The Cars of the Comic – Red 348

Since this comic is based entirely around a boy and his car, it seems only fair to summarise the examples of automotive technology that appear throughout this miniseries of mine.

So, without further ado, here’s a summary of the various automotive gems I’ve redrawn and placed into my comic series, either playing an important role in the plot, or just as background vehicles. Each one has a little description as to what it is, as well as the reason why such a car made it into the story.

1. 1994 Ferrari 348 GTB

the 348

The eponymous hero of our story, the small, illusive but endlessly adorable Ferrari 348 GTB.

The Ferrari 348 was never meant to set the world ablaze, being more just a bridge between the preceding 328 of 1989 and the legendary F355 of 1995. Perhaps the car’s biggest claim to fame is that it began the evolution of the styling that would become the F355; a look which has gone down in the annuls of motoring history as one of the prettiest designs of the modern era.

So, why the 348? Why not something more grandiose like the F355, the 360 Modena or even the brash and insanely powerful F40 or F50?

I think this goes back to my love of the underdog and the 348 is by far one of the underappreciated gems of the Ferrari range. The car wasn’t just a cosmetic overhaul of the 328, there were numerous improvements to the handling, engine tuning, suspension and interior that make this car just was worthy of the Italian Stallion on its nose than any other Ferrari model. The car’s inclusion of smooth Connolly Leather trim in place of the rough racing-style bucket seats of the 328 were the start of the company’s gradual return towards being both a sports car and a luxury car, the first time since the Daytona of the early 1970’s.

While the F40 and F50 were overpowered and over-the-top, the 348 was essentially a continuation of the Daytona’s story; insanely fast but at the same time smooth enough to be called a cruiser. The car’s grippy handling and suspension meant it was perfect not only in straight lines but also on corners; useful features when one considers that most of these machines would be gently drifting down the winding, hairpin turns of the Corniche. What you got with the 348 was essentially a perfect blend of sports car and luxury cruiser, something you’d waft past the admiring crowds with an endlessly smug grin on your face.

Of course in terms of the story, this is exactly what out protagonist Jermaine is purposely trying to avoid. With the car dumped on his doorstep, he’s now tasked with the unenviable task of trying to keep his head down while driving one of the most eye-catching cars in recent history.

The basic premise for the mindset of this story is actually based on my brother.

My brother, who I love very dearly, is the exact opposite to me in pretty much everything; especially when it comes to cars. While I’m someone who appreciates cars both on a technological and an aesthetic level, admiring their stylistic beauty as well as the innovation and design process behind their conception, he basically sees cars as a way of getting from A to B without having to walk or go by bus. It doesn’t matter if it’s fast, stylish, well-equipped or has good street cred, just as long as it gets him where he needs to go efficiently and reliably that’s all that matters.

Naturally, whenever I attempt to point out a fancy sports car to him (usually just to annoy him) his response is more often than not a curt “Shut up Ruairidh, it’s just a car!”

Pretty much, Jermaine’s view on cars is essentially based on that of my brother’s, not caring what the car is, how it performs of what its heritage might be, just as long as it goes.

2. 1995 Ford Scorpio

janko's scorpio

The pride and joy of Janko, the sad-eyed Ford Scorpio is a peculiar choice for a first car, but, in truth, once you get past its horrendous looks, it’s actually not a bad car.

The Ford Scorpio was, internally, a very well equipped, high class machine that could’ve been one of the most desirable executive cars on the market in the mid-1990’s. It had cruise control, electric memory seats, tasteful upholstery, a good stereo, nippy performance and a wonderful, crisp engine that would last forever.

However, in spite of its internal splendour, no one could get past the fact that, both front and back, the car is a dreadful looking spectacle. It’s droopy headlights look like they’ve melted under the piercing glares of passers-by, while the long-strip taillight looks like the protruding lower lip of a petulant child. I realise the car has its followers and many people have come to appreciate its somewhat outrageous styling, sadly I’m not one of them.

I’ll defend this car for its performance and refinements, but that’s about. Actually, I’d honestly love to drive an old Ford Scorpio, as it means that from the inside I can’t actually see its horrid exterior!

So, why does the old Scorpio make it into this series?

Basically because I wanted something different. The thing about this series is the fact that all three of our main characters have unusual cars, either because they look strange or are strange. The Ford Scorpio was a strange car, but not too strange that it would be beyond the reach of the regular car-buying public.

3. 1996 Reliant Robin

mels robin

I’ll be honest, while I’m not a fan of the Reliant Robin for its obvious design flaws (its single wheel being set inexplicably at the front rather than the more logical back), I’d recommend this strange little car to anyone if you want a simple, efficient and cheap little machine that gets you from A to B.

The Reliant Robin was built during a time of major austerity and was quite possibly the most sustainable car Britain has ever built. It may have been slow and had a propensity to tip over, but its small engine meant it was fuel efficient while its fibreglass body meant it would never rust. The biggest party piece of the Robin, however, is the fact that you could save yourself a fortune on paying for a driver’s license as the car only required you to get a motorbike license. For that, you save yourself a ton of cash, but also get a tricycle with a roof and some internal furnishings so you don’t find yourself open to the harsh UK elements.

With that in mind, when we consider the character of Mel, who’s established as being an economical sort of girl, the Robin would make for a perfect first car. Yes, in the image department this car was made famous for being the butt of everyone’s jokes, but if you’re not an image orientated person then the plucky three-wheeler can present you with a viable alternative to a car.

I honestly can’t believe I’m saying these words, but if you’re intending to go for your driver’s test and want a cheap mode of private transport at the end of it, get yourself a late-model Reliant Robin (the one that looks like it stole its headlights from a Metro) and become the talk of the town as you glide around in tripod style! 😀