There’s a lot to like about this Real World Dream Barn sent in by Andrew Evans. For a start there is something for every occasion, but perhaps more importantly, there are one or two surprises on the list. More than a couple saw me nodding in that traditional PetrolBlog style – a knowing nod of approval that says, ‘wise choice, sir’. I especially like the French obscurities and the forgotten Mazda.
Andrew does without the nonsense of an introduction and goes straight in with his first choice. He clearly doesn’t get the concept of waffle! Over to you, Mr Evans.
Peugeot 309 GTi
Practically the definition of a quick ’80s hatchbacks is the Peugeot 205 GTi and, so help me, I’ve never liked it. I’ve always felt the shape was wrong and the ‘liveliness’ of the rear, particularly under heavy braking, is a big turn off. It’s practically heresy, I know.
However its bigger stablemate is one of my favourite cars of all time, through being largely the same car but eliminating these faults. Alongside being outright prettier, the longer tail also enhances the stability at very naughty speeds indeed.
Inside it’s assuredly 1980s and French, but no more so than the 205. A better-looking car without the scene tax of the smaller model, it’s an easy call. Image © Wikipedia.
Venturi Atlantique 300 Biturbo
Sticking with the French for the next choice and ignoring what I said about extravagance, MVS/Venturi were one of my favourite manufacturers ever until they shifted to electric quasi-vapourware.
The Venturi Atlantique itself can be considered as France’s Lotus Esprit. Conceptually, the cars are little different – FRP-bodied, mid-engined, grand tour cars designed as their country’s answer to the equivalent Ferrari. What a body too – the 300 is breathtakingly pretty, with the later Ferrari 355 and 456 both bearing more than a passing resemblence to it.
For some, constantly fielding the question “What is that?” may get irksome, but I don’t think I’d ever tire of it. Image © Venturi.
There’s a sense of automotive cliche about the MX-5 these days. It’s almost shrugged off its hairdresser image, to be replaced with a notion that if you enjoy driving you must enjoy the MX-5 and plenty of writers will tell you this too.
It’s certainly the case the I enjoy driving and I enjoy driving MX-5s. There is an agricultural simplicity to them that brings driving away from the insulated, automatic everything world we’re in and back to direct and instinctual motoring. They are not fast, they are not quiet and they are not particularly efficient, but they are fun.
Being an MX-5 geek of sorts – I’ve had three – I’d further refine my choice to the Mk2 10th Anniversary Edition, just for the little extra touches (and colour) or an M2-1028 for the exclusivity, but any Mk1 or Mk2 would find a home in the Barn. Image © Mazda.
Alpina B10 V8S Touring
To counter some of the lack of practicality in the first third of this list, we come to the first of my all-rounders.
We already run an E39 series BMW 5 Touring in a fairly basic spec and it is the most ridiculous car. There is precious little it does wrong – even the faults it has as a 174,000 mile car are inconsequential and it’s cost us less to fix it than it has to tax it since we’ve owned it. As a family of four with two properly sized dogs, we can fit ourselves in and just drive it to Belgium if we felt like it.
Though the straight six version makes a good noise and has sufficient go to surprise, it doesn’t quite merit ‘dream’ status. Nor would any of the middling V8s – only a halo car would do. However BMW never made a M5 Touring for the E39 (save for one concept model) and this means looking wider than the immediate company.
The Alpina B10 V8S isn’t quite at M5 levels of performance, but the Touring version is the nearest one can get to an M5 Touring. There are only ten right-hand drive cars and they’re all automatic (which would get my inner tinkerer looking for a spare M5 6-speed Getrag), but there’s nothing else around that does so much and so well simultaneously. Image © autoplenum.de
Chevrolet Camaro SS ’69
If one V8 is good, two are better – and the natural home for a V8 is a classic US pony car.
But you can’t just plump for any old one. You can’t go for the Dodge Challenger, for example, because it’s just too big – and because film baddies (Kowalski wasn’t exactly a good guy) drove it. The 6 foot 6 wide, 17 foot long Dodge Charger ‘mid-size’ is bigger still. The Ford Mustang is a much better size, but as the definition of the pony car it’s scene-taxed like crazy, never mind being something of a ladies’ choice. The related Mercury Cougar is a good option though, with some neat flip up lights (oh come on – who doesn’t like moving headlights?).
While there’s some other, less well known choices – Dodge Dart, Plymouth Fury, Ford Galaxie, Plymouth ‘Cuda – I’ve got a soft spot for the bowtie and I’d take a late model ’69 Camaro SS.
It’s not the most powerful variant, but that just helps our real world budget. I’m not that bothered on ‘numbers matching’ (original condition cars with no non-original factory parts) cars either, so my pony car sails in well under budget. Image © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons.
Volkswagen Phaeton W12
After the raucousness of a classic muscle car, a spot of opulence is what’s required and Piëch’s masterpiece fits the bill.
Chances are you’ll have seen a handful of Phaetons, but only been aware of a couple of them. They’re precious little different on the exterior (save the length) to the Passat and, in the current eat-the-rich climate, anonymity is a rare and desireable quality for a luxury car.
However it seems that luxury car buyers disagree with me about ostentatiousness and they avoid the Phaeton in droves – preferring the similar but gaudier Audi A8 and Bentley Continental range – and this smashes the residual prices, particularly for the huge engined models like the W12. Good news for the Dream Barn purchaser, who can find even three year old Phaeton W12s in their price range. Image © VW.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
In general I’m not a massive fan of off-roaders and off-road style cars, but the FJ is something of an exception, because it’s potty.
There’s very little pretence about it, save for a front-end design supposed to hark back to the earlier FJ. On the outside it’s marginally less subtle than grenade fishing and the interior is like living inside LEGO. The rear visibility makes the Lamborghini Countach look like a greenhouse.
And I love it. It’s genuinely capable off road while being completely composed on it. With a hoofing 4.0-litre V6 up front too, it’s also deceptively fast – the 260hp it produces is sufficient to outrun an MX-5 – without even adding the TRD supercharger. Which… you just would, wouldn’t you? Image © Toyota.
Mazda MX-3 V6
Time for a minor confession. I’ve already got two MX-3 V6s and one of them is severely tinkered. However, the reason I have two is the same reason I’ve kept the first one for a decade now – they’re brilliant.
Essentially, the MX-3 is a 1980s Mazda 323 in a cute dress. It has four good seats for grown-ups, a reasonable boot and it’s front-wheel drive. Fairly cold and unremarkable description, but the reality is that it’s actually a quieter, more refined and smoother MX-5. Okay, it lacks some of the qualities I’d laud an MX-5 for – the steering is dulled slightly by both FWD and power assistance – but on nasty British roads (particularly in the Fens) the extra weight on the nose makes for a slightly faster and more enjoyable drive. No, seriously.
Did I mention the V6? Oh yes, there’s a 1.8 litre V6 under there, so it makes a better noise than an MX-5 too. There’s not much more you can ask from a car than to get you from a point to another point and let you get out smiling from the journey, and it does this every time. Image © Mazda.
I love Kei cars. Pretty much all of them, even the daft, square ones made just to poke fun at the restrictive legislation. The imaginative ones are the cars to give me the biggest grin – the Suzuki Cappuccino, the AutoZam AZ-1 and the Honda Beat.
It takes a special mind to think ‘Yes, we have these highly restrictive size, weight, engine capacity and power ratings to build a car to… Hell, let’s build a sports car’, but Suzuki, Mazda and Honda did just that. While the Cappuccino is the most sportscar-like and the AutoZam has those ludicrous doors, the Beat mashes my buttons just a little bit better.
With a 63hp (and typically Honda – non-turbo) 660cc engine it doesn’t go very fast, it doesn’t get there very quickly and it makes a lot of noise doing so, but with it being mounted right behind the driver, the Beat is like an excessively tumble dried NSX. Who couldn’t want that? Image © PetrolBlog.
No, it’s not a tank, but it sure looks like one…
I have two daughters and the elder one is of an age where the school run is required. Stereotype though it is, the driving standards in the school car park are appalling like you wouldn’t believe – a purified, concentrated lump of awful. Between the racetrack dads and the SUV mums, it’s a distinctly unpleasant experience.
A road-legal ‘tank’ is the perfect solution. Though it’s quite some distance from a performance machine, speed’s off the menu on a school run. It’s too big for even the least attentive driver to miss and, though size is a potential issue, I doubt I could park it as badly as some parents manage to do with their Micras. Or just create my own space.
Besides, everyone wants to be friends with the kid that has a tank. My daughter would prefer a GT-R though. Image © Wikipedia.
Follow Andrew Evans on twitter @GTP_Famine.