Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Chocolate Eating Day!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. College work appeared just when I thought it was over...

Lindor is officially the best-tasting chocolate...... In The World.
Christians might call this day "Easter", Pagans might have called it "Ostara" before the Christians nicked it, the Internet uses this weekend to post either rabbit-based soft porn or a captioned picture joking about Jesus taking 3 days to respawn, but it actually serves a wider purpose that almost everybody appreciates and most non-religious people take advantage of. To that end, I hope you've all had a Happy Chocolate Eating Day today! I myself swapped the usual Cadbury egg for this smaller, more expensive, better-tasting Lindor egg. Gorgeous chocolate on the outside and strange soft-but-solid chocolate-like stuff on the inside (in the little ones, that is), it was delicious!

Of course, the last month or so has also been Creme Egg season, and that once again made me think of a toy car I had when I was little. It was a Creme Egg Car (although I called it a van) that Cadbury's used to have a fleet of to drive around in busy areas and sell their wares, similar to Red Bull using Minis with an oversized dummy can on the back of what became a pickup-style body. Thinking about it now, I'd like to buy a Red Bull Mini and take the can and stickers off before maybe stretching the wheelbase a little and having a BMW Mini Pickup. The problem with this plan (aside from lack of funds, etc.) is that I would of course have to buy a BMW 0-Series, and I don't like them. Anyway, the Creme Egg van.

Here's a picture of one just like mine, produced by Corgi. At 1:64th scale, it's about the same size as a real egg, except slightly bigger and harder to unwrap. Any doors it might have could not be opened, so its innards have been a mystery to me for all this time. Did the tail end open up to reveal many Creme Eggs? Were the headlights hidden? Could it drive itself? Well no, it was push-powered. Besides, with two live axles, no discernible suspension and no steering, it would have been a bugger to drive anyway. But did it ever exist in real life? Or was it just a way of making small children always want their Mummies and Daddies buy a tasty Creme Egg?

A year or two ago, I actually saw one driving around. Hurrah! There's a real, working one! It was like seeing Thomas The Tank Engine steam past at a level crossing. Most likely in private hands as Cadbury stopped using them a while ago, it had more in the way of exterior lighting than the toy (small plastic lights might break off and get swallowed, I suppose) and a handy door (middle of the left-hand side) to aid ingress and egress, as well as the equally helpful addition of a suspension system (the rear springs are visible in the bottom picture). Since then, I've been satisfied just knowing they exist, but this year I've looked into this obscure oddity...

It turns out to be little more than a re-bodied Bedford Rascal/Suzuki Super Carry, and because the body is somewhat bigger than the Rascal's, it's probably a lot heavier. Not good for performance considering the tiny engine, but then it's only designed to loiter around in public places. As long as it goes, stops and steers, it'll do. But that doesn't mean we can't snigger at its pathetic performance figures anyway. Power comes from an Immense 970cc OHC Straight-4 engine creating a Thunderous 44bhp and an Earth-Shattering 55lb/ft of torque. This allows the Creme Egg Car to reach a Blistering top speed of 30mph or so, which it can reach from standstill in a Mind-Blowing 9.5 seconds. 0-60 rather depends on the length and gradient of the hill you're coasting down in neutral to get there, and frankly I wouldn't trust the brakes in that situation if they're only designed to slow down from 30 or so. That tall, egg-shaped body may or may not be aerodynamically stable at 60mph, and any Richard Hammond attempts to do a Scandinavian Flick will most likely result in a) Tragedy, or b) Rolling for hours, which is like a), but more vomit-y. Needless to say, you'd soon be scrambled. Fnar.

Because I've never seen a real one for very long (the above picture is not mine), I don't know how much space there is in the back for storing Creme Eggs, so I don't know if it's worth pining after one. It would be cool to say I had one, but it doesn't seem particularly nice to drive. The description from the Beaulieu Motor Museum doesn't reassure me:

"Using a Bedford Rascal van chassis, they were each fitted with a fibreglass body and a single gull-wing door for access. The headlights [and mirrors] were of Citro├źn 2CV origin, the windscreen wipers from commercial vehicles, and the wide split screens gave a nice panoramic view. The curvature of the bodywork meant that the drivers’ foot pedals required realigning, making the cars very difficult to drive."

Clearly then, this is only any good as a novelty advertising tool, and is not recommended over a regular Bedford Rascal or Suzuki Super Carry upon which it's based. That doesn't subtract from its weird charm though. Admit it, this would put a smile on your face if you saw one, even if you don't like Creme Eggs or hadn't owned the toy. How many egg-shaped cars have you seen? It's just cool for being so strange, which I think makes it fitting that the lights and mirrors are from an old Citroen. I think they should bring them back. Because it need only go 30mph, a 21st-Century version could even be electric. Just don't base it on a G-Wiz......

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