My Favourite Movie Cars

Prologue

Human actors aren’t the only stars when it comes to movies and TV-series. Sometimes they can be overshadowed by machines – not androids or robots, but heart-warming, engine-revving automobiles with beauty and style and flair. So here are some of my favourite ‘caractors’. . .

Vans

My first favourite is the 1963 Ford Ecoline Van, which doesn’t sound very exciting, but is also called The Mystery Machine – which sounds much more exciting. Yes, the psychedelic blue and green van from Scooby Doo is one of the most famous film/TV vehicles around and if you ever see one, tell the girl in the orange jersey and glasses that it was probably the theme park owner who did it.

Another famous storage container on wheels is the Chevy Van, driven by the angriest man in the world – Bosco “B.A” Baracus. It is of course the A-Team van with its iconic red stripe running along the side. It is awesome and usually my go-to paintjob for any van I own in racing games.

Ghostbusters

Probably the most famous station-wagon in the film world is the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor, also known as the ECTO-1. If you don’t recognise the name – it’s the car from Ghostbusters (the original two movies, not the 2016 remake). It is set to appear in the new Ghostbusters film, which will apparently ignore the last movie, if movie leaks can be trusted.

Charger and Gran Torino

Another awesome movie car is the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T (the General Lee) from The Dukes of Hazzard. It is one of the coolest muscle cars ever and the stunts done with it were just ridiculous! The stunt team totalled quite a few Chargers. Speaking of muscle cars – what about the Ford Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch? Much like with the General Lee, its iconic paintjob makes it instantly recognisable with movie fans.

Ferraris

One of the most expensive cars to star in a movie is the 1962 Ferrari 250 GT California from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I had a miniature petrolhead panic attack when it went through the garage window and plummeted the few meters towards the ground. Luckily, it was a fake built for the movie, but it sold for nearly $400k! It’s still a few million short of the price for the real thing, but coughing up that much for a fake is quite preposterous.

Another famous Ferrari is that of the Hawaii-based ex-navy-veteran-turned-private investigator, Magnum PI, played by Tom Selleck. The series ran for eight seasons and each season saw a new version of the Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS. It is an awesome car and one of my favourite Ferraris with its manual V8 and Targa top roof.

Mad Max

Who can forget the sheer awesomeness that was Mad Max? The movies forever immortalised the Aussie Ford Falcon XB GT as the ‘Pursuit Special’. It was modified to look post-apocalyptic-y with its faded black paint and fake supercharger on the front. (The supercharger was functional for Mad Max 2 and Fury Road.)

For the 2015 film, as many practical effects as possible were used, meaning that most of the vehicles seen in the movie are real – from the War Rig driven by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, to the Doof Wagon with all the speakers, and the man with a guitar-flamethrower-thingy hanging from a stretchy rope, to my favourite vehicle in the movie – The Gigahorse. It’s essentially a Cadillac El Dorado sandwich with two V8s as the cheese and some plumbing as the mayonnaise. I love it!

Fast & Furious

I will not be able to name all the various Fast & Furious cars, but I’ll give it a try: Brian’s Toyota Supra, Dom’s Dodge Charger (any of them), Han’s Mazda RX-7, Letty’s Jensen Interceptor, Jesse’s VW Jetta, Brian’s R34 Skyline GT-R, Brian’s Mitsubishi Eclipse, Letty’s Dodge Challenger, a Lamborghini Murcielago SV, a Honda S2000, the Koenigsegg CCX, the heist Dodge Chargers with the scaffolding on the back, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, the Ford F150 SVT Lightning, the three Honda Civics, those two weird ramp cars, the Plymouth Superbird/Dodge Charger Daytona, the Ford Escort RS1800, the Ford Mustang Boss 429, the Aston Martin DB9, a Lexus LFA and many, many more.

Quite honestly, I have given up on the Fast & Furious franchise, because it had become less about the cars and more about doing increasingly outrageous and far-fetched stunts from badly written storylines – and it has become less enjoyable over time. I enjoyed the movies up until the runway scene in FF6. After that, it just got silly – and not Leslie Nielsen-silly either.

When I saw Dom “The most important thing is family” Toretto Spidermanning a Ford Mustang GT500 between some cliffs in the F9 trailer, I decided that I’m done with the franchise. Jumping a W Motors Lykan Hypersport between buildings (which has been proven to be impossible) was silly enough, but this was just stupid. I will watch F9 though, because Helen Mirren power sliding a purple Noble M600 is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

FAB-1

Whilst not entirely a real car, Lady Penelope’s FAB-1 from Thunderbirds also makes this list, because I was in love and obsessed with it after I saw the 2004 movie. It used a Ford Thunderbird (wink-wink) as inspiration, but it also had wings, a jet engine and hydrofoils. It was the coolest car of my childhood and I even liked it in pink. I used to draw the FAB-1 with various extra modifications to make it even cooler. Plus Parker was an awesome valet. Ah, the nostalgia…

The Italian Job

Probably the most famous cinematic use of the Mini Cooper, occurs in The Italian Job movies and are enjoyable to watch. The 1969 movie is incredibly long-drawn-out, as movies were in those days, but it is still makes for good entertainment. The 2003 version was just used to drive up sales of the new Mini Cooper, but it was still a good movie with lots of car chases, explosions and funny quips.

Batman

Then we get to the world of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has had quite a few awesome cars throughout the years. The coolest being the 1989 Batmobile with Michael Keaton at the wheel – the beautiful curves and jet exhaust protruding out the back and the bat wings on the rear haunches like a 1950s Cadillac. It’s such a cool car! Another favourite is the Tumbler from 2005’s Batman Begins. It is literally a tank with a motorbike coming out the front. How cool is that?!

I’m not a fan of the Justice League Batmobile as it’s too fantasy-like and too physics-ignoring. I am, however, excited for the new one with Robert Pattinson, because the new Batmobile reminds me of the Quadra Type-66 ‘Cthulhu’ muscle car from Cyberpunk 2077.

Herbie

Herbie – everyone’s favourite (slightly disturbing) sentient Beetle! Yes, this racing liveried VW Beetle is probably the most famous ‘Bug’ in cinema. From doing rally stages in the 1970s and going bananas to NASCAR racing with Lindsey Lohan at the wheel, it has had quite a colourful film history. I just have a few questions though: Why is Herbie the only sentient car in his universe? Why does he make noises? WHY IS HE A BEETLE?! I NEED ANSWERS!

Cars

There are very few animation films that I wholeheartedly enjoy. The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Shrek 2, WALL-E… That’s about it. However, in the not too long ago year of 2006, an animation movie was released that spoke to my inner petrolhead heart. That movie was Cars. I mean, come on. CARS! I watched that movie over and over and over and over. It is my favourite animated movie and will probably forever be.

The story, the characters and the setting are just perfect. I still love it! And apart from Mater, my favourite caractor is Doc Hudson, the legendary Fabulous Hudson Hornet, a car with a brilliant racing history, with its revolutionary low centre of mass. It is one of the most famous race cars in the motoring world.

Then Cars 2 came out, and it was about Mater and had spies in it! Even better! James Bond in animated car form! How utterly cool and petrolheady is that?! And there was even a big Navy boat in it! My only question still is: Why are taxis and busses a thing? Who rides in them in a car world? Trains and plains, sure – you can get in them if you are a car, but not taxis or busses. The physics of the Cars dimension still elude me.

When Cars 3 came out, I wasn’t all that impressed with either the movie or the cars featuring in it, except for one of the new caractors, which is an almost BMW CS Vintage Concept look alike. The storyline is boring, the ending you could see from a mile away and characters have about as much emotion as actual cars. It had child-friendly moonshiners and a tedious NASCAR history lesson in it. (As if NASCAR isn’t monotonous enough with everyone just continuously turning left for 500 laps.)

Mustangs

The Ford Mustang has been a staple of American Muscle since its introduction in 1964. In 1968, it became immortalised by Steve McQueen in his action movie Bullitt, where a dark green Fastback has a chase scene with a Dodge Charger R/T. It is such a famous car that people have tried to recreate it with each generation of Mustang – so much so that Ford themselves decided to make an anniversary edition with the 2020 version, the Mustang Bullitt, that I lust after. Plus, it is the only newish Mustang you can get in South Africa, which comes with a manual transmission, other than the new Mach 1.

Another ‘Stang that people keep trying to recreate is one known as Eleanor and is from the newer Gone in 60 Seconds, released in 2000. It was designed by the famous Chip Foose and, I must say, whilst it is a cool car – I have become bored with it. In every car game people try to replicate it with varying success and it is just annoying.

However, my favourite movie Mustang is the green/grey one from the first John Wick. It is a Mach 1 rebadged as a Boss 429 for the movie. It is an awesome car and the 1969 Mustang is without a doubt the best looking Mustang ever created (plus, a red ’69 Mach 1 lives a town away from me and I get to ogle it every now and then).

The Great Gatsby

I watched The Great Gatsby (2013) with intrigue as the whole setting is magnificent to behold. The art-deco setting of the movie with the 1920s high-life style is just brilliant! But I was even more intrigued when I saw the cars – more specifically the yellow 1932 Duesenberg Model J, which Jay Gatsby drives. (I just got that. J Gatsby drives a Model J. Funny.)

This is all wrong of course, as the movie takes place in 1922 and most of the cars in the film were produced after the movie’s setting – like the blue 1933 Auburn that Tobey Maguire’s character drives.

One of the most beautiful cars ever produced is a certain red Duesenberg Model SJ LaGrande Dual-Cowl Phaeton which, in 1932 when it was built, was the most powerful production car in the world for three years – until it was surpassed by the 1935 Duesenberg Model SSJ. The model SJ Phaeton was also the fastest car in the world in 1932, with its supercharged straight-8 and non-syncro-mesh 3-speed manual. It’s sad then that by 1937, Duesenberg had gone bankrupt and ceased to exist, leaving one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in its wake – the curious case of the ‘missing’ Duesenberg Coupé Simone…

Austin Powers

Ah, Austin Powers. What wonderfully weird movies – with an awesome Union Jack-themed Jaguar – sorry, Shaguar. Yes, just like James Bond has his Aston, Austin Powers has his E-Type. In the second movie, his American counterpart has a Stars & Stripes-themed Chevrolet Corvette C2, which is equally awesome!

Unfortunately, in the second movie, his spy car is a be-flowered VW ‘New Beetle’ time-machine in which he travels back in time from 1999 to 1969 – and in the final movie, the spy car is a Union Jack Mini Cooper which could swim and attach itself to Dr. Evil-shaped submarines. Yes, the whole thing spiralled out of control a bit, but it was still funny.

James Bond

Who can forget all of James Bond’s marvellous spy cars? From the Sunbeam Alpine in Dr. No (1962), to (what looks like) the Aston Martin Valhalla in No Time to Die (postponed to October 2021, but who knows when we’ll actually be able to finally see it? Grumble-grumble). All these cars were excellent in their movies, except maybe the Aston Martin DBS V12 in Casino Royale which chased the baddie’s Jaguar XJ for all of two minutes before getting totally… totalled. Luckily, it got the chase scene it deserved in the prologue to Quantum of Solace.

The best and most famous Bond car – and definitely one of the most famous and most beautiful cars in the world, is the 1964 Aston Martin DB5. It made its debut in Goldfinger (1964), which is one of my favourite Bond-movies, and went on to star in Thunderball (1965), GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Casino Royale (2006), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015). It is also set to appear in No Time to Die (please be October, dammit!) where it is again doing some stunts in an Italian village. In an interview with the stunt driver, it wasn’t explicitly said, but was implied that underneath the body it was an E46 BMW M3 with various stunt modifications.

It is difficult choosing a favourite Bond car, so I have rounded it down to three – the Aston Martin DB5, the Lotus Espirit and the Toyota 2000GT. I chose the DB5 because it is a film icon and because it is utterly beautiful in every way – from the styling and the contour lines to the wire wheels and the classic Aston Martin grille. It’s just brilliant! The reasoning behind the Espirit is because of the sheer silliness that it is. One of my favourite bits of all Bond films, is Sir Roger Moore’s smug face as he drives the Espirit out of the water and onto a French beach. It’s hilarious!

I chose the 2000GT (one of very few Toyotas I actually like) as a favourite because it has a cool story behind it. Apparently, Toyota said that it’s okay if they want to use their car as a Bond car, but when Sean Connery got to Japan to begin filming, they realised that he was way too tall to fit in it. (Standing at 1,95m myself, I can certainly relate.) So within two weeks, they cut the roofs off of two 2000GTs and strapped some covers on to make it look like a convertible – even though neither of them have functional convertible roofs. And thus, those are the only two 2000GT ‘roadsters’ in existence.

Delorean

My favourite movie car is the DeLorean DMC-12 from the Back to the Future franchise. It looks like a concept car that was actually put into production, much like the modern BMW i8. Yes, apparently it is terrible to drive and the engine is pitifully underpowered, but it is an awesome car nonetheless. I mean, the gullwing-like doors make it unquestionably cool already, but then it was chosen to be a time machine in one of the most loved sci-fi movies franchises of all time. I love it!

The cool thing is that there is still a huge following for the DeLorean and thus parts and upgrades are available – not only in the USA, but in Great Britain as well. Many DeLorean owners swop the puny 2.85L V6 out for Chevy V8s and even convert them to EVs, which is splendid!

Epilogue

My choices may not be the ones you like, but they’re mine and they may change as new caractors are being cast in future movies. Not everyone might like cars (speaking of you, Greta) or think of them as a terribly exciting subject, but they are a part of our everyday lives and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future – in one way or another. So, why not continue celebrating them in everyday entertainment?

Watch this space for a sequel…

…whenever it’s eventually done.

Help stop the hate – adopt a V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a blogger, because he likes it, a Psychology graduate, because he thought it’d be interesting (so many essays) and is busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, as he struggles to get a job in this day and age in this country.

In the meantime, why not help him with paying the bills by buying his new book?

125 Writing Prompts for Petrolheads. Now available on Amazon Kindle – https://amzn.to/3lwaUPh.

My New eBook is Available!

My latest eBook is now available at https://amzn.to/3lwaUPh

125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads, my first eBook, and the first collaboration with my mom, is now available on Amazon Kindle Books.
It will provide you, or a petrolhead in your life, with hours of fun. (Also available in paperback.)

Search on Amazon Kindle by title or use the link https://amzn.to/3lwaUPh to purchase your copy.

Help stop the hate – adopt a V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a blogger, because he likes it, a Psychology graduate, because he thought it’d be interesting (so many essays) and is busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, as he struggles to get a job in this day and age.

In the meantime, why not help him with paying the bills by buying his new book?

125 Writing Prompts for Petrolheads. Now available on Amazon Kindle.

All the Car You’ll Ever Need II

I know I’ve written about this before, but I’d like to amend my previous selections. In said previous writings, I argued that all the car you’ll ever need is either a Golf GTI, Volvo V90 Cross Country or a Range Rover SDV8. Whilst those are still brilliant options, time has forced some necessary changes to that list, with the Range Rover being the first to be altered.

Land Rover is discontinuing its TDV8 engine choice, so now you’ll have to buy either a 6-cylinder diesel or supercharged petrol V8 (which is a bit thirsty). Or, you can go for my latest choice which is the P400e. It has a 2.0L inline turbo 4 and some hybrid mcguffins producing around 300KW and 600-odd torques. Oh, and it does around 5L/100KM in a full-fat Range Rover. Yes, it doesn’t have a particularly nice soundtrack, but then again, you don’t buy a Range Rover if you want a sports car.  You buy it because you have money to spend from a trust fund to avoid paying taxes. (Or something like that. I don’t know. I don’t go to country clubs for brunch.) Also, whilst this choice of Range Rover is substantially lighter on fuel, it is also quite a bit more expensive. The P400e is R2.5m. Eish! (Prices were correct at time of writing. Although at time of reading it’s probably doubled…)

Whilst the Volvo V90 Cross Country is still the best pick of the lot, I’d like to add another fast estate to the list – particularly the BMW 330d Touring/BMW M340d Touring/Alpina D3 Touring. Now here in South Africa, we don’t get the Touring version of the 3-Series – or the Alpina at all, which is just a little bit sad. I have always loved the 330d with those straight-6 turbodiesels – lots of power, lots of torque and ridiculously economical for what it is. Then Alpina came along, did their thing and made them even better – more power, more torque, more comfort and brilliant styling.

Finally, we come to the Golf GTI. I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t like the new one. Actually, it’s mostly the iffy front-end styling bothering me. It looks like a dead fish. Also, it doesn’t look like the new Golf 8, but rather a botched facelift of the Golf 7 – which looked brilliant! There is a blue Golf 7 R living not too far from me and I love looking at it. The angular styling just works in the same way that the new one’s doesn’t.

So I have to amend my Golf GTI pick. But what to choose? Certainly not the new BMW M135i which is one of the worst-looking things on the road. Not a Honda Civic Type-R, because they are way too expensive. Nothing from Toyota, because everything they make are as bland as bricks (apart from the new GR Yaris – and the Supra doesn’t count, due to obvious German reasons).

I actually cannot think of a single other small-ish, practical, comfortable and fast hot-hatch better than a Golf GTI. The Focus RS is too macho (and expensive), the A45S has too much power (and is expensive), the previously mentioned M135i is too ugly (and expensive), the RS3 is just meh (and expensive), the Megane RS’s styling looks too much like a race car (and is expensive) and the Civic Type-R seems like it would rather be flown than be driven with its assortment of spoilers and fins. In that case, why not buy a Golf GTI that isn’t a Golf GTI, but that still is a Golf GTI? Why not a Skoda Octavia vRS? Or a SEAT Leon Cupra? They are both VW products, specifically Golf GTIs, but they are cheaper and more practical. Plus the Octavia has optional all-wheel-drive and you can even get it as a diesel!

There we have it. If you want a fast, practical, comfortable car that doesn’t let you pay an exorbitant amount of money at the pumps, buy a Skoda Octavia vRS.

For those countries that don’t have access to non-VW VW products (like us here in SA), your choices are a Volvo V90 Cross Country, Range Rover P400e or BMW 330d.

Personally, I’d have the 330d. Then again, I am massively bias…

Help stop the hate – adopt a V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? He can’t…

Jaguar Electricity as Expensive as Their Electric Car

So, MyBroadBand has recently done a cross-country road trip with the Jaguar I-Pace (see link below) to see what it actually costs to run an electric car for such a long journey. They started at Jaguar-Land Rover in Constantiaberg which has the southernmost charging point in the country, and ended in Musina – the northernmost town.

2021-jaguar-i-pace-0

Long story short, it took them 22 hours to drive at an average of 92kph plus another 12 hours for charging, equating to a total of 34 hours to do the 2,063km. That is a long time. It’s like sitting on an 18 hour flight and finding out you have a 10 hour stop-over before flying another 4-and-a-half hours back home. (It happened to me.)

The trip cost the MyBroadBand team almost R2600 in just electricity alone. The team concluded that if they did the same trip in a diesel F-Pace, it would have been significantly cheaper which begs the question, are electric cars viable in South Africa, a county that hasn’t even embraced the idea of the hybrid yet? Lexus has tried for years to get South Africans to buy hybrids, but we just don’t. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it is because we simply see it as something too expensive with too much that can go wrong. Given the choice between a Jaguar I-Pace or a fully kitted-out Toyota Land Cruiser 200, the average South African would pick the Toyota because it’s higher up in the local motoring hierarchy.

Land-Cruiser-200_0003

In terms of the motor-industry, South Africa is way behind. Norway’s government grants financial incentives to people for buying electric cars which has resulted in two-thirds of all new cars being bought by the Vikings being electric. There are so many electric cars in Norway that the government is considering adding taxes on them so that they can get at least some money back. Other European countries also offer incentives on electric cars. Even Jordan – which is a Middle-Eastern country – offers much less tax on hybrids than they do on normal cars and as a result 80% of the cars you see there are hybrids.

South Africa doesn’t offer any of this, so electric cars are stupidly expensive. The I-Pace costs R1.6m. For that price you could buy a Volvo XC90 T8 which has the same power, is vastly more practical and has a ridiculous range, thanks to its hybrid drivetrain. Plus you’ll still have R200k left over. Or you could buy a Toyota GR Supra. Or an F-Type V6 S. Or a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. For a little bit more you could get a diesel BMW 8-Series! Or, if you stretch it a bit more, you can buy a Land Rover Sport P400e, which does 4L/100km.

1.-LEAD_256823_Updated_Volvo_XC90

There are so many better cars to choose from. And those are if you want yours new. For R1.6m you can almost buy whatever you want in the second-hand market. For instance, a quick search on Cars.co.za revealed a 2019 BMW M5 for the same price as that Jag. And also a 2018 Merc E63S! And if you go slightly older, you can get a 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Or a 2003 Ferrari 360 F1 Spider. Or a 2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed.

news_images_3938496701520337227

There are so many better and more interesting cars to buy other than that specific Jaguar. And some of them will even let you pay less at fuel stations. Plus you don’t have to hang around for hours wondering what to do with yourself whilst your batteries fill up with the imaginary magic juice…

 

Read about MyBroadBand’s cross-country road trip in the Jaguar I-Pace here: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/motoring/362430-what-it-costs-to-drive-across-south-africa-in-an-electric-car.html

 

©2020 Michael De Kock

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerdy petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Chronicles of an Eight-Year-Old Beemer

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You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.

In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.

In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!

As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!

In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).

So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.

In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.

I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.

Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.

It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.

All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Old is Good

I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but some things were better in the past. Yes, things now is cool in the way that everything is interconnected, meaning that your hairdryer can talk to your toaster, which in turn can talk to your fridge and then tell your car that you need milk, which adds it to a digital shopping list that you can view whilst watching TV or playing VR games… It’s pretty cool. I like it. But some things were better. In this instance, I will be using cars. Today, it is about how much power it has, how light it is, how many aerodynamic-ey flaps it has and how much downforce it produces. The McLaren Senna comes to mind…

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Senna. With its 4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 and enough fins and flaps to create 800kg of downforce. It is a magnificent piece of engineering. But that’s the problem. As Jeremy Clarkson once said about the MP4-12C, “It is an amazing car, but it’s got no soul”. This is the problem with many of the current top-ranking cars. They are brilliant, they go around corners in the best possible manner and reach speeds that would make a 1920s person laugh at the absurdly high number. But they are cold and clinical. They are ones and zeroes that work together nearly perfectly to attain ultimate performance.

This is all fine, but for petrol heads, it’s not enough. We like cars with character. We value the feel of a car above all. It doesn’t matter if the thing has 1 KW or 1000. If it has a good feel, then we love it. Things like the Bugatti Veyron are and always will be a feat of engineering. It was the car that changed the whole motoring world’s perception of what speed was. Yes, it’s fast and powerful, but it’s terrible (personal experience around Tsukuba on GT Sport). Then you get the Hennessey Venom GT. It has much horsepower and is scary as all hell to drive. It even tends to lose traction when passing 320kph – which from what I’ve read – is quite scary. Stuff like that give cars character. I was recently at the annual Cars in the Park held at Zwartkops Raceway. It featured many cool cars. Loud ones such as straight-piped Chevy Lumina Utes, classic and modern Mustangs, modded Nissan Champs and Morris Minors (meh). One of the cars that fascinated me most was the Ford Sierra XR8. Here you have a relatively boring, everyday Ford, but with the time’s Mustang 5.0L in it. It’s glorious!
I was at this weekend’s Hermanus Whale Festival as well. The Saturday morning there was a car show at the local primary school and there were a lot of really nice cars. Ford Falcons, Holden Monaro GTS’, Jaguar E-Types, MGB’s, an Aston Martin Vantage Superlaggera and a Pontiac Trans Am but to name a few. It was bloody brilliant. The event just re-cemented my personal theory that older cars were just better. Driving involved the driver, it made you hear the engine noise, it was meant to be an experience. Not like in modern cars that actively try to cancel out the sound, drive by themselves and stop you if you are trying to do something stupid (that last one is actually quite good, to be honest). They are safe for pedestrians if you miss a stop sign, they can alert you if someone around you is doing something stupid and it can actively avoid getting into a crash – like those many videos of Teslas accelerating away.

In old cars, you are forced to focus, to take in your surroundings and experience the car. It makes you want to master it, to learn all of its little quirks and to appreciate it for what it is. Not just some hunk of metal to get you from point A to point B, but rather an instrument that allows you to make automotive “music”. I absolutely love it – the feeling of driving an old car, the noise, the vibration, the gear-changes and the overall experience. I love it. Well the closest I have come was a 1991 BMW E30 316iM, but I absolutely loved it. I will buy me a new-ish first car and then start saving up for an older car, preferably something with a V8 of some sort… hopefully the fuel price in South Africa drops a bit…

Battle of the Muscle… Cars

The Muscles

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Ford Mustang GT350R

Recently I’ve been watching videos revolving around the subject of the big three American Muscle Cars. I am of course talking about the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. However, just naming them doesn’t really say anything as there are multiple versions of them – from awful (what I’ve heard) V6s and EcoBoosts, to engines with enough power to restart the rotation of the Earth if necessary.

Now, I can go on about those entry-level engines and recall a scenario in which I told myself that I would buy a Mustang EcoBoost as a first car, but then realising that I live in South Africa where petrol is expensive and that the base price is double than in the USA. I also read an article where two Brits (I think, can’t quite recall) got the big 5.0L Coyote V8 to be more efficient than the EcoBoost, leading to me deciding to throw caution into the wind and buy the cheapest second-hand Mustang GT I could find – if I had the money for it… of course.

But alas, this blog isn’t about those entry-level models, but rather about the top-spec factory-made versions of each. Those super versions that we all drool over. I am, of course, talking about the Mustang GT350R, the Camaro ZL1 and the Challenger Hellcat. I’m using the Hellcat instead of the Demon as example as it is only really made to do one thing – be fast in a straight, line like all pre-2015 muscle cars.

The last few years have produced some really good American cars with power figures that could put the Germans to shame. Of course, the ‘Muricans’ can’t match the Germans for quality, efficiency, looks, noise, attention to detail or any of the things that really matter. I think the Americans realised this, so they decided to just go mad with power. Literally. I applaud that. I enjoy that. As a result of this, you can get a Dodge Charger Hellcat – which is about the same size as an E-Class, 5-Series or A6 – with more power than a Lamborghini Aventador – for way less than the top spec of either an E-Class, 5-Series or A6. It’s ridiculous!

On top of that, there are many aftermarket dealers and tuners who will give you even more bang for your buck. Hennessey comes to mind. They offer packages which you can buy to spruce up your already overpowered car even more – most notably the HPE650, HPE800 and HPE1000 packages. And the cool thing is that you can have these on almost any of the American V8 cars on sale now. Fancy a base Mustang GT but feel it’s a bit underpowered? Get an HPE650 package. Did your wife say you need a family car, but you don’t want to sacrifice power? Buy a Chevy Suburban and ask Hennessey for the HPE1000 package. You’ll be able to do the school-run in record time and a puff of smoke. It’s absurd and I love it.

What was I talking about? Oh right, Hellcat, GT350R and ZL1. I can’t quite decide which one I like best. The current range really looks good from most perspectives, where there always had been something off about the previous models. The previous Mustang looked generic and bland, the Challenger apparently had an awful gearbox and wasn’t that comfortable and I had one major problem with the previous-gen Camaro that put me off of buying one immediately. The driver’s instrument cluster was stupidly designed. It looked awful and I couldn’t imagine staring at it whilst driving. Luckily, GM fixed it in the current one.

The current Challenger looks the part. Square look, big tyres, bulge on the bonnet, 520-odd Kilowatt and it just looks like an angry car – like Joey Tribbiani when someone ate one of his chips. The Camaro looks more like a sports car than a muscle car, which may put some people off, but it kind-of works – and has 480KW. The Mustang is almost a perfect split between the two, but it ‘only’ has 400KW. It would feel just as at home at a sports car meet as it would at a muscle car meet (hopefully minus the whole ploughing into pedestrians thing).

Now, if these are still too tame for you, there is always the ultimate – and aftermarket – versions of these cars as opposed to these super versions. There is the aforementioned Challenger Demon that does what it was built to do so well that it has been banned from taking part in it. Ironic. There is the Shelby GT350R and Super Snake that has a butt-load of power (and looks a bit scary). And finally, there is my favourite of the aftermarket ultimate bunch – the Hennessey Exorcist. I like it because it looks mean. I like it because it was built to put the Challenger Demon in its place. And I like it because its name is a joke and thus doesn’t take itself too seriously. Oh, and it has a thousand horses – or plus-minus 750KW – for less than a BMW M5! It’s… Silly.

So whilst I would have the Hennessey Exorcist in the ‘ultimate’ category, I can’t quite decide on a car in the normal “Are you out of your mind?” said the executive to the engineer-category. Seems like I’d just have to drive all three and then decide…

Ford, GM and FCA, let me have a go in your insane cars… please?

 

P.S. FCA announced the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye after this blog was written, so… tough. But I thought I’d mention it as it is a factory-spec car with close to 600KW. Absolutely bonkers! But oh, I love it so…

Trending Plague in Auto-Industry

In the last couple of years, a new craze has been building up in the car industry and it has been more noticeable in some countries than in others. We were on a two week road-trip through the UK recently, where we went from Dover, through Wales to the east of Scotland and ended in the Isle of Skye before driving down back to London. Over the last four and a bit years, I have also been to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria and France. Whilst in these countries, I noticed that this craze is not as noticeable. However in South Africa, it is growing at an alarming rate. Now, you might be wondering what I am going on about. The craze I am pouting about is that of the growing in popularity not only of the Sports Utility Vehicle – or the SUV, but more specifically, the ‘Crossover’.

Volkswagen makes the Crosspolo, which is the first of these idiotic things that I can remember becoming available in South Africa. At that time, everyone was still concerned with hatchbacks and bakkies, so the Crosspolo really didn’t make sense. Now however, everyone is after an SUV and if they can’t get one, they buy a crossover.

My problem lies with the crossover and how many of them are being marketed as SUVs with the biggest violator being that stupid Suzuki Ignis thingie with the 1.0L engine. It’s being marketed as an SUV, when it is, in actual fact, a compact hatch on stilts (but still has piddly little wheels). And then there is the sheer amount of the bloody things. It’s like every automaker these days has a sedan and a crossover version of their cars – from Hyundai to Renault, and even automotive giants such as Mercedes and Audi have joined the party. Volvo should also be accused, but they have been making lifted versions of their cars since anyone can remember, so they are excused. (Plus I quite like the V90 Cross Country. See my previous blog as to why – link).

A few years ago, Hyundai made the Tucson which is classified as either a large crossover or a small SUV. I can’t entirely decide. With this, other automakers started joining in. Kia produced the Sportage, Nissan the Qashqui, Renault made the Kadjar with the small engines and a bunch more that I’m not going to bother mentioning as there are thousands of the bloody things.

The reason I hate them is the fact that they are taking over the roads. It used to be only the medium and really large SUVs on the road that were vastly outnumbered by the hatches and sedans, but now the sedans and saloons had become endangered too. Everyone and their grandmother are driving either a bakkie, SUV or crossover and it is awful.

Personally, there are only four SUVs (that are actual SUVs and not ‘crossovers’) that I like. They are the big Range Rover in either TDV8 or the new P400e models, the brand new Rolls Royce Cullinan because it is just bloody pretty, the first-gen BMW X5, as it is a handsome brute – and finally my favourite of the lot, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Now, whilst I’d have a diesel GC any day, my preferred trim choice is the impending Trackhawk. The Hellcat-engined one with the ridiculous stock power figures of 523KW and 880NM. I mean, it’s a silly, stupid thing that has way too much power, uses way too much fuel, makes way too much noise and is way too big, but it is currently one of the cars that I love most. I can just imagine it…

Pulling up to an intersection, waiting for the light to go green when a modified Golf GTi pulls up next to you and the ‘cool dude’ starts revving the engine wanting a race. You smile at him whilst activating the Trackhawk’s launch control. You put your foot on the accelerator and an unearthly rumble comes from the back of the car. The cool dude doesn’t hear it as his own car produces an ear-shattering racket from his home-made exhaust. The light goes green and you press your foot flat on the floor. The Trackhawk takes off exactly how an SUV shouldn’t. It reaches 100kph 3.5 seconds after it started moving, leaving the cool dude to gaze at you with his mouth open on the side of the road.

You drive further down the road when suddenly the Trackhawk stops working. It ran out of petrol as you just used it to utilise all the machine’s power and it is as thirsty as a boer who hasn’t had a beer all day (approx. 23l/100km). The Trackhawk limps to the side of the road which forces you to phone a friend and you realise that the engine is drinking your bank account dry, but you don’t care, because you have the biggest smile on your face.

And that fictional glimpse is the reason why I love this thing. It’s silly, ridiculous and completely stupid. But I love it! Plus, you get to scare four passengers and the dog in relative comfort.

 

 

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!)