NZ Classic Driver
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Having spent almost half a lifetime writing about classic cars, along the way I must’ve driven hundreds of different cars – everything from brand spanking new Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and Aston Martins to everyday classics such as the 105E Anglia, Vauxhall Viva and Morris Minor. Then, of course, there’s been a whole flotilla of sports, performance and racing cars, classics wearing Ferrari’s famous prancing horse or Ford’s equally famous blue oval; the Drinkrow brothers’ amazingly rapid ’63 Ford Galaxie, not to mention more modern classics such as loud and rude TVRs or Jaguar’s ferociously rowdy F-Type R. However, above all of these, a handful of cars stand out.
Although I wouldn’t classify myself as a Porsche person, I’ll readily admit to a great fondness for the 356, especially in Speedster form. I was lucky enough to spend a week with Neil Tolich’s Speedster in 1998 – if everyone I met during that week hadn’t asked me if the car was a replica, I might’ve been tempted to pick it as my favourite classic car!
Elsewhere in this feature, Gordon Campbell and Peter Hill beat me to the punch with two of my other favourites – the delectable Dino 246GT and the iconic Lotus Elan. I can recall a happy afternoon of lappery at Taupo racetrack with a brace of Elans and, at the time, a brand new Elise. And it would be hard to forget the day I spent driving Peter Sundberg’s sensational giallo fly 246GT; I loved the way the Weber’s spat and popped atop the Dino’s V6, and the sound from the exhaust as the engine climbed up the rev range was intoxicating. Sticking with classic Italians, there was the time when I found myself playing catch-up on the road with the late Gavin Hicks – he was driving my road-test Maserati 3200GT while I was at the wheel of his lovely ’69 Ghibli. Trying to catch up with nimbler, more modern 3200GT really had me sweating in the older Maser but I enjoyed every kilometre of the chase.
Another memorable day was the one spent in Wellington at the wheel of a fully restored 1955 Austin-Healey 100S. Many years before that drive in the 100S, I had sat down with Ross Jensen and talked about his racing exploits at the wheel of a 100S, and driving this very special car gave my a tiny insight into what Ross must have experienced racing one of those rare Healeys.
For a major adrenaline boost there’s little to match a day at the races, although sometimes road tests deliver similar thrills. One perfect example of this was the time I took out an Ariel Atom alongside Neil Fraser’s personal Fraser – BRRRRM – with my friend and colleague Tim Nevinson in the Fraser (mainly because I didn’t fit into the Fraser with its expansive roll-cage). That was such a memorable occasion that Personalised Plates purchased one of the subsequent images for an advertisement.
Anyway, time to stop waffling and pick my favourite classic.
Well, of course, it has to be a Lotus. And while I’ve driven an awful lot of Mr Chapman’s creations – from an early S1 Seven to the Evora (an Emira is on my must-drive list) – two examples really stand out. The first being the Esprit. While I’ve always lusted after an Esprit Turbo with its sharp, origami-like styling, I have to admit to a real soft spot for the more curvaceous Esprit V8. The second car is that wonderfully light-weight marvel, the Elise. I drove the very first Elise to arrive here back in the ’90s and was lucky enough to road-test many more examples before finally buying a black Elise in 2005 from Roger Phillips, who was at that time the owner of Lotus Cars NZ. I still have that car and while it doesn’t get driven as much as it should, every time I take it out onto the road I get goosebumps. The current Elise will be the last car with that name to be built by Lotus, so genuine classic status is assured.
One day I may be too old and feeble to get in and out of the Elise but until that day, it’s my favourite classic car.
Enough from me – let’s hear from the rest of the team…