Monday, 15 January 2018

Born to be fast, loud and on the move

This story was originally published on in 2010 

            Laszlo Zappador was born in a car. Not in a car park, not at the roadside, but in the back seat of a rattling Fiat 126 that was racing at 80 miles per hour from Gyor to Budapest. It was the 19st of May 1989 and Laszlo's mother, who was 17 at the time and single, was hitchhiking to the capital of Hungary when her labour suddenly sped up. It was a kick start that would determine the rest of his life.
            "I think about my mother a lot," says Laszlo, "especially on days like today. I'm turning 21 today and I hope she would have been proud of me. I've got my driving licence, have owned 8 cars in total, have lived in four different countries and I'm still a virgin. I really try to live my life in her honour and make her dreams come true because she didn't have enough time to do so. Don't you think it's sad she never went abroad, not even on a holiday? She hated Hungary, hated it so much... yet she never got to see another country."
            When I ask Laszlo how she died, he picks up a star spanner from the floor and starts polishing off the grease with his t-shirt. For a whole minute, the workshop is quiet except for the sounds of running engines in the back.
            "Nobody knows what really happened," he finally says. "I was six at the time, and all I remember is that one afternoon, she didn't come to pick me up from school. She'd run away from her family when she was expecting me, so at first, I was afraid she was running away from me too. Because she didn't have very honourable jobs in Budapest, she never introduced me to any of her friends either. There was no one I could ring, no one I could go to, so my teacher took me home with him. The next day he found out from the police that she had been ran over by a car with no licence plates. That was the first time I decided to go abroad. I didn't even have a passport; can you imagine what I was up against?"
            He puts the now shiny star spanner in a toolbox and runs his fingers through his greasy hair. "The struggle never ends. Even for an experienced driver like me, it's hard to find cheap car insurance because I'm young and a foreigner. But when I was 14 years old, I had won the national go-kart championship twice and was noticed by a coach. He helped me move to Germany, where I learned to drive on real racing tracks."
            "I was very good. Experts started to compare me to Kimi Raikkonen. But in 2007, I fell ill. Depression, emotional blockage, that sort of thing. I'd never dealt with my mother's disappearance, hadn't even been to her funeral. And all of a sudden, I started dreaming I was driving the car that hit her. I couldn't get in a car anymore without breaking into a sweat. I thought I needed a change of scenery, so I moved to Amsterdam. I joined a community of artists living in a large squat, but soon started to miss cars. Especially the sound of the engine and the wheels on the tarmac. I didn't have my licence yet, so I wasn't allowed to drive outside official tracks but I bought my first car there, anyway. A red Nissan Sunny from 1994."
            "Inspired by the people that surrounded me, I started to see the car as a piece of art. Not a very nice one – she was decrepit and rusty – but she had potential. The first thing I did was replace her wheels with massive, round speakers. I put several microphones in and around the engine, the exhaust, the emergency break and the gearstick. I connected all of these to a switchboard with separate volume control switches and voila: my first sound machine. I performed at several squat parties and sold the Sunny Sound for € 6500, more than six times as much as I paid for it."
            His pale complexion lights up when he shows me the pictures of his first car. "I believe the Dutch lad that bought her still gives the occasional concert. Someone sent me a bootleg recording the other day. Bloody amazing. But Holland was too small for me, and I couldn't get the hang of that silly language. So I spent my money on a ticket and flew to England. I've just managed to sell the Roaring Rover for £60,000 and am now working on a Clamourous Cadillac."

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