Monday, May 31, 2010

Early Lotus Super Seven S3 for Sale in Switzerland

Here's something you can buy! This Lotus Super Seven Twin Cam, built and imported to Switzerland in 1969, is a real find with only three owners and less than 60'000 km (40'000 miles). With the original Lotus (Ford derived) Twin Cam Engine and well preserved. The price seems with CHF 45k (Euro 31k) about right for what is presented.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yet another extremely rare car - Beutler Porsche 356

There are so many cars of which very few pieces were built. Extremely rare vehicles, highly collectible, but not as famous as a 300 SL or a Carrera RS. I am so glad that there are so many addicts and fans in this scene that even cars that might not be that attractive are still cherished.
Here's an example of a rare car that probably few people even remember: The Beutler Porsche 356. It's a special body based on the famous 356, built in the early 60ies by two Swiss brothers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Toyota Prius Alpha - why it makes sense to build this compact van

Toyota has announced the Toyota Prius Alpha, kind of a compact van version of the Prius, similar to the Verso. This is a good idea. Anyway the Prius wasn't a pretty car, so changing the back can't do much harm. Also, the Prius always suffered from a lack of luggage space. With the bigger back, that should be at least partially solved. And finally, from an aerodynamics standpoint the high "Kammheck" shouldn't worsen the drag coefficient substantially. And families have been happy buyers of the Prius, with more space they will be even more happy. Hopefully the brakes work this time ;-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Today's Convertible Cars are for Softies

What has happened with the convertibles, the cars we loved so much because they made you become one with the environment around the car, the wind and the weather? Well, today's convertibles basically make you feel like being in a limousine but with an invisible top. The new Mercedes convertible optimizes this new approach. It makes the wind go around so that even the passengers in the back don't have to "suffer" from the fresh air. In comparison, open cars like the MG TC, the Morgan +8 or even the later R107 Mercedes offered a lot of weather contact, long before the "windschott", air scarf and all kinds of new gimmicks were invented. So, this is yet another reason to buy old cars, I think. Anyway, it's a matter of personal taste and the type of clothes you are using ... As they say, there's no bad weather when you own an open car, there's only wrong clothes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Killing great tradition car brands - the Chrysler Lancia swap

You might have heard it. Fiat/Chrysler plans to leverage the Lancia brand to sell Chrysler cars in Europe. It's not enough that GM failed with this strategy and basically destroyed Saab, trying to sell rebatched Opels. It's so bloody sad to see this great car brand Lancia being misused. Remember the great cars Lancia built? Aurelia, Fulvia, Stratos, 037, Delta Integrale and so on. Now think of a Voyager or a Sebring coming with a Lancia batch. Horrible! It will not work! And it will be barely possible to rescue the Lancia brand once it's totally molested. Knowing that already today the Lancia brand isn't standing anymore for what it was in the 60ies or 70ies, this new strategy will give it the rest. Really sad!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Finally summer - time to take your classic car for a drive!

Summer has finally arrived in Switzerland. So, it's a good time to take your classic car for a drive. And so many do. On a short trip today I spotted various Ferraris, a Fiat 124 Abarth, a couple of Jaguars, a Renault R16, a Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, a range of Mercedes convertibles and many other cars that probably haven't seen the sun for quite some time. Hopefully batteries have been charged up, so that starting the car didn't create a barrier for the drive. And hopefully we will enjoy a nice summer this year, with lots of days just like today.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Picture of the Week - colourful Minis

This week's picture shows a row of Minis at the British Car Meeting in Morges 2007. There were actually many more and they are so cute. And with all these colors they really make you smile!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

GoCycle - the best e-bike yet?

I just stumbled upon the GOCYCLE e-bike. It's not that new, but it's still fresh. So what does it have to do with cars, you may ask. Well, it has been designed by Richard Thorpe, coming from McLaren. It's pretty clever with its moulded magnesium frame, cleandrive fully sealed 3-speed sequential gearbox and integrated floating disk brakes. And it looks good and very stylish. And it's light, 16.2 kg is something in the e-bike world. I haven't yet had the opportunity to test drive one, but I will. There are things already though I don't like. The price lists looks like what you are used from Mercedes or BMW, everything costs extra and the add-ons are quite expensive. The bike as such is fairly affordable with £1'272 excluding VAT.
So, I am tempted, but not fully convinced yet ...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where has the spare wheel gone?

When have you last time seen somebody change a wheel? When did you use a spare wheel last time yourself? Do you actually have one in your car at all? As you may know many of the modern cars come without a spare wheel, but they may be equipped with a tire fit system. You pump some stuff into the wheel and re-inflate it. Often though the process doesn't work. Because either the stuff in the bottle is too old or there's just not enough of it to really fix the tire. For me these things never worked. In the old days spare wheels were much more important than today. Much more often you suffered from a puncture. And sometimes even one spare wheel wasn't enough, that's why pre-war cars often even had two spare wheels. Even in rallies, for example the East African Safari, the pilots loaded two wheels onto the roof or into the trunk if there was enough space. Also the tools were different in the past. There was a central fixture for the wheel, you needed a hammer and a pretty large tool to remove it. But I am sure there's not a lot of nostalgia in changing wheels. I am actually glad that we rarely have to do this today, not everything was better in the past ...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Isdera spyder and imperator - very exclusive sportscars in the 80ies

Who wouldn't want to build his own sportscars? Well, one who was able to make his dreams come true was Eberhard Schulz. The article pictured on the left is titled "dream dancer". His cars are called Isdera, an eagle is pictured on the batch. Engines and drivetrain usually came from Mercedes, making the cars easy to live with. The design though was exclusive and quite special. The spyder 033-16 for example didn't have a full wind screen and a top neither. So it was recommended to be driven with your helmet on. 900 kg of weight met 170 hp allowing for 6.8 seconds from 0-100 km/h and 228 km/h top speed. If this wasn't fast enough, then the gullwing imperator 108i with a 5.5 liter V8 engine delivered 242 hp and reached a top speed of 262 km/h. That was quite a lot, so was the price, beating a Ferrari 328 by a factor two. Over time they got more powerful and faster, but you rarely see one of these on the road, so few were built. They do not even show up at auctions or on classic car price lists, so I have no idea what a good one would be worth today. I might get tempted though, just look at the gullwing doors ...

Monday, May 17, 2010

ADAC 24 Hours of Nurburgring 2010 - BMW and Ferrari win, Porsche and Audi suffer

This year's 24 hours of Nurburgring showed as always a very diverse starting grid. A highlight was the Porsche 911 Hybrid racer that almost won the race, but retired after 20 hours or so. As some of the Audi R8 LMS also suffered from various problems the victory was with BMW and its M3 GT2 car no 25. Second came in the Ferrari 430 GTC as a surprise, it was the first start of the 430 at the 24 hours of Nurburgring. A couple of Audi R8, Porsche GT3 and BMW (M3, Z4 GT3) completed the first eleven. Twelfth was the Nissan Z33 with nine laps behind the winner. And thirteenth was a Porsche GT3 RS, a street legal car, impressive! 16th was the Volkswagen Scirocco GT 24-CNG (-80% CO2), 18th the Lexus LF-A, 19th the Opel Astra OPC, 27th the first Aston Martin Vantage V8, 30st a Honda S2000. Interesting also the car coming in as 34st, it was a four door Aston Martin Rapide, driven by the Aston CEO Ulrich Bez and a couple of other chaps. The Lotus Exige burnt down in the morning, but the Ginetta G50 GT4 arrived after 112 laps, noting that the winner finished 154 laps. Average lap times of the front running cars were between 8:30 and 9:00 for the 25.378 km long track (Nordschleife and Grand Prix course coupled). As always there were hundred thousands of fans around the track making this event to a week long party. It's a unique race and probably one of the largest racing events overall on a worldwide scale, no wonder that so many prominent drivers join the race every year.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

300 SL - No Good Bye Forever

I just found this article in an old issue of Motor Revue (1989). Fritz B. Busch, one of the best known car journalists and also museum owner in Germany, writes about the Mercedes 300 SL (R107). Now, this alone probably wouldn't be worth a blog note. But let me quote (and translate) Mr. Busch: "... before I had closed the door the girl asked: What do you think, will this car become an oldtimer? I wasn't unprepared. It was the same question my neighbour had asked before, my friends and others, including my wife Liane. ... It was the question that was in the air. I answered with a clear nodding and said 'that's for granted'. Because this car does have only two seats, a fabric top, more than 24 meters of chrome and it is a Mercedes. ... 'one day people will bow in front of this car like they do it with a Gullwing.' ...". And so on. What is interesting that Mr. Busch wrote this article in 1989, the last year the car was produced. Today, we look back 21 years, and the car is an established classic car. And interestingly, at least in Germany, the 300 SL fetches the highest prices of all the R107 series, more than the 8 cylinders and more than the early models. So Mr. Busch was at least partially right, and none of the R107 successors will be able to redo what the R107 300 SL has achieved, I bet. Only the future can tell, though.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lada Niva - a classic car you can buy new today

This is a Lada Niva, difficult to say what year. Few people know that this is one of the cars with the longest production history. Since 34 years it has been produced with minor changes except engine updates. 34 years is quite something, the Ford Model T for example was only manufacturered for 19 years. And even the Mercedes SL R107 made it "only" 18 years until it was replaced by its successor. But there are a few cars that are even more successful long runners, i.e. the Volkswagen Beetle with 65 years or the Porsche 911 with 47 years (if you include the water cooled generation), the Morgan 4/4, +4 with roughly 74 years (still in production) or the Land Rover (Defender) with 62 years of manufacturing history. Now, a good question is, whether these cars really have been the same car from the first to the last version produced. At the end it's a marketing decision, whether the name or the shape of a car changes. For example the 911 has probably changed quite drastically in the 47 years it has been produced, a shift from air cooled to water cooled engines is just one aspect. I would say that if basic parameters substantially change (i.e. drag factor, length, width, height, weight) then it's questionable whether we still can speak from the same car. But it's not an easy distinction.
Let's go back to the Lada Niva. I tried to convince my father to buy one of these 30+ years ago. They were cheap then, they still are. They were robust, they still are. And they offered a low cost entry into 4 wheel off road driving, they still are. But off road cars around the Niva have changed quite a bit, so buying a new Niva today is probably more like buying a classic car than a state of the art off road vehicle.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Car heating as an extra? Not unusual in 1960

I am looking at a car price compilation of 1960, German cars available in Germany. Many brands have disappeared, i.e. Auto Union (now Audi), Borgward, DKW, Goliath, Lloyd, Messerschmitt, NSU, to name a few. Prices range from DM (Deutsche Mark) 2650 (for a BMW Isetta 250) to DM 34000 (for a Mercedes 300 SL Roadster, that by the way was more expensive than the Gullwing version for DM 33250). By the way the Volkswagen Beetle Standard was DM 3790. DM basically were replaced by the Euro 1:2, meaning for 2 DM you received 1 Euro. But it's not the prices that are astonishing, but the fact that an extra was listed for roughly half of the cars that nobody would pay something for today - the heating. If you were buying for example an Opel Rekord for DM 6760 you had to pay DM 160 to also get the heating. The prices for the heating were ranging from DM 45 (BMW Isetta) to DM 225 (Borward Isabella). Translated into today's world this would mean you would have to add between Euro 500 to 2000 to the list price to receive a heating system with your car - unthinkable! That's how things have changed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How advertisement for cars has changed during the years

Things have changed, a lot. Comparing car advertisement in the sixties with today you can recognize a couple of significant differences. Text and explanations were much more important 40 years ago then today. You can find car ads from the sixties that barely used pictures but had long texts in small print to explain specific features or advantages. Today, this barely exists anymore. Today's car ads come with large and well done pictures (note, that the Mercedes from 1966 in the upper ad isn't even in focus!) and very little text and description. This makes a lot of sense, as anyway cars do not really differentiate on the technology and feature level anymore. When you read car comparison tests today the differences between the cars in the field are really small, be it performance, size or any other parameter. Equipment of cars is coming in quite standard as well, every car has ABS, ESP, electric windows, air condition and stereo, no big inventions need to be explained. The biggest difference is probably the price and there's not too much to say about this in an ad. And of course the car design is an important buying factor even if we think that all modern cars look alike.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Would the Ford GT 70 have been a success?

In 1970 Ford decided to build a competitive (rallye) car after disappointing results in the Monte Carlo rallye. The Ford GT 70 was designed with an engine in the middle and ready to take on a number of different engines and technical components from other Ford cars of the time. The brochure pictured here lists 4 engines, a 4 cylinder 1599 ccm unit with 86 hp, an RS variant with 1601 ccm and 120 hp, the V6 with 2600 ccm with 125 hp and the V6 (Essex) engine with 2994 ccm and 125 hp later found in the Ford Capri. With a 765 kg weight (empty) this car could have been competitive as a matter of fact. The car was quite pretty, but not really a beauty. With a top speed of 240 km/h for the race version it would have been quick enough to make life of Alpine-Renault miserable. But the project got scrapped after financial issues of Ford due to a workers' strike, only the prototypes remain. Much later (1984-1986 Ford built again a mid engine race car called Ford RS 200 - again not a beautiful, but clearly hot car.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Honda S600/S800 - or how the Japanese reinvented the sportscar

The Honda S600/S800 is one of the smallest real sportscars in existence. 3.3 m length, 1.43 m width and 1.2 m height, combined with a 531 ccm, later 606 ccm and 798 ccm engine and an open or closed body. Can this really be a sportscar? Sounds more like a Mini doesn't it? Well, if you have ever driven (or at least heard) one then you won't doubt. The high revving engine (ca. 8'000 rpm) is able to generate an impressive performance. These cars were so good that they were used as race cars in the sixties, Denis Hulme for example won his class in 1964 at the Nurburgring 500 km race with an S600. And the journal Hobby even achieved a world speed record while test driving the car. Between 1963 and 1970 Honda built roughly 26'000 cars, of which one third were Coupés. Good cars are quite valuable these days, you can easily pay 15'000 Euros for an S600/S800 today in Europe.
The pictures shown here stem from an early sales brochure for the S500/S600.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Picture of the week - JWF Milano GT at GP Mutschellen 2010

This week's picture of the week shows the JWF Milano GT at the GP Mutschellen 2010. This is a short hill climb geared to showing cars to people rather to be quicker than the others. This years event basically was flooded with water. The JWF's windscreen wipers stopped to work after half the day and tyre grip wasn't really impressive. But the crowd seemed to enjoy it anyway, despite of the rain ...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Really really rare car - Hino Contessa 900 Sprint

Now here's something most people have never heard of: the Hino Contessa 900 Sprint. If you look at the brochure (here in French) it was supposed to be an elegant and sportive car with a sense of modernity. Designed by "Maestro" Michelotti, it certainly looked good! The engine was a 45 hp 893 ccm 4 cylinder, probably good enough to move the car ahead but not too much more. Only 650 kg though and a length of 3.83 m show that this car was built many years ago.
Well, not too many were produced. Hino was a Japanese car manufacturer entering the private car market in 1953 by manufacturing Renaults under license. In 1961 they came out with their own model range, including the Contessa designed by Michelotti. Already 1967 the stopped the consumer car production after having entered the Toyota group.
I, myself, have never seen a Hino, I think, and to be honest, I didn't know about the manufacturer until the day I found this brochure. The picture is amazing, combining artificial colors, strange light and this elegant woman in the back with the rear engine Contessa. I wonder how many of these cars ever made it to Europe and what the price tag on such a car would be today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Puma GTE and GTS - Brazilian sports car without attitude

One of the first cars I considered myself buying was the Puma GTS. What you see in the picture is the frontside of the A2 brochure they printed in the early 80ies. But the text was "wild" also: "PUMA is a wild CAT .. sleek and slender. It PURRS. Wide track .... this CAT. Bold and ready to move at your command. A body lighter and stronger than steel of PRP, hand molded and finished by experienced craftsmen, who love to stroke it. "
Or, "Not for everyone ... this PUMA. PUMA is for important people. For those who command and merit respect. For those who dare to be different. Easy to handle, stable on those curves; PUMA adheres to the road at high speeds."
What I liked specificially was "Serviced everywhere where cars are sold".
The car was simple, built on top of a Volkswagen platform, showing a nicely designed fiberglass body. Initially there were only Coupés but then they added the GTS. With Pirelli Radial CN 36 tyres (185/70 HR 14 front, 195/70 HR 14 rear) it looked much faster than it was. They claimed 0-100 km/h in 9.9 secs and a top speed of 182 km/h. With 90 hp SAE this sounds really fast, though the low weight of 750 kg certainly helped. They wrote that it would reach up to 35.4 mpg.
At the end I never owned one. But Puma was quite successful producing more than 21'000 cars between 1964 and 1997, 3'595 cars in the best year. That's for example three times as much what TVR did in a very good year. They cars were affordable and as you can imagine straight forward to maintain. Of course they sound was like the one of a Volkswagen Beetle, but today that would add to the excitement. There are certainly a number of cars left, but not many have found a way to Europe. I still like them when I see one.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Unrelated - how unique is the country you will visit during your holidays?

I spent a day in London this week. And of course I used the Tube. There's a lot of advertisement, as you can imagine. One of the ads caught my eye. Austria Tourism displays an old farmer house and a couple of old fashioned musicians walking by. It says "it's got to be Austria". Well, I was really wondering whether the picture has been taken in Austria after all. For me it looked like a house you would usually find in the central part of Switzerland. So this leaves two questions: Are Switzerland and Austria so similar that you couldn't tell from a photograph? Or were the Austrian advertisers so sloppy to pick the wrong picture and to display a Swiss house on their ad? To be fair, the differences are probably not that big between the countries and both places are great destinations to travel to. Also it must be said that in both countries you will be able to find great driving roads - which brings us back to what this blog is all about.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Road test of the Tesla Roadster Sport - fast, expensive but good

The German car magazine "Auto Motor und Sport" did one of the first comprehensive road tests of the Tesla Roadster Sport. I was expecting that they would trash it, but actually they were much more positive than what I expected.
Here's what they measured:
0-100 km/h: 4.3 sec
0-180 km/h: 16.3 s
Max speed: 200 km/h
100-0 km/h: 37/35 m
Max range: 328 km
Min range: 200 km
Energy consumption: 20 kWh/100 km, 4 Euros per 100 km. For 4 Euros you could roughly buy 3 liters of gasoline, so no Diesel is going to beat this economy.
So what do these results tell us? The car is fast and can compete with many similarly priced sports cars such as a Maserati or an Aston V8 Vantage if it's about these measures.
Price wise the car is expensive, roughly 130'000 Euros. And regardless of all the new technology it's an Elise at the end, but with much more weight (1'267 kg versus roughly 900 kg). The handling of course suffers due to this and obviously the steering got quite heavy. On the other side this car offers more power and especially torque than any Elise or Exige.
My take? An expensive Elise, but a "cheap" electrical super car. Nothing for me, as I still like good engine sound, something electrical cars will never be able to provide except through the stereo.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Passion shows also in the rain - GP Mutschellen 2010

This year's GP Mutschellen really didn't have a lot of weather luck. 10 degrees of Celsius and rain the whole day, that's not what you wish for if you organize an event like the GP Mutschellen. Depsite of this, lots of exciting and also really rare cars showed up and drove the 1'500 meters up the hill. The "track" was quite entertaining with two hairpins and long swiping straights. The rain made the road slippery, but that sort of adds to the excitement. A few cars suffered under the rain, didn't start or had other problems, but that's probably what you would expect. Thanks and congrats goes to the organizers having their time schedule under control, cheering up the spectators and making sure there was enough hot coffee at the hill climb.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Audi sharpens R8 - Audi R8 GT

Based on the success of the R8 race version Audi created the Audi R8 GT. It's 100 kg lighter then its sisters, but the v10 engine gained 40 hp. With almost 200'000 Euros it's quite expensive, but comes fully equipped with what you may need. You can even order a race version with a four point harnesses, roll cage, fire extinguisher and cut off switch.
It clearly proves that you can make this car lighter. Now, coming back to earlier posts, let's take that lesson, but replace the heavier V10 with a light V6, get rid of the 4 wheel drive system and we would have a really exciting car that probably could almost match the performance of its sister cars. But as we can see, for the time being Audi goes the other way by adding exclusivity and horse power.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Little changes made a much better car - Porsche 924 Carrera GT

Porsche had somewhat an image problem with the 924. It was not seen as sporty enough. Therefore they came up with the plan to bring the car closer to racing. To achieve the homologation of a car that stood chances in racing they built 400 (actually 406) Porsche 924 Carrera GT.
Despite the fact that the car still looked pretty much like a stock 924 there were a few design changes that made the car actually looking much more serious and fast. Anatole Lapine, design chief at Porsche, came up with new rear and front (GFK) wings and a bonnet intake for the turbo intercooler. Completed with a rear spoiler and wider wheels that pretty much was it. The fact that the drag factor and the overall air resistance was as good as the one from the stock 924 must be mentioned as quite an achievement. And it made all quite a difference. Later cars, specifically the 944, re-used some of these design elements, however in a smoother and less aggressive form.
The major changes in the CGT against the stock 924 Turbo was however the engine, producing 40 extra hp and the suspension setting, as well as the brakes, sourced from the 930 Turbo.
All in all it was a convincing package and Porsche was able to sell it at roughly the price of an 8 cylinder Ferrari 308.