The bucket list: ten aspirational cars to own in this lifetime (and possibly the next)

Another week, another bucket list. This time, we’ve tried to select cars that are aspirational (meaning none of these is happening anytime soon) but still somewhat realistic – i.e., as we have seen even just this week, that space existing somewhere between readily affordable (on one end of the spectrum) and pure fantasy (on the other), where cars are just within (or perhaps just beyond) reach. So no, we didn’t bother putting a Lusso on here. Also important is that they be eminently drivable, meaning cars with less than stellar driving reputations have for the most part been excluded— they have little place on this list.

Clearly, some here are more immediately attainable than others, while others we may need to wait years and years before getting a chance to sample.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Porsche 911 (997) GT3

And it matters not whether it’s the 997.1 or 997.2. The harder-core GT3RS variant isn’t unwelcome, either, but nor is it necessary— the plain vanilla GT3 (a laughable description if there ever was one) should be plenty, thanks.

911, pre-1974 (“long-nose”)

Again, doesn’t matter whether it’s an ‘S’ or a ‘T’ or an ‘E’ or something in-between as long as it has that sexy long-nose and Fuchs or even some steelies. Damn.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTV “step-nose”

Maybe the prettiest little Italian sports coupe ever. And one of the wickedest-sounding.

BMW 3.0 CS/CSi coupe (E9)

Quite possibly the prettiest postwar Bimmer this side of the 507. For us, it stole the show (and our hearts) at this year’s Deutsche Classic— we couldn’t tear our eyes away. More of a grand tourer than an out-and-out sports car, but with looks like these, who cares?

Caterham Seven

Lays claim to the purest, most unfiltered driving experience on this list.

Lotus Exige

When the Seven is just too impractical.

Ferrari F355 (Berlinetta, though the Spider is pictured)

There are faster Ferraris, there are more exclusive Ferraris, but even after all these years, this is still our sentimental favorite— arguably the nicest-looking modern Ferrari, and one we can aspire to one day own (hopefully). Pretty, usable, and insanely desirable even today. This one probably takes our top prize.

Nissan Skyline GT-R (KPGC10)

Surprised to see this here? So are we. But maybe there’s no reason to be. This is, after all, quite possibly our favorite Japanese car— and yes, that includes the 2000GT. There’s just something about these cars… they’re almost stately, yet at the same time utterly badass. The presence they exude is almost overwhelming. An enigma of a car if there ever was one.

Lotus Elan

If you must know why, look no further than to guest contributor Royce Hong’s feature.

BMW M Coupe (E36/8)

The last of the truly unique, original BMWs (parts bin car or not), and our favorite modern one— it’s destined to become a classic. No, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore— not even the new 1M Coupe. Make ours the S54 (this is important).

Honorable mentions:

Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 (W109)

It only singlehandedly gave birth to the concept of the automotive Q-ship. Sounds wicked and goes like stink, and looks so good while doing so. Boss.

Honda/Acura NSX (first generation)

Before the Audi R8 took up the mantle of ‘everyday supercar’ there was the Honda (Acura in the US) NSX. Supposed to be a sweet driver. That is all.

Porsche 356

In a way, it feels kind of wrong that the 356 – a perennial favorite if there ever was one – didn’t make the final cut, but the presence of one beetle-backed aircooled car on the list (the 356’s successor, the 911) almost makes the 356 seem expendable. Almost. Our rationalization is that the early 911 offers most of the 356’s looks but also more – a lot more – performance (if less overall charisma and mystique).

Yeah, still feels wrong.

For the sake of brevity, many good cars had to be left off this list, as you can see. It’s obviously highly subjective – there are no right or wrong answers here – so let’s hear yours, since it’s bound to differ. Have at it!

(Images: LotusTalk, David Guimarães, Stephen Hall, Nomos Lee, Pelican Parts, Alfaholics, Matt Nuzzaco)

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~ by velofinds on September 9, 2011.

23 Responses to “The bucket list: ten aspirational cars to own in this lifetime (and possibly the next)”

  1. Nice list! I consider myself lucky to have owned two, to have driven four, and to have raced against a few others… Neko.

  2. Hum… 8 to go then!

  3. Such an interesting list! I still think the 2000Gt is the ultimate japanese car ever, but I have never seen a skyline. They are so rare here in Europe. I´d be so curious to see one!

  4. Great list, although I don’t agree that the 356 meets the criteria. My experience with them is that they are rubbish to drive, and this is coming from someone who grew up with aircooled VWs. Love the step nose alfa though. That will be my next “classic.”

    • well they aren’t the most powerful cars around ;) but as with every other car on this list, they are capable of being modified!

      you are right, though, i did say they needed to be reasonably good drivers, and i could see how someone could object to the 356’s inclusion on those grounds, whether i personally agree with it or not.

      • For me, it isn’t so much the lack of power but just the poor handling, braking, etc (this is in stock form, mind you). I remember when I was young, my grandfather once rode in his co-worker’s 356 and I asked him how he liked it (I was ready for some serious praise as I was a big aircooled VW guy) and he just said, “I wasn’t impressed.” Years later, I found out what he meant. It just isn’t very exciting. Such a pretty car though. :p

        • i don’t doubt your assessment— after all, it didn’t get basics like disc brakes until the last refresh of its life cycle, the 356C. in fact, it’s about as fast as a modern minivan around an autocross course ;)

          i do think you buy these cars for many reasons, but outright performance probably isn’t one of them (unless it’s an outlaw version). i do still think they’re extremely worthy and desirable, if not exactly as a driver’s car.

          • Yeah not so much a driver’s car, but definitely a collectors car. I think that sort of puts me off. I like the “outlaw” ones that pop up, but if you wanted to do that, you could just go VW. I remember when nobody really wanted a 356 and they were pretty cheap. It seems like in the last 10 – 15 years the collectors just went wild! There is just such a massive leap from the 356 to the 911.

            • > There is just such a massive leap from the 356 to the 911.

              There is indeed, and I suspect you’re looking at the 356 as compared later cars accordingly. What is often missed is the 356 at the time of release was a vast improvement over its period counterparts. Especially those of a similar capacity.

              Remember, you’re talking about a design from essentially sixty years ago. Longer if you consider its roots.

              • But the 356 ran through til 1965. There were tremendously “better” sports cars by then, just as there were in the early 1950s. I would argue that at no point in its lifetime was the 356 ever the best car in its class. That might sound harsh, but the 911 (and other later model Porsches) were very much the opposite of that.

                Again, using the story of my grandfather, he bought a Corvette because it was so much better than the Porsche for the money. It wasn’t without its own flaws and quirks, but it is totally in a different world performance-wise.

                • Having driven a few later 356s and owned a 911, I have to say that the 356 is a lovely car to drive. It doesn’t work like a modern car, but they are a hoot. Not to mention that they were highly competitive in-period, even in stock, or nearly stock form.

  5. You hit the nail on the head with this list. I would consider adding a rotary also, simply to hear that high rpm wail.

    • Yeah you could swap the 356 for an Rx7 of some sort and then you’d get a real nice variety in there.

    • the third gen (FD) rx-7 is a favorite of my youth, a beautiful car (to look at, to drive), and highly desirable, but i don’t have the same kind of burning desire to own one that i have with these other cars.

      that’s not to say it’s unworthy of being on anyone’s bucket list though— i do think it is highly worthy. any car that ever wore an rx-7 badge i would love to own, really.

      • Yeah, I would argue that the first 3 generations of the Rx7 were awesome. I would love one. In my mind, they are one of the great post 1970s Japanese cars (maybe just after the NSX).

  6. hey i have two on the list. a seven and a m coupe. like the list

  7. I have had a few of these and a few others that I would consider close siblings. I have to disagree with Colin about the 356. Yes, it is slower than a lot of cars. Yes, being sixty years old has caught up with it. Both 356 I have had were the C variant with disc brakes. I drove one everyday for the better part of 2 years, no matter the weather, around 1995-97. It certainly takes a certain technique to drive quickly in the curves, but once you have it down, it was respectable. Of course, I do believe driving a slow car fast is much more enjoyable than the other way around. I do remember somebody messing with me in a Miata late one night. I got the better of him – more about him losing his nerve than anything I am sure. I have also had early 911s. I think they are very similar, but the 911 is just has alittle more of everything the 356 has. I just looked up 0-60 for a 70 911t and a super 90 (only one I could find) 7.1 vs 9 second range. Both cars are a handful if you don’t know how to drive them. Oooohh if you get it right, it is such a good feeling – addictive. I haven’t driven a car that rewarded me more for understanding how it worked – that goes for both the 911 and 356.

  8. argh…. ever since that awful film came out ‘bucket list’ has become one of the most over-used phrases in english.
    no more please !!!

  9. interesting list, drew. The only ones we would have in common are the GT3 and the 911S/T/E/etc of course, as well as *maybe* the KGPC10 GT-R, although my admiration of it has decreased significantly—-especially since i saw one in “Fast Five” on an airplane last month. ha. I think i’ll have to post one of these lists soon as well……..well, here’s to hoping you get them all at some point, man!

  10. Drew,

    I agree with every single one. Superb!

  11. Of the scores of cars I’ve owned, including an Elan, my 911E is the one car I really regret selling. I sold it in the early 90s, probably the low point for long-nose 911 values (which coincided exactly with the point at which structural rust started showing up in early 911s!)

  12. Suprised not to see an F40 on this list..:O

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