Before I begin I would like to say an enormous thank you to all 1018 viewers that have viewed my articles. Nothing in my life has got such an attention, not even me listening to music loudly in the traffic. This number gives me an encouragement to just keep going and bringing you some more interesting content.
And today I have really something special.
Yesterday (13th September, 2014) I went to see a “youngtimer” hill climb race. For those of you who don’t know what a “youngtimer” is, it is a car that is at least 30 years old (so 1985 was the upper limit for entrants) but not too old to be afraid to thrash it up a hill to set up the best time. As for the hill climb, you have definitely seen it on Top Gear India Special. Let me remind you:
This all happened near Sigulda – a city about 30 km east from Riga – on a road called “Lorupes Grava”. It used to be the main road into the city until 1968 when a new higher and straighter road just next to it was opened up right across the alley next to it. No idea why they did it but my guess is that Soviet cars and mopeds weren’t powerful enough to get up the hill on this beautiful road. Luckily for petrolheads, this road unlike other “works by Capitalist pigs” wasn’t abandoned or destroyed. It has now a wonderful smooth tarmac on it. And this place is a petrolhead’s dream. It is 1 km of driving heaven with a couple of S-type curves and a rapid descent and a sudden climb straight afterwards.
As I was told by one of the entrants (you will see him and hear his name quite soon, but let me get there) told me that the reason for this is because in Soviet days there used to be an actual rally stage through there. This event was started just 2 years ago and it did attract quite a crowd even though it wasn’t advertised much. However, by judging how friendly and open they were with each other, my guess is that those guys already knew each other long before this rally. Not sure how many but you will be the judge by looking at these photos.
Brands that were represented? Well the Nº1 brand for sure was SAAB. There were a couple of brave guys in SAAB 96 (the blue car in the picture above), there was a SAAB 900 turbo, a SAAB 99 and even a SAAB 900 cabriolet. One of the marshals even drove a SAAB. Seems like all of them are in love with SAAB’s rally heritage.
The next big group was a group of Porsches. There were quite a few 944, one 924 from Lithuania (who seemed to laugh in everyone’s faces with his performance) and a handful of 911 Porsches. I have seen 911 races on TV and in pictures but to see and hear it in reality was quite an occasion. The noise vibrations from that Flat-6 went through my body. That is a feeling that is hard to describe how good it feels until you experience it yourself.
In fact this has been my very first ever such event I’ve attended and, after this, definitely not my last one. The experience of being at a car event itself is magical. First you have the feel of the event. The smell of burned tire rubber and exhaust fumes, the wonderful track, all these great cars around and nobody’s cocky. Everyone’s open and friendly. And FINALLY a place where there are guys who genuinely know things about cars. They don’t pretend and don’t talk trash. They know what they’re talking about. Then they allow you to properly scrutinize the car and even tell their side of the story on why they bought this car, what’s its history and what have they done to it.
Then there were some hard core fans of their cars. There was one guy with the only one running Alfa Romeo Spider in the Baltics…and he wasn’t one of those losers who buy their cars and then lock them up in garages, being afraid that a small stone could put a little dent in car’s rims. This bloke had his Alfa restored to the best condition possible. He re-chromed it, repainted it, cleaned the interior, did an engine overhaul and voilá. I suggested him to take part in one of those car perfection competitions where cars are ranked on how mint they are. I am more than sure this guy would get the first prize.
There were also a handful of some quite interesting LADAs. In one LADA (in the 3rd picture below) there’s something one of the track marshals told me about and something I am quite proud of that we have in our country – more and more young girls nowadays are becoming passionate about cars and some who don’t have licenses yet are desperate to get them so they can get some of that driving action. Not just as a very beautiful, smiling passenger like in that 3rd picture, but also as a driver. AT LONG LAST! THANK YOU, JESUS!
But the main reason why I went to this event was not just to see some sexy cars and smell burning rubber. I came there because a guy called Ints Indriksons told me he is going to be there. I am quite sure none of you know who he is but I found this guy on the internet and later – on Facebook. I first met him (briefly) at a classic car show during Riga city celebrations back in August but that was just too brief. Then I contacted him again and he told me about this event and said that I could see him and his car at last, with no rush and we could chat away as long as we wanted. Got my camera and my mum’s permission to get there with her car. Away I went, having “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News blasting on car’s stereo. I was nervous because at long last I would get a chance to meet my dream car. I finally arrived at this event and asked guys at the start where is it. They said that it should be back from the run any second. So I went back through the grid desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the beauty.
And there she came. All in her silver stainless steel glory. She stopped and Ints opened her doors which rose up like a greeting. I finally got to see one in action. After all these years looking for her, reading about her, watching documentaries about her and a Hollywood blockbuster with her in the starring role finally she was right in front of me. I am talking of course about DeLorean DMC-12.
Do you remember how you felt when at Christmas you removed the wraps and saw there the toy you’ve been wishing to have? That is exactly how I felt seeing the DMC. I have seen it only once before and that was in a museum. But seeing it in public is a completely different experience. It is like I’ve never seen it before. It blew me away. It is a very low car to start with. As you can see in the picture above it is as low as a Porsche. And it being in stainless steel it is mysterious. Like nothing else you’ve seen. It is like nothing you’ve seen. There hasn’t been a single production car that’s covered in stainless steel. Even more, there are no more than 17 000 cars made with gullwing doors (Mercedes 300SL and SLS, Bricklin SV-1 and the DMC). And those DeLorean and gullwing door critics can just shut up because they are talking nonsense.
First of all, as you can see above (that’s Ints, by the way. The owner of this DeLorean which happens to be the only DeLorean in the Baltics), there is no problem getting in or out of the car. I got in and out without any trouble. It is easy. Secondly it is absolute nonsense that the space needed for doors open up has to be large. All you need is mere 10 cm of space. That’s it. So the gullwing doors are the most practical door solution on the car there is. Thirdly and this is liked to the main idea why John DeLorean introduced the gullwings in the first place, is safety. Not because you have a high door sill, but because the roof cut-out in some physical way makes the car more rigid (see Channel 4 “For the love of Cars” for more info).
It is a very comfortable place to be too. The seats are soft and the driving position is the best! The door panel and the centre console are high enough so you can control the steering wheel with your index fingers. Well, maybe on a highway, because this car has no power steering. Also, as Ints was so incredibly kind to allow me to roll the car a bit forwards along the queue for the rally, the clutch is stiff too as you could expect from such an old car. It was hard to judge the brakes because the car wasn’t running. The rev counter you see in the picture above is always in that position when the engine is off. It’s only when you turn the power on the rev counter needle drops to zero. Why? I don’t know. Forgot to ask. Another thing worth talking about is the gearbox. The shifts are incredibly precise, almost like on a German car.
So far the car failed to follow the “never meet your heroes” principle. Quite often you hear people getting into cars that they’ve dreamed about of having since young age and find out that they don’t quite fit or it is breaking down every 500 metres or it is just rubbish in whole. But my final bit for this all came when it was time to shut the doors, because I have heard stories that some people over 6ft3 (about 190cm) could not fit. So I pulled the door down. It was surprisingly easy to do it. Towards the end you’d have to pull it a bit harder. When the door shut there was a sign of relief. I CAN FIT IN A DELOREAN! And not like I’d have to bend in some weird way, I sat like I normally sit in a car and I had space for my head, my feet and my hands to turn the steering wheel. That was lucky. But also it should not be a surprise, because John DeLorean himself was 195 cm tall.
As you can see, the boot is in the front. The 2.8 litre PRV V6 130 hp (enough) engine is in the back. Ints told me that the boot is big enough for two airplane sized luggage cases. That and you have some space behind the seats. So this car could be practical enough to be usead as a daily driver. There is only one problem as shown by the picture below: as I shut the bonnet and removed my hands, even though I had clean hands I left some finger prints. But Ints said it is easy to get used to. And it is easy to get rid of them. Just clean it with a wet sponge or wait for the rain to come.
Now a bit more about the history of this particular DMC. It was built in August 1982. It is interesting because this was one of unfinished cars that was shipped over to America and it was completed there. The factory in Belfast closed in May of 1982. Then it was registered in 1991 and then that owner left it in a barn in Texas in 1995 and forgot about it. It was not until 2005 when it was discovered by some Dutch DeLorean enthusiasts and brought over to Europe. They put up an advert on the internet, asking anyone to come forward and buy the car, therefore financing its restoration. It was Ints who did it. It was finished and brought over to Latvia.
It’s not like Ints has put this car away in the garage like these purists do. No. When there are DeLorean events in Northern Europe he drives to them. He said he’s driven it to Sweden and to Germany. He even got a congestion charge disk bought so he can get into any German city center without being penalized. It started a discussion between the guys at the meet because they were not sure if this applies to foreign cars. But Ints rightly said “it’s better to invest €15 than to check and in the end pay a fine of €40”.
This was a fantastic day with some fantastic people. I am extremely grateful to Ints Indriksons for allowing me to take such a close look of my dream car. Thank God this car is not a case of “never meet your heroes”. It had an opposite effect – it made me want it even more. Now I see my goal after getting a job after university – buy a DeLorean. I will do just that.
And as the last picture I could not resist to have one similar to those Mr. John DeLorean himself had. How cool is that?