Driving the Space Shuttle, and other fun things

May 7, 2010 | Opinions

That up there is a concept car called a Mazda Furai. It has a 450HP Renesis engine, and… oh never mind. You probably don’t care. Just look at it. Look at the beauty of it.

I would give anything to drive this car.

I’ve talked before about how I love cars and I love to drive. The Furai is the car I want to own, if the stars align and reality is bent and somehow Mazda spontaneously decide to let twenty-something Irish women drive it around the Nürburgring. It’s just so exotic, so otherwordly. But in this particular reality, I’m not likely to ever see one in the flesh – and that’s especially because I live in Ireland.

One of my major gripes about this country is to do with the cars. Vehicles with more powerful engines are taxed to the hilt. Vehicle Registration Tax is a crippling chunk of the price of a new car. Insurance for anything even remotely interesting is prohibitively high. This all adds up to what I see on the roads today – a parade of automobiles that are small, fuel-efficient but weak, and utterly, utterly boring.

No Ferraris do I see, much as I’d want to. Few Porsches. BMWs for the businessmen, which are always black saloons with white leather inside – and they might have two liter engines and resemble large boats on the road, but their ubiquity makes them uninteresting. And they were never made for the cult of speed; their purpose is simply to be part of a professional image. Women drive around in little hatchbacks, or people carriers for the kids. The boy racers have their sporty Toyotas and Hondas with spoilers on the back, but who are they kidding? They’re mostly working with cars that were never designed with them in mind.

I was over in the States a while back, and I had the pleasure of renting and driving a Chevrolet Corvette ZHZ for about five days. Take a look at it there.

Imagine, if you will, the sensation of driving a $60,000 American muscle car when you have only ever experienced vehicles like the safe, family friendly Toyota Corollas that are so common in Ireland. Imagine driving something with an engine that sounded like a tiger roaring under the hood, and compare it to the quiet, sanitised hum of your average four-door hatchback. Believe me when I say that driving the Corvette on an American highway was a little slice of automotive bliss, and handing back the keys was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

It was like driving the Space Shuttle. You’ll never see one in Ireland, because it’s so expensive in every way that it might as well be in orbit.

I’ve still got my crappy Toyota. I throw it around the place a lot, and drive it too fast, and generally act irresponsibly every once in a while. But why can’t I have Corvettes, and Mustangs, and Dodge Vipers, and all the gloriously powerful American cars? Why must the government make it so hard to own a truly awesome automobile, one that doesn’t need a spoiler or a flash paint job or blue LEDs or, by all the gods, any of the other ridiculous modifications that young gentlemen like to make to their rides?

Maybe it’s the market. Maybe there isn’t enough interest here to warrant shipping over a few Corvettes modified for right-hand drive, although with the apparent number of boy racers around with money to spare, I find that a little hard to believe. Chevrolet do sell their saloons in Ireland, so the infrastructure is there.

Or maybe it’s government regulations? I really can’t say. Whatever they are, the barriers to awesome car ownership here are vast, and it hurts a little more when you’ve had that taste of heaven, and seen all the amazing cars that are the norm on the other side of the Atlantic.

Someday, mark my words. Someday I’ll drive my own Corvette. And it will be awesome.