Saturday, September 19, 2015

Drive 129 from Vintage Wheels

                I was recently blessed enough to move to Knoxville, Tennessee.  It is a beautiful city with a fun atmosphere.  It is also located in a stunning part of the country.  Several of the locations in the city have an amazing view of the Great Smokey Mountains, which as just a few miles away.  The benefit for car guys living here in Knoxville is the proximity to Highway 129; known around the world as the Tail of the Dragon.  The Dragon is known mostly as a Mecca for bikers; however, vehicles of the four wheel variety also enjoy this ribbon of blacktop.   For any readers who have not had the pleasure of visiting our fair highway, the one thing to remember about The Dragon is it is very technically challenging for any driver.  It is also a public road with a strict speed limit.  To keep visitors out of the weeds and out of jail, high powered super cars are not advised on this road.  If you want to ring out your track car, go to a race track.  Therefore, in order to enjoy The Dragon, a lightweight and lower horsepower car is sure to make any day on the Tail of the Dragon a memorable one. 

The Obvious:  Did someone say lightweight, low horsepower sports car?  You must be talking about the Mazda MX-5 Miata.  Twenty-five years ago, when the Miata first went on sale, it became an instant hit.  In the two and a half decades that followed, the Miata has become the bestselling sports car of all time.  The Miata combines a willing chassis with possibly the best transmission in the world. That makes for one fantastic experience. 

The Original:  The idea of the Miata is not a very original one.  Mazda openly admitted to copying British sports cars from the 1960’s and ‘70’s.  One such Brit came from the Triumph Motor Company called the TR6.  It is hard to describe what exactly makes a British car so special.  Is it their unique sound or look?  Whatever it is, it is very cool.  It won’t matter that the electronics are bad and the radio is busted.  Listen to the exhaust.  It doesn’t matter the build quality is cheap.  Learn every nut and bolt of the machine and become an expert.  That’s a big part of the fun in owning one of these classics.

Captain America:  The Corvette has never been looked upon as a light or nimble sports car.  Frequently, it is known as a cheap American alternative to the Porsche 911.  Though, if an individual is in the market for a reliable, low mileage sports car with a large enthusiast following and aftermarket support, the internet is full of Corvettes.  Every price range is available right now.  There may have never been a better time in history to get into Corvettes than at the moment.  Plus, that low end V8 torque is perfect for pulling out of tight bends like those on the Tail of the Dragon.  

Bimmer:  Sometimes a true sports car isn’t the only option.  The BMW M3 is a favorite among car guys for its handling and everyday usability.  The first M3, known as the E30, is still the most popular.  While the newest M3 is a track day focuses sedan, the E30 was best known for is how delicate it was.  With only 192 horsepower in its U.S. trim, the E30 relied heavily on its race inspired suspension and steering to give its driver the ultimate feeling of control.  The asking prices for E30s have really ballooned as of late, and it is hard to predict whether the market will flatten out or continue to go up.   

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