Craig’s Real World Dream Barn

Craig is quite the PetrolBlog hero, for it was he who came up with the idea for the Real World Reviews. So when he offered to compile a list for his Real World Dream Barn, we could wait to see what he came up with. His approach is superb – almost choosing ten occasions and then finding the right cars to suit. He also gets a few brownie points for choosing a certain Citroën.

Before we hand over to Craig, we just need to say a big thank you for all the Dream Barn submissions. There are more waiting in the wings. Look out for a Real World Dream Barn book appearing on the shelves of WH Smith soon!

Creating a Dream Barn can be a real headache for any enthusiastic petrolhead. I’m sure we’ve all idly considered our ideal car collection, but when limitations are placed on those daydreams the process of whittling down the candidates becomes tricky. After a few false starts I decided that I needed to approach my Dream Barn from a different direction.

I can only afford to run one car in real life, and wouldn’t have anywhere to store any others anyway, so I always choose one that can do almost everything I need. Freed from this constraint I started to consider cars fit for a single purpose; what car would I choose to fulfil a particular need or desire? This is a dream barn after all, so reality can be ushered gently to one side for a while. Please bear this in mind as you peruse the dark corners of my petrolhead psyche.

The Stuff Mover

Chevy Sportvan

Furniture, musical gear, noisy relatives you wouldn’t want in the passenger seat… sometimes a van is the only answer. Every petrolhead knows that vans are great fun to drive so I decided I needed one in my barn. Thing is, I would want to be able to enjoy it whenever the mood took me, so none of this faceless Euro nonsense will do. I decided to look west over the pond, and back across quite a few years…

My ultimate stuff-mover would be a third generation Chevy G-series Sportvan, short wheelbase with the straight bar chrome grille fitted from ’71-’78. There’s something wonderfully ridiculous about the idea of a sport van that always raises a smile when coupled with outrageous seventies styling. Equip it with a set of slot mags and side pipes, a suitably sharp paintjob and a serious cabin re-trim and ICE job and you’re good to go.

Actually, not quite – truth be told, they’re terrible on the road. I reckon that you could sling in a modern crate LS small block with a slusher, sort the back end to handle it, rework the existing suspension, jazz up the brakes and steering and still come in well within the dream barn budget. You’d have one of the most stylish stuff-movers on the road and it’d raise a smile every time. Shades on, window down, crank the stoner rock and hit the road… Image © Hemmings.

The Luxury Cruiser

Citroën C6

The usual German candidates in this category would be too obvious so we need a little Gallic flair instead – I’m opting for the Citroën C6 as my luxury people mover. I’d have considered a new one – because let’s face it, it’ll go wrong and so the warranty is a must – but unfortunately the car was a financial disaster for Citroën so they’ve stopped making it. Ideally you want the newest, most kitted out one you can find, which means you’ll get the 3.0 HDi – the best engine they fitted, with 240ps on tap. You’re going to get that for under £15k even at a main dealer, but you’ll want a comprehensive warranty on the top. Black on black will do nicely.

Why the C6 then? Because it’s one of the coolest saloons in recent memory. The swoopy coupé-like roofline is wonderfully slippery yet doesn’t hurt your rear headroom, there’s oodles of space for everyone, which I consider essential in a luxury car, and the ride is luscious and wafty. All the toys are clever and feel futuristic and the fascinating design features just keep coming – the concave rear window, the semi-circular door bins, the jewel-like light clusters. It’s all utterly gorgeous, and you won’t be sharing the road with many others.

Above all though, imagine the scene: The cobbled back streets of Paris at 3am. Cruising at walking pace, scanning the side roads. Your team of sharp suited hit-men are on board and silent. What car are you going to be driving? Exactly. Image © Citroën.

The Childhood Fantasy

Ford Escort RS2000

For as long as I remember, one car has always had the same dramatic impact on me. It could have been the orange one parked down the street when I was a kid that kicked off the obsession, or possibly the white Matchbox model that I treasured above my others. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the MK2 Escort RS2000.

I know that there are plenty of reasons to prefer the RS1800 – the chunky wheel arches and the BDA lump at the very least – but I loved the aggressive sloped front end of the RS2000 and those brilliant four spoke RS alloys. Details like that matter when you’re knee high to a grasshopper. The RS2000 embodies the ‘slow car, fast’ principle of being able to extract the most fun out of a car at legal speeds – the RWD chassis, light weight and talkative steering guarantee that. Not that 8.9 seconds to 60mph was slow in 1975 of course, but now it’s on the pleasant side of fun.

I reckon the RS2000 is the hero it’s not only safe to meet, but the one that you’ll still get on with after the cross country run to the pub. Image © Craig.

The ‘Come On If You Think you’re Hard Enough’ Bruiser

Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R

This was the easiest category of all for me. Again, you have to avoid the obvious (and boring) German contenders first, and then consider what single vehicle remaining in this price range was built solely to destroy everything. We’re talking fanatical levels of hardcore single-mindedness and technical genius here, crammed into a body that shouts ‘you looking at me?’

For my money, the R34 GT-R V-Spec stands alone as a road weapon. The Skyline family tree is peppered with the desire to go flat out at all costs, and the R34 took this motivation to insane heights. Every single component is designed to sling you from here to there as fast as possible, monstering all challengers in the process. The V-Spec added an extremely trick active LSD as well as some useful aero tweaks and, even though the standard cars put down less than 300bhp at the wheels, the clever computerised 4wd system ensured every single one of those gee-gees made it to the tarmac.

It’s also extremely easy to tune, although that presents a problem – finding one without every single shiny go-faster bit from the Nismo catalogue is likely to be tricky. The hunt would be worth it though – an R34 driven flat out still has the power to take your breath away. Image © Wikipedia.

The Shiny Handmade Toy

Caterham Roadsport

I’ve always wanted to build a kit car, but the evil trinity of money, space and not wanting to strip a filthy old wreck have made that impossible. Given a whole barn and an allowance it’d be one of the first things on my list. I already knew which car I wanted to go for but decided to do some research just in case.

Have you any idea how hard it is to get concise information out of kit car makers? That’s assuming you can get through their websites, which were all apparently built in 1995 and designed to make browsing as confusing as possible. How hard can it be to say ‘this is the overall cost for a fully working base model with everything thrown in and you’ll need these donor bits’? If you want a complete kit made entirely of new parts with clear costs, helpful guidance and absolutely clarity about the process, it seems there’s only one place to go.

My evening toy project would therefore have to be a Caterham Roadsport. I’d be happy with the base 125 with any extra weatherproofing options they could put my way, and I have no doubt I’d absolutely love building it. It’s not the sort of thing that would see the daylight too often, but on the right summer evening what would be better than hitting the countryside in a car you built yourself? Sometimes you really do need to get back to basics, clichéd though that might sound, and a Caterham is one of the few cars still able to feel completely transparent in your hands. Image © Caterham.

The ‘Stuff The Weatherman’ Mud-Munching Snowmobile

Volkswagen T3 Syncro

This is a long-term want of mine, made even more relevant by recent climatic conditions and the shrieking media mayhem surrounding the tiniest fall of snow. I’d love to have something that could handle itself in just about any road conditions, but that would also be handy for the occasional jaunt off them – muddy racetrack or festival parking and the like. What’s more, I’d like to be able to take a few people along for the ride in relative comfort and ensure that the interior was a nice place to be for those ‘sod this, let’s stop for a cuppa and get out of the idiot stream’ moments. Volkswagen T3 Syncro, enter stage left!

The Syncro was a high-rise 4wd variant of the standard camper, panel van and pickup, fitted with a viscous centre diff and optional diff locks at both ends. It had impressive ground clearance and a very low ratio crawler gear that provided astonishing off-road performance for what was basically a motor home. The 16” Syncro was the rarer, more hardcore choice and the one to look out for, but the standard 14” does the job perfectly well.

The plan would be to find the cleanest one and give it the mechanical workover it’s going to need, then have the interior rebuilt into a rolling lounge type of thing – facing heated bench seats (well it is a winter vehicle) front and back with belts, storming sound system and TV, proper heating, a wi-fi hotspot, camping floodlights and of course ‘tea and coffee making facilities’. The cabin would be seriously reworked too so the whole affair was actually a pleasure to drive. This beastie would live on winter tyres and be ready for anything. Image ©

The Pretty Little Thing

Datsun 240Z

The mark of a true petrolhead is to be able to fixate on one aspect of a car to the exclusion of all others. If it corners like a scalded gecko we’ll overlook the fact that it has the face like a cabinet minister’s backside. I think there’s room in anyone’s dream barn for something that’s just so lovely to look at that everything else is irrelevant.

Let’s face it – it’s the E-type isn’t it? Generally not wonderful to drive, but those looks… and the cost, sadly. You can’t get an E-type worth having for Dream Barn money, but you can pick up another little gem along the same lines for a lot less. I’ve always loved the Datsun 240Z for its classic muscular yet lithe profile; the chunky up-and-at-em haunches counterbalancing the delicate nose. Utterly gorgeous. Better still, it drove properly – this wasn’t just a pretty face. Not fast, but delicate and agile.

It was from an era where most people still weren’t convinced the Japanese could build a car at all, let alone a sports coupé, and that proved a huge advantage; in trying to copy European lines, they sidestepped the Japanese trend for strong details over coherence, resulting in a beautiful simplicity inside and out. When I consider the idea of a minimalist sports coupe the 240Z will always be the first shape that springs to mind, and I’d love to have my own sitting there. Image © Nissan.

The Left-field Looney Tune

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution

Who doesn’t love a homologation special? Unfortunately that title usually translates as ‘requiring two kidneys to buy and at least one more to run’. At least that’s the way with homologated road cars, presumably because the race series they enter have a relatively high profile. If you want a pedigree nutmobile for sensible money you have to think laterally.

The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution was developed with the T3 class of the Paris-Dakar in mind. Mistubishi packed a normally aspirated 280BHP V6 in that chunky but cute little body, then proceeded to de-cutify it with an aggressive new face and monster arches. It’d hit 60 in well under 7 seconds and could monster rough terrain just as easily as tarmac. The scarcity means you’re also unlikely to pass another one on the road, which should prove interesting when a member of the Corsa community pulls up alongside and tries it on.

It offers 4WD brutality without being as obvious as an Evo or Impreza, will probably be bulletproof, and will definitely never be mistaken for a Chelsea tractor. What’s not to love? Image © Wikipedia.

The Hardcore Headbanger

Honda DC5 Integra Type-R

The one thing I demand of my daily driver is reliability after suffering years of misery with a recalcitrant Skoda. If you want biblical reliability there are really only two places to go – Honda and Lexus. The latter isn’t yet famous for making exciting cars (unless you count the incredible LFA, which I can’t afford to park in the barn) so Honda it is. What would you choose if you wanted a headbanging attack dog that would never fail to start if you fancied a thrash?

Common wisdom says the DC2 Integra Type-R is the one to go for, and that’s a hard one to argue against. It’s a cracking motor but they’re all getting long in the tooth now. I reckon the Type-R we never officially had in the UK is worth a punt. The DC5 has slightly less trick suspension and packs a bit more weight than its predecessor, but in return you get an extra 25HP, a limited slip diff, monster Brembo brakes and an extremely slick and tight six speed close ratio box.

The usually Type-R ride quality is in evidence too – that is to say, there isn’t any – but the harshness is a small price to pay for the eyeball-rattling grip through corners. Performance Honda engines are joyful things, with distant redlines and the knowledge that they’ll just keep going. You also got climate control as standard, which is something I feel Type-Rs all desperately need but rarely have, and I actually prefer the slippery JDM looks over its big brother. Reliability and performance rarely go together, but the DC5 will take everything you throw at it and never let you down. I like that. Image © Honda.

The Terrier About Town

Honda City Turbo II

Big powerful cars are all very well, but sometimes you need a small, economic motor for shopping trips and forays into our crowded inner cities. Something simple, inoffensive, mild mannered and subtle would be ideal. A quiet little runabout that won’t upset the natives.

Alternative you could stuff the beige option sideways, buy a Honda City Turbo II and scare children and small dogs.

The City was a great little car already, and had the frankly bizarre yet wonderful option of a tiny 50cc foldable scooter (the Motocompo) that would fit neatly into the boot. Honda Jnr, who was also in charge of Mugen, saw the potential in the platform and couldn’t resist trying to pep it up a bit. The resulting City Turbo was a proper little screamer, but stopping at just enough was never the Mugen way. Cue 1984’s City Turbo II, or ‘The Bulldog’.

The stats then: a blown 1600lb micro car packing 110HP and 117 lb-ft of torque that’d hit 60 in 7.5 seconds when stock. Throw in a set of ridiculously boxy arches and a bulging bonnet and you end up with the cutest little mauler on the block, and numbers that are still respectable today. There’s a lot to be said for small dogs with loud barks. Image © Wikipedia.

Follow Craig on twitter @KuangEleven and keep those Real World Dream Barns coming.

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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. February 6, 2013
    Peter Counsell

    Craig’s Barn represents an interesting conundrum for me as a reader. I love the concept and the delivery of it and I think that the writing is outstanding. However I don’t believe that I would take anything other than the C6, RS2000 and Caterham anywhere near my barn or the multitude of reserve barns that are still in my head. That, though, in a nutshell is what the RWDB is all about and captures the democracy of PetrolBlog. There is no “right” and “wrong”.

    Incidentally, looking forward to the book, the BBC4 series and the DVD. Can I have a signed copy please Gav?

    • February 7, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Ha! No problem. 😉

  2. February 6, 2013

    Some lovely cars there – the R34 is always an interesting one for me; I love the looks and admire the capability of it, but the trickery of it, that slings it down the road so fast, leaves me a little conflicted. With another 9 cars in the barn though, it’s probably a good shout.

    The C6 is a great car, I really want one. Out of all the cars there it is the one I’d like.

    You make an interesting case for the DC5, great logic, although I still think the DC2… but I can’t quite tell you why? That’s after I saw one make a smoky retreat from Bedford Autodrome last month.

  3. February 6, 2013
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    Excellent list. The Honda City Turbo II makes it. Would love a 240Z or a C6, too.

  4. February 6, 2013
    Dogknob1 (@Dogknob1)

    If my Barn burnt to the ground this is the Barn i would happily stroll into like some automotive surrogate! What a fantastic Barn.
    Chevy Van is a great start especially on slots with a suitably garish metal flake paint job.(Gavin that’s a great pic you found though)
    I’m currently trying to cajole my Dad into purchasing a C6,so I could borrow it but have none of the ownership woes!
    RS2000’s should only come in White with a black vinyl roof aka the Professionals which was watched religiously on Sunday evenings.
    As much as I love the R34 I’m pretty sure I’d swap that out for an R32 in Calsonic blue with white Enkei wheels.
    Chap opposite me has a bright orange Cateram! one of the more pokey versions but I’m with you Craig & would go as basic as possibly & save any dilemma down to cycle or clam wings?
    Clam obviously.
    With a Syncro in my Barn already think we’ll just agree that there awesome! Subaru SVX 3.3Ltr 6 engines fit by the way!
    Datsun! what a great name,one I still use, regardless that it’s been Nissan for ever and the 240
    is just peachy, you can see the family heritage wash away with every generation past that clean & simple car.
    Mitsi Evo yes please,great addition to your Barn,only ever seen the odd one all of them in silver.
    Ah! Err! the DC thing? could that be pushed outside & I just have a spare slot as a workshop?
    The City Turbo II looks like the kind of car you’d end up driving everywhere because of it being a total riot.
    Sir I salute you and your choices
    Now the old Barn fire rescue run?
    Honda City Turbo II


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