I attended — was made to, more accurately — my fair share of social gatherings last year. Ones where your enthusiastic family elders make it socially discomforting for you by telling other equally enthusiastic elders about what you do. It’s a strange fetish.
“He comes on TV. Has his own show where he reviews cars and stuff.”
“Oh, really!” — now this enthusiasm is an alarm bell suggesting that things are only going to get worse. And they do; rather quickly. An unapologetically perky child is called in because “he loooooves cars!” and he asks countless questions about which car has what BHP and top speed.
Even I was quite like that irritating urchin back when I was one. I’d remember every single figure about every single car that I read about. But I’d not go and blast a torpedo of that info on any one. Times, they’ve changed. Sadly. And I don’t remember so much as even the names of some cars appropriately enough, so this exercise started becoming an embarrassment.
When the tot is done crucifying you on the plank of shame, people ask, “Ok, so, what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?” This hits you in a couple of very bad ways. On one hand you’re thinking that after being in the cemetery of disapproval, everyone wants you to rise up by naming something nice and expensive. On the other, you’re thinking that you must not talk about something obvious — like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. Make it interesting. Make them think you know your stuff.
So I said, “a Ferrari.”
I’ve driven a wide variety of cars through all these years. Rusty seconds and shiny new ones. Exciting hatches, dreary crossovers, muddy off-roaders, slide-y sports cars, mass-y sedans, quirky non-cars cars and even those that don’t deserve to be cars.
Undoubtedly there are quite a few I’ve enjoyed and as I spend more time in the trade, I will drive more and like more cars. But up until now, there have been a few that have really stood out. I never rate the cars that I like the most, but yes, alright — the top five include a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Lamborghini. The other two are cars that you’d not be able to guess even if I gave you a million bucks for it. Your effort would be futile.
The Morgan 3 Wheeler feels like Hannibal Lecter decided to give you a lap-dance wearing a clown suit. You’re not sure whether to be frightened or giggle like an inflamed teenager.
The 3 Wheeler was more eager to get high compared to me — it smoked all three of its tyres, all at the same time! It’s got anorexic wheels and tyres up front and the single rear isn’t really the chameleon you wished it was. And that’s what makes it amazing.
It’s not-a-car car kind of a thing. There’s a two-litre V-twin S&S engine out exposed to the elements and it produces some levels of power. But that’s immaterial. The 3 Wheeler isn’t about numbers, it’s about the experience. The steering wheel is stupidly large and unassisted and you’re forever going sideways — rather slowly. It’s part rogue, part entertaining, part stupid, part scary. And a complete nutcase. It’s freaking brilliant!
The other great experience was the Toyota GT86. After several years of digital junk boxes, there was finally a car that understood the ideal meaning of ‘purity’. It had a delightful steering, a modest but sufficient engine and the fluidity of a ballet dancer. It was return of the classic recipe — engine in the front, drive to the rear and a melting cookie behind the wheel.
The thing is, with any Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Mercedes-AMG, you expect them to be really good. The 3 Wheeler and GT86 carried no such baggage and were utterly amazing!
So, crucially — the best car(s) I’d driven? The Morgan 3 Wheeler and the Toyota GT86 — two of the most entertaining cars that I drove in the past decade.
But there was an innocent, expectant sparkle in the eyes of the elders and the little cretin, so it was really a Ferrari — the 458.