About michaeldekock

Full-time automobile fan. Part-time student & gamer. Trying to know a little bit about everything.

The Cars of Cairo

In March of 2014, we arrived in Cairo. It is a big city on the Eastern edge of the Sahara, with the Nile River going straight through it. But it’s mostly desert. The city, and indeed the country, has had some political trouble in recent years and the government was changed a couple of times in way too short a time, but otherwise things are fine. Apart, of course, from the sand, garbage, awful roads, lack of enforcement of road laws, lack of rain and the general dustiness of it all. My dad calls it The Sandpit.

In the three years since we’ve been here, I have been in many different places in this city. Some of them very clean – such as the Cave Churches of Mokattam (which is strangely enough surrounded by Garbage City) and other places that are dusty and filthy as heck. One 700 year old building my mother and I visited in City of the Dead, had about 700 years worth of dust in it. The floor has these nice patterns of circles and triangles, but the only way to see it is to move about two centimetres dust with your shoe. Ironically enough, there was a broom in the corner of the room. (Probably also 700 years old…)

So now that I’ve established that Cairo should be renamed to Dustyville, let’s get on to what this blog is about. At the moment, Cairo’s streets are filled with the likes of boring cars such as the  Hyundai Verna and Chevy Lanos, with the odd imported Ford Expedition here and there. Our neighbour is the CEO or CFO or something of one of Egypt’s biggest telecommunications corporations, so he actually has some nice cars. They include a Bentley Flying Spur W12, Porsche Cayenne S, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Porsche Panamera 4S, Subaru WRX STi Sedan, BMW 435i Gran Coupe, BMW 650i Gran Coupe, BMW X4 X-Drive35i, BMW X6 X-Drive50i, a Kia Sedona minivan, a Lamborghini Gallardo Performante Spyder  and a big Dodge Ram 1500 Hemi. I’m pretty sure he also owns a Maserati Gran Turismo S as it stood outside his house for a few days once. But that’s the nice new cars of Cairo.

During the many ‘troubles’ Egypt has had, especially the 2011 ‘trouble’, some expatriates left Cairo in a hurry and never returned. This means that many of them left their cars as well, which is quite saddening. Most of these cars are crappy boring sedans or hatches, but some are really quite cool.

Up until a few weeks ago, there was a beautiful blue Mercedes 230E Automatic (banner car) parked in our street. My guess is that it was probably from the 1970s. But it has stood in that one spot of a few decades as the tyres really weren’t tyres anymore and the rims were about four centimetres deep in the tar. Other than the wheels, the car overall was quite nice still. The interior looked to be all original and the leather wasn’t broken or anything. If done correctly, restoring it would be a fun job and one might even make some nice money from it, if one decided to sell it that is.

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In the same street was an old Morris Minor. The bohab (doorman/guy who looks after a building) said that it was a Bentley, but it was a Morris. It was permanently under a tarp, but was open to the public when it too was trucked away.

Next up is my  favourite of these abandoned cars. It is a late 1970s or early 1980s Porsche 911 Turbo. It is also permanently under a cover, but I managed to see a bit of it. It’s silver with very nice rims. Although, one of the rims is completely shattered, which is difficult to think how one would have done that. But yes, I really like that Porsche. I wouldn’t mind at all to take it back to SA and fix it up.

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In a different street, there is a massive 1970s/80s GMC pick-up truck, but it has a caravan/motorhome attachment on its bed. It looks menacing and awesome. Massive wheels and tyres too. One could go almost anywhere with it.

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In the same street is an original Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1970s. It has four doors and a two-tone paint job. Beige and a brown. It looks like the 70s on wheels. It just needs a couple of peace symbols and Flower Power stickers. But it is really cool.

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Also in the same street is a Subaru BRAT. A BRAT! It’s so cool! It even has the two backwards-facing seats in the bed. It is in very good condition too, but I have only seen it in that one spot for the past year or so, so I don’t think anyone drives with it – which is unfortunate. But it is a really cool car.

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In a street not too far from where we live, is a house with a bunch of Land Rovers. It had about ten or so Defenders and Range Rovers, but there are only five left – three Defenders and two Range Rovers.

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There is this one cool Range Rover parked under a tree. It’s a 1970s or 80s model, but it has two doors. However, this one has been converted into a racing car. Something like a rally or a Dakar car, or maybe just to battle the dunes of Egypt. The interior is stripped out and the rear is completely empty. But most of the parts still seem to be there. I couldn’t get the bonnet open, so I don’t know if the engine is still there, but it is still a cool car. I would love to have a slightly customised two-door Range Rover in SA. I’d just need a sponsor for the fuel…

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There are two other cars which I unfortunately don’t have photos of as they are parked in a place where you cannot stop to take a picture – because Cairo. In Zamalek, the one is under a tarp, but judging from the wheels and the overall shape under said cover, it looks to be a Model T Ford or maybe something very similar. But its wheels are big and black, so my guess is a Model T. The other car is just down the road. It is a 1932 Mercedes Roadster. It’s beautiful. It’s beige and brown with a (formerly) white top and wire wheels. It is a lot smaller than I thought those old roadsters were, but it is even prettier than on a photo.

The last car I saw that is worth speaking of is a 1983 Chevrolet Corvette C3. It is one of the last ones produced as it had a bunch of limited edition badges and stuff on it. It was really nice to see and it was the first Corvette I ever saw. Luckily someone was driving it as I saw it once and never again. Unfortunately I cannot find the photos I took of it, but it’s a C3 Corvette, everyone knows a C3 Corvette, right?

It is my personal belief that there are a few million Dollars’ worth of abandoned and rare cars all over Cairo – and probably Alexandria and some other cities and towns as well. Many of them are almost broken beyond repair, but if you can buy them, ship them, restore them and sell them, I bet you could still make a few bucks. I would love to do that (mostly with that Porsche), but unfortunately my dad said that it won’t fit in the suitcase. I could always try though…

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 11 – 27/28 February 2017

(Look! The elusive consecutive day update thing! Yay!)

So, guess where we went today? No. Nope. Wrong again. We visited Hobbiton! AND IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!

It was a bit of a drive and we had a stop or two along the way. It mostly involved a certain someone getting stuck in a certain modern toilet. Luckily, as we neared our destination, one of the busses from the nearby (unpronounceable) town turned into the road in-front of us, so we could just follow it.  We arrived slightly in the nick of time, but that was fine in the end. We got our tickets and off we went on in a bus. It was just Migaél and I going on the tour, as the entrance fee is pretty steep. We stopped at the entrance of The Shire – which really is just a little fence with a gate in it – and off we went for a guided tour.

We saw the many Hobbit Holes™ (it’s trademarked apparently) and had a good drink at The Green Dragon Inn. We walked around Frog Pond and stopped to admire the massive pumpkins the maintenance crew are currently growing. Interestingly, all the vegetation on the film set is real, except the tree above Bag End, which is made of steel, silicone and about two hundred thousand plastic leaves. But the veggie farm is real and the produce gets distributed to the staff and crew.

All in all, it was a good experience. The gift shop was nice, but overpriced (although the Mumzi thought it is the most boring shop ever), the service was excellent and the bus driver was a comedian. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what his name was. The only thing I was a little disappointed in, was the fact that there was no random Hobbit walking around or a random Gandalf appearing on a cart to take us on an adventure. But oh well, maybe that will come.

 

P.S. If you are reading this and you work at or are the manager of said Hobbiton, give the bus driver of the 13:00 tour (28 Feb 2017) a raise. And sommer the guide too. Becca is her name, I believe. Just tell her not to leave the free zucchini in her car for two weeks…

P.P.S.S.OR.WHATEVER. New Zealand is a very pretty country. Whilst we drove to Hobbiton, we saw beautiful landscapes that ranged from the Cape area to near the Sabie area, all in a matter of minutes. It is really a beautiful country. Almost gives SA a run for it’s money…

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 10 – 26/27 February 2017

(“Oops I skipped a day” isn’t going to work anymore, right? Sigh…)

OK, so today we went to a beach again. It was a very pretty beach that was very wide. It had a great big rock in it, which naturally Migaél and I climbed (I had an unholy number of uneven steps), and gazed upon the beauty that is New Zealand’s North Island’s West Coast. From today, I believe that New Zealand is just as pretty as South Africa and that it can indeed be a film maker’s paradise. Well done to you Peter Jackson & Co.

Also, today I saw a bunch of nice cars. From a 1970s Chevy Camaro to a Pontiac GTO Convertible from the same era. There was also a 1960s Chevy Bel-Air hot rod and a Vista Cruiser hot rod from the same era. I walked past a Lancer Evolution IV and VIII. The Evo VIII was modified with custom bumpers, side-skirts and a carbon hood. It was also lowered to a silly height, or should I say ‘lowt’.

We are past halfway through our trip here to Slightly Skew to Down Under. The Branckies keep telling us to change our flight to later, but yeah… Oh, plus I realised that I have a two-hour test to do the day after we get back. Qatar Airways, I hope you have good internet…

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 6 – 21/22 February 2017

Yes I skipped another day. Boo hoo.

 

So I have been busy studying for the past few days whilst the young Branckens are doing school. I quite enjoy it. Luckily with doing home-schooling for eight years of my schooling career, I learned to work in various places. Heck, now I even blog anywhere. I once blogged whilst walking when my mother was shopping in IKEA. (Think it was Little Aston + Big Heart = Lots of Fun)

It has been quite a few days since I said anything about cars, so here goes…

New Zealand has cool cars. In the five-odd days since we’ve been here, I have seen some really cool cars. On one day, I saw three different Nissan R33 GT-Rs and a relatively stock Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII. Along with that, all the Chevrolets in this country – and I imagine Australia as well – are Holdens. Plus, I bought a magazine called NZV8 that is like our Speed & Sound, but all the custom cars in it has V8s. In this NZV8, there is a brand new Holden Commodore HSV GTS-R. It has 435KW and 740NM from a Chevrolet 6.2L Supercharged LSA engine that you find in the Camaro ZL1. The example in the magazine is orange with matt-black accents and it looks positively menacing. There is also a more track-focused version called the Holden Commodore HSV GTS-R W1 that has various changes made to it in order for it to accommodate the LS9 engine from the Corvette ZR1. This one produces 470KW, but just like all American V8 motors, it can easily be upgraded.

The price for this is quite a bit high. The W1 version is NZ$190k (R1.8m) and the ‘normal’ GTS-R is NZ$130k (R1.25m). But both come with manual transmissions in cars as and more powerful as than many supercars. But unlike most supercars, you get to scare the s*** out of three people at once.

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 4 – 19/20 February 2017

I skipped a day, shhh.

So today, we went driving about. We drove to the north of the north island to go see a small patch of land that our friends bought. On our way there, we stopped at a place called Sheepworld. Sheepworld had exactly five sheep, all of whom were pink – and a broken tractor. This place also had flags about it with ‘sheep’ on them, but that actually looks like clouds with legs. My parents and I had some expensive lasagne and some of the best ginger beer we’ve ever tasted.

Also, the Holdens in this country are awesome! Yes, most of them have V6s, but the odd one has a mighty ‘Murican V8. I decided that I will buy one one day and ship it to SA. It shouldn’t be a problem as it has its steering-wheel on the correct side and everything.

 

Later…

I am currently writing this from a bench at a petrol station somewhere on the North Island. The reason for this is that our car, the trusty Toyota TownAce NOAH, has decided it needs to charge its batteries with something other than it’s own alternator. I find this all hilarious. Here’s how it went…

We drove up a hill and the car started to shake a bit and lose power. It kept losing power until it had had enough. The revs went down and down and down and I was amazed that it could idle at 200rpm. Anyway, we stopped under a tree and waited a bit. Oom Abe called for help and everyone decided to go find coffee. Me, my mother, tannie Leoni and the kids walked a kilometre to the nearest hotel-ish looking building, but upon closer inspection decided to walk a bit further to the petrol station across the road. The hotel looked a bit dodgy. We waited about an hour before finally deciding to buy a new battery and risk driving back to Auckland, which the mechanic said we might not make. The 120km drive that would have taken us about an hour and a half, took about 3 with all the stopping without us even reaching our destination. Instead we half-drove half-freed our way back to civilisation.

So, in the end, rather than reaching our destination, we have another hilarious story to tell with the Branckies.

P.S. It is currently five in the morning (4pm crazy time). I am laughing inside.

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 2 – 17/18 February 2017

Well, it is currently 00:00 at night normal time, but eleven in the morning crazy time. Had a good night’s rest and I believe that jet lag won’t be a thing. Hopefully. Was slightly dizzy when I woke up, but that is probably just from being upside-down the entire time. (Hehe.:))

The internet here is a lot better than anything in Cairo, but that was to be expected as this is a first-world country and not a bit of dusty buildings stuck in a never-ending pit of warm sand. Hmm, that’s not depressing at all.

Later…

Ok so, in the time before the visit to New Zealand, I was preoccupied with the long flight. However, I didn’t really anticipate the weather this side. The weather being hot. Hot and humid. We came from a relatively cool Cairo to an unbearably hot Auckland. Quite a shock.

Our Trip to the Land Next to the Land Down Under (or OTttLNttLDU if you will…)

Day 1 – 16/17 February 2017

So. New Zealand. It’s an island in the Pacific. Well, islands. With a nice bridge in-between. It is currently 10:30 in the morning, New Zealand time, which is actually 23:30 in normal speaking (GMT +2). The flight here took forever and we are literally the diameter of the planet away from either home. It’s weird. I have never been out of GMT or GMT+2. Now the days and nights have been swapped around. Luckily I slept on the 15-and-a-bit hour flight. I am now just waiting or the jet lag to hit me. Many people say that it only comes the day after, but I wouldn’t know as I’ve never had it.

Car Names: Magnificent and Boring

I’ve been thinking a lot about names recently, specifically car names. Most car manufacturers use names to distinguish between the various models of cars they produce. However, some carmakers are so exclusive that they just assume that you know their cars. Manufacturers such as Bentley and Rolls Royce. These two carmakers do no tell you what model their cars are, so if you are a non-car-freak, then you wouldn’t have a clue if it’s a Bentayga, Ghost or Silver Shadow. I love this.

Then you get carmakers who give their cars silly names, for instance, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam. Seriously? Adam? Where’s Eve? There are also those companies in China that blatantly copy popular carmaker’s models like the Range Rover Evoque. In China, there is a car called the ‘Land Wind’ which looks exactly like an Evoque. And there is an X5 which isn’t an X5, but which is an X5. BMW even sued the company over their non-X5 X5 and lost, because the court said that the ‘CEO’ (non-X5 X5) doesn’t look at all like an X5. (It does.)

But back to the topic at hand. Names are important. It will have to stand the test of time, and many have. Toyota and Nissan have accomplished this with the Supra and GT-R badges and Ford has done even better with their Mustang. Dodge has their Charger, Chevy has its Corvette and Lada has its Niva. (The last one is just for sh*ts and giggles.)

Some of the most unimaginative names are probably from the Germans. Yes it is all in the name of efficiency and such, but it’s really boring. 1-Series, 2-Series, 3-Series, A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, A1, A2, A3. It’s so boring. And in their sport models they just add M, AMG and RS respectively. It the same with Jaguar and Volvo with the XF, XJ, E-Type, XC90, V60 and S90.

Now, I have to say that my favourite car name is probably the Atom from Ariel. It is awesome! Imagine sitting in a British pub and you and your mates are talking about the cars you drive. “Yeah, I drive a Vauxhall Maloo GTS” and “I drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde” (another awesome name) and then you come along and say, “I drive an Atom”. A freaking Atom! How cool would that be?!

Now, if I ever had a car company of my own and I was in charge of naming the models, I would go the same way as the Germans. Regardless of what the company’s name is, the models will be correspondent to amount of cylinders the engine ha, i.e. 4, 6, 8, etc. Then, depending on aspiration, it would receive a T/TT (turbo/twin-turbo) or an S (supercharged).

The normal, everyday model would probably be the (company name) 4T or 4TD and the big supercar being the 12TT.

So yes, even though I went on about how boring some car manufacturers’ models are, I would also go that way.

(Yes, I am boring. My favourite colour I grey, for Pete’s sake!)

 

 

Technology, Isn’t it Grand?

For the past few days, I have been playing Watch Dogs 2. It is by far better than the first issue of the game. I have played both and the second one has many, many, many more options than the first had. Watch Dogs’ story was awful in the sense that it was about a very boring person (Aiden Pierce) and his niece’s death. He wanted to take down a company called Blume and a ctOS operating system that enabled the city of Chicago to be a ‘Smart City’. This enabled Aiden to manipulate various aspects of the city to his advantage, etc. I never finished it because it was too dull. And the driving engine was awful. Cars seemed like they were not allowed to leave the ground and they could only drive in four directions, i.e. forwards, backwards and only left and only right – nothing in between.

Now, without getting into too much depth about the game, I can say that Watch Dogs 2 is a lot better .You have more things to play with, such as two remote control (RC) vehicles in the form of a small, two-wheeled RC car that can do physical hacks (which is useful) and a RC drone that can fly around and hack other stuff. The only problem I have so far with the game is that you cannot complete all the missions with just the RC vehicles. I was breaking into the game-world’s version of Google and had gotten to the objective with the RC car, but it didn’t activate since the character wasn’t there. I was a bit annoyed because I avoided all the security and droids and everything. Then when I moved the character in, all the guards saw him and I had to use the tazer on them.

Anyway, this game has got me thinking. In it you take down big corporations and organisations and so forth exposing them for who and what they really are. But you can also hack many things. Things like phones, grenades, cars, etc. and this is what got me thinking. In our own world, technology is becoming more and more integrated with each other. In Smart Homes, the fridge can talk to your local server which then sends you a text saying that the milk is finished or that your eggs are a bit smelly. The Home is also connected to your security system with all the cameras and sensors and stuff, as well as to your car. And if you have an electric car, the battery power in your car can be used to keep your lights on when the power goes out, but let’s face it – if you have enough money for a Smart Home then you wouldn’t live in a power-outage prone area.

Then we get to the military. Many, if not all, of the equipment and weapons these days in modern armies have a chip or two in them. This means that if hostile forces acquire the weapon, it can be remotely aborted or sabotaged making it useless. We have ‘smart grenades’ that can be fired from a computer-controlled M32 grenade launcher that can change direction in mid-air. The same goes for ‘smart bullets’. Fired from a M99 sniper rifle, it can make subtle adjustments in its telemetry due to wind resistance or the Earth’s rotation to assure the shooter of a hit. (Personally, I believe that it takes the skill out of the entire exercise.)

All of these things can be hacked, probably. And if they can be hacked, then there is a huge risk in creating them. But we humans only greedily think about being better than everyone else and so these smart weapons will be produced as it is all about having the edge, whether it is on the battlefield or in suburbia.

Now, if you ask me on which side I would be in the inevitable upcoming war on technology, then I would still say technology. Technology has the power to save this planet. Technology can stop Global Warming, it can fix the ozone layer, it can stop the pollution in Beijing and it can save the Internal Combustion Engine from extinction. It can do all of those things, but only if we let it. At the moment we are too concerned with what our neighbours are plotting than what we can do to make life on our side of the fence better.

 

© 2017 Michael de Kock

Car Enthusiast Extraordinaire (not)

The Death of Another Legend

In 2016, many famous people died. Among them were David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. But it was not just famous people who died. Famous engines also suffered the same fate. FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is being forced to discontinue their Hellcat series and thus the prices have gone up. But the engine I want to talk about is the noble 5.9L V12 from Aston Martin. 5.9L NOT 6.0L. 5935cc, yes I’m looking at you Aston Martin.

This engine is very old, as in grandfatherly terms in the motor industry. This engine came from when Ford owned Aston Martin. It is essentially two Ford V6 engines meshed together which doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it is. This engine has been in every new Aston model – the DB9, DBS, Vantage, Vanquish and from this year, the Vanquish S. Unfortunately, the Vanquish S will be the last Aston model to feature this awesome piece of automotive art. It will have 444KW (600bhp) going to the rear, so it will probably be very slidey, but will be pretty as always.

So yes, here we have the death of another legend. I believe that the likes of Lamborghini and so are going to follow the same route. Ferrari already decided to. Well, actually they are being forced to, as they were fined in 2016 for polluting too much. The engine in the F12 and GTC4Lusso is most likely going to be phased out in favour of the 3.9L in the 488, or it will get a hybrid drivetrain. Either way, I believe – as I mentioned in a previous blog – that we are nearing the end of the big engine era. I have a feeling that the Aventador’s L539 is the last big-engined V12 that they will produce.

This is a sad prospect. The only happy thought that I can take out of this is that the older cars do not seize to exist when a new car comes out. Now, does anyone know how to make a few million in order to buy a manual DBS?

 

© 2017 Michael De Kock

I love cars.

Instagram @carmichael65