A38 Tunnels, Birmingham, UK

This Great Road, originally written by Ali Cusick, was featured in issue 95 of Total 911.

We’ve looked at a few Great Roads lately, some of which are among the UK’s most classic routes. This time, though, we’re going a bit off camber. There’s hardly any view, nor is there grass or anything green or picturesque along this short route.

We’ll whisper it, but it’s even limited to 30mph. This month, we look at the tunnels on the A38, right through Birmingham city centre.

We know, we know; great drives are mythical trips through great scenery on empty roads with a start and end point. Well, that’s only if you want to satisfy certain criteria. But consider how we usually judge a road: typically we’re after something suitable for a 911; somewhere where we can appreciate the unique way a 911 drives.

Yes, most of the time, to appreciate this we need bends and good surface quality – because that feeling of getting a corner ‘right’ in a 911 is one facet of appreciating the car. A good wiggly road, such as those we’ve previously covered, is what we need to experience that thrill. But this month we forsake speed and agility.

We suggest Birmingham for one reason: namely so we can appreciate the next best element of the Porsche 911 – the sound of the engine.

The A38 flows in towards Birmingham past what can only be called a celebration of concrete. Wherever you look, you will see grey: Spaghetti Junction; the A38 Aston Expressway and the flyover past Gosta Green. Then, you’ll see the first item of interest for us: the first tunnel. Let us recount a trip we did in an old 964 Carrera 4…

After miles of open air, the concrete slowly narrows and the road enters the tunnel. We lower the windows, then, from a comfy fourth gear cruise, we blip the throttle back into second and hold the revs up high. Our C4 had a long-neck G-pipe and a cat bypass.

LOCATION: Birmingham, West Midlands, UK

LATITUDE: 52.4834 -1.9021

LENGTH OF DRIVE: 2 miles

POINTS OF INTEREST:
Mailbox
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Patrick Collection
Bullring shopping centre
German Market (December)
Jewellery Quarter
Symphony Hall

FOOD AND ACCOMODATION:
Urban Pie
www.urbanpie.co.uk

Hyatt Regency
www.birmingham.regency.hyatt.com

Purnell’s
www.purnellsrestaurant.com

Blipping into second inside the tunnel sounds like the walls are about to rupture. The road curves left and rises, so we increase the throttle a touch, with a resulting increase in aural delight.

Daylight appears, then we’re out in the open air briefly, before the next one, the Queensway Tunnel. It’s longer, with a fairly blind apex left hander. It’s another chance to get the flat six reverberating as loud as possible.

Okay, so it’s not a flat-out blast, but we guarantee that you’ve never had so much fun in second gear. Whatever setup you have – air-cooled, water-cooled, standard silenced exhaust or full-out banshee roar – this is the place to appreciate the flat six sound that’s at the heart of your Porsche.

Make a loop out of it, turn around the roundabout at the Smallbrook Queensway by the Mailbox, and do it all again… and again. Birmingham is rife to poke fun at – Telly Savalas’ Birmingham: My Kind Of Town video from the Seventies is a particular low point – but it does have its charms.

For us, the road through the centre is one of them. Don’t forget that the city roads held the Birmingham Superprix in the Nineties too.

There’s one caveat: don’t drive this at 5pm in the week, nor 10pm at night. Instead, get up early and tootle down there on a Sunday!



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