Dream Cars: The Best Cars in the World

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This fast-paced, beautifully illustrated book presents fifty of the most desirable cars in the history of motoring. And it is no mere popularity contest: each outstanding automobile selected is either a masterpiece of engineering, a delight to the eye, or brutishly powerful. Few are all three.Drawing on a decadeGÇÖs experience testing the very fastest and most exotic cars, expert journalist Andrew Frankel gives an opinionated and in-depth view of the unique combination of qualities that go into the creation of a...
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Overview


This fast-paced, beautifully illustrated book presents fifty of the most desirable cars in the history of motoring. And it is no mere popularity contest: each outstanding automobile selected is either a masterpiece of engineering, a delight to the eye, or brutishly powerful. Few are all three.Drawing on a decadeGÇÖs experience testing the very fastest and most exotic cars, expert journalist Andrew Frankel gives an opinionated and in-depth view of the unique combination of qualities that go into the creation of a dream car. For each model, Frankel outlines the history of the car and provides technical highlights, as well as a driverGÇÖs eye view of what itGÇÖs like to drive flat out. In addition to a dedicated specifications page, anecdotes and stories of previous high-profile owners of the marque are included for the most prestigious models, all of which adds to the seductive appeal of these unique machines. The selection includes classics from all eras of automotive historyGÇöfrom the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost to the Jaguar XK8, from the Ferrari F40 to the Porsche 959.Illustrated throughout with 280 specially commissioned color photographs, this provocative profile of the most highly valued cars in the world evokes a world of speed and adventure, with every chrome curve and flared fin suggesting power and passion. Dream Cars is sure to delight and fascinate dream car owners and car-owning dreamers alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789208439
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/22/2005
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

There is no definition of what does, or does not, add up to a dream car. It's not that they go quickly; some of the most unpleasant cars I have driven covered the ground at a terrifying rate. Nor can you rely solely on factors that are easy to quantify, such as price, or simple to spot, such as beauty.

Inconveniently, the fact that you and I may dream about them can also have little to do with the final selection. In the final credits of my dreams I tend to find myself riding off towards the setting sun in an arthritic Escort, not some low-slung slice of ultimate automotive expression.

Most frustrating of all to somebody charged with providing a list of the dreamiest cars of all time is that you cannot even rely on the simple truth that a car is great as a qualifying criterion. The Ford Mondeo is an undeniably great car, transforming the lot of the family on the move, but it has no more relevance to this book than does a bunch of bananas.

And you cannot even exclude cars that are genuinely bad to help narrow the field. In this book there is at least one car that even I consider to be truly dreadful and there are two or more others that when released received mixed reviews, to say the least, I will not be the first to observe that being bad can be a desirable trait.

In the end, then, it comes down to gut feeling and, in this case, my gut feeling. If you are lucky enough to have fluked your way into a business where driving such cars also earns you your living, you soon learn that this feeling, which manifests itself usually as a tingle in the pit of your stomach, is the most precious tool of your trade. During the course of a year and perhaps a hundred cartests, you are routinely confronted with cars that, on paper, seem not to put a foot wrong but, out in the real world, fail to convince. Others seem to make no sense at all until you drive them and realize they possess a spark of something special that was not possible to predict. It is the ability to recognize and appreciate that spark that sets us apart from computers.

The next problem to be faced is that there are rather more candidates that fit comfortably into my gut's definition of 'dream car' than there is space for in this book. To be honest, I could have filled it, cover to cover, with Ferraris without even drawing breath.

For me, as for millions around the globe, it was Ferrari that lit the fire. My first memory of cars was being taken as a treat to the place where Ferraris are imported into the UK and sitting down surrounded by Daytonas and Dinos. I also remember the undignified exhibition I made of myself when it was suggested that perhaps it might be time to go home. I had never felt more at home in my life.

Of them all, it was the 250GTO that provided the first love and the feeling remains as strong today as ever. It was everything I had ever imagined a car should be: fast, rare, indescribably beautiful, indomitable on the track and exquisite on the road. Blasting across open moorland while listening to the music of its classic V12 engine remains one of my all time great motoring experiences.

For a car that was, by comparison, mass produced, the Dino 246GT carried an unlikely amount of the GTO spirit. It looked almost as good and if it were not quite so quick, then it certainly sounded the part. Most importantly though, much of the Dino's desirability stems from the fact that, while not exactly on the cheap side, nor is it so ludicrously expensive that the prospect of ownership is beyond the grasp of all but a few dozen people on the planet.

The F40, however, is likely to remain out of reach, which, in fact, is no bad thing. It falls into that rare category of car that you cannot just climb aboard and, hoping you can handle it, head off over the hills. It is a car in which even the extremely experienced need to tread carefully. Once mastered, there is no other road car experience like it, but if the privilege is abused, there are few others on the road that will be as swift to punish the driver accordingly.

One of them, undoubtedly, is the Lancia Stratos, which, while not a Ferrari, at least relies on Ferrari for its power. The Stratos is an enigma, of all the cars I have driven, the most difficult to understand. Capable of being both merciless and endlessly rewarding, depending on its mood, it was one of the few road cars I remember approaching for the first time with a sense of fear. When driving it quickly in difficult conditions, you can never be truly certain what it was going to do next. Sometimes you would have a pretty strong hunch and act accordingly, but most of the time it was more a case of reacting.

Like the Stratos, the BMW M1 was conceived first as a competition car, from which road cars would be built to satisfy the prevailing regulations of the time. And while both were two-seater, mid-engined sportscars designed in the 1970s, the Stratos was built for the rally stage while the M1 was a racer, pure and simple. The road-going M1 made it onto the list because it was designed like an Italian supercar but built to the more exacting standards of a mainstream, quality German car maker. The theory was that the result would be a blend of style and function, and the practice agreed.

BMW turned to Lamborghini because, among other reasons, the Italian firm had been building mid-engined supercars for longer than anybody else. The first was the Miura, a car whose beauty and specification stunned the world when it was launched in 1966. Its memory lives on today as strong as ever in the Diablo SV. Lamborghini has never been idolized like its rivals at Ferrari, just twenty minutes down the road. Where Ferrari's competition history is unapproachable, that of Lamborghini is patchy and largely undistinguished; while Ferrari has raked in profits for year after year, Lamborghini has almost always struggled for survival. Yet whatever the future might hold for Lamborghini, it can face it rightly proud that, from the day the Miura first broke cover, it has never compromised its values.

But if there is one car that, alone, can claim not to have sold out to anyone from the day it was first produced, long before the Miura was on Bertone's drawing board, it is the Porsche 911. It has been in production for half a lifetime and its strengths are at least as valid today as they were in 1963. Yet from all these years of production, from the hundreds of model variants built in that time, just one stands alone as the definitive 911. It is the 2.7RS Carrera, born in 1973 and the progeny of a freakish alignment of all that ever was good in the 911. It is one of those rare cars that will tell you, after just a few miles at the wheel, that it is better than its makers could have ever intended.

The Porsche 959 was, strictly speaking, a 911 but one so far removed from the delicate sportscar from which it was derived that Porsche felt it best to rename it. Until the 959, despite certain claims at the time, no road car could come close to 320kph (200mph). A really good Lamborghini Countach might just reach 290kph (180mph), a 1984 Ferrari 288GTO was probably good for 303kph (188mph), though that was no higher than the speed Ferrari claimed for its Boxer back in 1971. But the 959 really would do 317kph (197mph) and with little fuss. Its crucial significance, though, is that without it we would never have seen the Ferrari F40 or the other 320-kph (200-mph) supercars that culminated, ultimately, in the 381-kph (237-mph) McLaren F1.

The F1 is perhaps the only car that really has no competition. Nothing can touch either its performance or price. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the commodity we are dealing with here is to promise you that the performance gap between the F1 and something really fast, such as a Ferrari 308GTB is much greater than that which exists between that 308 and a Mini. I spent three days with the F1, on test track, open road and runway. On the runway I found that, while some others might have a theoretical maximum of just over 320kph (200mph), if you held the McLaren at precisely that speed and then rammed your foot down, it would surge forward at a rate most others would be happy with at half that speed.

Back in 1907, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was every bit as far ahead of the game as the McLaren F1. There was only one real Ghost, though others in its series were generally referred to as Silver Ghosts to honour its memory. Today it is very possibly the most valuable road car ever built, but that is not why it is in this book. It is here because of its startling beauty and the quality and integrity of its design.

But Britain had to wait until the Bentley was founded in 1919 before it could claim its first world-beating racing team. The marque won the Le Mans 24-hour race five times in seven attempts. If ever you wished to show an example of how classic lines could be achieved through pure function, you could do no better than use an open vintage Bentley as your illustration. Of them all, the most fondly remembered is the 41/2-litre model.

It was not simply the slump and then the subsequent take-over by Rolls-Royce that signalled the end for Bentley. There was also some rather elegant Italian writing on the wall. It said 'Alfa-Romeo 8C'. It was one of the later breed of sportscars that acknowledged that you did not simply need ever larger engines to go faster. On the contrary, by cutting weight, smaller engines could be used to make the car go just as fast in a straight line while reducing the effort required both to make the car stop and to go around a corner. The result was a car that was complete in every area, one that would go, stop and steer with the best of them while featuring the sort of effortless style of which only the Italians seem really capable.

The Aston Martin DB7 uses a supercharged engine, too, utilizing once more an often neglected form of induction. But that is not the feature that will ensure that it is remembered for generations to come. The DB7 is the vehicle that saved the company, a backs-to-the-wall last-gasp triumph that not only secured the Aston's future until the 21st century but also sent it on its way with greater confidence than at any stage in is heroically fraught history. But even if the DB7 was less than brilliant, you would still find it in this book. Its styling is the work of absolute genius. It is not a question of simple good looks, it is the way those looks both look forward to the future while still honouring the heritage of Aston Martin.

And none is better at defining that heritage than the famous DB5. It had all those things without which no Aston is complete: speed, style, beautiful quality and still a certain brutality to its nature.

Its biggest rival was the Jaguar E-type. Jaguar had built its reputation on making cars that were both faster and cheaper than its erstwhile rivals but the E-type was something else again. Even now, there are those who feel that the original 3.8-litre coupe captured the essence of the sportscar better than any other. Certainly it was stunning to look at, comparatively inexpensive and, if not quite capable of the top speed claimed for it, it was nevertheless much faster than anything else the money would buy.

Honda might not be a name to make you swoon but the NSX showed the world that there was no area of automotive endeavour in which the Japanese could not excel. A technological masterpiece, constructed to breathtaking standards from aluminium and powered by an engine that actually used pure technology not to replace emotive feel, but to create it. And anyone who tells you an NSX is a sterile, emotionless experience to drive has not driven one properly.

These, then, are those that make up the first division. They are the icons, the cars that have either already attained the status of legends or will shortly do so. Do not, however, think that this knowledge should detract from those that follow.

Mercedes enters the reckoning for the first time with two cars separated by 35 years. The ultimate modern expression of all that is Mercedes can be found within the skin of the 500SL roadster. Beautiful but, above all, effective, this is a groundcoverer by day that also guarantees you a seat in the right restaurant by night.

It is related back to the original 300SL, a car that, in 1955, was years ahead of its time, offering speed in a package as civilized and utterly reliable as you would expect from any car wearing the three pointed star. It started life in 1952 as an extremely successful sports racing car but it was as a road car that it found fame.

The Ford GT40 also started life as a racing car, and proved so successful it is a wonder that anybody bothered making them for use on the road. The road-going GT40, or MkIII, should never have been built. What is incredible about it, though, is the way that first-hand knowledge of how truly bad it is fails to diminish its magic. Just to sit in one so scarcely removed from a car that won Le Mans four times is reason enough to make it achingly desirable.

One car that would turn heads more would be the GT40's fellow American, the Chrysler Viper GTS. And unlike so many great-looking American cars built since the oil crisis of the seventies, the mechanicals of the Viper more than keep the promise of its looks. Its ten-cylinder motor displaces no less than eight litres, making it the biggest power plant fitted to a car on sale around the world. The Viper's real charm, however, is that it is straightforward to the point of crudeness, a real American muscle car and all the better for it.

Lamborghini re-enters the fray with a couple of latter-day lunatics--the Diablo SV and Countach QV. Drive either and you will find a considerable chunk of the original Miura concept in the cabin. There may not be a single interchangeable part, but in their noise, their lack of practicality and heavy feel they are inextricably linked in a way that Ferrari could not credibly claim existed between its latest 550 Maranello and the car it produced to fight the Miura, the 365GTB/4 Daytona.

Jaguar has further entries. They start with the XK120, the car that, through speed and beauty, put the Coventry firm in the hearts and minds of the post-war world, where it has remained ever since. By comparison few will have ever heard of the XKSS, a little known road-going version of the all-conquering D-type racing car. Only a handful were made but within its flowing lines lay the template for the E-type, the greatest road-going Jaguar of all.

It would be more than 30 years before Jaguar built another car with as great a performance advantage over the opposition as the E-type. It was called the XJ220 and, given enough space, would wind itself up to 343kph (213mph). As you will read, there was much that was wrong with the 220 but, like the E-type before, its looks and performance earned it a great deal of forgiveness. It was the first car that said, unequivocally, that 320kph (200mph) was not enough. And now Jaguar is back to its winning ways once more with the XK8. Hailed around the world as the best Jaguar for a generation, it has the looks and punch not only to back this claim but also to re-establish the marque as one of the premier sports coupe manufacturers.

Another is Bentley. This great name, once reduced to being no more than Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows with different badges, is ascending once more and it is largely thanks to the Continental R--a sporting coupe in the finest tradition. Thanks to its speed and lines it has helped turn the company around, and Bentley now out-produces Rolls-Royce.

Lotus is another name recently back from the dead. In fact, the survival of the road cars has depended entirely on the Esprit of late and there is none finer to represent this marvellous breed than the exclusive Sport 300. It was not, however, the car that turned it all around for the marque. That honour belongs to the Elise, which is just about the most breathtaking, affordable sportscar you can buy.

But not quite. The Caterham Seven JPE claims that one for itself, and with it the title of most frightening road car ever built. It has been developed from the old Lotus Seven into a car that would need another the calibre of a McLaren to stay with it across country or, more advisedly, around a racetrack.

Ferrari wades back into the second division with four cars that prove its unparalleled depth and breadth of excellence. From the history books comes the 288GTO--a flawed car but, in its day, faster and more wild than anything else you could buy. There are faster cars than an F50 or F355, Ferrari's contemporary contenders, but not many. These are cars to uplift the spirit when one howls past. If you are ever lucky enough to travel in one, you will know, within a mile, what it is that makes these cars different.

Snapping at their heels, as ever, come the Porsches, two of our contenders in the second division representing the marque's now generation-old front-engined models. First comes the 928GT, not quite the ultimate but undoubtedly the best development of the original 928 concept that won the Car of the Year award back in 1978. And if that seems like an age ago, remember that the car that sired the sublime 968 Club Sport was the 924, which you could buy way back in 1975. Say what you like about Porsche, you cannot deny that it builds its cars to last. The 356 Speedster, however, is not here for traditional Porsche reasons. Its presence within these pages is to show that Porsche could achieve the truly beautiful as well as the fast and enduring.

Just two hours down the road from Porsche lies the Munich base of BMW, and its three contenders in this section bear witness to the amazing breadth of sportscars produced by this enigmatic marque. How could a car such as the mad 2002Turbo, with its wild bodywork and all-or-nothing engine response, have ever come from the same company that brought you the Z1, as sophisticated a junior roadster as has been seen until the Mercedes SLK. Finally, the Bavarians bring us the 3.0CSL, known in bewinged racing form as the Batmobile.

An hour north of BMW lies Ingolstadt, home of Audi. When it produced the Quattro in 1980, nobody knew it would become the most significant sportscar of the decade. It was not very pretty and it had some damning flaws but, in its use of four-wheel drive for an everyday road coupe, it was unique and its influence on the cars we drive today would be hard to overestimate.

The American presence in this part of the book is not limited just to the Chrysler Viper and Ford GT40. Indeed, you will find the same engine Ford used for the GT40 under the bonnet of the AC Cobra, an Anglo/American hybrid of legendary appearance and unforgettable performance. Chrysler, too, is not finished yet, and puts forward its formidable Dodge Charger--as purebred an example of the straight-forward American muscle-car breed as you will find. And the last member of the Big Three, General Motors, makes it into the final reckoning, albeit with a little help from Lotus. The Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was the first of its type to move as well as it looked, thanks to the engineering expertise of the British firm. It stands tall as easily the finest of America's most famous breed of sportscar.

You might find it hard to see how a maker of such mainstream and often humble cars as Renault could find a place in a book such as this. If so, you have surely forgotten their mid-engined masterpiece--the Renault Five Turbo--a car that indeed looked like a Renault Five yet, despite using a tiny engine of undistinguished origin, was capable of running rings around many of the supercars of the day.

The Alfa-Romeo Montreal should have been able to do the same. It did, after all, harbour the engine of an all-out racing car within its gorgeous lines. The fact that the result was frequently and curiously awful in no way compromises its right to be included within this book.

Aston Martin's final two contenders represent the poles of the marque's post-war design. First, there is the Zagato--a brutal styling exercise by the famous Italian coachbuilders whose name it bears. To date, nobody has ever called the result pretty but the performance from the tuned V8 Vantage engine was never in doubt. The DB2/4 MkIII could scarcely be more different. It is a beautiful, elegant sportscar from a time before James Bond, and its appeal is as subtle as it is real.

Finally come the TVR Cerbera and the Lister Storm, both the progeny of Britain's tiny, but determined, specialist sportscar industry. They are monstrously fast two-plus-two coupes as individual as those who drive them. But while the Cerbera is beautiful and 'affordable', the Storm's shape owes much to aerodynamic efficiency and little to subtle styling nuances.

In this book there is a selection of marques from three continents, six countries and 90 years of car production. The difference in top speed between fastest and slowest is 290kph (180mph), while the price gap is rather more than £600,000, or about $1 million. And because this means that the net has been cast far and wide there are sure to be some entrants you will feel have no right to be included, and perhaps rather more that have been excluded.

I make no apology for this. If it is any comfort, there were another 50 on a shortlist that did not make it. One day, I might attempt to do justice to them as well, as I hope I have done with this selection. Until then, I am afraid that this modest little assortment will have to suffice.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Ferrari F40

Bentley 41/2 litre

Ferrari 250GTO

Porsche 911 2.7RS Carrera

McLaren F1

Ferrari Dino 246GT

Jaguar E-type 3.8

Alfa-Romeo 8C

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

Lamborghini Miura SV

Lancia Stratos

Honda NSX

BMW M1

Bugatti EB110

Aston Martin DB7

Porsche 959

Aston Martin DB5

Lotus Esprit Sport 300

Lamborghini Diablo SV

Caterham Seven JPE

Ford GT40 MkIII

Jaguar XJ220

Chrysler Viper GTS

Bentley Continental R

Ferrari F50

Ferrari F355

Porsche 968 ClubSport

Jaguar XK120

Audi Quattro

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Lamborghini Countach QV

Lotus Elise

BMW 3.0CSL

Mercedes 300SL

Ferrari 288 GTO

Porsche 928GT

Porsche 356 Speedster

BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW Z1

Jaguar XK8

Aston Martin V8 Zagato

TVR Cerbera

Lister Storm

Jaguar XKSS

Aston Martin DB2/4 MkIII

Dodge Charger

Renault Five Turbo One

AC Cobra

Alfa-Romeo Montreal

Mercedes 500 SL

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR

Author Biography: Andrew Frankel is a freelance automotive journalist and was for many years road test editor for Autocar magazine, where he is now a special correspondent. He is road car editor of Autosport, special correspondent to Classic & Sportscar, and also contributes widely to a range of other car publications. He recently co-presented a thirteen-part television series called Driving Passions, which aired on the Discovery Channel.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2009

    this book is awesome

    I liked this book very much. it gave me alot of interesting facts about cars such as the mclaren f1.i would recommend this book to car lovers like my self.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    The Ultimate Car Book

    I own several books exclusively on the top modern cars and this is the absolute finest. As a motoring enthusiast you will definitely not be dissapointed as this book covers a vast array of the best of the best when it comes to supercars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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