Kevin S. Doyle
Holster your six shooters. Leave the dogs at home. Don't invite any cousins, because today we're not taking the Suburban to the supermarket. We're taking the Corvette to the cafe.
Words that so many children in the style conscious households of America know so well. The infestation of sport utility vehicles seems to be here to stay, but the original bastion of motortrendiness is still number one. The sports car is an age old slice of American life, and as the century of the automobile draws to a close we look to these speedy little racers as the crowning achievement of an industry.
Sports cars are not popular just because of the chrome. It is the entire concept. The goal of the engineers has been to create the fastest, smallest vehicles that technology will allow. Today we worship the boxsters and roadsters of Germany, the coupes of America and the demons of Italy. A sports car represents the highest level of technological accomplishment with complete disregard for the rules of design efficiency. A perfect combination for the country where cars are filling the roads at an exponential rate.
The desire for speed is an ancient passion. Yet as the ancient man was content with just a single horse, modern engineering has put the power of four hundred into the belly of a fiberglass frame. With that much gut wrenching torque, a driver can feel like Genghis Khan riding a whole army through the streets of a city. The scream of a barbaric motor can raise children from their beds and strike fear in the heart of pedestrians.
Petroleum prices are at an all time low. Even the premium grade required by most seventy plus thousand dollar vehicles has dropped to nearly a dollar a gallon. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than burning rubber and drag racing cops in their zero-to-sixty-in-half-an-hour-Ford-Expeditions. Engine designers know that money is no object when it comes to sports cars. Necessities like turbos, spoilers and fuel injectors will take sports cars into the new millennium before any Pathfinder can locate the road. Drivers won't have to worry themselves with Hindenberg-ish explosions in their new Porsche Boxter 2000 that sports a petite 2.5 gallon gas tank. That's not even enough fuel to blast through the aluminum foil reinforced side panels! At five miles to the gallon, one might wonder about the limited cruising range of these types of cars, but Porsche and others have recently announced plans to replace gas powered engines with nuclear reactors. Sources indicate that the range of this new class of nuclear cars will be on the order of a light year, and top speeds should be near 2,500 mph.
Speed and fuel efficiency are important components of the sports car equation, but when it comes right down to it, size matters. Some of the newest marvels like the BMW Z-3 Roadster or the Accura NSX are one tenth the size of most SUVs. In fact, Nissan plans to add a "boxter rack" to the new Xterra for storing sports cars on those long trips. Aerodynamics are maximized by sleek, low to the ground designs. The sassy chassis enable Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the like to slip between 18-wheelers on even the narrowest byways and flyways. Safety is always an issue when studying automobiles, and the sports car is perfect for modern roads. Many of the new SUVs have over two feet of ground clearance. The roof of the newest corvette stands only twenty one inches off the road. As long as the tires can be avoided there will be virtually no accidents between cars of these two classes. Even if an accident should occur, fourteen airbags per car would deploy and the nearly unbreakable fiberglass shells would protect the passengers from harm.
The last thing to remember about sports cars is that the size allows a minimum amount of seating. Today's high tech world is moving people away from each other at a faster rate than ever, so why waste time with friends when you can have a sports car. Sarah Sohm '99 put it best when she said that "cars with two seats are for people with zero to one friends." Dodge has even eliminated the need to spend countless hours hunting for that one friend with the single seat Viper. Steve Martin owns two.
If you don't have a family, or if you really don't like your family all that much, no one needs a car with nine seats. Besides, in a car that can break the speed limit in less than four seconds, drivers don't want to be stuck in the carpool lane, because you can't pass the minivans and SUVs holding up the traffic.
So maybe some day you'll be a rich executive looking for a car to impress the folks at the office. Or maybe you'll be sports hero trying to find a car that says "I'm a descent human being, not a money hungry freak who just cares about image." Or maybe you'll be a supermodel who can't reach the pedals of any of the SUVs you want to test drive. But hopefully when you find yourself in any of these predicaments (or all of them at the same time), you'll think back to the glory days of the sports car in the 1990s and shell out the money for a car that costs more than four years of tuition so that you can say "I drive a sports car: the pinnacle of modern engineering."