Why is it always a sports car?
When was the last time a niche manufacturer set itself up in business to make anything other than a lightweight sports car or a heavyweight supercar? Meanwhile, the stock trade of modifiers and tuners is to make cars lighter and firmer, to fit bigger engines or increase power.
Even those who completely recreate classics – such as Singer and Eagle – usually choose sports cars like the Porsche 911 and Jaguar E-type as starting points. It’s generally about the stiffening and the steering, the body control and the keenness; the beginning and the end is both with and for those who take pleasure in driving briskly.
Which is fine. Great, even. Who doesn’t love a sports car? Who isn’t excited about Zenos Cars or the new Caterham-Alpine joint venture? I know that when a new Volkswagen Golf is launched, my thoughts immediately turn to what the GTI will be like. And which of us hasn’t heard promises as empty as those from Keating Supercars from about 30 different sources over the past decade? Fast cars get our attention.
But why does no one ever come along and say: “You know what? We’re going to make a new niche car that’s really, really comfy.”?
Wouldn’t that be nice, just once in a while? I’d like to meet a company that says: “What we’re going to do is make a beautiful saloon or coupé, with a smooth, reliable drivetrain, with lots of quilted leather, perhaps even a bench front seat. We’ll give it ABS and a 21st century sound and climate control system. And soft springs. Then you can waft.”
It would still, most likely, be a weekend kind of car, but one for all occasions, one suited to the kind of road conditions you meet most often. I bet if I had something like that, I’d use it more frequently than I would any sports motorcycle or lightweight track car.
Don’t get me wrong. Like you, I’m a massive fan of Caterham Sevens. I rolled home from Lincolnshire in one the other day, hood keeping out the drizzle, the phenomenal heater slow-roasting my leg, left arm draped across the luggage on the passenger seat and right arm resting on the door sill.
It did an okay job at easing away the miles, but as I travelled, I reckoned there might be a place in the world for an expensive special made for lowering, not increasing, the pulse rate.
Still, although nobody creates a new car like that, if you look hard enough, you can find those who tweak classic saloons with modern touches. And given a galvanised body, unmouldy carpets, proper sealing and decent air-conditioning, one of those sounds rather splendid. Imagine something like that based on, I don’t know, a Mercedes W114, a Jaguar XJC or Volvo Amazon. A car made for pure, unadulterated pampering.