By Tom Iervolino
Welcome to mid-summer and all the great events that NNJR has to offer! We have soooo many great volunteers that make NNJR a very special region and a pleasure to belong to. I am not going to list everything that is coming up so be sure to check our web site calendar, our monthly email blast or this magazine and plan the rest of your summer fun.
Speaking of summer fun, besides being on the track with my GT3 (as most of you know where you can find me on as many weekends as possible……). I did a little research on “Summer Fun” cars and thought I would share the result.
Ferrari 458 Italia
Is it sacrilege to include this car on the list? Yes, it is not a Porsche but come on, a Ferrari (any Ferrari that is maintained by someone else LOL) in summer time? OK, I love my manual transmission but this car is not available with a conventional manual transmission. Too bad, but it is the car you would want to use to wear out a racetrack. The 458 stands as a triumph of fun not in spite of its technology, but because of it. Every surface, device and electron of this magnificent thing is aimed at absolute quickness of response. That is true of the carbon-ceramic brakes, the hyper-quick steering and the 4.5 liter V8 that zings up to its 9,000 rpm power peak about as rapidly as electrons zip through copper wire.
Yes, a Mazda Miata! The four-cylinder engine in the Mazda Miata produces almost exactly 400 fewer horsepower than the engine in the Ferrari 458. But no worries, the Miata makes about 100hp more than the first Honda CRX. Well, it’s not about power…or rather, it’s not only about power. Mazda had the basic look, performance envelope and control relationships (oh, that stubby little shifter!) down the moment the first generation arrived (with even less hp) more than 20 years ago. There is a reason the Miata is the best selling roadster of all time and more Miata’s are raced on any given weekend in America. Also, the top comes down.
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
What a pick-up truck?? Ask Tony Cristello how much fun he has in his Raptor. Quoting a well know source; “With the brawny and bold Raptor, Ford’s SVT unit took the whole idea of a hot-rodded pickup and turned it on its ear…and then kicked sand on it…and then jumped over it, flying with its wheels dangling at full droop like a hornet’s rear legs. There is simply nothing like the high-speed, desert-pummeling, ass-kicking, bitchin, wife-embarrassing awesomeness of the Raptor.” Need I say more?
Ford Shelby GT500
Speaking about the products of Ford’s SVT Group, the relatively small SVT group is responsible for many fun rides and Summer Fun cars. When the modern GT500 arrived on the scene it was, well, a push pig. It was pretty much the old one-dimensional muscle-car deal. That changed for 2010 with a substantial rework of the vehicle. That was enough to vault the GT500 onto many auto magazines Most Wanted list. Over time, the GT500 got a lighter, slightly more powerful aluminum-block motor and the SVT Performance package, which served to make the GT500 not just quicker but also better handling. This is truly a dual-mode vehicle now. It is capable of doing the knuckle-dragging muscle car thing: looking menacing, sounding wicked and vaporizing its Goodyear rear tires at will. But it is also a helluva track car too.
A friend of mine once told me that the best-handling car in the world is a rental car. That is cute and funny and also wrong. The best-handling car is the one that is not worth fixing and is already paid for. The best-handling car in the world is the beater. The beater is part transportation, part punching bag, driver-training vehicle, boudoir, ashtray, battering ram, you name it. I once owned a Mercury Capri in college (yes, I am dating myself) that had the acclaimed “Cosworth Engine” in it that was designed for “Autobahn driving”, or in my case, the Garden State Parkway at night. But it could be a 1978 Ford Fairmont with a 302. Or a 1978 Fairmont with the “Thriftmaster” inline 6. Or it might not be a 1978 Fairmont at all. Whatever it is, it should be cheap enough that you can walk away from it without a second thought, like a dried-up Bic pen. Its only value is that is has utterly no value. Beaters can also be used to make donuts.
What, you did not really think I would make it through a list of fun cars without mentioning that sacred cow of automotive journalists the world over, the BMW M3, did you? Drew, this is your moment!! It is actually one of the most fun vehicles on the market (I am sure it is on most folks top ten list). There might come a day when the M3 will need to be knocked from its pedestal. That day is not today. And while the few people who owned the original M3 (and the many more who wanted to) might bemoan the increased size, weight and cylinder count of the modern M3, it would take one drive to convince them of its essential goodness. Like many of its German brethren, the M3 is serious fun. No flyweight Lotus, the M3 is a weighty, solid thing. Like few cars new or old, the beautifully balanced M3 has always made its driver feel like a better driver than he or she is.
Ah yes, the good ole Caddie. This car is not your Coupe Deville or Eldorado. The Cadillac CTS-V is one serious car and is so damn impressive. I wonder if GM took a close look at the template laid out by the BMW M3 and M5?? But a couple of things set the CTS-V apart from the raft of BMW clones. First is the look, which is brash and flashy and American as all get-out. And then there is the little matter of the CTS-V’s hooligan streak. There is a muscle-car heart beating at the center of this upper-end sport sedan. It is a big-displacement, pushrod, blown V8 producing a tidal wave of torque and a nearly untouchable 556hp. Another car enthusiast once said; “It’s a power sliding, smoke-billowing, bird-flipping delinquent but it also has the high-speed stability and comfort to not just hang with but to stomp all comers.” Now that is fun.
Porsche Boxster Spyder
Finally, saving the best for last, the Boxster Spyder. The Spyder is the car everyone always wanted the Boxster to be. Despite my love of 911’s and especially GT3’s, the Spyder is the car I always wanted. The Spyder is a toy. With its confining seats, optional air-conditioning and wholly inadequate weather protection, the Spyder is designed not only to be loved by sports car purists but also despised by badge-hounds and trophy spouses. The 2,900 pound, 320hp Boxster Spyder and its perfect chassis tuning makes all those zillion-horsepower, fire-breathing super exotics seem a bit silly and desperate. Look at it this way: The Boxster Spyder is not much more than half as fast as the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport but I will bet it is every bit as much or more fun to drive. I cannot wait to see the new one in person.
So, in the end, pick your car, your favorite flavor, you favorite summer past-time and get out there and enjoy life and all NNJR has to offer.
See you out there. Tom Iervolino