Old is Good

I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but some things were better in the past. Yes, things now is cool in the way that everything is interconnected, meaning that your hairdryer can talk to your toaster, which in turn can talk to your fridge and then tell your car that you need milk, which adds it to a digital shopping list that you can view whilst watching TV or playing VR games… It’s pretty cool. I like it. But some things were better. In this instance, I will be using cars. Today, it is about how much power it has, how light it is, how many aerodynamic-ey flaps it has and how much downforce it produces. The McLaren Senna comes to mind…

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Senna. With its 4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 and enough fins and flaps to create 800kg of downforce. It is a magnificent piece of engineering. But that’s the problem. As Jeremy Clarkson once said about the MP4-12C, “It is an amazing car, but it’s got no soul”. This is the problem with many of the current top-ranking cars. They are brilliant, they go around corners in the best possible manner and reach speeds that would make a 1920s person laugh at the absurdly high number. But they are cold and clinical. They are ones and zeroes that work together nearly perfectly to attain ultimate performance.

This is all fine, but for petrol heads, it’s not enough. We like cars with character. We value the feel of a car above all. It doesn’t matter if the thing has 1 KW or 1000. If it has a good feel, then we love it. Things like the Bugatti Veyron are and always will be a feat of engineering. It was the car that changed the whole motoring world’s perception of what speed was. Yes, it’s fast and powerful, but it’s terrible (personal experience around Tsukuba on GT Sport). Then you get the Hennessey Venom GT. It has much horsepower and is scary as all hell to drive. It even tends to lose traction when passing 320kph – which from what I’ve read – is quite scary. Stuff like that give cars character. I was recently at the annual Cars in the Park held at Zwartkops Raceway. It featured many cool cars. Loud ones such as straight-piped Chevy Lumina Utes, classic and modern Mustangs, modded Nissan Champs and Morris Minors (meh). One of the cars that fascinated me most was the Ford Sierra XR8. Here you have a relatively boring, everyday Ford, but with the time’s Mustang 5.0L in it. It’s glorious!
I was at this weekend’s Hermanus Whale Festival as well. The Saturday morning there was a car show at the local primary school and there were a lot of really nice cars. Ford Falcons, Holden Monaro GTS’, Jaguar E-Types, MGB’s, an Aston Martin Vantage Superlaggera and a Pontiac Trans Am but to name a few. It was bloody brilliant. The event just re-cemented my personal theory that older cars were just better. Driving involved the driver, it made you hear the engine noise, it was meant to be an experience. Not like in modern cars that actively try to cancel out the sound, drive by themselves and stop you if you are trying to do something stupid (that last one is actually quite good, to be honest). They are safe for pedestrians if you miss a stop sign, they can alert you if someone around you is doing something stupid and it can actively avoid getting into a crash – like those many videos of Teslas accelerating away.

In old cars, you are forced to focus, to take in your surroundings and experience the car. It makes you want to master it, to learn all of its little quirks and to appreciate it for what it is. Not just some hunk of metal to get you from point A to point B, but rather an instrument that allows you to make automotive “music”. I absolutely love it – the feeling of driving an old car, the noise, the vibration, the gear-changes and the overall experience. I love it. Well the closest I have come was a 1991 BMW E30 316iM, but I absolutely loved it. I will buy me a new-ish first car and then start saving up for an older car, preferably something with a V8 of some sort… hopefully the fuel price in South Africa drops a bit…

Battle of the Muscle… Cars

The Muscles

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Ford Mustang GT350R

Recently I’ve been watching videos revolving around the subject of the big three American Muscle Cars. I am of course talking about the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. However, just naming them doesn’t really say anything as there are multiple versions of them – from awful (what I’ve heard) V6s and EcoBoosts, to engines with enough power to restart the rotation of the Earth if necessary.

Now, I can go on about those entry-level engines and recall a scenario in which I told myself that I would buy a Mustang EcoBoost as a first car, but then realising that I live in South Africa where petrol is expensive and that the base price is double than in the USA. I also read an article where two Brits (I think, can’t quite recall) got the big 5.0L Coyote V8 to be more efficient than the EcoBoost, leading to me deciding to throw caution into the wind and buy the cheapest second-hand Mustang GT I could find – if I had the money for it… of course.

But alas, this blog isn’t about those entry-level models, but rather about the top-spec factory-made versions of each. Those super versions that we all drool over. I am, of course, talking about the Mustang GT350R, the Camaro ZL1 and the Challenger Hellcat. I’m using the Hellcat instead of the Demon as example as it is only really made to do one thing – be fast in a straight, line like all pre-2015 muscle cars.

The last few years have produced some really good American cars with power figures that could put the Germans to shame. Of course, the ‘Muricans’ can’t match the Germans for quality, efficiency, looks, noise, attention to detail or any of the things that really matter. I think the Americans realised this, so they decided to just go mad with power. Literally. I applaud that. I enjoy that. As a result of this, you can get a Dodge Charger Hellcat – which is about the same size as an E-Class, 5-Series or A6 – with more power than a Lamborghini Aventador – for way less than the top spec of either an E-Class, 5-Series or A6. It’s ridiculous!

On top of that, there are many aftermarket dealers and tuners who will give you even more bang for your buck. Hennessey comes to mind. They offer packages which you can buy to spruce up your already overpowered car even more – most notably the HPE650, HPE800 and HPE1000 packages. And the cool thing is that you can have these on almost any of the American V8 cars on sale now. Fancy a base Mustang GT but feel it’s a bit underpowered? Get an HPE650 package. Did your wife say you need a family car, but you don’t want to sacrifice power? Buy a Chevy Suburban and ask Hennessey for the HPE1000 package. You’ll be able to do the school-run in record time and a puff of smoke. It’s absurd and I love it.

What was I talking about? Oh right, Hellcat, GT350R and ZL1. I can’t quite decide which one I like best. The current range really looks good from most perspectives, where there always had been something off about the previous models. The previous Mustang looked generic and bland, the Challenger apparently had an awful gearbox and wasn’t that comfortable and I had one major problem with the previous-gen Camaro that put me off of buying one immediately. The driver’s instrument cluster was stupidly designed. It looked awful and I couldn’t imagine staring at it whilst driving. Luckily, GM fixed it in the current one.

The current Challenger looks the part. Square look, big tyres, bulge on the bonnet, 520-odd Kilowatt and it just looks like an angry car – like Joey Tribbiani when someone ate one of his chips. The Camaro looks more like a sports car than a muscle car, which may put some people off, but it kind-of works – and has 480KW. The Mustang is almost a perfect split between the two, but it ‘only’ has 400KW. It would feel just as at home at a sports car meet as it would at a muscle car meet (hopefully minus the whole ploughing into pedestrians thing).

Now, if these are still too tame for you, there is always the ultimate – and aftermarket – versions of these cars as opposed to these super versions. There is the aforementioned Challenger Demon that does what it was built to do so well that it has been banned from taking part in it. Ironic. There is the Shelby GT350R and Super Snake that has a butt-load of power (and looks a bit scary). And finally, there is my favourite of the aftermarket ultimate bunch – the Hennessey Exorcist. I like it because it looks mean. I like it because it was built to put the Challenger Demon in its place. And I like it because its name is a joke and thus doesn’t take itself too seriously. Oh, and it has a thousand horses – or plus-minus 750KW – for less than a BMW M5! It’s… Silly.

So whilst I would have the Hennessey Exorcist in the ‘ultimate’ category, I can’t quite decide on a car in the normal “Are you out of your mind?” said the executive to the engineer-category. Seems like I’d just have to drive all three and then decide…

Ford, GM and FCA, let me have a go in your insane cars… please?

 

P.S. FCA announced the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye after this blog was written, so… tough. But I thought I’d mention it as it is a factory-spec car with close to 600KW. Absolutely bonkers! But oh, I love it so…