First published 2011-05-30
K.A.R.R. – Knight Rider 1982
While K.I.T.T. was everybody ‘s favourite 1982 sentient robotised boy-scout Pontiac Firebird that spent its days ferrying about an extremely blow-dried David Hasselhoff from one big-haired 1980’s booty call to another, K.A.R.R. was quietly brewing up unadulterated evil.
In a story closely mirrored six years later by Star Trek: TNG’s story arc featuring Data the android and his evil, earlier prototype ‘brother ‘, Lore, KITT is found to be the second, improved version of its type, a refined edition with one major feature removed.
Like Lore, KARR was almost too perfect in its human interface, having been given human-like levels of self-preservation as a primary directive above all else; something that manifested itself in a Tom Cruise-level of homicidal narcissism.
KARR is initially introduced though as naïve, almost child-like in its intentions. When sprung from storage and activated by a pair of crooks, it doesn’t require a lesson from Johnny 5 for KARR to realise that capture will result in certain disassembly.
After some hi-jinks and crime at the behest of the crooks, KARR and KITT face off against each other in a game of chicken. With KITT ‘s primary directive to protect human life and KARR ‘s to save its own arse, KARR swerves at the final moment, but in an intensely atypical error of judgement for an AI built in 1982, its move send it careening off a cliff and into the water, exploding upon impact for no discernible reason.
Episode ends. Fade to black.
All is quiet until KARR is washed up on a beach after spending two years seething with rage at the bottom of the ocean. No longer concerned with saving its own skin, its primary directive is to gain certain revenge on its smarmy younger brother and KITT ‘s pesky, blow-dried, handler.
After much stalking, scanning and turbo-boosting, KARR is vanquished in spectacular and completely realistic fashion when both KARR and KITT repeat the same face off as two years prior, but this time with KARR not flinching, causing them to impact at speed.
KITT survives intact; as is want to happen when KITT is hit by anything less than the fucking moon, while KARR, perhaps as a result of two years immersed in salt water or perhaps out of pure insanity, simply blows up.
…until his reappearance in a re-boot that will not be recognised in the house of the Garage of Awesome.
Mazda Bongo – Mad Max 1979
George Miller‘s legendary opus to a dystopian, violence-ravaged future ruled by oil (hmmmm…) stars many awesome cars. Words aplenty worldwide have been dedicated to Mad Max‘s Interceptor; for many years international audiences struggled to identify its make and model at all and following the advent of the information superhighway, enthusiasts were quickly able to Google up that shit and work it out; it‘s a tuff-as-balls Australian Ford Falcon coupe.
Sure, they’re fairly rare by today‘s standards and original or restored items command big bucks, but there was a car in that movie that is now rarer than almost any Aussie Falcon you care to name and needless to say, it was destroyed.
During the film ‘s first chase sequence, the Nightrider (a psychotic madman; no relation to the previous entry) had stolen a Holden Monaro Main Force Patrol (MFP a.k.a. police) car. With members of the MFP giving chase, things were about to get soundly hectic.
Needless to say, preservation of doe-eyed, rear-engined, early Japanese vans was low on the priority list for both the boys from Main Force Patrol and director George Miller.
George’s own little Bongo, bought with funds he scraped together from his earliest days as an emergency room doctor was soundly turned to mincemeat by Max ‘s colleague, The Big Bopper.
The van didn‘t even look half-bad in the 0.4 seconds it appeared onscreen before it was turned to scrap and now the first generation Mazda Bongo, thanks to a combination of rust and the penchant for catching fire, are incredibly rare worldwide.
And there‘s one less thanks to George Miller.
Lazer 917 GT – Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo 1977
Herbie‘s reputation as an improbable giant-killer on the race tracks of the USA and Europe appeared well justified; he optimised the plucky underdog, the ‘little engine that could‘.
Suffice to say, this was probably as far from reality as it could possibly be. Volkswagen Beetles, however robust, were never renowned for their wheel standing ability or their sentience.
With his second outing in 1977‘s ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo’, Herbie falls in love with a Lancia, smuggles a stolen diamond in his gas tank and faces off against a Lazer 917 GT.
Porsche’s mighty 917 race car took the top spot at Le mans in both 1970 and 1971, could hit 100km/h in 2.3 seconds, topped out around 390km/h and was one of the few cars that could give Steve McQueen a bar-up he could slice a loaf of bread on. Like many popular race cars (AC Cobra, Ford GT40, et al), the Porsche 917 was often copied by kit-car makers, using various bases and with varying levels of awesome.
Ironically, the feared Lazer 917 GT driven by the nefarious Bruno von Stickle (pronounced; von SSCCHIKLE) utilised mostly Volkswagen Beetle components in its floor pan and drive line, probably making it a closer match to Herbie that it outwardly appeared.
Despite the distinct possibility that the entire vehicle had the power and handling of an ice cream scoop, the striking looks of the Lazer 917 GT were undeniable. That slippery 917-shape coated in uber-tuff German-spec black, red and yellow war paint, those massive, deep-dish 1970’s alloy wheels and von Stickle’s giant mustache all combined to make it appear to be the most supreme example of Aryan engineering since the Silver Arrow Benzes of the 1930’s.
Sure, Herbie was cute and has a catchy theme song, but if any car could win a race by driving upside down on the ceiling of a tunnel, the Lazer 917 GT is a more likely proposition than Hitler ‘s Revenge, that was essentially styled by melting ice near a fan and seeing what happened.
Sadly, the hero of the day, underdog or otherwise is always the one who wins races in Hollywood (Cool Runnings notwithstanding), however when contemplating which of the race cars we‘d want to make into a Matchbox car or build in our garage, we know on which side of Germany our bread is buttered.
The Awesome side.