Monday, February 19, 2007

Style on wheels.

Those who know me best are often subjected treated to my views on automobiles. The way I look at it, my automobiles are, in a sense, an extension of my wardrobe. Given that I suffer from a pathological classicism, sartorially speaking, it oughtn't come as any surprise that I extend that pathology to automobiles.

To me, that means that an automobile must fulfill "the beauty function" perfectly before I consider its other attributes. Said another way, if a car is not beautiful, I don't care how wonderful it may be otherwise. Fast, economical, safe, etc. mean nothing to me if the car isn't attractive. This leaves off my list the overwhelming majority of electromobiles, SUVs, vand/minivans/pickups, hybrids and microcars. In fact, it leaves off most cars; certainly most cars designed in the last decade or so.

It does, however, focus light on certain machines. Generally these are sporting vehicles. Some are American, some Japanese, a goodly number of them German or British...but mostly Italian. Let's be honest. With the carrozzerie system -- the automotive equivalent to Savile Row -- the Italians have cornered the market on automotive elegance. Not that all things Italian are invariably beautiful, but the odds that one of the beautifuls would emerge from Italy are ridiculously high.

Naturally, when the discussion turns to beautiful automobiles from Italy, one's mind races into the gigabuck territory of exotics. Which is both good and bad. Good if you own one of these Italian gems, because you'll see a mighty halo effect. Bad because it puts many of the lesser-informed off of these cars. The fact is that for Camry coin, you could be driving something far more elegant (and more enjoyable). Of course, this means you have to do some research. But do you also go to the nearest tailor and ask for a suit? No, you look into things, you discuss, you amass a body of knowledge and then you proceed.

Same here.

The fact is that regardless of budget, you can have an elegant mode of transport. For example, a 1972-74 Alfa Romeo Spider is 90% of the goodness of the pricy and rarefied "Duetto" at 30% of the price. A fully restored example ma-a-a-a-aybe will set you back US$12K, assuming the restorer was meticulous and the materials (Connolly leather, Wilton carpeting) were the finest available. That your car gets parked up front with the gigabuck exotics (ask me how I know) by the valet guys is a bonus. As is excellent mileage and all the driving fun your system can endure.
There are myriad options beyond Alfa Romeos; such Dinos (a Ferrari/Fiat joint venture with typically Italian twists) and Lancias. If your heart leans in more Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon directions there are MBs, Jaguars, BMWs, Triumphs and Porsches available for your taste and budget.
Do not give up.


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