Behind the White Wheel

Behind the White Wheel

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Visit to the Homeland of Pontons

While surfing the net, "ebaying" for ponton parts I allowed myself to save some old pictures proposed for sale on eBay.
What I liked about those pictures, is the fact that they reflect genuinely the daily life in Europe back in the 1960's and early 1970's.

Here above, the legendary taxi driver stands proudly next to his ponton! The Mercedes-Benz pontons remained the taxi drivers' faithful companions for years!

A typical old european country side road. The Ponton is part of the decor. Note the old style street light; this same model was used in the streets of Beirut back in the 1960's.

Modernity by the 1960's standards: A 180b parked behind a VW Beetle and what appears to be a gray Fintail in front of a luna park in Berlin. All three cars are legendary.

A picture from the late 1960s or early 1970s. Youngsters selling dairy german products. Note the relatively tired 190b with the "Germany" badge on front grill. The architecture of the building on the right is typical that of the late 1960's early 1970's.

A policeman in a German village. The serenity of the countryside is explicitly shown in this picture. Again, popular cars parked next to each others; a ponton, a beetle and what appears to be a Fiat Cinquecento.

Band members? A folkloric group? The 190 ponton with the remarkable "D" (for Deutshland) metal oval plate, the big square license plate and the roof rack seems to be a reliable and comfortable car for the group.

Beetles, VW Samba, an Opel Kapitan station wagon and a 190b. Note the extremely tall antenna! What was the radio this ponton had? A Becker Mexico? LeMans? A Blaupunkt? A Philips? Or perhaps a rare Telefunken?

The 220S/SE was the top of the line of the Ponton series. Note the large white wall tires; an option on all the Mercedes-Benz models of the era.

An austere looking hotelsilber (silver hotel) with the typical late 1960s architecture. The 180b or 190b is as usual there...

A typical European "Auberge" or small hotel most probably in Germany or Austria. Note the 2 Mercedes-Benz ponton, the VW Beetle and the popular Renault Dauphine.

A group of tourists contemplating the mountains. Which mountains are these? The ponton is a rare two tone painted car. An amazing scenery that makes me want to drive my ponton there!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hoping for Syria

I still clearly recall the old yellow Syrian taxis traveling on the Beirut – Tripoli highway. As a kid, obsessed with cars, I used to ask my dad, every time we crossed one, about the brand, type and year of manufacturing of a specific car. I used to cross old Desotos, Buicks, Chevrolet…etc. Of course there was no need to ask about the Mercedes-Benz fintails (often seen) and the Mercedes-Benz 180/190 pontons; I was already an expert…
My dad had always a story or a remark related to each model. He used to give me the exact year of manufacturing and how the model was perceived when it first appeared.

Back then, owning a car in Syria wasn’t something easily accessible because of the economic restrictions. People used to preserve their cars and pass them from one generation to the other. Today, years later, these cars have disappeared; replaced by new Hyundai, Kia, Toyota…etc.

Looking back at those days and at the memories I have from the few times I traveled to Damascus visiting some relatives, I wonder if, God forbids, the Syrians lost the unique spirit their cities (Damascus and more precisely Aleppo) had, in the same manner Lebanese lost the unique spirit of Beirut!

Looking at the ruins of the Aleppo’s old souks, I see myself, and without any effort, comparing them to those of Beirut’s old souks! The places where all the people from different background mingle and mix together, these fusion hubs that fortify and unify the society, that make the identity of the Syrian society, are being destroyed!

I can’t but wonder if these destructions are made on purpose! Only time will tell and only the reconstruction process will show!

I hope the Syrians and with the help of strong Syrian public institutions will be able to rebuild their cities “from crap and not from scratch”, as Naomi Klein says! I hope the extremely rich Syrian/ Arab heritage will be preserved, the original roles of the old Souks will be safeguarded and the productive society relying on its resources and creativity will be shining.

Hope and faith are all I have! Till then, I will be once again looking at old yellow pontons, fintails…etc., associating them with gone good days…