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From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - The Countach - Wedge on Wheels

The angular silhouette of the Lamborghini Countach defined a generation of exotic car dreams. Its origami folds and creases sculpted the perfect geometry to allure youthful eyes in the 1970s and 80s. This was a poster car for every adolescent bedroom wall.

When it arrived in 1974, the Countach's design was outrageously futuristic. Its razor-edged style made everything else on the road look outdated and soft. The famous scissor doors, swooping roofline, and low-slung greenhouse encapsulated the era's space age aspirations. Kids saw the Countach and imagined themselves as astronauts blasting to the stars.

But it wasn't just about the looks. The Countach was shockingly fast and loud. Its V12 wail and explosive acceleration produced real performance to match the concept car styling. No compromises or concessions to practicality were made in pursuit of speed and adrenaline.

Early models defined raw and dangerous with their twitchy handling and lack of creature comforts. Windows didn't fully roll down, the clutch pedal was notoriously heavy, and visibility was dreadful. But for style-obsessed youth, these flaws just added to the appeal. Mastering the Countach meant mastering an untamed beast.

Popular culture amplified the mythos of the Countach. It co-starred in Miami Vice, cementing its status as the definitive exotic. Pop songs name-checked the Lamborghini that was on every kid's wall. Owning one meant you had arrived at the pinnacle of material success.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - Supra - Toyota's Slice of Supercar Heaven

The Toyota Supra occupies a special place in the pantheon of attainable dream cars. For an entire generation of enthusiasts, it represented an injection of Japanese excitement into a European and American dominated supercar scene. Kids who couldn't hope to afford the exotic offerings from Italy and elsewhere suddenly had a credible budget-priced alternative to lust after thanks to Toyota.

When it first debuted in 1978, the Supra built on the reliable sporty reputation of the Celica. While no match for contemporary European thoroughbreds, the early models marked Japan's intention to be taken seriously as a builder of authentic sports cars. By the third generation in 1986, the Supra had matured into a propulsive powerhouse with sophisticated independent suspension and turbocharged punch.

Thelegendary 2JZ turbo engine introduced in 1993 redefined the Supra's performance capabilities. With over 320 horsepower in stock form, and easily modified to produce much more, it could enfin duce the kid of numbers previously found only in the upper echelon of supercars. No longer just an also-ran, the Supra now had the machinery to back up its looks and seriously trouble more expensive metal.

Import tuner culture propelled the Supra into icon status. Owners, especially younger ones, loved that they could customize their cars to look and drive like exotics that would normally be out of reach. The fact that a Toyota could be morphed into something that could humble Ferraris and Porsches at a fraction of the price was part of the appeal. And of course, glowing magazine reviews cementing the Supra as a giant killer on track and street cemented its giant killer status.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - Integrale - Lancia's Rally Rocket

The throaty snarl of the Lancia Integrale's turbocharged engine echoes through the forests of Corsica, its four wheels spitting gravel as it drifts around hairpins. This is the Integrale in its element "“ bounding down rally stages and leaving more powerful cars in its wake. Kids around the world witnessed its adventures and longed to have that rally magic in their own driveways.

By the time the Integrale arrived on the street, its motorsport pedigree was well established. In rallying during the late 1980s, the Integrale and its predecessor the Delta HF 4WD dominated like no other car. Lancia won six consecutive manufacturer championships between 1987 and 1992. The tenacious combination of a lively naturally aspirated engine, muscular turbo boost, clever differentials, and tenacious handling made the Integrale unbeatable on loose surfaces.

Kids were captivated seeing the road-going versions aggressively attacking corners with the same rally-bred attitude. The box flared wheel arches and hood vents hinted at competition origins while retaining practical hatchback usability. Integrales didn't have the highest top speeds, but their crisp response and traction made them feel fantastically quick. Handling was balanced with slight understeermorphing to smooth oversteer at the limit. The Integrale made experienced drivers out of novices.

Integrale models like the Evo 1 and Evo 2 turned up the boost pressure and increased output from the 2.0-liter engine. Straight-line acceleration improved, as did agility. But there were no negative impacts to reliability or drivability "“ the Integrale remained as unflappable on the street as it was on gravel. Kids aspired to master their Integrale just like rally legends did.

Tuning companies and owners exploited the Integrale's robust drivetrain and ample power reserves. More boost pressure and other modifications extracting over 300 horsepower from the original 185 were common. For youth obsessed with speed, these powerful Integrales were attainable alternatives to expensive supercars. Their raging exhausts and popping dump valves spoke to rally dreams.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - NSX - Honda's Everyday Exotic

The Honda NSX shattered perceptions of what an exotic car could be when it debuted in 1990. While traditional supercars dazzled with impractical designs and sky-high price tags, the NSX pursued everyday driveability without sacrificing thrill. It was a revelation for kids who saw exotic cars as all flash and no substance. The NSX proved that incredible engineering and performance could co-exist with reliability, comfort, and accessibility.

Central to this philosophy was the NSX's mid-mounted V6 and all-aluminum construction. This exotic technology was harnessed not just for speed records but also for feel and control. The NSX steered with telepathic precision thanks to its ultra-rigid and lightweight chassis. Handling followed driver inputs obediently. Grip from the all-wheel drive system was tenacious. Yet the cockpit provided space and visibility for comfortable commuting or road trips. Maintenance costs and reliability were comparable to a Civic.

Prestigious supercar rivals may have crossed the finish line first in acceleration tests, but the NSX redefined what exotic could mean. Other supercars were garage queens and status symbols, while the NSX was happy to log everyday miles. Its accessible limits invited drivers to explore and master the unconventional chassis design. Motoring journalists praised the NSX as a revelation that humiliated established European players for design and engineering incompetence.

The NSX became symbolic of Honda's technical prowess and rivals had no choice but to follow its lead. Everyday exotics soon appeared from Ferrari, Porsche, and others combining Honda"™s formula of sharp handling, lightweight construction, reliability and cognizant engineering. Kids could now dream of owning an exotic car that they could also rely upon daily.

But the NSX avoided domestication or muting its potency. The high-revving V6 loved to scream all the way to its 8,000 RPM redline. Its manual transmission had a mechanical slick action that perfectly suited the engine. Character oozed through every interaction between man and machine. Famous owners like Ayrton Senna were integral to perfecting the NSX driving experience. Kids thrilled to have a supercar that champion drivers personally engineered to deliver pure, undiluted satisfaction.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - 3000GT - Mitsubishi's Marvel of Engineering

The Mitsubishi 3000GT encapsulated Japan"™s technical creativity and unwillingness to conform to supercar norms when it debuted in 1990. While traditional Grand Tourers prized style over substance, the 3000GT engineered enormous performance potential under the skin. Kids were enamored by the Japanese marque squeezing 300 horsepower twin-turbo V6 engines into sleek, understated designs.

Mitsubishi channeled significant resources into making the 3000GT a legitimate technological tour de force. Active aerodynamics intelligently manipulated wings and intakes to optimize stability and reduce drag. Four-wheel steering tightened turning radius while enhancing high-speed stability. These innovations allowed outrageous performance from the 3000GT"™s potent 320 horsepower engine without sacrificing daily drivability.

But the technology wasn"™t just gimmicks and gadgets. Hardcore driving ability mattered most, evident by the 3000GT winning prestigious endurance races like the Spa 24 Hours. Active suspension firms damping during spirited driving while softening for cruising. Viscous limited slip differentials expertly balanced power between the rear wheels. The 3000GT"™s handling was untouchable, transitioning from docile commuter to apex dominator at the flick of a switch.

While kids lusted after the 3000GT"™s spaceship cockpit and sci-fi tech, older enthusiasts appreciated the large comfortable GT body. Long distance interstate cruising was relaxed and effortless. Turbo lag was minimal and power delivery顺滑. Mitsubishi refined the raw edge of past sports cars, maintaining excitement while optimizing stability. Unlike its contemporaries, the 3000GT refused to compromise real-world usability.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - RX-7 - Rotary Revelation

Of all the eccentric engineers and designers behind the cars that enthralled kids of the 80s and 90s, Mazda"™s hold a special place for stubbornly pursuing the rotary engine vision. While piston engines dominated the automotive landscape, Mazda believed in the smooth power delivery and lightweight design potential of the Wankel rotary. Their genius manifested in the RX-7, a sports car kids obsessed over for its rev-happy motor and razor handling.

The rotary under the RX-7"™s hood was an oddity that demanded respect. Spinning triangles rather than pistons drove the crankshaft in these motors. Lacking heav reciprocating mass and vibration of tradition designs allowed the rotary to spin freely to 9,000 RPM. Maximum twist arrived immediately off idle. Kids were intoxicated by the RX-7 at full throttle as the tach needle arced around the dial. The raspy engine note sang all the way to the stratospheric redline.

While fast in a straight line, RX-7s came alive in the curves. Their low center of gravity and near perfect 50:50 weight distribution allowed incredible balance and poise. Kids learned car control guiding the RX-7"™s tail out with subtle throttle adjustments. Minimal body roll and delicate steering transformed even novices into experts sawing at the wheel. The RX-7 emphasized driving purity rather than outright power.

Improved turbocharging eliminated any power deficit in later RX-7 generations. But increased twist never diluted the brilliant chassis or handling finesse. Kids honed their skills in RX-7s, then applied them to conquer twistier roads in quicker cars.

Mainstream rivals relied on brute force from lumbering V6s and V8s. The RX-7 followed a different formula "“ finesse, free-revving motors, and flawless feedback. For kids more interested in corner carving than stoplight drag races, it was a dream come true. They studied every nuance of the unique rotary engine, joining Mazda"™s proud tradition of defiance.

Like any eccentric technology, rotary engines demand compromise. Fuel economy and emissions suffered relative to piston-powered rivals. Seals and rotor tips needed fastidious maintenance to preserve performance. But challenges just increased the dedication of enthusiasts to mastering the rotary. Kids accepted the RX-7"™s quirks as assurance they were driving something exotic and special.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - Skyline GT-R - Godzilla from Japan

The forbidden fruit of the 1990s import scene, the Nissan Skyline GT-R earned its Godzilla nickname by dominating racetracks and blowing away misconceptions about Japanese sports cars. While European exotic supercars trumpeted pedigree and history, the upstart Skyline GT-R relied on raw technical brilliance. Its legend grew from decisively humiliating expensive rivals on their home turf.

Kids obsessed over the Skyline GT-R because it represented a defiant rejection of the status quo. Price tags and prestige mattered little against the Skyline's brute power and four wheel drive grip. Automotive journalists risked their licenses test driving Godzilla on the autobahn and came away stunned. Refined high-revving turbo inline-sixes generated over 276 horsepower, at least a 100 more than most rivals. Unconventional ATTESA all-wheel drive expertly juggled torque between front and rear axles. But the real magic was the advanced HICAS four-wheel steering, which sliced understeer and sharpened turn-in. At high speeds, the Skyline GT-R cornered like it was on rails.

No wonder motorsport proved to be Godzilla's natural habitat. In racing specs with over 500 horsepower, Skyline GT-Rs became giant killers - taking overall victories at the Spa 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours, and Australian Touring Car Championship. Seeing a blue and white R32 GT-R streak past a Porsche 911 at the 'Ring was sweet satisfaction for kids who loved an underdog. Nissan refused to sell the Skyline GT-R abroad, which just heightened its allure. Drivers went to great lengths to import gray market cars to satisfy their lust.

From Dream to Drive: The Attainable Cars We Lusted After as Kids - Diablo - Lambo's Devilish Dream Machine

Of all the poster cars that enthralled youthful imaginations, few could match the Lamborghini Diablo's sheer presence. Its name alone conjured visions of untamed power and danger. Kids were hypnotized by the Diablo's shape-shifting silhouette accented with scissors doors and a cockpit hugged tight to the pavement. Magazines touted its acceleration as close to a Formula 1 car thanks to a monstrous V12 pumping out nearly 500 horsepower.

The Diablo distilled Lamborghini's ethos to its raw essence - outrageous performance and styling with no regard for practicality. Its carbon fiber and magnesium chassis weighed just over 3,000 pounds ready to do battle. The mid-mounted V12 required Italian passion and tolerance for maintenance, not Germanic precision. Visibility was dreadful and the heavy clutch pedal legendarily difficult. But mastering the Diablo meant learning to exploit its tremendous reserves of power.

On the open road, few cars could live with the Diablo at full pelt. Its V12 wailed all the way past 8,000 RPM, propelling the Lambo past 60 mph in around 4 seconds. The engine note set spines tingling and unleashed primal adrenaline. Yet handling required respect, with wayward traits and snap oversteer always lurking. Kids idolized drivers like Jean Alesi who could dance on the limit controlling the Diablo's wild side. Just starting this raging bull took courage that young enthusiasts aspired to.

For a lucky few, dreams became reality behind the wheel of a Diablo. They confirmed it drove as outrageously as imagined, if not more so. Mere mortals struggled to access the engine's full potential without professional training. The perfectRequires commitment to master, but thrills are tenfold for those dedicated. No computerized safety nets insured against errors - drivers relied on their skill to tame the beast.

Kids worshipped the Diablo for its ambitious engineering and technology. The all wheel drive Diablo VT introduced adjustable suspension and traction control to harness the V12's power. Later SE30 and SV models used weight reduction and power bumps to shatter acceleration and top speed benchmarks. Lamborghini refined their creation without disturbing its savage spirit.

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