In the last decade, new technologies have escalated the horsepower arms race. We all know the Bugatti Veyron had 1,000+ horsepower, but when you can get 700hp from your local Dodge dealer – with a warranty – or even 200hp from less than 2.0L in a Nissan Juke, it’s a good time to be a gearhead.
WELCOME TO THE 100HP CLUB
The 100hp club. If your vehicle makes 100hp or so, welcome to the club. My little Rocinante, a 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero, with a carburetted 2.6L 4-banger – in its prime, 25 years ago – made 108hp. A quick google for specs tells me it did 0-60 in 12.7 seconds and clicked off a 19 second quarter mile en route to a theoretical top speed of about 90mph. Having done 75-80 downhill with a tail wind in this truck, I’d say these figures are pretty accurate.
I love my slow, little truck. That “big” 2.6L “hemi” redlines at 6000rpm, but I seldom wind it out past 4000. It’s got enough grunt to surprise just about anyone off the line – even if only for about 6 feet – and around town, it’s plenty capable of holding its own in traffic. As my friend Kris used to say, Be smooth. Don’t lift.
THE JOY OF SLOW CARS
Every gearhead should own a slow car at some point in his or her life. You’ve heard it said it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow – or something to that effect. This is 100% true. Mornings when I’m running late and have to hustle to beat the clock, I can flog the living shit out of Rocinante and still not necessarily worry about one of those criminal speeding tickets. There’s just not enough runout to get him moving that fast.
There’s just something special about the connection you get when the car relies on your ability. Rocinante does whatever I tell him to do with my hands and feet. I want to grenade the tranny downshifting into 2nd gear from 70mph? If I can slot that lever, I can do it. I want to wind 1st gear out to 9000rpm? If the engine holds together, I can do it. If I want to lock up the brakes sideways into a turn and lay him down in the street. I can do it. Well, maybe. He doesn’t exactly stop on a dime.
The point is this: There are no digital nannies coddling me into a false sense of skill or security. No traction control or ABS. No airbags or blind spot alerts or rev limiters. Rocinante has more in common with a riding lawn mower than a modern SUV. And I like it that way.
Much as I love Rocinante, lately I’ve been planning to sell him off and buy a newer Pajero. Specifically, I’m looking at 98-99, “gen 2.5” models. The 3.5L V6 makes twice the horsepower, is 2 seconds quicker to 60, 1 second quicker in the quarter mile, and can cross the 100mph mark, and gets 1-2mpg better fuel economy – all while being 1,200lbs heavier.
Oh, I still want a Delica. Absolutely! But I also want to eliminate some debt before I drop $15,000 on a never-sold-here, 25-year-old Mitsubishi. Love my Mitsubishis – and completely trust RightDrive – but let’s be reasonable. Much as I love Rocinante, I’m ready for a smoother, more sophisticated daily driver.
Which brings me to the question – Am I getting too old? Yeah, I want the blister-fender Monty/Pajero/Shogun for its power and off-road prowess, but the biggest draw right now is the creature comforts. Power windows and locks, a sunroof, functional heat and air conditioning – an automatic transmission (so Vanessa can drive it, naturally).
It’s no fun 4-wheeling alone. I know I’m fine with spending 8 hours on the road with the windows down in 100°F/38°C weather, bouncing roughly over whatever terrain crosses my path, but that’s a little too much to ask of my wife and 2-year old daughter, ya know? The newer truck would be more comfortable, which means it would be more likely to take the whole family on adventures – which we all know usually leads to even more adventures!
I MIGHT BE GETTING TOO OLD
So here I was, farting along in traffic this morning, thinking about how I’ll go about selling Rocinante, and how nice it will be to commute in my new Pajero sometime (hopefully very) soon. For some reason, Megasquirt EFI crossed my mind. That’s right. I haven’t even listed my current truck for sale yet and I’m already thinking about modifications on the next one. And that’s when it hit me – I’m not concerned about horsepower anymore. I’m concerned about comfort, systems redundancy, and reliability.
Wow. Next thing you know, I’ll think the music is too loud, too.
What about you? How have your automotive priorities changed over the years?