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…

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

Giulia on Stilettos

So recently, Alfa Romeo released the Giulia, a sporty four-door sedan to do battle with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. What is incredible is that all the Giulias will be rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and will come optional with all-wheel-drive (AWD) for the European market. The point is, it is refreshing that Alfa Romeo did not go with the normal front-wheel-drive (FWD) layout and AWD for sporty versions layout that most manufacturers use these days. Even Ford has resorted to AWD in its Focus RS.

Another good thing is that not only does the sporty Quadrofoglio Verde version (my personal favourite) comes with a carbon driveshaft (the bit that goes from the engine to the drive-wheels that makes the car go), but the normal versions as well – even the Diesel!

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Now, one car will not be able to bring Alfa back to the top of the ‘Passionate-Cars’ category. Like Jaguar has done recently with the F-Pace (silly name), Alfa Romeo unveiled the new Stelvio  (shown below), a take on the smaller SUV segment. Its styling is heavily influenced by the Giulia and to me looks like a Giulia on stilettos. But I like it. It’s just as pretty as its smaller sister and I imagine that it will have the same 2.9L Bi-Turbo V6 producing as much power as a BMW E60 M5. Imagine that – 375KW in a car the size of the F-Pace (if the F-Pace had the monstrous 5.0L Supercharged V8 from the XFR or Range Rover Supercharged, which would be awesome). Yes, most other SUVs get more than that, like the X5M and X6M, Mercedes and all its different versions of the used-to-be ML – even Land Rover itself. But, do you get that power from anything as pretty as the Stelvio or the Giulia? No, no, you do not. I mean, look at those hood vents! I really hope they make it to the production car.

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I always liked Alfa Romeo. I thought of it as the Ferrari for normal people who can’t afford a Ferrari. Then Top Gear praised Alfa Romeo and I liked it even more. The 147 GTA was one of the best cars on Gran Turismo 4. Heck, I think I still have a 300KW version on one of my PS2 saves. The 156 is just as pretty, especially later models – and then there is the 159, which I am actually looking at to buy as a first car (Yes, I know about all the various problems).

So yes, the Stelvio. No one knows how it will drive yet, or if it will be able to go off-road, but damn, is it pretty! Even if it only stays in the city like some kind of soccer-mom car *cough* Range Rover *cough*, I am just glad that it is a thing that exists.

The Future of Motoring

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As we all know, the futuristic vision of motoring normally shows adventurous, spontaneous and all out happy people driving the electric equivalent of a Lada Niva, i.e. a Nissan Leaf, that silly little Peugeot thing and the G-Wizz . I personally think that is not the future for motoring enthusiasts. Well, if it were, then all motoring enthusiasts would say, “Bugger this!”, jump off a cliff and scream “YOLO!!!”

I think the company which has the correct idea for the future car is Fisker, especially with the Karma. They haven’t got it 100% right, but they’re onto something. The idea of having an electric motor as the main propulsion component is excellent. The way the Fisker works (if I got this right and I think I do) is with an electric motor at the rear axle, a bunch of batteries in the middle and a 2.0L turbo at the front. You plug it in your wall socket and it charges just like a phone. Easy. Or, you don’t even have to plug it in. You can just put petrol in it, but the engine doesn’t power the wheels. Instead, the engine charges the batteries, which in turn power the wheels. It is a brilliant system (apart from all the trouble Fisker has with the suppliers, fires and technical difficulties).

There is only one problem. When, not if, all the oil runs out, you’ll be stuck with this heavy lump of unused metal under the bonnet formerly called an ‘engine’. Then one day you can tell your grandchildren about this thing that used to power your car that also made this (sometimes) beautiful, intoxicating sound – not what granny drives now that makes this digital noise to keep her from falling asleep. I’ve gone completely off topic now…

Ummmm… oh yes, the ‘engine’. If you replace the ‘engine’ in the Fisker to, let’s say, a hydrogen fuel cell in the Honda FCX Clarity, then it can work as normal. People will go to a ‘HydroStation’ instead of a ‘Petrol Station’ and the world can continue as if nothing ever happened (well not really, but you get my point). I mean, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. When we run out of hydrogen, then someone else can just copy and paste this blog and correct the vehicles and technologies of their time. Off topic again…

The best things about electric cars are the specs. All the power and all the torque are there from the second you ‘start’ the electric motor until the second you ‘turn it off’. It is awesome! I can only imagine driving something like the Mercedes-Benz SLS ElectricDrive around the Nürburgring. Or even a hyper-hybrid (just thought that word up) like the Porsche 918 Spyder, or the Ferrari with the stupid name, or the McLaren P1 (a company which should really revise their naming strategy).

Then you get to the bad things. The worst thing about them is that they will wipe out the manual gearbox. I can’t imagine a world without the manual car. I see it as a horrible, miserable place where gearshift hands and left legs are the most bored body parts the universe will ever see. Another thing is the range. And the sound. And the looks (Nissan Leaf). And the irritating fact that you bought an electric car!!!

 

Michael De Kock is (obviously) a car enthusiast, avid reader and movie lover who have the goal to know (at least) a little bit about (almost) everything.