True automotive oddities are hard to come by around Shanghai. There are lots of very nice and exciting modern cars, but never anything old and strange and out-of-the-ordinary. I was therefore excited the other day when, while taking a stroll at lunch time, I came across this three-wheeled gem!
Approaching from the rear, I thought that it was a simple Chevrolet Matiz, or the near-identical Chinese copy, the Geely QQ. A rather goofy looking car, it is nonetheless a fairly common sight on the roads, especially in the city where I work west of Shanghai. What I saw quickly was that this was neither a Matiz or a QQ, but instead a small 3-wheeled copy of those models! The front fenders didn't even have wheel cut-outs, so I was pretty sure it wasn't some homemade construction. A single centre front wheel was tucked up under the engine compartment, and a tiny exhaust pipe poked out the back. It didn't take much imagination to understand that this was basically a three-wheeled scooter (very common in the area as small taxis and delivery tricycles) with a 7/8 scale car body bolted on top.
Several Chinese manufacturers appear to have modified these cars into 3-wheeled versions of the original 4-wheeled models. Vehicles with 3-wheels are not considered 'cars', and are therefore more simple and affordable to register and operate. These models combine the closed, relatively modern cabins of today's cars with the less stringent emissions, safety and legal concerns of scooters and tricycles, so the appeal is obvious. Apparently some models were even fully electric (again, like most scooters and trikes in China), but this one was clearly gas-powered, as evidenced by its scooter-sized exhaust pipe.
My daily commute includes a quick jaunt by taxi from the train station to work and back in the evening. As easy and affordable as it is to grab a taxi here, I can't help but picture myself behind the wheel of one of these goofy toys, dodging traffic as I wind my way down the busy streets. I think I'll keep my eyes peeled for one for sale; I can only imagine the look on my coworker's faces if I were to pull into work in one of these!
My recent week of vacation in a rural part of southern China was amazing. There was beautiful countryside, breathtaking views, historic old villages and buildings, and kind and welcoming people. There was also the road trip. I wasn't at the wheel, which was actually a good thing. This permitted me to keep my eyes closed half the time, because things got a little... lets says crazy... from time to time.
The driver picked us up as planned in the city of Xiamen. He didn't speak English, and with our Chinese being limited to "beer", "bottom's up", and "the bill please", we couldn't communicate much. That said, he was polite and friendly, and knew exactly where we were headed. We had a couple of hours of highway driving heading west inland, the busy six-lane highway eventually becoming a smaller four-lane, then two-lane highway, before we headed off into the mountains along some small, twisty roads. I already wasn't 100% in agreement with the driver's driving style on the major roads. The drivers here pass on the right, cut other drivers off, and use the horn a whole lot more than I care to hear. That said, I am a visitor in their country, so I am willing to accept that some rules and habits are going to be different.
I was hoping that after getting off the crowded highway that the driving would be a bit more relaxed, instead of the constant jockeying for position and cars and trucks cutting each other off, but the small twisty and hilly rural roads were packed. In fact, it got worse. None of the drivers, including ours, seemed very patient, and while us passengers were happy enough to enjoy the gorgeous scenery across the hills and valleys as the car went up up up, those behind the wheel just wanted to get to their destination... by any means possible...
Passing on the left. Passing on the right. On the shoulder. In curves. Going uphill and down. Cutting people off seems normal here; it's a crazy free-for-all, as each driver is responsible not only for not hitting anyone, but not getting hit. They seem to use their horn way more than anywhere else I have ever been, but instead of it being a nasty, aggressive blast, it is instead a gentle warning that two cars are headed for the same space. Basically the first who honks has the priority!
The trip overall was fantastic, and I don't think that we were ever truly in any grave danger, but there were a few calls that were closer than I would have liked. I didn't used to think that I was a tense passenger, but that was until I experienced my first Chinese road trip! Perhaps the only thing worse would have been having me at the wheel!
As if a Porsche doesn't stand out enough to begin with! This blinding blue Cayman caught my eye from a block away. It was parked ever so discretely in front of a luxury apartment building, half on the sidewalk... apparently it somehow needed more attention! While I tend to be a rather discrete person, especially when it comes to automotive tastes, I have to admit that I quite liked this shade of metallic paint that stopped just short of being obnoxious.
To top it off, the owner had done a spot of customizing: it appears that they had dusted of their daughter's Bedazzler and gone to town on the licence plate bracket. Thousands of tiny fake diamonds surrounded the plate, adding a tacky finish to what was a borderline 'over-the-top' paint job. To each their own, I suppose, but I don't really know how much more noticeable the owner thought they could make their Porsche!
A security guard standing by the gate saw me looking at the car and didn't mind when I took a few pictures. He asked if I liked the car and laughed a bit when I said yes. It would seem that he wasn't all that impressed. Then again, having to stand all day beside such a reflective piece of automotive hardware might be a bit annoying. I think I'll buy him some sunglasses. I should probably get some diamond-studded ones so that he doesn't look out of place!
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!