First of all I want to point out that the drama of the accompanying video may exaggerate the perceived speed. I am using 3rd and 4th gear, but my differential is very low, so I am not running the speeds you would normally connect with high revs in 3rd and 4th gear. I am within the speed limits. I am trying to demonstrate a whole other thing.
Many cars attract me. I have a long list of cars I would like to own. They are not only Alfa Romeos – well, most are not even Italian! But when all comes to and end, I really only want to own what I call “dynamic” cars. They have to respond to my control input in a predictable and straight-forward manner. I don’t mind having to be a bit brave; having to look far ahead and make decisions while on the move; having to sometimes take a deep breath – and just go for it. So I am not talking about acquiring a modern Porsche 911, BMW 3-series or an Impreza. That would just be too easy – the driving, I mean.
Out of any vintage a certain percentage of cars were sports cars, and some were limousines or other big and expensive cars, maybe even coach-built, but the mainstay of cars were plain and ordinary family transportation containers. Back in time just as today. The roads were not as congested, and the sporting gentleman with a fast automobile could really stretch the legs on undulating back roads. He would probably get yelled at from angry by-passers or local farmers. The consternation of the speeding car would interrupt the lazy life – everything worked at a slower pace back then. Not like today when everybody is in a big hurry. Zooming about in fantastic cars without emitting much noise or odor and being able to steer precisely and brake convincingly, and if for once a car rolls into a ditch it is immediately cocooned in a multitude of airbags, like a Soyus space-capsule returning from a space voyage.
Today you are thought of as crazy if you defy safety in a classic sports car
Does this make me crazy, when I insist on driving my car as intended by the original engineers of the Milano factory of Alfa Romeo, when they designed it back in the early 1950s. What kind of reaction do we get from “passers-by” and “farmers” on a spirited drive on a summer evening? I think it has much to do with how the “decent drive” is performed. Yes, I see it as a performance. I can show other people something they don’t see much, something that is a thing of the past. I am a custodian of car culture, Italian car culture, in my case. Others have fast MGB’s or big Mustangs or angry NSU’s. But we have something to show – and people love it. If we do it decently!
Last week they ran the 23rd Tour Auto in France. It’s a commemorative drive, organized by Peter Auto, who also does the Classic Le Mans every second year at the original Sarthe venue. And looking at some of the fabulous pictures from the event made me go for that “decent drive” in my video. I am aware of the fact that the Tour Auto (just as the Mille Miglia) is an announced rally-like event, but I think they are celebrating exactly what I am suggesting here: “Isn’t it about time you took that car for a decent drive?!” And they do.
Not wearing crash helmets, but having one helluva time
Many cities have banned polluting cars from their centers and everybody who is invited to sit in a classic or young-timer car will make remarks about the smell, the wind noise or other peculiarities that we have all forgotten about. And some (a lot) are genuinely frightened by a growling Chevrolet Camaro or a smoking Abarth waiting for the lights to turn green. But I think we need to keep the car culture alive by taking decent drives; we need to find that balance where the eco-citizens of our cities as well as the concerned soccer-moms of the more rural areas find our passion for old cars interesting – without freaking out over our total absence of decency. Otherwise we will only be able to demonstrate sports cars in concrete arenas like Classic Race Aarhus or the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix, and that would be just like only knowing wild animals from the Zoo. Sad and terribly beside the point.
Sports cars in a flock are more dangerous; an orange 911 is scary; a Cobra is just too loud!
I had prepared some additional photos. Because while I browsed the internet for suitable “Gran Turismo” pictorial footage, I realized that GT has become something entirely different than what it was just a few years ago. And I am not talking about a Gin & Tonic drink! No, Gran Turismo – the wonderful italian phenomenon – has become a computer simulation of actually doing the “decent drive”! Only, you can do it from your desktop or in front of your television in the cosy surrounds of the living room. The input is conducted through a plastic steering wheel and a flimsy set of pedals (no clutch, mind you; what do we use that for?) and if they crash the perfect replica – or rather when they crash the perfect replica, they quickly learn how to repair the damage by a few clicks, and nobody ever gets injured – no pain, except maybe a sore back from the awkward position in the couch. Or so it seems. Because I would argue that the real injury is to the conception of what a “decent drive” is.