It’s birthday party number two for PLAYBOY South Africa and so we asked our award-winning motoring journalist Egmond Sippel to reflect back on two of his greatest rides. Here he invites you on two succulent journeys of driving mountain passes and peaks.

Numbers are a lot more interesting than people would think. At 169, for instance, we’re looking at thirteen squared. Swap the last two digits, and 196 is another way of saying fourteen squared. And yes, there was a day on the Gregorian calendar, some three decades ago, which registered as 18 September 1981. Delete the second of those three ones, and you’ve got a nice little symmetrical sequence – 18/9/81 – in which one plus eight (in both directions) equals nine, whilst nine minus eight (in both directions) leaves one. Nine times two also equals 18, whilst nine to the power of two yields 81. Add 18 to 81, and you get 99 – or two nines. Now, take the “two” of “two nines,” and you’ve got another interesting number to play with. Hugh Hefner founded an empire on it: two legs, two arms, two eyes, two… uh-hum! Your favourite Playmate of the Month will complete the train of thought, I’m sure. Not for nothing was it, then, that Marilyn Monroe once confirmed that she really was starkers when she first posed for Mr Hefner’s fledgling little magazine. Didn’t have anything on at all, she declared. Except the radio. Jayne Mansfield, in turn, added another cracker to our aforementioned list of “two’s.” Jayne was even better endowed than Marilyn, and less shy.

So, when MM decided to bare her boobs, side-on, JM went one full-on step further by introducing two bare buttocks. And the end was nigh? Nope. Along came an English lass, called June Wilkinson, to up the ante even further. June, see, was even more mountainous than Jayne – if not prettier – and again less coy, which all conspired to endow “two” with a humungously loaded meaning back then. A pair of Wilkinson’s didn’t refer to razor blades, no sir. “Two,” in fact, is still a big number; big here, big in America, big in Japan. This issue of PLAYBOY, for instance, celebrates the second anniversary of the second coming of the South African edition. For this reason, today’s automotive story had to be built around the very concept, but it’s not going to be twin-cams, twin pipes, twin turbos or any of the like. No. It’s going to be my two best rides of the last two years and that’s leaving the Honda S2000 aside, not because the “2” is followed by three noughts, but because the S2000 comes from a different era, really – even though I recently had the pleasure to enjoy one again. And let’s face it: you can’t improve on the high-revving nature of the 2.0-liter engine, nor the S2000’s architecture, gearbox, steering, balance, attitude and rear-wheel power. Not now. Not in the next two years. Not ever. Not never.

Enter the BMW M3 Frozen. Technically speaking, our encounter falls just outside the two year limitation, but in terms of memory, it kinda’ happened yesterday. Likewise, in terms of mountainous and mammary, June Wilkinson, or JW, was marketed at 44 inches vis-à-vis JM’s 40, although JW later admitted that 44 was slightly exaggerated. Hey June, who cares? None of us would’ve noticed. Stretching the peaks ain’t all that bad, in any case. Not to be caught on the hop, I’ll nevertheless admit, up front, that even the second of my stand-out drives misses the two year cut-off point by a nip. As mind-blowing experiences, though, both rate so well past the 44’s that they’re impossible to ignore. So, let’s return to the Frozen whilst we’re still dabbling in red-hot figures.

Surprisingly – or unsurprisingly – the story starts out on the frosty side, with 2007’s new V8 M3. A very good engine, it was, carried by a great chassis. But steering was remote and the sound track lacked conviction. Three years later and not a vestige of weakness remained; the M3 Frozen was the real McCoy. Steering had quietly been improved to a point where you were plugged straight into a veritable Jayne Mansfield Experience; the helm was taut and alert to the touch, the weighting full, the feel fleshy and feedback almost raunchy. The Frozen just revelled in divulging info to a driver’s hands and body, so that power could be exploited to the max and the car’s front end would be guided with utter confidence. To back this up, AC Schnitzer pipes delivered a fully-fledged Jimmy Hendrix

Experience. Man, it was noisy – or so people said – but I can tune in to that kinda’ rumbling and barking and snorting all day long, as I did on one heavenly occasion during a flat-chat blast over Franschhoek Pass. And if you really object to the Frozen being on the fringes of our two year time frame, I’ll simply shift my affections to the more recent M3 Akrapovič – same result, same fantastic sound, same great drive. The difference, really, is that I never got a chance to drill the Akrapovič on a mountain road. Which brings me to my other favourite, which was an intense Audi R8 V10 work-out over the Long Tom Pass. Boy, what a car! Ingolstadt vehicles might suffer the vagaries of having been built on front-wheel drive platforms, with all the inherent handling and ride shortcomings – but the mid-engined R8 drives through all four wheels, with power being split fore and aft, as conditions demand. Now, the remarkable thing about this chariot was not necessarily the engine. The V10 is strong and torquey and quick and fast and all the other things that you would want from a powerhouse. The remarkable thing ain’t the gear-box either, the R-tronic auto shift is slow and jerky, and the 6-speed manual slow and sticky. So, no. What blew my mind was the braking. Into the first couple of corners out of Sabie, up the Long Tom, I simply hit the anchors way too early. Retardation is extreme, like a parachute being deployed – except that Audi anchors ain’t assisted by a ’chute, of course.

Which leaves me with one last comment: twice is not enough. Just inside the Porsche fraternity the 911 GT3 RS and 911 Turbo will bowl you out, time and again, with two more unreal drives. Just over the last year I’ve also laid hands on the mighty all-wheel driven Lamborghini Aventador and the special once-off rear-wheel drive Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Balboni, and they’re on the demonic side of lust: blindingly quick, with massive traction and grip – and oh so beautiful and desirable! So damn, I’ll still have to do those two on mountain passes – and I’m not talking June of Jayne, or numbers like 196 or 169 or 18/9/81 or 69…

by Egmont Sippel

Published in Playboy South Africa April 2013