Nürburgring lap record holder:
The car industry’s Nürburgring lap record obsession – or, more specifically, the juvenile squabble that ensues when one car maker claims a new record and another cries foul play – is one of its more tedious pantomimes. On some level, though, Nordschleife lap records are still unutterably cool. Cool in the sense that on a particular day, under a huge amount of pressure, an impossibly talented driver hustled a car around what is a fearsomely challenging circuit faster than any other car of the same type had ever gone before. That should be applauded. It’s the childish schoolyard nonsense that surrounds these lap times that is decidedly uncool.
Most Nürburgring lap record holders are, of course, new cars, which means second-hand bargains are out of the question. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to put a bona fide ’Ring champion on your driveway. The latest Honda Civic Type R is the front-wheel-drive production car record holder, having set a time of 7min 43.8sec. You can pick up a six-month-old example for £28,000.
In the saloon car sector, you can bag yourself an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for around £53,000. The class-leading four-door Alfa set a time of 7min 32sec around the Green Hell. At this point, somebody from Jaguar will hurriedly point out that the XE SV Project 8 has since bettered the Alfa’s time by more than ten seconds. To which we say: yes, it did. But you’re only making 300 of them and they cost three times as much as the Quadrifoglio.
There are few cars that shed value more quickly than a very fast estate. For the savvy used car buyer, it’s a brilliant opportunity. Starting at around £10,000, the original Audi RS6 is very affordable and, with 444bhp, it’s massively quick too.
You might not be able to afford an Aston Martin Vanquish but, while you work your way towards one, you could be driving around in a car that was designed by the very same bloke. Ian Callum’s design credits include the Vanquish, DB9 and Vantage, as well as the Jaguar F-Type and C-X75 concept car. His is a very distinguished CV. The Callum car you can afford, though, is the Ford Puma. You’ll struggle to spend much more than £1000 on a Puma these days – putting to one side the very special Racing Puma – and, 20 years on from the car’s launch, there aren’t many well-cared-for examples left.
Frank Stephenson, meanwhile, is perhaps best known for his work at Ferrari and Maserati. He designed the F430 and the brilliantly subtle 612 Scaglietti for the Prancing Horse, as well as the Enzo-derived MC12 supercar for Maserati. His later work includes the McLaren MP4-12C. Stephenson, like Callum, is one of car design’s biggest names. Happily, however, those of us on a very tight budget can nick ourselves a Stephenson design in the form of the original BMW-era Mini. Unlike the Puma, these Minis are in plentiful supply and for £2000 you’ll find a Cooper with plenty of life left in it.