February 11, 2015

Horse 1838 - The Greatest Car Ever Made

Certain motoring writers have praised the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat  as "the greatest car ever made", with it's 707bhp and 881Nm of torque. Not only are these figures mindbendingly ridiculous¹, they're done for a retail price of US$26,995.
Personally I fail to see the point. Even if you can burn tyres to the steel belts in a matter of minutes, it's still only a coupe and therefore totally incapable of carrying a cement mixer or even a washing machine. Even the Hyundai Excel X1 which I had and produced less than a tenth of the power of the Hellcat, could easily cart around a cement mixer or even a washing machine. I know this because it did it.

What then is "the greatest car ever made" and how do you objectively produce such an answer? I think that you look at what they all can do and find the best compromise.

Requirement 1 - Power: Must have enough.
The Hyundai Excel that I had when new threw out a paltry 68bhp. It's hardly the stuff that dreams are made of. If you look at the other end of the spectrum, the Bugatti Veyron with its its 16-cylinder, 1001hp engine is mostly unusable. Not even in Germany where the autobahn runs long and free can you unleash all of those horsies.
A car must have a good amount of power and preferably with a nice rumbly sort of engine note. You can't have a proper symphony unless you have an adequate horn section. Likewise, at least six trumpeters on song is probably good.

Requirement 2 - Breeding: Must have a racing pedigree.
Rolls-Royce is Rolls-Royce but because it is Rolls-Royce, it's a bit Mickey Mouse. In comparison Mercedes-Benz has produced various cars which have won Le Mans and the Formula One World Championships and gone Touring Car Racing and even the Dakar Rally.
Owning a motor car is a tribal affair and if you're going to pick tribes, then it's probably a good idea to pick one with a few winners in its history.

Requirement 3 - Cartage: The Washing Machine Test.
It's all good and well to have a car but what happens if you need to take your washing machine to be repaired? What happens if you want to cart around a lawnmower? There's not point in a car which can't do either of those things and no point in getting a car which is too precious and prissy to do those things.
A Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6, or Mercedes-Benx ML350 might very well be able to carry a washing machine or lawnmower but would you? Would you really risk water dripping about in the back or having grass clippings fly about? No.

Requirement 4 - Style: Don't Be An Old Git.
My usual predjudice against SUVs continues (see Horse 1155). My basic assertion is that all SUVs are basically jacked up station wagons. Station Wagons probably are fine for those people who have either given up trying to be cool, or are carting around kiddywinks, or have been allured by the supposed prestige but the fact remains that if you have an SUV or a Station Wagon you are yelling to the world that the last shreds of your youth vanished ten years ago. All SUVs and Station Wagons are uncool.
This is weird because all pickup trucks and utes are cool. Yes, even the Toyota HiLux which is as dull as dishwater is still cooler than every single SUV in existence, There are exceptions though - Proper Four Wheel Drives aren't SUVs though, they are just UVs. If you can drive through a creek, or across a paddock or sand dunes or a muddy bog, that's cool.

Requirement 5 - Friends: Must Be Able To Take Them.
A V8 Holden Ute passes all of the above categories but misses out on the fact that you can't take four friends to the beach, or the cinema, or the theatre, or the football, or the pie shop.
What's the point in having a car if you can't share the journey with a few friends occasionally. Yes you might be able to pootle about in a Lotus but you can't have those rollicky loud conversations that you only get with four or more people.
This also ties in with carting around children. If you are a little bit older and do have children, then at some point after going to see people, the tired little bunnykins need to be taken home to beddy-byes. In that semi-dream like state, there is nothing as magical as being in the back seat of your parents' car and watching the saffron stain or sodium street lamps whizz by; with your head resting on the seatbelt. Children never realise this but once you grow up, that special place is gone forever - adults usually sit in the front.

So then... five competing requirements and all struggling to be heard.
The best way to answer the question of what is "the greatest car ever made" is to find a V8 four-door hatchback that went motor racing. To that end there is only one answer:

- The Greatest Car Ever Made

The Rover SD1.


Yes, Seriously.

The Rover SD1, which was both its code name and production name, was sold under various titles including 3500, Vitesse and even a Vanden Plas variant. It was European Car of The Year for 1977 and most importantly it fits all of the five requirements.

The police loved the SD1 so much, that when they heard it was going out of production in 1986, they stockpiled cars, so they could use them after they died off.
- Richard Hammond, Top Gear, BBC Two, 18th Jul 2004²

The 3.5L V8 made 190hp in some versions and could be made to produce almost double that, it won the 1984 British Touring Car Championship and missed out narrowly in both the 1985 and 1986 European Touring Car Championships, it could easily take a washing machine because of the nice large hatchback, it still looks quite pretty almost four decades later and you can fit five people in style.

You can't fit a washing machine or five people in a Hellcat.

¹No seriously - that's true - http://www.dodge.com/en/challenger/

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