DICK JOHNSON said that all you get from looking backwards is a sore neck.
He’s certainly right in a motorsport context, but doesn’t quite apply to cars.
Hero cars from yesteryear are still acquirable (with the right coin) exactly as they were the day they left the factory. And in some aspects performance cars were absolutely better back in the day, safety not limiting stylists, and engineers able to experiment and take bigger risks.
But let’s not kid ourselves, performance cars in 2016 are vastly, vastly better cars – safer, better to drive, more comfortable and much better value.
Take Bang For Your Bucks 1996. The BMW 328i knocks off 14 other cars at Phillip Island to be our third-ever Bang champ. Its 142kW 2.8-litre straightsix was good for 0-100km/h in a surprisingly perky 6.6sec. But it cost $85,650. In 1996. Translated to 2016 money, that’s about $110K (based on inflation, a crude calculation but proves the point).
Or fast forward another 10 years, to Bang For Your Bucks 2006. Holden’s new, 270kW VE SS smokes a whopping 25-car field. “400M in 13.4! $45,000!
Who’s your daddy?” splashed our cover. Pretty healthy numbers, but 45-large in 2006 is about $57K today. Consider the kind of SS that gets you now.
At the same 2006 event the twin-clutch MkVI VW Golf GTI had a crack at our occasionally befuddling but always effective Bang formula. It cost $42,490. Today’s MkVII direct descendent is $43,490 and a vastly superior performance car. And the MkVI Golf GTI was Golf R money in its day.
Of course, I have a bad feeling I’m telling a lot of you to suck eggs here – cars are better than ever? Did you know fire is hot, and water is wet? – but I’ve seen nostalgia win out over common sense too many times. For all our problems it’s worth reminding that affordable performance cars are, as a bunch, the best they have ever been. Makes total sense that our Bang For Your Bucks 2016 field – which kicks off this issue – should be the strongest, most potent ever. But it shouldn’t be surprising.