Marietta’s cars

PETER SCHINDLER ON THE PLEASURES OF DRIVING

 

Peter Schindler is Founder and Managing Director of On the Road Experiences

— the celebration of feeling free —

From Peter Schindler, On the Road: Driving Adventures, Pleasures and Discoveries (On the Road Editions, 2005) pp. 3-5

I have never once failed to enjoy myself driving, at any time of day, in any season, on any kind of surface – hot or wet tarmac, gravel, and especially snow – and in any country. In fact, I’ve had some of the best times of my life on the road. Some pleasures have gone, others may have changed, yet others I’ve discovered along the way. My passion for driving is as hot as ever.

Iceland | Photo: Maksim Tarasov

Driving has made me feel free and relaxed, and able to live life to the fullest. When I drive an open road toward the horizon, I quickly forget my daily worries; the distance beckons me with the promise of something new, different and previously unexplored. By giving me the choice to turn left or right, to go straight or to stop for a rest, driving puts me in control, as I rarely am, it makes me unencumbered and adventurous.

Montana, USA | Photo: Caleb Whiting

Driving quenches my thirst for motion, no less than when I ski, skate, or surf and my body leans and bends to maintain balance – but in far more comfortable, safe and indulgent surroundings. This gets to the heart of my driving pleasure: I can observe life and participate in it, both at the same time.

Nathan Road, Hong Kong | Photo: Nik Ramzi Nik Hassan

The driving experience also stimulates my senses. The touch of wind as it tousles and whips my hair, the sense of romance as I curve along an ocean road and the nervous excitement as I twist along narrow Alpine roads, the sight of magnificent vistas and amazing cloud formations, the smell of pastures, meadows and forests as I drive by. Not to mention the in-car experience of a stylish cabriolet redolent with the smell of its interior trimmings, embraced by curvaceous seats and the rich sounds of my favourite on-the-road music. All these combine to make me feel special and indulged, and I’ve not changed an iota since I first hit the road.

Herbergalm, Austria | Photo: Paul Gilmore

The obsession with speed and the search for a perfect car have come and gone, now well replaced by new pleasures discovered along the way. Through driving, I’ve even found myself; I’ve learned what makes me tick, what fills me with bliss. Not only that, I now know that I can bring about this state of bliss at just about any time. So long as there is a car and an open road, I can be at one with myself. I’ve turned strangers into friends on the road and had the pleasure meeting people who know how to make much of little. Conversely, because of my encounters with people on the road, I’ve realized that the smaller the differences among us, the larger they tend to loom. I’ve learned about the cultures of other countries, merely by virtue of driving there. Driving for thousands of miles with my future wife also proved an invaluable test of our suitability for marriage. Now, when we have a disagreement , we know that all we need to do to put things right is either get on the road, or get naked. Neither is a disagreeable choice.

Black Forest, Germany | Photo: Lili Kovac

Being on the road has been an adventure and the source of immense pleasure, again and again. First, when I was in my late teens, there was my relentless pursuit of acrobatics on snow and my lusting after sheer speed; then, my infatuation with cars; my love affair with roads; the realization that fulfilment in life depends on what we make out of it; the making of friends; the making of a shared life; discoveries of foreign cultures; and, at last, the celebration of how lovely it is to feel free and unencumbered. All this merely by spending a lot of time on the road. Not bad, especially since it also is a fair approximation to my progression in life.

Woods Canyon Lake, USA | Photo: Brady Cook

PETER SCHINDLER: ON THE ROAD

Basque Country

Peter Schindler, On the Road

New Zealand

LUC FERRY ON THE AUTOMOBILE

Luc Ferry, French philosopher, is the son of Pierre Ferry. Pierre was a racing car driver until the mid-50s, then a car tuner and car designer. The passages below, translated from the French press by Richard Jonathan, are from interviews Luc Ferry gave in 2013 (Classic Courses) and 2015 (Le Figaro).

The most beautiful works of art of the twentieth century are cars and  jets. A Maserati, a Bugatti or a Ferrari are infinitely more beautiful, to my eyes, than a Rothko, a Basquiat or a Picasso. To these painters I far prefer the works of a great designer—a Jaguar Type D, for example, is a marvel. And look at the 2011 exhibition, ‘Speed, Style, and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection’—you see cars that are clearly works of art; there is a blend of technique and beauty, of elegance and efficiency, that is exceptional.

1957 Jaguar XKSS | Ralph Lauren Collection

The great adventure of motoring belongs to the twentieth-century. It will never again have the same charm, the same signification of technological innovation, risk-taking and aesthetic achievement. It’s an adventure which is over. We no longer have cars, we have vehicles. Little islands will remain, but motoring won’t be a great adventure as it was until the 1970s.

1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff  | Ralph Lauren Collection

A car is the crystallization of intelligence, the quintessence of mankind’s genius. It’s hard to beat the intelligence of a well-made engine and a beautifully-designed car. I can spend an hour looking at a Maserati. It’s a grandiose object of contemplation.

Maserati Granturismo | Photo: Krzysztof Kubicki

The Ferraris, Jaguars and Bugattis of the 1950s were conceived as integral objects, in the way a work of art is, by men who were passionate about beauty, who strove for performance, who exalted values such as courage.

1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa | Ralph Lauren Collection

There are still magnificent cars today, but I think technology has put an end to the adventure of motoring. The ineluctable advent of driverless cars means that safety concerns will override the taste for adventure, passion and beauty.

Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster – Designo Edition

CARS IN ‘MARA, MARIETTA’

I. TRIUMPH TR6

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Three Chapter 2

Teardrop sunglasses, a blonde ponytail, a Triumph TR6 with its soft-top down: At the wheel she sits, a girl with a glowing smile, as russet leaves filter golden light and vines slope down to a lake.

̶  That’s near Neuchâtel again. It was the day I got my driving licence.
̶  You learned to drive in a TR6?
̶  Yes. My Dad’s always had sports cars.
̶  No wonder you thread your way through traffic like you do! I bet you were playing with plastic cars in your crib!
̶  Not quite that early! But as a kid my favorite toys were free rollers—you know, Hot Wheels—Mustangs and Camaros.
̶  So you were never into Barbie dolls?
̶  Never. Loop-the-loop and racing, that was my thing!

Gravity and speed, the slope of the free fall: The physics of danger.

1975 Triumph TR6

̶  Just looking at this picture, Sprague, I can feel the warmth in my legs.
̶  The warmth in your legs?
̶  Yes. In the TR6 your legs are right behind the engine. You feel the heat.
̶  So that’s where you got your hot legs!
̶  Yeah, and learned to do a lube job.
̶  And how about bodywork?
̶  On the TR-6 you learn everything. That’s why I liked it, last week, when you said you don’t like perfection…

1975 Triumph TR6

II. MINI COOPER

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part One Chapter 2

Look! In a parking strip before a newspaper kiosk, a woman swings closed the door of a white Mini. Tall beside the squat car, she radiates elegance. The ghost of electricity sifts the moondust in her hair; her boots grind the gravel as she reaches into the car.

Austin Mini | Photo: Ronan Glon

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part One Chapter 6

In your little box car you are in command, the streets of Paris belong to you: Not content to merely go with the flow, you cut a path through the traffic to our destination: Along the quais to boulevard Saint-Germain, then rue de Buci, rue de Seine, and a lucky parking spot on rue Mazarine.

Mini Cooper SE 2019

III. PEUGEOT 205 GTI

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Seven Chapter 1

Nellie was not her name, nor was she anchored in an estuary. Nightfall was not the time, nor autumn the season. No, our vessel was the 205 GTI that you’d bought when you sold your Mini, and as we sped along the highway, hemmed in by the Forêt d’Ermenonville, the winter morning was luminous with our night’s afterglow. Still, as we headed from Paris to Amsterdam, there was a bit of Marlowe in me, and something dark and African.

Peugeot 205 GTI

Oh love, what tender days we had that December! Serene days of separation, wild nights of celebration, days of communion distilled in night’s incorruptible core! How shall I take up our story, how shall I resume? Let’s stay in that sprightly car, let’s regard the horizon from its intimate atmosphere. Are you ready? Clutch up, throttle open: Let’s go!

Peugeot 205 GTI

Instantly the gears engage as you ride the lever through the ratios, leaving the péage behind. A smile lights up your face as the highway opens out.

̶  You like your new car, don’t you?

The silence resounds in affirmation as you cast your glow upon me.

̶  Can’t you just feel it, Sprague—how creamy the engine is? And so torquey!
̶  Torquey?
̶  Yeah, high torque at low RPM. That’s why she’s so nippy coming out of the gate!

Peugeot 205 GTI

IV. MAZDA MX5

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Five Chapter 18

OPEN QUESTION 1: It’s not a Flight de Ville. What is it?

Vroom, vroom! Did you hear that? I’ve got a bright yellow sports car, bright as the one in Written on the Wind. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a clue: It’s Japanese. Another clue: It’s a throwback to the British and Italian sports cars of the sixties…

Mazda MX-5

Well, did you guess? I’ve got a Mazda MX-5, and what joy it is driving it around Otago! The little beast handles brilliantly, changes direction like a go-kart. Her touch is divine—just a nudge on the stick and she shifts. And what a looker! Lean and petite and sexy as hell. Vroom, vroom! You can’t catch me!

Mazda MX-5

V. ALFA ROMEO SPIDER

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Five Chapter 1

Forest trail, blanket of snow; bare trees, druid stone: Forests are sweet when the world does not enter them; there the saint may find his rest. Soft, soft, the back of my fingers along your cheek; subtle, subtle, your lips on my fingertips.

̶ I like your new baby.
̶ Well, if you like this one, you’d love Matteo’s.
̶ What does he have?
̶ An Alfa Romeo Spider!
̶ Did you drive it?
̶ Of course.
̶ And what’s it like?
̶ Pure pleasure!

Alfa Romeo Spider

And thus you came to tell me of how, driving that classic Italian droptop through the twisting roads of the Tuscan countryside, you felt imbued with its power, your double-clutch shifting making its twin-cams purr, your body and its chassis in ecstatic communion. And when you’d had enough of riding through the gently rolling landscape, you’d return winter to its quiescence and enter Matteo’s family hearth.

Alfa Romeo Spider

VI. SAAB 900 16S

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Ten Chapter 3

Morning, pale sunshine, leaving Reykjavik. You’re driving your dream car, a Saab 900 16S, a black three-door hatchback with a tan interior. Again, my little petrolhead, I delight in your pleasure behind the wheel; the car’s traction may secure you to the earth, but the glow of your face says you’re in heaven.

Saab 900 16S Turbo

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Ten Chapter 5

In the cockpit of the Saab you are in command, the radiance of your face lighting up the landscape; forever renewed, your pleasure at the wheel amazes me: You were born to be in motion.

Saab 900, 1986

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Ten Chapter 6

The ergonomics are perfect, everything falls easily to hand: Woman and machine are one as you marry the curves of the coast, threading the car through the mountains. Under your command the Saab is not a bull abiding the yoke, not a stallion sustaining the bit: No, it’s a falcon obeying the falconer, in perfect intelligence: Along the unbarriered cliff it soars with confidence; upon a seaward vista it pauses to perch. And thus to the exercise of power and control you bring elegance and finesse.

Saab 900 16S Turbo

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Ten Chapter 11

̶  I’m looking forward to Reykjavik, Sprague.
̶  Me too! But won’t you miss driving the Saab?
̶  No. I love my MX-5. But I’ll probably miss the Saab’s backwards-sliding bonnet, the key in the floor, the crazy sweep of the windshield-wipers.
̶  You’re a funny woman, Marietta.
̶  Am I? I’ve grown fond of all that. Not to mention how everything behind us gets small very quickly when I shift into high gear!

Saab 900 16S Turbo

MARA, MARIETTA: A LOVE STORY IN 77 BEDROOMS

A literary novel by Richard Jonathan

Available from AMAZON (paper | ebook) & iBOOKS, GOOGLE PLAY, KOBO & NOOK (see LINKS below)

MICHÈLE MOUTON ON WOMEN IN MOTOR SPORT

the greatest female race car driver ever

Michèle Mouton, 1982 runner-up in  the World Rally Championship and the first and only woman to have won WRC races, is generally considered the best female race car driver of all time. The passages below, translated by Richard Jonathan, are from an interview Mouton gave in 2019 to Catherine Jacob, published in Catherine Jacob, Ce qu’elles en disent… (Paris: Editions Pygmalion, 2019).

Michèle Mouton

CARS, BOATS, HORSES: THE ONLY MIXED-SEX SPORTS

Unlike today, when I was starting out there were many female crews [driver and co-driver]. Don’t forget that motor sports, together with sailing and equestrian sports, are the only disciplines where men and women compete against each other. At the beginning of my career, of course, everyone was curious to see what I could do. When I began winning, there were rumours that I was tampering with my engine. The suspicions stopped in 1975, when I won the Tour de Corse, which—with the Monte Carlo rally—was always part of the World Rally Championship. They had a rule that for all the winners, the engines would be checked and the car examined for compliance. My car tested out in perfect compliance and corresponded on every point to the approved model. The rumours stopped, and it was accepted that I was among the fastest drivers. Once the others had the proof that I was winning without any tricks, that my success was due to my abilities alone, I had no trouble whatsoever.

Michèle Mouton, Driver, Team Audi

I was never interested in the mechanics of cars, but I did have a very good ear. Just by the sound, I could interpret how the car was behaving.

Michèle Mouton, Audi Quattro, 1983

Today I no longer have any desire for competition, but if I have an opportunity to drive fast, I take it. A little kick of high speed, just for fun. I have a Porsche Macan, and driving it is pleasure enough for me.

2019 Porsche Macan Turbo

WHY ARE THERE NO WOMEN IN FORMULA 1?

When you analyze the question the situation is quite easy to understand. Think of a pyramid. For men starting out in competition the base is very wide, but at the summit there are only twenty or so world-class drivers. That’s very few. For women starting out, the base is very narrow—women account for only 5% of drivers—so it’s not surprising that there aren’t any at the top. Once they are involved at all levels of motor sport, they will certainly want to push themselves to the top. But we need resources, we need a team. And the right woman with the right car.

Michèle Mouton, Audi Sport TT Cup Final, Hockenheim 2015

At the FIA [Fédération internationale de l’automobile], we’re working hard at it. A major programme has just been launched – a project to select drivers, bringing together eight partner federations. Starting in 2019, we will conduct a Europe-wide selection process, and we hope to attract a larger number of girls. The event will be a go-karting slalom, and it can be held in big parking lots, for example. It will be open to all girls from 13 to 18 years old. Those who have a feeling for racing can go on to bigger things. It’s impossible to say when we’ll have a female Formula 1 driver, but what is certain is that if we do nothing, it will never happen.

Michèle Mouton, Audi Sport TT Cup Final, Hockenheim 2015