I Guess I Wasn’t Naughty

As a petrolhead my Christmas list is generally quite simple: car stuff.  This, for some reason, leads to confusion amongst my family and friends.  Due to the limited amount of “car stuff” in the local Canadian establishments I have received duplicate automotive encyclopedias, car models of questionable quality, and horribly un-funny bumper stickers (bumper stickers are just horrible in general, don’t put them on your car for the love of God).  But this year I received two great gifts that should be on the top of any enthusiast’s lists.  And no it wasn’t Jeremy Clarkson’s “Powered Up”, which I’m sure is very good.

Lego.  The name conjures up thoughts of the many hours most of us spent on the floor sorting through mountains of blocks looking for a specific piece.  It is a staple of childhood and whenever I have to buy a gift for a wee lad or lass I immediately turn to it.  Shaking the presents under the tree is a holiday ritual which I am convinced started when Lego was introduced as everyone now knows the tell-tale sound that accompanies a shaken Lego set. 

When I was a kid I had bins of the stuff, and half the fun was designing your own contraptions by combining multiple sets.  As I got older I started playing with it less and less because make believe games become something of a “kid thing”.  But I think we can all remember the unbridled joy that occurs when you rip off the wrapping paper to find that perfect Lego set that you wanted more than the oxygen you breathe.  It’s a wonderful feeling that gets lost as you age.  But on this Christmas morning I felt that feeling for the first time in years when I received this:

It’s a 1962 VW T1 Camper Van, otherwise known as the hippie mobile.  It’s not a traditional Lego set where your tiny Lego citizens can be posed; this is meant to be an accurate replica of the iconic 60’s traveler.  I had secretly wanted it as I had heard a lot of good things about it, so I was more than just a little excited as I tore off the wrapping paper.  Unwrapping it brought up two emotions: the kid-like joy of knowing I get to spend hours playing with a toy, and a little reluctance, as I’m an adult now and Lego is seen as a childhood adventure.  But the box said 16+, so this was really an advanced set meant for adults.  At least that’s what I told myself.

Five hours and forty-six minutes later (thanks iPhone timer) that reluctance was gone and I was euphoric.  I had spent almost six straight hours sifting through over 1,300 bricks and blocks and my Camper Van was finally complete.  Along the way there was a lot of cursing and my fingers are sore this morning but it was worth it.  This van is cool, and not just from the viewpoint of the little kid in me.  It’s a very true representation of the original and should bring a smile to any car nut’s face.  It has Splittie windows, a pop-up canvas roof, movable gear lever and floor hinged pedals, adjustable seats, a classic VW emblem, and much, much more.  But the best part for me was how Lego interpreted the air cooled engine.  Using legitimate Lego pieces you are able to make something that not only moves, but looks like the real deal.

I would suggest this Lego se to anyone who likes cars of any age as it is an iconic piece of automotive history, but it still wasn’t the best gift of the holiday season.  A week before Christmas I was told that I had to learn about a gift earlier than expected as it couldn’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  These are generally the best kinds of gifts, so my interest was piqued.  This gift was not a present in the traditional sense – it’s an experience.  An experience that involves over $1,000,000 worth of übercars, and it’s got me flipping excited!

At 11AM on Saturday morning with my best mate and Mum in the car I was told to head west, not knowing where our final destination would be.  We drove for 45 minutes until we reached Oakville, Ontario and parked beside an Aston Martin V8 Vantage right under a sign that read: Exotic Car Tours.  It was going to be a good day. 

As we walked by the Aston my Mum said, “You get to drive that” . . . and it just got better from there.  Inside we met Stu and Sara and I was given the greatest choice ever: I could either drive seven exotic cars at full attack on a track, or on Southern Ontario’s most twisty back roads.  I would love to go to a track day event, but my first track experience should be in my car where I feel most comfortable, and not in an übercar priced at $250K.  So I choose the road day package.  And the bonus is my friend gets to come along too and drive the same cars with me so I’ll only make a fool of myself in front of him, and not a complete stranger.  Not that I’m going to make a fool of myself . . .

So what am I going to drive? Oh you know just a few cars from Italy and some other clunkers.  But seriously, let’s start with the most expensive:  a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.  This particular car will be painted to mimic an Ontario Provincial Police cruiser, complete with lights on the roof.  Apparently this all checks out with the local fuzz and I am really looking forward to scaring the crap out of some poor drivers on the highway as they see what must be the maddest cop car ever in their rear-view mirrors. 

The LP640 is the updated refresh that was launched half-way through the Murcielago’s lifetime.  It’s got a whopping 631bhp (as the name implies), a manual gearbox for this car, and was named the least fuel efficient car of 2008 in the US.  Maybe its environmental unfriendliness is the reason why we still don’t have snow on the ground and it’s almost January.  This Lambo is giving a rude salute to Mother Nature and I am absolutely terrified to drive it.

It isn’t good enough that I get to drive one Lambo in a day, so I’m going to drive another one, too.  The Lamborghini Gallardo first broke cover in late 2005 and has been Lamborghini’s main bull ever since.  To date they have sold over 10,000 Gallardo’s, and the one I will be driving is one of the first.  With a mid-engined V10 packing 512bhp and standard four-wheel drive this is a little less scary than the Murcielago.  “My car” comes with the E-Gear transmission, which I am very keen to try as I also have flappy paddles in my GTI.  Yes, the two systems are very different but it will still be interesting to compare them.  The Gallardo is getting long in the tooth by car-refresh standards, but it’s still considered an übercar in anyone’s book.  Plus I get to drive it, so I’m not complaining.

Continuing with our Italian theme, the next ride that I’ll be sampling is a Ferrari 360 Modena.  The 360 was replaced in the Ferrari hierarchy in 2005 by the F430, and more recently by the 458 Italia, but in my mind it’s still the prettiest.  Some would argue that earlier V8 Ferrari’s (308, 348, and 355) have more of an old-school classic style, and that the F430 and 458 are more technologically advanced.  But the 360 offers a good compromise of modern design and F1 inspired technology.  Yes, it’s nothing like the tech-fest found in the 458, but it is now somewhat affordable in the used market, which is something that cannot be said of the 458.  Its mid-engined V8 produces an even 400bhp, which launches the car to 100km in 4.4 seconds.  My particular drive has the delicious looking open-gated manual, and of all the cars this is the one I am most excited to drive.

Enough with the Italian exotics (I can’t believe I get to say that), let’s move over to my German steeds.  First up is an Audi R8 with a mid-engined V8 with 414bhp and four-wheel drive.  If this sounds similar to the Gallardo it’s because they’re sister cars.  Built on similar platforms within the Volkswagen Group, and with the V10 R8 they are competing directly with each other. 

Everyone of a certain age had a poster of a Lamborghini Countach on their wall as a kid, and the R8 is my poster car: the one I dreamed of owning.  On my wall right now is an A1 EVO print of a black R8 with a carbon fiber sideblade, and it makes me drool every time I see it.  What is the sideblade?  It’s the defining attribute of an R8 that really differentiates it from the rest of the junior-supercar competition, and in the photo below it’s the black accent strip on the car’s rear haunches.  This is Audi’s first real übercar, and the V8 model is supposed to be the sweetest of all the R8s.

The next toy I get to play with is somewhat of a mystery.  I know it’s going to be a 911, but I’m unsure exactly what generation or kind of super beetle it will be.  It could be a 996 GT2, which would be incredibly scary as this is known as a widow-maker of a car with 462 turbo-charged horses being put to the road solely through the rear-wheels.  The other option is a more modern 997 model, which seems nice and safe in comparison.  Seems a little too tame really.  Wait, I forgot to mention it will come with a TechArt conversion that increases the horsepower along with the fear factor.  Either way, I have to bring my “A” game with whichever German beast I’ll be getting in to. 

Moving over to the motherland I’ll next be sampling a piece of British automotive history: an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.  This is a very important car for Aston, as it’s the company’s best seller.  The Vantage sounds epic as Stu kindly demonstrated by giving the throttle a few blips while we were there.  It hurts the ears, but in a good way.  After sitting in it you realize how low the seating position is, and how very different the view out the windscreen is from “regular” cars.  With a manual gearbox and 380bhp this is a true Gentlemen’s cruiser. 

I have saved the larriest for last.  The Murcielago is plain ol’ scary, a 996 GT2, simply terrifying.  But the real sweaty palm inducing car of the group has to be the four-wheel drive Datsun.  I’m talking about Godzilla – The Nissan GT-R.  It is a very powerful and capable car in basic spec, but many owners have chosen to add any number of hundreds of aftermarket additions, and this is why I get weak in the knees when thinking of the one I’ll be driving.  This GT-R started with 478bhp and a mind-boggling amount of technology.  The good folks at Exotic Car Tours decided that that wasn’t quite good enough.  After a ton of modifications (which I hope to learn more about upon driving it) this red beast now pushes out something like 800bhp and will get to 100km/h in 2.5 seconds, the same time as a million dollar Bugatti Veyron.  You’re damn right I’m scared.

So that’s what I will be driving sometime in April or May, and it will be the happiest day of my life.  Just one problem: I currently can’t drive stick.  I have three months to perfect my stick shifting ways before I get behind the wheel of the most powerful cars I will have ever driven.  No pressure then.   



~ by ubercar on December 27, 2011.

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