Who remembers the petrol strikes of the early 80s - the queues to fuel up, the odds-evens system employed (if your number plate ended in an odd number you could fill up on odd-number days, provided you could find a servo that was open!) All of a sudden we went from a society having a love affair with the V8 engine, to one more in tune with fuel consumption. As a popular spoof 4-cylinder car advertisement of the time went - "Feels like a sardine can, handles like a wet sponge, but it DOES have four cylinders!"
The Good Old Days....
What happened to the old days when cars had personality - when each make had its own distinctive trademark and one could tell at a glance exactly what it was?
When owning a bug-eyed Sprite or an MGB really MEANT something, and a sunny day and a winding stretch of road were all you needed to reach the pinnacle of excitement - just you and your
machine pitted against an endless ribbon of bitumen, with the wind whipping your hair and the tyres threatening to part company with the car as you take a corner on the very limit of adhesion, all the while the engine screaming its wild, sweet song as you wind it up for yet another hill that sees the engine's note change to a throaty, burbling roar as you shuffle through the gears.
It seems so long ago, in these days of cardboard cut-out clone cars where the only method of telling one from another is by reading the badgework, and "What'll she do?" no longer means miles per hour but miles per gallon, and it's become positively anti-social to own anything bigger than a 2-litre donk.
I feel sorry for the youth today, who straight from gaining their licenses are press-ganged into their Toymotors and It'sRubbishis. Never will they know the excitement of lining up your GTR against a hulking great Phase Three GTHO on a mountain road where the corners come up so fast that your arms are permanently crossed on the wheel in a Jim Clark imitation, and he may catch you on the straights but by God you get him on the twisty bits.
No, the fuel-conscious generation of today will cherish as their most prized achievement a consumption figure of 45 mpg, rather than a standing quarter time in the low 14s.
But, once a month when the moon is full and the night is still, garage doors all over the country are secretly opened and we closeted lead-footers release our fire-breathers from their social prisons, once again to re-live the halcyon days of yesteryear with the mountain gullies echoing the big V8's song of freedom; where you quickly learn the limits of your skill as you wrestle the ill-handling beast round bends at twice the posted speed, tyres howling in protest at the demand placed upon them. Then you give the brakes the big ask coming into a hairpin and for a moment your life is in the hands of two tiny pieces of fried Ferodo; and suddenly you're around and it's ok and you're lining up for the next one, two wheels across the centre line on your approach in search of the quickest and smoothest line through, just clipping the verge as you exit with daylight showing between the front wheel and the tar.
Today's generation will never know any of this.
Sad, isn't it?
Copyright remains with author 1982.
Illustrations that accompanied -