Thursday, April 01, 2010

Car Of The Day - Intro


I've written about cars on this Blog before so I'll save the confession/explanation about being a massive petrolhead. Put simply, I love car design - specifically between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s. Modern supercar/sports car design is all about either technical excellence or extreme ostentatiousness but there was a period where car design represented an almost pure and maybe even naive striving for true creativity. Unhampered by safety constraints, fuel consumption worries and little details like practicality, car designers of the 60s/70s were let loose with a brief no bigger than creating something wonderful that people would want to drive and hope to own. I like that optimism.
Now it seems we'll never see cars like this again. Sure, there seems to be another hypercar released every week that costs a million dollars but they're all hideous and 90% of the time are just driven around as gigantic visual bank statements by their owners and say more about the unfair division of wealth in the world than the creativity of the designer or the individuality of the owner. Seriously - how can anywhere be in recession when someone can spend a million dollars on a car?
Plus, the car is the enemy despite the fact most people have one and lots of people have more than one. Much as it pains me to admit it, Clarkson and the Top Gear folks have at least got something right when they rail against "eco mentalists". I'm anti-some-cars. I'm anti people using them when they don't need to. I'm anti people doing the school run in a Range Rover or buying a BMW that does 190mph and 12mpg and driving themselves, on their own, to work in it everyday. But make a car that is beautiful to look at, fun to drive and with a sense of occasion and people will do everything they can to keep it running. It might do 8 miles per gallon but the owner might only do 2000 miles a year in it. What's worse: someone doing 100,000 miles a year in a Prius that they scrapped their old car to buy and was made on several different continents using components shipped/flown to the factories that themselves churn out pollution OR someone buying, say, an Aston Martin from the 1980s that was handbuilt (and all the parts are still available) and only doing 5000 miles a year. It's crazy.
So: owning an exotic car back in the 60s or the 70s was very different to now. Not just politically. The cars were frequently hard to drive, unreliable and poorly supported in terms of after-sales care so driving and maintaining something like a Ferrari or a Maserati was a labour of love, even into the 1980s. The idea of a car as an investment was laughable also and cars that are now worth several million dollars were used for blasting around country roads for fun and repaired with a hammer by devoted owners who were deemed crazy for buying them.
Modern cars (with a few notable exceptions) are too big, too garish and too over engineered in comparison to appeal to me. You really shouldn't be able to potter to Waitrose in a Lamborghini. Not without it catching fire anyway.
Since I was about 12 years old I've thumbed the For Sale ads in classic car magazines and mentally selected my ideal money-no-object purchases from those available. I still do it now.
So, I'm taking a further stand for the automobile with Car Of The Day: a random and not completely regular look at cars that always make my fantasy garage when flicking through Classic & Sportscar on the bog. I have no mechanical knowledge, save for the experience of what has gone wrong on my own cars, so this is based mainly on sights and sounds.
If you own one of the cars featured, be sure to get in touch. Likewise if the photos used belong to you: I'll try and credit where I know who took the photo but that's not always possible.
I would like to point out that I drive a 1999 Peugeot 306 HDI Meridian Estate in metallic red. It is called "The Pig". I think this actually makes me more qualified to talk about dream cars, seeings I have ten per cent of fuck-all chance of actually owning any of them. Enjoy.

#1: De Tomaso Mangusta
#2: Saab 900
#3: Ferrari 400

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