Charlie and I are about to write about our top ten cars. The question is , how does a car become an entry for the top ten?
I respect many cars: The BMW 5 series Alpina for example: I respect its abilities, but I do not want to own one. To be included in my Top Ten, I must want to own it.
So if I ever do become a Formula One racing driver, these would be the cars I would buy.
This car is without doubt one of the coolest cars to ever turn a wheel. The XJ went through numerous incarnations to get to this point. The resulting car, the XJR6 X306 is still one of the finest efforts from Jaguar. It epitomised everything a Jaguar should be, comfort, style and mind bending speed and ease of using that speed.
Unlike its rivals, the BMW E34 M5 or Mercedes E55 AMG this was like having afternoon tea at St Andrews with Rosie Huntington Whiteley. Elegant, refined in yet, rather thrilling. The styling was like Rosie too. Very well proportioned, quintessentially British and very pretty. If you went for the XJR with the sport pack you got a fine mesh grille and even more beautiful alloys. So this car is much like wearing a finely tailored tweed Hackett suit, finished off with a garnishing of the inclusion of a Heckler and Koch G37. It was indeed a case of Raffles, gone bad.
The dream XJR would be installed with the earlier Supercharged straight six engine. I prefer it over the later V8 unit plainly due to its simplicity, reliability and character.
Inside, the Jaguar would be so luxuriously crafted that its interior would shame even Holrood Palace. It would come with big slabs of burr walnut wood veneer highly polished to perfection and supple leatherwork. Simply put, high numbers of Cows and trees laid down their lives for Mr Walter Lyons baby. Mine would be finished in Beige or Red leather.
The Jaguar XJR6 goes in my Top Ten due to the fact it is a wonderful car and it proved that there is life in the old girl yet. I wonder if John Prescott would be proud?
Morgan Aero 8 Supersport :
Many teenagers like me have posters and pictures adoring their walls. Car wise mine include Saabs, Volvos, the odd fast Ford and in the corner you have a picture of the Morgan Aero 8 Supersport . Very odd. People should idolise Ferraris and Lamborghinis not Morgans! The fact is, I rather despise the Italian gruesome twosome. They are bought now by Businessmen and Footballers not Racing drivers. They are ugly, common and too electronically derived for my taste.
Morgans are not. Morgans are built in a shed, albeit it a big shiny, modern shed and in tiny numbers. I love the fact that they are handmade, and seem to ooze the builders soul this way. It should really carry a plaque saying “This Morgan was built by Charles. Now, let’s go down the pub. Charles is buying.” Some may say that the Morgans is “old fashioned”, I’m sorry? “Old fashioned?” Sorry, but the Aero 8 was designed and built incorporating modern techniques like an aluminum and carbon fibre body shell and space frame, an engine from an M3 and a tiptronic gearbox. Styling wise it is pioneering new design language, not being a cliche like Ferrari.
Now, where’s that cheque book and map of Malvin?
Saab 9-3 Turbo X:
This car was nearly Saab’s swansong. Back in time last year, General Motors signed the death warrant for Saab automotive and this car was one of the last. Ironic, that the Turbo X was built to celebrate hot Saabs for yesteryear, for example the 900 Turbo and the 99 Turbo.
Thankfully however, the Griffin is roaring once again with both the Swedish and Dutch flag flying on the flagpole without an American flag in sight, but the Turbo X is no longer. It was a special edition and only 500 came to Britain.
I love the standard 9-3. I love everything about it despite the General Motors involvement in its creation, and the Turbo X is its halo model.
It was not just made to celebrate Saab’s past, it was also the test-bed for future models. It came installed with an all new twin clutch Haldex four wheel drive system with a it came with a differential.
The Turbo X is a latter day Viggen. However unlike that blue Griffin, it is not unruly. Yes, it is brutal, but due to those underpinnings it will not drag you into a hedge. Being a Saab enthusiast this is the car I long for. A hot Saab that can use all that power. Add in a gorgeous set of Tri Spoke alloys, Black matt paint and a rather potent 2.8 litre V6 turbocharged engine and some retro dials and you get a great car, that is surely ready to become a modern classic.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth:
It’s hard to explain the effect this car had on me. Every so often cars come along which defines a generation. Well this -the Ford Escort RS Cosworth- is one.
When I was a small boy, my neighbour had one, and I remember gulping with awe at its massive, attention seeking whale tail spoiler, the car’s muscular bodywork -designed by Italian coachbuilders Ghia- finished in trademark “Mallard Green” paintwork. At that time, Ford played a major part in my young life. The Ford symbol seemed never far away. Be it on the families Mondeo, the neighbours Cosworth or on the television being chucked about on a wet rally stage.
Due to this and as the Escort RS Cosworth was seen as the flagship model, I looked up to the Cosworth, dreaming about it and idolising it.
Sadly however, the dream was short lived. As it aged into maturity, the Cosworth was deemed too noisy and polluting. Thus the young dame from Dagenham was struck off the lineup and left to rot.
Despite being disowned by her own country, she kepted fighting overseas in the battlefield called the World Rally Championship and as ever, it was dominating in the hands of Malcolm Wilson.
The Escort Cosworth was a shorted Sierra Cosworth underneath and was dressed by Ghia. It was propelled by the famed 2.0 litre Cosworth “YB” unit, boosted by a Garratt turbocharger. The power was kept in check by a Four Wheel Drive system. In latter years the Cosworth gained a smaller turbocharger and the option of the famous whale tail spoiler earlier cars had it as standard.
My reputation maybe put into question by saying this but the earlier big turbo Escort Cosworth, in Mallard Green, that goes in my Top Ten.
What do you get if you combine a 3.0 litre twin turbo heart from a Jaguar, Citroen’s famous Airmatic suspension and the same head turning looks as fellow Frenchie Eva Green?
You get the Citroen C6, and its coolness could shame Jean Reno.
It is hideously gorgeous. Its design is full of curvy, concave and sharp shapes. Inside -in beige leather is the best it is ultra modern and stylish in yet still very comfortable. Despite it, there are critics. The C6 suffers from chronic depreciation. It also shares the same centre console as its lesser cousin the Peugeot 407. Plus its front wheel drive not rear wheel drive like most of its rivals. But do I care? It looks great, is relaxing to drive and for that matter it goes in my Top Ten.
Saab 9000 Aero:
Launched in 1988, the Saab 9000 set the template for the modern Saab. Comfortable, reliable and fast. All 9000 were capable, but some where more capable than others. One of which was the Aero.
The Aero packed turbocharged 2.3 litre four cylinder engine producing 225bhp underneath its Giorgetto Giugiaro sculpted body. Giugiaro’s handy work was a cause for much controversy. Many critics and people branded the 9000 as “the ugly Saab”, ever the Enthusiast I strongly disagree. There has been uglier Saabs -the 9-7X for example- and in Aero trim, the 9000 really is a looker. Especially in grey with black tri spoke alloys. I especially love the interior. I could cover many miles in this. Even though I have to sacrifice the central ignition for a more conventional steering column set up.
I love the 9000 due to the fact it highlights the fact that Saab never needed General Motors in the first place. They where highly successful with a great line up. This maybe the onset of rose tinted nostalgia, but when taking about Saab its hard not to become nostalgic, it helps us move on to the future.
Saab 9-5 2.8t Aero XWD:
Its rather strange that even before I read the review of the 9-5, I knew I wanted one, despite even if the reviewers gave it a damn good thrashing.
And true to form, they did. Most review criticised the unsettled ride, the refinement and the lacklustre performance. Also, personally I thought the current advert campaign for the 9-5 was shocking. These did little to put me off.
Yes, there are better performers out there. However, the 9-5 is not just car, it is a lifestyle. If you drive one, fellow Saab drivers will acknowledge you, and if people are like me they will respect you on the pavement too. I have been known to doff my flat cap as one passes, or give the thumbs up. You don’t need to join the Saabs Owners Club, you ARE the Saabs Owners Club. I love the comradeship that Saab drivers have. The 9-5 Aero may not be THE best car to drive, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful. It is the Lee Mckenzie of the car world, really pretty, just ignored in a world of cliques. I would buy on of these to enjoy Saab ownership and lifestyle, and because of this car, it is a lifestyle that will not die.
Shock, a Supercar in my Top Ten, that is unheard of! I will make an expectation for this though; the Honda NSX.
This car rewrote the rule book for Supercars. It was the car to have if you wanted a Supercar performance with none of the Supercar drawbacks. The NSX is more practical than a typical Ferrari of the time- it had a boot, was much more reliable, parts could be easily found and it was seen as a user friendly car. Mainly due to its lack of resistance in fighting driver commands. Its chassis was tuned by Formula One driver and genuine hero Ayrton Senna.
The NSX was installed with Honda’s famed ivtec engine, this time of V6 captivity. Original cars had an output of 270bhp. Not much today, but you have to remember that this car was very, very light thanks to use of aluminum in the body construction.
Also the 3.0 litre ivtec V6 enabled the NSX to have something that the Ferrari’s lacked. That addictive ivtec’s want to be mercifully trashed and revved the valves off it.
Honda changed the NSX during it’s time on earth. The second generation came with a more bored out engine producing 290bhp and a subtle facelift – it lost its pop up headlamps as a result, and launched a high performance version called the NSX-R.
This was surprising because Honda lost out by making the NSX, it was never a big seller in the UK -even with Mr Bean driving one. As a result, Honda stopped production in 2005.
This is why it is going in the Top Ten. Honda has always been an engineer led company and the NSX is an example of this fact. Despite the losses it made, Honda kept making it. That is a difficult yet commendable thing for a big company to do.
Volvo P1800s Coupe:
Designed by Italian coachbuilders Frua, using body pressings made in Scotland and manufactured in Sweden. Only Volvo could pull off a multinational operation just to produce a car; that car was the Volvo P1800s.
As a Swedish car enthusiast, it is rather unsurprising that we find the P1800s on the list. It is achingly cool.
Penned by Swede; Pelle Pettersson while he worked at Frua, the P1800’s Scottish made bodywork is much like Christina Hendricks, full of seductive curves. Though, I am struggling to picture Christina finished in white paint, while that is best suited for the P1800s. The whole design is complete with many a fantastic detail. The gapping chrome grille makes an imposing impact, yet it remains understated. The low roofline looks so organic that it is impossible to think that this is one body shell. The rear bootlid is flanked by some fins at the back, again very cool.
I managed to ponder all this, during my experience at the Transport Museum when I cleaned the exhibits, which involved a white P1800s coupe. Since Roger Moore is in retirement, now I can be Volvo man in a P1800, if I had the money.
Volvo 850 T-5:
One word : “Sound”. To be able to hear sounds is vital in our daily lives. Sounds can frustrate us, please us or remind us of something pleasant. This brings me on to the topic of the Volvo 850 T-5. As a Petrol head and an even bigger Swedish car fan, there is nothing else that I like that the sound of a 850 T-5 readers that get rather uncomfortable maybe this will be a good time to stop reading. I have been known and this is true-to stop anything I am currently doing and listen to one as it goes by. If one is outside, I will open a window to hear one growl by. Even if I am not looking, I can distinguish if a 850 is close by it could be a 850 or a smaller 440- due to its sound. That sound comes curiously of a 2.4 or 2.5 transversally mounted five cylinder engine. It makes the most glorious and menacing low-pitched growl a car can make.
There is more to the 850 than just the noise, it’s a Volvo. However, this Volvo likes the taste of Supercar blood. This car, with its 2.4 litre turbocharged engine could give any supercar of the day a bloody nose. It’s that simple.
This brings me on to another question. If I was selecting a car for outright speed, why not go for the T-5’s big, menacing sister, the 850R?
Again, the answer is simple. The 850R may have been fast, but it was too fast for its own good. Its five cylinder unit in its nose made it nose heavy and its chassis could not cope with the sheer power. Hence, like all fast front driving Volvo’s, it torque steered.
The T-5 was perfect, and to add insult to injury, the R looked very obvious for my liking hint, look at the alloys, they are a different design to both T-5’s and GLT’s- the T-5 had plain Jane looks bar some sexy alloys and a smart chin and boot spoiler. I love the T-5, mostly do to nostalgia. I can remember a big 850 estate, which made this fabulous noise. On the bootlid, it said “T-5”.
The Final one:
This is difficult, very difficult indeed. As I said I respect many cars and there abilities but what car goes into the final slot in the top ten? The Land Rover Defender 90 is a worthy contender, the Jaguar XK-R is a lovely car, I want one and it pipped the more expensive Aston Martin DB9, but the final one is the Range Rover Vogue Classic.
Land Rover and Spen King created a masterpiece. It was the orginal and best. The young pretenders like BMW X5 may rule the sales charts but the BMW has got nothing on the Rangie. It may be a Forty year old design, but the fact is, it works and being a Land Rover it always will. Forget the Golf GTi; this is the car for all men and women.