Autoworld Brussels

This post is sort of a love letter and a thank you to Jalopnik, Opposite Lock, and especially all the commenters who veer wildly between incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly funny, who for petrolheads are probably the nicest bunch of hoons I could hope to lurk around. And lurk I do. A couple of years ago, I asked Emile, “What is ‘drift’ Emile? What is ‘donk’?” I’m pretty sure he said, “Tokyo Drift. Watch it.” That moment coincided with my slipping sideways from io9 (still pretty much my sci-fi daily) into burnouts.

LMP1, WRC, Subaru WRX STI, Ken Block, Nürburgring (24h or generally losing it on Fuchsröhre), SCG003, Porsche Porsche Porsche, brown cars, station wagons, brown station wagons, Volvo rally station wagons, Le Mans and Spa 24h, turbo diesel, flat fours, manual gated shifters, stance tuned and slammed. I am as serious about hoonage as I am about mediæval art.

This is my first attempt at photographing cars. I approached it like photographing art, sculpture, landscapes, a little of dance and theatre. It became strangely easy, possibly because I was drooling madly and wanted to fondle half the cars. Most of the closeups are straight from my camera, only whatever automatic processing Aperture does in exporting to tiff. A couple of closeups—the ones where I was playing with symmetry— I straightened and cropped, and a couple I also messed with the levels a bit, to compensate for glare or overexposure. Some of the full-shots I cropped slightly, cleaned out junk in the frame (signs, or distracting changes in the background or floor), also did some levels adjusting.

For most though, this is what came out of my camera. Seriously, I’ve seen four museums in two days, with probably another 200 images of art still to process (very labour-intensive to deal with lens distortion), I don’t have so much time and I don’t think I could improve them anyway, especially as I don’t like cropping.

What else?

I’d already been to the Jubelparkmuseum / Musée du Cinquantenaire, battery died shortly before I got into the Citroën DS 60 Years special exhibition, missed quite a lot …

The upstairs of Autoworld Brussels in the Sport & Competition Zone had a gentle odour of fuel, grease, hydraulic fluid, the tang of cooked metal, hot engines and brakes. I hadn’t expected that, but then thought, ‘Duh, obvious!’ and found it comforting. It’s where I started, what I was there for. (If I’d been more aware, I’d have been there for the DS exhibition also.)

There’s only around twenty cars in this section, plus probably another forty on the mezzanine. I just started taking photos, no idea what I was looking at until I saw the duck-shell blue Abarth. And behind that was the AMC AMX/3, which is just mental in the way Lamborghini was. The Toyota 2000 GT Coupé is probably my pick from that first group (except for the Abarth, which just looks so pretty and like it would be glorious fun to drive). Then I turned around.

The GT40. I’ve watched videos, read articles, followed comments into the thousands on this car. I’m almost completely uninterested in American cars and Ford, but the GT40 … To see it there mounted on a cambre. Every other car here can go fast, can be driven fast and win and even be capricious to drive. Seeing the GT40 though … it is brutal. It’s the car you drive when every problem is a nail, a metal chisel of a thing that is genuinely terrifying in a way no other car there is. From some angles it’s beautiful, and then it gives away its secret that it doesn’t care; it’s only interested in hammering a path through air as fast as necessary, and it will do that with aerodynamics or force of will. Either, or. Doesn’t matter. It’s single-minded like no other car.

Vaillante Grand Défi with leather buckles; the deep weirdness of the Gillet Vertigo.5 Sprint; the beautiful Vasek Polak Porsche 935/5 driven by Jacky Ickx, all white with red and blue stripes and those massive, massive wheel arch flares and air intakes—and the Team Kremer Porsche 934 RSR Group 4 in peppermint green with purple, red, and orange stripes, the best livery in the entire museum. Right next to that is the red and white of the Lancia Fulvia Rally. I love rally, and this—despite being a giant ad for smoking—is a work of art. The headlights and grille, the overhang of the bonnet, the strange boot, the height and angle of the windshield glass. I would hoon. Probably would die immediately.

Toyota Celica 1600 GT in all white; the hallucinogenic yellow of the Matra 530 LX with the oddest arse on a car, it’s like three cars glued together; Grey Beamer! Yellow Lotus! Porsche 924 Carrera GT, which was really, really attractive. Bugatti Type Brown, very blue, equal oddest arse. Battery was actually flat here, so I missed the baroque hysteria of the rear window; Lamborghini’s “Seats 4!” Espada Series II.

Downstairs into Citroën DS land. The car from Back to the Future II, but who cares? DS 21 Rallye! Imagine rallying a DS, it’d be all, “LOL, bumps?” and it really was. I love the DS and the ID, hydraulic everything, steerable headlights, “Speedbumps? What speedbumps?” aluminium floating panels, wide at the front, narrow at the back, the glass and curves. If I wasn’t coveting a WRX in blue and gold for all I’m worth, I’d probably be stealing a DS.

There was a presidential DS also, extra-high, extra-long, probably mine-resistant. In the back was a Porsche police car. Too late. Camera battery was dead.

Probably should get my car licence.