Supercars - The Myth and the Magic

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by David Vivian. 128pp. 101/2″ x 9″. (Osprey, 59 Grosvenor Street, London W1X 9DA. £9.95)

Don’t imagine that this is yet another adulatory listing of schoolboy dream cars, starting as always with the Countach. David Vivian’s years of road-testing with Motor have left him a healthy disregard for the conventional reverence such cars awaken, and there are comments here to shock armchair enthusiasts and the writers who feed their fantasies.

For Vivian examines two subjects in this book: the cars, and the journalism surrounding them. Most of us grew up ogling lush stories about Italian exotics traversing Tuscany without expecting to be faced with the realities of bad visibility, oiled plugs, and bull-worker clutches. Having suffered serious disappointments in Ferraris and Maseratis, I enjoyed Vivian’s frank discussion of the flaws as well as the glories of cars which are untouchable for glamour, but in danger of losing out on the road to new-generation machines such as the Lancia Integrale or BMW M3.

The book debates and deflates some of the supercar myths without diminishing the passions which a great car can invoke, and questions the nature of the gap between everyday transport and exotic travel. Each of the nine chapters includes a profile of a supercar, but it is the rest of the text with its contentious statements (“the only way this Countach would touch I83mph was if it was hit up the chuff by a Porsche 956”) which is refreshing. I would argue with Vivian’s view of the Porsche 928S4 (“a crushing letdown”) and his approval of the crude, dreadful and thankfully deceased Capri 2.8i, but such controversy is central to the supercar arena.

Well illustrated, this a much more satisfying book than the usual glossy pot boiler. GC