Monthly Archives: July 2011

PORSCHE MUSEUM

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A saturday in may. Dashing the autobahns in a TT RS. Four automotive cities in one day: Ingolstadt, Muenchen, Stuttgart, Zuffenhausen. The short list for a museum trip through Germany. That concept is on another page though. Today we head towards the 125 Jahre Auto Event in the center of Stuttgart. Nevertheless we manage to visit one of the museums to top of a fantastic day.

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We still have a little hour left after finishing the concours down town. Porsche or Mercedes, let's toss a dime. Shortly after we stand in front of a white geometric crystalline building. A nice contrast with the cars inside. The place is empty. The final hour. And yes, some of the cars have left their podium for tomorrows event. 

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The escalators upstairs and then a jaw dropping scene. An immaculate collection, cars in a more than perfect condition, presented in a black and white scenery. This is insane! A string of high lights. Little time to think, carfreax in the candy store, kneeling down for each icon, trying to grasp the spirit. Martini and Rothmans, Pig and Sunoco. A landscape of 917's with accompanying soundscapes and historical graphics.

A short and intense visit. This place should be your Mecca if you are into cars. Within 60 minutes you will experience that Porsche is a religion.

-Matt.

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BEIJING BY BIKE

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As a European in China you better be careful. The game of the city has different rules over here. I quickly learned this couple of months ago during my first visit to Shanghai. Green traffic lights have little meaning, therefore the reds either. Pedestrian crossings, they come as a neat graphic without a true function. To cut it short, you better watch where you are going before you get run over by a car taking a right turn at full speed. 

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In Beijing we discussed several strategies on how to survive the urban jungle. "Join a pack of people when crossing streets or intersections, it is all about the masses". Right of way, forget everything you learned from the books. Here it comes down to power and size. No wonder SUV's are selling like hot cakes. "Ride on the opposite side of the road, it's tricky but at least you'll see the upcoming traffic". In Germany this might cost you some points in Flensburg, in China it is daily business.

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After a full week of assimilation my host suggest to take a trip through town…..by bike! So far we have been witnessing the hectic scenery traveling comfortably in air conditioned cabs. They are cheap, know their city most of the time and with a bit of honking every couple of seconds will bring you to your destination safely. Sort of.

Beijing by bike, it starts as an adventure. Equipped with a electric horn I move my city bike through the masses. After a while I catch the rhythm. With a bit of left and right looking one merges with the flow of traffic. "There are nine million bicycles in Beijing". This might be a fact, but we have plenty of space to up the pace. Within an hour we cover a big section of the city, spontaneously stopping for each photo opportunity as its pops up. A bike cruise through hutongs, crossing Tianamen Square. Left, right, we take the challenge and are treated with the unseen.

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Beijing by bike. Being part of the urban jungle that plays a laid back jazzy tune. It is all about improvising. The SUV's might jam a powerful base line, the cyclists are the true individualists giving color to the city with their soli. For a couple of hours I am Miles ….old_imagesway from home.

-Matt.

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STUNNING 458 ITALIA

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After looking one week at the black GTR it is time to change the colour. I think the 458 changed everything for Ferrari: they are back on track- also in Design. When you drive it you don't have to proof anything because the very best thing about it: it looks like it drives: light, agile, also aggressive and stunning fast thanks to formula one developed high-tech. I think it is a future icon, it is just better than the Enzo.

- Fab.

FORZA SCUDERIA

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The red italian cars are famous all over the world so it is not surprising to see them over here. But please do not forget these cars are NOT the average in China. In my view Ferrari lost a lot of its spirit and fanastic emotion over the last years but still they are attractiv in detail. I missed one square so the Matiz took his chance to move in and smiles even more now. The painted headleamps are kind of fashion here which i don't think is such a good idea.

- Fab.

PASS MASTERS

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The scenery, the cars, it all looked great on the pictures. The first edition of an exhilarating event. A bunch of cars slicing the Alps in three days. That was last year. It is the beginning of June. One year later things look different. No longer am I limited to see the aftermath, I am in the middle of the action! Cars tagged with numbers and stickers. This is not a race, but a extremely well organized get together of passionate car enthusiasts.

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Pass Masters 2011. Friday morning, I arrive late in Munich at the Haus der Kunst. The parking lot is closed, or better, reserved for a private happening. The lady at the gate looks at me with a slightly grim face. "One of them I guess?" The gravel cracks as I slowly roll around the corner. It is raining. Action. A jaw dropping colorful avalanche of metal. My pulse rises, excitement. Finally I am awake. This is amazing. Exotic and classic cars parked all over the place. People putting stickers on the flanks of their beauties.

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A couple of minutes later I return to my car. Road book, "racing" numbers and some Carfreax.com stickers, a last minute action by me and Steve with the help of Florian. The latter is one of the style police crew, giving the event a graphical identity and in charge of documentation. I wonder why I am given number 77, a late arrival or does it just looks great on a TT Mark I? It mimics the name of the car. During the event one can undoubtedly see the the concept looking at the other cars. Designers at work that is.

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No time to take pictures. In a pack we leave the compound, cruising through Munich. Bystanders point fingers, smiling faces. Soon after I got lost, followed by a Porsche. "One of us" I think. Together and with the help of the soft voice from the navigation we make it to the autobahn, direction south. We catch up with other members of the group. A first flexing of muscles, ready for the Alps, hungry for some hairpins.

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A regroup at a Raststaette. The whole bunch together. More than seventy cars, about one hundred petrol heads. Magnificent vibes. Click click. A final call, "let's take it easy guys, this is not a Gumball trip". No space to speed. Soon after we are struck in traffic. An opportunity to open the stylized lunch package and let the pack of cars slowly pass by. Mustangs, Beetles, Porsches, Italian classics. To much to name all of them.

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On the other side of the border, after Garmisch, the group of cars thins out quickly. After I stop for some pictures I am on my own. Every now and then I grab the road book from the passenger seat. Still on track, with my own pace, aiming for the end of stage 2. First steep climbs. "Over crest, cows, maybe" I think as I speed through the "Kuh Tal".

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At the Oetztaler Glacier I catch up with the others, just in time. Or not. It rains and its cold. We won't go through the clouds today, but still, heaven is just some miles away. Direction Italy. A pearl necklace of passes, swinging asphalt and twisty roads. Don't have the rhythm yet, but slowly it's coming. The quattro feels great, grippy and eager for more.

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Goodwood is just one week ago. The images still burn on my retina. This, though, is my private hill climb. Pure action. With every curve the bond between men and machine gets more intense, almost intimate. No squealing wheels, over- or understeer so far. A certain respect for road, car and my own limits. Ups and downs, I am getting in the flow, cutting the curves sharper by the minute.

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Finally Italy. A quick look in the road book. Miles away from our destination and still quiet a bit to travel. Am I ahead or behind the pack? I can only guess. Did I take to many stops trying to freeze the moments when the amazing landscapes unfold? The play of light and shadows, the stony tectonic breaks and amazing formations of rocks. It all flies by in a rush. A kinetic experience, hard to nail down in a picture. I up the speed, hoping to be one time for the end of stage 3.

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Carfreax in the mist. At the top of one pass I meet some others. Steve and I take some quick shots in a blurry environment. His R8, numbered 88 parked next to my 77. The tuned beetle passes, fighting for speed. "Ready to go?" "Damn, I like this!" A gray windshield, no sight. Soon after the stinging breaking lights of Steve dilute into the fog. A different league, or attitude.

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Some hours and many hairpins later the last pass before Bolzano. Penser Joch. I have seen the Veyrons taking a break and have been chasing a MX5. The group is mixed up once again. Lost the feeling of time and space. This must be the concept of the Pass Masters. The last stint is a hard one. Curvy stretches of mountain roads, pushing the clutch every couple of seconds. It is getting late and I am craving for some pizza.

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The journey is the reward. I flip through the maps to get a feeling where the f#*k I am. Must have taken the wrong turn somewhere. The Seisser Alm is our final destination for today. After some u turns I coincidentally bump into a pack of Pass Masters, chasing the Italian hills. We stop a couple of times and decide to let the navigation be our master for the last miles of the day. In a rather adventurous way we reach our destination. The road through the woods gets narrower with every curve. A look in my rear view mirror to check if the wide Diablo is able to make it. Vrooop Vrooop.

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A phone call to number 88. Steve must be behind me. Must have been quicker than I thought. We re-unite at the local pizzeria, craving for food and sharing impressions of a fantastic first day.Tired after an intensive.day one. One hundred petrol heads with empty stomachs, but loaded with stories. Along the way we have lost some cars and we will loose some more the day after.

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The saturday will be another ride through heaven, crossing the holy grounds of motorists walhalla. The Dolomites are the decorum with its impressive rock formations. Another 300 Kilometers of passes. This time with a co driver. Bernd's quattro has a troubled fuel pump. We listen to jazz music as we slice through the greens of northern Italy. Another perfect day, topped with a neat dinner in the middle of nowhere. Petrol holidays.

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1200 Km. Those are the back lid numbers as I return home on late sunday evening. These are just the facts. I spastically open the door in Ingolstadt, the gear changes still reverb in my nerves. 4th, 3th, 2th, a quick turn, throttle. I mastered the passes. Man meets machine.

-Matt.

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TRIBUTE TO THE INSANE R35

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The Nissan Skyline is a famous car of the Playstation Generation and since the last weekends episode TopGear (17-04) it should even convince real Carfreax. It seems to be out of proportion because it is so big. It has only a V6 and a weight of 1800kg. But it acclerates from 0 to 100kph in just 3,4s thanks to two evil turbos. The surfaces of the Nissan are simple and modern. One or two edges are let's call it unusual. But thats a proof of character, isn't it?

- Fab.

CURBED – CHISWICK

With an Audi S8 V10 routinely parked in front of our house (hey, it's even frozen in time on GMaps), with R32 Golfs as 'shoppers' parked around the corner and with daily spots of Astons, Rollses and tons of Porsches – this funny little runabout here still managed to catch our eye, and win our sympathy every time we strolled to and from our nearest tube station.

London – you guessed it. Chiswick to be precise, a nice and upmarket residential area where we've set up our holiday camp this week.

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The car: a Triumph Herald, Michelotti-bodied and rather successful in its days. It was built for more than ten years – out-phasing its own successor, the 1300. All Heralds sported a separate chassis with bolted-on body panels, enabling the engineers to quickly convert their design from hardtop/coupe to sedan, convertible – or even an estate and van spinoff. This version here is a second gen convertible with 'angry eyes'; in that sense you could even call it ahead of its time – Peugeot, eat your heart out! 

The Herald and its beefier 6-cylinder Vitesse sister always hit kind of a soft spot with me. Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like 'em, but -next to a blue 356 coupe and a white Mark 2- a pale coloured Herald is one of my earliest childhood carfreak memories. A friend of my aunt's drove it and used to bring it round our place a few times. I guess already then I thought it was different.

I guess it still is.

This particular Cockney item was moderately tuned with some nice period details. Couldn't tell if the engine (61 bhp standard) had been tickled also, but the Minilite rims and bullet mirrors go well with the red paint job. The body coloured bumpers were standard kit on certain models. On the inside, note the full wooden dash and substantial door panel trim. The after-market steering wheel rim seems a bit on the beefy side also, so these 'lightweight design' holes seem well justified.

…And do mind the slightly mouldy smell – if you're getting too close.

Oh well, then again, what do you expect from an island-born convertible? All character, mate.

There, I said it.

- Geert.

CARFREAX CHINA

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Once again we stretch our perspectives.

More than five years ago we launched the Carfreax blog. It started as a small local thing firmly rooted in the Netherlands. Soon after the idea of sharing petrol minded perspectives started to branch off in new directions. We took a look west side. With the help of our local reporter we were able to dive deep into the California Car Culture, sniffing up the vibes of the West Coast. Be part of the experience miles away from home,it turned out to be a success. In the meanwhile the language of CFX has changed to english and the spirit survived.

About a month ago, during a trip to Beijing, some of us came up with the idea to set up tents on the other side of the world. Let's take a look east bound. It is a unique chance to experience, try to understand and to be inspired by what is happening in the far east. Our local guy Fabi will serve you some hot plates from China.

Expect a flow of different spices during the next two years. A warm welcome to Carfreax/CN, it is here to stay and should be part of your daily view on the world!

-Matt.

THE PEOPLES CAR PROJECT

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Once again I am a tourist in China. For the last two weeks I have been trying to get a grip on local culture. The Shanghai experience was short and fierce, in Beijijng I have more time to assimilate. A relaxed afternoon, a walk around the lakes. Many photo opportunities. Temples, parks, hutongs, my feet hurt. Time to find our way back to our local host. A last coffee break before we grab a cab. "Let's take a last stroll through Guloudong Dajie".  

Soon I realize something unusual is going on. Blue dots scattered in a street full of boutiques. It turns out the Volkswagen project seen in Shanghai has made it to the real world, full scale! Bursting energy. People on scooters come to an squealing hold, grab their mobile phones to take a picture. Wow!  This is happening right now! A surprise at the right time, the right place. The circle is closed.

-Matt.

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