Sunday, February 23, 2014

World Car Fans: Nigeria.

One of the fun parts of running a blog is checking the statistics, and seeing who is visiting. I truly enjoy sharing my automotive stories, and don't do it just for the clicks, but as anyone can imagine, it is always satisfying when a story catches peoples attention. This particular blog platform,, allows me to see how many people have visited and where they are from. It also shows me what stories people are reading, and which ones don't particularly interest them. I can check for the past day, week, month, or all-time.
Analysing this information helps me to know what kind of articles people enjoy reading, and which ones don't interest anyone. Over the past little while I have noticed many visits from several different countries that I know little about. Specifically, I realised that I didn't know anything about their automotive cultures or industries. I decided to research a little bit and see what I could dig up. Today I thought I would start with one country that has caught my interest.



Not only do I know nothing about the automotive situation in Nigeria, I have to admit I don't know anything at all about the Western African country. With a population of over 170,000,000 people, it is the 7th most populous country in the world. As far as I can determine, there never has been a Nigerian car brand. Peugeot and Volkswagen have factories in the country, and beginning in April 2014, Nissan is expected to start producing a 4x4 vehicle.

I found an interesting website, the NAC (National Automotive Council of Nigeria), that makes it clear that Nigeria is making an effort to create a strong and viable auto industry. In 2012 over 100,000 new cars were imported, mostly from Asia and Europe, but more interestingly, over 300,000 used cars were imported. While I couldn't find any full statistics, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry sedans are apparently very popular, along with older Mercedes models. The Korean brands Hyundai and Kia are also popular.
One interesting tidbit I came across was the fact that it is very common for Nigerian car fans to give their cars a nickname! The squat, broad Accord from 1995 was called 'Bulldog' for its looks, for example, while the 1992 Camry that had gotten bigger and heavier than the previous version earned the less than flattering nickname 'Orobo', which means 'Fatso'!

A huge auto parts importation and distribution market exists in Nigeria. It makes sense that if there are going to be a huge number of old cars on the road, people will need to repair them, so this auto parts market helps the population keep their cars running. I have a soft spot for automotive fans who like to get their hands dirty and take care of their own auto repairs, so I can very much appreciate a country with such an active used-car culture!


Another day I'll look at into another country, but for now I'd be very curious to hear from any of the Nigerian readers that follow my blog if they have any corrections or additional automotive information to share!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Daily Driver.

As I have probably made quite obvious by now, I often stumble across cars that catch my eye in the street. This was the case recently when I was out for a stroll on a gloomy day in Paris. Out of the corner of my eye, as I was crossing a street, I saw a familiar shape half a block down. I took a detour and went to check it out. It was a Citroen 2CV Charleston with its famous black and bordeaux paint-job.
What impressed me the most was that it appeared to be a daily driver, not some show car that spends most of its time locked up in a garage. Judging by the wear and tear, and the tired condition of the inside and outside of the car, this 2CV was clearly someone's day-to-day transportation.
Any car fan can appreciate a well-conserved collectible car, and I'm certainly glad that they exist... but I also love seeing trusty old cars still being used for everyday transportation. Especially when they're as distinctive and legendary as the Charleston.

Some regular readers might remember that I wrote about the 2CV Charleston a while back, after seeing a mint example used as a wedding getaway car:

Who knows, they say that every person has a twin out there somewhere... maybe for every clean, tidy, restored old car sitting in a garage, an identical trusty daily driver is pounding the pavement everyday!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Best Way To Get Your Fruits And Vegetables.

The fruit and vegetable aisle of a grocery store is not where an automotive fan expects to discover a treasure, but that's exactly what happened to me recently. To be certain, it wasn't a typical, everyday grocery store, but 'La Grande Épicerie' ('The Big Grocery Shop').

'La Grande Epicerie' has recently been remodeled, and is a big, bright, beautiful grocery store in the 160 year old 'Le Bon Marché' Department store in the heart of Paris. It is a legendary store that continues to be a Paris fixture. I was wandering through the store last weekend, looking through their International aisle for some specifically Canadian treats, when I stumbled across the fruit and vegetable display.
The fantastic display was set up on and around a Citroen Type H truck. In a previous article I wrote about a Type H van that was used in Paris as a billboard display for a café.

The flatbed version in the grocery store makes for a perfect display stand. This extended-length truck provides tons of space for the fresh produce that is brought in each day. The Type H has been expertly restored, and while it is clearly an original, the fresh paint and detailing have created a real show piece.
Even the licence plate has been customized for the occasion, with the year of the reopening of the store (2013), the name (Grande Epicerie Paris), and the departmental number for Paris (75) present.

I am not always careful to get my daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but I think that I'll make a better effort if it means that I get to see this great old truck!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Other, Other Vette.

Say 'Vette' to a car fan and there is no doubt that he will think of the Chevrolet Corvette, the legendary and quintessential American sports car. The 'Vette first appeared in 1953, and 61 years and 7 generations later is still going strong. Even non-car fans can probably identify the Corvette, as it has always had a look all its own. An all-new updated model for 2014 has just been introduced, and will certainly keep the Corvette name a popular one.
The other 'Vette, for me, is another Chevrolet, but this time a slightly less exciting one, the Chevette. Produced from 1976 until 1987, it was Chevrolet's entry-level subcompact during that time. It had the peculiarity of being rear-wheel drive in an era when almost all other small cars switched to front-wheel drive. This 'Vette was a big success for Chevrolet, especially at first, but was never much more than a basic, utilitarian means of transport.
Enter the third 'Vette, another Chevette, but this time the Vauxhall version from the UK. While I knew that a Vauxhall Chevette had existed, I always assumed that it was identical to the North American hatchback version. It turn out this is not the case. A friend who recently moved to the UK and knows that I am a fan of oddball cars sent me a few pictures the other day of a Vauxhall 'Vette sedan.
What a looker! I especially like the 'flush-mounted' headlights and smooth front end, as opposed to the traditional sealed-beam headlights and slatted grille of the American Chevette. The sedan (or saloon) body-style is also a tad more upscale than the 'hunchback' styling of the 3 and 5 door Chevrolet version.

While I wouldn't say no if someone offered me a Corvette, and I would also be happy enough with a goofy little Chevrolet Chevette, I think that my new favourite 'Vette is the one with the Vauxhall label.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


When you're a big car fan, you need a dashboard you like. Spending hours touring around facing a dashboard you don't like isn't fun. It has to be attractive and functional, with the controls laid out where you can easily see and reach them. Some might even say that the design of the dashboard is as important as the design of the exterior, because you spend more time looking at the inside of your car than the outside.

This concept is very ingrained in me. It goes back, way back. Before my first car. Before my first driving lesson. Actually, I think that my passion for cars probably started with a dashboard.
Meet the 'PlayMates Fun-To-Drive' dashboard! I spent hours and hours and countless D-cell batteries as a kid racing with this Corvette-inspired toy. Sometimes I would go for a leisurely Sunday drive through the countryside, while other times I would race through the city on a mission. Sometimes I would put it in first gear and drive gently, while other times I would throw it directly into second and burn rubber as I dodged the other cars on the road. I always made sure to obey all rules of the road, of course, and especially prided myself on my impeccable mastering of the left and right turn signals.

The best part was driving at night. With the pop-up headlights raised, you could light up a whole room, which allowed you to drive into the wee hours of the morning. I was never bored with this dashboard, that was for sure!
While mine is long gone (I suspect one of my sisters smashed it in retaliation for a Barbie beheading), I found this video on the internet so that you can all discover the excitement that is the Fun-To-Drive dashboard!!!

So there it is, the source of my obsession with cars. If I can get my hands on one someday I'd love to take it out for a spin and recall my first driving experience! Let me know if your first time at the wheel was also with one of these wonderful toys!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Buoy Oh Buoy!

A buoy may be more maritime than automotive, but occasionally the two worlds meet. That was the case yesterday, when I stumbled across a lovely Austin Mini Countryman. These 3-door wagons were variations of the standard Mini, and produced between 1961 and 1969. Apparently around 200,000 models were produced, and they are easily identifiable with the wood framework added to the longer rear end.
The owner of this tidy red version apparently felt that the wood trim gave a yacht-like feel to the design, as he had decorated with two inflated buoys hanging off the back. While I suspect that they are just decorative, maybe they are functional, and are used when backing the car into a garage or parking space, to prevent dents and dings. Kind of like external airbags!
I have always been a fan of the Mini, and this personalized version is one that really caught my attention. The wood trim of the Countryman model adds a very retro look to the already very retro Mini. Several other types of Minis exist, including van and truck bodystyles, and one my my favourites, the Jeep-like topless Mini Moke:

The Mini may be small, in all its formats, but I always have my eyes peeled for them in the streets. And oh buoy, was I happy to discover this one!