Not content with picking up third prize in last year's Real World Dream Barn of the Year vote, Jonathan Kershaw (aka @Jeckythump) has decided to put a different spin on PetrolBlog's long-running feature. His Real World Dream Shed idea is actually rather good, to the point where I could see it creating a whole new feature of its own. I'll let Jonathan take you through his list and how the Dream Shed works, but it's fair to say there isn't one car here I wouldn't mind myself. Nice one, Jonathan.
In November last year, I finally concocted a Real World Dream Barn for your delectation. Those possessed of a sharp eye and a sharper memory may recall that, while cogitating in my barn, I posited the notion of another challenge – a PetrolBlog Real World Dream Shed, an imaginary vehicle storage facility in which the ten selections wouldn’t be restricted to £30k apiece, but to £30k in total.
The Panda made it into my Dream Barn and so, with many now slipping below the £3k mark, it is a prime candidate for the dream shed. As mentioned in my Barn, I’ve always had a thing for the Panda, and I maintain that the 2ndgeneration Panda is the nearest thing we have to a contemporary Citroën 2CV, Renault 4 or BMC Mini in terms of practicality and classlessness. Small, light, simple and a good crack to drive, the 2ndgeneration Panda is everything I approve of in a car, and I really want one. Spec is largely immaterial, though I would like it to have door rubbing strips and roof bars – I reckon Pandas look somewhat naked without them. Image © Fiat.
In justifying my inclusion of the Ur-quattro in my Dream Barn, I touched on how urbane and sophisticated Audi was in the 80s, and I reckon such urbane sophistication reached its zenith in the A2. To me, its unique styling makes it look ‘clever’ – if that makes any sense – and, with lightweight aluminium construction, its intelligence would appear to be more than skin deep. Possessed of ‘rational chic’ and an eco-sensibility, the A2 is exactly what you would imagine a forward-thinking small car to be. It was the small car of the future at the turn of the 21stcentury – perhaps it still is – and I reckon it shows up the A1 for the contrived, banal, badge-engineered mobility device it is. Whatever happened to Vorsprung durch Technik? Image © Audi.
This Audi A2 is a bit pricey, but claims fsh & the mileage is on the right side of biblical. Now sold.
Mk1 Renault Twingo
No, not the current model, rather the first generation Twingo; the très chicbrilliant little 1990s Le Quement monobox of which we were deprived on this side of La Manche. I really wanted one of these when they first came out. Just look at it – with a smiley face and a ‘Fisher-Price’ interior, it’s such a happy and non-aggressive car; you just want to have a go in it. It’s so utterly French – rational, but with a fun twist and, based on the first-generation Clio, I trust it rides like a French car should too, more suited to the Périphérique than the Nürburgring. A brilliant urban biffabout, and distinctive too. Vive la différence! Image © Renault.
One of the last ‘hewn-from-granite’ Mercs, the W201 is a car I’ve long admired. I love the looks and proportions – aerodynamically advanced, and without an ounce of fat on it; I find the meeting of the c-pillar and rear deck particularly pleasing for some reason. It looks solid without looking stolid, and is perhaps best appreciated in basic, unadorned, pre-facelift spec. The W201 190e hasn’t dated and in fact makes its successor, the W202 C-class, look rather baggy. Suitably over-engineered, a well-cared-for example could well last forever which in itself constitutes a sustainable automobility, of which I most definitely approve. It was a tough call choosing between this or the Mercedes Benz W123, another elegant and (now) classless paragon of durability-as-sustainable-transport; good W123s are getting pricey, however, so the W201 it is. Image © Mercedes.
I’m sure I’m not the only PetrolBlog-ist who would put a 924 in their Dream Shed. Perusing the myriad classifieds, it occurs to me that the 924 is a bit of a bargain. That you can have fairly well looked after 70-80k mile Porsche – a Porsche– for under £3k is astonishing. Not only that, but the 924 also seems an entirely appropriate sports car for these austere times. Why? Well, it’s discreet, stylish, relatively economical and although it’s a Porsche – an obviously aspirational brand – by its very nature, the 924 also suggests you’ve thought outside the Porsche box. At least, it perhaps does to others – to folk like us, it’s surely a natural choice. Image © FailCar.
Sold now, this beautiful Porsche 924was available for £2995 and was the car that made me think about getting around to composing a Shed in the first place.
I may be showing my age now, but I’ve had a soft spot for these for over 30 years. Rather like the Lancia Montecarlo I put in my Dream Barn, its looks are exotic and yet utterly 70s. I had the pleasure of driving an early 80s one many moons ago and I’d say that it isthe Ferrari in miniature it was purported to be at the time. I recall it had a ‘fizz’ about it and, recalcitrant gearchange aside, it was a fantastic little thing to drive. They always catch my eye in the classifieds and you can get a cracker for £3k. Would I really choose one over a Mazda MX5 or a Toyota MR2? Possibly – all I can say for sure is that X1/9 adverts prompt more of a second look than do MX5 ones. However, in the real world ... who knows? Image © Fiat.
I had to put a Triumph in here somewhere and, like the X-19, the TR7 is another car I’ve spent many a decade with a thing for. Though nearly 40 years old, I reckon its looks still stand up today, as not only were they exotic and even futuristic, but have you noticed how creases – the kind to which Guigiaro famously feigned surprise and horror declaring “Oh no, they’ve done it on this side as well” – are very much en voguethese days? I may be in the minority in thinking that the TR7 is a thoroughly stylish piece of kit, and I’m going to stick my neck out even more and declare that I prefer the fixed-head coupe to the convertible. Why? Well, to me, it’s just a more quintessential and more authentic 70s sportster. Other Triumphs may be more desirable but, for the money, there’s little to touch the wedge-tastic, contemporaneous glamour of the TR7. Image © Triumph.
Peugeot 309 GTI
Many years ago, I used to work as a land surveyor, a job which entailed working all over the country and, to carry us the 50-60,000 miles we drove a year, we had Peugeot 309 diesels as company cars. I don’t want pity – in fact, the XUD was the best diesel engine around in its day and, despite their modest propulsion, these diesel 309s were a really good crack to drive. Their handling was brilliant, as was the ride, and I don’t understand why car manufacturers today can’t come up with the kind of ride andhandling balance that Peugeot did 20-odd years ago. While I suppose any decent 309 would suffice 20 years on, the GTi was always aspired to, especially given reports of its exemplary handling. Yes, the 205 is a more iconic and stylish car, and they also warrant a second look in the classifieds, but I’ve long thought that the 309 is a criminally underrated car – cooking models may have looked a tad dowdy, but some of us knew better. And you’ll probably get a better 309GTi than 205GTi for this money too. Image © Peugeot.
Alfa Romeo 156
I remember reading the Alfa Romeo 156 group road test in CAR magazine in the mid-90s and, even now, I am still struck by the way I thought that the contemporary Audi A4 and BMW 3-series seemed instantly passé. How could they compare with an apparently dynamically competitive car which looked like the 156 – fluid yet taut, and with all its little stylistic touches such as the grille that forced the number plate off-centre and the hidden rear door-handles? The passage of time would suggest that Alfa could build them properly too, and a couple of friends who’ve owned 156s rated them, so that’ll do for me. Three grand should get you a corker, with change over as well (just in case, you understand). I’ll take a pre-facelift one in metallic red with tan leather and the ‘telephone-dial’ alloys, please. Image © Alfa Romeo.
Renault Vel Satis
Renault Vel Satis
There’s lots small and/or sporty stuff in my Shed so, as I approach an age where one tends to say ‘aaahhh’ as one sits down, how about something big and comfy, to gently waft me around after a hard day’s studying? A big Citroën would be perfect. Unfortunately, C6s haven’t depreciated sufficiently whereas the values of decent CXs are heading north, and I don’t know if I’d ever have enough brave pills to take on an XM, even though I’d have plenty of change from £3k, just in case.
The Renault Vel Satis may not an obvious choice – it wasn’t to me, at first – and it’s not my usual kind of car, yet I’m glad it exists and I’m always pleased to see one. I like the oddball styling, especially the front – this may sound odd but, just like the Audi A2 looks ‘clever’, to me the Vel Satis looks ‘comfy’. It may not be a driver’s car, but nor are the roads around Rochdale really conducive to such sentiments either, plagued as they are by speedhumps and potholes which the Vel Satis would no doubt despatch with aplomb. Rare, distinctive and, by all accounts, très confortable, the Vel Satis has also depreciated sufficiently to fit into the Shed. Aaaahhhh. Image © Renault.
This Vel Satis is as posh as they come, though not much margin for error at this price leaving just enough over for some fuses?
So there we have it – a mixture of childhood fancies, 1990s sensibilities, and something more modern that may actually work more of the time. As with the Dream Barn, and possibly even more so, the contents of the Shed are subject to change; indeed, as if to illustrate how tricky choosing a Shed is, I’ve already suggested the Mazda MX5, Mercedes Benz W123 and Peugeot 205 as alternatives as I’ve gone along. Did I include a Ford Puma? Ah...
You can find more automotive musings – with a dash of the environment and a whiff of geography thrown in – on my blog, which you can find at autohabitus.wordpress.com.
Inspired by Jonathan's Real World Dream Shed. Send your own list to PetrolBlog at the usual address.