Singing from Six Cylinders.

18 01 2008

The day is nearly here when the songs will end. No more operatic bellowing from European exotics, no more throbbing baritone howls from big V8s and no more snorting and snuffling as Japanese power plants come on and off of boost. Fuel is getting expensive and electric alternatives are becoming viable. Soon the song of the fire breathers will be leaving this earth.

A lot of “experts” will tell you good riddance, they will claim there is no more music in the emissions from a cars exhaust than there is in the emissions of an overweight uncle after Christmas dinner. And they’d be wrong.

The ballad of internal combustion is a primeval tune. Many of us have lost touch as we grew older and now consider it nothing more than noise. But you only need to look at the face of a toddler drifting to sleep from the sonorous lullaby of the family car or children racing about, emulating their favorite four wheeled musicians. You’re welcome to disagree with me, you’re entitled to call it noise, but before you consider me a fool I’ll ask for just one request. Go and ask a 5 year old whether they think the work of Mozart or the howling of a pack of V8 Supercars is more exciting. Cars sing, there’s no denying that, the question is if you remember how to listen.

Even if you cant hear the songs of fire, I can tell you there are still petrol drinking vocalists that can bring you back. The wall of sound from a top fuel dragster or the Valkyrie like wail of an F1 car will have you reeling with their sheer power. The whistling turbos and explosions from the exhaust of a WRC car will resonate with your heart beat, and the enraged bellow from an Aston Martin driven in anger is guaranteed to make your hair stand on end. These cars will move you, even if you aren’t sitting inside them.

Well at least they still can for a little while… I acknowledge the internal combustion engines have to go. We’re running out of fuel, and the environmental damage they’ve caused has been nightmarish. I know and understand these things, but when the day comes I’ll still shed a tear. Like a diva with outrageous demands they’ve worn out their welcome, but by god when they sang they could make time stand still.

So where to from here? Once the last car falls silent, struck mute by the march of progress, will the revheads disappear? Will the enthusiasm run out when an excited roar turns into a washing machine like whir? Will the car become nothing more than a tool to move us from a to b?

Well of course it bloody well wont! Cars are an art form and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have something to say on the subject. Perhaps they like them small and cute like a Copen or huge and imposing like a 300C, sleek and sexy like a 430 Modena or bulging and muscular like the R8 Commodore. Or perhaps they are completely devoid of taste and like Hummers, takes all sorts. Whatever the style everyone will have a preference, something they find hidden within the body work of these wonderful machines that they believe represents them, their personality, something innately human. Cars, like all good art, make a statement and every one of us can hear them when the time comes to buy one.

That’s why the soul of cars will live on. That’s why the enthusiasts will never fade away. Cars might stop singing, but they will always have something to say. I’ll miss the sound of a burbling engine, but as I sat in a park the other day I looked at a statue by Stuart Elliot. It never had an engine, it’s never moved. It was simply the shape of an FJ Holden Ute skillfully carved from bricks and just as loveable as the real thing. Children scampered over and ran around it, that pile of bricks made them happy, it made them feel. That means it’s alive and it has soul. As long as we as human beings retain our humanity, the car will be more than a tool, more than a machine. The car will always have personality. It will be our traveling companion, our friend who will bring us the world at the turn of a key.

Well that’s it for sight and sound. I’m not going to bother with the senses of smell and taste. While I’m sure for some there is a thrill in licking a car seat, it’s not really what I’d call art. Of course there is that final aspect of cars, the feel. Did you know they dance? As a matter of fact there is an Alfa in the driveway for my next test which is just dying for me to come tango. Believe me, in my review I’ll tell all. Perhaps she will whisk me through corners, and need a steady hand to stay under control. Maybe she’ll be smooth and svelte or rude and harsh… it’s hard to tell with Alfa’s. Anyway my mum raised me to be a gentleman, so I won’t linger any longer pondering what I’m in for. After all, everyone knows it’s bad manners to keep an Alfa waiting.

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