The only upside to being diagnosed with a terminal disease is that you finally stop wasting time. (I don’t have an expiry date myself just yet, but I’ve been told this is the case.) With your demise looming, it’s time to jump on that bucket list.
So what cars should you drive to make your life complete? There are thousands of choices, but you have limited time. So here are my recommendations for the 12 cars you need to drive before you die. Some are blazing fast, high-end supercars. Others are cheap and dead slow (pardon the pun). But together, these dozen vehicles will provide both a sense of automotive history and the thrill of a lifetime (at least what’s left of it).
Singer Porsche 911
You could drive a brand-new Porsche 911, but a Singer is special. Starting with a vintage 911 from the air-cooled era, the Singer crew assembles a customized, super-fast machine that looks like it was built in a NASA laboratory. Unlike the latest factory 911s, which are designed for stability and predictable handling, the Singer has the raw, thrilling feel that made Porsche famous back in the day. This is a car that rewards skill and finesse – if you panic in a fast corner and chop the throttle you’ll spin (and find out why the 911 was once known as “the Doctor Killer”).
Be forewarned that it will drive like an aging farm tractor (it came out 50 years ago, after all) but the E-Type is still one of most beautiful and compelling cars ever built. And like a million-dollar wine, the E-Type is imbued with history and magical flavour notes – it evokes the Battle of Britain, Carnaby Street, and the golden age of free love. This is the car that soccer legend George Best was talking about when he said: “I spent a lot of money on birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
Tesla Model S
The Model S is the best and most beautiful electric car ever built. It’s clean, fast, and the dash has a screen bigger than your home computer. Driving the Tesla will give you a glimpse of the automotive future (which you won’t be around to see, unfortunately).
Aston Martin One-77
Aston Martin is the car author Ian Fleming chose for his best character, Bond. James Bond. The One-77 is the ultimate example of the breed – a limited-edition Aston with a carbon chassis, 12 cylinders and 750 horsepower under the hood. Secure an attractive companion and aim yourself across Europe.
Red Bull RB9
This is the fastest, most successful Formula One car in the world, and driving it is the automotive equivalent of climbing Everest. In other words, not easy. The RB9’s cockpit is cramped, the gauges incomprehensible. And unless your name is Sebastian Vettel, you won’t be able to explore the RB9’s performance envelope. But even if you never make it past second gear, it will be the fastest, most memorable ride of your life.
1960s VW split-window van
I drove one through Austria once, and wondered if I’d make it up the hills. It’s gutless, but the split-window is one of the most charismatic vehicles ever built. Grip its bus-style steering wheel, gaze through its flat windshield panes, and you can imagine yourself at Woodstock, or heading off to the Haight-Ashbury district to see a new singer named Janis Joplin. The classic VW van has 23 windows, and many of them fold open (which comes in handy for venting the incense and pot smoke).
Driving a Phantom is like piloting a sensory deprivation chamber that has been equipped with a burled oak steering wheel and umbrella holders. You are entombed in silence, and the road beneath you is magically smoothed, as if an army of pavement workers had been sent ahead to lay fresh tarmac in your path. You can drive it yourself, but the true Phantom experience is from the rear seat, where you ride in imperial luxury.
This is anything but a dream car. Instead, it’s a rolling lesson on the cruel arc of the car business. The K’s steering is loose, the power is mediocre, and the build quality will remind you of a recession-era townhouse thrown together by a contractor with a drinking problem. But as you gaze over the K’s hood you will understand an American era – the desperate days of Chrysler in the 1970s, when all that stood between the company and oblivion was the marketing skill and cost-cutting chops of super-salesman Lee Iacocca, who kluged together a best-selling people’s car from the parts bin. (Think of the K-Car as a U.S.-made Trabant and you’ll get the picture.)
Again, this isn’t a dream car. It’s a simple machine that has its roots in the Second World War, when the U.S. military asked the Willys company for a tough utility vehicle that wouldn’t get stuck in the mud. On the road (where 99 per cent of modern owners use it) the Jeep is out of its element, with vague handling and a tendency to pitch like a galleon caught in heavy seas. But take it into the wild, and a Jeep turns into an incredible magical machine, clawing its way over obstacles and carrying you to parts unknown. An unforgettable ride.
1960 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
With a hood large enough to serve as a helipad, and tailfins that would put an intercontinental missile to shame, the Coupe de Ville is a moving symbol of an American golden age.
The CSR is tiny, light and fiendishly fast. There is no stability control system and no weather protection to speak of. You wedge yourself into the CSR like a python slipping into a drain pipe, then realize that there is no crash protection whatsoever. Yes, this is one of the greatest cars of all time.
Named after a famous fighting bull, the Aventador is the codpiece of the car world. When you drive it, uncharitable onlookers will snicker and assume that you are in the market for hair plugs and sexual enhancement surgery. Don’t worry, the 690-horsepower V-12 will drown out the laughter, and you’ll be accelerating like a jet fighter. There are better-handling, better-looking cars, but the Aventador will be the ride of your life. Maybe the last one.
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