The 2017 Automotive Bucket List

Life has been a little bit unconventional since I last published an automotive bucket list back in 2014:

I’ve taken a new job, which I absolutely love, but it’s a job that came with a 30% pay cut compared to my old job. I’ve moved half way around the world. I’ve formally separated from my wife and the relative financial security that that relationship allowed. I’ve bought an apartment here in Angelholm, which means I’m not only tied to a mortgage again, but I’m down to one parking space, too.

Given those changed circumstances, one can hopefully understand why automotive dreams have been a little bit lower on my list of priorities over the last few years.

I’m still a car guy, though, and there are still cars I’d like to own before I pop my clogs (or… before the ownership of gasoline powered cars is banned completely, whichever comes first). Therefore, another automotive bucket list is very much in order.

As is tradition, I will first list the cars on my last bucket list, so we can track how it’s changed. The 2014 bucket list comprised the following:

  • Jaguar XJ6 with V8 conversion
  • Alfa Romeo Sprint with 16V conversion
  • Saab 9-5 Aero SportCombi
  • Lancia Fulvia 1.3S
  • RenaultSport Megane
  • Alpine A110
  • Saab Sonett III

Can we tick anything off that list? Why yes, we can!

I didn’t get a Jaguar XJ6 with a V8 conversion, but….. I did manage to get something a whole lot better. In May 2016, I bought a 1995 Jaguar XJR with a supercharged straight-6 and all the usual Jaguar appointments (except cruise control!! Who specs one of these cars without cruise control???!).

I didn’t get a Saab 9-5 Aero SportCombi, but….. I did buy a 2003 Saab 9-5 Vector SportCombi. That feels close enough to me. I’ve still got it, actually. It’s very comfortable and very practical, but I’m getting a tad bored with it. Change may (or may not) be in the wind.

I managed to tick the RenaultSport Megane off my list, too. I bought one soon after I moved to Sweden, in 2015. I’d been after an RS Megane for a few years before I actually bought one and when it comes to driving, the car didn’t disappoint. It’s a little road rocket and the performance is still impressive, even today. What was disappointing, though, was the interior. It felt too cheap and tacky, even with full leather Recaros.

I’m going to remove the Alfa Sprint from the list, for two very good reasons. 1) Sprints cost way more than I think they’re worth here in Europe. And 2) the idea of doing a conversion just won’t work in my current circumstances. It’d still be a great car to own, but it’s not for me at this time.

The Alpine A110 is also removed due to cost and impracticality. I’m surprised that it hasn’t ridden on the coattails of the Porsche 911 and doubled in price over the last three years. The upper end has risen a little in that time, but you can still get what looks like a good one for around €60,000 here in Europe. That’s still a lot more than I’ve got to spend, however, especially on an indulgence.

I can’t bring myself to remove the Lancia Fulvia or the Saab Sonett from the list but I won’t write them up again here, today.

(drumroll……)

The 2017 Automotive Bucket List

As alluded to earlier, the circumstances under which I write this list have changed since its last incarnation. In 2014, I was still in Hobart with a job paying around $100K a year and the house all-but paid off. The world was my automotive oyster. Those circumstances have changed in every way. I have a mortgage once again, and I’m earning less than I was before.

The dim ray of light on the horizon is that I should come into some cash soon, when the house settlement is completed. There’s no real incentive to pay off the flat here in Sweden (interest rates are near zero and interest is tax deductible anyway) so this presents an opportunity to indulge my car habit – just a little.

The criteria are as follows:

  • The theoretical budget is somewhere between €25,000 and €30,000. That’s an upper limit. A lot of the cars I’m considering are way less than that.
  • The car would be used as both a summer and winter car. Storing a car here can be an expensive pain in the butt, so unless it presents an exceptional case that justifies winter storage, it’ll need to be a daily driver.
  • The car should be compelling in at least one area, whether it be styling, interior, handling, historical importance, or that most important of all attributes – character.

To the list, then…..

Mini Cooper S – John Cooper Works

I had a chance to drive a JCW Mini recently. It wasn’t the one I’m thinking of buying. It was a series 2 Mini (R56) wheras the one I’m thinking picking up is the earlier R53 model from 2001-2006.

The R56 was super impressive in its finish and the way it drove. It’s proper-quick for a small car and it handles beautifully. The only critique I can offer is that it’s too……. German. Like my Porsche 968 CS from a few years ago, the R56 JCW Mini is so technically capable that I found myself a little uninspired by its competence.

I like to wrestle with a car. The Germans are fantastic at designing/building great machines, but they tend to leave me wanting in terms of the man/machine connection. A car has to have some personality and humility about it if it’s going to be engaging – and a Mini should always be engaging.

An aside – I drove a 2017 Mini Countryman a few months ago and it was more sterile than a heart surgeon’s operating theatre. Avoid. /aside.

Last year, I took a brief test drive in an R53 Mini Cooper S from the early 2000’s. I think it was a 2005 model. It had 160hp and razor sharp steering. It was a lot of fun. Almost perfect, in fact. I didn’t buy that car because the seller was very dodgy and the car had a big scratch down the side. It was a nice first dab of the toe into the Mini world, but I have to admit that a little more power would be welcome.

That’s where the John Cooper Works option comes in. Mini sold the Cooper S at that time with a JCW option that offered various bits and pieces, most important among them a power upgrade to 199hp. That R53 chassis with 40 extra horses sounds like more fun than a sack full of puppies. A proper little go-kart.

The other thing I like about the R53 model is that it came with a standard, old school DIN radio. From about 2005-onwards there’s this zombie period when car companies used integrated radios that tried to look pretty but are now just hard to use and even harder to replace. Give me a proper Bluetooth audio experience or an old school DIN radio that I can replace with a head unit of my choice, please.

So, a JCW is firmly on the radar and if I’m honest, it’s the car from this list that I’ll most likely buy in the near term.

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Jaguar XKR

Jaguar first made the XKR in the late 1990’s. That car looks like a giant rubbish bubble as a coupe, but it’s extremely elegant as a convertible. It’s a strange thing. Night and day.

Please excuse the terrible photos….

That’s NOT the XKR I’m thinking of, however.

The XKR I’d like to consider is the more recent model, the predecessor to the current sporty Jaguar coupe – the F Type. This is the XKR sold from 2006 to 2014, which looks like this….

The early versions of this car (i.e. the one I could (maybe) afford) have a supercharged V8 of some 4.2 litres that produces nearly 420hp. They’re quick, they’re exceptionally good looking and they’re very comfortable.

I’ve enjoyed one Jaguar experience. I’d like to enjoy another. The XJR saloon was a wonderful car but I did feel like I’d retired prematurely. This muscly coupe is a bit more my style.

XKRs for sale in Sweden are beyond my price range at the moment BUT there are XKRs for sale in Germany at the mid-20K € mark. It’s a contender.

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Maserati GranTourismo

OK, this one is out of my price range. But just look at it!!

The car above is currently for sale in Germany for €45,000 and that’s waaaaaaay more than I’ve ever spent on a car. Especially on a car that will continue to depreciate. It’s completely foolish to even contemplate, but also uttely compelling.

The Maserati GranTourismo, like the XKR, is a muscle-bound coupe packing a 405hp V8 and an exhaust note that’ll make you giggle all the way home.

As the name suggests, it’s a GT car. A long-distance tripper. That’s something I’d love to make use of while I’m living here in Europe. There are thousands of roads that I’d love to explore here. The Maserati has just the right blend of style, comfort and power to make those road trips even more memorable.

It’s on this list because it’s a bucket list. A goal. Hopefully, they’ll come down in price a little more and I can aim for one in a few years.

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Porsche 911

The one that got away…..

Back in 2014, I bought a Porsche 968 ClubSport. It was an amazing car and it was the most expensive car I’d ever bought, at A$30,000. If I’d stretched another $10K, I could have bought a really nice air-cooled 911. And of course, air-cooled 911’s that cost $40K in Australia in 2014 are now selling for $90K or more.

Que sera sera.

You can still get into a 911 for under €30,000, however. It’s the ugly duckling of the family: the 996.

The 996 is not the best looking 911 in history. In fact, it’s probably the worst looking 911 in history. But it’s still not a BAD looking car.

This is a 996….

That car is bog-standard, in boring silver and with the horrible runny-egg headlamps.

This is also a 996….

It’s a Carrera 4S with 320hp. And it’s much nicer to look at, wouldn’t you agree?

I can almost hear my mate Mats having a coronary over this because I haven’t mentioned the IMS bearing yet. YES, there are things you have to be wary of with the 996, but there are PLENTY of them for sale in Germany under the 30K mark and many of them claim to have had the IMS bearing upgraded. It’s a matter of checking them out.

There are a lot of things to consider with the 996. The IMS bearing is the just the beginning. It’s not got the nicest interior, for example, and I place a lot of importance on the interior of a car.

But it’s still a 911. And that means something in terms of driver enjoyment and satisfaction.

No, I’m not a big fan of German cars. Not at all. But I’d make an exception for a 911.

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Alfa Romeo 156 GTA Wagon

There HAS to be an Alfa on this list somewhere, right? The world would be out of balance, otherwise.

The Alfa 156 GTA is a hairy-chested beast of a car. It has that beautiful Busso V6 in its final iteration, making 250hp and still sounding as amazing as they day Guiseppe Busso first fired it up.

I’ve driven a 156 GTA sedan in Australia and it was extremely comfortable and agile for a front-wheel-drive performance sedan. It had exactly the right mix of beauty and fun. And it’s an Alfa. I’ve got a massive soft spot for Alfas, as many of you will know.

Why the wagon? Why not?

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Morgan 3-Wheeler

I will definitely own a JCW Mini at some stage. That’s one of two cars on this list that I will definitely buy at some point in the future.

The other is the Morgan 3-Wheeler.

If you wanted to pick a car from this list that won’t lose value, you’d pick the Morgan. They’re also totally impractical and therefore hard to sell, but they DO hold their value.

The Morgan 3-wheeler is, in legal terms, a motorcycle. And it’s about as close to a real motorcycle as I will ever get. It has two skinny tyres on the front and one proper-sized tyre on the back. It’s powered by an 82hp V2 air-cooled engine made by S&S Motors in Wisconsin.

It’s completely impractical, but it’s also simple, elegant, and at just 550kg, extremely light. That’s a recipe for FUN and if you check out all the videos online, that’s exactly where the 3-Wheeler excels.

I will have one, one day.

Enjoy the video.

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13 Comments

  1. Agreed. I saw a Maserati GranTourismo on the beltway driven by someone who clearly had never used a stick shift. It was so painful to watch I almost wanted to get them to pull over so I could rescue the car.

    Among my bucket list is an old style MG roaster with a ford V8 and disc ventalited brakes. Throughly modernized but with old class style.

  2. Coronary almost happened, but I agree the 996 does give value for money and if you squint hard from a long enough distance you almost cant make out the ugly headlights…almost.

    And I agree with the three wheeler, its a complete underdog and I do love my underdogs.

  3. Having had an R53 JCW MINI, all I can say is “NO”.

    If you found the Megane to have too dismal an interior, all I can say is that the MINI is as bad. On top of that, even with the extra HP the JCW package adds, it’s pretty gutless. Worst of all, besides being gutless, it also get horrible mileage on the highway. You’d think with a little engine, a light weight, and a six-speed transmission that it’d be great, but it’s not. I’m talking 14L/100km bad. The R56, radio aside, is SO much better.

    And, besides, it’s possible to use an adaptor and aftermarket trim panel to fit a double din stereo in an R56 without error codes.

    1. I wonder too if swapping the tires out might make it ‘less german’? Once I replaced the OM tires on my VW Golf with Michelin Defenders it started handling like a completely different vehicle…..

  4. Certainly a varied list, and I’d expect no less of you!

    Love the Morgan and the Jaguar, but I look askance at the Mini.

    No Citroens or vintage British metal?

  5. The Maserati is certainly the holy grail. Beautiful in every sense. In the meantime, a Jaguar XK (no reason to go for the R) is a good choice. There’s one on Blocket that has been used as an all year car, so it’s certainly possible.

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