The flyover curves right, light traffic does its daily plod on a dimly lit but otherwise unexceptional dawn in a city that’s just waking up. I see a break and floor the throttle with intent. The motor’s gruff, almost annoyed rumble deepens into an unholy, evil roar. After 26 kms of a cold drive with only the engine heat to keep me warm, I reach the destination. Nestled in the beautiful hills unknown to the human population opposite to the airport, an abandoned quarry it was, filled with rainwater courtesy the heavy downpour previous night. The view was worth the trek, with few early rays of the sun sneaking through the overcast sky to dance on the water body formed. It had to be one of the most beautiful sunrises I’d ever witnessed in a long time, but soon enough it started to pour and I got back into my 17-year-old Type 2 Honda City for the drive back home.
People questioned 20-year-old me when I was entering my UPI pin to transfer the last installment on the car to the previous owner. But I was convinced. Agreed it doesn’t have android auto, automatic climate control, massaging seats, rain-sensing wipers, etc. but it has what makes it a car. A responsive steering, an engine and a gearbox plonked on four wheels, that plasters a smile on my face whenever I take it out for a drive. In my 7 months of ownership, I’ve clocked 7000 kms, bringing the odometer reading to 88,000 kms. But the numbers don’t matter because these engines were built to last for a couple of generations.
For a college student like me, this made perfect sense. I could sharpen my driving skills and master my lines as the car was as raw as it could get and didn’t have any driving aids like the current-generation cars do. Moreover, whenever it broke down, it was just another lesson I learnt and another opportunity I got to know my car’s mechanicals better. As an enthusiast myself, I find the current-gen cars not as exciting to drive. A good powertrain and stronger driving dynamics sadly now are trumped by fuel efficiency and aftersales support, thanks to the changing preferences of the average customer and the manufacturers complying with them. Take for example the Fiat Linea T-Jet 125s which was recently discontinued due to hardly any double-digit sales over the past year.
As with a smartphone, the customer now demands more features which were unheard of, earlier in the automotive industry. And thanks to stricter emission norms and the introduction of forced induction, naturally aspirated engines are now as rare as finding a Mclaren without a blazing history. Even in performance tuning stations, running a code with the laptop plugged into the car now gives a bump in the horsepower figures that an engine header change used to, in the early days, which isn't as bad but the science of mechanical tuning is now gradually being neglected. Our palms no longer get sweaty, breath is never as fervent and its a pity for all this is happening even before we run out of fuel. Cars such as the Mk1 Octavia Vrs, Palio S10, Type 2 City Vtec, the Abarth Punto, the Polo 1.6 have been a niche segment in our market all these years and going forward it is highly unlikely we’ll get cars such as these. With the advent of electric cars just around the corner, we might as well be the last generation of petrolheads who are fortunate enough to be able to pick an IC engine of our choice and blast down the highways and hairpins with the sound of magic humming sweetly around us.
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Sriharsha Avs - for The Driver's Hub