Pink Cadillac

1958 Cadillac Sixty Special Fleetwood

Yes folks, right here in Cairo, we have for you today, imortalised in a great Bruce Springsteen song and a not-so-great Clint Eastwood movie, a legendary Pink Cadillac. And not just any old Caddy, no, this is a Sixty Special Fleetwood, top of the line from the equally legendary year of 1958. Perhaps the most ostentatious Cadillacs yet, they were laden with chrome and stainless steel trim and Bill Mitchell’s ambitious styling soared like those epic tailfins creating a temple to 1950′s automotive excess.

A massive car, 5.7 metres long, weighing 2,300kg, it would need every single one of those 300hp from its 5.8 litre V8 just to get the thing down the road. And this one must move under its own steam, because as you can see, at some stage in the last five years it has changed colour along with changing its parking place. Yes, I took the photos when it was metallic red five years ago (I know, I know) but the photos from the pink era were snapped just last year. I like the red myself – nice and deep and lustrous, but inside that lustrous red wrapper there was obviously a pink Cadillac desperate to burst out.

This car has a really cool option around the back. You see how the rear bumper extends out around the vertical spare wheel carrier? That’s called the “Continental kit” and was a pretty glamorous accessory back then, along with giving the driver something to gauge his progress by when reversing.

Isn’t this just an amazing car? So over-the-top that it’s almost a joke, but flamboyant enough to pull off the trick and make me just stand back in admiration. I love that beautiful pink and white interior with the button down power seats, and all round electric windows (in 1958!), I love the bullet/torpedoes on the front bumper and the arrows embedded in the top of the wings – if one of these came barrelling up behind you flashing all four lights on the ring road you’d get out of the way, fast. So thankyou Harvey Earl for overseeing the design of such an amazing vehicle in your last year working for GM. Thankyou for giving us such a legend to admire, and thankyou for winning the great Detroit tailfin war with the model that followed this, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado.

And thanks to Bonni for the pink pics and Skip for the great research :-)

March – the Month of ‘Merican Metal

It’s official – here on Cars of Cairo, March is the Month of ‘Merican Metal.

I’ve been out and about scouting and photographing, and I’ve lined up a whole raft of interesting and weird American cars and other vehicles to be found revving their V8s, rocking on their axles in the Cairo traffic or decaying gently under a tree in the suburbs.

So let’s grab a coke, check the airbags and seat belts haven’t been removed and cruise down to the Corniche to see if any of these heaps can pass the Jay Leno test… “It’s a beautiful car and congratulations to Don for the hundreds of hours of work that have gone into this project, but, can it do a burnout?”

Here are a few teaser shots of what you can expect this month… What do you think – will they pass the Jay Leno burnout test?

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A Mystery car – what is it?

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Sorry for the delay in posting something new. Life got in the way. I’m sure I won’t allow it to happen again.

So here we have a thing. A mystery thing. I have no idea what it is; do you?

Here are some clues – I have a hunch the doors are from a 70s Fiat coupe. It looks like it’s rear engined, and the placement of those twin exhausts is very Beetle-ish. Could it be a “kit car” created on a Beetle chassis? Perhaps the fuel cap on the front wing (just like a Beetle) supports this theory, and those air intake vents behind the front doors might be sending air to feed and cool the engine in the rear.

Anyway, kudos to the imagineer who came up with this thing. It’s really not a bad effort. The long low bonnet is quite pleasing, and the proportions aren’t too bad, but whoever decided to put that “wing” on the back, well, banishment is the only suitable response I think!

Am I right, or do you have a better theory?

Ford Cortina Mk IV Coupe

Ford Cortina Mk IV Coupe: Snapshot

Ford Cortina Mk IV Coupe
Ford Cortina Mk IV Coupe

Ah, the Ford Cortina. Comfortable transportation for the massed middle classes of Europe. My Mum had three Cortinas in a row when I was a kid; from the age of six onwards, whenever I went in the car with Mum, it was in a Cortina. She had a dark blue Mark IV like this one, but the estate car version. The driver’s seat was broken, the passenger door handle had fallen off and nobody could find the bolts to re-fasten it to the door, but it had a radio and a separate cassette player, and a sweet four speed gearbox that I used to practice my gear changes on. I dreamed many great driving dreams sitting stationary in the driveway, stirring the gear lever and sawing on the wheel, escaping from the bad guys, with that door handle repurposed as a radio telephone handset to call HQ for backup.

But this is not a humdrum estate car or saloon, this is the coupe, and they were not a common sight at all. And this one is in great condition! No dents in the chrome bumpers, no creases in those sharp flanks, no cracks in the headlights, and that rough old 1600cc single overhead cam motor ready and willing to pull hard in all four gears all the way home, leaving just a whiff of blue smoke in the air to mark its territory.

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Hyundai Accent: Snapshot

Hyundai Accent GLS
Hyundai Accent GLS

Amid the constantly curling currents of the Cairo traffic, as the seas of small, cheap, Japanese, Korean and Chinese car-ppliances ebb back and forth across the city, even in a culture as conservative and conformist as Egypt, there are some who must stand out from the crowd. They cannot be assimilated, they must break free from the masses. And when a young man, probably not-yet-married, wants to make a statement, his thoughts often turn to his car.

This Hyundai Accent, and please note that it’s the GLS model, has received the full treatment and unfolds on us, the innocent passer-by, the full declaration of the owner’s aspirations. He doesn’t really want a Hyundai, he wants a Japanese rear wheel drive turbocharged drift car with a flame spitting exhaust and red glowing lights underneath the bodywork. but Hyundais are cheap, reliable and available, so that’s what he’s stuck with.

It’s the classic all mouth and no trousers approach to car modifications, and if you could see inside you would find orange leather-look replacement parts everywhere – handbrake sleeve, gear lever gaiter, steering wheel rim and also, a full set of white dials lit in blindingly bright ice-blue neon. The piece of resistance here is, naturally, a huge subwoofer in the boot, specifically designed to mask the weedy sound of the very standard sewing machine motor under the bonnet. But, hey, maybe he has actually learnt the subtle art of lift-off oversteer and can skilfully perform smooth handbrake-induced drifts on those temptingly dusty streets out by Carrefoure.

VW Passat Dasher

Volkswagen Passat (Dasher) 1976-1978

As The Stranglers once sang, “Golden brown, texture like sand…” Well, we were driving along on our way somewhere and it was the colour I saw first. And then the shape, and then I realised this little brown car was really worth having a close look at; it’s an exceptionally decent little car indeed, quite apart from being an exceptionally brown little car.

The Passat was launched into the European motoring scene in 1973 as a replacement for a whole variety of cars that VW had been struggling to get people to buy as they tried to make the transition away from their trusty but very old fashioned post-war Type 3 (as in this previously featured 1600 Variant) and Type 4 rear-engined air-cooled designs into something much more modern and up to date, both from an engineering and a design perspective.

They had a first stab at the apple with the VW K70, a car designed by NSU as a smaller brother for their Wankel Rotary engined Ro80. When VW bought NSU in the late 1960s they immediately saw the potential in this baby NSU and quickly rebadged it as a VW and sent it out to make it’s own way into the world. It didn’t do so well. People were wary because of the terrible reliability of the NSU Ro80′s Rotary engine, and didn’t trust a car that looked quite similar even though the technology was totally different. Also VW’s dealer network struggled to make the transition from the old rear-engined cars in terms of servicing and maintenance. And then there were the looks – just a bit too square and upright and old fashioned at a time when sleek modernity was much more appreciated.

So in the end they turned to their other sister company, Audi, and borrowed the platform, mechanicals and body of the 1972 Audi 80, repurposing it to make a fastback version of the almost identical Audi 80 (aka the Fox)saloon. The body types offered originally were two and four-door saloons (like this one) and similar looking three and five-door hatchback versions. Externally they all shared the modern fastback shape, styled by the celebrated Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Success at last! And this original Passat, the B1 version, soldiered on until 1981. Perhaps more famous than the Passat were its offspring, the VW Golf and the coupe variation, the Scirocco, which took the world by storm and cemented Giugiaro’s reputation as the man to turn to for mass market design success.

Ok, you say, that’s enough history for now. What makes this car so special, apart from the colour? Well the thing that caught my attention was that little “Dasher” badge and then “Fuel Injection” and then those big impact bumpers and I thought to myself “Aha! This is not the Passat I remember from my youth!”. Indeed, you’ve probably guessed that this is, in fact, the North American model. Renamed “Dasher” for reasons unknown although probably following the same thinking that led to the Golf being rebadged “Rabbit” for North America, it was exported to the USA from 1974 touting a carburetor fed inline four cylinder 1500cc engine under the bonnet giving 75hp in 1974, dropping to 70hp in 1975 until in 1976 it was upgraded to a Bosch fuel-injected 1600cc unit that produced 78 hp.

A facelift came along in  1978, placing this particular little car as being sold right about the time Jimmy Carter became President. But, how did it get here to Egypt? And was it wearing those terrible black seat covers when it arrived?

I’m particularly taken with this car – I like the way the owners have cared for it these last thirty six years, polishing that lustrous brown paint to a shine but not worrying when a few scrapes and bruises find their way past those huge USA-spec bumpers and not even bothering to respray the rusty old steel wheels. Someone has diligently reattached the “Dasher” badge a little bit crooked when it has fallen off at some stage, and I love the script on those badges – leaning forward ever so progressively, driving VW decisively onward into the modern era away from the noisy and cramped Beetles of old.

I like the interior too. There is a trace of 1960s sports car in the rounded profile of the gauge binnacle, soon to be lost forever as the Golf ushered in a radical new square gauge dashboard with those iconic coloured LED warning lights. The short shift gearchange is a nice sporty touch, but it’s a shame the steering wheel from a later VW Golf has been fitted, though no doubt it feels nicer to hold than the larger original.

And most of all I like the way it just sits at the kerb, in repose with the mirror folded in, but with it’s oh-so-brown paintjob in your face, reminding you that it’s ready to dash into action the moment the key is turned.

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Fiat 127 - customised!

Seat 133: Snapshot

I thought that I had better give you all a taste of true Egyptian motoring. Before the influx of Japanese and then Korean and now Chinese small saloon cars, there was really only one choice within the budget of the average Egyptian driver, and that was Fiat and all of the variations and offspring thereof. Luckily Fiats came in all sizes, and were even manufactured here in Cairo by the Nasr car company in Helwan. And this is one of the first models made by Nasr as a knock-down-kit from Seat in Spain – the 133.

Anyway, I couldn’t walk past this one without sharing it with you. It was the wheels-turned-inside-out that first caught my attention and then the special blue metallic paint, and then the de-badged, de-bumpered de-chromed look with upgraded fold-in colour coded door mirrors and aero-efficient windscreen wipers, and then I noticed the hole in the bonnet. I have no idea why there is a hole in the bonnet, but there it is. Was it for a spare wheel like on a Series II Land Rover? Was it for cooling the luggage compartment (These cars are rear-engined)? Or perhaps it’s going to be a fuel filler cap aperture inspired by the Singer and Magnus Walker modified Porsche 911?

Oh, and there’s a special bonus yellow VW Beetle hiding behind the Seat, just for you, as I’m feeling generous.

Fiat 1300

Fiat 1300 or 1500: Snapshot

Fiat 1300
Fiat 1300

The Fiat 1300 is a car you can often see lurking quietly under trees or hiding in the shadow of overhanging buildings all over Cairo. I’ve always thought it looks a bit sinister with its heavy hooded eyebrows and slab sided bodywork, like some Mafia thug trying not to be noticed. This impression is never helped by the paintwork which almost always seems to be in some dull, flat grey or green, like this one.

These cars were produced in Turin between 1961 and 1967 and were brought in to supersede the much cuter Fiat 1200. What a shock that must have been to Fiat’s customers – replacing a gorgeous curvy little thing with a brooding baltageya brute. There was also a Fiat 1500 which looked exactly the same but with the larger engine, and when Fiat finished making them they sold the patterns and rights to Zastava in Yugoslavia who made them until 1979 and exported them to Egypt too.

So if you spot one of these looking shifty in Shubra, walk a little faster and hold on tight to your wallet.

Simultaneously svelte and staid.

Volvo 144: Snapshot

Simultaneously svelte and staid.
Simultaneously svelte and staid.

The Volvo 144 was a very cool thing indeed when it first appeared on the streets of Sweden in 1966. It replaced the old Amazon models of the early Sixties and this car must have seemed the epitome of modernist style cruising round Stockholm with it’s boxy but elegant lines and glassy, Swedish-style cabin and that big chrome grille.

Well times changed, but the Volvo didn’t and kept the same basic look and shape all the way through to 1993 when production in Malaysia finally ended. There were loads of these around when I was a kid, mainly driven by teachers I think, but only when they were at least fifteen years old (the Volvo, not the driver!). Of course, safety was a key selling point for Volvo and the 144 (and the 142 coupe and 145 estate) was tremendously strong and rugged. Maybe that’s why so many survive today, perhaps like this one a little bumped and scraped, with faded paint, but fully original, and proud of it.