Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The B-Lister

The B-List. Well, at least you are on a list. I guess. These B-List cars are the Old Navy's to The Gap.  The Choice cut to The Prime cut. The vacation to Florida to the trip to the Cote d'Azur. 

Yes, they have some highlights to them. They were the right badge, but inside or outside they are missing something. Yes, I know. They are missing the things that actually made prospective buyers desire these autos in the first place. Whether it is performance, or styling or handling these cars give up something so that they could be built down to a price instead of up to a high standard. 

And there are two types of buyers for the B-list cars. Those that think they got a great deal on a car that is 9/10ths the real thing for 1/5th the price. Well, they are wrong. But because these folks, and they are usually folks, are blinded by a deal ('jimmy, meat is on sale for two bucks a pound') they will never think otherwise. They will be happy with the B-list car. Just like the bad singer is happy to be mocked on American Idol.

The second buyer for these cars are the ones who put on airs. Are trying to fill the garage of the house that they cannot really afford either. And this, is much sadder than the former purchaser. Because these bumbling strivers will never be happy with the purchase. No matter how many doodads or coats of wax they put on these steeds, they will only ever be a reminder that they didn't add up to as much as they hoped, or their parents demanded. 

Mk III MGB. Coupe or GT. Set aside five grand. Sure the MGB was the best selling sports car until the Miata came along but it was not a success because of the Mk III. Sitting higher by an inch, grinning wildly from an added on rubber fascia to satisfy crash standards and motivated by an emissions choked 4-cylinder this B lacks all the handling charm and finesse that made the Mk I and II so sweet to drive on a country road in Connecticut or a B road in the UK. The chrome is missing. The exhaust is muted. The seats are two-high with their headrests. The Mk III B gives you no reason to overlook the many foibles of these cars. Most often seen under tarps, as rusty heaps or on southern college campuses. Because they are so slow they would be a good first car. 

1989 2.8L BiTurbo. This will take $10,000 for one that won't blow up on the drive home to your condo. "Hey, Honey, I'll pick you up in my Maserati." One hour later. "I thought you had a Maserati, not a Nissan Sentra?" Some say they look like E30 BMWs. Nonsense, they look like Sentras. Don't insult the E30. Of all the Italian cars, the Maserati needs to deliver style and performance in an elegant fashion. The BiTurbos do not. The power comes in with an ungainly lag and punch reminiscient of a woman throwing a ball. And the styling was boring, boring, boring. There is not one redeeming quality to it. Even the fabled Maserati grill looks like a fake, like the Rolls Royce grills grafted onto VW bugs in the 70's. Get the 2.8 and while working, the 225HP will have you smiling, until you need to take a turn. Note, no one should buy a Maserati with fake wood trim.

1976 912E. $15,000 will get a show winner. This one year only model is the slowest 911 variant ever built. At least you can bench race that. Because of less power and more weight it was even slower than the well-balanced and actually desirable 1966-1969 912. Built to have an entry level car while the 924 was being developed and the 914 phased out Porsche came up with the idea of just sticking a stock 2.0 liter VW engine in the fabled 911 chassis. At least they didn't ruin the looks. And that is where the unflared 912E shines. It's impact bumpers a very visible smack down of the inept British Engineers who Frankensteined the MGB bumpers. The flat Fuchs wheels. The sweeter handling if you went in for the optional rear roll bar than its more powerful brother. This is a Porsche to drive everyday thanks to a galvanized chassis, good mileage and peppy handling. Just do not go about telling people you have a 911.

pics from ausbcomp.com, maserati.org and mgownersclub.co.uk

1 comment:

Mark Tashjian said...

As I was ordering a newer version of the Porsche Posters book....I noticed your Book...search for the Prototype at Frankfurt?
Not sure, but this is facinating as I was owner of one of the unique 901's as I was maturing in the business of Porsche and Racing.
I was involved in purchase of this car in Milan and used this car in NYC for a period of time. It was sold along with a 63 Carrera 2 with a broken ring and pinion.
I traveled throughout the city with this car as I learned the craft-Mark Tashjian-FORMULA MOTORSPORTS (.COM)