Antanas Vaičeliūnas’ article about the Klasika Club member Virginijus Kučinskas, printed in the Šiaurės Rytai newspaper on February 2, 2013.
A car is not a luxury item, but means of transport. This statement made by the great Ostap Bender, which later became a winged phrase, was never implemented by the Soviet government during the entire time of its existence. With great difficulty having saved a bunch of Roubles and having waited patiently in the line for his time to buy a car, an average Soviet citizen used to get a miserable Moskvich or a “Lada”, a car hatched from the Italian Fiat 124 model. A man basically knew that he acquired a joy and a misery (if not for the rest of his life, at least for the next twenty years), and that it would be easier to change his wife than the old tires to the new ones without having acquaintances in the right post.After Lithuania escaped from the Soviet regime, a tsunami of used cars from the West overwhelmed our homeland. After twenty years of independence, a Moskvich or a Zaporozhets that one might occasionally encounter on the road, became quite a unique experience. Four rings from the Audi logo and the motto “Das Auto” of the people’s car manufacturer VW became extremely deeply etched in many of our countrymen’s minds. Others “saddled” their four- wheel BMWs and went out to charm the girls or to the war on the roads.
However, even in such a beautiful world, where it seems one can easily buy an Audi or a Golf and happily ride like a man, there are some slightly deranged citizens. They are the weirdoes who go into their garages and patiently grind, weld, and paint something. They are the weirdoes that work for a few years just so one day they could ride out onto the road in an unusual car from the time of their parents’ youth, that swallows 20 liters of gas and has no exhaust system!
We talk to a 36 year old Biržai resident Virginijus Kučinskas, who is terminally ill with the car disease.
Virginijus, many know you as a manager and automobile parts salesman from Evadinamika Company as well as a fan of exclusive automobiles. What pushed you towards technology and automobiles?
I wanted to drive a car since I was a child. Already the age of eight I was sitting on my dad’s lap when he was driving his dump truck ZIL. May dad worked as a full time driver, and I started driving quite young, at first sitting on his lap and then – independently. I went to study at the Polytechnic School in Biržai and later, after returning from the service in the Lithuanian Army, I started working as a parts salesman. I have been working with a great team for sixteen years.
I was always interested in the subject. During high school years I attended a go-kart club, later I became interested in motorcycles. Everything went in a growing order.
Speaking of motorcycles. Previously, you were an active member of the biker community. Why have you forsaken this area?
A have never forsaken a motorcycle. I started to ride a Minsk and later I owned a Jawa, a Suzuki, and a Yamaha. I was actively riding for approximately six years. Then antique cars showed up in Lithuania. Before, I had only seen them in movies. I fell in love with them and I was hooked.
I know that you usually choose exclusive, American-manufactured cars, which we don’t often see on the roads in Lithuania. Why do you choose these particular cars and what was the first one you owned?
I like rare cars, which you don’t see on the streets or see them very rarely. Of course, in the United States they no surprise. And my first car that I acquired eight years ago was a 1988 Pontiac Firebird. Later I acquired a Jaguar Daimler Six, a Jaguar XJ6, a BMW 850. I had to fix them all. They are large, very comfortable automobiles, and they are extremely fun to ride.
How did you become interested in vintage cars?
Although I was riding quite rare automobiles, I always wanted to buy an American car that was made in the 80s or 90s. I would constantly observe what old cars were for sale online, but I could not afford the prices. And one day I saw a 1977 Cadillac Eldorado which was not terribly expensive. I always wanted either this car or a Chevrolet Corvette. I purchased the Cadillac. It was quite rusty and the engine was defective. It was a gasoline engine, V8-cylinder and 8.2-liter. The automobile had all the luxury car features, all brakes were disc brakes. At that time it was the most expensive Cadillac model. It was manufactured until 1978.
Its name comes from the Spanish words “el dorado”, which means “covered with gold”. The name may remind of the legendary lost city of gold in South America. For seven years I have been slowly working on this car, and there is still work to be done.
Is it difficult to get spare parts?
No, it is not too complicated to get spare parts for American products. These machines were produced in large quantities for a large market. I’ve heard that after a car manufacturer stops making a particular car model, he sells the equipment to smaller manufacturers who keep making spare parts. Therefore, there are new parts available even for old cars. I’m in contact with several companies in Vilnius that sell parts for American cars and they provide me with what I need. I’ve heard that it is much harder to get parts for the Russian-made machines, such as Pobieda or Volga M21.
They say that these cars need a bucket of gas just to leave the garage. How many liters your car take? What maximum speed did you reach?
When driving at 90 km/h, 15-16 liters of gasoline is sufficient for 100 kilometers. The maximum speed is 140 km/h. My El Dorado has no problems reaching this speed.
What would you exchange your “gold-plated wheels” into?
Only into an antique Chevrolet Corvette. It is a top sports two-seat car. It is not only my dream. It is a dream of many Americans as well.
You are not alone in Biržai with this hobby. Do you communicate with others like you?
Biržai is a small town, but it has two clubs of fans and supporters of antique cars: Klasika and Ekipažas. I am a member of Klasika Club. Fans of antique cars not only from the city but from its suburbs join us. We participate in festivals and car shows not only in Biržai, but in other Lithuanian cities and towns as well.
And what is the most attractive European car?
I like the S Class Mercedes-Benz.
How do you family members, you parents and friends look at your passion? Don’t they object saying that its a waste of time and money?
No, on the contrary, they support me. My dad is also infected with the “car disease” and he often joins me and helps me as much as he can.
Cars consume all your spare time. Do you have any other hobbies that are close to your heart?
The rest of my spare time I spend playing video games. I use seventh generation Xbox. Mostly I like to play first person shooter, even though I also play on the Internet.
What if you had more free time? What would your ideal vacation be like
Just like I adore old cars, I like ancient castles. I would go visit Dracula’s castle. I love watching horror movies, and it would be interesting to visit all sorts of mystical places. There are ghost towns in the United States that were abandoned by people for a long time. It would be fun to take a look at one of those. Also I would like to ride on Highway 66. And I would like to see what is left of Chernobyl.
What do you want to wish to your “comrades in arms”?
Best of luck to members of Klasika and Ekipažas Clubs. Let all of their ideas and aspirations be fulfilled.