Alexei Sayle: I would love to design a bespoke motor car
Once I get my hands on all that oil money, I'll pay Gruppo Fiat to do a special Maserati 4200 GT
Tuesday 28 September 2004
As a noted motoring journalist, I am most often asked the question: "Having driven all the latest models, what car would you choose for yourself?" This is not easy for me to answer, since there always seems to be something a bit wrong with every car I try. Would I buy a big S-Class or 7 Series? To me, if you drive a large four-door Merc or BMW, there's always a chance you're going to be mistaken for a limo driver. The only way around this is to have the car in some gruesome colour such as yellow or purple and then people just think you've got no taste. Four-wheel drives are out for the obvious eco reasons. Frankly, I can't see myself in a hatchback, or as Niles Crane memorably described one he'd been lent in Frazier, "a hunchback".
Two-door coupés are the obvious vehicle of choice for deluded, childless, middle-aged men such as myself, but even here there are problems with which brand to buy. I don't like the various coupé offerings from Mercedes or BMW, and Jaguars and Porsches are too cramped in the back with no boot space. The nearest to perfection for me is the Maserati 4200 GT, because it's a proper four-seater with a decent-sized boot, but the downside of that car is that its engine is ridiculously thirsty, offering less than 15 miles per gallon in normal use - and its got no proper automatic gearbox.
In the end I think the Sultan of Brunei had the right idea. What he and his profligate brother Prince Jefri used to do was to commission Rolls-Royce and Bentley - when they were still one company - to make them special one-off vehicles. He had a Rolls-Royce estate that looked remarkably good, a six-door Silver Spur, and quite a few Bentley Continental four-door estates.
Of course, it was a sign of the tackiness of the Sultan and Prince Jefri that they mostly had custom-built Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, but I think it would be much more interesting to redesign other models. While at the moment I clearly don't have the money to act like the Sultan of Brunei (and neither does he these days), I hope to be very rich soon. I can now reveal that in that recent failed coup in Africa, alleged to involve various old Etonians and Mark Thatcher, the plotters were hoping to install me as the new ruler of Equatorial Guinea. The reason they chose me was because, as the leading anti-Thatcherite comedian of the 1980s, I'd be the last person anyone would ever suspect - brilliant, eh? So, though that attempt failed, we're going to try again and it's only a matter of time. Once I get my hands on all that oil money, the first thing I'll do on a fairly simple level is to pay Gruppo Fiat to do me a special Maserati 4200 GT. I'd tell them to sling the 4.2 engine and gearbox and drop in the Alfa 3.2 V6 out of the 166, with that car's auto box, so its more economical and less jerky to drive - or why not fit one of the excellent Fiat diesels? But if you're wasting money on cars, it's the bodywork you want to be screwing with. I seem to recall seeing sketches for a Rover 75 coupé, so I'll have one of those. And because I think it's got a beautifully shaped body, how about a two-door Alfa 166 coupé?
Or come to think of it, how about a classic car? I love the look of old cars but they're a nightmare to own because of their primitive mechanicals. I do remember, in the early 1990s meeting a young man, who was either a son of Terence Conran or a son of Laura Ashley. I can't remember which. Either way, he was a young fellow who seemed to have too much money. However, he had done quite an interesting thing. He'd taken the body and interior of my favourite car of all time, the Rover P5B Coupé, and bolted it to the slightly shortened chassis of a modern Range Rover, giving the car an up-to-date ride, fuel consumption and braking, while retaining the classic style. Another solution would be just to stop being such a prissy little git and buy a Ford Focus like everybody else.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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