If you haven't been living under a rock, you've surely heard that Elon, along with his SpaceX program, had sent a Tesla Roadster (old) into space, with a moniker that proudly says “Made on Earth by Humans”. Say, aliens eventually finds the little Roadster roaming in the space, how would they think of us? While I don’t know the answer, one thing is for sure: they wouldn’t know the glorious gasoline cars and people like us exist. So here’s a list of cars that could’ve been sent to space instead to impress our alien friends if Elon was a petrolhead.
6. ”Behold, my friend” - Jaguar E Type
Possibly the most beautiful car ever, Jaguar E Type has certainly aged even better than fine wine. Over the time, the beautiful swooping body lines and the tasteful chrome trim just don’t seem to go out of style, and I doubt it ever will. It has the classic proportions of a sports car: a long hood and a short deck, which just give off an air of elegance and timelessness that no other car can match.
5. "So there's that thing called aerodynamics..." - Mclaren Senna/Speedtail
Mclaren has been hard at work lately, cooking up two very special ”Ultimate Series” models for the 0.01% in the world. While being under the same series by the same company, their approach to speed is completely different.
Senna, on one hand, is distillation of Mclaren’s understanding of the dark art of downforce. All the body panels, scoops, holes, wings, and blades are there to channel air so that they help glue the car to the ground, giving it the enough grip to dislocate one’s neck (we’re looking at you, Clarkson). More important, however, is its name. Senna. Yes, the legendary Brazilian F1 driver that till this day is still recognized by many as the best driver ever. In other words, the Senna is more than just a technical showcase of Mclaren; it carries a significant piece of our Motorsports history.
The Speedtail, on the other hand, takes a completely different approach to speed. Being the spiritual successor to the legendary Mclaren F1, one of the most iconic speed machines in history, the Speedtail has a lot to live up to.
Although Mclaren is yet to release its full specifications, we do know that it has 1036hp and will do 250mph (403km/h) flat-out with the first 186mph (300km/h) dealt with in 13 seconds.
So how does the Speedtail do it, aside from the fact that it has a 1036-hp monster under the hood? It employs exactly the same trick that Senna does, just in a different direction. While Senna uses its creases and holes to glue the car to the ground, the Speedtail aims to minimize drag by making its surface as smooth and slippery as possible. In fact, they're so obsessed with minimizing drag and turbulence that they especially designed a wheel cover that does not move when car's in motion, creating a layer of clean and smooth air.
Incredible stuff, not to mention how they're from the same company within such a narrow time frame.
4. "What happens when art meets engineering?" - Lexus LFA
Clarkson once compared Toyota (therefore Lexus) to the "librarian" of the car industry. Indeed, Toyota and its subsidiary brand Lexus are famous for making sensible, reliable, practical, and, inevitably, boring cars.
But one day, engineers at Toyota suddenly decided that they'll make a halo sports car that is unlike anything else on the market.
By Morio [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
So how? Well, they decided that the engine had to have instant throttle response, thus forced-induction is out of the window. Then, they decided that it has to be powerful, so it has to have relatively large displacement and more cylinders.
End of story? No, not at all. They then decided that it had to be lightweight and compact. In fact, what they had in mind was a V10 with size of a V8 and weight of a V6. See the picture above? Yup, that's a N/A 4.8L V10 producing more than 550-hp.
How on earth did they Lexus do it? Well, they turned to their old friend Yamaha, a renown motorcycle company, to help build a high-revving, lightweight engine. The result is simply incredible: it revs from idle to the redline in 0.6s. Analog clusters won't keep up with the way the engine revs, so Lexus had to fit a digital cockpit instead.
And we're not done yet because Yahama still has one trick up its sleeves. Not only does Yamaha make motorcycles, but it also produces musical instruments. Therefore, Yamaha conveniently worked its magic on the sweet V10's noise. Clarkson once commented,
"It sounds baleful; it sounds like a wild animal that's sad about something."
And, yes, the redline is at 9,000rpm.
3. ”Have you ever heard of brap stutututu?” - Mazda RX-7
There’s always that one guy in the room who does things differently, no? Mazda’s RX-7 Is the this guy in the car world.
In the 90s, an era with some of the best Japanese sports cars changing the landscape of the entire automotive landscape, manufacturers scratched their head to put as much tech in their cars as possible. Skyline GT-R had its legendary over-engineered RB26 and almost-too-clever ATTESA E-TS AWD system; Supra was gifted with an equally over-engineered 2JZ; 3000GT VR4 had active aero, four-wheel steering, and adaptive suspension.
But the RX-7 was different. Rather than throwing everything it has at the RX-7, Mazda decided to stick to the basics: less weight and balanced chassis. The result? Well, the RX-7 weighs a full thousand pounds less than the 3000GT, which means that it can really fly around the corners with composure that no other rival can.
Yet the most special part about the RX-7 is the engine. While almost every other car in the world had been propelled by piston engines, which all have pistons arranged in various configurations doing reciprocating motion, the RX-7 is driven by what seems like a pair of rotating Doritos.
Softeis at German Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
And that gives it a distinctive character. Because it’s a rotary, there’s no unbalanced force, thus making it incredibly rev-happy and buttery smooth.
Any drawbacks? Yes, it’s not that reliable. Just make sure to change the apex seals before sending it to space.
Check out Motor Trend’s review on the only left hand drive RX-7 Spirit R here:
2. ”But...What’s the best that you can do?” - Koenigsegg Agera One:1
Chris Von Koenigsegg is a mad man, and so are his creations. The Agera One:1 is currently the craziest of the bunch (before newer iterations of Regera comes out, of course), with 1360 raging Swedish hp, each propelling only 1kg.
How dramatic are the effects? Well, an Agera RS fitted fitted with the engine from the One:1 did 0 - 400km/h (250mph) - 0 in 37.28s, beating the 16-cylinder, Quad-turbo Chiron by a significant margin. See it for yourself here:
It should also be noted that the testing conditions are unfavorable for the Sweds: while Bugatti, part of the Volkswagen group with deep pockets, has a wel—maintained private test track to play with, Koenigsegg only had an abandoned airstrip with less-than-ideal surface conditions. As you can see from the video, the driver had to be so gingerly with the throttle that 0-100km/h (62mph) almost took 5s, which is absurd for a 1360-hp anything.
How much quicker will it be if VW were generous enough to lend them the test track that the Agera truly deserves? We can only guess.
1. ”But all of the above don’t even work.” - Tesla Roadster / Jaguar E-Type Zero
Let’s be real here: all of the options above won’t work.
How? Well, there’s no oxygen to burn in space, which basically renders everything listed above nothing but stationary sculptures. Nope, no LFA‘s screaming V10 or rotating Doritos.
So the alternatives naturally come down to EVs. The old Tesla Roadster’s successor is one EV that can surely fill the bill.
By now, you should know it all about the new Roadster: it may still bear the same name as the old Roadster, but this isn’t simply a lotus with its drivetrain swapped out. No, this thing is so capable that it can do 0 - 60mph in less than 2s and a top speed of 250+ mph (400km/h). Those stats pose real threat to Bugatti Chiron and One:1, yet the Roadster will work anywhere as long as it’s got juice in its battery pack. It is, therefore, the ultimate showcase of what we can achieve without traditional enerygy sources.
The problem with it, though, is that it’s still decidedly Tesla. Yes, it’s all elegant and impressive, but you just get the sense that it’s a product of science and nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s no art, passion, no zing.
Thankfully, Jaguar now provides services to electrify E-Type. Essentially, Jaguar takes the drivetrain from its I-Pace and crams it all in this compact, elegant body. Yet surprisingly, the batteries and motors weigh less than the original drivetrain found in the E-Type, which means that this electric E-Type weighs less than the original.
If the Lexus is a result of engineering and art that will work on earth, the E-Type Zero is the result of engineering and art that will work anywhere.
If you were given the chance to choose, which car would you send to space? Which one did I miss? Let me know in the comments!