A child­hood habit of peer­ing in­side su­per­cars in search of fan­tasy top-speed mark­ings has never left Phil

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When I was a kid, the sight of an As­ton, Porsche or any­thing wed­geoid and Ital­ian would in­voke the same pat­tern of be­havioiur. First the be­witched stare, pro­jected from a re­spect­ful dis­tance to take in the im­pact from the front, the sides and rear. Then mov­ing in for the de­tails – a vent here, an iden­ti­fy­ing badge there – be­fore in­evitably I’d find my­self with nose against door glass and hand shield­ing re­flec­tions for a view in­side. The thick­ness and di­am­e­ter of steer­ing wheel and the plump­ness of the seats helped me imag­ine what it would be like to climb in and drive, but the ul­ti­mate fuel for my imag­i­na­tion could be found in the in­stru­ment clus­ter – 120, 130, 150, 170mph? Obliv­i­ous to the ten­u­ous con­nec­tion be­tween top mark­ings on the speedome­ter and re­al­ity, I used those big num­bers as my guide to the ex­cite­ment on tap.

The cars in our cover fea­ture were still a decade or three away, but when they did ar­rive, a chance en­counter on a city street or in a coun­try pub car park cre­ated the same re­ac­tion in this over­grown kid. Only this time I knew that they were re­ally ca­pa­ble of hurtling the lucky driver at 170mph, or 76 me­tres – the length of Dutch clip­per Stad Am­s­ter­dam – in a sec­ond. In some of them even fur­ther.

Fast-for­ward a cou­ple more decades and such he­do­nis­tic speeds have been democra­tised by the great god of de­pre­ci­a­tion. Over­grown kids ev­ery­where have a re­al­is­tic prospect of open­ing the driv­ers’ doors with their own keys – ex­cept in the case of the TVR any­way – tak­ing feel of the wheels and seats for them­selves and reach­ing for the promised num­bers. For the Cer­bera of course you need to play hunt-the-hid­den-door-re­lease-but­ton first.

As Ross dis­cov­ers in his high-speed day at the track, our five choices of­fer very dif­fer­ent ways of get­ting there, from the raw lunge of the TVR to the ef­fort­less surge of the As­ton. Early Sun­day, empty au­to­bahn – which would you choose?

Clas­sic Cars maxes the Lo­tus Carl­ton, April 2000 – ‘One hun­dred and seventy miles per hour... it will al­ways be re­mem­bered with re­spect for that alone’

Phil Bell, ed­i­tor

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