Hello hello, yes I’m not dead. Just having my annual year long hibernate.
Having seen some nice book cover pastiches recently, as well as enjoying greatly the book on penguin/pelican’s design history by bald catholic type-lover Phil Baines, I undertook to ‘reimaginitize™’ some well loved records as if they were published neé released in the modernist sixties on the classic grid in the fifth dimension of alternate reality Donkle.
Here are some of my faves, and there’s an ever-growing gallery of goodness here on my flickr pages.
I aim to do more. Lots more. It’s very addictive.
I’m always pondering cars. The sculpture, the coolness, how ace it would be to have one of…X.
Obviously this isn’t practical in any way and ideally I’d love to rip out the engine and replace it with something that sounds the same, performs the same but runs on the tears of Robert Smith instead of nasty old war-encouraging Petroleum.
So instead I’ve decided to keep a fantasy garage. It’s like the real thing but you don’t have buy them or get them fixed, taxed, waxed, valeted or un-bent when another idiot practices their bumper-car parking on it. I’ve had a list like this in my head ever since I first put up that Athena Lamborghini Countach poster in 1982, so for no reason other than I can, am sharing it with you.
So here—in alphabetical order—is a current list for Feb 2008. It may change but these are the cars that rule right now. Not all crazy unattainable exotics. And only one that’s actually still being built (albeit in Japan only)
[Warning: Some of these vehicles may have been Photoshopped in an attempt to enhance their lines!]
This is my ultimate supermini. You can have your Golf Mk1 - this is the real business. You might be thinking ‘Ooh but that’s a VW Polo…’ but it was an Audi 50 first before VW stripped off all the good bits and added it to their range underneath the Golf. It’s cute, it’s got great proportions and it’s basically a mini Audi 80. You have to drop it to the floor and then maybe fit an S3 quattro drive system to really get the best out of it. Mmm… chrome trim.
Audi 80 (Must be two door)
Writing this list I found I seem to have a previously unacknowledged penchant for 2 door coupé saloons. Here’s the first. Never sold in the UK the 80 looks loads cooler with less doors. Lucky Americans! We had an 80 estate when I was about 9 and it was lovely. The last cars of the 80s before the jellymould aesthetic pretty much took over.
Cute. Did I say Cute? Sadly discontinued this all-alloy beastie should have been a huge hit, but Mercedes seemed to get the jump on them with their horrible orthopedic-shoe shaped A-class and it never seemed to get the popularity it deserved. Which is a shame as they are lovely little cars. With mondo-efficient diesel engines, Kammback aerodynamics and the lightness of a cheesy-wotsit.
[See also the Pontiac Firebird Shooting Brake for a less successful attempt at Kammback aerodynamic styling]
BMW 2002 M3
Firstly - I don’t really like Bimmers. Especially not the people that drive them. I suppose this means current models. But once upon a time they were drivers cars, and rather cool. So we come to the 2002. Not the fugly saloon but the 2002 TOURING, which is just wonderful. What fun those Germans must have had when they had the idea to put a 2 litre mill into such a small car. And such nice colours too. Fast forward to now and there’s a small scene that’s quietly turning them into real monsters by shoehorning the rather scary M3 engine from it’s great-great granddaughter under the plough-like bonnet. Can anyone say ’sleeper car’?
BMW E28 M5
If you’re getting one of these it really has to be a black M5 model and able to make you look like you are part of Interpol. Older ones (E12) are more elegant but the E28 looks mean with tinted glass and spoked alloys. Last seen smashing up Jason Bourne in the second one in the franchise they are the Euro equivalent of an FBI man’s aviators. Understated cool.
Roland Barthes waxed lyrical about them. Charles De Gaul Loved them. And why not; they are sheer elegance - the most un-car-like car of its time. Oft used as ‘future cars’ in movies, because in a lot of ways they just don’t date. The estate, on the other hand is possibly the ugliest car with a tailgate ever to grace the planet. How did that happen?
1968 Dodge Charger
Nothing says badass like a 68 Charger. Ask Kurt Russell, Bo and Look Dook, Vin Diesel or the guys that try and run McQueen off the road in Bullit. The best looking muscle-car by far - the tensile strength in the fenders; the flying buttresses, the ramjet grille. I’d have one if I could only stand the embarrassment of ever being seen (and heard) in one. I heard Richard Hammond succumbed so maybe small people can pull it off?
The Mini-Ferrari. The mid engine for the common people. I loved them at the time and I still do now. The way the roof stows in the boot, the wicked black decals, the metallic green paint. If only they hadn’t all rusted away or overheated. I built one out of cardboard once. I got PVA glue everywhere and used corks for the wheels.
The sad thing about the CRX is most of them get riced up to look really stupid. They don’t need it. A nifty light little car with a fast VTEC engine - it’s a winning formula. Wedge or mid-engined Del Sol flavours are both good. I had the chance for my brother and his partner’s silver one when the little one came along but I got all sensible and didn’t take them up on it. They are incredible fun and I console myself by having one of each in the fantasy garage.
Lancia Delta Integralé HF Turbo
Rallying. Group B rallying. Before they went totally mad in the last year before it was banned, Lancia’s answer to the Quattro rocked onto the scene, and with Homologation as part of the rules there were a fair few sold to Mr Joe Public. My boss at my first ever design job in London had one (in red of course) and even though the interior was totally falling apart he always had this grin on his face when he arrived at work. If I were to have an italian exotic then this would be it.
Land-Rover 101 Forward Control
I can’t stand SUVs, Chelsea tractors and their ilk. But when you need a proper 4×4 to do something like rescue someone on a mountain or do some dastardly military deeds then for my money it’s got to be the 101. Big. Chunk. Of. Truck. Ok - so you have to measure fuel economy in gallons per mile but nothing has that form-function thing down like the Forward Control. They fit in the back of a Chinook apparently. Though you’ll never get me in a Chinook. The double scythe of death.
Old Merc coupés rock. It’s that simple really. Ideally in Black or cream but white is nice too. Reisegeschwindigkeit der Autobahn in meiner 280
You can get these on grey import right now and I’m seriously tempted. It’s a Micra underneath (they look a lot bigger than they are) and it’s no race winner but the asymmetric windows, boxyness, cuteness and Bedford CF-esque front end make me smile hugely. A white one with Littlepixel Decals would make a great Website Delivery van. For the heavy pixels you can’t FTP so easily.
If you live in London you’ve probably seen one or ten Nissan Figaros—y’know - those little pistachio-green noddy cars that look retro modern. Well the Nissan Pao came out at the same time as part of the Pike Factory special editions (along with the humorously punning ‘S-Cargo’ snail-shaped minivan). The Pao also shares the retro styling but seems to owe more to Fiat in this model so what you end up with is a fun little car with utility and van ambition. Only available in green. On a Micra chassis.
1970 Plymouth Superbird
Look at it. I mean LOOK at it. Who wouldn’t want one of those? Developed for NASCAR racing but also sold in small numbers to an unsuspecting public these cars are beasts in every sense of the word. Sadly the public found the extra few feet of nose-cone just a little too difficult to park at the mall and many dealers had to remove the noses and fit a normal Roadrunner front end just to get them off the lot. Do corners much?
We used to have one of these. It was M reg and maroon. It made me very travel sick (ask my long suffering siblings) but despite the dodgy suspension they are just so elegant. Probably the world’s first hatchback too. And if you turn it upside down it makes a pretty good sledge… Go Renault!
Renault 5 GT Turbo
Mk 2 Renault Fives have some of the nicest one-box styling ever. No clutter, great proportions. My brother and me used to dream about these as lads. Small light Super-cinq, turbo engine, big plastic skirts. Who wouldn’t?. We managed to get our dad to get an 11 turbo some small time after they came out which had the same engine and it turned him into a some-time hoon but it never quite lived up in the cool-stakes to the Five.
Only from France. Some of the ideas from the strange but wonderful Avantime got diluted and added to the Espace and Megane but here they are in purest form. Fat arse? Check. Two door coupé one-box minivan? Check. Silver Roof? Check? Crazy concept-car light clusters? Yeppo.
Last seen pretending, [along with a Citröen CS Safari with bits glued onto it] to be a Car From The Future in the movie ‘Children of Men’ I love the sheer strangeness of these cars. Pure gallic idiosyncrasy - The concept car that made it into production!
This used to be a hankering for a 900 but over time I’ve come to prefer the original before it got too long and clothed in bolt-on goodies. It’s a car built by aerospace engineers. It has a wraparound screen. It looks like a spaceship. Wrap it up I’ll take it. In silver. With anti-grav drive. Where’s my flying car?
1984 Toyota Celica Notchback
This is the car that Knight Rider should have been. Look at it! A beast. I always thought those crazy ‘pop up even though there’s space for actual lights’ headlights were a bit odd but time heals and now I love them along with it’s all-round square-edgedness. A chunk of raw Japanese muscle.
Toyota MR2 Mk1
MR2s had to be renamed in France because the name sounded like ‘Merde’. But they aren’t shit. They’re cool. Toyota saw what Fiat were doing with their X1-9 and wanted a slice so they hired some bods from Lotus and a few years later they had the MR-2. I love how it still looks modern and unique. The detailing like the square air intake, the little clear spoiler on the roof. At the time it was positively futuristic and it’s dated pretty well. Quintessentially Japanese too. I’d have one of these over some italian exotic any day of the week. See also: Fiat X1-9
It’s tough. It gets stuff done. It has a cool name. If you really want to go anywhere you can stick your Humvees and Jeeps - this is the machine to get there in. Gnarly.
Volvo 142 2-door
Now this has to be an old one before they started putting on those ridiculous bouncy bumper bars. When I was about 10 Volvo 240s seemed to be the most amazing things on the road but they aren’t. They’re seriously uncool and the proportions of the estate are all wrong. I particularly dislike the lazy way they never redesigned the rear doors for the estate so there’s this downwards curve of the top of the door that totally doesn’t fit the line of the roof. Yes - little things like that really do annoy me. I’m that sad. But the saloon is a different thing, and when it’s a two door coupe then I start to really smile. For a while in the 80s you could get this crazy Bertone styled version which had a chopped roof and opera windows, which is fun in a grossly kitsch kind of way, but the bare bones 2 door is where its at, albeit with a few modern tweaks…
Volvo 850R / V70R
These first caught my eye as the first ever Estate-bodied touring car. I love how they’re still defiantly boxy, the neat detailing where the rear parcel windows meet the passenger doors the overall broody stance of the thing. And practical too. Black out the windows, put on some big rims… The only estate it’s ok to like. A.k.a. Lovejoy’s wet-dream.
VW T25 Dopplekabin Syncro
Yes we have a VW T25 Westy camper already but a Dopplekabin is a 5 seater 4wd pickup! I’d love to drive this across the centre of iceland with gerry-cans of water and supplies in the back. Important paint note - you must paint the mudguards and lower doors black or charcoal to give it the proper stance; proper proportions. Very important that.
I did have a Mk1 GTi in the notional list for a long time but I’ve got over it. Golfs are nice but I don’t like the 3-door body - the proportions of the doors are all wrong and make it look a bit bubbly. So my eurobox VW is the Audi 50. The Scirocco Mk1, on the other hand is beautiful. Stretch a golf. Steal some more Audi styling cues (they must have been so piddled in the Audi styling office) Instant sporty hot hatch. Lovely.