Sunday, 7 September 2014

Classic machinery

As regular readers know, I'm no fan of burning fossil fuels in pursuit of pleasure, but I'll make one exception - those wonderful people who maintain classic machinery, keeping it in good running order for generations to come. Modern automobiles fail to stir my soul, but the sight of a Willys Jeep (below) makes me stand to attention. Especially when it's driving down ul. Trombity, past a house that takes me back to old Kentucky.

Below: An E-Type, epitomising Britain in the Swinging Sixties, parked (briefly) on ul. Poznańska, the trendiest of Warsaw streets. Chrome wire wheels and red leather interior make it perfect.

Below: another classic Jag in Poland. This is a beautiful Jaguar 420G, the ever-so slightly facelifted successor to the Mark X - the widest car ever built by Jaguar.

Though not an original, Kawasaki's VN1500 Drifter (below) was for many years the nearest thing to a 1948 Indian Chief (a US manufacturer has since reincarnated the brand again in 2011). The after-market illuminated Indian Chief 'war bonnet' on the front mudguard gives this bike that late 1940s authenticity. Japan's motorbike manufacturers are good at copying the classics - like Yamaha's SR400 or Kawasaki's W800 that hark back to British bikes of the 1960s.

Below: the Drifter's pierwowzór (nice Polish word - literally 'first-pattern', conveying the concept of a 'prototype/inspiration') in my back garden, albeit in 1/6th scale.

And out the front - in 1-1 scale (almost), my Yamaha XVS Drag Star (classic, not custom).

Snapped out of the back of the 709 on Puławska - another gorgeous convertible Cadillac, below. This one a 1968 model (there's a red 1972 model around these parts too!).

To sell 'classic' you have to trade on heritage. The British certainly have it. The USA has it (losing it in the '80s and '90s). Germany has it (though I've never been nuts for das Deutsche autogeist).The Italians have it in two wheels and four. The French had it but lost it as their industry globalised, it lost its unique idiosyncrasies. Japan strives desperately, but Lexus, Accura and Infiniti neither won Grands Prix, 24 Heures du Mans, Monte Carlo rallies, never became screen icons. The rest of the world you can forget about.

Today's car designers are all falling over themselves to make their output look like badly scraped carrots, things drafted with My First Calligraphy Set, whose artily dented steel sides make them look like they've been involved in collisions before leaving the factory. Enough already. So many design classics have already taken to the road - the retro look is what many consumers crave, and yet what so few manufacturers make.

Below: a pair of Harley-Davidson WLs - both are over 70 years old. The 1940 WL was the basis for the US Army's WLA, manufactured in large numbers and supplied via Lend-Lease to the Red Army, hence a fair number ended up in Poland after the war. Some were restored to civilian trim, others left in their military state.

This time last year:
S2/S79 opens partially (not yet reaching Puławska)

This time six years ago:
Recycling time rolls round again

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