Dream machine

Everybody has, at some time, a fantasy car. I don’t care if you are an ultra environmentally conscious, muesli eating, zero carbon footprint person today. At some point in your life you were a little boy who dreamt of owning a classic car. For most it would be a high performance sports or racing car, something from the Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini or Aston Martin catalogues perhaps. And yes, I do dreamt of such vehicles. As a little boy, it was as much about the sound and smell of these cars as their actual performance. Although inevitably I can remember the details of any car throughout the 1960s and recite, like a rosary, the key points: 422 big block, bored out to 436, KG5 ram supercharger, five-speed Hackett gearbox delivering 392 bhp on the road. Crabbe JT 74 shocks, Delta B28 wishbone with SideArm KL4 springs, 18 inch Zep 68 steel braced low-profile radials and a Hurst “big boy” manifold extender.

Actually, I made all of that up. I have no idea whether these things even exist but, if they didn’t, something else that was similar sounding did. Don’t forget, these were the days before Pokémon cards and so on. In my day it was cigarette cards which meant forcing one’s parents into smoking near lethal numbers of cigarettes in order to finish one’s collections with that 1949 Lamborghini. Or whatever.

I was different from most boys. And before your mind heads off tangentially, that’s not what I mean. What I do mean is that whereas Jack Colley, Rob Smiley and Kit Mollison exchanged details of high-end Ferraris, Aston Martin and Porsches, their chatter left me cold and peripheral. For me, cars were not about pace so much as grace. My godfather, a rural GP from generations of “old” money, drove a 1938 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. At weekends he would take us children around the Oxfordshire lanes in the back, along with Susie, a gigantic wolfhound. He would slide the glass courtesy screen up and smoke his pipe while he drove us around. A wonderful man, of astonishing largesse. He was, to a 10 year old boy, everything a godfather should be, discreetly handing me fivers and tenners, while holding up a conspiratorial hushing don’t-let-on-to-your-father finger to his mouth. This was in the late 60s when a fiver was an unimaginably large sum of money. Especially for a 10-year-old. Regular beatings by the bully boys in the playground swiftly taught me that the details of such received patrimony should not be disclosed especially in front of the Martin twins, brutal thugs in the Crabbe and Goyle mould, always happy to divest you of your lunch money.

So I saw cars differently. For me, the smell of oil and brake fluid was infinitely less appealing than the scent of lavender leather polish and the beeswax rubbed in to those acres of maple and burr walnut that comprised the trim of the Roller. Even at 64, I still delude myself into thinking that one day I will own, perhaps not a Rolls-Royce but a large limousine. A car that spans postcodes, a car that harks of pre-climate aware motoring. So here’s a bit of fun – if you have read this far, tell me what car you think I would most enjoy and perhaps what car you think I should drive.