Where is the real car for today’s roads?
My recent speeding endorsement re-awoke my idea that what the world (meaning Sean Patrick) needs is a slow sports car. The problem is that modern cars’ abilities have become so high that driving them at legal limits is pretty stultifying.
Basically engines are too powerful and tyres are too wide. Their competence is such that any sensation is insulated until you get up to speeds that risk doing your licence, not to mention yourself and others, irreparable harm. The above photo shows EVO’s Jethro Bovingdon, demonstrating an admirable determination to minimise tyre wear. Doubtless he’s having fun but, if I had a Nissan GT-R for daily use, how often would I?
There are possibly a few Japanese kei type cars that might come close to what I’d like. In some ways, an Austin 7 based special of some sort might provide much of what I desire, but I feel that the car should draw on modern technology. We have come so far in automotive engineering that it would be a shame to reject it all for something deliberately crude.
The engine should make a nice sound. Possibly a motorcycle based V or flat twin. Ride should be good, as should handling. Very narrow tyres would ensure that roadholding would not be ludicrously sticky and that steering would be direct yet light enough without need of power assistance. Probably I’m describing a 2CV at present, but its roll angles are too alarming to onlookers to render it sufficiently discreet.
There should be visual entertainment on each journey. Something like exposed wheels and cycle wings that turn with the steering would be nice. Ah, now we’re talking Morgan 3 Wheeler, but that isn’t really what I have in mind.
It should present uncompromised tactile pleasure. The gearchange should speak to you of oiled, precise engineering – though as anyone who has ever put a hot knife through butter could tell you, that is not the way you want to change gear. It should probably have rear wheel drive, allowing light direct steering, and fully independent suspension. Now it’s turned into a Lotus Elan.
Except I’d like it to be reasonably practical, able to carry 4 passengers at a pinch, or two people with a reasonable amount of bits and pieces in the rear. This would be a car for my pleasure, not onlookers. Open air motoring under the right circumstances is a desire, but decent weather proofing should be an option, plus security. Yet as a stylistic starting point, I’m now thinking more Citroen Mehari than MG Midget.
Devoid of aids, its underlying engineering should bear close scrutiny. Putting your head underneath the car, or just opening the bonnet, should present you with a pleasurable view, not a tangle of non-user serviceable parts. So we’re almost talking not Austin 7, but Bugatti – though Ettore’s, not Ferdi’s.
This isn’t the sort of car that any manufacturer is going to invest any time or money into building. Understandable since it’s likely that it wouldn’t be cheap, the only potential customer would be me and I probably couldn’t afford it. Still, that’s a pity.