In the eye of the beholder

The Sultan of Brunei is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. He is also a serial car buyer. His garage is so large, you'd be able to see it from space if it weren't for the fact that your spy satellite would almost certainly be automatically shot down before it got its first broadcast out (the Sultan is notoriously private).

When the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII was launched, the SoB bought twelve of them, costing a grand total of £5m. Besides the regulation fitment of gaze-thwarting bulletproof glass and body armour, each SultanaPhant came with a bijou encrustation of real diamonds on the dashboard.

Jaguar once claimed to have fixed diamonds to the bonnets of its two F1 cars at the Monaco Grand Prix. This story was bought hook, line and pendant by the press, who by dint of their common upbringings can always be relied upon to swoon at a bit of glamour.

But do you really think Jaguar would risk glueing half a mill's worth of ice onto the nose cones of two F1 cars driven by (a) a 21 year old and (b) an Aussie, at (c) the world's tightest race circuit? If you were Jaguar's insurers, what do you suppose your response might be? Believe me, those so-called sparklers were made of paste, and were nothing more than a costume jewellery distraction from the cringingly unsparkling performance of the race cars.

The whole idea of glamming-up a pure tool such as an F1 car was, and still is, peculiar. Surely a car is either beautiful or it isn't.

I once received a email from the Autocar test team asking me and about 300 other nonentities for our lists of the 100 most beautiful cars of all time. It was clearly something dreamt up to fill a space when the staff were off on holiday.

Having spent over 80 man-hours on the project, including three all-nighters in the British Library Reading Room and 45 minutes on the satellite phone with my pal J Mays, you can imagine my disappointment when I received a follow-up email asking 'respondents' (few of whom apparently had) to reduce their list to just 10.

For me, this thoughtless volte-face meant a sad goodbye to the Triumph Acclaim, holding a strong 84th place on my list, a fond farewell to the Ford Anglia (89th), and of course a sobbing arrivederci to the Fiat Multipla, utterly unchallenged in 99th position.

Anyway, the main list ended up featuring globulous monstrosities like the bulbous Jaguar XKSS, the Handy Andy-built Porsche 917 and the extremely Marmite-ish Porsche 904GTS. I never understood why some of my other suggestions didn't make it onto the list, such as for example the languidly brutish Bizzarini Stradale, the mattock-honed Bond Bug, and the perky, not to say pinky, Volvo 340.

Disappointingly, when the list eventually got published I noted that I had managed to own just two of the World's 100 Most Beautiful Cars, namely the Ford Capri 3000GT (no. 61) and the 911 (no. 5). Although I wouldn't say the 911 was beautiful, it does have an engineer's appeal which flatters those of us without so much as an O-level in metalwork.

But the Capri? My one was a shed. Its front bumper was missing, in tribute (I would insist) to the thundering RS3100 touring car racers. The truth of course was that it had fallen off. I never found a credible race-inspired reason for the peeling vinyl roof, or for the matt red paint on its sadly twisted bonnet.

Eventually, a mate of mine put my Capri out of its misery by parking it under a tree which, after a couple of centuries of standing up, decided it fancied a bit of a lie down. I swear I heard the council tip compactor gagging as bent bits of the World's 61st Most Beautiful Car went in.

The raging forums of PH indicate that the number of universally-accepted 'beautiful cars' can probably be counted on half a hand, but can we at least agree on one thing - that curves are better than angles? Even if, nowadays, curves don't always grace the lines of the best handling cars?

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (98) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Hugh Jarse 31 Jan 2018

    Indeed, subjective.
    Funny how time warps (or develops) your veiwpoint too.
    For me aesthetic appeal is the number purchase motivator.

  • SturdyHSV 31 Jan 2018

    How was I totally unaware of the Porsche 904?

    Gratuitous 'modern' shot probably 'ruined' by big wheels that I think looks great hehe

  • AppleJuice 31 Jan 2018

    The E60 divided opinion when it was launched. It's aged well and still looks good today IMO:

  • Agent XXX 31 Jan 2018

    AppleJuice said:
    The E60 divided opinion when it was launched. It's aged well and still looks good today IMO:
    Are you taking the p*ss????

  • Silverbullet767 31 Jan 2018

    Agent XXX in BMW hate shocker!

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