Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Viva Retro!

5ivegears has had something of a Disraeli* policy towards car magazines recently, but one that's always eagerly awaited is Retro Cars.

For the unenlightened, the magazine's constituency is (mainly UK) popular cars from 1960 to the early 1980s upgraded with modern components. To the hardened 'classicist' this might seem sacrilegeous, but the ingenuity and rather skewed regard for history is a constant source of delight. The magazine is reminiscent of nothing quite so much as mid-70's 'Hot Car' except that the modifier's pallet is augmented with components from thirty years into the future.

Many of the shibboleths are familiar - VG95 pads, 829 cam, 28/36DCD... To these can be added the Vauxhall XE, this being the modern engine of choice regardless of the marque of the receiving vehicle. (I seem to recall this elite group included a revived Munch motorcycle) It's a living reminder that nerd-ery was very much alive when the zenith of desktop technology was a multi-function sliderule.

More to test the philosophy than stretch it to the outer limits, I mentally concocted 5ivegears' fantasy Retro Car.

Casting away thoughts of a VW Passat VR6 powered Lancia Fulvia, or a Honda Z600 (see above) with a Blackbird motorcycle powertrain in place of the back seat, I came up with a Mk.1 or Mk.2 Escort shell with a fast road / tarmac rally suspension set-up. Restored bodyshells are available, at a price, but far more rigid and rustproof than when they originally left Halewood. Just about everything else can be bought new. Power would come from a 2 litre Zetec with a Type 9 five-speed gearbox. According to the adverts (always a signifier of a publication's quality) an engine management system is available which allows an internally unmodifed engine to develop a reliable, economical and tractable 204bhp. (There may be some significance in this figure...)

The whole thing would probably cost more than a new Focus ST, or a decent used E46 M3, but would test my notion that a powerful and utterly reliable modern engine in a light 1970s bodyshell, unencumbered by windbags, air-con, powered electrics and intrusion bars, but with evolved tyres, dampers and bushes, could be a perfect recipe for driving pleasure.

Other demands on my limited funds will ensure it won't happen, but I can still find £3.99 for the entertainment Retro Cars provides. Follow my example, buy it in vast quantities, be inspired and amused.

Or, as Mr. Honda said, "Never underestimate the power of dreams".

* Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) - "When I want to read a novel I write one"

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