The Last Gallon
If you only had one gallon of fuel left, how would you use it?
What would you drive if you were down to the last Gallon in the world? Listening to the answers to the question we posed, we learned how personal and emotive our relationships are with our cars — and how meaningful that final drive would really be.
Stories as told to Michael Fordham
Peter Mckissock – Gardener Land Rover Series 3
Images: Michael Fordham
It’s one of the family. And if I had only one last gallon, there’s no doubt that this is the vehicle I would choose to take that trip in it. You see, for me, a thing is defined by what use it is. And there’s nothing that has been more useful for me than this Land Rover Series 3. I bought it about fifteen years ago, from a guy on the farm just over the other side of the valley. As you can see there’s nothing much right about it from an aficionado’s point of view. All the panels are battered. The interior is falling to bits. But the chassis and the engine are strong, wholly intact. It starts up first time with the choke open, even after it’s been sitting around in the garden in the dead of winter for a few weeks. I use her to pick up wood for the burners, or building supplies from the yard. In the garden itself it performs the role of a classic motorised wheelbarrow. And every now and then I have to tow someone out of trouble – either my sons-in-law if they’ve got stuck off the side of a track – or to tow another old motor off to scrap. There will be times, when the MOT comes around, that I’m cringing – waiting for something to be irreparably broken. But it gets through every time and just keeps on going regardless of the odds. Various members of the family say that if I spent, say, a couple of grand prettying it up, it would be worth a lot more than I paid for it. They’re probably right but that’s not the point for me. If I pretty it up, I wouldn’t be able to use it how I do, and then it would actually use its value for me completely. These cars come from a time when things were simpler, more straightforward. That’s how I see myself, I suppose, and that’s why I love it. This thing will probably outlive me, and I would be fine with that. There’s no better way to drive out your last gallon.
Michael Julien, Architect – LaFerrari
Supercars are a conundrum. They are at one level absolutely useless. At another level there is nothing as mesmerising. I have owned a couple, and they are albatrosses around your neck. But the moment you find yourself on an open road, when everything is popping and the technology is firing, there’s nothing that can compare. That’s why, if I were faced with the last gallon of fuel in the world, I would want to experience the pinnacle of automotive technology. And for me that would have to be a Ferrari. And the pinnacle of Ferrari tech must be LaFerrari, I suppose. I’d wanted a Ferrari for my entire life. When I was a kid, the ultimate in futuristic car tech was the Lamborghini Countach. That thing just seemed put on the earth from another planet altogether. But there was something brutal about it. And it didn’t appeal to me as much as Ferrari’s Berlinetta Boxer. We’d play top trumps and they would face one another off in all departments. But the BB was for me so much prettier than the Lambo. My mind was made up for me when I was out on my bike one day and was crossing the A-Road near my house. I was waiting for the lights to change and this apparition rolled up to the red. It was a very light blue 512 BB. There was this rock star looking guy driving and the most beautiful blonde woman in the passenger seat. If I close my eyes I can still see the car sitting there at the lights. That is why, once I had a bit of success, and I started imagining being able to buy a car like this, it was a F 430 Scuderia that I wanted. And the paintwork had to be Azzuro California. I’m out of the market now. I’ve retired for much more sensible motors. And never mind that that last gallon might only get down to the shops, unless the hybrid system performed miracles of course. I’d take the LaFerrari for that last amazing spin.
Rebecca Ladbury, Public Relations specialist VW Camper
Image: the Kingsmen
Ok so it might be a bit of a cliché to some people. But for me there’s nothing like a VW microbus. We’re not the mechanics, the sorts of people who know all the ins and outs of the different years and the different models. We wanted something that we could just simply take out on the road and to have a real experience in. It’s all over instagram of course too. They are just so pretty. They just have so much character. The thing about not going for a modern T6 or something is that you can truly love these campers. They become part of you – rather than a tool that’s just for doing something practical. There was a moment in that amazing summer a couple of years ago, when we’d been out walking on the West Coast of Scotland, that we rounded the corner of the campsite and saw our little home on wheels nestled there in the corner. It really was an emotional experience. One of the things you find is that everyone wants to talk to you about the camper. Everyone has a story to share, or just wants to admire it. We’ll be just having a cup of tea and people will walk past and a conversation will start. We’ve made a couple of friends that we see at events and gigs too. Community is really important. And to have a vehicle that brings that community to you is something special. We have fantasies about one day just loading up the van with supplies and taking off forever. And we might do it one day too. If there was ever a last gallon, it’s a no brainer. We’d head straight to the van – and when the petrol ran out we’d still have a place to live.
Bill Vallis- Digital Marketer ‘97 Skyline
Skyline people can get really geeky. And there’s a level of snobbery against us. Especially from people who bang on about ‘Jap Crap’ and all that. But the thing about the Skyline, and about any Japanese performance car, is that they are just so usable. There’s something simple, and industrial about them that has always appealed to me. And I must admit, all the variations, the monikers, the iterations of the skyline through the ages add something to it all. I’ve owned a few of them – but only cars from the 1980s and 1990s. The car I wish I had and the car I would use my last dribble of Dinosaur bones would be a 1997 R33 GT-R V Spec. These beautiful cars pushed 400 brake straight out of the factory – and there was such a symmetry and a sense of balance and proportion to them. But look at the very first GT-R to wear the Nissan badge, the 1969 C10, and there’s that sense of balance and proportion too. Whatever you think of Japanese cars, they pioneered so much usable performance tech, or at least copied what was being done in Europe and America and turned it up to 11, that you have to acknowledge their genius. And the thing about them, because of their usability and the availability and relatively affordable parts, you can endlessly tweak them and polish the performance in any flavour and any direction you want. Stop me before I go out and spend my pension pot on that R33!
Roy Gouding, Landscape Gardener, 2017 RS Focus
Images: Ford Press
My old man used to work for Ford’s at Dagenham. He spent most of his time there assembling interiors. All through the seventies and eighties. There was all sorts of industrial strife and all kinds of union politics. Dad was a shop steward so he was heavily involved. The whole atmosphere around the area we lived was all about Fords. Families who worked there got discounts of course, so everyone’s dad had a Ford – mostly Cortinas and Escorts and Transits – but the posh girl’s dads had Granadas and they were the ones we used to want to hang out with.! My girlfriend’s dad had a gold Granada 2.8i Ghia Mk 3. He took me for a ride in it one night and it was the first time I had travelled at 100MPH! It was natural that our first motors were fiestas and Escort of course. We’d burn up and down the 127 up to Southend or up to Clacton. We’d go to the nightclubs of a weekend but every single night was all about doing laps of the High Street – and we’d drive over to Romford and all the way into the West End if we were feeling adventurous, just driving driving driving. To get your driving licence and enough money for a little motor and petrol and the odd trip to Halfords to buy bits and pieces meant the world. My first car was an Escort Mk2. It was just a basic ‘L’ model and a bit knackered, but I put different wheels on it, and made some black stripes against the yellow with a kit I scored from a mail order magazine. I didn’t quite pretend it was an RS200, but that was the idea. To this day, I’ve never owned an RS Focus – but it’s something I’d love to have and if I could only make one last trip – it would be around the Essex A-roads in one of these. It’s amazing to see Ford putting out such quality products these days. Back in the day, the build quality and the reliability weren’t the best. We bought them because they just popped out and they were decent money – but somehow along the way we just learned to love them. But the RS Focus is a proper piece of kit. It would mean a lot to me and a lot of my old mates to go out tanking it up the 127 in one of those.
Henry Peirse – broadcaster 1995 911 GT2
Images: Porsche Press
The thing about perfection is that it never stops. Once something has been perfected, the people that have perfected it move on and push things further. Perfectionists never really get to what they’re aiming at. And that’s what the people at Porsche have always been. Perfectionists. My first Porsche memory came from a book I read when I was a kid. it was a big full colour large format book on ‘cars of the world’ or something like that. Right in the middle of the book was my favourite spread. It was a double page picture of a black 911 930 Turbo. It had the whale tail on the back.And it was black on black n black. Black Fuchs. Black brake callipers. Black everything. The image was incredible. it burned right into me and if i close my eyes I can still see it perfectly, though I lost the book years ago. But as important as the image was for me, it was the caption on the image that was even more powerful. It said: “The Porsche 911 is the sort of car that is favoured by transcontinental travellers.”. I didn’t even know what the hell a ‘transcontinental traveller’ was – but I knew I wanted to be one. Since then, I have been obsessed with Porsche 911s. Money and my life have had a complex relationship – and for a brief moment I owned a 993 Carrera S. I kind of knew that it was always going to be a fleeting moment, so I have no regrets about having to sell the car. You can’t look back. But it was close to perfection in a car for me. But you always have aspirations. And at the time I had the 993 what I really wanted was the GT2 version. The way the air intakes were integrated into the tail fin. There was just something so brutal and badass about it. It took the whole idea of the 911 and turned it up to 11. That would have been perfection for me at the time – though I am sure all the later iterations of the 911 have pushed it further and further. If it had one last lap to make (and if a gallon would do it) – it would be a Gallon’s worth of the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring in the 993 GT2.
Paul O’connor, photographer, 205 GTi
People always talk about Group B rally in terms of how mental the actual racing was. And it was. Absolutely dangerous and mad and spectacular. But what I think was even more interesting was how influential it was to normal drivers. So many people aspired to the homologation specials that came from Group B. But of course, no one could possibly get theirselves a 205 T16 or a Quattro Turbo or anything… but what we could do was get the regular production models and pretend we were Hannu Mikkola. And that’s what I did. The Peugeot 205 GTi was just a really pretty little car that not only looked the part, but made you feel you were indestructible on the road, too. It handled so sweetly. Really quick and positive. My much older sister had one and when she got married, she sold it back to my dad, who then passed it on to me. My sister used the money for something stupid like a honeymoon or something. It was the red and black one and I would give anything to have it back. The thing about the car was that until I wrote it off, in a ditch somewhere near Woking, it smelled of my sister’s perfume and her makeup. She was a real eighties girl, you know, all Lady Dianna Wedge and blouses and rah rah skirts. And she always wore a ton of cosmetics and the car just was infused with this smell. Despite how girly it smelled, I tried to be all macho in it – and my mates – one of whom had a Lancia Beta Coupé and the other had an old Audi 80 – would line up as if we were about to the Corsica Rally or something. It’s a good job we made it out alive – as quite a few people involved in the actual Group B rally didn’t, right? There was something so essentially eighties about that car – that it would be a real trip for me to spend the last gallon of petrol I could get and blast round the Surrey Lanes in that thing.
Zach Sebastien, writer, Caterham 500
I’ve actually always thought of driving as a sport. There seems to be some controversy about whether or not sitting in a machine and going round the twisties should be considered such a thing. But I challenge anyone to sit in on a hot lap with a real driver and tell me that it’s not physically, mentally and spiritually demanding. And that’s what sport is all about, right? I remember the first time I attended an F1 Grand Prix as a journalist. It was in Sao Paulo in Brazil and I was in the company of the Red Bull team, which at the time was headed up by British Driver Johnny Herbert. It was blisteringly hot. I was front and centre in the Red Bull pit. The heat and the drama was intense. Johnny didn’t place that day – and the winner of the race was Jacques Villeneuve. I had seen how hard these cars were being driven for hours, all weekend. To see it up close, to hear the screams of the engine, to smell the fuel and the intensity of the crowd and the tarmac – and to witness how close to the limit these drivers were taking it was a revelation. And the thing was compounded when I watched Jaques hop out of the car after winning the race, do the usual thing on the podium, and then step out casually into a live televised press conference and answer calmly questions in four different languages. That was amazing in itself. I’ll never be anything like Jaques Villeneuve and I will probably never get the chance to drive a full blooded F1 car – but if I had one last gallon it would be the Caterham 500. It gets you as close to being a racing driver as most humans will ever get to be. You get to taste the thrill of being a real Automotive Athlete.
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