Welcome to first installment of Automobile‘s “Million Dollar Challenge,” where each week one of our staffers creates their personal list of dream cars. The rules are simple: What would you buy if you were today handed $1 million and ordered to spend it on nothing but automobiles? We’ll each select at least five of our lifelong dream cars, rather than copping out and blowing the entire imaginary wad on a single million-dollar car, because what fun would that be? However, not every car must be a six-figure collector’s item, either. Up first is staff editor Conner Golden, who throws the latter allowance out the window:
Boy, this sure was an easy write-up. Chronic daydreaming about your ideal super dream-car garage has to be one of the most widespread commonalities between enthusiasts, so breaking down my $1,000,000 binge was as simple as writing up a shopping list for the week’s groceries. Since we’re dreaming, I’m under the assumption I have enough cash to keep this fleet maintained, and I have enough garage space to host the five cars as well. I’m thinking a detached modern barn with reclaimed wood and a salvaged-brick floor at my Napa retreat. Sound good? Let’s see what my beaucoup bucks buys, in order of importance.
1965-1973 Porsche 911, $150,000
For those who know me, I’m sure this choice elicits a chorus of groans and, “Oh, of course that’s your first pick.” Hey, not my fault that old longhood 911s are some of the most versatile and satisfying classic cars you can park in your garage. Speaking of versatility, this 911 would be the swiss—er, German—army knife of the fleet. Since decent 911 T’s can be had for around $65,000, I’d get a clean-ish example and throw around $80,000-$100,000 at it to build it out in a mostly period-correct outlaw style. The goal is to blend reliability, balance, vintage aesthetics, and subtle motorsports touches while retaining the narrow-body profile, primarily for mixed-use as canyon fodder, a vintage-car rally warhorse, and a Cars and Coffee champion.
For reference material, see the 911s that populate the ranks of the exclusive R Gruppe club, or fill the scene during the annual Luftgekuhlt Porschepalooza. Aside from the other Porsche on this list, this is going to get the most miles by far, so it needs to be as reliable as a W123 Mercedes. This means a nice balance in the rear engine bay, so I’d say 200-240 horsepower is the upper limit on a 2.7-3.0-liter flat-six built for regular use.
2003-2004 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale, $150,000-$180,000
I don’t care if you’re a dye-in-the-blue-jeans muscle car fanatic or a wellies-wearing Land Rover diehard—every fantasy dream-car fleet has to have at least one mid-engine supercar or an exotic grand-tourer. For this proposed budget, the epic 2004 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale is all I will ever want—or need—to fill the gap.
If you were to break down my early YouTube watching history, you’d find literal days’ worth of Challenge Stradale (CS) videos played on loop, much to the annoyance of my college roommate. For me, the 360 CS is unquestionably the greatest sounding roadgoing V-8 Ferrari ever produced—and yes, I’m ranking it over the 355 and later 458 Speciale. In the CS, the 360’s 3.6-liter V-8 is hopped up from 395 hp to 419 hp, and it breathes through a CS-specific exhaust that, when the valves are wedged open on full-throttle, sounds like you’re drinking straight from the headers. There’s no subtlety in the CS’ tenor solo, but it’s the closest a production V-8 Ferrari has ever come to sounding like its Challenge or GT3 race car counterparts.
Aside from the wall-of-sound, the CS is considered one of the sharpest driving modern Ferraris, especially when lined up alongside Maranello’s later stallions. This is from a Ferrari era devoid of turbocharging, electric steering, and excessive driving assistance, though the CS was only available with the six-speed F1 semi-automatic paddle-shift transmission. No matter; for $25,000 or so, that F1 gearbox can be un-F1’d and swapped to a full-bore manual transmission.
Aside from this, the CS incorporates the best hardware of the era—carbon-ceramic brakes, the starter button, and further lightweight materials pulled from the contemporary Ferrari Enzo give it trickle-down hypercar tech, while suspension and chassis bits distilled from the circuit-only 360 Challenge give it fantastic balance.
It sounds like a race car, looks like a billion bucks, and drives like a dream. I’m hooked on this car.
2019 Porsche 991.2 911 GT3 or GT3 Touring, $160,000-$200,000
For those who read my feature on road-tripping a GT3 Touring from Los Angeles to Monterey, this should come as no surprise. Although this is third on my list, a 991.2 GT3—particularly in wingless Touring trim–is my “lottery car,” or the very first car I snap-up if I ever hit the big time, considering there are still plenty of clean, ultra-low-mileage examples floating around the market. As far as I can make out, there isn’t a better-driving modern sports car to be had for less than $250,000 than the 991.2 GT3, especially when coupled with that excellent six-speed manual yanked from the 911 R.
I’m not about to break into a full-blown review here—our prior coverage on the 991.2 GT3 is extensive and in-depth—but know this generation of 911 GT3 is as close to perfect as a modern sports car has ever been. Dynamically, the GT3 is effortlessly confident and endlessly rewarding, an experience elevated by that 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six shrieker of an engine.
If I were ever to go broke in this dream sequence and I had to sell-off all-but-one of these cars, the GT3 stays—no discussion. It’s reliable, supercar-quick, track-day ready, surprisingly elegant, and is one of the all-time most satisfying ways to burn gasoline.
2016-2017 Dodge Viper ACR, $120,000
I have a thick bundle of incredible memories involving the fifth- and final-generation Dodge Viper. There was that time I took one of my best friends and a 2015 Viper GT on a whirlwind tour of Ohio’s surprisingly large reserve of squiggly roads, followed closely by quality time spent in a pair of wicked ACRs at Automobile All-Stars. Later, my dad flew up to Michigan from Texas to join me and thousands of Detroiters at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Our ride? A bright blue ACR.
I always thought the final generation of Dodge Viper never got its fair share of love from enthusiasts as the dream car it was and is. Automotive media mostly loved the thing, though opinions were still split. Without going into details, that aforementioned Viper GT stuck around our Michigan office for a little more than a year, and I was essentially the only person interested in spending more than one night in it. Even in the absurdly hardcore ACR flavor, the fifth-gen Viper was no harder to drive than a C7 Corvette Stingray. It was reasonably comfortable, moderately well-equipped, and offered ferocious grip from those 355-width rear tires. Plus, popping the clutch between first, second, and third gear in the last-gen Viper is an inimitable experience on par with riding on the nosecone of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
Between road trips, impressing visitors, and harassing the kids in Mustangs and Camaros on Woodward, the Viper claims a huge, huge soft-spot in my heart and a guaranteed spot in the dream-car garage.
1958-1963 Aston Martin DB4, $400,000
This one was kind of a toughie. For brevity, I’ve limited myself to just five vehicles on this dream-car list, so while the remaining $400,000-and-change left over from the prior entries would realistically be burned on stuff like a C2 Corvette Sting Ray coupe, Porsche 356, Trans-Am-spec 1966 Mustang, and a small squadron of classic trucks and SUVs, I’m left with one slot to spend the extra cash.
So, in keeping with my belief that the billionaire me would spend my time and money collecting vintage Ferraris, Porsches, and Aston Martins, let’s fill that empty spot with a carefully bought Aston Martin DB4. You don’t need me to tell you that Astons from the 1950s and 1960s are some of the most beautiful shapes to wear four-wheels, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re quite capable cars to boot.
Aside from the sweat-inducing, wallet-emptying beauty, that 3.7-liter naturally aspirated DOHC inline-six spins out a sturdy 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque; heady figures from a six-cylinder in an era where the average American V-8 was just creeping up toward the 300-hp mark, and enough to scoot the DB4 to a top speed of 140 mph.
Now, most DB4s are out of my price range—the majority of regular DB4s falling between the $450,000-$600,000 mark—but if I stay away from the DB4s with special packages like the Vantage pack and look for an older restoration, I could likely find a regularly exercised, rally-ready DB4 for an even $400,000. Once safely in my Napa barn, the DB4 would enjoy many years of trans-coastal cruises and rallies, with every year guaranteeing a drive to Monterey.