Slow car movement – would you consider it?

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A discussion with that title has been going on now for a few days in the Vintage S2000 Owners group. This thread was inspired by an article on something called the slow-car movement. For your benefit let me attempt to define what a slow car is – A car that has abysmal horsepower by current standards, yet delivers fun & excitement by dint of its limited tire grip, and exceptional suspension, gearbox and steering. A car that demands a skilled driver and that thrills said skilled driver from the get go. A car that is as much fun at 17 MPH as it is at 70 MPH and is compltely devoid of electronic nannies or driver assists and creature comforts like air conditioning.

Not too long ago a fellow forum member (lets call him Disgruntled Publicus) purchased an MG A to go racing with Vintage SCCA. I showed up at one of his race weekends to play the part of a diligent pit crew member and unofficial timer. One of the benefits of showing up, is that I got to sit in his little MG A that is very spartan when compared to the S2000. Forget the less than ergonomic aluminum racing seat, I had to tuck my left hand inside the door panel under the roll cage bar to get a proper grip on the steering. As I looked down to the pedals I realized that everything I’d known about heel-toe was naught and I would really have to relearn the art if I wanted to drive the car. The car itself was so simplistic and light weight. We could see little adjustments making a big difference and my friend Disgruntled started going faster and faster around Lime Rock Park as the day progressed.

The other slow car ride-along experience I had was in the CRX-Si that another forum member owns. Who’d even think that a car weighing around 2100 lbs and possessing a measly 108 HP would be so much fun. But the little Rex delivered, and it was fun being flung around corners in that car.

I guess the point here really is that “slow cars” with their low HP, and well-tuned suspension and excellent driveability offer more smiles per mile than a modern car with all kinds of driver aids that is not fun at a lower speed. Cars like the BMW 2002 tii, MG A, Fiat X1/9 and the Honda CRX-Si are some slow cars that have acquired global renown as their successors have gotten bigger, faster and safer.

Some could argue that the S2000 is a slow car when compared to contemporary competition. The new CR-Z could also be considered a modern slow-car when you factor in its anemic horsepower coupled with its slick shifting six-speed gear box and sporty suspension. Mazda has plans to make the next Miata as light as the first gen Miata, Hyundai offers a 2.0 liter engine in its Genesis Coupe, and the mighty BMW M3 may no longer have a V8.

Considering that the recent economic crisis we are enduring has impacted manufacturer plans to down-size their engines and gain performance benefits from direct injection and turbo charging, do you think we are all witnessing the start or the resurgence of a slow car phenomenon?


Tip of the hat to dlq04 and other contributing vintage members for their insight. Acknowledgements also go to Jamie Lincoln Kitman for his inspiring article in GQ Magazine.

Images courtesy of blueosprey90 and A2.

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