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Getting into “TopGear” with Rancho Santa Fe Motors


This has turned out to be a high performance kind of week. It started with a visit to Rancho Santa Fe Motors and ended with a TV show.

Let’s begin with the TV show, since that is freshest in my mind and may make you more receptive to some of what Rancho Santa Fe Motors is really good at – finding fast cars and selling them at good prices in a very low key, friendly, family business environment (more on that in a moment).

The TV show is called “TopGear.” Even though the series began in 2002, I’d never seen it before, but I definitely look forward to watching it again. It was fitting that I discovered it at 10PM last night on The Discovery Channel, while channel surfing.

If you like fast cars and insane road tests, you’re going to flat-out love this show. It is from our good friends over there at the BBC. Jeremy Clarkson (the host) describes the show this way: “What we do, really, is drive around quite quickly in very expensive cars.” Yah, right. Describing the mayhem which followed in that way is sort of like saying The Beatles got together and sang songs. The production values are absolutely first rate, with tight editing, music and sound effects: the road test equivalent of high-end music videos.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space here to go into everything that happened on last night’s episode, but listen to some of the highlights. Let’s see, the first car that they drove was a $58,000 (a sum which they thoughtfully converted for us from British Pounds) Lotus Exige. It is a high-performance, “hard core coupe version” of the incredibly agile Lotus Elise. After warming up, Jeremy proceeded -- within the relatively tight confines of their test track, to successfully out-handle and, in so doing, avoid weapons lock by an Apache military attack helicopter! No kidding. It was like watching a scene from a James Bond movie.

Not enough for you? Ever wonder what would happen to a car if it accidentally ventured behind a 747 at full thrust, while stopped on a runway? We learned on last night’s show.

Since he describes their own driving as “rubbish,” a mysterious, helmeted, professional race driver introduced only as “The Stick” does the top speed runs around the race track, and the times of the various fast cars get posted from week to week so that we can drool and compare. To find out more about “TopGear,” you can visit their website at

Rancho Santa Fe Motors

Now that your adrenaline is hopefully pumping at least a little bit, let’s talk about where to find the kind of cars you might see on “TopGear.” Rancho Santa Fe Motors is hidden away in a quiet neighborhood shopping center in Rancho Santa Fe, just south of Fairbanks Ranch at 16079 San Dieguito Road. They specialize in buying and selling luxury, sports and exotic pre-owned cars and SUVs. What makes them really special, as far as I’m concerned, is that theirs is not anything like a typical dealership. They are so low key as to be almost invisible. When I drove over there I had to circle the parking lot twice before I could find them.

Philip & Adam

It was well worth the effort. Once inside, I learned that it is a two-person, father and son, family business. The father – Philip, and I, spent about the first hour of my three-hour visit there talking about cars in general and racing. Trust me on this. He is one of us, an enthusiast. You need not dread going into this place. Something else that’s important is that Philip used to work on cars in his own shop, so he really knows what he sells, inside and out. He appreciates and seeks the very best, high quality automobiles. Your biggest problem will probably be leaving without falling in love with some of their inventory. As you will see, that certainly was true for me.

                          2002 Maserati Spyder                          Paddle-operated, sequential shifter

While Philip left to help a customer, his son Adam and I continued our conversation. At some point we got onto the subject of autocrossing, which we both have done. One thing led to another and we ended up walking onto the lot to see one of his personal favorites: a 390hp Maserati Spyder. Among other things, this wonderful car has a Ferrari drivetrain, paddle-operated, 6-speed sequential gearbox and all sorts of competition goodies. A quick drive down San Dieguito Road soon had me thinking about buying it, but I resisted the strong temptation to do so.


Their inventory of predominantly European late model and vintage automobiles, and SUVs, varies, but a major part of their business is locating vehicles to meet customers’ particular specifications. Marques include, but are not limited to, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Maserati, Ferrari, Acura and Jaguar.

If you have an interesting car to sell, you might want to talk to them about placing it on consignment. You will almost certainly get more for it – often thousands more, than you would by trading it in at a dealership. Sometimes they also buy cars outright.

The total experience is pleasant, the sales process is quick, and their overhead is low, which means cost savings for everyone. Warranties are available for all of the cars that they sell, as well as financing through outside lenders. They do not provide service on-site but do, through personal experience, recommend the very best shops.

For more on Rancho Santa Fe Motors, you can find them on the web at Better yet, stop by and talk cars with them. I did.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #150r1 AutoMatters

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