Inspired by Dave Tillyer’s Dream Barn part 2, I thought I’d revisit the cars that didn’t make the cut in my own Real World Dream Barn. As always the £30k per car limit applies rigidly but I’m still hopeful that the Major will be supplying a fuel card. You’ll see why shortly.
Mercedes Benz 560 SEC
I’m going to be very specific on this one. When I was growing up I loved these. The massive grille, seemingly wider than a Fiesta was long, the huge Mercedes badge, the AMG alloys. Yes, my 560 SEC has to be metallic brown complete with the AMG 5-spoke alloy wheels. it was wide, it was low, it had a huge V8 engine, it looked the coolest of the cool and it had utterly enormous frameless doors. What’s not to like? (The fact that the pic doesn’t show your specific car!? – sorry – ed.)
Fiat Strada 130TC Abarth
The car with the memorable ad slogan, “designed by computer, built by robots, driven by morons”. Actually, I’m not sure that’s what Fiat really wrote but it’s the one everyone remembers. The early ones had grey plastic bumpers, incredible 1970s colours and unique wheel trims that looked like a giant with ink on his or her fingers had pushed each one on to the car. In my Dream Barn part deux I’d like a late-ish 130TC Abarth which I’d argue is the forgotten hot hatch. Twin cam goodness powering many rustspots all travelling in perfect harmony.
Citroën CX 2400 IE Pallas
Now look, we’re dreaming here OK? So I can choose something that’s unlikely to make it to the end of my road without challenging and expensive problems because I don’t actually have to own and drive it. Still, it would look great parked up in the barn as long as I remembered to polish it from time to time.
Therefore I’m having a Citroën CX 2400 IE Pallas with the C-matic gearbox. If it works I’ll be wafting par excellence. If it doesn’t I’ll be the most stylish bloke on the hard shoulder.
Built in the West Midlands, powered by one of the largest engines ever fitted to a production car. The FF models had four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes but I’d struggle to get one of them for less than £30k so I’d probably have an Interceptor III with the 7.2 litre Chrysler V8, auto box, full leather in any dark shade of paint. A glorious grand tourer if you can stomach the fuel consumption. I’m going to use mine as a daily drive and see how long it is before the Major runs out of cash.
Ford Puma 1.7
From the ridiculous to the sublime. Well, maybe not sublime, but certainly epic fun. The Ford Puma with the Yamaha-designed 1.7-litre 16 valve engine is an utter hoot to drive. A proper hooligan car with lift-off oversteer easily available on wet roundabouts, a close-ratio gearbox with a tactile metal gear knob (which is freezing in cold weather!) and a beautifully sized thick-rimmed steering wheel complete the experience.
They’re dirt cheap at the moment and the luxury pack ones come with air conditioning and a heated windscreen. I could get at least thirty of them for my nominal £30k so I may choose to slightly bend the rules and have a silver one, a red one, a blue one, a black one, a yellow one and a green one which is pretty much every colour they made. I’ll use the next car on Sundays.
Bentley Turbo R
Hahahahahahahahahahaha! Fast! Indescribably luxurious! Like driving a small detached house at Mach 1! Shocking fuel consumption! Who cares?
Land Rover Discovery
It’s hard to believe now but in 1989 Land Rover introduced a completely new vehicle, a third model to their range. With an interior designed by Jasper Conran it was incredibly different from the Range Rover and 90/110 range that they were already selling.
Nowadays the Discovery is a very familiar sight, with the early ones hitting banger territory. So that’s what I’d like – an early 3-door V8 petrol version. I was lucky enough to drive one when they were current and it was brilliant. Green laning to the accompaniment of the V8 growl was lots and lots of fun.
Volvo S60 D5 SE
I test drove one and I think we have unfinished business. It was the first Volvo in decades that didn’t predominantly involve a set square and ruler as part of the design tool set and it genuinely took at least some of the fight to BMW, Mercedes and Audi in the medium executive sector.
Age has seen it wear well, probably helped by the newer versions being a gradual evolving of the design, whereas the E39 5 Series has aged dramatically because of Bangle’s radical changes. This is actually one where I may even put my money where my typing is…
1989 Ford Transit
Internationally renowned as the fastest vehicle on any road. If you’re travelling uphill in your Lamborrari Enzallardo travelling at serious three-figure speeds you’re going to be undertaken by two blokes in a diesel Transit, usually a short wheelbase model. The driver will have his Nokia wedged under his shoulder, a cup of strong tea in his left hand. His right hand will be drumming on the dash top to the sounds of Metallica emanating from the AM radio and he will be ‘steering’ using his left knee against the steering wheel rim.
You will bow in wonder and awe at the incredible vehicle that has left you in its dust. According to legend, the blokes at Jaguar used a long wheelbase one as a testbed for the XJ220 which still exists. It is given away only by the unusually large wheels all round and the fact that it leaves even the short wheelbase diesel for dead off the traffic lights.
I know it’s hard to believe but there was indecision about a second ten cars to park in an adjacent barn. In the main my barn has been based around vehicles that have left a legacy of indelible memories in my mind. If they’re not vehicles which I have actually driven, they are ones where I have invested time imagining what the experience would be like. Contemporary road tests in magazines and on websites have been pored over and I’ve ‘heard’ the noise, ‘felt’ the ride quality and ‘experienced’ the handling vicariously through the words of the incredible journalists who have the skill to put me in the driving seat.
Do I have a particular affinity with an automotive nation, like Italy? Not really. Am I loyal to a particular brand? I’m a bit of a Ford fan but I think that’s mainly because most of my family had them when I was a small boy who was mad about cars. I like cars with a bit of passion, ones that are designed to thrill the imagination or make you unconsciously exclaim “wow!” when you see or hear one. I’ll take an enthusiastic but flawed car over a competent but boring one most times. I might not want a wacky car, like a pink Fiat 500 or a series 1 Multipla, but I’m happy that they exist.
So, and I grappled over the twentieth car in my collection long and hard, this spot goes to the 1979 Citroën GSpecial estate in red. The GSpecial (that’s the actual way that Citroën wrote the model name at the time) was the base model of the range, complete with vinyl seats, no head restraints, metal bumpers, no radio at all and the basic 1,130cc flat four engine, enabling a 0-62mph time of 17.5 seconds (really!) so it wasn’t fast. The estate had a curious rear window which curved into the roofline at the top, so it wasn’t a great looker.
The handbrake was in the centre of the dashboard and operated on the front wheels which made handbrake turns an impossibility, so it’s not a massive amount of fun. The engine filled the space allotted it so comprehensively that you had to dismantle most of the front of the car to change the exhaust downpipes, so it’s not cheap to maintain. The suspension was hydropneumatic but not brilliant on corners, so it wasn’t a great handler. Your aftermarket cassette player was mounted in a vertical position between the front seats allowing crumbs to fall into the cassette bay. This was because the aforementioned handbrake was where the radio should have been. It was the very definition of idiosyncratic.
Why, therefore, is it in this list?
Simple. The 1979 Citroën GSpecial estate, registration number BSA 63T, was the first car that I drove on my own with my dad in the passenger seat, on an abandoned World War 2 airfield when I was 12 years old. It transformed my passion and love for cars from theory to experience and for that reason it proudly rolls into the barn. (Picture is quite obviously a GS Club, sorry – ed.)