Posts Tagged supercars
Last weekend was Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer and car show season. I spent Sunday at the Sunday Royals Garage Car Show at Lime Rock Park, and saw nearly every type of car imaginable lined up on the same main straight that usually hosts Le Mans prototypes an Trans Am racers.
The show was a little small because of the weather, but there was still an outstanding variety of cars. Here are my top five favorites:
You may have seen Vin Diesel driving this car’s twin, the Dodge Charger Daytona, in the latest Fast & Furious movie. It’s a Plymouth Road Runner with the best aerodynamics the 1970s had to offer, making it the perfect weapon for a NASCAR oval. Today, the Superbird is one of the rarest muscle cars around, so I was excited to see this Hemi Orange example at Lime Rock.
You rarely see a car this old out and about, unless it’s a ubiquitous, mass-produced Ford. In addition to having one of the coolest names ever, the Blackhawk represents a time when most cars of a certain price really were one-of-a-kind, thanks to their custom bodywork. Stutz was also one of the first great American marques, known for the Bearcat sports car and its heated rivalry with Mercer.
It’s hard to argue with a wide-body 240Z in red, white, and blue, but this car had special resonance for me. Bob Sharp was one of the first American Datsun/Nissan dealers, and did a lot to promote the brand through racing cars like this one.
My parents bought our first new car after moving to Connecticut at what used to be Bob Sharp Nissan, so the local connection made this slick 240Z that much more special.
There were actually three copies of Nissan’s all-conquering sports car at Lime Rock, but that doesn’t exactly make it common. The GT-R is an all-wheel drive, four-seat coupe that can dice with a Porsche 911 Turbo at the Nurburgring, all for a (relatively) affordable price. Unlike that Porsche, or certain Italian cars that will go unnamed, the GT-R really is a performance car that you can imagine living with every day.
I heard the show’s MC talking about a 1980 Tercel over the loudspeakers and thought he was joking. I hadn’t seen the car.
Bringing a Japanese economy car to show that also featured an Audi R8, Aston Martin Vanquish, and three Nissan GT-Rs takes a lot of chutzpah, which this little car and its owner had in spades.
The car looks perfect slammed onto those chunky wheels, and under the hood is a souped up engine that was basically made from scratch. They don’t sell many performance parts for Toyota Tercels.
Last weekend, I stopped at an antique auto restoration shop near Westport, Connecticut. While drooling over a Jaguar XK120 and a 1959 DeSoto, I spotted a decidedly modern Porsche Carrera GT. Seeing a blue supercar like the one in this photo (I couldn’t figure out how to upload photos from my phone) was an interesting juxtaposition.
The Carrera GT is one of my favorite supercars, because it looks like it’s from the future. The cabin is pushed forward by a massive expanse of engine, and the whole car rides so low it probably couldn’t clear an ant hill. It’s a roadster, with seat fairings that make it look like a Star Wars airspeeder. On the inside, the center console rises up to bring the shifter closer to the driver’s hand.
The Carrera GT started out as a race car; Porsche wanted to retake Le Mans with it. However, the project didn’t work out, so in 2004 Porsche began selling Carrera GTs made from the bones of its stillborn Le Mans prototype. Apparently, failed race cars make excellent street cars. The Carrera GT packs a 5.7-liter V10 with 604 horsepower. It can do 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and set a Top Gear lap record when it appeared on the show in 2004 (the record has since been beaten).
If the looks and performance don’t convince you that this is a race care, look no further than the Formula 1-style single-lug wheels, which are color-coded (red for driver’s side, blue for passenger’s).
Seeing such an anally designed car at a restoration shop does pose an interesting question: what will today’s cars be like to restore? Carbon fiber does not rust, but it is much harder to shape into fenders or door panels than steel. The Carrera GT’s electronics will pose another problem. Will computers in the future be able to interface with the Porsche’s control unit, or will it be like trying to get information off a floppy disk? One thing is for sure: those red and blue wheel nuts will be very difficult to find.
The Carrera GT may look like a vehicle from the future, but so did that DeSoto when it rolled off the assembly line in 1959. Now, that big Mopar is a classic, just as the Carrera GT will be in a few decades. Someday, Porsche’s supercar won’t be considered high tech, it will be an antique. When that day comes, I hope the people who restore antique cars will be up to the task.
The Lamborghini Countach is, quite simply, the Platonic “ideal form” of the supercar. Its predecessor, the Miura, is widely considered to be the first supercar, but the Countach is what sold the world on the concept. It’s the car everyone remembers, and it is anything but subtle.
The Countach’s set the template for the modern supercar. It’s mid-engined, with plenty of scoops and ducts to channel air to a massive V12. The profile is low, wide, and sleek, making the Countach look like a very angry doorstop. Then there are the vertically-opening “scissor doors” and the signature wheels, which were passed on to the Diablo and Murcielago.
Outrageous styling is a given for any modern car that dares to call itself “super,” but the Countach did it first. It really is a child of the excessive ‘70s. Unfortunately, that applies in more ways than one.
Since Nixon resigned, engineers have made massive strides in improving the handling of cars. The Countach may look like a drivable dream, but it is more like a nightmare. The cabin is cramped and all of the controls, especially the clutch, require extreme effort. Countaches are so difficult to park that Lamborghini factory workers used to get out, and sit on the door sill, to park them. Sound crazy? Check out this demonstration.
Every supercar owes its existence to the Countach, but thankfully things have improved with time. Just look at Lamborghini’s own Aventador, which has the same head-turning looks but is much easier to drive. It can also top 200 mph, something the Countach could never do. The Platonic supercar is still great to look at, but that’s about it.