Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday commute lxiv: not that it's worse via Italy

While not, strictly speaking, a tor-rent, the flow of messages which came in yesterday, protesting a perceived defamation of Italian motorcar de-sign in the day's installment of Suppose it were Friday represented enough of a chastisement to prompt this urgent adjustment in our scrolling programme. We are not recommending a reluctance to accept a ride in a vehicle produced in Italy for the hallowed purpose of bleeding off the pressings of the male ego, even if an oil slick may reasonably be expected in the roadways of one's wanderings. Or, rather, we have won the concession to put it a slightly different way: we are not recommending a discriminatory dread of passengership in an Italian vehicle under such circumstances.

That said, no one went so far as to suggest that one might prefer to be in such a vehicle for the traversal of an oil slick, given Italian motorcar manufacture's quite lovely other vir-tues. I refer, of course, to the genius of the grander marques for turn-ing heads, dressed or 

not in overnight dust mittens, gurgling or not from their mid-engine camshafts at idle in the piney shade of Carmel-by-the-Sea, drawing adoles-cents as so many stray needles to the thyrsus. What a genius these things do have for run-ning a pogrom against the village boys, in case our military should run out of pipers.

But with the migration of the limited slip differential to Modena, and the discovery of modulated braking systems, the chance of surviving a spin in the Forest of Fontainebleau is not materially lessened in a macchina of sub-Alpine provenance. Fortunately, too, none of these prophylaxes against catastrophe has been adopted at the expense of the conveyance's exciting attention. That said, to the Bugatti Brescia's 30 brake horsepower, inflation has lent another 15 times as much, none of it useful except for acoustic display; so the cure for elegant risk has come at the price of a redundant layer of frustration. Hence the persistence of riding bareback.

If there is any element in the pa-thetic evolution of the sports car, which is more to be regretted than its hideous encumbrance with osten-sible safety features, it is the ascendancy of electronics over mechanical quirkiness. Twenty zillion little computer-controlled servo motors intervene between the driver and his experience - indeed, between ignition, itself, and the driver's command - so that one may as well be daydreaming a drive at home, as actually steering (to the extent the vehicle allows) its avoidance of life's little hazards. Adding incalculably to the cost of the car, this degeneracy works an ironic and gruesome decapitation of pleasure.

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