Of men and old carsBy Jeanette Ipapo-Tuason
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Last Sunday, one of the biggest classic car races was held during the Tuason Racing School Raceday Weekend at the Batangas Racing Circuit. There were 29 entrants with cars 1985 and older, that filled up the grid of the TRS Retro Touring car race. Initially, JP Tuason just wanted to give “classic car lovers” an opportunity to come together and have a day of fun at the track. He even included his restored 1978 Ford Escort, which was sitting in the garage for a good four years whose only action was a quick engine start up every now and then.
There were a couple of Volkswagen beetles, mini-coopers, and an assortment of old-school cars that included Arnie Alafriz’s Datsun S10, a 1978 Toyota Celica Liftback driven by Lexus Manila’s Carlo Chungungco, Tito Cruz’s Toyota A86’s, Corollas, etc. They were brave enough to face the possibility of going home with a bunch of possible repairs and endless lack of parts. And the race was no exhibition either as they needed to do a 15-minute QTT, and two 6-lap race heats. Yes, there were a couple of early retirees and a lot of technical and mechanical issues but the racers themselves all sported ear-to-ear grins. Emerging as the winner was Brian Bautista in an orange Volkswagen; Carlos Castañeda was second in a MINI Cooper and Albert Quiroz in a 1984 Lancer box type. They provided the crowd a spectacle to see with not just a parade of restored vehicles, but also a real race with surprising speeds.
Seeing so many “old cars” beautifully restored and some in race conditions, made me ask, “What is it with men and old cars?”
A columnist-friend, Cito Beltran, tends to a farm not just of vegetables and free-range chickens but a garage of cars in different states of restoration. He is well known for reviving any vehicle in whatever state it is in. He believes in preserving things of value and for him “it is not the ownership, but the process of restoration that stirs the creative juices.” His latest baby was an aluminium-bodied 1957 Mustang found in a piggery and left as a mold. But through Filipino ingenuity and craftsmanship, it became the first aluminium-bodied Ford Mustang in the world!
Other “old car” enthusiasts claim nostalgia or having this particular car as their dream car growing up as the reason for restoring these vehicles. Although there is a lot more to restoring than scouring the provinces for old cars, you would also need to scour both Banawe and the Internet for parts as well. According to Aris Ilagan, his 1981 Starlet has been with him during the times he was covering the coups against the Aquino administration and never has it stalled on him. A lot of people admire that it is in tiptop condition, as some people don’t even finish their projects, which eventually become scrap metal or worse, an artificial reef when their wives are finished with it after a few years of collecting dust in the garage. Ilagan, who raced just for fun, found racing his own steed in the track orgasmic, although the possibility of walking home was playing at the back of his head.
Tuason, who restored his Ford Escort, did it because it was the car that his father, racing legend Arthur Tuason, made famous and to have of their generation. Arnie Alafriz, with his 1972 Datsun, restored his car, believing in its pleasing design, uniqueness and its potential as an economical track car, while Ferdinand Sia restored his Toyota Corolla because of the mechanical driving sensation and growl it gives during shifting. His car might have turned him into a traffic aide for 15 minutes at the Edsa Flyover because of an electrical system failure, but she performed beyond expectations in the event. Even Actor Dominic Ochoa, rumored to have spent more restoring his Ford Escort than buying a brand new entry-level vehicle, grew up with the experience of a bevy of Escort, Capris and Cortinas courtesy of his dad and his car-enthusiast friends.
Other disadvantages of owning a classic car is of course the lack of the latest innovations such as power windows, power steering, analog instrumentation and the lack of the newest safety features. But I guess, if women suffer from injury inducing 5-inch platform Louboutins, men will suffer an additional arm work out just to show off their “classic cars.” The prices of the parts have become an issue because of the rarity. It is not uncommon that they search and study different possible replacement parts. Some of the racers have Volkswagens with Porsche engines and other possible and impractical combinations.
So do cars get better with age?
You will need to have a deeper reason for embarking in the project of car restoration. Lots of research and discussions (hopefully in a sober state) would be needed for you to see the possible options. It would be best to talk to somebody who was able to successfully do it. There are some cars that are good candidates to be restored, while others are just better left alone. Not everyone can be like Sean Connery who is great yesterday, today and tomorrow.
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