The Ultimate Classic Car Collection

Given unlimited space and cash to create my ultimate car collection, my storage units wouldn't be filled with multi-million pound ephemera. Classic Cars magazine asks readers each month to submit their own dream garage, and it's interesting to realise that most of them feel the same as me.

Given a limit of five or six cars but limitless cash, the typical classic enthusiast's dream garage seems to look a little like this. First up is the genuine dream car, the car you've always lusted after. This is the car whose purchase represents nirvana. This is just as likely to be a Bullet Mustang or Jensen Interceptor as a Lamborghini Muira or AC Cobra. Next up is a car from childhood, like a Lotus Cortina, Peugeot 205 or Austin A35. Mint, concours, best of type of course but hardly bank-breaking stuff. Then there'll be a second choice of dream car, perhaps a De Lorean or Ferrari 328. Fourth choice begins to get practical, generally a car that fulfills a driving niche that the others don't. So it might be a convertible like an Alfa Romeo Spider. The final choice is often another niche-filler, perhaps a car for grand touring or to take the family out.

What is heartening about all of these choices is that, bar perhaps the first one, they're all just about attainable if still tantalisingly out of reach on a practical, day to day, to hell with the mortage sort of way. They're not the kind of garages that rich City types had (until a few short weeks ago). Which I find very refreshing.

When I read Classic Cars or Classic & Sports Car magazines I tend to skip over the glossy studio-photographed features about rare one-of-a-kind Bugattis, interesting as I know they are. Instead I flick to the road test of 80s saloons or the history of the Austin Maxi. These are cars I can not only relate to, but that I actually want to own (I was joking about the Maxi). I've got the beautifully photographed coffee table books of exotic classic cars and I love the way they look, but when it comes to spending hard cash I want something I can relate to. And I don't think I'm alone.

Hiring out classic cars gives me some insight into people's choices of classic and vintage sports cars. Invariably they're spending money on a dream drive. Reassuringly and not surprisingly, everyone's dream drive is different. Some like the grand touring motoring ease of our Jensen Interceptor cars, others prefer the raw thrills of a Jaguar E Type roadster. Our Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, the only one for hire in Europe, appeals to anyone who's every wanted to get behind that famous radiator. These are disparate cars that reflect disparate tastes but one thing units them - they are all exclusively but tantalisingly achievable real-world purchases.

Like everyone I've got a dream garage and it looks something like this:

Dream car 1: Lamborghini Muira

Dream car 2: Jensen Interceptor

Childhood car: Alfa Romeo Alfasud

Practical car: Alfa Romeo Spider

Niche filler: Jaguar XJ6

This list doesn't rule out the endless stream of cars I'd love to own like a Fiat 130, Fiat X1/9, Aston Martin V8, Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari 328, Porsche 928 and Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (in black). It's a list I add to every time I flick through Classic Cars or Classic & Sports Car but that, ultimately, is what makes us enthusiasts I guess.

Issigonis: hero or villain?

A recent feature in Classic & Sports Car got me thinking about, of all things, Alex Issigonis. Father of the Morris Minor, genius of the Mini, Issi has rightly been feted for decades as a visionary genius. And yet the article I read in car, about the Maxi, made me wonder about his long term legacy.

Alec Issigonis made Morris through a succession of brilliant and innovative products. The Minor mobilised Britain for peanuts. The Mini (that'll be the one without the big bold capitals and equally big boned bodywork) revolutionised motoring. The 1100 looked good and was astonishingly well packaged. Each of these cars incorporated clever packaging and technical innovations that kept them relevant to the motoring public for decades - the Minor stayed in production for decades and even enjoyed an Indian summer (of sorts) as the underpinnings of the Marina.

And yet I think Alec was a bit like Status Quo. In the early years, he churned out the hits like our venerable rockers. The trouble is, he didn't know when to stop - and nobody stopped him. His early cars were so successful that those around him gave him a little too much rope and he succumbed to the law of diminishing returns. The 1800 was dismal, a great barge with more space than anyone frankly needed - at the expense of truly uninspiring looks. The Maxi was a clever idea executed without concern for the mass market. Or reliability. By this point Issigonis' biggest hits were behind him. Like Status Quo his one trick - clever packaging - was beginning to tire a little.

BMC did the difficult thing and sidelined him, a shaming act that he couldn't weather. But there is a sound argument to suggest that this giant of British motoring, who did so much to build Britain after the war, also sowed the seeds of its downfall. His intansigent, single-minded almost tyrannical approach to Austin and Morris design and engineering effectively drove it up a cul de sac from which it struggled to extract itself. What was once a strong, world-leading design capability arguably turned into a weak drain on the business as the failure to listen to the market or take on new ideas led to a gradual erosion of fresh thinking. By the time BMC took over the company had a bare new product cupboard and little ability to develop fresh, market-focussed vehicles.

Not all of this was Issigonis' fault. He was allowed to do this by a weak management. He was and is a great motoring icon. He deserves heaps of praise. But it's time for some balance - every dog has its day and by the late 1960s BMH needed a new and fresh approach. That it didn't get it sowed the early seeds of its final collapse 30 years later.