Owning 'interesting' old cars means you need a sensible one when everything breaks | Top Gear
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Owning 'interesting' old cars means you need a sensible one when everything breaks

Everything’s broken in Ricci's Garage... apart from a Dodge Viper. Wait, what?

Published: 30 Jan 2023

Internationally renowned photographer Mark has been working with TG for many, many years. When not taking photos he’s buying inappropriate cars. Here he shares his addiction with the world...

Rule one of Silly Car Club isn’t that you don’t talk about Silly Car Club; I’ve got a page to fill in TG after all. Instead, it’s that you own at least one ‘sensible’ car to keep you mobile when everything else inevitably breaks.

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And this instalment of Ricci’s Garage is brought to you by the letters AA and RAC. For BBC impartiality reasons, there are many other good breakdown services out there – all of which I look forward to experiencing in the not too distant future when something is actually working again.

Now I know this is a very First World problem; there’s an energy crisis going on, mortgage rates are terrifying and being able to run one car is a privilege... let alone many. So, these comments are presented without sympathy. They are self-inflicted and merely an insight to anyone wondering whether owning multiple ‘interesting’ cars is a good idea.

For the Ferrari 360 racecar, its foam-laden fuel tanks still haven’t turned up. Which means it hasn’t actually moved in 2022, and with the weather now very British it’ll stay that way until later in 2023. Over in camp Brabus W126, its bulletproof engine must’ve been hit with a sniper round because that now needs an entirely new one fitting.

But these are silly old cars. That’s what they do. I thought that, until I took my 991 GT3 to Dunsfold where it then lost all power. And not even on track, but driving to the TGTV offices. If you want to diminish a man’s pride immediately, having a GT3 put on a low-loader while the TGTV crew watches is right up there. Still, good way to keep mileage off it. Especially as it now appears a new engine is needed.

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Some 48 hours later, my partner’s Land Rover Discovery remembered it was a JLR product and also lost all power, this time in the middle of Coventry. I can only assume it had PTSD from being so close to the motherland. Thankfully, Land Rover Northampton handled it similarly to Liz Truss’s first week in government. Somehow adding hundreds of pounds onto the bill and announcing it’d be ready in a few minutes before (two hours later) letting slip that a tech may have got it absolutely caked in turd and the whole thing needed valeting inside and out. Ideally without one of the staff telling the customer.

And then we get to the GT-R, the gift that truly keeps on giving. Prior to its big refresh – which can I say is so hilariously in-depth it requires an entire update all of its own soon – the only thing which didn’t need overhauling was its 2.8-litre, 844bhp engine. But with the engine out the car, it seemed silly not to do the head gasket for peace of mind.

When Steve at SR Autobodies says to call him you know things aren’t ideal. And in the case of the GT-R’s engine, that resulted in two scored bores and cracks all around the water jackets with some metal weld thrown around an oil drain for good measure.

In non-anorak mode, that means it’s time for engine rebuild number four. And this seemingly possessed car has wiped far more off my income than Kwasi Kwarteng could ever dream of. So, in a proper post-Brexit fashion, I’ve decided to avoid giving my cash to a UK engine builder and instead invest in one much further afield. Nitto Performance in Australia to be precise, builder of the fastest Skylines in the world.

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Because ironically, it’s cheaper in the long run to have a good engine built halfway around the world and shipped over than risk another UK-built failure. Which is quite a fitting metaphor all things considered. So, if you need me, I’ll be getting slightly damp in a Dodge Viper because somehow that’s the only working car I’ve got currently, and it doesn’t even have a roof. 

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