No. 924
November 22, 2017

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Road Kill



By Dr. Bud. E. Bryan

Austin. The run-up to the great SXSW meltdown is under way. It's when Austin becomes the epicenter of hipness for a week or so (frankly, it seems like a month), and a lot of time, ca$h-ola and energy are expended by companies trying to impress upon everybody that they: 1. Got it goin' on and 2. Got it goin' on more than the other companies in their universe. In the midst of all this hipper-than-thou posturing it has become wildly apparent that if you're a company down here boasting of your hipness invariably you aren't hip at all, or if you are, you're only tragically so. Companies talking to themselves is the biggest cottage industry down here during SXSW, there's no doubt. C'est la vie, as they say, and I'm glad everyone in the city gets a cut of the action during the SXSW frenzy, but a friendly note to all of the hipsters: Thanks for coming, now please leave at your earliest convenience so we can all resume our daily lives, thank you very much.

Now, on to more pleasant things. In the last couple of columns in my unadvertised return to the pages of AE (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Next 1 Entries" to read previous columns - WG) , I've lamented the fact that this car thing is on the wane, racing as it is conducted now well and truly sucks, and this whole greed thing going on in the car hobby is beyond obscene. Thanks to that I'm sure there are plenty of you out there saying, "Why did he even bother coming back in the first place?"

But hey, the more I think about all of those things the more I believe that I have my feet planted firmly on the side of rational thought, which unto itself is frankly a scary and in some ways a seriously depressing thought. The ol' Budster veering toward rational thought? I know, "what the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know," or something like that. But seeing as this car thing is transitioning to a new phase as in,, I figure if I'm riding a comet that's about to flame out then I'm going to ride it until it fizzles, or bucks my ass off, whichever comes first.

I hinted in my first column back that, seeing as we're living in the golden age of high-performance and that we have some seriously fast machines at our disposal, I had considered two machines in the last six months. The first was a basic Cayman S 6-speed (and I mean zero options, which is damn-near impossible when getting a Porsche), and the other was a Camaro ZL1 6-speed. Both with manual gearboxes of course. And I noticed quite a few emails flowed into the sight with people absolutely sure about what I ended up with, especially from our friend Jack over in Santa Fe.

The fact is, I love both machines for very different reasons. The Cayman S is the closest thing to the original Porsche 911 sensibility and state of mind that used to exist. No use regurgitating the fact that Porsche is a different company now, a company that makes all of its profit from selling SUVs and crossovers, or that the new 911 is frankly a big GT car wrapped in a 911 shape. "It is what it is," as Peter says. (And this coming from someone who vehemently raised a one-man blitzkrieg against the notion of the Cayenne. He just shrugs his shoulders about it now, resigned to the fact that Porsche exists and thrives and races from the profits generated by those SUVs. But he hasn't totally given up, because if you want to get him going now just say, "See, those vehicles allow Porsche to still build cool stuff!" And he will say, "Yes, that's true to a degree, but what has happened to the 911 is a travesty and very much isn't cool." But I digress.)

Peter and I strongly agree on one thing, however, and that is the Cayman, either standard or "S" configuration, is the best pure driving Porsche you can buy. I can still feel the purity of Porsche thought in the Cayman, one that harkens back to the company's original mission. And that's saying something in this day and age, since the 911 has become a porky, albeit still fast, parody of its former self. Set out down the road in a Cayman and it takes all of 30 seconds to say to yourself, "Yeah, this is the real deal here."

And that's no small feat, as Peter reminds me all the time because, as he says, "in this day and age any car company can tap into the 'right' suppliers and order up a smorgasbord of the right ingredients and end up with a high-performance car. But that doesn't mean it's all going to work or that the end product is going to have any character to it whatsoever. But when it is done right, that's when the magic can still happen."

And the Cayman is done right. Real right.

But then again, so is the Camaro ZL1. High-performance cars come in all shapes and sizes, and the Camaro ZL1 is a big, brutish machine that's a high-octane cup of shut-up and a raised middle finger to those who would dismiss is it as being too crass are not as cool as the amped-up German high-performance machines. (And yes, it's bigger than the 911, but we're talking different scenarios here. The 911 bears no resemblance to what it originally was, which is depressing, while the Camaro is every bit within context and consistent with what it has always been.) It's fast and loud and you shift its gearbox with what seems like a tree trunk of a gearshift lever complete with big-ass shift ball on top, which is only appropriate because, well, what else would you expect? Exhaust pipes the size of soda straws and a gearshift lever with the heftiness of a roadside diner fork?

Yes, you can trundle around town with the Camaro acting like a right-minded citizen and all, but when you do that you start to get itchy, and you crave just enough daylight to let it rip, even if it's just a brief hammer down interlude punctuated by one shift. It's a machine that offers no apologies to those who have what they perceive as being the "finer" automotive sensibilities. You know the type - the ones who rarely drive their machines between washes and treat them like hermetically-sealed show ponies that can't get dirty. And throughout their entire length of ownership never even remotely experience what the car was built for.

The Camaro ZL1 isn't like that it all. You run it hard and fast and long and when you see it parked it's more likely to be covered with bug carcasses and still tick, tick, tickin' and heaving from being run within an inch of its life. That's the way it should be, as far as I'm concerned. Cars are depreciating items. Our motto here at AE is buy what you like and like what you buy, and drive the damn thing. If you're looking for an investment, then go somewhere else.

So, after all that, what happened?

Well, let's see, I thought having both of these wildly divergent but momentous machines would be a damn near perfect solution. But how to pull that off? Foisting off one or the other on Nadine was a futile notion, as she is a Mercedes-Benz girl and to that end she has an S550 S-Class Coupe on order. But Jolene is another story altogether. She likes smaller, engaging sport machines that she can shift herself, and she has always loved the Cayman, so, when her current lease was up a few months ago I talked her into buying a bare-bones Cayman S, knowing full well I could drive it whenever I wanted to. I even helped make the payments more affordable by adding a big-ass down stroke. It's Black with Black and she loves it. And I love it even more.

As for me? I got a White Camaro ZL1 with Black trim, just like the one Peter and I terrorized the Detroit freeways with a couple of summers ago. It's a bad-ass machine from the get-go, one that matches my End of Car Days mindset perfectly.

Two great machines that add up to a double-shot of the High-Octane Truth.

Life, its own self, can be pretty damn good sometimes.

Adios until the next time.