During the last week M'dear's Prelude has been in for a service, as has my Shuttle. All this to-ing and fro-ing of cars was going to be a damned nuisance, so I did a spot of advanced car blagging. Graham, the ever patient vendor of all things Honda has been prevailed upon to part with his shiny new, but nicely run in, bright red CRX VTi. ..... Life can be tough!
On day one I attacked it with gusto and sought out some twisty bumpy roads to give it a good thrashing. Being used to Eileen's CRX which was stiff, hard and torquey I was so disappointed with the new car in the first few miles that I very nearly handed it back there and then. The new VTEC appeared to have no torque at all, the scuttle shake would have done justice to a well thrashed X1/9, the controls were horribly light and the suspension seemed softer than a used Range Rover. I was horrified, how could Honda ruin such a great car, what the hell were they on. My God, the magazines had been right after all.
I mentioned all this to Graham, who just smiled and told me to keep it for another day. So I picked it up again last night and drove home. Eileen was working late, so I shovelled in some scoff and wondered what to do, as by now it gone 7 pm. It was a lovely evening though, so I hatched a cunning plan.
Off came the roof (dead easy) on went my new goose down jacket, Guns n' Roses in the stereo... lets go see my brother in Fettercairn, 75 miles north. Smoother roads, occasional traffic, car beginning to feel good. Low geared OK, but so smooth that it is irrelevant, this car fits like a pair of well worn Levis, you don't get into it you put it on. Stereo so good (and close to you) that it could probably make your ears bleed... this is good...give it loads W Axl! Open road, slower car, stick it in third, 5500 rpm, engine note turns to a scream and raps up to 8000 plus, jeez this thing goes like stink, and sounds better than W Axl too. Yeah..
Drive thro Dundee, children stare at it, girls cruising in cars give me the eye, guys in XR3s pretend they can't see me... heh, yeah.... I like this, like 1976 and my first X1/9 all over again. Sink a little lower into the seat and adjust my karma.... yeah, for sure.
Dual carriageway, known hang out of the blue meanies, dial up 80 mph, cruise mode. Car seems to have absolutely no rolling resistance, uncanny, so so sweet. Play with the windows, optimum is side glass up, targa window dropped, heater up, jacket zipped. Farmers burning stubble, notice the smell of smoke, notice the smells of diesel, grass cuttings, evening dampness descending, tree pollen. This seems oddly familiar, can't think why at first, then it dawns.. it is all the same smells you get on the bike, a four wheeled bike..yeah, and a Honda too, figures. Roundabout, swift turn in second, floor the throttle, third, do it again, fourth, check mirror... traffic is 200 yards behind me, heh only my bike pulls stunts like this, only this thing revs even higher than my Bimmer and it is infinitely sweeter too. This car is more like a bike than my bike is. Wierd.
Pull off main road, meanie free zone, lets see if you go round corners. Pick a gear, any gear, snarl...whang...nyeou!!! Corners start to flow, almost no effort, steering super light, grip amazing.... but the ride, it's the ride that is staggering... it rides like a Jaguar saloon... this is surreal! Sun going down, crop spraying helicopter 200 feet above me using the road to navigate home, look up I can make out the rivets on the fusilage and I'm holding station with him. Still it flows on, left, right, dip, crest, I'm travelling VERY fast here, turn off the stereo, bury the throttle... what a fabulous noise, Ettore Bugatti would approve of this car, it sounds like a well-bred track car, ripping calico. I never knew what that old cliche meant, tonight I do.. believe me I do.
Arrive, unannounced, chez brother, he's pleased. We take the little blighter for a thrash, him driving. Alarmingly fast as a passenger, what the hell, watch the deer on the hill, God it's a gorgeous evening, moon coming out now,its getting colder, turn up the heater, cosy. Back to the house, quick coffee and say our goodbyes.
Dark now, roof still off, down jacket sublimely comfy, glad I bought it now. Through the forests to Edzell, old beech trees and pine, smell so fresh you could chew it, car contemptuous now, simply sliding thro the darkness, so amazingly comfortable and confident, back off to 8 tenths now, that's even better and just as fast. How do they make wheel bearings that can run so freely? Other than the music of the engine the rest of the car seems to generate no mechanical noises at all. This is a revelation, this car is light years on from my last CRX, how do the Japanese do it? Have they all sold their souls to the devil in some Faustian ritual in return for this mechanical magicianship. What on earth is a Lexus coupe like?
Back to Fife, dark and late now, weel kent roads. Turn off the stereo again and lets really give it some stick. Memories of late night blasts home from John and Barbara's in Dundee, X1/9, pre police speed mania, engine howling, eyes beginning to stream, maximum everywhere, FANTASTIC.
So Honda do it again. They invent not a car but a new concept. And what happens, the vast majority of silly buggers don't understand it..typical. There are faster cars around than the CRX, there are stiffer shells, better handling, better looking, noisier, comfier... you name any parameter and there will be a car that can beat it. But if you want a car that takes EVERY parameter and gives you a measured dose of each to serve up an mixture which has a sufficiency of each and an excess of none, then in my opinion the new CRX has just defined the state of the art. Period.
I can't remember when I handed back the keys of a car more reluctantly.
Unpublished piece - originally written in Spring 1993