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Old 20th March 2009, 14:27   #1
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Default Eurotrip

Eurotrip


Day 0). September 14th night. Leave home at 11pm. We take a cab from Meru cabs to the airport. The drive is abt one our long, but it’s comfortable enough. I do get the feeling that at one point the driver purposely took a longer route. No proof though and it’s the beginning of a long journey so I don’t push it.


We reach the airport and it’s the first time I’m seeing the new airport. Pretty disappointing. I mean for all the talk abt a world class airport, this is sad. Not many places to eat. Everything is ridiculously expensive and a VERY VERY long queue for the check in counter. What’s the point of spending close to a billion dollars if everything is the same as the old one? Also, I heard that two gates next to each other cannot be used at the same time. If this is true, continue to read. Otherwise, skip ahead. HOW THE BLOODY HELL CAN SOMEONE MAKE AN AIRPORT IN THIS DAY AND AGE WITH SUCH A BLUNDER? Honestly, the guy who designed this should be sued without any mercy.


We meet some journalists flying to Frankfurt for Automechanika. The difference between them and us? They are being flown Business Class by Bosch and we are flying economy :P .


Day 1). September 15th. Take the 0205 flight from Bangalore to Frankfurt. The moment I board the flight, I fall asleep and wake up only 7 hrs later when breakfast is about to be served. Luckily, I asked for the Vegetarian breakfast and they could give it to me. IT was some vada and sambhar with some sort of rice, a bun and butter and jam. And something which I think was Pineapple flavoured Yoghurt.


We get down at exactly eight o clock and we pass through Passport control, etc. We collect our baggage and we come outside to meet with my dad’s friend who has been kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to meet us and take us to our hotel in Darmstadt. This person was once with Hofmann. The company my dad brought to India and got to know him long back. Today, like many other people, this person has left Hofmann and joined another company in the same industry. So, he was also very busy with the arrangements for Automechanika. He drives a Volkswagen Passat Estate. Very nice car and he had set the climate control to 22 deg C. Outside, it was 14!! It was warm inside the car and once we hit the highway, we were doing 160 on the speedo.


This being my first trip to Europe, I was amazed. I have seen similar speeds in Egypt, Singapore and Malaysia, but this was different altogether. In those cases I was rarely in a car. Mostly buses and taxis who couldn’t go too fast. The drive to Darmstadt was beautiful. I have always admired traffic in countries like Malaysia and Singapore but this was in a whole new league. Fantastic stuff.


We reach the hotel and check in. We rest for some time and then around 1200, we leave the hotel to go to the city centre. MY dad has been here loads of times and knows this place very well. We are feeling very hungry and go to the Burger King, have a bite and then start walking through the city centre. There are two main plazas. Luisen Plaza and Ludwig Plaza. There is also a big statue of King Ludiwg at the city centre. We first go to Ludwig plaza. There is one huge electronics store. Not as good as Pantip Plaza, but it is one big store called Saturn. Pantip Plaza in Bangkok is a mall which has a hundred different shops. The variety is way better in Pantip. I’m of course not going to compare prices as Europe is way more expensive than Asia.


There is also a sports shop where my dad buys a new tennis racquet. Some Wilson model. Spend a good hour in that sports store and then move on to the electronics store. Spend another hour over there. Have a look at some portable hard disks. I need to buy one anyway and the price seems to be pretty decent. For a Maxtor USB 2.0 500GB, the cost is 80€. Abt 5k. Not too bad. Decide to think abt this and get back outside. Just roam around the streets for another couple of hours. It’s beautiful. I’m in love with the place and the way of life.


The city centre isn’t just beautiful, it’s an educational tool for the children as well. The moment you enter Luisen Plaza, there are about 12 or so displays. They aren’t static displays though. They all have some relation to science. For example, there is a long glass tube containing water till about the halfway mark. There is a ball which is connected to a chain immersed in the water. The other end of the chain is outside for anybody to pull the ball up through the water through a pulley system. Kids were having a great time pulling the ball out of the water and then letting go of the rope/chain so that the ball falls back in the water with a great big splash!! There is a small board next to the display which asks this question: “Why is it easier to pull the ball through the water than outside it?” . It’s simple. Archimedes Principle of buoyancy (I need to thank my Science teacher in 5th standard for this!!). But the best part is, these kinds of principles are taught to children at such a young age. Similarly, there were many other displays teaching them abt Density, etc. Awesome stuff. I was absolutely impressed. No wonder this country is known for so many technical innovations. If children are brought up in this environment, it wouldn’t be too much to ask from this country.


Also, near the city centre there was a fountain. A kid abt 7-8 years old was riding his bicycle(just to let you know all cars, bikes, etc are banned in the city centre. Only bicycles are allowed) and he was so easily jumping up on the edge of the fountain (it wasn’t too high. About 2 feet I guess), but it was something extraordinary. There were even smaller kids running around the square. Usually in India, this would be followed by a mother or father screaming at the kid asking him/her to stop running and behave. The kids are so free here. They may fall and hurt themselves, but they pick themselves up and learn.


There are loads of pigeons in this area. There was a small kid who couldn’t have been older than 5 who was chasing the pigeons. It was so sweet. Honestly, I so wish I was born here and could live and be brought up in this kind of atmosphere.


Anyway, after spending about 4 hours, my dad was tired and also we were expecting two other people from our company to join us. I’ll call them S and M. SO, we went back to our hotel and met them. I then took them around again and they are vegetarians. We tried to find an Indian restaurant but couldn’t. Finally they settled for some Vegetarian Pizza. I didn’t want to have things so easy. I went back out to the city centre and walked for another 1 hour or so. I ate some Germany food from the roadside. Weinerwurscht or something. It was basically a sausage in a croissant. Ok stuff. Not really to my taste. Earlier dad and I had tried some Pizza. Not the round kind of pizza but the pizzas made by “Ditsch”. It’s oval in shape and comes in many flavours. This was actually pretty nice.


Anyway, I got back to my hotel room with food from McDonalds (because before I could make up my mind where to have dinner, most places had closed down) and a cheesecake from Starbucks. I’m looking forward to coming back to my room, watching an episode of “Top Gear” on my laptop while having my dinner. Unfortunately, that is not to be. My laptop’s DVD drive has developed some problem and it isn’t reading any DVDs. Finally, I take my dad’s laptop and have my dinner while watching Jeremy Clarkson screaming “PPOOOOWWWWEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR”!!


I finish my dinner and hit the sack. It’s been an interesting day, no doubt, but tomorrow is the first day of Automechanika 2008!!


Day 2: September 16th 2008.


Automechanika 2008. It’s always been jinxed for me. I initially wanted to come in 2002, but at that time my college was very strict about attendance and Automechanika would require that I miss too much of college. Then in 2004, I was all set and had even applied for my Visa but then our CET counselling was cancelled and rescheduled. So, I again missed this show. I had initially planned to come for the 2006 show but that never went beyond the preliminary planning as I had loads of backlogs to clear due to my accident the previous year plus that year I had a stress fracture and the doctor didn’t recommend me walking for long distances which would be inevitable if I came for Automechanika.


Wake up at 7, have a bath and be ready for breakfast at 7:30. All four of us go down for breakfast and leave our hotel at 8:15. We walk to the tram station, catch a tram to the main railway station, Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof and from there catch a super fast express to Frankfurt. It covers the distance with just one stop (at Langen (Hess)) and reaches Frankfurt 18 minutes after leaving Darmstadt. The train is so clean and people are so well mannered. It was initially difficult for me to hold myself back from just rushing onto the train when the doors opened. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a country where people actually stood aside and gave way to people alighting before getting on the train themselves.


We get down at the main Frankfurt station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof) and have a look around the station. It’s a very old building, just like Darmstadt station and the authorities have retained that old medieval look. It’s a very nice building. I have only seen Madras Central Station and that also has very good potential. I just hope our authorities maintain it well. It has more potential than Frankfurt to be one of the more beautiful railway stations.


We don’t have too much time to explore this morning though and we immediately head outside, catch a tram to Messe Frankfurt and enter the venue for Automechanika 2008. We had got loads of passes from our principals who are taking part and we had converted these vouchers into passes online and taken printouts. We just show that at the entrance and any one of the very pretty ladies scans the barcode and lets us through. It is all done so well, it’s wonderful. Compare this to the Auto Expo and it is heaven!! All the 8 or 9 counters are operational and it’s a one second job just scanning the barcodes. Many people have downloaded the tickets on their phone and they just scan the barcode on their phone and go through.


Messe Frankfurt is something like Pragati Maidan of New Delhi. It’s huge!! I personally think Pragati Maidan is bigger, but the facilities here are so much better. There are shuttles operating between the halls. So, while in Auto Expo you had to walk and walk, here, all you need to do is just go to one of the bus stops and hop on to a bus and get down wherever you feel like. There is a bus every minute or so.


Our main area of interest is the garage equipment section and we head directly to Hall 8 where most of our principals are. We immediately come upon our friend who had picked us up from the airport the previous day. He is a part of the ATT group. This group have made a new type of wheel alignment system. Will post youtube link as soon as I upload it.


The special feature of this machine is that it doesn’t need any targets (like conventional 3D wheel aligners) or anything to be mounted on the wheels. You just drive the car onto the ramp and the scanners automatically move along the length of the car. When they come to the rear wheels, they scan the wheel and then when the runout compensation is to be done, no one needs to push and pull the vehicle. The plates below the rear wheels slide forward and backward in opposite directions so that the wheels are effectively rotating. The plates slide in opposite directions because this car is a rear wheel drive car. Absolutely brilliant stuff. When the cameras/scanners come to the front wheels, they scan the whole wheel. The plates below the front wheels move in order to do the run out compensation. No human hand is needed at all. The only human hand is needed when the steering is to be turned. I honestly expected them to have the turnplates rotate automatically!! That is the next step I guess!!


Absolutely fantastic. I was blown. As it turns out, this was actually shown at the previous Automechanika. That time it was a concept. This time it is working properly and the company claims to have 50+ installations under its belt.


After that, we split up into two groups. Our two colleagues head off together and my dad and I stick together. We visit the Nussbaum stall. They specialise in lifts. It was started by a gentleman in 1934 or something and today his son is the head. The grandson is also part of the company now. This is the first stall I’m seeing properly in Automechanika and I’m floored!! There is a special lounge area for people to sit and talk. If you are related to the company in anyway or even have just sat down with a company person to talk business, you are offered a variety of snacks, drinks, etc... We just opted for coffee. They also keep a plate full of chocolates (mini-Snickers, Mars bars, kit kats, etc) on the table. Something to munch on while talking. Awesome hospitality.


As it turns out, ALL big stalls have this. They all have a separate kitchenette area where they arrange for all the snacks and tea/coffee to be stored.


Mr. Nussbaum is also very nice. It’s the first time I’m meeting him but my dad knows him well enough. He greets us as if we are old friends. It’s not at all the way Germans are supposed to be!! Germans are supposed to be polite, formal and distant!! He is 60+ and he is still so sprightly and enthusiastic abt his products. We are already bringing in their lifts but that doesn’t stop him from showing around his stall and all the new innovations they are doing. He shows us a new type of lift made especially for Mercedes Benz and BMW. Supposedly these companies are now demanding that if anyone does alignment on their cars on a lift, the difference in level between the left and right sides of the lift be 1mm(for Merc) and 0.5mm(for BMW). So, all the companies making lifts (hydraulic or screw type) have had to up their game as these are the big companies in Europe. Once Mercedes and BMW do something, it’s very likely that the rest of the companies will follow suit.


We are then taken to Nussbaum’s outdoor stall where we are shown their truck lifting equipment. The quality of their products is beautiful. Even by European standards, it’s superb. You can’t find a single weld out of place of a single bolt out of place. Even the motor is integrated within the lift so that it isn’t exposed to the elements outside.


Then, we just take a look around at the other stalls. Bosch has a HUUUGEE stall. Unsurprisingly!! They have recently taken over BeissBarth and are struggling to rejuvenate the company. The Beissbarth and Bosch stalls were pretty much next to each other. Beissbarth was opposite the ATT stall and after visiting the ATT stall and seeing their alignment machines, the best Beissbarth had to offer looked mediocre. They had their whole range of tyre changers and wheel balancers. I was initially impressed (because it was the first tyre changer I was seeing at AM) but later on, I saw that every manufacturer worth its salt had a similar or better tyre changer.


The interesting thing at the Beissbarth stall compared to the JBC or Hunter stalls was that the technicians performing the tyre changing were two very pretty girls who had probably worn clothes they wore when they were in school. Their jeans were too tight and their T-shirts too short. Not that I was complaining though!!


There was also something called "Car Wash City". It basically had all the big players in the car wash business. They had put up complete car wash machines here. Working ones! It was a huge outdoor display.
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The biggest disappointment about this Automechanika was that photography was banned!! Throughout the venue, it was banned. You had to have a written permission from the authorities to take some pics. And they don’t give the permission to everyone. Only if you are a participant you get permission. The reasoning was “Don’t steal ideas by photographing them”. If anyone had a reason to steal ideas it was the participants.


In spite of this, I took dozens of photos. Every time we got caught by some official, we told him we were on our way out and didn’t have time to go with him, deposit the camera and all that. The idiocy of this policy was shown at many stalls where the participants had put up cars for display which were meant to be photographed.
I will give examples of this as this travelogue goes on.
I was allowed to take photos and videos at many stalls because we do business with them. That way most of the stalls were very similar. What one manufacturer had, the other had the same thing in a different colour, design and under a different brand. The only absolutely new thing was ATT’s alignment machine which I have explained above.


These pics show the latest tyre changer from Hunter. It is absolutely high tech and you don’t need to touch the tyre at all. Fitting big wheels and low profile tyres is such a breeze. Check out the video. Absolutely superb. This tyre changer has the ability to change wheels of up to 34”!! Also are pics of the wheel balancer and wheel aligners.

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And yes, I visited a Ferrari workshop!! See the pics to believe it!
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Actually, I didn’t! That was a poster covering one wall of one stall “Air Solutions” who do supply some equipment to Ferrari workshops in Italy. They provide the pipes that connect to the exhaust of the car and carry the exhaust gases outside the workshop area so that the interior of the workshop doesn’t get polluted.
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Also spotted was this Lotus Exige.
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At the end of the day, we went to some Indian restaurant for dinner. Food was just about mediocre but the price!! Oh my God!! I have had Indian food outside India a few times before but this was too much. 150€ for 4 of us. They even charged us for papad which no one ordered. Absolutely sad.
Took a train back to Darmstadt that night and went to sleep. All 4 of us were exhausted having had hardly any time to rest during the day.



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Last edited by Dippy : 20th March 2009 at 22:34.
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Old 20th March 2009, 14:33   #2
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Reminds me of the movie Eurotrip...hilarious...
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Old 20th March 2009, 20:49   #3
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Good ones. All I know or seen is, a big hammer with a flat rod to change any tyres. It may be lorry or car

Last edited by Rehaan : 21st March 2009 at 01:36. Reason: Formatting issue fixed.
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Old 20th March 2009, 21:53   #4
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Nice pics, Nikhil. More to go?
There is some formatting issue.
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Old 20th March 2009, 22:12   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nitin View Post
Nice pics, Nikhil. More to go?
There is some formatting issue.
LOADS more. What I've posted is just the tip of the iceberg. I simply cant post all the pics.
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Old 20th March 2009, 22:19   #6
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amazing pics nikhil but something is not alright,and do post more pics.
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Old 20th March 2009, 22:35   #7
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Is it ok now? Dippy edited the post.
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Old 20th March 2009, 22:47   #8
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Cool photos. - The formatting of page is fine now.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:13   #9
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nikhil where is the full story. I just loved when you started that i made a note of your thread and rmembered that i got to check it out. Waiting for updates. Nice writeup.
By the way are you doing your Mech engg?
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:17   #10
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Hey Maddy, I finished my mech engg. I'm working now. Will post more tomorrow(hopefully!).
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Old 24th March 2009, 15:50   #11
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Some pics from Day one in Darmstadt. Couldnt post them in the first post. Would be highly obliged if a mod could merge this with post No. 1.

These are some random pictures from Day One. Pictures show the city centre of Darmstadt.
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Last edited by Nikhilb2008 : 24th March 2009 at 15:57.
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Old 24th March 2009, 16:54   #12
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Before I go further, let me upload the youtube videos of this brilliant alignment machine
Quote:
Our main area of interest is the garage equipment section and we head directly to Hall 8 where most of our principals are. We immediately come upon our friend who had picked us up from the airport the previous day. He is a part of the ATT group. This group have made a new type of wheel alignment system. Will post youtube link as soon as I upload it.





This above part can be merged with the first post.

Day 3). September 17th Wednesday.
Nothing different from the previous day. Had a few more meetings with some company officials and again spent most of the time in Halls 8 and 9.
This car is a concept made by someone with parts from various different vehicles. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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This pic is for all the DIY guys on TBHP. This stall had an amazing assortment of tools I tried to take more pics but was barred from doing so by the people manning the stall.

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There was also a Fiat-Yamaha M1 on display. This wasn’t just a mock piece. I was told it was the real deal. No comments on the female though. Not good looking at all if you ask me!

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The KTM stall too was quite popular. The X-bow was on display as was the KTM RC8.
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The Car-o-liner people had a very nice concept this time. Right next to their main stall, they also had a small academy stall. They had a schedule and at particular times, they used to give a brief explanation using videos and one of their technicians. I didn’t have time to visit them at the given times, but I wish I had!
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One of the highlights of the day was my time at the Bilstein stall. There was an Audi R8 and a Merc C350 on display there. The Audi R8 is so beautiful. It was the first time I was seeing one in the flesh and I fell in love. Even though the colour was not my favourite, I loved it. What a beautiful, gorgeous piece of machinery that is!!
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The best part of the day was at a stall where they had an E92 BMW M3. It was not a static display though. The inside of the car had a projector which projected the game “GTR 2” onto the windshield. So, while you sat in the seat and looked through the windscreen, you felt like you were in the game. The controls of the car like accelerator, brake and transmission were connected to the game. Also, the car was mounted on some sort of hydraulic motors so when you took a sharp turn, the car also moved. IT was incredibly realistic.
The track was the Nurburgring. I obviously had to have a go in the car and I did. It was incredible fun. The transmission of the M3 was fabulous. The throw of the lever was simply astonishing. I am an absolutely inexperienced driver. I have driven all of 3 cars. A Santro, a Getz and an NHC Vtec. So, for me, this was simply fabulous. There was a long queue to have a go in this but the wait was definitely worth it.
It was just incredible fun. Of course, since I was used to racing on this track on a Momo which has less than 360 degrees of rotation, the BMW M3’s steering was something I took time to get used to. However, once I did get used to it, my knowledge of the track helped me immensely! I actually felt like I was at the Nurburgring.



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Last edited by Nikhilb2008 : 24th March 2009 at 16:57.
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Old 24th March 2009, 17:19   #13
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Amazing pics Nikhil. You are one lucky dude to visit the Ferrari workshop. Is that a white Maserati in a Ferrari workshop??
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Old 24th March 2009, 17:49   #14
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I also took loads of pics today. As you can see, there was a horrible looking Viper, a mean looking Dodge Challenger SRT 8 and a Mustang along with a couple of old BMWs. The white M3 looks so awesome! It hurts me when I see it knowing how BMW screwed up the design of one of my all time favourite cars.

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The Mustang was running on 295/25 ZR25 tyres! These cars were just displayed. They were not part of any stall as such. They were near the food court.

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We had decided to see Frankfurt. So, we left the venue by 4:15 and took a train to Hauptwache. Got down there and took a long walk in the city centre. Again, like Darmstadt, this city centre doesn’t have ANY traffic. The evening was quite cold actually and I was sitting outside a departmental store and browsing the internet. The other 3 were elsewhere. There was some unsecured connection in that area and I was trying to catch up on some emails.
There is a McDonalds, there are some departmental stores. My dad and M went into a “Woolworth” just for some window shopping. I preferred to sit outside in the square. We even went into a Swarovski shop but as usual the prices were through the roof.
WE then went down to the subway station at about 7, had something to eat and headed back to Darmstadt. Another tiring day, but good fun nevertheless. Frankfurt City Centre (Zeil area) was good fun but for some weird reason, I prefer Darmstadt maybe because that place is less crowded.



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Old 24th March 2009, 17:50   #15
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Originally Posted by swift8847 View Post
Amazing pics Nikhil. You are one lucky dude to visit the Ferrari workshop. Is that a white Maserati in a Ferrari workshop??
Hey, you didnt read below that, did you!?!?!
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