Hatches to Hypers – My 10 Car Garage

Hatches to Hypers  – My 10 Car Garage

I’ve never sat and thought about this until quite recently. Many a time I’ve sat chatting with friends and family about anything with wheels, and have found myself blurting out loud “I love that car” when a particular one pops up in the conversation. Then I’d say it again. After a few times, I thought to myself “I genuinely can’t decide between any of these”. It was clear that I needed to get my 10 car garage together.

What you’ll see here is a selection of my favourite cars, all entirely different in character. Let’s get started in no particular order.

01. Classic Sports: 1990 Porsche 911 964 Turbo

964-turbo

I say no particular order, but I’ll start with this as it’s something of a dream car. This is the 911 for me. Its design is just incredible; in the era where cars were starting to square off their edges, Porsche stayed true with its bumps and curves. The rear wheel arches are a particular sight for sore eyes, and the way the headlight buttresses run all of the way back to the A-pillars is mouth watering. I could write an entire article about this car (and I may still), but I’ll try to sum this car up as best as I can. The 911 was supposed to be the car to buy. When you look at the majority of sports cars, they’ve made sacrifices in areas that render them unpractical for daily use. For example, mid-engined cars are incredibly well balanced, but you loose two rear seats. If you wanted four seats, hot hatches soared in the 80’s, but even so the majority of them were front engined, front wheel drive. But the 911 ticked all of the boxes while leaving none blank.

Lets look at a hot hatch setup; you’ll notice the engine in the front, front wheel drive, two doors and four seats. A powerful engine and extremely practical. The 911 is essentially a flipped setup. Its engine is in the boot, it’s rear wheel drive, with the boot being at the front. It now has a layout closer to a mid-engined setup, while keeping its four seats and a large boot. On paper, it’s the perfect car.

After the success of the 964, they released the Turbo in 1990. Nicknamed ‘The Widowmaker’, and with good reason. It featured a 3.3 litre flat-six turbocharged engine with an output of 315bhp. That’s 315bhp coming from behind the back wheels. If you think mid-engine cars have a tendency of producing oversteer, imagine what this is capable of. Hence the name. Even with its huge duck-tail rear wing, you needed enormous balls to drive one; mainly to keep the car weighed down. If you see one of these one the road, you may not see one again. Salute its owner for their bravery.

I’d still absolutely settle for a non-turbo Porsche 911 964 though. I drive past one every day, which thankfully is the owners daily drive.

02. Hot Hatch: 2007 Honda Civic Type-R GP FN2

civic-type-r

I looked into buying one of these just over a year ago, and you may be surprised to hear considering my love of Porsche’s. I loved my Toyota Celica T-Sport, and am also a stickler for well refined cars. The Celica lacked some refinement that I would have liked in a car, but throughout the years the car became more refined. At the time of looking for an upgrade, this seemed like the obvious choice. Both cars had four seats, 4-cylinders, front engined, Japanese, valve-lift technology, and both very practical. The FN2 Type-R is a beautifully refined machine. Just look at this interior:

civic-type-r-interior

That interior is 10 years old, yet it still looks ahead of our time. The cabin wraps around the driver, bathing the cockpit in red an white illumination, and putting the driver right in the centre of the action. It’s a gorgeous place to be. Its exterior design is still strikingly modern, and with its very forgiving MPG and incredible reliability, I was almost sold.

Unfortunately there was one thing that stopped me at the time, and no it wasn’t its rear torsion bar setup. It was its following. Apologise for any generalisation that’s going to happen, but the next time you see one of these on the road, look at the driver. I seldom see any Type-R driver older than 25, and most of them drive like idiots. It’s a shame as the few people who do enjoy these cars have been instantly branded with this unfortunate image. Nevertheless, if I did want to go back and get a hot hatch, this would be my choice of car.

03. Supercar: 2003 Porsche Carrera GT

carrera-gt

The pinnacle of the post millennium analogue supercar experience. Designed completely new from the ground up, and to feature no roof with nothing to stop you being devoured by that 5.7 litre naturally aspirated V10. A manual gearbox, an engine originally designed for racing planted into a road car, and German engineering with looks that have an almost Italian flare. I’ll say that again. Manual, atmospheric V10, convertible, Porsche. What could possibly be better than this.

It’s a beautiful machine, with timeless looks and a banshee-like engine note. The only thing I can think of that comes close in terms of sound is the Lexus LFA, but even that doesn’t scream as loud as this. If you don’t have anyone sitting around you while reading this, fire up YouTube and look for how this car sounds. Prior to this car, I had never heard such a sound come from an engine that wasn’t Formula 1. Its interior is far ahead of its time, with similarities of new era McLarens, thanks to its carbon monocoque and swooping centre console. It’s not exactly cheap. When new in 2003, this car would have dented your wallet by £300,000. Now it’s over three times the amount, with examples well in excess of £1,000,000. It’s huge carbon ceramic brakes cost £25,000 to replace and servicing it every four years will cost you over £6,000.

I’ve always believed that ‘the devil’s in the detail’, and it couldn’t be more accurate here. The gear leaver isn’t a teardrop shape as it is on other Porsches of this year; it’s a simple round birch wood gear knob that rests perfectly in the centre of your hand. The rear light clusters are purely LED, the enormous rear spoiler raises at 75mph and the car has an electronic anti-stall feature even though it’s a manual (which is enormously helpful with a clutch as heavy as this). My personal favourite point though is the colour coded single centre locking wheel nuts. Each wheel is only held in place by a single large nut, the left wheels being red and the right wheels being blue, so that you don’t mix them up. All typical German examples of form following function, but creating soul in the process. Incredible.

If there’s ever a car I could ever wish to drive, it would surely be this.

04. Classic Supercar: 1987 Ferrari F40

f40

Enter the Ferrari F40. Keeping on the subject of super cars, this needs no introduction. Pure in every aspect you could possibly think of, overly in some areas. It’s the driving equivalent of free climbing a mountain without a rope; an incredibly pure experience, but careful it doesn’t kill you.

Its interior is shamefully simple, with green sealant running across every join and panel gap. There’s nothing to it. The interior is very basic, there’s no traction control, no anti-lock brakes, no power steering, no air conditioning, no electric windows – nothing. What it does have is one of the purest driving experiences you could ever hope to have. Think of it as a full sized go-kart with a roof, and a 2.9L twin-turbo V8 bolted to your spine. It sounds ludicrous and, to no surprise, is exactly that. The initial turbo lag from those enormous twin turbos gives you the impression that the performance is tamable, making it the biggest error you could think of, as by the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, you’d be travelling well in excess of 100mph from a standstill.

This machine looks achingly gorgeous now, so imagine what it must have been like in 1987. Google ‘1987 cars’ and you’ll see what was around at this time, to help better understand the impact it had. I chose this photo above for a reason. There were many I could have placed in this article of it sitting in a studio with fluorescent tube lights covering every curve, but you needed to see what it’s like out in the public. A friend of mine’s Father has an F40, and drives it around a small sleepy Welsh town. I see it from time to time, and amongst the miners terraced houses and soaring mountains, it’s a sight to see. It’s one thing seeing this at an event, but it’s another seeing it in the real world.

05. Modern Sports: 2014 Porsche Boxster GTS

boxster-gts

Lets pull everything back to earth for now. I own a Porsche Boxster S myself as you’ve now realised from previous posts. It’s had an effect on me that I didn’t think I’d get, and that’s the love of convertibles. There’s two things about driving with the roof down that hit home with me. The first is the design of the car. With its roof down, you look at the sweeping shape of a car’s body, rather than how high or low the car is. The second thing I love – and what I love most – is how close you are to the elements. Driving gives me enormous pleasure with the freedom you can get from travelling in speeds and ways that you otherwise couldn’t. Driving without a roof only amplifies this feeling. You’re more connected to the road, to the environment and to nature itself. You could touch everything you see if it’s in arms reach, doing so with the sun shining directly on top of you. It’s perfect.

The 2014 Porsche Boxster GTS is a car that I know I’d look to buy in the future. As I’ve previously stated, I’m a stickler for a well refined car and this one is incredible for precision in build quality and engineering. The leather feels delicately soft but totally firm on the steering wheel. Its carpets are diagonally pre-brushed to contrast with the rest of the lines in the interior, and there’s something very comforting about witnessing the bright, clean suspension work behind the enormous rear wheels. It’s as if the car has nothing to hide. Its shape is no longer borrowed from its 911 bigger brother, and instead has elements purely unique to the Boxster. This no longer makes it an entry level car as it’s now in fact more expensive than its previously more expensive hardtop model, the Cayman. It’s totally justified too. This model in particular is the GTS, which is in a basic explenation a Boxster S with every performance option ticked, and then some. It’s 0-60 sprint takes just 5 seconds (the PDK being 4.1), and it’ll plough onto a top speed of 175mph.

The last reason for this to be on my 10 car garage is because of the newer 718 Boxster. It’s now a 4-cylinder and, while I’m sure it’s a far superior car, the soul is now completely absent due to its Subaru-sounding engine. This 981 is the last 6-cylinder Boxster, and it’s such a shame.

06. Long Distance: 2015 Audi RS6 Avant Performance

rs6-avant

Essentially the ultimate all-in-one car. I’ve got enormous respect for estates of modern. Not only have they been a value to society in being the pack-mule for the open road, but they’ve now shown the world that they’re the tick to everyone’s box. The evolution of estates couldn’t be more astonishing over the past 50 years, coming from wooden-framed rears right up to harnessing 10-cylinder engines with more power than Italy’s finest.

Take the RS6, for example. It has five seats and a cavernous boot – 1680 litres in fact – so there’s plenty of space for pretty much anything you could muster, and thanks to the seating arrangement there’s room for the whole family. But aside from all of this, nestled under the bonnet is a 600bhp 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 monster. That’s the same power as the almighty Ferrari 458 speciale. In a 5-seater family estate car. That sort of power once belonged to the track and the most exotic of all machines, and in a way it still is, but Audi (and others respectfully) have made this performance available for all in a practical and exciting package. Just incredible.

07. Daily Drive: 2004 Volkswagen Mk5 Golf GT TDI

golfmk5

Taming things down a bit, there’s a car that I’ve always had a soft spot for, and it’s the Mk5 Golf. Around the time of Mk5 Golf’s release was the explosion of popularity with German turbo diesel engines. Reliable, economical (MPG), quiet for a diesel, and powerful. Post millennium turbo diesel cars allowed everyday practicality with sports car performance, and it was met with huge demand.

Out of all of the cars that the turbo diesel found home, the Mk5 Golf GT TDI was the one that stuck with me. I yearned to own this car at the time of this release, but still haven’t to this day. It still looks fantastic, hugely reliable, and being mechanically minded it’s a great car in terms of sensibility in its build without overly complicated engineering. It seems to be the perfect all-round car, and for me it still is.

My favourite feature though is the interior lighting. At night, the cabin is bathed in blue and red lighting that’s incredible calming. My Father owned a 2003 Volkswagen Passat with a similar interior. The calming lighting made long journeys hugely relaxing and easy on the eyes. It made a welcoming change from the sea of orange and green back-lit dials. Other factors that make this a top 10 car would be its practicality, looks (as previously stated), eerily quiet ride and huge performance for what it was. These came well equipped, including dual climate control, heated seats, cruise control, xenon headlamps, to name a few.

Oddly I’d choose this over its petrol GTI brother. If I wanted a hot hatch, I’d get the Civic Type-R as previously explained. But if I wanted a car for every day use, give me the GT TDI any day of the week. Thankfully, my girlfriend may be looking for a new car soon. Guess what I’m going to recommend.

08. Ultimate: 2014 McLaren P1

p1

This isn’t a predictable selection, despite what it may seem, which is why it’s right down at number 8 on the list. I didn’t want this to appear as a “New shiny fast car wow it’s my favourite car ever wow it’s so cool and fast” choice, as it’s far from it. I actually couldn’t care for its speed (though it is a factor into its choice).

My reasoning for this is down to one of my passions; technology and computing. I’m quite the nerd outside of the motoring world, sitting for hours calculating the most stable overclock, altering voltages and bus speeds on processors, all the while using incense sticks to visualise air flow inside a computer case for optimum cooling. No, I didn’t make any of that up. As a technological achievement, this car is X-rated.

There’s a 30 minute video on YouTube of Chris Harris interviewing McLaren’s chief test driver Chris Goodwin. There’s no driving, there’s not a single engine started, it’s just 30 minutes of technical talking and it’s fantastic. If you’re wondering where to find this, click here to watch. The car is thriving with technological advancements that blow the most advanced machines on earth out of the water. I’ll refrain myself from explaining some of these facts.

Okay I give in. Its carbon fibre monocoque on which the interior fits into weights just 90kg. Its 3.8 litre eight cylinder engine punches out 727bhp with its twin-turbo charged setup, bolted to an electrical motor that generates 176bhp, resulting in a car with over 900bhp. It’s therefore a hybrid, but the electrics are built purely for outright performance, not economy. It’s limited to 218mph. It uses ‘torque-fill’, where the electric motor produces power where the engine dips in torque, so that there’s never a dip in power or torque, creating a vacuum effect of acceleration. If an engineer strips the car, anti-static gloves have to be worn with a medic equipped with a defibrillator on standby, as touching the engine before its calmed results in a 600V shock to the engineer. It utilises the heat dispersed from the brakes by converting it into energy, which is converted into even more power for the engine. The engine reaches temperatures of over 980C, the exhaust alone reaching 900C. In track mode, there is a hydraulic event, lowering the car by 50mm and stiffening the suspension to up to 300%, capable of producing 2G while cornering and rendering the car illegal for public road use while active. Its brake discs alone are bigger than the wheels of a Ford Fiesta, and are made of carbon-ceramic material, which is one of the hardest materials on earth. They also cost over £30,000 to replace.

If the car had looks that only a mother could love, I’d still love this car.

09. Born for the Track: 2016 Caterham Seven 620S

seven-620s

I can understand why you’d chose a certain track car. I would never understand why anyone wouldn’t consider a Seven. This is arguably the most pure driving experience you could ever hope to get – even more than the almighty Ferrari F40.

Rear wheel drive, no roof, seating position directly over the rear axle, front engined and a proven recipe. The car’s fundimental looks haven’t changed in decades, because they work. It’s effective and built for one purpose: handling. The car doesn’t strive for its looks or practicality, and makes no apologies for it. Caterhams have always been small-engined, due to their incredibly light weight. This one decides to throw away all reason, harnessing a 310bhp 2.0 supercharged engine underneath. In this car, it’s the equivalent to strapping the SSC Bloodhound to a coffee machine.

Because this car weighs just 610kg.

Let me put that into perspective for you. The McLaren P1 above weighs 1360kg and is praised for its light weight design. This is under half of the weight. You couldn’t get a more intoxicating track experience if you tried. The closest you could get would be to physically run your hand over the tarmac yourself. It’s an instant classic then, built on a proven recipe. I hope it never changes.

10. Built for the Track: 1990 Mazda MX-5 Eunos

mx-5-na

I envy anyone who has one of these. You may look at this car and think “It’s just an old convertible”, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Well, you’re right, it’s an old convertible, but it’s an icon amongst motoring enthusiasts. Mazda showed the world that cars can be cheap, reliable and fun with the MX-5. It’s rear wheel drive, two-seater layout with incredible reliability gave a breath of fresh air into the automotive market, and attracted millions of sales, along with an explosion of inspiration from other manufacturers. Even so, the MX-5 stood strong making it a strong choice. It still is. Look at the Caterham Seven above. It has two seats, no roof, front engined, rear wheel driven, and is very light. These five features are also present in the MX-5.

I’ll explain some of my personal plans for one of these. The beauty of the MX-5 is that it brings track-based fun to the road. This car is one I’m itching to purchase within the next year or two, purely to strip out and turn into a track car. It’ll be reliable, cheap to run, parts are available everywhere and it’ll be a perfect introduction to frequent track days thanks to its rear wheel drive and light weight setup.
I’ve already researched this car for months. The plans would be to strip the interior, strip any unused accessories (air con, etc) for weight reduction, fit wider wheels, bolt arches to the bodywork to support the wheels (for legality purposes), stiffer suspension, sticky tyres, improved brakes, 6-point harnesses, a roll cage, Momo steering wheel and racing seats. It sounds like a lot for a cheap 90’s car, but this would turn this car into the perfect track companion.

Sounds expensive? Think again. You can pick up a Mk1 MX-5 for as little as £1,000. This isn’t due to the fact that the car isn’t good, it’s down to the fact that it isn’t a rare car. It’s hugely popular (and for good reason), which has driven prices to the floor. It has a cult following, resulting in people turning these into museum masterpieces, weekend warriors and track beasts. I can’t wait to get started.

I drove one of these after I bought the Porsche, and was a wash of confusion and emotion. If I drove one of these before I bought my car, it would have been a very difficult choice indeed. Though it’s only a 1.8 with its straight line speed not being a strong point, its handling and precision blew me away. If I drove my car over the Brecon Beacons and drove this car back, I’d probably have more fun in this. If I told you that I was at one point tempted to sell the Porsche for one of these, I can tell you that I was very serious indeed. 

Hopefully this year, the MX-5 will start as a cheap, reliable track car. At present, there will be a cheap track car and an expensive road car at my home. In the future however, the tables may turn. All thanks to a 27 year old Mazda.

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So there we have it. My perfect 10 car garage, documented for all to see. If you’ve made it this far, thank you; you can now put milk on that tea you’ve been brewing, that’s probably tar by now.

Improving the Impeccable

Improving the Impeccable

There’s a sense of mixed opinion when it comes to straying from the original specification of a car. The car modding scene is no secret amongst anyone who owns a set of keys, and whilst its community thrives with passion, naturally there are those who disapprove. Understandable in ways, and slightly oblivious in others.

Contrary to popular belief, the value of the car isn’t always a factor here, but admittedly is often found to be a leading one. The less valuable the car, the more pointless modifications seem. The more valuable the car, the higher the risk of depreciating its value. Where is the line drawn? When you sit and think, does it hold merit?

I’ll give you an example. I have a friend with an old Mk2 Ph1 Renault Clio that cost him less than £500 five years a ago; this couldn’t possibly warrant spending £500 worth of alloy wheels for it, surely? Now head over to Piston Heads’ Readers Section, and you’ll currently notice a thread featuring a beautiful Ferrari F430, who’s owner has decided to strip it to pieces, replacing as many parts as he can with lighter, stronger variants, transforming his Italian super car into a unique piece of exotica. The exhaust system is even being rebuilt from scratch. Now lets go back to the argument. Are both of these owners verging on irresponsible? The Clio being too cheap, and the Ferrari too valuable? Or are they simply suiting them more to their needs and/or personality, disregarding its value.

I ask again; where is the line drawn. In the Renault’s case, spending the same value as the car on a set of wheels for it would be a waste of money to some, and that’s fine if the car was purchased for nothing other than to perform its basic duties. Form following function, if you will. But I can personally say that this particular car has a reputation for being reliable, fun to drive and full of character, and whilst its value to the masses is that of a piece of IKEA furniture, it’s value has little meaning to its owner. It was bought to be driven, and when you place sentimental value over money, then there’s no line to be drawn anywhere. The next time you see a fifteen year old hatchback with immaculately polished BBS split rims, I can guarantee you that they’re not concerned over its value.

But then we look at the fore mentioned prancing horse, which leads me neatly onto my next point…

“The manufacturer knows best”. In short, yes, they absolutely do. This comes to no surprise. Ferrari would have spent millions in R&D, and countless hours in the production of a car that would represent them as well as the pinnacle in automotive engineering. They are the ones that built the car from nothing but graphite markings on paper. I had a mechanic tell me once that I shouldn’t upgrade the suspension in my car, as “the manufacturer knows best”. There’s one element he also failed to acknowledge; the manufacturer has to accommodate for its entire range of customers. Personally, I’d happily sacrifice ride comfort for sharper turn in. The person who may buy my car from me in years to come may want a smoother ride. Ferrari, for example, cannot build each car specifically for each customer, which is the result for many a modification. Not as a statement on how the owner knows better than the manufacturer, but as a reminder that the owner knows themselves better. Everyone is unique.

Magnus Walker, somewhat of an icon in the Porsche scene, has an original 964 that has been heavily modified in many ways. I say ‘original’, purely due to the fact that it started life as one. I won’t go into details, but the fact it has an engine from a 993, and louvred rear quarter windows, gives you some clue. Comments ranged from showing emotions of awe and inspiration, all the way to displeasure and rage. “Why would you ruin something like this,” I remember one comment stating. If the person behind the comment knew much about Magnus, he’d see that this individual is an enormous Porsche collector, and this is but one of his possessions. He’s built the car around himself, and personally I’d much rather see this than to see an original 964 wrapped in cotton wool, never driven unless it’s postcard-like weather outside. Don’t get me started on that again.

Be it an inexpensive French hatch, or an Italian thoroughbred, be it £500 or £500,000, when it comes to implementing character through modification, a car is purely a reflection of its owner, and I have nothing but respect for it.

My Story in a Nutshell

My Story in a Nutshell

“You’ll have to see his car, he’s got something called an MR2”. My Dad’s words, when we were on our way to pick up our new puppy from a friend of his. I was about 10 years old at the time, with very limited knowledge about cars, but like every other 10 year old, wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see someone’s shiny new sports car. If you’ve ever met a celebrity from one of your favourite titles, that’s the feeling I had that day. The celebrity being the MR2 in question, and the title being the Playstation hit Gran Turismo.

That’s the earliest point that I can remember being interested in cars in general. On the same note, Gran Turismo started out as an interest purely as a new game that my Dad brought home for us to play. This started from playing a driving game, to realising the vast diversity and culture that there was in the motoring world. It was the next few years that started to shape my love of cars into what would become a life long passion.

Owning my first car gave me a colossal sense of freedom, and was my first step into a world that I felt like I had been familiar with for years. I’ve owned a few £500 runabout cars that got me through University and taught me an enormous amount about car mechanics. This helped to keep costs down with owning a car at the age of 18, and resulted in developing a close bond with them. It’s surprising how attached you can get to a £500 pile of metal on wheels, but character can come in all shapes and sizes, no matter how many times it tries to kill you on the M4.

I won’t go into my complete car history as a majority of it contains cars that I had to buy, rather than wanted to buy. However, the first car that I wanted and bought for a budget was a 2000MY Toyota Celica VVT-i, in black. ‘W477 UVV’. There’s a ‘kid at Christmas’ feeling that I strongly remember when paying for the car, constantly looking back at it ticking itself cool at the side of the road after the drive home.

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This car was by no means fast, with a 0-60 time of just 8.7 seconds from an engine borrowed from a Corolla, but it was a sharp handling car with an almost perfect driving position. It wasn’t perfect; I eventually put as much oil in the engine as I did fuel in the tank, and the brakes felt like stepping on a soggy chip, but it was a step in the right direction at least.

Even after the inevitable bottom end knock from burning so much oil that it ran dry, its impact on me naturally led onto purchasing the newer, more powerful 2003MY 190bhp T-Sport Celica in Lagoon Blue. ‘YD53 SBZ’. A very understated car, though obvious when you delve deep into the reasoning for this. The suspension was enormously high (my photographs below actually show it lowered more than 30mm, and that looks normal), brakes were small and awfully spongy, and the styling was identical to the previous 140bhp model. There was nothing that differentiated the two. Look at the design difference between a Civic and its Civic Type-R variant; there are glaringly obvious style differences, but there were none on the 7th generation Celica. But with big plans in mind, this was a car that I would treasure for a number of years, modifying subtly to create a car that kept with modern rivals in terms of performance and looks. A stiffer suspension setup, huge 4-pot fixed caliper brakes, and minor modifications with the engine to name a few.

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But the car remained relatively standard looking, albeit with the optional extra parts Toyota offered for a more sportier trim and a re-trimmed interior, to make it stand out from the fore-mentioned earlier models. I bought the car for £2,000, willingly spent a further £5,000 on it within two and a half years of ownership modifying it into the car I wanted, sold it for half that, and have absolutely no regrets over any of it. I sold the car with 144,000 on the clock and, thanks to my father-in-law purchasing it from me, I still see it often. I’m still very much attached to it.

Then, back in November 2015, I purchased my first Porsche. Which leads us up to now.

Quite a few years ago, my brother-in-law owned a Porsche 911 996 Carrera 4. The luxury and build quality was staggering, considering this was a performance based car. The interior and dash board was a plethora of plush leather, sweeping curves and premium feeling carpet that reached even the doors. The ride was smooth, giving a suspended-in-the-bath feeling on the motorway, and for someone who drove a Citroen Saxo 1.0 at the time, the acceleration felt roller coaster-like, pushing my stomach back and turning me into a giggling mess. But this car still had four seats and a decent boot. From then on I’ve wanted to own a Porsche. Owning one at the time was as likely as me kissing Zooey Deschanel, so I had to wait a few years to go shopping (for the car, not Zooey). After months of research into every possible option and model, a Porsche Boxster 986 in its 3.2 litre ‘S’ trim looked to be a more appealing concept. I had been hunting for a mid-engined two-seater sports car for some time and, with the Boxster sharing much of its DNA with its bigger brother – the 996 – it seemed like the perfect choice.

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After concluding that I wanted to step into the mid-engined crowd, it came down to a choice between a Lotus Elise S1, or a Porsche Boxster S. Endless nights with coffee were spent on forums and reviews, trying to figure out which one I’d prefer. The Lotus seemed to be a great choice – relatively easy to work on, an uncomplicated 4-pot NA engine, simplistic build and sublime handling. But this would be my daily car, and frequent motorway journeys in a car with no carpets and wind up windows could be a bad idea. So I went for the Porsche.

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Technically, you can pick up a Boxster for around £4,000, but it’s not a wise thing to do. It’s startling to see the differences in the Boxster 986 range. The original 2.5 wasn’t a great car, relative to its successors shortly after. It wasn’t recommended that wheels bigger than 17″ were fitted due to stress on the chassis, the engine wasn’t particularly fast for a 2.5 (considering my previous 1.8 four-cylinder Toyota had very similar performance figures), and the build quality seemed to suffer quite badly in areas as well. The 2.7 became the new ‘base’ Boxster, replacing the 2.5 model, with the 3.2 becoming the ‘S’ trim. But what I sought after was a face-lift model (2003MY onwards). These came with many important features and changes, such as a heated glass rear window rather than perspex, a glove box (yes, the car originally had no glove box), a better designed roof, newer bumpers, newer light clusters, tweaked engine with higher power outputs, and much more. I bought the second car that I viewed. My Father has been with me to collect every car that I’ve bought, so he offered to drive me to collect this one. What I didn’t tell him was that it was 4.5 hours away. Still. the drive paid off, and the ride home was one of the most memorable drives I’ve had.

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My particular car (DC03 YBN) is a 2003 Porsche Boxster S in black. The car originally came in a surprisingly basic spec. This was the one disappointing thing about it. It came with 17″ wheels, no parking sensors, no heated seats, no carpets, no trip computer, no AUX, no dimming mirror, no heated mirrors, nothing. The person who bought the car from new decided they would rather a Porsche with no optional extras. Come on, who does that? But there were two things that sold the car to me. The first being the full main dealer Porsche service history and incredibly clean MOT’s, and secondly because of the vision I had for the car. If you knew what I had done with my previous car, and the amount of time I spent under it, you’d know that purchasing a car that had everything done for me would have bored me to tears.

There’s been a few changes since purchasing it. I’ve installed a few of the original optional extras including courtesy foot well lights, ambient night foot well lights, parking sensors, 18″ Boxster S wheels, alcantara GT3 styled interior, coloured centre caps, sports exhaust, an automatic roof, daytime running lights, and bi-xenon headlights. There’s a few more things to do, such as the original cruise control and heated seats, but so far I’ve added a fair amount of value to the car whilst spending very little doing so.

08

Cosmetic car condition is something I’m passionate about. I’ve detailed quite a number of cars in the past and run a side business doing so in the summer. The paint work on this car is immaculate, considering the work that has now been put into it. A ‘quick’ wash for me takes just over an hour, three buckets, two grit guards, two detailing brushes, two wash mitts, two drying towels, and a very patient girlfriend. Still, it results in a 13 year old car that outshines many cars that have just rolled out of the factory. It really does turn heads.

There’s a few things I particularly love about the car. The view from the cabin of the wings, with the way they protrude towards the headlights is a great sight to have from the drivers seat, and the feeling of rear-wheel launches in this thing is more addictive than pringles. But the main aspect I love about the car is the pure refinement. With the roof up, the car is quieter than my previous coupe. With the roof down, the sound of that flat-six is intoxicating. A few Porsche owners had told me: “In your first year of owning a Porsche, prepare to spend around £1,000”. This hasn’t been the case at all. An exhaust gasket became a bit loose that I fixed for £30, and a window regulator snapped (they snap in most cars over time), which cost me £80 to fix myself. Aside from that, the only things I’ve had to spend money on (emphasis on ‘had’), is fuel and insurance. It’s been flawless. It flew through its last MOT with no advisories, and being mechanically minded I tend to keep on top of everything the moment it needs attention. That does include driving the car the way it’s meant to be driven, exploring the rev range from time to time to ensure the engine gets used properly. I tend to use that excuse quite a lot with the girlfriend.

09

I’ve been quite lucky to live next to some incredible roads. The Brecon Beacons are a common area for me to visit as it’s a stone throw away from where my folks live. The roads here flow and wind across the landscape whilst giving you a view that you want to save from your memory with every corner you take, and though this car lives for the twisties, city centres and towns are a common place for me to drive in. Hear me out on this. It sounds a bit bizarre, but I adore that a car of this nature can perform every day tasks with ease, and that it’s not being kept under cotton wool in someone’s garage – it’s being driven everywhere, in all conditions, every single day. Makes me proud.

10

I’m a Visual Effects artist and University lecturer, so I tend to be more visual than anything. This creative side mixed with the petrol head side results in being incredibly particular to do with my car. I naturally look at it as a project, in the same way that I look at a visual design project. To me, they’re both processes of design thought, trail and error, resulting in a piece that I’m eventually happy with. Though I don’t think I’ll ever finish this project.

It’s one that will prove to have many ups and downs, but will no doubt end in something that puts a smile on my face.

Road Kings to Garage Queens

Road Kings to Garage Queens

Photo credit: Pexels

Rolled off the production line, its keys are handed to the new lucky owner. The drive home is exciting; people are turning heads. Arriving at its new home, rolled into a spacious heated garage with padded floors and endless lines of polished tools surrounding it. The ignition is turned off, garage doors rolled to a thud, and that’s where it will stay for the rest of its life.

Of course, I’m talking about what many have come to do with a new purchase of their special car. An extraordinary percentage of high performance cars will never be used by their owners. Kept under wraps from the protection of the outside world, and it’s a crying shame. There’s several reasons, though. With any precious, rare or valuable item, there are collectors. I feel it’s almost criminal to ‘collect’ something like this to turn into essentially a six-figure ornament. How could the owner tell anyone of ‘owning’ the car, when it doesn’t perform any duties of one? It may as well be a work of art, and as poetic as that sounds, it’s a sobering and sad thought.

Enormous amounts of time and money are spent on research and development by some of the biggest (and respectfully the smallest) names to try and make cars the best they can be in every area, when the reality is that a vast number of them will be kept with delivery miles on the clock for the rest of their lonely lives, purely to appreciate in value. An investment. Alright, I see the point in that. A new iconic car that has potential to become a classic in years to come could be of some value with little miles on the clock, but to me this is flawed by two points. The first is that it’s designed and meticulously built to be driven. That’s the whole point of a car, especially ones of this calibre. The second point is this; if you’re in a good financial position to walk into a showroom to buy this class of car in the first place, why on earth do you want even more money from it? Granted, it’ll appreciate more with less miles on the clock, but how much more could that matter to the buyer of a car that has six figures? Enough to warrant keeping a brand new McLaren P1 under wraps for the rest of its life? Surely, you can’t be considered a motoring enthusiast if this is your desire. You’re destroying the purpose of the car for an outcome that, relative to the buyer’s bank account, results in marginal profit on it making little difference than if he had driven and enjoyed it.

It’s totally unacceptable.

The second reason why people turn their beloved new purchases into Garage Queens is to protect them for as long as possible. What’s wrong with that, you say? I’m not talking about people who keep them overnight in a garage. I’m talking about people who save them for the odd weekend in the summer, after considering an endless list of proviso’s. Is it warm? Is it dry outside? Is there less then 10% humidity in the air? Is it a Sunday?

Is it made of sugar glass? No. There’s a reason for the price tag on these cars, and build quality is one of them. Most people don’t realise that they’re inadvertently doing damage to the car. Not cosmetically, of course. I’m sure the paintwork will look 1% glossier than most, and I’m sure they’re proud of it. But mechanically speaking, cars need to be driven. Porsche encourage that their cars should be driven hard from time to time, and with good reason. Engine parts need to get lubricated, bushes need to be flexed and used to ensure problem free motoring. Can you see the argument?

You’ll have to excuse me getting a little boring here with technical bits. Feel free to skip this paragraph. Let’s take a Carrera 996 as an example. These cars suffer from a premature failure in the intermediate shaft bearing (IMS). In simple terms, the part that helps keep the crank shaft in position breaks. There’s been many infamous recorded failures of these bearings, destroying the engine in seconds. Two main causes for this; the first is that admittedly Porsche could have designed this better to keep it more lubricated than it was. A hard lesson learnt, and a problem rectified on later models. The second and most important though, is lack of use. When the bearing’s rubber seal doesn’t get lubricated (used) enough, it gets brittle, starts to crack, leaks all of its grease, heats up and then bursts. I’ve known someone who had a failure on an engine that had just 40,000 miles on the clock. I’ve also known another who had 350,000 on theirs, still going strong, and he didn’t even know what an IMS bearing was.

Guess which one was driven daily.

This is just one example but it proves a point. A previous car of mine was a Toyota Celica T-Sport. Its atmospheric engine had a redline of 8,250rpm (high for a  1800cc four-pot), and that was explored as often as I could. Even so, it had covered over 144,000 miles, never had an issue, didn’t burn a drop of oil and never failed an MOT since new. This could be due to the Japanese inadvertently creating an indestructible car, though. They’ve been known to do that.

I once looked at an original 80’s Porsche 964 Turbo S Leichtbau up close in a Porsche dealership. This car was valued at almost a million pounds because of its rarity. “Four hundred miles it has on the clock – delivery miles only”, the Porsche salesman said while still looking at the car, expecting my mind to be blown with this fact. In a way it was, but out of total sadness. It had only delivery miles on the clock. This car never had a chance to prove itself, and due to its age and now value, it never will. How can anyone feel good about that?

I’ve clearly explained the point a little too much, and apologies for blabbering on, and for those who will now wake up with the shape of a keyboard imprinted onto their forehead, but it’s something that I feel strongly about. To me, less miles isn’t better. If you’re one of these previously explained garage-queen owners, do yourself a favour; get your keys and get some mud on that paintwork. Enjoy it.

That fore-mentioned Porsche 964 sold for over £800,000 a few weeks after. I’m sure its new owner will be very pleased about his new ornament. Agreed, it’s now a piece of automotive history and its heart will never break, but it will never beat.

Friend Among Foe

Friend Among Foe

Photo credit: www.automobilesdeluxe.tv

The automotive world is a strange one when it comes to communities and socialising.

You set off in your beloved car, enjoying the roads and scenery that comes with, when you notice something else among a sea of bland hybrid eco boxes. It’s another car that’s quite similar in character to your own, and just as unique. You’re heading the same way, you’re on separate lanes, and it’s at this moment you realise what you have now inadvertently become. Rivals.

There’s a hint of competition that arises as you see the driver flicking back and fourth of his wing mirrors at you, and for some reason, perhaps instinctively, you’re trying to get ahead while he’s trying to achieve the same goal. After it’s settled and the atmosphere calms though, you’re still trying to pick fault in them or how your car is somehow better. I’m sure I speak for a lot of you, including myself. But why is this?

Instinct? Natural competition? Maybe to boast your pride and joy? I can’t help to think that if someone picked up a guitar in a guitar shop, and noticed another player across the room, they wouldn’t start playing thrash metal to be ‘better’, or start boasting a new iPhone compared to someone’s older Android. But for some reason we see the need to prove ourselves better when it comes to our cars.

The way our attitude surrounds the car scene creates a lot of rivalry, some unhealthy. But there’s a reason why you’re both sitting in a car that stands out of the crowd, and how you’ve registered each other. You’re both petrol heads, and lovers of cars. So the next time you see someone in this scenario, here’s what to do – smile and acknowledge their car.

For instance, not too long ago I was in the same situation as I described above, and found myself next to a Mk7 Fiesta ST. Hot hatches a tendency to nip at the feet of super cars – especially small capacity turbo charged engines – and are becoming incredibly quick. I have a 3.2 naturally aspirated flat-6 in my car, and was shocked to see how well one of these ST’s put up a fight. After the scene calmed down a little, I could have done what most other people would have done; gloat, brag, drive off and that would be that. But instead, I pulled up along side him and while smiling, gestured towards him to wind down his window.

“That’s a serious bit of kit there,” I shouted over.

“Cheers mate, it’s surprising! Not had it long”.

As the conversation grew and grew, we decided to pull over and have a chat. If you read the first post I’ve ever made on this blog, you’ll realise why I could have talked for hours with this kind of person. And there we have it. The scenario had gone from a potential bragging story, to instead making a new friend. I do this ever time I’m in the for-mentioned scenario, and every time I end up meeting someone new. Think of it when you’re in the same boat with another car. They’re thinking exactly what you are, and when people who share a passion for cars come together with a positive attitude, it’s one of the strongest types of communities you can get.

To me, this becomes a far better story to tell.

Road Trip

Road Trip

Photo credit: www.automobilesdeluxe.tv

Taking a holiday with someone gives you the chance to know a lot more about them, and generally feel closer with them. Be it a relative, friend or partner, you’ll come back with a new sense of respect and a fresh view on who they are. Unless they snore in their sleep, or leave their toenail clippings in the sink. It’s the same with a beloved car. Spending time with it on a long drive gives you the chance to get to know it better. Discovering new qualities that it has – good or bad.

Truth is, I’ve never been on a road trip with a car that I’ve owned. I’ve wanted to many a time, but never had the time. Now that I’m at a stage in my life that I can afford the time and money to do just that, it’s been on my mind a quite a lot lately. Either up to Scotland, or over to Belgium, somewhere that the car can stretch its legs and I can get to know it better. To go and discover new locations with it, and see what the car’s capable of in terms of endurance as well as performance and comfort. See sights, meet new people, and to realise that the car was the single thing that made it all happen. To travel 1000 or so miles and to come back knowing it did it, and that it could do it again if it had to. That feeling of pride must be fantastic.

A friend of mine has just come back from a road trip to Belgium in his late 80’s 6-speed Corvette C4, photographed above. A fine car; a short 20 minute passenger ride gave me the immediate impression that it had more power than god, and that’s probably not too far from the truth. Normally it wouldn’t have been my choice of car for the trip, but looking at the photographs and what was achieved between the owner and the car, it couldn’t have been a better choice.

All this has done is help bring back my old plans and google map doodles from my archives for a trip. Then I can start planning, and more importantly, start getting to know the car more.

Hopefully it won’t snore.

Fixing it.

Fixing it.

That photo is of the hand made wiring loom for the convertible button on my car. Seems completely ridiculous, doesn’t it? It probably is, but I don’t care. I spent a few hours on a Sunday covered in copper wire cuttings and electricians tape, just to make a small change to the roof mechanism. A hand full of voltage regulators, transistors, and a few hours later had resulted in the roof mechanism now being one-touch, rather than press and hold. Yup, that’s all it did. That plethora of contorting wires just makes the roof operate on its own, rather than me holding the button for a few seconds.

At this point you might think I’m insane, but the truth is that I simply love making and fixing things. It’s why I love my job, being creative with digital art. It’s also why I love computing, building and fixing them. It’s also why I love working on my car, and how I’ve come to learn a lot about mechanics at home. There’s always been a strong interest into finding out how things work since a young age, and it started with computing. Actually, it probably started with Lego.

The mechanics side of it started while I was about 16. My Dad took his car to a friends house to get its brakes changed, as he was a part time mechanic. As he prepared to take the caliper off the wheel hub, I remember the moment he took a hammer to the caliper to get it off. This blew my mind at the time – how on earth do you get to the stage where you know exactly what you’re doing, enough to take a hammer to something knowing it’ll be absolutely fine? “Where did you learn to do this? Did you take a course?” I asked. “Nope, self taught”, he replied. After watching how confident you could be at something as relatively complex as vehicle mechanics by teaching it yourself, I didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t do it either. So after that, I tried to do as much as I could myself.

I got a lot wrong, but that’s the beauty of it. You get to see what happens when you do get it wrong. But more importantly, you get to see what happens when you get it right.

And that’s the feeling I have when I now press my convertible button, and watch the roof open on its own. Shortly before realising it’s still raining.