Last week we asked you about your favorite car to drive at night and you shared some thrilling stories of nights spent behind the wheel. This week, we want you to stick your neck out for one of your personal favorites.
Our Question of the Week: What Underappreciated Car Will You Relentlessly Defend?
Other people just don’t get it! It doesn’t have a sterling reputation or a jaw-dropping spec sheet, but it’s still a fantastic car. It has character, it has a sense of fun, and it has everything YOU need.
We all have a car or two that didn’t win any awards, but we loved owning/driving it. The car that you would talk about to all your friends and they would shrug, “that thing?”
Maybe you never owned one yourself, but the controversial styling was always a favorite of yours and you’ve been in plenty of arguments about it. Any car you feel is underappreciated that you’ll relentlessly defend qualifies here! Let us know as many as you can think of.
A few notes: link to past BaT listings with your selection to get you some bonus points, comment on this post to enter, and our favorite answer gets a $25 hat or t-shirt from the BaT Gear Store.
Now we can dig into the responses from last week and declare a winner. Congrats to the appropriately-named Johnny_Turbo for the simple, impactful response:
A Saab with Night Panel.
Lots of runner-ups this week as well! We appreciate the gifted storytellers we have on BaT. Here they are:
I’ve had a license for just over 20 years now. My favorite car to drive at night happens to be the first car I ever owned, which I still own. My ’89 Jeep Wrangler has the 4.2L engine and the dreaded Peugeot BA10/5 transmission. I freely admit this could be the most delicate YJ ever built, but the previous owner and the passing of time have both been incredibly kind to my Jeep. In high school and college I used to work the night shift at a local soft serv ice cream store on the glorified sand bar I call home, and I always took the long way home. Cruising by the beach alone, the wonky factory Carter carb burbling away under the hood and the finiky throws of the BA10/5 are soothing in a way that’s hard to describe. Yes, I love the stereotypical wind in your hair by the beach at night feeling everyone loves about a Jeep. But it goes deeper than that with my YJ becauase it’s chock full of dying AMC calling cards and optioned with parts ever Jeep nut says to avoid. I think the feeling I get is similar to the feeling British car aficionados feel when their cars are running flawlessly, electronics and all, despite what everyone else says.
I once picked up an R231 SL63 from the Bay Area tasked with delivering it to Portland.
The late afternoon through the NorCal / Southern Oregon passes was sublime! But, after dinner in Ashland, I fired the seat heaters, the Air Scarf, and left the heaters on mid 70’s and wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else in the world! Though the air temp was in the 40’s on this clear night, I was comfortably warm… and, with nothing but a full sky of stars above me, it was perfect! Distronic Cruise Control set at 80, 5.5L of turbo-charged handbuilt AMG power for passing, the message seats working their magic, I could have sat there all night… every night!
Any car with the lights of the ‘flight deck’ turned down as low as they can go. No need to read the numbers: the gauges are ergonomically perfect – with needles all inclined to the same angles. Proper headlights with minimal light leakage – like the euro lights on my old e30 – or better still, city lights only.
I used to run out to the local ski area on summer nights. with the windows down, moon roof open, radio off.
Flowing through the empty city; wide turns on a racing line, the path of least resistance, down vacant streets and across empty intersections.
Onto the highway, the lights of the interchange pulsing like beacons through the open roof.
Hit the exit and soar up in the mountains, leaving the lights of the city behind as the stars gather overhead, while aurora, ephemeral, dance just beyond the horizon.
Maintain for minutes that seem like hours. A sense of sensory deprivation, but also never feeling more alive; travelling, but without moving.
Celestial navigation: second star to the left, then straight on ’til morning.
Any Fox Mustang (1987-1993); cruising at sunset with just the bright parking lights on; unmistakable profile with the glowing amber lenses on both sides of the flush headlights coming at you.
Even better if it’s a GT or 5.0L LX, sedan, hatchback, or certainly a drop-top on a summer evening!
Enjoyed evening cruises in this mode in my ‘91 LX 5.0L Wild Strawberry/titanium cloth hatchback.
Any Sixties Chrysler or Dodge with the Electroluminescent dash lighting. The ’61 – ’62 Chryslers, Imperials, and the ’66-’67 Chargers, especially. A work of art in the daytime, and the most intense, mesmorizing glow at night. Simply beautiful, elegant, easy on the eyes at night, and just plain cool!
Who needs headlights?
It was the last week of Dec 2014, and I had just gotten notice I would be moving from DC to California. It was not what I had planned, but I was going to make the most of it. A single owner, 2005 NFR S2000 w/ 35k miles popped up as a trade in at the dealer it was purchased from w/ all of its records. They dropped the price to $18k, because who wants a bright red roadster in DC in the dead of winter. Traded in my brand new Civic Si, and 6 months later when school wrapped up, I drove that car down the old Route 66 to Santa Monica, and up to my new place in Sacramento. Fast forward a year, and my employer put me on a 50 mi/day commute, so I sold the car w/ 50k miles, a new top, and new tires for what I paid for it. I keep waiting to see it pop up on BaT at a price way beyond reach.
So what does that have to do with night driving? Because I got it in my head that I was moving to California, and that was the place to own a roadster. Sure, winding up Hwy 1 between Monterey and Mendocino is a dream. But I moved to the valley, and where the sun is blistering and daytime temps get over 100 for most of the summer. So as it turns out, most of my favorite memories of that car are at night. Contrary to popular belief, the S2000 is still an engaging place to be, even when VTEC hasn’t kicked in. You get the cable actuated throttle response and the crispest shifting this side of a sport bike. You sit low and the cabin is snug. The projectors cast a wide swath of light. Even going to grab a coffee can still feel like an occasion. And if you’re a surgical resident who just worked a 36 hr shift, and you haven’t seen your car since your last night off two weeks ago, you don’t have to worry about it not running, since it’s a Golden Era Honda.
To wrap it up, I’ll always remember blasting through the high desert or out of the hills of wine country, top down, engine screaming, thinking “that’s why they write songs about this place.” But my warmest memories are of putting around downtown Sac with the top down, 75 degrees outside, a hint of the Delta breeze when you’re at a stop light, and the awkward angle of the iced coffee that doesn’t quite fit in the cup holder.
Sunday night, returning from a rally weekend in the Lancia Delta integrale. Yes, we don’t have a trailer (bring me one already!) so the rally car has to be driven back home on whatever remains of its own wheels.
Just sitting in your car, listening to the constant sound of the relaxing engine over the rattling of the empty copilot harness, glancing over those dimly lit yellow eighties excessive amounts of dash gauges that tell you all is well, realizing the cost of the weekend is limited to fuel and Insurance. Next to you absolute peace in the passenger seat, empty apart from some stamp slips. The only thing to worry about is “did we put the pin back in the extinguisher?”. Every street light briefly lights the hood and plays with its bulky shapes and vents, just to remind you of the awesomeness surrounding you.
At this normal pace, you get time to really absorb the car instead of staring death straight into the muddy eye. The steering wheel is direct yet never nervous. Its leather is discoloured and hardened by the sun on top, shiny on the sides from 30+ years worth of holding it, and cracked at the bottom from that one time we set the interior on fire while welding. The two-color Abarth logo in its center shiny as ever. The gear lever knob, unlike during special stages, does not come loose at this pace. The race buckets are worn to a ridiculous level now but we got them through tech once again.
All is good, nothing to worry about. Just a long drive home with the purr of the engine, the sound of the wind T-boning into the barndoor roof spoiler, and a head full of memories of the craziness of the past two days. All this while seated in a cabin that has that perfect summer evening temperature and all the smells typical for an old car that gets driven in anger: overheated insulation, fluids that boiled, leaked, dripped or sweated everywhere, some even belonging to the car…Life is good.
Thanks to all the commenters for another great Question of the Week! Remember that our QotW for this week is what underappreciated car will you relentlessly defend?
Comment on this post for a change to win a $25 BaT hat or t-shirt from the Gear Store.