Sunday, 5 December 2010

Six Appeal at the Motorcycle Show

At last year’s Motorcycle Show BMW showed a concept bike with a straight-six engine. This year it gathered together several six-cylinder bikes.

The Honda CBX is something of a favourite of mine.

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

I don’t think I’d ever seen a Benelli Sei before:

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

Or a Kawasaki KZ1300

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

Motorcycle Show Highlights

I spent a couple of hours going round the Motorcycle and Scooter show at the NEC.

There was a lot to take in and, as you’d expect, some shocking crowds. At least if you’re interested in learner legal stuff it is quite easy to get at. I quite liked the Kawasaki D Tracker and Suzuki VanVan, they look a bit toy-like but should not intimidate novice riders.

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

The SYM 125K looked a lot like the old Honda CG125 and also the Yamaha YBR125. At £1,500 or so it looks like good value but I’d rather buy a motorcycle from a company I know.

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

I also wanted to try a couple of sporting 125s for size. The Yamaha R125 felt a bit small (as did some of the other Yamahas I sat on). I preferred the Honda CBR125.

Of the bigger stuff, the Honda CBR1300 felt good.

From Motorcycle and Scooter Show 2010

My favourite bike remains the Triumph Thruxton. It just feels right; all the controls are just where I want them. So many bikes suffer from bars that are too wide and straight but not this British machine.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

An electric car of the year winner? Leaf it out.

I wish I’d put money on the Nissan Leaf taking the European Car of the Year prize. Somehow the Nissan always looked like a strong contender simply because its technology is fashionable.

Nissan Leaf

Interestingly, if you look at the voting grid the Leaf was not universally liked with some jurors awarding it either one or no points. In particular the Spanish and most of the Italian panellists seemed unimpressed by battery power.

Sometimes the voting has shown distinct nationalistic bias. This year, however, it wasn’t much in evidence. That said the Dacia Duster was the favourite of the Romanian juror (and also of one of the Belgians).

How would I have voted? Probably the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in first place, it just looks more interesting than the typical Focus, Golf or Astra. The Nissan is interesting but not CotY material.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A few photos from the NEC

A crowded NEC isn't the best place for photography so I didn't take many pictures. Here is a selection:

I had never seen a Citroen Bijou before so it was nice to see one; the best thing about car shows is the opportunity to see things you've never seen before. The Bijou was a Slough-built Citroen, based on the 2CV with a glassfibre body. Despite the 'lightweight' body it weighed more than the steel-bodied 2CV. Power, if you can call it that, came from a 425cc flat twin. You didn't know Citroen built cars in Britain? You do now.

This 1930s Ford V8 was very stylish. I think it was a 1934 car with just one or two owners from new. Power would have been 75bhp from a 3.6-litre, sidevalve V8.

Keeping with the transatlantic theme, this Buick was VAST and very brown. You can imagine it packed full of a typical American family and all their holiday (sorry, vacation) luggage.

The emblems on the brushed metal wheel trims were rather neat.

As was the ornate 'Estate Wagon' script, and you get an idea of the fake wood on the body.

More fake wood at the back.

An American Icon, the fins of a 1959 Cadillac convertible.

Finally; something British, although with a Japanese twist: a cutaway Rover 200. It is a little odd to see cars that I can remember being launched now appearing as classics. However, in its time this 200 was well regarded and looked very classy. It also shows that you don't need to own something expensive and impractical to participate in the classic car scene.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dream come true

There is a theory that you should never meet your heroes. It is not a view I share, especially not since meeting one of my four-wheeled heroes at the weekend.

It was a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB, in silver on alloy wheels; one of only six alloy-bodied, right-hand drive cars built. My ride came about through the Sporting Bears Motor Club, which raises funds for charities by selling off 'Dream Rides' at the Classic Motor Show.

First impression of the Ferrari: it is small; not so much short but low and narrow, especially compared to the Ferrari 599 that was nearby. Inside there is plenty of room; mainly because the gearbox is behind you and there is no massive central console, in fact there is nothing but the essentials. A simple, crackle-finish dashboard with dials for everything you need to monitor; big, well-spaced pedals and a left-food rest; and the gear lever and steering wheel looked well placed.

It might not look impressive inside but it is surprisingly comfortable with decent seats (non-reclining buckets, as I recall) and firm but well controlled ride. It went well too, and sounded great as the red line approached (about 6,500-7,000 I think). But if you're just cruising it is quite civilised. It also seems nicely balanced. Jerry, the owner wasn't hanging the tail out or anything dramatic like that but you could feel how the car could be steered with the throttle. I was also impressed at how, when we returned to the NEC, happy the car was to sit at tickover for several minutes. The water temperature rose a little but other than that there were no signs of temparament.

Add to that a glorious view down the bonnet, with the front wings curving up and a cinemascope windscreen to frame the scene. Although I noticed that there were dints on the passneger-side wing, looks like someone rested their elbows there and left an impression in the aluminium.

The 275 was everything I hoped for, a glorious experience for the eyes and ears. I still grin when I think about it.

Oh and I've added a few more Ferrari 275 GTB photos, because I can.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hot Prelude

Lately the engine coolant in Fourwheelsteer’s Prelude has been disappearing over time. Although there were no puddles under the car the only explanation I could see was that the system must be leaking from somewhere.

From My Honda

I purchased some Radweld and the instructions suggested that flushing the cooling system with another product by the same company. It could just be clever marketing but I reasoned that a nearly 13-year old cooling system might benefit from cleaning out. Especially as the product suggested it would help with overheating and the Prelude’s engine does get rather hot if stuck in traffic for any length of time.

Draining the Prelude’s cooling system is simple enough; Honda does a good job at making its cars easy to service in my experience. The instructions for the Holts cooling system flush suggested driving 20-30 miles which was just right for driving to my local Honda dealer (friendly and efficient as always) for some genuine coolant. Again, I’m a sucker for marketing but I did hear another Prelude owner extolling the virtues of genuine anti-freeze. Since it is about the same price as generic stuff from Halfords why wouldn’t you go for the OEM stuff?

Back home and after lunch the cooling system was drained, the recommended dosage of Radweld poured in along with the fresh coolant. I also put the cooling system to the test, letting the car tick over until the fans cut in. It is reassuring to know they do, even if the temperature is some way above that of normal running (but still within the bounds of the ‘normal’ portion of the gauge).

Initial investigations show that the level in the radiator hasn’t dropped overnight – hopefully the mystery leak has been fixed.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Moving Motor Museum

Being a bit of a transport geek I can’t resist either a heritage railway or a motor museum. Over the weekend I visited the Mid-Hants Railway or Watercress Line and the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. Much as I love the Beaulieu museum I do wonder if motor museums could learn a thing from the steam railway.

From Beaulieu and Watercress Line

The great thing about these enthusiast-run railways is that you experience the trains running; not just as static exhibits. You get a flavour of what railway travel was like fifty years ago. It would be interesting to see the same model applied to cars.

Imagine a museum where some cars are in use either every day or, at least, at the weekends. The public could see and possibly even ride in old cars. To that end you’d need a short test track. Not a race track but somewhere with a variety of road surfaces, corners and gradients and maybe a long straight. Cars would not be pushed to their limits but I would want to give people an idea of acceleration, ride comfort and cornering; hearing the noise of the engines, the feel and smell of the upholstery.

What cars would go in the collection? You’d want cars that were interesting to look at and travel in.

Considering those factors the first cars I’d source for my collection would be:

From Model T Pictures

Ford Model T – A unique character with its strange controls.

From Haynes Motor Museum

Citroen SM – demonstrate the ride quality and general eccentricity of Citroen.

From BIMS 2008 Oldies

Lamborghini Countach – big on drama and spectacle whether in motion or standing still.

From Warwick Classic and Retro Cars

Mini Cooper – cramped and uncomfortable but fun.

From Gold Cup 2008

Jaguar XJ12/Daimler Double Six – Possibly the smoothest engine ever and a great ride too.

From Gold Cup 2008

Rolls-Royce Corniche – Or any Shadow variant, to sample Rolls-Royce craftsmanship.

From Luton Festival of Transport

Plymouth GTX – Feel the power of a big, American V8 as well as the comedy cornering behaviour of a car designed for straight roads.

What cars would you include?

Monday, 4 October 2010

New cars: Citroen DS3

Not driven, but a friend has just bought a new DS3 and she’s thrilled with it. I couldn’t resist having a look and it does seem quite nice.


This isn’t it but it is very similar.

I still don’t know what the DS3 has to do with Citroen’s classic DS but it seemed like a perfect excuse to post some pictures of an utterly gorgeous Citroen DS, which I took this summer.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of the whole car as it was attracting such a crowd. Given that it looks as good as new (or better) I’d say the attention was justified.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

More weekend pictures: Detail shots 2

This BMW was among the Bristol cars; a 502 coupé (I think).


It may seem like an odd interloper but the chassis was related to the one used by Bristol and the earlier, six-cylinder version used the six-cylinder engine from which Bristol’s ‘six’ was developed.


I’m not sure it is pretty but it has presence and the V8 badge on the boot is rather stylish.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

More weekend pictures: Detail shots 1

I don’t lay claim to any great talent as a photographer. However, I do try to find interesting details as it can be boring taking essentially the same pictures over and over again.


This subject is the one-off short-chassis Bristol 406 with coachwork by Zagato. On an aesthetic level I’m not sure the shape works, the front and back ends don’t quite gel but it is an interesting sighting.

Photobucket Photobucket

The interior looks very spartan but it is certainly purposeful.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Bristol photos from the weekend

It was the Bristol Owners Club annual Concours d’Elegance this weekend. This year it was held at the Airbus facility (formerly the home of the Bristol Aeroplane Company and still the home of Bristol Cars) in Filton, Bristol. Over 200 Bristol cars from around the world turned up to join the celebrations.

Here is a selection of my favourites from the weekend.