Once upon a time (nowadays), in a land far, far, away (France), lived a frog (Christian). The frog, like all good frogs, loved cheese (French cars). In fact, no self-respecting frog would admit to liking other things to eat (foreign cars). They all preferred the local fare (Peugeot, Citroen, and Renault). Now this frog was a bit different, as he had tried different types of cheese (Citroen BX), but simply wasn't all that excited over it. Some of the older cheeses (Alpine, Venturi, Panhard) interested the frog very much, but were simply too expensive to have every day.
In secret, the frog liked to try foods from other countries. While he did his best to hide it from his friends and family, they were all ashamed to learn that he had tried schnitzel (a German car). He liked one particular schnitzel so well (a 2001 VW Bora wagon), that he had it every single day! His family and friends could barely stand to speak to him.
But it would get worse. Bored with schnitzel every single day, the frog wanted something more exotic. He had heard about a tasty meal called pizza (an Italian car). This classic traditional recipe tempted him so much that he couldn't say no, and was soon enjoying his very own pizza (a 1968 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300 Junior) whenever he wanted. It was too much for the people around him! How could it be that a well-raised frog could have such unfrog-like tastes?!?
Luckily, the frog had a wise friend, the caribou (me), who came from a beautiful land across the sea (Canada). This land was known for not having its own specialty (car brand). The frog shared his dilemma with the wise, handsome caribou. He begged the wise, handsome, charming caribou to guide him to the right decision. The wise, handsome, charming, witty caribou told the frog that he had to follow his heart. Coming from a land with no delicacy of its own, the wise, handsome... (okay, you get the point) caribou had been free all his life to sample what the world had to offer. He had even recently traveled to the other side of the globe, and was very curious to getting his fill of dumplings (Chinese cars) as soon as he could get a reservation (drivers licence).
And then, it happened. The unthinkable. The frog, with his appetite for schnitzel during the week (daily driver) and pizza on the weekend (weekend toy), caught wind of yet another foreign treat. It was from a nearby island country (the United Kingdom) that was the arch-rival of his land! How would he ever have the courage to bite into the traditional feast called roast beef (a British car)?
On his friend's advice (this time it's free, next time it'll cost you!) the frog gave in to his desire and tried his first taste of roast beef! And he loved it! The age-old recipe was perfect (a right-hand drive Caterham 2-seat convertible with a 1400cc Rover engine putting out 130 horsepower through a 6-speed manual gearbox), and the taste test left him wanting more (570 kg allowing 0-100 km/h acceleration in under 6 seconds)...
The frog was hooked! This time he wasn't embarrassed. He yelled from the rooftops of his love for roast beef! He even added it to his collection, and especially enjoyed it on warm afternoons. When his friends and family saw how happy he was, they let out a loud cheer! Hurray! And the one cheering the loudest was his friend the caribou, who made the frog promise to give him a taste the next time he dropped by for a visit (I don't care if it's in winter and -10 degrees and snowing, Christian, you're taking me for a drive)!!!
And he lived happily ever after (doing burnouts in parking lots and racing through the hills and valleys of his native Dordogne and spending countless hours tinkering under the hood of his lovely British roadster)...
The Chinese auto market may be booming, but it's mostly foreign automotive companies that are reaping the rewards. There are dozens of Chinese brands, but most are only having middling success. The core of the market belongs to foreign companies like VW, GM and Ford that have teamed up with local manufacturers (legally required, as foreign automakers do not have access to the market on their own). These brands, along with more expensive ones like Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar are the go-to for newly-mobile Chinese. At least in the big cities the local Chinese brands are more or less shunned. They have a little more success in smaller cities and more rural areas, where buyers are more price conscious and less status conscious.
For me none of this is surprising, as many of the Chinese-branded models look very similar to other manufacturers models. Those that aren't copies tend to be rather boring and utilitarian. There is also the question of quality, which scares many people off of Chinese designed and built cars, but I really do think that the lack of styling creativity is the main problem.
I have said to myself that if I get the chance by some miracle to own a car while I'm in China, I'd want it to be Chinese. Just as I did my best to experience French cars when I lived in France (or at least European ones), I want to do the same here. Seemed like the pickings were slim, until I stumbled across this small car the other day:
While this type of boxy vehicle has been done before (think Nissan Cube, Kia Soul, Scion xB), I feel that Great Wall came up with a tidy little design for this small 5-door, called M2. Not really a car, not really wagon, not really a crossover, it's a little hard to classify, but that's part of its charm. I especially like the rear taillights that appear to be simply stuck-on. This model, with the dark tint, roof rack, and contrasting body cladding is very sharp to my eyes. The very upright cabin makes for a maximum of interior space, both for passengers and cargo, which gives the quirky design some utility.
Follow the link to Great Wall's English website for the M2:
I don't really have plans to buy a car here, as traffic and parking in Shanghai make owning a car a complicated affair. Still, if for whatever reason I can convince myself to at some point (and I'm known to have a weak will when it comes to automotive-based decisions), for now this is tops on the list! Hey, what better way to trek the 1200+ kilometers to visit the Great Wall of China than in a Great Wall? I can already hear the gears of automotive justification staring to turn in my head...
A quick count the morning of the number of folders full of pictures and blog post ideas that I have on my computer totaled almost 70. Some go back weeks, months, and even years. As I scanned though, wondering what to write about today, my eyes fell to a super abandoned garage I saw this past summer. Or was that soupper? Actually, to be accurate, it was Souppes.
A friend from Canada had come for a visit to France, and we had taken a road trip to see to family and friends in the Loiret region of France. As we were leaving on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, this garage caught my eye just on the outskirts of the small town of Souppes-sur-Loing, not far from Fontainebleau. After a carefully executed U-turn of questionable legality, we got out of the car and took a peek at the rusty, derelict garage.
My love of old, abandoned garages is no secret, and while of course I would rather see small, local garages keeping old cars on the road, I can't go by one of these closed shops without wanting to take a look and grab a few pictures. The many layers of signage that had been painted over multiple times suggested that this garage had seen many years of use.
Check out another lonely, forgotten garage in France, this one only a few kilometers from where I lived there...
I don't know about you, but I really enjoy these automotive finds on my journeys and road trips, and hope in the future to stumble across other soupper, errr super, garages and relics!
Last month I wrote about a shiny blue Porsche I came across in Shanghai. It certainly caught my attention, but shiny metallic paint jobs aren't to everyone's liking. For the uber sports car fan who likes blue but is a tad more understated, I have found the solution:
This Maserati GranTurismo is a surprisingly popular car in Shanghai (as are the other Maserati models, for that matter)! Even so, this kind of car gets some attention, especially when they drive by and you hear the deep V8 growl. While most have shiny, well-polished finishes, this matte blue was a nice change, and looked really great to me. Matte paint finishes is a bit of a fad that already seems to be dying, but matched to a deep, rich colours like this, I think it works very well.
There's little chance that I'll be owning a Maserati anytime soon, but maybe this finish would look good on my bike? Speaking of bikes, just for a laugh, here is the first picture I tried to take...
So which is it? Do people prefer this understated, less vibrant pale, flat blue, or do they think a sports coupe should be more flashy and in-your-face, like the Cayman? I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks!
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!