Tuesday, 11 October 2011

COLUMN - October 2011

This is my column from the October edition of The Local Herald, which was based around American cars. Enjoy...

Gee Whizz! Make mine a V8.

Now let me begin by making this clear; there are a lot of things wrong with the United States. The crippling national debt of over $15 trillion. The nauseating patriotism which leads to a standing ovation for anybody who says the USA is ‘awesome’. The blame culture; how everything is somebody else’s fault, and therefore they should be sued. The portions of food which never fail to exceed the average wedding buffet. And worst of all, the ‘American dream’ in which everyone should have a helicopter and a swimming pool, regardless of who is exploited to make the money which pays for it.

This is a generalisation of course, but there is truth behind it. Whilst I disagree with the ‘bigger is better’ mentality when it comes to food (and consequently stomachs) the Americans seem to be onto a winner when they apply this logic to car engines.

The Japanese will always have their technology. The Italians like passion and soul, the Germans like functionality and the French like hot hatches.

The Americans on the other hand? They want a car that is big, and has a V8. Everything else is an afterthought. They use leaf spring suspension set ups which are more commonly found on ox carts. The dashboards are usually made from the kind of plastic used to keep your coffee spilling out of the cup at McDonalds, and the overall build quality is such that you would expect the car to last no longer than 20 minutes.

But because they are cheaply made, American cars are also cheap to buy. For example, the cheapest Ford Mustang is available for just $22,000; around £15,000. It has a 3.7 litre V6 and costs the same as a top-model Fiesta. This is exceptional value for money, and even the 19mpg fuel consumption is not too much of an issue due to cheaper fuel in the States.

Here are just some of the sports cars which are on sale in America: Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang GT, Cadillac CTS-V, Dodge Challenger SRT8, Dodge Charger R/T Max. All cost less than £50,000 and some are more towards the £20,000 mark. These cars look good, have a big V8 and a few hundred horsepower.

So why aren’t we all driving these muscle cars to the office? Well for starters, the fuel consumption would require us to remortgage our houses and sell our children. And then when we are on our way to work we will come across something rarely found in America; corners. American cars are not good at corners. The out-dated technologies are of little use and the driver will experience much discomfort trying to wrestle the big V8 around the bend. This ordeal will instill such terror that the next step is to go home and lock yourself in a cupboard.

So would I have one? Yes. Without a single hesitation. To cruise along to some rock music and a V8 burble is bliss. Regrettably, over here the high fuel and insurance costs would prevent most people from getting one. However in the land of the free, where the speed limit is 65mph and the highways are long and desolate; how better to head off towards the horizon? It just seems right.

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