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.

Kim’s Back Yard

Following yesterday’s post which mocked the British ideal of “dream garden”, here are my own (ranked) top ten desirable backyard features:

1. four-bay 25-yard air-conditioned indoor pistol range
2. 100-yard rifle range with back stop and shaded shooting benches
3. sporting clays area, with six or more stations
4. six-car garage
5. climate-controlled storage shed for ammo and sundry shooting supplies (maybe backing off one of the ranges) with a decent reloading setup inside
6. outdoor kitchen with both charcoal- and gas grills, including a bar counter
7. woodworking shop, e.g. Norm Abrams’s “New Yankee Workshop”
8. swimming pool
9. surrounding the entire back yard with a couple extra corners thrown in, a go-kart track which could accommodate grownup cars e.g. a Caterham 500
10. Guest house where my friends could stay for their (probably weekly) play dates.

Okay, the race track is possibly something of an overreach, but not necessarily.

As for the “garden” idea… meh.  Patio or deck with pool and BBQ grill, no lawn.  Pots with artificial flowers.

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.

Still No Spectators

I spoke about sports being played in empty stadiums because of the Chinkvirus — which I can sorta understand, because by their very nature and architecture, stadiums cram people together in their seats.

I do not understand why Augusta National is holding their postponed tournament without spectators, though.

Since our initial announcement to postpone the 2020 Masters, we have remained committed to a rescheduled Tournament in November while continually examining how best to host a global sporting event amid this pandemic. As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters always has been our first and most important priority.
Throughout this process, we have consulted with health officials and a variety of subject matter experts. Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.
Even in the current circumstances, staging the Masters without patrons is deeply disappointing. The guests who come to Augusta each spring from around the world are a key component to making the Tournament so special. Augusta National has the responsibility, however, to understand and accept the challenges associated with this virus and take the necessary precautions to conduct all aspects of the Tournament in a safe manner. We look forward to the day when we can welcome all of our patrons back, hopefully in April 2021.

I don’t think that the problem is as bad as they make it sound — assuming that there even is a problem by the time the tournament begins — but Augusta National has always been a sensible kind of operation (except when they allowed women to become members, that is), so there it is.

I for one always watch the Masters on TV — I can’t remember ever missing it.  Even when I still lived in Seffrica I’d stay awake through the night to watch Player and Nicklaus and Palmer grappling with the course.

Playing Augusta was once a Bucket List item, but no more:  I’m too old, and my golf game, always kinda shit, would make me a laughing stock if I did somehow manage to get to play there.

I’d still like to drive a fast-ish car around Spa Francorchamps, though;  not in a race, but maybe on a Track Day.

I’m not too old for that.  Especially in one of these:

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.