If man were made metal, what would he be?

| 2 Nov 2011

It's fascinating how other people's perceptions of you differ from your own. And especially how these views are manifested in the classics that they think would "fit" you.

This was kicked off when designer James Butler announced out of the blue that he thought I should own a Lotus Esprit. Not because he particularly likes them (in fact I suspect that he would suggest absolutely any classic as an alternative to my Elite which he openly detests), but simply because it is car that he reckons he could "see" me in.

That may be true, but it isn't one that ever occurred to me, I must admit. Not that I haven't considered buying one (because, let's be honest, I have considered buying everything over the years), but it surprised me that the Esprit might somehow be viewed by others as the classic that would embody Elliottness (not Eliot Ness) in all my stunted, big-eared glory.

I like the Esprit, adore driving Esprits, and it is hard to argue against for value for money, but it has always struck me as a bit of a flash 'Arry motor. And that's not me. Or is it?

So, slightly shocked, I decided to ask a bunch of people what classic they reckoned would best suit me, in a rather inadequate attempt to discern (presuming that the metalware they suggested would be a projection of my own personality) what they thought of me.

Here are the results from those few who bothered to answer:

David Evans:  "Gordon-Keeble. For a decade I've had to listen to you banging on about them. Plus you're a V8 man now."

Martin Port: "You're not mainstream, so when you ask that question, I think what is the weirdest thing that you could use an everyday smoker. Not weird, but different to the herd, not the obvious choice, so it's a Bristol."

Martin Buckley: "You've progressed from a TR7 [that would be the £400 one Buckley 'advised' me on buying, by burying the throttle for 30 seconds and then shrugging] into some desirable stuff. Something plastic, V8 with a big ashtray." Is that another vote for the G-K, I wonder?

Not sure about the Bristol. I see where Port is coming from, but I have always considered them a little more stately than I am, and I have never warmed to the high roofline. I understand it, and I even cherish the reasoning behind it (one must have room for one's topper when one is off to the opera), but it just dulls the car to these eyes, makes it look more staid than it is.

I was also put off by a dismissive presumed-to-be owner I met at Heathrow airport about 15 years ago. He was standing beside a lovely 409 (always my favourite) and didn't react well to my polite attempts to start a conversation about it.

At first I thought he had taken against me because I had been scrabbling around on my knees checking his Girling brake callipers to make sure it was a 409 and not a 408, but his offish-ness was properly explained when a fantastically glamorous lady of a certain age swept out of the airport and into the rear seat as he held the door open.

"Fantastic" I thought as he popped on his cap and assumed his position in the driving seat, "a chauffeur-driven two-door".  It should have raised the car in my estimation, but thanks to him it didn't. Mind you it did raise the mystery lady's stock even higher. She just had class.

So, on to the Gordon-Keeble. Hmmm. These boys may be on to something. When I joined C&SC shortly after fish started crawling out of the primordial sludge, I was asked what was the one car I would most like to drive and do a feature on. My answer was immediate: a Gordon-Keeble.

It took a while to come to pass, but a year or two later I spent a marvellous day with a splendid chap called Roy Dowding and his beautiful G-K. I was so bowled over by achieving my dream that even today I am not sure whether I was in a position to be terrifically objective about the car.

The story was run in the October 1998 issue of C&SC and, despite my impassioned but rambling intro, it remains one of the stories that I am most proud of telling in the magazine. Naturally, a few close calls followed, but the nearest I ever came to buying one was when two came up at the same auction.

Sadly I found myself bidding against Ivan Dutton who snapped them both up to create one racer and sell the other on. The 'other' was still a pretty nice example (in white) and, if I recall correctly, he was only asking £10k for it. Or was it that he paid only £10k for it. Even so, it was £10k too much for me. As was the £13,000 cars we tested were for sale for in both 2003 and 2005.

Since then I have just watched the prices move further and further out of reach. Which I am perversely pleased about because I want the market to value the cars as I do.

Anyway, this is becoming more of an 'Obsessions' piece than it set out to be, so back to the point. I am sure that with nearly 100 G-Ks out there, not all of the owners are as nice as Roy Dowding, but it still represents a car that I don't simply want to own, but, because of what I perceive it would say about me, I would be proud to be the owner of.

Of course, you may think differently. You may think that a Gordon-Keeble projects only negative connotations about the personality of its owner. And that is the beauty of this whole exercise.

It has been a great game really, with some intriguing and tantalising suggestions (and feel free to add your own below), and I suggest you give it a go yourselves. Just don't ask the question if you are likely to be offended by the answer!