Friday, 5 February 2010

"Top 5 Records"

Well, quite a lot has happened since I last posted something on this blog. I have finished university (again), got a career, and cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats. ... But frankly, I can't be bothered to write anything about those things.

So, like John Cusack, i'm onto top 5's. Today top five cars.

This basically consist of the 5 cars that would adorn my garage were I able to afford it. Before you start to expect 5 super-mega-hyper-cars, i'm an eco-hippie/petrol-head hybrid so its a bit of an odd lot.

1. Citroen Berlingo.

OK, this is cheating as I actually already own one of these.

When my family first brought a Berlingo Multispace I was at uni. When I passed my driving test back in 2004 my family had a white Citroen Xsara 1.6i that actually shifted a bit. I know this because my parents mercifully (but foolishly) put me on the car insurance and I spent the long evenings after a hard day dossing in sixth-form knocking the thing for six. I'm amazed it survived. I went to university in September 2004 only to return a few months later to find that the medium-small family hatchback I was so fond of had become a bloated invalid carriage. I hated it. For a start, compared to the previous car it handled like a boat and accelerated like a paraplegic in quick-sand. For an 18-year-old this was catastrophic.

It took some time, but eventually I found the joy that can be had with a windowed-van. For a start you can carry just about anything in it. This is handy if you're a cycling enthusiast or a university student with your mother intent upon you carrying at least 14 kitchen-sinks at all times. Its a cathedral of a car! Secondly, you can fit loads of your friends into it - i've done 8. Thirdly, because its designed to be both builder and child-proof it is ultra reliable and you can fix it with a hammer. Finally, its big enough to sleep in comfortably should you rock up somewhere late or if its too muddy and cold to pitch a tent.

So for these reasons and so many more the Citroen Berlingo makes the list.

2. Caterham 7

A slightly more interesting choice. This car was built from the ground up to handle well and even though the desing has been round for about half a century it is still considered one of the best drivers cars ever. It weighs about as much as a bulemic squrril yet is mid engined, and rear-wheel drive. Even though the base models have the same power as a family hatchback, the configuration was prefect. I also like the simplicity. From working in a bike shop I have come to learn from bitter experience that complex things usually create more problems than they are worth. This has all you need. A seat for you and one for a friend, four wheels, a throttle, a piece of fabric in case it rains, and a space for your picnic basket.

But the most appealing thing about this car is that it comes as a CKD kit. This isn't like a normal kit where you get a chassis and not much else - it is a flat-pack car with all the bits included and a friendly Caterham rep on the phone should you have any issues. Not only this but you can buy a basic one for about £10,000 - which is nothing for one of the best performing sports cars on the market today.

I'm definately having one some day.

3. Toyota Aygo / Peugeot 107 / Citroen C1

Don't be fooled - they are all the same car! The point of this one is what do you really need from a car? Lets face it - motoring is an expensive business. Once you've paied for the car (not to mention watched it depreciate daily) you've got to put fuel into it which at >£1 a liter isn't cheap. Then there's tax, insurance, servicing, tyres, MOT's, and washing the thing. And what for? So you can take hours out of your life sitting in traffic jams? Looking for a paring space? Worrying about running people over? Complaining about the state of the roads, other motorists, the government and just about everything else besides? What do you really want from a car? Electric windows? PlayStation 3's? Senually vibrating seats? Since when did cars become brothells? ... No! 99% of the time all you want is to take you and a small amount of luggage, with maybe one passenger, to anywhere else in the UK with minimum fuss and cost.

What if there were a car that could help with these things? Well there is, and its this plucky little Czech creation!

4. Audi S5 Coupé

OK, its fine to have a cheap-as-chips car every day. But what about the times when you don't want people to know that you're a cheap-skate. Something you can turn up at Downing Street in and not feel out of place*. Basically a car to suit your Armani suit and Rolex watch. A uniform. But hey - if you can choose your uniform then you don't pick one thats made of hessian sacking. I saw one of these in a car park a week or two in white and it instantly became my new favorite car aesthetically (replacing the new VW Scirocco). But its not just the looks. I've always liked Audi's. To me four-wheel-drive makes a lot of sense for cars that weigh more than say 1500kg and with their "quattro" system Audi led the way back on the 1980's rally circuit. That combined with some decent engines makes the the formula for the S5 a good-one!

5. Bowler Nemesis

Before explaining this choice I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. I do not like Land Rovers. Unlike most of the cars in this I have actually driven a couple of these and didn't like them. The Defender is the worst. For a start the seat isn't adjustable and are designed for midgets with rickets (which explains the unnecessary step). The build quality is an unwanted hangover from the British Leyland ere (a point proven by my uncle's Range Rover) and the hand break is by your feet to make room for an unnecessary middle seat. What is more is that the TD5 engine they put in most of them these days has no power and the transmission just causes you to rev the tits off the thing on the road. The reason I'm going on about this is that Land Rover is a sort of cult symbol for many of my friends. But not me. I like the idea. Bullet-proof simplicity, and ruthless practicality - but I just don't think that it works in the real world.

However, I do like the Bowler Nemesis. No, I haven't driven one of these, but the principle is to take a Land Rover and make it better. That isn't hard from the way I see it, but with a good few thousand pounds to spend they will have made something pretty special. Providing it all works then the Nemesis will be a pretty decent bit of kit.

* - Just for the record. This is not a way of thinking that I subscribe to. Substance will always be more important than style. But as a product of middle-class England, I can't always help myself.


Love Grenades - Young Lovers (Sam Sparro Remix)
Miss Li - Bourgeois Shangri-La
Owl City - Fireflies (Reminds me of the Postal Service)
Royksopp - Happy Up Here