On paper, the Saab 9-3 Viggen is the best car I’ve ever owned.
It’s the one I paid the most money for. It had the most powerful engine, the highest level of equipment, the best interior, the best paint (color and finish) and the highest safety rating.
It’s close. Top 3, even. But it’s not the best car I’ve ever owned.
‘The best car I’ve ever owned’ is not just a statement about the car. It’s a statement about relative time, the way the car was used, the payback it gave and the impression it left on me.
Cars make impressions for different reasons. One might mean so much to you because of the work you did to resurrect it, or to bring it up to a standard. Another car might hold it’s place in your heart because you never expected it to be so good. Yet another might have carried you on a wonderful trip to a favourite place or simply provided you with a wonderful ownership experience.
So with the Viggen in third place, what other cars could be above it?
What’s the best car I’ve ever owned?
Number two on my list goes to the totally surprising and quite wonderful Alfa Romeo 33 16V. I picked up my 1990 model Alfa 33 at a bargain price a few years ago.
I’m always surprised by the lack of effort people put into the ads they use to sell their cars. This 33 looked like it’d had a reasonably hard life and the writeup didn’t provide much to get excited about. When I talked to the owner on the phone, though, I knew there was a good chance I’d buy this car. The owner loved it and had really looked after it, even if it didn’t show in the photos.
He’d had minimal interest in the car from potential buyers, probably because of the crappy ad. As a result, I was able to buy it for around 65% of his original asking price.
The car drove beautifully. The little 16V boxer engine is a pearl. Tuned with a chip from Squadra Tuning, the car would redline at 7,200rpm but still had plenty of low end torque. It cornered like a go-kart and thanks to the 2.25 inch exhaust I had fitted, it sounded like a swarm of Italian killer bees. The Alfa 33 16V really is one of Australia’s true old-school performance bargains.
It was actually quite practical, too. Five doors, folding rear seats, plenty of head and shoulder room. For those who like to dress their cars up, this 33 had beautiful red paint and an engine bay that just screams for some prettying up (which I was more than happy to do).
I sold the Alfa because after selling some old stuff I had laying around (including some staff passed on after my father’s death), I thought I should put the money into a car that was worth a little more. Dad was a fledgling car guy, too, so I didn’t think he’d mind. I chose to sell the Alfa and use the top-up money to buy a Mazda MX-5. The little blue MX-5 was a great car but I missed the Alfa 33 so much that I ended up buying another one around six months later.
(The chain of funds from that old stuff continues today in my current Alfa GTV6. My aim is that that money will always either be a) in the bank, or b) in a classic car)
The replacement 33 was nowhere near as good as my original one. Sometimes you just don’t know how good a car you’ve got because you can’t compare it with others. If I’d known, I definitely would have kept that first 33.
So what’s #1?
I’ll cover that for you in the next few days. In the meantime, why don’t you have a think about which car from your history is your own personal favourite?
Remember, it’s not the best car on paper. It’s the one that brings back the fondest memory, for whatever reason.
Comments are open.