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Sunday, 01 May 2011

Comments

Cayman. You won't even need the S.

Mike, as anyone who has tried go-karting will tell you, your post is absolutely on the money.

One other thing. Having driven extensively on German 'Autobahnen' I can tell you that, with a few limited exceptions (like the four-lane stretch between Darmstadt and Frankfurt-am-Main) they aren't what they're cracked up to be. Most have just two lanes in each direction and are very crowded - mostly with trucks.

Even if you do find a relatively clear stretch and manage to wind the car up to crazy speeds, one (or both) of two things will inevitably occur. 1) A slower driver will pull out of the inside lane and you have to brake sharply to avoid a collision or 2) a Porsche, BMW or Mercedes (usually - possibly an Audi, too) will zoom up and attach itself, limpet-like, to your tailpipe - no matter how fast you are travelling. Being tailgated at legal speeds is bad enough but having another car barely a couple of feet behind you at 200kph+ is deeply unnerving.

Trust me, Autobahnen are not as much fun as you might think.

Mike,

This post is near and dear to my heart! The Lotus Seven is just a riot to be in (even as a passenger)!

I tend to like cars of either that nature, or luxo-barges: think old-style Lincoln Town Cars. And the cheaper the better - give me a five hundred dollar car, and I'm happier than if I had a new one.

The most fun car I've personally owned was a Triumph 7. Four pot, four speed, rear drive and about 100 hp. Not quite enough grunt for my tastes, but an absolute blast to throw around, er, I mean drive.

Happy motoring!

Pre 89 Porsche 911 costs less than a new blandmobile and does all the above with style speed and spirit!

You sound like the kind of guy that would just love a SAAB. Better pickup than a Porsche at half the price, minimum fuss with the instruments (you can turn everything's light off except the speedo) at night, civilized interior for guys our age. It's too bad that GM got their hands on the brand, and now it may not survive it's decade decline at the hands of American management. Newly liberated, but barely on life support.

Mike, you get bonus points for using the correct plural of "autobahn" --> "autobahnen"

Maybe someone else will remember who the driver was who claimed that taking a 100 mph curve at 100 was not nearly as much fun as taking a 35 mph curve at 36. It was a few decades ago...

Paul Van,
You will hate this...my grandfather left a dark gray 1966 Lincoln 4-door hardtop when he died. It went in the estate "rummage sale" for less than $6k.

I just couldn't swing it at the time, either financially or in terms of accommodating it. I was living in an apartment and didn't even have a garage.

Mike

Mike, I like your theory, but you are a couple of wheels beyond my total agreement. Cars are for taking the kids to school without getting wet. Cheers S

P.S. How do you think this applies to cameras?

You need a Caterham 7. http://www.uscaterham.com/ Desperately.

That said, I'm the most aggressive street driver I know (you can only imagine my tire expenses) and I have been flogging a 1998 BMW M3 Sedan (white, no wings or other exterior crap) around radar-infested America for 10 years with zero tickets. There is nothing like a non-descript sports sedan for going real fast while keeping your license.

I have had a Lotus Elise for 6 years now as an almost daily driver. And I am AARP age.

I use it regularly on track and on the street. I believe the Elise might be the car for you. It's all about entertainment rather than just performance. And getting in and out of it is an excellent motivator for staying in semi good shape.

Though I've never been face to face with an actual Bora, I've often regarded them as one of the sexier looking cars...70's vintage sports cars were always the nicest.
My inlaws have a sweet pininfarina that I'm hoping to acquire one day...wouldn't mind a Miata or an Opel GT either.

Mike,

Minor point: we (Chicago) actually do not have a "Lake Drive". Ours is "Lake SHORE Drive", a substantially longer drive than the one you show along Whitefish Bay.

But that Whitefish Bay drive is a very pleasant (at lower speeds) tour past some big ol' former brew masters palaces. It's a lovely drive, particularly for a nice fall day.

This is why I like Mini Coopers--low to the ground, responsive, intimate feel for the road. Can be exhilarating even at city and town speeds; even the auto transmissions seem tuned for fun.

The downside with cars like this is that when you're in the mood to just kick back and cruise down the boulevard like you're driving a couch, you can't--they're just not made for that (nor for, ahem, other activities more suited to couches). And the switches and knobs are in odd places.

After many years of driving sensible family cars and thinking that the sportier models are not for me (early 60's and still have young children to support - bless 'em!) I recently saw a Merc SLK230, 11 years old and only 45k miles in almost showroom condition on a local car lot. I fell in love with it and convinced myself that the car had done all it's depreciation so if I needed to sell it I wouldn't lose too much. My other half didn't try to dissuade me and now I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat every time I get in it, lower the roof and engage Drive. Ok, I would have preferred a manual transmission but driving has become fun again. And an advantage of my years is cheap insurance.
Of course, the money that would have bought a new Canon and a lens or two is no longer available so the 5D and 40D will have to last a year or two yet

I believe that the saying is "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly." And +1 to 'Awake', I agree completely.

I did cart racing for a couple of summers (not those weird American contraptions with the huge wings) and fell in love with the excitement. Being mere inches from the ground as you said adds another dimension that is hard to match. About the only other sport I would want to try for the sheer thrill of the speed would be those small planes that scream around an inflated obstacle course.

Funny thing is today I did a post on my blog (blog.ericrose.com) that featured some of my favorite cars of the past. Must be in the air.

You sound like a motorcycle guy, not a car guy! Maybe an Ariel Atom would be a good compromise?

Of course, I know what you mean about perceived speed from firsthand experience. One fateful day I drove a Gallardo around a track at an "Executive Drive" event, and then had twice as much fun in the rented Mini Cooper S on the way back to the hotel.

What is it with people and their cars? At least I can say with a sigh that I know the motoring age will be brief, it's colossal environmental and social problems eventually impossible to ignore, and finished finally by the looming end of oil...

@Julian - you are dead right about the ferrari's coming up behind you. It is even more scary if the car you are travelling in is a 7 seater vauxhall zafira people carrier which is vibrating like hell.

As to go-kart like cars - you should take a look at kit cars. They are not very practical as they don't have roofs, and you have to build them yourself, but they are basically a road legal go-kart. My teacher who has one has had people in ferrari's pull up at lights next to him and ask about his car!

Mike, as for your ideal: a Porsche 924 is pretty close to that, and can be found in decent condition for pretty damn cheap (you could by a half dozen for a price of that Boxter S) and since most of the parts are random VW or Audi parts, is *very* cheap to maintain compared to the later 944's etc if you have a decent mechanic or spare weekends.

Also, you can fit a whole LOT of photography gear (and furniture, and luggage, groceries, even clowns, all sorts of junk) in the back of them – with the seat folded down, it's basically a Die Kamino. What better motivator to go out and take pictures!

Nice Off-Mike topic, Mike. The most fun car I ever owned was a new Triumph TR-6, back in my bachelor days in San Francisco. However, I wouldn't classify that ride as go-kart like. The Triumph had that big straight-six 'tractor' motor that lugged along in a fairly pedestrian way until you got it really revved up, then it suddenly became this insane rocket sled! But it did definitely provide that wonderful down-close-to-the-road exhilaration that only small two-seaters can provide. The TR-6's on-the-shifter overdrive button was pretty cool too... ability to split gears in half! Very handy for those back road esses in Marin County.

A couple of years ago, I got to test drive one of the new Mini Coopers. They definitely provide the go-kart experience.

We keep my late mother's BMW 318i from 1984 in the garage for when she needs it again. Thats about 2400 pounds, 5 speed, 110 hp sohc 4. Wont run away in drag race, but thoroughly delightful to drive fast. 35mpg too.Just your kind of car.

... sounds like perhaps a Caterham might be for you?

http://www.caterham.co.uk/

Pak

Not being into cars I didn't read any further but, whatever it was you were driving, I guess you would've liked to have gone farther. ;-)

I've had some fast cars, including some convertibles, but none give the same thrill as winding through curves on a motorcycle, especially on uncrowded mountain roads. Unfortunately I'm now back in the city and sold off the bike; not ready for organ donation.

Mike

Chick cars in the US are more usually referred to as hairdresser's cars in the UK. It is a very arbitrary term, the Austin Healy Frogeye Sprite being very much a man's car, the rebodied but essentially identical MG Midget being a hairdresser's car, based on the fact that it had wind up windows, a feature that that was widely decried by fifties purists. Secondly the Caterham Superlight R500 (A direct descendent of the Lotus seven) was faster around the Top Gear track than the Bugatti Veyron, the Lotus Seven, MG Midget, and similar cars like the Mini Cooper were fast cars because although their 0-60 times weren't that great you could go round corners without touching the brake pedal :) Find the Top gear episode where Jeremy Clarkson dices with a Mustang in a Spridget for an example.

The slightly angular lines added to some beautiful curves make the Bora a far superior
rendering of bodywork than the latest offerings coming from Maserati imho.

Mike,
You might want to consider the Ariel Atom, as tested by Jeremy Clarkson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWoo82zNUA

Dead on with your post. Back in the day, dollar for dollar and pound for pound the "frogeye" AH Sprite was hard to beat for shear enjoyment in blasting around. Second in my book was the early 60's Volvo P1800 or maybe even the '54 VW Beetle I had. The VW had it's quirks though at every fill-up I filled the spare with air as that powered the windshield washers. Not to mention the pop-up arms in the center post that were the turn signals.
Having come of age in the 60's in the rural west of the US, I have had my share of fast drives and rides. There wasn't a posted speed limit outside city limits in Nevada and we did our share of 'let's go some carbon out of it' driving. Of the quick ones I remember until I die is fully unleashing a '65 429 Shelby Cobra. If there had been some semblance of upholstery in the buckets it would have to have been surgically removed from my rectal area.
Today I think the experience you describe best replicated in the Mini Cooper S. Our 50's something vintage neighbor has one and you have to turn her around all the way to see her complete smile after a run.
For letting it loose today on open roads, Google 'Sliver State Classic'. When two times a year Nevada blocks a stretch of highway for when you "feel that need for speed".

Buy the cheapest miata you can find , when they get ratty enough they stop looking quite so chick car like , and they are ever so much more suited to round trip travel than an old mg or triumph. Then when you get tired of it, get a kit that uses all the miata bits to build a lotus 7 clone. From what I hear , building the 7 is easier than taking the miata apart.

Porsche 914s are about as go-cart like as you can get with doors, but they can be cheap OR fun but usually not both.

The most exciting and challanging car I've ever driven slowly was a 1962 ford galaxy in 1988 new York and LA traffic.

Best car I ever had was a '78 Peugeot 504 diesel. Unbreakable, fantastically comfortable seats, long distance tourer. At 100kph, you could choose between putting the air-conditioner on , or accelerating. Finally went to the great Peugeot graveyard in the sky with 700,000 km on the clock. Engine would have reconditioned OK, but body rusted. Bought a Pug 505 petrol auto. That was the worst car I've ever had. Possibly got a lemon.

Mike, I know whereof you speak.
While I was still a young stud I drove to work in my Lotus Eleven (which is more-or-less a Lotus 7 with a streamlined body), and on race weeks back and forth to race at Sebring and Daytona (where I was fortunate enough to take a first, and second, respectively).
Now almost 50 years later I drive a Prius which, believe it or not, doesn't get as good mileage as the Lotus (100 HP, under 1000 pounds, 50 mpg at 140 mph, and a 25 gallon fuel tank for when it had been raced at LeMans by the factory).
If I had all the money that I've spent on fancy cars, new and used, over the years....

Probably Sir Stirling Moss said that. I recall reading one of his articles where he said something to the effect of; if your abilities exceed that of the car you have fun, if the cars abilities exceed yours you get scared. I can personally confirm that!

Chicks cars/tart cars also known as hairdresser's cars.Nice read.

I have not heard the expression "tart cars" Mike, despite living in England. However I like the expression "hairdressers' cars" (which probably has the same meaning), which I am afraid I first heard from the lips of the dreaded Clarkson.

If you want a real thrill, put something exciting between your legs ... a modern sport bike.

It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.

Oh my! Here I am at 72 and a Lotus 7 (doesn't even need to be a super 7) is still the car of my dreams. Came very close when I was first married. Suzy and I became enthralled with an Alfa Veloce Spyder. The lady that owned it had never maintained it, and had crashed the right side. We paid $350.00 for it, fixed it up, and it is the best car we ever had. La dolce vita.

Hmm, sounds like Mike is having a second childhood.
And then there's the story of the friend of a friendnwho was being driven by another friend is said friend's new low-slung British roadster.
The conversation was shouting
between driver nad passenger "what's the long white wall?"
"That's not a wall, that's the edge of the curb (pavmenet to you Brits)!"

And my favourite low-slung was when I was leaner and far more ability to get in and out of a friend's long gone Super Seven, by Lotus of course. Said friend eliminated himself from the gene pool at an early age rolling his Lotus Europa
(which was a piece of junque) at a rather high speed one sunny spring afternoon.
Two 360 degree rolls and a few end over ends killed him and the Lotus. Sad really. Nice guy, but always drove well beyond his or anybody else's capabilities.

If you're gonna go; go while having fun.

Mike,

I fully concur with your ideal car criteria except I'm no longer as obsessed with having rear drive after a couple of years of MINI ownership. I think what most people associate with rear wheel drive is actually the chassis adjustability it affords and you can definitely get that in a front-driver. The packaging benefits of FWD allow manufacturers to keep a lot more of the modern niceties and safety features while staying closer to the target weight. Power oversteer is out but if you can leave that to JC you can find some pretty entertaining small cars these days.

Anything in Lotus' current lineup should give you precisely what you are looking for. I was speaking to an owner of a Lotus Exige and he referred to it as a go-kart with doors. He said it wasn't fast and didn't feel powerful but it handled so well he felt like he was on rails when driving twisty canyons. Too bad they cost just a wee bit more than a go-kart.

The Ariel Atom. That is all.

"we (Chicago) actually do not have a 'Lake Drive.' Ours is 'Lake SHORE Drive'"

Whoops! Sorry. Fixed now.

Mike

...altho grew up in Chicago, moved to Milwaukee as a 'tweener', knew a photographer there that had a Lotus Europa in the early 70's (Paul Henning), met him when I worked in a photo studio (Cilento) while in high school and did some processing and printing for him on the side. Have to say, got to ride in that Europa a few times and it was quite a ride, on Lake Drive in Milwaukee as well, but I remember screaming up and down the connector road between upper Lake Park and lower Lake Drive, quite the test for any vehicle, and where I tested my own Triumph GT-6 MkIII later in the 70's. The Triumph, of course as any owner will tell you, was the most beautiful thing ever (I owned a TR-4 as well), and engineered by the insane and built with metal that wouldn't make spec for a Huffy bicycle today. Designed for extinction! God bless the Mazda Miata, closest dependable thing to a 60's-70's British sports car that actually stays together. Some day, some day...

I wish I had said the but have to be content to quote it. "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow".
My first car back in 1970 was a TR3a. I put all my worldly goods in it and drove that thing from Fort Bliss Texas to Homestead AFB in Miami. It was a wonderful adventure for a 20 year old.
The TR3 is long gone but Mrs. Plews and I still own a TR6 we took on our honeymoon to the Rockies in 1980.
I suppose if I won the Powerball there would be a Ford GT or a 275 GTB in the driveway but then again I would just get an ulcer worrying about getting them dinged or dirty and on reflection that doesn't seem so fun.
However I do have to say that a Caterham 7 would be a lovely way to enjoy a nice soft summer evening in the Loess Hills here in Western Iowa.

The Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, and Porsche Boxster (S) all should fit your definition of small, very fun cars to drive around.
Unfortunately I don't fit in a Miata (but maybe a spec-Miata racer could do the trick). My S2000 fits me like a glove and I love it. I'm sure I would also have a lot of fun in a Boxster/Boxster S/Cayman, even though it would not be approved by my 911-loving brothers-in-law (which care about the status, but would not take their car to a race track).
I also agree on the mag's obsession of the extremely pricey super cars and of also of the general public on "how fast have you gotten it to?". I'm more interested in fast/fun cars that I might be able to afford in my lifetime, anything from a $85,000 Nissan GT-R, to a Porsche 911 GT3, to a Ferrari 458 - OK, I might never buy a $200k Ferrari, but there's a small chance. A million dollar super-car? Nah, forget it.

Mike forget the car. Go with a motorcycle. My case a 2005 BMW R1100S. You get the best of both. The speed sensation of the go cart for daily use (with the fuel milage and cost to match) and the crazy speed of the super car when needed (ask the guy in the Porsche turbo who tried to show off), and there are many bikes much faster than mine. More fun than a mechanical contraption has a right to.

There's an old saying, that it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
Four cylinder, relatively light weight, rear wheel drive? You're talking Honda S2000.

Find a restored 1969/1970 Mini Cooper S. The boot (trunk) is a like a large glove box. Fast. Definitely a go cart. Just don't crash it.

I have to admit - that Lotus looks fun. I was never a gear head. I idolized Corvettes as a kid. I rented one many years ago; there was a private car rental business in my home town that had an odd selection of cars and the Stingray belonged to the owner. $60 if I remember. It was ok. Definitely fast. Rattly. I also had a thing for Jaguars (just for their looks; I never actually rode in one). My wife worked for an Alfa Romeo parts dealership (before we were married) and wanted to buy one, but her father wisely talked her out of it.

Cars don't do much for me any more. New ones are as exciting as new cameras, which is to say, not very. Old ones require you to be handy. In a fit of foolish impulse, I bought a low mileage 1978 Jeep Wagoneer. We keep it garaged in the winter, drive it a little in summer (at 12mpg, very little) and pay more for occasional repairs than it's worth.

If someone handed me a gift certificate for the car of my choice, I couldn't even imagine what I'd buy. Right now, I'd rather have a nice tractor with a bucket loader for doing some work on my property. I'm probably even less cool than my daughter thinks !

if you get a thrill out of the sensation as much as the absolute performance, you can't beat a motorcycle for value. of course, it will probably kill you. (i drive one, and i understand the increased risks.) on the plus side, you're unlikely to kill anyone else.

if this were analogized over to cameras, it could go a long way towards describing the satisfaction resulting from getting the shot with an all-manual camera--preferably all-mechanical, best, a rangefinder. in a no holds barred race, a d3s might win more often, unless the course is very twisty... but rarely would it be as much fun.

I saw the following recently on You Tube, and immediately thought of it when you talked about reaching out and touching the ground. Skip the first minute, and around the 3 minute mark you might have to pick your jaw up off the floor. Top speed isn't everything, and as you see here acceleration can be pretty exciting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWoo82zNUA

The late great James Hunt used to drive an A35 van which was his daily driver having driven one you cam loose the backend at about 20mph its a scary/fun car to drive at normal speeds. Speed is definately relative and some cars are just fun to drive they may not be fast but its the smile on your face when you get out tells you its was worth driving!

My first car was a Morris Oxford sedan, which I repainted using gloss enamel house paint. It wasn't terribly exciting until the brakes failed.

My chick car. A Miata. Picture taken with a Sigma 10-20mm.


Photobucket

And Mike, strictly speaking, the correct Anglicism is Fanny Magnet. A pink mini would be a tart's car.

Hi MIke - you obviously need a Caterham Seven CSR. This is really a Lotus Seven in modern guise

http://www.caterham.co.uk/assets/html/showroom/csr.html

Quoted performance for the CSR260 is 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h).

I'm wondering what 155mph feels like with your butt 3 inches from the ground .....

According to forum nerds, the Pentax is also a girly camera.

"My idea of the ideal car: a four-cylinder engine (but a good one), one-ton curb weight or as close as you can get to it, a five speed stick shift, and rear-wheel drive. "

I think you just described my project car:
'92 Ford Escort Cosworth. Cosworth being the operative word here!

Singing off the same hymn sheet Mike, I have a 20 year old Eunos Roadster (Mazda Miata in USA I think pop up headlights etc [right, in the U.S. that would be a Miata "NA," 1990-97 —MJ]) and yes it gets called a hairdressers car but its fun at normal road speeds. I have taken it round the F1 silverstone track and its fun round the corners though no surprise the straights are too long for it.

Last year I got to drive a Ferrari California for a bit on the road in Maranello. It was fun but you seldom got to use its potential and at normal road speeds it was asleep. Now if only I could get that exhaust tone in my car.

The day car, a Skoda Octavia Vrs, same chassis etc as a Bora. Its faster in every way, but less fun.

The better car rags still do gush over Sevens. It doesn't happen frequently, though, because the car is about 50 years old now. It's a testament to Chapman's theory of "Add Lightness" that it is still in production.

An Elise is about the closest street legal current car in the US. Very kart-like. A Cayman has the comfort and utility of a blandmobile with most of the kart-like feedback intact. The "chick" version, of course, is the Boxster.

40 mph sideways is far more fun than 140 in a straight line.

Japanese 2 seat sports cars tend to attract the hairdresser/chick label. English 2 seaters (although I don't think any are English owned anymore) are mens cars.

You need to look at Caterham, Morgan or Lotus.

I had Dinky and Corgi toy cars as a kid, still have them. I spent some time in a F2000 race car one summer 25 years ago, and have competed and been otherwise involved in car rallying for the last 20 years or so. This is what I have learned:

http://roberts-rants.blogspot.com/2005/10/automotive-advice-for-young.html

I have to agree with your choices Mike:

"My idea of the ideal car: a four-cylinder engine (but a good one), one-ton curb weight or as close as you can get to it, a five speed stick shift, and rear-wheel drive."

This actually sounds remarkably like my first car - a '67 Volvo Amazon. The car did three generations in our family, having been bought by my grandmother who, bless her cotton socks, specified a 2-door model to prevent her grandchildren from catastrophically falling out of the back doors. Fortunately for me when I inherited the car, the 2-doors came with a hot cam and a high compression ratio.

I couldn't agree more. Living in the farming region just past the farthest Chicago sprawl, sometimes a supercar would be sensible in that you can drag race down the several mile straits where visibility is excellent.... but then who needs to be doing 150+mph on public roads?

I own a mazda3 and I've become addicted to cornering hard. Its a great substitute for the pure acceleration of drag racing and a lot more interesting on an ongoing basis. This car is pretty big and heavy (relatively speaking), but its got a lot of that little-car charm still, and can out-handle some pretty lust worthy sports cars. Not bad for an economical daily driver.

I'm making plans to buy a caterham. To be affordable, I might have to find someone elses half-finished kit or old chassis with a used up motor, but the caterham puts you into honest supercar territory on the cheap.

Jeremy Clarkson doesn't have a long enough drag strip to get up to 200 MPH. At least, he didn't in episode 6 of series 2 (which I watched last night courtesy of Netflix). In that one, he raised the straight-line speed record on their board from 170 to 174.x, in their first test of the Konigggggggggggsbordabbaviking. (I think maybe they had more later; I seem to remember the Stig getting a Veyron up well over 200 at some later point. Yeah, I'm watching them somewhat out of order; tried a newer series first, then went back to the beginning of what's on Netflix, which is series 2 for some reason.)

They had to put up a huge "BRAKE HERE" sign by the side, because telling exactly where you are at those speeds is a bit of a challenge.

Most fun on 4 wheels I've had in a long time was with my then-new 1997 Renault Clio. About 60HP, front wheel drive, but with a typically well balanced French chassis. My crowning moment of driving joy was holding a perfectly throttle-balanced sideways drift all the way around a long, wet motorway on-ramp. At well under 25mph, if I remember correctly.

Hooning a '79 Ford Pinto all the way up an icy hill a few years ago is a close second.

It's seems like that there are (at least) two kinds of people involved here: people who like machines, and people who look through the machines at the end product. People who buy Leicas, for example, tend to be as involved with the machine as with the photography (IMHO.) People who like small cart-like cars aren't really into travel, they're into driving. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I know a large man who damn near died trying to drive a Ferrari from Los Angeles to Denver, not because of an accident, but because he was too big for the car, and the car's suspension was way too tight for a long, fast trip on American interstate highways. By the time he got out of the car, he was virtually crippled.

I love to travel by car. My perfect cars (so far) have been a BMW 540 and a Porsche Panamera. Cart drivers -- people who enjoy Miatas and Z3s and the small Porsches would have little time for them, I suspect. But you can get out of them at the end of a long day and still have some day left in you.

JC

Donkervoort Mike......the Dutch answer to raw speed in a tight little package......based on the Super 7 but relatively high tech and housebroke.

Greetings, Ed

You should switch to the Donkervoort D8 270, go-carty like the Lotus: http://www.donkervoort.nl/en/donkervoort-cars/models/d8-270

My Chick-Mobile for the past 31 years. I like the color...and the cost.

I had an Alfa Romeo spider once. It was a 1979. When it worked right (not all that often), it was by far the most fun car I've ever driven. When I was spending $400 a month just to keep it working, it was less fun...

Mike, what you need and want is a Lotus Elise. Trust me, you do. They just stopped making 'em a couple weeks ago, so snap up one of the 2500 or so in the US. Nothing like it to drive at sane speeds. Only thing, it doesn't have a glovebox. I velcroed an old camera bag into the "trunk" though, and am good to go.

And Mike, strictly speaking, the correct Anglicism is Fanny Magnet. A pink mini would be a tart's car.

... and 'fanny' does not have the same meaning in the UK as it does in the US.

Those Lotus colors never looked better than in the days of Jimmy Clark. I fell in love with grand prix racing with these colors, and that elegantly and sexy shaped car, etched in my brain.

In my twenties I had a motorcycle, not even a sports bike, that was more fun that I've ever had in a a car. Family life forced a sale, and I now drive a Volvo estate car. My biggest thrill is to see the "MPG" average on the trip computer head north of 43 MPG.

But I do still have a love of sport parachuting, I now only jump about twenty times a year, and it's always from a nice safe aeroplane from about 15,000 feet. But if I were still in my twenties, and unencumbered of wife and children, I'd be doing this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F9RJSPnf8A

(Mike, don't watch. I don't want to cause TOP to come to a shuddering halt when the proprietor has to call 911 when a heart attack strikes).

One person asked about the lack of Alfa fans here. I helped a relative sell her run-down Milano/75 sedan several years ago. What a fun car the Milano was. Modern design for an Alfa. V6 power with rear wheel drive in a compact sedan with just the right mix of luxury. BMW-esque but with real Italian charisma. One unexpected cool side benefit of owning a late-1980s Alfa was the illustrations of the hot Italian woman used for the how-to sections of the owner's manual. I am looking forward to whatever it is that Fiat brings to the US having an Alfa badge.

As for hairdresser cars such as one person's claimed MG Midget, not all Midgets had roll up windows. I know that my '63 Series 1 doesn't. And you do get bonus sports car points if your side screens are attached to your car with bolts. Anyway, you're getting older if the words DO and UNDO on the nearside and offside mean something to you.

Mike,

I had three Sevens (one at a time), and loved to drive them. Sitting so low made your speed seem greater than it was, and you could throw them around corners at 30 miles and hour feeling like Stirling Moss.

The downside, though, is Steve's law: the smaller your ride, the closer the SUVs are willing to get to you (ask any biker). That's combined with the fact that an SUV or truck driver can look directly over your head and change lanes into a space you though was your own. Now I have a '32 Ford roadster; much more sensible, and it has doors.

Ah, Alfas! I went through a few: a 2600 Spider, Giulia Spider, and a GTV. Wonderful cars, and despite rumors to the contrary, not hard to keep running if you treat them right. The engines are bomb proof, the transmissions ZF, and the electricals, well, Lucas looks good in comparison. The Spica fuel injection was weird, though: a really sophisticated analog computer that worked great when dialed in, and was really bad when not. Dual side-draft Webers are the way to go on those cars.

Almost all of them have the gear shift sticking out of the dash, its a feature. Very easy to work once you stop looking at the shifter and put your eyes where they belong (on the road).

The N. Lake Drive 100mph club is dedicated to the spirit of your original post. It is the perfect place to relive the old memories and get excited about new possibilities. The next meeting is June 8.

http://www.nlakedrive100mph.com/history.htm

Pete,
I'm not a member of that club, but only because my mother's Volvo 145 station wagon wouldn't do 100 on the flat. The fastest I ever got it going was 110 on the expressway north of Brown Deer Road, but on a downhill section.

I'll tell the story of my Porsche misadventure sometime, but I don't want to turn this into a car blog.

Mike

I rode in a Maserati Bora twenty years ago with a friend. It was his Dad's car and he took me onto HWY 5 in Lancaster, CA. The onramp was a 30mph curved variety and I was peeing my pants as my friend took it at over 80mph...
Amazing car and apparently quite rare...

If you want to know more about the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, go here http://www.velocissima.com/. The site uses frames so you must use their search function for "Giulietta Spider".
The page is one I created around 1996 using a text editor to code raw HTML.
Here is the page on my racing them: http://www.jimhayes.com/jim.htm

And as for Alfa reliability, I put 175K on a 67 Sedan and last time I heard a friend in the Bay Area had over 450K on his 74 GT! THe secret to Alfa reliability is driving them "properly" - that's HARD! My old friend Pat Braden once wrote an article called "The Italian Tune Up is No Myth" - widely plaigarized-like here: http://alfaromeo.multiply.com/journal/item/2/The_Italian_Tune-Up_is_No_Myth_

I once had a MA vanity plate, "Y-ALFA" because that's what people always asked me!
My answer? I've got a garage full of parts and I know how to work on them....

And finally, something I bet someone will paraphrase for cameras:
I've always said that British cars were designed by blacksmiths, German cars by engineers and Italian cars by artists!

Oh I feel so left out. After ten years of surviving several near misses on a variety of increasingly lunatic motorcycles and risking my license in later years with some nice straight six Beemers and a V6 Alfa, my greatest driving challenges now are avoiding speed cameras and seeing how much mileage I can squeeze from a tankful of diesel (which now incidentally costs close to £70).

Ah, the good old days of cheap gas and proper cops. The last speeding ticket I got was in Iowa, lights sirens and all. Almost makes me feel nostalgic.

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