I trust you all had an enjoyable Christmas.
In this blog I want to talk about something that has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. It is a yearning that I know the logical side of my brain will never let me indulge but one I fantasise about often. American Muscle. Admit it, if you are honest, how many of you have sat in front of YouTube watching 1000BHP big blog V8’s destroying all contenders. Videos undoubtedly made by the owners I would add while cunningly deleting the clips where the gear box explodes downwards like an upside down I.E.D. There is however no denying when they get it right these machines are deeply impressive. But what is the reality? In the flesh are these old school American Muscle icons actually any good?
The car that popped my cherry for this type of vehicle was a Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster. It was an import naturally. Left hand drive and in the UK on a “T” plate so sits in that time frame where its old but not old enough to be classic. I will add for the Dodge geeks out there that this was a 1st generation car despite being registered in the UK in 1999, I think the car was a 1995 originally. It was red, obviously, decorated with white stripes and the bonnet went on for about a week. Purely on visuals it made me skip on the spot picturing myself shredding the tyres for no reason at all. It was needlessly huge and over the top. What a shock right!? Until you have stood next to one though you won’t know what I mean, and this in itself is the first step to unravelling the reason we don’t see many of these machines on our roads. Apart from its name it really can’t be talked about in the same breath as their more recent offerings which by all accounts are superb! This old Viper was truly awful. They basically took an 8.0 litre V10 engine and in addition critically the transmission from a truck and placed in the Viper’s ample engine bay. 400BHP on tap and a standing quarter mile in 12 seconds flat will lift eye brows but only someone with zero regard for their personal safety would drive this car at any sort of speed. The steering made a politician’s response seem precise and the brakes felt like you were stepping into a bouncy castle. Inside could only be described as spartan and to save weight it had no roof! To enjoy the benefits of your optional extra roof you had to embark on a series of zips and covers that then attached to the windows and each other. The result even if you were a “Krypton Factor” champion was what looked like a blind folded tent building contest. Without exaggeration you could get your fist in the window gaps and that was after 30 minutes of tinkering, taking off, putting back on, head scratching and ALL the swear words.
If only I could tell you it was worth it but once all that was done, and you entombed yourself in your plastic prison cell of a driving seat there was no fizz. Without going on an obscene rant which nobody wants to sit and read, simply everything about it was disappointing. Sure, it was quick but there was no feel. In fact, there was no enjoyment because sadly in American cars on our shores you feel like a fool acutely aware that as you drive past people they are not swooning they are giggling. The brash American appeal simply doesn’t wash here and that is thanks in part to early abominations like the first-generation Viper. As discussed, the sheer size of the things, the single figure MPG’s, the face melting RFL and the day will come when a man adorned in Nike will pull up next to you in a hatch back with a dinner plate turbo and emasculate your enormous bonnet.
All this saddens me you may be surprised to hear because films like “Bullitt” have captured the ears of generations! Even in more modern times “Eleanor” from “Gone in 60 Seconds” is automotive pornography of the highest order. The only down side was having to endure Nicholas Cage acting but you can’t have it all.
I don’t claim to have anywhere near the expertise to fully understand it, but I do know despite the deep yearning for something entirely unnecessary on my driveway I will never allow myself to make the leap. There are simply far too many better options out there and maybe that’s it…. People thinking why have you bought an old Viper instead of an M3 for example. There is no good answer! “I just like to be different” just screams of “look at me” and the British, we hate that.
I hope you all enjoy a happy and prosperous 2018.
THE AUTO V.I.P.