Sunday, July 28, 2013

Top Ten Time!

Trolling the interwebs just now I ran across this Brit's opinion on the "Top Ten Cool Cars." Which got me thinking... Anyone can throw up a list of cars they want: Ferraris, unpronounceable Paganis', etc. etc. It is predictable, and it gets old. But I got to thinking about a top ten list of cars friends have owned that I would like to have today. So here goes!

10. Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Wagon

Confession time: I love station wagons and have lost count of the number of Audi avants I almost bought (hmmm, Cars I Almost Bought - there is a future blog post!). We had a Passat wagon for a while and it was outstanding. In middle school a friend's sister took us to one of the first Day on the Green concerts (Zeppelin, Rick Derringer, and Judas Priest) in her mom's Vista Cruiser. I still remember looking out the roof panels. If I was looking for one today it would have to be a 442 of course.

9. Peugot 205 GTI

Arriving in Germany as a new lieutenant I was met at the Hamburg airport by an officer from my assigned tank battalion. As we got into his little French car I could not help but notice that it was the spitting image of my VW GTI (then somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean). A few moments later, screaming down the autobahn at about 125 mph I realized that little French car had, in the words of David Hobbs, "huge appendages." Rare in the USA, one was just for sale on Bring A Trailer!

8. 1985-87 BMW M6

The Deutsche Mark rate was low in the mid-1980s, low enough for a young officer to buy a fairly nice new car. Several of my friends bought one of these. I didn't. Big mistake. There is something about the aggressive front end and the overall balance of the hood and trunk lines that, to me at least, make this one of the most beautiful road cars ever made. They are gaining value now and low mileage original versions are hard to find. Yes, sometimes I look for one.

7. Toyota FJ40 (Landcruiser)

A friend picked one of these up for a winter driver in Alaska. In Washington State I helped her with it some; replacing the full doors with vinyl half doors and the metal roof with a bikini top. A complete beast in every manner, it was glorious cruising around. On a camping trip near Mt. Rainier it took we everything threw at it. Unbreakable and unstoppable is pretty much it. These are also getting collectible now and Icon Motors will gladly build you one of their custom FJs for around $150,000. Really!

6. Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia

Ghias are fast. I'm not joking! A good friend had one in high school and college and we drove the pants off that car, flying down to San Francisco for Giants' games at 85+. The Ghia was tough too, once going through four or five Craftsman extension bars as we tried to change a wheel hub (the Sears return policy only goes so far, you have to go to different stores after the first couple of exchanges). In fact, I could get that car today as it is parked in his aunt's backyard, slowly returning to earth.

5. Chevrolet El Camino

The El Camino was probably the first muscle car I was aware of. A friend's older brother owned one and during the time I lived near them, turned it from stock to outrageous. Eventually it became a drag car that he trailered to the track. He also owned a '40 Lincoln Zephyr that slowly became a hot rod as well. They must have had money... anyway, to this day I still like the look of the El Camino, particularly in SS 396 form. The Aussies seem to like them as well. Why Chevy can't get this done is a mystery.

4. Saab 900 Turbo SPG

Near my brigade's base in Germany there was a small Saab dealership that specialized in military sales. Run by a smooth Brit, they sold Saabs hand over fist to army officers convinced it was the greatest, fastest car on the planet. Now they were fast, but my Mustang GT (next up on TCOR!) would run rings around the Swedes. Except for the SPG model. My friend Jeff ponied up for one of these special edition cars and it was just plain fast. Saab only made 7,000 US spec SPGs and they are remembered today as the pinnacle of Saab turbo performance.

3. BMW 2002 tii

If you are like me (a hopeless car nut), you probably have a list of cars you troll eBay Motors looking for. My list includes 1963-64 Buick Rivieras, early M6s, and the BMW 2002 tii. Friends have owned a few, and always regretted selling them. I have almost bought a few, though practicality (particularly in the South - that AC thing) has always stopped me. I drooled extensively over the one pictured here, listed recently on Bring A Trailer. While the price is ridiculous, it is just about perfectly modified. Luckily for me it doesn't have air conditioning.

2. E30 BMW M3

In 1988 a colonel I worked for asked me if I wanted to go with him to pick up his new BMW at the factory. The heyday of DTM racing, M3s and Mercedes 190 2.3-16s fought it out every weekend of the summer. How could I say no? Delivery in those days was cool. A white coated engineer handed him the keys after taking the car for a lap of the test track outside Munich. Of course the five hour drive back was awful. Engine break in requirements kept him from going over 4,000 RPM. Confession time: early M3s are also on my eBay troll list.

1. 1987-89 Porsche 911

To be honest, I could have made the entire list Porsches. I'm privileged to know people with some very nice ones, both early and modern. But for all of the beautiful, historic, and sinfully valuable Porsches I have met, this is the only one that I really want to own for myself. The 87-89 Carrera is the car most people think of when they think of Porsche, and for good reason. The look is iconic and this is the best of the original breed. The G50 transmission coupled to the 3.2 liter air cooled engine was probably the finest combination in Porsche history. These cars are fabulous performers, and yet very reliable. They will literally go 200-300 thousand miles if properly maintained. And they sound just right. They sound like a Porsche.

Well, that's my list, along with a few random trips down memory lane. Interesting: the number of Porsches matched the number of Saabs, Chevys, and Toyotas. I didn't see that coming when I started.

What cars of your friends would you like to have today?


  1. When we lived in Germany, our next door neighbor had a 2002 convertible. I would love one of those! I remember our neighbor letting my dad take it for a spin and getting to go with him and thinking just how awesome that car was. Red with a blue interior and you just don't see them in the US, not even on eBay.

  2. I think those were custom conversions done by Bauer. Very cool.