Happy Monday, because it’s time for chapter two of our weekly Automobile “Million Dollar Challenge,” wherein one of our staffers each week creates their personal list of dream cars. The rules are simple: What would you buy if you were today handed $1 million and ordered to spend it on nothing but filling your dream garage with automobiles? We’ll each select at least five of our lifelong dream cars, rather than copping out and blowing the entire imaginary wad on a single million-dollar car, because what fun would that be? However, not every car must be a six-figure collector’s item, either. This week, executive editor Nelson Ireson is at the plate:
If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t spend it all on cars—I’d set some aside for gas and insurance. I’m not really joking about that, either; if you compared my existing dream garage (OK, my driveway) with my retirement account (or net worth), you’d find I’m already living that life at 1:100000 scale. For better or worse, I’ve accreted a tiny, working-class fleet of collector cars over the years.
But I’ve been given a fake million-dollar bill to spend, and before I bring the theoretical value of my hypothetical collection up to $1.025 million, you should probably know what the other $0.025 million is made of.
- 1973 Saab 96 (V-4! Freewheel!)
- 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo (!!!)
- 1994 Ford F-250 (460 cubic inches of mild agitation!)
- 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata (Autocross!)
As you can see, I have managed to assemble a mostly impractical fleet of not very valuable cars. If I had a million dollars, however, I’d have … pretty much the same thing, just scaled up into When’s-My-Intervention territory. After all, if four cars aren’t enough (they’re not), 10 cars can’t be too many, right? Let’s fill some gaps in the dream garage collection.
1965-1969 Chevrolet Corvair, $10,000-$20,000
Just look at it. If you’d never heard of Ralph Nader, the second-generation Corvair might be on the altar of the American sports car alongside (or instead of) the Corvette. Or at least I like to think so, because these things are gorgeous. Better, the Corvair follows the formula of a contemporary German car the whole world has grown to idolize: the Porsche 911.
With an (optionally turbocharged) air-cooled flat-six mounted at the rear, a stout available four-speed manual gearbox, a roughly 2,400-pound curb weight, and not much else going on, the Corvair is, in my eyes, the Porsche 911 killer, or at least competitor, that never was. I’d buy a not-too-nice example, strip it bare, borrow some ideas from the Yenko Stinger, and make a car to make a classic 911 enthusiast smirk in disdain—until we head up to the canyons.
1987-1991 Honda Civic Wagon RT4WD, $4,000-$8,000
Aside from being just about the cutest little blocky-wedge-thing ever, the Honda Civic Wagon is the actual car that almost everyone needs, complete with on-demand Real Time 4WD for sticky or slippery situations—plus a six-speed manual with a granny gear! It looks small, but like its closest spiritual successor—the recently laid to rest Honda Fit—it does a lot with that space, as its boxy angles maximize utility. It’s pretty frugal with gas, too. And yet it’s still fun to drive.
Why the heck am I spending my million-dollar bill on a measly Honda Civic, wagon or not? Because some Civics are just special. This is one of them.
1970-1974 Ford Escort RS1600, $80,000-$90,000
It looks a bit like a wooden hairpiece, but if you’ve ever heard one approaching through a dense forest at dawn, the 1.6-liter Cosworth at full song—only to see it come flying past, spitting gravel and smelling like the fun version of hell—you, like me, don’t give a damn what it looks like. I’ve never driven one, but I want one.
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series, $300,000-$450,000
This monster I have driven, hard, at Willow Springs, on the proper big circuit. By the time I’d figured out how to ease off the throttle to keep my head from hitting the roof over the yump before the back straight without losing the prodigious wing-enhanced grip of the rear end, I was coming into the very lairy turn 8-9 complex at speeds topping 140 mph—well beyond my comfort zone, and probably beyond my skill set, too. As snap-oversteering, ungainly, and often awkward as the standard SLS AMG could be, the Black Series was none of those things, putting down its ferocious 622 horsepower with gleeful ease and minutely controllable slip angle, its steering as precise as an electron scalpel.
2020 Mercedes-Benz G550, $150,000-$160,000
And yes, to be clear, I’d choose the G550 over the G63 AMG because the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the G550 is already plenty. And I’d spec it with 18-inch wheels, too, because as good of a job as Mercedes did tuning the G’s ride for 20-plus-inch wheels, there’s no replacement for tire displacement.
2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S, $200,000-$220,000
I’ve wanted to buy the Porsche Taycan Turbo S since about 20 minutes after I got behind the wheel and hit the curves with it. Unbelievably quick, brilliantly stable yet eager to rotate, and with Porsche’s front-axle magic sending terrific feedback through the steering wheel, the Taycan Turbo S makes you forget there are four doors and 5,100-odd pounds along for the ride. It’s completely electric, with plenty of range for what I do on any given day, and would almost certainly become my daily driver—the perfect combination of practicality, efficiency, and fun.
And look at that, $50,000 or so left over for care and feeding. If only I really had a million dollars to spend on the dream cars to fill my dream garage.