The Circle Opens
Welcome to Hyperleggera, a blog about the decadence of automobiles and other machines that go fast in interesting ways.
Words: Peter Orosz
if you will, with the mother of all burnouts, powered by sixteen cylinders of German engineering, older than John McCain, throttled into existence by a man who feared for nothing, except the safety of Frau Rosemeyer, who died last November aged one hundred.
This was back when racing cars were seriously cool.
A full dodgeviperful of power delivered across contact patches the size of thimbles, an engine slurping through a quart of racing fuel every mile and you wear a canvas helmet grab a thin wooden steering wheel—
[which also serves as your harness]
—and corner your way along the 14 miles of the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Downforce will not be invented for another forty years, save for a freak of engineering that will kill you at Mach 0.35 on a windspent stretch of Autobahn 18 months later.
This was back when the automobile was on the upswing.
We are entering a dark age of vehicle engineering, with supersonic commercial aircraft mothballed in Barbados, with supercars whose computers limit your speed to less than one third of what Bernd Rosemeyer was doing when his Auto Union disintegrated into shards of aluminum seventy years ago.
Lockheed SR-71’s are relics of a space age long gone and kids these days don’t build rocket planes and supercharged race cars that scare you but build Facebook widgets instead. An age where safety triumphs over progress every single time. Where Achilles would shamble into battle wearing Kevlar heel protectors.
As if a Myrmidon motherfucker would ever choose old age over glory.
Like the racing suits of the men who drove them, the Silberpfeile were white, becoming silver only when Alfred Neubauer and Manfred von Brauchitsch scraped the paint off a Mercedes-Benz W25 to comply with weight rules. We have come full circle. The automobile is yet again white: a white good.
And until we build scramjet-driven hypersonic jetliners that transform into ekranoplans at will, the only cars worth noting are the pointless ones.
The roadsters powered by air-cooled tank engines. The Audi R8’s and the Pagani Zondas. The ricers you hack with handheld gaming consoles. The two-barrel Webers on vintage V12’s. The S54B32’s revved into the eight thousands and counting, the sound echoing off the façades of townhouses.
If you built a car, would Bernd Rosemeyer drive it?
Welcome to Hyperleggera. Expect no white goods. Only white riots.
∞ Published on Friday, June 6th, 2008