Sunday, November 06, 2005

#5 A few words on... (Part 2)

I’ve got a short intro to this one. I won’t give the game away, but I was all ready to give up on Coventry as a car town (yes, I know it’s not a town), and then… I was on the way home from yet another unsuccessful sighting trip round the highways and byways, looking for something attention-grabbing, or at least out-of-the-ordinary when I pulled up at a set of traffic lights behind a fairly dull and boxy looking early-90s (probably – it’s not my speciality) crotch-rocket; the only notable thing about it was the non-standard silver-on-black number plate.

I thought it was odd when the rider looked over his shoulder at me I pulled up. I watched as he looked round lots more while waiting for the lights to green. It’s a four-way set, and had just turned so there was time to kill. There were a couple of kids in a small Vauxhall on his right that I’d burned from the previous set of signals, and a van on his left, so I was quite surprised when the lights changed and he didn’t take off like a minor whose canary just died. Instead he rolled out so gently that I didn’t realise he was pulling a wheelie for a couple of heartbeats. The grin this set-off exploded into fits of laughter when I watched him roll up to the traffic waiting at the further set of reds ahead using only the front wheel – the guy rocked a stoppie on public roads with no other bikers around that must have been at least ten yards long.

I was so pleased I could have cried.


Enter “Coventry” and “cruise” into Google. Go on, see what you get.

Not much, is there. A couple of forum postings about botched attempts to meet dating back to last summer, and a fistful of promises about the nautical kind. Not a whole lot of anything that was going to help us out. So in frustration, myself and a couple of other ajs decided to just head on out Saturday night, and see what we could find.

Now, at the end of the last blog on this subject I was accusing myself of misconstruing the division between blaster and tuner. I suppose I also need to explain blaster to some of you as well. Does no-one else figure the traditionalised term of “boy racer” is derogatory – I mean, I know they can be a pain in the ass, but is that really necessary? And it’s sexist, too. The number of women you see driving modded or HiPo-as-standard transportation modules these days is justification alone for a more gender-neutral term – back where I’m from I regularly see a particular Focus RS and an Evo VIII, both with female pilots. I got blaster from an old work colleague of mine; he’d refer to the lads hanging out in the carparks as “boy blasters” – then proceed to intimidate them with his flame-shooting Renault 19. But I digress.

Is there a vast difference between the kids in the Corsa the kind of people running the hotted-up Evos and Imprezas in a convoy we got caught up in the other week? [That was awesome, btw. The first we knew anything about it was when we got buzzed on the M1 by three of them doing about 130mph. As it was early and the roads were quiet we joined in for a bit; there was one (slower) moment when I looked back out the rear window of the car I was travelling in and all you could see trailing off into the distance was a long line of very money tuner machines with their xenoned headlights, twinkling.] Is it just a question of cash – the sort that buys you all kinds of radar detection equipment and air-intakes where the mainbeam used to be – or is it also a question of good taste?

Given the diversity amongst the alloyed-up in this fair city – I saw three cars all with the same designer rims today: a full-on chubby bodykit Saxo; a nice mk1 Golf Driver; and a…mk4 Cortina! – this comes back to finding the scene and checking it out. The plan for our highly scientific and thorough investigation involved driving around the vibrant metropolis that is Coventry at night and finding a hatchback full of baseball caps. Follow this, end up at the epicentre of urban car culture. I’m not above being judgmental – on which more in a moment – but we were in a Fiesta and a Fabia ourselves. No headgear in sight, however. Cut to the chase.

After an hour or so of trawling supermarket carparks it’s looking a bit fruitless. We suspect this is partly down to it being a Saturday night – seemed a good idea at the time, but if you think about it not that likely for illicit auto-shenanigary due to upscaled policing and the partying public – and the fact that someone had the good sense to bar the carpark entrances to the non-24 hour stores. Yawn – talk about killjoys. It’s not looking fruitless, it’s like a total disaster. But of course we do find some – at a MacDonald’s. D’oh.

The trouble is they’re totally lame. The only interesting cars are an E46 BMW ragtop – we all immediately think dealer (not judgmental at all there) but it seems it belongs to his dad – which is not at all interesting, and a Renault 11 Turbo. Which is genuinely cool. They sit in the carpark, intimidating Maccy D’s patrons, then eventually drive off to a house party. Dull, dull, dull. It is a total disaster.

So we’re none the wiser, and you’ve just wasted several minutes reading this far. But hold on a second. The apparent fractious dissonance of the car culture here is intriguing for this very reason. The cars appear to exist simply because they can, because it’s no longer anti-social but mainstream – perhaps helped along by Coventry’s status as an exceptionally diverse conurbation, and one with two universities and several thousand very different resident students. I’m going to do my best to get to the bottom of this – so far as it has one, anyway. I can tell you for certain that no-one ever passes my bedroom window at 30mph. And, I can also suggest that any place where you can see an innocuous looking motorcycle pull a stoppie at the traffic lights has got to have a tale to tell.

Note on pictures:

Yes, I have blurred the numberplates and other identifying features!

The Fiesta picture is a 1.6 Zetec S and is currently for sale - I'm not the owner but I do know him. If you're interested email me and I'll get you the details.

The pictures also feature a Skoda Fabia vRS. Again, not my car but a friend's. Quite a rare vehicle...which makes it all the more amusing that his nextdoor neighbour also owns one - in exactly the same colour. Lol! (See bottom photo.)

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A few words on... (Part 1)


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