Sunday, October 31, 2010

TVR Grantura Restoration - Stage Four - more difficulties!

Since the last post on this very topic almost 10 months have passed. Initially my dear TVR Grantura should have been restored and back on the road by now, but as always, things didn't develop as planned.
At least, in the meantime we have been able to separate the chassis from the body. Before we were able to do so the body had to be stabilized and partially fixed. What we found when we were able to look at the chassis the first time without fiberglass around it, was quite shocking! Longitudinal tubes were missing or totally rusted away! Others were not where they should be and some were repaired in a fairly bad way. So there's quite a bit of work that has to go into the chassis, we even have to consider a replacement item, if we can find one. But, the good news is, there can't be many more bad messages coming from now on. So, next stage will be all about fixing the chassis and in parallel, fixing the body as well. Only then we can start to reassembling the car. And hopefully it will go back on the road in 2011 still!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Have we gone beyond the tipping point in automobile engineering?

Recently I was involved in a discussion on whether we have gone beyond the tipping point in automobile engineering. The question discussed was whether future cars will not be "truly" better than the cars produced today and points mentioned where things such as engine downsizing, cars getting heavier and heavier, more and more electronics taking away the fun from driving, noise restrictions, emission regulations enforcing direct fuel injections, etc..
Of course you can have many different perspectives here. Let me just mention a few:
(I) The best cars are the ones from the last decade. Cars like the Audi RS4/SE, BMW M3, Porsche 911 Carrera GT3/GT3 RS, Audi RS8 V10, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggiera, maybe even the Bugatti Veyron, etc. have set the bar and shown what is feasible. With new laws and restrictions you can only make it worse, but barely better.
(II) The best cars come from the 50ies and early 60ies, as then racing and competition cars (especially GTs and prototype type two seaters) could be driven on the road and offered maximum driving pleasure and a great sound spectrum. Take a Jaguar C-Type or a Porsche Carrera 6 as example. And don't think about convenience and usability.
(III) The best cars are still to come as with modern computer technology they will be extremely safe, extremely convenient taking over most/all of the driver's activivities and offer full access to web, TV, sound and entertainment while moving from A to B.
All of the three perspective have some "raison d'ĂȘtre". And for all there are exceptions and counter arguments of course. It's all a matter of what you want and value.
However there are some facts out there as well. The Volkswagen V6 engine built into the R32 for example offered an incredible sound, which the new 4 cylinder Golf R can't match. On the other side modern sound engineering and computer controlled exhaust systems in cars such as the Maserati coupé or the Aston Martin DBS/DB9 enables interesting noise patterns as well. Or just listen to a Ferrari 430 Scuderia. And it's obvious that the current cars offer superior road handling thanks to electronics, modern tyre technology and great suspension design. And it's also clear that weight spoils driving pleasure to some extent, so a 600kg sportscar of the 60ies has certain advantages against a 2 ton Aston Martin, even if the advantage doesn't translate to better lap times.
So, it's a wide topic or as you can say in German "das ist ein weites Feld". Enjoy what you like best and let room for the others with different opinions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

German electrical car with a range of more than 600 km

It's not first of April, so maybe it's true. Apparently German companies (lekker engery, DBM energy) built an electrical car that can go more than 600 km (they did 605 km to prove this) and can be recharged within an hour (or in 5 minutes under optimal conditions). The technology used for the battery is new and is based on lithium metal polymer structures. The whole battery weighs only 100 kg. The car used is an almost vintage Audi A2 and still offers seats for 4 people and space for the luggage. This almost sounds like a miracle! Sadly enough the battery technology is not yet production ready and of course many questions can be raised. But if eventually something like this can be manufactured in large numbers then this provides interesting parameters for the design of future cars! Think about small electrical motors, relatively small and light batteries. Let's see!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Picture of the Week - Porsche 904 Signature

What you can see here are two things:
a) the "signature" on a Porsche 904 GTS with true patina
b) classic car design at its best
They don't do signatures and brand model like this anymore. And it looked so good. The car (or better part of it) pictured is probably one of the few unrestored Porsche 904 in existence. And it's good that something like this still lives!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do all cars look alike? How car makers are giving up on individual characteristics and design attributes

What you see here are station wagons of two design brands that give quite a bit for their distinctive characteristics and design attributes. But you really have to look for the details to see the differences! The "man from the street" probably couldn't tell which car is coming from what brand, if you removed the batches. Don't understand me wrongly, both cars are pretty and certainly well shaped and designed, but they lack differentiation. And it's not just these two cars, it's the whole lot we can buy today. Aerodynamics, safety and apparently today's tate influence what the designers can do. Too sad!
By the way, if you haven't been able to identify the two cars: BMW 5 Series Touring 2010 and Citroen C5 Tourer 2010.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

With the GT40 at Le Mans - difficult to beat this

The Ford GT40 is one of the all time best sportscars ever. Not only did it win Le Mans more than once it also successfully competed on many other racetracks around the world. And you could even drive the car on the road. It looked good as well, but, Gee, the sound was just incredible, as the enclosed (not new) video from a lap at Le Mans (Classic 2008) clearly points out:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Google's robot cars and what it may mean for classic cars

So, apparently Google has cars driving around guided purely by computers. Robot Cars. The idea has been around since the 60ies, but few years ago the electronics/hardware still took most of the passenger and boot space. This is getting better by the day. Google's cars are Toyota Prius and obviously there's still at least enough space to seat a control person and a passenger, maybe more. Now people say that this may open a new development similar to the impact of the internet. With robot driven cars you can reduce accidents, put more cars on the road on less space and make cars lighter and more economical as they will prevent accidents rather to have a lot of passive safety built inside. That would be good news as such. But obviously this only makes sense if all the cars follow the same logic and if we have less software errors built into these cars than into the odd MS Excel or Word. And I am a bit afraid, this is not good news of us who keep classic cars on the road and try to mesh into daily traffic. These robot cars will not know that a vintage automobile may easily take 100 meters to brake from 100 km/h to 0, or more.
But anyway, until we have these robot cars on public roads, a lot of legal and technical hurdles need to be removed, so let's get excited when it's here ...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tyres have changed a lot, so has the advertisement

Tyres are one of the products that have changed dramatically during the development of the automobile. So has advertisement for tyres. Here's one from 1949, most people probably don't even remember the brand "India". It probably disappeared a long time ago. Interestingly though some of the very early tyre makers such as Michelin and Dunlop, having influenced the development quite significantly from the beginning, are still here and still successful. And mind, it's the square of four postcards that connect your car to the street, so maybe picking the right tyres should be as much an important consideration as picking the car as such.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Radar speed control detection in 1961

A long time ago, in 1961, the company Hamos (New York) introduced a radar (speed control) detection unit to be installed in cars. Given that cars barely were able to go beyond 100 km/h and the low probability of a speed control exercise the purchase of such a (expensive) unit may sound a bit "beyond" today. But it's interesting to know that the "problem" was acknowledge already 50 years ago, isn't it?
And it's also funny to see that the company already in 1961 claimed to increase road safety with this device.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Volvo P1800 - a car, that almost looked like a Ferrari

Here's an ad from 1961 showing the Volvo P1800. It was a gorgeous sportscar that combined Swedish solidity with Italian design. The front almost looked like a Ferrari, the side and back was probably influenced by the Americans. It drove well, even if it was not that fast. Many people admired it, including Simon Templar in the so called TV series. When I was young I lost a tennis match against a P1800 driver, but the ride home was worth it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Volkswagen Passat looks a bit very much like expected

Could you trust a computer to design a new car? Well, hopefully not. But in this case it may have worked. This is the new Volkswagen Passat. It's quite pretty and much smoother than it's predecessor. It basically made the same transition than the Golf going from V to VI. So, if you had a good morphing software and you could instruct to do a similar evolution with the old Passat that was done with the Golf, you would pretty much get what you see here on the picture. That's not only bad news and it's certainly good for the business of the German car manufacturer. But it's a bit boring too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tucker - the untold stories

Remember the movie "Tucker"? It's about a visionary man reinventing the car and coming up with something quite revolutionary considering the year 1948. The story behind the movie actually is quite true. Tucker existed and the (prototype) cars as well. Not only was these car more aerodynamically shaped than almost anything else, it also had a few engineering ideas incorporated that made it special, i.e. a small helicopter engine taking much less space in the back than the usual 6 or 8 cylinder engines and leaving a lot of boot space in the front. But the car had also a few problems, including not being able to reverse. And the development was funded by people putting a deposit. And these people, and there were some even in Switzerland, never got their car, but the deposit of course had gone. The illustration here is an actual ad for the car in a car catalogue in 1948. It really looked good!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Advertising the BMW 507

As you probably have found out, I really love old car ads. Here's one showcasing the BMW 507. It was BMW's attempt to compete with the mighty Mercedes 300 SL and it actually had a magnificent 8 cylinder engine and the gorgeous design of Goertz. But it didn't sell well in the 50ies and disappeared after only few cars produced. I know of people having been able to buy one for less than 40k Euro and selling it for ten time as much a number of years later.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Remember the Ford Capri RS 2600?

In March 1970 Ford presented the Ford Capri RS 2600. It delivered 150 HP with its 2.6 liter engine, quite something at that time! It was derived from the touring car and at the same time the basis for many racing versions to come. With its twin lights and the Kugelfischer injection it was steps ahead from the rest of the Capri range. Everybody wanted to have one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One that you can buy - Lotus Europa S1

It takes a special fan to buy such a car, but it's certainly a worthwhile investment. Here's a Lotus Europa S1, 1967, for sale in Switzerland. It comes from the very first series, chassis number 149 and is one of the few still existing cars of the first year of build. It still has the closed windows, specific chassis and its original wheels. It's great that such cars continue to exist in its standard version. And it certainly need to be preserved in this condition! Freshly restored it comes with all you need.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soon available - - online portal for friends of classic cars and historic races

We have been working a lot over the last months, but soon we can present the results of our efforts: This will be an online platform for German reading classic car addicts and friends of historic racing. We have scanned and digitized more than 120'000 pages of historically important documents, have searched through large archives and edited sound and video documents to create what we think the most comprehensive online information repository covering 100+ years of automobile history.
If you want to get a sneak preview, have a look at the video shown here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Lotus Esprit revealed

What Lotus did in Paris, came quite as a suprise to many. We all had expected the new Elite, but Lotus also presented a new mid engine Esprit a new Elan, a new Elise and the new 4 door saloon Eterne. Obviously they seem to share a lot, engines, drivetrain, etc. They also seem to talk the same design language. Now, having been an admirer for many of the old Lotus (Elite, 11, 23, 17, Elan, Europa, Esprit S2.2 and Elise/Exige), what do I think about this new model range? I honestly think that Lotus makes the same mistake as the others, Aston-Martin, Maserati and so on. More and more power, more and more weight and similar design patterns. This is, in my eyes, not what Lotus made great. So, having seen the lot now, I will continue to stick with the classics, once more.