Re­mem­ber when 100 kw was enough to im­press the neigh­bour­hood kids?

Car (South Africa) - - COLUMN -

OW long could you hold a wheelie on your bi­cy­cle, whether planned or at a mo­ment’s no­tice? When you were a kid, how long could you bal­ance on the back wheel while giv­ing the front tyre air? The an­swer is “not long enough”, if my ex­pe­ri­ence is any­thing to go by.

On a crisp 1980s sub­ur­bia morn­ing, I had just no­ticed an alarm­ingly empty sky­ward-point­ing front assem­bly, lead­ing me to re­alise my BMX’S front wheel had de­tached it­self...

Front wheel on a solo tra­jec­tory and ex­posed, bright-blue forks brac­ing for im­pact, I re­mem­ber two things dur­ing the en­su­ing mo­ment of clar­ity: how would I ex­plain my im­mi­nent trip to the emer­gency room to my fa­ther; and, more im­por­tantly, would such a cat­a­strophic fail­ure have ever hap­pened to the rider of a Mon­goose?

While grate­ful for the bright-blue Black Horse BMX found un­der the Christ­mas tree that year, it was al­ways the Mon­goose-branded bikes in my neigh­bour­hood that I cov­eted most. Whether it was their dis­tinct paint­work, famed light­weight con­struc­tion or ap­pear­ance in the (surely) soon-tobe-clas­sic 1983 movie BMX Ban­dits, it was seem­ingly al­ways the guys on the Mon­goose bikes who were catch­ing the most air and the most at­ten­tion.

I couldn’t tell you whether this bike builder still holds such a distin­guished rep­u­ta­tion to­day but, sprawled on the road­side watch­ing the esh on my el­bows and knees chang­ing slowly from white to crim­son, my over­rid­ing de­sire was for a Mon­goose.

HYears later, af­ter watch­ing a rookie test driver launch a Volk­swa­gen Golf into the air af­ter nish­ing his glass of milk, my de­sires had ma­tured some­what. By then, my only re­main­ing wish in life (be­sides, per­haps, a date with Cindy Crawford) was for a GTI to be parked out­side my par­ents’ house.

And that brings me to what I re­ally want to talk about: where are the Mon­gooses of the car world these days? Sure, there are the glam­orous hy­per­cars from the likes of Fer­rari, Porsche and Mclaren to oc­cupy boys’ bed­room-wall real es­tate, but where are the cars that these young peo­ple as­pire to own yet, Mon­goose-like, are al­ways just out of reach? Where are the cars the cool kids drive, yet don’t truly ap­pre­ci­ate, nor wash nearly as reg­u­larly as you would were the keys en­trusted to an eigh­teen-year-old you.

With the level of per­for­mance and so­phis­ti­ca­tion as­so­ci­ated with the likes of the Golf GTI grown to heights that would to­day em­bar­rass even Knight Rider, where are the mod­ern warm hatches that are go­ing to in­spire young­sters to work that lit­tle bit harder at school, or get that week­end job to be able to just about af­ford them?

Am I com­pletely out of touch and are the likes of the hugely ac­com­plished and suit­ably brash Ford Fi­esta ST and Opel Adam S the an­swer? Cer­tainly both tick the right boxes in terms of get­ting the young (and, in­deed, young at heart) ex­cited, but with cur­rent pric­ing on both those mod­els listed at more than R300 000, surely they’re too far out of reach for most teenagers?

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