I’ve always loved older vehicles. Perhaps I spent too many hours sitting in my Aunt’s derelict Morris Minor pretending to drive, but old cars very much float my boat. Other people have their boats floated by older cars too. The glamour of a classic sports car is as alluring as a hollywood starlet, and far more realistic. So, why have I owned so few?
As recently as 2007, I’d simply never owned a sports car. I did buy a Subaru Impreza once, but I was only 21 and so I crashed it into a tree after just two days. I decided the best ‘cure’ for this was to pay for a Supercar Driving session on a racetrack. I took my medicine in the form of a Porsche 911 (996), Noble M12 GTO, Lotus Exige, Maserati 3200GT and a 408bhp Dodge Viper. Medicine is rarely this much fun, and I also learnt where I’d gone wrong with the Subaru – I had none of the necessary skills to drive the thing safely.
Now fully kitted out for a life of handling powerful machinery, I went out and bought a Peugeot 306 Diesel. To be fair, I didn’t even come close to crashing it into a tree.
When I reached the magic age of 25, I could have decided to make the most of cheaper car insurance by getting a sports car. Instead, I bought a 1970 Rover P6 V8 – a big, wafty saloon that on a good day could probably still get close to its published top speed of 112mph (I never tested this). After that, an enormous procession of the slow and the bland filled my driveway. An Austin Maestro, a Honda Civic, a Bedford CF Autosleeper camper, a Volvo 740 estate, an Audi 100 etc etc.
In 2009, things changed. My first sports car pushed the limits of the term entirely. It was a Bond Equipe. If you imagine a squashed Aston Martin body, crammed onto a Triumph Herald chassis, you can imagine what a delightful machine it was. No, I’ll save you the bother. Here it is.
I bought it during a spell as Acting Editor on Classic Car Weekly. At the time, the still anger-inducing Scrappage Scheme was in full swing and this rare classic was one of the cars traded in for a new Kia. We naturally ran an ‘outrage’ story and begged someone to save it. At £2000 – the cost of the trade-in – no-one was much interested. I carried on beavering away at the dealer involved and Kia, and to give them credit, they agreed to let it go for £1000. Still, no-one was interested.
So, I did the honourable thing. I bought it. It gave us a headline news story for that week and left me penniless and broken. It was an absolute horror. It had been awfully neglected for many years, and someone had crammed a poorly Vitesse 1600cc engine into it. I threw money, sweat and tears at it and it rewarded me by being as joyous to travel in as a suitcase falling down a flight of stairs. In desperation, I swapped it for a £350 Saab one winter. The Bond is still undergoing a restoration.
As a first dabble at ‘sports’ car ownership, it was a resounding failure. I’ve only had one more go. It also had a plastic body.
Here, I made the much more sensible move of buying a really good one, for only £700 than I paid for the Bond. The lusty, 3-litre V6 engine provided an engaging soundtrack and great performance. The handling was pretty good too and the condition was simply first rate. So why did I sell it?
The simple answer is that I don’t like sports cars. Yes, you get that initial excitement – acceleration, exhilaration, g-force-neck-hurts-ation – but these are cars compromised by their ability to deliver those things. Comfort is barely given any thought at all, practicality is not exactly a priority – even with the GTE’s estate-like styling. I hate having to clamber down into the things as well.
So, I stick to the ‘boring’ world of the family car. I’ve discovered over the years that most cars are good fun to drive briskly, if the mood takes you. Some are better than others for sure, but somehow a saloon or hatchback driven quickly on public roads feels more of a challenge than driving a sports car with oodles of power and handling to impress a Schumacher. Simply put, I regard sports cars as total overkill for public roads, which means you need to start going to track days to get any enjoyment out of them, which means you them own a car that’s only fun when you don’t drive it on the road – which is where most of us do our driving.
Don’t get me wrong – I have had fun with sports cars on the road. A 440bhp Lola T70 replica was exciting, and I simply adore TVR Chimaeras. There’s a problem though. That much performance gets very boring, surprisingly quickly in a speed-limited world. When you can get to naughty speeds in second gear, the remaining cogs seem rather superfluous. Do you want to enjoy working an engine hard through the gears without worrying about a speed camera? Take my advice. Flog the sports car and buy a small, unexciting hatchback. You’ll find yourself having more fun than you ever imagined.*
* The author cannot be held responsible if you replace your Bugatti Veyron with a 1990 Seat Ibiza and find it a bit too much of a come-down. Yes, the author is now dreaming of owning a 1990 Seat Ibiza.