I do like a well executed retro car. Take, for example, the new shape Mini, the latest incarnation of the Volkswagen Beetle (2012 onwards), less daffodils on the dashboard, more go faster stripes, and the Fiat 500. These are desirable cars. Particularly desirable for those who value style over practicality and have a little extra disposable income, whatever that is.

In Portugal, last year, I had a cream Fiat 500c with a burgundy roof for a few days. It was a rental car so I assume the 30k kilometres on the clock were pure abuse. However, I can report that it was a pleasure to drive. The controls fell easily to hand, the gear change was reasonably slick and though the steering was very light, it suited the car. The second best feature was the retractable rag top. My favourite feature being the look of the thing. With its squat stance, the wheels pushed out to the corners, contrasting colour combo, and shiny chrome accents glinting under the Algarve sun, I found myself turning to have an admiring glance every time I parked it.

The boot was so small I had to partially fold the rear seats to accommodate two small suitcases and the lack of power on the open road meant I had to downshift to drive through a stiff breeze. But I forgave it because the plus points far outweighed the negatives.

Sometimes I think I would actually buy one with my own money. Then I remember I don’t have ‘disposable income’. Nor have I breasts. To drive a Fiat 500 in Ireland, you must be a woman. It is, without a doubt, a girly car. And this is the problem with any retro car I can think of, they do tend to be for the ladies. Show me a man who owns a Mini and I’ll bet he also owns moisturiser and worries about his cuticles. No doubt the Mini is a great driver’s car but I couldn’t be dealing with the image problem.

I did once see a man pull off the impossible; Galway Docks, sunny day, pastel green Nissan Figaro, huge hairy gentleman with a gorilla forearm resting on the windowsill, cigar wedged in his jaw, Aviator shades on. He was a cross between Tony Soprano and Dan Bilzerian. Nobody in their right mind was going to tell him he had a hairdresser’s car. But he was an exception. The rest of us wouldn’t get away with it.

Nissan Figaro





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