I make mention of this because this phrase has always been pertinent especially locally where we’re often persuaded to buy a car based on its accolades.
Let’s go back to the golden days of South African motorsport. Forget the fact that there used to be proper Formula 1 racing here and try to remember the awesome racing that was going on in the late 1980s and 90s. The racing was particularly enjoyable in the Group N series, which meant that all the racing machines were as close to showroom production models as could be. This meant that the drivers of the cars who won the race in this championship on any given race day would have bragging rights in the real world.
In the early 90s both BMW and Opel produced iconic versions of their staple vehicles with the 325iS and Kadett Superboss. The significant thing about these two cars, they were both developed locally for the Group N championship.
The Superboss was the hot hatch of its day with Schrick cams, improved intake and exhaust, a new engine management system, limited slip differential, better springs in the suspension and those legendary Aluett alloy wheels that filled its arches. Peak power was 125kW/228Nm from a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre which held the record for most torque per litre for a non-turbo car until the Ferrari 458 recently took that crown away.
Then we have the BMW 325iS, which was created by BMW locally when it was realised that we would not be getting the e30 M3. The 325iS had some big shoes to fill after its predecessor, the 333i, had such success in the saloon car championship and had cemented itself as an instant classic.
The iS from 1990 onward had body panels made of aluminium and its M20 engine grew from 2.5 to 2.7 litres. It produced 145kW and shot from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds. Later the 1991 called 325iS Evo was released with aerofoil under its body for airflow, stiffer springs and a thicker rear anti-roll bar. It now made 155kW thanks to changes to the throttle body, exhaust manifold and inlet valves.
Both the Superboss and the 325iS became massive sales success stories and indeed very successful in the circuit racing realm. Both are still admired as highly collectable vehicles to this day.
Here is where I propose things have changed. Today the consumer has no interest in how well the cars are doing in the Production Series and this comes down to one simple fact, the production cars are too far removed from standard vehicles. A prospective buyer would much rather go to a track day or a legal drag event to see how a car performs as this is a true reflection of what the car they’re buying will do.
We’ve seen the advent of very strong engines in modern cars; this means that after market tuners can perform relatively significant modifications to a factory vehicle with a reasonable amount of reliability. So, when you go to Tarlton on a Sunday and you see that ST, GTI, RS, STI, M or any other acronym that tickles your fancy perform well you instantly want that car.
In the era of the Engine Control Unit (ECU) we can now literally plug our cars in to our smartphone and diagnose problems or drop our cars off at a tuner and collect them two hours later with 15 percent more power just from an ecu remap to advance timing and fuelling. I’m not advocating the modification of vehicles that are still under warranty but merely admiring the ease at which we can make our pride and joy faster these days.
So you see, the modern equivalent of what BMW and Opel did over 20 years ago has come full circle. Now instead of the manufacturers modifying the cars to new heights for competition purposes we ourselves can buy a car and for a reasonable amount of money and transform it to the point where it is significantly faster than it was when it left the factory. It has become a case of win on Sunday sell on Monday and send it in to the tuner on Tuesday to ensure that you also win on Sunday.