June 24, 2008

Fiat radiator.

I can say from experience that Fiat’s Uno is one of the most reliable car to ever come out of Torino. Yes, I just used "Fiat" and "reliable" in the same sentence. The Uno is amazingly basic in conception, economical to run and the availability of the FIRE engine make it a great used car, moreso than later Fiats. But, alas, nothing is perfect. This 1992 Uno (roughly 168,000 kilometers) has been in the family since new. It’s currently under my aunt’s ownership and has had a leaky radiator since January. She drove it as is, filling it up when she felt it needed it (i.e. never enough) until recently when the leak got worse and the car became undriveable. Only then did she finally decide to replace the radiator. I got a used radiator from a junkyard for 30E. It’s from an older Uno so it’s a bit smaller than the original one but it’ll do the job and it fits into the engine bay without modifications.

The whole process took about 25 minutes, it’s very straightforward on a car like this.

1) Remove the two clips at the top, undo the two coolant hoses, unplug the fan connection and pull out the old radiator.
2) With the radiator out, remove the three screws that hold the fan and its assembly.
3) Bolt the fan and its assembly to the new radiator.
4) Put the radiator back in its place, tighten the hoses and secure the clips, plug the fan connection back in.
5) Fill it with water and barring any issues with a used radiator, it’s good to go.

June 23, 2008

Clipper Ship

While I don't intend by any means to start posting American cars on this blog, I felt this find was interesting enough despite the vehicles country of origin. When you approach a business called "Wolfgang's Professional Foreign Car Service", you probably won't expect to see a circa 1953 Packard Clipper parked below the sign. How this marvelously over-styled middle-class sedan made by an upper-class American car company which no longer exists came to rest at a foreign car shop owned by a German fellow is a story which I feel is best left untold - just because of the sheer strangeness of it all. This Clipper is an amazing piece of work really. One of the last examples of half-way decent American car craftsmanship, albeit a little absurd in its shameless waste of raw materials and space for what was essentially an 'entry level' car for Packard. When I finally opened the door to this car out of curiosity last week, i was surprised to find a clutch pedal. It sports a 3-speed manual on the column. It has no radio, basic cloth bench seats, and I reckon the interior space is large enough to be worth about 2 million dollars if it were converted to apartment space in Manhattan. All in all, this car is very intact and probably rather easily restorable. It did run when parked according Wolfgang, and was last registered in 2001. 

June 14, 2008

Volvo 262C Bertone

The luxury oriented Volvo 262 Bertone coupe was one of those cars that was essentially the answer to a question nobody asked and subsequently, was not a particularly popular model in the venerable 240 series. 
Shortly after re-locating to a new shop 15 years ago, my boss, Wolfgang was given this rather sorry 1978 262. Despite the name of this blog, the car did NOT run when parked and has remained this way ever since. As one familiar with the P.V.R. V6 engine will know, they're not quite up to the usual Volvo standards of reliability. This example was no exception. Currently the car continues to decompose in the back lot of the shop and will likely become scrap metal in the not too distant future. Years of abuse and neglect and near total lack of collectability despite it's relative rarity mean that this Swedish brick's days are numbered. 

Euro Switch

I like European cars... and I like them the way the Europeans intended them to be. Therefore, one of the first things I did to my new daily-driver 2000 Volkswagen Golf 1.8T was install a European market light switch and disable the daytime running lights. 
I purchased the 'euro-switch' on eBay for $30 shipped. Not a bad deal, though I'm pretty sure it's a Chinese knock-off. Either way, it looks and functions exactly like the genuine article. The North-American market switch originally in the car had two positions. On, and off. Since I intend to (eventually anyway) get fog-lights for the VW and also wire up the rear fog light, and since the Euro-switch accommodates these features, it was a natural choice. More importantly though, it allows me to 'legally' de-activate the daytime running lights. (allowing for parking lights which are necessary to pass inspection without DRLs) Say what you will about the safety benefits of DRLs, but I hate the notion of driving around on a warm sunny day with my low-beams blazing away constantly because VW feels it's a necessary feature to make their cars more appealing in North America. Not to mention also that since this car goes through about 2 sets of headlight bulbs a year, driving without them on all the time should save me a decent amount on lightbulb costs. (I figure the switch will pay for itself for that reason alone within about 6 months)
Installation is simple, just pop out the old switch by pushing in and turning, and pop the new switch in. However, the DRLs will remain on when the switch is in the "O" (off) position unless you make a slight modification (or go about pulling relays out of the dash and involving yourself in a chore of a wiring job). I chose to simply bend back the one contact pin on the switch that allows the DLRs to come on, and therefore, when plugged in, the contact never actually makes contact. And that's all there is to it!

With either parking lights or headlights on, one click out activates the front fog lights and changes the icon green. Two clicks out activates the rear fog light. 

Pictured above are the low-beams activated. The city-light (the small dim bulb) remains on along with the high beam bulb. Previously, when the DRLs were on, only the low-beams (not the city lights) were on, until the headlight switch was turned to the "on" position.

Below just the parking lights are activated. Rather than illuminating the amber turning signal as with Jettas equiped with a "Euro-switch", the low-power city-lights come on.

June 13, 2008

Alfas by the truckload.

Unfortunately, I never found the story behind this interesting truckload of Alfa Romeos. I spotted them in North Dallas a few months ago, apparently en route from Vermont to who knows where. If you look closely, you'll see a nice Series 2 Spider, a clean GTV-6 and a rough but rare (because they all rusted away) Alfetta Sports Sedan. Given they all had Vermont plates, it's likely that they are all part of the same collection that was either sold or is being moved out west.

With the exchange rate the way it is, it's not uncommon to see cars like Alfa Romeos being shipped overseas. For much of the world, it's a buyer's market right now.

Musée Automobile de Provence.

The Musée Automobile de Provence is a museum with several interesting vintage cars inside (with a 5EU admission fee) but also an ever changing collection of old cars in various states of repair and disrepair outside, most of them for sale. This is a small sampling of what they had to offer a couple of days ago:

1940s Talbot Lago Record.. a rare specimen from the days when Talbot was one of the most prestigious car makers in France (as opposed to making Peugeot clones), this one was in its juice but was all there.

1947 Paris-Rhone electric car. The same people who make the regulators in my Renault 4 made this, I don't know much else about it but it makes a BMW Isetta look like a Saab in terms of safety.

1965 Trabant.. the notoriously polluting Trabant, straight from the ex-East Germany. At 500 Euros I was (and admittedly still am) tempted.

1960s Triumph Herald 1200. I've voiced this before, I'm not a fan of British cars, but I would love one of these. Built to compete against economy sedans at the time but never caught on.

1960s Lancia 1500S Vignale.. a rather rare car to have sitting around like that. The textbook definition of "ran when parked", this one is a steal at 1,500 Euros.

Finally, a 1980s LNA and a 1970s Peugeot 204 Break.. at 600 and 300 Euros respectively, these are the unloved cars of France's past. Likely doomed to never find their public as in the collector's market, they're great bargains for the few who appreciate them.

June 8, 2008


European drivers prefer hatchbacks with manual transmissions. Chinese drivers perfer traditional sedans with automatic transmissions. Citroen, a real veteran of the Chinese market, designed the C-Triomphe to cater its Chinese customers. It's a four door version of the three or five door C4 available in Europe. Most of these are delivered with an automatic transmission.

June 6, 2008

Jieda (updated with more photos)

While in Europe and in the U.S. the mkII Jetta is a distant memory, you can still buy a new one in China. Sometimes written as 'Jieda', the front has been redesigned to look like a VW Santana (larger Passat-ish car) and the rear has been slightly redesigned but a lot of the body panels are still the same. They're very popular as taxis and government vehicles.

But, that's not it. You can also buy an mkIV Jetta. Either the standard Jetta that the U.S. and Europe got or a slightly redesigned one. These are either called Jettas or sometimes Bora, the monicker it sports in certain European markets.

Lastly, the current generation Jetta is also available but it's called the Sagitar.

June 1, 2008

Busting my Ball...joint...

Above you will notice a thoroughly failed ball joint on a 1993 Saab 900 Turbo. To be honest, I knew a while ago that I had a bad left front ball joint. I chose not to replace it in anticipation of retiring my Saab within the next week or so. However, almost as if the car knew I was being neglectful, it forced it's attention upon me rather suddenly while making a left hand turn during my lunch break. The right front of my car came crashing to the road rather violently, sending my wheel well up into the fender and taking the drive shaft with it. All much to the dismay of myself, other drivers, and the Millcreek police once they saw it sitting in the intersection of two high-traffic roads.

Not having my new car yet at that moment forced me to fix the problem immediately. Let me tell you, it wasn't exactly a joy. Fortunately the only problem that resulted from the drive shaft being literally torn from the transmission was a ripped rubber CV joint boot. Interestingly this part was the most difficult to locate and the drive shaft proved to be the biggest nuisance to re-install. 
I got the car back together and all was relatively right with the suspension again, but now my alternator has failed... and it's not getting fixed. I'm now officially (and somewhat unwillingly) a Volkswagen driver.