Red Barchetta – The Prophetic Lyrics of a Rock Band

“A gleaming read Barchetta from a better, vanished time…”

If you were a long haired collage student with RUSH proudly displayed on your bag in the Eighties, you will recognise those words. Back then, as I studied engineering drawing behind a huge A0 drafting board, the words of the Canadian group’s song sounded like a time so far into the future, it would never be in my lifetime. I didn’t ponder too much on the meaning of the words. I simply enjoyed the artistry of Neal Peart’s drumming.

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And yet we are almost there.

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Governments across Europe are progressively banning the internal combustion engine. In less than ten years, full electric cars will probably be pretty much mainstream, making the UK Government’s objective of a ban by 2040 rather like banning the steam engine. By 2040, we will be way beyond that stage. Cities are already banning diesel cars from the centres and the next ten years will probably see more progress in road car technologies than the entire previous 100 years of the motor car.

In motorsport terms, the full electric car is making Formula One look increasingly irrelevant as a technology development platform with the contentious Formula E the debatable way forward for automotive manufacturers wanting to use motorsport to develop technology and sell cars. Porsche have already quit top level WEC to move in that direction, probably the killer blow for the top echelon of Endurance racing for a while and LMP2 moves to the top.

But for those of us who enjoy motorsport not to develop products and sell, but as a means of pleasure enjoyment, what does the future hold for our love of the internal combustion engine? Personally, I believe that Historic Motorsport will become more and more popular as crowds gravitate to the last area of racing where cars actually make an animal like howl, where the aroma of hot oil, racing fuel and brakes can be inhaled while enjoying the true artistry of drivers who are not computer operators, but skilled artists of the craft.

It’s worth scrolling below and reading the full lyrics of Neil Peart’s Red Barchetta from the Moving Pictures album. Ironically, it was the first Rush album I purchased as a student and the song was my favourite track. I never ever imagined just a few decades later that I’d be quoting the words almost as poetry that signifies the beginning of the end of cars and driving as I know it.

Take a read.

My uncle has a country place, that no-one knows about
He says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law
Sundays I elude the ‘Eyes’, and hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire, where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine –
For fifty-odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream
I strip away the old debris, that hides a shining car
A brilliant red Barchetta, from a better, vanished time
Fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar!
Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime…

Wind in my hair –
Shifting and drifting –
Mechanical music
Adrenalin surge –

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware
Suddenly ahead of me, across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air-car shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires, to run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley as another joins the chase

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud
With fear and hope, I’ve got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded
At the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle
At the fireside…

Lyrics from Red Barchetta, Moving Pictures Album 1981.


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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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