Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Car Guy vs The Tyrants

I always get my copy of Autoweek a little bit later than most folks due to the horrific performance of the US Postal Service here in the uber-blue city of Chicago (hey, maybe we could give the USPS a hand in running national health care!). I was reading the May 28th edition when I came across this fantastic article by Steve Thompson. Actually the magazine had been sitting open on my desk for a few days and the title "Freedom in a Ferrari" sounded like just another tale of driving the latest prancing horse around the environs of Maranelo Italy. Boy was I surprised. It is an article about a chance encounter, actually a meeting of the eyes and the minds, of two car guys in Budapest Hungary circa 1980. At the time Hungary was a Soviet satellite ruled by communist dictator János Kádár.

Mr. Thompson was driving through Budapest with his government "guide"* when he spied a man outside of a "grim, Stalin era block of apartments" washing his car, a Lada. The most unusual thing about the Lada was the fact that the guy had car magazine photos of all sorts of cool cars, including a Corvette glued to his car. Now Ladas were crappy little Russian cars (a 1978 1500 is pictured above) that were forced upon the celebrated communist worker; but it was still a car. If you don't have a car a Lada is just fine, however that man's protest reminded him and showed his neighbors that other cars, in some cases unimaginable cars were out there in the great big world outside of Hungary. Mr. Thompson and the Lada owner caught each other's eye and waved as Thompson drove by in his rented Fiat, inspiring Thompson to observe twenty-seven years later that the car photos "were a declaration of war against the tyranny that demanded that he work hard for the state and not for himself and his family, in order to own not the cars he dreamed about but the car some bureaucrat decided he and his countrymen were to be allowed to own."

Thank you Mr. Thompson. Read the entire article, it is short and worth it.

Many thanks to the wonderful Dr. Sanity and her Carnival of Insanities for inclusion again this week.

*At the time Westerners, especially Americans were closely followed by regime operators whenever they traveled inside of the Soviet bloc in order to keep the truth about western economies at bay and the truths about their own countries from the world.

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