Is there a car you had when you were younger, and crave to own once again? Broadly speaking I think it’s a terrible idea. The only reason you want it back in your life now is because you loved it then. But then you were not the same person, nor was it the same car. Moreover you will have built it up in your mind over time into something it never was, even when new.
MAY 19th 2017
Thank Frankel it's Friday: Return to a classic of your youth at your peril
Let’s say 25 years has elapsed, which is normally enough time for people to start a family, realise automotive recreations are sadly not essential components of bringing up children, lose said recreations, bring up said children, get rid of them and start to think about nice cars again.
But you’re maybe twice as old now as you were then, and those foolish failings of your once beloved car that you’d scarcely have noticed then will probably irritate the hell out of you now. But not so much as the fact that the car, whatever it is, is no longer brand new and state of the art, but in automotive lifespan terms, even older than you. While its shell has started to sag, its trim to creak and its engine to rattle, several generations of new cars have come out, each more technically advanced than the last. Even if you could somehow find the car you once loved in the same condition as it was when it left the line, compared to its modern equivalent it would just look silly. An abacus next to an iPhone.
None of this should stop you buying a classic car, merely one of which you have prior knowledge. My father once bought an Alvis 12/70 saloon because he used to smoke about in one after the war and was desperately disappointed to discover in the 1980s that it wasn’t quite as good as his teenage self-recalled. And I can remember concluding my brother’s mid-engine Renault 5 Turbo was the most exciting thing ever to put treaded tyre onto public road, only to discover upon reintroduction a couple of decades later that it had turned into a slow, malevolent old nail.
Which is why I know I must not buy another Lotus Esprit.
To be honest, I thought I was done with them. Before I became a motoring journalist I worked in the City of London and for the first time in my life had a little money, at least until they realised I was useless and sacked me. And with that money I bought a second hand Esprit S3, the normally aspirated version of Esprit Turbo, the last models made with original Giugiaro styling before the Peter Stevens facelift. It was the worst car I have ever owned and what’s staggering is I knew it at the time. It never completed a journey without something breaking, and when I think of the financial pasting I received when I sold it because I could no longer afford to keep it, it still makes me sad.
But while I hated that car, so too did I love it. On those rare occasions when it ran properly, its looks, the way it drove and its ability to get me noticed made me forgive everything. And while Esprits stayed in production and I was driving them every year, I couldn’t get them out of my head. But it’s been a dozen years since then last Esprit was made and I really did think I was over them.
Apparently not. I once gave up smoking for five years and thought I was over it until I got drunk in a Detroit bowling alley, had one cigarette and smoked for another five years. Similarly, just the sight and a brief chat with the owner of an original Esprit Turbo parked in a hotel car park next to Australia’s Mount Panorama race track has reawakened my slumbering Esprit addiction. In fact just watching him manoeuvre it into its parking bay made me so irrationally jealous I broke off our conversation so I could return to my room and started to surf the classifieds for the right car.
It didn’t take long to find: it’s a Series 3 like mine but red, and I can have it for less than £20,000. If I sold my Porsche 968 Sport it could be mine.
So I had to find a way to resist because unaided, I seriously doubted the ability of my willpower to last long enough for it to be sold to someone else.
Then I had an idea. What if I wrote down all the things I knew I’d not like about the Esprit? The terrible build quality, the Morris Marina door handles, the old Land Rover switchgear, the fact I wouldn’t fit properly, the rubbish seats, the gutless engine and the Dellorto carbs I could never keep in tune. The car would be painfully slow and make me look like a sad middle-aged bloke with a Roger Moore-era James Bond obsession.
So I did and you just read it.
All that remains, therefore, is for me to thank you for inadvertently participating in this group therapy session. If next Friday I’m asking if anyone would be interested in buying my really rather lovely Riviera blue Porsche, you’ll know it’s failed.
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