Friday Night Movies

From Over the Pond, a Touring Car race at the Goodwood Revival (what I done missed this year sob sob) that features practically every Le Mans-winning driver of the past two decades, some former F1 drivers, NASCAR’s Jimmy Johnson, and Rowan Atkinson:  all driving cars what I loves (okay, the Ford Galaxies not so much).

Part One

Part Deux

Next year, I promise… I’ll sell some guns if I have to — just watch me.


Ooooh this one gets me where I’m prone to tingle:

THREE stunning classic Land Rovers are going under the hammer and look likely to fetch £50,000 each.  The classic off-roaders have all been fully restored and are ready and waiting to be driven and enjoyed by the highest bidders.

Here they are (full descriptions are in the article):


Weekend Car Musings – Part Two

As we saw last week, there’s really not a good reason for a car to have a jillion horsepower — one of those “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situations.  Lots of power on the racetrack:  good.  Lots of horsepower on roads and streets:  ehhh maybe not.

And when looking at cars on this here back porch o’ mine, can older cars be far behind?  Remember, they’re grouped into “taking the family out for a drive” (saloon cars) and “I’m taking my best girl out for a picnic or date” (sports cars).  So here are my choices, from a bygone age.

Saloon Car:

Citroën Traction Avant 15/6 Normale (1949)

I know:  the earlier Traction models (pre-1938) were horrendously underpowered, but the later 15/6 version had a 2.9-liter inline 6 engine which boosted its initial 32bhp to a stratospheric 60bhp, and this yielded a top speed of about 70mph.  I know:  I wouldn’t be able to take this splendid creature onto an interstate, but then why would I want to?  Country roads at 55mph, city streets (drawing admiring looks from everyone).  It’s still one of the classiest cars ever built.

Daimler Consort (1952)

Let’s see:  heavy, underpowered (2.5-liter engine / 70bhp) and supremely comfortable — sounds like my kinda car, and it is.  And it’s gorgeous, so much better-looking than modern saloon cars, and classy (which no modern car is, to the same degree).


Sports Car:

Fiat 124 Sport Spider (1966)

Built by Fiat, design by Pininfarina, the 1400cc engine developed 89hp (once again, enough for country lanes and pootling around city streets).

Sunbeam Alpine Series III (1967)

I have to admit a serious crush on this model, with its snappy little 1725cc / 96bhp engine.  It’s beautiful, cheeky and nippy, despite its underpowered engine.  Of course, it’s not as classy as its predecessor:

Sunbeam Alpine Mk I (1955)

This is the car that Cary Grant used to seduce Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief, but I have to admit that its 2.2-liter / 96bhp engine, while larger than the later Mk III, had to move a chassis which weighed nearly three times as much.  But hey, I don’t do drag races.


Go ahead, laugh all you want at the above.  But I’d have an ultra-luxurious drive in the first category, and a super-fun drive in the other, whichever the choice.  I don’t need a massive, loud, gas-guzzling engine to do either;  but most of all, the cars are all stylish, in a way that modern cars cannot compete with.

Remember:  these are cars of their times, not for today, so don’t apply modern-day standards to either — although I’d happily drive any of them today, given the chance.

Contemporaneous Pricing

From Younger Reader Daniel D:

As I have watched your frequent auto posts I notice that higher end cars, Farraris and the like, from your youth appear frequently. Many seem in immaculate condition, as I suppose anything of that value is, but it seems the same tier of cars are fairly often seen for those who travel in those circles. These are not mass-market cars like the classic Mustangs of the same era, so their continued existence despite I assume the same level of gleeful driving seems somewhat remarkable. I wonder if you have any perspective on the price at these times as it relates to spending power, as I have not seen anything other than which reflects their value as collectibles. I wonder if this tier of automobile was slightly more accessible as a doctor’s life goal type purchase as opposed to buying a house’s worth that someone else could T-bone. Were higher tier cars at a more accessible price point in the past for the merely well-to-do as opposed to only being a plaything of the rich?

It’s a really good question, with a couple of answers necessary.

Firstly, the issue of price vs. wage level, at various points in history.  I often use the comparison of my own situation in the mid- to late 1970s as an example (using the SA Rand as equal to the US$ in terms of its local buying power, which it was for almost everything except gasoline/petrol).  So:

  • Salary at the Great Big Research Company:  $400 per month
  • Rent for my 1BR 1BA apartment in the heart of the city:  $90 per month
  • Price of a new VW Golf:  $1,200
  • Rickenbacker bass guitar:  $1,100.

Now, the approximate sticker costs during the same time period (and in today’s dollars):

  • Rolls Royce Phantom: $26,000 ($159,700)
  • Dino 246 GT:  $13,900 ($85,375)
  • Porsche 911 S:   $8,675 ($53,280)
  • E-type Jag:  $5,725 ($35,165)
  • Chev Corvette:  $5,192 ($31, 890).

I should point out that the official increase (or decrease, if you will) of the dollar’s value from say 1976 till today is about 5.21, but for automobiles, it’s about a 6.14 – 6.15 multiple.

In actual fact, given that today a Corvette actually costs about $65,000 (double the “official”) and any Ferrari or Rolls is north of a million shows you how unaffordable the upper-end cars have become.

(I remember talking to a doctor friend back in the day, and he commented that buying a Rolls in 1965 and keeping it for 20 years would actually have saved him money, compared with buying a new Merc every five years, even with the maintenance costs included.)

But let’s just stay in the 1970s for a moment, and consider my annual salary as a humble assistant statistician back then was $4,800.  (It was NOT a bad clerical salary at the time.)  If we take that Porsche 911 S as an example, it would have cost me about 1.8x my annual salary.

That same position’s salary in today’s dollars is probably $55,000 per annum, and a “base” 2022 Porsche 911 with only a few options will set you back about $115,000 — or about 2x the annual salary.  Not too far off.

However:  my rent back then constituted about 22% of my monthly salary, whereas rent for the same type of apartment today would account for almost 90% (or more, depending on the city) of my monthly salary — and assuming I moved out to the ‘burbs, it would still account for close to 50% of my nut.

So the takeaway from all this is that a “reasonable” sports car was more within the average Joe’s reach back in the 1970s, whereas those same cars are completely out of reach today.

And yes:  even back then, the truly high-end cars were pretty much accessible only to the very well-to-do, as they are today.  My father was an established civil engineer in the early 1970s, and the Dino would have represented 1.3x of his annual salary — and there was NO WAY he would have considered it.  He chose instead a Mercedes 350SL, at 0.6x, and who would blame him?

By the way, an immaculately-restored Dino 246 GT — Ferrari’s attempt at an “entry-level” car — will now cost you from $350,000 to $stupid.

Weekend Car Musings – Part One

Generally speaking, I treat the subject of power the same way as I treat pretty much any aspect of personal ownership, e.g. with guns:

“Why do you need such a powerful gun?” — Because I want it, and because MYOFB.

However, I am somewhat at a loss when it comes to modern cars, which to me seem terribly over-powered relative to the average driver’s ability to pilot the thing, e.g. the 1,000hp Bugatti Veyron:

An awful lot of Veyrons have been crashed relative to the actual number found on the roads (i.e. excluding the “investment” Bugattis, the motoring equivalent of the gun world’s “safe queens”), and the same is true of all the hypercars.  Even Rowan Atkinson, who is an excellent driver, managed to write off his Pagani Zonda.

I don’t even want to think of the accident rate among redneck hypercars, e.g. the Dodge SRT or the Camaro ZL1, both with plus-600hp engines.

Now I’m not saying that cars like this should be banned or restricted in any way (see my thoughts on powerful guns, above), but the question I want to throw out to you, O My Readers, is:  what do you think is the engine (cylinder number, size, horsepower, whatever) that best serves the average driver?  For the sake of discussion, let’s ignore trucks and SUVs, which may have different needs and uses, and concentrate on cars.

And to make it more interesting, let’s split it into four-door saloons and two-door sports cars.

My thoughts will appear below the fold, but avoid going there until you’ve worked out your own two examples.

Read more

Spare Car

Imagine that Great-Uncle Silas died and left you a luxury motorhome — one so big it has storage room underneath for a “spare” car, thus:

You want to take it on a long journey (e.g, around the U.S.A., all over Europe, etc.) but unfortunately Elmer’s largesse ended at the RV, but did include (say) $40,000 to buy a spare which you could use to drive into and around town, or to the grocery store, once parked at a decent RV park or hotel.

The “mini-garage” has dimensions of 190″ (length) 84″ (width) and 60″ (height).  (For example, a Kia Rio has dimensions of 160″ x 68″ x 57″.)  So it has to be a small car, but not that small.

Which car would you select, and why?  (My choice is below the fold.)

For a shortcut to cars’ sizes, use Edmunds — select a car, and scroll down the page to determine your car’s dimensions. Read more