Bermuda(1) is a strange and gorgeous place where the two lane roads weave so close to the flowering hibiscus you could reach out and touch the petals, where speed limits are dictated by the winding topography more than any metal sign. The buses stop at wooden sticks painted in florescent pink or blue that are hammered into the ground alongside arbitrary stretches of grass that always smell like a mix of rain and low tide. Years from now I will remember it as the most sensory place I have ever been.
The peculiars of British colonization add to the sense that its existence is purely fantasy. Cars drive on the left; steering wheels are on the right. You’ll remember pulling out of a driveway, but you’ll forget when there’s a dog in the driver’s seat of a moving car. But before all that, while the plane was still hurdling toward the tiny dartboard of an island in the middle of the Atlantic, there was no mistaking my excitement to see some real foreign cars on my first international trip in over a decade.
But it’s not trying to see just any car, you know? It’s fun to gawk at the hundreds of Mazda Bongos and Peugeot 206’s (none of who used low-beams, apparently the BMW 3-Series owners of Bermuda), but we want more than to see the unusual offerings of foreign lands. We always want the fast cars. We could be standing on the side of the road, but we’re still ready to point and applaud as if the Tour de France peloton were passing through whenever we see them.
If you read Jalopnik then you know that feeling – the feeling of going fast. Maybe it was when you were young and stupid, maybe in the car you “borrowed” from your dad and maybe spun into a mailbox trying to drift it. Maybe it was a minivan - it doesn’t really matter. You went fast then, because fast is a state of being. It’s an emotion: “boy, I am really going fast.” We cheer for the fast cars because of how they make us feel. I wanted to find the fastest one.
After four days of searching, the strongest contenders included an immaculate cherry red Renault Clio 2.0 RS and one of my personal favorites: a TRD Yaris RS (a.k.a., Vitz). “I’m sorry, I thought you just said a Toyota Vitz was the fastest car on the island.” Well, leaving aside the government-imposed 2.5L maximum displacement, and the “boy I hope you’re sitting down for this:” 75% to 150% import tariff on new cars, it took under a day to realize the longest stretch of flat road on the whole island was a whopping 0.6 miles long, with no-argument 25mph corners on both ends. Doesn’t seem conducive to going fast, yet at the same time, those same Mazda Bongos could be at speed and careen around those corners on 3 wheels – if that many.
So it’s ironic, as we scoff at Neon SRT-4’s while we whip our Focus RS’s around vacant little league diamonds, or obliterate the pleading disagreements of air-cooled Porsche owners with our Challenger Hellcats, there isn’t really a car that’s capable of going “fast” in the first place, because a car can’t tell whether it’s going fast or not. It’s a machine. Calling a car “fast” is akin to calling a beer “drunk”: beer gets us drunk as cars get us fast (though not at the same time.) When we say a car is “fast” what we are really saying is “this vehicle can make me feel like I am really going fast.”
I was the latest tourist to have such an epiphany while using the only transit rentable to visitors, answering my earlier question somewhere around 65km/h, downhill, in the rain, about 2 hours after sunset, mashing the brakes until I was certain the line would spew all over the road as I tried to avoid the patch of wet sand I mistook as dry asphalt. The fastest vehicles on the island of Bermuda are the most numerous, with drivers the most clueless, with identical fairings and baskets and giant red RENTAL stickers on the sides:
The fastest vehicle on Bermuda are the 50cc mopeds.
(1)This was one of the clips I submitted for Doug’s vacancy. Seemed like a shame to have this go to waste. As part of my cover letter, I suggested that a way to bring in new people and increase the cult of Jalopnik is doing articles that are car-centric but not “about cars.” Find a way to approach features that don’t rely on any prior automotive knowledge – even less than what Doug’s did - and this is the time to try it because his writing and impact cannot be immediately replaced. This was what I proposed as an example. And while I never fancied myself a front-runner, I did enjoy applying and thinking about my writing a little differently.