SOONER or later, it is going to happen.
You’ll start by taking vitamin pills. Or wearing Lycra to go cycling. Or looking up your exes on Facebook. Then you’ll switch from Radio 2 to 6 Music. You’ll dye your hair. And then you’ll buy a car.
Not just any car, mind. A cool one to recapture your youth, to make up for lost time. Welcome to your midlife crisis.
Here are six candidate cars, two new then four used, to scratch that itch.
Ford Focus RS: £31,765
ON the one hand, this is quite sensible. Five doors, four comfy seats, cup holders, decent boot for the dog, manufacturer warranty, even the added insurance of all-wheel drive when the weather turns poorly.
On the other . . . well, you are fooling no one. The Focus RS is a weapon.
Those “pops, bangs and burbles” from the exhaust are legendary
A rally car for the road. Launch control, drift mode, 350hp – even more if you ask Mr Mountune to tickle it. It rockets from 0-62 in 4.7 seconds, all the way up to 165mph, and those “pops, bangs and burbles” from the exhaust are legendary.
Beefy Brembo brakes? Yup, standard. Recaro seats? Standard. Rear spoiler? Standard. 19in alloys? Standard. This was my five-star car last year. But let me tell you more about that drift mode. Even your Nana could do it.
Just bury the throttle as you turn in and the car does all the work (the all-wheel drive system sends as much torque to the outside rear wheel, while the ESC brakes the front wheels to kill understeer). You exit the corner sideways looking like a track god.
Be warned, you’ll eat a lot of tyres.
Lotus Elise: £18,725*
OK, OK, that price is wrong. But that’s what I call “man maths”. We don’t get bogged down in detail.
The deal for this Elise Sport 220 is pay half now, which is £18,725, pay nothing for two years, and then pay the remaining £18,725 in 2019. Total £37,450. We’ll worry about 2019 in 2019, right?
Pure unadulterated joy
Fortune favours the brave. And that leaves more than enough time to sell the house and downsize for a “simpler life”, or cash in the pension, or get lucky with the footie acca.
The Elise is basically a very fast go-kart with seatbelts. A super- lightweight British legend. Everything from the world record-breaking Hennessey Venom GT to the Vauxhall VX220 (now a great classic buy) to the original Tesla Roadster – and lots more – have been based on the Elise.
This uprated 220 Sport feeds 220hp to the rear wheels and bangs out 0-62 in 4.6 seconds. Top speed is 145mph.
Trust me, that feels fast when you are sitting lower than a snake’s belly.
Pure unadulterated joy for less than 19 grand . . . sort of.
Porsche 911: Under £20k
I’LL be straight. Some of these cars won’t do it for you. You are going through the meno-Porsche.
You have wanted a Porsche since forever. We have all wanted a Porsche since forever. It’s got your name all over it. But which one? Find the best 911 you can afford – some 996 models (from 1998 to 2004) are floating about for under £20k, but be quick.
The previous-generation 993 was also available for this money 18 months ago, but not any more. These beauties – the last of the air-cooled 911s – have since doubled in value.
If you buy smart on your 911, you could make money too. There’s a saying in the Porsche world – “your cheapest Porsche will be your most expensive car”. Take note of this.
If you buy smart on your 911, you could make money too
Buy the best you can afford, and the newest. Like the latest possible “996” 911s – post-2001 models saw the introduction of the more reliable 3.6-litre engine (the smaller pre-2001 engine suffered with warped cylinders). Steer clear of “molested” examples, with body kits, decals and spoilers – this suggests an exuberant past life and problems in store.
Go for the purest, most original examples you can find. Look out for good (and matching) tyres all round, and for any tell-tale signs such as worn driver seats and carpets that may belie a suggested low mileage.
And go for black, silver, red or white – avoid the aqua-marines and metallic golds.
Jaguar XK8: Under £10k
YEP, this is a Jag. Hit me with the usual “pipe and slippers”, “old man’s car”, “crusty colonel”, etc. I don’t care.
The XK shouts “I’m successful, I’ve got money”, it’s dripping in leather and wood, and it’s fast and it’s British.
The supercharged XKR (from 1996–2006) has the most street cred – and will put the biggest smile on your face. And they are surprisingly good value. But for under £10,000, it has to be the naturally aspirated XK8, 2006 vintage. This is no slouch, either.
The 4.2-litre AJ-V8 can sprint from 0-60 in less than six seconds and has a top speed of 160mph. It’s a beautiful thing. It was inspired by the E-Type – note the “open-mouth grille”.
And it’s practical too – a 2+2 seater with room for a weekend’s luggage and golf clubs in the boot.
And don’t fret if your iPhone is out of juice, this baby has its own IN-CAR phone – and an MP3 jack. Class.
Everything you could want for. Except possibly a Harley.
Mercedes SL500: Under £10k
I LIKED Bobby Ewing from Dallas. He had great taste in women (Victoria Principal) and great taste in cars (Mercedes SL).
Well, you can snap up Bobby’s SL for the price of a Vauxhall Corsa. Look out for the V8-engined 450SL – only built until 1980, which adds a rarity and potential investment factor.
Just imagine. Top down, that 5-litre V8 burbling in your ears
That said, your best buy is probably the R129 500SL, 1996 vintage. The “SL” stands for Sportlich-Leicht or “Sport Lightweight”, and this is exactly what to expect from a Nineties 500SL.
Post-1996 models also feature a nice five-speed sports auto transmission. There’s lots of luxury in there too, with leather, wood, more electronics than a Maplin store and, of course, rock-solid German reliability and robustness.
Just imagine it. Top down, that 5-litre V8 burbling in your ears, 0-60 in just six seconds, top speed of 155mph, and Pamela in the passenger seat, laughing at all your crap jokes.
Corvette: Under £10K
YOU want a muscle car? Really? The certificate is in the post. You are a fully paid-up member of the Midlife Crisis Club.
You’ll be doing triathlons next.
Bang for buck, you can’t do much better than this 6-litre, V8 Corvette from Detroit.
The must-have muscle car for any fantasy-garage-on-a-budget list
A General Motors icon. The star of a thousand movies. The lyric in a thousand songs. The must-have muscle car for any fantasy-garage-on-a-budget list.
Go for the C5 (from 1997-2004). Just look at the numbers: 181mph, 345bhp, 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds – matching the equivalent Ferraris and Aston Martins of the day.
And, thanks to its lightweight aluminium block – 28mpg! Yup, from a 5.7-litre V8. Next question: Do I go for coupe or convertible? Always opt for the hard-top for three reasons: Stiffness, looks, and no leaks.
The rarer six-speed manuals could also make a good investment. Sing along now . . . Little red Corvette, baby you’re much too fast . . .