Friday, April 16, 2010

2009 8th Annual Damn You! Christmas Covers Party

The annual Christmas Covers Party is a chance for bands in Nottingham to murder some classic songs whilst boozing without care for dignity or coolness and in the process make a massive pile of cash for Cancer Research.
Simmo put together this Database Project on Facebook to assist the memories of those who have taken part or whose ears have suffered over the years.
It's taken me ages but my photos from the 2009 event are here:


Wind Of Change

Thursday, April 15, 2010

COTD 2 - Saab 900


Car Of The Day for today is the "classic" 78-93 Saab 900 series and more specifically, it's "Sven" - my 1986 Saab 900i Automatic.
I owned Sven between early 2004 and sometime around late 2005/early 2006. Registered D21 XJF, Sven was the 3rd and final 900 I looked at one Saturday afternoon. The first was a minty fresh 3-door 90 GL in grey but it looked like shifting out of my price range as the owner had it on EBay and wouldn't end the auction early. I remember he showed me a complete set of spare fuses in a Saab carry case that came with the car.
The second was a 900 Turbo in 2-tone black and grey. It looked amazing but just as I was about to lay the money down, the owner began nervously detailing worrying faults with the car until he bizarrely talked me out of the sale. Finally I went to see a metallic blue 5-door 900i Auto in Leicestershire somewhere and after a short test drive I walked away with the keys.
I'd wanted a 900 for ages. They're stereotypically architects' and Guardian readers' cars and I don't mind that. My Grandad had an absolutely killer 99 Turbo in black with the checkered alloys and a deep orange velour interior (registered "6 GOA" which is now on a Fiesta according to My friend Alex swore by them too and the band I was in borrowed his 900i one evening to shift some equipment and were won over by it's size, grunt and lovely velvety heated seats. When the head gasket blew on my shitty Citroen AX there was only one car that I wanted to replace it.


The honeymoon period lasted precisely 25 minutes. "The fuel gauge must be fucked" thought I, watching the needle visibly plummet as I sunk my right foot into the shagpile on the way home. Nope: 21 mpg if you're lucky. This thing weighed the same as a tank, was an automatic and probably wasn't in factory-fresh condition under the hood. No problems, I thought, what I saved in buying an older car could be used to fuel it. I remained optmistic. My friends and girlfriend all loved it too and christened it "Sven" on account of it's Swedish heritage.
The Sunday after buying it I took my housemates out to a car boot sale in it. The sun was shining, the electric sunroof worked nicely (as did everything electrical unlike my current Peugeot which electrically shits the bed almost weekly) and it felt like driving a beautifully engineered and very, very rapid tank. The automatic box took a bit of getting used to (Alex's was a manual though it was identical in every other way) but at least it meant I could pick my nose and drive in complete safety. And the illuminated floor-mounted ignition was the coolest thing imaginable.
Other drivers nodded and waved, we got to Calverton in what seemed like three minutes and went and bought some tat and a dirty burger. But come home time and Sven was dead. I may as well have put my key up my arse and turned it. Lucky for me that I am not more mechanically minded as my answer to this was to sit and try the ignition again and again for about 15 mins. Eventually (and as if nothing amiss had gone on), the engine fired and we were off.
Suspecting something hideous was occurring, I took Sven to the lovely folks over at Volsaab in Derby (I don't think they exist anymore). They couldn't find anything wrong with it and so started the biggest problem with Sven. Periodically, the ignition would be dead - nothing. Then give it a few minutes and it'd be fine. This is not so bad on a Sunday afternoon but when you're late for work it's agony. And when you give your car a persona and a name you can't help but feel "he" is just fucking with you on purpose.
I finally got to the bottom of the ignition problem after a drunken friend of a friend overheard me discussing it and declared he could fix it "in 5 mins". Which he did. Something to do with the starter motor.
But by then, Sven had all manner of other problems in the engine department that were slowly turning him from an excellent vintage car into a nice extension to my lounge in that he was very comfortable to sit in but didn't go anywhere.
I finally relented and put him on EBay where I received the princely sum of £31 from a mechanic and his Dad from Wales. The EBay listing fee was £22. I treated myself to a takeaway with the proceeds and bought an Astra Estate with blacked out Barry windows that smelled of cum from an "adult entertainer" I went to school with.
The last I saw of my Saab 900 was on Pullman Rd in Sneinton, where I lived and where I left the aforementioned mechanic trying to get it started to take it away. I didn't look round, I just gave him the keys, took the money and walked away. It was a sad moment. It wasn't there the next day so he must have got it moving. A quick registration check shows it's not around anymore though, unless someone with a sense of humour put a personal plate on it.
This has been my only (so far) foray into classic car ownership and it dented my wallet and my heart severely.
However, despite it being the oldest car I've owned, it was also the fastest as I found out when I nudged 120 on the A1 before looking at the speedo. Prior to that I thought to myself "Wow, the Saab's feeling nice today". It felt better and smoother the faster it went. Pottering over Nottingham's speedbumps seemed to be slowly killing it, but wind it up on a straight stretch of road and it barely wobbled. I slept in it's cavernous boot on several occasions (Simon Feirn once managed to fit a mattress in there for a good night's sleep in Norwich) and I'd never tire of it's gadgets or it's front-hinging bonnet. It's also the only car I've ever owned that drew admiring glances from strangers. I was once at a party and people were talking about how rubbish modern cars were. A young lady piped up that the only car she liked was "the blue Saab on Pullman Rd". I nearly choked on my Red Stripe.

Sven - My Saab 900

So there you have it, COTD 2 is the Saab 900. I see a young chap driving a red one in Nottingham from time to time and a sharp stab of jealousy hits me as I notice him grinning in traffic. I don't think I'd ever ask him to loan me a fiver though. Or give me a ride anywhere important.

Value now: In 2006 it was £31.00 evidently. You can get a near-perfect one now for less than £2000 though.

Pub Quiz Trivia Fact: A 1989 Saab 900 SPG owned by Peter Gilbert of Wisconsin, was driven over a million miles, before being donated to The Wisconsin Automotive Museum.

Saab Central
Saab Museum
Classic 900 Group on Flickr
For Sale in the UK
You Tube

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Plantagenet 3 Artwork


Back when I started doing graphic design freelance work, I did some sleeves for the then-just-starting-out label Jitter, run by then-Moonkat guitarist Richard Lanyon. Richard got in touch recently to say he was starting the label up again and (in his own words):
"I could just burn some £10 notes but it doesn't quite have the same appeal".
The first release is a seven inch by Plantagenet 3. Richard was very specific about the sleeve art and how he wanted it to combine a vintage surf aesthetic with heraldry and the traditions and rules about creating heraldic crests. (I should point out now that I find "heraldic" and "plantagenet" the two hardest words in the English language to type so forgive any spelling errors).
The artwork on the band's Myspace page was a purposefully jarring collage of the two subject matters so we went with redrawing and modifying this and combining the results with Richard's love for Ralph Bakshi's animation and the way he used weird textures to mess with depth perception. It all came out nicely and was lots of fun to boot.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

COTD 1 - De Tomaso Mangusta

It'd be easy for the first Car Of The Day to pick something like the Lamborghini Miura SV or the Ferrari 250 GT SWB and don't worry, I'll probably be getting to both. But in the true spirit of the underdog I'm going for this awesome creation: the De Tomaso Mangusta.

De Tomaso are better known for the successor to the Mangusta; the Pantera (yes, that is where Anselmo and pals got their bandname). Fortunately, the Mangusta wasn't around long enough to sprout the bulges, skirts, wings and general penis-pump paraphernalia of the Pantera and let's be thankful. According to Wikipedia, around 400 of these cars were built, so these are rarer than the proverbial rocking horse shit. In fact, even after years of trailing car shows as a pre-pubescent, I am fairly sure I have never seen one in the flesh*

Named after the Mongoose (the only animal able to eat a Cobra - no coincidence), this prime example of short-gestation-from-designer's-cigarette-packet-to-production-car was designed by the splendid Giorgetto Giugiaro and made between 1967 and 1971. It seems to have been a bit of an influence on the AMC AMX/3 and the Delorean that came after it (the latter also designed by Giugiaro and sharing the gullwing-door design). Not to mention the Monteverdi Hai and the Maserati Bora.

It had a Ford V8 in the middle and it went how it looked: like a jet plane... in the sense that anything over 3 figures on the speedo and you'd need take-off lights due to it's almost 70/30 weight distribution rear to front. Like the Lamborghini Miura, it might have looked bad-ass but it really didn't get along with wind or corners very well.

Like it matters. Look at the thing. Like the Ford GT40 (and to a lesser degree the Lamborghini Espada), it manages to straddle a perfect line between the futuristic Italian designs of the time and the aggressive brutishness of American muscle cars. The gullwing boot doors are insane. I know for a fact that Giugiaro was 28 when he penned the Mangusta but I prefer to think instead of him as being around the age of 12 when he came up with the design and that the board meeting presentation went something like this:

Giorgetto (small child): "The engine is in the back under this huge glass window. So you can see it"
Suit (approx 45 yrs old) : "Why?"
Giorgetto: "Because it looks cool"
Suit: "How does the boot open?"
Giorgetto: "Like this..." (demonstrates glass gullwing-hinged boot doors on a model)
Suit: "Erm... how do you actually get access to the engine with the hinge for the doors running across it?"
Giorgetto: "Shut up"
Suit: "Also, it appears to only be 40 inches high. How will we build this and give the occupants enough head room?"
Giorgetto: "Shut up"

And so on.

It's barely higher than the height of the tyres, the rear wheels seem to intrude on the design making it look it's crouching as do the double lamps on the front (changed on some later US models to pop-ups unfortunately), partially hidden under the bonnet lip to give it the look of being permanently hunched forward like it's moving at speed even when it's stationary. Put simply, it's very, very cool. It's not aged so badly either.

According to the excellent Mangusta International website (run by the very definition of the word "enthusiast") under half of the production run still exist. The rest presumably ended up buried in a tree or under several hundred gallons of firehose water at the side of the freeway while the owner (imagine him in mirrored RayBans, smoking) phones his insurance company. Which is what supercars should be about: lunacy.

Value now: $100,000 ish

Pub quiz trivia fact: Kylie Minogue is driving a Mangusta in the video to Can't Get You Out Of My Head. It's also featured in the movie Kill Bill.


(Click the pictures to go to the source)

Car Of The Day - Intro


I've written about cars on this Blog before so I'll save the confession/explanation about being a massive petrolhead. Put simply, I love car design - specifically between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s. Modern supercar/sports car design is all about either technical excellence or extreme ostentatiousness but there was a period where car design represented an almost pure and maybe even naive striving for true creativity. Unhampered by safety constraints, fuel consumption worries and little details like practicality, car designers of the 60s/70s were let loose with a brief no bigger than creating something wonderful that people would want to drive and hope to own. I like that optimism.
Now it seems we'll never see cars like this again. Sure, there seems to be another hypercar released every week that costs a million dollars but they're all hideous and 90% of the time are just driven around as gigantic visual bank statements by their owners and say more about the unfair division of wealth in the world than the creativity of the designer or the individuality of the owner. Seriously - how can anywhere be in recession when someone can spend a million dollars on a car?
Plus, the car is the enemy despite the fact most people have one and lots of people have more than one. Much as it pains me to admit it, Clarkson and the Top Gear folks have at least got something right when they rail against "eco mentalists". I'm anti-some-cars. I'm anti people using them when they don't need to. I'm anti people doing the school run in a Range Rover or buying a BMW that does 190mph and 12mpg and driving themselves, on their own, to work in it everyday. But make a car that is beautiful to look at, fun to drive and with a sense of occasion and people will do everything they can to keep it running. It might do 8 miles per gallon but the owner might only do 2000 miles a year in it. What's worse: someone doing 100,000 miles a year in a Prius that they scrapped their old car to buy and was made on several different continents using components shipped/flown to the factories that themselves churn out pollution OR someone buying, say, an Aston Martin from the 1980s that was handbuilt (and all the parts are still available) and only doing 5000 miles a year. It's crazy.
So: owning an exotic car back in the 60s or the 70s was very different to now. Not just politically. The cars were frequently hard to drive, unreliable and poorly supported in terms of after-sales care so driving and maintaining something like a Ferrari or a Maserati was a labour of love, even into the 1980s. The idea of a car as an investment was laughable also and cars that are now worth several million dollars were used for blasting around country roads for fun and repaired with a hammer by devoted owners who were deemed crazy for buying them.
Modern cars (with a few notable exceptions) are too big, too garish and too over engineered in comparison to appeal to me. You really shouldn't be able to potter to Waitrose in a Lamborghini. Not without it catching fire anyway.
Since I was about 12 years old I've thumbed the For Sale ads in classic car magazines and mentally selected my ideal money-no-object purchases from those available. I still do it now.
So, I'm taking a further stand for the automobile with Car Of The Day: a random and not completely regular look at cars that always make my fantasy garage when flicking through Classic & Sportscar on the bog. I have no mechanical knowledge, save for the experience of what has gone wrong on my own cars, so this is based mainly on sights and sounds.
If you own one of the cars featured, be sure to get in touch. Likewise if the photos used belong to you: I'll try and credit where I know who took the photo but that's not always possible.
I would like to point out that I drive a 1999 Peugeot 306 HDI Meridian Estate in metallic red. It is called "The Pig". I think this actually makes me more qualified to talk about dream cars, seeings I have ten per cent of fuck-all chance of actually owning any of them. Enjoy.

#1: De Tomaso Mangusta
#2: Saab 900
#3: Ferrari 400