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.