Opinion: What is it that makes a car sexy?

Opinion: What is it that makes a car sexy?
 

Many conversations can be had at the bar. Lubricated with alcohol and trans fats, most of them will turn into arguments. And one of the most heated — after those dealing with music, women and politics — will be centred on cars. Which is loudest. Which is fastest. Which is the best to look at. The latter is the most subjective and probably the most contentious of debates. I mean what is it that makes an automobile, well, sexy?

In my world, in my brain, a substantial amount of a car’s attraction lies in its personality — the way it presents itself on the asphalt. I might like good girls but I’m a sucker for mean machines. You see, we find ourselves in an automotive era governed by traction control and torque vectoring and sticky all-wheel-drive systems. Add Lear Jet levels of refinement and that German, turbocharged V8 über-saloon sitting out back feels all but anodyne until you approach 250km/h.

An older sports car — ’70s to ’80s vintage — is the complete opposite as all this life-saving technology had largely not been invented yet. Back then men smoked unfiltered cigarettes and accepted that speed might well result in a fiery crash on some late-night suburban road. Piloting something like a BMW 635 CSi, De Tomaso Pantera or Ferrari 328 — even at relatively low speeds — involved way more risk. And risk is, let’s face it, sexy. It’s why we humans are drawn to ridiculous things like motorsport and skydiving and train surfing: activities that all come shackled to the potential of an extremely grisly demise.

This is why I enjoy driving something like an old Porsche 911. By modern standards these are no longer fast cars. Quick, yes, but fast, no. Yet they still turn me on more than any of the latest 500-kilowatt crotch-rockets simply because, when behind the wheel, there’s that lovely sense of menace vibrating through their metal.

Lift off through a corner, brake too late or ignore the rain and you’ll be staring down the bloodied nose of what Hunter S Thompson referred to as the Sausage Creature. Driving an old sportster on the limit is like dancing with a femme fatale in the frames of film noir — one charged up on absinthe and packing a stiletto. And I think that’s pretty sexy. – Thomas Falkiner