As a young boy growing up with older brothers who were very much into the car scene, dreaming of driving any of the exotic cars of the day occupied most of my time.
Famous names like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche all conjured up sleek sexy machines that got the adrenalin flowing.
I recently got a chance to live the dreams. I was invited to experience some of the world’s most expensive cars in an event organized by Lotus Club member Mark Rector. The beauties were supplied by GTA Exotic Car Rentals.
After leaving GTA Exotics in Etobicoke, we headed to the spectacular winding and scenic roads of the Caledon Hills. This was close to perfect as a venue for touring in sports cars. All we needed to make it better was a visit to a racetrack.
My day started off in a Lamborghini MurciÃ©lago, with a 6.2 L V12 engine that sounded like no other automobile. The sewer-pipe-size twin stainless steel exhaust pipes from the mid-engine machine made this the loudest and sportiest sounding bit of technology of the group.
The gear selector was in the Italo-typical aluminum-gated fashion made famous by Ferrari in the ’60s. Although it looks functional and sporty, it was a little “notchy” and not much fun to use.
Outward visibility rearward was limited but I have encountered worse. Power was spectacular and pinned you in the seat when full throttle acceleration was called for.
This car garnered the most attention from passersby, as it looks like no other car on the road. The scissors-styled doors are certainly different but not the easiest to use.
I was disappointed by the dead pedal in the Lamborghini. It was too close and put my left foot to sleep. For a fine handling automobile capable of higher than normal lateral g-forces, this is just not acceptable, since a dead-pedal location deep in the footbox is required for optimum control while experiencing spirited cornering.
The next machine I drove was a V10 Dodge Viper, whose engine has more torque than should be allowed by law. This second-generation Viper is much more civilized than the first. The original Viper was brutal and a handful to drive but, in my opinion, it looked sportier.
This version has a more usable dead pedal than the Lambo. The shifter was also smoother and a lot easier to use, although the Viper’s excessive torque meant that shifting was less of an issue, since this monster really didn’t care which gear it was in. It just pulled out of any corner with carefree abandon.
The only complaint was the free play in the throttle pedal, and the touchy brakes ruled out any heel and toe down-shifting.
After the Viper, I was able to spend some quality time in the beautiful red Ferrari 360 Spider, which also had the gated gear selector. This one, however, was smoother to use and made you want to shift more.
On the other hand, the sweet-sounding, high-revving V8 begged you to stay in the higher rpm range so you could bathe in the mechanical sound of pure F1 technology.
The Ferrari’s seating position was excellent, with a small precise steering wheel and perfectly placed dead pedal. Even on a cool, cloudy day, this was a car in which you just had to have the roof down.
But this particular Ferrari had seen better days. The glovebox would flop down under full-throttle acceleration from age and wear. For a car that sold for more than $250,000, you would have expected better quality.
I really enjoyed driving this sports car and it was my favourite.
As I approached the next driving experience, I couldn’t help think it felt out of place amongst these sports car exotics: a brand new, “speeding ticket red” Mustang GT500.
The first thing that struck me sitting in this car was how high the cowl and hood are. I felt like I was driving from a tank turret. After sitting in the two-seater mid-engine sports cars with the low aerodynamic front-end profile, the Mustang made me feel enclosed in a metal box. It had more power than some of the other exotics, as it, too, had more than enough torque to light up the tires in just about any gear.
While driving the Mustang, I always had this feeling that I was biding my time for a seat in one of the real sports cars. The Mustang was the only car in which I listened to the stereo; the others made their own music.
The last car I drove was a yellow Ferrari 360 Modena. In bright yellow, this fast machine screamed “look at me.” This exotic marvel has one of the sexiest lines of any sports car on the road.
With the same mechanicals as the 360 Spider, the only difference was the roof and the F1-style paddle shifters. Upshifts and downshifts were flawless and, as much as I enjoyed shifting like an F1 driver, I missed the gratification of performing my own heel-and-toe downshifts.
As our day in the exotics wound down, I headed to Pearson airport in the yellow 360 to pick up my daughter. Her reaction was “Cool!”
While I looked for the latch to open the front trunk, she already had her luggage stowed behind the seats. It was quite a surprise that a suitcase would even fit in that area.
What was disconcerting was that the low-slung Ferrari would sometimes bottom out on some of the speed bumps in the airport parking lot. The low stance that is so important to both handling and high-speed stability is quite a drawback to simple city driving. It made me wonder about all the headaches the kids with slammed Hondas must put up with to look cool.
Now, if I could get a Ferrari with the torque of the Viper, the sound of the Lamborghini, the comfort of the Mustang GT500 …
This was a day to remember; a day young boys can only dream about.
Stewart Wilson of Exotic Car Rentals (gtaexotics.ca) says the next logical step is to organize track schools so that customers can experience the limits of these fine machines in safety, with the guidance of qualified instructors. Count me in.