Am I a Car Guy?
Photography by Christer Lundem
Many people know me as a car guy and most of the time I am fine with that. However, the truth is a lot more complicated. I am in love with the analog machine, the digital world not so much. To me, driving a modern sports car equals listening to a classic Stradivarius violin on bad PC speakers. The idea of the product is fine, but the execution is horrible.
My daily driver is an old BMW E39. It has travelled 330,000 km, but still nothing in me wants to replace it with a newer model. Why? New models aren’t built to last or be repaired. The home mechanic has no place in the new car world. We get detached from the vehicle and cars become more and more like mobile phones: Use and dispose. I am not at all interested in attending modern car shows. When a new car passes me on the street, I hardly give it a second look. But still people call me a car guy. Why?
At my local newsstand I flip through the pages of different car magazines. journalists who can muster the energy to write about handling and leaps in technology impress me. However, this is due more to journalists’ skill than the excitement created by the machines they write about. Stories about pushing the limits on the Nürburgring, chasing a new lap record on some unknown track, or raving about gadgets while driving on curvy roads in Europe leave me cold. Frankly, there must be something wrong when new Ferraris’ performance is so vast that you need a track to safely step on the throttle? When did we get so number obsessed? When did we exchange the art of driving with driving aids? Am I really still a car guy? I am not so sure.
Emotions and sensations are difficult to explain. So, let me invite you to the art of classic driving. Since you frequent these pages you probably already know the secrets. But why not refresh the reasons for our passion? Why [seriously] would people drive inferior machines? Because, in no doubt, modern stuff does it better. Even a stubborn man like myself has to admit that. So what is it all about?
As an example I will choose three different cars that only have one thing in common: Enjoyment. They are all classics, ridden with faults, but utterly irresistible. I have owned or own all three. You will have to go elsewhere for numbers; my words only deal with the experiences.
Yes, I mean the Mini before BMW got involved. It is small, bouncy, smelly, and dreadfully slow. But yet—just looking at it makes you smile. All the bits work for their living. It is healthy as a top athlete with no fat whatsoever. The instruments are so simple and pretty that even a child would understand them. Every trip in a Mini is an adventure. Driving is telepathic, when you turn the steering wheel the car bites and obeys your inputs instantly. There is no slack or waiting, it is like your brain is wired to the tires. The engine does its best to hide its small capacity: it fizzes and vibrates before you. A small drive in a Mini returns big enjoyment. And to top it all off, you get this for dirt-cheap. If you have not got a classic car by now, buy a Mini. The only thing against its favor, is the danger of a collision. This is a four-wheeled motorcycle. A Fiat 500 may be cuter, but the Mini can still work as a daily ride.
Alfa Giulia GT
Called the Bertone coupé, by its fans, squint your eyes and imagine you have a Ferrari 330 for the price of a Toyota. There is just no car that does all things in equal measure as good as the Bertone-designed coupé. As said, I have owned all of these examples of cars mentioned in the list, but this is definitely the one for me. Even people who hate Alfas admit that they look gorgeous. Then there is the engine: all-aluminium, twincam four on Weber or Dell’orto carburetors. The engine sound is pure Italian opera. And it is all so very exquisitely made.
Castings on the engine look like expensive jewellery. The interior is a restrained piece of art. The dials read Veglia in elegant fonts. And all this is yours even before you turn the key. This car does everything brilliantly: the gear change is mechanical, the pedals are nicely weighted, and the road-feel of the car is great. It is not slow even by modern standards, but paddles briskly through the gears with a hunger for revs. The design, executed by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, is definitely Alfa’s masterpiece. I would not even worry if petrol disappeared. This thing is a work of art and can proudly be displayed in your living room. It is undervalued too, so go on and buy a Bertone—I did.
Porsche 911 (pre-73)
Some are bored of hearing the Porsche 911 praised. I understand, but Ferdinand Porsche touched something brilliant when he developed and launched the concept 901 in 1964. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what the “Neunelf” magic is all about. The fact is that the 911 is not so brilliant, and most designs on the car have serious flaws. It is more a statement about German stubbornness. As an example, the engine sits way in the back of the car, which created the handling issue that has taunted Stuttgart’s engineers for decades. But then again, this “fault” gives the car its special charm. A 911 always feels tail-heavy, but is all the better for it. The grip at the rear is immense and gives the car its peculiar character.
It also provides the most sensitive steering ever created in a car, except the undervalued Ferrari 348. But that is another story. Drive a 911 and let the steering come alive in your hands. I dare you. It will change the way you feel about sensitivity. This is a car you have to communicate with to get the best of. The feeling is tactile, strange, and addictive. You either get it or you don´t. As it seems today a lot of people get it. Values have gone crazy. This is the car to have. Then there is the design: 50 years on you still recognize the 911. No other car has this kind of unbroken design language. And it is beautiful in an engineered way. There is really only one major fault about the classic air-cooled 911. Too many people know about how good they are and keep them for years. To most of us, prices keep them from our garage and only make them come alive in our dreams. If you have the means, just buy one. No regrets guaranteed.
Go for a drive
We are lucky and special. At least one of the cars mentioned are attainable for most of us. As long there is an industry to keep our classics alive we can escape everyday life and drive epic machinery. If nobody supports them or they get illegal to drive, they’ll still look good as art. Find your passion, search your soul, the reward is great. Go for a drive and enjoy the forgotten smells of oil and petrol. These are scents of life and can luckily never be recreated digitally. Remember life is analog, so be sure to enjoy it—even if it means a breakdown or two. Happy classic motoring!