DAVE’S GETTING EX-ASPIRATED AS THE MODEL A FLIES BY WITH RUSSIAN PETROL TAKING ITS TOLL
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?