Often when people fondly reminisce about ‘the good old days’, the truth is, they were never really that great. But in this instance, they bloody well were.
Fast cars. I mean, really fast cars. Properly fast cars. They used to be called supercars. And guess what? They were properly scary.
I’m not quite old enough to be losing my mind just yet, but I’m certainly old enough to remember them. Think back to – or if you’re too young, Google them – the AC Cobra, Bugatti EB110, Ferrari F50, Jaguar XJ220, Lamborghini Countach and Diablo, Lancia Stratos, Pagani Zonda, Porsche 959, and the TVR Cerbera Speed 12.
Being scary, and I mean genuinely fear-inducing, made these cars exciting. It also made them interesting. Interesting to drive, but also interesting to read about in the motoring press.
Posters of them lined my bedroom walls as a kid. The more dangerous, the more intimidating, the better. Flat out in a wild car is, and always will be, so much cooler than going fast in a safe, composed, ‘easy-to-drive’, well-mannered one. There’s a name for those latter ones; ‘boring’.
Now, let me be clear here. I’m not at all saying that owning or driving something like a Bugatti Chiron – or Veyron in Paul Maric’s case – wouldn’t be an amazing experience. It surely would, which is why Paul doesn’t shut up about it.
But to know or hear that actually driving one is as daunting and intimidating as driving a Volkswagen Golf, simply isn’t right. Not right by a long way.
Sadly, I feel that as I’ve aged (I’m not prepared to say ‘grown up’ as that’d be an untruth), so too have car makers.
When I was a wee lad, brands weren’t afraid to build cars that would well and truly scare your slacks clean off. Cars such as the Ferrari F40, McLaren F1, and the original Widowmaker, the Porsche 993 911 GT2.
Few cars in the world have the innate ability to tighten a dedicated automotive enthusiast’s sphincter just by the sheer mention of their name. But they do exist. Or at least, they used to.
It’s not just making more practical, logical, sensible cars that I have an issue with. Worse, it’s producing incredibly fast and highly-advanced would-be scary cars, and filling them full of computerised technologies and modern safety systems that monitor everything, all the time, to ensure drivers are constantly ‘protected’ from the hidden dangers that lie beneath.
Give you a hot tip; no 14-year-old kid into their cars is going to run up to their friends at school and say, “Hey, did you hear about the new 911 Turbo? It comes with Porsche Active Suspension Management and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus.” It ain’t gonna happen, because that is not cool.
It’s not cool. It’s not exciting. And it’s certainly not scary.
Back in the day, manufacturers used to be at each other’s throats in a constant and ever-more-mental battle to build a car that would prove scarier than the last. This, my friends, was a golden era.
There was honour and meaning behind it. It was about pride and reputation. And it was good. It also meant there was a broader, more encouraged pursuit of pushing the envelopes of power and speed – and sure, maybe of crazy a little too – but it was excellent, and resulted in some phenomenal and unforgettable vehicles.
Nowadays, the key driver isn’t to outdo, or out-perform your rivals, it is simply to out-sell them. Cash money. The more sales, the better.
Cars that could once put the fear of God into people, now have ‘Sport’, ‘Sport Plus’, or ‘Track’ buttons, only to be pressed in the rare times when such ‘anti-social’ behaviour and general tomfoolery is acceptable, and only ever for a brief moment.
I’m sure by now you see my point. If not, stop reading this, cross your arms, and sit back and relax as your new semi-autonomous car casually parks itself.
If, however, you’re reading this and have been loudly cheering, “Yeah!”, at the end of most of these sentences (in my head, that’s totally what’s been going on by the way), then stand with me and urge, nay demand, that car makers get back to building something that could hurt us.
A car that requires you to pay attention at all times for fear of death. A car that dictates touch, and precision, and skill to drive it well. Something dangerous. Something reckless. Something downright hazardous and unsafe. Something scary.
Something properly scary.
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