I always loved drawing cars, motorcycles and anything with wheels.
My sister-in-law Helena keeps some of my first drawings that I made (aged 3-4 years) in the letters my older brother sent her when they were still sweethearts . Those drawings were invariably of cars, crazy racing stories, influenced by the cartoons “Wacky Races” and “Mach GoGoGo” (she jealously guards those letters in the absurd hope that someday they will have some value, poor little thing!).
Therefore, for someone like me it is a pleasure to illustrate a story written by Ted Rall, in which his characters are always running from one side to the other using all kinds of means of transportation, which he often describes in detail.
If we add that the story takes place in different countries and at different times, as in “The Stringer”, the pleasure of researching, documenting and drawing the appropriate vehicles, borders on lust for me, a maniac of documentation and accuracy.
So, let’s take a look at what we can find in “The Stringer” (in order of appearance in the book):
In the cover, I draw a Land Rover Defender with a lot of life behind it and certainly more than one interesting story to tell. Choosing this model is poetic license, because the quintessential all-terrain vehicle of the Middle East foreign reporters is the Toyota, as we will see later. But I find the Land Rover more beautiful, and it is a kind of tribute to its end of production after 67 years of faithful service.
Let’s go into the story: back in the early 70’s, Mark’s father drives a beautiful, massive, stylish Pontiac Grand Prix.
I would like to think it was the 455 cu in (7.5 L) rated at 310 HP, but I don’t see Mark senior as the wheel-burning type, more of a quiet cruiser. It must have been a pleasure to drive that liner with the V8 purring like a cat.
Fast forward in time: it’s the late 70s – early 80s. Mark enters the paradise of citizens allowed to drive. His girlfriend Patricia drives a white Camaro Z28 with red stripes to break hearts of everyone she comes across (at least mine, if I had crossed paths with her at that time). Mark, meanwhile, rides a fabulous badass Chevy Nova SS.
Anecdote: the Nova was Ted Rall’s first car, as you can see in this photo from his youth, in which Ted tries to convert a sports coupe into a station wagon.
Second anecdote: my first car was my father’s Simca 1200, a French shell rated at astounding 52 hp. It’s certainly not the same…
Patricia’s Camaro did not have a very good life; here it is a few years later, showing its scars, limping through heavy traffic on the freeway.
Ok, cut to the 21st century. In the middle East countries, modern Toyota Hilux from news agencies and NGOs and old Soviet UAZ trucks coexist seamlessly.
The Hilux was also, unfortunately, the preferred car of ISIS, to the point that in 2015 the U.S. government opened an investigation (with the collaboration of Toyota) to discover the origin of the hundreds of Hilux that ISIS used for its movements and attacks. Different explanations: jumps to dealerships in countries in conflict, “disappearances” of shipments in Australian ports, unscrupulous intermediaries…
Further north, bus travel in the former Soviet republics is a catalog of jalopies with millions of kilometers on their backs. Here we can see a LIAZ on a road in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan.
Roads where you can have the most unexpected encounters: for example, a MAZ 537, a prodigious monster from the heyday of Soviet military engineering, towing an old nuclear missile on its way to dismantling.
But it’s not all transportation hardship for Mark. Sometimes he gets around in style, for example in this Mercedes S500, with which he visits a business partner at a former Soviet factory. His partner still drives around in an old UAZ van that we can see parked in the alley.
Mark’s other partners have more budget and move around in better vehicles. And nothing better for a picnic in the dunes than a huge, massive Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6. And if it´s two of them, much better!!
A Lincoln Navigator is not bad either, and is somewhat more discreet, although it requires certain security precautions depending on the country you are in.
But luxury goes out the window when you have to resort to public transport in northern Pakistan. Although the cheerful and extravagant decoration of its buses is quite a spectacle
Anyway, when things get serious nothing like an old and reliable Toyota Land Cruiser, the king of the tough off-roaders ex-aequo with the Land Rover.
A brief parenthesis to better-known places: a Fiat 500, Vespas… which city could it be?
Too bad the Dolce Vita does not last long. Back to the rough roads of northern Afghanistan, where the ditches are overflowing with reminders that the situation is complicated. The ubiquitous Toyota also dominates the cab market in the Middle East, in this case we see a Hiace minivan.
The bandits in these parts have changed the horses for motorcycles. In the foreground, we have a Kawasaki KLE 500 from the first half of the 1990s.
The second one could be a Honda from about the same era. In any case, tough as nails, virtually indestructible and with minimal maintenance, ideal for ISIS blitzkrieg actions.
And this is the end of the automotive review of “The Stringer”, I hope you liked it!