Currently reading: Concours d’inelegance 2015 - what do Autocar staffers drive?
What do Autocar staff and contributors drive in their spare time? Here's what's been purchased this year

Last year we opened our garage doors to show you what we drive in our own time. Well, we’ve been busy buying again. Here’s what we’ve acquired in the past 12 months.

Matt Prior - Baja Bug (1961)

The Ariel Nomad is to blame. I drove it, loved it, and three days later my colleague Lewis Kingston and I were sharing posts from a sandrail buggy forum’s ‘For sale’ section. Two clicks away from a rolling buggy chassis (that would have been killer with a turbocharged Subaru engine) was this, a 1600cc 1973 Volkswagen Beetle in ‘Baja Bug’ style.

It was cheap, pink, available, didn’t need much work and, I thought, might just answer my need for a deft, softly sprung car that would be as entertaining on a green lane or field as it would be on the road. It doesn’t.

Dynamically, the Bug is quite possibly the worst car I have ever driven – and I’ve driven a Tata Safari. The ride is appalling, it feels unstable while cornering, and there are clonks and bangs from places that, I suspect, are referenced in the two pages of ‘advisories’ that I should but haven’t looked at from its MOT test. The wiring is a joke and you can see daylight through the dashboard. None of which I care less about. This is a cool car.

I’ve painted it an early 1970s VW van colour I’m fond of and will add race numbers and some stickers for the full Baja Rally look. The wheels and mirrors need to change colour, but I’m going to leave the interior shade alone – although I’ll add black carpets and door cards to tone it down. And I have a roof rack that needs to go back on, after I’ve fixed it. It fell off on an A-road, you see.

It is one of those cars that will probably never be finished, but that doesn’t matter. It is not the air-cooled, rear-engined German car that cliché suggests I should have, but it is the one I could afford. Whatever arrives in future, I suspect I’ll always find a place for it somewhere. Unless Ariel will accept it as a deposit.

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Jesse Crosse - Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec R34 (2000)

If you do this job for long enough, sooner or later a particular car comes along and gets under your skin. At the Autocar Handling Day in 1999, the line-up included a Bayside Blue Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec and the sheer shock-and-awe presence of the thing took my breath away. After driving it, I scribbled in the notebook “the sort of handling you expect from a race-prepped car. Turn-in ludicrously sharp. Fantastic grip despite the power” and parked the R34 in my fantasy garage.

The search began early this year and the value of importing direct from Japan soon became obvious. There’s no salt used on the roads there and it’s not hard to find completely rust-free cars, but finding a standard Skyline is much harder than finding a good one. With 330bhp as standard, the RB26DETT 2.6-litre twin-turbo straight six has enormous potential and 600-800bhp is not uncommon in road cars. The V-Spec has the ATTESA E-TS Pro active all-wheel drive system, which controls torque split front to rear and across the back axle. It also has Brembo four-pot calipers on the front and HICAS all-wheel steering, so the whole package is perfect for tuners.

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I’d never usually buy a car unseen so I called Newera Imports for help. Based in Japan, the team there has years of experience, knows exactly what things are worth and what to look for in terms of condition and takes the hassle out of the import process.

Trawling through the online sources one day, there it was, listed with USS Auctions in Tokyo with just under 40,000 miles on the clock. The condition was listed as ‘Grade 4.5B’, which is good. Newera had also spotted it and we swung into action.

The auction was a thrill, some early-hours emails and pictures confirmed we’d found ‘the one’, and an hour later, the long-range deal was done. It has some nice options, such as a Nismo exhaust and tail-lights, Nismo instruments and some aftermarket Öhlins dampers, but it’s otherwise standard. How do I feel a few months down the line? Thankful I was able to turn fantasy into reality.

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Steve Cropley - Lotus Elise (2000)

It was always a wrong move to sell my first Elise S1. As soon as that car departed my garage after a three-year ownership in the early 2000s, I realised I’d sold much more than a car. A whole bunch of memories and preferences and career connections went with it.

The Elise was nothing more than a rumour when I arrived at Autocar in the early 1990s. I helped with the early scoop stories, the launch stories, the drive stories and the comparisons and I drove the long-termer. The car touched every base with me: it was pretty, simple, light, roomy (apart from the ingress/egress) and steered and gripped in the best Lotus traditions. Yet I sold it.

When a late S1 appeared on the forecourt of Paul Matty Sports Cars earlier this year, a 70,000-miler that drove with a zest that suggested its engine had been chipped, I knew I had to grab it. It came my way for £10k, a bargain when people are paying much more for lesser, older classic sports cars.

The Elise has been easy to own 
and fun to drive. It feels quick and agile. It looks special, at least to my eyes. In short, it has been one of the wiser purchases of my distinctly chequered car-buying career.

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Allan Muir - Triumph Speed Triple (2011)

Some of my colleagues were no doubt picturing a TR6 or Stag when they found out I owned a Triumph, but this one has two wheels rather than four. Purchased last autumn, the Speed Triple was my way back into biking after a gap of several years.

Much as I wanted a new Ducati Multistrada, spending £16k on a weekend toy couldn’t be justified, so the 2011, 12,000-mile Speed was the ideal compromise, being desirable, fun to ride and affordable at £5800.

It’s no tourer – the ride quality is on the harsh side and there’s little wind protection – but there’s nothing better for a Sunday blast. The 1050cc three-pot engine is torquey and characterful, and the sound that comes out of the optional Arrow ‘lowboy’ titanium exhaust on the overrun – like sustained artillery fire – adds to the Speed’s bad-boy image without being too anti-social.

A more comfortable bike will no doubt have to replace the Speed one day, but I’m in no hurry. Why would I spend three times as much money to get that Ducati when owning this British icon gives me so much pleasure already?

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Lewis Kingston - Dodge Charger (1968)

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I had been looking for a clean, standard Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R for a long, long time. So, completely illogically, what I actually ended up with was a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 that had been sitting for a decade.

There was method to my madness, though. A project was the last thing I wanted, but when I saw the Charger advertised locally, my curiosity was piqued. An inspection revealed it to be straight and honest, but it was predictably in need of a comprehensive recommissioning.

It wasn’t cheap, at £15,000, but with values skyrocketing it represented potentially my last chance to own one. The more I thought about it, the more it appealed. Here was a car that 
would be tough, reliable, easy to upgrade and immense fun to simply burble around in.

Fortune favours the bold, so I scraped my savings together, borrowed some money and bought it. In the end I spent some £8000 reviving the Charger, but it repaid my hefty investment by going straight through its first MOT test. Cost effective? Perhaps not. Worth it? Totally. It’s a delight to drive, and when you blip the throttle and the horizon tilts in the rear-view mirror, you can’t help but grin.

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Mark Tisshaw - Mini Cooper (2014)

Yes, dear reader, your eyes 
do not deceive you and your 
memory is not failing. This Mini Cooper does indeed look familiar, and you have most definitely read about it and seen it on these pages before. That’s because this is the very Mini that was my long-term 
test car between the summers of 2014 and 2015.

I’d bleated on about how wonderful it was for so long in my reports that I thought I should put my money where my mouth is, especially when it fitted my partner and my needs so perfectly. The mileage is now up to almost 20,000, a beat has yet to be missed and there’s still no other small car I’d rather drive around in. 

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Richard Bremner - Rover 75 (2001)

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You might think that with 10 cars in my possession, there’d be no need for another. But a year ago I needed a car that worked, ruling out all 10 classics. I didn’t want to spend much because I like trying to beat the system in James Ruppert Bangernomics style.

So this was a fine excuse to indulge a guilty pleasure and hunt for a Rover 75. I know they look as go-ahead as a quill and came from a brand rotten with corrosive history, but these are good cars, built to BMW standards and still half-competitive today.

Plus they’re cheap and fairly plentiful and can be had with a string of luxuries to divert you from your cheap wheels moment. Which is how I came to buy a 51,000-mile 2001 Rover