Following on from our recent article listing the top ten affordable (well, some of them, that is) classic cars, it’s time to turn our attention to the Ultimate Garage. This is a collection of the greatest cars in history, those that – were you a collector – you would simply have to own. Most of these cars are so valuable now that using them on the roads is not viable, and we think that quite sad. Cars are – and always were – built to be driven. This list is limited to road cars, no racing vehicles allowed. So, clip on your seat belts, you are in for a fast, furious and often surprising ride!
Ultimate Garage – Ferrari 250 GTO
Let’s get this one out of the way first. To many, it’s the ultimate car, simply the greatest machine ever built. That’s all very well, and the GTO is a sublime vehicle, but the truth is it has its flaws. Of course, every car does, but the 250 GTO, you have to remember, was designed as a homologation special, an apparent road car that was really for the race tracks. First revealed in 1962, it features a very stylish and aerodynamically efficient body and a legendary, 3.0 litre V12 engine – a masterpiece in its own right.
With fewer than 40 cars ever made there is a clear reason why this supremely exclusive Ferrari is the model to have for the collector. It embodies the very essence of Ferrari in that era, a company that lived by the ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ mantra. It’s beautiful, it’s a technical tour de force for the age, but – and this is a big but – it has become a cliché in classic car circles. Nevertheless, it has to be in our Ultimate Garage, even though no less a maestro than Stirling Moss has said the 250SWB was a much better road car.
Ultimate Garage – Delahaye 135M
You’re surprised at this one, yes? Well, it is a personal favourite of mine, as it comes from an era when the coachbuilder was king. These were the days – the 135 was first introduced in 1935 and the last models left the factory in 1954 when the company was bought by Hotchkiss and the name killed off – when the luxury car buyer ordered a chassis from the factory, and picked a coachbuilder to complete the job.
That’s why many Delahaye 135M’s are simply unique. Names such as Chapron, Figoni & Falaschi and Saoutchik – all top coach building houses – clothed this technically advanced model, and the 135M was powered by an advanced 3.5 liter 6-cylinder engine that could produce a very respectable 160bhp. This luxury tourer also appeared in racing form with much success, and today is a must for the Ultimate Garage, especially in Figoni & Falaschi clothing as seen here. You would have to pay £250,000 ($400,000) for one of these stylish and iconic cars.
Ultimate Garage – Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale
The debate about the most beautiful car of all time rages eternally, but it really should be over. The Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale has to be the winner. Just look at that stunning, sexy and undeniably gorgeous shape. Has there ever been anything so perfect on the road? I think not, and that’s why this very rare and almost mythical car is entering my Ultimate Garage. It’s worth knowing that, upon its introduction in 1968 it was the most expensive car on sale in the world!
Powered by the beautiful 2.0 liter V8 that has its roots in the T33 racing car, this quite breathtaking coupe appeared with may detail differences between individual cars as each was built by hand. The upward opening ‘butterfly’ doors are a first, and the use of special curved glass a technical advancement. The chances of you seeing one of these on the road – never mind owning one – are very slim as production was limited. If you can find one for less than £500,000 ($780,000) I will be very surprised, but if you do, buy it!
Ultimate Garage – AC Cobra 289
Oh yes, the Cobra, an Ultimate Garage essential. These days, of course, it’s difficult to tell an original from one of the ubiquitous copies. Unless, that is, you stick to the earlier models, the pure, very beautiful Cobra in 289 (or earlier 260) versions. This is because, when Carroll Shelby famously got his hands on it, he added the fearsome 7.0 liter 427cu engine, and also beefed up the body with wide wheel arches and ugly bulges. Every single kit version emulates this later model, but it’s the early cars that are the most beautiful.
An original Cobra is a ground breaking vehicle, a beautifully made British sports car in the true tradition. This is no luxury roadster but a true sporting car, a type of vehicle whose true existence has been left in the past. One of the pretties cars ever made, the early Cobra offers excellent performance and a sense of class that is simply unbeatable. You will pay half a million pounds, or three quarters of a million dollars, for a good one. You will also enjoy it very much indeed.
Ultimate Garage – Rolls Royce Phantom I
Before you call ‘foul’ we’re not talking about the current barge-like limousine. No, we are referring to the original Rolls Royce Phantom I, first introduced in 1925, and then – quite rightly – regarded as The Best Car in The World. This is a car of iconic status like no other, a vintage machine that took technical excellence and luxury to new standards.
In those days it was still common for the driver to be out in the open, the passengers safely cocooned in sheer opulence in their own separate cabin. Like the aforementioned Delahaye, these were coach built beauties, and today they are simply a must have for the serious collector.
No Ultimate Garage could be complete without a Rolls Royce, but it is this model that really epitomizes the brand. In a day when RR is now owned by BMW it is a pleasure to look back to the days when this very British car maker built the very best vehicles on the road, for an exclusive clientele of royalty and nobility. Owning one of these is to own a piece of true history, and prices vary for the many different body styles, but will be several hundred thousand pounds or dollars.
Ultimate Garage – Mercedes Benz 300SL
Mercedes Benz is a name that is associated with the very dawn of the motor car, and is one that still resonates today. This model, the wonderfully evocative ‘Gullwing’, is the one that you simply must have in your Ultimate Garage. Beautiful, original and steeped in motorsport history, the 300SL is one of the finest cars ever made, and it deserves to be idolized as it is. Those strange Gullwing doors have been widely emulated in supercars ever since, and the 160mph (260km/h) top speed made it the fastest production car of its time. Remember, this was in the 1950’s!
Those glorious curves have influenced a wide variety of supercars since then, and still do today. The styling works from every angle, and the sister drop-head version is also a very desirable and beautiful car. Strangely for such a high quality, expensive car there were 1,400 of the coupe version made, and most still survive. You won’t find one for less than £400,000 ($600,000) however, so dream on!
Ultimate Garage – BMW 507
While the Mercedes 300SL was a predictable choice for the Ultimate Garage it may be that the BMW 507, another German masterpiece from the 1950’s, is a surprise. But it should not be, for this is a truly fabulous car that looks stunning and offers excellent performance. It’s a far cry from BMW’s image of top class rep-mobiles these days, and harks back to an era of glamour and style in the design of motor cars.
Introduced in 1956, the model was sold for only three years and records show that just 250 were made. It was not, then, a commercial success, but the influence of its design is evident in many cars that followed across the years. The advanced 3.1 liter V8 is a fabulous engine that produces 150bhp, and powers this lovely sports tourer to just over 120mph (193km/h). To buy one today – and over 200 of the originals are known to exist – you are likely to pay around £400,000 ($625,000) for a good example.
Ultimate Garage – Duesenberg Model J
You might have thought that, in picking an American car for the Ultimate Garage, I would go for a Mustang or Corvette. That would have been acceptable, but there is something more ‘ultimate’ about the glorious Duesenberg Model J. This stunning luxury machine was designed to take on the might of European makers like Rolls Royce, Hispano Suiza and Isotta Fraschini in the luxury car market, and it did so with some style.
Like many such cars of the era the idea was to order the chassis and have a coachbuilder supply the body, and it has to be said that some of the most beautiful cars of the era – the Model J was built from 1928 to 1937 – were on this chassis. It’s no surprise that many stars of the era – Clark Gable, Mae West and Greta Garbo to name but a few – drove these cars. Still an American icon today, the Duesenberg Model J is rightly regarded as one of the world’s finest automobiles, and at auction can fetch around £500,000 ($800,000).
Ultimate Garage – Lancia Lambda
The Lancia Lambda deserves inclusion here simply because it was the most innovative car of its era, and it can safely be said to have changed the way cars were built. Vincenzo Lancia was no stranger to original and innovative designs, but the Lambda – first seen in 1922 – was a leap forward in terms of technical developments. The design incorporated independent suspension, a monocoque body, shock absorbers and brakes on all four wheels – just some of the amazing new features that this beautiful, yet very simple, design would introduce to the motoring world.
As was the norm in the era – the Lambda was seen in nine variations up to 1931 – coachbuilders were invited to dress their own chassis, and some are among the most elegant cars of all time. Notable also was the unusual V4 engine, which was constantly uprated during the model’s lifetime. Some cars are iconic because they changed the face of motoring – the Mini, for example – and the Lambda deserves better recognition in that it truly led the world. Remarkably for such an important car you can buy a good Lambda for around £50,000 ($78,000).
Ultimate Garage – McLaren F1
For me, this is the defining car of the last thirty years, a masterpiece in both design and performance that opened the door for challengers to its supercar crown. Like the Ferrari GTO, and the rest of the cars on this list, the McLaren F1 is an absolute must for the Ultimate Garage. There are faster cars available now, and there are more technically advanced vehicles on the road, but the McLaren F1 remains the most astonishing road car of all time.
Designed by Peter Stevens and Gordon Murray, the F1 uses all the experience garnered in race car design and engineering to break new ground. The three seat layout may seem to be a gimmick at first, but it gives the driver the perfect position in the cockpit. This is a car that, for me, remains among the prettiest of the modern era, and if you have £1 million ($1.55 million) to spare there is nothing that should stop you buying one of these for your collection. It is, quite simply, the car that brought the 20th century to an end, and in no small way.
So, that’s ten cars that I believe should be in your Ultimate Garage. Of course, it shouldn’t stop at ten, so what’s your view? Perhaps you are surprised that there is no Jaguar E-Type on the list, no Aston Martin, or that Lamborghini is not represented, nor Maserati? Maybe you have your own favorites that you think should be in there. Let us know, we want to hear your views!