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Sports Cars - The Definitive Discussion

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    So a NASCAR Chevy is a sports car?

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  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    With the right driver and running at Sears Point, even a NASCAR, Chevy, Ford or Dodge seem to exhibit some talent at turning left and right. But then again so does a formula Mazda, fun too.
    So I agree that 2 seats in normal configuration on the street would be my base line for the definition. And then when competing against the same power to weight and similar grip a sports car usually will do better than something trying to play in the road course world, from other spectrums.
    The SL is interesting, since I wanted a 280SL back in '71 when I bought my '72 MGB for less than $3k and the SL was about $9k. My mother-in-law passed along her '71 so I now have one of the cars I lusted after when younger, I will not take it to the track. I have yet, after 2 years, to see an SL on track.
    Randy

    Thanks for noting that I love the Vette, it wasn't a dream come true, just what looked fairly practical at the time, really, but it has allowed me to do some things that I didn't think I would ever get to pursue. Sears Point is the best track in Nor. Calif. and working to cut lap times is really just :) producing!
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    According to my previous argument I have to call NASCARs sports cars. However I surely understand your points. And I think we all pretty much know the classic definition of a sports car. We can’t go around calling a 530 with SP a sports car even though it outhandles a T-Bird which is. (Please don’t nail me for calling the T-Bird a sports car.)

    If we say to someone “I think I am going to buy a sports car”, it automatically rules out a bunch of vehicles in people's minds. So we usually defer to the conventional definition. My contention is that the pure element of “sport” has a lot of significance and transcends convention here. However I will not push the point and wholeheartedly accept the conventional definition even though it has some loose ends. We could take this to the metaphysical level. I don’t know, should we? After all this is the definitive discussion.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    Oh, yes, let's get metaphysical :D

    No, you can't take a 280SL on the track unless you want to kill yourself, but you could rallye the car (some people did) and it IS pretty useless as anything else other than a pretty toy, and it does have two seats and a drop top and is small and reasonably agile (top speed is not important for a sports car--you only have to SEEM like you are going fast)--so it has most of the qualifications.

    A T-Bird on the other hand is a 4-passenger car with all luxury amenities and is obviously a highly compromised vehicle.

    If you take any "sport" instrument, it is dedicated to a function. A golf club does not have a cup holder on it or an AM/FM digital clock in the handle, and does not double as a pool cue or a baseball bat.

    Good biking shoes? You can hardly walk in them. They are dedicated to a sporting function.

    So the more a car is dedicated to sport (that is, romping on the gas and steering wildly around corners and burning your brakes to a cinder while going YAAA-HOOO, and doing all this without gross embarrassment to driver or car), the more it is a sports car.

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  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    Ferrari and Porsche have not been around for 60 YEARS!

    Why do you make assumptions? Do you know what the future holds? Do you have facts to show that the Corvette is raced for marketing? Was the C5-R raced just to market the new Z06? Is Ford just racing the new Mustang in Grand-Am Cup for marketing?

    "And even IF Corvette were to start winning really serious international races quite regularly, they'd pull out as soon as they won. American car companies never stick it out through thick and thin in racing, which is another reason people buy the heritage of Porsche and Ferrari. The cars are "winners" and everybody wants a winner, right? Americans race for marketing, Europeans race for love, is what I think anyway (not the drivers, I mean the factories)."

    Does Ferrari race the 360?

    The Corvette C5-R went 1-2 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, 2002, and 2004.

    "As for the fiberglass issue, people spending $100K and up want real metal."

    Do you have facts to back that up?

    "I’ll wait for the new Z06 when it comes out later this year."

    - Jay Leno from London Times
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    First off, don't be so aggressive with us...this is for fun, remember? This is a forum of opinion. Tell us why you think what you think, but not all opinions need to be data rich---they just have to make some kind of sense. Will it rain today. I think so, I see dark clouds. No, I haven't measured the barometric temperature and don't have current humidity ratings for the last three hours :D

    Okay, it's 57 years for Porsche and Ferrari...got me there cheating 3 years :cry:

    I believe that history backs up everything I said regarding racing, at least in my view of digesting and understanding it.

    Where did Ford go after Lemans?

    Home....

    Of course Americans race for marketing. There is no other explanation for the fact that they don't hang around if they lose. Nothing to sell if you lose. Porsche and Ferrari, on the other hand, stay in racing whether they win or lose. Even lose badly. Embarrassed, discouraged, humiliated. They never quit. If Corvette got whupped in their class in Lemans a couple years in a row, they'd go home, absolutely. You really think they'd sit in front of the world press and lose?

    Ferrari has contested every Formula I since it has existed as a marque. Even when it was losing badly. Never gave up. Porsche has more trophies than GM could accumulate in the next 50 years. There is nothing left to prove.

    Now, this is not to disparage Corvette or any American product. That was then, this is NOW!

    I'm only presenting this to show that the European view of racing and its purpose differs from the American, and AND...that it was this DEDICATION to racing that produced the superior sports cars of the 50s through 90s. Racing improves the breed, as the old cliche goes. Isn't this logical?

    If Corvette had been dedicated to international racing these last 50 years, you would have seen the C5 many many years ago.

    So, sure....one could safely say --"No American company has ever dedicated itself to international racing....emphasis on DEDICATED, as in "for better or worse".

    That's in the history books, that's all I can say about it.

    As for the statement:

    "As for the fiberglass issue, people spending $100K and up want real metal."

    Unless you can name a a) highly successful, and b) serially-production $100K+ production fiberglass car, I'll let history speak for itself once again.

    As for carbon-fiber cars priced over 100K, these are so small in number and so specialized that it's hard to know what the general public thinks of them. I don't know. We'll have to ask a Maybach owner or maybe a McLaren F1 owner ( aluminum honeycomb monocoque, about 100 cars made)

    Oh, I do have one bit of "proof"----Ferrari once made the exact same car in both fiberglass and metal, and the metal ones are worth more today. So at least Ferrari collectors think metal is worth more than glass, since they have a choice of identical cars.

    And then there's the XLR which hasn't exactly swept the SC430 off the map.

    BTW, Corvettes and XLRs aren't really glass, but more like plastic composites. I still think that's an image problem for XLR, yes I do, but not for Corvette's price point.

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  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    Two new Corvettes lost to an Aston Martin DBR9 at Sebring. Is GM going home? Nope.

    Does Panoz go home after getting beaten by many Porsche 911s in the American Le Mans Series? Nope. In fact, they are going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. According to a recent issue of Motor Trend, the 2006 Esperante will use some carbon fiber for its chassis which will drop an estimated 100 pounds and improve rigidity.

    go here:

    Panoz

    Ferrari marketed the Enzo as an F1 car for the road. What a joke. F1 cars bear just about zero resemblance to production cars. Did Ferrari back the 360 or Enzo in racing? Yes to the second car in a way as Maserati's MC12 takes an Enzo and makes it bigger and entered it in FIA GT last year. It doesn't meet requirements for the American Le Mans Series though.

    The people behind the new Corvette C6-R are too dedicated to back out if the competition walks over them. Haven't you seen how excited Dave Hill and the rest of the people behind the new Corvette C6 are?

    The C5-R couldn't compete with the Vipers back in 1999. The new Viper isn't raced in ALMS, but it has won the first two races in the Speed World Challenge.

    If Porsche is so excited about racing and what not, why did they sell out and make an SUV? Why don't they race the blocks from the standard 996 and 997? Perhaps because those pumped-up Boxster engines can't handle racing like the GT3 engines.

    Has Saleen backed down in racing just because they haven't won as many races as the C5-R?

    Nope.

    image
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    Does Porsche back the Carrera GT in racing? Nope.

    Lambo packed up and left ALMS after last year.
  • We're not sure that all these marques didn't make some of their decisions because of financial woes, or a shift in the company's focus.

    SUVs make money. No doubt about that. If there were no potential to successfully market and sell SUVs in the American market, then the Cayenne would have never seen the light of day. Porsche obviously wanted to make money more than they wanted to focus on their racing efforts at that particular time. Maybe they'll use that money to develop new powertrains for either racing efforts, or consumer purposes. And why would Porsche discontinue a racing chassis to build a supercar, only to back it in a GT effort?

    Try to look at the company as a whole and where they've been in the last few years. We, as the consumer, may not always be able to explain a company's decisions primarily because we're not sitting there during the board room discussions as to the company's direction.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    If Corvette continues to lose, the factory will pull out. If they win some, lose some, they'll stay a while, but if they are not competitive, only privateers will stay. GM beancounters will not allow a money-losing race season of defeat year after year. You can count on this, trust me. LeMans is a big effort and costs mega-bucks.

    Porsche and Ferrari were run by dictators, to be fair about it, and thus it wasn't really a beancounters decision. It was the passion of one man really. That kind of passion took Ford to LeMans, too (some say revenge) but unfortunately when Henry II got his prize he went home. You didn't see Ford at Lemans after that.

    Besides, we are talking 57 years here, not 5 years. Big difference if you are building a legend that translates into "brand equity", which I think is what we were originally talking about---why people choose some cars over others regardless of the numbers on paper.

    Also we were looking at the broad expanse of history to find out why America took so long to make a decent sports car, and my contention was that the lack of international racing experience was one reason.

    Why is the Honda S200 such a great little sports car? The Miata? The RX-7 twin-turbo? International racing experience is part of the answer. Honda has been in Formula for many years and Mazda won Lemans in...um....think it was 1991.

    Corvette has never won Lemans, only class, not an outright. To be fair, you need a specialty car to do that, so I'm not knocking it---you just can't say "_____ won Lemans" when you mean a class win rather than an overall. Still, class win is great, something to be proud of.

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  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    "Okay, it's 57 years for Porsche and Ferrari...got me there cheating 3 years ... "

    Hey that's over 5% error, and in a Sarbanes-Oxley world you're a felon! Never admit a mistake, suggest it was the system and you had good intentions, makes a difference under federal rules, sec. 8, I think.

    Problem with worry about what happened in history of racing is that I'm in the 99th percential, never followed it and only know what I've read in the last couple years. Loved the link to the London Times article, I too grew up a Ford guy. Maybe too much baggage is a burden and it helps just looking at what is offered today. I'm really having trouble imagining how fast a C6 Z06 will be in the track, down right dangerous I'm thinking!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    I'm waiting for some nutcase to take one on the Silver State Classic....those guys are hitting over 200 mph on (closed) public roads!

    I'd like to enter in the 140 mph class. I think after that you have to really modify your car.

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  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    I agree about the vision of one man and a few others with regard to sports cars and racing.

    I've heard that Aston Martin has never made a profit, but they will make a profit this year. Wealthy owners kept Aston Martin going.

    Carroll Shelby had the idea to take a big-block Ford V-8, install it in a British sports car's chassis, modify it, and go racing. Peter Brock then styled the Shelby Daytona Coupe which dominated the Ferraris.

    The following is from http://www.corvettemuseum.com/library-archives/timeline/1951.shtml

    "The Automobile Manufacturer's Association passes a resolution that recommends that member companies (including General Motors) not participate in auto racing."
    - June 4th, 1957

    I've heard that a Mercedes-Benz racecar crashed at a major race in 1957 or so and over eighty people died. Mercedes-Benz pulled out of racing after that. They didn't come back to racing until decades later.

    The following is from the same link shown above

    "Zora Arkus-Duntov, in a Corvette SS, hits 183 MPH on the General Motors Proving Grounds in Phoenix, Arizona."

    The following is from http://www.corvettemuseum.com/library-archives/timeline/1960.shtml

    "General Motors' Chairman Frederic Donner issues a policy memo, re-iterating the company's compliance with 1957 AMA company-sponsored racing ban. This officially cancels production plans for the Corvette Grand Sport, with only 5 of the intended 125 cars built. [1] [3] [30] [55.77] [79.70] [106.5] [131.84] (February [7]) (halt called first week, 5 cars built after that"

    - January 21, 1963

    Zora Arkus-Duntov is the "father of the Corvette."

    Dave Hill and Bob Lutz are likely bigger car enthusiasts than other people at GM.

    My guess is that the people behind the C6-R want to dominate racing and they aren't going to let Aston Martin, Maserati, or Saleen get in their way. The more car makers in racing, the better. They probably welcome the competition. If the C6-R turns out to be a flop, which it wasn't at Sebring, it would still be the LAST racecar that GM would pull out of racing.

    Pontiac will back the GTO in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports car series by mid-season, which includes 911 GT3s and BMW M3s.

    I have no doubt that Don Panoz is sick and tired of Porsche 911s winning race after race in the American Le Mans Series. He now has two GTLMs running this year compared to one last year.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    But Panoz makes all the decisions I guess, so he might stay no matter what. It pays to be nuts in this game.

    Beancounters on the other hand only count beans. They don't understand passion and glory and heritage. Unfortunately, in most corporations the passion boys don't hold the power. That's what's nice about having a company with a dictator.

    The only way I can see for an American company to stay in racing is for that company to carefully choose the arena, and only go into venues where the car has a good chance. Otherwise the beancounters will bust your racing program sure as shootin'.

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  • speeds2muchspeeds2much Posts: 164
    Thought I'd chime in here. When someone says "sports car," the first thing that comes to my mind is "British sports car," i.e. MG, A-H, Jag etc. with a tan rag top and British racing green paint. I can imagine a chap with goggles and a scarf cruising down back roads of England with his girlfriend. Definately first half of the twentieth century while jets were still nothing more than German top secrets. Sports cars and auto racing grew alongside each other in the early aviation age, and the idea of barnstorming and performance driving seem to have been intertwined during that era.

    The early Corvettes, which were beautiful cars by the way, evoked Italian (i.e. Ferrari) design elements and still do imo. Porsche was a different kind of animal...sort of garage mechanic's culture, really. Porsche brothers loved to race tractors, so heck, why not drop a hot engine into the Beetle and have some fun!? That lead to the improbable, rear-engined 911 series...an accident of invention, perhaps.

    All of the above can be called sports cars in their own right, because they all have an air of danger and adventure and freedom and impracticality...even a touch of madness. Like the way men perceive women, perhaps??
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I hear about the cars and the makers but in some cases the sanctioning bodies make the winners. Ask a few other than Archer why Viper is winning in the World Challenge right now. Restrictor plates and weight, added after a good result but then not removed when the results change might be a factor. Lou G. took 3rd in a Corvette in the last race after blowing an engine in 5th place the prior race. Also what benefits is the Caddy effort getting since it is factory backed with advertising dollars for the series? It's not always about the best car or driver for that matter.
    I wonder right now if "F" is holding back in F1 so the series doesn't break up and leave them out of power. We will never know.
    The racing is fun to watch but driving is more fun still!
    Randy
  • I'm not sure you could call early Corvettes sports cars. Sure they had a swoopy body and were two seaters, but they were no fun in the corners. And the braking performance was pretty bad.
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    Can you call any early sports car a sports car? We romanticize them but whenever I see them on the road they’re not quite the way I like to remember them—they look mighty rickety. That said, yes indeed the early Vettes are vilified. They looked as cool as fazool though, especially the Stingray which I hold on a pedestal as one of the best styling jobs of all time. It still looks modern today. I also loved the MGs and Healeys. When I get in the old Vettes I coif my pompadour and put on the Duprees. In the MGs I get out the mustache wax and aviator shades. Of course now that I have a Boxster I do nothing but go to Starbucks. Shifty, do you wear a sharkskin suit quite often? ;-)

    Speeds2much… barnstorming… love it. The real sports “cars” of that bygone era were the biplanes. Ever go to an aviation show at the old aerodrome museum in Rhinebeck NY?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,421
    Actually I might be wearing a sharkskin suit someday soon if I keep boogie-boarding at Stinson Beach. They tried to eat some guy not too long ago right there in 6 feet of water...but it was one of those harmless sharks...a Great White something or other :confuse:

    Speaking of sportscars (sorry host for veering off topic) and old Corvettes, I guess you could call them "sportscars" but they had ZERO credibility as sportscars among the then small, fanatical group of propeller heads who even knew what a sportscar was in 1953.

    Once the Corvette got the V-8 engine and starting racing, I think the view of the car slowly slowly changed. With the Stingray, the car got at least a credible suspension and brakes albeit not spectacular like they have now.

    To my mind, the first Corvette to earn the title "sportscar" would be the C4---it went fast, could corner, and it bashed your teeth together while rattling the windows---these were all good signs to me.

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  • Completely agreed with Shifty's previous post (#60) about the C4. The one that I drove had the chiropractic Z51 suspension (the shock valving of which I deemed better than the Z06 I drove in 2002).

    That was a real leap in the evolution of the Corvette line. It showed that the engineers actually drive their cars and took notes as to what they did and didn't like. It's what I think is one of the key differences between my love for Corvettes and sports cars from the rest of the world. I feel like the engineers are regular Joes like me putting in the overtime because they see their work in action to the tune of about 1.3 million units (as of 2003).

    I understand that there is a passion that lies in the tiny villages of Italy for the marques that reside therein. However, those products seem so out of reach for the people, that their passion can only reach so deep.

    Germans are pretty loyal to their brands as they have a wide selection to chose from as far as getting into a sports car is concerned.

    However a lot of fans of the Corvette actually end up owners one day. So maybe the sports car cred of the Corvette doesn't need to be steeped in years of history (this is just an opinion, so keep all angry replys to yourselves). The 'Vette, to me, will always be the car I can wish for while I'm young, and obtain when I'm closer to being young at heart.
This discussion has been closed.