Rather than plaster the SPECIAL SPEED ISSUE banner across Richard Eccleston’s supercar-crowded front cover this month, I thought I would tell you quietly here: This is our big, fat Speed Issue. You will find police officer Kevin Edell’s humorous yet succinct tips for handling yourself with decorum at speed (Ignition, page 18) and Mark Gillies’s sparkling interview with Amedeo Felisa (Ignition, page 22), deputy managing director of Ferrari. Before you go directly to the flashy “200-mph Club” cover story, in which we attempt to live with the four fastest cars in America, stop at page 34 and read about Mercedes-Benz’s best car, never mind that exotic on our cover. The M-B CLK DTM AMG (we’d like to buy a vowel, Vanna) is a mere $300,000, with its speed governed at 199 mph. Yes, governed.
Gillies also pulled the assignment to drive the Ferrari F430 in Italy (page 74). He’s our best driver, and you don’t send your people to Maranello lightly. He returned with the knee-slapping news that Car and Driver’s boy put one in the gravel. Oh, har-de-har-har, better them than us. When you’re driving in front of chief tester Dario Benuzzi, you don’t want to be the jackass. That story is sandwiched between a Preston Lerner profile of versatile racing driver Boris Said (page 68) and Ronald Ahrens’s tale of his rookie attempt at a hill-climb, in a Saab 9-2X (page 84).
There should be no need for me to explain to any of you why we need speed. It has been proven by science that the human body can’t run faster than 35 mph, so we need fast cars. (Well, that’s what my husband, an aging U of M track star, told me. Then again, he was a long-jumper, so what does he know?) Oh, and by the way, we also need fast bikes, fast trucks, fast SUVs, fast minivans, fast boats, fast lawn tractors and weed whackers . . . you get my drift.
Speed is illicit. Speed is fun. In a world where we are ferreted out by fax, sought incessantly by cell phone, and bludgeoned by BlackBerry, we need to be able to turn the sludge pit of our daily lives into a molten blur in the window as we scream past. Sometimes you just have to get where you’re going as fast as you can drive. Sometimes the best engine noise comes only when you put your foot into it all the way, when you’re already going 80. Then there are those pure exercises in top speed that are undertaken because that’s the sort of car you’re driving and you don’t want to waste the opportunity. So you find yourself going 155 mph as discreetly as you can.
What must it be like actually to own such a machine? we ask. In fact, we asked renowned collector and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, whose 200-mph street cars include a Ferrari F40, a McLaren GTR F1, and a Ferrari Enzo.
AM: Why do you need an Enzo if you have an F40?
NM: Why does anyone need more than one car? Once you’re as spoiled as me, you begin to get pretty picky. The Enzo is a much more modern car. And it’s easier to drive in the wet. In many other ways, I remain an unspoiled person, though it might be difficult to find witnesses to that.
AM: How many miles have you driven each?
NM: As usual, there is always something that makes these cars impractical. For instance, the F40 has a rear screen you can’t see through and side mirrors with insufficient adjustment. I redesigned the rear screen and sold forty of them to those in need. The Enzo is absolutely blind in left turns. The McLaren’s rear vision is also nonexistent. I put three small cameras back there. One to pick up the police and two for parking. It’s actually a great video game, parking.
AM: How fast have you driven on the road?
NM: I’ve had the F40 up to 170 mph on the autobahn in Germany. Actually, Ferrari authority Bob Houghton and I had it that fast in France on the way to Germany. Fortunately, he was driving, and they took his license.
AM: Have you racked up points on the old license?
NM: For really pathetic things, like the speed camera catching me at 35 mph in town.
In closing, here’s one thing to remember: Driving 200 mph is stupid. But driving badly at 35 mph is just as bad.