I’m always asked what my favourite car is, which is silly. I can’t possibly have a favourite. In thinking about this, I reckon it’s because the perfect car just doesn’t exist.
Those who know me will know that the Citroen 2CV is a car I regard very fondly. I’ve owned over 15 since I was 18 and would never be without one. Nothing else matches them for grin factor on a hoon – even more powerful sports cars. They’re enormously practical, very well supported, easy to work on and owned by a wonderfully varied bunch of people. Yet there are downsides. Driving one on a windy day is horrific, they’re not the best on motorways – even though you can drive them flat out for hours – and parts are getting pricier.
On the other hand, a TVR Chimaera looks beautiful and makes a noise that can bring a fully grown man to tears, but they’re rubbish if you want to get a 210l water butt home, or carry more than one passenger.
I once owned a 1991 Honda Civic 1.4GL and that managed to be both rev-happy, practical and fun and economical, despite having twin carburettors. That was ruined by hideously over-assisted steering and rot. It was also a bit buzzy at motorway speeds.
Ah, so if we’re after motorway cruising ability, how about the Volvo 740? I once bought an estate with the 2.3-litre engine and slushbox. It cost me £150, mainly because the cold-start system was knackered and the interior was falling apart. On motorways, it was truly superb. It was doing just over 2000rpm at 70mph which was delivered both supreme comfort and a surprisingly easy 30mpg for such a big car. The luggage space was truly enormous and it could entertain in ways you just didn’t expect if you fancied teasing the back end out – a bit like discovering your gran having a knees-up in a night club.
I can’t really rule that the Volvo 740 is the perfect car though.
What about the Reliant Scimitar? Practicality and a thoroughly sporty driving experience! Er, no. Now I’ve got one, I seem to spend all of my time discovering the downsides of Tamworth’s plastic pretender. The footwell is hideously cramped, the steering is hideously heavy and the ride is hideously firm. It also gets through fuel rather too quickly.
Maybe the perfect car is a Land Rover – something you can take pretty much anywhere. Gawd no. It feels more like a really fast tractor.
I did think I’d found perfection this week. An Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTD Sportwagon. Practical, beautiful, economical, powerful and – dare I say it – reliable and rot free. The five-cylinder diesel engine is a delight, with punchy power and 45mpg, the interior has a delicious crafted feel and it was less than £1000. Apparently though, it isn’t perfection at all. It has been pointed out that the Alfa effect has utterly taken me over (again) and that it’s too complicated, not much fun to change a cambelt on and likely to ruin me.
Doesn’t mean I’m not interested though. You can’t have pleasure without pain! The motto of the Alfa owner?