Consider this. On December 14th 1972, Gene Cernan stood at the base of the ladder of the Apollo 17 lander, gazed across the Taurus-Littrow valley for a moment, and then climbed into the lunar module. He was the last human to walk on the Moon.
It’s now almost 10 years since the last Space Shuttle flight and nearly 18 years since the last commercial supersonic flight. The spirit of possibility and vaulting ambition seems to have been vanquished, a zenith reached long ago. Within the aerospace sector at least, the bean counters have given the visionaries one hell of a flogging.
Budgetary constraints are an integral aspect of vehicle development too. Does anybody think that a MacPherson strut or a torsion beam are there for dynamic excellence? Or that swapping physical heating and cooling controls for a touchscreen delivers a better user experience? Of course not. It’s simple cost-cutting.
Yet there is a distinction to make here. Unlike the development processes that aerospace projects undertake, which are inspected through endless committees and devolved to the lowest bidder, the automotive sector can and does indulge in absolute fantasy.
You just need to be able to pay for it. That’s why as irrelevant as companies like Koenigsegg, Bugatti and Rimac are to most of us from the perspective of a consumerist decision, they provide a fascinating insight into what happens when the shackles of cost are unholstered and pure engineering reigns.
What’s more, unlike the busted myth that is trickle-down economics, trickle-down tech is something we can and do benefit from. LED headlights debuted on the Audi R8 supercar. You now see them as standard-fit items on a Suzuki Ignis. The Porsche 959 introduced the active differential, a version of which you can now get on a Golf GTI. Side airbags arrived on an E38 BMW 7 Series limo and now they’re on, well, pretty much everything.
The battery tech that Rimac is working on now could well filter through into your daily driver. We could be driving our future hybrids via a licensed version of Koenigsegg’s crazed nine-speed, seven-clutch Light Speed Transmission. That’s why while we’ll always bring you the cars you and I may well buy, we’re certainly not going to ignore the cars that made us all dream. We’re in a golden age of performance cars right now and it’s one the like of which will never be repeated.
MOTOR will continue to celebrate the dreamers, the creative geniuses and those just too damn cussed to accept the status quo.
Doomscrolling our way through 2020 might have led us to believe that these are the end of days, but keep the faith. Here in the world of performance cars things have never been more vibrant. We can all raise a glass to that.
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