February 28, 2010

Mystery Car & Article Preview

This is not our typical mystery car here on RWP as currently this vehicle's actual whereabouts remain unknown. I thought I'd take the opportunity to use it as a preview to an upcoming article which will be sort of a blend of What Lies Beneath and Great Automotive Failures. So, can anybody identify it? The answer may surprise you!
Send submissions to ranwhenparked -at- hotmail.com

February 27, 2010

Prime à la casse.

Driving past the Peugeot dealer here I noticed this beautiful 304 outside. All-original car, not a single speck of rust, dry engine, no broken glass, the interior is in good shape, no parts are missing (the hubcaps were in the trunk). It has a sunroof and leather seats, making it more desirable than a base model 304. Naturally I went in to inquire about it and the saleswoman informed me it's a cash for clunkers car they took in yesterday and it can't be sold.

Have a look at the pictures, does this look like a car that should be scrapped? I don't know about your criterias to junk a car but according to mine, no. Truth be told it's in better shape than a lot of the mid-1990s Renault Meganes and Clios that drive down the freeway like it's the straightaway part of the Spa circuit. A lot of 304s got beaten up throughout their lives, this is an exception, I don't think I've ever seen one in this good of shape.

So why is it there? Was it too much work for the owners to put up a free internet ad on any of the countless classifieds sites to get someone to save their Peugeot? Granted, a Peugeot 304 isn't worth a lot but keep in mind a classic car doesn't imply an expensive one. That said, with a decent ad they could have gotten twice what the dealership gave them to scrap it; it would also make a good first classic car for a young enthusiast, for example. Instead they found it easier to drive it to the dealership and get 1,000€ off of their new Peugeot. One could argue that the owners likely failed to see the value of the car, but I'd argue back that if somebody owns a classic car in good shape like this one without knowing anything about it, it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into what it is and what its worth. If they truly didn't know and junked it without doing five short minutes of research, there are no ifs, ands, or buts, it's black and white: something is wrong.

But I've swayed from the original point: if you listen to television the point of the "prime à la casse" (the name of cash for clunkers here in France, it loosely translates to "junkyard allowance") is to get people to trade in their old polluting cars for newer, more efficient cars. An important point that often gets overlooked is that without big incentives consumers today are more reluctant to buy a car. When on January 1st, 2010, the French government lowered the allowance from 1,000€ to 700€, car manufacturers (notably Renault) panicked and offered to add the missing 300€ to any cash for clunkers trade in, worried that if the allowance went down by about 30% consumers would buy less cars.

Old cars are getting scrapped to put new ones on the road, and in about ten years these new ones will certainly get scrapped to put newer ones on the road for another ten years. Where do you place classic cars in this cycle? What happens when the next generation of collectors doesn't know what a Peugeot 304 looks like other than in photos? If you've got a classic car and it's in half decent condition, save it. Drive it or park it for five years while you save up money for a restoration if you have to; if you don't want it sell it to an enthusiast that does, you can always find one; but please, whatever you do don't junk it, these cars aren't getting any more common.

"Casse", "junkyard in French.

February 25, 2010

Peugeot 204.

As two people correctly guessed the mystery car was a Peugeot 204 sedan:

They were built from 1965 to 1976 in sedan, convertible, coupe and station wagon form. While maybe a bit bland on the outside they were interesting cars inside: all variants had a transversally mounted four cylinder engine (gas or diesel) varying in size and were front wheel drive. Peugeot achieved that by placing the manual transmission under the engine block and the two share the same oil.

Below are some photos from a junkyard in the Vaucluse department of France. Due to the rain I wasn't able to take as many as I wanted but I did manage to find an exhaust I need so I'll go back on a sunny day to fetch the exhaust and take some more pictures.

A Panhard PL 17b:

The Panhard PL17 was produced from 1959 to 1965. Under the huge hood lies an air-cooled flat-two displacing either 848cc or 851cc depending on the model. An engine this small may seem inadequate for a car that is rather big but it's not as slow as one may think due to the aerodynamic shape of it. An interesting feature of that engine is the exhausts, which on either side also serve as motor mounts. If you like Panhards stay tuned, they will be the subject of an article in the near future.

The junkyard (which is actually half a junkyard, half a guy's collection) also had other cars that we've already covered in these pages, including a Fiat 500:

Fiat 850 Coupe:

Various Renault 4s:

Last but not least, a rusted-out Alfa Giulia 1300TI spotted in a garage on the way home. The owners want 500€ out of it.

February 23, 2010

Mystery car.

This one should be fairly easy, email your guesses to ranwhenparked -at- hotmail -dot- com

Photo taken in Lourmarin, France.

February 21, 2010

Giulia GTC.

I had the good fortune of driving behind this rare Alfa Romeo Giulia GTC for a few kilometers outside of Aix-en-Provence in France a few days ago. The plates were original-issue so the car has likely been in the Bouches-du-Rhône departement all its life.

The Giulia GTC is basically a convertible version of the Giulia Sprint GT (or GTV, as it later became known). Only 1,000 of them were built by Touring from 1964 to 1966 when the Duetto was introduced.

February 16, 2010

The $3,600 Audi

Ah yes, the old days of Porsche+Audi. In the 70s and 80s Porsches and Audis were sold through the Porsche+Audi dealer network which was a division of Volkswagen. Porsche's image of sportiness, VW's of economy, and Audi's value and technology, all worked together in one grand marketing device.

Of course, there has always been comradeship between VW and Porsche for obvious reasons, yet the Porsche 917 and the Audi 100, as shown in the above 1971 ad, are rather distant cousins.

The 100 was a car that almost never came to life. After having recently acquired Auto-Union from Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen was more interested in using Audi's production facilities to make Beetles than develop the more upmarket brand. The 100 was essentially designed in secrecy behind VW's back, and furthermore traces more of its roots to NSU and DKW (under Daimler control) than Volkswagen.

Those inboard brakes? Well, those could also be found on the NSU R080, which was designed prior to VW's purchase of NSU in 1969. Before that even, inboard brakes were used on Mercedes race cars of the 1950s. Interestingly, the Audi 100's designer was Ludwig Kraus. He worked with M-B from the 1930s through 1963 before moving to their Auto-Union division. He followed Auto-Union to VW in 1964, and finally left in 1973.

It was then that Ferdinand Piech took over at Audi. He had just left Porsche after heading the 917 race car project, which had nearly bankrupt them.

Today, Porsche Cars and the VW Group are all part of Porsche Automobil Holding SE - the majority of which is owned by the Piech and Porsche families.

February 9, 2010

6 volt to 12 volt conversion on a 1969 Renault 4.

The car receiving the 12 volt system is this 1969 Renault 4:

It's an all original, mostly rust free car with about 80,000 kilometers. I purchased it for the price of the paperwork to transfer the title over two years ago and I haven't done anything to it since, with the exception of more or less looking for a cheap 6 volt battery to get it going. That didn't happen; the part of me that wants to keep it original lost the battle to the part of me that wants to drive it and I decided to convert it it to 12 volt.

So what's involved in this swap? First you need all the parts. This is when you're glad you have a parts car gracefully rusting in your backyard. Upon closer inspection of the parts car you will undoubtedly also be glad you have a tetanus booster shot.

I've owned this 1974 Renault 4 since 2006. It ran quite rough, overheated constantly and it's much rustier than photos make it out to be so I parked it when the started died.

Here are some of the parts pulled from the 12v 1974 that you'll need for the swap:

The voltage regulator, the coil, the condenser, two headlight bulbs, the only two remaining tail light bulbs and the generator. Other items not pictured are the front turn signal bulbs, the wiper motor (dead on both the 1974 and the 1969), the instrument cluster lights and obviously a 12v battery. Note that you do not need the 12v starter; the 6v one holds up fine, it just spins faster. The wiring and the switches carry over as well.

First step is to remove all the old 6v bulbs and replace them with 12v ones. Clean out dirty sockets while you're at it, too.

Next step, remove the generator. Before you disconnect anything pay attention to which wire goes where! Take a picture, draw a diagram, whatever helps you get it right when you put the 12v one on. On a Renault 4 of this vintage you need to remove the fan and the fan pulley to get out the bolt that holds the generator to its mount. The fan is held on by four 13mm bolts mating it to the shaft on the water pump and a 17mm bolt that holds the whole assembly on. Remove those, remove the 17mm bolt that holds the generator in place, remove the belt and remove the generator. It's good practice to have a new belt to put back on.

With the generator out (see picture above) you can easily get to the coil and the condenser. Remove and replace (fairly straightforward.)

Next up is the voltage regulator. On a Renault 4 it's held on by two 8mm bolts on either side. Like for the generator, take a picture or draw a diagram to remember what goes where.

Once everything is back together it should look like this:

And.. success!

Everything works fine.. sort of. It won't fire, I'll look into why in the next few days (it may need new points.)

February 5, 2010

Simca Abarth 1150.

Carlo Abarth is well known in the racing world for the exhaust systems that bore his name, the cars he designed and raced and for his work modifying Fiats 500s and 600s into the precursors of hot hatches such as the Golf GTI: the concept is similar, a big engine in a small, mass produced car.

Simca is well known in European competition for their 1000 Rallye and 1000 Rallye 2. But the idea of making the boxy, rear-engined Simca 1000 go fast didn’t start with the 1000 Rallye in 1972, it started with Carlo Abarth in the early 1960s.

Abarth chose the Simca 1000 as his next project partly because it was newer than the Fiat 600s and 500s (introduced in 1955 and 1957 respectively) and the idea of racing them apparently hadn’t crossed the minds of many other folks. Another reason is that when Simca introduced the 1000 in 1961 it became immensely popular on the French market. It was well-designed, reliable and benefited from very decent built quality. Abarth saw the same potential in the little Simca and started drawing out ideas. With the green light from Fiat, which created Simca in 1934 and still owned it at the time, a hundred cars were shipped to the Abarth factory in 1961 to go in for modification. The cars debuted in the 1962 season and proved successful in races across Europe.

Abarth wanted to take it a step further and make these cars available to the public. They were to be part of the Simca lineup and sold through Simca dealers. In 1963 he introduced four variants of the Simca 1000: the 1150, the 1150 S, the 1150 SS and the 1150 Tipo Corsa. The standard Simca 1000 used a 944cc engine, Abarth bored it out to 1137cc, which pushed the base 1150 to 55hp. Other modifications included 13” rims (instead of 12"), disk brakes all around, a tachometer and an oil pressure gauge. The 1150 S saw its power output increased to 58hp but the biggest change can be seen just by looking at it: like on some Fiat-Abarths the radiator was moved to the front which called for the installation of a grille. The 1150 SS and the 1150 SS Tipo Corsa shared this radiator setup while the base 1150 retained the rear-mounted radiator.

The 1150 SS logged a healthy 65hp and saw its compression ratio increased to 9.5:1. The ultimate evolution was the 1150 SS Tipo Corsa. Thanks in part to a 12:1 compression ratio, Abarth managed to get an impressive 85hp out of the engine, a fair amount when you take into account that a standard Simca 1000 puttered along with 40hp under the rear bonnet.

At this point you may be wondering why these cars didn’t create serious competition for the Renault 8 Gordini in the European car market. The explanation lies in a detail that I’ve omitted until this point: these were all built as prototypes. Chrysler took over Simca from Fiat in 1963 and decided to pull the plug on the project, focusing instead on bigger sedans. Consequently very few Simca Abarths were built and they’re unspeakably rare, though a couple of examples have survived.

Below are some period photos I've come across. If you can't click on the photos and want a high-resolution image (for this article or any other), email us at ranwhenparked -at- hotmail -dot- com, tell us what you'd like and we'll send it to you.

Mystery car answer.

This one seemed to be a bit tougher, but a couple of people did guess correctly: it's a Glas GT. A reader from Norway hit the nail on the head by telling us "the car in the photos seems to be a Glas 1300 GT or 1700 GT. The characteristic shape of the badge (or rather what´s behind it) is
evident in the photos. That is why it can´t be one of the later BMW-badged 1600 GTs."

Check back for more mystery cars.

February 2, 2010

Sharing one of my favorite photos - of my first 2002

I bought this 1975 BMW 2002 on a bit of a whim - it was advertised for an affordable price on craigslist and I had always liked the '02, so I figured... why the hell not?

It was originally a Pacific Northwest car that had received a new BMW engine (minus emissions controls) a short while before the owner before me acquired it. The seller was offering it to raise funds for her hemp-based clothing company (I kid you not). Aside from the obvious body damage and a few thick coats of the correct shade Malaga paint, it was actually a remarkably solid car. It had no serious rust, ran like stink and handled well enough. I cleaned it up, gave it a tune up and drove the heck out of it for a few months before selling it prior to a move. The photo shows an in-progress picture; I had yet to remove the Yakima roof rack (which netted me $50 in BMW budget on Craigslist) and I had only refinished (read: Kryloned) that one rear wheel.

The 2002 - and the 1600 I have now - makes a great usable vintage classic. This photo, which obviously includes both a barn and a classic bus, was my desktop background for months - even after I sold the BMW.

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Mystery car.

I photographed this a few years ago at a Mercedes-Benz repair shop in Marignane, France. If you think you know what it is, send your guess to ranwhenparked -at- hotmail -dot- com. We'll post the correct answer in a few days.