[V8] More of Roger's Ten Best....

Roger Woodbury rmwoodbury at roadrunner.com
Sun Nov 22 06:17:29 PST 2009

I am having trouble with this list, and have found that I am considering
revisions as I go along. All of this is taking time, and making me do a lot
of reading of old articles and books that I have on my shelf.  It is
interesting because some of the cars that at first appeared to me to be
obvious choices have paled and passed into shadow, while some cars that I
never considered, NOR would have considered, have sparked some renewed

Appreciated also are the comments that I have received.  I certainly had
forgotten all about the Fiat X1/9.  And why not:  Fiat was fading away here
when that car was introduced, but I did think a bit about one as I was
commuting to Massachusetts for reserve military duty, and figured that I
could buy one out of my reserve pay.  Then I came to my senses realizing
that a Fiat was going to be, well, a Fiat, and here in Maine that wasn't a
good thing.  Besides, if one wanted to point to a mid engined sports car,
then why not a Porsche 904GTS that you could have ordered from the Porsche
dealer, or perhaps later on a 914-6 (which I loved the sound of best), or a
914 -2 litre which was a better car?  Nope. All of these simply don't pass
over the bars that I have put up to mark the ten best.

So also I think of the big Chevrolet Caprices and other cars like Seamus's
Cordoba as not particularly significant and certainly not "the best" in any
way.  Why a big Chevvy when Dodges, Fords, Plymouths etc, etc, etc, were all
much the same:  solid rear axles and big relatively slow turning eight
cylinder engines carrying a great big box?  Why a Cordoba over a Monte Carlo
or Grand Prix?  They were all big boxy coupes with the same old suspension
and driveline that had been made here for decades.  The only significant
personal coupe built in the US since WWII was the Oldsmobile Toronado, and
while's I would love to have one now as a summer car, they really weren't
the "best" at much of anything....of course: that's just MY opinion.

Right now, I am actually running out of room on the list.  I want to add a
couple more as I think they were the "best" for some reason or other.  So, I
am struggling, and no more so than with the general classification of
"sports car".  So, this morning, I will start with that.  And you will be
surprised, I'll bet.

*1957 Chevrolet Corvette -  Now, I am not a Corvette fan.  Never have been.
A friend of mine in high school had one and I was insanely jealous until I
was given a ride.  I couldn't believe that anyone was serious about such
vehicles after that one ride:  holy cowl shake?  Can you say "buckboard"?
But the truth is that the Chevrolet Corvette is a significant event in US
automobile history, and the best of the cars I believe was probably the
first revision of the C1 car that came out in 1957.  Oh, I know that there
are much better Corvettes in terms of handling, driving, creature comforts,
power etc, etc, etc.  But this particular year was significant because it
marked a true change away from what was originally a nice car to drive to
the country club and GM's attempt at producing a real, world class sports
car.  This car...the 1977...had optional fuel injection, and to make a the
point a bit clearer, the Corvette had fuel injection BEFORE Mercedes brought
out the 300SL with it's injection.  Now I suppose one could carp that the
Rochester system in the 'Vette was more akin to a pot burning kerosene stove
than the first Bosch system in the Mercedes, but it did produce a
significant increase in power and performance for the Corvette.  

*1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D -  Oh, I can hear the howls and screams from here.
But this is truly one of the great cars every produced by anyone.  By 1983
Mercedes has perfected its wax like undercoating so the cars were far more
resistant to corrosion here in the US than before and the cars would stand
up to regular use in US driving conditions.  This was the last year for this
car, and when it gave way to the new generation 190/190D in 1984, it gave
away an awful lot.  Never again would there be a virtually hand built and
carefully hand checked and rechecked economy car produced in the world. The
1984 190/190D was a find small car and very much a Mercedes, but nothing was
the same:  the old 240 D was rugged and overbuilt and its quality and
engineering excellent can be illustrated by the design of the door latch
which was discontinued with the end of the model run. The latch was so well
made that the car could be picked up and hung by the door handle (if the
handle itself would hold togther):  the cars were crash proof beyond belief.
Also the 240D engine was a "generations" power plant:  with basic service it
would run forever, and many the world over are still running on and on
today.  I'd love to have one of these cars now, as a fun, summer car.  Slow
as a snail going up hill in a howling downhill wind, but reliable.
Inexpensive to buy and maintain if you measure such things in terms of

So, those are two more of the ten best.  I will have two more perhaps later,
but it is a nice morning here, and I need to go outside and   fix the barn
doors so that they close properly. Winter is coming and I fear it is coming
too soon! 


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