Friday, 22 August 2014

Never take a car apart!

Sage advice from the bottom dweller, yet almost universally ignored, Trade me is littered with cars in parts, never to be reassembled. Why take the thing apart? Do people overestimate their capabilities, think there’re going to restore the thing? Wouldn’t it be better to fettle away do it bit by bit? God knows I struggle to remember how things went back together a day later rather than months or years down the track. Any one who has brought a car in parts knows the difficulties of even trying to identify parts let alone get it back together.
  Another thing is you’re never going to be well as the factory any way, so removing  glass, carpet head linings, interiors and electrics is really the same as wrecking a car. Unless you’re highly skilled in each of those things you’re never going to get it back together right. It’s a sad waste of many nice cars. Of the five cars we look at today 3 have been taken apart. Once they were nice cars that needed a little tinkering. Now they’re almost scrap or parted out. Some thing that would horrify their owners, but that’s what they’ve done.
So don’t do it. Keep it whole brother!
Cheap Lotuses
Lotus of course  are exotic and expensive, in the eighties everyone in the car world was impressed by Porsche (before they got fat) and Lotuses. Many  manufacturers tried to cash in on this kudos and replicate it. So successful were they at bringing the Lotus magic to the everyday driving public that real Lotuses are no longer held in such high regard. If you want a cut-price Lotus you don’t have to look far on Trade me to find one. Unfortunately like the originals it seems you might have to assemble it yourself.
Toyota MR2
How did the worst handling car maker come up with the tightest best handling car of the decade? It brought Lotus of course! Gave them cart blanche to create the perfect little sports car. To Toyotas credit Lotus where given a free hand as long as they used the beautiful twin cam 1600 4AGE motor. (Life is so hard eh?) Any way the results where astounding, finally a Toyota that handled or a Lotus that was reliable. Either way it brought mid engine handling to the masses.
For: a true Lotus in every way except reliability , swelt , beguiling  and engaging.
Against: Lour owners will miss the reliability problems, Odd wedge shaped styling, plasticky interior that doesn’t fall apart like a Lotus.
 Bottom dweller status: 6/5 Prices rising. Invest now!
Toyota Celica
From the same collaboration came a Lotus Eclat styling for the Celica. No where near the technically advanced car the MR2 was , but never the less a Lotus styled car for ‘next to nicks’. Probably one of the best mid-sized  cheap GTs of the eighties. Underneath was standard Toyota fare, various motors from 1800 to a 2-litre ‘6’, ’tied down’ chassis that handled moderately well (Ok, it was damn right hairy! But the car at least remained flat) The digital speedos where something to behold!
For : A lot of fun, great mid eighties styling with weird semi pop-up head lights
Against : Despite looks no a Lotus, especially in a corner. This car is a kitset and no instructions
Bottom Dweller Status:4/5 Thousands imported became a bogan car rather than a boy racer one. Rare these days and not particularly sort after.
Mazda MX-5
However the best was yet to come! Mazda never bothered to buy Lotus for its tribute car, it didn’t stop it copying Lotus’s glorious early Elan wholesale. Well why not there were hardly any made any way and they cost the earth and spent most of the time in the garage. Mazda finally succeeded in bringing open-top sportscar motoring to the masses. And what a great car double wish bone suspension on every corner, so even and after years and years these cars still handled well.
For; Beautifully engineered, engaging, No bend is unsafe no corner to sharp! They have destroyed the MGB prices as they are a much better car in every way.
Against: A bit small (my nose touches the windscreen)
Bottom dweller status: 7/5  They are coming into range of bottom dwelling, so might be worth waiting. Boy racers hate them – they must be mad!
Pontiac Fiero
Even America got in on the Mid-engined  craze ,with this gorgeous looking coupe. With a 2.5 little four cylinder engine it was more a novelty for American buyers despite it’s super car looks. The engine was a slug  that wouldn’t rev and the front suspension was borrowed from the chevette (same as ours) the rear was from  the citation (like the engine) in fact they used the whole front wheel drive unit by merely attached the steering ball joints to the chassis . (to make it mid-engined) Despite initially out selling the MR2 it was nowhere as good a car and was canned by the late 1980s

For: Looks , in the states you could buy after market kits to make it look like a 308 Ferrari
Against: It wasn’t a 308 Ferrari. – Fail!
Bottom dweller status 2/5 The ad says;”This vehicle is not covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act.” Sorry bud everthing is.

Alfa Romeo Sprint
See what I mean! In parts! This has nothing to with Lotus. Alfas always handled well and had beautiful engines. For some reason these gorgeous coupes never reach the prices of Alfa suds. I’ve never been able to face an Alfasud because they look like Allegros , I know its weird and irrational but…they are tainted . The Sprints however look great with that great little flat floor motor. Now if I could just get it back together!
For: Looks, handling, engine, economy, brio!
Against; No instructions! also GTV and 105 coupe owners would think they had a better car than you. Unfortunately so would allegro , I mean Alfasud owners.
Bottom dweller Status: 4.5/5 At $500 this could sit in my garage!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Yalopy Magazine RIP

The Right Attitude
This week we celebrate Dion of the cla$$ic car world Yalopy magazine (1990-1994) (or thereabouts) We never got it here. The classic car establishment would never allow it. But through clandestine  relationships I cannot even now mention, copies where smuggled into New Zealand to be pored over.
However here at Bottom dweller, it was one of our greatest inspirations and we celebrate the spirit of Yalopy magazine in fine style with this fantastic selection of premium bottom dwellers
Next weeks wonders

1990 MG Montego
Arguably the best MG ever made. These machines provoke such envy at MG car club meets MGB owners won’t even speak to you. And you can see why, while MGs where a good car, MG was known to skimp on materials by giving their cars canvas roofs, something this gorgeous piece of fine British engineering doesn’t have. No wonder other owners get jealous, plus the superior styling (Jalopy magazine once suggested inspiration had been a shipping  container) and special non-gloss paint used on these cars (have you noticed all other MGs seems to be ridiculously shiny – how naff is that?) and special “B” thumping bumpers (which means you can bump an MGB up to 10km and not hurt the Montego! Again a really useful feature at MG car club dos)
For: It is an MG! Far more ‘character’ than most MGs
Against: the VW gearbox is the worst feature of the car and stopped it from fulfilling its potential as a total bottom dweller.
Bottom Dweller status: 1/5 Soon the MG owners will cotton on the delights of these cars so wont last long at this price (or any other price)

Do you ever those dreams where you turn up somewhere no wearing your pants? Hmm well this sort of reminds me that. This gorgeous British racing Green Morgan is once again for sale on trademe , apparently because of a timewaster!???! Quite honestly I’m at a loss to see why people wouldn’t pay for this car, I’m mean it’s a concept car isn’t it? I mean you’ve got to be philosophical about these things. After all what is the definition of ‘car’, what does it have to have, is it substance or is the thought more important, after all life is just an illusion why not so then  - the car?
For : No rust. And No.... sorry the thought escapes me.
Against: Ever since the arts council turned me down for my kinectic installation: "Space between two voids"...
About as reliable as any other English car
Bottom Dweller Status; 2/5 Unlike most Morgans a bit out of our league.
Austin Allegro
Really a badge engineered  Ashton Martin, this superb example will have many bottom dwellers drooling at the mouth. Resplendent in a fine coat of New Zealand racing orange (and just waiting of a spray can of matt black on the bonnet) this masterpiece is ripe for a podium place at the Elerslie Concours this year. A genuine nut and bolt restoration this should have those Porsche and Ferrari types quivering in their boots.
For; When compared to a Lada its’s a great argument for communism.
Against: Such outrageous displays of opulence and style go against the grain these days. Just look at that dash! That centre dial! How original instead of cluttering up and overloading the driver with sensless information the inspired designers of this superbly built machine have left it blank!
Bottom Dweller Status: 8/5 something for all of us to aspire too!

Goggomobile T250
Overpowered  and over here! This competitor to the AC Cobra will leave everything else stirring in its wake! Superb styling around the rear engine vents and almost a hint of a fastback (round the rear window) will leave many Porsche owners frothing at the mouth! And with good reason! With the same basic configuration as a Porsche this sleek bespoke design is a bit out of their league. Still you might like to buy a 911 as a spares car as I believe the wingnuts on the parcel tray mountings are the same as these and it’s always good to have spares (these being the only weakness of this otherwise excellent design)
For: Won’t need restoring.
Against: Goggos from the land of Gog have largely been persecuted out of existence. Therefore driving one of their cars can be seen by some, as some what insensitive. Plus I notice the second bar on the grill of the Austin truck that comes with it, seems a bit rusty.
Bottom dweller status: 3/5  Bidding about to go silly.

1960 Skoda T-55
One of the last of the great Skodas before the VW takeover and synchromesh. Great for playing tricks on your Act party neighbours this gorgeous wee car is the perfect centrepiece for any revolution. Fantastic for solving those niggley little  problems with the neigbs. And if it gets out of hand you can just smooth things over...literally; their house, their car... great for one upmanship or chasing the sisters in law down the road. Plus at the drags in a quarter mile sprint  you can usually pop them off before they reach the other end .Few other cars give such a superb sense of unfettled power.
For; reclaim your manhood.
Against; Try justifying this at your men’s group! Also soldiers will want to be your friend, after all you have a real one!
Bottom Dweller Status: 0/5 With something like this, its all too easy to become a top dweller!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Brand Leverage

I will never buy a new Porsche.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ll never afford one anyway (or any other new car for that matter). I love Porsches, they are superb small sports cars. But really Porsche died somewhere in the 1970s. By the 80s it was all over.
I blame marketing. There is a philosophy in marketing that once a brand is established  you can extend it into other products, so the original qualities are transferred through ‘brand’ onto other products the company makes. So when I buy a Porsche Cayenne,  I’m really buying a svelte little sportscar .
Right! This and other Bullshit destroyed the great marque of Porsche. In much the same way as Rover was destroyed and marques like Riley where humiliated by putting their ‘essence’ on bad BMC products. It’s the same thing, a 4 door is not a Porsche, a Porsche is not a fat bloated boulevard cruiser. Get real Porsche executives. You got it wrong!
Bottom dwelling Porsches
2001 Porsche Boxter
Porsches modern interpretation of the Speedster: Fat, bloated, ungainly. None of the elegance of a real Porsche. Performance and handling aplenty but hardly a ‘keeper’ or inspiring of ownership. Flash shape but not a pretty one. Prices have halved in the last 2years (they used to be $30k now $15k) but still $10k overpriced.
For: Might impress some people but how far can you push a dead horse?.
Against: Fat, overweight and ugly. Needs to go to the gym. Looks like they commissioned Toyota to style it for them, a speedster it is not!
Bottom dweller Status: 2/5 but growing rapidly, prices dropping. The brand is being to be exposed for the con it is!
1979 Porsche 924
Yet another attempt to make a cheap sportscar, as 911s grew too expensive. Hence Audi 2-litre motor. (but a rear transaxle gearbox) Still for all that they are relatively small compared with later attempts. A fine design if not exceedingly beautiful or endearing. The magic had probably gone by then but it would have been a great idea under another brand.
For: A nice car, lovely in this early form.
Against: forget that it’s a Porsche and an enjoy the  Audi sportcar it was always meant to be.
Bottom dweller Status;  6.5/5  At this price ($1500) who can complain?
French fancies
The run of wonderful French cars continues on trade me. They truly are the marvelous bargains of the classic car market!
1981 Renault Fuego Rally Car
Once considered a poor mans Porsche these have long been considered bottom dwellers, But look at this ! Fully worked track/rally car is an utter bargain! Find a Porsche of the same capacity that would keep up I say! Gorgeous and great to drive at the best of times, these Renaults are highly underrated. With excellent and controllable oversteer on gravel, you’ll surprise all the Toyotas and Datsuns on the corners!
For: Very little, but press the Buy now($3000) to stop yourself feeling guilty for getting it too cheap. Lovely original mags. Looks all well done (and no doubt huge cost) Absolute bargain!.
Against: I don’t have the money.Only bidding $1500 and getting it!
Bottom Dweller Status: 7/5  Fabulous!
1983 Renault 5TS
From the same seller as above, these used to be common as muck, but now alas our roads are bereft.  Unusual in that its not an east /west engine yet is front wheel drive.. The car is almost mid-engined, as the motor is under the dash driving forward to the front wheels. Most unusual in an age of Fwd east/west cars. All the better for it though with fine handling and French flair!
For: Character and compactness. Looks carefully looked after. Lovely small classic.
Against: probably won’t stay at this price.
Bottom dweller Status: 4/5 Far too rare. Long may they continue to appear!

1953 Peugeot 203
Beautiful aerodyne French saloon, Way ahead of nearly every other mass produced car of the time (except Citroen perhaps but a generations ahead in looks).  Almost as beautiful as a Bristol 403 Coupe. Long running mechanicals and a robustness which was legendary. Quality feel that reassures you of your superb taste in cars.
For: Tintin had one.
Against: If you hotrod it I will find you and kill you!
Bottom dweller status: 4.5/5 If this was a Volvo or a Saab it would cost ten times the price!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

French faves

French Faves!
Trade me has been almost dead this week. Still for the bottomsifters there’s always a bargain lurking. This week we look at some quality French cars, plus a couple of brits that have been lurking in the depths for a while.
Simca 1500
This gorgeous little gem has been on trademe forever and a day. It would have been long gone had it not been overseas (North Is) (mainly brought by me) In the mid 1960s there wasn’t much compact, rear-wheel-drive and good looking (apart from from BMW 1600s) and these gorgeous Simcas. Surprisingly few in NZ considering the popularity of the Aronde, these cars where however a whole lot better than anything the brits had to offer. To think that Chrysler let the Hunter be developed when they could have had this is ludicrous. Sweet styling, nicely appointed with an advanced motor for the time. These little Simcas behaved themselves, handled (thanks to rack and pinion steering) and went well.
For: Just about everything. Motor in Chrysler Alpines till the mid eighties so plenty of parts.Everthing else available on ebay france.
Against: Not many of them in NZ
Bottom dweller status: 4/5  Rewarding and satisfying great alternative to Alfas and BMWs

Peugeot 505
Almost forgotton, compared to it’s popular successor the 405. The 505 is a great saloon, long and lean, a car for the connoisseur, Like the Simca, rear wheel drive and nothing like it available at the time. Rugged and safe. Heaps of character, gorgeous to drive like most Peugeots of the time. A Comfortable wafter that would still put many jap cars to shame. Not often for sale as people tend to hang on to them.
For; The quality, the headlights, French flair
Against: It’s in the north island not my garage but what’s not to like at this price?
Bottom dweller status: 6.5/5 Beyond perfection!

Renault 17TL
Now we’re talking, Just look at this gorgeous little coupe from Renault. One of the products of Kiwis love affair with French cars which later led to Fuegos being here in large numbers. The 15Ts and 17Tls are exquisite little coupes with a great deal of character. Magnificent straight line performance. Behaves like a mini Ferrari and will hunker down and do 100mph plus all day. Superb handling despite body roll. Impossible to lose on a dirt road as they have beautiful throttle controlled oversteer.
For: Yum! Nicely appointed mini exotica. Perfect paint job!
Against 15TS is prettier, Overheating means cylinder liners have fine cracks in them.
Bottom dweller status: 5/5 at this price

Austin Princess
Sad cars in the eighties, Princesses are never the less redeeming themselves in the 21st century. Futuristic shape has almost become timeless, and interior appointments the certainly the happiest of BL cars. In fact these Princesses came close to Wolseley standards.  Surprisingly engines seem to last, however gearboxes equipped with a wand (with a bit of magic you might find a gear) great ride heaps of room and road manners the japs could only dream about.
For: Perfect for Space 1999 freaks, far nicer than an Allegro or Marina. Made in New Zealand! Excellent brakes.
Against: Harris Mann on drugs! (Not even Raymond Loewy could teach him) 80% British Leyland (But 20% New Zealand parts) everyone steals the 4 pot brake calipers for Escorts.
Bottom Dweller Status:4/5 Nice, but really would you really be seen dead in one?

 Morris Major
A relation of the Wolseley twins from last month. Perfect for the man or woman who wants a superb chassis , a bit more power but wouldn’t be seen dead in a Morris Minor. Bizarre thinking from Leyland Australia, Still people brought them (lets face it, they handled a lot better than a Holden) Works better without the fins and with the Wolseley or Riley grill. Well worth the effort of a visit to the Hinds Classic Car Collectables Shop. This place is classic car heaven. Even down to new MGB and BMC panels, plus the cars are great. Heaven!
For: Far nicer than a Minor but with all the advantages.
Against; fins never looked so bad.
Bottom dweller status: 3/5 but try escaping hinds without buying anything from here!