Participation Trophy

Following last week’s punctured dream, I got to thinking about finding a replacement dream car, and in so doing came up with another one of Kim’s Stupid Suppose games.  Here it is:

Rich old Uncle Elmer always liked you, and when the old boy croaked, he left you a provision in his will that said you could buy any two cars (or trucks) in the world, provided that one was made before 1970, and the other after that date.  There would be sufficient funds set aside for repairs and parts, in perpetuity.

Which would be your pre-1970 car, and which would be your modern choice?  Answers as always in Comments.  You can provide a rationale for your selections, or not.

To kick the thing off, I’ll give my pre-1970 choice, which is a slam-dunk:  the W186-body (1951-1958) Mercedes 300S (two-door version) — my only indecision being whether to get the soft-top roadster

…or the hard-top coupé:

It was engineered to drive for at least 12 hours at a constant 100mph without breaking down, and from what I can gather, the 300S and its 3-liter 6-cylinder engine did just that, all the time.

That’s my “old car” choice.

I’m still reeling from the disappointment of losing my modern  dream car, so it may take me a while to find a replacement — just as it did when I was forced to replace Nigella Lawson as my stalking obsession Dream Girl.  So watch this space…

But in the meantime, get into Comments and give me some ideas.

Cute Lil’ Italian Thang

When Mazda reintroduced the concept of “sports car” to the automotive world, a whole bunch of other automakers, who had doubtless been told by Marketing that nobody wanted sports cars anymore, suddenly rediscovered the joys of a small, inexpensive, modestly-powered open-top car.

Of course, people had always wanted sports cars — what they wanted was a reliable sports car, which the Euros and Brits seemed to be incapable of producing (Alfa Romeo Spider, Triumph anything, MG anything, Fiat anything, and so on), while the US had never produced a sports car.  (Corvettes, Thunderbirds etc. aren’t sports cars.  The closest one we’ve ever had was the Saturn Sky/Pontiac Solstice, which was really the German-designed Opel GT anyway —

and  we were late to the party.  By the time these came onto the market in the mid-2000s, Mazda had gobbled up the market already.)

Anyway, Mazda ended all that, or to be more correct, they started it up again.  Now, all of a sudden, everyone else had to get back to the drawing board and play in this pool.

Enter Fiat’s little derivative of the older 124 Spider:  the Barchetta.

If it looks like the Mazda Miata, it’s probably not coincidental:

…because there are only so many ways you can design a sports car, after all.

Another sports car of the late 1970s was the Lotus Elan (which predated the Miata, and in fact was probably the car that Mazda used as their model):

Even Alfa Romeo replaced their old Spider (which was gorgeous) with a 90s lookalike (which wasn’t).  Here’s the 1980’s Spider:

Compare to the 2000 model:

‘Nuff said.

The only thing which set the Alfa apart from the rest was terminal unreliability a snarling 3.0-liter V6 which made the Spider so much quicker than the rather lackluster Mazda- and Fiat roadsters.  (Then of course there came new environmental restrictions [sigh]  and the V6 was replaced by a 2.0-liter turbo version.)

As Longtime Readers of this here website are know well, I love little two-seater sports cars, whether the 1930s MG TA, the Austin Healey MkIII or indeed, the modern Fiat 124 (a.k.a. the “Fiata” because in the Great Circle of Automotive Life, the 124 shares a chassis with the Miata.  Confused, yet?).

I don’t really care for the 1990s/2000s models, though, because that “bar-of-soap” shape was fashionable at the time but really, it’s dead boring.

However, all was not a complete waste of time.  Enter those maniacs at Abarth and a design firm named Stola,who took the staid little Fiat Barchetta and turned it into this:

Ooooh, baby… and that’s  the “cute lil’ Italian thang” in the title.

Another Dream Punctured

I have long lusted after owning a Maserati Quattroporte, which to me seemed to be the last (non-Bentley) word in luxury touring cars:

It combines everything I like about cars:  exquisite styling, a sumptuous interior and, lest we forget, a Ferrari-derived 3.8-liter V8 engine.

This morning, however, I took an Uber passenger to the airport, and in chatting about cars, I mentioned my yearning for the above Mazza.

“Nah,” was his comment.
“Why not?”
“Quality isn’t that good.”
“It’ll break down every week?” I said in jest.
“Not every  week…”

I should point out that said passenger was once a senior exec at Maserati USA.

So much for that dream.


The writers at Road & Track  magazine talk about cars they’d like to see reincarnated.

Most of them get a shrug of the shoulders and a “meh” from me, except for two;  firstly, the Jag XJ220:

Probably the most outrageous Jag ever built, it was designed as a race car, and was the fastest production car when it was launched (217 mph — not even shabby by today’s standards).  But from all accounts, it was an atrocious road car:  as wide as most British streets, a turning circle like a battleship, and driver visibility that made the Lambo Countach look like a convertible by comparison.  Seriously, though… I saw one last time I was over in Britishland, and it’s even more dramatic than its picture.

Of course, I’ve never actually driven an XJ220;  but I have driven another car on R&T ‘s wish list:  the Alfa Romeo GTV/6.

Just looking  at it makes my senses tingle.  I would take a new one of these now, even as unsophisticated as it would be compared to modern cars.  (I don’t need about 90% of the modern geegaws that infest today’s cars anyway.)

And that said, the only car on the list I would never  want to see again is the foul Pontiac Fiero — to this day, the only car I’ve ever taken for a test drive, and handed back to the salesman halfway through, saying, “I’ve had enough.”  What a POS — especially after having driven the GTV/6 but a short time earlier.  Great concept, horrible execution.

As I said, the rest don’t thrill me much — but feel free to disagree with me in Comments.

Racing Beauty

As all know, I am a huge fan of the Ferrari Dino 246 GT, but I love its successors with almost equal fervor.  Here’s a little discourse about the 288 GTO by Alain de Cadenet, who waxes rhapsodical about this magnificent beast, the last Ferrari made when old man Enzo was still alive.  Enjoy.  (Right-click to embiggen the pic in another window.)

It was a 1980s car, which meant it was more wedge-shaped and less curvy than the 246 GT from which it was derived (right-click away):

But the 288 was racier — duh, it was created for Group B racing — and a better car to drive than the entry-level Dino, I think.  (I’ve driven the Dino quite a bit, the 288 only once for a disappointingly-few minutes.)

But both cars thrill — that engine being mounted only a foot or so behind the driver… oooh, Mommy.

Want.  Either, or both.  Where’s that lottery ticket, again?

It Ain’t That

The Car God opines:

Jeremy Clarkson blames “idiot” climate change activist Greta Thunberg for killing the car show.
The former Top Gear presenter, who is returning with another series of Amazon Prime motor series The Grand Tour, claimed young people have been turned against cars by the 16-year-old environmental campaigner.
Clarkson, 59, told The Sun: “Everyone I know under 25 isn’t the slightest bit interested in cars – Greta Thunberg has killed the car show.”

Most of the time, I agree with Clarkson, but I’m not so sure about this one.

My opinion is that young people aren’t interested in cars for two reasons:

  • They all look the same.  (I’ve ranted and raved about this situation so many times, I’m starting to bore myself.)
  • New cars cost too much, and youngins don’t have the cash to buy them — hence the popularity of the “no-car” ownership and Uber.

Much as I detest her and her ilk, neither of the above is the fault of that little bint Thunberg.  The real fault lies with government — our government, European governments, all governments — who have mandated expensive changes to cars in the name of SAFETY and CLIMATE.  The first is arguably a good thing, but the second a lot more questionable.

But when an “entry-level” (i.e. modest) secondhand car like this one costs nearly 20 grand…

I’m not sure that many under-25s are going to want to spend this much even if they have it.  College loan repayments, ObamaCare medical insurance, under-25 auto insurance rates… even if they’re filling the stereotype and living with Mom and Dad, money is going to be tight, assuming they’re pulling in the typical youngin annual salary of $24k – $36k.

(Yeah, I know  you can get cheaper cars — the Son&Heir scrimped and saved out of his paltry waiter’s income until he could afford to buy a twelve-year-old Oldsmobile Beater from a friend for $1,500, but his maintenance costs almost killed him.  If he’d had more money, it would have saved him money to buy a Honda like the above;  but he didn’t have the money.  I don’t think today’s kids are any better off — they may even be worse  off, come to think of it.)

Of course, adding the Blame Game onto all that via Thunberg and the other EarthFirsters doesn’t help — nor does it help that the under-25 group are malleable and vulnerable thanks to their crap secondary education and foul neo-socialist tertiary education, so they’ll believe anything and hope that Mommy and Daddy (or Big Brother Gummint) will bail them out.  But that’s not the primary reason for their lassitude in matters automotive.

In my day, boys had wall posters on their bedroom walls which featured supercars (and supermodels).  Nowadays?  They can’t afford the fucking posters.  They can’t even afford the ticket price for the car show.

And that’s because their priorities have changed.  Why spend money on a four-wheeled money pit when they can spend as much or more each month on a money pit which can fit in the hand?

And why drag-race your buddy down Main Street (à la American Graffiti ) when you can play Grand Theft Auto?  Or pick up your girlfriend and take her to the movies, when she can catch a Lyft over to your place and the two of you can “Netflix and chill”?

It’s not just the money.  Times and priorities have changed.  And as with all this stuff, it’s not just one thing (like Greta Thunberg) that has caused the change;  it’s everything.  Our kids live in a different world;  and in that world, the car isn’t important anymore.  Too bad.  Here’s a pic of my teenage dream car:

In today’s dollars, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT  would have cost about $14,000 — brand new.

Here’s #2 Son’s dream car:

Brand new, the Honda Fit costs about $17,000.  He has less chance of getting this econobox than I did the Alfa Romeo.