A road trip isn’t simply defined by its start and finish points, or even the places between said points, through which it passes. No, each road trip has its own individual character, which is shaped by every aspect of the trip – the landscape, the people, the roads, the weather, and last but certainly not least, the car. In fact, such is the importance of the choice of car, that it shapes the very essence of the journey. As an obvious example, the V8Nam expedition was a very different experience for the occupants of the apocalyptic-sounding, bone pounding Corvette, in comparison to those experiencing the journey from the regal comfort of its Rolls Royce travelling companion.
So, the Corvette lent my V8Nam experience a raw, anarchic air. The AfricanPorsche Expedition felt a very different trip in comparison, in part due to the aloof, workmanlike nature of the Porsche. So where, you’re probably wondering, am I going with all this? Well, in my last blog post I summed up my goal of making Pub2Pub a journey defined by its stylishness; in fact the exact description of what I want to achieve went along these lines:
‘…while the golden age of travel may have passed, its spirit still exists. A spirit of conviction that travel goes far beyond simply visiting a place; it should be a stylish expression of how life should be lived – bold, daring, elegant and stylish; and with just a hint of glorious madness.’
So that raises a big question; what vehicle would fit the bill? What car best captures the essence of ‘bold, daring, elegant and stylish, with just a hint of glorious madness’? Well predictably, I’ve been putting some thought into the matter, and have come up with some vehicles which I think hit the mark. Some are viable options, whereas some of the possibilities listed are so outrageously unobtainable only an oil sheik could contemplate their purchase. But I think they all demonstrate just the right blend of old-fashioned style, elegance and madness which I’m looking for. So, without further ado, here we are – 5 vehicles which tick the boxes by blending elegance and style with that hint of madness:
Remember Jaguar’s most memorable advertising slogan – space, grace and pace? Well, it pretty much sums up the USP I’m looking for in the Pub2Pub wheels. Jaguar as a company has focussed on producing, sleek, stylish and comfortable cars for its entire history, and so there are any number of Jags which would fit the brief, from the gorgeous XK120 right up to the modern-day F-type. I’ve singled out the straight-6 XJS as it’s the most attainable option, combining sleek lines, a mellifluously smooth powerplant and a gorgeous handmade interior for less than £3,000. And also, because I’ve always thought one would look absolutely fantastic in the middle of a desert, fitted with chunky tyres and a slimline roofrack.
Aston Martin DB-series
When it comes to combining chiselled good looks with a spot of dashing madness, It’s hard to look beyond Aston Martin. To undertake any epic adventure in an Aston would be the trip of a lifetime, as despite the company’s turbulent history, they never seem to put a foot wrong when it comes to manufacturing stylish, overengined awesomeness; well, except for the Cygnet, but we can ignore that little hiccup. The Astons which suit the brief best have almost all bore the ‘DB’ moniker – from the grand-touring DB4s of the ‘60s through to the present day DB9 and DBS. I’m going to attempt to be sensible by going for the DB7 as my choice. Someone once said that style is the apparent lack of effort, and on this measure, the DB7 is the most stylish Aston DB of them all, sitting between the overtly chromed glamour of the early cars, and the self consciously bulging confidence of the more modern offerings. Oh, and the DB7 is the only Aston I’d ever have a vague chance of affording for a road trip too…
So, style and madness, combined – surely that’s TVR through and through? What other manufacturer would be so mad as to replace doorhandles with buttons hidden beneath the wingmirrors, or fit right angle exhausts which can shoot flames at cyclists in the adjacent bus lane with the merest twitch of the foot? TVRs have always been beautiful and bonkers in equal measure, and while they may lack the glamour and pedigree of some of the other vehicles listed here, what they lack in outright badge-appeal, they more than make up for with their glorious madness.
While we wait to see what the newly reborn TVR car company comes up with, we’re stuck with perusing the marque’s back catalogue, meaning the perfect choice for a big trip would surely be the Cerbera; TVR’s only real stab at a grand touring vehicle. Sleek, low, uncluttered and brutally, biblically, unjustifiably powerful, there can’t be many more stylish ways to arrive at an obscure city. And it wins extra style-points for the fact that once it’s out of the UK, nobody will have the slightest clue what it is; only that it’s bloomin’ awesome.
If TVR warrants a mention by virtue of blending brute power with beauty, then surely the AC Cobra – along with its surprisingly affordable replicas – represents the ultimate expression of the stylish muscle car? While obviously moving quite a way from the restrained dignity and comfort of a modern Aston or Jag, the Cobra was, in its day, not nearly so far removed from the products of such companies as it’s perceived nowadays. Just like it’s contemporaries from Jaguar, Chevrolet and Ferrari, it’s definitely stylish, it has a pugnacious grace all of its own, its history is as daring as any automobile and when it comes to being an expression of glorious madness, nothing else on the road can touch it. I think it’s an awesome, timeless vehicle which warrants its place on this list for its side-exit exhausts alone.
Bentley Dartmoor Coupe
And now, we head to the stratosphere. Look at it. Just look at it. Has there ever been a more perfect expression of automotive style than this coachbuilt coupe? The £400,000 price tag may be a slight obstacle when it comes to a typical 80breakdowns road trip, but hell, just look at it. Again. Inside and out, from its salubrious 6.7l straight-six to the artful chrome bumpers, it’s every inch the art-deco interpretation of the perfect grand touring automobile. And I love it. I’ll just have to sell another few hundred thousand copies of my book before I can afford one… and even then I couldn’t bring myself to then clatter across the Atacama Desert in such a stunning work of art.
So there they are; five different interpretations of what the ideal vehicle for a bold yet stylish road trip could be. Obviously some of the vehicles mentioned are pipe dreams, but their inclusion still serves to aid the distillation of ideas which results in a choice being made, just as a few years ago, a similar process led to us selecting a Corvette for the V8Nam trip.
The clock is ticking. Not long now, and it’ll be time to start shopping…