Sunday Column: Peter Griffiths, “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”

What a day it’s been today! We’ve got a great view over Reading (hard to believe) and the skies have been incredible. Really. Do you ever stop and have a look at the clouds and the colours? Today they were moving slowly and inexorably eastward, all types of clouds and all colours, with a silent grace which does make a difference to my day.

Other than that nothing much has happened today. Woke up and dozed for a while, got up to watch the Formula One on the red button (any money coming forth for that plug?), then the Northwest 200, and hooked up to the two main social networking websites. The rabbits are confined to their cages due to their hormones having taken control and their being too young for the snip yet, and the wife was acting like the perpetual motion machine those scientists have been after for years.

The only thing that was gnawing away a little, if at all was the rumour of this so-called Rapture. Some people in America have got on the back of this bandwagon which has so far failed to predict the end of the world no less than three times. Still, you can’t help but keep checking the watch, making sure everything’s OK outside. Perhaps check the U.S.G.S website now and then in case you missed that earthquake somehow.

Now obviously the threat of the world ending will bring thoughts into your head depending on what kind of person you are and how you were brung up.

Most would wish to gather their families together and spend the rest of time as such. I know I would but this would mean travelling long and far and stopping at many different points requiring a large, extremely safe, efficient and reliable vehicle. But that is a very boring list of cars and we all know the Rapture was never going to happen anyway. What a farce, a farce with sinister underpinnings which you are at liberty to discover any time you want.

It does make you think about life and that you really do have to live every day as it were your last because nothing in this world is predictable. Not death, not birth, and far less the lottery. A big lottery win is a dream and a wish for most people and for me, again, the first thoughts spring to family. Sort them out first, as anyone would if they loved their family. But then again, how to get to them now you can drive anything and the world isn’t ending?

The mind boggles, it really does, but what better time to consider fantasy and unlimited choice than at a time when we’ve not all been destroyed whether we believed it or not.

First of all I would book my Touring in at BMW Classic for a ground-up OEM restoration because it matters to me that much, I’d drive it to the museum in Munich with pride and they wouldn’t be surprised. So then, the journey back. It’s the impossible question really so you’d just have to go with your whim at the time. With all the choice and freedom would you really think hard about it and try to get it right, or would you just throw a dart at the more expensive pages of the internet or Broughtons?

I’ve decided it would be an F40. For me this is the apogee of fantasy motoring. The first time my (frankly excellent) eyes came to rest upon an F40 was the second time in my life when I could remember my jaw physically dropping, that’s only happened five times in total so far. The only time it had happened previously was when I saw a video of the late Stefan Bellof taking the Yellowbird Porsche around the Nurburgring in as convincing a display of the fine line between madness and genius as you’ll ever see. This is why I now want to drive a Yellowbird back from the museum. The sound of that thing, the length of throw on the gear stick, the sense of speed even on a back-seat-mounted camera – it is all incredible.

On my return, to my modest country house with its two-storey reinforced and highly secure barn I would begin the job of stocking it with my dreams and heroes. Perhaps sketching out the ideal track to lie in the back garden. Steve Harris, the bassist for Iron Maiden and avid Hammers fan, has himself two full-size football pitches in one of his gardens. Wouldn’t you want a race circuit? Jay Leno has done this and has my dream garage already, but there are some in there I wouldn’t have.

You wouldn’t believe what I’d want to stock my garage with. I was going through the usual list using a very thorough methodology – instinct, throwing out car model names that came into my head like a lunatic saw the AC Frua, M3 Ravaglia, every single TVR ever, and the 60’s Saab 96. But then I found myself saying Orion 1600E and being able to justify why, too! I like its lines, its rich colour, alloy wheels in the arches, and the interior along with its stance. It’s the only Orion that’s any good. This would sit alongside many Bristols, a Citroen DS Decapotable, a Volvo 142 S, and a ’66 Galaxie 500 fastback. The list would be long and, I’m sure, very agreeable.

BMW M3 (E30)

Lotus Carlton

Volvo 142 S

TVR Griffith

After you’ve got all of your dreams and heroes bought and stored ready to go when your whim takes you, reality kicks in and life requires practicality and reliability. This means that there are three things you require for every situation imaginable. Maybe four. You want a long-distance mile-eater and for this reason you’d buy yourself an old Mercedes W126 560SE of course. You then need a town runabout for shopping runs and the like which you wouldn’t mind getting dented up which would be the first Ford Zetec S. This is neither classic nor retro, I know there’s a brief to be kept to here, but if you’ve not driven one of these then you’ll not know what I mean. They’re wonderful. The third necessity is the spacious practical motor which is obviously the Volvo T5 which is no doubt a future classic with some retro lines.

BMW E21s are certainly up there in retro heaven

Frankly the danger I would pose to my bank account is large. I know a guy who wouldn’t go into town without returning with a music CD whether that was the purpose of his trip or not. I suspect that in the same way I would buy at least one car per week. And it’d range from the sublime to the ridiculous (but not TOO ridiculous) because that’s how my eye wanders. I can see appeal and potential in nearly everything and isn’t that what fantasy is about?

You may laugh about smoothing off an mk1 Nissan Micra, putting a discreet cage in it and hanging a motorbike engine off the back but why would you laugh? If you had the money then you would do the same thing with something else. Carpe Diem!


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