Friday, October 26, 2012

CARS - A Passion or a Culture ?

[CARS - A Passion or a Culture ?]

A week back, I received an invite to be a guest author for a prominent blog site that caters to the interest of automobile aficionados. Not only do they cover topics of sculpted metal on two and four wheels, but also a range of information on launches of electronics to earth movers to technical information from ECUs to engines.
The invite ignited the fire of excitement in me. I felt considered, important and most of all, I felt like an encyclopedia of the automobile. To the contrary, I didn’t know where to start or what to start on. I felt I was held between not knowing what to write and having half knowledge on what I wanted to write.
But the one thing that I knew I did have like many others who I’m sure are reading this is the passion that drives us all. We have this inner most desire to know anything and everything about the invention of the past century – The Automobile. Some of you have identified the interest you have in cars and the like. I truly haven’t. Maybe it’s because I find every part of the invention as interesting as its history to the factory it’s made to knowing everything about the guy who test drives them. I just haven’t been able to find one part more interesting than the other. Or maybe it’s just me.
Car culture is catching on in every society across the globe. From Americas to South Africa and Siberia to Australia. But I just haven’t been able to understand the difference between the mindset of a culturist and a passionate. I don’t know to which genre I belonged to. So I went on to find out. I started this journey off in the earlier part of the 21stcentury. My travel took me to various locations and had the pleasure of meeting a lot of wonderful people, to who I am most grateful.
Tuners – A term given to the stalwarts who dwelt deep into the heart of automobile improving and perfecting every detail from the very nuts and bolts used to hold the machine together. The term is very frequently heard of but never completely mastered. A part of the reason for that is because of the ever evolving automotive industry that has been improving technologically. There are various aftermarket products available to suit almost every car in the industry specific to any global region. These products are consumed mostly by tuners who take up projects in cars that carry a lot of performance potential but otherwise look and drive like a fairly normal automobile.
I have come across and met owners of tuned cars. Most of them, or should I say, all of whom I have met, wear their caps backwards, large sweat shirts and equally large denims who can look at an engine cover and identify it by the nomenclature that the Japanese factory had christened it even before it went into production. Their vocabulary consisted mostly of codes like; EK, DET, SR, etc..These were just the prefixes. What followed them were permutations and combinations of alphabetic and numeric codes to which even Mr. Einstein would look confused.
In order to fit in to this “underground” society, I tried to learn more about these engines and chassis the way they saw it. I could understand the nomenclature, capability and reliability of these power trains whose reputation preceded them. But Hell!!! There was no way I could make them out by just looking at it sitting in a crate. The only thing I gained was a new set of clothes that made me look totally out of place and took more space in my wardrobe than the two helmets and riding boots put together.
These engines were so good that in spite of the manufacturers seizing production of a few older models, a good number of Samaritans continue to salvage parts from various sources to build them up again. This was the following that created the “underground” society of automobile aficionados. A meeting of such a society would see the best of the best that the land of the rising sun had to offer. Nissan Skylines, Toyota Supras, Honda Civics, Mazda RXs and a whole lot more from the current generation. 
Then there are the retro cars from the 1980s. These were a restored examples fed with proteins to improve their otherwise meager engines output. Some of them found their way from junkyards, barns and dusty garages to being restored and displayed on glistening tarmac under neon lights. I really don’t know if the owners of these amazing looking automobiles actually drove them. A few examples had been fit with air suspensions which could increase or decrease their ride height.
Tuner cars had serious power under the hoods. It was as if they didn’t care about what the best of Stuttgart or Maranello had to offer. For them their “rides” were capable of much more at a fraction of the cost. They boasted about how they could control the power output based on whether they drove in the city or left skid marks on the streets where they raced.
The engines in these cars range anywhere between a 1.6 to a 3.5 liters. The internals of the engines were reworked and specially treated to take the high intensity of pressure and heat generated during the engines firing and combustion. They had turbo chargers or even superchargers to increase brake horsepower and torque. All of this can be controlled by the driver using a computer thats lodged on somewhere on the dashboard of the car.
The body kits and boot aerofoil are for technical purposes and are designed by experts to create the down force and stabilize the car whether it were going round a turn or in a straight line.
There are instances where these decade old Japanese classics have made minced meat of higher valued and powerful exotics in the street racing scene.
Well is that passion or culture? You decide.
These people liked music too. And it showed – quite literally. I didn’t know which was bigger; the alloy wheels which were shinier than the paint or the speakers blaring music that silenced even the engine that powered the car. It was like the equipments within the car itself were competing against one another. Most cars had customized panels to hold the speakers in place so that the sound would reflect off the inner walls and pierce through the listeners eardrums and create a throbbing effect right between the eyes. Pretty creative I would say.
Some of the larger cars, read SUV, had speakers on almost every inner panel facing the occupants. And when I talk about speakers, they aren’t just black circular discs with a magnet in the middle singing a pleasant tune. These, like I said are the size of the wheels the car rides on.
Once you are inside one these decibel demons, comfortable in one of the usually four seats available, you will find yourself being stared at by a galaxy of black cones waiting to scream at you. You are instantly gripped by a fear of not knowing what would be read by the player, get amplified to over a million watts and fisted right into your body from all possible directions. For all you know there could be a sub atomic woofer placed under your seat that could double as an ejecting mechanism to throw away back seat drivers. I for one didn’t have what it would take to experience the sort of torture that I would be subjecting myself to. I am told that there are competitions to find out who has the higher decibel count. Louder the better then say. I did not wait to hear or see who winners were or who had turned deaf.
Well is that passion or culture? You decide.
I never understood the concept of making ones car look better by adding or extending the body by way of usage of fiber glass or metal. Out of curiosity to check where the roots of modifying initiated, I stumbled upon the breed of Riceboys. It has its roots in the United States of America where 18 year olds got hold of their first car on being awarded their drivers license. And since the market was flooded with affordable Japanese hatchbacks which ran miles together on a sniff of octane, most of them had their hands on a Honda. The Japanese brand that an average American would not mind being associated with apart from Sony. The Riceboys had a specific liking towards vinyl stickers. They came in a variety of colors and combinations. They made the cars look fast even when they were covered with a layer of dust or soil. Honda Civics was and still is a rage amongst this breed. For starters, to qualify as a Riceboy racer, on Stage 1, one had to have vinyl graphics in blinding colors in contrast to the actual color of the car. Next they had to have a larger than life boot aerofoil or spoiler adorning the rear. To add more substance to the Go-Fast effect was Stage 2, the exhaust muffler – a large tin that looked like it was taken from a used can of powdered milk fabricated to the tip of the exhaust pipe. This added a touch of mime of a really fast car when the throttle was opened. But that’s where all the Go-Fast effect tends to seize. The car would be doing barely more than 40 kmph when it is heard as it were doing 140 thanks to the sound effect from the “customized” exhaust system. Then there is the Stage 3 - the most outlandish of all visual Go-Fast modifications – the body kit.
Stage 3 completes the Riceboys “ride”. Overtly large overhangs in the form of a body kit at the front, sides and rear of the automotive structure. Some of the most creative ideas on metal sculptures arise from body kits. How to tame and bend sheet metal to form shapes that can drape your car is how you exhibit your creativity to disfigure your otherwise average looking automobile. And this breed excels in the process.
Next time you are alone in front of a mirror, try stretching parts of your face in different directions. Starting with your lower lip, you pull it either using fingers from both hands or just a tug from the middle. With your nose, you can try a smashed nose or a pulled up nostril. You can tug both sides of your eyes and make them look sleek. You could also try Captain Spock’s pointy ears for aesthetics. Now try doing all this at one time and see how you have transformed your otherwise average looking self into a unique being with just the expansion of the epidermis. This is the base of creativity for turning your car into a unique Go-Fast “ride”.
Pull the bumpers out and lower by a foot, cut a gash in the centre to make it look like an air vent. Add a variety of lights enough to penetrate and see through the car in front of you. And you have a creation of choice in the making.

From the above illustrations there is no doubt to a layman these are really fast looking cars. To the Riceboy it’s more than that. It is what he or she sees as what I can call – obnoxious creativity. Creativity, never the less.
Well is that passion or culture? You decide.
The sort of modification to an average car, as I detailed is very common in car cultures across the world we live in. But there also exist a breed much creative than the Riceboys. I haven’t been able to find what they call themselves. But I would prefer to define them as the Carnivorously Creative.
These are people who turn perfectly good looking, technically sound, sometimes classic cars into a rolling mass of obscenity.
For instance ask yourself – what would I do if I had a Mercedes McLaren SLR?
I am sure that most readers would answer – DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT!!! Or BURN RUBBER!!! Or FLOOR THE DARN THING TO SEE HOW FAST IT CAN REALLY GO!!! There can be a varying list of adjectives and verbs that each of us may use to express our excitement and rush. Unfortunately for some, their interest lies in how much more exclusivity can they add to an already exclusive car. There are projects taken up by individuals who have the sources and need to show off their inherited or acquired wealth on being exclusive and obscene at the same time. Now to attain both these qualities in one go, one has to have an open mind. What marketing gurus would call as thoughts out of the box? A few months back I stumbled again on the internet - being the largest source of information, upon a very unique specimen of the car I was describing – The SLR.
Only a person with a brain the size of a pea and pockets as deep as the Mariana Trench could come up with a creation like this monster.
What could be the inspiration behind this creation of exclusivity? Could it be a liking towards fiber glass? Or is it the obsession with the colors of Red and Gold? Or would it be to come up with the ugliest SLR ever?
I don’t see any valid justification to the surgery this otherwise fantastic piece of machinery has been subjected to.
It was also informed from a source that the owner of this exclusive creation had 5 kilograms of gold and a couple of precious stones adorning the car at specific places. Why didn’t he just buy a jewelers kiosk instead? May be he wanted the worlds fast jewelers store.
But all criticism and pun apart this is another cult of followers. They are there all around us. Some keep their exclusivity confined to their garages after they find out that they have redefined maiming. Others proudly display their exclusivity in public and enjoy the attention derived by redefined obscenity.
There is a huge cult following this pattern. They maim almost every premium automobile ever manufactured. From BMWs, Porsches and Audis to Mercedes Benzs and Range Rovers. All have their exclusive “plastics surgeon” sitting somewhere outside the factory waiting for the first car to roll out.
bmw convertibles 3 series
Well is that passion or culture? You decide.
Aaah…the Classics…AC Cobra, Ferrari GTB, Porsche 911, Jaguar E Type, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro, Mercedes SL Gullwing, Land Rover, Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, Mercedes G Wagen etc.. The list could go on.
If one were to get his or her hands on a classic that needs restoration, you could end up building it back to the original form it was when it rolled out of the factory or it could be a drawing board of your own creativity.
I am sure the above pictured used to be a perfectly running and a well maintained Ford Mustang Boss 302 from 1970. A classic no doubt. But the owner of this example had other ideas. He was a hybrid of sorts. Inside him hiding was a talent of Riceboy and Mad Max.
Is it a classic car?
Yes it is.

Does it have a powerful engine? 
I sure hope it does.

Does it have what it takes to be a Riceboy racer?
Let see, it has the body kit, the exhaust tips and the huge laundry hanger. Yes qualifies.

Does it cover the parameters of being a sleeping predator when on the road?
By the matte sandpaper scrubbed finish I would say – Yes. Mad Max is back!!!
But I wonder how Mr. Mad Max plans his entry and exit strategy. There don’t seem to be any shut line or handles on the doors.

Well is that passion or culture? You decide.
Then there are the serious collectors of cars. This cult inspires me. No matter what the make or model.
If it’s rusted and not taken care of follow this process:  1) Adopt it. 2) Nurture it. 3) Clean it. 4) Refurbish it. 5) Restore it. 6) Repaint it. 7) Show it off. Repeat process two, three and seven every other day.
These are saints in the church of the Automobile. They do not discriminate. They warmly welcome all rust and dust into their asylum. Unlike the swamis, sages or saints we know off, they don’t light candles or lamps. They don’t wear cloaks or saffron. They don’t necessarily carry symbols of the faith they believe in. They light blow torches and welding rods. They wear overalls or cheap T shirts and denims. They carry a monkey wrench, a Leatherman and a measuring tape.
These are the guys who have carefully, persistently and patiently carried off bringing back cars that were once thought of being dead, back to life in their full pride and glory.
I am sure and  many of you readers would agree that there are more sub cultures around the world. This was just my understanding of what I experienced. It was the information, technology and sometimes shocking situations that helped me put all these into words to share it amongst my fellow members. There is never any intention to hurt or tarnish any culture or sentiments of any individual or sect in this literature. If in any way, you - the reader, have been offended I extend my sincere regrets and apologies.
But I do have to say that I still haven’t been able to identify the difference between the mindset of a culturist and a passionate.
I end this with just one understanding. Which ever the culture, where ever on earth, what ever breed, we all share one common interest and that it of Cars. And what ever we do with them is driven by the love and passion we have for them.
Thank you.


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