This is what the inside of Chris Harris' head looks like | Top Gear
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Secret Stash

This is what the inside of Chris Harris' head looks like

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. But hero cars? That’s a different matter

  • Uh-oh. Chris Harris is broken. Mouth agape and head in hands, he’s temporarily paralysed from what I can only describe as – don’t quote me, I’m not a doctor – Optic Nerve Overload. I can’t blame him. We’re in a large, anonymous warehouse on a large, anonymous industrial estate somewhere in Switzerland. Inside this large, anonymous warehouse sits the greatest collection of left-field, usable performance cars from the past 40 years. Possibly the greatest collection of cars in the history of ever.

    Words: Rowan Horncastle & Chris Harris

    Photography: Rowan Horncastle 

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  • It’s a real hotchpotch of horsepower – rows and rows of rare-groove nostalgia sitting in perfect herringbones. Just look at them: the biggest hits from Alpina and AMG, a flood of Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. Renault R5 Turbos, iconic manual Ferraris and mint Range Rovers. Then there’s stuff we never knew even existed but now very much need – a heinously low-mileage 1984 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur ‘St James’ limo, complete with turquoise interior, fossilised VHS deck and an undercarriage you can eat your dinner off.

  • Not your cup of tea? How about a handful of AMG Hammers, complete with sinister italicised gauges? Or cars owned by wacky royalty? If not, there’s plenty of zany Nineties Japanese imports to tickle your fancy. And matching box-fresh his and hers Morgan Aero 8s. And a boggo 968 with cloth seats. Plus, a Mitsubishi Starion! And white-walled Daimler Jags! And an Audi quattro! The list goes on and on and on.

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  • Put simply, for anyone who is into cars and remembers using a pencil to wind in the slack of a cassette, this is the ultimate toy box of late Eighties, Nineties and early Noughties goodness. And it all belongs to one individual. A man who is single-handedly proving that money and taste can be friends. See, too often a fat wallet can lead people down a river of gauche sybaritism. But this hangar of classy, irreverent yet reverential cars proves that doesn’t need to be the case.

  • Things get even better, though. Because not only do all these cars run (you can see the keys are kept on the roof, just in case the owner fancies a blat), they’re all up for sale. Yep, every single one of them. One hundred and forty-four in total, worth roughly €8m. Why? Well, having spent the past four years snapping up the best examples of his favourite cars from his childhood, the owner is now getting rid of the deadwood to make space for more. Ah, yes. This is the stuff deemed worthy of sale – there are 200-odd other cars that are even lower-mileage and even more special somewhere else. Madness.

  • But being oddities that fall into a weird vintage hinterland (too old to be classed as new, but not ripe enough for classic status), they’ve been bundled together by RM Auctions to form the ‘Youngtimer Collection’. Set to be sold across four auctions later this year, they’re very different from RM’s bread and butter of bazillion-dollar Ferrari 250 GTOs and old Duesenbergs. This could lead to some interesting bids... these gems won’t appeal to the chino-wearing lobster-quaffers of Pebble Beach, but real enthusiasts may be put off, thinking an RM Auction is inaccessible and snobby. And given that the lots are not mega money in the first place, and many have no reserve, there’s potential for a bargain. So prepare for Chris’s wallet to get increasingly itchy as he fights for first dibs. If I can get his jaw off the floor, that is.

  • RH: Chris, are you alright? Chris…

    CH: Shhhhh. Have some respect, Horncastle. We are in the presence of royalty. How can you speak when you are looking at three low-mileage Alpina B12 saloons literally yards from our unworthy feet?

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  • RH: Ah! You’re back in the room. So, where should we start? You’re Yoda when it comes to this sort of stuff.

    CH: Sorry about that. Wow, what a place. These are the cars of my teenage dreams, and the cars that I drove when I first started working. They’re mostly over-complicated and absurd and nowhere near your standard collector’s radar. I want them all. Can I have them all? Please?

  • RH: The owner’s palette is exceptional, isn’t it? Just look at how disparate everything is. Honestly, when was the last time you saw a set of factory-fresh Z cars touching bums with a host of Bentleys?

    CH: He’s spot on. The Anniversary Z is totally absurd. Its cabin is full of those cod-Japo-English phrases that made the Eighties. With hindsight, this was the last decade that wasn’t smug. It looked forward and didn’t care how it might be judged. The Zeds here are low miles and immaculate. They are also so ugly they have come full circle and are cool again.

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  • RH: They’re all hyper-niche objects. Cars for us beards, people who like the fact that an Alpina is not a BMW and an old AMG is not a Mercedes – it’s a Mercedes with a gurgle of the underworld and an engine producing twice the torque at half the engine speed of the original.

    CH: Alpina had a rough period 10 years ago, but this stuff mostly pre-dates that. These are special cars. If a normal BMW suggested it might be hiding even more greatness, Alpina normally teased it out. Jesus, look at that B9. And that B12 5.7 Coupe. I’m dribbling.

  • RH: Have you seen the Tickford Lagonda? I want to buy it for the sidewall alone – you could take the tyre off and head down some white water rapids.

    CH: It might be the most absurd road car ever registered. Huggy Bear would think it a bit OTT. You could park it next to five pink Aventadors and people would stroll straight past the Lambos and ask what it was. It has clearly been involved in some kind of adult movie production – which is impressive given the limited rear legroom.

  • RH: Isn’t it weird that a car that normally makes us all gooey – such as that 997 3.8 RS – has become sort of invisible in this company? Why does everything else resonate a bit more?

    CH: You’re right – the 997 GT3 is part of the establishment: a known investment in a room full of outside chances. Like Luke Skywalker in the bar at Mos Eisley spaceport, it’s too normal.

  • RH: It makes you wonder – how does one even go about sourcing these cars?

    CH: I gather the owner has had a very knowledgeable buyer hoovering up what looks like Performance Car’s greatest hits for around four years. I bet he knows more now than when he started. He’d buy one, a better one would come up, and the boss would say: “Let’s have that one as well.” I’d like that job. It’s like seeing the inside of my own head.

  • RH: Right, let’s stop vacillating between options. There’s a gun to your head and you’ve got to pick one to drive forever, what is it?

    CH: One car? Really? I’ve always wanted an Alpina B12 saloon. The E32 shape just confirms how horrid modern BMW styling is. Nothing does thuggish deportment as effectively. You?

  • RH: The 1979 Mercedes-Benz 500 TE AMG Wagon is something special. It ticks all the boxes. But I think the only real option is to buy them all – which someone might actually go and do when the gavel falls. Either way, I think it’s time for an office whip-round and to harvest some vital organs, don’t you? Chris… Chris…

    Oh God, he’s gone into that weird dribbly daze again. So continue clicking through the gallery and join him. 

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