That's How It Started - Part I
October 2003

The 6th Anniversary of AutoZine has slipped away silently last month. I took this opportunity to look back what I have done. Browsed through the "Inspiration" section, I am amazed how I could write those interesting articles. If I were to write now, I’m afraid I could not write this good. Sometimes the accumulation of experience isn’t necessarily good. Observing as an outsider, a freshman may bring better idea. Also, when you spent too much time immersing in the sea of automotive information, you will get tired and lost. That makes me miss the years when the automotive world was fresh to me.... 

I can’t remember how I started getting in love with cars. It seems that before my first reading of car magazines I was already interested in cars. I have a few matchbox model cars, the earliest one as I remember was a De Tomaso Mangusta, when I was about 4. Of course, as a kid I knew nothing about its identity or Giugiaro or Ford 289cu V8. The basic instinct of all boys and men just told me it looked awesome, and then I love it. Just as simple as that. 

As my poor family and relatives didn’t own any cars, my contact with cars was limited to "eye-contact". One day, a very low, very sleek red car flashed in front of me. "Ferrari !!!" my elder brother shout. Since then, I knew those low, sleek and red things are called Ferrari. But that logic doesn’t work sometimes, as a few years later I found my classmate confused a red MR2 with Ferrari. He insisted the "low, sleek and red thing" must be a Ferrari. 

I think I was quite lucky to live in the countryside of Hong Kong. My house was just beside the road to country park, where many expensive cars passed through during weekends and Sundays. Without money to buy TV games, I and my younger brother usually spent a Saturday or Sunday afternoon watching cars at the balcony. We learned how to distinguish the exhaust note of a 911 Carrera, 911 Turbo and 928. But I was more interested in rarer cars. Whenever I saw Ferrari, Maserati, Alpine GTA, TVR and Lamborghini I would get excited, noted down in my record sheets. The rarest one I saw was probably a 650hp Koenig Ferrari 512BB Twin-Turbo, only 4 units existed then. The one I saw had just competed in the Macau supercar race a week ago.  

Talking about racing, we were usually disturbed by illegal street racing. In most Saturday nights, local people raced their outdated but converted Corolla, Celica and Civic on the road in front of our house. So loud that everybody woke up at mid-night. But one day the storming noise arrived at early morning of Sunday. From my bed I heard it was a 911, then another 911, then.... I rushed to the balcony and saw a "millionaire street racing" ! a dozen minutes later these cars came back - still in racing - a 911 Turbo in front, followed by a classic 911 RS 2.7, then a Carrera, a 935-style slant-nose Turbo, a 944 Turbo, a red Lamborghini Countach QV, a red and a white Ferrari Testarossa, a 308 or 328 GTB.... the last one was a Mazda 323 4WD 1.6 Turbo. They had just passed through a police station but no one stopped them. That’s an exciting morning, anyway.

From this supercar race I learned something: 1) in real world Porsche 911 is quicker than those big Lamborghini and Ferrari. 2) The 911 RS 2.7 - born in the same year as I was - was something unusual. Or maybe its driver was superior. Of course, now I know the answer is the former.

Apart from near the main road, my house was also very close to a garage doing restoration of classic cars. It was owned by a British guy and we knew some of its staffs. There were a lot of Jaguars and MG parked outside the garage, but my favorites were the E-Type and Lotus Esprit S1. I loved their pure shape. You don’t need a preacher like Chris Bangle to tell you how beautiful they are. Everybody can tell their beauty by simply basic instinct. Today’s cars can never replicate their success.  

When you know little about cars, everything seems so interesting because a piece of new continent is lying in front of you for exploring. The same cannot be said today....

Mark Wan

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