William Gibson's "Zero History" is a bridge between gearheads and sci-fi fans, offering both a glimpse into the other's world. From Ekranpolans to Hiluxes, here's a guide for both fans to the amazing vehicles in the final Bigend trilogy novel.
I was first introduced to William Gibson's trilogy about the commercialization of everything new and hip through the second book, "Spook Country," when a friend pointed out it featured the Volkswagen Phaeton. In the novel the eccentric and curious CEO Hubertus Bigend drives around in an armored Brabus Maybach, but uses Phaetons for his staff because they're "...Good stealth cars. Mistake them for Jettas, at a distance."
In "Zero History," Gibson fully explores his product fetishism and grasp of the automotive zeitgeist by featuring a many of the same vehicles we can't stop talking about on the pages of Jalopnik. Click through the images for a chronological appendix to the most important vehicles used in "Zero History." There are no real spoilers, but don't read if you're especially impressionable.
Vehicle: Ford Freestyle
First Appears: Pg. 10*
Important Details: Used by Sleight to transport Milgrim in the opening, the assumption here is the vehicle might be a rental. As one character says in the book "Didn't they just fuck Ford up, when they went to start giving them f-names?" The car itself is a five-door wagon and predicted the switch over to unibody crossovers over SUVs.
The Freestyle quickly became the Ford Taurus X and then was quickly discontinued. There's also a reference to the car's "total piece of shit" transmission. This is probably a clever nod to the car's continuously variable transmission, one of the the first of its kind and kind of a piece of shit.
* This is based on the original 2010 hardcover print.
Vehicle: Jankel-Armored Toyota Hilux
First Appears: Pg. 36
Important Details: The new vehicle-of-choice for Bigend's increasingly security-conscious staff, a Toyota Hilux Double Cab isn't anything like your mom's Tundra. Built to tackle the worst climates in the world (including a jaunt up Eyjafjallajokull before it erupted), it's an über capable vehicle.
It almost seems made up, but Jankel is a real armoring company and they do make a Toyota Hilux for use as a personal security vehicle, for humanitarian missions in places that are less-than-humane, and, as alluded to in the book, for drug cartels. The ability to drop gas, deflect armored rounds, and otherwise own all other vehicles on the road is real. The cost is realistically $125-150K a piece for the level of protection they offer.
There's another mention of this truck being supercharged, which is interesting because the turbocharged diesel is the standard around the world. This means it's likely the 4.0-liter Australian-only TRD edition V6. More power for a vehicle that weighs a ton with the extra armor.
For more on armoring companies and vehicle capabilities check out our visit to Texas Armoring Corporation.
Vehicle: Lotus Elan
First Appears: Pg. 170
Important Details: First produced in the 1960s by small British manufacturer Lotus, the Elan is famous for being one of the best handling roadsters of the era. Because of it's appearance in Dubai, where Hollis Henry's boyfriend crashes into it, it'll have to be a particularly rare and expensive version of it. The car itself is a little too common for most in the Sheik set, so it's possible this is a rarer 26R version, which was a more powerful variant.
Photo Credit: BaT</em.
Vehicle: Kawasaki GT550
First Appears: Pg. 186
Important Details: Ubiquitous. Untrendy. Unremarkable. Gibson had to try hard to find a motorcycle from the 1980s that has none of the qualities Bigend likes to make a clear statement about what sort of person Fiona is.
Vehicle: Mercedes Benz W210 E-Class
First Appears: Pg. 250
Important Details: Gibson doesn't say what vehicle the antagonists in the book drive in the first encounter, but a Black Mercedes E-Class appears later in the book. It could be any generation E-Class, but the W210 from the mid 1990s until the early 2000s is a popular choice for criminals and car-for-hire services.
Vehicle: Subaru Sambar Van
First Appears: Pg. 288
Important Details: The Subaru Van could be a Sambar of any generation, but its placement in the UK and the appearance of actual drapes and the whimsy of the book just screams second-generation 1960s Sambar. These microvans fit a lot of gear in what's designed to fit in a tiny parking space.
Vehicle: 2006 Yahama FZR1000
First Appears: Pg. 321
Important Details: Bike repair shop owner Benny's personal ride, a powerful superbike engine in what's a comfortable, road-oriented chassis. Fast but not brutal. As has been pointed out in the comments, this bike stopped being made in 1995, so it's unclear if this is an error or Benny has a great Yamaha connection.
Vehicle: Nissan S-Cargo
First Appears: Pg. 330
Important Details: Clammy's car, described as "Japanese, minute, and appeared to have been fathered by a Citroën Deux Chevaux, its mother of less distinctive lineage but obviously having attended design school." This is a stellar description of the Nissan S-Cargo, though it's never named.
Vehicle: Ford Transit Van
First Appears: Pg. 369
Important Details: Described merely as a "tall" and new van large enough to hold a mobile command center and used as transportation for a vegan company called "Slow Food" it could be any of a number of large European transport vans. The Ford Transit is selected only because it's one of the most popular choices in England and therefore stealthy enough for the job.
First Appears: Pg. 394
Important Details: Get out of our mind William Gibson. More proof that he reads Jalopnik, the book is as obsessed with the ekranoplan as we are. Designed by the Russians during the Soviet Era, these Cold Warriors are "ground-effect vehicles" that are designed to fly so much as skip over the ground at around 15-20 feet while carrying immense loads and fast speeds.
Because it's so large and, because it's Bigend, we assumed a Lun-class Ekranoplan, which can travel at speeds of 340 mph thanks to its eight engines and 288K pounds of thrust. It turns out it's the also awesome A90 Orlyonok.
Photo Credit: Serger