"What if I could build my dream garage," I sometimes ask myself. "Any car or motorcycle could be mine. What would I choose?" Now, you might think the answer might be some supercar, like an exotic Lamborghini, but you'd be wrong. Not only because cars like that are so expensive and, at the same time, so impractical that driving them regularly would be a pain, but also, I'm not nine.
No, my desires might run to the exotic, but a slightly different kind of exotic. The little gems I'm looking for are a tiny bit skewed from the normal HyperCard that automotive people slaver over. Here, in no particular order, are the vehicles I'd choose.
Two Alfas are on the list. I had an Alfa Romeo Spyder in the mid-80s. In many ways, it was awful. The driving ergonomics were only comfortable for a gorilla, with the steering wheel placed 3 feet away from the driver, while pedals were six inches away. The gearshift stuck out horizontally from the center console. Would it start in the morning? Who knew? It added a little sense of danger to the day. It hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in slightly more than 9 seconds. It had scuttle shake and body torsion that would not be even slightly acceptable today.
But, there's something special about driving an Alfa Romeo. I dunno what it is, but that car was a hoot to drive. And the Pininfarina body design was timelessly beautiful. There's something special about the way an Alfa Romeo fells in your hand and in the seat of your pants that you just have to experience to understand. You can't help but love them.
The GTV6 is almost the perfect Alfa Romeo. By today's standards, it's not all that great on paper. The 2.5L V6 put out 158 HP, and 152 lb.-ft. of torque Weighing in at less than 2,900 lbs., though, that was enough power to push it at a speed that seemed really fast at a time when a Trans Am Firebird was only good for about 130 HP. And, it actually was objectively fast, winning a number of world rally championships in the 1980s.
And the sound that motor made. Man, that was sweet. It's one of the best-sounding motors ever produced. The chassis was also specifically designed for racing, so it was taut and responsive. The GTV6 handled like nobody's business. It has been a beloved car of Alfa fans since day one.
The Alfa Romeo SZ (Sprint Zagato) took everything about the GTV and made it better. Displacement was bumped up to 3.0L, and power was bumped up with it, to 207HP. Alfa took out the rear seats, and a bit over 100 lbs. off the weight, so it was only about 2700 lbs.
In 1989, when these were introduced, the styling was...controversial. Everyone hated it. 28 years later, however, the SZ looks sleek and modern. The design was simply too far ahead of its time. This thing looks good, and by all accounts, is true joy to drive.
They made a convertible version of it, the RZ, but I don't want that one.
What we now know as the BMW 3-Series started off as the BMW 2002. This is a driver's car in its purest form. Sure, it only had 98HP from the factory, but the light weight of just 2,300lbs helped make up for it, as did the ability to get 140HP out of it with some light modding.
The handling is unbelievable good. Near perfect 50-50 weight balance and predictable oversteer makes this thing handle like a go kart. When BMW first shipped these over to the US, they cost as much as a Cadillac Eldorado, with half the weight and twice the fun. Best of all, they were simple to maintain, and parts are still readily available. This car was a classic the minute the first one came off the assembly line.
I had one of these, and I still wish I hadn't gotten rid of it. The V4 engine was massively powerful at 170HP, though the 589lb. curb weight was perhaps a bit portlier than it needed to be. There was an odd and highly noticeable drop off in the torque curve between about 2,500 and 3,500 RPM, where it would just seem to lose all ability to accelerate, then the torque would kick back in, and the front wheel wanted to pop off the ground and wheelie you down the road.
The dual-clutch transmission made this a great commuter bike. You could shift manually with the flappy paddles, or you could put it in one of the automatic modes, and bike would shift for you with a bias for economy when driving in traffic, or a bias for shifting right at the redline in sport mode. As a daily driver, commuting back and forth to work, not having to shift in heavy street traffic made this tranny worth its weight in gold.
The heavy weight made this thing a nightmare to run on a track, but it was a really, really good street machine.
I has the 2012 model, but Honda improved the performance and engine response by changing the ECU mapping a few years later, so the 2015 model ws the apex of the VFR1200F.
A 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo 4S would be nice, but one of the old 914-6's would be even better. The current Jaguar F-Type coupe--the S-spec V6 is just about perfect--would be a hoot to drive. I've driven the original convertible version, and it was great. I can only imagine the coupe would be even better. A BMW R1200RT is a bike I'd like to have, too. I have the K1600GT, and it's nice, but there's something about the handling of the RT, and feel of that boxer motor, that makes it a joy to ride.
*sigh* I wish I could have All The Things.