Road tests from the Seventies
In 1977 seven sports cars (to demonstrate 7 styles of sports car) were taken to Prescott Hill Climb Course for comparison:-

CATERHAM SUPER SEVEN

All cloth cap and wet elbows

AN ICY DRAUGHT whips across your neck from the gap between hood and sidescreen; steady drips of rain plop onto your thigh from the edge of the hood; as you come up to overtake slower cars the spray from their back wheels forces itself with surprising velocity through the gap between windscreen and hood, drenching your face. The raucous engine noise resonates through your skull, the road surface imprints its patterns on your spinal column through suspension that does anything but suspend.
Yet, manage to twist your stiff and overweight body out of the confining cockpit, by lowering your hands onto a muddy pavement, then try complaining about it all in the local pub and you won't find much sympathy.
"It's a sports car, you have to expect that sort of thing, comes the chorused reply as you wipe off a muddy hand, ease some life back into an aching clutch ankle, settle your damp thigh on a bar stool, and try to calm the resonations in your skull with a soothing pint.

Truly, no car has a more vivid image than the traditional British sports car. Hard ride, leaky soft-top, noisy engine, Spartan interior - the staff of life for British enthusiasts these past forty years, even in our unpredictable weather. For every rainy day is followed by a sunny one, and then the problems just disappear; put the hood down and the sun shines in, a warm breeze laps around your hair, the noise disappears, even the ride seems to ease.

But we are more desirous of our creature comforts these days, and fewer enthusiasts are keen enough to put up with the problems in order to enjoy the. delights. Sports cars have gone soft, with hardtops and heaters, carpets and soundproofing. The MGB has become the TR 7. The TR 6 has become the TR7.

Yet there is still a small, steady market for those who love to drive with the wind in their hair. Those who are young enough not to worry about discomforts, and can afford new cars, and those older enthusiasts who are generally sensible enough to have a more comfortable steed in reserve. Morgans traditionally fill the bill and so too did the kit cars before VAT and inflation killed them off. Now there are just a handful left.
Lotus founded their reputation' on the stock kit cars but stopped production of the Seven when they saw that increased costs demanded a move up-market. Cleverly their former distributors, Caterham Cars, decided to take over production on a smaller scale, reverting to the aluminium Series III.

The Super Seven Series III represents the ultimate development of the little machine Caterham build the alloy-bodied car as it was in its hey-day, and slot a Big-Valve version of the Ford twin-cam engine in the nose giving 126 bhp in only 10.3 cwt of lightweight car. The one we road-tested some time ago reached 60 mph in 6.2 secs and 100 mph in 22.0 secs, with a 114 mph top speed!

But driving the Super Seven for the first time on a wet, dark night through London's traffic jams was no way to get acquainted. First of all one had to get in - there are no doors, just forward opening sidescreens and the driver slides one leg in, twists the other after it, and hopes he doesn't tear a muscle. Then drive away. Stall, drive away, stall. Finally master the technique of coping with the immensely heavy clutch. And off through the traffic jams peering through misted-up perspex.

The next day, on the route to Prescott along the M40 in pouring rain, understanding why most people buy TH7s, driving with that sort of angry, determined bitterness that characterises sports car drivers on a wet day.
Then at Prescott, the rain stops, hood and sidescreens come off, and the car is transformed. With its ratio of power to weight it goes like a slingshot under any circumstances. On a tight, winding greasy track it's everything that an enthusiast can desire - a snaking, wheel-spinning, sliding, roaring little monster, its driver feeding opposite-lock corrections through the marvellously high-geared and accurate steering, feeling that sense of elation that comes from being only on the edge of control as the Seven shakes its tail out of corners under power. On the damp track the car has to be driven with some circumspection; enter a corner too fast and it will understeer severely. Exit with too much throttle and the tail will snap out angrily. On Prescott only first and second gears are ever needed, the stubby gearshift allowing ultra-quick shifts at the expense of knuckles hitting the fascia.

The difficulty of feeding all its power into the wet road surface meant that the Super Seven wasn't the quickest car of the day up Prestcott, but it was certainly the most enjoyable. A driver had to work away at the car, arms whirling, raucous engine note screaming and falling constantly with throttle changes. Hard work but exhilarating.
Down deserted country lanes in the early hours of a sunny summer's, morning can there possibly be a nicer car to drive? Only perhaps a Morgan Plus 8. Yet the Seven has nothing to speak of in the way of creature comforts that will allow it to be driven with disdain in the wet or to ferry unenthusiastic girlfriends about.
True, it has a heater. But the blower switch gives only roasting heat when on or, naturally, chilling cold when off. A girlfriend won't like climbing in through those strange sidescreen doors in her long dress, and the side-screens also hamper three-quarter vision at angled junctions and in traffic. As an everyday car it's a disaster - but it's not going to be used by everyday drivers.

FIAT XI/9

See what Italian flair can do

TRADITIONALLY, the sports car has always been as much a virility symbol as a Roley watch or a Purdey shotgun and, just as there are less expensive ways of timekeeping and killing grouse, so. the traditional sports car cannot be considered a cost-effective way of transporting people. Bought by the young to undermine their virility before family responsibilities force a trade-in for the more conventional car, they are also favoured, a la recherche du temps perdu, by the middle aged who have shed that responsibility. Now that the dividing line between the Sports and GT car is becoming increasingly blurred, it is gratifying to see Fiat and Bertone getting together to produce the first of what will surely be a new generation of small and relatively cheap sports cars that set a new standard in handling and comfort.

The Fiat X 1/9 has a, removable Targa type top which can be stowed in the. front boot in half the time it takes to lower an MG's rag top and, more important, you can get it back in place before that sudden rain squall has had time to soak both you and the seats. The running gear is from the Fiat 128 3P with the engine behind the driver and in front of the rear axle line.

The increasing popularity of the Targa top has been forced on manufacturers by the rigid safety regulations now in force in America, where Fiat have exported nearly 50,000 X/9's. The heavily reinforced doors and roll-hoop do give good rollover protection and this, coupled with front and rear sections that are designed to deform progressively in an accident, make for a very safe car from the passive aspect. However, secondary protection of driver and passenger in an accident does not sell cars but primary protection does, for this is closely allied to good general handling and braking. Chassis designers tell us that the mid-engined configuration produces low, polar moments of inertia which, in layman's terms, means that the fat boy on the end of the seesaw is moved nearer to the pivot point to balance the weight of his thin friend at the other end. This, combined with a clever arrangement of track control arms at the rear, which are designed to steer the outer wheel under full roll conditions and reduce the tendency to understeer, have produced a car which has neutral handling characteristics in the dry.

On a wet and slippery Prescott traction on both getaway from the start line and on the hairpin was extremely good, and any tendency to understeer off the long bottom loop was immediately, brought under control by easing the throttle, when the nose would come back into line. This gentle tuck-in was really appreciated when going into the long right-hand bend before the finishing straight. This is Prescott's most frightening corner for, after rushing through the tree-lined Esses, one is suddenly confronted with a bend that has an unprotected outside edge over which nothing but sky can be seen. On seeing it from the driving seat for the first time I was immediately reminded of Alpine rallies of long ago and those glorious special stages in the Dolomites, the Gavia and the Vivione, and was thankful for that tuck-in. Braking hard and late will slide you sideways and straight on over the edge, as a colleague later found out. Fortunately, the drop over the edge is not one of Dolomite dimensions but is a gentle slope across a field. I seem to remember that Sydney Allard was very good at ploughing that field. . . .The handling characteristics of the Fiat are completely different from that of the traditional and similarly sized MG Midget. Before they spoiled its handling the Midget could be steered on the throttle with gay abandon and complete safety in the wet. By contrast, the Fiat has almost kart handling its very high cornering ability and its limited power makes it the ultimate in safe-handling small cars. At £3,000 the X 19 is not cheap when compared with the MG Midget, MGB and Triumph Spitfire, which have a very similar performance for up to £800 less. If you, or an indulgent parent, are prepared to find the difference in price you will be buying one of the most striking-looking small sports cars in large scale production, and it is one that has the creature comforts demanded by today's young. It will also be bought by the not-so-young who will appreciate its comfortable, if somewhat garish, seats and the ease of settling into them through the wide doors.

Luggage space, divided between the front locker and a rear boot with its own fitted cases, is quite generous by sports car standards and positively enormous when compared with that ultimate in mid-engined sports cars, the £24,000 Ferrari Boxer. One might not get down to the south of France quite as quickly in the X 1/9 as in its compatriot, but at least you could take. a change of clothes for two with you and not have to buy them on arrival. 

TRIUMPH TR7

Driving a fashion wedge through tradition

BRITISH LEYLAND have long been the major suppliers of sports cars to the home and export markets, especially the American one. There were the MGs, the B, the BGT, the Midget, the Triumph Spitfires, the TR6s, and the E-Types -- all carrying the essential machismo for the American market where men wanted to be men, and all sold in large numbers with no sign of opposition, Then a combination of factors prompted the appearance of the TR 7.
First, two cars appeared on the American market and were immediate hits (much to the disquiet of the British sales organisations); the Datsun 240Z and the Porsche 914. The message went back home, with a demand for a new car to meet the new challenge on the American market, the bedrock of Leyland sports car export success.
At the same time the Americans were on the brink of bringing in regulations which threatened to bring to an end the reign of the open-top car, due to roll-over regulations that no one thought could be met with open tops. In the event, the regulations were not implemented, put that was too late to influence the design of the car. The TR 7, when it emerged, was criticised on a variety of grounds - principally that it did not seem to offer a performance advantage over the TR6.
However, it is more than unfair to hark back to the days of the wind-in-the-hair TRs when talking about the TR 7. It represents a new breed of sports car, a new type of machine where comfort, style, roadholding, and ease of driving count for more than cheap thrills.
Our own TR7 long-term test car was used at Prescott, and this was perhaps unfair to the genus since, with nearly 20,000 miles under its belt, the edges are starting to fray a little. Nevertheless, after the raucous screeching and roaring of the Lotus Seven, it was a complete and welcome contrast to come in out of the rain, and to snuggle down inside the TR 7. The immediate impression is of a car with a very high waist line, the window edge seems to come up almost to eye level, as you lean back into the extremely comfortable seats.

We had already discovered that Prescott has one blind corner where there seems to be nothing but space in front as you blast up to the crest of the hill. It was comforting to survey that enormous depth of fascia top, stretching away to the base of the windscreen, and forming an immensely strong crash barrier for the occupants. Indeed, when you consider the height of the door sills, and their strength, you come to realize how the Tony Ponds of this world manage to fling those rally TR7s around with such gay abandon. If you are going to have a big shunt in a sports car, have it in a TR7 and be well strapped in, and you have a chance. . . . .

On the line, the TR7 seemed harsh, noisy, and rather clumsy by comparison with the neatness and precision of the Porsche 924 or the X 19. The clutch on our car is now a bit soft, and the release bearing screams, the gearbox whines and crunches when snatched, and the engine sounds distinctly harsh at high revs. However, the handling limits proved high in relation to the competition, the TR understeering consistently until the hairpins, where early braking, late clipping points, and full throttle half-way round gave smooth, easily controlled oversteer - something that was much more of a problem in the mid-engined cars.

Our car's dampers could do with an overhaul, and the tyres could do with a bit more tread, both factors which didn't help in these conditions. Yet the TR7 does exactly what it sets out to do it goes reasonably well, it steers and it handles predictably and safely. The only thing it doesn't do particularly well is stop, and that is a design fault that Leyland have acknowledged in their five-speed version which has bigger rear brakes.
The boot is generous, there is ample room to stow things and, although some may think the lines are wrong, it still attracts a lot of admiring glances. And that, after all, is much of what sports cars are all about.

CHEVROLET CORVETTE STING RAY

The Great American Ideal?

IT WAS back in February 1964 that Autocar last tested that all-American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. That was a long time before the environmentalists got to work, and the 5.4-litre, V8 engine developed a thundering 360bhp (gross) at 6,OOOrpm. An optimistic output this might have been but nevertheless, the Sting Ray was a fast car, especially by the standards of 13 years ago. With its four-on-the-floor manual transmission, it squealed its way down the standing start 1,4-mile in 14.6sec and reached a phenomenal top speed of 146.5mph (we were rather more pedantic in those days). It also golloped fuel at the rate of 14.6 mpg.

So how does today's de-toxed and tamed Corvette compare? The answer is that it is no longer the tyre-smoking, petrol-swilling monster is used to be. But at least it will now go round corners and generally behave itself in a most civilised manner. The emasculated, 5.7-litre, V8 engine produces 180bhp on the SAE net basis, which is near enough the DIN system used in Europe. The test car was fitted with the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, which complements the smoothness of the V8 engine. Should a "sports" car also have power steering and air conditioning? Well, our Corvette did.
There can be no doubt that this is a car designed by Americans for American conditions. The almost arrogantly handsome bodywork, still made in beautifully-finished glass-fibre, now has friendly 5 mph bow and stern, with vacuum-operated pop-up headlamps and the tail lamps hidden in deep circular recesses. If the weather is fine, the roof panel can be taken off in two pieces to leave a Stag-like roll-over bar running from the screen rail to the top of the rear window. The interior is pleasantly refined, although to European eyes a trifle dated, with plenty of chromium plating.

It is a bit dauning to take the Corvette up Prescott's narrow track, especially when the day is wet. The car has left-hand drive and you don't quite know what it will do. On a mixture of mud and leaves it was just a matter of boiling some off to allow the fat GR70-15in. radials, on 8in. rims to find something dry. From then on, the main problem was one of visibility. The big, curvaceous front wheel arches are the last thing you can see ahead but you soon learn that another 4ft of shark-like nose is hiding somewhere out there. Put the headlamps up, and you get a better forward reference point.

On Pardon Corner, the limited-slip differential could be felt and heard grunting away to itself as this seemingly big car (it is over a foot longer than the Ferrari 512) clawed and squealed its way round and up, to face the Esses. It was the Semicircle which was the most daunting part, where the driver (if he had time to look) could see nothing but the hills on the far side of the Vale of Evesham to the left, and the tops of the trees on the right. The. massive disc brakes (11.8in. front and rear) seemed perfectly capable of bringing the speed down without any drama. On the narrow track, the power steering is a bit too sensitive and overawing, the car feeling much happier out on the open road.
The handling generally is good, with the understeer the predominant characteristic. Unfortunately, during the day we had the car, it seldom stopped raining, so it was difficult to explore the roadholding to any great extent. The ride is remarkably firm, and in no way resembles the rock and roll which was once the hallmark of the American car.

So where does the Corvette fit into the sports car scene? It is extremely impractical in that it does not have a proper boot; luggage is loaded in past the seats, in the manner of the original Austin-Healey Sprite. Its immediate competitors must come from the United States, with cars like the Pontiac Trans Am, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Road Runner - all conventional-looking cars. In the same way that the Caterham Seven or a Morgan epitomises everything that is British in a sports car, the Corvette, with its most distinctive appearance, is perhaps what many Americans think a sports car should be. For the purist it also has the distinction of being one of the very few American cars using independent rear suspension.
The old brute-force Corvette has been tamed by the edicts of the EPA - but it is still a brutish machine by most standards.

PORSCHE 924

A Porsche for the people

IT'S NOT FOR nothing that Porsche go to all the trouble and mechanical complication involved in putting the gearbox in unit with the final drive at the back of the car. It could very easily and much more cheaply have been given front-wheel drive, using standard Audi components, but as their engineers said at the time of the launch, they were not satisfied with the handling that would have resulted.

Aware of the standards they are expected to meet, they used the transaxle layout to obtain as near as possible ideal weight distribution. On the Prescott hill climb, the 924 felt superbly manageable and could be chucked through the corners with plenty of power on, and with complete confidence in the way the car was responding. Its basic handling is so near to the ideal of neutral response that it answers much more readily than most to the technique of setting the steering and edging the back round with increasing throttle opening.

Once round and onto the straight. there was no nasty twitchiness as the gear-change was made. It was possible to feel completely at ease with the 924, and to learn its limits very quickly; these are high, and it's a forgiving car, which can be brought back to order easily enough after any over-exuberance.
The only slight let-down in its behaviour at Prescott was a proneness to lock the wheels and slide under heavy braking, which was perhaps surprising for a car with such good weight distribution. However, such things are relative, and it has to be admitted that this occurred oniy in very firm application of the "panic pedal" in what seemed, each time, a rather anxiously high speed of approach for 'that unseen twist at the top of the hill.
Only the Fiat X 1/9, in my view, could be said to handle better on this testing course, but this, too, needs to be related to the Fiat's more limited performance. Part of the pleasure of the Porsche is in the response of its controls - the short-travel, quick-movement gearchange with just the right ratios; the lightness and precision of its steering; easy clutch release; and the good bite of the brakes. The gearchange; in particular, vindicates the Porsche technique of using a low-mass propellor shaft, which gets over the transaxle problems of a slow gearchange, prone to crunch, as on the Alfetta.
Also appreciated in these conditions were the good visibility -- in spite of rather thick screen pillars -- and the clearly-marked, well-sited instruments. There's nothing more distracting when you're pushing a car hard than being worried about the number of revs you are using and not having a clear view of the rev counter. 

On the road, even more than on the test climb, the Porsche is a delightful car in all respects except that of noise. The roar from the wheels, as we have already mentioned in earlier issues, is excessive, and although we are hopeful of improving this with a change of tyres, it is obviously a basic problem of the design at present. The seats are appropriately shaped to give good support sideways when making hard use of the handling abilities, and the high seat backs - which I personally consider extremely selfish when fitted in a four-seater car are suitable in a car which makes no pretence at carrying more than two except occasionally.
When the 924 was announced I was impressed at the Porsche choice of components, from the VW-Audi range of model parts and the engine in particular is delightfully free-revving and pulls strongly over its wide rev range. Any fears we might have had that the swinging see-saw arm of Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection systems could be upset by hard braking or cornering are proved groundless in the way in which the 924 engine behaves, and the enlargement to two litres has not introduced any top-end harshness.
By way of comparison I was interested to be offered a drive in a privately-owned 911, and after going up the Hill gently, showing appropriate respect for the car with its owner sitting beside me, I was then told to "go on . . . time it, and have a go"! Of course, the 911 has more punch from its engine and can be pushed even harder through the corners. My time in the 911 was a fraction quicker than in the 924, in spite of some difficulties with a loose gearlever knob, but the difference was marginal and confirmed that the 924 is a car very much in the Porsche tradition.

MERCEDES-BENZ 350SL

Why all the fuss?

IT WAS with such marked contrast. to all the other cars tried on our test day that the Mercedes-Benz 350SL acquitted itself, that one could be excused for saying: "It's not sporting enough." But this was completely contradicted by the superbly sporting way in which it romped up Prescott.
It proved the only car of the day which moved smartly off the line without great leaps of wheelspin at the muddy start, and could take full power on the tricky corners without provoking any tail sliding or snaking. Nor should it be thought that the 350SL was slow; indeed it returned respectable times on a par with the much smaller Triumph TR7, What it loses in uphill acceleration on account of its considerable weight, it more than compensates for with its grip and good handling.
At first, the 350SL seems very big and wide, and the seating position is rather low in relation to a high scuttle line, but with familiarity one finds it is easy to place the car, to judge its width to fine limits, and to sense exactly where the wheels are. "
Some may think it a contradiction of the popular concept of a sports car to have automatic transmission and power steering; yet here again, it is important to take account of how well these things are done. The steering is sensitive and accurate, transmitting plenty of feel of what the front wheels are doing; it simply takes the hard work out of pulling the nose round tight corners, and as a result one can drive faster for less effort. Similarly, one could not wish for a more sporting selector for the automatic transmission. If desired, one can drive entirely manually, selecting whatever ratio suits best, and changes can be made more quickly, and with power sustained, than would ever be possible with the best manual set-up.
Everyone's concept of a sports car will inevitably differ from another's idea, and the popular misconception is that noise, discomfort, and hard work for the driver are all an essential part of the game. The 350SL proves that this is not so - that you can have refinement, smoothness; and quietness while still' enjoying decidedly sporting standards of handling, braking, performance, and freedom from roll in hard cornering.
To its credit also, the 350SL had the all-too rare distinction of being an open car. Surely if the diehards really wanted to define the book of rules for what makes a sports car, the ability to put the top down would have to head the list. The arrangement for releasing the hood and stowing it completely out of sight beneath the hinged rear deck is delightfully simple and efficient. There is also the ability to turn the Mercedes into a closed car for the winter by fixing in place its very sturdy hardtop.

For anyone who thinks the 350SL is not fast enough for today's concept of a sports car, a reminder that it accelerates from rest to 60 mph in 9.3 sec, and has a 126 mph top speed, should be sufficient to make them think again. If not, there's always the 450SL . . . .

It is just that it does it all with so little fuss that it gives the impression of the gentleman's leisurely town carriage. Indeed, one could almost imagine it at Prescott thinking to itself: "Why all the fuss about this little hill?"

FERRARI 512 BB

A fighter by its trade. . .

AS YOU APPROACH the Boxer, even if you have no prior knowledge of its performance potential, you can guess that it must be very fast indeed. As it crouches low to the ground, its great, wide wheels and tyres exhibited beneath the flared wheeI arches, there is an immediate impression of speed. The long nose reaches forward to scoop its way under the air, and the steeply-raked windscreen appears to continue the gentle slope of the bonnet top. But it's so big.
At just an inch or so under six feet wide and well over 14 feet long, it's hard to credit that there will be only minimal space inside for two people or that there is only enough boot room for hand luggage. You know, perhaps, that the engine displaces five litres, yet there seems so little tail in which to house such a unit. More careful observation shows that the engine bulkhead is well forward of the rear of the quarterlights. With the central safety latch released, the engine cover is hinged backward and upward to reveal the only production flat-12 engine in the world. But you don't want to do this on your own; it is an experience to be shared. And this is not difficult because, wherever and whenever the Ferrari stops, crowds appear as if from nowhere. Some will gasp, others may laugh as they match their conception of what an engine should look like with the mass of carburettors, crackle-finish camboxes, and exquisite alloy castings that are revealed. It may not be a true Boxer because adjacent pistons have a to-and-fro motion rather than the correct coming together-going away action, but what the hell. Isn't 380 bhp (DIN) enough for you?

When you get into the Boxer it seems to shrink-wrap round you, and you wonder what happened to all that width and length. With your feet directed toward the car's centre by the big wheel arches, your head pressed down by the low roof, and your knees forced to splay by the rim of the hand-crafted leather steering wheel rim, you ask yourself whether people were considered last in this most extreme of high-speed designs. A fiddle with the seat-back rake adjustment, and a conscious effort to slouch in the seat, help you to get comfortable; but the result is far from satisfactory for anyone over 5ft 10in. tall. Perhaps more dish on the steering wheel or even a touch of in-and-out adjustment would help.

All such worries seem to evaporate as you turn the key to bring that awe-inspiring engine into action. To the accompaniment of a distant fuel pump whirr, the engine purrs into life instantly, just as if it had been switched on rather than cranked into life. And so it might be with six firing pulses every turn of the crankshaft. Toothed belts to drive the four camshafts mean that the engine noise is not as high and tinkly as that of double ohc Ferraris of yore.

A moment to check round the mass of red-figured instruments and to note with some pleasure that the caution area on the rev counter starts at no less than 7,000 rpm and that the area for occasional brief use stretches from 7,000 to 7,600 rpm, as well it might with maximum power available at 7,200 rpm. Big pedals with matched heights are very necessary for rapid familiarization with a performance car, and the Ferrari's arrangement should leave no one with any problems. Clutch effort is high but the angle of operation helpful - just as well, because full disengagement is necessary for each change.
Though the Boxer is naturally more at home in Mayfair or the Cote d'Azur, its suitability for the confines of Prescott was fascinating. The limited-slip differential and high first gear both helped to overcome the slippery start area and, once wheelspin had ceased in second, acceleration down to the first 180 deg. loop was impressive. The approach to this loop is through a long, left-hand curve, and full acceleration could be held through this before heavy braking was needed into the loop itself. As with any system whose ultimate function is to give fade-free results all day, the Ferrari brakes lack feel at relatively low speeds and a strong shove is called for from speeds in the 70 mph region.

Through such a tight corner as the first loop at Prescott, applying power too early merely leads to ungainly washing out as the extraordinary traction of the rear wheels pushes the front of the car outwards. Instead, the loop must be negotiated on a closed throttle with careful choice of just the right moment to re-apply the considerable power to nudge the tail out of line. Three-quarters of the way round the corner is the best time to do this and, with the tail swinging outward, the slightest relaxation on the throttle is enough to bring the tail into line and to allow the car to be steered through the following left-hand curve with as much power applied as you like. So rapid is the gain in speed that it was easy to arrive at the next near-180 deg corner with the speed approaching 80 mph and the revs nearing the maximum allowable.

Down into 1st gear with as much braking as you like sees the speed knocked off in a twinkling and, with the engine in the meat of the torque curve, the Boxer rockets up through the hairpin and into the Esses. Full acceleration through the first left-hander and a lift before dabbing the throttle again into the following right sees this big car behaving more like a go-kart. as it enthusiastically darts its way from one demand to the next.

Through the last left-hander of the Esses, full acceleration is needed for a fraction before a change down into 1 st gear again for the climbing left-hand curve that forms the final element of the complex. Up into second again, controlling a wayward twitch of the tail as you go, the Ferrari powers up towards the demanding Semi-Circle. A damp track and an expensive, powerful car that belongs to someone else are not the ingredients for courageous negotiation of this most demanding of 180 deg curves. A trailing throttle and then full acceleration to the Finish are the order of the day.

What exhilaration! If you ever thought that such a car as the Ferrari was for parking outside the most exclusive hotels and for making the grand arrival, the last minute of adrenalin-pumping effort up Prescott proved otherwise. Superb traction, pin-point accurate steering, powerful braking, and a degree of acceleration that few other road cars can attain, all combine to leave one breathless.

Of course, one must get one s feet back on the ground and say that the Boxer is by no means unique in what it offers. The same feelings could well have been generated by a Porsche Turbo, a Lamborghini Countach, or a De Tomaso Pantera. In these cars we are looking at the ultimate flights of two-seater sports car fancy. It is enough to say that. in the Ferrari, one sees the manifestation of a car designed to challenge the sensibilities to the extreme, a car whose ultimates beg exploration, and whose owner will be the subject of man's basest vice - jealousy.

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Author: ArchitectPage