Sunday, 30 January 2011

Heaven on Earth

In mankind's history there have always been myths and legends about gods walking the surface of the Earth, coming face-to-face with mankind. Some of them were raised to canonical heights hence becoming religions. Among these there is one story about incarnation (in-car-nation) where God became man.

This is no Sunday school class, however, but the analysis of the most divine motorsport ever.

The silhouettes.

Silhouette racing in my opinion is the ultimate racing experience a motorsport fan can ever come across. It is also the most misunderstood, too, though. But if you come down on memory lane with me, you'll get what I am about to talk.

Bernie Ecclestone worked hard to make Formula 1 the biggest track motorsport circus humankind could ever imagine. TV broadcasting and huge factory backed teams were as essential factors as the insane speed of the cars and the venues these races were held at. F1 has become a standard every motorsport is being measured against. F1 is the league of gods walking the surface of the Earth every fortnight.

There are some motorsports, however, that come very close to the fame it generates, even surpassing it for brief moments.

Asking the hardcore racing fans what their favourite one is or which one they find the most serious one, F1 is usually way back on the list. Most of the time, it is some sort of sport car or rally competition in 'anything goes' formula. From WRC to CanAm, from IMSA GT to World Sportcar events, endurance racing like Le Mans - all of these being narrowed down to three car categories: FIA Group 4 to 7 and Group B to C. While technically there was no such as Group 7, it was analogous with CanAm Racing. Group 6 was a prototype racing along with Group C. These were all highly demanding, jaw-dropping formulas, they were by no means tangible to everyman - just as Formula 1.

So we are left with groups 4, 5 and B. Now these car were purpose-built racecars, a certain amount later being converted for street use due to homologization or an existed car is taken and tweaked up to the point where the overall silhouette, certain body panels and the engine block reminds only to a general road car.

But that is way enough to trespass the Christ-factor. A supernatural being disguised as an ordinary. From the distance it is quite misleading at first, getting closer it already has the intuition, but seeing it in action is truly a divine moment. People can relate to it. They see and drive very similar rides on daily basis. They can be part of the divine. And this factor makes the whole deal superior to the purely technological, godly race series.

Make no mistakes, spec. series are not part of this club. NASCAR and DTM e.g. may be very exciting imitating real cars worse or better but they are equal cars under equal circumstances. Competition is restricted to man only.

Silhouette cars are always designated as 'F1 cars with a body', which is true in a sense if we consider at least 5 years of lag behind in technology and that is what makes these the WWJD cars. Group B cars at one point were even able to outrun F1 cars under much worse conditions

So much tangible these are that ordinary people imitate them with quite a success. The whole Bosozoku/Kaido racer style is based upon this principle. It is reverse-engineering the silhouettes that were racecars made to look like road ones. They are making roadcars look like racecars in an over-exaggerated manner to let everybody now they are in a quite different league from anybody else. Fans are religiously devoted to their cars, the past and the whole scene, making up a complete tribe. They believe in what they do. They truly live the life.

Because everybody wants to belong to heaven in one way to another. That is why everybody searches for the link to be connected to it.

Some people have even managed to find it successfully.

Have you?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Drive in Technicolor

Funny how human perception and memory works. Our visual collective is preserved by various photos, film footages and they all determine how we perceive the past.

Almost every WWII movies have to  reflect an almost black and wthie colorscheme because that's how people remember it: the footages they saw on TV.

That is how I remember motorsports as well. I can see Jackie Stewart with long hair and a beard that looks like was left unfinished due to budget restrictions. And everything is brownish and has the whole celluloid film feel. The highest appreciation for anyone apperaing on screen is being filmed on celluloid and then projected to movie screens in front of live audience.

There were no live onboard cameras and presentation live was a bit clumsy. TV never appeared to surpass the quality and atmosphere of what you get a recorded, treated, cut, projected, commonly adsorbed experience.

I love this period of racing documentaries. The narrator gives us the ultimate insider guide noone else could do. Nowadays this is all gone due to the informative luxury of the Internet.

Those people still live but may remember in the same method as they are being presented in these footages since they have met them so many times since their recording.

The cars, the feel, the vibe lives on in films. You associate the colours, the texture, the lightning, the montage, everything to that period, it is almost unacceptable to present these otherwise.

This is the code, the dogma.

But this is just a semi-solution. 

The distorted reality becomes the collective reality.

Such as the case when talking about cars. Watching 30s Grand Prix or 80s Group B moments there is a certain vocabulary you have to address upon discussing.

You have to say 'these people were crazy to drive these and the audience was crazy to watch from that close'. Well, it depends.

Several drivers thought it wasn't anything too special to drive under such conditions. The standard was set: be the fastest, whatever it takes. Concerning the audience... well... I think those people form the past would call YOU crazy watching everything on TV. You may get a full HD/3D, Surround experience selecting cameras, but you are simply not there.

When being there, you may not see anything or just eventual flashes, but... gosh, you ARE there. The spirit is there, the atmosphere is there.

That's what they remember. What you are going to remember is the camera angles and the colorscheme being used on screen.

Every memory fades. But every piece of memory is being preserved somewhere. Some sort of machinery recorded the event. That is what every future generation will remember.

But let the witnesses be praised in the first place... for simply not being able to reproduce the feel... but for just seeing that smile on their faces.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


When you create a legend you'd better not break strings attached to it if fearing oblivion.

Recent car magazines feature the Lancia Stratos and the Audi Quattro prototypes on their cover. Impressive, massively famed racecars from the past now becoming reality again if it correlates with God's will.

I asked myself a question in a previous post, what if this is the beginning of an end? What if this marks the end of the petrol engine? Moving on in my philosophical brainstorming I started thinking about the next possible legends to be revived. The Stratos was one legendary Group 4 car in rallying. the Quattro was another in Group B. The question was obvious. What are the legendary cars worth to revive in Group A, WRC and maybe S2000?

I believe we still have to stick rallying since track racing for these categories are too much overshadowed by higher classes of racing e.g. Formula 1, Le Mans, GT series, etc. and most of the time these are purpose-built competition cars or converted higly priced supercars that people don't even see in reality most of the time. And while WTCC is extremely exciting, there is an unconscious thought somewhere in the back of your brain: some cars could do this much faster.

So, rallying, WRC to be precise. Group A is considered to be the silver age of rallying. After Group B was banned, it was up to this class to stand up for competition in fame against F1 mainly. While the hardly gained attention to rallying started declining, the races were almost as exciting.

Fact is, the choice is quite obvious for the ultimate Group A legend, which at the same time is the ultimate rallying winner. The Lancia Delta Integrale. Winning 6 (SIX!) titles on the trot, it is definitely one legendary machine in every aspects. As a road car as well. It is highly sought after even today, selling for prices as new, rally-spec. cars.

Eventhough we have the third-generation Delta on the market, it matches no resemblance to the old car. It is a stilish, luxury hatchback, very desireable indeed. But it lacks the DNA for racing. Lancia says 'delta' science stands for change and that's what they were following.

I can see that.

And it's wrong.

The old car has been so highly famed that we tend to forget other contestant, though there were many of them and some of them made quite a legacy as well. This I would call the Japanese invasion.

While Lancia was the all-time favourite and most successful car, it was probably the Ford Escort RS Cosworth only that could make a name in the sport. It needed to be an Escort, a former legend, and Cosworth, an all-time legend. Great car in every means, but it was no match for the Japanese newcomers.

The path for victory in fame was lain down to the Toyota Celica Turbo, the Subaru Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. They were stretched on every kid's bedroom wall and everyone was cheering when one appeared in the streets. I turn my head when an Impreza or an EVO shows up. Their fame is still living strong but fading rapidly.

Toyota was caught on cheating manipulating the turbo air restrictor plates on the Celica, huge shame for any contestant, even bigger one for a Japanese. They pulled out of the race temporarily only to return later with the Corolla WRC collecting one title as a team. But the days of the Celica were numbered. A next generation of it appeared on the market with mild success, it was not the fire-breathing beast it used to be. How interesting is the evolution of it: starting as a RWD car, making a spinoff, more powerful version of it, named the Supra, going 4WD and ending up as an FWD little sportscar. And that was it.

Subaru and Mitsubishi did much better. There was no either-or, it was both of them. While Tomi Makinen was winning titles one after another, Subaru as a team were superior. They were battling for fortune and fame, too. Both of them amazing street machines, highly appreciated. The Delta's name was decaying and the new heroes were these cars. Blue or red and white. These were the colours to fall for.

And then World Rally Car happened...

WR Car was an attempt to grasp manufactuers' attention to enter WR Championship. WRC regulations don't need homologation cars to be probuced, now the subtitle said: tweak any of your cars you want commercially successful, here's the template, fit it into it. While it sounds like something NASCAR, in the beginning it was a great idea. Subaru and Mitsubishi were still in the game, Toyota was on the map again, but it was the fightback of the European manufactorers as the new decade, the new century and the new millenium was approaching.

PSA started to gain domintaion in the sport once again, rolling out the Peugeot 206, which is (attention, please) just one number higher than 205. And we all know what the 205 stands for, don't we? A legend was returning for scalps. Even Ford could ride the winds of change as they rolled out the Escort-successor Focus. PSA then quickly turned the wheel and went for its Citroen brand alongside with the now Peugeot 307s only to be concluded as a Citroen only representative. And it was all good, until...

Mitsubishi got completely off the map. They couldn't really fit into the new rules, their car was lagging behind like a giant turbo, and while their EVO reputation was still strong, it couldn't be kept up for long without acheivements. So they pulled out of the sport and tried making legends on the streets.

Subaru followed Mitsubishi soon with Richard Burns and Petter Solberg winning individual titles but there was no other grips to hang onto. Subaru was the no.3 car behind Ford and Citroen. So much, when the economy crisis set, they were ready to pull out completely.

So now we have Fords and Citroens. Which could make a rally legend? Could Mitsubishi and Subaru still do it in the first place?

Mitsubishi went on to be a film star in movies about street racing and outside Japan and the hardcore rally fans around the world had no other connection to this car  other than these movies. Tuners, ricers adopted the "EVO" abbreviation in a way that it became almost a pejorative term in more serious motorsport enthusiasts, Mitsubishi was dropped out of the serious competitors in the lack of racing background.

Subaru tried becoming more family friendly (only to be followed by Mitsubishi, too). The Impreza had a diesel FWD version as well for cheap, so everyone could buy it. The Lancer basically dropped the EVO nameplate and Lancer was pushed as a brand. It came in various bodies, all road and environment friendly with a bit of a hint of its past.

So back to Ford and Citroen. Looking at a Citroen, can you see the rally spirit? Because I can't. Citroen makes great cars these days, but none of the WRC variants or Loeb could convince me to buy any of those. Because they are just seperated at birth. Like twins that never met.

Now the Focus is something. The RS is possibly one of the best drivers' hatchback out there. Revolutionary designs under the body, great engine, awesome looks. It is destined to be a WRC legend.

Only it's not, since Ford dropped the Focus in favour of the Fiesta. Now they can build it up all over again and we'll see what it's capable of.

Fact is, time will tell whether the Focus or the Fiesta make legends.

However, new winds are coming.

MINI is ready to enter. In a way it is such a news as saying Ford is making a new Escort for WRC. Resurrecting one legend that could make further legends. That is one hope.

The other one is the Toyota/Subaru FT86 concept which is unlikely to enter any races outside tarmac due to its layout, it may be a successful attempt for both factories to regain some of their racing reputation. It's not a Subaru, not a Toyota, but both. In layout it is the legendary Toyota Corolla AE86 Group A Japanese touring car star and underground street racing and drifting emperor carrying the Subaru flat 4 not available anywhere else, bringing back some of the glory of the Impreza days.

These are the two cars that could make a name again the factories are frantically eager of.

These may be the last stand for resurrecting fading memories of the past and hope in the fans.

Frantic to see soe action?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

"Boyracer scrapmetal"

During work I Skyped with my boss's younger brother discussing cars. He was eager to buy a Porsche 924 and had a Mazda MX5, a BMW 3 series, a Ford Escort XRi and some other cars on his list.

I asked him whether he had thoughts about the first-gen. SEAT Ibiza.

"Come on... No way." he was stunned by my seemingly stupid concept.

"Why?" I was acting up being innocent.

"Are you kidding?"

"Well, it has THIS under the hood." and sent a link of the camshaft cover. It read "Porsche System SEAT"
One real sleeper hatchback I ever owned. It was terrible in almost all respects. It had a ridiculously small boot, it needed a football field to make a U-turn, it felt falling over in a tighter bend and it had quite a lot mechanical problems. Basically this was the only car by SEAT that was designed by the Spanish. But the aanger under the hood just made the male body part looking for space in the pants. Even when you were just looking at the engine.

I waited for some beats.

The pencil started skating on the bottom again.

"Which one has it?"

"Except the diesel? All of them..."

"Which year is that again?"

I gave my answer though I failed at the exact years.

"Your Porsche has a VW eninge inside, right there."

"I know, I know... but it's not about the engine in the first place."

I was scratching my head. My fingers were running the keyboard again.

"Well, I would DEFINITELY feel bad if Peugeots were running circles around me in my Porsche."

"This is an old-timer. It's class. This is not a boyracer scrapmetal."

I was thinking. Would I be mistaken? Is it really the nameplate and the tradition that matters? I kept thinking about it through the rest of the day.

It is... for the most part. But not this time. The Porsche 924 has as much to do with Porsche as my SEAT Ibiza used to. It broke every rules Porsche set through the decades as the Cayenne and the Panamera just did today.

I was rambling on telling if I were to buy a car for the sake of its old-timer factor not caring about the mechanics I would end up with an Alfa. Every Alfa in history has had that original DNA people keep falling for. It attracts hearts.

German cars are mostly perfected machines, too much perfect to have that human factor. But not the Porsche 911. The basic design is screwed up, there is nothing to say for the rear mounted engine except it being a flat six. The pursuit of perfection that makes that car as human as every spotsman has been in history.

The Porsche 924 was everyhing an everyman could dream about. A sportscar with enough power to feel superior, enough luxury to feel class, enough tradition to boast, enough compromise to be suitable for all groups, cheap enough to buy and had enough Porsche plates to call it a Porsche. Except it wasn't.

I backed out with my "boyscraper scrapmetal" designation. My car never had any tradition. Never had any quality, has never got into mainstream for this reason.

But it was uncompromised. One dimensional.

One. Freaking. Awesome. Car.

No wannabe aristocrats can tell me otherwise.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Drive Into The Sunset - A Jalopnik Story (original script)

A lonely road in a desert-like area. Empty as a Lexus’s soulchamber.
No vegetation apart from some bushes. An abandoned
gas-station can be seen somewhere in the distance. It’s dry.
So dry that J.R. Ewing would break down and cry upon seeing
it. Only wind’s blowing. It is Mad Max’s territory. But Max
is dead. Real dead. In fact he never existed. But this is
real. We ponder on this image suggesting that the world has
become somewhat dead. Vitality is missing.
Title card appears: “SOMEWHERE IN NEVADA”
As it fades out we hear some ancient noise. A noise this land
has not heard of for decades. A noise meaning life. Or rather
something larger than life. It’s getting louder and
transforms into a definite roar. As we start to realize what
the roar might be...
...a sunfire Dodge Demon rips into frame with its V8 thunder.
We have a very good look at the car until it disappears from
A man in his early 40s at the wheel driving into the
vanishing point seemingly without destination. He wears
sunglasses like police officers do and has a white T-shirt
with a pack of Camel tucked into the left sleeve. He has a
cigarette in his mouth without being lit. He is VERY alone
but he has a name i.e.
There are a bunch of stuff lying around in the car of which
we get to know him a little bit. Some old fast-food paperbags
from the early 2000s, wrenches at the passenger seat, a toy
car in the open glove box fixing an old newspaper cutout
saying: “Jalopnik vs. GM”. Old memories. But old memories
last as the world we know it.
Bruce Springsteen tunes in on the AM frequency letting
everybody know he was born in the USA. Wes travels. We keep
up with him. We have a long look at his face showing no
emotions at all. Bruce becomes annoying. Very annoying. As
Wes would hear our thoughts he lets himself a little grin and
reaches down to switch station. Static sounds fill the
passenger area as Wes searches for some different tune. A
radio announcer’s voice comes weakly through the air and Wes
turns it up. We cannot hear much of the talk but it feels
very important. He listens very carefully, but eventually he
gives up the fight as the V8 sound covers every other noise
possible. He reaches for a box of matches. He manages to
light his cigarette while fixing the steering wheel with his
left knee. Throws out the match and takes a good sip from the
cigarette. We travel on with the radio announcer’s voice.
Suddenly Wes looks down on the radio. Something was said.
Like the news of a relative’s sudden death. Wes steps on the
break hard.
The Demon’s wheels screeching as it comes to a full stop.
Engine stops running. Camera pans down to cockpit as Wes
still holding the steering wheel pointing all his attention
to the radio announcer’s voice.
...earlier this morning. All
communications were cut short and
interrupted for indefinite terms,
however it suggests the end of
further negotiation attempts
between the two oil companies. As
it was pointed before, no more
fossil fuel will be available for
the public for the remaining
resources will cover military needs
in the future on global level. This
marks a historical event in human
history as energy needs were
largely covered by fossil
Wes opens the door and steps out of the car. We don’t hear
the radio announcer’s voice. We only hear the end coming. He
looks into the distance taking his sunglasses off. He knows
it’s all over. Stunned and broken. We all knew it would come
but never really believed it. He walks a few steps forward as
it made any difference. But it doesn’t. A few beats as he
gazes into infinity and eventually he turns around jumps into
the car. An ignition and the beast comes alive again. Highrevving
and the car makes a U-turn accompanied with tiresmoke
leaving thick stripes on the ground. We know it’s late.
We know he’s gotta hurry. We know it’s the last chance. But
we just don’t know what for. As the car disappears...
We hear steps. Someone’s coming. Door opens. Steps continue.
A big CLANK! as a metal can being kicked over in the dark.
Soft but angry mumble in the darkness. Steps continue. We
hear fiddling with a chain. A few beat and a garage door is
being rolled up. As moonshine’s weak light reaches into the
garage we realize we are sitting in a car looking out of the
facility. Man fixing the garage door steps out to the street.
He wears a shirt, fashionable trousers and shoes. Camera pans
around to frame his face with the car behind. It is...
2. his early 40s again. And it is written all over his
face. He heard it too. It’s done. He is disappointed but
somehow excited. Looks back at the car. It is a white Alfa
Romeo 2000 GTV shining.
Sound of ignition as a four-banger comes alive with lively
rapidity. Headlights cut through the darkness and the car
rolls out of its shelter and races out of frame. Dogs
barking. Several cuts as it rushes through the empty streets
of Budapest as an aerial shot reveals in a zooming in that
the there are jerrycans lying on the backseat.
Peter smiling.
Hot day. A man lying on the bed drinking sake. Sweating. Suit
and shirt unbuttoned. Moaning. He’s...
Still a young fella but feels a lot older than he actually
is. Breathing slowly. Had a very bad night. Like Bruce Willis
after saving the world again. The problem is the world hasn’t
been saved. Then he finally forces himself to stand up. He
has a will at least. Wavers through the room going around the
bed. Parks down by the window staring down...
The roads are packed with people. Everybody’s on foot. Some
electric scooters. It feels like Exodus. It’s not, actually.
It’s only a day like the others in the past few years. Cars
slowly disappeared through the times up to the point they
were virtually completely gone... and will never return.
The V8 is screaming as Wes puts the metal to the pedal. Gotta
be there before sunset. Gotta go. The sense of urge is
killing. Wes’s every nerve is concentrated on the road only
to be brought out of balance by a warning signal on the
dashboard: fuel’s running lean. Wes pushes harder...
The Demon’s slowing down begging for some juice. Coughing and
trying as it slowly loses all kinetic energy. Comes to a full
stop. A beat.
Holding on the steering wheel tight. He can’t believe it.
Just not today! But again, this is real. Quiet. Moment.
Sadness. Finally he releases the steering wheel. All
tension’s gone. Leans back and turns on the radio. The
Spaniels’ ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ fills the air. Wes grins in
irony as he falls asleep.
Wes walks on the road as the car’s burning behind with the
song still played on. A sign by the road says: “San Francisco
10 miles”. We see him walking away until the song is over.
Peter driving on the spaghetti lines in the hillside with the
perfect confidence being lonely on the roads. Several cuts on
the sunny location that feels like Top Gear at its best. No
wonder Mr. Ripley killed for this sight.
Bang! Puncture in the worst moment. Car spins several times.
Peter countersteers wildly while braking. Car finally stops.
As the engine stalls we hear nothing but metal parts cracking
via cooling. Peter’s sweating and pale. Beat. Peter sighs.
Gets out of the car and looks around the wheels.
Stops at the flat one. Looks at it close. There’s nothing he
can do about it. Stands up and looks around. There’s a
village in the not too long distance down in the valley and
fortunately he’s right on top of a hill. No other choice left
he gets back into the car and starts descending on the road.
Peter rolling in slowly followed by a group of children
cheering. Other people start gathering around the car as it
comes to a stop. No word can be made out of the confusion
partly because it’s Italian but one thing’s for sure:
everyone is ultimately happy upon this phenomenon. Some
people are pointing at the flat tire. Peter attempts to
negotiate with the people without result for they cannot make
themselves understood respectively.
He then is being pushed through the street with a man
handling the steering wheel from the outside.
Small garage in the street. The owner looks up from the daily
newspaper upon hearing the crowd approaching. He cannot
believe what he sees as the Alfa is being pushed into the
garage. Stands up from the chair and moves towards the car.
The crowd gets silent. Peter wants to say something but the
owner turns to the man handling the steering wheel.
What’s this?
An Alfa.
I can see that, you stupid but what
is it doing here?
Got a flat tire. You could repair
(Amazed. Beat.)
Are you saying that it was actually
Si, si!
(Stunned. Reaches out a
hand to Peter.)
(Shakes hands with Mauro.)
(Heavily gesticulating
trying to make himself
Eeeer... Hungary? ...eeer...
No, no, no, no... go?
(draws a circle into the
Targa Florio.
Targa... Florio...
The crowd looks impressed. Mauro looks upon them and urges
everybody but Peter out of the shop. As he closes the door we
Mauro is done with repairing. Smiles and seems very pleased.
Peter is impressed, too. Reaches to his pocket. Mauro grabs
his arm in motion. He looks dead serious. Peter looks
questioningly on Mauro. Beat.
Peter waits as he is scrutinizing Mauro’s face. Mauro’s lines
getting softer. Starts smiling again.
Peter understands. Nods. Seeing an Alfa moving in Italy these
days is almost a divine moment to these people.
Mauro releases his arm and steps back. Peter sits back in the
car. Mauro goes back to the entrance and opens the entryway.
Huge crowd gathered around the shop. Peter looks back and is
(shouting in extasy)
The crowd starts applauding as Peter starts the Alfa. He
reverses out of the shop between walls of people. The
cheering doesn’t stop even after the car is gone. Only Mauro
seems sad...
Ray still looks pretty bad but a little better than the last
time we left him.
Ray wandering. Several cuts on the city as Ray passes it.
Ray heads for a container that seemingly has been there for
several years among many others, completely untouched. Pulls
a set of keys from his pocket and opens the locks. Removes
all the chains. Some big secret is to be revealed. But do not
be afraid - it sure is a car. Ray opens up the door and
enters. We cannot see what’s in there we just hear him
fiddling around - doors, hood opening, slamming, some moaning
due to using muscle power. Then everything goes silent. Sound
of ignition. Once. Twice. Three times. And by the 4th time it
fires up! A straight-6. And behold a mighty second-gen. BMW
M5 rolling out of the container. Ray still being tired.
Waits. Getting into the zone. Focusing on the flat harbor
lying in front of him. Slowly puts it into first gear. Left
foot still on the clutch pedal he revs the engine. Waits
until it gets warm. Beat. Suddenly he releases the
horsepowers. A burnout transforms into acceleration. He sets
off racing through the facility avoiding various obstacles.
He’s brave or senseless, we are not so sure.
Various cuts to different parts of the abandoned harbor. We
cannot see the car, just hear it as it revs, brakes,
The BMW slides into frame and stops. Ray at the steering
wheel still looks pale but his arms are shaking. He starts
smiling and bursts into laughing. Leans on the steering
wheels and laughs heavily. The horn goes on. We pan up to see
the sun finally set.
Peter watching a similar sunset on a mountain road leaning to
the Alfa’s side. Bittersweet moment, it’s over. He pets the
car’s side and starts walking.
Wes walking around the hills and valleys. Looks pretty tired.
Stops on the top of the hill road and looks down. Stares down
there for a very long time. As the camera zooms down we see
two children chasing each other on the streets of San
Francisco on bikes as Lalo Schifrin’s Bullitt theme fades in
slowly. We watch this scene for a long time. Then we have a
look at Wes.
He smiles. The world is not dead ultimately.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Rolling to an end of an era...

As with every giants in human history, the car industry will be brought down on its knees. As new winds and new breeds come along, the old one has to die to be replaced by a growing seed.

The thing is though, no giants have been forgotten, ever. In fact each of them hit the ground with thunder and earthquakes.

So let's just sit back for a moment with a drink in the hand and watch the last bits of anguish of the car industry... as it goes down in tyresmoke and flames...

Here.. we... GO!!

It all boomed in America and that is the place it will most likely to crumble for good.

For me, the whole phenomenon started with one little car with much fury and legendary pedigree of outland myth.

The Mustang.

The Mustang has always been out in the market. Young guys loved it, olders collected it. It was cherished by the blue-collar self-made men.

...and yet, the actual generation of the mid-noughts came in all retro, all in style. It resembled all the glory of an era when gasprice was not more of a question than the ingredients of a real 'merican burger.

But it was the first sign of the end.

You see, the message was already written on the wall: "You can not make wasteful cars anymore!"

So with a very last breath, all the manufacturers with a sense of pride did what a wounded fighter would do realizing the inevitable: stirking down once again.

The muscles were pumped up again. Then came the Charger, the Challenger, the Camaro. Their European and Japanese doppelgangers, the hot hatches were rolled out in the greatest glory by far.

The Civic Type R, the Focus RS, the Golf GTI and many-many more were just eager to take the roads with the by-then family men. Turbos, lightweight. They had all that.

But in fact these are just the footsoldiers I am talking about at the moment.

How about the real heroes? The true gladiators.

The supercars.

First, Volkswagen thought it would build the ultimate supercar ever without compromises, just to make a point about their capability of engineering. The Veyron was born and knocked down the ultra-rare McLaren F1 off the throne in almost all aspects. The idea was simple and worked, making all other manufacturers to get into the game: build high-speed cars and make them reminder of the uncompromised era.

Biref list: the Ford GT, the new Ferrari GTO, the Lancia Stratos, the Audi Quattro concept, the Alfa Romeo 8C Evoluzione, the AMG SLS, the constant Porsche GTs, the M1 resembling BMW concept, Astons  - all existing at the same time...

...embracing decades of pride, fame, deathtraps. All being ugraded clones of a past self. Bringing together old-school and the latest technology. The ultimate barinchilds of the internal combustion powerplant.

And when these vhicles gather in time and space that will be the final fight where neither of them will be spared.

...and the day will be remembered 'the day the engine died'.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Tyrannosaurus Lag

The 80s.

Downsized cars, downsized fuel consumption, downsized ego of automotive pride.

It all seemed quite devastating back then. It was the age of condemned power. There was no political correctness then, they didn't say: 'You are saving the whales if you buy this eco-car'. It was written all over the wall quite manly: 'Look, pal. You can't really buy a fast car anyomre, can you? So, why don't you buy this really cheap car for good and save your money for beer?'

The problem was that at the very moment the customer bought his car and his beer, sat down to the couch, turned on the TV, it was all... well... high-class motorsport to watch.

There was the golden age of Formula 1 when never before heard powered low-flying fighter planes were conquering the tracks, only to have circles driven around them by AWD Group B heavy-armoured warriors on gravel.

There was no talk about displacement, fuel consumption or greeniness.

It was all turbo.

The tyrannous turbo.

You see, today it seems turbo is something eco to break down CO2 emissions with smaller engines, keeping the power the previous generation used to have, also to compensate for the more and more massive cars' weight.

Also, now they say it's the sake for torque. So, when you start your car, there is no or very little lag due to the very small turbo. It's all great, it's fine, it's elegant, and you get the whistle.

But it wasn't anything like that at all.

The rule said, the bigger the better.

So you had to give it everything you got so as to get the 7th heaven in return. You had to push it as hard as you could to conquer over the turbo lag and then the turbo first just said "You, talkin' to me?" and when you reached the metal it simply unleashed the fury.

Screaming, howling engine in its terror being ripped apart by the vicious cannibal. Warp speed morphed into bent vanishing point. Reaching the over the top, LSDd black box in your brain. It was all about begging for even more, MORE, and M-O-R-E.

No driver from the 80s could forget the turbos. shaking knees, as the tiny soapbox with its four-banger revved up dauntingly. They were a carefully selected fleet of kinds among all cars available at the time.

The extremes where the same car would be mum's shopping mobile service and within another variety it was  the terror on four wheels on the fury road.

The turbo is just back again, wainting to be rediscovered as it was designed to be, waiting for its first prey.

Who will be the first obedient servant the reinstate the original tyrant?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Hatch muscled up

I admit: I love muscle cars.

From the GTO through the Charger, the Demon to the Fairlane Thunderbolt I love them all. Unfortunately I live in the part of the world where gas has always been priced high (which is good in the long run), where the roads are tight and curvy (again, good) and where even taxes are taxed, too (not good at all).

So, we are restricted to the EU flagship 'affordable performance cars'. Whereas it is the muscle car in the US, on the other end of the ocean it is the hot hatch.

A souped up smaller (here: midsized) family car. Eventhough  they are really hard to compare, they share the same philosophy.

Let's take the Ford Mustang and the Ford Focus RS. The Focus RS has a straight-5 in good Audi and Volvo tradition whereas the Mustang has good ole V8 horses under the hood. Note, if you have more than 4 cylinders in Europe that counts something extraordinary, in the USA V6s are something okay.

Of course, if you have a V8 in an American car, you have to talk about turbocharging in a European one. For a whole decade, picky customers were eager for SOME turbocharging at least after the 90s naturally aspirated craze, they got it clean and clear.

Unfortunately there is no real compromise to RWD at a reasonable  price. Common rule that a performance car is RWD at least. Fact, that FWDs cannot be capable for such performance.

That's why we have front differential, great handling, slightly btter mileage and all the flashy exterior stuff.

Europe is eager for some muscle, America for some quality hatch. Besides, it's not only petrol/gas a hatch runs on, recently there are keen diesels being made. I read somewhere that the latest Golf GTI existed only to make the path for the GTD. Don't know, never tried it. But it would be foolish to underestimate diesels.

Here's the deal. Since Ford is global, Chrysler has just been bought by Fiat and GM owns Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, why can't we make a compromise?

A midsize, sedan or five door RWD with at least 6 cylinders and a diesel option.

Well, I think there is the BMW 1 series and the Mercedes C-class that matches the criteria.

Problem is, thy are not cheap enough.

Any further idea?

Sunday, 9 January 2011



Not many words generated more controversy in the world than that one.


Car fan paradise.

You see, it is not only Mitsubishi's perversion to attribute a car as EVO. In fact, there is a whole magazine dedicated to the underlying meaning.

It's the Italians that make the most emotions out of that word. Whether you take an Alfa, a Lancia or a Ferrari, this is meant to leave you with the aftermath: "You've seen nothing yet. There's more to come when you sit into this one, and even more when you get out... because it is not over yet."

You can have Abarth, XX, GTO or whatever badge on the car, this is the one that marks ultimate supremacy and points to an even higher peak.

This is however an indirect reference to a specific category the car fits into. Except maybe the Quattroporte, which is a simple upgrade for Maserati. If you talk about the Alfa Romeo 75 or the Lancia Delta, it is aimed at Group A regulations. Delta marks a change itself. And if you make two evolutionary versions of that, that goes somewhere extraordinary.

Like winning 6 WRC titles.

And then you go to the extremes. For the Ferrari FXX Evoluzione. The ultimate fo the ultimate of the ultimate supercar of Ferrari. Not even road legal, you are not even allowed to touch it if Ferrari tells you so. It is a beast for extremely limited production and usage. It is like an extinct animal you can't even look at in a Spinal Tap burst.

Simply not real.

But let's get to something even less real then, shall we? This Evoluzione comes from the FXX, which comes from the Enzo that is preceeded by the F50, which is a direct afterthought of the F40 that is in my opinion the essence of what Ferrari is all about. Yes, it breaks some traditions by not using a naturally aspirated engine. Yes, it has small displacement motor because of that. Yes, there are faster ones than that TODAY. And yes, this was the last car blessed by Enzo himself. And basically it was an earlier F1 car with a body.

The final frontier of "real" Ferraris.

Or is it?

The F40 was born to conquer the Group B era. Only it was born the worst moment. Because by the time the car apeared on the market, Group B was long gone.

But it wasn't the first attempt to do so.

Ferrari tried it even before. They had the insanely beautiful 288 GTO that was again aimed at Group B. But as every Italians in history - they were late again. Again, when it arrived into competition, Group B was the kingdom of rally cars only.

Sure, Ferrari tried asphalt rallys with the 308 gtb on which the GTO was based, but they wanted even more than that.

That's why they kept it almost a secret they had a new weapon.

Another Evoluzione.

Evolution in the sense science has the most struggle with: finding the missing links.

Well, this is the missing link between the 288 GTO and the F40: the Evoluzione.

Only 5 were produced, 3 in existence and in it's strangely beautiful in a pervert manner. It has the stunning  curves of the GTO and the agression of the F40.

It looks like a really messed up Ferrari, and in fact it is.

But it's a machine of purpose. A machine of lack of compromises.

Evolution doesn't ask how you like the way you are. Evolution doesn't even care about you. Evolution leaves you with one fact only: survive or die.

There are survivors.

Even for the greatest dinosaurs of them all.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Paper on Pager... or Whatever

I had the opportunity to have a look at this site on an iPhone touch. I'm no techie geek in the sense that I need the latest application whatever it takes.

During my university years I read so much from screen that I have became a bit sick of that. When it comes to reading something longer - say a book or a longer short-story - I refer to read it on paper. There is no backlighting, no ads, no scrolling, just pure text.

That's why this blog looks the way it is. Something closer to what you would consider a paper-based reading.
I'm a bit related to cars in a similar manner. I'm a purist in that matter. Of those I had or driven. they got more and more advanced, were more comfortable, etc.

But I'm still a purist in this respect.

I would even go so far to say the only extra I would like to have in my car is a map reading lamp and a cigar lighter. You can hook your laptop, or your smart phone on the cigar lighter and you have all the gadgets you would normally have in a car stock to distract you from driving.

While steering aid is great when it comes to parking, I hate the feelit gives - I mean I hate it never gives any feel. And I also hate I can't hear the engine on lower revs. What's the point?

Sure, I don't drive in the US on Interstate highways, but still... it all takes the joy of driving away.
..and car manufacturers today give some of these elements back into their sporty models.

You get a car totally stripped down? That will cost you some extra money. Sorry, I will get the basic model and strip out myself if I want to.

But why can't you get just more lower?

Is it the risk of you getting higher in a sporty car? Because power is a sin, even if it's just relative power?

In the end it is only about marketing and PR, like inventing the bottled water.

Nevertheless you can still read old books and have al the fun, just as you can drive the older cars for cheap money.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

"Where we're going, we don't need roads..."

Hungary has become the leader of the EU for 6 months. Not that it meant much, but I've been listening more carefully in the past weeks.

I've just learned on the radio that there's a new Danube strategy coming up, making it greener and less affected by human influence.

The expert said that the practice used to be earlier that riverbeds have been expanded to accomodate to ships that are sailing over and now there is a great revolt in views that suggests that the path for sailing has to be modified and ships should be accomodated to the riverbed.

That made me think. Why is there such an urge to lead Autobahns even to backyard restrooms in every village. The Autobahn and most motorways in general are like velvet after purging.

Soooo, the new cars that are coming out from the factory line are made with suspensions that never had potholes embedded in its DNA.

The question is though: is it really worth building roads to perfection?

It seems like we want to return to trains. I mean, yes, any train can roll through the TGV line and a TGV would be able to travel through Europe. Mind that, it wouldn't be able to travel to the most remote village there is in lack of electricity.

Similarly to cars, a modern one could not stand the chance on a rougher dirt road... or an Eastern European street.

But a stone-age steam or diesel train could go anywhere you wanted.

I would gladly read statistics on how much the maintaining of motorways costs.

Why can't we just choose our own roads straight through fields that belong to nobody in off-road vehicles?

Just make sure your GPS finds the nearest gas station.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Tour d'Europe

I just read my pityful post of yesterday and I have mixed thoughts about it. But I'm completely honest about it, too, so I'll just leave as it is as I promised.

In the meanwhile I watched the highly entertaining miniseries with Jeremy Clarkson about Meeting the Negihbours. Driving through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy is just the plan I am having in mind... well, except the last two, because I have something completely different on my mind.

You see, one's headed where the money is. Thinking about the future, investment.

I mean, I still have the money to put gas in the Escort's tank and we can still feed ourselves and the dogs. We even have two flats and we let one of them. On paper it seems like an Eastern European jackpot.

Reality is of course - as in many cases - different. When you're trapped in debt, between families' will and under future's pressure when it seems you cansay goodbye to your old days.

That's why we're heading to England. Because it is still in Europe and we both speak English.

I've been watching Google Maps and other route planners for weeks just thinking about how to get there and not about what to do there.

Sure, I sent my CV to many places, I registered on many jobfinder sites but I'm still fascinated by the road I'm going to take. The drive. Or rather: The Drive.

You see, it's not just the 24-hour drive that matters. It's the process of transition. I will have 24 hours to switch my mind over from an Eastern Eropean to a Western European. And I just come to realize that I will not be able to plan for what I will do till I get there. I don't know yet how to function as a Western European.

I would gladly avoid motorways to drive through villages and have coffe and bakery products and enjoy this journey in full extent, unfortunately I will be on my own, so I will have to do the whole thing in one sit, and I cannot afford the luxury of getting lost somewhere in Austria in absence of a GPS. The dogs wouldn't take it that well, either. I just tokk them for a walk at New Year's Eve. Midnight hit when we were at the local railway station. Some kids were doing fireworks and they were just scared to death. Poor ex-stray dogs, they will have to dispense me for 90 minutes in the hull of a ferry.

Anyway, I willdrive through Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland and France to conclude in Great-Britain. I even have to dispense the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps to arrive in safety

And I have some concerns. Will I end up being just an Eastern European, a Western European, simply European or British by tha time I get there, or all of them?

This will be the first time I am really laeving my country for good.

Motorways headed for a new life. Should I have a Clarkson moment yelling 'Power!' when there is none to feel some lavishness?

Can or cannot I plan ahead to really fit in society and working force?

It is the road that is still on my mind. My first, immediate responsibility to get there. But without a purpose it's not worth getting there.

Concerns and more concerns. Future in Jesus's hands.