21 May 2014

All Hail The Heroic Cars We Normal People Drive

We eulogise sports cars, luxury cars and supercars with powerful engines, razor sharp handing and the very best tech and engineering the car industry has to offer - for a price. But most people I know who call themselves petrolheads drive much more normal machinery.

Thanks to James Wright, Andrew Ash Hargreaves, Stu Reeve,  Kieron Taylor, Darren Peatfield, Elliot Claxton,  Nick Underwood, Matt Graham and Aaron Marsh for photos of their cars

I've been super lucky to get to drive new cars from manufacturers such as Porsche, Maserati, Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Renaultsport, Jaguar, Morgan, Subaru et al. I've enjoyed them all. Yet only a tiny proportion of people can afford to drive these cars.

Even humdrum machinery is out of the reach of most of us when it is brand new.  A Ford Fiesta ST (tested by Speedmonkey last month) is one of the more affordable performance cars, but it still costs £18k.  If you want to buy one on finance you have to put down £4.7k, pay £190 a month for two years, and at the end of that pay another £9k if you want to keep it.

That's a lot of money for someone feeding a family and paying a mortgage or rent.

This is why most of us drive old cars and make the best of them.  They need to ferry our children around, be borrowed by our other halfs, do the tip run, do the shopping run, take us to work (sometimes be our work vehicle), take the dogs out, take us on holiday and on top of that not cost much to run.  Once all those things have been considered they are what we use to have fun.

We are, after all, car enthusiasts.  Our jack of all trades cars are also our route to B-road hoonage, our pride and joy, our amusement and entertainment when all the jobs have been done and we find the time to hit the road just for the hell of it.

These, these cars are the true heroes, not the £100,000 sports car but the £3,000 Seat Leon Cupra R that a friend has just bought.  It looks like any other VW Group hatchback, except for the tiny Cupra R logo on the boot.

Said friend took me for a spin in it.  Bear in mind he's an ex race driver so he knows his stuff and likes to drive fast but bloody hell that Cupra R has a turn of speed in his hands.  I was gripping the seat as we flew around the lanes.  Fun with a capital F.

Somebody will have bought it brand new ten years ago, or it may have been a fleet vehicle.  Whatever, someone bought it for tens of thousands of pounds, took the depreciation hit and looked after it well enough so that now it's nice and cheap and providing enjoyment for a car enthusiast, as well as being the school run car, the shopping car and the every day runabout (and actually it's his wife car).  My fried loves his Seat, and so do I.

Same goes for the Saab 9-5 run by another friend, the Audi TT run by my brother, the Audi 80 owned by Speedmonkey Facebook page editor James Wright, the old VW Transporter van run by a friend and countless other cars, all more than ten years old and all bought for less than the deposit on a new Toyota GT86 and all heroic.

A Ferrari 458 Italia might be one of the best cars on the planet but it costs £170k.  Those who can afford them will rarely drive them even near their capabilities.  If you put down a £30k deposit and pay the balance over 3 years you're looking at around £4k a month with a little bit of interest on the finance.  Each monthly payment is almost double the average monthly salary.

For less than one monthly payment for a Ferrari you can buy a do-it-all car with a bit of poke and half decent handling, and extract the maximum from it.

It doesn't matter if it isn't a brand new performance car, if it brings a smile to your face it has done its job.  It is yours and it is brilliant.

By Matt Hubbard