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…

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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!)

 

 

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

The Ultimate Fake Car to End All Fake Cars

So this morning, as I was going through my newsfeed on Facebook (which consists mostly of cars and movie sites), I saw an interesting thing on Top Gear – a new ‘movie-maker’ car that can be transformed into any car on screen. It’s called the Blackbird and it can adapt to become almost any car. The wheelbase can extend for when you are going from a Prius to a S600 Maybach or Zonda Cinque. The suspension is completely adjustable, as is the electric motors powering it. This means that the motors can be programmed to accelerate like the car it is imitating. All that needs to be done to make the car ‘authentic’ is to fit the proper wheels of the imitated make or model. The reason this car was made is because it can be difficult to get the real cars for chase scenes in movies as they are very expensive. This way the cars can simply be edited in.

Even though this is a fantastic piece of technology, it makes me as a petrolhead quite sad. Movies are pretty much the only place to see your favourite cars do awesome things, such as the Need for Speed movie where three (fake) Koenigsegg Ageras racing along a highway, a race where a P1, Veyron SS, Spano, S7 and Sesto Elemento (all fake) crashes and one awesome looking Mustang (also fake) gets mouldered by a truck. Or take any of the Fast & Furious movies, or Spectre with the DB10 or CX-75! Yes, many of the cars are fake and made of plywood, but that is what makes them so awesome, because someone actually bothered to build them!

Now, with this ‘car’, we can watch a Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SuperVeloce on screen looking freaking beautiful, but deep in our brittle little, petrol-powered hearts we will know that it is just an imitation.

Little Aston + Big Heart = Lots of Fun

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the last Vantage before it is replaced by the new DB11 lookalike in 2017. The car has 420KW and 620NM of torque. However, for the 2017 model year, this car can be specified to have either a 7-speed automated manual (paddles) or a 7-speed manual. However, this is no ordinary manual. This is a ‘dogleg’ manual. What this means is that the gears you mostly use are in an H pattern with gear 1 sitting on its own. The reasoning behind this was in the past, racing drivers would use gear 2 and up more than gear 1, which was really only used to get the car going. But with the introduction of 6-speed manuals, the ‘dogleg’ fell out of fashion as it was illogical to have two ‘doglegs’ in one box. But now, Aston has a 7-speed which makes the ‘dogleg’ relevant again. This also means that the V12 Vantage S is the only V12-engined, manual car for sale… in the world. (Clarkson reference)

Now, I have always liked the ‘baby’ Aston. It was cheaper than the bigger brothers such as the DB9, DBS and Vanquish, but I could never decide if I’d like them. Well, one evening quite a long time ago, I went to a mall in Pretoria. In the mall a grey DBS and a blue V8 Vantage Volante were on display. Naturally I did a happy dance and a giggle and got into the nearest one – which was the DBS. I love that car. Since it appeared in Casino Royale it made my top five ‘To Own One Day’ list of cars (even though it only had about five seconds of screen time). I fell in love with the interior, the long dashboard that extends all the way to the windshield, the plain yet elegant steering wheel, the paddles. Oh, I loved those few moments that I sat in it. One of my favourite things about Astons is their doors. They open at an angle. It’s really cool. Anyway, I moved on to the V8 Volante. In my mind, it would be a cheaper, scaled down version of the bigger DB9. I was wrong with regard to the ‘cheap’ sense. It is essentially a smaller DB9. It has the same dashboard, same steering wheel and same feel as the bigger Astons. Plus this V8 had a gearstick!

I started to like the ‘baby’ Aston quite a lot. Especially the V12. One of Jeremy Clarkson’s best car reviews was when he drove the V12 Vantage. Minimal dialogue, maximum passion. He said that he had a feeling that he was driving the last of the greats. The biggest engine in the smallest Aston. Luckily however, he was wrong – for the most part anyway, because Ferrari still puts massive V12s in their cars. Heck! The new GTC4 Lusso still has the big 6.3L naturally aspirated V12.

But back to the Aston. I watched the Motor Trend’s review of the new V12 Vantage where Jason Cammisa drove the car on a dry lake-bed. All I could think the whole video long was “listen to that noise!” That video also reiterates the fact that dirty sports cars and super cars are some of the prettiest things ever made. If you take a black Lamborghini Gallardo and drive it in a bit of sand or along a dry lake, it becomes a piece of art above the piece of art it already is. It’s magnificent!

The thing is – I think Jeremy Clarkson’s prediction is relevant for today, not ten years ago. This is most likely the last car of Aston’s smaller range which will have the big engine. The next Vantage will probably have AMG’s 4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo. This makes me sad. Big engines in super- and hyper-cars are almost a thing of the past, with the exception of the LaFerrari, Chiron and everything America can come up with. Then we are left with stuff like VW’s X1 prototype with the teeny little diesel engine and Teslas. Not that I’m complaining about Teslas, as they just unveiled the Model S P100D, which will be the quickest production saloon ever. But as they are electric, they don’t have a nice noise like, say AMG’s M156 or Aston’s AM28 (which is 5.9L, not 6.0L).

But, oh well, as technology continues to progress, so will the automobile. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be driving crappy electric hatchbacks with V8 noises coming out of the speakers one of these days…

Four Litres for Everyone

Today I would like to talk about the three big German automobile manufacturers. This excludes Volkswagen, but also doesn’t as Audi is owned by them. The problem I have with them is the fact that their new performance V8s, respectively from Rennsport, AMG and the M-Division, are almost the same.

Audi was the first to introduce their engine a few years ago in the RS6, RS7 and S8. AMG introduced theirs in the AMG GT as a replacement to the brilliance of the M156 and M159 engines. The M156 is my favourite engine and I would put it in an older Merc if I could.

Anyway, these manufacturers used to have diversity in their performance engines by having big 5.0L V10s, 6.2L V8s and 4.2L V8s – all naturally aspirated. These are brilliant engines. I actually have been in an RS5 doing lots of revs on a very short piece of road.

Now we will have three executive saloons with the same displacement engines. Not to mention that this is from the three biggest competing manufacturers. Now I understand the reason behind it all. The respective regions have their own emissions regulations and so forth, thus manufacturers are trying to get as much power as they can out of smaller engines. Heck! Volvo is saying they want 400+KW out of four-pot engines!

I am for saving the planet and all that, but these are cars – things that make people like me very happy. My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles when I put my foot down in our 3.0L V6 Pajero. It is not the best sounding car in the world (it sounds like a hair-dryer at low speeds), but hearing the engine work at high revs makes me happy. Having these smaller engine cars will be better.

My question is just, won’t it be boring?

The Return of Italian Passion

(hopefully anyway)

So a few months back we caught sight of a new car. A car that looked visually striking – not to mention beautiful – and we heard that it will be Ferrari inspired. This got me very excited. In my mind, the image of a practical, everyday-use Ferrari that isn’t a Ferrari FF or made sense. Having a two-door coupé with lots of space or a family sedan with an Italian engine note sounded like the perfect everyday car.

This car premiered in June 2015, almost a year ago, and the first few cars have already been produced. A few months ago, a launch-type event was held for it and a well-known car YouTuber, Shmee150, was among the first to drive it (lucky bastard).

The car in question? The new Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio Verde, or Giulia QV for short. Quite a mouthful.  This car, in my opinion, is one of those cars that you cannot believe actually exists. It is pretty from every angle, the interior is beautiful, the noise is awesome and it’s an everyday sedan with a Ferrari-‘inspired’ heart. This may well be the best looking car I have ever seen, even prettier than the Mercedes SLS or Pagani Huayra (which are two of my favourite cars). Alfas of old displayed this type of motoring passion and thus produced cars that spoke to you. Ferrari sort of still has this, but lost most of it when they decided to sell caps and after-shave. The little passion Lamborghini has left is locked away in an Audi vault, but luckily some of it escapes and makes its way into a car. Maserati still has most of their passion, but they keep trying to pump most of it into their awesome-sounding V8s. Alfa Romeo lost theirs slightly and tried to get it back with the 4C (which backfired) and now it seems like they are gaining it back.

Now, specs. The car will come with different engines, including a diesel and a two-litre petrol, but the one I am most interested in is the full Clover Leaf, the Quadrifoglio. This version will have a 2.9L Bi-Turbo V6, ‘inspired’ by Ferrari, 375KW (503BHP) and 606NM (447 lb-ft) of torque. The thing that makes this even better is that all of this power is going to the rear wheels! Some markets will get all-wheel-drive, but the RWD should be a lot of fun. There are two gearbox options, a 6-speed manual with a clever upshift mechanism and an 8-speed ZF automatic. Unfortunately, only the left-hand-drive version will get the manual (America…), so us South Africans will be stuck with a boring old, fast-shifting, efficient and overall better auto ‘box.

You might have noticed that I kept saying ‘inspired’ by Ferrari. Well this is because the engine isn’t from Ferrari themselves, but rather the fact that former Ferrari engineers worked on it. Ferrari were actually the ones who insisted that Alfa use “inspired” because they are afraid the car will backfire and the brand’s name would be shamed. This has happened before with Deadmau5’s ‘Purrari’ 458 Italia…

All in all, I do honestly believe that this is one of the most beautiful modern cars – along with the Mercedes AMG GT S of course – on the road. Well, it will be in 2017 anyway. It has a better noise than an M3 and more power than a stock C63, but the same as the C63S. The only problem with it might be the price. Most of the reviews I read or watched said that this car would be around £60,000 (R1.35m). That is a lot of money.

Alfa Romeo as a car company has always tried to elicit an emotional response when it comes to their automobiles. They try to build a car that speaks to your soul and that makes you slightly excited with their curved lines, beautiful performance engines and overall striking look. With this ‘talking to the soul’ stuff comes the problem of reliability, especially with Alfa Romeos – most notably in the form of the GTV6. This car is striking to look at – its engines one of the best and its overall performance made it one of the most sought-after cars when it was produced. Only to let the owner stand on the hard shoulder of the road with steam coming out of the bonnet. Luckily many of them had Monaco to look out over whilst waiting for a tow truck. Despite this, people like Jeremy Clarkson owned a GTV6 and admitted that even though that car had cost him lots of money on repairs and tows, he still regrets ever selling it.

The Giulia is a beautiful automobile and, from all the reviews I’ve read, quite a driver’s car. Let’s just hope that Alfa knows how to market it…