June 19, 2011

Ran When Parked has moved.

Ian and I have been considering switching Ran When Parked over to an actual site for about a year now. During that time we talked about the pros & cons, how would we go about it, and whether or not the swap was even possible in the first place. After getting some valuable insight from RWP reader Darren Keeley we concluded that it was very doable and that everything would transfer over with only minor issues.

Late last night we pulled the trigger: the new site is www.ranwhenparked.net (not .com!)

All of the content of this site have been transferred to the new site. The categories have stayed the same, the pages are the same, the photos are still there, and so on. There are differences in the layout. For example, the header we have here didn't fit on the new site and couldn't easily be resized so we quickly drafted up another one. Also, with the new site we have the option of adding a "continue reading" link so only the first paragraph or two of each article shows up on the main page. This creates a more user-friendly design and a less-cluttered front page.

However, because of some coding differences between Wordpress and Blogger there are some glitches in each article. Fonts that change halfway down the page, pictures that don't show up where they should, and spacing between sentences that seems to have vanished. To fix all this we need to manually edit every single one of the 321 articles one at a time. We started with the latest articles and so far we have edited everything up until about August 2010. We'll get all of the articles edited by tomorrow or Tuesday and it will all look normal again.

This site will still be around for a little while but this will be the last article on it. From now on, everything new will be published on www.ranwhenparked.net. The change does not in any way affect the Facebook page or its location.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please let us know.

As always: thanks for reading.

Ronan & Ian.

June 18, 2011

Caption contest: Fiat 133.

Just for fun, how would you caption this picture from a 1970s Fiat 133 brochure? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

June 16, 2011

Event Recap - Mobil 1 Seat Swap at Watkins Glen

In spite of a weather forecast of sunny and 70 degrees, Watkins Glen International was cold and rainy on Tuesday morning when a surprisingly large number of fans began turning up at the track for the Mobil 1 sponsored "Seat Swap" event. Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and Nascar driver Tony Stewart were set to trade cars for a few laps around the historic circuit in New York. The Glen made a name for itself by hosting the United States Grand Prix (among other international racing events) for roughly two decades. In more recent years, Nascar has utilized the track for one of a couple road courses run throughout the season. Tony Stewart, therefore, is no stranger to Watkins Glen in a Nascar, though it's been nearly 30 years since a modern Formula 1 machine has raced around the circuit.

The relatively quiet atmosphere was awakened as Hamilton's McLaren MP4-23 (2008) was fired up in a tent across from the grandstands on the front straight. Perhaps it's the newer, smaller 2.4 L engines, or the fact that the Glen is fairly open in terms of surrounding structures, but I couldn't help but think that the McLaren didn't seem nearly as loud as the old V10 F1 cars I recall from Indianapolis in 2000 and 2001. After a few minutes of warm-up revs, the McLaren was switched off, and there was more waiting. This would be the case throughout most of the day. The F1 was turned on, revved, and switched off several times before it was finally wheeled out to the track along with Stewart's Chevrolet Impala Nascar.
In the mean time, F1 driver David Coulthard was keeping busy by taking VIPs around the wet track in a Corvette. Since Nascars don't race in wet conditions and Stewart himself is not experienced in the rain, let alone in a Formula 1 car, there was a bit of worry that the event may be called off. Interestingly, the Nascar was fitted with rain tires, a windshield wiper, and even a defogger. After a few hours the rain let up, and the two cars were finally rolled out to the start/finish line.

The scene of watching the respective team members prepare their cars was rather telling of just how different the machines are. The Nascar was simply pushed out on its own wheels whereas the F1 car was wheeled out on a dolly with tire warmers kept on until the very last moment. Most of the activity seemed to me centered around preparing the McLaren - the Nascar waiting patiently. It was like imagining a country boy going out on a date with a European super model.

The two drivers eventually got into their own cars and went around for a parade lap. Stewart came in to the pits while Hamilton went stayed on track for a few warm-up laps. The sound of the car could be heard the entire time as it went around the 3.4 mile circuit. Hamilton had never been to Watkins Glen before but seemed to have no trouble at all. Seeing the F1 car at Watkins Glen just seemed to fit. I'm certain that many of the people there were thinking that it's a shame the series no longer races at the rightful home of Grand Prix racing in the United States.
Stewart went out in his car, but was notably conservative. The track was still quite damp, however, and it has to be one of the only times a Nascar has been driven at speed in such conditions. Stewart came back in and it was Hamilton's turn in the Impala. The track had started to dry significantly at this point, but Lewis seemed all the more fearless with the car - even sliding it sideways before coming back to the front straight on his final lap and doing an incredible series of doughnuts in front of pit lane.
Hamilton remarked at how well planted the Nascar seemed and how much he enjoyed the Watkins Glen circuit. (Maybe Bernie Ecclestone heard him?)

Stewart got into the McLaren and after a stall, was out on track. He seemed very timid with the car the first time around, though one can't blame him. The next couple times around, he seemed to gain a lot of confidence. The only noticeable difference in driving styles from this observer's point of view, being the much more relaxed downshifts going into the 90' after the front straight.

In the end, and to be perfectly honest, Hamilton was the faster of the two in both machines. That being said, Stewart couldn't be blamed.
The event could have been more spectator friendly and a little better organized, but hopefully the several thousand people who showed up on a weekday in terrible weather will get the point across that we want to see Formula 1 cars in the US - and at The Glen.

Also available on our partner site Racing Redux

Reader mail: 1967 Daimler DR450 needs to be saved.

Almost a year ago we featured a Daimler DR450 that was for sale in North Salt Lake. The car is gone and we figured it was probably the first and last one we’d ever run across. With only 864 cars made, they’re not exactly a common find.

A few days ago we got an email from a man in Indiana saying he had found another DR450. It’s a 1967 and he told us it looked to be in better shape than the one we found in Utah. Here are the pictures that he sent us:

The body doesn’t look too fresh but the man reassures us that it looks better in person than it does in photos and that the rust on it is merely surface rust. The photos confirm that; the only perforation on the car is limited to two small holes on each rocker panel.

Unlike the North Salt Lake car we found this one appears to be fairly complete. The car even still has its original V8 engine and it apparently runs! The glass is all there, most of the trim is there, it even still wears its British-issue license plates. Complete is only half the story, though: most if not all of it will need to be refurbished, but it's the perfect base for a complete restoration.

If anyone is interested in saving this rare piece of British automotive history, please contact us and we will send you the rest of the photos and get you in touch with the owner. And if you know of an interesting car that needs to be saved from a trip to the crusher, send us some photos and its story and we'll try to find it a new home.

June 7, 2011

A rear-engined Fiat for every need and budget.

Once upon a time when hand-built cars were still plentiful it was a popular activity in Italy to take mass-produced Fiats and rebody them. The Turin Motor Show was full to the brim with small artisans showcasing their latest creations. Throughout the years Fiat’s popular rear-engined economy cars have loaned their platforms to become small trucks, sports cars, off-roaders, people movers and even luxury cars. We’re passing on the well-known Abarth and Seat models and taking a look at some of the more obscure ones. This is the first part of a series and covers mostly older models; a second part covering later cars will come soon.

Savio Jungla

The Savio Jungla was commissioned by Fiat’s Gianni Agnelli as a vehicle to compete against the Mini Moke and later the Citroën Mehari. Agnelli did not want to develop the vehicle in house so he outsourced both the development and the production to Savio, a coachbuilder in Turin. Savio essentially had unlimited access to Fiat’s parts bin and as a result, the Jungla is a mix of parts from miscellaneous Fiat models.

The first car was presented at the 1965 Turin Motor Show under the name Giungla. Production started in 1966 and the name was changed to Jungla.

The 500’s two-cylinder engine was judged too small to power such a vehicle so Savio used the 600D’s 767cc water-cooled four-cylinder. It goes without saying that the drivetrain was mounted in the rear, something the French magazine Auto-Journal praised when they tested the car against the front-engined Renault 4 Plein Air and Citroën Mehari in 1969. Top speed was a scant 95km/h but few who bought the car needed to go much faster.

The off-road nature of the vehicle called for the use of a bigger wheel/tire combination so both were borrowed from the Fiat 1100.

The doors on early versions were metal frames covered in fabric but later ones could be ordered with metal half doors. A soft top was the one and only top option throughout the car’s production run and was fairly easy to install but rumored to be fairly fragile.

When production ended in 1974 about 3200 Junglas had been built. A decent amount of them were ordered by the Italian government and used by the Carabinieri and other government forces. Fiat toyed around with the idea of replacing the Jungla with an A112-powered one but those plans were cancelled, though Savio did go on to build another Jungla based on the 126.

SIATA Spring

The Italian coachbuilder SIATA designed the Spring to mimic English roadsters like the MG TC. Startnig with an 850 platform with an 843cc water-cooled four-cylinder, SIATA added a retro body that they built in-house. To complete the vintage look the car could be fitted with wire wheels. The Spring cost roughly the same as an 850 Spider when it hit showrooms in 1967 and many of them were exported to the U.S.

SIATA went out of business in 1970 so production theoretically ended then but there’s a twist: the Rivolta family of ISO fame bought the SIATA assembly lines and continued to produce the Spring using Seat mechanical bits. Seat was part of the Fiat group at the time so the parts were similar but several details changed, including the use of a slightly more powerful version of the 843cc. The car was rechristened the Seat-ORSA Spring Special. Production lasted until 1974, when ISO went under.

Moretti Sportiva

Introduced in 1967, the aerodynamic Moretti Sportiva looked like a poor man’s Dino from the front. The Fiat 850 emblem on the back of it betrayed its origins: it was powered by the 850’s 843cc four-cylinder. A beefed up 982cc (62hp) version of that engine was also available.

The first version of it was the Sportiva S2, a two-seater available either as a coupe or as a Transformabile, essentially a coupe with a large cloth sunroof. By popular demand Moretti launched the Sportiva S4 2+2 a year later.

A big selling point for the Sportiva was the possibility to customize it as one pleased, a tendency that is making a comeback today in premium small cars such as the Citroën DS3. The Sportiva could be ordered with metallic paint, Borrani wheels, electric windows, an entire panoply of interior upholstery and so on.

Production ended in 1971 and it is estimated that less than 1,000 of them were built.

Ferves Ranger

Ferves stands for Ferrari Veicoli Speciali. There is no connection between them and the Ferrari that probably came to mind as you read that, the name is simply a coincidence; Ferrari is a common last name in Italy, and the man behind the Ranger’s full name was Carlo Ferrari.

The tiny 4x4 Ranger was launched at the 1966 Turin Motor Show and like the Jungla above it was a melting pot of Fiat parts. The suspension and brakes came from the 600D, the front driveshafts came from the Autobianchi Primula and the 499cc air-cooled two-cylinder was borrowed from the 500 F. It also used the 500’s four-speed gearbox-differential unit though the Ranger’s differential ratio was shorter than of a standard 500. Ferves claimed the Ranger was good for approximately 50mph. It had an unbelievably tiny wheelbase that gave it a bad tendency to roll but that aside, it was a fairly capable off-roader.

Later versions came with a five-speed gearbox and that included a granny gear and a system that permitted the front wheels to be locked in an effort to simulate a locking differential. As odd of a setup as it may seem, it was said to be effective. A 4x2 version was also available towards the end of its production run.

Most of the Rangers built were four-seaters but a two-seat pickup was also offered. Both versions came with a windshield that folded down and with a soft top.

Production ended in 1971 and it is estimated that less than 1,000 of them were built.

Francis Lombardi Lucciola

Francis Lombardi’s story is an interesting one. He fought for Italy in WWI was a decorated pilot in the Italian Air Force. In 1938 he started his own airplane company called AVIA (Azionari Vercellese Industrie Aeronautiche). The company built a twin-seat training/touring plane called the L3 that Lombardi designed himself. After WWII he turned to building wood-paneled station wagon versions of Fiat 1100s.

His first 600-based model was the Lucciola (firefly in Italian) that he presented in 1956. It was based on a standard 600 but was much more upscale. Its rear window was larger than that of the standard 600 and it was available with two-tone paint. A very interesting convertible version of this car was also made in extremely limited numbers.

In 1958 he presented a new Lucciola: it was an elegant four-door 600 and the rear doors opened in a suicide fashion like in the Lancia Appia. There was no B-pillar. The front seats were swapped out for a single bench seat to create the impression of sitting in a large, luxurious sedan. The Lucciola wore a non-functional chrome grille on the front and chrome trim decorated the car all around.

He updated the Lucciola in 1963 by fitting a larger 767cc engine from the 600D. A concept car with four forward-hinged doors was built but never saw the light of production.

Much like the two-door version precious few Lucciola four-door sedans were built. However they were successful enough that Lombardi went on to modify a lot of other Fiats including the 850, the 126, the 127, the 500, and even Alfas, Volkswagens and NSUs. His carrozzeria is a good example of what was being done with Fiats during those years. He built pickups, sedans, convertibles, coupes, and so on.

May 30, 2011

Developing the death-proof car.

As a result of rising death rates in auto crashes, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched the Experimental Safety Vehicle program in 1970. The program was intended as a way for various automakers to learn more about both passive and active safety in cars and apply that knowledge to production cars in the next ten or so years.

It consisted of building prototypes that met certain requirements: they had to keep passengers alive in a 50mph crash into a solid barrier, withstand side impacts at 30mph, protect the car’s occupants in a 75mph rear end collision, and survive two complete rollovers at 60-70mph.

Some of the guidelines revolved around handling so manufacturers couldn’t simply turn an economy sedan into an armored tank that destroyed everything in its way. The prototypes had to stop from 60mph within 155 feet on a dry road, accelerate from 30 to 70mph in less than 12 seconds with a 60% load and make an abrupt 180 degree turn at 70mph without rolling over.

The test cars were organized by weight classes: 1500 pounds, 2000 pounds, 2500 pounds and 4000 pounds. Part of the guidelines was, of course, that the cars actually respect the weight limit in each class, something most of the participating manufacturers had a hard time doing given the extra equipment they bolted on to each car.

These prototypes were remarkable in both the effort and resources put forth to develop and build them but also in the far-fetched ideas that some manufacturers came up with in order to supposedly make a car safer. Popular Mechanics hit the nail on the head when in June of 1972 they observed that “the world may never want to place an ESV in production, but we sure want the answers the cars can give us.”

We picked a few ESV prototypes to take a look at but it’s far from an exhaustive list. Looking at all of them would take ages; lots of manufacturers took part in the program including Opel, Renault, GM and Nissan.

American Machine & Foundry AMF 2

AMF has manufactured a vast variety of products: bicycles, tennis rackets, golf clubs, snowmobiles and even Harley Davidson motorcycles, just to name a few. Conspicuously absent from that list are cars, but they gave the ESV program a shot anyways. Their prototype was part of the 4000 pound category but weighed a whopping 5,791 pounds. It had a steel body with aluminum bumpers that had a thirty inch (!) travel. Rear visibility was assured by a submarine-like periscope, visible on the roof.

Like many other ESV prototypes it had airbags to protect the occupants and AMF took it further by adding automatic fire extinguishers. It is remembered as one of the best ESVs built by an American company.

Fiat ESV 1500

Fiat’s ESV for the 1500 pound category was one of the three the company built in the early 1970s. The other two were in the 2000 pound and 2500 pound category, respectively.

To develop the 1500 pound ESV Fiat used crash test data from the 500. The prototype uses a 500 running gear with a slightly bigger engine to counter the added weight, though the use of 126 parts is noticeable as well. This one met most DOT requirements for its weight class including fire protection, safe driving in foggy weather and pedestrian safety. The requirement it didn’t meet was the weight – it weighed a little over 1700 pounds in a weight class limited to 1500 pounds.

Ford ESV

Unlike a lot of other ESVs Ford’s prototype was based entirely on an existing production car, the LTD. Compared to the car found on dealer lots, the LTD ESV had a longer hood and a shorter trunk. Like the AMF above it was part of the 4000 pound category and also like the AMF, it weighed considerably more: the Ford tipped the scales at almost 5,300 pounds.

Compared to a stock LTD the brakes and suspension were modified to comply with the DOT’s handling requirements, including the addition of an ABS system that acted only on two wheels. The bumpers were hydraulically retractable to withstand a 10mph crash.

Both Ford and GM charged the government $1 for the development of their ESVs.

Honda ESV

Honda’s ESV was not an ESV in the true sense of the term. Instead they tried to build a mass-produced car to ESV standards, the same path that Ford followed. Ford did much better than Honda but they were starting with a bigger and heavier car; Honda was starting with a Civic. Honda strengthened the Civic’s body all around, including the door pillars to increase protection in a rollover. The engine was the same 55hp unit found in the production car.

Because of miscellaneous setbacks revolving around the Civic’s tiny size, the prototype took a year longer to complete than the other ESVs.

Mercedes-Benz ESF 22

Mercedes was very active in the ESV program: the ESF 22 was their third prototype after the ESF 5 in September of 1971 and the ESF 13 in 1972. First two prototypes were based on a w114 250 sedan but the ESF 22 was based on the w116 450 SE.

The ESF 22 used ABS brakes all around and experimented with airbags. Although the ESF 22’s long hood kept occupants alive even in the event of a 40mph crash against a solid structure, Mercedes’ prototypes did not comply with all of the DOT-mandated requirements in the program. Mercedes built a fourth and final one, the ESF 24, and called it quits.


This was another small car entry. MG started with a B GT body and added equipment such as a heads up display for the speedometer, airbags, big rubber bumpers and a self leveling suspension that would be later outlawed by DOT.

MG drunk driver-proofed the car by having a little colorful sequence show up on a screen when the key was inserted. Before the car would start, the driver would have to reproduce the sequence. The driver had three tries; if by the third the correct sequence had not been entered, the car would be impossible to start for an hour. The idea was that if someone was drunk enough, they wouldn’t be able to reproduce the sequence in the right order.

One of the few features from the SSV 1 to make it on a production MG are the huge rubber bumpers, though certain MG owners have reported seeing a sequence of flashing lights on the dash followed by their car not starting.

Toyota ESV

Toyota took a smaller approach to the ESV prototype: they developed a 2500 pound two-seater coupe. It was powered by a 1700cc mated to an automatic transmission, seen as safer than a manual transmission since it was run by a computer and not a human.

The prototype was packed full of electronics, including a system that adjusted the brightness of the headlight based on the car’s speed. The car also had radars to scope out the road ahead for obstacles. If one was found too close and the radar judged that a collision was unavoidable, it would send a signal to deploy the “gasbags”. The car also used what Toyota called failure warning board, a sort of on-board computer that monitored brake fluid level, engine oil level, etc.

Volkswagen ESVW-I

Staying true to Volkswagen tradition, their ESV had a 1700cc rear-mounted air-cooled engine. It developed 100 hp and was fully compliant with U.S. emissions.

Interestingly enough Volkswagen opted not to use airbags. Instead, they had seatbelts that automatically restrained passengers in the event of a crash thanks to gas-fired pistons. The car was equipped with what Volkswagen called a “silent co-pilot” system that calculated how much crosswind was hitting the car and from what side and electronically compensated the steering for it.

On the outside the bumpers didn’t stick out near as much as other prototypes and period Volkswagen literature bragged that their ESV had a “nearly normal” appearance, as opposed to other cars in the program.

Volkswagen built a second ESV in 1974, the ESVW – II, based on a first generation Golf/Rabbit. They exited the program soon after because they realized that the safety features would be too costly to implement in a production car.

Volvo VESC

Volvo has always been a leader in auto safety so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they started developing the VESC in 1969, a full year before the DOT started the ESV program. With that said it was not developed with any of the program guidelines in mind but excelled anyways. It weighed a few pounds shy of 3,200 pounds.

The bumper had a seven inch travel distance to absorb shock and the engine was designed to get pushed under the floor in the event of a front collision, something Mercedes introduced on their W168 A-Class in 1997. To effectively stop the car ABS was fitted on all four wheels. On the inside, occupants were protected by both front and rear airbags.

May 25, 2011

What's in your garage?

The links at the top of this page titled "Ronan's Garage" and "Ian's Garage" showcase what we drive around in or spend our time under.

We want to start featuring reader cars on the site, about one per month to start off with. If you have one (or more!) you'd like us to feature, send us an email at ranwhenparked at hotmail dot com with a brief history of it (how long you've had it, etc) and three or four pictures we can use.

This is new and we don't know how many folks will actually be interested. If you send us an email and we don't choose your car this month, don't worry, it will have its fifteen minutes of fame another time.

Thanks for reading.