For today’s imaginary car from an imaginary country, I’d like to take you to the vast plains of Tarquania, a thriving and proud nation sandwiched between Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Back in the 1960s, Tarquania was undergoing a great economic boom, and there was a lot of demand for cars—unfortunately, most imported cars were not acceptable, because the Tarquanians are the only people on Earth to have a fierce taboo against any hip-to-hip contact.
In what may be the only case in recorded (if fictional) history, the Tarquanian car industry was born not out of economic or political pressures, but from religious and cultural norms.
Tarquania was the only Irish colony in Central Asia for over two centuries. The area was once part of China until Irish missionaries won the territory in 1789, part of a drunken badminton match against a prince of the Qianlong Emperor. This was just the sort of idiotic move typical of the declining Qing Dynasty.
Ireland established a colony in the territory, but due to some very poor translations of the Bible into the local tongue, the Tarquanian people ended up practicing a very corrupted form of Christianity that had a messiah named Jergus who was a tree massager and who eventually was killed when the People of the Boot-land made him have sex with a yak.
Also, they firmly belived that any contact with a human’s hips was the worst possible sin, with hip-to-hip contact being the gravest of all.
Tarquanian fashion often exposed breasts and buttocks, but hips were always well-covered and padded. Seating was designed to never allow hip contact with another person, and even a physical barrier between hips was questionable if the hips were aligned with one another.
As a result, when the country’s economic miracle began in the 1950s, even though there was a great demand for cars, the seating layout of most cars, with their bench seats or closely-placed bucket seats, was a virtual orgy of hip-to-hip contact, and no Tarquanian would stand for that.
A few cars made the cut: the tandem-seat Messerschmitt Kabinroller was one of the few viable cars, but it only seated two. Trucks, vans, and sometimes limousines were sometimes modified to have a lone row of seats down the middle, but there were no options for a family car that wasn’t abnormally long and hard to drive.
Eventually, the Tarquanian government established a passenger car company to build a viable family car that was compatible with Tarquanian cultural norms: Marthoz.
Marthoz, named after the large geyser that formed the centerpiece of Tarquania’s capital city, Tarqeeni, designed an exceptionally clever car that allowed a family of five to travel in a car of a reasonable size, without any forbidden hip-to-hip contact. Here’s how they did it:
The car was called the Saiga, after a type of antelope native to the area, and it revolutionized Tarquanian transport. In order to accomodate the five seats in the hip-safe configuration, some novel layout decisions had to be made.
First, the driver sat centrally in front, getting access to the car via an Isetta-like front door; each side had a pair of passenger doors, with the rear doors opening suicide-style.
The strangest but most innovative solution on the Saiga was its drivetrain layout. To accomodate the unusual cabin space requirements, a pair of inline-twin engines sourced from the Fiat 500, then bored out to 800cc. The air-cooled engines each got a large oil cooler mounted ahead of them and in this configuration made 35 horsepower each, for a total of 70 HP for the car.
Each engine was mounted to a DAF-sourced single-belt CVT transmission, driving one wheel. The rear wheels were designed to steer, though the front wheels aided in the steering via an ingenious method where steering the wheel in one direction would decrease the throttle (via a system of cables) of the engine on the side that was being turned towards, allowing for tank-like steering for the front wheels.
Also worth mentioning: front-quarter windows were sourced from the same glass supplier Volkswagen used, as they were just Beetle rear-quarter glass.
The result was an oddly maneuverable car that let a whole Tarquanian family ride together without breaking any taboos, all in a length that was about equal to a Chevrolet Corvair. It was a perfect solution for Tarquania, and by 1970, nearly every Tarquanian family drove a Saiga.
The Great Cultural Re-Thinkening of 1975 put an end to the old Tarquanian hip-touching taboo, along with most of the Tarquanian Christian beliefs, with 91 percent of the country converting en masse to the Rosicrucian Order, which the country had seen an advertisement for in a copy of Popular Mechanics.
The Great Cultural Re-Thinkening also caused 88 percent of the country to try to learn guitar again.
Since that time, there was no longer a need to keep hips separated, and the Tarquanian market opened to cars from all over the globe.
In fact, the pendulum swung so far the other way that many, many Tarquanians with years of repressed hip-lust bought cars with bench seats, causing some manufacturers to continue producing bench-seat cars for the Tarquanian market well into the 1990s.
Tarquanian collectors still have many Saigas in wonderful condition, and the car is still a proud testimony to Tarquanian ingenuity. None were exported, but a few are in foreign hands, most notably a set of five owned by noted car-collector and hip fetishist, ex-Saturday Night Live comedian Nora Dunn.