Driving on air

Joop Soesan brings a weekly hour of cars, road safety and automobile history to Rusty Mike Radio.

311_ Range Rover (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_ Range Rover
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Before arriving in Israel in 1999, Dutch immigrant Joop Soesan worked as a real estate consultant for new commercial developments but was “bitten” since early childhood by the “car bug.”
“My father used to change cars sometimes every month, buying nice Studebakers, Buicks and Chevys in the 1960s. Before making aliya, I drove around 80,000 km. a year and changed cars every two years. I’ve always tried to drive the latest models. Since I also read a lot about cars, I started to develop more knowledge about different cars, about road behavior and the proper way to drive by taking special driving courses,” he says.
Car enthusiasts can now benefit from Soesan’s expertise by tuning in to his Car Talk show on Rusty Mike Radio (www.rustymikeradio.com) on Wednesday nights (except holidays) at 7 p.m.
Relatively new to the Middle East, Rusty Mike Radio, an Internet-accessed station located in the Talpiot Industrial Zone, is popular with thousands of listeners in Israel and worldwide. Especially popular is Car Talk, an hour-long talk show devoted to cars and issues related to driving and owning them. Moderated by Soesan, known as “the driving Dutchman,” the program often covers “green car” subjects such as electric cars, hybrid cars and the technology behind both. Electric cars, especially those developed by Israel’s Better Place Company, have often been discussed at length.
After arriving here in 1999, he started to write for the Dutch weekly car magazine Autoweek, which is connected to the Autobildt magazine in Germany and 34 other car magazines in many European countries.
Soesan’s writing about Better Place and the development of the electric car concept resulted in his being interviewed on Rusty Mike Radio several times. “They asked me if I was interested in doing a car show for the station,” he recalls.
That resulted in his having his own weekly show. The program is Israel’s only radio talk show devoted exclusively to cars. “There are only two similar shows in the world,” says Soesan. “One is in the USA on NRP and one is in Holland on BNN-radio. I try to show people in Israel and abroad that a car is not just a tool but that you can love a car and enjoy the beauty of it.”
Soesan frequently test drives many types of cars that are introduced into Israel. Soesan, who lives in the Tel Aviv area, drives to Jerusalem every Wednesday to host the program. Traveling with him is an educational experience in itself, especially when he is test driving a car like a Fiat 500 sports model, equipped with a 1,400 c.c. high performance engine, a sunroof and a select drive transmission (that allows driving in either automatic or gearshift mode).
“Many people don’t know how to use a gearshift when driving on steep hills – they use their brakes far too much,” Soesan says in reference to the way people negotiate the hills on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
ONE OF Soesan’s most thought-provoking interviews was with Dutch history researcher Paul Schilpenoord, who discovered that it was not the Porsche or Daimler-Benz companies but a Hungarian Jewish engineer named Joseph Ganz who originally designed and developed the concept of the Volkswagen Beetle. Schilpenoord, who published a book in Holland in 2009 about Ganz, recounted that the original rear engine concept was developed during the late 1920s and early 1930s and was first known as the “Maikafer,” or May Beetle. Ganz’s designs were later stolen by Hitler. Schilpenoord’s book, entitled How Hitler Approved the Production of a Car Designed by a Jewish Engineer, is being translated into English and may eventually be made into a movie.
“Ganz survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Switzerland and eventually to Australia. He tried to develop other versions of the car but found that the Volkswagen Porsche company had gone ahead and produced the Beetle in the early 1950s. Ganz died in 1967, still trying to claim the legal recognition he deserved from the companies that used his designs to produce a car that literally changed the way that cars are made,” Schilpenoord told Soesan and the listening audience.
Other Car Talk program interviews of interest include one with Sir Eric Carlson, the former race car driver and world champion in the 1960s and ’70s. In addition to being a rally driver, Carlson taught stunt drivers in the original James Bond films to drive the Aston Martin DB-5 sports car. Interviewees have also included local personalities involved in improving traffic safety in Israel, such as Dr. Varda Levanon of the Or Yarok road safety organization and Mickey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police.
“We see it as our duty to inform people how to drive safely and to behave better on the roads with safety tips and advice to help prevent the many accidents that occur here,” Soesan says.
The message of the September 1 Car Talk program dealt with the future of cars running on alternative energy, including hydrogen and other fuels. Soesan says it would great if at least 20 percent to 25 percent of all vehicles on Israel’s motorways used either electricity or another ecologically friendly fuel within the next 20 to 30 years.
“Despite some developmental issues, the future of electric cars on Israel’s roads is a very positive step – if and when the country’s infrastructure will be ready for them,” he says.