As many of you know, part of my job involves
traveling around the country to participate in industry events. One of the
by-products of that travel is the columns I write about the unique shops and
vehicles I find along the way.
This time, for once, I found myself outside of
our native soil. I was traveling through Europe and ran across some interesting
sights. On the car front, it was quite an eye opener. Frankly, I only
recognized about 25 percent of the vehicles on the road.
Interestingly, there were many brands I was
familiar with, but at one point in time or another they disappeared from our
roads Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Alfa Romeo and Renault, just to name a few. Of
course, there were Fiats everywhere, along with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the
like. Then, there were the ones I had never seen here Skoda, Lancia, Rover and
Seat. Most were fairly unremarkable, but some of them caught my eye.
Then, of course, there were the offerings from
our domestic manufacturers. The surprising thing was that most carried
different nameplates than their stateside counterparts. Some were models that aren’t
even available here. Some were very stylish but also seemed practical. Most
day-to-day vehicles seemed to be diesels and sticks.
The last category is the fun one. Of course, it’s
the high performance group. Frankly, I’ve never seen so many top,
high-performance vehicles on the road for everyday driving. There were many
Ferraris and Lamborghinis sporting around in everyday situations. I stopped
counting Audi R8 Cabriolets. Likewise, Aston Martin Vantage and DB-7s in convertible
form were pretty common. Matte finish seemed to be the new great thing. I’m a
big gloss guy, but I will say that a red Ferrari is still pretty breathtaking,
even in matte.
Check out the black Ferrari in the photo here. I
found it parked in the dropoff lane at the airport baggage claim. I don’t know
about you, but in the unlikely event that I find myself as a Ferrari owner, I
highly doubt you’ll find me parallel parked at baggage claim.
Bringing all this home to us, I looked around for
repair facilities. Some were certainly better than others. Dealers had fairly
up-to-date facilities, but when you got into the older cities, working
conditions deteriorated rapidly. I saw many a tech under a car on the ground
with a floor jack supporting the vehicle. And there were lots of vehicles being
worked on in the streets on the ground, of course.
What struck me was the stark contrast of
outstanding vehicles with the rather crude or ill-equipped repair facilities.
Not to say they were all lacking, but the majority would classify as a C or D
shop over here. Again, one more reason to be thankful we’re part of this great
country and economy.
While the elaborate train system in Europe is a
marvel, I wouldn’t trade it for the flexibility provided by our
I hope to see you at AAPEX!