Saturday, 25 April 2009

Piccolo Turismo

Well, a few weeks ago I happened to be informed about playing the nameless hero of the vintage movie 'The Driver'. I had to pick up a car, perform my duty and take it to its destination. 'Normally' that would mean to park outside of a bank, wait for the robbers to rush out and get away as quick as possible as in 'The Transporter' or 'The Italian Job'.

To be honest, it wasn't a bank. It was a Jury. And in front of the jury I had... The astonishing Maserati Gran Turismo. A piece of art on four wheels, a liquid dream gliding on the streets. Shining in red, it was THE ultimate car at the moment. Now, in a hard chase I would deifnately feel sorry for the car and stop in the midst of an ambush just to save the machinery, that's why I got the purposeful ride for this mission: to take quick corners, cut through tight exits and move as dynamically as possible. Right, that must be the John Cooper Mini, I guess, can't wait!

But... What is this? There's no Mini parking here, and there is no such ridiculous mission to complete. It is only my unsatisfied ego speaking hungry for some adrenaline. In fact, the mission was to buy the car and take it to another place where it would stay. And the car happened to be...

... a Polski Fiat 126? How? I couldn't even lose an eco-driver Prius in a straight line-street. And I wouldn't be able to hide any score in the so-called 'car' either, nor a bank-robber if I wanted to. Being sad, I signed the contract and tried to cheer myself up convincing myself about its worthiness.

There are millions of these still reigning the roads here and there. The car that was even more successful in its 'afterlife', under the 'Polski Fiat' badge rather than its Italian origin. Well, of course back in the day you could get about 7 kind of cars altogether in the Communist barracks, no wonder it sold well. Also, it was affordable, easily sustainable and mechanically straightforward as a brick.

For all the car-enthusiasts: this one is an air-cooled 2-cylinder rear-mounted four-stroke. The sound resembles pretty much to a boxer engine. Every ingredients are here to claim, we've got a downscale Porsche, but be not that cheerful, its power is somewhere between the airwaves a bee makes while coughing and what an electric razor produces with rundown batteries...

Sitting in the car, you'll notice that there 'are' place for 4 people, or rather 2 people and 2 dwarfs cut in two for more practical variability. Contemporary jokes about the car said that this was the most quiet one ever produced. Because you had the chance to block your ears with your knees while driving...
So much said, let's start the engine and set off. In early versions of this, you'll still find the ignition right at the handbrake. Inserting the key you pull the little arm down below thus getting you started. Almost like a Ferrari!

Speeding up makes you a little nervous. The speedometer feels like it was calibrated to imperial measures rather than metric. You start to get the same excitement from 60 hm/h rather than 100 as in CARS. You'll feel all the details of the ground. Every little hump will be experienced as a jump in a rally car. Steering gets a little bit fuzzy, the enormous wheel gets you no sense about the direction the car actually is heading. A 100 km/h is definately a kamikaze action, mind that, the whole capsule feels more like a bombshell than a driveable 4-wheeler.

But wait until ice covers the roads! There you will find this little bastard's true identity. You will get the best world of all Minis and RWD cars. The 'Scandinawian Flick' would have never invented if Mr. Aaltonen was driving a Fiat 126 instead a Mini. Get a compact car,that's the size of a shopping cart, take it around the slippery corner WITH POWERSLIDE! Amazing! Of course, there's a little exaggaration there, but who cares? This is all what the Mini lacks! Mind that, it is horsepower the 126 lacks, but tell you what: you make an engine swap and you will get one of the most miserable cars ever, and you will drive the ultimate fun car on the other hand...

Get one! Tune it! Go for it! Buy it! Drive it! Feel it! Just add horsepower to it and there will be no further competitors besides WRCs and Quattros for life.

Still not interested?

Then hello, dear Western World, you just missed the ultimate driving chance of your life...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Battle of All Time – Darth Vader vs. The Terminator part 1

I’ve just learned a few days ago on the Internet that the majestic state of California plans to ban all future black vehicles off its roads for they are more dangerous for the environment than the rest of the cars shining in the colors of the rainbow or bleached to endless white… Yes, it is the filthy color of black that betrayed all environment-protecting efforts and clouds the promising future of toxic-free transportation. I had tormentous nightmares about the color in subject and came up with notions that define the topic i.e. doom, terror, filth, aggression, darkness, evil, blackening and most of all: Darth Vader’s breath.
Oh, yes I forgot to mention the reason if you wouldn’t know: black cars tend to heat up more quickly and more intense in the sun. And as we know there is much, much sun shining in the state, which is also the main reason why Hollywood settled on the West coast ridges. Now the other main cause of air-pollution is… guess what, air pollution! Well, not 100 percently, but quite reasonably.
In California (mainly in LA area) you will face clouds of smoke deriving mainly from cars in traffic. So, if there is hot outside most of the time and in case you couldn’t get a gasp of fresh air because of other gases coming out straight of the other vechicles’ pipes, the logic solution would be to close all windows and set the air conditioning on high level. And yes, air conditioning is being functioned straight from engine power that coerces the power-plant to burn more fuel in order to maintain kinetic force thus producing more unwanted gases, ta-dah!
This makes me think about the reasonability and sense of producing smaller, more efficient cars in the US but I guess that would be an absolutely nonsense thought. So let’s ban color black! Okay,way to go, California! But if you do that I will have a favor to be done. Please erase all black cars from your Hollywood movies forever and retroactively!
The idea behind it was to collect the coolest vehicles from American movies and television shows and make one realize the loss that the absense of these would produce. Let’s see…

Buick GNX – Fast & Furious
Let’s start with Vin Diesel’s latest flick. A real American muscle. Two doors, 4-seater, sedan execution and most importantly the mighty V8 in the front end… oh, wait, hold on a second… 1, 2, 3… 6 cylinders? Someone must have stolen two of them. But wait, what’s that? A turbocharger? Oh, boy it sure isn’t a muscle car! Supercharger on a V8 would be fine, but turbocharger on a V6? And still calling it a muscle car? And it was made in the 80s! No one ever built muscle cars in the 80s (sic!). Well, it may not be a strict follower of traditions but this one is one of the most iconic and advanced muscle cars of all time…
The GNX was developed from the existing Grand National that was based on the Regal T-type. To keep up with power GM didn’t fit the car with the traditional V8 but rather upscaled the production line’s most finest V6 with force induction making it uniquely special. But this one was just still the Grand National. Less than a thousand was sent to McLaren for a little bit of more tuning, creating the GNX. The 80s were crushing times for high performance vehicles in the USA, more than the 70s. But 80s cars had a great advantage: they were shaped with an axe or probaby with a chainsaw hence making them look like a brick… A sexy, masculine brick. Also, the GNX came only in one color: black. These two main factors lead to people calling it the „Darth Vader car”. Also, what GM never dared to admit was the fact that this car was the fastest of their production line… and then Corvette would had been second making it less desireable. Still not iconic muscle car? Well, have a bath then… only mix it with a huge amount of cement… Too bad, Vin Diesel 'only' drove the Grand National...

Dodge Charger – Bullitt
Yes, yes! Everyone remembers one of the most genuine car chase ever and at the time everyone fell in love with the dark green Ford Mustang GT fastback Steve McQueen was driving. Ladies because it was Steve McQueen driving it and gentlemen because of… well, Steve McQueen was driving it! Everyone wanted to be like or be with Steve McQueen. Well, to be honest the GT fastback is also one of the sexiest American cars ever produced. Ever! But what the audience didn’t know were all behind the scenes. The Mustang was made to look cool and it’s counterpart, the baddies newly produced Charger was created for the racetrack. On the streets of San Francisco the Charger proved to be the last car standing while the Mustang was kept fixing up all the time. The Charger. Straight from the NASCAR tracks. Built for speed, designed to last forever. It had all the ingredients that define a muscle car and added such a unique flavor setting up such a high standard by we measure all muscle cars today. Unfortunately, the golden age was over right then…

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Knight Rider
Nowadays it is a natural phenomenon to have warning signals in our car on a lady’s gentle voice and to be directed to yet uncharted territories by the navigation system in another hot lady’s voice. But not int he 80s. The KITT is every boys’ dream. Streamlined shape with all futuristic gadgets that imagination could produce. The 80s Trans Am opened a new era of sports cars and was made an eternal icon by the TV show. Of course some of the technical achievements that were built in the car may now look cheesy, but no one would ever forget about the most important button, the ’Turbo Boost’. Huge leaps were performed by it making „The Dukes of Hazzard” look like some old-fashioned bedtime tale. This car was driven under the same, extreme conditions as the General Lee but it looked way cooler. Into the pot with it!

Chevrolet Bel Air 1955 – American Graffiti
Bob Falfa drives his ’55 Chevy on the streets of Modesto, California one late summer evening just to fight with John Milner’s yellow 3-window ’32 Ford Coup. The challenge is ultimately set and bad luck for Falfa he meets the ditch. But everyone knows, even Milner that if not for losing control, Falfa could have easily beaten him. Interestingly, the car used for shooting is the repainted, restored version of the one used in the movie ’Two-lane Blacktop’.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Smokey & The Bandit
The ancestor of KITT became an icon the wrong time and place. ’Smokey and The Bandit’ was the only competitor of Star Wars at the time, so more kids fell in love with the Millenium Falcon or an X-wing fighter than Burt Reynold’s Trans Am. Firebird on the hood, targa roof and CB speaker made this vehicle one of the most desireable cars of the late 70s, not even mentioning its style.

Porsche 964 Turbo – Bad Boys
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence cruise down on the streets of Miami keeping nodding to the rhythm of ’Bad Boys’ then beat a Cobra on the runway. The unofficial queen of the Porsche production line gets style and fury into the movie. Also, this vehicle is one of the main cars driven in the manga/anime/live action series ’Wangan Midnight’.

To be continued...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Under Construction

Welcome to the international edition of "Shiny Red Cars". Please be patient!