Wednesday, April 25, 2007

DRIVEN

Back in the day, when Shek was a simple Abhishek in his motherland, he didn't have the luxury of a big V6 to play around with. He drove his daddy's eight year old Maruti 800 that had seen good and bad days. Shek learned to drive on that baby, so he respected the 800 like a six year old respects his English teacher at school for teaching him to read and write. Suzuki designed the 800 to be a tiny three cylinder grocery getter econo-hatch. Shek saw it as extension of his body that never felt pain. His dad maintained the car, so Shek didn't feel the financial pain either. Convenient. With the curb weight tipping the scales at a mere 1400 Lbs (650 kg), the 800's 37 bhp is an equivalent power of 93 hp on the Aura. Feels kind of low when the Aura makes over 220 hp but the 800 was a stick shift which made driving all the more fun. Plus, the 800 was built to sustain on Indian road conditions. The GM would fall into pieces if subjected to the abuse of the plethora of port-holes and ten thousand unique speed breakers.

Shek has been spoiled in America, first with his 3000cc 200 hp Mitsubishi Eclipse[
see picture>>], stick shift and everything, and then the 3500cc 224 hp Saturn Aura sports sedan. This is a post about how much he still loves and respects his carburated, old-school 800cc 37 hp Maruti 800.

The Production Engineering course at the Mumbai University is one of the nicest courses to get into if it is a good college. They have compulsory workshop training and a compulsory internship that Fr. CRCE almost provided for. What stuck out like a nail was a Finance Costing Accounting and Economics course. It was only one course in the final semester without any background in finance or accounting what-so-ever. Shek and his classmates had the entire time between November 2003 and April 2004 to finish off a good project with their internship and master the fine art of accounting (money laundering). Hence, Shek joined this accounting class in Borivali with his buddies. Three days a week, Shek drove to Godrej from home, slogged nine hours at Plant 17, picked up his friends form the other plants and drove to Borivali. The class would go on for over two hours. The drive back home was the real cherry on the cake. Here is a map of the route: link


This is just a small picture. Click here to view it on Google maps, zoom in and everything!!

Hitting the Western Express highway, speeding in and out of traffic, every pass made shaved that precious second from the drive time, Shek was always on a rush to beat his last drive time. 92.5 FM would keep company for a while till the street lights disappeared, the traffic thinned, the slope got steeper and the hills took over the scenery. Then, no radio reception, just the stretched whine of the 800 cc engine, slamming through the gears at every curve, negotiated with the accuracy of a brain surgeon, every down-shift perfectly calculated while exiting the many curves on Ghodbunder Road. All 37 horses would echo through the valleys when Shek floored the 800 thought the gears to get all the speed on a straight stretch before jamming the brakes and downshifting for that next curve...or that toll booth with three speed breakers...Rs. 10, would be thrown at the attendant, a receipt thrown back, all under three seconds, then...clutch, second...throttle...bump into third...throttle...fourth..throttle. The upshifts were just perfect, made at the right rev, easing the gears to the next in line with the smoothness of a sine curve and the quickness of a lightning bolt.

Shek's left foot on the clutch, the right on the throttle, the left hand on the shifter and the right hand on the steering wheel worked like a watch in synchronized perfection, his body twitched and shifted with the lateral G's being thrown around, his mind and soul stayed connected with the engine, sharp eyes stayed fixed on the road ahead. He was on a mission, a mission to get every bit out of the 800, feel what it feels like to command 37 horses but the bottom line was to have a good time. There would be an occasional Zen or a Santro, both capable in overtaking the 800, none with drivers that had the skill though. Some speed faster on the straight stretches and overtook Shek only to get crushed by him at the curves. Shek knew all the small pothole infested stretches and knew that exact path with the least bumps,

This constant adrenaline rush married with the cool lazy winds of the Ulhas river was a lethal combination. It kept Shek's mind just cool enough to make sane driving decisions while his blood warmed up enough to jump that extra bound. Speed limit...what speed limit! There was no ABS, ESC, Traction Control messing with the driving experience. Just plain old driving where a driver's skill is everything he's got. Shek ruled those hills for that hour. As he backed into the garage under his building, his mind was in Nirvana, his heart was still beating furiously, his breath heavy and gasping for fresh oxygen to feed those tense muscles, the 800's radiator going at full blast in agreement to his pumping arteries, the air above the engine hood refracting light in the heat, the tires cooling down from the recent abuse and the drum brake pads finally resting. You could almost feel the spent energy lingering in the thick air.

Shek abused (read: enjoyed) his 800 and the drive three days a week, for almost four months. What a year! Now, he indulges into finer automobiles that pack too much power. Too much...wait a minute, more power is ever enough. The old 800 sits in his Thane garage till this day and is accompanied by two new cars to the family. When Shek visits India, which one will he drive? His options: A new Wagon R with the new car smell and everything, a relatively new Indigo and a beaten down 800. Damn right the 800!

You can imagine that there were some equally entertaining drives with Shek's 200 hp Mitsubishi, this time with Octane on Sirius, full leather seats with lateral and lumbar supports, leather steering wheel, leather gear shift knob. None of the drives were on roads good enough to provide the experience of Ghodbunder Road. Moreover, Florida has a flat topography. A road trip is on the cards.

Disclaimer : If you think Shek is a reckless young driver, you are wrong. He is a very mature driver, does not harbor any road-rage and is strongly against drinking and driving. He is not to be interpreted as a speed freak. He loves acceleration and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. He lives his life every day eight seconds from every red light that turns green in front of him. He likes speed too, but refuses to test the prowess of his Aura on public roads because he does not want mistakes to affect fellow passengers and other drivers on the road.

Shek's plans for the 800's come back:

1. Remove the 800cc engine. Time for an upgrade, baby.
2. Put a Zen/Gypsy engine into the engine bay. Hey, they can fit a small block V8 in the Miata's engine bay.
3. Try for a rear wheel drive axle, strengthen the chassis to handle rear wheel drive torque. Shek hates torque steer at the front wheels.
4. Add a 5 speed sequential transmission. Got to have sequential!
5. Add a short shifter
6. Turbo the engine, maybe for 6 psi to 10 psi. I don't know how much a 1000 cc Suzuki engine can take before it blows the manifold up.
7. Add cold air intake and free flow headers.
8. 16 inch wheels in the rear, 15's in the front.
9. Momo steering wheel.
10. Disc brakes of course...all four.
11. Upgraded suspension.

This is Shek's dream. He plans to donate it to a needy organization otherwise.

7 comments:

:) said...

Sheesh..long post.. some of what your wrote was info and the rest Greek!!! :) nevertheless.. interesting!!! :) you really have the patience to write...have a good day

Shek said...

This post is one of my best posts yet. I have enjoyed writing this post more than anything else. I was looking at google maps and saw that they have real detailed maps of Mumbai now. I was also able to draw a route. So, I drew my route and all memories came back.

You can say that I am lightly passionate about cars.

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