- While modern safety advances are for the better, we've become out of touch with the concept of a car that demands talent.

The Lost Passion

A rant on the change in attitudes towards motor enthusiasm in the present relative to the past.

On the face of it, it would seem that the present is the best time there ever has been for car enthusiasts. If you go out for a drive in your completely normal modern car, you can do so at faster speeds than the sports cars of yesteryear ever could, with more comfort and convenience than older luxury cars can offer thanks to assists that take the perceived "task" of driving away from the driver. Then of course, there’s safety. Today’s cars have strong skeletons with innards that turn into bouncy castles in the event of an accident. Meaning if you drive like an absolute maniac and have a crash then you’ll live to endure whatever the courts decide your punishment should be, as opposed to certain death. The cherry on top is that modern cars are so much more dependable than old ones. You need never check fluid levels or prime carburettors before a typical journey. You can just get in your car and go because modern cars are more reliable, which makes life much easier - which means better. Right?

Absolutely not. See, to someone who doesn’t really care about cars or more notably, a shallow person who only cares about the perception of wealth a particular car can deliver, it’s obvious that the ease of ownership makes modern cars superior in every imaginable way. Therefore they completely rule out any reason for old cars to continue existing. You and I on the other hand, know that’s not the case. We are not just vapid, hollow shells of human beings who believes that everything should be expendable. A sort of art without the right to be appreciated once it is done being a useful tool. We recognise that cars are a form of self-expression to be experienced in excitement, nostalgia, happiness, pride or provide us with an escapism from the troubles we face through our time spent on this planet as wandering bags of flesh that were never designed to travel any faster than the speed at which we can run. Sadly, our way of thinking makes us a dying breed. As human civilisation progresses, the need for the kind of person it takes to venture out of the cave to face the sabre-toothed tiger evaporates along with any sense of real danger in our society. For those who were always destined to live their life at home and never hunt, this is a good thing. They can live their lives and die wrapped in cotton wool, never having truly felt the experience of living. For those of us left who still want a thrill though, the chance to have a car which can deliver this accelerates away from one’s grasp almost as fast as modern supercars do.

Donald Campbell with his gas turbine powered Bluebird-Proteus CN7 land speed record car.

Donald Campbell with his gas turbine powered Bluebird-Proteus CN7 land speed record car.

Why is it that a car's speed impresses us or demands any kind of respect? Because it congers up images of the people who took that step forward for mankind so the rest of us knew where was and where wasn’t safe to tread. The Chuck Yeager's of this world, the Neil Armstrong's and the Donald Campbell's. They lived on the edge of what a human could do. That's why fast cars appeal to us - so we can put ourselves in their shoes and become the hero, even if in a very minor way. When you've been on the edge, there's a sense of accomplishment, a confidence in ourselves, that we know what it feels like to live as oppose to merely 'exist.'

Speed is nothing without the thrill of danger that's distinctly absent from so many modern fast cars. There's a hollowness about it. A pointlessness. When you have a million computers keeping you on the road, (it would seem that even all that computing power isn’t enough to keep some people from crashing) anyone can push a pedal and steer straight, then slow down to a crawling pace when a corner approaches. There's no sense of accomplishment to it. No skill, no thought or anything. Just someone's vanity fuelled by their own ignorance, trying to impress people they probably don't even like on a residential street where everybody except them could be hurt through their actions. That's not what being a petrol head is about.

Like so many other things in our modern world, the individuality and substance in motor enthusiasm has been largely replaced by tacky cookie cut mock-ups. At the high end of the market, cars are sold on the high price attached to them instead of the 'fizz' they give. At the volume end, car manufacturers sell bland, disposable products that are to be replaced every few years and give no thought to entertaining the 10 year old in all of us. How many cars sold today will be handed down the generations in a family and have real pride taken upon them? Sure, there's the odd car (Ford Mustang 5.0 with a MT is the first to come to my mind since I like that kind of thing) but the vast majority of new cars on the road today won't be here in 15 years. There's no emotion in it.

In summary, it's not that there's too many YouTubers launching chrome Lamborghinis at traffic lights around cities today, but there is too many people yarning to be like them instead of being their own thing.

If all else fails with four wheels, at least there's still the Isles of Man TT.

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Comments (9)

  • Nostalgia is a quirky human condition, how strange we hold on to select pieces of the past whilst we wait for the future. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1 month ago
  • You don't need to be fast to test yourself. Technique is everything.

    I don't see any particular technique required to drive modern cars. You can turn off assistance, but you still have the high-tech features that will make your life easier. However, it's hard to think that a classic car will endure in the middle of a traffic jam.

      1 month ago
  • A classic will alway be better and more exhilarating to drive as there are no assists. It is pure. However new cars appear to be going pretty damn fast - there is no assist that works well at 250mph. A slower car like an MX-5 but with no assists is still infinitely preferable for me though.

      1 month ago
  • Im not so sure. Cars now are so fast that they force you to keep you on your toes. This applies to things like the SF90, Tesla Roadster, Rimacs, the P1. All kinds. Also to me, going 200mph is still a pretty scary concept in any car, though I’d love to do it.

      1 month ago
  • The feel of a classic is much better, and with electric cars becoming more and more prominent than there are less and less good new cars. I really wish I could go back in time, first to prevent the birth of Al Gore and second to drive in the golden age of automotive history, and I don't mean by killing anyone just by interrupting the relationship between his parents 😁

      1 month ago