Monday means it is time for another installment of our weekly Automobile Million Dollar Challenge, wherein each of our editors curates their dream-car stash. In this sixth chapter, Automobile features editor Rory Jurnecka takes his fictional $1 million and blows it quickly—with the proviso he, like all of us, spends it on nothing but filling his dream garage:
As Automobile’s chief classic-car junkie, it’s probably no surprise most of the cars for my $1-million dream-car garage were produced more than 20 years ago. The period from the 1960s through the 1990s is a particularly relevant timeframe for me, turning out some all-time great designs, as well as some of the most drivable classics you can still use today. Free of today’s techo-nannies and able to be repaired in my own garage with my own tools, these cars distill driving down to its purest terms, and they celebrate driver engagement. In chronological order, here’s how I’d spend my cool million bucks.
1962 Lotus 23, $200,000
Every serious collection, every dream garage needs at least one race car, right? Getting a competition license has been on my to-do list since I first got my driver’s license more than two decades ago, but the usual excuses—time, money, sloth—always get in the way. Now, if I had a 1962 Lotus 23B sitting in my dream garage, I’d practically feel compelled to get through an SCCA-approved racing school and get out on the track.
These little mid-engine, Lotus-Ford Twin-Cam powered sports racers are a happy medium between production-based race cars and all-out single-seaters, and are said to be beautifully balanced and easy to drive with relatively low running costs. With my budget, I might even be able to add in a few sets of sticky tires and a new fire suit. I’ve never owned a British car before, so a Lotus seems like a good place to start.
1967 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750, $115,000
I love small, rear-drive sports coupes, and the Alfa GTV is the benchmark for me. With one of the most inspired small-car designs of all time, this little Bertone-styled 2+2 has svelte chrome bumpers, a clean, simple interior with wood accents and hip-hugging bucket seats, and perfect proportions for a practical driver. 1967 featured the classic “step-nose” styling and Alfa’s sweet-revving (and sounding) 1.7-liter inline-four. For $115,000 I should even have some room left to let England’s Alfaholics shop work its magic on my GTV’s engine and suspension for a truly special car. Just keep the cosmetics stock, please.
1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS, $325,000
Dinos are special cars to me. Not only do they convey a touching story about Enzo Ferrari’s love for his late son, but they’re also Ferrari’s first mid-engine road car and one of Sergio Pininfarina’s favorites of all of his legendary designs.
The only place Dinos had a Ferrari badge on them was on the required-by-law build tag, but it makes no difference to me. The gated, dog-leg five-speed manual shifter and an incredible-sounding, 2.4-liter, quad-cam V-6 engine (a relative of which gave Ferrari a Formula 1 world championship in 1958) right behind your head, plus the removable Targa-style roof panel, makes this one of the all-time greats.
While the Dino wasn’t the fastest Ferrari out there, its handling forged a new benchmark for small sports cars, similar to the Lotus Elise of today. My dad spent just $30,000 buying his Dino when the car was out of fashion in the mid-1980s—about the price of a well-optioned Corvette at the time. I’ll need a little more than that to buy it from him today.
1993 Mazda RX-7 R1, $40,000
I’ve had a thing for RX-7s for just about all of my life (blame Dad again and his first-generation 1982 RX-7). I remember going to look at the then-new third-generation (FD series for the geeks) RX-7 as a newly minted teenager in 1993 and thinking it must be one of the most beautiful, most perfect-looking cars to ever come out of Japan. All of these years later and after driving two examples from Mazda’s collection, I still feel that way.
This is a car that delivers near-modern levels of performance and handling, with a shape that makes me go weak in the knees. Most of all, I like the level of focus Mazda’s engineers demonstrated with this car. From the drilled aluminum pedals and almost crazed emphasis on lightweight construction, to the special R1 package—available for one year only—that had a revised Bilstein suspension, red-painted strut-tower brace, and subtly aggressive aero package. This is one of my attainable dream cars and I’ll own one someday, hopefully before they get too much more expensive than they already are.
1994 Ferrari 512TR, $185,000
Those side strakes, the wide hips, the flat-12 engine sounding every bit like the Formula 1 machines it was derived from … the Testarossa is what I think of when I think of Ferrari. It’s also the ’80s supercar that I haven’t driven yet, my white whale if you will. It’s a tough choice between variants with a decade-long production run, but I’ll take the 512 TR version in its final year for the uprated engine, improved interior design, and subtly reworked exterior that kept this classic foot-down from the 1980s into the mid-1990s.
1997 Porsche 911 Carrera S, $100,000
I started my senior year of high school in 1997, when the 993-series Porsche 911 was going into its final years of production. We didn’t know it yet then, but this series 911 would be the last to feature that traditional air-cooled flat-six engine with its classic throaty, raspy vocals.
Before the 993, I just wasn’t that much of a Porsche fan save for the classic mid-engine sports racing models. This car sold me. Hard. I was even compelled to write to Porsche after the 993 was launched, which netted teenage Rory a couple of brochures and a letter inviting me to come on down to the local dealership for a test drive (I still have them, along with some advertisements pulled from ’90s copies of Automobile). I guess I didn’t tell the nice folks at Porsche that I didn’t have a driver’s license yet.
I would have budgeted for the Turbo version, but instead I’ll take the Carrera S, which featured the widebody looks of the Turbo, without the Turbo rear wing and fun-sapping all-wheel drive. I’ve driven several 993s in the past decade, including a Carrera S, and I still think they hit the sweet spot in more than half a century of 911 production.
2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, $75,000
Yes, this list of dream cars for my dream garage is a little Italian-car heavy, but I can’t help it. No one makes a car like the Italians, we’ve long said—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse—and that’s still true today.
In fact, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is a little of both. The last one I drove wowed me with its design, performance, and emotion—yes, Alfas are emotional cars—but also disappointed me with its quirks. Like when the alarm went off in my driveway just because it started raining. I currently have a 1988 Alfa Milano Verde Quadrifoglio sedan in my garage, which I adore, but I’d probably move it to its next owner a little early if I had the $75,000 to spend on its younger sibling. This would make a perfect daily driver that can comfortably carry four adults. When it wants to, that is.
2021 Ford Bronco, $60,000
Here’s the deal: A couple years back, I moved from perpetually sunny, paved-over Los Angeles to a town just outside the greater Seattle area where rain is commonplace, and where dirt roads and off-road trails abound. I want something rough-and-tumble rugged to play with, and it needs to be something that won’t be left spinning its tires when we get a few feet of snow in the winter. But I want something with character and classic heritage too.
When we got our first look at the retro-inspired 2021 Ford Bronco, that one look was all it took. Make mine a well-optioned four-door version so I can bring friends, family, and gear (and, of course, our German Shorthaired Pointer, Nigel) along for backcountry adventures.
Wow, with eight vehicles on this list, I’m going to have to budget another million for a house with a larger dream garage.