Friday, 25 July 2014

the happy time

This usually refers to German U-boats hunting British shipping in WW2 during 1940-41, When Britain was nearly reduced to its knees for the second time in WW2 (the battle of Britain being the first) But I digress. But then I’m sure it’s not lost on you. For the Bottom dweller this is the happy time! The ‘kills’ keep on coming. Not that I’m about to become a neo Nazi but I do like the odd… well make that ‘odd’ German cars.
Let the happy time begin…
And the winner is…
Renault 16 TS
Just look at this glorious car, when did you last see one of these? Superb quality, beautifully engineered these upmarket hatches where a breed apart. Almost Citroen DS like ride and panache for a fraction of the cost. No stunningly beautiful but charming  Gaelic style all the same. Beautiful handling and peppy motor will put to shame many classic GT cars. My advice  buy it!
For: performance, quality, looks, ride,  style, practicality. More cred than at least 5 french films at the film festival
Against: Ownership will make you  feel very very smug. Alfa owners will hate you with good reason!  You will never want a Mustang or a Porsche again.
Bottom dweller Status: 3/5  A  trifle out of B-D range but this is your big chance. Don’t stuff it up!

1963 Standard Vanguard Six
Normally the lepers of the Classic car world Vanguards attract nearly no interest at all, but look at this Tucker Madawick / Vignalle  wonder in full Raymond Loewy  influence. Whilst no the most beautiful car on the planet it certainly has its charms in this lovely two tone colour scheme. Disc brakes and Triumph six cylinder make up for boring  fascia. But lots of lovely dials to look at! Really a very nice car and much better than anything BMC was producing at the time.
For: Smooth, well handling (for time) perfectly useable classic  that wont break the bank
Against: Not much but wrong badge, No walnut facia, Take advantage now!
Bottom dweller Status: 4/5  Cheaper than a Sunbeam Rapier  or Studebaker. Absolute bargain.

1987 Toyota Corolla
Again when did you last see one of these? Why you may ask, but these are the quintessential high point of Japanese 1980s car technology. Plus all the domestic models (the ones MADE IN NZ) have a Chris Amon tuned suspension! So they handle beautifully. These are the NZ equivalent of the Alfasuds without the rust. Amon used to host a car show on TV and slag Toyota handling off every week so they (Toyota) asked him to tune them and these superb handling cars where the result. Light on fuel , lovely and pleasant to drive (with that reassurance of high quality Japanese plastic  of the time) these Corollas are far more sportier than the models that followed. Toyota has survived on the reputation of this car ever since while Corollas got fatter and uglier and sloppier with every passing year. People that have never driven a Mazda3 still buy them – God knows why?
For: Sporty, light, fun loving car, Fits like a glove, what’s no to like? Amon heritage. You will be invisible to Boy racers and classic car owners alike.
Against: It has a Wham tape stuck in the stereo. You’ll be waiting forever for the auto to break so you can fit a manual.
Bottom dweller Status: 5/5 Lot of fun for the buck. Preserve the NZ heritage!

1953 Armstrong Siddley Sapphire
Hand built, Rolls Royce like quality at a faction of the price. This Limousine is elegance personified. Doesn’t look like it needs much fettling to sort out.  Will go anywhere; the original SUV and Great for towing your Toyota Landcruiser out of the mud.  The engine is masterpiece; a hemi without the bother of twin cams. Plus it has a 7 star Ancap rating although the handbook  recommends  you wipe the Toyota Vitz’s off the front bumper from time to time.
For:  the chrome is so thick on the front grill that if the steel behind rusts out it doesn't matter.
Against: In weekends you can crush modern cars for extra cash. If Rommel had these instead of Panzers the Germans would have won the war.
Bottom Dweller Status: 5 /5  might be worth hanging out for an  immaculate concours example for $1937

1987 Jaguar XJ40
Nearly into the Ford era when things really improved, these jags are never the less post British Leyland as such aren’t  totally hopeless.  With a new engine and flatter mundane styling these cars are a better bet than the earlier curvy XJ6s. So hopefully, no where near as problematic. Auto is a GM unit. So could have all the benefits of the early XJs; Gorgeous ride and handling, superb dynamics, outstanding performance etc.
For: truly gorgeous interiors, superb dynamics, reliable as hell.
Against: Yeah right! Made by people who had bizarre sexual fantasies about Margaret Thatcher being their mother! And it shows!
Bottom –dweller Status 6 /5 Cheap as chips, but are they really just garden sculptures like most other XJs. At least it doesn’t cost much to find out?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Autoholics Anonymous

Welcome to Autoholics anonymous. Thank you for coming. It is good you are here.
Finally, after all this time, you have taken the first step towards being classic car free. To come here is to admit you have a problem. Don’t worry you are amongst people who care and understand you. People that have conquered and overcome this affliction and now live happy normal lives. Believe it! People do overcome autoholism! You can be one of those people. Just by doing our 12 step program, we can help you achieve your aim of seeing cars only as daily transport!
We know you’ve been obsessing about that cute little European coupe, fantasizing about the ride of that long wheel based V8 while still wanting turn-in without excessive over steer
  We know how bad it’s been for you! We know how obsessed you’ve been, how it’s ruined relationships, destroyed families and taken it’s toll on work, friends and acquaintances.
So many people who have passed through our program have asked “Why can’t I just have a normal hobby?” Well now you can, by doing our program soon you won’t even care if the 1964 and half year model mustang is a better bet than the ‘66 year model or if the Alfa selespeed gearbox will give you as much driving satisfaction as a manual. Or that the wingnuts on a 1972 jag rearview mirror are the same as ford ones. Imagine to be free (once and for all) of these problems. Imagine how simple your life would be  if you didn’t have have 3 classic cars, or that that rust did actually sleep or that Ferrari was only the name of some Italian shyster sleeping with your wife?
So lets get started!
 You now officially on the bottom dweller 12 step program to a successful classic  car free life.
No1. 1965 Humber Supersnipe
At $4k it’s a bit out of bottom dweller territory, but it goes which is the main thing, (these cars are notorious at seizing up when stored) These elegant saloons are weathering well, still without much interest. These days there’s nothing like them and they look expensive.  A lot better on gas than a yank, surprisingly fast, with a beautiful hemi six (courtesy of Armstrong-siddley) under the bonnet. Like many Rootes products a lot better than the sum of its parts, and much more long lasting  than it’s smaller brethren. Not far off a Jag in terms of performance . Which only goes to show Rootes should have developed it further. By 1968 it was all over and Volvo swooped in and not only dominated this market but developed as well.
For: Elegant, refined, more like a 1960s Armstrong Siddley than a humble Humber. They had the wrong badge!
Against; if you join the club you will be the only one so you will have to talk to Imp owners of whom you have nothing in common..
Bottom dweller status: 2/5 A  bit expensive? But a better car than than it’s BMC equivalents.

No2  Austin Princess
In the sixties the public probably weren’t ready for the lack of grill on the Super Snipe. BMC  though, perceived the threat and hyped things up with one of the best traditional grills of the period, adding the Van der plas name to give bespoke presidence! ( Incidently the Humbers where also coach built by Thurpe and Mayberly through Rootes didn’t make a song and dance of it – fools they where!)   and even later gave them a cheap Rolls Royce engine.
For: Happiest of the Westminster, Wolseley 6/110 Farina designs. Interiors wonderful, Pretty spesch!
Against: Looks a bit podgy next to the elegant Humber and it’s no Lancia Flaminia in the performance stakes despite the looks:
Bottom dweller staus:4/5 pretty good at this price.

No 3.  Fiat 128 Coupe
Fiat replaced the 128 Coupe (see two weeks ago) with this updated modified version (for a short time in New Zealand) To be honest I’ve never seen one on the road here yet the earlier ones weren’t uncommon. Still has than mini exotica feel to it and as such is quite glamorous.
For: A Fiat coupe at a cheap price.
Against: Was it a coupe or … a hatch?  for too much money? - hard to tell!
Bottom dweller status: 1/5  Lancia Deltas are cheaper and better.

No 4. Toyota Crown Coupe
New Zealand was lucky enough to get a small amount of large Toyotas in the 1970s (to fill the gap left by the Humbers, Wolseleys and Austins)  the stylish saloons where nice but surely the pick of the bunch where these very groovy coupes. (Why didn’t the british do these? Another  lost opportunity there) Still Toyota Crown did later to become the Lexus (now there’s a clue), still are in Japan. Half Mustang,  half Wally-Cressida;  an unhappy mix when new but now pure style for the 21st century boulevader!
For: Legendary Toyota Reliability (even now) Drive it to work. No one else will have one, and they do look good in a slightly ugly stylish way.
Against: It needs a paint,  It’s yellow, the bonnet is stuck in the air.
Bottom dweller status: 3/5  Some boy racer interest, moving out of contention?

No5  Volvo 360 GLT
In the 1970s Volvo needed a small car to leverage it s brand into the profitable sub 2-litre market. So it brought Dutch car maker  DAF and made this cute little hatch. Which did us a favour by making  DAFs available in NZ. Not much like it at the time. A  high quality small saloon to replace the ailing British Triumph 1500s before being killed by the 80s infusion of the 3 series.  But Volvo quality and safety at a cheap price. Or so it seemed. Now these sedate and stylish cars prowl the bottom dweller markets of the world refusing to die.
For: Better than an Escort, nicer than a triumph,  Well built with quality 70s interior. Good road manners and different.
Against: Slightly ponderous styling, not sexy.
Bottom Dweller Status: 4.5/5  Tasty little number on which a bottom dweller can feed on.

No6 1966 Ford Mustang
I don’t know if I should be reviewing cars costing $9.5 K but it’s great to see the start of the adjustment of American car prices in New Zealand and these 6cylinder coupes are certainly stylish bottom dwellers of the Mustang world. Got to remember: most sold where 6 packs. Instead of the lumpy V8 you get a well balanced smooth as silk 6 cylinder. The best thing is they handle better because the car is not over-powered  like its more expensive siblings. These cars where built for these motors, it’s a perfect combination. America as it should be! not hyped up perverted and oversold.
For: The sixties, notchbacks rule, convertibles and fastbacks only half as good. Everyone drives the V8s slowly anyway so why bother?
Against: Plus $2k to bring it over.  Are we stupid?

Well you  only got to step Number 6. Really you can’t be helped, You’re terminal, a lost cause, Give up now. We sound kind and caring but really we don’t give a shit.
But please fill out our evaluation form so we can improve our service to you. Cross out what doesn’t apply. Thanks!
 This course was very helpful, I’m completely cured and am going to buy a Corolla.
I bid on the Austin  I needed it to make my life more complete.
You are a fag!  You choose weird cars. Real Mustangs have V8s! End of story!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Happy as a pig in Mud!

Now I need nine grand! Or help depending on how you see things. Time for another session at my local automotive anonymous group. You may laugh. Well it’s like this: The Riley would be the project (even through I don’t believe in restoration)I’ve always wanted one. Look that grill, look at that front (its going to be cerulean blue with a white top) The lancia would be for everyday, its perfect, gorgeous every time you step into, lovely Giugiaro lines, can’t help looking at when parked. For a midweek treat I would take the Fiat. For the joy of every corner, I’m driving a Dino man! (without the hassles) and of course the weekend would be the Sunbeam-Talbot – Svelt glory, presence on the road, stunning lines. Life is so good. What a great week on trade me. Looks like it’s never been a better time to buy a classic. Bottom dwellers rule.

It never rains, it pours!

After a long drought, it just seems to be getting better and better for lovers of bottom dwellers on Trade me. I just could’t resist adding these delectable beauties available this week.
Sunbeam Talbot 90
The Subaru WRX of the 1950s this silk purse from a sows ear was one the great rally cars of the immediate post-war era. Far more than the sum of its parts (Humber Engine and Minx underpinnings) these Sunbeams  behaved like  thoroughbreds. With a big engine in a small responsive chassis these cars were the drift cars of their day. Monte Carlo winners in 1955 and 2nd in ‘52, Sunbeam (both well passed its use by date) were unlucky not to win it all the time in this era. Amazing robustness and stamina the motor was all torque, nicely clothed in one of the best bodies of the era courtesy of Raymond Lowey.
For; Gorgeous looks, Rallying  pedigree, Gorgeous to drive.
Against : Nothing except some Imp owners will think they’re in the same league as you. (they’re not!)
Bottom Dweller Status: 2/5  Though underappreciated , unfortunately rapidly rising out of our league. (there I’ve got through another post without insulting Imp owners)

Lancia Prisma
Talking of rally winners. With baby ‘Gamma like’ styling,  the booted version of the Delta is pure delight. Smaller than a 3 series (its only real competitor in the small quality saloon market of the time) these boxy Lancias are subtly exquisite in shape and taste. Like the Sunbeam, built from a bunch of standard parts and sharing a platform with the Fiat Strada and Lada Samara, these  Lancia ‘s are never the less dripping in character. The twin cam motor is a ready performer, Economy is 21st century standard. Small,  tight and fun to drive. Luxurious to boot.
For: Toyota-like reliability, Italian Brio , cheap parts
Against: They don’t make anything like it now.
Bottom dweller Status: 5/5 as long as they don’t all rust away.

Fiat 128 coupe
Not quite as pretty as an 850 coupe, these 128 coupes have more than a hint of the Dino about them. Really a far better prospect than an 850 as the dynamics are a generation ahead of it’s rear engine cousins’. Front wheel drive; the concept wouldn’t go astray in today’s market. So well ahead of it’s time.  In fact there was really nothing like it for the time. (or since, Alfa Sprints where some way away yet) these coupes gave Grand Turismo Brio at a cut down price. Like all Fiat coupes of the time; lovely to drive and far better than Escorts and Marinas. This lovely Blue example seems very well cared for and a bargain at $3k. He wont and shouldn’t go below that.
For: Lets face it ; You will never have a Dino, you can afford this.
Against: Only now, when they are all gone are they appreciated.
Bottom dweller Status: 4/5 Just out of our league, You probably wont find another, certainly not on this condition at this price.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The best car of the 70's?

This is a list of the 1970s European Cars of the Year. No mention of the real winner of the best car of that decade. Hindsight is a fine thing. Realisation is even better, but really  the best car of the 1970s was the Mk 4 Cortina,
 Talking of Ghia (which Ford had brought by then) and so labelled their top model (and for years to come) I believe styled the Mark 4.  To  my eyes it’s the happiest and best looking of all the Cortina models. The Mk4 has a better roof line than the flattop Mk 5. (more Ghiaish?)
The Mark 3 was the big development and left everything in its wake. I’m sure  Harley Copp looked at the Rover and Triumph 2000s and thought ‘nice cars’... We could do this cheaper and better. Suddenly with the advent of an American engine (from the Pinto) it was all on.
 Quite simply in the 70s the Cortina / Taurus was way ahead of the pack. It performed better, it rode and handled better than any of its competitors. It brought European handling to the masses. Everything suddenly looked old fashioned. It held the Japanese at bay from complete domination of the New Zealand market. It was the best seller and nothing could get close.
After the Mk5 Ford moved on we got the Telstar (Really a Mazda 626) and the Seirra Wagon.(Really a Mk 5 in a jelly mould shape. Things have never been the same since for Ford. The Toyota Corolla took over as best selling car.
In the collectors market 70s Cortina’s are non event. Escorts get collected, (But  I’m not a great fan , having driven too many 1.1 litre autos  a common variant in NZ)
Time hasn’t been kind to the 70s Cortinas, but really they are a great car, They still feel good today, They feel substantial, modern but classic. They outperform all their contemporaries  in nearly every way and their handling and poise wasn’t beaten by the Japanese till the 90s. They deserve better.

The most beautiful car ever?

What has he gone mad? How can a close to $30,000 car be a bottom dweller? Doesn’t this just ruin the whole authenticity of this website?
Well… Probably… But the point I want to make is Karmann Ghias are bottom dwellers. No really.
The aesthete once described them at Volkswagen for Porsche Money (Check out his wonderful website here: but I disagree. The karmann Ghia is one of the most beautiful cars in the world. As such, even at the typically excessive prices for the best: they are still cheap in the world of bespoke car design. Lets face whats prettier? A 365 porsche is as pretty, a early 911 comes close, then what a Ferrari GTO? An E-type a D-Type? More fluent overall but not as nice in the detailing. A karmann Ghia  simply has perfect curves. I was studying a friends the other day, (and not a $30k one) and from every angle they look good. The lines of these cars still look fresh after all these years. They are timeless they are stylish. Driving round Auckland or any other major city in the world a Karmann Ghia holds it’s own on any Boulevard. No matter how much money you have You cant buy a better looking car, One as good looking  yes,  but not one better looking. Are you with my drift. Just study the lines next time you see one. They are beguiling, they drag you in like a stylistic black hole, they are probably the most addictive shape on 4 wheels and lets face it all for a lot less than anything else as remotely as beautiful.
Actually Ghias in New Zealand start around the $5 mark almost standard classic prices Check out this one on trade me a few months ago . and you can import a left hooker from the US for not much more. (where most of them went) Of course their dynamics of driving  can easily be beaten by just about any sports or drivers car. Still they have their own charms and really they are delightful to drive in their own way. And  very livable for a classic… with a nice feel, great torque and half decent handling, thanks to a low centre of gravity. Still, it’s when you get out, you remember what all the fuss is about. It is truly beautiful. There’s  something about driving a truly beautiful car. I am glad they are beautiful, I’m glad they are around on our roads, There are still enough slightly scruffy ones that adorn our streets to remind us that beauty is not the sole property of the elite.

Just when you think the classic car market has gone west

 There turns up on trade me a whole range of cheap desirable classics. its just like the old days!

The Wolseley Twins
Ok I admit I’m a sucker for lashings of veneered burred walnut dash boards, black dials with chrome rims. And upright chrome grills. You’ll definitely tempt me with the Baubles of power. Well Baubles any way. I also think the Morris Minor chassis was very good. (Rack and Pinion in the 50s what more can I say). Still the last thing I ever want to be seen is a Morris Minor. But the Wolseley  twins,  that’s my sort of style. For once the Brits weren’t afraid to put a large (ish) engine in a small chassis which transformed these cars into  everything a good British car should be.  I would dearly love the Riley with  it’s 3 lovely gauges but the Wolseley isn’t at all bad  and has it’s own brilliant charms Fantastic to see these at bottom dweller pirces
For: Patina! Brilliant interiors, lovely grills, Compact shape, Great chassis, Perfect small British sports saloon.
Against: You  have to buy a pipe, string back gloves and a tweed cap.
Bottom dweller Status; 5/5 The golden age!

DKW Junior
DKWs where quite popular once in New Zealand, I suppose they (as Audis) still are. When I was young there where lots of the Beetle shaped variety around. These Anglia shaped ones were rare. Everyone liked the beetle shaped ones. But time has been kind to these. Slightly out of bottom dweller territory at $2,500, this is never the less charming little car, Never short of go, from it’s two stroke engine (belies the diminutive engine size), the front wheel drive handling was a real eye opener for those used to badly performing rear wheel drive understeer common on every other car of the time. German quality and austereness, But shape points to happier times to come. Soon to be squashed  as everything German styling became dour.
For: Wonderful! Excellent design, German quality, Style
Against: An oil burner from new, but not a diesel, don’t ask about CO2 emissons.
Bottom dweller Status; 4.5/5  Surely won’t be around for long at this price.

MG Magnette
Arguably one of the finest  British Sporting saloons ever, Superb chassis and gorgeous Gerald Palmer styling, A  mini Jag in every way, but won’t cost an arm and a leg to maintain or get going. (Patch it up don’t restore it) The right badge and suitably different to Wolseley model the Magnette was hard to fault. Lots of wood, strange shaped dials. Why they didn’t adapt this fine handling chassis as standard BMC midsize saloon I don’t know. (but then the Brits had it all they just lost the plot didn’t they) Engine went on being made for another 30 years. And the shape could have lasted a lot longer than it did.
For:  One one Britains really good cars. If 1970s Jap cars had handled this well a lot more people would be alive today!
Against: They stopped making it.
Bottom dweller Status; 3.5/5  A rare fish in this price territory

Borgward  Goliath Hansa Kombi
Back in the 50’s BMW struggled to approach Carl Borgward’s exquisite quality and car design. But once they’d delt to him they stole his idea and made their name producing quality small saloons like the 3 series. Well Borgward did it back in the fifties. Fine German engineering and metallurgy perfect for post WW2 war vets who had faced Messermitts and realised how reliable they where. Still they sold here in very limited numbers.
  All German station wagons are collectable and these 3 door estates had a nice integrated look quit e uncommon at the time. With a bit of a clean up would be a stylish little number.
For:  Few did things better in the 50s, Quality and engineering way ahead of massed produced Brits of the time. A far better car than a Morris Minor Woodie.
Against: Glad they didn’t make Panzers
Bottom dweller Status; 5/5  No one has the sense to grab it.

Renault Fuego
Descended from the the 15TS and 17TL coupes there was nothing around like them at the time. Front wheel drive stops the  Boy racer element despite the turbo. Still a bargain for the bottom dweller fan. Great high speed performance with excellent stability over the ton. Great handling, surprisingly good on dirt roads. These gorgeous French coupes have a style of their own – that never caught on!  Originally seen as a wanna-bes Porsche now the Porsche is a wanna-bes Fuego!
For: Like watching a good Eric Rohmer movie, full of subtly, and conversation
Against: Very 80s and Subtitled, the 15TS even better! If it was Italian it would be way more.
Bottom Dweller status: 4/5 Becoming increasingly hard to find