I was thinking I might do a post on the three best and three worst cars I’ve ever owned. Such a list requires a little perspective, though, so here’s the full complement of cars that have crossed my driveway over the years.
It’s not as many as I thought it would be, actually – 25 cars in 27 years of driving. That’s not quite the one-per-year average I would have expected.
I’m obviously not trying hard enough
My little blue Gemini. I bought it for $3,000 around January 1988, three months before I got my licence. I wrote it off after a crash with a rather large tree 9 months later.
The photo below is not my actual car, but one of similar vintage. Imagine this in baby blue (and without a kangaroo)…
Holden LJ Torana
Given that my first car felt a little bit ‘girlie’, I beefed things up a little and bought a classic young Australian hoon’s car for $4,500. It had a 202 6-cyl with an Aussie 4-speed. I thoroughly enjoyed my Torana – including everything that ‘enjoying’ a small muscle car entails when you’re 18 years old – but totally neglected it and it died a natural death after about three years. Shame.
This IS my actual car, with an old mate of mine in the passenger seat.
Low on cash after the death of the Torana, I stumped up another $2800 for a yellow Gemini. This one had the advantage of a 5-speed gearbox and a great amplifier wired into the sound system. The downside was the broken driver’s seat that I had to hold up with a football.
Not my actual car. This, but yellow.
Toyota Celica Liftback
Can’t remember what I paid for this one, but it would have been in the region of $4,000. My first properly decent car, which I promptly traded when the car that followed it became available….
This is not my car, but exactly the same in the looks department.
Toyota Celica XX
I’d only just bought the 4-cylinder Celica (above) when this rare 6-cylinder became available. It was called a Supra in some markets but wherever my one was sold (I don’t think it was an Australian delivery), it was called Celica XX. It had a 2-litre fuel injected straight six and it kept me going through three full years of university.
I sold this one for next-to-nothing after getting a job that included the use of a company vehicle.
Mine looked exactly like this, with the exception of the wing mirrors. My mirrors were in a more traditional position, near the driver.
Saab 99 E
My first Saab, bought for $1,000 from a vehicle recycler. It was spectacularly slow and though it looked grubby when I first took it home, my ex-wife and I dismantled the interior and cleaned the whole car within an inch of its life. It emerged looking like a little Swedish fire truck. So shiny.
Sadly, my ex wrote it off in a parking incident.
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint
Dissatisfied with the use of a boring company vehicle and sad at the loss of the 99E, I picked up this Sprint on the cheap. It was my first Alfa Romeo. I knew nothing about driving boxer-engined Alfas when I owned this. I know plenty about it, now.
Saab 99 Turbo
I bought my first turbocharged Saab for $400. It was due to be towed to a wrecker’s yard if it didn’t sell that weekend. I had the turbo and gearbox replaced and enjoyed some of the most wonderful motoring for the year or so that followed. I’d always wanted a 900, though, so I made a stupid decision and sold the 99 Turbo to buy one. If I’d only known how hard a good one is to come by (and if I only had the resources to keep it at the time). This was pre-TS and I was a completely uneducated Saab owner.
Saab 900 Turbo
I wanted a 900 and I wanted it bad – so I bought this one in a rush of blood. How can you tell? Well, it was an automatic and a 5-door instead of a manual 3-door. I regretted parting with the 99 Turbo straight away so after a time, I bought it back again
This is not my car, but I don’t seem to be able to find any digital photos of mine so this will have to do. Mine was a metallic grey Turbo with a grey velour interior and it was very comfortable. It’s a pity those auto transmissions can be so slow.
Saab 99 Turbo
This was me buying back the white one that I sold a few years earlier. I missed it a lot and thankfully, the kid I sold it to kept my details and called when he was ready to sell again. It finally died when 2nd gear gave up the ghost.
Damn those glass Saab gearboxes.
Saab 99 Turbo
A friend was going through some marriage turmoil and was going to sell this 99Turbo for about half its value. So I bought it from her. Her husband still hates me to this day, I think. I sold the car around 4 months later as I had no room and it was the most saleable car I had. No money was made on the deal. It passed into safe hands, which was all I really cared about.
This is not my car in the photo below. Once again, I can’t seem to fund any photos of it. The car in the photo belongs to a friend in Sydney. Mine was similar in both looks and condition at the time, though I think my old one’s deteriorated a bit now.
Saab 9-3 Viggen
Buying the Viggen was the biggest purchase of my automotive life at the time. It was the first time I bought a car less than 10 years old and the first time I spent 5-figures on a car. With it’s Lightning Blue paint, special interior and B235R engine, the Viggen really was something special.
Sadly, I wrote this one off at Baskerville Raceway in 2007.
Saab 900 Turbo
The Viggen accident took a long time to settle with the insurance company (I won) and in the meantime, I bought this 900 Turbo to keep me going. I bought it from the same guy who owns the red 99T, above, which accounts for the 900’s excellent condition when I bought it.
This 1985 Saab 900 16V flat-nose had some intermittent problems, however. The car would just stop running for no discernable reason. Two minutes later, it would start up again like nothing had ever happened. Strange.
I sold it to a student here in Hobart and he owned it until last year (I think) when he sold it to another local who’s been in touch with me about it. He was going to do some interior restoration. I hope to see it again one day.
Alfa Romeo 33 16V
This was the beginning of my modern Alfa Romeo renaissance. I bought this 33 in Melbourne in one of my favourite scenarios – a guy who didn’t realise what he had, who presented it using poor photos and without being cleaned up when viewed in person. The car was a gem. An absolute gem. I got it for around 70% of its true value and I still regret selling it to this day.
I chipped the ECU and fitted a 2.25 inch exhaust. The sound and the performance were both totally addictive.
The MX-5 is the only convertible I’ve ever owned.
I wanted to know what the fuss was about but sadly I never really bonded with it. I wouldn’t mind having another crack at it some time. Next time, I’ll find a way to store the hardtop so I don’t end up leaving it on the car so much.
Saab 99 Turbo
I bought another 99Turbo with a view to restoring it, but lacking the resources or the know-how, I ended up passing it on to a friend who collected 99s.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
One day I’ll actually do one of these resto jobs.
Saab 9-3 Monte Carlo
I got the Monte at a great price and it was a good car. I kept thinking I could make it into a Viggen, however, which was a mistake. Only a Viggen can be a Viggen. The Monte had more power than a Viggen by the time I sold it (and better suspension) but it still failed to deliver the same thrill as a Viggen.
It proved to me just how well car companies do things when they put their mind to it. The Viggen might be a flawed masterpiece, but it’s a masterpiece nonetheless.
Saab 900 LPT
Fast forward to 2011. I was in Sweden working for Saab and I wanted a vehicle to get me around to places other than the Saab factory. My experiences with the Saab 900 in Australia left a little to be desired and I crossed my fingers and toes that I’d have a better experience in Sweden.
My little red LPT 900 S carried me across the country a couple of times and everywhere in between. It picked up my Ikea furniture, took me to dinner and lunch everywhere and performed perfectly every time. It was everything I hoped a 900 would be (except luxurious, but it felt more Swedish that way. Lagom.)
Alfa Romeo 33 16V
Lamenting the sale of my first 33, I bought another when I got back to Australia. This was my first real ‘miss’ as a car buyer – it was a poor car and its condition only worsened, regardless of the considerable amounts of money I threw at it.
The Brumby was purchased after replacing the clutch in a number of cars over the years, thanks to our very steep driveway. I used to park at the bottom and every morning I’d have to rev the crap out of the car to get it up the drive. The secret to managing this in the Brumby is selectable high- and low-range 4WD.
It’s also economical, incredibly durable and practical. That’s why it’s now one of the longest-held cars I’ve ever owned. The car enthusiast in me says ‘meh’ but the bloke in me absolutely loves this Brumby.
Alfa Romeo GTV6
This was a car with a great heritage, having been built by a professional racing engineer as his personal car. The sound was amazing. There’s nothing quite like the note of an Alfa V6. The GTV6 is hard work to drive fast, but very rewarding if you get it right.
Porsche 968 ClubSport
This was my first foray into Porsche ownership.
The 968 is an astounding car – for a four cylinder. And therein lies the problem with the 968: there’s always some sort of qualifying statement attached to it. Great club car – though not as fast as a 911. Excellent handling, but have you got the M030 pack? Not bad at all, for a front-engined Porsche.
There’s always something more you can do with a Porsche and doing anything with a Porsche involves $$$. Lots of them. And the Porsche world can be very competitive, which means you feel like spending the $$$.
My driveway made driving this car a real pain and I had too much money tied up in it to just leave it in the garage. How much? Well, after selling the 968 I got the Alfa Sprint and the 928 you see below, plus $10K left over.
It’s an amazing car. The most technically competent car I’ve ever owned, by far. Maybe in the future I’ll get one in circumstances that allow me to drive it more often.
Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Rallye
I wasn’t going to include this one as I never actually drove it anywhere. At least I drove the 99T restorer from Melbourne to Hobart.
But, I did legally own the Fulvia, so here it is. The photo was taken last week as it was loaded onto a trailer to go to its new home, where it will join a restored Flaminia, Flavia and Fulvia sedan.
Alfa Romeo Sprint
My bargain Christmas present, purchased on Christmas Eve 2014. This car is sooooo much fun to drive. I lovelovelove it.
Porsche 928 S
My most recent purchase – owned for just a few weeks as at the time of writing. I’m still coming to terms with the 928S and its charms. It’s certainly an amazing piece of design and engineering.
Is it an amazing car to drive? Hmmmmm……