Diatribe: Who needs all that horsepower? Me!
BY AL VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media March 13, 2012 3:38PM
If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of somebody else always trying to tell you enough is enough. Who died and put them in charge?
It seems to begin during childhood when you’re sitting at the dinner table and decide you want more potatoes. Your mother tells you, “You’ve had enough.” Years later you’re sitting in front of the television watching your favorite situation comedy and your father comes in and says, “You’ve had enough television for one day, Junior. Go to your room and read a book.”
You get the picture; when is it your turn to call the shots?
These thoughts have been running through my head lately because of work-related situations. As most of my readers know I’m an automotive journalist. As such I test vehicles on a weekly basis. I seldom know more than a few weeks ahead what sort of vehicles I’ll have delivered to me to spend up to a week with for heavy evaluation (I’m heavy and I evaluate them).
Lately I’ve had a run of high-performance vehicles that even make me jealous. For instance, this week I’m testing a 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8. What does that mean? It means I have a new Charger with a 6.4-liter Hemi engine that develops 470 horsepower.
A few weeks back I had a 2012 Mustang GT Convertible. What did that little number produce? Try 412 horsepower. Along the way I’ve had some vehicles with horsepower ratings in the mid-to-high-300 range. So inevitably I’ve heard some folks ask: “Who needs that much horsepower?”
This got me to thinking about who actually is the horsepower god? Is it some mythical being like the Greek gods on Mount Olympus who sits around twirling a camshaft all day watching vehicle proving-ground tests of new cars and assigns numbers to them? Wouldn’t he have to work with a medical god who figures out how much horsepower a particular person can be subjected to? Telling someone that nobody needs a certain amount of horsepower is tantamount to telling somebody they can only have a certain number of children.
About the only thing I’m going to concede is this: Where are you going to honestly open up a 500-horsepower midlife crisis car outside of a NASCAR race track? Sure, there are scads of places in population-deficient areas in western states where you can let a car rip. Seems like old Brigham Young was on to something when he urged people to “Go west.”
I don’t care if I’m not able to race down Interstate 75 at 200 mph. But I sure do like knowing I have the ability to do so with some of the vehicles I drive. And if I want to sit at a stoplight with all 550 horses of a Mustang rumbling like a bunch of angry bees that’s my privilege. Truth be told, I don’t really do that much driving over the speed limit in the first place, but I love driving powerful vehicles.
For those who pass judgment by saying “nobody needs that much horsepower,” it goes against the grain of freedom of choice. My dad carried a 30-caliber Browning water-cooled machine gun all over Europe for almost two years to give me the right to choose a machine that in the wrong hands could kill everyone within 1000 feet. It’s just like the massive numbers of SUVs found in the United States; if customers didn’t want them they wouldn’t be there.
I’ve made an effort throughout my career to try to avoid injecting religion (or politics) into the pieces I write but it’s time to give a little-known history lesson and it applies directly to the topic at hand.
For thousands of years it always has been assumed that Moses brought back just 10 Commandments when he climbed Mount Sinai. They were written on two tablets, five to a side. What people don’t know about is the folded up commandment that Moses put in his pocket that he was handed by the Lord’s racing consultant, Herschel Kalitta. It said, “Thou shalt not put any governance on big-block V-8s.”
So there you have it. The next time somebody looks at your 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V and tells you that nobody needs that much horsepower simply tell them to take a hike; you’re only doing God’s will.
Al Vinikour is a Midwest-based freelance auto writer. Proving a mind is a “terrible thing to use” he sometimes sits in traffic and ponders about things — generally auto-related — that make him mad. Believing the “pen is mightier than the sword” (and generally results in a whole lot less jail time), he vents his anger through a word processor and produces the Driver’s Side Diatribe column. Email him at email@example.com.
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