Supercars: The Move From Prima Donnas To Run Of the Mill Machinery

There has been a gradual transition in the meaning of the word 'supercar' over the past decade. Up until this point, the general notion of a supercar was one that leapt out at you, grabbed you and was an overt image of everything that you wanted to be. The supercar was an object of desire for many a young boy who would blu-tac a picture to his wall and dream of owning one in the future. This relates to the Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Detomaso's and Porsches of the time to name but a few. In fact the list goes on, and includes cars which were only really available to the 'Elite' of society, say, Sheikhs, Barons and Millionaires. The supercar was a clear depiction of wealth and opulence, but not necessarily of taste. All of the above were specifically built with the aim of achieving a shock value, whether that focuses on the looks of the car or the power, but the manufacturer would always try to encorporate both (some more successfully than others).

Take the Lamborghini Countach. This certainly has the 'wow' factor when it comes to styling, and was also packing a very heavy punch with regards to power; the 1982 LP500S model had a 0-60 mph of 5.6 seconds and topped out at 164 mph. Drive one of these through your local high Street and I guarantee everyone will look in awe.

Moving on to present day though, and it seems that the transition is present not in the form of even more garish or flash automobile designs, but rather in producing cars that are conservative and purposeful. Now we are surrounded with a plethora of vehicles that easily match the performance of the Countach (and all of it's rivals for that matter) in the past, but do so in a way which does not scream and shout about it. This point can be proven time and time again just by comparing some modern cars to their predecessors. The new Audi RS6 Avant, which arrived in the UK in August, has a mind boggling 0-60 time of just 4.6 seconds and a limited top speed of 170 mph. This trounces the Lamborghini in every department, oh, and did I mention that it's an estate?! Instead of brutish looks, combining angled louvres and sloppy lines, the Audi appears modern, fresh and dignified. To the untrained eye, it even looks like a run-of-the-mill shopping car. It does'nt jump out at you and yell 'Look at me!'. For me, this just goes to show how car manufacturers have progressed in leaps and bounds to offer the consumer complete satisfaction without the embarassment.

Though these leaps and bounds have not happened in the car industry without their fair share of trips and falls. The Audi and countless other cars that today often have substantially more power ( including the Mercedes CL63 AMG or BMW M5) than cars from twenty odd years ago, but it has to be asked; where is the individuality? The boorish looks and the egotistical nature that should be the most important selling point of the modern performance car has been lost in a sea of mass production and market figures replacing passion and ingenuity. Though the idea of a modern supercar such as an Audi or Mercedes in a 4 door guise with a huge boot and space in the rear does seem appealing, the sheer attraction to the older cars that were considered as being 'out of the box' will never fade.

 So now, one can safely say that the supercar available to the consumer is very different to the supercar available between 20 and 30 years ago, and that the word has a completely different meaning, which in turn, has lead manufacturers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini to create new market niches, commonly known as hypercars to whet our appetites. The Lp640 being an adequate contender or perhaps the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The only question is, that in another 20 years time, will the hyper car mean something completely different to what it does today? I'd certainly put money on that...................

Comments

Nice article mate.

Didn't understand parts of it (not really into cars to be honest) but it's very well written.

By AlanMcGuinness

Agreed with Alan there mate, nice one!

Haha I love the part where you reminisce about the youthful tendency to display posters on bedroom walls with cars (I did exactly the same, I had a Lamborghini Diablo, an Audi Quattro and also because I like F1, a picture of Thierry Boutsen's Benetton and a Kawasaki Ninja bike) and it brings back great memories.

Noticeably with the cars of the modern era, like you say, there are few too many which do not display individuality. I always liked the amazing design of the Jaguar XJ220 and had a model of it in my bedroom (amongst many other model cars haha), with its superb door design, with the doors lifting vertically upon opening, same with the Lambo' Countach - I had a model of that too of which the door came off, as did my BMW 328 model, haha I wasn't very careful with them unfortunately - and it shows something fresh and unique. Nowadays, as you say, there are too many cars with the same interiors and panelling exteriors which go unnoticed because they are the same.

Also, apart from the wonderful Lamborghinis and Ferraris (I love the design of the F355, again I had a model of it) mentioned, I have noticed a lof the cars mentioned in your article are German manufacturing, which perhaps reflects the age old "German Efficiency" tag. Unlike Ferraris and Lambos, that despite unbelievable power, have an extraordinary ability to fall apart and break down, Porsches, BMWs and Mercs' are a class above in their all round package. Even as far back as the Merc' 500SL in the '80s, the models have never failed to disappoint and their ability to develop and adjust to the market by opening up the door for people carriers with their A-CLass range was a bloody good idea in my opinion.

I also agree that older cars had a greater 'out of the box' feel, the Ford Capri MK3 2.8i (which my Dad once owned, but later had it knicked unfortunately) for example had a superb 0-60mph rate of around 6-7 seconds which was damn quick and apparently he once drove it down the M20 in the night at around 120mph! haha.

Bloody good article and lots to discuss there. Some models particularly the curvy BMW 3 and 5 series (particularly the 5) declined around the 2003-2005 era and became too blocky, but have since had a slight rejuvenation in my opinion. Though the BMW 540, M5 and such are in a different class to some of the outrageously poor BMW1 series, despite some of the Cabriolets and Coupes of that series being quite nice.

As for Porsche, the only criticism I have with them is that they tend to re-launch virtually the same model of 911s. They have had the 911 for years and particularly the Carrera, which just goes up 1-2-3-4 etc, though the recent 997 Turbos and GT3s look and perform amazingly. To be honest though, I'd love a TVR Cerbera or Griffith, they make probably the best acceleration noise ever and the chassis which has to be fitted around those enormous V8 engines ensures they're a masterpiece.

Apparently recently Peugeot have developed a concept car would you believe (like a super/hypercar) called the 908HY which is more prominent for GT racing like in the Le Mans 24 Hours and I think was used this year.

Anyway, here's a clip of some autobahn driving for you. I tried to find the BMW M5 one too, but the 540 one's amazing, I love the 540! This is driven to its limiter speed 155mph, otherwise I think 540s reach a top speed of 175-80mph.

Here is another clip for you on the autobahn. It's appropriate to listen to Kraftwerk's Autobahn whilst watching I reckon.

 

SORRY FOR THE MONUMENTAL POST!!!

By stuartwilson

Thanks for the comments guys.

Blimey Stuart, that M5 drift is insane, so well held! And the 540i just proves my point how great car manufacturers (of which there are only really three or four: VAG, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Porsche)now make blistering performance so effortless.

I too have got the Coutach 1/18 scale model, as well as about 20 others which stand me in a small fortune!

As we're posting great videos, here are a couple of my personal favourites showing that with a fair amount of fabrication and mechanical skill, even a supercar can become one of the laughing stock.

Enjoy! 

By alexfisk

Well, apparently as a young girl I was suppose to be pre-occupied with marrying Ken and Barbie, but I can't say that was true.* I always dreamed of owning a Triumph Spitfire or a MGA. In fact I still do. This week the MGA was voted one of the top 10 sexiest cars of all time! :D

 

I can't say that I'm impressed by the Audi, possibly because it's an estate car. Who really needs a car that can go up to 170mph to take the kids to school in the morning?

 

* I was often found chopping off Barbie's hair though... not sure if that constitutes "playing". I was always the evil twin.

 

Here are the links that I intended to include in my comment - only my link box is currently popping up blank and it's not allowing my own codes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Spitfire 

http://www.morrisgarage.com/mga/mga2.jpg

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/sep/28/motoring.cars1

By Rebecca Hughes

wow, it really is a breath of fresh air that you like these classic cars. They are both great looking cars, but trying to find one that is'nt completely rusted away or seized solid is getting harder by the day. They are still very popular cars though and a great dream to aspire to.

My Dad used to be a car dealer (amongst many many other occupations ot do with cars) and he owned loads of spitfires and a couple of MGAs. He was more interested in his austin healey 3000 which had a jaguar e type engine in it. Actually hes still got an E type in mid restoration, which is a pretty cool car too.

Do you like other MGs? Because he also owns this. Its a completely unique drag racer which was handbuilt from an MG chassis. There isnt another one in the world that exists the same as this. Its a quarter mile racer and next year im going to be setting some strip times in it!

Admittedly, Ive always wanted a stag, i think they are so cool. But they really are awful beyond belief to own and run.

As for the Audi, I see what you're saying, but the sheer power and casual looks just draw me to it, i think it is one of the finest machines out there.

 

By alexfisk

Triumph Stag's eh?! My Grandad once owned a Stag, he loved it! Classic cars are much better Alex and Becci, totally agree with you. My girlfriend's Dad also once owned an MG Roadster, red and a good one for petrol I think according to him.

By stuartwilson

I saw an MG in the uni car park the other day - I was so jealous! Albeit it was green and I'd rather it was red. (Stuart, your girlfriend's Dad has good taste!)

As for the Austin Healey I prefer the Frogeye Sprite to the 3000, but they're both pretty awesome. I can't say I'm massively impressed by the Stag though; it's a bit more angular and masculine. 

That link isn't working for me, but I'm in love with the MGB Roadster as well. 

I know it's a powerful car etc. but I do think that it lacks the "wow" factor purely on its looks. It also doesn't sound quite so good when you go "yeah, I own an Audi" compared to "yeah I own an Aston Martin". Speaking of which I drove a DB7 a while back... oh my gosh it's amazing.

By Rebecca Hughes

Haha, yeah I know he does have good taste you're right! Believe me I think your taste is brilliant and OMG you drove a DB7?! BLOODY HELL?! That must have been wonderful?! Question is, was it better than a Vanquish?

By stuartwilson

It was amazing. You can take a bend at 90 and still feel in total control. Unfortunately I haven't ever tried a Vanquish, but I imagine it's better.

By Rebecca Hughes

... but I owned a fabulous Triumph Herald 13/60 for a few years. You couldn't quite take a bend at 90 in it. In fact if you took a bend above about 9, the passenger door tended to fly open. But with the sun out, and the roof down, there was no better feeling.

By Ian Reeves --

Ian Reeves is deputy head of the Centre for Journalism

Sounds a bit of a death trap Ian, though as you say, sounds good for cruising around on country roads in, or around the Amalfi coast in.

By stuartwilson