What The Meaning Of Sport Car Is?
Simply put, a sports car is any car/vehicle which is designed to run as quick as possible. Basically, it includes of four wheels, an engine, rudimentary brakes and at least one seat. Anything that does not make the car faster is omitted - things like a windshield, top, heater, passenger seat, spare tire, side windows and so forth. This photo of a Model T racer captures the very real meaning of what it means be a "sports car". Not much to it, is there?
Prior to War II, sports cars were usually expensive toys for the wealthy. Above are a Stutz Bearcat and a Duesenberg Model SJ, both of which would have fit right in with the Great Gatsby crowd. While more substantial that the early cars based on the Model T, neither was intended for every day use.
World War II introduced American soldiers to the MG TD and the Austin Healey Sprite. Agile and light in weight, they had the additional advantage of being affordable. G.I's bought them by the thousands and shipped them home to America. It wasn't long before these cars were being raced all across the United States.
With the British sports cars selling like hot cakes, it didn't take long for the American manufacturers to join in the fun. Chevrolet led the way with the exotic Corvette in 1953, while Ford introduced the Thunderbird in 1955. Ford actually dared to sell its car with a removable hard top, pushing the idea of a sports car into the future, as the idea of a sports car as a personal luxury car began to take hold in the marketplace. From that point on, the race to load the cars up with automatic transmissions, leather seats, power windows, power brakes, power steering and ponderous V-8 engines was in full swing.
As the American cars became more and more fixated on comfort and luxurious appointments, two manufacturers from across the Atlantic continued to pursue the idea of a sports car that was closer to the original concept. In 1963, Porsche introduced the 911 model. Light and lithe, with a 6 cylinder engine, it was a delight to drive and it immediately attracted a loyal following among enthusiasts. At about the same time, Jaguar brought its XK-E to America, where it caused quite a commotion. Often referred to as the most beautiful production car of all time, it also featured a 6 cylinder engine tucked away beneath that gorgeous and oh-so-sexy nose.
Also in 1963, Chevrolet introduced the all new Corvette Stingray, the most desireable of which were the so called "split window" coupes. The bar through the rear glass was supposed to make the car resemble the stingray for which it was named. But the design was expensive to produce and in 1964, Chevy switched to a single rear window design. Since the "split window" was only offered for one year, it remaines one of the most sought after Corvette models. In 2009, Chevrolet unveiled the mighty ZR-1 Corvette. With twin turbochargers, the car pumps out 625 horsepower and hustles to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. While it sellw for almost $100,000, its performance equals or exceeds that of exotics costing two and even three times as much. It is currently the pinnacle of American sports cars.
The idea of a sports car has changed dramatically since Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T. But the essence remains the same. A sports car is just down right fun to drive. It is a four wheel grin machine, one that makes you want to just go somewhere. And if you get lost along the way? Well, that sense of adventure is part of the sports car experience, isn't it?
After MG stopped producing the MGB in 1980, the magic era of the affordable sports car that began with the TD's and Sprites that our soldiers brought home with them after World War II came to an end. As the world struggled with oil embargoes and emission controls, the lure of owning a sports car dimmed considerably. But then in 1990. Mazda introduced the Miata, which was a deliberate attempt to re-create the affordable, two seater, open sports car again. My wife and I have had one for 6 years. Though its a 1994 model, it runs and drives like new. Its a sunny day car, no doubt about it. We average about 3,000 miles a year with the car. And at that rate, and given the Miata's reputation for reliability, it should be good for another 20 years before we need to replace it. Its the car we use to go get ice cream in the summer and pumpkins in the fall. Its our road trip to The Cape car. And it puts a grin on our face every time we drive it. I think that's what sports cars are really all about!