The 1750

Most men like powerful cars (e.g. Jeremy Clarkson:  “POWWWWERRRRRR!”), and among the power-hungry there is a common thought nowadays that a 3-liter six-cylinder engine is the basic starting-point for any performance car, and four-cylinder engines are inferior (hence nicknames like “four-banger” and the like).

Not so.

Back in the late 1960s, Alfa Romeo came up with a four-cylinder engine of only 1,779 cubic centimeters (actually rounded down to the 1750 nomenclature, unlike the standard Italian exaggeration) which was an absolute screamer.  So efficient and racy was it that they used the same engine across all their “105” chassis models;  the GT Veloce:

…the Spyder:

…and even the Berlina sedan model (with a human figure, for scale):


I’ve driven all three, and not once did I ever say to myself, “Oh, if only this were a 3-liter six!”

The point was that all three models were lightweights, and the four-cylinder engine was perfectly adequate for the task — which in each model was to go fast, and they did.  And in normal Alfa Romeo fashion, they went through corners as though on rails, and the peppy little four-banger engine and five-speed short-throw gearbox made every trip an adventure.

Provided that they started, or didn’t lose non-essential parts like rearview mirrors, door handles and what-have-you along the way.  (I once had the experience of the interior mirror coming off in my hand as I was adjusting it.)

I also once drove a Marauder (Lotus 7 knock-off) equipped with the 1750 engine.  Now the Alfa GTV was no heavyweight, coming in at just around a ton, but the fiberglass-bodied Marauder could be lifted with ease by only two men, and carrying no weight at all, so to speak, the 1750 engine was a monster.  I actually lifted off the throttle at the end of the Kyalami racetrack straight, whereas with the GTV I’d always been able to keep the pedal to the floor to make the first right-hand corner.

Four-banger?  Sheesh.  (Of course, the main reason for a four-cylinder-engined car’s poor performance nowadays has nothing to do with the lack of powerpower, but with the extra weight that has to be added to all cars because of all the safety regulations that have been mandated by Nanny Gummint since the 1970s.  But I won’t discuss that topic further as I’ve just finished clearing up the wreckage from my last RCOB episode.)

I love the 105 Alfa Romeos and their 1800cc engines, all of them.  I would drive one today quite happily.

Vanishing Point

I have spoken often of my distaste for much of modern life, and here’s just one more thing to make me want to pack a picnic lunch and an assault rifle, and go find a tall building somewhere.

Sadly, the end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults don’t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they aren’t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know it’s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.

But it gets worse.

In the future, cars won’t only be automatics; it appears they’ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.

And this guy adds his take, talking about

the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.

In the next year or so I’ll be needing to get a new car because the old Tiguan has north of 115,000 miles under its belt.  Don’t be surprised if I get something with a stick shift (assuming I can find one, and even if it does limit my choices), if for no other reason than to shake my fist at the Empire.


And just let some future asshole government mandate “smart” guns with chips embedded so that they can be “controlled” by some central source — essentially, the same principle as automated cars.

At that point, my prospective trip up to the rooftops won’t just be a joke anymore.

Different Focus

Gentle Readers, I bring you the old:

2018 Maserati Gran Turismo

…and its replacement, the new:

2021 Maserati MC20

Now I know that they are, in essence, two different cars.  The older GT is a tourer (Gran Turismo) after all, and while it is very fast, it’s neither a racer nor a supercar — both of which are what the MC20 is going to be.  Indeed, the MC 20 heralds the (long-overdue) return of Maserati to racing, which means that they’ll be competing with the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Corvette in Group B racing, maybe even at Le Mans (but in 2022 and not 2021, I suspect).

The MC20, therefore, is Maserati’s first real “supercar” since the Ghibli of the late 1960s and early 70s:

…although it too was strictly speaking a tourer — I don’t think it was ever raced — but at the time, there were only a few cars which compared to it.

(I know, there was the MC12, but that was never going to be a street car, really, no matter how hard they tried to make it so:

…and the $2 million-plus sticker didn’t help much.)

But it’s a new dawn, now.

I can’t wait to see the MC20 racing, and Maserati racing again.  Presto, ragazzi.

Although like all supercars, it’s going to be hell in the parking lot:

Don’t care.  Details are here.

Traffic Anacondas

Here’s one guaranteed to make all my Murkin Readers chortle:

Pop-up cycle lanes set up as part a £225million plan to get Britain moving again are lying empty while traffic is squeezing onto narrowed streets, bringing the capital to a halt, it can be revealed.
MailOnline visited some of the key cycle lanes across the country at the height of the rush hour to gauge how busy they are, only to find them chronically under-used with cyclists criticising them as well as motorists.
Our research in London, where Transport for London is leading its own £33million scheme, shows that on the Euston Road, just 7 cyclists used the designated lane over a 15-minute period.  Meanwhile 420 cars fought their way through traffic.  In Park Lane, Mayfair, just 21 cyclists used the lane as 400 cars battled past.

Nonsense like this basically stems from the dreaded Car Hatred Disease, which engenders the opposite feeling from motorists.  The Englishman, as I recall, thinks that shooting cyclists from one’s car should not only not be prosecuted, but rewarded.  Mr. Free Market’s opinion should not be made public, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of gore involved.

We have nice wide roads Over Here in north Texas, so the “two-wheeled Taliban”, as the Brits call them, are not much more than a mild nuisance — other than committing the visual offense of wearing those faggy Lycra outfits and pisspot helmets.  It is, however, one more reason to enjoy winter here, because our usually icy roads make cycling deadly.  (“Make it compulsory, then,” grumbles Mr. FM.)

Of course, because BritPM Scruffy Johnson is a rider, all these crappy devices (“pop-up” cycle lanes?) are given a lot more government attention and support than they deserve.

I know that secretly — or perhaps not so secretly — the Greens would banish all cars if they could, and force us all to ride around on two wheels.  This is one of the reasons why, when the Beer & Treason Crowd gathers at its secret meetings, mass execution of Greens is generally ranked after the same treatment for anarchists and Communists, but just ahead of record company executives.  Or maybe it was vegans, I don’t remember.

I do know that in Britain, cyclists are generally hated more than badgers, and they squirt poisonous gas into the ground to deal with them.  Come to think of it, that sounds remarkably similar to one of Mr. FM’s suggestions…

Stuck In The Old Ways

As any fule kno, I am hopelessly old-fashioned, mired in the past (although I would prefer the latter to read “well-rooted”) and in general, an unbending foe of Most Things Modern.

In yesterday’s post about the non-spectator event formerly known as The Masters, I got sidetracked by following a train of thought along a branch line, all about driving a fast car around the exquisite Spa-Francorchamps race track.

…the “fast car” of choice being the excellent Caterham / Lotus 7:

This led to a side discussion in Comments, as these things generally do, during which Longtime Friend and Reader Nevikoff said:

“But… I think I’d pick something other than a Lotus 7 for it.  True, the thing handles like an overgrown go-kart (about which I have, shall we say, “some advanced information”) and the true agony comes not from driving it but assembling one from a kit (don’t ask), but given that some spectacular Ferraris, Maseratis and the like have graced these pages, I’d think choosing from that list would be preferable.”

All good points.  Here’s my thinking on the topic:

I grant you that there may be better cars than the Caterham / Lotus 7 for a joyride around Spa, but being the conservative Ole Phartte that I am, I would prefer to race around that track in the manner of Fangio and Moss rather than Vettel and Verstappen (or even Lotterer and Sarrazin).

For that reason, I choose the Lotus, because it’s the closest thing to this:

…which, while it is quite possibly the most beautiful F1 car ever to race, would probably kill me at the first corner.

So the Caterham it is;  although if there are dark clouds in the sky — and it always rains at Spa — I might reserve the right to exchange the 7 for something with an actual roof (not a ragtop), not only for the cover from the rain, but also for the added protection it would afford me when I spin off at Eau Rouge (3 minute video).

For that, there’s only one car I’d consider for the task (as rebuilt and modernized by these guys):

Why modernized, Kim?  I hear you ask.

Because I’d like to complete at least one circuit of the track without the thing breaking down.  And in the rain and gloom, I’d also like the lights and windshield wipers to work at the same time, which is generally not possible with the original

…as installed by Lucas Electrical, the “Prince of Darkness”.

I might be old-fashioned, but I’m not that romantic.

And in Comments, let’s hear your ideal car for a jaunt around Spa, with reasons.

No Big Deal

Still on sports:  I see that the Le Mans 24-hour race is going to be run with empty stands because Chinkvirus.

Can’t see why that would be a big deal, unless you’re one of those masochists  keen fans who endures 24 hours of noise and discomfort, at least half of which are spent in driving rain — it always rains at Le Mans — and 10 hours of which are spent in total darkness anyway.  Not even I watch the race in full — and I’m a huge Le Mans fan.

Nope;  a two-hour highlight program is pretty much all I care for.  (And I prefer still more an actual documentary — Truth in 24  and Truth in 24 II  are excellent albeit dated shows, as I’ve said before.)

And even if you’re one of those ghouls who only wants to go to Le Mans for the crashes, just remember that most of the crashes happen in the woods or at least far from where most spectators are sitting — with one notable exception [hem hem]  where the spectators were very much part of the action, so to speak.

Certainly, spectators at Le Mans have no effect on the race participants — crowd noise is pretty much a nothingburger, unlike say at a football match.

And to the surprise of absolutely no one, let it be said that I prefer Le Mans as it was raced in the old days, where the cars at least looked like the same cars you’d see driving around the countryside:

…and not the bizarre, shapeless and electronic doodad-filled crap that looks like it was done by some CAD intern.

But that’s a rant for another time.