As is traditional after Christmas Day, we get reflective. So much time. So few cars.
About five years ago, before my memory began to fail me too much, I started a list of vehicles I had driven. By vehicles I meant cars, vans and motorcycles. I didn’t count more than one of any identifiable model (for instance I have driven dozens of Cortinas alone), though I used some discretion with vehicles that were substantially different by having, say, a smooth V6 instead of a wheezy inline 4. Since then, with various acquisitions and hire cars, I have now totalled 106 vehicles.
Breaking down the statistics there are 13 Germans, 16 Italians, 40 British (a bit of a technicality since that includes 21 Fords and Vauxhalls), 27 French, 3 American, 5 Japanese and 2 Korean. Of these, I’ve judged only 37 distinctive, 4 being motorcycles, in that they gave me an experience, good or bad, that I hadn’t had elsewhere, though in fact looking at the list, I can actually recollect what each one was like in some way or another. Only 30 of them were vehicles I had an ongoing access to, being either owned by me or someone I knew – the rest were hired, borrowed for a short time or test driven. It is possible that I have omitted one or two vehicles that were uniquely unmemorable, but I’m not so sure. It’s amazing how retentive my memory can be when it wants to and how evocative mention of each of these cars is.
Aside from my own Citroen SM, the most exotic car I drove was a Jensen FF. The worst car was possibly the Vauxhall Viva I learnt to drive on. The most surprisingly competent was a Peugeot 504 Estate. The cars I’d most like to drive again are a Jaguar 420G (Mark 10), a Citroen GS, a Hillman Imp, an MG Midget and a Fiat 124 (this last being the first vehicle that I ventured onto the open road in, unaccompanied). Note, I said drive again because, having driven them decades ago I wonder what they are like now. Except for, maybe, the GS I doubt I’d actually want to own any of them.
Even then, I still regard it as a major disappointment for someone who has been obsessed with cars for so long that, in over 45 years of legal driving, I’ve only just reached three figures.
I wish I’d bought more cars, but I have an unfortunate loyalty to any heap of metal I purchase and some of them have stayed with me far longer than they should. I know people who will hire cars that interest them, who will take cars they have no intention of buying for test drives, who will go to track days and sample exotica, hassle their friends, etc, etc. Some puritanical streak in me prevents me from doing this, so all those many questions I’d like to know the answer to (such as how easy is it to lose a 911) I will never be able to answer. My only consolation is that, of my modest list, the car I’d put at the top I do actually own. That would have to be the Nissan Cube, wouldn’t it?