Nary an hour passes that millions across the nation do not fret about the future of the United States and its free fall toward second-rate status. They wring their hands about the lost work ethic, the rise of illiteracy, the violence of TV, the poisoning of our environment.
But there are others who worry about more gripping issues. For example, a small but significant cadre of car buyers is horrified by the dwindling number of automobiles in the $100,000-and-up price range: There are only 10 available in this country, all made in Europe. As a service to readers confronting this nightmare of no-supply-side economics, I devote these few paragraphs to what one can purchase in the upscale market these days. Remember, though -- $100,000 isn't what it used to be.
When one speaks of really expensive automobiles, the name Rolls-Royce rolls off the tongue. Rollers, as they are called, are stately monarchs of the road, enormously heavy, slow and not much fun to drive. Worse yet, for all their legendary British craftsmanship, they break a lot. Regardless, no car on earth equals a Roller as a status symbol. The cars can be purchased in three styles: the base-line Silver Shadow, for $120,000, the Corniche convertible, about $163,000, and the long, regal and expensive Silver Spur, about $200,000.
The tiny British firm of Aston-Martin also offers three contenders. The Lagonda four-door sedan is the flagship of the fleet and sells for $167,000 a copy. In a world of aerodynamically clean Audi 5000 look-alikes, the Lagonda is a rolling picket sign -- all flat surfaces and sharp angles. Powered by a fuel-injected, 5.3-liter overhead camshaft V-8, the Lagonda is a serious player on the highways and offers remarkable exclusivity: The Greenwich, Conn., importer says no more than 10 of the beauties will enter the United States in 1987. Not as exclusive are Aston- Martin's Volante convertibles. About 70 of these will be "dumped" on our shores as stock items or as the racier Vantage/Volante models, which come with flared fenders and spoilers. The Vantage helps separate one from the Aston glut in places like Palm Beach and Middleburg. The price? $110,000 to $135,000. Cheap in terms of pure exclusivity, say I.
Think of pricey automobiles, and Italy comes instantly to mind. The land of Gucci, Pucci, Armani and Ferrari gushes with cachet and offers three marvelous vehicles to choose from in the six-figure class. While Scuderia Ferrari sends three cars to America -- the Mondial, the 328 Quattrovalvole and the Testarossa -- only the last squeezes into the upper echelons. The other two are entry-level machines costing in the mid-60s. The Testarossa is perhaps the most vividly styled car on the road, with its swooping lines and sexy array of side vents. It is also blindingly fast, leaping to 60 mph in about 5 seconds and easily exceeding 170 mph. The price of this 12-cylinder titan is about $110,000, which makes it just a few bucks cheaper than its arch-rival, the $116,000 Lamborghini Countach. That flying doorstop -- also a 12-cylinder, mid-engined coupe -- rivals the Ferrari in terms of sock-in-the-eye visual impact and raw performance.
(Lamborghini will soon offer an even more outrageous vehicle, the LM-02. It is to off-road vehicles what Godzilla is to salamanders. Some stats: weight 6,780 pounds; engine 450 horsepower V-12, 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds; tires 345 by 60 VR 17 Pirellis. This monster looks as if it were styled for Mad Max. For $120,000 you get the most head-turning available. Malcolm Forbes has ordered one.)
The West Germans have any number of wildly customized Mercedes-Benzes, Porsches and BMWs ripping up the Autobahns. Most cost something like the national debt of Costa Rica, but only two are sold here. One is the AMG Hammer, a modified, Mercedes-Benz 300E stuffed with a double-overhead camshaft, four-valve, 355-horsepower aluminum V-8. This is sufficient to propel the Hammer from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds and give it a top speed just a wink under 180 mph. Having a family sedan capable of blowing off your neighbor's Testarossa doesn't come cheap -- $150,000.
The fabled house of Porsche is also in the 100-grand club with its 911 Turbo "Slant Nose." The special body kit (sloping front end, hidden headlights, flashy rear fenders with louvers, skirts) can be fitted to any new 911 Turbo for just under $23,000. With it comes the legendary Turbo performance and the status of the classic rear-engine 911. All for $103,000 -- the bargain of the week.
Unfortunately, that's about it in the upper class of motoring these days. It's a shame there isn't more selection; imagine the thousands humiliated by motoring around in machinery costing only $60,000. Such are the realities of an egalitarian world gone mad. ::