January 31, 2011

Ran When Parked's used car lot.

Welcome to Ran When Parked’s used car lot. Please, have a Seat:

We have some great deals on the finest selection of certified pre-owned vehicles anywhere. Take this w202 C180 station wagon, the perfect blend of luxury and cargo space. It comes with complete service records like any used Benz should. This car has been pampered all its life!

So you’re thinking, “Ran When Parked, I like the C180, I like it a lot, but I want something more luxurious”? Well, step up to a BMW X6. A car that stands out from the crowd and has an interior upholstered with the skin from an entire herd of cattle. Still under factory warranty but it has been slightly (and tastefully) modified by its last owner, including a custom paint job and a slightly lowered suspension:

The Peugeot 104 is perfect for crowded cities. It gets phenomenal gas mileage and can easily park anywhere. But it has two vocations: it can easily be transformed into a small rocket that’s perfect for auto crossing and hill climbs. That’s what we’re offering you today, a ZS 2 replica with period-correct accessories such as bucket seats and specific 13” rims. This car is ready to bring home the trophy.

If you follow the collector car market, you’ve noticed a growing segment called “youngtimers” or “young classic cars”. One of the cars leading this movement is the Volkswagen Golf I GTI and we have a stellar example for sale today. This car is 100% original, it’s never been restored and is a real eye catcher in red.

What’s there not to like about a 2001 Renault Twingo? Your heart will tell you to buy it for its huggable yet frog-like looks. Your brain will tell you to buy it because it’s the most stolen car in France so you benefit from great rebates on used parts. It’s a win-win situation!

This Simca 1100 VF2 is a new arrival on our lot. It’s the automotive equivalent of the mullet: business in the front, party in the back. Allow us elaborate. This car is powered by an austere 1118 cc four-cylinder borrowed from the Simca 1100. But, the back is cavernous and can carry just about anything you can throw at it; whether you’re going surfing or helping your brother in law renovate his house, this VF2 will take you there and back with all of your stuff. As a bonus, this car’s last owner used it to deliver bread in a village so it has very low miles, it’s absolutely like-new.

Finally, for those with a small budget we have two cars at very special prices, prices so low we can’t even print them. Choose a Citroen GS with its hydropneumatique suspension for its comfort or a Renault 12 station wagon for its practicality:

Come in today, we finance anyone! No credit, bad credit, credit card not in your name, these are all problems we can work around.


Please note these cars are not ours or actually for sale.

January 24, 2011

What Lies Beneath: The Saab APC System

During Saab-Scania's salad days of the 1970s and 1980s, its interests were varied and far-ranging. Aerospace, automotive, defense, and even computing were all areas of research within the realm of the quirky Swedish company. The benefits of turbocharging - originally a means to compensate for altitude on piston-driven aircraft - were well understood to Saab. The company became known as a bit of a pioneer in the relatively under-developed field of turbocharging cars in 1978 with the Saab 99 Turbo. The 99 saw to it that the company with fighter-jet heritage had cars with performance to match. The old Triumph-based "B-Engine" was suddenly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the addition of the little exhaust-driven turbine.
The improved "H" engine found its way into the 99 (still sold in Europe at the time) and 900 by 1981. The following year, the turbocharged models would be fitted with the revolutionary Automatic Performance Control (APC) System. Saab has always believed in making cars that were not only well-built, safe, enjoyable to drive, but also practical. The APC system made it possible for the engine of turbocharged Saabs to compensate for pre-detonation or "knock" caused by low-octane or poor quality gasoline, carbon deposits, high operating temperatures, poor tuning due to lack of maintenance and so-on. Furthermore, this allowed the compression ratio of the engine to be higher, thus increasing fuel economy by taking greater advantage the available energy in the fuel. The Saab driver could now have performance, and afford it too.

The Basics of APC Operating Principals:

Knock occurs when the temperature inside of a cylinder's combustion chamber becomes high enough to detonate the fuel/air mixture before intended by the spark plug - near top-dead-center of the compression stroke. Since forced induction naturally raises pressures, the compression ratio of a turbocharged engine must be low enough to ensure knock does not ever occur. This does not mean that a turbocharged engine cannot happily run at higher boost pressures or compression ratios, it simply means that the conditions must be right.
Basic turbocharging principals dictate fitment of a wastegate to allow excess exhaust gasses to bypass the turbocharger, thus preventing too much boost from entering the intake of the engine. It is operated by a pressure line from the compressor side which forces a diaphragm to open the wastegate once boost levels become too high.

1) Knock Sensor
2) APC "Brain Box"
3) Pressure Transducer
4) Solenoid Valve
5) RPM Sensor

One part of the APC system's job is to act as a regulator for the wastegate, thereby controlling engine boost. Rather than the wastegate's line running directly from the turbocharger itself, it is re-routed to the solenoid valve (#4). This valve is controlled by the APC box (#2) and has the ability to override the function of the wastegate.
The APC box is connected to a knock sensor (#1) which can detect if pre-detonation is occurring within the engine, and also to an RPM sensor (#5) to factor in engine rotational speed versus intake manifold pressure, as determined by the pressure transducer (#3). If the APC system detects knock, it will allow the wastegate to open sooner and reduce turbo boost to alleviate the problem. Because of this ability, this is why Saab was able to maintain a higher compression ratio in their APC-fitted turbocharged cars. Before APC, the ratios for turbo "B201" engines was 7.2 to 1. This increased to 8.5 to 1 with APC and, on the 16-valve "B202" engine, 9 to 1. APC can also control fuel delivery to an extent. When boost becomes excessively high, due to a stuck wastegate or misguided modding for example, it has the ability to cut fuel to the engine.

As the name suggests, Automatic Performance Control also controls performance - with the emphasis being on performance. It is not simply a means to prevent the engine from destroying itself, but also a way to vary tuning for the sake of economy, emissions, simple marketing strategy, etc. Saab's own SPG model 900 used a tweaked APC box (known in the Saab world as the "Red Box" to allow for a more powerful engine.) This is where things get rather complicated.
Exactly how the APC's "brain" works has been a part of Saab lore for decades now. To this day there are conflicting and diverging schools of thought on how a would-be Saab tuner can go about tweaking the APC for more power. They more-or-less all involve three circuit board potentiometers ambiguously labeled P, F, and K as well as some playing around with transistors and a soldering iron.
Though this author admits to having spent some time boldly tinkering with the APC box of his own 900 Turbo, this is not something for the weary or faint-of-heart. For those interested, I will direct you here but beware - more than once I've gleefully watched my Saab's boost gauge eagerly run into the red, only to have all the boost suddenly dump and the fuel delivery cut out and leave me coasting at 75 mph trying to restart the car. After a while, you may just find yourself tearing the box apart again to turn the screws back to their original settings, desperately hoping to regain the driveability of a normally functioning APC.

The APC system lived on in Saab turbos relatively unaltered until 1990. For the 9000 models only, which were fitted with direct ignition, DI/APC integrated the engine's ignition control into the mix. Therefore, the system was able to control both turbo boost as well as ignition timing to keep everything running smoothly.
The success of the APC system certainly didn't go unnoticed. Today, nearly all turbocharged cars have a similar system in place. Personally, this has allowed my cheap self to be running low-octane gas in not only my APC equipped Saab, but my Volkswagen with a 1.8T as well. Many Volvo enthusiasts have adopted and adapted APC functionality to their old 240 and 740 turbos.

Unfortunately, and no doubt thanks to years of General Motors ownership, it's been quite some time since we've seen truly great and unique innovations like this from Saab, but lest we forget, we must give a nod to Trollhattan.

January 10, 2011

Great Automotive Failures: Triumph TR7 & TR8

The classic British roadster conjures many stereotyped thoughts in the minds of automotive aficionados. Think for a moment of a cool Clint Eastwood motoring around Carmel in his Jaguar XK-150 in "Play Misty For Me." On the other hand, there are those who would point out that you probably would never see Clint bent under the open hood of an MGB trying to determine why the headlights didn't work or where all the crankcase oil went.
That aside, these cars have a significant following. Affordability, classical styling, simplicity, and sheer fun propelled the market for literally millions of units from the likes of MG, Austin-Healey, and Triumph.
Of the less-expensive brands of British cars, Triumph certainly made some of the greats. The Spitfire, and TR series were serious competition for the UK's own brands (prior to industry unification, of course), Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, etc.
Looking back, the TR2 and TR3 really got the Triumph name to stand out in the all-important US / North American market. Michelotti-designed TR4, TR6, and Spitfire gave the brand an nice Italian flair, while the Triumph straight-six engine gave the "bigger" models a lot of power for the price.
Naturally, the curse of British-Leyland and poor build quality mounted throughout the 1970s. The Spitfire and TR6 were decidedly "old-school" in production methods and amidst a rapidly developing industry were quite dated by the later part of the '70s. The Spitfire was the cheaper and smaller model, and continued to sell well enough to remain in production for 18 years until 1980. The "range-topper" TR-6 was to be replaced, however.

The all-new Triumph TR7, introduced in 1975 was advertised as "the shape of things to come" with distinctly '70s wedge-shaped styling and pop-up headlights. It even featured (gasp!) unibody construction. This was to be the Golden Boy - the savior of the marque that would bring Triumph back to its former glory. That was the idea anyway...
Until the TR7's debut, the TR series was always made up of convertibles. Many manufacturers were fearful that United States legislation would ban convertibles from its highways. While Triumph's own Stag, for example, maintained a rag-top, it incorporated a roll-bar structure to get around this potential problem. Porsche, meanwhile, went so far as to introduce the famous Targa cars. The TR7, unfortunately, rolled off the production line for the first four years of its life as a coupe only.

Whereas the TR7's predecessor was driven by Triumph's straight 6, a rather bland 2.0L inline four powered the new car (the same one found in early Saab 99s). Performance was lacking at best. The reasons for this engine choice, of course, being emissions and fuel economy. Furthermore, as many cars were being fitted with 5-speed gearboxes by this time, Triumph stuck with a 4-speed initially. Eventually a 5-speed would be offered, along with a 3-speed automatic. Acceleration from 0-60 could eventually achieved in a little over 10 seconds and top speed short of 110mph.

Quality control was a bit of a mythological thing to British Leyland by this point, and the TR7 was down-right devoid of it. Particularly horrid examples were built in the infamous Speke factory before it was shut down. If the TR7's "modern" shape failed to bring the Triumph name back to notoriety, the appalling lack of reliability did its best.
To boost appeal, particularly to Americans, the venerable Rover V8 was fitted to the chassis, thus producing the TR8 in 1978. The Buick designed 3.5 L engine significantly improved performance and was probably the most reliable part of the revised car. Naturally weight increased with the larger powerplant, and as a result, the underwhelming brakes of the TR7 were upgraded.

The fear of anti-convertible laws subsided enough (and sales suffered enough) that Triumph finally released a roadster version of the TR7 & TR8. Most of the (relatively few 2,800 or-so) TR8s were of the "drophead coupe" convertible variety. Most TR7s were coupes, though about 28,800 roadsters were built - roughly a quarter of total production.

By 1981, the "shape of things to come" was the shape of things gone awry and away.  Production of the TR7 and TR8 ended after the money-hemorrhaging company could no longer viably produce the car. Even Leyland's typical "pretty girl" advertising couldn't save it. It was the last roadster to carry the Triumph name, and the last car the company would design themselves. The brand's long history of building cars since 1923 was over when the re-badged Honda known as the Triumph Acclaim halted sales in 1984.

*RWP takes no credit for images.

January 5, 2011

The Tipo Quattro Cars

It was late 1978 and there were numerous correspondences between groups of Swedes and Italians. The phone lines were not tied up with talks of international espionage, organized crime, or arguments over who made better meatballs, but rather an agreement over cutting the costs of developing a new sedan.

Saab's model line at the time consisted of the aging 99 and downright ancient 96. While both were well-designed and built cars in their own right, the company was steadily moving more up-market. The 99 would, of course live on in the modified form of the 900 until 1993, but the stalwart Nordic midsized car was not enough to fill Saab's ambitions of competing with Volvo (who nearly merged with Saab in 1977), BMW, and Audi in the mid-sized luxury car market. Aerospace aside, as an auto manufacturer, Saab was, and always has been, relatively small.

Fiat, meanwhile, had become quite a large industrial conglomerate. In the late 1960s, the firm was doing well enough to purchase Autobianchi, and take control of not only Lancia, but also Ferrari and famously advertised itself as "The biggest selling car in Europe." By the late 70s, however, Fiat's automotive market share was under rising threat from Japanese imports, particularly in America. Furthermore, the company's reputation for building water-soluble cars that rarely functioned as intended was increasing rapidly, even in their home European market. Fiat needed to improve build quality and cut costs to remain competitive. This included replacing the aging 132 based Argenta as Fiat's "big" car, which was introduced in 1972. While an interesting car, Lancia's Gamma was also getting old, and was gaining a reputation for being highly unreliable.

Similarly, the Italian government-owned Alfa-Romeo was struggling with its own build-quality issues and diminishing sales. The company once known for its gracious touring cars and sedans, as well as lively roadsters and highly competitive racing cars, was growing old and feeble. The top-of-the-line Alfa 6 was hopelessly dated and a commercial flop. Alfa-Romeo needed a new range-topper and didn't want to spend a lot on development. The Milanese marque's entire range was a bit "old-school" and needed to modernize.

Saab, Alfa-Romeo, and Fiat (with Lancia), came to an agreement to help each other out. All parties involved were in need of a larger car and didn't particularly want to lay out all the development costs alone. While engineers worked out the chassis development for the new series of cars, Saab had already been working with Lancia on the Delta, which sold as the Saab-Lancia 600 in their home Scandinavian market. It would be the short-lived replacement for the 96 as an entry-level small Saab.

The project which would ultimately spawn the Alfa-Romeo 164, Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Saab 9000 would become known as "Type 4" or "Tipo Quattro" chassis, in keeping with Fiat's (often confusing) internal naming system. The brands all had their own range of engines to apply to their version of the car, and also wanted to ensure that the vehicles had their own identities. The floorpan, rear suspensions, and much of the electrical and HVAC systems were shared amongst the four cars. In those fitted with an automatic transmission, all shared the same 4-speed ZF unit.

Though designed while still independent of Fiat, the Alfa-Romeo 164 was released after the take-over. The 164 would prove to be the most unique of the group and, in 1987, the last to hit the market. While the Saab, Lancia, and Fiat all share a nearly identical center section and Giugiaro styling cues, the 164 has its own unique and stylish Pininfarina body as well as bespoke front suspension.

This would be Alfa-Romeo's first large, front wheel drive car, and enjoyed much improved build quality over past models. Most notably in terms of rust-proofing, through use of a fully galvanized body. Power comes from either Alfa's venerable 2.0 liter twin-spark four-cylinder unit, a 2.0 liter Lancia- derived turbo four-cylinder, a 2.0 V6 turbo, or, most commonly a 3.0 V6. Even a 2.5 liter turbo diesel was available. In 1994, a four-wheel-drive version of the 164, known as the Q4 was introduced after collaboration with Steyr-Puch.

While the Fiat and Lancia never reached American shores, the Alfa-Romeo was the only of the Italian triplets to fall into driver's hands stateside. Alfa withdrew from the North American market in 1995, but the 164 was produced through 1997 - finally replaced by the somewhat odd-looking166.

Introduced in 1985, Fiat's Croma was least expensive of the four cars and probably the least inspired. It's rather boring looking, not as well made in comparison to it's counterparts, and really just a standard, functional, large family sedan (or wagon). It did, however, serve its purpose.

The Fiat was fitted with the some of the least exciting engines of these cars, most of which were 1.6 or 2.0 liter inline four-cylinders and later, an Alfa-Romeo sourced 2.5L V6. A choice of 1.9L normally aspirated and turbocharged diesels were also available.

A facelift in 1991 helped a little to improve the Fiat's looks. By 1996, Fiat ceased production of the Croma and decided to give up on the large car market.

The first Tipo 4 car to go on sale was Lancia's Thema. It is perhaps the most closely related to the Fiat, as it was, of course, produced under Fiat ownership. While generally rather unexciting by Lancia standards, it served well as an executive sedan. The Thema's lines were penned by Giugiaro and can probably best be described as un-offensive as opposed to interesting or stately. That being said, however, it is quite aerodynamic and still respectable today at 0.32 cd.

As far as appointments, the Lancia is arguably the most luxurious of the group. Leather and wood abound inside and surround passengers in fine Italianate opulence. For those wishing to have more space, a wagon body, known as the Estate, was also introduced in 1986. The Estate body is essentially the same as the sedan with an extra box, but curiously, Lancia enlisted Pininfarina to adapt the Giugiaro body to wagon form.

The Thema could be had with a variety of engines, including 2.0L normally aspirated and turbocharged inline-four Fiat engines, the infamous 2.8L PRV V6, an Alfa-Romeo sourced 3.0L V6, 2.5L four-cylinder diesels, and most notably, a Ferrari 3.0L V8. The Ferrari V8 was sourced from the 308 QV, though the crank was changed to cross-plane, as opposed to flat-plane, for the sake of refinement in this luxury car.

Though it beat the rest of the Tipo 4 cars to the market by a few months, it was the first to cease production in 1994. It was replaced shortly thereafter with the more stylish, and less boxy, Kappa.

Saab introduced the 9000 in 1985. This was Saab's first totally new car since the 99 was released in 1968. The character of past Saabs was somewhat lost on the new model, although the spirit of performance and practicality remained. Built in both Sweden and Finland, the build quality of the 9000 is probably the best of the lot and on par with the 900, though perhaps not quite as tank-like in its solidity. This is not to say, of course, that the 9000 lacks typical Saab safety. The evidence of this is reflected through the car's consistent ranking among the safest cars available throughout its model run.

The 9000's engine options were not as numerous or varied as the Italian cars in this group, but they did offer great performance and efficiency. They were variants of the same 2.0 and 2.3 liter inline-fours, both normally aspirated and turbocharged, that powered the 900 range. In 1995, a GM-sourced 3.0L V6 was also available, though this is generally considered, to put it bluntly, crappy, among Saab enthusiasts.

Most 9000s were fastbacks, penned in conjunction with Giugiaro and Saab's own Bjorn Envall, though a model with a longer rear and conventional trunk, the CD was offered as well. The range was facelifted in 1992 with revised front and rear styling. The CD then became the CDE. The Aero model, with a 2.3L turbo engine was the most powerful Saab ever made at the time.

The 9000 ceased production in 1998, and replaced by the 9-5, based on a GM platform. The 9000 was the last of the Type 4 cars to be built.

The 164, 9000, Croma, and Thema were all rather different and unique cars indeed. The project was perhaps one of the last well-done examples of collaboration between different auto manufacturers. Each brand was allowed to maintain its identity and enjoy success through the fruits of their shared labor. Furthermore, with the possible exception of the boring Croma, all are still fairly desirable cars to own.

*RWP does not take credit for any photos