James Elliott became Editor of Classic & Sports Car, the world's
best-selling classic car magazine, in 1997 and is currently Group Editor
of all C&SC's activities in print and other media. Here, to celebrate
C&SC's 30th anniversary he picks his dream garage from the last century.
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
There is a reason R-R became a household name and established its peerless reputation and the 7-litre six-cylinder 40/50 is it. It was simply better than everything else, taking the masochism out of
early motoring with its silence and smoothness, durability and speed.
An automobile that, thanks to its "monocle" screen and stripped bodywork, put the masochism back into motoring. To my mind the 6-litre four-cylinder flyer vies with the Vauxhall Prince Henry and the Mercer Raceabout to be the first true sports car both by design and in execution. Plus, Mr Magoo drove (a later) one.
Bugatti Type 35
This came down to a straight shootout between this and a Mercedes SSK, opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to theories of performance. The dominant Bugatti is featherlight (750kg) and nimble
with none of the brutality of its period rivals, but it is an absolute joy to drive fast. Small is beautiful.
Alfa Romeo 8C
In engineering terms, this was a pre-war spaceship, as far removed from the majority of its contemporaries as an F1 car would be alongside a Kia Piccanto today. Vittorio Jano's masterpiece powered such a range of cars that I think I'll have a P3 and Bimotore to park alongside my "set" of Monza, 2900B Touring Spider and Berlinetta.
Not exactly overflowing with opulence, but its stark simplicity is one of the beauties of the 356, especially in hardtop form. That and the basic format it spawned, which has flowed through just
about every Porsche since. Oh, and the fact that it is a superb car to drive, one that can't be bettered by anything of its generation on a non-motorway cross-country blast. Except the original Lotus Elite.
Lancia Aurelia B20 GT
It is no wonder that the sexy Turin tourer was the car of choice of F1 drivers in the 1950s, Fangio, Hawthorn et al. It is a beautifully engineered, beautifully built car that epitomises the high values
of Lancia, therefore probably also explaining why the company hit the financial buffers. De Dion rear axle, 2.5 V6 and a Nardi floorchange for me, please.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB
This should be a Mini, but just as I picked a 356 over a Minor and Bearcat over a Model T, this is about dreaming not reality, the pursuit of perfection over historical importance. It is a shame the Short Wheelbase is so unattainable (fewer than 200 built and a multi-million pound pricetag) because it is the only car I would ever need. It ticks every box – looks, comfort, noise, performance – and is the ideal go anywhere, do anything dream car.
So the 1970s was a barren time for motor manufacture? Not on the racetracks it wasn't! Lotus came out with a succession of greats in that decade, but the wedge 72 with its overhead airscoop, inboard brakes and sidepod rads is "the one". Way ahead of its time, as nearly 20 GP victories in the hands of Rindt, Fittipaldi, Peterson and gang attest.
No car will ever be built like this again. There will be quicker, more expensive cars, but nothing will ever be so uncompromised, so untrammelled by cost-cutting or other commercial pressures. Gordon
Murray is a genius and well worth being probably the last designer who will ever be given a clean sheet of paper and told to get on with it.
TVR Griffith 500
I don't really get on with modern cars, which insist on driving me instead of letting me drive them. The Griffith, however, is a bit different because, despite the gaudy overtrimming, the wonderful involvement and tactility of the driving experience could be from
the '50s or '60s. As is the need to always carry gaffer tape, cable ties and a set of spanners.