Prior Convictions: Guilty as charged

Some cars are better than others. I don't think that's a particularly controversial viewpoint; especially if, like a few people on the payroll at this website's very publisher, your career depends on it.

But some cars are so much worse than others that the other day, on the other mag for which I work, I was asked to name my guilty pleasure. Which car, I was asked, do I really like, despite the fact that it is either poor, or dated, or embarrassing, or, well, I dunno, for some reason generally despised.

So I thought of a car that apparently wasn't very good but that I've got quite a lot of time for - a Volvo 360, incidentally. I like the Volvo 360. The improper Volvo, the one with DAF bits. I like it. There, I said it.

Perhaps you have a car like this too. Perhaps you're slightly ashamed or embarrassed to admit that you have a soft spot for the automotive equivalent of James Blunt. Maybe it's a Range Rover Evoque convertible or a Chrysler PT Cruiser or a Vauxhall Corsa that's 40 per cent filler, and you don't want to admit it in case somebody who only respects GT Porsches and M BMWs or Type R Hondas mocks it.

Well, sod that. Because you know what? I think all cars are fabulous. That any car is terrific. Because every single car in the world offers its driver a sense of freedom and liberation that taking the bus doesn't. The motor car is The Machine That Changed The World, according to MIT's $5m book, and largely it has changed it for the better. The car has brought liberty, prosperity, trade and freedom to more people than every other human invention. You probably already know this, but anything on four wheels deserves to be celebrated.

I've seen in the past fortnight alone what a car can do for somebody, even in middle England, because my 17 year-old has passed her driving test. She's not particularly into cars, but she will love forever a supermini that's as old as she is because of what it means to her today: freedom, liberation, the ability to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, without being beholden to the inflexible timetables of either railways or her parents.

So no matter how bad the car, no matter what the colour, what the noise, what the powertrain or condition, or whether it's slammed or wrapped or has purple neon lights underneath it, if somebody likes it, that's a fact worth celebrating and cherishing, not ridiculing and embarrassing.

There are enough people in the world who want you to feel guilty about liking cars at all. There aren't enough of us to be divided. So I'm damned sure I'm not going to make you feel guilty about liking a specific car. Even third-class driving is still better than first-class public transport or walking. No guilty pleasures here.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (35) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Max_Torque 08 Dec 2017

    Was a Volvo 360 "not very good" at the time though?

    Sure, today it's pensionable, but at the time it had a reasonably competitive 115bhp, build quality that made the average Ford of the time feel like a cereal packet, and actually reasonably linear handling. No, not VERY sporty, but back then an equivalent 320i wasn't exactly going to set the world alight either. iirc, the price was ok too. I'm going to suggest the biggest problem with the Volvo 360 was the people who drove them.....!

    (it took another 10 or so years before Volvo jumped on the "performance bandwagon" with cars like the 850R)

  • nicfaz 08 Dec 2017

    Agree about the Ovlov - they weren't bad cars in context, all cars were bad then. E30's were pretty rubbish and yet people have fond memories of those...

    My favourite guilty pleasure is the Honda Jazz, particularly the original 1.4 S. OK, so the handling was terrible, but there's fun to be had in absolutely caning something and the speeds still being legal. Plus the 1.4 engine was a willing partner and the gearchange was a proper rifle-bolt - it did feel like the DNA of the Integra type-R was in there somewhere. The biggest problem is people seeing a Jazz, assuming you're a pensioner and doing mad overtaking manoeuvres to get past in case you hold them up for 30 seconds rolleyes No wonder pensioners are nervous drivers - driving a Jazz is like having a target painted on your back.

  • Retset 08 Dec 2017

    I had a Mk II and a Mk III Capri 3.0S. By today's standards they were not that quick nor did they corner very well. Even back then, I knew the brakes were a bit pants! But you sat low, looked down a long bonnet and listened to the Essex V6, all whilst feeling like Bodie, or Doyle. I have nothing but fond memories of those cars.

    I've owned quite a lot of terrible 'non PH' cars in the past and none have left any endearing memories. I can only see them for what they were. Hopefully every last one of them rotted and now live on as fridges or something.

  • j4r4lly 08 Dec 2017

    My guilty pleasure has always been the Ford Capri. I've had 7 of them since I bought the first 2000 GT back in 1982 and I still have a 1983 2.8 injection.

    At my age nostalgia has made me like all sorts of old junk that I wouldn't have considered back in the day. Cars like the Dolomite, Renault 15 and Fuego, Marina 1.8TC, Triumph 2000, Rover P6 and 3 litre Granada's.

    2 cars really spring to mind though and they were both pretty pants. The Simca 1000 GLS and the Austin Metro, both of which I owned in the past. The Simca was my first car and therefore has a special place in my memory with many adventures had around north London and the Essex countryside. We used to kid ourselves that it was a peasant spec' 911 as it had a rear engine and overlight steering.

    The Metro I bought when my Golf 1.5 GLS died and I needed a car for work. For 5 years it never missed a beat, taking everything I could throw at it in its stride from shopping and school run duties to pounding back and forth from London to south Devon on a regular basis. It was slow, cramped and desperately uncool, but it cost pocket money to run, could be driven on the (very low) limit all day and had terrific handling like any small go-kart sized car. Ultimately it's exactly as the article says, these cars were my independence, my freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted at any time of the day or night and for that I loved them as if they were an Aston or Rolls Royce or Mercedes etc.

  • givablondabone 08 Dec 2017

    Yep back in the early 90's my then future ex mother in law inherited her father's 6 year old Volvo 340 1.7GL. It had 896 miles on the clock. Eight Hundred and Ninety Six. She ran it for a year or two before handing it over to me and my future ex wife with around 13k on the clock. It was immaculate. And let's not forget, rear wheel drive hehe

    I remember smokin an inside rear off a roundabout on my commute one day and the face of a lorry driver coming the other way was a picture as he probably expected some grandad behind the wheel!

    It was very comfortable and not fast so you couldn't really get into trouble.

    I was fond but knew it was pants really. I had people take the pi55 but didn't care. It was free!!

    Edited by givablondabone on Saturday 9th December 09:58

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