When ClassicCars.com was a fledgling collector car marketplace, I was asked to submit a news roundup/blog/commentary a couple of times each month. The idea was to provide something for people to read when they weren’t searching the classified ads for the car of their dreams. The idea proved popular enough that twice a month became more frequent, to the point that we now have a variety of reporters and editors who offer perhaps the best full-service, 24/7/365 news available about the collector car hobby.
One of those earlier pieces was written in response to a question I used to hear frequently, “What are the 10 best cars you’ve ever driven?”
Sounds like a simple enough question, except that after a dozen years at AutoWeek magazine and nearly two decades as a freelance auto writer, I’ve probably driven around 4,000 different vehicles over a distance of maybe two million miles, or more, and on four continents.
So I counted down a list of 10 cars that came quickly to mind (and, yes, there was a story that went along with each of the cars). Here’s that list, but with a postscript:
10. Nissan Skyline GT-R Nissan was introducing an updated version of what was then its largest sport utility vehicle and it knew none of the invited journalists was very excited by the prospect. To sweeten the attraction, it offered up one of its Skylines, then a world-class road rocket not sold in the U.S., for some laps around the company’s Arizona proving grounds. Yee-haa!
9. Ford Telstar TX Turbo I went to Australia for the opening of the Thunderdome, a NASCAR-style oval track, and Ford of Australia offered the use of a brand new Telstar TX Turbo, sort of a cross between a Mustang and a hot-rod Mazda. The car was, indeed, a hot rod, and so rare at the time that twice people tried to break into the car overnight and steal it out of the motel’s secure parking area.
8. Mercedes-Benz 500E prototype This was the prototype for the original 500E. Mercedes had contracted Porsche to soup it up and the car was amazing: Powerful, with awesome brakes, a suspension that hunkered down the faster you went, and a manual gearbox so you could extract all the power that big V8 could produce.
7. Shelby GT500 This was the then-brand new, 2007 model, a Shelby Mustang with 500 ponies under its striped hood. Needless to say, this pony car packed a kick.
6. Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera I’d been writing about cars for nearly 20 years but had never driven a Lambo until this one. It was worth the wait.
5. Porsche Carrera GT I didn’t approach this 10-cylinder, 600-horsepower, state-of-the-art, carbon-fiber supercars 205-mph top speed potential, but I felt how wonderfully it accelerated, turned and stopped, and how much it felt like, well, like a real Porsche. At the time, it was the culmination of decades of engineering that understood the benefits of putting the engine behind the driver.
4. Ford GT I’d driven the supercar prototype along famed Highway One south of Pebble Beach, California, over the weekend, but on the Monday after the Monterrey Historic Races a few years ago, Ford offered an opportunity to do a couple of laps around the Laguna Seca race track. Dan Gurney was among those present that day, so rather than embarrass myself on the track, I asked Gurney if he’d drive and let me ride along while he talked about the car and about driving the original GT40 to victory at Le Mans. Gurney spent most of the first lap using the car to nudge spotter cones off the track. Why, I asked. So I can drive this thing on the ensuing laps, he said. And he did!
3. Ferrari Testarossa As I pulled into my driveway, so did a state police car. The trooper got out. He got into the passenger seat. In his uniform. Gun and all. He looked at me and said that we were going to take the car out and go through the gearbox one time to see what it could do. Obedient and law-abiding citizen that I am, we did.
2.Aston Martin DB7 Vantage In 1999, Aston Martin celebrated the 40th anniversary of its victory at Le Mans and offered the use of this car while I was covering the race. I even got to do some laps around the full road course as part of pre-race activities that included an Aston Martin club “parade.” We were instructed to follow the pace car for our three laps, but after the first lap the pace car driver waved us around we were free to set our own pace, even down the Mulsanne Straight.
1. Porsche 911 Turbo
Date: June 27, 2000
Location: Nevada’s Black Rock Desert
Driver: Larry Edsall
Driving coach: Many-time Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour race winner Hurley Haywood.
Coach’s instructions: Be gentle. Be smooth. Keep your foot down.
Result: a U.S. Auto Club-certified top speed of 175.781 miles per hour, the fastest I’ve ever driven.
And that was my list, published a few years ago.
Reading back through it, I wonder why I didn’t include getting to drive a Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo for many laps around Hockenheim, or getting to drive BMW 1600 and other pre-3 Series cars in Spain. And since the original story was published, I’ve been back to Australia, where I drove a Holden Ute SS, the Corvette-powered, car-based pickup — think hot-rodded Aussie El Camino — along that country’s Great Ocean Road; and I also got to spend a long weekend in a friend’s Ford Model A, a car my grandchildren still consider their favorite automotive adventure.
Oh, and a Porsche 356 Speedster and a split-window Corvette and I learned to start and drive a Ford Model T. Recently I was in the new Acura NSX and the new Camaro SS and I absolutely fell in love with the new Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch edition, diesel-powered pickup truck and…