When faced with the reality of their own mortality, men will do some funny things to convince the world – or, probably more accurately, themselves – that the best years of their life are not finished. One of the most popular outlets for that temporal frustration is the purchase of products that were more than likely designed for a testosterone-infused 21-year-old who still has hope for the future. And how better to fuel the delusions than with, well…fuel…and horsepower, and tire smoke, and spine-rattling suspension. I’m feeling younger already.
With a body made of fibreglass, rocker panels that require a high-kick for ingress, and room to comfortably fit 0.7 average adult humans, the Lotus Elise may just be one of the most impractical cars money can buy. But you know what? It’s loud. Not just sonically, though the Lotus-tuned Toyota 2-ZZ engine is that, but visually and even emotionally. Designed to do one thing fantastically well, the Elise has handling prowess that is unmatched by just about anything, ever. Want to go golfing? Better hope your passenger is willing to hold your clubs. Picking up groceries? Hope you like scrambled eggs. Driving the Elise tells the world that none of this bothers you. All the better to cover up your aging soul.
Going in completely the opposite direction, the Porsche 911 might actually be the perfect car for your midlife crisis. The 911 shows that you still have that fun spark, you enjoy the thrill of speed and the dangers of hugging curves, but you are old enough to appreciate the style and class of a refined and elegant vehicle. It has a gorgeous and comfortable interior, and firm yet supple suspension. Plus a back seat (for people you don’t like) and a real boot, albeit in the wrong place, means it’s practical. Or at least, it lets you argue its practicality to your friends and loved ones. Is it a sports car, or a luxury car? The 911 lets you have it both ways.
Holden HSV Clubsport
It’s a family car. It has four doors, a massive boot, and scores of safety features to keep the wife and kids out of harm’s way. It’s practical! While having nice fit and finish, there’s no need to squander away money on bits of kit that the everyman hasn’t got any real need for. It manages to be comfortable, even luxurious, without being excessive. It’s prudent! The GM LS3 engine is reliable and inexpensive to maintain. It will get us out of a tight spot! A balanced chassis and 317kW means we can outmaneuver and out-drag any obstacle that comes at us. I’m just thinking about the kids, really. Honey? It’s for the kids! I swear!
This one, like the Porsche, carries with it the dignified air of being German and not a Volkswagen (so long as you don’t read too far into what other cars share the platform). So right off the bat, you’re hiding your midlife crisis well. But not too well. While not quite as small as the Lotus, you still won’t be taking the TT on your next trip to the hardware store. Two doors and an unusable rear seat have this car announcing “I am a toy.” Ah, but what a toy it is. Opt for the TT RS variant, and you get a 5-cylinder turbo engine, harkening to the Quattro racecars of yester-decade.
Some may be in denial of their crises. Others, not so much. The Hummer is for the latter. There really is no escaping it with this one. With other cars, you can cite their performance figures, styling, or any number of other attractive points as plausible reasoning for the purchase. What is the Hummer good at? Off-roading? Not so much. Practicality? I’ll take the Land Rover for both. No, the Hummer’s strongest suit is that no matter where you drive it, rest assured that people are staring at you. Judging. But telling the world that you don’t give a damn what they think might just be the way you handle middle age, and I can’t argue with that.
The MX5 is very similar to the Hummer. No, really. Let me explain. Unless you are an attractive 20-something female, or literally the hairdresser that this car’s naysayers love to joke about, you are being judged. If you can get over that, the little Mazda actually does make a fair amount of sense for someone who has recently become aware of their impending death. Cheap enough to own as a second car, you can have your crisis and eat it too. While not being particularly powerful or aggressive, the MX5 still packs more punch in the fun and handling departments than anything else in its price range. Let ‘em judge.
You are an important businessman. Just imagine all the important business you can conduct with 16.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Use the bluetooth pairing to call your secretary while on the way to the airport, and have her fax some important business documents to Hong Kong. All right, maybe you haven’t made it as far up the ladder as you want to yet, but they say to dress for the position you want, not the one you have. So like having your suits properly tailored by a pro, maybe the 300c isn’t such a bad idea. It certainly gives off an impression of gravity, and could be just the thing you need to get where you want to go (pun intended). And let’s not forget: this is the car Heisenberg chose to drive.
Caterham Super 7
Remember the Elise? Multiply it by the number of “fun years” you have left, and you get the Caterham Super 7. This car is the bare minimum of everything, save for performance. You get no roof, a pitiful excuse for doors, and the heater is only an option. The bits of sheet metal it claims are a body do just enough to cover the unmentionables, and nothing more. It weighs less than 1200lbs. So while you are busy breaking physics with the capabilities this car has, you might just forget the reason you bought it. Which, realistically, is probably why you bought it in the first place: to escape reality for a while and just live for the moment. Perfect crisis car? Definitely.