Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Rally Nice Exhaust Note.

Can't afford a proper rally car? Wait for your muffler to fall off! It worked for me a few years back. Come on, admit it, all we really want is the sound of a rumbly, grumbly engine! It can make any car seem like the coolest rally car, ready for hitting jumps and taking tight corners. It somehow adds 50 or 60 extra km/hour to the feel of your boring daily commute.
A short video I had recorded reminded me of the time a few years back when the exhaust pipe of my Peugeot 104 broke off, right at the header. I knew that I had to get it replaced quickly, as such a noisy car attracts the police (not to mention the extra pollution it creates), but I did manage to get a few runs in with the full sound of the engine blasting towards the firewall.
This engine I speak of was Peugeot's well-loved 'X' engine. It earned the nickname of 'suitcase engine', as it laid nearly flat in the engine bay of the cars that used it, and separated into two halves when disassembled. It was eventually available in multiple displacements and power levels, though mine was the original small 1.0 litre, 45 hp version.

45 hp, not really the power of your typical rally car. With the exhaust in place, the 104 sounded, well, like it might have 45 hp. But yank off that exhaust and you got this:
Pretty impressive if you ask me! The backfires when decelerating were a nice plus! Shortly after I took this video I removed the header and had the pipe welded back on, and I went back to being a mild-mannered commuter. But I kept in mind the knowledge that a roaring beast was lurking under the hood...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sign Of The Times, Past Tense.

Over the course of the past year I have written about many automotive discoveries I have made. I love learning about old car brands and models that I don't know. One brand that I had heard of before but didn't know anything about until I moved to France was Talbot. Created at the start of the 1900s, Talbot was an automobile company from the beginning. Unlike many early 20th century automotive manufacturers that started out building other industrial products and switched to cars later, Talbot was always automotive.

Talbot went through many changes and evolutions over the years, forming part of a three-brand group (Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq) from 1920 to 1935 before being bought out by British group Rootes. This lasted up until the end of the 1960s, when Chrysler took over Rootes, combining Talbot with Simca for their European operations. Talbot was one more time bought out, by Peugeot in 1978, but by then it wasn't much more than a brand name as opposed to a manufacturer in its own right.
Automotive historians will remember some great Talbot models from the early to mid 1900s, such as the beautiful Lago luxury coupé, but the current generation probably only remembers a few rather forgettable rebadged Talbot cars like the Horizon and Samba, if they remember any at all.
That's why I was pleased to run across this sign in front of an old garage in the region. The Talbot sign with its 'T' logo was a bit weathered and dirty, but still standing out by the street for all to see. There probably aren't many Talbot's that pass through the garage, but fans of the old brand surely enjoy a hint of nostalgia when they see this sign. There were also signs advertising Michelin tires and Finagaz propane which were equally weathered and authentic.

No car fans likes to see their favourite brands disappear, but I am glad that these signs remain to jog my memory and remind of of cars that have come before.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


France, I love your Chardonnay and your Castles, your Culture and your Cars, but there is one thing that you got wrong: "Cocorico"! That is the sound the rooster makes in France, or so they say. As a native English speaker, I firmly insist that the rooster most certainly does not cry 'cocorico' in the morning, but instead 'cockadoodledoo'...
Thankfully, the French do a better job of making legendary cars than naming the sounds of farm animals. I have written about the Citroen 2CV several times in the past; one can't be an automotive fan in France and not fall under the spell of the fantastic '2-chevaux' (2-horse(power)) and its unique and uncopied silhouette. Exposed round headlights, wide, curved fenders, and a long sloping back are but a few of the wonderful details that make this car stand out.
Right from the beginning it was regarded as a highly innovative car, and played a huge role in allowing rural people in France to join the driving class. Its simple, rugged structure and construction meant that it would last for a long time and was easy to fix, and the high ground clearance, front wheel drive traction, and suspension with long travel made it an excellent choice for less than perfect roads and country lanes.
Many different models of the 2CV existed over its production run that started in 1948 and ended in 1990. One of my favourites is the lovely Charleston model, with its two-tone paint:

Another excellent model is this Cocorico version. Prepared after France's semi-final qualification in the 1986 world cup of football (soccer) in Mexico, it had a less than successful introduction when France was eliminated. Originally planned with football-shaped logos, these were replaced with more generic 'Cocorico' labels. Not only is this the cry of a French rooster, it is also a sort of national-pride rally call, and suited the 'bleu, blanc, rouge' colours copied from France's flag.
This beautifully restored version belongs to a fellow Canadian that I work with. He purchased the Cocorico in a rather sorry state a few years back, and toiled over it in his garage to fully restore it to all its original glory. I even had the privilege of taking it for a test drive, and absolutely loved the noise, feel, and even smell of this piece of automotive history.

I'm just thankful that the horn doesn't blast 'COCORICO'!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I Spy With My Little Eye.

What is that playing peek-a-boo round the corner of that building? Why yes, it IS an old car! Whenever I am out my car radar (cardar?!?) is always on. This past weekend it was a familiar wagon shape that caught my eye, sitting in the weeds in a courtyard of an apartment building. I ventured in for a quick peek, and got a look at a car I have always liked, a Lada 2104 wagon.
This legendary-in-its-own-way car was known with many names over its 30+ year lifespan, depending on the engine size and country of sale. Actually determining what specific model this is has turned out to be very difficult, as there were so many versions, but it appears to be an early to mid 80's wagon. I was always attracted to the slope of the rear end, and it has some decidedly old-school design elements, especially in the rear fender and hatch area.

This isn't surprising, as this Lada was based on an even older car, the Fiat 124. The 2104 was built by Russian automaker AvtoVaz, but carried the Lada Riva or Nova names in most of Europe. Basic, simple and tough, this car (and its sedan version, the 2105) sold well over 3,000,000 copies, and is generally known today as the Lada Classic. It was produced right up until 2012 for the home Russian market, having left the rest of Europe at the end of the 1990s due to tightening emissions restrictions.

Another relic, another photo, another story. I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for these abandoned gems! If anyone knows more about the Lada 2104, feel free to share! I like to think that there are a few people out there who also play the 'I Spy' game with these humble legends.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Brissonneau et Lotz.

It isn't every day that I discover a different old car that I have never heard of before, but that was the case this week. And as far as discoveries go, this was a wonderful one. While I didn't get to see it in person, I was very happy and rather intrigued when I received several photos the other day. It was of a lovely blue roadster in Paris. I certainly couldn't guess what make it was, but luckily I could read a name on the back: Brissonneau.
Another name on the front of the car was visible, but the fancy script made it impossible for me to read. I tapped 'Buissonneau' and 'roadster' into Google, and was able to discover a whole new automotive manufacturer that I have never before heard of: Brissonneau et Lotz!
'Buissonneau et Lotz' was a train and subway car manufacturer that has origins all the way back to 1878 (that's not a typo!), and ceased to exist almost 100 years later, in 1972 , when it was split up and sold to other businesses. It would seem that this company was quite well known for the train business, but their single foray into the automotive world has nearly been forgotten.
This small roadster first appeared in 1956, and lasted until 1959. Only 250 copies of the plastic convertible, called Louis Rosier (after the race car driver of the same name who helped design the car) were produced. It was based on the utilitarian Renault 4CV, and as a result didn't have the power or handling to match the sporty looks.
Still, those that are aware of this car love it, and only a handful of drivable examples exist today: one website suggests that only around 20 restore-able models exist today, and that possibly only 2 are currently restored! Apparently the slippery handling (the Louis Rosier apparently earned the unfortunate nickname of 'real bar of soap' due to its weak grip and unimpressive road-holding abilities!) kept it from ever really catching on and entering the history books, but I'll take a learning experience when I can, especially when it's this attractive!

I would love to hear from anyone who has seen one of these before, or knows anything about this fantastic bit of nearly-forgotten automotive history!