Roll up, roll up. It’s time for yet another Real World Dream Barn. But this isn’t just any old Real World Dream Barn. This is a Real World Dream Barn put together by an award-winning blogger. None other than award-winning blogger, Keith WR Jones. Did we mention he’s an award winner?
Mind you, given his selection of ten cars, it’s hardly surprising – he clearly knows his stuff. When you’ve finished here, be sure to check out his site Petroleum Vitae.
Since the first Real World Dream Barn appeared on PetrolBlog I’ve been hooked. Usually nodding in agreement and occasionally expressing bemusement and wondering what’s been put in the water in other areas of the country.
Selecting my own chosen ten has not been easy. Mainly because I could easily have created five lists and still immediately thought of a sixth, seventh and eighth top ten.
Subsequently, the ones below are not necessarily a definitive choice for my Dream Barn but they are the ones I’m mostly craving at the time of writing.
Although they appear in alphabetical rather than personal desirability order, there’s something common to all the choices – they’ve been selected because of aesthetics. Now, this may leave you wondering what’s in Lincoln’s water, so I’ve made something of an attempt to justify my perspectives.
That said, each also has a depth of loveliness that goes beyond simply the way they look. They might not be the best handling or riding, most economical, fastest, most spacious or well made. But they have character. And as a life-long car enthusiast, that facet is important to me in terms of choosing a car.
Without further ado, let the applause and guffaws commence.
Well, this is a common choice in other Dream Barns but I’ll make no apology for that. So advanced a concept that even now Audi’s reportedly put its ‘new A2’ project on ice. Few took the plunge when British sales began in 2000, not least because it was so expensive. Not unjustifiably so though. Yes, those four interlinked rings on the glossy black ‘grille’ commanded a price premium but this was a technologically advanced, aluminium lightweight.
Built using the same high grade materials as its larger brethren and equipped with similarly expensive options, the A2 was a delight. Short but tall like the first A-Class but achingly cool in a way that highlighted the Mercedes’ visual awkwardness (and I say that as a fan of the MkI A-Class too). Bauhaus styling themes, tear drop silhouette and an elegant fin bisecting the rear tailgate glass directing the air away from the Audi with as little fuss as possible. An early one please, fully loaded in SE trim with the thrifty TDI motor under that fixed bonnet.
BMW’s an easy brand to respect and be in awe of but such is the frequency of spotting that blue and white roundel on every street across the land, much of the charm has been somewhat diluted. So far my personal garage has only included one kidney grilled example – a beautiful E38 728i, arguably the last elegant shape of 7 Series. If I was to partake in any future Bavarianism (okay, I know this is American-built), then it’d be in the shape of the fast and curious Z4 M Coupe.
Here, Bangle’s team’s styling wizardry works perfectly with flame surfacing panelwork creating visual drama, whilst the fastback styling and sort of Kamm tail hark back to 1960s sports racers. What makes this particular glorious though is that it was so on-message as a desirable car yet curiously off-message for BMW, as the Z3 Coupe before it had been too. Not convinced? It’s not been replaced in the range has it? After all, Titans like the X6 represent the Ultimate Driving Machine these days.
As a fully paid up member of the Citroën Car Club (yes, really) from my days as double XM owner and custodian of the rarest V6 Xantia produced (it was the only black one with cream leather made in right-hand drive), there simply had to be a large, hydropneumatically suspended Gallic barge amongst my choices. Yes, the DS, SM and C6 would also appear if this were a Top 100 but the one that’s most within reach is the CX, in long wheelbase Prestige saloon form.
Built on the same lengthened chassis used by the Safari and Familiale estates, the Prestige had enormous rear doors hiding truly palatial (should that be Pallasial?) leg room for back seat passengers. Deeply scalloped seats provide a sense of occasion whilst the ride quality is simply unsurpassed this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Personal taste dictates the plastic bumpered Series 2 model, fitted with the rapid 25 Turbo 2 engine and accompanying long bootlid badge. Whether you want to or not, you’ll quickly feel like Mitterrand sat in the back of this.
For Eunos, read Mazda, one of the Japanese’s sub-brands for its more off-beat products in the 1980s and 90s. You’ll be more familiar with the badge on the Japanese-spec Eunos Roadster, the Mazda MX-5 in most markets, but the Cosmo is an altogether different proposition, a sort of Japanese Mercedes SEC if you will.
Under the bonnet is a rotary engine (obviously for a weird Mazda) but the styling is a curious concoction of techno-elegance instead of RX-7 rakishness. Inside there’s more of the same with leather and LED instrumentation sitting side by side as though it was perfectly normal. Okay, it is normal now but back in the early 1990s? Never officially sold in the UK so rarer than a hen’s dental practitioner but worth hunting out a loved and unsullied example. You’ll never tire of people asking what it is. Or their blank faces after you’ve told them what it is.
I remember back in 1993 opening Autocar&Motor’s news pages and casting my eyes for the first time on the yellow example shown in the initial press images. I also remember uncontrollably uttering ‘f**k’ in disbelief. Here was a sporty coupe from a resurgent Italian giant, with the boldest styling seen in years. Forget what Bangle did at BMW – this is his definitive work.
The design looked like two crab claws laying side by side along the flanks, the nose was dominated by those headlamp pods bubbling from the clamshell bonnet and the unadorned, bleak rear punctured by simple, circular recesses for the lights. That it went very well indeed was almost of secondary importance. A late, pale blue one, with tan leather and the more powerful five pot, turbocharged motor is what I’m after if you want to buy me a late birthday present.
Let the haters hate, this is a landmark car. Well, it was when it was launched – I’m not a fan of how it was sanitised (or at least Fiat attempted to) from 2004. Compact in length (it was shorter than the Bravo/Brava on which it was based), ingenious packaging (two rows of three seats if you’ve somehow never come across one), clever construction, utterly wild inside and out and a surprisingly good steer too.
Also unusual for a Fiat, reliability and build quality were far from dire too. Those earlier models looked even better when the flagship ELX trim gained painted bumpers after a couple of years, further highlighting the bottle nose dolphin shaped side profile of the front. Fit it with the economical JTD power plant and spec it in a dark metallic blue with the purple upholstery and dashboard material (yes, I did just say that) and you’ve got a thing of beauty and practicality.
The XJS (or XJ-S depending on how the brochure copy writers felt at any given time) has become one of Jaguar’s icons and rightly so. It wasn’t always like that though, in spite of its two decades for sale on the market. The Coventry marque knew it had a hell of a job on its hands replacing the E-Type so arguably did the best thing it possibly could – it didn’t try to replace it with a like for like car. Instead of being a sports car the XJS was more of a GT, albeit a very snug one.
E-Type purists might well argue the later V12 Es could be described the same way, but we’ll save that debate for another day. The coupe is the way I’d go, purely for those glorious flying buttresses at the rear. I’d forego the XJ-SC’s scaffolding and the full convertible’s pram like hood for the hardtop’s sense of visual rightness. I’m not an early model evangelist either: my purchase would be the later facelift, with painted bumpers and stroked 6-litre V12 under that phallic bonnet. Pale gold paint simply adds to the ostentation.
Another 1970s coupe but an altogether different proposition to the XJS. Similar in length to the Jaguar but with actual space for four adults within the chiselled and chamfered Pininfarina styling. Not that the Gamma saloon was a visual horror but its transformation into elegant personal car still looks remarkable.
Mechanical intrigue comes by virtue of that 2.5-litre boxer under the bonnet whilst the combination of fragile plastics, flaky electrics and dazzling seat trims lend the interior a decidedly period feel. Cared for examples free from tin worm can be quite expensive but can a price be attached to such exclusivity? Well, yes, but even at under £10,000 there are far worse ways to spend your hard earned.
After two generations of selling the Cube primarily for Japanese customers, the third iteration went global. Sadly, UK sales only lasted for 1000 units before it was pulled, guaranteeing exclusivity for those who took the plunge. It may have humble Renault-Nissan Alliance underpinnings but the styling’s as fun as a ‘best of’ episode of Takeshi’s Castle.
Neat touches of weirdness like the side opening tailgate and asymmetrical styling treatment of the rear add immediate curiosity. The roomy interior, bench-like front seat and unusual dashboard remind you you’re not driving any ordinary Japanese econobox. Okay, it’s not as utterly left field as Toyota’s WiLL Vi saloon, but this is something practical, chic and urban centric that requires no compromises to live with. Introductory LDN edition with brown velour upholstery is the way I’d be going.
Volvos have long played an important part in my life due to the first family cars we had during my childhood being a pair of robust 244s. By now my appreciation of coupes is apparent and on another day the 780, 480 and even the first C70 would have appeared in this list. But the 262C deserves its place for being utterly mad.
I’ve always liked to imaging its styling came about by a group of Swedish designers stopping off at an Amsterdam coffee shop during a European road trip and quickly sketching a chopped roof customisation of the luxo-wannabe 264 saloon. The black vinyl roof confirms its 1970s origins; the button back and embossed leather suggests the interior of another kind of Amsterdam establishment.
Yes, it wore Bertone badges but the Italians are very quick to point out they merely built it for Volvo, the styling was not their work. Under that long bonnet lay Peugeot/Renault/Volvo’s lazy six cylinder, providing smooth, thirsty and leisurely propulsion. It somehow suits the American feel of this most unusual of Volvo diversions. For me, the more rounded front and tail introduced for the 1980s would be the one that gets my wallet opening vote.
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All images © respective manufacturers, expect CX Prestige © Garage de l’est