Fantasy garage?

Nissan Laurel – image : carsbase.

We all have a theoretical garage of, say, ten cars. What are readers’ criteria for such a thing. You are asked for six criteria to select these cars and not the cars themselves.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

37 thoughts on “Criteria”

  1. I’ve always thought you can get the measure of a motoring enthusiast by asking him if he’d rather spent £100k on a one hundred thousand pound car, or one hundred thousand pound cars. I’d fall into the latter camp I think…

  2. Looking back at past purchases I’ve mostly chosen cars that technically have been more advanced than the norm, cars where the builder was thinking” outside the box”.
    This reflects in my interest of the present electric car movement and why I’ve been an adopter of this transition since 2003.

    1. Further to the above and not in any order…..styling, practicality, versatility, price, economy,

    2. With a hypothetical budget, how do you curate a “ten best” exhibition? Or ten favourites (rather the latter if it’s more idiosyncratic).

  3. If I had ten cars to put in my theoretical garage my criteria would include in no particular order: a good mix of ages from vintage up to modern, a good mix of engines including a v12 (all petrol), a majority would be 2 doors, one convertible and a couple of saloons. Nothing too showy like a Lambo and definitely a very discreet q car would be top of the list.

    1. Can you order that list for a curator to use it? For example, if there’s a no V10 and you have to choose between a Phaeton and a two-door, which has priority?

    2. I’ve been mulling it over Richard and that’s something I’d find tricky to do. The choices would be personal and only designed to please myself. There would be obvious choices but some would be cars that others might find less than exciting. When it came to the crunch my gut would decide rather than a cylinder count. I can say that I probably would be a difficult person to curate for. That said I will admit to probably putting looks top of the list and practicality right at the bottom.

  4. It’s very hard to put this into clear (let alone measurable) criteria. When I think of which cars I’d like, it’s a very emotional matter. Either a car finds a way to my heart or not.
    What’s for sure, there are more than ten cars eligible for tha garage, so here come the criteria. I’ll have to think about them.
    Like Mick, I’d have some variety, so too similar vehicles would exclude each other. And I guess that the choice will be France- and Italian-centered, with maybe single entries from Sweden, USA and Japan. Mostly everyday vehicles, 4 or 5 door, no Diesels, but most certainly a Wankel.

  5. I’d sort them through four criteria. Object of practicality, objects of fun, objects of representation, objects of art. Think of it as the automotive equivalent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with physiological needs in the bottom and self actualization at the top.

    If these ten cars are keepers, and I would never be able to get anything else, they have to hold up for a very long time. There has to be practicality and longevity and ease of maintenance for a long time in the future. I only mention names to explain my thoughts, these are not necessarily my choices.

    For objects of practicality, I’m thinking simple mechanics, quality made, and made in large numbers. Some of the cars have to be selected for daily use and with replaceable mechanics. I’m talking cockroaches like the Mercedes W123, Volvo 240, Land Rover, Citroen 2CV.

    Objects of fun would be sports cars with a similar type of ease of maintencance. The Lotus Super Seven and all its shed built hodge podge derivates, and car like Morgan, MGB, E-Type, 911. Or anything really that is a Fiat based Etceterini. Perhaps not actually used daily but selected with the criteria of being a practical choice for daily use.

    For representation, some sort of chauffeured transport is required, like a Daimler Ds420 Limousine. Also with very sturdy and replaceable Jaguar Mechanics. Also, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, ets.

    For objects of art, we’re talking cars that are so valuable or desirable that one would just covet them as a pieces of art. Bentley R-Type Continental, Jaguar D-Type, Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Ferrari 250 GTO, etc. Or a somewhat more practical choice like a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari F40.

  6. Hmm. A question about fantasies. I’ve recently been fantasizing car fantasies. They all come down to “own just one car.” Which car depends on how much fuel economy matters.

    I live in the US, drive locally and, less and less, long distance. I have access to very low airfares and, the joys of flying notwithstanding, for long distances it is much quicker than driving. I live on the east coast. On August 1 I flew to San Diego, went grocery shopping, returned home August 2. Impossible trip by car.

    Opportunities for spirited driving are rare. Time was when I occasionally saw speeds (mph, not kph) in three digits. Those days are long gone.

    What I want out of a car or several cars has changed too. Now comfort, quietness and air conditioning are more important than acceleration, road-holding and, dare I say it, flash. If I were willing to pay the fuel costs and live with an automatic transmission I’d have a large Lexus. No bother, no quirks, gobs of what matters. When I replace my ’11 Accord EX (manual transmission) another of the same will be a prime candidate. No bother, no quirks, lower fuel costs than a large Lexus, enough of what matters.

    I’ve been reading readers’ posts on PistonHeads and on several owners clubs’ sites. The cars that used to attract me are all noise and heat and bother. I’m done with wrenching.

    1. Hi Fred: thanks for the list. I’m trying to avoid flying these days.
      Your criteria might make for a collection of good reliable cars yet I suspect doesn’t reflect the existence of car I imagine you’d cross the street to look at. Can you be more exacting?

  7. Criteria for me would include::

    1. Comfiness. Suspension was created to isolate passengers from normal road bumps. Stiffening up springs merely for handling does not advance the art of suspension design.

    2. Capable and agile handling. Just because a car has a decent ride, then I expect the designers to have not disregarded handling. That is the art of mechanical design – to resolve the ride/handling balance..

    3. A sweet engine. Every enthusiast has driven many cars and knows within a few minutes if a new-to-them car has a responsive engine that is not coarse with increased revs, one that can be relied upon to be consistent in its response and gives a bit of joy when you hotfoot it, seemingly happy to operate instead of merely work.

    4. Reasonable interior comfort. Narrow cars need not apply if they cannot accomodate two adults side by side in the front without rubbing shoulders. Comfortable adjustable seats that allow most to adapt to the controls with ease. Power controls not required.

    5. Decent cargo space. So you love your car but it cannot fit a couple of suitcases? Why? Special purpose niche cars are for dilettantes or weekend road warriors. Fun sometimes, but for a keeper, who cares – I expect a car to be more well-rounded and still fun.

    6. Good outward visibility. This is a criterion that gets thrown out the window these days, while electronic aids try to compensate. No bunker-slit car windows. if you cannot properly see where you’re going and where you’ve been, what are you doing supervising the progress of your mechanical chariot? When it snows, you soon see which cars are easily perturbed into being essentially blind.

    7. A reasonable heater and windscreen wipers. British cars of the 1950s were notoriously poor in this regard. They’d send off cars to the colonies that had no hope of ever defrosting a windshield, and no decent way of ventilating them in summer. Apparently, heat capacity and output was immaterial for some reason. None of that “if it’s good enough for us it’s good enough for you” provincialism for me, thanks.

    8. Good brakes for the time. If ever money was parsimonially meted out on a given car’s components, well it was brakes that took a hit. Out of sight out of mind until you need them. Designing heat capacity for brakes is a mere Mark 1 textbook ritual. Yet still they compromised and still do – giant wheels through whose spokes one gets to see discs of the size of an average saucepan lid. They look ridiculous to those with a clue, especially given today’s porky car weights.

    9. Structural integrity. Most of us have been in flimsy cars, shaking for no real reason on bad roads other than saving weight or illustrating the lack of professional engineering knowledge in their structural design. None of that commercial expediency suits me.

    10. Looks. No object appeals equally to all people in the visual sense. I want a car that reflects the care taken in its design, free of gross frippery and bad dreams like the Japanese are handing out these days. So a harmonious shape that is pleasant on its own to the eyes of the beholder is important.

    I take these criteria and can easily come up with cars from the 1930s to the present that would happily fill my dream garage.

    1. Thanks for listing these criteria, Bill. Many of them are exactly what constitutes a good car for me. I’d especially like to point out numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6, which I feel are often neglected in today’s car dseign.

    2. What strikes me about those criteria are that they seem more like the one for choosing a single, good car for regular use. A lot of coupes and convertibles are off limits while saloons will predominate.

  8. – something whose design and brand’s core values exhale old-money panache and suggest the opposite of vulgarity
    – ability to be driven for 700 miles in a day, in grand tourer style
    – an interior in which you can admire craftsmanship, industrial design and materials.
    – some kind of technical oddity, which could be an innovation or a last-of-the-breed feature
    – cars that were understated among their contemporary rivals
    – awesome seats

    some time ago, I chose my dream five-car garage. I’m not writing it because you wanted the criteria, Richard, but I can say I chose five cars from five different countries.

    1. Indeed, the 404 and the 405 suit my criteria, just like the AC 2-litre does. But my British slot in the 5-car garage would probably be the Jaguar Mark X (YES I MEAN IT) with a V12 swap. But a Mark IX with the same V12 would be fine, too.

  9. Here are my six criteria, grouped in three steps:

    • Optical distinctiveness
    • Comfort
    • Technical distinctiveness
    – – –
    • Extinction factor
    • Diversity
    – – –
    • Price vs. condition

    This probably needs some explanation to be understandable.
    First of all, I have to say that despite the seemingly objective criteria, the list will be heavily influenced by my personal taste. After all, even if the word ‘curator’ was mentioned, I was asked for criteria for my personal garage, not a museum reflecting automotive history.
    As a general framework, my collection will be centered around the 1970s/80s, with few exceptions. This is kind of my own ‘nostalgia zone’ (i.e. the time of my childhood and youth), and the cars of this time just appeal the most to me. In more objective terms, they are reasonably modern and can still be used in today’s traffic, while also being simple enough to work on and then they are also characterized by a certain rationalism.

    The first three criteria serve to compile a ‘long list’ of roughly thirty to fifty cars. They are an attempt on putting my personal preference into objective terms. First of all, a car appeals to me through its design, inside and out. Cars that have their own character and are recognizeable among all others (or are even a bit quirky) get the highest rankings here. It’s a similar thing with the third criterion – unusual technical solutions have a high appeal for me. In between I placed comfort, which includes everything from suspension, space, visibility to a cheerful atmosphere inside the car. This especially means that reasonable everyday cars are more likely to make the list than exotic sports cars.

    After having this list, the next two criteria are used to narrow it down to ten cars. The ‘extinction factor’ is roughly the percentage of surviving cars compared to the originally produced number. Again this means that mass market vehicles are preferred, and also that I don’t like to collect what everyone else does (for example, that’s why I have a GS, not a DS which has survived in much bigger numbers). Then I’d also like some diversity in my collection. I could name ten Citroëns alone that I’d like to have, but for an eternal, unalterable collection, I’d opt for more different cars, be it through their origin or their technical concepts. It will also make sure that there is a more modern car, suited for trouble-free daily driving, in the list.

    Finally, I’ll have a list of ten; now there is the sixth criterion that helps me to get the right example of each of the selected cars.

    I feel like I should really play this through – I wonder if I could stick to that scheme, or if in the end I will overthrow everything and just go by my heart.

    1. Jacoma below has a similar rule at the end of his list. The extinction factor sounds like a moderating rule rather than a primary rule. If you had to choose between a Mazda 929 or a Datsun 300, then you´d use the numbers remaining to pick one – but would you? Surely you´d feel that intrinsic merit not the numbers remaining really matters to something in a collection`?

    2. Yes, the extinction as well as the diversity are in fact moderating rules. They are necessary, because the first three, ‘primary rules’ will yield more than ten cars if I apply them. It’s not as if I give a numerical value for each of those criteria to each car and then take the ten with the highest rating. As I said, the criteria are merely an (imperfect) reflection of my personal taste, and if you apply them, you might get a quite different list than I do.

      Furthermore, also the moderating rules have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I will not choose a vehicle just for its rarity nowadays – but in fact, the ones without intrinsic merit should have been ruled out long ago by the first group of criteria. It’s rather that, given two cars with similar significance / merit, I’d take the one that is less common with collectors nowadays and / or was more relevant for the car population at its original time.

  10. This is a great question! Assuming cash and space are in place, here goes…

    1) Personal relevance. I am a child of the 70s and got my driver’s licence in the early 90s, so cars from this period have the greatest emotional pull.
    2) The ‘driving’ bit is crucial. I want to enjoy these cars as machines, not just stare at them.
    3) Because I want to drive them, most of the cars should be robust enough to cope. The odd fragile, high-maintenance sports car is probably unavoidable, but only a couple of them.
    4) Interesting and rare drivetrains earn points. So a naturally aspirated V12 seems like it should feature somewhere.
    5) I have a family and rarely drive alone. So while this fantasy assumes I will also have more free time to enjoy the fleet, at least half will need 4 seats.
    6) I have the right to break any and all of these rules on a whim.

    1. Thanks for that though the last rule seems questionable. What you need is to revise the rules and then choose. It´s an actionable list in a way though if I tried to guess at candidates you´d probably find I was not interpreting your schema correctly.

  11. Richard: I do hope that my collection will be interesting. If not for everyone, then at least for me.
    There are some strong American candidates for the long list, of course. Think of Tesla S, a Caprice, Roadmaster or one of their siblings from the 90s or also an FWD Eldorado or Toronado. And I guess, for the sake of diversity, at least one of them will have to survive.

    By the way, now that you have read a lot about your readers’ criteria, I wonder: what are yours?

  12. Coincidentally, I tried to write my fantasy list a few weeks back. I’ve got about 25 cars on it, so it’s still very much a work in progress to whittle it down to a more realistic 10. After putting some thought into this (tricky) question, here’s what I’ve come up with…

    Heroes – I grew up in the 80s, so cars that won races in that decade are quite desirable.
    Speed – let’s be honest, going fast is fun.
    Beauty – the design greats, the cars you can just sit and look at all day.
    Variety – I don’t want 10 Ferraris. I probably don’t even want two.
    Usefulness – if you can’t really drive it, then what’s the point?
    WTF – sometimes you just like a car, for no good reason at all.

    1. Thanks. I notice several readers have a general purpose criterion i.e. a wild card rule. Pretty much every value-based rule set implicitly has a rule allowing the rules to be revised. The clauses about supreme courts in constitutions are precisely the rules for changing rules. If I did this again I’d ask for wild card rules to be omitted. Possibly six criteria amount to too many rules. My own six create a huge long list of cars.

      I might suggest that most cars allowed in under the “wtf” rule would fit under the other rules.

      Maybe I should demand the rules apply simultaneously.

  13. I’m not surprised that everyone wants to ‘cheat’ or use a wild card rule. After all, cars are a highly subjective and emotional matter, and we’re asked for criteria for a collection that just serves our own pleasure.

    So in the end there’s only one valid criterion that overrules all the others: “I like the car”.

    As you even admit yourself, a set of rules probably will give you a far too long list, and since it’s impossible to really attribute numerical rankings to all criteria, you will not be able to rank the list and cut it off after ten entries. So there will have to be some arbitrary selection.

  14. Hmm; fun question to think about:
    1) Technological significance (e.g. my Fiat Dino’s pioneering electronic ignition).
    2) Other historical significance (plenty of technically uninteresting cars have been pivotal in society’s relationship with cars, e.g. Ford Model T, VW Beetle).
    3) Rarity (which, for my purposes, does NOT include being the only example of some boring mass-market car to have a specific combination of trim and paint options in a given model year).
    4) Driving experience–regardless of how well it performed vs. its contemporaries or their successors, does it offer a unique experience vs. other cars in the hypothetical collection.
    5) Engineering snobbery–Depending on historical context, there are certain design features that I’m always going to look down on; swing axles, pushrod valvetrains, axles located exclusively by leaf springs, 2-speed automatic transmissions, drum brakes, single carburetors on enormous engines, etc.
    6) Inverse of popular appreciation–if two candidates for my hypothetical collection are tied on all other criteria, I’ll always choose the one less likely to be recognized/appreciated by the average person on the street.

  15. The more I think about this, the more I like the question. How nice it feels, to focus on why I like cars. I could just cheat by saying ‘Japanese cars that changed the world,’ and drive off blissfully with my LS400, Miata, NSX, HiLux, Civic et al. But that’s no fun for our purposes.

    My tastes are strange, let’s reverse-engineer this: I want a Nissan Pulsar VZ-R N1, a mid-90s sub-par Japanese hatchback with an amazing engine. I want a Citroen DS, a futuristic 50s French sedan with crap engine and flat side windows. I want a Mitsubishi Delica, an 80s cabover offroader minivan from Japan. A Koenigsegg Regera, modern midengine supercar with essentially a CVT. And a Phaeton, highly ambitious luxury sedan doomed by its plebian badge. How might I reach a similar collection?

    1) Era: I want cars from either 80s-90s, or the future. I want to feel the world’s engineers mature and perfect the craft, or to push it forward. Which would mean either cars from my youth, or ambitious cars of any year. Either way, effective and comfortable cars which won’t excessively fail me.

    2) Handling/Comfort: Although this can be somewhat covered by rule #1, I want to give special consideration to this aspect. The main way I judge a vehicle is very simple: how does it feel (1) over bumps, and (2) around bends? A vehicle is a thing of motion; it the motion is sloppy and harsh I’m not interested.

    3) Weaknesses: I revel in a car’s shortcomings. Something like a Lexus IS300 has no weakness, and therefore no strength; I’d never drive it. Flaws give a car its personality; my real cars (Miata, Altima, FR-S) are as flawed as they come, and they’re my favorites. For every crushing weakness, there is generally a corresponding unique strength.

    4) Diversity of Purpose: If I had ten sportscars, I’d drive one, maybe two. I want tools for different purposes. An even mix of sports cars, hatchbacks, luxury sedans – and an industrial vehicle.

    5) Disposable/Priceless: For every precious, irreplaceable one-off, I want a car I wouldn’t feel guilty painting pink and yellow and wrapping around a tree. ‘Fun’ is a bad word around here, so I apologize deeply: I want to enjoy myself, at the expense of dignity if needed.

    6) Frivolous Engineering: Open to interpretation. Maybe it means a car that’s excessively well-built. Maybe it’s a racing engine pointlessly installed in a crap car, or maybe it’s chromed trunk mechanisms. Things for a market that don’t exist, or sophistication squandered on a market that won’t notice.

    1. Lee: thanks for that. It’s an actionable list. We do permit fun here, within reason. DTW has a lot of time for ridiculous barges – Cadillacs, for example and the Daihatsu Copen is a DTW favourite.
      You make a good point about flaws: yes, the flawless cars can be anodyne. Yet I must note the exquisitely sufficient 406 actually generates a profound sense of joy with me at least, as much as my XM does and that’s plenty flawed.

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