Countless times cars have been launched to huge praise as they are considered the best thing to do whatever they’re designer for, be that going fast, traversing off-road areas, hauling loads, and more. But, despite rapturous acclaim, they normally aren’t the vehicles that go on to be loved by enthusiasts the world over.
Porsche’s early 911 had a ferocious reputation for sending drivers backwards into the scenery thanks to lift-off oversteer. Yet despite a well-earned name as a difficult car to pedal fast, the Porsche 911 is arguably one of the greatest enthusiast cars of all time… even with its engine in the wrong spot for the physics textbooks!
Speak to any Porschephile about their love of the 911 and you’ll hear them gush about the challenge of learning how to drive this challenging, engaging sports car. The sense of accomplishment when mastering all the foibles Germany’s most-loved coupe can throw seems to wash away issues with on-the-limit handling and questionable interior ergonomics (the pedal-steering wheel offset in early 911s is wild).
After mastering a new, challenging skill (like not helicoptering into the scenery like Satan’s fidget-spinner), it makes sense that people would bond with their car – chefs relish cooking meals infamous for being ridiculously difficult to nail, and who doesn’t love it when they finally have their pet trained? Getting your classic German car to not leave its mark on the ground may be a more difficult exercise, however.
Looking at new cars, Volkswagen’s Golf R is a modern marvel. With a turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder engine, tricky diffs, all-wheel-drive grip and an interior seemingly straight out of a high-end luxury car, it seems to be able to do everything any car enthusiast would want. So why do so many have such a negative opinion of them?
“It’s boring” is a common complaint from enthusiasts, despite Golf Rs being able to rocket to 0-100km/h times that supercars couldn’t hope to do 20 years ago. And much the same was said about Mitsubishi Evo Lancers 20 years ago, as driving fans pointed to electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive as “doing the job for the driver” and taking skill away from the job of punting a fast car down a challenging piece of tar.
Then there are some beloved classic cars which are loved despite not offering technical thrills or a challenge. The Delorean DMC-12 was an advanced mid-engined coupe born from the mind of the man who spearheaded Pontiac’s muscle car era; John Z. Delorean. Yet it was badly built, expensive, used a lacklustre V6 engine and generally fell massively short of the expectations many held for it.
Is this a case of humans rooting for the underdog? When nobody else loves the pound puppy, car enthusiasts will come into bat for them. And if that is true, then why aren’t there clubs full of people restoring Renault 12s, Holden Camiras and other bad cars?
The cold hard fact no car enthusiast talks about is that cars are a machine to transport us, and there are some near-perfect modes of transport out there. So why do driving fans ignore them in? The most basic answer is: they don’t have any soul.
Some brainiacs believe humans love machines when we identify faults in them. They’re machines so they should be perfect, but some back corner of our minds links the machine’s faults with our own human fallibility. In short, machines with flaws are out homies.
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