‘Be it EV, hybrid, restomod, reimagining or replica, the Thrill of Driving is all that counts’

Our world may be fragmenting, but some core values don’t change, says Jethro

Jethro opinion header

In the great dusty bin of evo feature ideas that never happened, my favourite is the oft-touted and never realised ‘Classic eCoty’. The concept is simple. Pick a year from an era before evo existed, identify the most exciting cars launched in that 12-month period, and then thrash them around the countryside for a week to crown eCoty 1973, for example. Well it’d be wrong if we didn’t kick off with a Porsche shoo‑in, wouldn’t it? 

Just imagine! Before the inevitable unanimous win for the 2.7 RS we’d be treated to the spectacle of a BMW 2002 Turbo snapping at the heels of a Ferrari 365 GT/4 BB; a tail-sliding MkI Escort RS2000 being shadowed by the sophisticated but rowdy Dolomite Sprint. Maybe we’d finally get hold of the De Tomaso Pantera GTS that’d we’d been promised for nearly a year from the importers and get to sample Japan’s Datsun 260Z… What a fantastic list of shapes and noises and potential mechanical failures. Why did we never make this idea happen again, Stu? Oh yeah, the potential list of mechanical failures. What a tragedy. All those hypothetical memories consigned to the scrapheap. 

Or maybe not. The lines between a Classic eCoty and our regular annual celebration of the greatest new cars on sale are beginning to blur. Just think how eCoty 2021 could have looked. Sure, we had the 992 GT3Ferrari SF90 and the new M3. But wouldn’t a Singer 911 DLS also have made a pretty mighty contender? Not forgetting the GTO Engineering Squalo, of course. Hell, even their standard 250 SWB revival would be an astonishing thing to include. Then there’s the MZR-50 Anniversary that reinvents the Datsun 240Z, the Redux E30 M3, the Lancia Delta Futurista, even Maserati’s own Fuoriserie department teased on social media with ‘Project Rekall’, a new concept based on the Ghibli or Shamal of the ’90s.

> ‘She gestured towards a double switch on the wall. “That switch,” she said. “I want to get rid of it.”’

It’s a fascinating time, isn’t it? On the one hand, mainstream manufacturers are being forced to embrace hybrid and EV technology, to downsize engines and offer vegan interiors. Yet, on the other, the hunger for highly evolved legacy technology is voracious. It takes many forms – from stunning restomods to simple piecemeal upgrades – but there’s no question that the buzz around, say, Nismo offering complete RB26 engines once again dwarves an announcement that the new AMG, RS or M model has 503bhp and a drift mode, or that Etceterini will soon offer another 2000bhp EV supercar with a 600-mile range.

So is our world fragmenting? Or perhaps even deliberately breaking away to avoid the EV asteroid that threatens to destroy our old way of life? Is evo and its audience simply giving up on remaining relevant, fatigued by the twin evils of spiralling weight and a horsepower war so pervasive it feels like the only metric anybody cares about is hitting 60mph in less than 2.5 seconds? I hope not. In fact, I think our remit is clearer than ever. Certainly easier than that of a mainstream mag, which has to navigate the almost impenetrable arguments over well-to-wheel emissions, EV charging infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cells and synthetic fuels. For us the mission statement remains the same. The Thrill of Driving is all that counts. Be that EV, hybrid, restomod, reimagining, replica or anything in between… all we care about is how it drives and if you should want one deep down in your soul. 

The point of saying this out loud is as much a reminder to me as a rallying call for us all to keep an open mind and to think of this ever-expanding world of performance cars as a melting pot rather than a divide separated by a yawning chasm. Do I roll my eyes at yet another EV supercar rendering? Oh my god, yes. Do I want an Alfaholics GTA-R more than the entire line-up of many supercar makers put together? Pretty often, yep. But if I’ve learnt anything in this job it’s that surprises are frequent and on-paper disappointments can add up to real-life heroes. 

So let’s be excited about an eCoty that could comprise an air-cooled 911 that revs to 9000rpm and a hybrid mid-engined machine with a dozen driving modes and a carbonfibre chassis. Let’s embrace the idea that a car that looks like a 1960s Ferrari might just edge out a new 812 Competizione when it comes to the thrill of driving. Or not. Who knows? Until we get all of these sorts of cars on the same roads on the same day, it’s impossible to predict.

The idea of Classic eCoty might have been a frustrating non-starter, but I’m sure there are many more eCotys to come with cars that are diverse, extreme, evocative, technically fascinating and impossibly exciting. You might even call them classic.    

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