Monday, October 28, 2013

Maxi Photos Of Mini Cars.

If the photos on the following website were real they would be impressive enough, but it's when you realise how they were taken that they become even more interesting. Take a peek at the link and look closely at the details of the photos and you'll see why I'm so impressed:

Without being told of the trickery one would assume the photos are real. The angle and perspective turns these models into beautiful, authentic-looking old cars in everyday situations. In our modern era of photoshopped images, it is fun to see true, old-fashioned image trickery that takes real effort and staging.
The artist, Michael Paul Smith, has called his fictional town 'Elgin Park'. I know where I want to go for my next vacation!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

High Gass Prices.

While I generally try not to be too crude, I can't help but get a laugh out of this. It's a bit of grafitti I saw in Portugal this past summer, spraypainted onto the side of a gas station:
Some people would say that high gas prices are a pain in the, ummm, neck, but this artist clearly has a lower opinion on the subject! It would seem that the gas companies are really sticking it to drivers, and this guy was sick of it. Maybe he needs an electric car, though of course we can all imagine a similar image with a power cord and plug..!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moke Classic versus New Moke.

An article I recently read trumpeted the return of the Mini Moke, the Austin Mini-based roofless runabout that appeared in the 1960s as a basic, low-cost utility vehicle. Originally designed as a poor-mans military vehicle (aka baby Jeep), it apparently proved to be rather useless in that role due to its low ground clearance that kept it from going off-road. It was instead marketed as a summer toy, a beach and resort buggy. It is in this role that it was a hit, and became a classic in many island countries.
This past summer I saw three in Portugal, and while the name was familiar, I don't believe I had ever seen one before. A little surprised to see three in a span of one week, I later learned that the Moke was originally produced in the UK in the 1960s, in Australia through the 1970s, and continued on in Portugal right up until 1993. So it would seem that a Moke sighting in Portugal, especially along the coast, isn't much of a surprise.
The Moke is as basic as a car comes. No roof. No doors. No trunk. No radio. The only apparent creature comfort is a simple heater, and later models had seatbelts to keep the occupants in place. There is no carpeting and very little interior trim, making the Moke an easy vehicle to hose out after a day at the beach. There is seating for four, and a rollbar over the rear passengers would provide some protection in case of an accident, but this really is a simple machine that was never intended for long-distance driving. Accepting that, it is clear that the Moke could be a very entertaining toy. A snap-on roof and side panels existed for some protection from the elements, but I suspect in most cases they stay rolled up at home. This vehicle wasn't meant to be covered!
I was only able to snap photos of one of the three that I saw, but it was the nicest, a spotless light blue version. Viewed from the front one could almost mistake it for a Jeep, from a distance, but from the side it looks more like a large bumper-car than anything else.
Over the years, several other manufacturers have offered similar beach-buggy type vehicles, such as Citroen with their Mehari, Renault with their Rodeo, and VW with their Thing. All have cult-like followings, and have become true collector vehicles that continue on in places where folks want to enjoy putt-putting along the seaside while working on their tan.
Apparently some feel that there is still a market for this type of vehicle, as the Mini Moke has been reborn as the eMoke. A partnership between Moke International (no longer a Mini brand) and China-based Chery Automotive / Sicar Engineering has seen the creation of an all-electric version of the Moke. The new model looks almost identical to the original, but is an all-new, modern creation with modern construction techniques and safety features... and even a radio! Unfortunately, in its transition into a 21st century vehicle, it also gained a 21st century price... well over $20,000 for the Australian version. While such a fun little car will certainly find some buyers, it is disappointing that the original market for the Moke (young guys and gals who want a smile-inducing buggy to hit the beach and enjoy the freedom of open-air motoring), isn't going to cough up 20 grand for a seasonal vehicle that has limited (120 km) electric range.
Despite the elevated price, car fans can still be excited over the rebirth of the Moke, and be glad that it stays true to its original mission of minimum vehicle for maximum exposure to the sun!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Who said you need a full-size pickup truck to get lumber from the hardware store? Some days I tell myself I could really use a pickup as I renovate my house, but my little Opel pulls through every time. This weekend it was four 4-metre long beams that were actually longer than the car!
Maybe at some point I'll encouter something the Corsa can't handle, but so far, she's taken everything I can throw at her! And looks good doing it...! ;)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What Could This Be, The Answer!

This morning I realised that I never did say what the unknown car in a previous entry was! Here is a link to the original story:

I was sent the answer shortly after I received the original pics, so I can share. I'm pretty sure I would never have guessed THIS brand:
For people of my generation, the Skoda name evokes sensible and affordable VW clones. Skoda was purchased by the Volkswagen group in 1991, but goes all the way back to 1919 as an independant automobile manufacturer, and back even further to 1869 as an industrial group.
This Skoda Felicia was the convertible version of the Octavia, produced between 1959 and 1964. This short run means that the Felicia is quite rare, and rust problems have limited the numbers even further. I'm glad I got to see one, even if it was only in pictures!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Trio Of French Italians.

During a recent visit to Paris I stumbled across three Italian superminis. They were all parked within a block of each other, and judging by their state, I would suspect that they belong to the same person. While it would have been fitting if they had been green, white and red, like the Italian flag, they were instead flying the colours of France, blue, white and red.
These three little warriors had seen better days. Looking like cast-offs from the movie 'Cars', they were all suffering from varying states of corrosion damage, and a general lack of TLC. There were holes in the bodies that one could stick their fingers through, and more than once piece of tape was visible, which is never an encouraging sign on an old car. 
The blue and red cars were nearly identical models, the blue one badged as an Autobianchi A112, and the red one a Lancia Autobianchi A112. In total, over 1,250,000 units of these cars were produced, from 1969 to 1985. It was Fiat's response to the Mini, and was considered a big success as a step up in size from their tiny 500. It was notable in that 80% of the volume was used for passenger space and the remaining 20% for the engine, whereas many cars of the era had closer to a 60 / 40 split. 
The white car was also a Fiat, this one the legendary 126. An incredible 5,600,000 units would roll off multiple assembly lines between 1972 and 2000. The 126 would eventually replace the 500 on which it was based, and while it had big little shoes to fill, it became a legend in its own right. Countless variations and versions of this car were produced, including succesful rally models.
I don't know if these cars are driven anymore, but I like to hope that they are fired up occasionally to take a drive around the block, perhaps down to the Italian quarter of Paris to get back to their roots.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tesla Tease.

Anyone paying even the slighest bit of attention to the automotive market has heard of Tesla Motors. They are seeing huge success with their gorgeous Model S, a large and luxurious sedan that is proof, finally, that an electric car can be a hit. Many manufacturers have dabbled in electric vehicles for years now, but Tesla is the first to create a market for them. And it's working, sales have taken off.
One amazing feat is the fact that Tesla was the best-selling car in Norway in September, with 616 examples sold. It wasn't just the best-selling electric, or luxury car, but best-selling car, period! A rather impressive performance for a car that starts at nearly 450,000 Norwegien kroners, or 75,000 dollars American.
While success in the US is understandable, as one expects that consumers will root for the home team and buy local products, the established (a nice way of saying saturated) European market is a tough nut to crack. The German quartet of luxury automakers are the go-to for luxury car sales, with a couple pseudo-English brands and an Italian or two thrown in for good measure, making the job of carving out a name and a place in the upper-class performance sedan sandbox a real chore. The Japanese top-shelf brands are still also-rans in Europe, and have not yet figured out how to compete with the established players.
Tesla is the little dog with the big bark. What they lack (years of experience, a well-established reputation, a large dealer network) is clearly being made up for by what they do have: the single best luxury sedan on the market. I have not yet had the chance to experience a Model S, but all reports highlight how smooth and refined and liveable the car is, thanks to the powerful and unobtrusive electric powerplant. Unobtrusive in two ways... it physically doesn't take near as much space as a conventional gas-burning engine, especially with the batteries installed under the floor of the car... and the whisper quiet powertrain coupled with top-notch insulation and sound-deadening creates a vault-like cocoon for the passengers.
All that said, the 302 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque available on the standard motor can turn the reserved and well-mannered Tesla into a monster in just a few seconds. As I have not had the chance to test drive the car I can't give my personal impressions, but as a mechanical engineer I can appreciate what having an electric motor with that much torque available from 0 to 5000 rpm means... and the idea gives me shivers...
Unfortunately my budget for this year doesn't include the purchase of a luxury car, and I don't suspect that it will next year either. My only hope is that Santa Claus will read this blog, though if the packs of socks and underwear from last year are any indication, I shouldn't hold my breath. That doesn't stop me from being very excited about the continued growth of Tesla in Europe, though, and I hope to get the chance to check one out sometime soon...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Weekend lesson: when starting a manual transmission car, it is important to:
A) Put the transmission in neutral,
B) Push in the clutch pedal, and
C) Aim the wheels forward, especially if the car is in a garage
As a friend discovered Saturday morning, failing to check at least one of these items can lead to a dented bumper and bent garage door! Thankfully no one was injured, though the owner of the car and garage door was not all that impressed to spend his afternoon fixing his garage door. As the driver and car/garage door owner were family, the rest of us who were visiting quietly slipped away while they 'discussed' the situation... after a few tense minutes all was forgiven, and by the end of the afternoon jokes were being cracked.
So let this be a reminder to all, take a second to make sure you're in neutral before starting your car... it can help you avoid an accident, potential injury, and becoming the butt of 'remember the time you crashed into the garage' jokes for years to come!