What is my favorite automobile of all time?
As a writer that focuses on the automobile, this is the question I hate being asked. First of all, it may expose a bias or preference of one brand over another. I’d like to keep biases out of my work as much as possible, unless something rubbed me the wrong way. It also frees up any brand loyalty that would spark major debates with other motorheads as to defend said brand even though I know the arguments against them.
The clincher for a favorite is experience. Some people commit to a favorite vehicle without even seeing one in person. I won’t judge or discredit these people on this basis, as they may not have the chance to encounter said vehicle in their lifetime – at the most. One would hope a good sighting and a close up inspection of said vehicle would give the admirer a chance to test whether their love for the vehicle exists or not. Believe me, I’ve been jilted by non-tangible favorites until I got to see one up close.
This is where a favorite if chosen. In my case, I’ll list four: One a favorite vehicle my family owned, another a favorite I owned, then another favorite I drove and, lastly, a favorite I’ve never driven but experienced up close and personal. It narrows down the field a bit, but at least I can speak of authority the reason why they are a favorite.
Truthfully, not all favorites are perfect. With every automobile, there are flaws and detractions. I can tell you things I did not like of every car I owned, which is why I do not own a car right now. The good things work well, but it would that one flaw would drive me batty until the day I get rid of it!
What are my favorite automobiles? All I can say is “don’t be surprised.”
MY FAVORITE AUTOMOBILE MY FAMILY EVER OWNED: 1970 Plymouth Barracuda
The story goes that my father was looking to replace our drab olive green 1960 Chevrolet Corvair while keeping our white 1967 Chevrolet Impala sports coupe. As the 1971 model year kicked off, Dad supposedly found a pre-owned 1970 Plymouth Barracuda at the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Canoga Park, California. It was this perfect metallic blue color which matched the vinyl interior. This was capped with a white vinyl roof and whitewall tires. Obviously, this was not one of the hotter models now fetching six-figures in the classic car market.
The Barracuda came off a lease, if I recall. It was in fantastic condition, so Dad bought it. No qualms about having a base Barracuda with a 318 V8, four-barrel carburetor and a Torque-Flite automatic gearbox. Though far from a ‘Cuda or an AAR model, it was quite the number. Both of our parents loved driving that car as much as enjoyed riding in it. And, it looked so cool. To me, this is one of the most iconic designs of the 1970’s with a fuselage-style design and integrated front and rear ends. That Coke-bottle shape was indeed alluring. Imagine going to Cub Scouts or to school in such a cool car.
It wasn’t perfect, though. I recall it stalled one time during a typical Los Angeles rainstorm at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Wilbur Avenue in Reseda. We tried to cross the flooded intersection as it simply stopped in the middle of it. This was before they built the flood control ducts throughout the San Fernando Valley.
A car can have a lasting impression on a family. I recalled my brother wishing that our mother would’ve kept the Barracuda. I think Matthew would’ve been happier with it than what he got as his first car, a 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia. After all, that Barracuda brought smiles to our family – the Mustang II, not so much.
One mistake my Dad did was not trading in the Corvair for the Barracuda. It was sold outright to a guy that converted it into a dune buggy.
MY FAVORITE AUTOMOBILE I OWNED: 1991 Acura Integra
The fall of 1990 was a pivotal time for me. I was ready to buy a new car and wanted something superlative for not a lot of money. I budgeted about $17,000-18,000, which excluded me from getting into a lot of premium goods. I was happy with that strategy and figured I’d get something that would drive me to school and back reliably and would give me pleasure along the way.
In the end, I picked a premium-branded car. I considered it to be a better value, though I could’ve gotten something with more content and a better warranty/support package. What the Integra brought was a lightweight, fun and practical coupe. You had a sporting driving cabin and a large cargo hold in the same package. Its 1.8-literDOHC 16-valve motor is a proven Honda mill that was rather easy to work on. The way it moved was just fine for my soul. In fact, the Integra changed the way I approached the automobile understanding how to drive it properly. In a time before anti-lock brakes, traction control and other electronic aids, simple approaches to avoiding trouble on slick road surfaces, understanding how to drive multilane roads and making proper tire choices came in the experience of the Integra.
Where this Concord Blue Metallic RS coupe fell short was in two areas. For one, I accepted delivery of the vehicle with a slightly misaligned driver’s door. I was a fool, then, but a warranty repair of a door jam plate provided a band-aid for this issue. The other came with some disappointment that Honda did not match what Toyota and Nissan were doing for their premium brands: Extending warranties and providing a host of services for owners. Getting roadside assistance was a big deal for buyers in the early 1990’s. However, Lexus and Infiniti provided much more. Acura took the stance after scoring four straight J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction awards that buyers don’t buy automobiles for the extra goodies in warranty protection, roadside assistance an loaner cars. Boy, were they wrong!
In all, the Integra was an ownership experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Would I repeat it again? Maybe with a mainstream branded automobile with higher content, a better warranty and support and a seat cushion planted higher off the ground.
MY FAVORITE AUTOMOBILE I’VE EVER DRIVEN: 2017-2020 Lexus GS F
When it comes to driving experiences, some automobiles stand out more than others.
The thing about the GS F is the combination of what I love about automobiles and what excites me the most about them. I love absolute power, but I also love exceptional ride quality. I love flaws in design, as long as they can be managed from the driver’s seat. I also love luxury, but I want to be comfortable and locked in for a spirited drive.
The sum of the whole is a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan powered by a 467-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine. Inside is a four-door sedan that should seat five. The tipping point for me was the rear seat that can accommodate two adults, as long as they’re not too tall. I usually use the back seat to haul my drum around for him to see the world.
When I received my first GS F, it sparked a debate. I fell in love with the RC F, as it was the first performance coupe I truly enjoyed. I realized how much of a sedan person I am, I wanted to experience the GS F to see whether I can still capture its essence in a car with a longer wheelbase and four doors.
The result is a grand driving experience. One that was shared by my fellow enthusiasts one Sunday afternoon near the St. Croix River between Stillwater and Hastings. Just when I thought I was done, a second one showed up a few years later. It was a sad occasion, as Lexus was about to close its chapter on its performance sedan. With that theme as a backdrop, I had to recapture its essence. Needless to say, mission accomplished for a car that still give me goosebumps. Too bad there are not a lot of them on the road to snap my neck for old time’s sake.
MY FAVORITE AUTOMOBILE THAT I’VE NEVER DRIVEN: Ferrari (any model)
By now, I can sit here and state that I have driven everything. That would be far from the truth. Perhaps only a couple of brands of vehicles that I have yet to experience that elude me today. One of them is the famed prancing horse of Maranello – Ferrari.
When I was a child, Ferrari was a big deal in Los Angeles. You truly made it when you own one. You drove one to show the world that you rule it. You had to, because it was tough getting one. It still is. You had to own one before you buy a new one. You had to be vetted to even get considered to buy a pre-owned one. If you bought one away from Ferrari’s distribution network, you are simply on your own when it comes to servicing and support.
Which one would I want to drive? Any one would do, but would it be awesome to get behind the wheel of, say, a 812 Superfast? It is the modern interpretation of a classic Ferrari road car formula – front-engine, rear-drive, 12-cylinder, and two seats. A formula that was sparked by the 250 GTO and desired by Ferrari fans worldwide. The V12 itself is astounding, being the most powerful naturally-aspirated engine in production at 789 horsepower. From what I heard, it is also easy to drive. That’s something you never would consider about a Ferrari.
Granted, an 812 Superfast may be seen as grabbing the highest fruit from the tree in terms of experiencing a Ferrari. Why not the new Roma? A Portofino? Maybe an F8 Tributo? Sometimes you have to climb the tree all the way to the top to get the fruit that is more desirable and satisfying to the soul. Then again, any prancing horse will do at this point.
All photos by Randy Stern