TXs in Australia so I’d settle for a TS but I’d miss the TX’s sunroof and electric front windows. Image © Renault.

My Dad’s cars

Seeing as nostalgia is my theme, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to acquire a few of the cars my Dad had in his youth. And, *cough*, middle age.

Holden LJ Torana

Real World Dream Barn: Holden LJ Torana

The short version is that my grandfather worked as a bookkeeper for General Motors Holden at Acacia Ridge in Brisbane so, when my Dad bought his first new car, he ordered a Holden through the employee discount program. The long story is somewhat more involved.

Dad’s Torana was dark green with a white roof, with a 4-on-the-floor transmission. It was the 2.8-litre and, according to my parents, it was surprisingly fast.

Note – the photo shows a GTR-XU1, a car not owned by Ben’s Dad and sadly out of the Dream Barn budget. But whilst searching for images I stumbled across this photo and just had to use it. Easily one of my favourite cars to appear on PetrolBlog. Just look at it! A car built to take on the V8 Fords at Bathurst. Something it achieved in 1972 – ed. Image © Wikipedia.

Holden Gemini Coupé

Real World Dream Barn: Holden Gemini Coupé

The Gemini was the car I was brought home from hospital in.

The Gemi seems like just the thing for taking out for a Holden Car Club motorkhana and for teaching my son to drive. Image © Wikipedia.

Holden Commodore SS

Holden Commodore VS SS

The SS was my Dad’s company car when he was 40. Dad’s SS was a VN series and wasn’t very well spec’d inside (Electric windows! Air-conditioning!) but did come with the 5.0-litre Holden V8, a 4-speed auto and a standard limited-slip differential. It was loud and had rock-hard FE-2 suspension. My Mum hated it – she called it “the truck”; Dad loved it — to him it was “the beast”. I was never old enough to drive this before it was replaced by a boring, but more worthy of Dad’s position, VR-series V6 Statesman.

Because the VN is rightly thought to be a piece of crap, I’d have a VS-series SS, with all the fruit: LSD, 5-speed manual and probably a lightly fettled engine as the 165kw-odd that the 5.0-litre puts out is a bit anaemic these days.

Image © Gumtree where the Commodore is currently up for sale. With a price of $4,400, I’m tempted to head across to Australia myself – ed.

Follow Ben on twitter @bjkraal. Get in touch with PetrolBlog with your own Real World Dream Barn by contacting us at the usual address.

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. January 28, 2013
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    That, sir, is an excellent RWDB.

    I particularly like the inclusion of the Fulvia. I considered that for my own barn – it was either that or the Alfa Giulia. Went for the Alfa as I find it ever so slightly prettier, but really I’d be happy with either (and Fulvias are marginally cheaper at the moment).

    Good shout on the MGB on steelies too – I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing them on wire wheels, but think they look great on early steels.

    As for the Holdens, I’m fairly nonplussed – but that’s to be expected, really – Aussies are much more emotionally invested in them. For me, miles away, they’re as inaccessible as cars get.

  2. January 28, 2013
    Dogknob1 (@Dogknob1)

    What a cracking Barn Sir.
    Although you could do no wrong after such a strong start with the DS. There is a V4 engined NUS locally in metallic green amazingly clean lines,also like Audi’s facsimile of it the 80.
    Fulvia is superb but would struggle as Antony did above over it v’s a Giulia.
    Ah! the MGB I’d rather have the Oxford it was based on! not a fan but credit given for steelies.
    Just how good does the original RX7 look,so far removed from the latest (almost trying to hard) version. Would quite like one in that colour scheme to.
    The Renault 16 yes yes yes and yes again,some saluting happening right here.
    Now as for the Holden’s,I do like biggest is best option for the engine in pretty much every car, so the Torana (which I’m guessing is a Viva) can stay,Gemini needs that 2.8 in it & the SS is just fine and dandy requiring nothing but a whipple supercharger to give it a little lift.
    A fine collection considering the whole Oz thing 😉
    Come a Barn fire rescue I’d have to run to the 16 I think

  3. January 29, 2013
    Ben Kraal

    Thanks, chaps!

    Antony, I’ve got a MG history book that says that the B’s designers hated the wire wheels. The weird thing about me including the Holdens is that I’m not a Holden man (as they say). But my Dad was, so they’re in. My uncles had all manner of Australia Fords and weird Australian Chryslers in their younger days but Dad had Holdens. And his dad had Rileys (a 2.5 and then a Pathfinder). Because when you’re a Dutch immigrant in 1960s Australia, of course you drive obscure British cars.

    Dogknob, I’m not sure that the 2.8 fits in the Gemini, but maybe the 2.0L twin-cam from the Isuzus of around the time might just squeeze in. The Torana is based on the Viva but is stretched and widened. People put V8s in them here, but that body style never had a V8 from the factory. People do stick super-chargers on the Holden 5.0L V8, but I think they require a lot of work to deal with the heat. Parts to stroke them out to 5.7L are readily available, though. I’m with you on saving the 16 first but I think I’d be heading back post-haste for the Fulvia.

    • January 29, 2013
      Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

      Glad to hear the designers could see sense! I think wires are so chintzy on something like a B. Steels are more down to earth.

  4. February 2, 2013

    Reblogged this on Cesare Ressa.


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