What would your three-car dream garage look like?
UPDATE: a rare Porsche, rare Lancia and rare BMW join TG's dream garage this week
Tom Ford - Associate Editor
The internet is awash with people spamming each other into unconsciousness via ‘challenges’ that resolve into a mere few minutes lobotomised diversion, and not ones to be left without at least a toe-hold in the world of pointlessness, we thought we’d get involved.
It’s a blindingly obvious one, and something that’s been the subject of a billion-and-one pub conversations, internet slanging matches and lighthearted falling-outs since the car was invented. Or at least since it got past three manufacturers.
The rules are simple: pick the three cars that live in your dream garage. The ones that if the clock stopped on automotive production right now, you’d be happy with until the end of your days.
Now, with most car manufacturers in - hopefully temporary - lockdown, you see where we’re coming from. So the cars have to be ‘real’ - as in no Transformers or concept cars with fear-powered jet turbines - they have to be able to be bought with real money, right now. Albeit as much money as it would take.
They can be specials, low-volume, rare as a hug in April. They can consist of nothing but three shades of Lamborghini Miura, be useful, stupid or a mixture - but you have to show a little of your working. So if you pick a Pagani Zonda BC, an Aventador SVJ Roadster and a Porsche GT1, we want to know which one is going to be used to go to the local re-cycling centre, and how you’re going to pick up the kids from school - that sort of thing.
To kick us off, I’ll go first...Advertisement - Page continues below
Ford F-250 Crewcab Prerunner
A very personal fetish, but when you’ve driven a full-on Trophy Truck, they make an impression. A pre-runner, very basically, is a TT with a proper interior. So you get 90-per cent of the performance with only 10 per cent of the back pain/deafness. Mine would be very much like this version from Griffen - a crewcab (I have children), except with a practical backbody and only one spare. But then either a Hellephant crate motor, or a tweaked V10 diesel. Ideally a 1976 Ford (the year I was born), I’d drape it in a retro livery and very practically exit roundabouts with one front wheel cocked two feet into the air while gaily oversteering. A seat of dynamic characteristics I have yet to replicate in anything else I’ve ever driven. I might even make it 4x4 - most TTs are rear-drive - but who knows? All these things have been done previously, by the way, so I’m playing by the rules. I think.
Alpina D5 S Touring AWD
A supremely practical family estate here. Except it’s not, because it is fettled by BMW gods Alpina. A five Touring with the same performance as an M5, more range and proper torque, it treads the line between fast and discreet with perfect aplomb. I’d go for the triple-turbo Euro-spec, kit it out in Alpina dark green with some subtle gold Alpina coachlines and a special long-range fuel tank. Then I’d stick it on undercover-cop-spec (but nice) steel wheels and winter tyres, and never have to worry about cross-continental drives ever again.Advertisement - Page continues below
Porsche 911 re-imagined by Singer
I think something fettled by Singer - or at least Singerish - will appear on quite a few lists, but if you’re going to keep something forever, you might as well have it made to your exact specification. And that’s pretty much Singer’s attitude when it comes to the re-making of Porsche’s 911. My spec wouldn’t be what you’re thinking though. For me, a 911 by Singer is a lesson in understatement (hence no DLS), and ‘my’ car would be a plain colour with a reliable, streetable engine. About 350-400bhp would do the trick, and no lumpy cams or weird clutches. Much tweed for the interior, a few choice additions and I’d be quite happy to spend some time with people not really knowing if it was a Singer special or not.
So that’s me. I now nominate Captain Rowan ‘Brain Out’ Horncastle, who'll post his three-car dream garage next week.
Come at me internet.
Rowan Horncastle – Digital Editor at Large
Naturally, there’ll be an air of predictability to the Top Gear staff’s choices for this three-car garage. With the majority of us not understanding the logic of SUVs, prepare for a lot of estates. And more atelier restomods than you can throw a large, blank chequebook at. But knowing that I was going after Wookie, I was mentally prepared to be thrown in the wake of some pick-up with lifted, floppy suspension and an array of retina-melting fog lights. I’m not wrong, am I? But if you know me and my love for extremism, sybaritism and a sadomasochistic driving experience (jeez, that sounds like a raunchy Tinder bio, doesn’t it?) the three cars taking up space in the imaginary, slate tiled (with a dark grey grouting) three-car garage/barn/mancavium in my brain is equally predictable.
1974 Porsche 911 RSR 2.1 Turbo
Kicking off proceedings is what I believe to be the best Porsche of all time. Yes, it’s a race car, but no one said that things had to be road-legal. And this isn’t just any race car, but a proper wedge of Porsche history: a big-winged, boosty, behemoth of a 911 that changed the game. It is, of course, the 1974 Porsche 911 RSR 2.1 Turbo.
The RSR was a milestone moment for Porsche. It was the first turbocharged racing 911, one that took part in the FIA’s Group 5 category for the 1974 World Championship for Makes and came 2nd overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the hands (and sizeable cojones) of Herbert Müller and Gijs van Lennep. It also looks flipping fantastic. Mainly because it looks like a mutant 911. A 911 with a monster rear wing (apparently painted black to be less imposing), rudimentary aerodynamics (NACA ducts gauged out of the bodywork with the dexterity of spooning a knob of butter out of a tub) and a booze brand’s livery. It’s wonderfully bonkers. Risible, in fact. It’s also the muse for a lot of modern-day tuning companies. That wide-arch look RWB has claimed rights for over the years, plus those bonkers 911 turbo upgrades from Bisimoto? You have the RSR to thank for that.
Bentley Flying Spur Estate
Alright, alright. This might be a slight technicality within the framework of the rules, but hear me out. Obviously, this isn’t the work of Bentley, rather a fictitious mock-ups by pixel wizards on the internet. But that doesn’t mean that this car isn’t an impossibility. Money is what makes the world go round, and when you’ve got enough of the stuff, you can get car manufacturers to build whatever the hell you like, Sultan of Brunei style.
And this Flying Spur Estate is exactly what I’d like. SUVs are the current flag-bearers for luxurious, practical transportation, but anyone with 1) an interest in cars, 2) half a brain cell or 3) kids knows that a practical estate ticks all the boxes (and more) that an SUV does but in a less offensive way. That’s exactly why this hyper-luxury load-lugger is going in my garage. Just look at it! It’s purposeful and majestic. And has a 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 producing 626bhp and 664lb ft – numbers good enough to achieve 0-62mph in 3.8secs and a wonderfully pointless 207mph top speed, too. Now imagine putting the kids and hounds in that. Or going skiing. Or fitting some mountain bikes to the back. Summer holidays and school runs would never be so unnecessarily fast and ritzy. Plus, with Bentley now officially getting back into coachbuilding with the Mulliner Bacalar, this isn’t actually as wild a prospect as you may have first thought.Advertisement - Page continues below
People like Fearne Cotton talk about their ‘Happy Place’ a lot. For some, it’s being in a four-figure thread count bed, or in the arms of their loved ones. Mine is being strapped into a narrow-body Caterham 620S and giving it the beans. Nothing fills me with such exhilaration or joy as when my right eardrum is close to detonating from an open-pipe side exhaust, my tear ducts are waving a white flag having spent a day drenched in overly rich fuel and my anus' sphicnter is clenched so tight it could crack a walnut. As a sensory driving experience, nothing (and I mean nothing) compares to an overly-powered Caterham. Over the years I have been lucky enough to drive LMP race cars, hypercars and every zinging hot hatch in the land, but nothing leaves me beaming with a smile like a Caterham. And amazed that I’m still alive. OK, it’s not practical, reliable or in vogue with the current holier than thou zeitgeist. But it’s the first car I’d choose to go and drive if I thought the world was ending tomorrow. Which isn’t an impossibility nowadays.
It’s also a car that I know Jack ‘Roadman’ (he’s from Streatham) Rix will never, ever pick. So over to him for his choices. Like I said, prepare for estates and restomods. What ya got, Jacky boy?
Jack Rix – Deputy Editor
Fair play, Roman Horncasovic. Something for all occasions there: trips to the polo, trips to the Le Mans Classic, trips to the nearest lamppost – your average weekend basically. Superb use of the unlimited budget, too. But you forget I’ve experienced your exuberant, devil-may-care driving style, which means two of those three are going to try and kill you and the third, whilst majestic on a screen, is a car that was never designed to be an estate in the first place. In fact, I’m fairly sure it doesn't even exist, which means its success is entirely down to the welding skills of whoever you rope into turning a render you found on Google images into reality. OK, secretly I’m quite jealous. Perhaps we could sort out some sort of garage time sharescheme, swapping keys for one week a month? No? Hopefully you’ll be more inclined when I reveal my quite brilliant selection below…Advertisement - Page continues below
Starting with the big guns. Had to have a Ferrari, for me they just possess some special sauce that the others don’t. I toyed with a 355 Spider – a car I’ve been hopelessly infatuated with since I was a spotty 15-year old, but with no budget cap I settled on something… more. This is the supercar slot in my garage so it needs to tantalise parked up, and the F40’s angles just do it for me, every time. A 288 GTO is a close second in the trouser-tent department, but the later Maranello specials not so much. I also want something that’s going peel my eyes back and slap me round the face – an actual challenge to drive, every journey a grapple between joy and fiery death. The F40 has that, apparently. I’ve never actually driven one but that’ll just make things more interesting, right?
Alfaholics GTA-R 290
Drove one of these a couple of years ago and life has never really been the same since. Everything stems from the fact that it weighs 830kg – carbon doors, bonnet and bootlid (although they’ll do you a full carbon body now if you ask nicely), interior stripped down to the essentials and a dinky 50-year old donor car all to be thanked for that figure. The rush comes from Alfa’s Twin Spark 2.0-litre, bored to 2.3-litres, 240bhp and with a hard-on for revs, it’s easily the best-sounding, angriest, most-responsive four-cylinder you’ll find anywhere. What it offers is a hardcore driving experience underpinned by such delicacy and accuracy that it brings a tear to your eye. A thing of beauty, inside and out, top to bottom, on road or track – who’d have thought the perfect Italian coupe would be built in the West Country?
A distinct lack of space for small people and things in my first two picks, so for my third wish I’ll have an estate, obviously. A fast one, of course. An RS4 that went on sale 14 years ago – one that’s £12k for something leggy, and ‘only’ £20k for a good one – probably not what you were expecting. Let me explain: this is the family wheels that’ll need to do school runs and holidays, so I want a wagon that’s fast and unflappable (I’ve got the other two to tit around in, after all). A four-wheel drive Audi it is. The B7 ticks my preference for analogue - 414bhp, naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8, manual gearbox - and there’s a personal bond with particular model. Back when I was an aspiring motoring journalist (still am, to be fair) making tea in the Autocar office, I was assigned to drive one of these without supervision to Marbella and back for an E90 M3 twin test. Armed with nothing but a credit card, an AA map of Europe (I hadn’t spotted you had to switch the country in the sat-nav once you left the UK) and a promise to do a full launch away from every toll booth, I nailed it in two days each way and fell in love in the process. A reunion is long overdue...
Anyway, Dream Garage? Completed it. Next up I’d like to nominate Top Gear’s Sultan of sideways, Duke of tyre degradation, the Maharaja of marmalising rubber himself… Ollie Marriage. Take it way Ollie.
Come back next Tuesday for Ollie's choices...
Ollie Marriage - Motoring Editor
This was agony. It’s made worse when you see what your colleagues have included. I know it’s funnier to slag them off, but some of their choices are on point. The Alfaholics GTA-R speaks to me in special ways, so too the 911-by-Singer or whatever we have to call it; I’m not sure what I’d do with a pre-runner round my way, but I know I want one, and the 1974 Porsche 911 RSR. Utter yes.
That was on my long list. Which was very long, and when I stood back and admired it, consisted almost entirely of period Le Mans cars and Group B rally cars. And the Porsche 917/30 Can-Am. How could I not have that, and the 1978 Alpine A442, the Lancia Delta S4, Porsche’s 935 Moby Dick, the Ferrari P4, a Dauer Porsche 962...? So I had to be tough with myself: one competition car, one special road car, one everyday car. Why is the latter the most difficult? Because you know it’s actually the one you’ll be using all the time. But even then I only nailed it when I – ahem – accessorised it. The question of use is fundamental to me – I wanted cars I knew I’d do stuff with, that would feel special no matter what they were doing.
Those who know me will be surprised at the absence of two cars: A current Mercedes E63 S wagon (ticks both the skids and kids boxes), and the Ariel Nomad, which I just adore. But I’ve had that ownership experience, running one for six months, so shed space goes elsewhere. So, in a very particular order, here are my three.
It was always going to be this. The one, the only, the game changer. Throughout my Top Trumps and Top Gear childhood, I’d flick-flacked from Lamborghini Countach to Porsche 959 to Ferrari F40 to Bugatti EB110. Kept coming back to the Countach, especially when Clarkson straight lined it against a Golf GTI. And then McLaren launched the F1. And nothing else mattered.
It was the purity of the engineering that struck me, not just the engine’s astonishing power, but its packaging with three seats and those clever flank lockers. I devoured information about it, intrigued by the weight, by Gordon Murray, by the Kenwood stereo. I remember Tiff Needell tipping it around Goodwood and I imagined myself in that centre seat. And it just seemed perfect. I’ve never driven one, only sat in a flank seat while it’s been trundled around in first gear, but it’s the one supercar I know would give me endless pleasure. I’d see it outside my house and know that I could drive it, and that I wouldn’t need to go fast to enjoy it. The world changed after the seminal F1. Lightweight engineering as a philosophy got lost. It was too expensive. We got the Veyron, and it’s that template we’ve followed since. Maybe the Murray T.50 can get us back on track, and retread the road the F1 paved 25 years ago.
Land Rover Defender and Bruder X trailer
This was my problem. The banker. The car you hop in every day. Jack’s gone for an Audi RS4, Wook an Alpina D5, Rowan a one-off Bentley estate. I considered the E63 S, but it wasn’t quite versatile enough. I wanted something more rugged, something with a spirit of adventure, a car that not only did the everyday stuff, but was a brilliant companion for an escape, an adventure. Now I have that car at home already: a VW California. So I looked at off-road conversions, lux mods, adaptations. Not quite right. Then I remembered Rowan’s creative approach (Flying Spur estate), and shamelessly bent the rules. Land Rover Defender with a Bruder EXP-6 caravan. Yes, caravan. Fight me. There’s a rightness to the new Defender that really connects with me, that demands a long range road trip. Northern Scandanavia would be a great place to start, and the thought of that is making me as giddy with excitement as the prospect of owning either of the other two.
Peugeot 205 T16
Group B rally cars. I go on YouTube and migration occurs. I might start out researching locations, checking out car reviews, watching IOM TT onboards or ski segments, but somehow I always end up watching Tony Pond in a Metro 6R4, Rohrl pedal-tapping in an Audi quattro, flame-illuminated night stages above Monte Carlo, ‘now maximum attack’ Markku Alen in the Lancia Delta S4. I disappear down the wormhole. And culminate with this: the Peugeot 205 T16. The most perfect expression of the Group B era.
But, if I’m honest as I watch my hero, Ari Vatanen, tearing through forests, two things strike me: the damping doesn’t look great, and it understeers more than I’d like. Now, the thing about rally cars is that they’re not precious. Track cars are. People get very exercised about authenticity and matching numbers and originality. But with rally cars anything goes. So, my 205 T16 would swap out the original dampers and diffs for those from a current WRC car. Last year I drove a Hyundai i20 WRC on a gravel stage and race track and I can happily say it is the most fun I’ve ever had driving a car. There is NOTHING else that comes close. I want that ridiculousness with a full anti-lag Group B drivetrain.
I’m now salivating at the prospect of this, giddy with delight. I’m happy, I want for nothing in my three car garage, so next I’d like to nominate someone far more cerebral than me, someone unlikely to be swapping out dampers on a 205 T16, Mr Paul Horrell.
Come back next Tuesday for Paul Horrell's three-car garage...
Paul Horrell - Consultant Editor
I'm not going to pick my three favourite-ever cars. That's silly: too much overlap, not enough real life. The only way I can play this game is to pick cars for my own life, that between them make a completed jigsaw.
I have some non-negotiables. We're a two-adults-plus child household, and we live in London. I need to find: an EV, a fast practical 4WD car, a brilliant and epic sports car, an open car, a beautiful car, a car small enough for London, and a landmark car. It's surprisingly tricky fitting that matrix into just three vehicles. I don't do track days or off-roading, so that eases the pressure.
For almost any trip in the south-east of England, an EV is a no-brainer. These days I'm finding it really hard to live with the idea of burning fuel just to get about. Petroleum should be saved for more special purposes (see below for those). Besides, even if I weren't motivated by conscience, an electric motor is basically better than nearly all combustion powertrains for this job. Its instant precise acceleration is what matters in populated areas.
For me it's a BMW i3. The glassy, airy, spare yet elegant cabin is my kind of modern luxury. It's a hoot to drive, if a little stern-riding. It's small enough to be parkable in my city, big enough to be useful. And when the motorway DC charge infrastructure improves – as it absolutely must, and will, and soon – then it's fine for journeys up to 300 miles.
Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo
But it won't do everything. Every so often though I drive 800 miles in a day, to somewhere remote in France or Italy, and even Tesla's infrastructure won't really allow that. I'll be taking people and baggage. But I want it to be great to drive when I get to those lovely empty roads. Maybe, to scratch my Italian itch, it'd be an Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It's the only SUV that, to drive, really impersonates a car. And a very good one. But I've spent the past two decades repeating 'don't buy an SUV, buy an estate' like the satanic mantra on the run-out groove of an LP.
So it's a Panamera GTS Sport Turismo. The 4WD is for Britain's winter days and ski trips, and I'd spec the best matrix headlights for dark nights. It's a more special car than the big estates from BMW and Audi and Mercedes. OK it's smaller on the inside, but I've done those trips in cars as small as a Mini Clubman so I know our stuff will fit. I'd probably have it in LHD because it'll be doing most of its miles over there. (No need for the Panam Turbo's performance by the way, nor for the hybrid's short-range e-ability because the i3 does that job. And the hybrid has a smaller fuel tank and boot, and is 300kg heavier.)
My final choice has the sort of charisma no modern car, none d'you hear me, can get close to. The Jaguar D-Type. A car that ticks the boxes for open-air, and for just being a fabulous, immersive drive. Race cars can be pretty hopeless on the road, but the ones of this era were the last that could transition beyond the track. Even for road driving these days, it needs hardly any tweaks: better traffic-jam cooling and clutch durability, and probably a shorter final drive.
I love old cars, even some of the pre-war ones, but this one is actually pretty modern – disc brakes, independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, a fabulous twin-cam straight-six with the voice of the archangels. It makes your senses sing: the looks, the tactility, even the smell. Yes it won Le Mans three times but history isn't the reason I'm having it. I'm having it because it's a thing of wonder.
Sam Philip - Top Gear TV Script Editor
Naturally, I had questions. Most pressingly: why three cars? What is this hypothetical situation in which you’ve suddenly been blessed with infinite riches but severely limited garage space? Surely if you’ve got more money than Zuckerberg, you can afford to rent a lock-up for a couple more motors?
But then Editor Pattni told me to stop being a pain in the arse, and just pick three cars. So here goes...
Renault Clio Renaultsport 197
For my daily runabout, I’m taking the best hot hatch of all, bar none. Nothing I’ve driven – not classic Peugeot or VW GTIs, not warp-speed new A45s or RS3s – can match the little nat-asp Renault for B-road fun.
And true, being given an infinite budget and choosing a French hatchback you can pick up for five-odd grand in the classifieds is a bit like… winning a holiday to anywhere you want in the world, and picking Skegness. But what can I say? I like Skegness.
And I love the 197. A car that makes a treat of even the shortest, most boring journey, it’s not just better than any other hot hatch out there. For Britain at least, it’s better than any sports car out there.
Something for the family, then. And yes, I get where Mr Horrell’s coming from with the Panamera – enough space to transport your brood and all their stuff to the Alps, enough power to have fun when you get there – but let’s be honest. When you reach that sinuous mountain pass on your family holiday, are you really going to drive it as the good lord intended? Not with two children in the back you’re not, unless you want the rooflining of your Panamera to be reupholstered in a fetching shade of Part-Digested Kids’ Lunch.
So to hell with any sporting pretensions, I’m going big. With a Merc V-Class. Specifically the V300d Extra Long with all the trimmings, please. (If you happen to be reading, Mercedes, not the one fitted out with sink and bed and integrated bidet, ta. Cars are made for driving and hotels are made for sleeping, and never the twain shall meet.) Room for four in extreme comfort, room in the boot for literally everything you own.
And I’ll still have a ball driving it. Because it’s a van. (Mercedes will tell you the V-Class isn’t a van. They are incorrect. It is a van. A posh van, but still a van.) Driving a van is great. Commanding driving position, peerless visibility, totally legitimate excuse to affect a terrible Cockney accent. What’s not to like?
So I’ve got my hot hatch, I’ve got my family wagon. What I need now is a million-pound, million-horsepower, one-of-only-three-ever-built supercar. For special occasions, right?
Sorry, but I’ll pass. Too much stress. I just know that, if I owned a million-pound supercar, I would spend all my time worrying that my million-pound supercar was about to be driven into by a delivery van, or dropping in value like a particularly dense stone, and thus would find it very difficult to enjoy.
In other words, the best million-pound supercar is someone else’s million-pound supercar. So for the last pick in my dream garage, I request, first, a generous mate with a bunch of supercars and then, for my own garage, a snotter.
Not even too bothered what snotter it is, but ideally I’ll have it (a) small, (b) at least 20 years old, (c) mechanically simple, (d) significantly dented on every panel and (e) bought for less than £100. Fiesta, Fabia, Fuego, I’m easy. So long as it’s dirt cheap and disposable, count me in.
Because we all know it. Cars bought for less than £100 are the very best sort of cars. Drive it like you stole it (which, in monetary terms, you very nearly did), park it in a space slightly smaller than the car itself, bin it if it breaks. Stress-free motoring at its finest.
So there you have it. The ultimate money-no-object dream garage costs comfortably under seventy grand and makes, in total, less than 500bhp, and I will fight anyone who disagrees.
Craig Jamieson - Digital Writer
Usually in life, you’re limited by something pretty concrete. You can’t headline Glastonbury because your musical talent starts and stops with the time you trod on a piece of Lego and managed to scream a perfect high E. You can’t fly like a bird because you’re actually quite heavy and not very aerodynamic. Also, wings would be helpful. And you can’t have a garage to rival Jay Leno’s because all the zeroes in your bank account are in the wrong place.
But this scenario isn’t concrete; it combines the ultimate freedom of choice with a limited number of choices. It seems custom-designed to induce option paralysis – the tendency, when given seemingly infinite options, to be so afraid of choosing the wrong thing that you choose nothing. Just three choices to set yourself up with cars that are absolutely perfect. Yeah, no stress.
Oh, and in my case, at least one has to be safe enough to allow my eight-month-old son to travel in it. And if you don’t yet have an eight-month-old son, allow me to explain what governs your life from the moment he is born: constant abject terror and panic. So that’ll probably explain my first pick.
Mercedes-AMG C63 W204 Estate
Originally, this was going to be a W123 300TD estate, with the diesel swapped out for Merc’s excellent M117 V8, hooked up to a manual gearbox capable of taking the strain. It’d be the seven-seat option, in sky blue with fawn seats. Yes, I narrowed it down that much.
But, as safe and reliable as the old W123 is – Merc crash-tested it more than even seems remotely necessary – it’s safe by 1970s standards, or 1980s at best. It’s heroically strong but lacks the modern safety equipment that will prevent apoplexy every time I strap m’lad into the back. Besides, this’ll be the family car, so it should probably also pass muster with my wife, who equates ‘old’ with ‘crap’ and also has a similar logic path with ‘Alfa Romeo’.
So it has to be new. Or at least new enough to have NCAP stars and airbags and ISOFIX and... and... dear sweet lord, my dream garage has turned into a nightmare of sensibility. Luckily, the C63 AMG brings the good-dream vibes right back with one of the world’s most gloriously unsensible engines. Oh, and the finest V8 note I’ve ever heard. I’d make sure to make sure my new-to-me C63 has a limited-slip-diff, which is absolutely for safety and categorically not for tyre-shredding powerslides around my private racetrack, which I’ve just decided that my dream garage backs on to.
Which C63 AMG estate specifically? Doesn’t really faze me, as long as it’s one with the 6.2 V8; they’re all entirely too fast to unleash on a public road, and insisting that I simply must have the Edition 507 or DR520 because they have more power and are therefore more better is a gigantic game of tummysticks that impresses me slightly less than a particularly uninteresting mote of dust. And on that note...
Pirelli’s advertising strapline, for as long as I can remember, is ‘Power is nothing without control’. And that’s pretty catchy. I would counter with the absolutely less-catchy, and possibly less-able-to-sell-tyres strapline, ‘Power is for idiots who never quite got over their own personal failings and have therefore decided that only overcompensation everywhere else will right this particular ship of fools'.
Which brings me neatly to the Alpine A110. I am a wizened, world-weary... um, 30-something, but the A110 does something that nearly no other car in the world does: it actually excites me. And it manages to do that with an engine of 1.8 litres and the power of 250 horses.
Cars, for the most part, elicit much the same reaction from me as Rick, who is equally wizened and world-weary in Casablanca: “Hate you? I suppose I would, if I ever gave you any thought.” Among this vast throng of vaguely hateful mediocrity are cars I respect, cars I appreciate and, right at the pointy end, cars I enjoy.
But cars that actually excite me? Not even the Dallara Stradale did that, and it’s easily the quickest thing I’ve ever taken around a track. It was all aero this and speed that, and that’s not where excitement lies for me. Similarly, doing 187mph on the Autobahn in an M5 was exciting briefly, but that’s because I’m Australian and doing speeds like that in my home country is punishable by permanent exile and forfeiture of all that you love and cherish. If I could do that speed all the time, I’m sure the thrill would fade.
But the A110 is properly, genuinely exciting. Every input has a consequence, every action provokes reaction. And that reaction, at least in my hands, means going sideways, which is absolutely the most fun you can have in a car.
Also, can I just point out that Gordon Murray loves the A110 so much that he bought one and benchmarked his upcoming T.50 against it? Should I have just led with that?
1989 Porsche 911
Every garage deserves a classic, both for its looks and for its ability to bring every part of driving back to its simplest tenets. To drive a classic car is to experience everything at its most basic. To experience everything at its most basic is also to hop on board a Ryanair flight. But almost always, a classic car will be more enjoyable, purely because it just has to be.
The 1989 911 is the very last of the first 911s, which is a somewhat difficult phrase to parse but also indicative of more than 25 years’ worth of honing that Porsche did to Ferdinand’s original design. So it has its roots in the 1960s, the golden age of car design, but also folds in a quarter-century’s worth of lessons of suspension, air-cooled engines and the importance of fitting air-conditioning. It’s just as gorgeous today as it was the first time I saw one as a teenager, and my real dream in all of this is a time machine to go back and pick one up before the prices of air-cooled Porsches started rivalling lesser Picassos.
If you’ve been keeping tabs, you’ll notice that this dream garage is home to front, mid and rear-engined cars, air and water-cooling, a V8, flat six and an inline four, turbo and atmo. Modern and classic. Automatic and manual. Almost like it’s as much of a cross-section of the fantastic world of cars as I could manage with just three picks. And very much almost like I’ve given this whole thing entirely too much thought.
Vijay Pattni – Editor, TopGear.com
It’s easy to get all Captain Obvious about these things. ‘I’d have an old BMW or classic Mercedes, maybe one of the Holy Trinity hypercars, perhaps an Audi RS6 because SENSIBLE and PERFORMANCE’. Job, consider yourself done.
Except… Captain Obvious isn’t much fun. And Captain Obvious has forgotten the first rule of a Dream Garage: it is a dream. Dreams can be properly bloody weird. Dreams often shun any notion of logic and sense to cook up events in your sleep like that one time where you had a conversation with your dog about the nuances of fitting a new kitchen.
So, as Prince once remarked, let’s go crazy.
On paper, a 110bhp Toyota doesn’t score exceptionally high on the ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ scale. Whereas a Honda E-sized 110bhp Toyota with gullwing doors shoots it right up into the business end of things.
It is magnificent. At 3.8m in length and weighing a mere 890kg in manual form (or 910kg if you select the excellently named ‘Super Live Sound System’), it is also tiny. Magnificently tiny.
Alas, the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Or something else profound. In its five years on sale – only in Japan, of course, because they get all the best stuff – just 16,000 of these little beauties were built. Toyota tells us the gullwing doors ‘apparently inspired Gordon Murray’s development of the McLaren F1 supercar’.
And the name was chosen “to signify a dream-like car that takes us into the future’. It is literally a dream.
Nissan Pulsar NX
We are very much down the rabbit hole here, folks. May I present, for your viewing pleasure, the simply wonderful Nissan Pulsar NX, here shod in SPORTBAK form. I say ‘shod’, because the beauty of the superlative Pulsar NX was that you could remove the coupe-like rear hatch – just lift it clean off – and replace it with this fetching wagon variant.
Two cars in one! That’s living the dream, folks, and a suitably weird one at that.
Nissan March Super Turbo
You’d buy it for the ‘Super Turbo’ graphics alone, and indeed, the fact it is called ‘Super Turbo’. The Japanese-only Micra packed a supercharger and a turbocharger bolted onto its 930cc engine, and was probably how most people in the 1980s dreamed their own Micras looked like. Hey, it was the Eighties. Things were weird then, too.
I shall duly throw it over to Mr Stephen Dobie for next week’s update…
Stephen Dobie - Deputy Editor, TopGear.com
How the hell do I follow that trio? I’m a Japanese car and culture obsessive, thus I feel like my three-car garage is somewhat disloyal to my passions after Vijay’s ‘interesting’ choices. Quite the, um, Micra drop.
I also now feel like I’ve played things with quite a straight bat. There are no weird Nissan shooting brakes to be found here. Though there’s still a fine slice of JDM action, don’t worry. In lieu of my other big passion, actually, the French hot hatch.
Yeah, whittling all the cars I love into just three choices was tough and some big sacrifices have been made. If no one else puts a RenaultSport Megane R26.R in their collection, I might never forgive myself...
2002 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive
Every dream garage needs a Ferrari, and every dream garage needs a track toy. So why not combine the two? See, almost all Ferraris – particularly the modern ones – are nigh on perfect. The problem comes with driving them on the road. Y’know, the place most of our driving tends to take place.
You alert everyone to your presence as you amble loudly through town, before accelerating for two, maybe three seconds from 30mph to 60mph-ish as you pass the national speed limit sign into countryside. The best car I’ve ever driven is the 458 Speciale, but it’s simply too blooming brilliant to be enjoyed on our tiny, busy, modestly limited roads without frustration (or fear) eventually creeping in.
So my Ferrari will stay on circuit, where I can drive it as quickly and as loudly as I like, and no one will call me a tosser. Except maybe the marshals when I eventually overcook it into a gravel trap. I’m having perhaps the coolest racecar ever, the 550 Maranello built by Prodrive (of WRC Impreza fame) for perhaps the coolest race ever, the Le Mans 24 Hours. It may even be eligible for some historic race series further down the line. If I can keep it in one piece...
Image: Girardo & Co
2010 BMW M3 GTS
Instinct tells me to pick a Porsche 911 GT3. Racecar cred, but comfy enough for an impromptu 1,000-mile road trip, it is unequivocally Peak Everyday Sports Car. However, instinct also tells me it’s another effing 911 from another car journalist who loves effing 911s.
So I’ve gone for the most hench opponent the GT3 ever faced, a car packing the one ingredient 911s have never offered: a socking great V8. The M3 GTS is also much more hardcore, with proper Schroth race harnesses to strap you in and a riotous lack of traction when the road or tyres (or both) aren’t warm. Which in Britain is ‘most of the time’.
I dearly love its aesthetic, too, against better judgement. The M3 GTS cost £125,000 brand new and sells at auction for considerably more now, but to the untrained eye its orange paint and tacked-on wing could be the rogue modifying efforts of someone who bought a ‘bargain’ Cat D E92. But those who know (the geeks) will give me the most gratifying nod of approval possible.
The M3 GTS is the car that once made me break the habit of a lifetime and buy a fistful of lottery tickets, with the sole aim of buying and insuring the wondrous BMW I’d driven earlier that week, stocking up on tyres, then flinging the rest of the cash out the window, for I’d need nothing else in life. If that doesn’t say ‘dream garage’, I don’t know what does.
2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition
Silly cars ticked off, it’s time for something sensible. And with five seats, four doors, safe and cuddly four-wheel drive and Japanese reliability, what could be more sensible than this? Well, quite a lot of stuff. Its service intervals are financially crippling and its 4WD less the kind that drags you out of icy car parks, more the sort that has you attempting unwise special stage heroics.
I adore this thing. Perhaps my greatest drive ever – a sunny afternoon through Snowdonia keeping up with a pack of supercars – was in a pristine Tommi Makinen fresh out of Mitsubishi’s collection, its owners rightly realising it’s happier being flung around than collecting dust.
It’s a car you drive with utmost commitment pretty much the entire time you’re in it, its power and grip levels pretty modest by modern standards, but its ability no less breath-taking for it. It elbows that R26.R out of my trio by virtue of its practicality, which causes physical pain in my heart.
But my 550, M3 and Evo 6 ought to help me get over it.
Tom Harrison - Staff Writer
It’s taken me all week to get over the shock of my friend and colleague Stephen Dobie not giving a French hot hatch a space in his three-car dream garage. I half expected him to hand all three spaces to different generations of Renaultsport Megane. Or maybe two, with a Hyundai i30N thrown in for variety. Just goes to show that a) you never know what’s going on in someone’s head and b) this really is bloody hard. So, without further ado, here are the three cars I’ll be buying in my sleep tonight. By tomorrow they may well have changed completely, of course.
Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0
Even in your dreams, you need a daily. Something reliable, practical and interesting enough to keep you amused on even the most tedious drives. I don’t have kids, so I don’t need a big SUV or estate. Don’t want anything too quick, either, or too flash, and the more you pay the more you’ll worry about leaving it places. Hot hatch? Not special enough. Which is why I’ve gone Cayman – specifically the GTS 4.0-litre. One of the very best everyday sportscars for halfway sensible money, alongside the Alpine A110.
Why not the Alpine? Personal preference. Plus I prefer the Porsche’s six-cylinders to the Alpine’s four (if Porsche hadn’t U-turned and stuck a six-cylinder back in the Cayman, I’d have gone for something altogether different), its manual gearbox to the Alpine’s dual-clutch auto, its superior build-quality and more practical cabin. I’ll have it de-badged and in a dark colour, please, with silver wheels and lashings of Alcantara.
Ferrari 456GT Venice
I don’t need a big estate, but that’s not to say I don’t want one. The Panamera GTS Sport Turismo, Alpina and (fictitious) Flying Spur chosen by my colleagues are all fine options, but none holds a candle to the holy grail of unobtainable estates. This is the Ferrari 456 Venice, and it’s excellent.
Ferrari (well, Pininfarina) built seven. Six were bought by Brunei’s royal family (who else?) at a reported cost of $1.5million each, while the seventh car is unaccounted for. The Venice is based on the standard 456, meaning it gets a 5.5-litre V12 engine. Most 456s left the factory with auto gearboxes, rather than the open-gate six-speed manual. Mine would need the manual, obviously, because who doesn’t want a nat-asp V12 estate with a manual ‘box and pop-up headlights?
Likelihood of the Sultan selling me one of his? Slim. But it’s my dream, so there.
Image: Ed Callow
Looks like a lovely old Mercedes. Is actually much more than that. It’s a resto-mod, like the Singer and Alfaholics, but even more discreet. Mechatronik’s M-Coupe looks exactly the same as a standard W111 Merc, but under the bonnet is a 5.5-litre AMG V8 with 360bhp, and inside the beautifully trimmed cabin thoughtfully integrated modernities like air-conditioning and sat-nav. All the Sixties charm with none of the breaking down. For me, there’s nothing cooler.
Ollie Kew - Senior Road Test Editor
Well, this is definitely fair. I’m tenth to have a rummage around the Dream Garage Fantasy Toybox. Tom Harrison has already pilfered the new Cayman GTS 4.0, which is quite frankly all the car I would ever want or need, and I’m barred from selecting the McLaren F1 (specifically XP5, the 100,000-mile bottle-green prototype certified legend Andy Wallace drove to 243mph at Ehra-Lessien) because Ollie Marriage has already had first pick. And well, he’s my boss, so superb choice there Mr M, wouldn’t expect anything less, enjoy! Bah.
I’m not going to bother futureproofing my Dream Garage for children I don’t have right now, and honourable as Paul Horrell’s electric run-about undoubtedly is, I like hot hatchbacks too much to be that sensible.
Ford Fiesta ST
Because I’m indecisive, this is occupying the space I’d reserved for a Ford Puma. Not the new Official Pace Car of Mumsnet crossover, but the 1990s Ford Fiesta-based coupe, complete with its hilariously over-engineered 1.7-litre, Yamaha-tuned 123bhp motor. For me, the most fun car you can buy for less than a grand, by miles.
But this is the everyday car, and I want to use Waze, charge my phone, browse some podcasts and answer a text now and again. I want some semi-useable back seats, or to be able to flip them down and fit my Labrador in the boot. So I’ll need a more modern hot hatchback.
The current Ford Fiesta ST is a gem. I’m in the minority who prefers the new tri-cylinder effort to the older 1.6-litre car. For me the latest ST makes a better noise, I love that it’ll cruise at 45mpg thanks to some clever cylinder deactivation, and unlike the old ST, the interior isn’t like sitting inside a JVC hi-fi. And yet it’s a cheeky, three-wheeling, tail-wagging giggle at legal speeds that’s every inch the modern successor, no, the grandson – nay, the true heir – to the bloody wonderful Puma.
Lotus Elise Club Racer
Because I’m indecisive, this is parked in the area I’d earmarked for a BAC Mono. I love lightweight cars. Britain does them better than anyone else on the planet, and I vacillated over an Ariel Atom (an earlier supercharged car, not the violently rapid new turbo version) or the ultra-focused Briggs Automotive Company Mono. The build quality. The pneumatic shift. The start procedure. Nurse!
Problem is, even for my fetch-the-Sunday-papers blastmobile, the Mono is Very Driving Enthusiast. It’s a magnificent device, but it’ll never outrun the suspicion that concealed by the bodywork is a dark secret: the driver’s wearing fireproof racing booties. And much as I love a zero-compromise sports car, there’s not even space inside for a copy of the Daily Sport.
So, I’d have this: the most stripped-out modern Elise. The Club Racer is itself frightfully nerdy. It boasted plastic seats with padding only where Lotus’s most sadistic designers deemed it necessary, a lithium-ion battery, and the badges were replaced with stickers to save 60 grammes. That’s pathetic, but I like it. Go figure.
Inside, there’s no air-con. That’s fine, the roof comes off. The electric windows used to bug me, until I read up on them and discovered Lotus made them standard-fit because they’re actually lighter than the manual windy-down mechanism. I’m really fun at parties.
The 1.6-litre Toyota engine delivers a mere 139bhp, but it’s revvier than the latest V6-powered Exiges, and the whole caboodle weighs just 852kg. Elises have the best steering ever, the later cars sorted out the naff gearchange, and I think it still looks like the perfect miniature supercar.
Best of all, there’s some clever stability control in the CR, with a half-way ‘Sport’ mode that lets the car slide a bit before the computers save your life. I used to own an Elise S2. It didn’t have any stability control at all, and I once punched myself in the collarbone while trying to gather up a particularly stroppy moment on a local roundabout. My wrist ached for about a week. So, an electronic life jacket while I learn the ropes will be lovely, ta.
I’ll let you into a secret: I’d be happy with just those two. I’ve always preferred the two-car garage idea to a triumvirate, because it forces you to be less indecisive (which, as you’ve seen, I am. Or am I?) A pucker hot hatch and a lightweight roadster cover all my bases.
Still, there’s another gap to plug, so I might as well fill it with a car that has a story. A rare and controversial creation brimming with mouth-watering details and sheer bloody-mindedness. Few countries do the engineering hokey-cokey better than Japan.
The LFA has, as you all know, a more convoluted origin story than Gotham’s Joker. It took so long to finish, Lexus actually facelifted the concept car designed to preview it. That’s not a joke.
They started off with an aluminium frame, then binned it and decided to go with a carbon fibre tub. It was going to be a V8 hybrid, then a 5.0-litre V10, but emerged with a 4.8-litre V10, to pay homage to Toyota’s dire form in Formula One, which had already ditched V10 engines altogether. Lexus invented a new loom for weaving strands of carbon fibre just to make the A-pillar lighter. And when it came out, some parts of the internet rudely pointed at the Ferrari 599 GTB, which had another 70bhp and cost £150,000 less and went, “nah, you’re alright".
Over a decade on, the LFA still looks so fresh. The numbers (552bhp, 202mph, 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds) seem positively tame to our spoiled 2020 brains. It’s got a single-clutch automated jerk-fest gearbox and the infotainment is apparently so woeful you might as well use an ancient map of Pangea to navigate home. It would have more annoying habits than your college roommate and it’s far too rare and valuable to use very often. Buying a car purely because it was a pain in the arse to put together and it makes a silly noise at 9,000rpm is obviously ludicrous.
But, I ask you, is it any sillier than putting a track car in your Dream Garage and then not including a tow-car among your other choices, or selecting an as yet entirely fictitious CGI picture as your everyday car? Tut-tut, chaps…
Greg Potts - Editorial Assistant
Crikey, this is a tough game. Perhaps made even tougher by the fact I’m young and living in London. Unlimited budget you say? Please, kind and most noble landlord, won’t you accept this trio of Ferrari 250 GTOs in lieu of my extortionate rent?
There are also many selections I would have made had my colleagues not selfishly stolen certain things for their heavenly collections. Stephen Dobie’s decision to fill his final spot with a Tommi Makinen Edition Evo VI was a great annoyance, and I’m extremely partial to a Singer 911. Luckily, I’ve managed to fill my three places with some rather lovely things – all of which just happen to have been built or dreamt up before I was born. Make of that what you will.
Pikes Peak RUF CTR2 Sport
It seems Mr Kew and I had the same thought about the inclusion of a track toy, and thus needing something with a tow bar to get said toy to said track. Now, I don’t really fancy making space for a trailer in my dream garage, so I’ll need something road legal that I can drive to and from a circuit.
That doesn’t mean it has to be sensible, though. Welcome to the Pikes Peak RUF CTR2 Sport. The clue’s in the name - this bonkers 993-gen 911 Turbo was the very first of only 16 widebody CTR2 Sports, and one of two specifically built for the Pikes Peak hill climb in 1997. Just look at that aero.
I grew up with RUF first dominating packs of Top Trumps, and then (thanks to Porsche’s exclusivity deal with EA) dominating pretty much every racing game out there, and in my mind this is the coolest thing it has ever built.
With 520bhp from its 3.6-litre flat-six, the standard CTR2 would hit 217mph and had the honour of being the world’s fastest production car at the time of its introduction (the McLaren F1 wouldn’t reach 240mph until 1998). And yet, the Sport was given an upgraded engine with titanium connecting rods and a lightweight flywheel for a total of 702bhp and 575lb ft of torque. Oh, and there was also the addition of lightweight composite body panels, carbon fibre doors, Öhlins motorsport-grade suspension and a short-ratio six-speed manual gearbox.
Plus, to hammer home the fact that I could drive this to the circuit and back - back in 1997 Steve Beddor drove this to Pikes Peak, posted the fastest qualifying time, finished second overall and then drove home again after the event. Proper.
Lancia Hyena Zagato
For my sensible, everyday road car I’d like something small, lightweight and quick (but not lose-my-licence-coming-down-a-slip-road quick). The fact that the glorious Lancia Hyena Zagato is four-wheel-drive is an added bonus. How practical.
Essentially this is a Delta Integrale HF Evoluzione II with a more polarising and less boxy aluminium body on top. I absolutely love it, and I love that others will hate it. It was built by Zagato at the behest of Dutch classic car collector Paul Koot and features a 250bhp version of the Integrale’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The lightweight body and bespoke carbon fibre interior mean it weighs 120kg less than the car it was based on too.
Zagato planned to put the Hyena into full production, but Fiat wasn’t keen and refused to supply the base chassis. That means the 24 that were completed all started life as fully-fledged Integrales before they were stripped back and rebuilt. Bonkers and brilliant.
Alpina B12 5.7 Coupe
This final spot was a tricky decision to make. I wanted a big-engined coupe to bring a bit of balance to the garage, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the 6.0-litre Vauxhall Monaro VXR (don’t judge me). As so often happens on these pages, though, Alpina was calling.
Specifically, the Alpina B12 Coupe complete with its 410bhp 5.7-litre V12, pop-up headlights and understated graphics. I couldn’t resist the pop-ups. It’s another rare beast too, with Alpina building just 57 of these 5.7 Coupes, and even fewer with the six-speed manual gearbox that I’m obviously having.
Best trio so far? I reckon so…