Defining the sports car - Weekend

Defining the sports car

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

THE Performance and Classics Enthusiasts (PACE) invited me to a short talk given by the acting chairman of the Manila Sports Car Club (MSCC) and highly respected car enthusiast Andy Sta. Maria. This talk was about the definitions/classification of cars. The MSCC defines a “vintage car” as any car built in 1930 or earlier, while cars built from 1931 to 1972 are defined/classified as “historic,” and cars built in 1973 onward as “post historic.”

I like the way the MSCC has defined/classified cars in general as it is clear and simple; one would know exactly where his car belongs by just checking the date of manufacture of his car. It is important to note that the definition/classification of the MSCC may not be the same as that of other car clubs. Car clubs make their own definitions/classifications of cars to determine whether or not a particular car is qualified for the car club.

FAST CARS. A Mercedes race car from 1938 stands beside the current Mercedes Formula One 2014 world champion car at the Essen Motor Show, a show for tuning, motor sport, series sports vehicles and classic cars. The event was held late last month. (AP FOTO)
FAST CARS. A Mercedes race car from 1938 stands beside the current Mercedes Formula One 2014 world champion car at the Essen Motor Show, a show for tuning, motor sport, series sports vehicles and classic cars. The event was held late last month. (AP FOTO)

Mr. Sta. Maria did not define what a sports car is, as he said it would take another talk for it as it is quite complicated and has been subject to a lot of debate and argument. He just mentioned that the MSCC has a list of cars that they consider a sports car. He gave an example of what he considered a sports car that would not fall under such a definition, and this is the McLaren F1. He also mentioned that the classic Ford Mustang is not a sports car, except the Classic Shelby GT 350. When the Mustang was launched in 1965 it was marketed as an affordable sports car. I was intrigued and I did my own research on the definition of a sports car.

A sports car is more often defined as a two-door, two-seater car that is made for fast driving. Strictly following this definition, the Ford Mustang cannot be classified as a sports car as it can seat five people, while their fastback model was designed to seat four. Mr. Sta. Maria says the MSCC accepts the classic Shelby Mustang GT 350 as a sports car because it was made in a different manufacturing plant and was sold as a two-seater – the car had no rear seats. The McLaren F1 is a three-seater where the driver sits in the center between passenger seats on each side, yet it is also classified by the MSCC as a sports car. While I completely agree that the McLaren F1 is a sports car as per definition, I am not that convinced that the classic Shelby Mustang GT 350 can be considered a sports car as per definition, because even if it was built in a different facility, it is still a modified Mustang that has no rear seats. One of the most iconic sports cars ever made is the Porsche 911. However, the 911 has small rear seats, and yet it is universally accepted that it is a sports car.

I thought to myself, what if we modify the definition of sports car to “a two door, usually two-seater car that is made for fast driving.” This definition would now make the McLaren F1 and the Porsche 911 fall square as sports cars. The problem with changing “two-seater” to “usually two-seater” is that there are a whole lot of two-door cars out there that perform well and can be driven fast but are not really sports cars, and such a definition might falsely lead the owners to believe that their cars fall under the category of sports cars. It seems to me now that the original definition is still the better definition, but instead of reading the definition as it is, the definition should be treated like a statute. And in order to determine whether or not a certain car is a sports car or not, we should construe the definition.

Giving the difficulty of accurately defining what a sports car is, the method of the MSCC of having a master list of cars that they consider as sports cars and therefore makes a person eligible to join their club is the best solution, as the gray areas in the definition become black and white

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