It’s funny how things change. Back in April 2011, when PETROLBLOG unveiled the first Real World Dream Barn, the list of 10 cars was pretty much set in stone. Ten relatively affordable cars that wouldn’t leave a dent in a lottery win.
Now, seven years on, two things come to mind. Firstly, it’s hardly a snappy title. Secondly, none of the cars would make a top 10 list in 2018. Which presents an opportunity for a rethink and a reboot. Mesdames and Messieurs, please welcome The Barn.
Granted, it’s a simple title, but it does the job. Besides, the rules are anything but ordinary. For The Barn: reloaded, you must select a car for 10 distinct categories, each one costing no more than £10,000. If you’re going to commit to 10 dream cars, you should buy something for every occasion and eventuality, and this includes when the oil wells start to run dry.
Hot hatch: Honda Integra Type R
There are dozens of potential suitors in the sub-£10k price bracket, so you can pretty much pick and choose from some of the best in the business. Indeed, aside from the Peugeot 205 GTI, which requires a small mortgage and not a car loan, you can purchase a Frenchie for a fraction of the budget.
It’s tempting to opt for the Citroën AX GT, but that’s arguably a little fragile for extended use. And, as much as I love my Citroën ZX 16v and Xsara VTS, they’re not particularly great if you fancy travelling much further than your nearest B-road.
Which is why I’m opting for a Honda Integra Type R. Unlike the priceless Pug it remains affordable, but you just know that prices will head north in years to come. It also looks a million yen and features a pair of red Recaros, while the rev-hungry VTEC engine would be a welcome tonic in this era of turbocharging and WLTP figures.
I also have a big thing for 90s Honda interiors. Just call me Mr Strange. And before you say anything, I know the Integra stretches the definition of a hot hatch. But it’s a hot hatch in spirit, so that’s good enough for me.
Family wagon: Mercedes-Benz W123 T
W123 Estate, S123 or W123T: whatever you call it, Mercedes-Benz peaked early when it came to building its first wagon. It might be a cliché, but this could be all the estate car you’ll ever need. Finding a weakness is like searching for a sober German at Oktoberfest.
“The way every car should be built,” proclaimed Mercedes in the late 70s, and back then it had a point. If life with a W123 has taught me anything, it’s that they – meaning the entire industry – don’t make ’em wot like they used to.
Supremely comfortable, spacious, good looking and classless enough to be suitable for any occasion – what more could you want from a wagon? A 280TE would be perfect, thank you. With a pair of rear-facing seats in the boot, obviously.
4×4: Lada Niva Bronto
PETROLBLOG doesn’t do big, lumbering 4x4s, but if it did, it would probably choose a Toyota Land Cruiser. An alternative would be the Dacia Duster 4×4, which is one of a few new cars I would buy with my own money.
The fact is, I’m not sure I really need a 4×4, but I do have a thing for small off-roaders with mountain goat-like characteristics. A Suzuki Jimny would be nice – the 2019 version looks incredible – and the Panda 4×4 is always loitering outside the PB garage hoping to gain entry.
But it’s impossible to look beyond the Lada Niva Bronto, which is available to buy new in Russia for the equivalent of £8,000. Granted, it would cost more to import it into the UK, but it would still work out cheaper than a terribly fashionable Defender or a nouveau riche G-Wagen.
Four-door saloon: Lancia 2000 Sedan
If you’re new to PETROLBLOG, you might find it surprising that my favourite Lancia isn’t the Integrale, Stratos, Montecarlo, Fulvia, 037, Delta S4 or any of the other luminaries from the Italian’s first past. Instead, it’s the humble and understated 2000 Sedan: the best car my father ever owned.
Here’s a quote from PB’s original article on the forgotten saloon: “Not beautiful in the way that a Jaguar E-Type or Lancia Fulvia might be, but gorgeous all the same. The Lancia 2000 is the Ingrid Bergman of 1970s cars – able to remain appealing without the need for make-up or unwanted jewellery. A uniquely Italian saloon car that could only stem from the late ’60s or early ’70s.”
Luxury: Toyota Century
Any car with lace net curtains rather than tinted windows and seats swathed in wool should earn a place in The Barn. Named in honour of the 100th birthday of the company founder Sakichi Toyoda, the Toyota Century is a typically Japanese take on the luxury car formula.
Like the aforementioned Lancia, it’s not what you’d call beautiful, but it’s certainly handsome, not to mention a touch imposing. It’s amazing to think that V8 versions cost less than £10,000, while V12 models are just a touch higher. You could spend the same amount on something German or British, but the difference is: the only maintenance you’ll need to do on the Century is washing the net curtains and applying some Woolite to the seats.
Coupe: Peugeot 406 Coupe
Gracing your driveway with one of Pininfarina’s masterpieces won’t come cheap – unless you fancy a Hyundai Matrix, Shogun Pinin or Focus CC – but there is a way of doing it on a budget.
The Peugeot 406 Coupe is the automotive equivalent of having your baba au rhum and eating it, before returning for seconds. Modern carmakers are doing their level best to sully the good name of the coupe – witness the horror of the Mercedes GLE Coupe – but the 406 is everything a good two-door ‘coop’ should be. Beautiful, sexy and alluring, French and Italian.
Convertible: Saab 900
I simply must have a Saab in The Barn, so a 900 Convertible is my choice for the droptop slot. I’m not fussed if it’s turbocharged or not, but I’d prefer an original flat-fronted version.
The 900 Convertible might be dripping in Swedish charm, but we can thank an American for its introduction. Robert J. Sinclair, president of Saab-Scania America during the 80s, felt that Saab needed a more upmarket vehicle, which flew in the face of Trollhättan’s plan to launch an economy version of the 900.
A pre-production version was unveiled in Geneva in 1983 before series production began in 1986. It proved to be a bit hit, especially in the United States and the commuter belt of southeast England.
Sports car: Vauxhall VX220
Seven years on from my original ‘Real World Dream Barn’, I’m unable to look beyond the Vauxhall VX220 as my choice for the sports car slot. It just about manages to slip below the £10,000 mark, but it won’t be long before a £10k VX220 means a salvage job and a couple of broken clams.
Eco: Chevrolet Volt
I toyed with the idea of making this an electric-only slot, but that doesn’t provide enough scope for barn material. A Renault Fluence would be interesting, but it doesn’t tick the ‘dream’ box. And, as much as like the Renault Zoe, I don’t lie awake at night thinking about it.
Money no object, I’d buy a Chrysler Turbine Car, but that’s never going to happen. I also considered the Mk1 Honda Insight, but that was ruled out on the basis of having no rear seats. Instead, I’m opting for the Chevrolet Bolt, with its range-extender trickery, neat styling and four individual seats. This thing is cool without being geeky and clever without being showy.
Anything goes: Matra-Simca Rancho
The final slot, where you’re given free rein to choose anything you like within the £10k budget. In footballing terms, the Matra-Simca Rancho – or Talbot-Matra Rancho – was the first name down on my team sheet, but it doesn’t really fit into any of the other nine categories.
Which makes it an automatic choice for the ‘anything goes’ category, assuming ‘anything goes’ doesn’t mean venturing too far off the beaten track. The French response to the original Range Rover was delightfully offbeat, ticking the fashionable box but choosing to ignore the 4×4 bit.
A long-time hero of PETROLBLOG, the Rancho first appeared on these pages in March 2010, when the website was still wearing nappies. Eight years on, it finds a place in The Barn. The question is: will my selections be the same in seven years time? The way my mind works, it’ll be different if you asked me again in seven minutes.
If you’ve got a few minutes to spare or are struggling to sleep, why not submit your own entries for The Barn? Use the same categories as above, stick to the £10k budget, and fill your boots. Or rather, fill your barn.
Over to you.