Can you feel the love tonight?: Why a car is more than a piece of metal on four wheels


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“A way of transport that takes you from A to B”. I have heard a lot of people saying this about cars, including my dad. That is partly true, but I think there is way more to it. Jaguar co-founder, Sir William Lions, once said: “The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.” Let me prove it to you by breaking the article down into three parts: voice, body and character.

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VOICE: I am 110% sure that you have listened to music at some point in life (if not, you need help). So you definitely have your favorite singer or band. Not just because of what is being played, but also the power of singer’s voice. And I am talking about music, not your Chris Wests or Kanye Browns, unless their favorite car noise is the one made by Toyota Prius. Everyone has their favorite that they love, and the one they don’t care about as it sounds like any other band. It’s the same with cars. Everyone loves a good noise of a car. Some might love their four-cylinder Fiesta engine noise, others – the bellow of a V8 Dodge Charger muscle car. Then there are those I understand the least – those who love Nissan Skyline engine noise. But that’s just my taste.

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BODY: girls go crazy over guys like Ryan Gosling, guys can’t get over how great Jennifer Lawrence looks like. And everyone has his or her favorite look of a car. Someone might love the perfect, human-like lines on a Lamborghini Miura. The opening scene in “The Italian Job” is to petrol heads what watching Gisele Bündchen on a catwalk is to the rest. It is so darn beautiful and sensual. A celebration of beauty.

Then there are others who like cars that have been designed with a ruler, like Lamborghini Countach. An angle has a beauty in an engineering sense. The whole car model culture (which, in my view, is pathetic. That shows you’ve made a car with such a bad design you actually need women to stand next to it and hoping it somehow is going to make it look better) started in the 1970s. The age of angles in the car industry. All those Lincolns, Italian wedge-shaped sportscars and boxy family cars. They all started in the 70s and progressed in the 80s. Then there are those who are un-traditional. Like me – I love the DeLorean DMC-12, but others just look at it and thing “ugh, ugly.”

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CHARACTER: there is always a car that has some sort of a character like a human being. You have your nerds, who are like Honda Jazz– they get a chemistry experiment perfectly right, but you will not jump up and down when it happens. You probably will be distracted by the guy next to you who in his hangover will make all things go horribly wrong – that’s a Russian car. You laugh about them and their faults amuse you.

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Then you have your temperamental lovers, which, stereotypically, are Italians and French. Same with cars: Italian and French cars have their culture of breakdowns and faults, but you don’t want to leave them. They kiss and woo you when they’re happy, but when they break down, they give you the biggest headache.

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Then there’s a car that always looks little and cute. Someone that always make you smile and waul out a little “awwww.” And every time you drive it, the car cheers you up and puts that endless smile on your face, which you cannot resist even in your dullest days. It’s a car that always smiles at you, always is happy. Like a little puppy labrador, that is waiting for you impatiently until you will take him out for a walk. That’s how a Mini is. Every time I see one and all the times I’ve been driven around in one I always cannot stop smiling. It is a happy machine. Probably that’s why the most careless, childish and most positive Englishman in the world was driving one.

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Then there is Aston Martin. Have you ever seen an Aston Martin with an aftermarket wing on the back? No. So it cannot be someone who wears gold chains, walking around, looking for attention, like a Bentley or a Ferrari. Also, it is elegant and smart. It always looks like it has to be parked near an opera. It whispers quietly, but when it speaks, you can’t forget its voice and you can hear it coming from miles away. It perfectly reflects James Bond. Thank God Ian Fleming swapped Bond’s car from Bentley to Aston Martin. It is just like him.

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Also, part of character is the bondage you get during some of your big events in life. Your first car, the fastest car you’ve driven, the car you drove to that successful interview. You will never forget those ones. See? A car is way more than a lump of metal with wheels that with some mechanics applied to it moves forwards. It is your friend, your pet, your favorite art, and your memory.

The Guy Near the Car

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Back in Time: The day I finally got to meet my hero car


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.

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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.

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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.



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

IMG_2883First 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).

_MG_7126_MG_6876It 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._MG_7123

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.

 

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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._MG_6884

 

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.

 

_MG_7120_MG_7128It’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”.

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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?

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About Veyron drivers and Bertone


My most sincere apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for a late post. My coursework took over my weekend, so I didn’t manage to post another article. But from this Sunday onwards it’s back to normal – article every Sunday.

So…let’s get down to business.

Bling Bling syndrome: Bugatti Veyron drivers

My, oh, my, oh, my. I just took a look at the list of 15 most famous Bugatti Veyron owners. This list proves my point – they are owned by the ones who think they’re better than they actually are AND they think they know a lot about cars…when, in truth, they know nothing.
Here are some of the owners who are on the list:

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SIMON COWELL – a crown jewel of the Veyron owners’ community. And he proved that on his second appearance at Top Gear. He blamed Clarkson for him choosing the wrong car – Audi R8 (another flashy car, but this is a much more down to earth) – because he bought it following Clarkson’s review of the thing. Well…ok…who did put a name on the order’s list? And who took the keys? Anyway, the Veyron also sort of fits Cowell’s personality – fake shine, not that good looking and expensive for no legitimate reason (if you think magnesium turn signal stalks are a good reason to make it cost £1m, then you should join Volkswagen, cos they do).

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CHRIS BROWN – I would be surprised if he didn’t own one. Another “superstar” who thinks he’s “brave” and has lipstick on his knuckles…and who’s bright by taking Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, a lovely song, stripping out his vocal part and putting daft, un-melodic, heavily auto-tuned vocals in it and calling it his “masterpiece”. Also, like Veyron – so much technology that makes it to stay on the road.

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CRISTIANO RONALDO – by the rules of Clarkson, if a premiership footballer buys a car it automatically becomes seriously uncool…therefore Veyron is pathetically uncool cos a couple of footballers own them, Ronaldo being the most famous of the lot. If it was the 60s, when football was played for real, professionally, and was a real man’s game (with no bloody drama after receiving a small bruise on the knee and laying down in grass as if the guy’s about to give birth) then it wouldn’t be the case and it’d be cool. But it isn’t the 60s…and in 60s they had prettier cars – Ferrari Dino, Lamborghini Miura, E-Type Jag, Jensen Interceptor etc. Veyron’s sibling of the decade would be Ford Edsel, i.e. an Elephant’s car with genetals used for the grill.

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See what I mean?

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FLO RIDA – the one who loves to waste money. He, reportedly, owns three Veyrons. That’s 1% of total number of those bloody things. Once he was caught driving one of them while drunk (quite worrying to have a drunk driver behind the wheel of one of fastest cars in the world) after which he was banned from driving…but very soon after that he was seen again behind a wheel of a different Veyron. Bling bling.

…but there were two surprises on that list that just don’t fit in this company. One being TOM CRUISE.

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He arrived at the premiere of Mission Impossible III in a Veyron. A bit of a broken promise, if you remember the “Risky Business” quote: “Porsche: There is no substitute”. …but he has one of the iconic 928s…a bulletproof one 😛 Nice.

Another surprise was Jay-Z. A successful guy like him, being a producer to many successful acts, being active in Politics (trying to involve people to vote in 2008 US Presidential Elections) and a business entrepreneur in a Veyron?

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…but looking at Jay-Z and Beyonce’s garage – Maybach, Ferrari F430 Spyder, Rolls Phantom – the Veyron feels right at home.

I am not against Veyron because they are owned by ridiculously wealthy people. No. I’m not a communist. I am against it because it just isn’t cool and is a ridiculously overpriced, over-engineered car. In the end what it is is just a Volkswagen designed by a guy who’s the designer for VW Lupo and Škoda range (if you look closely, the pre-facelift Veyron’s headlights are just like ones Škoda have. Cost saving? On a £1m car??) And people are just going with the flow because they are afraid to think differently, therefore they say it’s awesome without justifying why. Guys, how about Pagani with their marvellous Huayra? Or Koenigsegg? There are plenty of better, more beautiful, more enjoyable cars than a Veyron. You just look outside the box.

Eulogy: Bertone

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I really didn’t want to believe this…but one of design greats, Bertone, after their financial troubles and not much activity in the mainstream car market is calling it quits. Such a pity after seeing their “greatest hits”. Here are some of them:

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You cannot think of Bertone without thinking of their (in my view) best creation – Lamborghini Miura. This car is the closest you can get to make looking like a woman; a very sensual, tender, slender woman who you would take for dinner at Savoy, after which you would assist her with putting on a thick fur coat and you would walk all night long around the city with “On Days Like These” sounding in your ears. I am not sure what would be better: that walk or a drive with this beauty through Stelvio Pass like on “The Italian Job”…without any bulldozers, obviously. I would say if that girl would be your girlfriend/wife, then both of them would be equally great.

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Alfa Romeo Montreal, the car which looks like George Clooney – a good looking bachelor who gets even better looking when he gets older. And the eyes always inviting you for a play. If not for Alfa’s well known “reliability”, this would’ve been one of best buys ever. Pity not many people remember cars like this…all because everyone’s going with the flow, liking ridiculous lumps of metal like Veyron and explosive (literally) Ferraris of today.

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Whenever I see a Lamborghini Countach my child’s gene wakes up and brings back childhood. This car is one of few cars that paid a big part in my childhood developing my passion for cars, because it was one of a dozen cars featured in the first PC game I ever owned – Need For Speed III. I was always blown away by its angles, by the style, those doors. However I am one of few who doesn’t like that huge rear wing, but that’s just a question of taste. Driving it is a completely different story and I am very cautious of meeting my childhood heroes as, so many people have said, it leaves you with a bitter disappointment. Like seeing the actual faces of Teletubies.

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Aston Martin Rapide Bertone Jet 2+2. Long name, but a simple concept – take a good looking car and improve it. And Bertone did it brilliantly. Pity Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin, wasn’t moved enough to put this beauty into production…at least for a limited run.

Thank you, Bertone, for all what you’ve done. You may be gone but your legacy will continue to pleasure our eyes.