Christmas 1992. On the cusp of my 19th birthday and courtesy of Santa, my first ever CD player arrived. Having held off joining the digital revolution due to my love of vinyl, like every teenage boy eventually does, I succumbed to temptation. In fact I think that I committed the music equivalent of watching the movie after reading the book and re-bought my favourite vinyl album on CD.
I unwrapped the cellophane, clicked open the plastic box, took out the small shiny disc, inserted it and pressed play. Whirrrrrr, click, whirrrrrr and then the familiar first bars of ‘New Sensation’ by INXS kicked in. To be honest, I was distinctly underwhelmed.
The cover album art too small to study and pour over. No unwrapping to smell that cardboard fuelled anticipation as I gently remove the LP sleeve to see the uplifting surprise of the lyrics being printed on it. No surgical precision in removing the piano black vinyl by the edges while it shimmers and catches the light like a Friesian stallion at sunset. No deftly dropping of the needle onto the outside of the LP and hearing the aural foreplay of crackling before being engulfed in that warm mahogany rich timbre. Odd as it sounds, I felt comparatively un-connected to a piece of music that had been the soundtrack to much of my adolescent life. Since then, advances in digitisation and portability mean that when you buy music, you no longer even need to wait to play it. It is there to be instantly consumed, by all.
The gourmet delectation of music has officially passed the baton to the drive-thru.
Back in 1992, when the British poster shop Athena hadn’t quite hit administration just yet, and countless people still had that picture of the girl on the tennis court on their wall. I didn’t. Due the biological landlords rule of not ruining the wallpaper, the only poster I had up was a poorly blu tacked picture of a Lamborghini Diablo in Rosso. Con wing.
I still love that car.
A brutish 5.7L, 485 horsepower offering to the god of veloce, with all the visual inconspicuousness of a Chianina bull with a newly-born son who has just missed the last Metropolitana to the hospital. It would hit 0-62 mph in about 4.5 seconds and had a top speed of over 200mph. Power came from a dry-sump, 48-valve version of the existing V12 which reportedly made it the fastest production car in the world in 1991. Bravissimo.
No ABS. No cupholder.
Since those heady teenage days, I’ve been in the car industry for 20 years with high-end supercar manufacturers, and even got a bit brave and ahead of myself and ran a couple of supercar dealerships for a while. Definitely one for another day, but car retail is hard. Trust me. It really is.
In all that time, amidst all the lessons I’ve learned in an industry that courts favour and criticism in equal measure, is that engineers should never be left alone for too long, because basically they will engineer. Relentlessly. To be at the helm of a German car company, you can’t be an accountant, a marketer or a public relations guru, you have to be an engineer. And to this day I have never met one that understood the phrase that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I can’t help feeling that supercars have gone the way of music. In all the years since the first Diablo, supercars have become increasingly digital entities with nearly all the sensory nuances and synaptic idiosyncrasies autotuned out by systems like Fly-by-Wire throttles, EPAS and E-Diff. The political movement of the supercar driver has embraced devolution at the expense of independence. Just ask Scotland how that’s worked out in terms of unity.
The days of the rear wheels simply pushing the front wheels around a corner are well and truly history. Due to the weight of modern supercars, there are now almost as many overwhelming forces pushing the car out of the corner as into it. The current Aventador LP700-4 is some 1731kg wet versus the original Diablo’s svelte 1576kg. However, the latest disgruntled bull from Sant'Agata will reach 100mph some 5 seconds quicker despite the former having a power to weight ratio some 2.19lb/hp poorer than car on my perfectly anaglypta’d wall.
Five seconds. Count it out. Bored yet?
In anthropological terms, we’ve managed to get the equivalent of John Prescott out-running Usain Bolt. I would guess that Colin Chapman would be thinking that it’s best he put’s down his single malt and retires to bed immediately before he says something that he might regret. Or get his running shoes on with a view to a podium if his unkind term of endearment is really to be believed.
And for the record, I’m not picking on Lamborghini as a manufacturer. In fact, I’m secretly quite fond of them. The supercar manufacturers are all guilty of it, bar a few exceptions. Cars like the Aston Martin Vanquish, a decidedly endangered species, offer a level of driver connectivity that the current crop of David Guetta inspired homages to speed could only dream about. One car’s lack of development is another drivers’ autocracy.
It is safe to say that the supercar has officially become democratised. And there is no greater symbol of this than their inclusion of the automotive evil that is cupholders. Dual plastic recesses whose contrived incorporation has done for fascia design what Tracey Emin has done for the art of bedmaking. They are the symbol that there are other enjoyable things to do in a supercar rather than leave the radio off and let the octane fuelled Philharmonic Orchestra behind you combust its way up to the top C in Allegri's Miserere.
Personally I yearn for a more analogue supercar experience which captures and connects me. Like being in the recording studio on the night when Led Zepplin laid down IV. Not post production, remastered, digitally smoothed out, bland musical wallpaper with all the sense of occasion of a Pot Noodle in front of X Factor on a Saturday night in my tracksuit bottoms.
I want to see, hear and feel everything from the tips of my fingers to the end of my toes. I want to get out of a supercar with the same feeling as leaving a Kings of Leon concert; charged by the raw energy of the performance but quite drained by the intensity of it all.
With absolutely no where to put my skinny flat white.
I am neither a purist nor a particularly talented driver, but I want to feel like I should be. On that note if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the loft to see if I can find 1993 again. At 33⅓ rpm.
Wikipedia. Yes, I know, I know... Donation made.