The Night Before Christmas: A Petrolhead Take On The Festive Tale

Gather around the rocking chair everyone, and I’ll share with you a holiday tale of cars, speed, and a little bit of magic. Or sheer lunacy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference

Remind me later

A wise old street racer shared this tale with me some years ago after meeting by chance at an American-style drive-in restaurant in southern California. I’m not one to glorify street racing with fantastic stories, but as I listened to his words I knew this was no ordinary encounter.

It was late on Christmas Eve; a clear, warm night on a lonely stretch of road not far from where you live. Three men - friends bonded through their love of cars - were simply enjoying a spirited drive. The first man drove an A80 Supra with a shopping list of mods and twin-scroll turbo, sending 600bhp to the rear tyres.

The second preferred classic American muscle, and drove a resto-mod 1968 Dodge Charger built-to-the-hilt with updated suspension, brakes, transmission, and a supercharged Hemi V8.

The third man had a distinguished nature, preferring the delectable inline-six chatter of an E46 BMW M3 that, among other things, also boasted a supercharger.

They meandered down a wide, four-lane highway of occasional sweeping curves and long straights. The road was empty, and the three had liberty to exercise the performance of their cars in good-natured contests of speed. But then, as they rounded a corner, a single set of tail lights could be seen in the distance, stopped for no apparent reason. As they approached, the unmistakable shape of a Lamborghini Murcielago took form from the darkness. Even at night it glowed bright yellow, save for a curious red bumper sticker on the back which read My other car is a Sleigh.

The Night Before Christmas: A Petrolhead Take On The Festive Tale - Blog

The Supra pulled alongside, admiring the car but unable to make out the driver. The Lambo’s V12 suddenly blipped to life with a quick rev, suggesting the occupant was looking for some competition. The Supra driver followed suit, upon which The Murcielago’s passenger window lowered slightly, just enough for a deep, jolly-sounding voice to say “three honks, you count ‘em down.”

The Supra driver was all too happy to oblige, and just like that, the race was on. First gear was a mess of tyre smoke and backfires from assaulting the 2JZ’s rev limiter, allowing the Lambo to claim an early lead. Second gear was better; a bit of feathering on the throttle allowed the hides to hook up, instantly stopping the Lambo’s pull. Third gear came and went in what seemed like miliseconds as speeds sailed well passed 100mph. The Supra pulled even with the Murcielago by the end of fourth and stayed there, the Toyota’s boosted six and the Lambo’s shrieking twelve creating a symphony of horsepower in the night until both yielded, ending the contest in a draw.

The Night Before Christmas: A Petrolhead Take On The Festive Tale - Blog

But then the Lambo driver motioned out the window, bulky red sleeve flapping in the wind as he pointed at the Charger. The two friends swapped spots while the Murcielago patiently waited on the empty road, the menacing muscle car creeping forward for an even start.

This time it was the Charger that leapt to an early lead over the Lambo, a lead that stretched to nearly a car length by the end of second. The baritone growl of the Hemi clashed with the siren scream of its own supercharger, completely drowning out the Italian V12. That is, until the Lambo started gaining back ground as speeds climbed higher, reaching door-to-door with the Charger by the end of fourth gear when both drivers lifted. It was another draw.

The Night Before Christmas: A Petrolhead Take On The Festive Tale - Blog

Another wave of the red velvet arm brought the M3 forward to face the Lamborghini, only this time there was no clear advantage off the start. Tyre noise and screaming engines shattered the darkness, echoing off both cars as they charged forward side-by-side. 30. 50. 70. 100. 120. It was as if the cars were stationary while the world accelerated past them. 130. 150. 160! They called it off at 170 miles per hour, the M3 and Murcielago deadlocked in yet another draw.

The Night Before Christmas: A Petrolhead Take On The Festive Tale - Blog

As speeds returned to normal, the three friends each took a turn pulling alongside the mysterious yellow Lamborghini. Waves were exchanged, but then the Lambo quickly slowed, made a sudden U-turn, and disappeared into the night - just as quickly as it appeared.

It was the strangest encounter any of the three had ever experienced. But what happened next was, in a word, extraordinary.

The three friends made U-turns of their own and gave pursuit, charging forward single-file to catch the long-gone Lamborghini. They were well over triple-digit speeds when a solid, single red light suddenly appeared behind them - and it was closing rapidly.

It was the Charger driver who first saw the glowing eyes, followed by the antlers. The chain of reindeer changed lanes and slowly passed the trio, pulling an honest-to-goodness red sleigh with a fat old man in a red coat holding the reins. He waved as he passed them all, smiling and belting out the kind of deep, belly-shaking laughs that only Santa Claus can pull off.

But the Supra was having none of that.

Holding spot in the middle of the pack, he downshifted and cemented the go-pedal to the floor. The turbo morphed into some kind of sci-fi jet engine, ingesting air on a planetary scale as the car leapt forward with reckless abandon, quickly passing 170 until finally at 180mph, he began to close on the sleigh. He passed the Santa wanna-be at 190 and was just about to clear the reindeer, but the one in front gave a sly wink, blinked his red nose, and the whole thing took off like a scalded missile - sleigh and all.

And the men heard him say, as he flew out of sight. Merry Christmas to all…now fix your check engine light!

To the CTZens around the world, fix your check engine lights. And while you’re at it, have a wonderful holiday season.