This summer I have, in a rather unexpected turn, become massively interested in automobiles. Particularly, What could I drive that goes really fast? is the concerning question. Perhaps it was a day of boredom while surfing the Internet, or maybe it was the opportunity to drive a generous man’s Saturn Sky, but I found my way to Edmunds Inside Line YouTube channel and the snarky BBC production Top Gear.
Now if I had a little over $100,000 dollars I would probably put it in a conservative mutual fund, or invest in gold and live off the interest. Or I might put a substantial down payment on a desirable home, and perhaps mark some dollars to charity. I certainly wouldn’t have to worry about paying for a good education! But if I was to be foolish and look for a cheap thrill, I most definitely would blow it on the 2009 Corvette ZR1, an absolute marvel of auto engineering from America’s latest bankrupt car company.
See it drag race!
Of course owning such a machine would be highly impractical. And if we are going to be impractical it would be far more easy on the gas budget to consider Top Gear’s incredible Project: Sipster. There goal was to build a car that would do 0-60 in 7 seconds yet get 70 MPG all for the price of $7,000. All you need is a shell of an old 1980’s VW Rabbit, a brand new 2009 VW Turbo Diesel engine, lots of chintzy aerodynamic paneling, and tons of patience (three mechanics with master’s degrees with expensive tools would help too).
The project’s stated goal was to declare war on poverty, oil, and slow cars, but the exercise actually does set an interesting challenge to automakers: can their be good performance and fuel efficiency all rolled into one for an affordable price? Obviously, a brand new product rolling off the Ford plant would look much different and be far more expensive (no one wants to buy a rusty new car!), but it would be interesting to see what they could come up with.
VW’s TDI engine is a marvel that seems to show the way forward. Diesel’s have come a long way since their 33HP ancestors. They are quieter, more powerful, start better, run cleaner, and can be tuned to get nice low-end torque at an easy 40MPG rating. If automobiles collectively worked towards the goals of the Sipster they wouldn’t have to worry about bankruptcy, there would be less of an oil problem, and people could drive with a fair amount of enjoyment.
Although, I have to say the Ford Focus engine can be tuned to do some pretty amazing things: