Absolutely agree. Living next to some mountain roads offers a lot of exhilarating opportunities. A good friend has a beautiful 911. My favorite fun car is a ‘62 Corvette. The 9/11 is everything engineers want it to be. It’s pretty much perfect. The Corvette has drum brakes, warm and roller steering etc. I am confident that I am having more fun wrestling with cantankerous handling.
Back in the late '80's I had a '74 Corolla, 1100cc, 52hp, 4-speed and armstrong steering, plus an '87 Supra, 200hp, 5-speed. Supra roughly 2x the weight and 4x the horsepower, but the Corolla was hands down more fun to ring out than the Supra, itself no slouch at the time.
Good article and I agree since I drive one of the ultimate slow vehicles of all time, VW Vanagon Syncro Camper. Except for hills and 80 mph interstates I can keep up with traffic. Still, no matter how fast I drive everyone has to pass me. I travel a lot in my van around the West and I seek out two lane roads versus the interstate and take my time to enjoy the scenery. The best part of all is that I can get off the paved road where the jeep guys will pass me and tell me the road is too rough and I won't make it. But I always do.
Aaron is indeed spot on with his comments about driving slow cars fast. Having driven a wide range of cars (like everything from a 1000 HP Ferrari F-1 car to a 800 HP Dodge NASCAR Stocker to your run of the mill Spec Miata and Lemons/Chumpcar beaters) and having done more than a few road rallies- the most grin provoking moments were not blasting at insane speed at a famous track venue (although that is indeed fun) but rather exploring the limits of brakes and tires at a more moderate speed. Best lately was some empty back roads around Landrum SC in a 1957 Alfa- 165R15 tires and drum brakes and you have a hard time going much more than twice the posted limit (btw- never guilty of that!). Thrills of exploring the limits are what keeps our blood pumping and our desire to get back behind the wheel fully engaged- just a lot safer with a slow car. From my point of view it is still more fun at 90% in a slow car than 70-80% in a monster. You can keep your 800 HP supercar- make mine 110 HP 4 banger with marginal brakes and skinny tires- nothing like oversteer at 45MPH to get the day going and keep that elfish grin on my face!
Great article! I got tired of watching my rear view mirror in my fast cars. Nowadays it's almost impossible to avoid the man and the penalties are insane. Now I look ahead while driving my 1919 Ford Model T. It feels like a race car at 45 mph and I am ticket proof.
Ever since I rode with a fraternity brother in 1968 in his 1000cc Mini as it ran literal circles around another guy's 220 Mercedes on the twisty streets of Cincinnati, I've loved going fast in a slow car. Almost 40 years later I enjoyed it again when I owned a 1960 Goggomobil TS-400 and thrashed its 20 horsepower around the Boston suburbs -- driving fast was the only way to keep from being run over! It was a blast.
In spite of the title I think this article was more about driving a slow car slow. I do love driving a slow car fast, my 94 Miata R gets it's neck wrung regularly, carving corners at 65 and blasting straights at 80+. My daily is a Ford Fiesta Ecoboost 1.0, and I live in an area where I don't see my first traffic light until I'm 20 miles from home. The two mountains between me and civilization have that little triple pinging. Older small cars have a attribute we will never have again, light weight, and I realized some time ago that that is my favorite quality in any car.
I agree, but with one caveat: it depends on the car. Back in the 1980s my parents had a Chevrolet Chevette with a 4-speed manual. It could barely do 55 mph, and strained to get there, so it certainly qualified as slow. But it definitely wasn't fun.
The least fun I have ever had in a car was passing someone at 70 km/h on a two-lane road in Ontario in the 1980s in an *automatic* Chevette driven by my then-girlfriend. Floored, it could hardly hit 80 (50 mph). The Chevette was not a slow car. It was a faster golf cart. It was more fun to drive our 1981 48 hp diesel VW Westfalia across the Rockies.
Head out the window and tears in my eyes, the better to see to the horizon beyond the slow moving 18-wheeler, longer than an aircraft carrier. There is a gap in the oncoming vehicular stampede. Downshift and drop back. Timing a death defying charge into the mudflaps, then whipping into the passing lane, into the break in the merciless approaching convoy, keeping the tiny gas pedal of the 1956 VW beetle hard to the floor, engine screaming, maximum velocity, then ducking under the truck's bulldog hood ornament. The slingshot pass. A lost art.
Yes sir. That's how it was in our blue 1957 VW beetle. I still remember the time my young wife and I drove from the middle of Illinois to the middle of NY to a small concert in a cow pasture. Little did we know we'd spend more time sleeping in the VW than our little tent. My life seems to revolve around cars, trucks, and RV's.
The slowest car I ever had was a '72 Fiat 850 sedan, with about 35 hp. It was also the most fun once the proper driving technique was mastered. Since it took so long to get up to speed, I learned to just keep it floored and steer around the obstacles, like they do in Italy. I got more speeding tickets in that car than in any other, but they were all in town - things like 45 in a 30 zone. It was impossible to speed on the highway.
Lots of horsepower comes in handy when you need to brag about how much horsepower you have. Also good for disclosing which cars have been severely beat on, loosening up everything from the radiator cap to the tail pipe, and everything in between.
I have to say I completely agree. Several years ago I attended a meet at the Tail of the Dragon in my 2008 smart fortwo. I had an absolute blast running that road for 3 days. I quickly discovered that road was best taken in 3rd gear in the smart. Lock it in 3rd, by the time you got to a corner to brake, it was just about at redline, and through the corner on the torque curve, then floor it to the next corner. I was having way more fun than the Miata that was trying to keep up with me behind me. I tell people all the time, it's the most fun you can have with 70 hp... 214K miles on it, and still going strong. I drive it every day, and love it... When I need more speed, out comes my 1983 Plymouth Scamp pickup that I transplanted a 300 hp turbo/intercooled engine from a Daytona... That is a completely different animal!!!
My wife and I rode the Tail of the Dragon several times on an old Harley tank shift panhead, a 1987 Chevy van, and even a 1955 Chevy station wagon. Each time was exiting and fun. Each time a Rice Rocket went straight on a curve. We may have been slow but I'm here to write about it.
I have been saying that for decades. I don't care if we are talking about cars or motorcycles. Going slower might not be "cool" but is surely fun using everything the machine has to offer without killing yourself.
As seen in comments Miata people know this one. For me too, it’s a Miata. My own personal preference is this roadster. I like the added feel of wind in my hair, and the sound and smells of all the life happening around me. These sensations seem to add 50 MPH to whatever speed I’m driving. When driving my slow Miata fast it will tell me if I’m getting beyond both my limit, and the car’s limits it will even give the time to get myself out of trouble. I believe a fast car especially some of the great newer cars would trick me into thinking that I’m a much better driver than I am, it would install a false confidence in my own ability. With the right opportunity on a public road in the Miata coming up to a corner I can apply power, with double-clutch down-shift while braking at the same time and accelerating through the corner. The Miata feels special at speeds that won't earn me a serious driving offense, won't get me arrested or won’t get anyone hurt. A Miata does everything good enough to make it feel fast enough for me.
I've had over 60 cars, some fast and some slow. For my, it was stressful to drive fast cars on the street. Driving the speed limit, it was stressful because you are not using the capabilities of this fast good handling car you paid good money for, using it's capabilities was stressful, fun, but stressful, as the potential to be arrested or crash was very real. As someone else mentioned, most the truly fast newer cars have a limit, with little or no warning of when you're hit it, and little or no recovery. My 914's were some of the most fun to drive, One that was not super slow, but could be run hard without getting in too much trouble was my 2004 Mini Cooper S. My current fleet is 69 MGB GT, 74 TR6, 2008 Volvo XC70(most comfortable traveling car), my fast vehicle is a 2015 F-150 Platinum with the big ecoboost V6. I notice not one response about it being fun to drive a fast car slow. So if you hate driving that Veyron slow I have an MG I could trade you
About 1973 my Aunt bought a Kawasaki 90 street bike. Top speed, laying down over the tank, was 67 MPH but lots of fun. It was just over $300 too. There was never a feeling of it being unsafe or scary in any way like you mentioned. Just a nice riding small bike.
I own an old and slow little Japanese truck, which may not qualify, but it will be 41 years old this May and has low miles, about 168,000 and change as far as we can tell. It's been everybody's second or third vehicle since new, imported into California. It has a reluctant 4 speed manual and no power steering, really not necessary if you keep the wheels moving. There have been times, when I have been in a hurry, and it was the closest thing to my feet I have jumped in it and fled at 75mph indicated (I have no idea how really fast I am going but the speedo is in the ballpark). It goes shopping with the girls, who learned how to shift in it, and my girlfriend thinks its cozy. Everybody in the family drives it and it is an adopted member of same. I'll probably be buried in it. Thank you, Aaron, well done.
In the late '80s I had a '71 Porsche 914 that was in good enough shape that I got it for about $1700. A little rusty, and had been bent a couple of times. I don't know how safe it would have been if I had actually tried to take it up to speed, but a local junior college had a perimeter drive around the campus that I don't think had a straight section, and had about a 15 or 20 mph limit, and that 914 was a lot of fun going around between classes at about 35! My current toy is a '70 VW Karmann Ghia convertible, which still has its original 57 hp 1600 single port engine. (And also its original convertible top, which is not much more weather proof up than down, but I hope to get that fixed this winter.) Up until a few months ago the VW was backup to a "02 F150 with 344,000 miles on its V6, and both vehicles were getting to the point where not running the mileage up was more important than getting there in a hurry, so when I needed to travel I usually set Google Maps to find the shortest route, which often meant the "scenic route" rather than the interstates. Since I retired this spring I suspect that when the world opens back up and I start to travel again I will probably go out of my way to take the scenic route. Even in my "new" F150, which is only 8 years old and only has 100,000 miles
Makes sense — esp. for those of us over say, 40, with slowing reflexes. My in-town riding is now only on my 250 cc Vespa — I reserve my motorcycle for out-of-town runs. The Vespa is more than fast enough for all urban riding.
I am fortunate enough to own both ends of the spectrum. My 2018 Mustang GT is, what I call, "stupid fast". Way more power than anyone needs in a street vehicle, but it is a blast to drive when road and traffic allow. Not to mention the wonderful noises it makes. My other ride is a 1987 Bertone (Fiat) X-1/9 that I have owned since '92. I cannot think of a better way to enjoy 75hp. I can drive it like I stole it with no fear of losing my license. It carves up the back roads of New Hampshire like a scalpel and as long as I can get in and out of it (I'm 72) I'll drive the piss out of it.
I agree. I know guys with really fast modern era cars. I do not think any of them have "pressed" them to their potential. Most streets, highways, traffic and laws will not allow it. I had a 2006 Corvette convertible with a 6 speed manual that would scoot pretty well but rarely did. Sold it. I still have a 1969 Road Runner with a 383, 4 speed and an exhaust "note" that will scare little old ladies. The RR is much slower than the Corvette but much more fun.
Agree slow is great. I love to go out in my 1936 Auburn boat tail speedster convertible kit car. It sits on a 83 Chevy chassis. Sure gets a lot of interest while driving and at car shows. Keeping those 3 in white wall tires clean can keep you busy. Here in Arizona I can drive year round.
We spent 22 years retired in Florida. The only convertibles I had there was a 1926 T touring and a 1977 Vette T top. The tops were rarely lowered/removed. Now back in Illinois I own a 1931 Model a convertible. ... called a phaeton. Most likely, that top will never go down.
Could not agree more! I am lucky enough to have 4 fun cars. Three of mine have well in excess of 400 horsepower but the fourth is my Opel GT with maybe 100 horses but is very light and nimble and an absolute blast to carve canyons in. If I find time for a short drive the little Opel puts a smile on my face every time.
a buddy of mine had a ZO6 corvette and a 90s 3-series BMW, and he said he actually liked to drive the BMW more because the vette would just mash and go, but you had to work and wind the beemer to get the performance out of it under normal human driving conditions. I can't say i'm exactly the same - i like a car that launches like a rocket, but what it does between 0 and 100 is way more important than a car that can do 160+ On the other end, i have driven a few underpowered cars in my driving history, and i tend to beat them mercilessly trying to eek performance out of them, and i have learned to avoid them no matter how practical they may be
I'm definitely not going to go as far (or as old) as the author in enjoying driving slow cars fast! However, isn't this what every Miata driver preaches to anyone that will listen? The 1 car I had that was perfect for this type of driving was my 1998 Ford SVT Contour, it handled well, sounded great, and was an absolute blast to drive as you could drive it at 8/10ths all the time!
Driving an MG TD and racing an MG Midget, I have come to appreciate your philosophy. Fifteen years ago, I sold my 911 because I was getting too many speeding tickets. Last year I sold my S2000...because I was getting too many speeding tickets. I never get tickets in my MG. And I can buy expensive bourbon with the saved money.
I have a 1960 Sprite with a top speed brand new from the factory of 84 MPH, and a 0 to 60 over 20 seconds. It is ridiculously low geared though and through the turns to 40 it is a hoot! It is easy to see the logic to the slow car argument as around town there is zero sacrifice and country roads feel like LeMans to me. Let the rich guys brag about their horsepower and statistics, I am happy to quietly listen and terrorize the neighborhood all within the speed limit.
I still remember the first time the car salesman took me for a ride around the abandoned go-cart track in my future Austin Healey Sprite. Took years to get the smell off the passenger seat. Yet I ended up swapping in a GM 327 and 3 - 2 barrel carbs.
I had a 1963 Rambler American with a slightly warmed up 195.6 six cylinder. About 170 GROSS HP... which equates to about 120 hp NET (modern car rating). Hardly a power house, though torque started coming in right off idle even with my custom cut cam. Up to 40-45 mph (about 1800 rpm, IIRC) it drove like stock (anything but quick...), but the slightly bigger cam (0.10" more lift, 20 degrees more duration) woke it up over that, gave it a little passing/hill/speed holding power. Over 4K rpm the long stroke small bore six (3.125" bore, 4.250" stroke) sounded like it could tear itself apart. I modified the suspension enough that it was like a roller skate on rails. My back country road driving was simple... just don't drop under 40-45 mph. A friend with a 76 Trans-Am often braced himself on the dash and jumped a little as we entered a 30-35 mph curve at 40-45. I remarked to him o0nce that he knew the car would easily handle that, why did it seem to scare him sometimes (it would take some curves better than his heavy T/A!!)?? I'll never forget the reply..."Yeah, but it's NOT SUPPOSED TO!!" I get it... it's a 63 Rambler American two door sedan, who'd suspect it to be a corner carver??? Wish I still had it sometimes, but it DID need something with a bit more low speed power.. but it was still fun once you got to know it...