Friday, 9 November 2018

The Road Less Travelled (part two)

It’s time for some more pictures.  You may remember we recently went to the northeast for a visit and to attend a car show at Whitley Bay. 

While there we enjoyed some cars that are not regulars on the north-west showing circuit. You saw some of them in last month’s mag. Indeed it was such good haul I can present quite a few more for you to enjoy this month. 

Have a look and maybe think about going a bit further in your car show activities to see some remarkable classic cars. Hopefully, this northeasterly vehicular cavalcade will be of interest to you guys once more.

 Happy classic motoring y’all.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Road Less Travelled (part one)

This month it’s time for some more pictures.  You may wonder why. 

Well, recently we went to the northeast for a visit and to attend a car show at Whitley Bay. It was a pleasant weekend away and a good run for the newly refurbished DS. An interesting byproduct of this is you get to see some cars that are not regulars on the north-west showing circuit. So I took some pictures as I like to do. 

Have a look at some of these beauties. Most are cars I've not seen before and hopefully will be of interest to you guys too.

More next month.

Until then, happy classic motoring.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Simply Magnificent

It's time to talk about the Citroen SM.  I’ve briefly referenced this car a few times over the years. And, of course, it’s from a manufacturer that I admire, as you all know. However, I didn’t have any plans to take up this subject until I was out and about recently and saw a fully restored gold SM outside Whitegates Garage in Davenport in south Manchester. 

Now, these are rare cars. Citroen only made around 13,000 from 1970-75. There are so few around that to see one accidentally when you are out doing some errands is akin to seeing a Unicorn. I immediately slammed on my brakes and circled back to see if it really was an SM sat on a side street in a Stockport suburb.

And there it was. In all its retro-futuristic glory. An object that is at once a seventies icon and a spaceship from a distant sexy planet. You can’t help but admire it, even if you don’t know what it is you’re looking at. That was the moment I knew I wanted to write some more about this car.

Citroen SM Opera - special body - note four doors
Arguably, the SM is the only true GT car Citroen ever made. Indeed SM stands for Sport Maserati. A Citroen capable of high-speed, transcontinental travel in style and comfort. Square-jawed men in velvet tuxedos could sweep their model girlfriends to the south of France, chain-smoking Gitanes and never look anything other than super cool.

Some claim the SM is the sports version of the DS. It’s true these cars do share a lot of DNA, but in many ways, they are very different vehicles. To make the SM Citroen made some very bold decisions in both the engineering and styling.  Foremost of which was the engine.  In 1968, Citroen didn’t have a high-performance engine in its stable.  The best it had was the ageing 2.1-litre, four-cylinder unit from the DS. But this was more a workhorse than a true sports engine.

Luckily, Citroen owned Maserati at the time of the SM’s development so could access some proper sporty kit.  They were able to chop down a Maserati eight-cylinder engine to create a lightweight 2.7-litre, six-cylinder power plant capable of 170 bhp and a top speed of 140 mph. It could accelerate from 0-60 mph in around 9 seconds. Not too shabby. The same engine was later used in the Maserati Merak.

Once the Italian stuff was sorted, the French madness commenced.  Citroen’s engineers got busy grafting the hydro-pneumatic suspension, brakes and steering from the DS into place. Soon the engine bay was as packed as Kim Kardashian’s summer shorts.

A lot of junk in the trunk - can you see daylight?
Naturally, the SM was front wheel drive like all Citroens but designed to handle as well as its rear-wheel-drive Italian and German rivals. It had high-powered disc braking all round giving world-beating stopping capabilities. The SM also did the same trick as the DS with the suspension languidly rising to action on the turn of the key, giving an unparalleled ride for a sports coupe.

The SM’s ‘Divari’ steering was a true innovation.  It got firmer the faster the car was going to improve straight-line stability. And with fully powered steering with just a single turn lock to lock, it took some getting used to compared with contemporary seventies vehicles. They even gave the SM the swivelling headlights from the DS, housed behind the glass facias that gave the SM its distinctive Gallic nose.

Finally, they enrobed it all in a magnificent, captivating, aerodynamic body. It was like Catherine Deneuve in a sheer silk evening gown. Breathtaking.

Alas, the SM was not the commercial success Citroen had hoped for. A key market they aimed to conquer was North America where bigger engined cars were popular.  However, poor market research had overlooked the stringent US car laws with which the SM had to comply. One critical issue was the glass headlight farings were not compliant. Their removal ruined the look of the car and sales were stymied.

The SM did have fans though. Just as idiosyncratic as the car itself. Russian President Leonid Brezhnev, Emperor Haile Selassie and the Shah of Iran all owned SMs. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had seven of them. The owner that thrills me the most though is my childhood hero, that most seventies of he-men, Lee Majors. The Six Million Dollar Man drove an SM. Now that’s cool!

Somebody wants an SM
While I was admiring the Stockport-based SM, the owner was nearby, and we had a chat. It turned out it was for sale.  When he told me this news, my heart jumped a little. I also felt a frightened quiver from my wallet.  I won’t say the price, but it was certainly keen.  And as much as I’d love to own an SM, my logical brain was asking whether I really needed a complicated, ageing, Franco-Italian supercar and all the inevitable troubles that would bring.

The answer, surprisingly, was maybe…

Until next time, happy classic motoring everyone.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Mothers Knows Best

I’m reasonably sure I’ve never used this blog to extoll the virtues of any particular product. But that’s going to change this month. However, before you suspect this is some self-serving commercialism on my part, don’t worry. My reason for bringing this to you is pure altruism. It's something that may add the same value to you and your motor, as it has to me. On the assumption you’re sufficiently intrigued, let’s move on.

How many amongst you have used Mothers Mag & Aluminium metal polish? Maybe a few. It's something I recently learned about via a YouTube vlog series called Sweet Project Cars. Have a look to see the many uses this Michigan-based garage has for this low-key product. In fact, the tips these videos give are endlessly useful.

The first thing I like about Mothers is its antediluvian branding. Its got that old school, retro look. Just like the products we used to buy, but have since fallen into disrepair. Concoctions like Andrew’s Liver Salts, Brasso, Borax and Brillo Pads. The household goods we used to swear by as if they were sold to us by the king of snake oil salesmen.

Mothers’ image harks back to the glory days of Madison Avenue marketers. Where besuited, Martini-soaked alpha males would slap women’s bottoms as they dreamt up slogans to promote all sorts of dodgy stuff. To sell as much as possible before we found out many of them were deadly. ‘Asbestos cigarettes; slow burning for better flavour.’ ‘Uranium face cream; for a glowing complexion.’ ‘Delicious heroin flavoured root beer; for that extra kick!.’ That sort of thing.

Happily, Mothers is a much better product. Their tagline is; ‘there’s no shine like Mothers.’

Their emblem is a simple line drawing of an old lady, goggles on her head. She’s ready to roar down to the dime store on a noisy Indian motorcycle.  You can imagine her dropping by a classic American bar to meet fellow corporate mascots Colonel Saunders, Ronald McDonald and The Pillsbury Dough Boy. She’d pop in to check if the Marlboro man’s cough has cleared up yet.

So why am I so enthusiastic about it this particular magic unguent? Well, I was impressed by the versatility of it as consistently demonstrated by the Sweet Project Car boys. So much so, I bought some. Twenty-four hours later it was delivered by Amazon, and I was itching to give it a go. Here are just a few ways how it may change your life.

As a metal polish.

Obvious huh! But it certainly does what it says on the oft-mentioned ‘tin’. I used it to clean some of the iffy body bling on the D, and it brought it up like new. Faded aluminium ornamentation buffed to gleaming perfection with minimal cussing. Then, I renovated some of the door handles on the 2CV and got the same result. We've even put a glistening shine on some of our domestic stainless steel. Look at some YouTube videos of people transforming grungy old bits to a gleaming shine. Buy your Mothers with confidence, it works!

To renovate paint

Using a DA and a polishing pad, you can use it to bring depth back to faded paint.  I had some irritating oxidised bits on my weekday car, and Mothers polished them right up. With little effort and no fuss. You can equally do whole body panels just as easily and get sparkling results.

Shine a light

Most amazing is that it can sort out yellowing headlight lenses. Ordinarily, this would mean either replacement or sanding and reapplication of the clear coat. A time consuming and irksome job. However, polish with Mothers and they’ll look brand new. Indeed, I had a headlight so hazy that it was noted as an advisory on the last MOT. After a few minutes with a polishing pad on my cordless drill, the lens was as clear as an exquisitely tuned bell. Better still, you can do all your car lights equally easily. This little bit of magic has since gone ‘viral’ with increasing numbers of videos posted of before-and-after results. Check some out and see for yourself.

Pimp up plastic

You can use it to polish up any number of plastic parts. Particularly plastic ornamentation with a chrome effect. This is a boon to the classic car world where rarity means some parts are hard to get and therefore expensive. Using Mothers, you can get these parts back to muster, looking smart enough for plenty more years of service. All you need is the polish, some simple tools and a good stock of elbow grease.

Its versatile products like Mothers that are always efficacious to the classic car enthusiast. For those who need to save some cash and still get your car looking as good as it can be. Obviously, there is a full range of Mothers detailing products available to make your car shine like a harvest moon. If you like their flagship product, you’ll no doubt like some of their other magic potions too.

If you haven't already, go and buy some Mothers Mag & Aluminium metal polish. See what it can do for your car. Or as the boys from Sweet Project Cars say: ‘let Momma put a spank on it’.

Happy polishing everyone.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Motoring Madeira (part two)

For those who enjoyed June’s welcome break from my tortuous prose, I have good news. Yes, I’m again going to minimise the verbiage and treat you to some more images of the classic car scene in Madeira. 

Who would have thought that such a small island would be a treasure trove of motoring icons and all in such great condition?  Maybe once you see more of this collection, you’ll book a trip to this sunny isle for your summer hols.  And if you can get your classic motor there, so much the better. You might make a few Euros to subsidise your holiday ice creams.  Enjoy!

Of course, if you want to see significantly more fantastic classic cars than on Madeira, make sure you’ve got The Woodsmoor Classic Car Show in your diary.  Bank Holiday Monday 27th August 11 am – 4 pm. See you there.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Motoring Madeira (part one)

Long-term readers will know I occasionally like to give some commentary from our tourism adventures. In this case our recent visit to Madeira. Amongst its many attractions; I’m glad to report they have a small but thriving classic car culture.  Many are used as transport to various restaurants and tourist spots earning the owners a few Euros. 

We discovered that every May they have a classic car event which, sadly we had just missed.

Luckily the cars were still buzzing around, and we were able to get a camera lens onto a good few of them. So, for a change, instead of me just banging on about whatever’s on my mind classic-wise, I thought I’d leave you to enjoy some of these beauties in the following pictures. 

I'll drop a few more on next time. If in the meantime, you decide to visit Madeira, make sure you have your camera at the ready!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Celebrating Seventy Years Of The Deuche

We’re back in familiar territory this month. But for a good reason, I hope you’ll agree.  If you don’t know, 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the 2CV. Yes, it was in 1948 when Citroen unveiled a car that is as French as a ham and cheese baguette. And just as simple. Let’s have a recap on why these little cars are so important.

I’m sure most are familiar with the unalloyed minimalism of the 2CV. Depending on your point of view this is its abiding appeal. Or the source of much mirth for those who like a little more content in their classics.

Of course, their many owners love them dearly. But for those who still laugh it’s worth knowing what early reviewers said about the ‘deuche’.

Autocar applauded "the extraordinary ingenuity of this design, which is undoubtedly the most original since the Model T Ford".  The Globe and Mail called it a "car like no other". When you’re familiar with the stripped-down nature of this car, you’ll know that ‘stark’ is an apt descriptor. But, it does somewhat hide the remarkable engineering underpinning what is essentially a cheap peasants’ car.

Ruthlessly simple and utterly logical, it is a vehicle stripped to the very quick. The motoring writer L. J. K. Setright described the 2CV as "the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car’. He further praised its. "remorseless rationality."

When Citroen specified the car, they had a pure USP in mind. They wanted to mobilise the French rural populous. To move them from agricultural vehicles which still included the horse and cart. As such, it needed to be cheap to buy, easy to maintain and highly adaptable.

People familiar with the 2CV know at least some of the fundamental design concepts. That one should be able to wear one’s best Sunday hat while driving.  Perhaps, as they transport a basket of unbroken eggs across a ploughed field.

Citroen designed adaptability into the car. You can remove the roof, back window, boot lid and rear seats? Doing this creates what is essentially a pick-up truck. A French farmer could use his 2CV to take cases of wine, bales of hay or livestock to the local market.

In the modern age, a deuche makes a modest trip to IKEA very doable!

The original car, launched in 1948, had a 375cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine. The design was inspired by a BMW motorcycle boxer engine. With 9 bhp and 40 mph top speed it wasn’t going to win any races. But speed wasn’t the point. Function trumped all. And even if the languid pace leaves us unimpressed today, it was still faster than a tumbril.

The point here is to know that the engine’s designer Walter Becchia was working to a strict brief. Simplicity was foremost. And keeping within the strict French CV taxation rules to keep the car affordable. The engine was updated to a 12 bhp 425cc in 1955. By the end of its production run in 1990, it had a 602cc/28bhp engine capable of 65-70 mph. Still hardly a ball of fire.

Sadly, this perceived lack of horsepower distracts from the innovation Becchia built into his elegant engine. Look closely. There are no pumps, hoses, or complicated electrics to go wrong and there are no belts to wear and snap. All essential services including ignition, cooling and electrics feed of the main drive shaft. As long as the car is running, it’s likely to continue to do so.

So robust is this simple engine that in bench tests it was run at full throttle for 1000 hours. The equivalent of 50,000 km of continuous driving without issue.

Putting all that together what most find surprising is that when used as a basic run-around the 2CV is highly adept. In the low range, it is surprisingly quick. When driven with some brio on suburban roads you’ll struggle to shake it off in any car. A deuche can take corners at terrifying speeds. Its alarming body roll and long-travel suspension ably kill off speed limiting understeer.

Let’s also not forget that the 2CV platform gave us a huge variety of interesting cars. All based on its humble engineering. The Dyane, Mehari, Fourgonette Vans, The Visa and the very rare Bijou all owe their existence to Citroen's desire to mobilise France. That’s a real legacy if ever there was one.

With a 2CV and its stablemates, what you get is the distilled essence of a car. Everything you need is there and barely a gramme more. Perhaps best of all is that a 2CV now elicits grins from bystanders. They have transcended the perception of being a hippy car to become a classless, desirable runaround. And it only took 70 years for it to happen!

So there you have it. You might still have your reservations, and none would blame you. But as a coda to my little homage, our aim is to celebrate the 70th anniversary at this year’s Woodsmoor Classic Car Show. We’re going to have a motivating display of the 2CV and its variants.

You’ll get to see up close why so many have an enduring affection for this minuscule French Fancy. 

Hopefully see you there.