A former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin Baker combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
What’s the best car in the world, ever? I get asked that a lot as a motoring journalist, although normally it’s ‘What’s the best car you’ve ever driven?’, which is a slightly different question.
Good news, though: I know the answer.
The definitive answer to what might seem an unanswerable question. You might think it’s too subjective, or, like everyone else, you’ll scoff and say you need to define the parameters: the best SUV I’ve ever driven, or the best car built between 1948 and 1966, or the best Jaguar ever, perhaps.
But no, there is a perfectly simple answer to the query: What’s the best car in the world?
The answer is: an Austin Metro.
You’ll notice use of the word ‘an’ as opposed to ‘the’, because we’re not talking here about the entire breed, we’re talking about a specific car: a black B-reg Austin Metro, which was my first car. Engine capacity 998cc, which meant no rear windscreen wiper or parcel shelf – I seem to recall that belonged to the 1.3 although stand to be corrected (and don’t really care actually).
But Bertha, as she was known in 1995 to your 17-year-old correspondent, remains the best car in the world, ever, because it gave a young girl her first steps into adulthood, her first passport across the border into that wonderful country called Liberty, tantalisingly glimpsed by many a teenager throughout history but unobtainable until half way through the Lower Sixth Form, when those lucky enough to be born in September started bringing car keys into school and rattling them ostentatiously on their classroom desks.
My mum came with me to buy Bertha from a very dodgy secondhand (none of your ‘pre-owned’ rubbish there) car dealer who obviously sold us a pup. But I’d saved up £850 from working in Marks and Spencer, which also makes Bertha the only car I’ve ever paid cash for upfront.
In those salad days that followed, Bertha and I flew round Tunbridge Wells, to and from school each day, dropping mates variously at the shops and the pub, Yazz and the Plastic Population spooling from the cassette tape player and booming from the rattling speakers.
She was my Chariot of Fire, there was no finer car on Britian’s roads. She gave me my freedom, she was my get-out-of-jail card, my round-the-world ticket, my flying carpet and my time machine. She gave one motorist (me) more thrills than any Formula One car has given any racing driver, ever. Imagine that: 998cc providing such a visceral thrill, such adrenaline.
Nothing has matched it since, and I’ve driven Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Bentleys as well as many motorbikes.
And that, reader, is why an Austin Metro is the best car in the world, ever.
* (In a sad footnote, I must add that I crashed Bertha headfirst into a wall outside Sainsburys one day at 20mph and there she ended her days, the heap of rust that lay underneath her peeling paintwork cruelly exposed. Such is life.)