Last week, I recommended 12 cars you need to drive before you die. The premise: if your doctor gives you the bad news, these are the bucket-list rides that will make your final days worthwhile.
Not everyone agreed with the list. One reader called me an “elitist fool” for failing to include the Plymouth Superbird and the Mercury Cougar (to each his own). Another said I should be condemned to the hottest cauldron in automotive hell for neglecting the Ferrari 250 GTO and the Birdcage Maserati.
There was food for thought here. Some of the suggestions that came in were cars I had on my original list before I cut it down to a dozen. So this week, it’s the bucket list, part two. Let us imagine that your diagnosis has improved slightly, giving you time to squeeze in 12 more cars – Remission Rides, so to speak.
The Atom looks like a skeletal soapbox derby racer with a screaming engine bolted to its tail, just inches from your skull. In essence, the Atom is a four-wheeled motorcycle – you ride in a vortex of blasting wind and earsplitting noise, mesmerized by the drug-rush of unalloyed speed. (Unless you want a rock in the head, it’s best to wear a full-face helmet. And don’t expect your hearing to be the same afterward.) Yes, good times.
Riding in the 4-4 it’s easy to imagine that you’ve just landed your Spitfire on a grass field north of London in the summer of 1940. The Morgan is the quintessential English roadster, built with techniques that date back to the Battle of Britain – the body panels are shaped with mallets by master craftsmen, and supported by frame pieces carved from ash trees. This isn’t a car – it’s a time machine.
Ferrari 250 GTO
Driving a GTO is like an evening in Rome with Gina Lollobrigida. The car is classically beautiful, with timeless form and one of the sexiest motors ever made – a V-12 with crackle-finished valve covers and six Weber carburetors that give it the look of a high-speed horn section. Only a few dozen GTOs were built between 1962 and 1964, and they are now among the most valuable cars in the world (one was recently sold for $52-million U.S.).
This is an updated version of the legendary Shelby Daytona Coupe (a hardtop Shelby Cobra derivative designed to take on the Ferrari 250 GTO at the track). Unlike most replicas, the Brock coupe is imbued with genuine heritage (it was constructed by Peter Brock, the designer who crafted the body of the original Daytona Coupe for Carroll Shelby). The Coupe is a masterful blend of American muscle and world-class style, with a throbbing V-8 engine, racecar suspension and aerodynamics that keep it stable at 300 km/h. (Brock tweaked the shape a bit to improve on the original.) This is a Shelby 427 Cobra with a roof and streamlining – close your eyes and pretend that you’re on the Mulsanne straightaway at Le Mans with a Ferrari in the your crosshairs.
This is a special (and slow) car. Most 2CVs came with 18 horsepower or so. The body is corrugated metal, the windows flip up like the panes in a 1960s Miami motel, and the 2CV leans around corners as if it were a tall, tipsy legionnaire. Depending on the wind, getting up to highway speed may take half an hour. But that’s the point: in the 2CV, you have time to ponder what remains of your life, as well as the strange, parallel universe that is French engineering.
Since your life is about to end, you should sample a unique racecar. And the Deltawing looks like nothing else, with an elongated needle nose that lets it slice through the air like a jetfighter. It’s a car out of a childhood dream, crazy but cool.
1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda
You can’t leave this mortal coil without driving a classic muscle car, so you might as well make it a 426 Hemi ’Cuda. I rode in one of these a teenager, and have remembered it ever since: we burned rubber as the ’Cuda slammed into third gear, and the back end was so jacked up that I needed the lap belt to keep from sliding off the seat. This was the kind of car that would inspire Bruce Springsteen to write his musical anthems about speed, horsepower and the magic of the American night.
Ford GT 40
Built to beat Ferrari at Le Mans (it did), the GT 40 got its nomenclature from its height – the roof is just 40 inches off the ground. Nearly five decades after its introduction, the GT 40 still has major cool factor: it looks like a shark that has been fitted out with fat tires and a raging V-8 engine.
A Big-Block Corvette
With limited time left on this earth, you should experience major power and speed. Throw subtlety to the wind, and go with a big-block Corvette (I suggest a modified ZO6.) Do you want 700 horsepower, steamroller tires and brakes big enough to stop a train? Not a problem. You’ll need a racetrack to use it, and you’ll definitely scare yourself, but it’s go big or go home. Do you want your last ride to be dull?
After driving all the great cars listed above, you’ll need a palate cleanser that will remind you how bad a vehicle can really be. Enter the Trabant, industrial pride of the former East Germany. You will ride in a plume of blue smoke, and your right hand will work one of the sloppiest shifting mechanisms ever made. In front of you is the Trabant’s wavy, snub-nosed hood (the body panels were formed from compressed cardboard infused with plastic resin). A ride in the Trabant will make you count your blessings: you may be dying, but at least you didn’t spend your life in a communist state where the border was marked by a concrete wall and shoot-to-kill guards, and the Trabant was the only car you could buy.
Ford Model T
Driving a Model T isn’t easy. If you manage to use the crank starter without breaking your arm, you still face a bewildering set of controls: you have to adjust the spark-timing on the fly and shift with your feet while working the throttle with your right hand. (One writer compared the process to “trying to do the Charleston while loading a musket after a big night at the speakeasy.”) But if you pull it off, you can die knowing that you mastered the Model T – and encountered automotive history in the process.
With twin propellers under the back bumper and a sealed underbody, the Amphicar is a mediocre car and a mediocre boat, too – it will do 13 km/h on water, and 110 km/h on land. But it’s still an inspiring vehicle. When I saw one drive down a launch ramp into a river as a small boy, I decided I wanted an Amphicar when I grew up. I still don’t have one, but if I were told that I only had a few weeks left, I would find one, drive into a lake, and marvel that I was afloat.
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