Choice of vehicle

In the 3rd part of my blog series, I’ll talk about which vehicles I considered, and the reasons behind why they made it onto the shortlist.

It turns out that selecting the “correct” or “ideal” vehicle is a LOT more difficult than selecting a completely inappropriate vehicle — as I mentioned in my first post, that’s something that I’m quite good at :)

Channelling my inner Dave Gorman, I came up with a few (pretty arbitrary) criteria for my vehicle selection, along with an arbitrary scoring system that would help me to choose the perfect vehicle with the help of (questionable) science! Unfortunately, I didn’t go as far as producing any graphs.

The score is (obviously) out of 100% — a set percentage is assigned to each of my “requirements” below, eg — “fun to drive” is assigned 20% of the overall score, and is a scale of 1–10, so each point is worth 2%. Once all scores have been tallied there will be a score for each vehicle out of 100%. Exciting, eh?

So, here is how it goes…

  1. Has to be British — this trip is partly about finding out how Brexit will have affected travel around Europe for Brits, it kind of makes sense that both myself AND the vehicle should be British, and we actually make some pretty decent cars. I assigned a 15% score weighting to this, it’s a binary score — either something is British or it isn’t (there’s no “Brit-ish” — not even a BMW Mini :P)
  2. Has to be interesting/fun to drive — as I mentioned in my last post, I’m not going to be looking for the best driving roads in Europe in a people carrier. It’s got to be something that can take full advantage of those roads, and be both fun and interesting to drive. It’d be a pretty dull, boring, and painful road trip if the driving part of it wasn’t pleasant. Power:weight ratio is HUGELY important here — that determines that a car is quick off the line, and usually also means it’s going to handle well. I assigned 20% score to this, and the score is a scale of 0-10.
  3. Has to be noticeable/eye catching — another point I mentioned in the previous post was that I wanted police or border guards to be able to see me coming, and stop me if they thought they needed to. This helps to accomplish that (as well as a bit of show-boating — that never hurt anybody). I assigned 10% score to this, and again this is binary (and completely my own opinion).

The next 3 criteria are born out of the realisation that with the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles, that this is very likely the last dinosaur-juice car that I’ll buy. Because of that, I want something that’s a bit flamboyant and that I’ll want to keep — and run — even after fully electric vehicles are the norm. Not at all related to the trip — more like additional reasons why I’d want the vehicle after it.

4. Has to be affordable (to me) — I’m not planning on going into debt over this. I have a few motorcycles that I’m prepared to part company with in order to fund a car that I’ll get more use out of than the bikes that would be sold to fund it. I assigned 25% score to this — this is probably the most important factor. Again, it’s binary.

5. Should be an appreciating asset — usually, the rule for (most) things is — if it’s appreciating you buy it, if it’s depreciating you rent it. With all of the Brexit uncertainty, it actually seems like a clever move to me to swap (volatile) British pounds for something not only less volatile but is also increasing in value. Additionally, if the car is appreciating it means I don’t need to worry about buying it — I can’t lose. Worst case is that I sell it shortly after I’ve used it for this trip at no (or minimal) loss. This has 3 possible options — depreciating (0), appreciating (10) and holding value (5). I assigned 20% score to this requirement.

6. Should be a genuine supercar — everyone wants a supercar don’t they? it’d be nice to own one once in my lifetime. Get it out of my system. Another binary score — this time worth 10%.

At this point I need to take a minute to explain the difference between “supercar” and “exotic” — as most people confused the 2 terms, and think that “supercar” means “incredibly expensive”.

My interpretation of the word “supercar” is anything that can do 0–60 in less than 4 seconds, and more than 300KPH (175mph). We’ll allow a little leigh-way here as we had supercars in the 70’s and 80’s that couldn’t come close to that.

An “exotic” is an expensive sports car — that isn’t made to a specific budget, and is likely made mostly from “exotic” materials (eg, carbon fibre body rather than steel or aluminium). Ofcourse, there are plenty of supercars that are also exotics (eg, most Ferraris, most Lamborghini’s etc).

So… back in the room, if you combine my requirement for affordability and supercar together, you can see I’m not aiming for something that’s a Ferrari!

This essentially narrowed down my options to the following cars:

NOTE: the images I took from actual ebay ads (and have linked to them to drive some traffic to them in return for using their images. This also gives some idea of the cost of each)

  1. Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The Aston is a nice car, but I don’t believe many people pay them too much attention these days. Drive on the M25 for an hour and you’re bound to see 2 or 3. You’ll notice them, but they’re pretty common. As a car to own, the parts are expensive and servicing is horrendously expensive. If you don’t get it serviced it massively affects the value of the car — and I don’t even believe they’re currently an appreciating asset. Too many driver aids and relatively low power make this a pretty weak experience from the point of view of a drivers car. On the plus side, it would eat up the miles comfortably, and if I wore a tux for the entire journey, I could pretend to be James Bond.

231 BHP/tonne (380 BHP / 1,640 Kg)

V8 Vantage score card (score = 72%)

2. Lotus Evora GT430

Lotus Evora GT430

The Lotuses… let’s start with the GT430. That’s an amazing car, VERY pretty — immensely powerful (430BHP as the name suggests), and weighs only 1300Kg. This is a proper production car, so the fit and finish is as you’d expect — not “a bit kit car” like with some of the cars coming up — the Caterham, TVR, Ultima, and Noble. Unfortunately, these aren’t cheap — £115K new and prices of used ones are strong — still around £100K. Out of my budget for now, but certainly if and when more affordable, I’ll think about adding one to my collection

330 BHP/tonne (430 BHP / 1,300 Kg)

Louts Evora Score Card (score = 53%)

3. Lotus Exige V6

Louts Elise V6

The Exige — has to be the 3.5L V6 variant. It looks gorgeous, handles like a go-kart and is quick thanks to the fact that it weighs near nothing — but this is so stripped out, so basic that it doesn’t even have carpets. That means a lot of cabin noise — and a lot of cabin noise is incredibly tiresome on a long journey. That’s just one of the niggles… this is another one of those cars that’s epic and amazing if you only use it for short periods at a time, but just can’t hack it for longer periods

293 BHP/tonne (345 BHP / 1,176 Kg)

Lotus Exige V6 Score Card (score = 84%)

4. Lotus 7 / Caterham / Westfield etc

Caterham Seven 620R

I have a Westfield that I’m currently building in my garage (unlike all the other fibreglass cars, mine will have a fully ‘naked’ brushed aluminium body)— I could take that.

They’re great fun, I don’t believe any other car is so “focussed” as a drivers car. Plenty of power (insane power:weight ratio as they only weigh around 500Kg), no driver aids (or even comfort) and it goes exactly where you point it — at terrifying speed (mostly because your arse is about 3 inches from the ground and if you crash you’ll be entombed within the chassis).

However, it’s about as aerodynamic as a brick and so regardless of how much power you’re putting down you’re unlikely to see it get beyond ~120 MPH. This car is all about acceleration from 0 to road legal speeds and hooning around. Not so great for getting to where you want to hoon around, but quite possibly the best tool for hooning.

The issue here is comfort — there is none. No AirCon for hot weather, a flappy roof-type thing in rainy weather (and “half” doors if you can be bothered), teeny-tiny wipers (for a teeny-tiny windscreen)… having said all of that, this car — on the correct day — is absolutely the best car to tackle the likes of the Stelvio Pass or the Transfageragen.

Security is also an issue — the cockpit cannot be “secured”, and whilst most have either keyed ignition or immobiliser to stop someone driving it away, there’s not a lot stopping somebody taking the handbrake off and stealing it by “driving” it away with a couple of mates pushing.

I am still yet to decide on this… I spent most of my 20’s piloting decidedly unsuitable vehicles across some pretty serious terrain, so know that somehow I could make it work — I just feel that this really would be “work”. I think the Westfield is best suited to the 3 or 4 sunny summer Sundays we get each year

620 BHP/tonne (varies massively depending on engine)

Caterham Score Card (score = 76%)

5. Noble M12 / M400

Noble M12 GTO 3R

These are hardcore cars — track day cars that are road legal. It’s got 350 BHP out of the box, and weights pretty much bang on 1000Kg. It can do a genuine 3.5 sec 0–60, which beats a Pagani Zonda

With no driver aids, and no computers (beyond the ECU), it’s simple engineering so can be serviced and worked on by an enthusiastic owner and this won’t have much of an effect on the value. Prices of these have risen over the last 10 years or so — 5 or 6 years ago you could buy one for around £20K, you’ll now be looking at double that — definitely appreciating!

326 BHP/tonne (352 BHP /1,080 Kg)

Noble M12 GTO 3R Score Card (score = 98%)

6. Maserati Granturismo

Maserati Granturismo

The Maserati caused me a bit of grief. Yes, it’s not British, not even a little bit. But, it’s got 450BHP out of the box, it’s a gorgeous looking car with a flappy paddle gearbox and genuine Ferrari engine. It’s got 4 seats (2 of which are usable), boot space, it’s comfortable, has all mod-cons, eats up the miles — it is, as the name suggests, a grand tourer. It will turn heads, if not from it’s looks, when you bury your foot into the carpet and that Ferrari engine howls. Prices seem stable — neither appreciating nor depreciating… I can imagine how much fun one of these would be on the Stelvio pass. Is it a supercar? Not sure… 450BHP is pretty amazing (but it also weighs around 2000Kg), and an original price tag of ~£120K…

This is also the car of a $986ionnaire

239 BHP/tonne (450 BHP / 1,880 Kg)

Maserati Grantourismo Score Card (score = 59%)

7. McLaren MP4–12C

McLaren MP4–12C

The McLaren is pure theatre, and will turn heads wherever it goes. A genuine supercar, and not particularly common. I believe that in the short term, this could be a depreciating asset, but longer term it will hold it’s value and is a collector’s item. That is, if you can afford to keep it serviced! This really is the car that you’d have if you were Clarkson, Hammond or May. The only problem is the price — the best price I could hope to snag one for is ~£80K which is completely unaffordable for me.

412 BHP/tonne (592 BHP / 1,434 Kg)

McLaren MP4–12C Score Card (score = 65%)

8. TVR Tuscan

The TVR is an interesting car. These can be had pretty cheap (~£20K), have huge amounts of power (enough to see it do at 0–60 in ~3.8s and top speed of 180 MPH — making it a supercar in my book), weigh only 1300Kg, and a Tuscan in black just looks like the Batmobile.

TVRs have a reputation for pretty shoddy kit-car-like build quality, but as far as I know, the Tuscan is one of the better examples. Still kinda kit-car-esque, but with knobs and switches that were designed specifically for this car

TVR’s are legendarily unreliable. This is a big worry — I really don’t want to spend more of my ultimate driving holiday on the cab of a transporter than in the cockpit of a car.

I suspect that this car is an awesome weekend toy, but not something you could reliably drive hard for several thousand miles in a short period of time.

But just LOOK at it

354 BHP/tonne (390 BHP / 1,100 Kg)

TVR Tuscan Score Card (score = 88%)

9. Ultima Evo/GTR

Ultima GTR

The Ultima is the ultimate kit car, and probably the cheapest route to owning a car that’s genuinely capable of 200 MPH. Either that, or the new Alpina BMW M5.

However, it is also… expensive (whilst the one I linked to above is “cheap” for an Ultima, fully built they usually cost ~£65K or ~£90K if you source all new parts [for the newer Evo, not older GTR]). Ofcourse, there’s the argument here that I could buy the cheap one, finish building it and add a massive amount of value to it, then move it on for a profit later…

They’re also highly strung race cars… not sure what it would be like pootling around in traffic or through a village [with terrible road surface], it’s also not particularly practical.

However, weighing it at only 990Kg and with ~640 BHP, this makes fot a LOT of crazy. Like the Caterham, it seems like a car that would only be “fun” to drive a couple of times per year, when the weather was perfect and the distance travelled limited.

Having said that, the one I’ve linked to above is an absolute steal if all parts are present— and the 1UZFE engine is the way I’d build it too (plenty of power, and ~100Kg lighter than the Chevy LS motor)

And ofcourse, it has doors that open not like this —but like this or like this

646 BHP/tonne (640 BHP / 990 Kg)

Ultima GTR Score Card (score = 90%)

10. Nissan GT-R

The GT-R is ofcourse, perhaps one of the best drivers cars there is. This is going to be a collectors item, and although whilst many don’t consider it a genuine supercar, it can leave most genuine supercars in it’s rearview mirror (0–60 in 2.8 seconds!). However, this car has a serious problem. And that problem is technology. It has SO much technology that it makes driving the car like playing Playstation. It takes the enjoyment out of it, it makes it easy to go fast — there’s no reward for doing so, because any idiot can do it

305 BHP/tonne (530 BHP / 1,740 Kg)

Niussan GTR Score Card (score = 57%)

Ranking the cars in a top 10 style list, give us…

So, according to my scoring matrix the winner is the Noble M12.

However, is that the car I’ll be taking?

One of these cars is currently sitting on my driveway — you’ll have to wait until the next instalment to find out which.