I’ve never been one to rave over classic cars. I appreciate the significance of the E-Type, Ferrari Dino and Aston Martin DB5, but I’d never want to own one. I have always loved new cars so I tend to relate more to those launched during my lifetime – the modern classics if you will.
So which cars fall into this category for me? Well, here follows a short list...
A modern take on the hotrods of yesteryear, this purple rocket (for most were that colour) had enough character to make up for its V6 engine where a noisy V8 should have sat. This engine choice may well have proven to be the car’s achilles heel as it didn’t last long and only 11,000 were produced. I’d still love one now – maybe an electric conversion with a V8 soundtrack would be the ultimate combination.
Poor old TVR. After years of going their own way, developing a unique range of Rover V8 powered thunderous roadsters and coupés with a patchy reliability record, the Backpool-based company turned to their in-house team to produce a high revving 4 litre straight six engine all of their own. This powerplant sat in increasingly outrageous bodystyles, culminating in the Sagaris. Covered in swoops and vents, with two enormous side exit exhausts, this super lightweight Batmobile for the people was capable of 0-60 in under 4 seconds, with a roar that could strip pebble dash from a whole row of houses.
I began by saying poor TVR. What seemed a successful business, ripe for takeover by a major player was in fact snapped up in 2004 by Russia’s youngest millionaire Nikolay Smolenski. Since then, the company has taken a downward spiral with production being moved to Russia then ceasing.
On a positive note, a revised Sagaris 2 was wheeled out for a launch event last July following the death of TVR founder Trevor Wilkinson – although no production will be scheduled until enough interest has been registered.
The French car industry is renowned for its ability to laugh in the face of convention, even when this means producing cars that nobody wants – take the Peugeot 1006 and Citroën Pluriel as examples, a dumpy city car with slow electric doors and a convertible with nowhere to put the roof.
Add to this list the Renault Avantime – a luxury sports coupé MPV. Confused? The designers certainly were. Despite (or maybe in spite of) the Avantime’s multiple personalities, I can’t help but love this car. It really was the forerunner of all the ‘shake that ass’ Renaults, from the Megane to the Vel Satis.
The full-length sunroof, pillar-less side windows and huge cantilever doors all add up to one of Renault’s most innovative vehicles to date, with an incredible sense of space inside created by the vast glass areas. As the two doors were so large, the Avantime remained an incredibly practical option – plenty of legroom for 5 plus an enormous boot means this still makes a sensible second-hand bargain. That’s if you can find one as Renault only sold about 8,000, but I hope that doesn’t put the French off making crazy cars – there will always be a market for them, even if it’s only me that wants to buy them.
Ah, Mr. Bangle, we’ve been expecting you. The creative innovator behind the love-it-or-loathe-it (I love it) flame surfaced styling of the current BMW range, Chris Bangle first honed his talents at Opel, then Fiat.
The Fiat Coupé was the design masterpiece that emerged from the Italian giant and stood out as a example of automotive art in a sea of bland 1990s metal. From the bold slashes above each wheel arch, the bubble cover headlamps, Ferrari-style inset rear lights, hinged metal fuel filler cap to the body colour swathe of metal across the dashboard, the Fiat Coupé took inspiration from many quarters, yet managed to pull this together into a car that could be launched tomorrow and still appear ahead of its time.
With a 2.0-litre 20v turbo under the bonnet, this car had the show to match the go and stands alone as one of the most characterful Fiats until the launch of the new 500. With Chris Bangle’s February announcement that he was to leave BMW to pursue other design-related projects I shall mourn this loss to the motor industry, even if many others won’t
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still have all four of these cars in my garage. They might break down every other week – but they would sit at the heart of my collection.