Car Choice: A Brit of indulgence

Speed! Sex appeal! £80,000! At last, says James Ruppert, a query to get the heart racing as fast as the engine... just don't forget about the baby seat
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Gavin Badcock is looking to buy something that is really quick and stunning, which will fit two adults in the front and have enough room for a baby seat in the back. He does not want an automatic car, and he has image issues with Ferraris and Aston Martins as he claims, at 33 years old, to be some way off a mid-life crisis. He currently drives a Honda S2000 and has a generous £80,000 budget.

It's so nice to get a "sexy" question rather than another query about a diesel hatchback. There's nothing wrong with wanting a small, efficient and practical hatch, but we should never forget that there are many enthusiasts who simply love cars and driving. It's great that there is someone like Gavin who is willing to take a chance and indulge himself. Life is short enough without making it even grimmer by driving a rubbish car.

Indeed, in the past few weeks I have been out and about looking at and driving supercars, which has been fun. Gavin says he doesn't like automatic gearboxes and presumably that includes the numerous paddleshift options, allowing him to shift gears manually via those paddles mounted on the steering column just behind the wheel. I don't mind that system, because at least when you are in traffic you can go fully automatic and you won't burn out the clutch, or make slightly jerky progress.

Never mind. I will respect Gavin's wishes and try to find vehicles with good, old-fashioned gear levers. But I think that Gavin should realise that on a practical level, many interesting cars are far from family-friendly. I squeezed my wife into the rear of an Aston Martin the other day and she still hasn't forgiven me.

A CAR FOR THE HEAD

In practical supercar terms, my first reaction would be to suggest a Porsche 911, but Gavin has image issues with that vehicle, which is a pity.

I'm inclined also to suggest the Vauxhall Monaro. Under the bonnet is a very reliable Chevrolet V8 engine, which makes a truly wonderful noise. It is fast enough and, most important of all, there is a decent amount of room in the back, which should make it easier to get that baby seat in and out.

Used examples are now well under £20,000 in price, but the problem is that badge and image. This car is really a modern-day Capri or Vauxhall Calibra, and it doesn't have quite the sort of supercar image that Gavin is after.

And there are practical supercars such as the Audi RS6 estate, which again may not excite Gavin, although it will reach 60mph in under five seconds. I know that Gavin is aware of the Maserati 4200 GT, which still has a manual gearbox. But if he doesn't mind that, then he may as well buy a Ferrari 456 GT for under £40,000. Then there is the Maranello, which will be £57,000 at around six to seven years old. This has a better badge and a more characterful V12 engine, and it offers a tremendous feel-good factor with a dose of real practicality.

A CAR FOR THE HEART

I won't muck around here with a million suggestions - I reckon Gavin should just go for it and find himself a TVR Cerbera. If he wants something truly different, you can't get any more individual than these wonderful and uniquely British creations. The trouble is that the recent history of the company has not been brilliant, as production has stopped and is rumoured to be moving to Europe, and the manufacturing side of the business in Blackpool has gone into receivership. That all means that a TVR could become an even more exclusive marque.

The Cerbera has a 2+2 layout, so it is reasonably practical, but the great thing about all TVRs is their utter individuality. They look quick and indeed they are, with massive and noisy engines. The 4.2 will do 180mph and the 4.5 will do 10mph on top of that - and, rather worryingly, there is a lack of the traction control and ABS systems that we take for granted on most contemporary fast cars.

Many fans of the marque, though, think that the smallest six-cylinder 4.0 Speed Six sounds the best TVR of all. Incredibly, this was the model with the softest suspension and is the most family-friendly model. I found a 2004 example with just 8,000 miles at a TVR dealer that cost just £33,995. That leaves plenty for maintenance and to pay the petrol bills.

CAR CHOICE

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and budget.

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