Monday, July 23, 2007

The TICO Taxi

Here in Arequipa, there are two common modes of transportation. The first is by bus and the second is by taxi. This post will cover taxis with a subsequent post covering the buses.

The majority of the taxis here in Arequipa are made my Daewoo. The model is called Tico and the following is a description of a typical Arequipenian Tico Taxi.

Body: Also known as lunch box or coffin. The rumor is that the designers sketched out the original Tico on a napkin and told the factory to make it that size with out enlarging anything else... much to the chagrin of the rest of humanity. Extensive work was put into engineering paperthin doors that hing on leather straps. Ticos are a moncoque construction so that in the event of a crash the pop can like sheet metal will evenly fold around the occupants leaving a mold of the driver and passengers.

Engine: Again, scaled measurements were taken from the original Tico napkin and a transverse mounted engine with less displacement than a liter of Coke was installed under the hood. The engine is mated to what is purportedly an Honda 125 motorcycle transmission.

Transmission: With the gearing of a Peterbuilt tractor trailer, top speeds of 35 MPH can be reached in seconds as the driver madly races through the 5 speed gear box. This is quite a feet as the 3 pedals on the floor are wedged impossibly between the front left wheel well and center console. Do not try this with size 10 shoes or more than 1 pedal will be depressed.

Gauge cluster: The most unimportant thing in a Tico. The majority of speedometers do not work but they have a range up to 120 MPH even though I have never seem one go faster than 40 MPH. No temperature gauge as the engine is supposedly air cooled. There is a gas gauge but that is always on "E" anyways. I have stopped at numerous gas stations in a Tico only to have the driver ask for 4 Soles worth of gas... the rough equivalent to 0.25 gallons!

Dashboards: No one knows for certain the exact color of a Tico dashboard. All dashes are covered with some type of custom made dust shield, knit cloth, rag, or curring llama pelt. The dash is also the place to display ones prized possessions of stuffed animals, 1990 World Cup plastic figurines, Virgin Marie amulet, and stings of prayer beads which passengers exercise vigorously into a high shine.

Exhaust: No Tico is complete with out a 6-inch exhaust outlet. Whether made of chromed metal tubing or PVC plastic house piping, all Ticos sound as though they are worth a million buck when in reality the only million thing about them is cracks in the front windshield.

Spoiler: Due to the excessive speeds of most taxis, the rear spoiler comes in very handy for puting more down force on the rear wheels and taking away downforce from the front drive wheels. Spoilers also double as hand holds for passengers that were not able to fit inside the Tico.

Ground effects:You would think that starting with a ground of clearance of 4 inches most drivers would be satisfied with the already "low rider" stance of their cars. However, it is evident that many divers take particular glea in leaving behind fiberglass pieces of ground effects, exhaust pipes, and mufflers every time a Tico summits a speed bump.

Seat belts: ?

Front seat: Ostensibly believed to have the most leg room, the occupant of this seat is also the first to be hit by other Ticos, Buses or other large immovable objects which the driver ferociously tries to avoid.

Rear seat: The first people to hit the back of the front seat occupants in the event of a crash. Prior experience with the fetal position and alternating breathing techniques are a must for rear seat passengers.

Roof rack: Used to carry eveything from bed mattreses to 20 foot lengths of rebar.

Wheels: I did not know they made 10 inch rims but evidently they do. Thankfully spares can be had at any motorcycle or reputable bicycle shop. Again, customization of hub caps is another way drivers choose to express themselves. Anything from Spinners to hypnotic spiral designs are employed to give the drivers every conceivable edge.

Horn: An inoperable horn is valid reason to scrap a Tico. Drivers divide their time equally between breathing and honking the horn as if it were some vodo talisman that has the capability of parting traffic and changing red lights to green.

Have a nice ride!


Linda said...

Oh my Dave! You had fun with this one!! And, you added to my already overly active imagination concerning all of my safety concerns for my firstborn in Peru!! :>) Then I just have to remember Suriname and know I survived that.....

Kenrick said...

Hey Dave, wow this was a REALLY funny post. I especially liked "the back seat". Corrie Mantell is actually here in San Diego and we're meeting up for dinner with her husband tomorrow night, wild huh?

I tried posting a comment before and I thought it worked, but I don't see it anymore. :( hope you're doing well, we're praying for u!

Post Scriptum said...

I know my comment is almost 5 years late, but I am here to do some justice to the poor Tico.
I enjoyed the irony, but there are some things that need clarification.
The original Tico was actually a Suzuki Alto. Daewoo did nothing to improve it. There is a temperature gauge and no, the engine is not air cooled.
Surprisingly, the car can do 80 mph. I drove one to test it for myself. It's almost like riding a four wheeled motorbike. The total lack of safety devices, airbags, ABS or EBD is certain to create adrenaline rush.
The only risk you're facing is that if you hit a dog, it might end up in the passenger seat and bite you.
Other than that, Tico is a great car. I wonder why they stopped producing it. (joking, of course).