It's exciting this, isn't it? You know, Drive Tribe. As Clarkson said on the splash screen, "It's like YouPorn, only with cars", and for petrolheads it doesn't get much better than that, does it?
As I said to my wife, even if it comes to nothing and I'm only writing for myself, at least I will have had fun doing it. So far, so good, too. I wrote recently about the time I spent in an R8 blasting around mid-Wales with some friends; again, it doesn't get much better. But that experience gave rise to something else, something more profound; as I shot the R8 from all manner of angles I found myself thinking "could I own a supercar?"
[checks bank balance] No. No, I can't.
Which got me thinking again; what could I buy that is in budget yet exciting enough for adventures with for The Bottom End? (For clarification, I should stipulate that the budget in this instance is the square-root of sod all minus infinity x sod all, i.e. absolutely sod all.)
To be honest I'm not really in the market for a new car. One of the cars I own is a 986 Boxster, and I love it. But the R8 got me thinking about the wow factor, and is there something out there that would suit the budget, yet have enough pizzaz for The Drive Tribe audience? I need something....unique......something unexpected.....something individual....
‘Individuality’ is the buzzword shouted from corner to corner of the internet and social media. The global fashion industry alone generates £2 trillion per annum based on uniqueness. All of which led me to ask myself:
Why the hell do we all buy the same cars as each other?
“When you're just like everybody else, you've nothing to offer other than your conformity”, Wayne Dyer once advised. Never was it truer than when relating to cars. Sure, you may spec your new BMW 3 Series a little differently than your next door neighbour; perhaps some fancy sat nav package or colourful stitching, but come on, it’s the same. You may have a crazy outcast down the road who dares to be different and has an Audi A4, but that’s the scope of the difference; minimal.
So what stops us daring to be different? What is stopping us from ditching the ubiquitous brands we see everyday, and looking for something a little bit more…wow. What stops us from shying away from the BMW and buying, I don’t know, an Aston Martin instead? Sounds silly, right?
Nope. Not silly at all. Let me explain.
Consider this. Chances are that before you buy a brand new car, or unless your surname is ‘Hilton’ or ‘Kardashian’, you will probably own several second-hand cars first. Let’s look at a couple of realistic suggestions for each route to market, using BMW as an example. Two-a-penny these days, they are the go-to choice for reps, managers, beauty technicians and wannabe semi-posh families.
Firstly, lets suppose you’re an area manager looking for a comfy saloon to power up and down the M4 corridor with. How about a BMW 5 series? A quick glance at Autotrader shows us that depending on mileage and spec, examples of 3 year old 5 series go for anywhere between £26K and £35K. Now, call me nuts, but for the same money, you could have an Aston Martin V8 Vantage that is only 6 years older than the BMW. Let me repeat that; for the same price as a three year old 5 series, you could own an Aston Martin. Sure, you’d also own the whole world of pain that goes with a 10 year old Aston, but who cares? You would own an actual Aston Martin.
How about a brand new BMW instead? A 2016 3 series starts at c. £25K, all the way up to an eye-watering £41K. Realistically, by the time you’ve included necessary BMW extras ("would Sir like windows with his car?") you’ll be shelling out £30K minimum. Now instead of taking that £30k and rubbing the Germanic hand of Teutonic excellence with it, do a U-Boat, sorry U-turn, and look instead at an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Again, same money.
Think I’m being far fetched? Ok, let’s bring it down a notch. Do you have the money for a 2 year old bog-standard, Ford Focus? How about a 3 year old Jaguar XF instead? Instead of a 4 year old Ford Fiesta, how about a 10 year old Porsche Boxster? You get my drift.
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? So why don’t more people do it? Well, firstly (and let’s be frank here), you’d have to be certifiably mad to even entertain the idea. You are? Good, move on.
Secondly, obviously these are not like-for-like cars. A Focus and an XF are aimed at different segments of the market, like Justin Bieber and, er, everyone else. But that’s my point; many people settle for a car they don’t really want thinking that’s all that is available in their price bracket. They are aiming for the bottom end. A quick straw poll amongst friends revealed that they all thought a 10 year old Aston Martin V8 Vantage would cost around £50K and therefore way out of their budget, but that figure is almost 50% higher than the true second-hand cost.
Thirdly (and this links into point 1 here), the potential expense, and more specifically, the difference in potential expense. A new 3 series is damn efficient; latest figures suggest you only ever need to fill up once every 4 years. A V8 Vantage, well, not so good. However, it’s not just the fuel; virtually every single cost obstacle that motorists have to hurdle over will be more expensive when compared against the costs of running a newer, more ‘sensible’ car. Not just a little bit more expensive, but sell-an-organ type more expensive.
Here’s my argument though; what if (and it’s a big what if) you enjoy relatively trouble-free motoring for a couple of years? What if nothing goes wrong? What if it only needs an oil change and some spark plugs? What if you only have to pass it through 2 or 3 MOTs, with 4 new tyres thrown into the mix? What if it’s only the potential difference in tax you need to think about? If you are in a position to buy a brand new £30k BMW, would you notice the extra £500 car tax? Isn’t that £500 a small price to pay for motoring nirvana?
Of course, it’s all bollocks. Everything will go wrong and will cost you thousands. There will be no family holidays. The wife will take the kids and leave you; the final straw being the loss of a small child for seven hours in the office amongst the thousands of unopened bills that will have accumulated since you bought the Aston (that’s ok though; the Vantage is only a two seater, so that actually solves a logistics problem). When friends mock you for the Aston being in the garage ‘again’, you’ll need to perfect that fake-ass smile that Oscar nominees have down to perfection when they discover in front of a watching world that their closest rival has just won the best actor gong for the seventh year in a row.
That is not what we do as petrolheads though. We dream. No matter at what cost, we dream. Life is too short for boring cars. If we all worried constantly about the potential for cars to go wrong, we’d all be driving Kias. You have to take an educated guess when getting a used car, but the reality is for most people is that they simply do not have a clue what they are looking for. Tyre kickers, if you will, and that scares them into the familiar. Step outside of that comfort zone though and look at what you have achieved.
You have achieved the unthinkable. You own a premium luxury brand 2 seater sports car. Consistently one of the top 2 coolest brands in the world. You will be the envy of your friends and the toast of every petrolhead you sail past (on your way to the repair garage). You achieved what you, I and every car geek around the world dreams of; motoring nirvana. You have looked beyond the bottom end, straight past the crank and pistons, and hit the top end (lets hope it doesn’t blow).
You have avoided the trap that 97% of the world’s motoring population fall into, the experience of conformity, of similarity, of drabness and dreariness, and ultimately, boredom. So take that chance. Dare to be different. Dare to look past the usual standard. Don’t settle for the bottom end.
See what’s out there, and then go buy yourself a 10 year old V8 Vantage.
(By the way, don’t actually do it; the 4.3 litre engine is in the pre-2008 model is crap.)