The rare car collector’s guide to how to settle and be happy
By HANNAH ELLIOTT
WE ALL love dreaming about our fantasy car — and lately, with pandemic shutdowns and self-imposed quarantines, there seems to be more time for flights of fancy than ever.
The problem with dream cars, though, is that they often truly are only a fantasy for all but an extreme 0.01%. Between the excruciatingly low production numbers and stratospheric prices, the iconic supers can be tricky to obtain.
But there is hope for those who can shift their expectations just a little. Often, the progressive designs and engineering that made such cars as the Ferrari 250 GTO or McLaren F1 so astounding at the time of their debuts (and still memorable now) trickled down into subsequent automotive progeny and mechanical relatives.
Which is great news for the rest of us: The joy of such unattainable supercars can often be approximated in something else more easily had — and paid for.
Here are five of them.
If you can’t get a Ferrari 250 GTO, get a Ferrari 275.
History: Ferrari SpA produced the 250 GTO for a very short time, from 1962 to 1964, in order to race in some important and glamorous Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) grand touring races that made the cars legendary. The GTOs came with a “Tipo 168/62 Colombo” V12 engine and with (you guessed it) 250 cu cm of displacement in each of its cylinders. GTO, by the way, stands for Gran Turismo Omologato,
Italian for “Grand Touring Homologated”. The cars, after they raced, scattered to the corners of the globe, squirrelled away by collectors and racing enthusiasts alike.
The 250 was the direct predecessor of the 275. Ferrari 275s were produced just as soon as the GTOs stopped. They were made as road-going cars from 1964 to 1968 and, in GTB form, were used for racing as well.
What they have in common: The Ferrari 275, too, came with one of Ferrari’s V12 engines and a long, luscious nose with beautiful angled glass-covered headlights, as the 250s had. Each came with aluminium alloy bodies influenced and manufactured by the prestigious Scaglietti design house. Each had disc brakes, “Borrani” wire wheels and a five-speed gearbox that used a specific “synchromesh” configuration.
Viva La Difference! With its complex racing tuning and aerodynamic design elements, the 250 GTO is much faster and looks rawer than the more genteel 275.
The numbers: Of the racing Ferrari 250 GTOs, only 36 were made. They routinely trade at nearly US$50 million (RM208.56 million) among a small handful of fervent collectors, enthusiasts and conservators based largely in Europe. That scarcity makes the Ferrari 275s, on the other hand — all 330 of them — look like a widely available steal. (Relatively.) A white one sold at the Gooding & Co auction on Aug 10 for just US$3 million.
If you can’t get a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, get a Mercedes SL.
History: Mercedes-Benz made the 300SL as a Gullwing coupe from 1954 to 1957 and as an open-top roadster from 1957 to 1963. The “SL”, short for Super-Leicht (“super light”), was based on the 1952 racing champion W194 car and contained then-very advanced mechanical direct fuel-injection for incredible boosted power on its straight-six- cylinder engine. The 300SL Gullwing could
hit 163 mph at top speed; when it debuted, it was heralded as the fastest car on the road.
The SL is the direct descendent of the 300SL Gullwing. With the success of the expensive 300SLs, Mercedes developed a less expensive, smaller-engined roadster in 1955 as the Mercedes 190SL. This was followed by the 230 SL. Subsequent generations of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class continued down the family tree with multiple engine variants (560, 320, 280) produced throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with modern versions continuing to the present.
What they have in common: The original 300SL and the later SLs share the SL name because they are the true members of the same family, as evidenced in the same general long-nose design, with a small, two-seat cockpit capsule at the centre of the car, flat parallel-to-the-sky hood and rear truck, and headlights placed vertically at the end of the hood. The SLs even offered four-speed manual transmissions, just as the granddaddy 300SL had.
Viva La Difference! When it comes to actual power and performance, driving the astounding 215hp 300SL is like piloting a spaceship, while driving the later SLs, which had half the horsepower, feels as if you might as well be in a (stylish) lunch box.
The numbers: Mercedes made 1,400 of the extraordinary SL Gullwing; most sell for US$1 million or more. By contrast, the company made hundreds of thousands of the SL. (Most seem to reside in Beverly Hills, California.). A good example can be had from any local dealer for US$20,000.
If you can’t get a McLaren F1, get a T.50.
History: Made from 1992 to 1998, the McLaren F1 set a record for being the world’s fastest production car. (It hit 240.1 mph in March 1998). Gordon Murray, the man who designed it and a host of other race cars, and who now runs his own design firm, unveiled what he called the modern evolution of that car, the T.50, in August 2020.
What they have in common: Both cars come directly from the brain of one of history’s most prolific and talented car designers: Murray, the South African Scot. They each have a V12 naturally aspirated engine, share the same unique, three-seat configuration (putting the driver at the centre, between two passengers) and have a six-speed manual transmission. Both are pure analog drivers’ cars, separated by three decades.
Viva La Difference! The F1 is a 30-year- old car, with period-correct interior and computer technology to match and a BMW- built engine. The T.50 has an engine that Murray’s own company built and is all- modern, with such creature comforts as alcantara and leather trimmings, titanium accents, Bluetooth and premium sound. Each T.50 will be unique after its owner selects colourways, trims, patterns and even the size and proportions of the seats to exact personal specifications.
The numbers: The McLaren F1s sell for US$25 million and only 106 were made. By contrast, Murray will make only about 100 of the US$2 million T.50, too — but one can hope to obtain one as they aren’t sold out yet.
If you can’t get a Porsche Carrera GT, get a Porsche 911 GT3.
History: When it debuted, the mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive Carrera GT was the pinnacle of Porsche engineering (and cost a then-shocking half-million dollars). Its Formula 1-derived V10 engine could do zero to 60 mph in a stunning 3.9 seconds and had a top speed of 208 mph. It contained then-futuristic technologies, including a pure carbon-fibre monocoque and subframe and a rear wing that raised and lowered automatically.
What they have in common: Some may say the 918 Spyder supercar would be a closer approximation to the Carrera GT, but with that hybrid drivetrain and paddle-shifting — rather than a manual — we think not. Instead, opt for the six-speed manual, raw, heart-thumping 911 GT3, which captures the spiritual yet tangible thrill of driving that the GT embodied. Like the Carrera GT, it includes an ostentatious rear wing and the spacious interior cabin that is 100% focused on serving the demands of the most dedicated driver.
Viva La Difference! The Carrera GT’s mid-engine V10 engine differs from the rear- placed, six-cylinder engine in the GT3. And with its gently curved roof and hood, the GT3 looks like a traditional 911, while the flat back and exposed rear of the Carrera GT is a monster of its own species. If you want to go one better: The even more track-hungry GT3
RS is limited to about 1,200 globally, but is still much cheaper than the Carrera GT and widely available.
The numbers: Porsche made just 1,270 of the Carrera GT from 2004 to 2007. They currently cost about US$1 million to buy at auction. It has not set a production limit for the US$150,000-ish 911 GT3.
If you can’t get a Lancia Delta S4 ‘Stradale’, get a Lancia Delta Integrale (or HF or 1500).
History: The Lancia Delta S4, aka“Stradale”, is a Group B rally car that competed in world championship race series in 1985 and 1986. Its special inline-four-cylinder engine combined both supercharging and turbocharging in order to reduce turbo lag at low engine speeds — hyper-tuned to be able to handle the gruelling rallies that sent it over mud and grass and through every corkscrew
corner you can imagine. The bodywork of the car was striking, with such weird-looking flourishes to help aerodynamics as little winglets moulded into the front bumper panel, a flexible skirt around the front and a rear deck lid wing with a full aerofoil wind section and spoiler. Plus, the entire front end lifted up for easy and quick access to the guts of the car, and the doors were of hollow-shell Kevlar with no inner door skin, no door handles and windows that didn’t roll down.
What they have in common: Both the S4 and the other variants have four-cylinder engines with all-wheel drive (optional on the Lancia Deltas) for superior traction on loose surfaces. They all retain the odd so-ugly-its-cute square body style and tiny wheels, with a geometric interior console and dashboard configuration and a hatchback rear door with a rectangular rear-seating area.
Viva La Difference! The windows in the Delta Integrale and other Delta variants go down, for starters. Plus, they look slightly more mild-mannered than its sibling, with smaller air-venting details and less of a skirt/ spoiler combination in the rear. Lancia Deltas came with optional front-wheel drive and barely more than 200hp at the highest “Integrale” form. (The S4, meanwhile, had nearly 500hp.)
The numbers: Fewer than 100 of the Lancia Delta S4 were made; they’ve been selling for US$1 million lately. By contrast, the Lancia Delta Integrales were made by the tens of thousands and can be had for US$60,000 or so on Bringatrailer. — Bloomberg