My biggest disappointment this year hasn’t been a shoddily built rental car. It was a brand new Porsche 911. I am tired of feeling what amounts to a strong fart through the round object that I’m supposed to use to steer a vehicle. I want to feel everything! All of it! Even if I have to grunt at low speeds.
I’m talking, of course, about the manual steering rack. There’s wheels, a few mechanical joints, the steering wheel and your arms, buddy. Not much else. No steering pump to fail. No fancy electrobox that mutes everything to grandma spec. Just you, the road, and every little pebble in said road coming through loud and clear through the steering wheel.
Sure, highly boosted steering racks may be a huge help for those who have upper body strength issues, and for that, I understand. But for the rest of us, I think it’s time to embrace old-school manual tech for our own good.
The Porsche 911 doesn’t need goofy over-boosted electric steering. There’s nothing under the hood to weigh it down. With its new fancy electric steering rack, its steering is so light, it’s just unnerving.
Going from driving a bare-bones Baja Bug in the LeMons Rally to driving the feather-weight steering of the new 911 made me feel as if I was in a video game—disconnected from feeling and reality. I don’t like that.
Why the 911 has always worked fine with weightier steering racks is because of its lack of weight in the nose. Unless you’re transporting lead bricks in the frunk, it’s not weighed down by much at all, and your steering will feel lighter than it would in other cars accordingly.
The United States may write off all of its environmental regulations on Jan. 21 for all I know, but the rest of the world will still have a few words to say on fuel consumption. No one really wants to make a diesel after Volkswagen’s scandal added a sad stigma to torquey goodness. Downsizing the engine hasn’t worked. Electric power is another solution, but the process of charging still takes a while compared to filling a gas tank.
Something else has to give. I vote weight. The lightweight hatchbacks of the early ‘90s got absurdly good gas mileage because there wasn’t much to move. So, curb fuel consumption through the use of more lightweight materials, and in turn, make the whole car more able to be tossed and fun.
Then you won’t need a complicated electric steering rack to make a car movable. It will be easier to steer because it weighs less, and we’ll all be better off for it.
I know that certain automakers allegedly like to hide emissions cheats in steering angle sensors, and register all kinds of wacky data in the car, but I’m tired of it. I don’t need that.
I willingly ditched my second Porsche 944's power steering rack to install the manual rack out of my first 944. There’s simply less stuff to break that way, and it’s an endurance car. Losing time in the pits to MacGyver a stupid steering pump back together translates into losing.
I’m a big fan of keeping things simple on enthusiast cars. My 944 is my toy. I want to spend more time playing with it than fixing it. Keep things easy to fix, and you won’t have volumes of grouchy Internet text complaining about how everything sucks and life is terrible. Driving my car is a happy thing. Repairing it is not.
You know the other reason why manual steering racks should come back? Let me flex my puny arms here. See? These guns are why. Every day is arms day with a manual steering rack.
What, do you think I have time to work out and stuff? I try, but I wish I had more time to become a walking deterrent to messing with me. When I don’t have time to work out so much, part of me wishes my 944 was road legal.
There’s a meaty resistance-based workout in just twisting that wheel around a parking lot. At high speeds, it’s fine—you get to feel every little thing in the road, and it’s light enough not to matter. It’s the low-speed movement of a manual rack that feels like you’re arm-wrestling the Baby Jesus.
Need to pick up groceries? Work out. Drive through for coffee? Work out. Find a parking spot at the Central Texas Home For Disgruntled Porsche Nerds? That is also a workout.
You, too, can have a less flabby set of arms. Don’t think of it as an effort or hindrance. Think of it as getting buff. Who doesn’t want to have great arms? Terrorists, and maybe the Stay-Puft Man from Ghostbusters, that’s who. Your low-speed annoyance with a manual rack compensates for the weightlifting reps you’re too busy or too lazy to fit in.
You’re probably either nodding along in agreement because you drive an MGB held together by baling wire and spit, or struggling to find a coherent rebuttal because you can’t fathom the thought of going back to such barbarian technology. To the latter, you wanna go? Yeah? Let’s arm wrestle. You. Me. You’d probably win. I mean, my 944 isn’t road legal.