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


“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.


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.

Car & Woman

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.”


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.


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.

Alfa Romeo 8c_Snapseed

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.


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.


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


Come fly with me: Why gull wing doors are the best solution for car doors?

As many of you probably know by know my dream car is the DeLorean DMC-12. It is not because of its starring role in the film all of you know very well. It’s because of what it stands for, what its creator did to create it. Even though a lot of critics have annihilated them, targeting its “not-so-futuristic” features, the wheezy engine and the early-80s British reliability which needs no further explanation, all of them have overlooked one quite futuristic and useful feature that’s not been used on a lot of cars since. Nope, it’s not the stainless steel body. It’s the doors. Not just because it made Marty McFly look like an alien when he arrived in 1955, but because he could feel a little bit safer. Yes, gull wing doors are safe and more practical than ordinary doors. Let me explain why.

52141_10100885336570606_374757580578457342_o1) EASE OF ENTRY AND EXIT

It’s time to shut up all those gull wing door critics who say that gull wing doors have to have miles of room before the doors can be opened. RUBBISH! RUBBISH! RUBBISH! Clearly, these critics don’t know anything about either physics and geometry.

Let me show this video and finally put these matters about space to rest.

There! It’s been tested that the DeLorean needs 11 inches (28 cm) of room to open the doors. Try and par a car with normal doors next to it and open the doors. An average car door is 12-15 cm thick. If you’re as thin as a spaghetti, then you’d need about the same amount of room to slide yourself through the door like an origami swan through that narrow slit. In a gull wing door car you also open up a portion of the roof, which means not only you can get into the car in a narrow space, but also comfortably slide yourself into it.





The car above is a Mercedes 300SL. The very first production car in the world to use gull wing doors. The reason for that hides beneath the skin.



As you can see in the picture above, there are some tubes on the door sills. That’s one of the reasons why door sills are so high in a 300SL. Those tubes are the chassis of the 300SL. In plain English, they keep the car together. They are so high because initially the 300SL was a racing car and in racing the high sills are there to improve car’s rigidity because the distance between the roof and the main chassis is reduced, making the car tighter and more stable.


Bosses of Mercedes-Benz, after the big success of 300SL in Mille Miglia 1000 mile race across Italy in 1952-1953, they decided to use the chassis of the race car and to make it useable on the road. Nowadays it’s not a big deal but then it seemed unreal. Especially knowing that the chassis of the racing car could prove unusable for everyday driving, and fitting ordinary doors wouldn’t work. So they fitted gull wings (first used on the 300SL racing car) so its users could get in. And because the sill is so high up, in a side impact you would be better off in a gull wing 300SL than being in a normal door, lower sill coupe.

Some of you are going to ask “what if it rolls over?” As in past few decades car safety has been a priority for car makers. So it’s highly unlikely that cars of past 40 years have had safety overlooked. A DeLorean was safe when it was rolled over, because the driver could push out the windscreen. And for a very recent gull wing beast, Mercedes SLS, the doors featured explosive bolts. A lot of you who take Jeremy Clarkson seriously think that SLS doors are bombs. But have a look at this:

It’s hardly an explosion. As soon as bolts are loose, you just push the doors out and you’re free.


Mercedes-Benz-SLS_AMG_2011_1280x960_wallpaper_71I am not a physician, but I saw on British Channel 4’s “For the love of Cars” DeLorean episode they said that a gull wing car is more resistant to torsion (twisting) than an ordinary door car. It is not just in a DeLorean or Mercedes-Benz. Ford GT’s doors also cut into roof. Somehow the single bar in the roof made the car so strong it broke one of crash test machines where it attempted to slowly squash the Ford.



There are a couple of problems of having gull wing doors. First one, of course, is that you cannot have a four door gull wing car. Even though a gull wing coupe is a very tough car there is a physical limitation on how much you can cut out of the roof. Even Tesla’s new Model X SUV has just one pair of gull wing doors. But you can’t complain because they do look nice anyway.


Secondly you can’t have a sunroof. But you can have a transparent glass roof. As you can see above for the Model X. Finally, even though gull wings do not need a lot of room near them, they do need a room above them. It’s ok in an ordinary multi-storey car park, but in your own garage it could be tricky.

But don’t let these small impracticalities fool you. Demand your favorite car maker to make gull wing cars. Please!




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.



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.

_MG_6867 _MG_6953
_MG_6956 _MG_7020 _MG_7023 _MG_7149

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.


_MG_6863 _MG_6864


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.


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.



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”.



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?




About being a true petrolhead

Who do you think you are?!: What makes a true petrolhead?



I hesitated to talk about this topic for long but, after a desperate invitation on Instagram I’ve decided to let it loose and expose these “petrolhead wannabes”.


The guy in question invited to follow his profile on Instagram. He said it’s about “cars” and I just thought I might check out this guy. But as soon as I opened it, it was yet another one of those million profiles out there, one of those who think they know about cars and think that the flashier the brand is, the cooler the car is. Umm….NO. STOP IT!



Just to give a flavor of what I’m talking about here are a few of his (not sure if his, but they are there) photos. Just a bunch of ordinary midlife crisis cars.


First of all, if you are a true petrolhead, you can’t possibly like just new Ferraris (he had quite a few on there). If you say “hey, I love that Ferrari 458” or “Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is the best car in the world”, I laugh my insides out (in my mind, of course), because a true petrolhead doesn’t like just recent Ferraris…or Ferraris in general. Do you know why? Because anyone in the world knows what a Ferrari is and non-enthusiast’s first supercar of choice will always be a Ferrari. It’s a dream car for unimaginative businessmen and for those who think “LSD” is a drug, not a piece of car technology that improves handling. Someone who likes a Ferrari can be regarded to be a petrolhead ONLY if they have a knowledge of the brand and they like the genuine Ferraris (Daytona, 250 GTO, Flat-12 engined Testarossa). They have knowledge and they can say that those cars then were Ferraris. If Enzo Ferrari was alive today, he’d punch Ferrari executives of today directly in the face because the company nowadays go completely against his principals – he made cars to be piece of art and don’t even try and think of doing excessive mass production of them. Enzo made cars primarily to fund his F1 team.


Ferrari Daytona. If you can tell more about Daytona, then I might think you are a petrolhead

Then there’s the “crown” of petrolhead wannabes – Bugatti “Škoda Headlights” Veyron. Some post pictures and write that that is the coolest, most beautiful car in the world. Excuse me? Lamborghini Miura is beautiful, Aston Martin DBS is cool. Veyron is an example of over-engineered, overpriced, overrated car for people with “SCS” (Small Cock Syndrome); for those who just don’t know what to do with their money and they waste on a car that you can’t drive (more about it in my

About Veyron drivers and Bertone” article.


Tell me once again that Bugatti Veryon is cooler and prettier than this Aston Martin DBS and I will recommend you an optician to visit because you are possibly blind.


Then there are those who think wrapped cars are cool. How in the name of God can you call yourself a petrolhead if you cannot appreciate car’s original looks? The ones that really get on my nerves (and there have been quite a few of those wrapped in shiny wraps) are Bentley Continental GTs, the ultimate show-off Napoleon’s car (and by “Napoleon” I mean a guy who makes himself look “greater” by buying these “bling-bling” automobiles. I know Napoleon himself was an interesting character, but let’s stick to showing off). There will always be someone driving around town in a Bentley at night…wearing sunglasses. That’s just their nature. No wise man will buy a Bentley. You say “oh hang on, but what about the Flying Spur?” Sorry, Gullible Gustav, but “Flying Spur” is just a VW Phaeton with a Bentley badge stuck on the bonnet (one of worst badge-engineering examples ever executed by VW). Don’t get me wrong, Phaeton is a great car, but why waste thousands more buying a Bentley when you can buy a VW for a fraction? If you want prestige, buy a Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quatroporte or a Mercedes S-Class. Or, in worst case, an Aston Martin Rapide. Use common sense.


Bentley Continental GT. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…well…this happened. WHY?


So, now you might as, if you are a petrolhead, how can you prove that? Simple. I like cars based on their heritage, technology and personality, not based on what everyone else thinks. The most important thing of being a petrolhead is to be individual, to not be afraid to share views on any car or any brand. Then you might ask “what cars do you like then and why?” Ok, let’s list just a few, shall we?:


1)   Jaguar E-type 4.2 liter Series 1:



It has to be Series 1, because, personally, I have a feeling that those sealed headlights make that car complete. And the Series 2 and 3 are too American (Jaguar had to customize them to American needs), so they became fatter and more ordinary. I think the ugliest E-type of them all is the E-type Series 3 2+2. Simply because the cabin silhouette is a bit too big, it starts to make this British beauty look like a fishbowl on wheels. Anyway…Series 1 4.2 liter simply because it gave the power that Jaguar promised and because that noise is my favorite car noise in the whole world. I can listen to it day and night and never get tired from it.

2)   DeLorean DMC-12:



Ok, some might protest now. I know, I know. DeLorean wasn’t that brilliant. It had its flaws such as its engineering (doors, if opened to rapidly, can be deformed, hence that plastic line on the side might look “broken” because of increased panel gaps), performance (the PRV-6 engine combined with laughable American emission restrictions made this car as powerful as a base trim Hyundai of today) and its infamous creator, genius and felon John Zachary DeLorean . But at the same time this story is so mysterious and crazy that it makes me to love this car. I am one of few people in the world who loves the stock car more than the Time Machine in “Back To The Future” and I am definitely considering of owning one in the future when time will be right.

3)   Face-lifted SAAB 900 Turbo Coupe:


The classic one, obviously. It still is a rather cool and great to drive car. Coupe somehow is well proportioned and it is, I think, the best-looking SAAB there ever was and will be. Also because, though being fast and great to drive, it is still as comfy as Queen Elizabeth’s bed and is one of few coupes that can sit 5 people easily.

4)   Jaguar XK:


It is the best looking car of today. Forget about the useless rear seats, this car is for gentlemen. Because it saved Jaguar in 2000s, when Ford made such a hustle of it (but it was nothing compared to the disaster that GM created out of SAAB) and because it is a car that truly can be treated like a woman. It’s hips over the rear wheels, the long hood, cat-eyes and the window frame (somehow classic). And because it’s a Jaaaaag.

5)   Lamborghini Miura:


The genesis of supercars and a Mona Lisa of automotive culture. Read more about it in my “About Veyron drivers and Bertone” article.

6)   Rover Mini Cooper:


The pre-2001 Minis were Minis. It’s hard to call the post-2001 ones Minis as it’s hard to see in what way are they small. But the original Mini, I’ve driven it, it is brilliant, corners like nothing else out there, is super cute and it is the only car that I’ve seen who’s drivers are waving at each other as they pass. Gives you a feeling that you’re part of another big family, doesn’t it?



About Colin Chapman

As you know, every week I write an article about two topics, but this week I’ve decided to talk about one topic widely because, after seeing a couple of documentaries and reading some internet articles I wanted to get people known about the true face of a man that everyone thought was a hero and a true legend who was not knighted.


I Want It All: Who actually was Mr. Colin Chapman?



Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, founder and owner of “Lotus” (his initials are in the logo, if you can spot them) was quite a mysterious man. Everyone knew him as a God of engineering and car design who followed “simplify, then add lightness” philosophy blindly. This philosophy earned his company 7 constructors championships and 6 drivers’ championships for his drivers in Formula 1, and unbeatable handling characteristics for his road cars still going strong today. His Esprit featured in two James Bond films, the “John Player Special” F1 colors became somewhat a legend themselves and things like front and rear wings, carbon monocoque chassis and ground effect that are inalienable features of F1 cars of today were first introduced by him. That’s how Colin Chapman is remembered by most of the people. What he isn’t remembered for is somewhat a mystery (and not quite a nice one) that got him to these achievements in design, speed and victories. Everyone remembers him as a good guy…but was he really that nice?


Chapman with the Lotus Esprit (known for being featured in “The Spy Who Loved Me” Bond film) and one of his airplanes. Chapman had a flyer’s license, so a couple of times he flew to Gran Prix events.


Chapman, being a structural engineering graduate of UCL, had an engineer’s mind – he looked for the best and most efficient possible solution to everything. That reflected in his work. That also reflected in his attitude. He was a man who didn’t listen to rulebooks. He was the one who took a rulebook, read it for hours trying to find loopholes that he could use to his advantage. The biggest loophole of all was “safety”. Colin cared too much for his team’s victory he used every single possible way how to make his car more competitive. One way was to use a monocoque chassis in  Lotus 25 from 1962. The car was indeed ingenious…but it was at a cost. Jim Clark, the driver who won two championship titles with this very car, was lucky because all of fluid pipes (oil, petrol and coolant) went right by his head on the inside of the car. So if he would’ve landed in a crash he would’ve literally baked himself in an oily inferno. Chapman wasn’t bothered.


Lotus 25

Another example of his ruthless attitude was apparent in 1978. In Monza Grand Prix the Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson lost control of his Lotus 78 after James Hunt collided with him. Peterson’s car landed in the barriers and got caught ablaze straight after. Because the car was so simplistic and had no safety gear, the chassis bent, trapping the Swede inside, leaving him inside to die. Straight after the race Colin Chapman was charged with manslaughter. Chapman, furiously, objected, saying that the blame was not his, but team’s, for giving the wrong car. During Monza practices Peterson damaged his Lotus 79 beyond repair. The only car that was available at the time was a Lotus 78 that wasn’t maintained since its usage in 1977 season. Colin said that if Ronnie would’ve used the 79, this accident wouldn’t have happened and, as the decision to use the 78 was team’s decision, all of the blame should lie with the team. After this incident, Chapman rarely got involved with Team Lotus unlike him before the accident, when he spent hours looking after team’s work.

In his personal life Chapman was a player. Because of his team’s success he used the Hethel airbase (where Lotus is still based) as his private airfield, flying airplanes everywhere. That was apparent  from his well-tanned skin (and it wasn’t fake tan).  It’s been rumored within Lotus that he had two “mistresses” (and those weren’t the ones who just clean up an office and wash laundry) during the high time of Lotus. Probably some more money going away that could’ve gone into his dear company. Seems like he was Jordan Belfort of his day.


The cherry on the cake came in 1978-1981 period, when a silver-haired, tall, charismatic American by the name of John Zachary DeLorean was looking for a company who could engineer his dream car, the DMC-12, for mass production. And he wanted for a company to do put the car into production in less than 2 years after the deal is signed. He approached Porsche. They said they could do it in 4 years. And BMW said they could do it in 7 years, but they couldn’t  be bothered anyway. Chapman saw an opportunity here. His Lotus Company was on the brink of being extinct with debts rising through the roof.


John DeLorean (third from the right) with Colin Chapman (first from the right) in a boardroom meeting at Lotus


He got in touch with DeLorean and said that he can do it for a sum of £10m and in 2 years. The charismatic American man got Chapman and Lotus’s accountant of the time, Fred Bushell in a hotel room and they negotiated for 4 days in a row on their proposed venture. Rumors say that DeLorean offered a Lotus buyout, but the sum that Chapman went for was out of DeLorean’s budget, which came from British Government. In the end they agreed on it and engineering began.


DeLorean DMC-12


However, the engineering ended in 3 years instead of  promised 2 and it went way over £10m and the “engineering” involved getting a Lotus Esprit chassis, putting DeLorean’s body design on it and call it a “new car” (don’t get me wrong, both cars were great, but the way that this money was handled was a bit…wrong) . Mysteriously, Lotus had two installments coming from the government (signed by Chapman, DeLorean and Bushell) for two prototypes of the same car. Suspicious? Also, this money went through a company in Switzerland, called GPD (“Gran Prix Drivers”) to avoid excessive tax charges. (When one of Lotus employees mentioned to Chapman that he was involved in tax evasion, he got up and shouted “Tax evasion is a crime! Tax avoidance is a science, and I am involved with science!”) Then, when all the hell broke loose with DeLorean Motor Company, investigators found that more than £10m were mysteriously missing. Investigators later concluded that all of this money was illegally spent on everything but cars. Fred Bushell was sentenced to 3 years in jail. Chapman could’ve faced 10 years, but he didn’t live long enough to face the trial as he died of a serious heart attack in December 1982.


Chapman was known for celebrating his team’s victories in style and on the driveway of the track


A genius? A hero? Or just another adventurist who cared for his own wealth? These questions keep the true petrolheads wondering through the years. But whatever they think, they cannot deny the fact that Chapman changed the face of motor racing forever. He would’ve been a knight if he wouldn’t have been involved in a fight with a Dutch policeman in 1965. But that’s another “what if” story.


Colin Chapman (1928 – 1982)

About Geneva motor show and eulogy to Jaguar XK

The good, the bad and the ugly: the most notable cars of Geneva Motor show

The Geneva Motor Show has over the years been one of the biggest and (for carmakers) the most important car show in the world. The show has seen introductions of world greats such as Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB-7, Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS, DeLorean DMC-12 and many more. This year hasn’t been an exception for introductions of many great automobiles…and some that I have no idea why car manufacturers wasted their money on making them. Here are some of the good ones:



Not the most radical of redesigns from the outside. Probably this has happened because of Volkswagen Group’s acquisition of Porsche and, as you know, Porsche designers have been known for their “innovative” design by keeping the car looking almost exactly the same through the generations. It’s possible that Audi designers went to see them for advice. Anyway, the most important change is from the inside. I found it hard to believe that Audi could improve more on their wonderful interior…yet they have. No mid-mounted touch screen nonsense. Instead they have placed the screen in front of the driver, behind the wheel. Smart move.


Engines have been mildly tweaked…however I heard that Audi is going to re-introduce their fantastic 5-cylinder engine that once used to be placed in the fabulous Audi Quattro (ur-Quattro, to be precise). AUDI, PLEASE DO THAT!!!



In my view not the best new design I’ve ever seen to come from Bologna. But every next time I see it, it seems to look…better. However I really doubt it is going to be better looking than Gallardo. Good news: it keeps its 5.2 V10 (how “sorry” I feel now for Greenpeace) which now has been beefed up to 602 BHP! Image

Let’s hope that we will not hear in the news in further years of about one of these being on fire unlike its predecessors have been. Both Gallardo and Lambo’s V12 monsters who always have had something flammable in their construction, something that Italian masters have forgotten to insert. Oops.



5 litre twin-turbo V8, Shark-tale wing…those things are not important. What is important, though, is the message behind it’s name – it has 1340 horsepower to move it’s 1340 kg body around. Which means it is the first super car to reach the before impossible target – 1000 horsepower per ton. Many people (including Monsieur Jeremy Clarkson) think that POWEEEER is everything. Well…an ordinary cruise ship has massive diesels that produce 100 000 hp each…but how fast it goes? just over 21 knots.


The answer is, what legendary Colin Chapman of Lotus always mastered, is INCREASE POWER and REDUCE WEIGHT. The claimed top speed of this beauty is 440 km/h (273 mph) which is 5 mph faster than that ugly, disgusting, Škoda-eyed, cockish Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. I cannot wait for the day when this Swedish rocket will make the Germans get into the corner to weep that they have been beaten…again.

Now there were three cars in Geneva motor show that made me ask “…why?” Here they are

1) McLaren 650S


Typical General Motors engineering – get bits of different cars you’ve made, put them together and call it a “Brand new from ground up” car. That’s exactly what McLaren did with this 650S. They got the nose of the marvelous P1, the rear and the engine from MP4-12C and voilá, called it a “brand new McLaren.” Sorry, NO! Image

The top speed is 207 mph (EXACTLY the same as 12C), yet it’s classified as a “Class higher” automobile. What, has McLaren’s marketing department has nothing to do or something?

2) BMW 4-series Gran Coupe


What is it? Really? Is it a larger 3-series saloon or a shorter 5-series? Why was it created? Who is going to buy it? BMW, do I have to ask these questions for you? This has been the most pointless creation in the history of your brand, and I mean it. First you created the 4-series as, in the previous generation, the 3-series coupe was totally different from the actual saloon. Fair enough. BUT STAY WITH THE BLOODY COUPE. Don’t waste money. Remember the failed BMW 5-series GT. Same idea. You tried to introduce a “brand new BMW”. What happened? Nobody bought it. Learn from your mistakes at last.

3) Mini Clubman Concept


Two fundamental flaws with this car: 1) it’s so big that the brand “Mini” seems to be out of place for this vehicle; and 2) This is not a clubman anymore. A clubman, as you remember, is a car with a split-door boot and an extra door on one side of the car. Now, it is simply a “Mini Countryman” which is another enormous “Mini”. The question is…the new Mini Cooper has gotten larger, so has the Clubman…what’s gonna happen with the new “Countryman” gonna be like, if BMW will be as visionless as they have been so far with the Mini brand and will allow it to go into production? Enough already!!



It’s been 18 years since the world got known with the model designation “XK”. Yes, back in 1996 the first Jaguar XK (XK8) was introduced to replace the aging, barge-like, not-so-agile Jaguar XJ-S. With a new car came a new Era, as, because of Ford’s influence, the new model featured a first in Jaguar’s history – a V8 engine, that is still used today in all of Jaguar models. Car magazines praised this great, new machine for its looks, it’s comfortable yet still sporty ride. There was one problem that somehow remained through the years in Jaguar XK’s – to sit at the back you had to saw off your legs and cut off your head. Therefore they were used for luggage. So XK was created to be a practical Grand Tourer.Image

The years went and the XK matured. Then in 2006 came the more beautiful, more sporty and elegant 2nd Generation XK. It came at a tough time for Jaguar when they were experiencing losses and falling reputation for their reliability of the S-type and the crazy concept of the X-type (which, many argue, was the main reason why Jaguar stagnated in the 00ties). So the skeptics started to see this as Jaguar’s “Last hurrah”…but in 2008 Tata bought the company…and the prancing Cat is still with us today.Image

So why is being cancelled? Well, as businesses work, usually the main reason is poor sales…and it s the case with the XK. It has been the worst selling Jaguar for past 3 years, unfortunately. And recently, after the introduction of the F-type roadster and coupe that are based on the same platform as the XK, only shorter, the XK somehow loses it’s significance. Sad, really sad. Jaguar XK has been in my top 10 of favorite cars (towards the top, along with DeLorean DMC-12, Jaguar E-type, F-type and Jensen Interceptor) and its design has been called “the best” by many over the years. Ian Callum, thank you, sir! Thank you for creating a masterpiece that has my favorite car design feature that I call the “shoulder”, i.e. the bulk above the rear wheels (as seen below. This Jag was standing outside my University).


So I bow my head and say “farewell, XK”. Of course, it will still remain in the used car market, but it’s sad to know that after this summer, no new beauties will be rolling off the production line at Castle Bromwich.