Blogs : September 2008
The sun shines on the last of the TRs?
Triumph TR7 still has the power to inspire…
I HAVE muttered and moaned many times on the pages of this hallowed site about my frankly absurd commuting habits; since September last year I have covered 42,000 miles. Thrashing along a motorway is far from ideal for an older car and, for the most part I have avoided it, preferring the ‘delights’ of a modern Vauxhall. At weekends, I have tried to avoid driving full stop, not leaving much capacity in my life for old motors.
True, I did take one of my A40 Farinas to work in Northampton a few times (146 mile round trip) but that 44-year old lead headed engine threw its toys out of the pram after a particularly nasty M6 one day in February.
My white TR7 convertible has been sitting, apparently unloved, without tax or MoT in my back garden all through our sad excuse for a summer dogged by a starting issue and lack of enthusiasm. I bought the car five years ago and recently been having twinges of guilt about it. When would it ever get back on the road if not done soon? So, I bit the bullet and off it went to my local garage where it gained a new MoT after a new starter motor, steering rack gaiter, headlamp, carb mounts and a full service.
Sod’s law is usually a constant thread through my life and so I expected yet more rain as I expectantly picked the car up. But no, Friday saw wonderful sunshine; so much so that I skipped and ran to buy a six month tax disc (in Claireworld, 12 months is too far to plan!). Little by little the car that only a fortnight before was an irritation and embarrassment displayed more and more magic. Topping up year old petrol breathed new life in and a quick 90mph dash on the M5 with hood down reminded me why this TR7 was more fun than the MR2 convertible that I briefly ran alongside it.
Heritage is the buzzword of the site and TR7s are no exception. Yesterday saw a slow but tight left hand turn into a hilly side street kill the engine and all electrics dead. Too close to a roundabout and stuck in a rat run, a friendly passer by helped me push it UPHILL out of danger. A quick scoot about under the bonnet found an insecure battery that was soon fixed. Later on in the day some hard cornering (ok, ok driving twice around a roundabout for the hell of it) showed up some fuel starvation which, in the circumstances, was pretty understandable.
In spite of, and hell maybe because of all of this, the TR7 was awoken at 6am this morning for the trek to Peatboghorror – a dismal 103 mile drive that saw it keep a steady 75mph in the outside lane of the M6 and, once the sun had risen, the last 40 miles were with the hood down. Glorious, just glorious: how could commuting get better than this?
Sadly, while I have been beaming ear to ear over the last weekend, I just do not use the car enough and think I should sell to someone who will. I also have two Austin A40 Farinas which should go to new homes so, if you are interested in any of these cars, please contact me on 07512 929954.
1981 Triumph TR7 DHC in white with blue tartan trim. Good condition 2+ car. Sound bodywork, good mechanics and huge history file. Mot Sept 09 Tax to end Feb 09. £1500 ono
1965 Austin A40 saloon. 1098 Midget engine – rebuilt last year including water pump and alternator. New electronic ignition. In last two years; all new brake wheel cylinders, clutch slave cylinder, new clutch, new battery, new tyres, new hoses, genuine BMC sills fitted, repair panels let in to arches and wing bottoms, electric screen washer. Needs paint and finishing. Ideal classic rally car. Free road tax and MoT ’til March. £750 ono
1963 Austin A40 saloon. 3 owners from new. Ideal basis for concours restoration. Transferable reg *** TOO. Still on crossplies; recent clutch and screen rubbers. Needs very small amount of bodywork and an idiot decorator tipped paint on it. Very straight and original. Free road tax and MoT until March. £1400 ono
Head still buzzing
IT’S been a very busy week for me – as you may have guessed from my lack of blogs, so apologies for that but I hope you understand. Although my life’s largely the same as it was before, its pace and quality has certainly picked up during the past few weeks. Please, then forgive the following lame and feeble attempt at what Steve Cropley does so well in Autocar magazine – I reckon that it’s the only sensible solution…
The urgent rush to find a Ford Mustang for an upcoming feature in Octane magazine prompted me to make a call to John Neville at Ford Heritage. He’s always been amazingly helpful in the pastand enabled me to find all manner of cars for Practical Classics – even at the shortest of notice periods. He’s one of those nice guys you come across in this industry who will do anything to help, knowing that his promises are backed up by a turn-key fleet that’s kept in tip-top order… Gaydon, please take note. John couldn’t help on this occasion but put me in touch with someone who could and, one ‘phone call later, the loan of a Roush Shelby GT500 was arranged – for ten days! Given it has 540bhp and that up to now, the most powerful car I’ve driven (I think) is the Aston Martin DB9, you could say I’m more than a little nervous…
Off to Banbury to watch the studio photo session of one my all-time favourite cars. Seeing a full-sized studio that a number of manufacturers (and their advertising agencies) use and the level of professionalism and commitment the guys on the shoot had was a real eye-opener. George Bamford was the snapper and, at one point, he was so into the job, that his exertions had him puffing and panting like a 100m runner. The results look stunning, though.
I’ve finally managed to free some time to go and collect the SD1 restoration project from Poland. It’s been far too long since I published the pictures of this almost completed project and I am acutely aware of the stash of parts that I need to deliver to the guys. I’ll be off in early October for my last-but-one visit to the workshop – probably in the Scooby (because of the big boot that I can sleep in on the way back). I seriously cannot wait to see the results of their masterful work myself. I’ll be sure to take pictures…
Future issue planning at Octane – and I get a couple of stories in! It’s going to be fun planning those… logistical nightmares! I’m still hoping to get an Allegro in the mag but the looks from my colleagues are enough to convince me it may take time. I’m prepared to wait. Test cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz roll in for a job on What Diesel magazine and I couldn’t help but smile when our editor, Robert Coucher, commented dryly that the CLC 200 looked perfect for the thrusting middle-manager.
New issues of the mag come in and I’m proud to see my 19-page lead feature in. Even today, after four years in this game, it still gives me a massive buzz when one of my stories makes it into a mag. However, the James Bond feature I’ve penned and George Bamford’s stunning photography, are particularly satisfying. I, for one, hope that the feeling of satisfaction never wears off…
Off to the Goodwood Revival. It’s the first one for me – and it’s an event I’ll admit to having always fought shy of attending. I managed to bag some period clothing in the charity shops in Wellingborough (I’ll keep the flat cap for when I’m driving my SD1), so looked the part. However, as much as I love motor racing, the biggest interest for me was idly wandering around the car parks – both pre- and post-1966. Yes, there was a smattering of supercars – and the whiff of money was ever-present – one thing that’s consistent is the enthusiasm that just about everyone has for cars (except for the parking marshals who let an Alfa Montreal and Citroen SM into the pre-1966 area. Forgivable, of course). I loved it but was conscious of the middle-manager-spec CLC 200 I’d turned up in. I would have given anything to have been in my (soon not to be, though) ZAZ 968, Alfasud, or SD1. Next year, for definite…
Roll on next week when things get more interesting.
Welcome to the Club! I was told I was going to Goodwood Revival four years ago, and I now go on two days. I was initially fascinated by the paddock cars, and the racing. Now, my job is to photograph the commercial vehicles and the pre-1966 car park. I was amazed yesterday to see a rhd ’51 Buick, and the day before a ’65 rhd Rambler Rebel convertibl
I write four items for each monthly issue, and sometimes have last-minut
I have contribyed to various books in the past, e.g. BRM Vol 1 by Doug Nye, and had two books published, but I get a buzz from seeing my name in print every month!
Looks good doesn’t it? Shame it doesn’t go quite so well…
I DROVE my Rover 216 Coupe to the test station this afternoon and realised that things really weren’t that well. With a huge smoke trail behind the car and the engine popping and banging on three-cylinders, I knew that something was badly amiss with the project car I’d been working on.
After letting it warm up and checking for signs of head gasket failure (and finding none), I left it with my tester and walked home, sulking as I went. A call the following morning brought the news I’d been dreading: there’s no compression on one cylinder. After posting the results on the forum, both Brian Gunn and Kyle Roberts (the two best car people I know) came back with the same stark message – my car had cracked a cylinder liner. Damn!
That leaves me with an uncomfortable dilemma – get the liner repaired, source another engine, or break the car for spares. Given the low-mileage and general good condition of the car, it would be a crime to break it but, at the same time, it wasn’t a car I intended to keep (there’s no space in my life for a Rover 200 Coupe right now, as much as I wish there were), and I’d always intended to sell it. What, then, should I do: sell the car with no MoT and running on three cylinders as a £150 project car, bite the bullet and pay for the engine to be rebuilt (I am no K-Series expert and know they need specialist love and attention), or find another running donkey and have that levered in? None of those options are particularly palatable right now (I’m still saving hard to pay for the last bits of my SD1 resto) but breaking the car would have the same effect on my heart…
I’d love to hear your opinions.
Allegro – for want of a gearbox
Was it really that bad?
THE Allegro was a very pleasing-looking car. The Alfasud shared the general aesthetic. In terms of line and balance it was nicer than many French cars of the day. Renault’s 12 and 16, and Citroen’s Visa and GS, were a mixture of curves and flat sides, and unresolved belt-lines that constituted a nauseating hodgepodge of design.
The Quartic steering wheel was neither a plus nor a minus. The driver became used to it almost immediately and ceased to notice it thereafter. Letting the wheel spin through the hands was still possible. It probably allowed for a better view of the instrument cluster, and more room for the legs, while maintaining a good diameter for leverage on the non-powered steering system. Overall it should have been a non-issue.
If rear-windows popped out on jacking, they were few and far between, and this should have been a minor issue addressed in time by some additional bracing to the frame. The suspension was generally very smooth, but could hop under certain conditions. It was very reliable and generally maintenance-free. Comfort and riding experience for passengers was good.
|If rear-windows popped out on jacking, they were few and far between, and this should have been a minor issue addressed in time by some additional bracing to the frame|
The Allegro was relatively resistant to rust, perhaps because of the predominantly curved body. The A-series engine was inherently thermodynamically efficient. The 1.3-litre engine returned 40mpg. The timing chain rattled but usually did not need replacing. The Allegro was brought down by its mechanical flaws. The engine burned a great deal of oil, and the gearbox was unreliable. Given that the engine, and its configuration with the in-sump gearbox, had been used successfully before, it is reasonable to conclude that the factory workmanship, quality and grades of materials, and quality control were of a poor standard during the Allegro era.
But also, the in-sump gearbox, however well executed, was not well suited to a long-life of high speed cruising on the modern motorway. The 1.3-litre engine with the four-speed ‘box was running at around 4375 rpm for 70mph, thanks to the long maintained perverse belief that cars should be geared to be able to attain their maximum theoretical velocities. Perhaps this was appropriate for piston-engined fighter aircraft, but was wholly unsuitable for a family car covering several hundred miles of motorway. The fifth gear should have alleviated this problem, but the gearbox configuration was just more convoluted and its lubrication less effective than the simpler end-on design of Volkswagen.
Do you really hate the look of the Allegro? Imagine an Allegro with Volkswagen mechanicals, and all the drivability that entails. Had it been so, would not the friendly face, the practical profile, and the comforting rear have added up to an icon of British respectability? Well, maybe not, for that was the Maestro, proving that what was also missing was the desire to see it succeed.
My Daimler story
The big cat comes home
IT always starts the same way, bored at work with only eBay for entertainment. ‘May as well have a quick look at what’s about’ leads to window shopping a few cars and then getting back to work. On this particular Tuesday I was looking at pocket money Jags and was increasingly surprised at what could be picked up and the prices that they would go for.
I bid for a couple of XJ40s but wasn’t too upset when I was outbid on a couple of older digital dash models – the office expert had warned me off those anyway! The next day I had another search and came across a couple of interesting cars before searching under Daimler. A few things came up including an immaculate Double-Six, the six-litre V12 version (Or XJ81 to the spotters!). I remembered reading a review of this model on a plane when it was launched and being impressed with the Autolux Leather and Picnic Tables in the back plus the final evolution of the Jaguar V12 engine!
Jags are so common these days(!) so I decided to go for the Daimler. A couple of speculative bids came and went and the price seemed to be headed higher than I could really afford so I decided to leave it and head to the gym… while constantly glancing at the clock thinking ‘still got time to bid, still got time to bid’ so, with five minutes to spare, I headed down to the PCs in the Gym Cafe and checked the state of play.
With seconds left the selling price was far less than I’d reckoned on but still more than I could really afford. Worth a punt – so, with seconds to go, I hit the bid button and, as the screen refreshed the news came up… ‘Congratulations, you have won the item’.
It’s about this time that ‘eBay Panic’ sets in – the realisation that you’ve just committed to spend a fair bit of cash on something that you’ve never seen from someone you’ve never met. I duly called the seller up and we arranged a day when I could go and collect the car. The next problem was getting there – the car was in Canvey Island and I was in Solihull.
I therefore had no choice but to do the one thing that strikes fear and dread into any petrolhead – use public transport. Train to London – then a Tube to across town to grab another train to Canvey Island where I had a couple of hours to kill before the seller was able to come and collect me. When we finally reached his office I saw the Daimler gleaming in the car park – the Moroccan Red looking great in the sun. We went in and took care of paperwork before I headed back to the Midlands – in a car that he cheerfully told me could do as much as 16mpg at a push, great! I decided to ‘brim’ the tank and hope that would be enough to get me home and checked my pocket to make sure I had the RAC card with me – tales of electrical gremlins playing on the back of my mind…
|It’s about this time that ‘eBay Panic’ sets in – the realisation that you’ve just committed to spend a fair bit of cash on something that you’ve never seen from someone you’ve never met.|
The drive back gave me a chance to become acquainted with the good and bad parts of XJ40 design: the great seats and acres of classy wood contrasting with some comedy switchgear, a cramped cabin plus the occasional strange squeaks from places unknown, the J-Gate gear selector and side mounted handbrake, which added a little quirkiness, and the silky power delivery of that big V12 being kept in check by an instant economy readout which rarely got into double figures. I picked up on a couple of small things that needed sorting – the tracking was way off and the Air-Con needed a gas-up (obviously this was the only hot day we had all summer). The only electrical gremlin was the ‘Bulb Fault’ warning light flashing on an off occasionally and, by the time I’d got back, there was even a quarter tank of fuel left.
The next day I decided to head over to Browns Lane to get some photos of the car outside where it was assembled – knowing that the site had been sold off, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was greeted by a depressingly huge pile of bricks and rubble. However, some Jaguar Offices and a small wood trim factory remain down an adjacent side road, so I got some photos outside and then decided to go and have a look at the old Daimler plant in Radford (where V12 and AJ6 engines were made up until 1998) – this had fared slightly better with the old management building standing proud over Sandy Lane (though the factory itself must have been demolished years before).
In the past month, the Daimler has done around 1000 miles and I’ve had the tracking and Air-Conditioning fixed (it’s colder than the Arctic in there when on full blast!). The car has been attracting a fair bit of attention when parking up which surprised me as I always thought the XJ40 was a fairly common sight. I’ve made a list of subtle modifications, which I’ll be making over the next few months, and which should release some further ponies from the V12. However, the interior and exterior will remain standard, save for some late model XK8 wheels. In fact the only gripe I have is not even the car’s fault – people insist on calling it a Jag and Daimlers are a bit above that! Not bad for a grand though!
Thank goodness for the high petrol prices
My baby… it’s being rebuilt
OKAY, so it was a contentious title for a blog, but I did mean well by it. Honestly.
Lots of people are tightening their belts right now – and, if my many conversations with people in the business are anything to go by, the first household item to come under close scrutiny seems to be the car. Practical Classics magazine’s tech guru, John Simpson, is a good example of this – I was talking to him about the headgasket job my Citroen BX now needs and asked him how his business was going. John said that, although he’s still busy, he’s noticed that more and more people are starting to skimp on servicing; where his regular customers would once come in for the annual MoT and service, now they’re foregoing the service and just sticking it in for a test.
On the market, you can see the evidence everywhere. People are bailing out of their big, old cars and replacing them with something newer and cheaper to fuel. *That means there’re a glut of what people may describe as gas guzzlers on the market – no one wants them* and it means they’re selling for a song. To give you an idea, it’s now evidently possible to buy a very useable Jaguar X300 for around £500 (see Andrew Elphick’s recent blog). That’s more than tempting. I’ve been getting itchy fingers, too… while I have a very nice 2008 Subaru Outback Boxer Diesel at my disposal as a long termer for What Diesel magazine, I’m hankering after something to call my own to smoke around in.
My current fleet status is critical too, so you’ll see where I am coming from.
Vauxhall Cavalier Sportshatch is at Neil Campbell’s house awaiting a cure for a fuelling issue
Saab 9000 is at a friend’s being restored
Alfasud is in storage
Citroen BX is being used by someone else
Saab 900 is being used by someone else
Rover Tomcat has a cracked cylinder liner and its future hangs in the balance
Rover SD1 awaits my delivery of some parts
I’ve therefore started looking on eBay for another Saab 9000 or Rover 800 and found that the prices are shockingly low right now. My Saab 9000 is the much-underrated 225bhp Aero version and, when I bought mine a couple of years back, the going rate for a good one was about £2500-3000. I paid around that for mine and felt that I’d got just about the very best I could find for the money.
However, check eBay today and it’s clear that, with the combination of another couple of years’ obsolescence and the current cost of petrol, a perfectly useable example with tax and test can be had for £500. Think about that for a moment – 225bhp (assuming it’s not been chipped and most have) for a monkey. Talk about bang for your bucks. That’s a tale that seems to be reflected across the entire big car scene. Don’t believe me? Just check out everything from Alfa Romeo 164s to Volvo 850T5s – via, of course, the Rover 800 Vitesse.
So, if you don’t have a massive commute, and you’re not thinking of moving house any time soon, then why not have a punt on a big old fast saloon? Five years from now, there might be none left to play with.
The MINI Crossover concept – I LIKE IT!
Official: We found someone who likes it!
I KNOW my ears will be burning but, honestly, what’s wrong with it? Fair enough it’s ugly enough and large enough to be an Austin Maxi (six inches wider and taller than the wobbly rear-doored Clubman) but its quasi 4×4 stance seems to suit the MINI shape somewhat.
I know the four-wheeled iPod that is the Citroen Cactus looks similarly hideous in glossy pictures, but works in the metal, even if the Crossover and Cactus bear little resemblance. I, for one, would say Porsche Cayenne facelift headlamps were prized styling touches in Weissach while, from the rear, the Lincolnesque tail lamps work well. Maybe the MINI brand’s future is heading towards the urban roader but squashed into a smaller environmentally friendly package?
Yeah I know…. don’t throw a Prius at me… Who knows?
One thing is for certain, come 2010 the Crossover will be a prized object, whether this community likes it or not… and I may well have changed my opinion too!
seeing the car (?) for the first time i’d like to comment that it looks like an “audi on steroids, crossed with a mini”
sorry, but it won’t work for me – and when the oncoming recession makes all those SUV and crossovers (BMW X6) go away, than wasn’t it that bad at all
just my 2 euro-cents 🙂
We should be told…
Montego producers, Yema, and it’s new buggy…
WHILE I was away enjoying myself with Andrew Elphick and Dave Smart on CzechWrecks 2008, AROnline‘s Deputy Editor and self-confessed Maestro fetishist, Alexander Boucke, dug out a nice story about the re-appearance of the Maestro/Montego in China. You know how it is with manufacturing these long-lost model lines – they tend to move from one company to another, making great start-up fodder for those looking to get into the business. A good example of that is the Nigerian production line that’s churning out facelifted Fiat Mirafioris as we speak… it had been through Turkey and Egypt after leaving Italy.
Anyway, with the re-re-arrival of the Yema-produced Montego on the new car price lists in China, came the extraordinary appearance of facelifted versions, which ranged from the addition of a natty new bumper to a light re-skin which turned the poor old car into a cheap copy of the Subaru Forester. However, the one that really got my juices flowing was the little buggy-like car that got the crowds excited at a recent motor show.
Regular readers of the site and other confirmed petrolheads will have no trouble identifying the car though – it’s either a very close copy or a lightly reworked original of the innovative Matra M72 prototype, which hit the European show circuit around 2000.
|However, the one that really got my juices flowing was the little buggy-like car that got the crowds excited at a recent motor show.|
I started wondering to myself why the thing would make a re-appearance around the world and eight years on in China. Then it hit me – Pininfarina’s been working closely with the Chinese industry for some time and, for the past couple of years, the troubled carozzeria has owned what’s left of Matra. Is it possible that Pininfarina’s been cooperating with Yema or has simply supplied the car to the Chinese company?
There are a number of changes on the newer car – but, to my untrained eyes, nothing significant enough to make me believe that it’s no more than a re-packaged version of the original prototype.
Then another thought struck me: is Pininfarina working alongside Yema on other projects? Perhaps the Montego update? Could it be? Perhaps we should be told…
…and the identical Matra (which could have been a CityRover) from 2000.
Taken from Paul Stowe’s excellent blogsite
2) Strike a light, guv’nor. The bale of hay should be on the boot, not on yer bonce!
3) No Boris, I said get to know the TAXES…
4) A bit of a Hackneyed photo-opp’
5) Operation Scouse Grovel was one thing – this is ridiculous