The concern of “what if I dent it” is sobering….
There’s something bittersweet about handing back the keys to an outrageous supercar or luxury limo.
On the one hand, returning something that costs the same as a Toorak two-bed usually marks the end of a few days of motoring ecstasy and a lot of fun.
And it also serves as a brooding reminder that, as long as I stay in this line of work, I’ll never call something of a similar ilk my own.
Beneath the more superficial sadness, however, lies intense relief.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to get my hands on some very expensive and exciting hardware and, whether it’s the simply unfathomable sums of cash or a case of downright ignorance, a certain measure of desensitisation to the value of these cars is a byproduct of the experience.
In fact, it’s sometimes a necessity to ignore the eye-watering bottom line to drive an expensive car as it deserves to be driven.
But the nagging fear of damaging a car is always there – the terror of binning something that, not only can I not afford but would struggle to run to its optional paint job – buried beneath layers of confidence and distraction like an ugly fossil under millennia of sediment.
With a smile and a handshake I tell the press-car keeper I didn’t want to give it back but, between you and I, I really did.
And it’s not just the stress of potentially splintering some seriously pricey carbon that can tarnish the fun. The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, for example, can exceed the national speed limit in second gear and, hilariously, will crack 100km/h … in reverse.
In short, if you want to hear the heavenly noise of a 6.5-litre V12 go through more than one successive gear-change at the red-line (and everyone should at least once in their lives), you had better be prepared for the sort of tickets the police frame on the station wall.
That’s why really fast, expensive and rare cars are not the most fun you can have and, ironically, it’s at the very opposite end of the automotive spectrum that you’ll find the car’s Elysian Fields.
There are many facets that combine to produce the unique enjoyment of driving. One of them is the sensation of speed and rapid acceleration, another is the tailpipe report and both of these are dealt out in surplus by our Lambo example and all of its rivals.
But when it comes to arguably the most important of driving virtues – involvement and interaction – the shitbox is king.
Take my friend Mason’s Hyundai Excel for example. Just a few laps of his improvised grass-track were necessary to experience oversteer, a handful of scandis, second-gear wheelspin, handbrake turns, four-wheel drift, and a fully overcooked circuit exit in an embarrassing demonstration of understeer.
Had the same set of circumstances played out in a Ferrari I wouldn’t have ended up giggling at my own childishness but unemployed, alight or dead.
While there is something exhilarating about the dizzying limit of an all-wheel drive, mid-engined supercar, venturing there is terrifying.
But pushing a tiny three-cylinder, front-drive manual hatch to the edge is something you can replicate indefinitely and always with a smile on your face.
Cutting laps of a racing circuit in something with upwards of 600 horsepower will always be an automotive nirvana of sorts, but it’s the same kind of sweaty-edge-of-disaster fun people seek in bull riding and doing a full loop in a plane.
I’ve done one of those and, even though I will be telling people about it until I die, I don’t want to do it every day.
Finding that perfect band of blacktop away from the melee and bouncing the valves of a little four-pot all the way to the top of a mountain is, however, something I will do for the rest of my days.
And if I ever did the same in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, those days would be severely curtailed.