Performance cars need soul

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I understand about ‘normal’ cars. You know the kind. The a to b machines where 90% of the people that drive them don’t do it for the driving pleasure, they do it as a utility, a service. Zafrias, Focus C-Maxs and all the rest.

When it comes to a performance car however, the question of soul is one that rings deep in my heart as a petrol head. I haven’t drive a lot of cars (especially compared to most motoring journalists I’m sure), but what I have driven or been a passenger in has given me a good compass of what I like.

Without doubt, every car I have loved, has an incredible amount of what I deem as ‘soul’. Soul is what makes you give a wry smile as you look back after you’ve parked your machine, or the feeling you get as you drop a cog a blast past some tractor on the A49. It makes you feel a bit warm inside and a little bit nervous all a the same time. It makes you get up early to get out on the roads while they are quiet, just for a drive. It generally robs you of more money than any ‘sane’ person may spend on essentially wheeled transportation.

What are a couple of the cars that I feel have soul that I have experienced and why?

  • My S2000 (what a surprise!): an interesting personality that includes an insatiable thirst to be in VTEC and producing what can only be described a manic wail up to 9000rpm. Combined with the aftermarket intake it’s got a unique sound that feels like it’s charging like a wild beast. Apart from then though, it’s actually quite docile and could easily be described as elegant in terms of great handling and classic looks.
  • Adrian’s TVR Tuscan: a few years ago Adrian (business partner) used to have an Mk1 Tuscan (the pretty one). That car, above all else I have experienced, had soul. From the moment it fired up with that low burble out the exhausts as if it was burning pure adrenalin as fuel to the sheer noise when flying up a hill with the targa roof off to the exhaust pop under the bridge – it was sheer auditory nirvana. It also had the darker side to it’s personality. The overheating if idling too long in traffic, throttle cable snapping, general lack of safety equipment. All pointed to a more pure bred performance car that was, quite frankly, very temperamental (especially when compared to by uber reliable Honda). From most TVR owners you speak to though, they wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s part of the experience.

It’s like the fact that all drivers should drive or own an Alfa Romeo in their life (not that I have yet). It’s about soul. Old Ferraris, some new Ferraris, Lamborghinis, TVRs, the list can go on.

The strangest part though is some of the technically best cars aren’t always very soulful. The Bugatti Veyron is no doubt an outstanding achievement, yet no review I’ve read ever talks about it passionately – it’s all in terms of stats and power, no one mentions passion or deep seated feelings of connection. ┬áHaven’t driven one (which is a shame) yet I imagine it would be a disconnected experience, more the car is driving you, not the other way around. There are already murmurs of this about the new McLaren – very good, but is it just too faultless?

The human condition is one where joy/achievement is generally measured against adversity. If everything always works, if you never have to grapple with the handling or learn how to really drive a particular car, if it has no little quirks or nuances, then your good feelings will never be great. No doubt some people will disagree with this assessment, and for them, they may be right. For me though, I want a temperamental brute for a car that at times is a pain in the bum and then at others is a exhilarating driving machine that when all is said and done and you close the garage door, you’re happy about what’s sitting in your garage, snarling until the next meeting.

What cars have you driven that had soul?

About Rob

I'm an average petrolhead - I love cars and get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.