My name is Vin Dinzo, and I'm here to check out the streets of Manila and see what’s interesting out here. It’s a hot city for sure--hotter than California and extremely more humid. It’s the thick air that’s a killer. It’s a good thing 90% percent of my wardrobe is composed of white shirts, perfect for this sweltering climate. Things are a little hotter for me back in the US because of some jobs I did. Let’s just say I’m glad to be in a city where the police have a dismal track record of capturing fugitives.
With me is my man Paulo Walker. Pau used to be an undercover cop, from the narcotics division. As part of his job, he had to hang out and live the, um, recreational life of those he was staking out. He was so undercover he forgot what he was supposed to do. All he remembers is being part of a commando unit at some point. When I met him, I discovered we shared a love of old-school rides, and he’s been part of my crew ever since.
A tour with Vin Dinzo and Pau Walker isn’t complete without a car. For cruising today, we have a spanking new Dodge Challenger R/T with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. It’s a wicked ride, a blend of retro looks and modern lines. It’s also huge and imposing, perfect for intimidating pimply kids and their rice rockets. But if the young ones want some action with the Dinzo, this Challenger has 372 horses under its hood to put the kids in their place.
We don’t waste time and hop into our American muscle car. The V8 comes to life with a loud whine, before settling into a rumble that subtly rocks the car from left to right.
Before we drive out, as what usually happens when you have a ride as gorgeous as this, a beautiful girl comes along. Some babe named Erin stops by to admire the car and chat with us. This phenomenon is not new to me and Pau. Is it the car? Our rugged good looks? Our Prada sunglasses? Our natural charm? You guessed it--it’s the Dodge. Since Pau is now a married man, we cut the chitchat before his wife shows us what "fast and furious" really means.
Our first stop is to get some food, and I’m hankering for some fine American cuisine. A cheeseburger in other words. I’ve been around the world hiding from the law, and I’ve tasted food on different continents. And I learned what the airlines have known all this time to be true: After three generations of fast food, Americans like me think airplane food is great. But today, I want a taste of home, so Pau and I drive by a McDonald’s.
I order my usual: Quarter Pounder with cheese. Is this some endorsement deal? Hell, no! I love this stuff. I used to say I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Now that I’m lying low from racing, I live my life a Quarter Pounder at a time.
The Challenger easily attracts attention from the McDonald’s staff and crew. We block the driveway waiting for our orders, and the management doesn’t bother us; they just smile at the car and stare in admiration, wishing they had our lives.
After the cheeseburger hits the spot, we look for a place to cool down from this insufferable heat. We head to the real Manila, away from the offices and malls. On Roxas Boulevard, we see the Midas Hotel, and it looks like a swanky place to chill for a bit. We ignore the regular parking lot and park in front of the hotel lobby. The uniformed guards don’t harass us, and they even greet us with a smile. We sit in the bar and soak in the hotel’s classy atmosphere and, more important, strong air-conditioning. We sip on waters because it’s too early in the day for Coronas. We may be wanted fugitives, but we don’t drink and drive.
Our next stop is something I’ve been wanting to see about this city: the famous sunset. We drive to a newly completed bridge near the bay, and stop in the middle to admire the view. It’s so picturesque, in fact, that I think it would make for a good movie poster. Of course, parking in the middle of a bridge isn’t a very legal thing to do no matter what country you’re in. Soon, a rent-a-cop from a nearby mall saunters over saying vague things about private property and stuff. But Pau tells the man a far-fetched story about a magazine gig that requires us to play the roles of street racers being chased by The Rock. The security guard stares at our powerful car and movie-star looks, before walking away as he shakes his head.
The city starts to cool down, but our day is only beginning to heat up. We discover a deserted street in the middle of an empty lot, and we see what the Hemi can do. We stop, take a quick look around for obstacles, and proceed to do a burnout. The V8 overpowers the massive 20-inchers in the rear and produces a cloud of Goodyear smoke. It feels good. This is what a real car does.
Hearing 5.7 liters of American displacement scream would have been a good cap to the day, but our motoring mojo does its magic on our way home. An Audi R8 supercar in a pink hue--yes, you read that right--drives past us. My competitive instinct suddenly acts up. It’s no coincidence that Vin Dinzo drives a car named Challenger. The R8 makes a turn into a lot where a car show is being set up, and we recognize the posters right away. Pau knows the guy fixing up this gig; no motoring event happens without our knowledge. We enter the parking lot and look for our boy Randy Lao, the organizer of this production called the Automax Car Show.
We park the Dodge beside a Ford Fiesta and a Lexus IS set up for weak competition. We pop the hood to show them what a real engine looks like. Yeah, I feel how insecure they are next to our bad boy. Through Randy, we find the owner of the Audi and talk him into a "friendly" race. We decide not to race for pink slips anymore since his R8 is pink enough.
We head back to the street and line up. Pau and I exchange looks with the driver like we did with a Ferrari owner in the past, and with no real stakes but pride, we just launch and try to see who’s faster. I won’t go into incriminating detail about what happens next, but when I’m racing, nothing else matters--not the hot summer night, not the bullshit politicians, not stupid parking rules. For the next few minutes, I am free.
The race ends, and Pau and I head back to the car show and thank Randy for his cooperation and wish him luck on his awesome event. The bond that’s formed by those who love cars transcends nationalities and laws. Here, I have no ego. I’m not even Vin Dinzo. I’m just a handsome guy who happens to have the coolest car in the area.
My day is done, and I think I like this city and its beautiful women and warm people. This is Manila!
Still curious about who won between our race with the Audi? I’ll give you a hint: It still doesn’t matter whether you win by an inch or a mile...
Note: This article originally appeared in Top Gear Philippines' May 2013 issue.