Click, eBay. Nope. Click, owners’ forums. Nothing of interest. Click, PistonHeads. Zilch. Gumtree, nada. Autotrader, nowt. And lo, the cycle did repeat ad infinitum. My evenings had become endlessly repetitive trawls of the same websites, magazines and forums.
I was searching, in vain it seemed, for a new car. The net was cast far and wide, even encompassing classified sites for mainland Europe, but little was compelling me to part with my money. The frustration was palpable.
Part of the problem was that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted. Rarely had I set out to buy one particular car, instead usually just parachuting into whatever piqued my curiosity at the time. The past few years had seen me go from an E34-generation BMW M5 into a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, before settling for a while with a Lancia Delta Integrale. There had even been a quick dabble with a remarkably unmolested high-mileage Fiero, just out of pure curiosity, and a brief spell with a Jaguar XJ.
My only quantifiable thoughts about my next purchase were that, whatever the car was, it had to have a real sense of occasion to it. Something so capable that it was otherwise humdrum unless piloted like it was being pursued by a heat-seeking missile didn't appeal, either; I wanted to be able to be able to revel in the experience without having to fear for my licence.
That said, and in a slightly contradictory fashion, the odd Nissan Skyline grabbed my attention; I had wanted to own a clean R32 GT-R for a long time, preferably before they became too expensive - or extinct. The sight of that twin-turbo straight six stretching from nose to bulkhead never failed to raise a smile, and all the reports suggested that they were quite mechanical-feeling and engaging cars.
I had the disconcerting feeling, on the flip side, that even if I bought an immaculate R32, it wouldn’t treat me well. The thought of hearing a knock from deep within the motor following a hefty dose of boost gave me The Fear, and ultimately I wanted something I could hammer on without having to wonder when it’d turn itself into a cloud of red-hot shrapnel.
Compounding that concern, the worry of a four-figure invoice being generated at the drop of a bolt was one of the reasons I'd sold my Lancia. I felt continuing to drive it in a proper fashion would lead to it depleting my finances comprehensively, which wasn't an appealing or enjoyable state of affairs. I didn't, at the end of the day, have an endless pot.
The oscillation between myriad classified pages seemed set to continue indefinitely, until, click, I looked more closely at the Mopar Muscle Association UK’s forum. It was one of several muscle car-related sites that I regularly revisited, but most cars featured commanded serious money. As much as I loved the idea of owning an immaculate 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Six Pack, I didn’t have £50k to spend on one. I'd capped myself at £10,000, at a push, but I wanted a little left over so I could make the car my own and ensure it was in fine fettle.
The idea of buying another muscle car, or at least an American classic, locked a little more securely into my mind, however. The looks, the noise, the charisma, all those gratifying sensations they deliver just rolling down the road, were just what I was looking for. Plus it would likely be a car I could easily work on and upgrade, lending the concept further appeal.
Buried among the listings on the site was a 1968 Dodge Charger - yes, the same year as the one featured in 'Bullit'. I’d glanced over it a few days prior and dismissed it because it had been parked for a decade and the seller was asking £15,000 for it. I didn’t have £15,000, for starters, and I wasn't keen on the idea of another project which would entail further expenditure. Pushing the budget for an unknown quantity seemed masochistic, too, so I parked the idea and moved on.