In many parts of the world, fuel economy has become the gold-standard for cars. But not in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where old gas guzzlers are still prized for their sturdy frames and powerful engines. The World's Marina Giovannelli brings us the story of one such car and its loving owner.
MARCO WERMAN: In many parts of the world fuel economy has become a gold standard for cars, but not in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where old gas guzzlers are still prized for their sturdy frames and powerful engines. The World's Marina Giovannelli brings us the story of one such car and its loving owner.
MARINA GIOVANNELLI: Juan Carlos Lopez stokes his enormous Chevy Impala and then starts it up. It's a green 1980 four door model. Lopez says it's got the original V8 turbo engine. This car can fly on the highway he boasts. Its 30 years old and Lopez wouldn't dream of trading it in for a newer model. He loves his vintage Chevy and so does the local mafia. He says this model car is often stolen and used by smugglers headed for Colombia. But what they like about the Impala is not its ample trunk space. It's the gas tank. It holds more than 30 gallons and gasoline in Venezuela is dirt cheap thanks to government subsidies. Lopez says he can fill the 30 gallon tank for just $2.00. So what the smugglers do is fill it up, speed the 40 or so miles to the Colombian border and sell the gas at a higher price. They keep just enough in the tank to make it back to Venezuela. To deter thieves, Lopes has tricked out his car. A metal board and thick padlock high the pedals. But his contraption did little to ward off the two men who carjacked him last year. They held a revolver to his head and he gladly handed over the keys. Lopez says usually the thieves take your cell phone too so you can call them and get your car back. In his case, he kept calling for two weeks before finally someone answered his phone. Lopez was able to negotiate the ransom down from 4,000 to 3.000 Bolivares, roughly $600.00. And then he was reunited with his beloved ride. Lopez says he's learned to live with the constant threat of the car mafia. It's just the way things work in this part of the country, but he says it's totally worth the risk.
WERMAN: You can see a photo of Mr. Lopez and his green Chevy Impala at the world dot org.