Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

I’ve been driv­ing quite a few tuned new cars lately. Mostly the new Mus­tang. Seems that as Aussie car pro­duc­tion bites the dust, peo­ple like you and me are al­ready look­ing around for the next big thing. And the Mus­tang would ap­pear to be it. The point of all this is that I’ve now been able to drive, back to back, vari­a­tions of the same car which is not some­thing you get to do too of­ten. And in the case of the Mus­tang, I’ve been treated to cars with tur­bocharged en­gines, su­per­charged en­gines and mod­i­fied nor­mally aspirated en­gines. And I’ve come to a con­clu­sion about which is my favourite.

The turbo ver­sions have been fast, no doubt about that, but they can be pretty fre­netic and hard to rein in when all you want to do is kick back and trun­dle down to the shops for bread and milk. And then there’s the com­pressed-air or­ches­tra that might be fun for the first five min­utes, but not for too long af­ter that.

The su­per­charged Stangs I’ve sam­pled lately have been just as fast and with some boast­ing more than 700 horse­power and torque to match. But, again, they seem kind of overkill in some sit­u­a­tions. That’s where the skill of the tuner comes into play, I guess, and it’s also true that some have been more civilised than oth­ers. My pick of those blown Mus­tangs would prob­a­bly be a su­per­charged one with a tune that makes it feel like a fac­tory car with an eight-litre en­gine, rather than a souped up hot-rod.

So I’m get­ting old, then, am I? Hang on a minute. Be­cause the Mus­tangs that have im­pressed me most have been the ones with nei­ther tur­bos nor su­per­charg­ers but a big bump­stick, cold-air in­take and head­ers in­stead. Yep, a good old cammy N/A en­gine. No, they won’t get down the quar­ter quite as fast as the same car with forced in­duc­tion, but there’ll be less in it than you might think, be­cause launch­ing big heavy cars like this is al­ways the se­cret to a fast time, not nec­es­sar­ily whether they have five, six or seven-hun­dred ned­dies. And for the sheer thrill of feel­ing an en­gine well up as it hits its sweet spot and then yowl all the way to red­line is some­thing that caught my at­ten­tion as a kid and has never left me.

I love the way a big cam makes the en­gine hus­tle at idle and that off­beat, two-step rhythm still says ‘per­for­mance’ to an old-school bloke like me.

Mean­time, I’m here to tell you that a cammy, mod­ern-de­sign five-litre V8 is not the tetchy, im­pa­tient thing that big-cam en­gines once were. There’s still oo­dles of bot­tom end torque and the cur­rent state of elec­tronic con­trol over the en­gine means that a tuner who knows what he or she is do­ing can zap a tune into the ECU that still al­lows for an ac­cept­able idle speed as well as pre­serv­ing other nice things about the mod­ern world such as valet modes and even an idle-up func­tion when you hit the A/C but­ton on a sum­mer’s day.

A cammed-up N/A motor is also more likely to sur­vive the in­evitable track-day (pure physics at this point) and if you talk to a race driver, they’ll prob­a­bly tell you that an atmo en­gine is more pre­dictable and pro­gres­sive in its power de­liv­ery, mak­ing it a bet­ter bet on the Nur­bur­gring. Or any­where else. Not for noth­ing is the Porsche GT3 mill the only atmo en­gine that brand makes th­ese days.

I guess this ra­tio­nale is why I’m still a con­sumer of con­ven­tional man­ual gear­boxes when the rest of the world has gone auto or dou­ble-clutch. It’s also prob­a­bly why my 1980 Es­cort doesn’t have a tur­bocharger hang­ing off its lit­tle Pinto block. But you can bet your back­side it has, head­ers, some ex­tra com­pres­sion and the world’s sil­li­est camshaft. And an idle to match.

Ques­tion is; am I one out and one back? Or are there oth­ers out there who share my – pos­si­bly crazy – view?

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