There are certain cars throughout history that every petrolhead should drive at some point in their lives, an automotive Bucket List if you will. My own list is very very long, and includes cars as diverse as a Lancia Dedra, Aston Martin Lagonda and De Tomaso Pantera.
Modern cars still switch me on. Getting behind the wheel of a Kia Rio (which I’m doing this week) makes me smile just as much as driving a Chevrolet Camaro (which I did a few weeks ago). I can’t explain it, it’s just the way I’m wired. All cars are fun, you just need to work out the best way of making them fun.
But to many a modern car is nothing more than a device to transport you from point A to point B without having to avoid eye contact on public transport whilst having your wallet emptied by ever increasing ticket prices.
You don’t need to be an enthusiast though to recognise the icons of the motoring industry. The Jaguar E-Type, for example, has even been recognised by the New York City Museum of Modern Art where one resides alongside just five other cars as examples of automotive beauty. Even Enzo Ferrari, not one for praising the competition, commented that the E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made.
Even for somebody who sees a car as an box on wheels, getting the chance to drive one of these icons is an opportunity not to be missed. Last week I had just that opportunity.
The guys at Great Escape Classic Car Hire teamed up with AutoTweetUp and invited a select group of social media influencers to their Yorkshire site to drive five old motors.
The cars? Two were on my bucket list, with three bonus options. First up was the 1964 MGB 1800; I’ll admit to being entirely ambivalent about the little red MGB in front of me. I don’t have a beard and don’t drink real ale, but within seconds every preconception had gone. Braking hard in to corners, occasionally locking an inside wheel before powering through and correcting a bit of slip from the rear of the car. This thing is fun, despite barely rising above 30 mph.
The Jaguar Mk 2, as seen in the hands of every 60’s bank robber, left me cold. The 3.4 litre car drove well enough, but there was nothing exciting, nothing noteworthy.
The same can’t be said of the Jensen Interceptor. Powered by 7.2 litres of pure noise, prodding the throttle simply made the horizon appear unnaturally quickly while the rumble of a volcano followed closely behind. There may be aircraft carriers that handle more accurately, but that didn’t matter one bit. The Interceptor was simply awesome and is directly responsible for me growing more chest hair.
The first car up from the bucket list was a 1970 Jaguar E-Type Series 2 4.2-Litre. Slipping in to the snug cabin, oddly tighter than the MGB’s, you forget the size of the car you’re about to dive until you glance forwards and see the long bonnet disappearing off to the horizon. You’re reminded just what an elegant, delicate and powerful car this is.
The straight six engine fires up and the car propels itself in to the distance, this fifty year old clearing its throat and barking down the exhaust pipes as it leaves modern traffic standing. The controls are light, the throttle responsive, the back end slidy. This if far more fun than I ever imagined it would be.
It’s no wonder the E-Type has attained legendary status.
Sadly I had to leave the Jaguar E-Type. Fortunately, I was swapping it for a DeLorean DMC-12.
Arguably one of the most distinctive cars ever sold, the brushed steel body was like nothing else. Add in gull wing doors, a big V6 engine and that iconic appearance in the Back to the Future movie series and you’ve got something that any 35-45 year old would kill to drive.
And Great Escape let me have the keys.
Cosmetically, everyone knows this car. Low and very wide, lots of straight lines and hard edges, a louvered rear window and those doors. Detailing such as the DeLorean badge in its bold and blocky font, with rear lights reminiscent of something from a Commodore 64, left you in no doubt as to the era it was built in. It’s a love/hate thing definitely, but there’s no doubting it attracts attention.
Dropping down in to the cabin, there’s a sense of occasion as you pull the door shut. That’s tempered slightly by the frankly poor quality plastics inside and the surprisingly bland layout of the instruments and centre console. That said, the reason for this car existing is all on the outside.
Cyclists stop as you pass by, pedestrians stare, while a few even turned quickly with their phone to get a photograph. There was even one person at a petrol station who appeared to be intentionally avoiding eye contact with the DMC-12, but failing miserably.
Driving the car was a surprising experience. Left hand drive and very wide, many found problems driving the car through the narrow Yorkshire Dales, but personally it wasn’t a problem – regular readers will know I drive a left hooker here as my daily car – so it was foot down, tail out. Let’s see what a DeLorean can do.
Given that the big V6 lump in the rear produces a meagre 150 bhp, the answer is quite a lot. Visibility is awful, so placing the car can be tricky, but it turns in well, is nicely balanced through the corners and never feels like it’s about to upset you or the neighbours. The famed 88 mph is despatched quickly enough. The ride is stiff, but compliant enough. there’s no jumping around in corners, the car following its intended course. Having the engine right behind you heightens the sensations, with the pops and burbles on the overrun leaving me giggling like a child.
In just two cars I’d proven conclusively that motoring is not about getting from A to B in the most efficient way. There’s far more to it than that. There’s art, power, surprises, passion, noise, history, notoriety, disappointment, heritage and drama. Even the most fervent anti-car campaigner can’t deny what the car has given us over the last 100 years.
The next 100 years may see many changes, but the heroes of the breed will live on. You should never meet your heroes, they say. On this day I did and was not disappointed.
[button link=”http://www.contracthireandleasing.com/car-leasing-news/driving-a-delorean-in-the-dales/” rel=”nofollow” color=”orange”]This article was first published at ContractHireAndLeasing.com on 20 August 2012.[/button]