Early May 2020. He has been tossing and turning all night in frustration. A couple of months previously he had purchased a two-year-old Porsche 911 in the UK and had only been stopped twice on the drive to Malta. He had happily paid the exorbitant speeding fines.
Arriving here, he stepped up for the first registration tax, which was roughly the same as he had paid for the car. It is rumoured that in the hallowed offices of Transport Malta, this is referred to as the ‘penis extension tax’. But he didn’t care. He planned to go to Sicily every two weeks with his buddies to drive like hooligans. And now he couldn’t even get to Gozo!
His body and mind suddenly twitch with an adrenalin rush. Its 5 am on a Sunday, and he has an idea. Without waking his wife, he grabs a coffee and a shower and calls a friend in the next village, who agrees to the plan. Thirty minutes later, he picks his buddy up in the Porsche, and they head for the roundabout at the top end of St Paul’s bypass.
In between time, they have another friend make sure that the Police are in place with the radar gun. Subduing the pent-up frustration is worth far more than three points and a sixty euro fine. They know roughly where the speed trap is, and the aim is to get clocked at 200 KPH.
There is no traffic. The Porsche accelerates up the hill, sliding first through the right-hand corner, then the left, before climbing like a bat out of hell along the relatively straight two-lane highway. Both the driver’s and passenger’s hands are sweating, and their hearts are beating like steam hammers. As the white car flashes through the speed trap, the speedo is showing 201 KPH. They howl with joy, then slow down for the cops waiting for them at the other end of the road. Two Police bikes with sirens blaring and lights flashing escort them to the side of the road.
They sit in the car, hands trembling, waiting for their heartbeat to get back to a normal level. And they are also waiting for that precious slip of paper that will prove to their friends that they were the first car in Malta to get clocked at 200 KPH. The cop walks over and hands them the printout—193 KPH. Suddenly the joy is replaced by a sour taste in the mouth. The Porsche’s speedo had been optimistic.
Fun on Route to Fontainbleau
Flashback to 1989. I’m working in Paris at the Aston Martin importer. One of our customers had his V8 Vantage sent back to the factory for an engine upgrade. The car was already a beast, but it had come back a monster. The owner had an apartment in Paris, and a house in Fontainebleau, fifty kilometres outside of the capital. We met up at 5 am to take the Aston to Fontainebleau, where he wanted me to bring another car back to Paris for him. I drove the car out of the dealership, and he was waiting for me. He immediately jumped into the passenger seat and told me to drive.
We cruised around the ring road, enjoying the sound of the exhaust popping and banging in the tunnels, then slipped onto the autoroute. The monster was rearing to go, but I kept to the speed limit as we cruised through the Paris suburbs at 130 KPH. As we reached the countryside, I glanced at the owner, and he nodded. I floored the loud pedal, and the caged animal burst out of captivity. 200 was on us like a flash, so I levelled out. The owner said ‘let’s see what she’ll do’. I pushed down on the pedal again, 220, 240, 260. The cars on the inside lane seemed like they were coming backwards at 150 KPH. At 280 I bottled out and dropped back to an easy 200. We were both sweating, and our hearts were racing.
Possibly a Hoodlum
Back to that day in early May. It was 10 am, and I’m driving up the coast road with a friend in my 1954 Salmson. I haven’t owned it for long, and so far have taken it fairly easy, but the time had come to put it through its paces. There were no Police at the Bahar-Ic-Caghaq roundabout, so I put the pedal to the floor. The road up to Quara is deceptively difficult with fast but tricky corners. There is no traffic, and the sixty-six-year-old girl springs to the task, the twin-cam engine screaming. We cut through the corners on the limit, and at one point, the speedo is showing 120kph. A modern 1600cc BMW could have gone faster, but this is pure fun that the driver of a modern car will never experience. Like the driver of the Porsche, I had lockdown frustration. Was I behaving like a hoodlum? Perhaps.