British Car Day 2012


Returning this year as one of Larz Anderson Auto Museum’s best attended events, British Car Day on June 24th brought together an impressive collection of rare machinery from England. Located in beautiful Larz Anderson Park in the Boston suburb of Brookline, MA, the museum holds more than 20 lawn events each year, attracting car owners and spectators from all over New England. This year’s British Car Day took place under spectacular weather conditions, and featured some rare automobiles, including cars from marques barely represented on this side of the pond.

British Car Day is one of the museum’s most popular lawn events, alongside German Car Day, covered on Hemmings Daily last week, and Tutto Italiano, which features Italian cars amid record crowds. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the 2012 edition of British Car Day.

A car not often seen on our shores, the Bristol 403 was derived from pre-war BMW designs and engineering, and features a 2.0 BMW-derived engine. This example is one of the last four examples of the 275 Bristol 403 models built, and has some details that came in the next Bristol model. This car lived most of its life in Switzerland, before being brought to America in 2000 by Martin Swig, a collector and racer of pre-war Alfa Romeos. The racing livery appearing on the car is from the California Mille and other events. This wonderful 403 is currently owned by  Keith F. Carlson, who also collects classic Jaguars. Last year an owner of a Bristol 406 4-door saloon told me that there were only about a dozen Bristols in the US, not counting the Arnolt-Bristol Bolides, examples of which seem to pop up at major auctions every year. Having only seen two Bristols stateside, I fully believe that estimate.

More highlights and full gallery after the jump

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German Car Day 2012

If you live in the northeast and have been diagnosed as a gearhead, chances are you’ve been to Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA, more than a few times. If you havent, the museum is situated in scenic Larz Anderson park just outside of Boston, and is known for its exciting lawn events during the summer and fall months. Every year the museum holds as many as 20 lawn events, often two on the same weekend, dedicated to either a single make or cars from one particular country. Larz Anderson’s lawn events attract cars and owners from all over New England.

German Car Day is exactly what is sounds like, and this year’s show attracted very impressive crowds, exhausting the parking space in the park well before 11:00am. German Car Day is in the top three best attended lawn events at Larz Anderson, alongside Tutto Italiano (Italian cars) and British Car Day. With well over 100 cars from about 10 different manufacturers, German Car Day took place under spectacular weather conditions, and featured some very impressive classic and collector automobiles. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Owned by Gary Farias, this 1984 Opel Senator CD 3.0 just about stole the show. As you may have guessed, this is the only example in the country, and has been in Gary’s garage since it was imported new. This car has served as Gary’s daily driver, and features all the toys one can typically find in a premium 1980′s German full-size sedan like heated seats and mirrors, cruise control, a trip computer, and tilt steering. The 3.0 liter 6-cyl engine is good for 185 bhp, with CD being the top trim level.  Gary owns a number of Opels, with the earliest being a 1951 Opel Olympia. By the way, the next-gen Opel Senator B model from 1987 is now eligible for importation by virtue of being over 25 years.

More highlights and full gallery after the jump

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Wagonry: Citroen CX 25 TRI

It may surprise some of you to learn that the Peugeot 505 was not the largest French station wagon available in the US of A in the 1980s. That’s right, the Citroen CX 25 TRI, a long-wheelbase, high-roof version of the CX Familiale was imported by CXA Automotive in New Jersey, and boasted an almost unbelievable 76.5 cubic feet and 4900lb cargo capacity. And that’s with the rear seats in their upright and locked positions. By comparison, a 2001 Jeep Cherokee only has 66 cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats up, and a Peugeot 505 SW8 has 54.2. As you might expect, The CX Breaks were used commercially as well, serving as ambulances and delivery vehicles.

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Chevrolet Corvette Rondine by Pininfarina

One of my top 10 faves from the 2012 edition of the Greenwich Concours was this 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine prototype by Pininfarina. Built for the 1963 Paris Motor Show, the steel Rondine sits on a Corvette C2 chassis. Corvette anoraks will immediately note the standard C2 wheels on this example, but that’s just how the car was made. The Rondine resided in Pininfarina’s collection until 2008, when it was sold for $1.76 million to Michael Schudroff, who was not the least bit hesitant to leave the Rondine and his Chrysler Ghia Thomas Special in the park overnight, at the mercy of raccoons, seagulls, and any other fauna that Greenwich has to offer (up to and including mountain lions, apparently). The differences in proportions between the C2 and the Rondine are striking, as the Rondine has a much longer front overhang. The rear half of the Rondine also features a number of styling cues that were carried over to the Fiat 124 Cabrio. I was glad to get a chance to see (and more importantly photograph) the Rondine in detail, spending about a half hour with the car, almost one on one.

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The Lagonda: Now With Even More Hindsight

Probably one of the greatest missed opportunities of British sedans of the 1970s, bespoke sedans anyway, was the Aston Martin Lagonda. Designed by William Towns using nothing but a ruler, the sedan once again resurrected the Lagonda nameplate following an absence of a few years. Cognoscenti will recall that DB (I’m on an initials-only basis with Mr. Brown) had brought Lagonda out of hibernation in 1961, building and with some effort selling 55 Lagonda Rapide saloons, mostly to his friends. That previous effort was also marred by slightly off-putting styling, at least as the front fascia was concerned. The construction and sales of the 1962-1964 Rapides caused quite a bit of internal strife within Aston Martin, putting a strain on its production capacity, and assured that Lagonda would not return again for a while. 

The next attempt to revive Lagonda occurred in 1974, when the company was under William Wilson’s ownership. A total of seven Series 1 sedans based largely on the DBS model were built, one of them with a DBS-style front fascia, which was quite handsome. Had there been more built, badged perhaps as AMs, I’d imagine they would have quite a following today.

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When Was The Last Time You Saw One: Momo Mirage 2+2, 1973

Once gracing the cover of Road & Track (remember that period publication?) the Momo Mirage is a car not often seen in public, to put it mildly.  The result of Peter Kalikow’s collaboration with Alfred Momo and Gene Garfinkel, the Mirage was designed by Stanguellini and built by Frua. The production was planned for 25 cars per year, but only 5 ended up being assembled. Peter Kalikow still retains “majority ownership” of all existing Mirages, keeping 3 out of the 5 cars built, including this example finished in 1973. Power in the Mirage came courtesy of a Chevrolet 350 V8 engine, mated to a ZF transmission. The design seems a bit heavy heavy visually, with sharper angles than one would have expected from an Italian-American collaboration of the time, and while there are faint hints of Iso Rivolta and De Tomaso design cues here and there, it’s distinct enough not to be confused with either.

Even though there were quite a few concept cars at Greenwich this year, this is probably going to be the car that I’ll remember most from 2012.

Full gallery from Greenwich Concours 2012 after the jump

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Executive Class from Sochaux: Peugeot 604 GTD Turbo, 1984


When you think of Peugeots in the US (let’s face it, who doesnt?), this probably isn’t the model that comes to mind. While the 505 dominated Peugeot sales for more than a decade, and the 504 even served as NYC taxis for a few years, the 604 was a relatively niche model that was not even kept in stock at every Peugeot dealership in the states. Made from 1975 to 1985, the 604 was Peugeot’s first entry into the full-size sedan segment since the 1930s. There are plenty of perfectly logical reasons for this: post-war Europe was not big on big cars, and if you were in the market for a big French sedan in the 1970s, it was tough to find yourself in a position where Citroen was not your first choice.

Despite being in production for 10 years, only 155 thousand Peugeot 604s were made. The Pininfarina-styled 604 was pricey for its time, and even though the automotive press was impressed, this didn’t change the fact that the 604 went up against segment stalwarts like the BMW 6-cylinder sedans, the Mercedes W123 and W169, the Ford Granada, and the Citroen CX.

More after the jump

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Greenwich Concours 2012 In Review

If you live on the east coast and generally consider yourself an aficionado of all things with four wheels or two, then you may have heard of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. If you haven’t, the Concours is a 2-day judged event that brings together American and foreign classic automobiles during the first weekend of June in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Greenwich Concours can always be counted on to present not only some of the most breathtaking cars from the northeast, but a flavor that is unmatched by any other concours event on the east coast. And that flavor smells like high octane fuel, $30 cigar smoke, Italian car leather interiors, uncatalyzed exhaust, and perfume that cost more than the cameras many people brought to the event.

The Greenwich Concours is really two concours events in one, with Concours Americana featuring rare American classic automobiles on Saturday, and Concours International that brings together rare foreign-made cars on Sunday. The 17th annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance once again took place in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, right off Interstate 95, and featured impressive collections of automobiles on both days. Sunday also featured an auction of Collectors’ Motorcars and Automobilia by Bonhams, which offered dozens of rare vintage automobiles. The Concours benefits AmeriCares, an international relief agency based in Stamford, CT.

In depth review after the jump

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Horch 853 Special Roadster from 1938 Takes Best in Show at Greenwich Concours – International Day

Sunday’s Best in Show award for foreign automobiles went to Judge Joseph Cassini’s 1938 Horch 853 Special Roadster. The Horch 853 premiered in 1937 and utilized a number of engineering advancements that came out of Auto-Union’s racing experience. This example was originally brought to the US by a servicemember returning from Europe after WWII, and was restored decades later by RM Restorations, achieving Best in Show at Pebble Beach in 2004. I managed to guess both the Best in Show, and People’s Choice winners by about 9am the morning of the show, which is a first for me. Frankly, the Horch was a shoo-in, there really weren’t any other cars that could have competed with it. More on the People’s Choice winner later.

Full gallery from Greenwich Concours 2012 after the jump

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Packard Panther Concept from 1954 Takes Best in Show at Greenwich Concours – Americana Day

Best in Show for American cars on Saturday went to Ralph and Adeline Marano’s 1954 Packard Panther. One of four originally built, and one of two that remain, the Panther is a low-slung coupe that features an unmistakably Packard front fascia, coupled with a wide, barrel-like body. Designed by Richard Teague, who also worked on Packard’s Balboa concept, the Panther’s body is made out of fiberglass.

Full gallery from Greenwich Concours below

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Saab 9-4x: Future Classic?

As much as I’d like to think that most of the 9-4xs are owned by rabid Saab fans, let’s face it – most are now leased by people who cross-shopped these with a Lexus RX, and ended up getting the 9-4x cause the salesperson convinced them that “it’s basically a Cadillac SRX, only with a trendy Yurrpean badge!”

In about 2 years these will start coming off leases, and… Actually I don’t know what’ll happen then. Sure, some “aspiring investors” out there will seek to pickle these in order to earn a handy profit of $158.10 after 20 years of storage. I think just driving and enjoying these as they are is alright. Just don’t park them in tight spots in parking lots, someone might ding them and then you’ll have to have the door refabricated by hand by Swedish elves in an underground forge in a forest outside of Härnösand. The example seen above is #38 out of 457 produced.

By the way, just today Youngman Lotus renewed its bid for Saab’s assets. Who’d have thunk?


Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2012 gallery after the jump

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Citroen Rendezvous 2011 in Review

If you’re tired of the same old Friday night cruise-ins filled with resto-modded Chevelles and Mustangs on chrome wheels wearing body panels with 4 different shades of red, and want to see something a little different, drive on over to Citroen Rendezvous in upstate New York during the third weekend in June. (For the record: there is nothing wrong with with resto-modded Chevelles and Mustangs on chrome wheels wearing body panels with 4 different shades of red. I love resto-modded Chevelles and Mustangs on chrome wheels wearing body panels with 4 different shades of red. Some of my best friends are resto-modded Chevelles and Mustangs).

But if you do want to see cars you haven’t seen a million times before, every summer the Rendezvous brings together Citroens from all over the northeast, the midwest, and eastern Canada. Citroens aren’t the only cars you’re bound to see at Rendezvous, as there are  usually a number of Peugets, Renaults, Panhards, and the odd vintage Bugatti. During the event itself, owners enjoy technical seminars, games, and live music.  Some of my personal favorites from 2011 included a 1991 Citroen XM Exclusive, a cream-colored 1979 Citroen Visa (recently purchased from a French nun!), an absolutely rabid 1985 Renault R5 Turbo2, an early Citroen CX Athena (above), and pretty much all the Peugeot 604s that showed up.

This year’s Citroen Rendezvous moves to a different location, but stays around Saratoga Springs. Rendezvous is a 3-day event, starting with a dinner on Thursday night, followed by an ice cream social, tailgate pizza party, and movie screening on Friday. Saturday is the day of the show itself, which is followed with a banquet in the evening. Rendezvous concludes with a scenic drive on Sunday morning. The 2012 Citroen Rendezvous will take place on June 15, 16 and 17, and will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Citroen Dyane.

Full gallery after the jump

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Citroen Visa Club, 1980

A few days ago I came across this 1980 Citroen Visa Club at Carlisle Import Nationals. If you haven’t seen these in the US, there’s a reason for that. The Visa was never officially imported, not to imply that other Citroens from the 1980s came in “officially” either. But not even CXA, the NJ-based company the federalized many CX sedans and wagons, brought in the Visas. There are plenty of reasons for that, chief among which is that not even the Citroen faithful who bought brand new CXs in the 1970s and 1980s were fans of the little hatch. A lot of CX owners bought their cars after driving the DS sedan, so buying a Visa was not exactly an upgrade.

This is only the third Visa I’ve seen in the US, and one of two that were at Carlisle Import Nationals in 2012. This example was nicely repainted in dark green, and was pretty sharp all around, down to the nicely executed plaid upholstery.

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What 15 Year Old Car? (Part Deux)

Presented below is a second helping of schweet foreign cars that will become eligible in Canada in 2012 by virtue of being 15 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with another JDM beater with half a million kilometers on the clock. But here are some cars that you may have overlooked, and a lot of them are pretty affordable. A few could even be found on Saint-Pierre & Miquelon, if you’re not too excited about the shipping fees from Europe.

1. Audi RS2 – Audi’s first RS car has an impressive following, and with good reason. The Zuffenhausen-built RS2 had a 2.2 liter turbocharged 5-cylinder good for 311bhp, all in a stealthy shell of an Audi 80. Need I say more?

2. BMW Z1  – importable in the states in just a year, the ultra-convenient weird roadster had another feature besides the doors that slid slightly downward – the plastic body panels were designed to be changeable in just a matter of hours. In case somebody wanted to change the color of their car. However, people who had too much time on their hands who have actually tried this say that to do so comfortably one should budget a couple days. As a matter of fact, a few of these are already in Canada, and I saw two of these in the states just over the summer.

3. Fiat Barchetta  or Fiat Coupe  – a fun and stylish cabrio for the admittedly short summer, or a hardtop coupe. Nice examples are getting harder to find on the continent, but there should still be plenty of choice out there. Little known fact: the Coupe was Chris Bangle’s first automotive exterior design that made it into production. (A neighbor of mine in the states had a Fiat Coupe for a while. No photo, unfortunately).

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Honeymoon Express Goes Unsold: Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I Drophead Coupe by Freestone & Webb, 1957

This Freestone & Webb 2-seat drophead coupe was in storage for 39 years, before being given a restoration, and features a pretty impressive powered top. Known as the Honeymoon Express, this car was first shown at Earl’s Court in 1957, and features a powered retractable top. There are currently two of these in the US, with the other example being part of the Petersen Automotive Museum. A total of three examples were built by Freestone & Webb: 2 Rolls-Royce cars and 1 Bentley. The car is powered by a 178bhp six-cylinder engine with twin SU carbs, channeled through GM’s Hydra-matic suspension.

Seen above at Greenwich Concours 2011, this car went unsold at RM Monaco in May 2012, with the high bid of €710.000. Can’t really fault the seller, I’d imagine this could bring a couple hundred thousand more on a better day. Having said that, if there was ever the perfect venue for selling something like this, RM Monaco is probably at the top of the list.

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LWB

Everyone is familiar with the Chinese car buying public’s penchant for long wheelbase versions of standard sedans…. Let me requalify that: everyone who lives or has been to China is familiar with the Chinese car buying public’s penchant for long wheelbase versions of standard sedans. But where did it originate from?

The source of the popularity of long-wheelbase cars in China is two-fold. It comes from the first domestic and foreign government cars that were purchased en masse by the PRC in the 1950s for official use. The Hongqi state limousines in particular emphasized rear seat comfort for its passengers, something that the Soviet cars like the ZiL and GAZ official car ranges also valued. While the Soviet limousines were relatively light on internal decor, the Chinese limousines often featured ornate window shades and velour trimming. In that respect, a long-wheelbase car has been a sign of official status and has served to set the car apart visually in traffic.

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Greenwich Concours 2011 in Review

If there is one classic car event on the right coast that cannot be missed, under any circumstances, it’s the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. There’s a reason it’s listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. It’s that good. Greenwich Concours is actually two concours events in one, with Concours Americana on Saturday, which brings together some of the most spectacular American cars, and Concours Europa on Sunday, which features no less amazing European automobiles.

The theme of the 16th annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance was Mid-Century Hybrids, which was what Italian and British-built automobiles with American engines were called before the term “hybrid” received an ugly connotation. The hybrids were represented by cars like the Cunningham C-3, Facel Vega FV-2B, Iso Grifo, and the Hudson Italia, among others. On Saturday the Best of Show trophy went to the 1933 Duesenberg Model SJ owned by Judge Joseph Cassini, while the Best of Show for Concours Europa on Sunday went to the a 1938 Delage D8-120S owned by John Rich, Sr.

The 2012 edition of the Greenwich Concours will take place on June 2 and 3, at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, CT.

Full gallery from Greenwich Concours 2011 after the jump

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MG Metro Turbo, 1986

This 1986 example is one of only a handful of Metros in the US. If memory serves, there are at least a couple more red hatches, one in Washington state and the other in Ohio, in addition to a pickup prototype that was in California at some point.

The graphics on this Metro were added recently, just before the car was put on the road.
I’m not usually a fan of graphics, but in this case the alternative would have been the car staying Refigerator White, which would have been pretty boring. Refrigerator White worked good on some 80s hatches, but the Metro was not one of them, so no harm no foul here. In fact, this was one of my Top 10 faves at Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals this year. More from Carlisle coming soon!

Carslisle Import & Kit Nationals 2012 Gallery after the jump

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Best of the Parking Lot Concours: Greenwich 2011

If you’ve ever been to Greenwich Concours, or any other major concours event in the US, you know that some of the most exciting cars can often be found in the visitor parking lot. Without further exposition, presented below are some of my fave finds from the parking lot at Greenwich Concours 2011 (in no particular order)

1. Bristol 405 Sedan, 1956 – a former entrant of the concours, this is one of only a handful of Bristols in the US.
2. Toyota Land Cruiser – a stunning example, in all the rights colors.
3. Mercedes-Benz 280GE - a rare G-wagen model from the heyday of gray imports.
4. Maserati Quattroporte Sedan – a very elegant Series II example.
5. Aston Martin DB AR1 Zagato – a proper Bond-villain’s ride.
6. BMW Bavaria – not an oft-collected example from the neue klasse lineup. A rare sight, if only because so many have perished as engine donors for coupes.
7. Shelby Series 1 – a rare and almost forgotten Shelby from the late 90s that suffered the somewhat predictable fate of many a supercar that was conceived during a boom to arrive in showrooms during a bust.
8. Alfa Romeo Giulia Super – how can you argue with that color?
9. Aston Martin DB6 in BRG – you can’t go wrong with one of these.
10. Bentley Arnage - from one of the first years of production, complete with amber turn signals.

Full set after the jump

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But Are They Collectible?

Rarity does not equal collectibility, a fact learned the hard way by owners and restorers of Chevy Vegas, Bricklins, Chrysler TCs, and people who pickled virtually any “final edition.” But what is it like for cars that most Americans have not even heard of, cars that lurk on the other side of the iron curtain?

Eastern European and Soviet cars in America are few and far between. Even among not-easily-pronounceable marques, there are some that are more easily pronounceable than others, and some that people might have actually heard of on some History Channel program at 3:00AM, or seen in a Bond film. Perhaps the best known and most widely collected (relatively speaking) Eastern European marque in north America is Tatra. There are dozens of Hans Ledwinke’s cars stateside, ranging from the T77 to the T87 and the T603. In fact, some have actually achieved podium finishes at major concours events, like a Tatra T77 that took Best of Show for European cars at the 2009 Fairfield County Concours. But what about Soviet cars?

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20 Years On: Citroen XMs in America

Not that long ago, you could actually buy of these in the United States. And in a couple years, you’ll be able to once again buy first-year Citroen XM‘s. That is, if you’re into 25 year old French executive sedans… that are probably going to need some expert attention. Let’s face it, there’s no immediate danger of XM’s being herded onto ocean freighters bound for the Port of New Jersey, but the presence of XM’s in the US is worth revisiting, from a historical point of view.

In the 1980′s CXA Automotive of NJ used to import and modify Citroen CX‘s to DOT regulations for the American market, which included the standard ensemble of unflattering lights and bumpers. 1989 was the last year of manufacture for the CX, several hundred of which made their way across the pond, and CXA turned it attention to the XM, which it presented at the 1991 New York International Auto Show.

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West of the Urals

Ever wanted an authentic Russian motorcycle experience, but without the Russian traffic experience? This Sverdlovsk-made Ural Patrol 750 motorcycle with sidecar typically retails for $10K in the US, though with tax that usually comes out closer to $11K. IMZ-Ural, the manufacturer, makes only about a thousand motorcycles a year, and 97% of its production goes overseas. The prices for Patrols in the Russian and US-markets are, surprisingly, about the same. It’s amazing to see a low-volume Russian manufacturer selling BMW-derived motorcycles based on a late-1930′s design. In the US of A. For Hyundai Accent money.

Years ago IMZ used to make thousands of motorcycles a month, but now its become a niche manufacturer of what are effectively retro bikes. Having said that, the current Urals are packed with foreign components (Brembo brakes, Ducati ignition, etc).  Decent examples of similar models are reportedly plentiful on the Russian market, and typically go for just a couple hundred dollars. If there was an automotive equivalent of Ural, it would have been the Land Rover Defender in the 1990′s, which sold in small numbers and for impressive amounts of money despite having changed very little since the Attlee government early 80′s.

Still, ten grand is ten grand, and lest we become desensetized to that figure, in the 2-wheeled world it could get one any of the following:
- BSA MkII Spitfire, 1966
- Ducati 200 Supersport, 1959
- Zundapp KS601, 1955
- BMW R90S, 1975
- Vincent Comet, 1950
- Triumph T120RTT, 1966
- roundtrip airfare to Moscow + a used Ural w/sidecar purchased at a Russian bazaar
- ten IZH Planeta 5 motorcycles (remember Claudio’s ride in Long Way Round?)
- about two dozen used IZH Jupiters
- a 2002 Volvo S80

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Alex Roy: Racer, Author, Entrepreneur, Company President, and… Citroen owner?

In the spring of 2010 Alex bought a mint, 51K mile, 1973 Citroen SM. Alex’s example has a curious mix of Euro-spec and DOT bits, notably the front fascia, with a Euro-spec glass headlight cover over quad DOT sealed-beams. Roy purchased the car from Dennis Foley, the secretary treasurer of the Citroen Club of North America, so it’s a good bet that his Citroen is well sorted. I was there when Alex was taking delivery of the car, and had a chance to chat with him about his longtime fascination with the SM. I also took the opportunity to pester him about when his film was going to come out. No word on that still. I know!

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Fiat 131 Supermirafiori, 1978

Sold in the US from 1974 till 1984, when Fiat left the North American market, the 131 Supermirafiori featured 1.3 and 1.5 liter 4-cyl engines, making 77 and 95bhp respectively.

This is a Series II car, which came out in 1978. The US-spec Series II 131s retained the round quad headlights, while in other markets the Series II 131s gained single rectangular headlights, not too different from ones seen on VAZ 2104′s.

Fiats of this era have been criticized (specifically by the hosts of a certain UK-based television programme) as being especially prone to rust due to the Soviet steel used in their construction, which is cited as often starting to rust before it was even stamped into body panels. Even so, I’m a huge fan of 1960s and 1970s Fiats, and would love to try one of these.

Curiously enough, Polski Fiat was the lone Socialist-bloc manufacturer to license a midsize sedan from Fiat (most other licensed Fiats tended to be from smaller segments).

Seen at Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2011. Full Gallery

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Imported from Kenosha: Renault Alliance GTA Convertible

A one-year only model for 1987, a total of 1,029 Renault Alliance GTA Convertibles were made, in addition to 5,515 coupes.  The Kenosha-built GTA was based heavily on the Alliance, and was powered by a 2.0 liter four-cylinder good for 95bhp. 60mph was achieved in a reasonable (for small cabrios of the 1980′s) eleven seconds. The price was definitely as issue in how the GTA was received – and it wasn’t all that well received. $9,000 was the cost of entry, but options could soon pile it up to $14K. Doesn’t sound too bad, but that translates into $26K in today’s money, for a car that competed with inexpensive Japanese cars.

I have a feeling that the GTA’s make up a significant proportion of all surviving Renault Alliances, as they were the top of the line model, and unlike the sedans and hatches, tended to be fair weather cars.

This was one of about a dozen Renaults at Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2011 in Carlisle, PA. Others included the Alliance sedans and coupes, a few Le Cars, and even an R5 Turbo2.

More photos after the jump

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Aston Martin Lagonda Series III, 1986

One of the more interesting cars at 2011 Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals was this 1986 Series III Aston Martin Lagonda. A somewhat rare version, as only 75 examples of Series III cars were made in 1986 and 1987. These had cathode ray tube instruments, which were reportedly even worse in terms of reliability than the usual VFD setup. If these had been made in any real numbers, I’d imagine there would be modern third party LCD touch panel instruments which one could retrofit, perhaps with a Star Trek themed layout.

These are said to be very comfortable highway cruisers, once one gets past the  somewhat unique controls (BMW 7er E65 owners will know what I’m talking about). A friend of mine once made a cross country trip in one of these to a Lagonda event in Ohio with no issue.

Here’s my theory of the wheels: if you’re already driving a bright red William Towns Lagonda, your choice of wheels will likely do little to reduce the visual “volume level” of the car.

More photos after the jump

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Only One On Our Shores: Renault Fuego Turbodiesel, 1982

A rare sight in the states to begin with, this 1982 Renault Fuego was converted by its owner to a turbodiesel engine, which was not available on the Fuegos that were sold in the US. The owner, who drove it to Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2011 all the way from Texas, installed a diesel engine from a Winnebago LeSharo after purchasing the car in 1993. The LeSharo originally used a diesel engine very similar to that of the diesel Fuego in Europe, and was built on a Renault Trafic chassis.

The Fuego was sold in the states through AMC’s dealer network for just three short years, and was not particularly popular, as one might have guessed by now. In fact, this is only the second one that I’ve seen.

More photos after the jump

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Buick in China

In May of last year Buick sold its 3 millionth car in China, and with a model range that includes eight cars versus just four in the US, Buick is still gaining ground in what is now the world’s biggest passenger car market. Even more impressive is the fact that Buick sold its 2 millionth car just two years ago. Buick truly is “Big in China,” as Alphaville sang… (or was that “Big in Japan?”)

Buick’s popularity in China follows a curious history. Buicks were favored by the Chinese upper class since the 1930′s, and were valued on par with Rolls-Royce and Cadillac cars. Some of the first cars purchased by the PRC leadership for official use were Buicks, and they remained popular among high ranking politicians like Zhou Enlai throughout the 1950′s. In the following decades there was somewhat of a lull, as the older Buicks were no longer used and new ones were not imported, having been replaced by a number of foreign and domestic cars. Between the 1960s and the 1990s officials tended to use European and Chinese-made cars. Buick officially entered the country in 1999, and has set up production near Shanghai.

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Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2011 in Review

The 2011 Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals, set in Carlisle PA, featured an impressive array of foreign, mostly post-war cars.  The largest foreign car event in the northeast, Carlisle IKN features over a thousand cars from many different manufacturers. It’s also the only show on the east coast where you’re likely to see Renaults, Saabs, Fiats, and Lancias all in one place. The Saab and Renault clubs, in particular, had very impressive vehicle turnouts that year, and IKN is the event where many of the foreign car clubs hold their national meets. Some of my personal favorites this year, shown below, included the Peugeot 405 wagon, Renault Fuego Turbodiesel, Fiat 131 Supermirafiori, the BMW Z1 (both of them), and the “guest” Fiat Panda 4×4. The 2012 edition of the Import and Kit-car Nationals will take place on May 18 through the 20th.

Full Gallery after the jump

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Rhinebeck Spring Dustoff 2012

Rhinebeck’s annual spring show featured two days of classic cars, with hot rods and customs on Saturday, and unmodified classic cars on Sunday. This year’s show featured an impressive field of domestic and foreign vehicles, ranging from a Wolseley Hornet to the Edsel Villager station wagon. Rhinebeck’s specialty is rare American pre-war and post-war cars, the kind not usually found at your average summer car show. While there certainly were a lot of Mustangs and Chevelles, there were also dozens of rare vehicles such as Willys, Edsels, Imperials, and DeSotos. The show brings the best from upstate NY, as well as New England and the northeast corridor.

Event Website

Full gallery after the jump

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When a Truck Just Won’t Do

Ever have a home improvement job that clearly requires the use of a pickup truck, but your inner gearhead (the one that sits on your left shoulder holding a pitchfork) tells you that no, that’s just too obvious? The job in question was the purchase and transportation of 12 pieces of picket fencing, each section being 8 feet long.

The alternatives to a pickup, in keeping with a New England automotive theme, were pretty much down to capacious wagonry of European extraction, like the Volvo 700, 800, and 900, the Mercedes W123 and W124, the BMW E34, and the larger Peugeots. Only half of these featured back seats that folded down, and bodies long enough to seem like they were up for the job of transporting picket fences with their back gates in their upright and locked positions.

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Citroen Spring Meet 2012

The year’s first event was a small gathering of Citroens in scenic Old Lyme, CT, on April 21, as a season-opening precursor to Citroen Rendezvous.  The event brought together Citroens and Peugeots from around Connecticut. Cars ranged from a wonderfully preserved 1966 Citroen DS21 to a 1987 Citroen CX GTi, which the current owner bought to replace a Peugeot 505 wagon as a general around-town car/truck. Lots of people on their daily errands were stopping by to gawk, many of them ended up staying for half a hour and taking pictures.

Full Gallery

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Wagonry: Fiat 124TC

One of my top faves from 2011 Lime Rock Sunday in the Park was this wonderful Fiat 124TC, which appeared to be in concours condition inside and out. The rear hatch had a US-spec license plate niche, so I’m guessing this could have been a US-market car originally. This little wagon stole the show, at least as far as Italian cars were concerned. The Fiat sat opposite a row of Ferraris and Lambos, but it was the Fiat that people were crowding around.

The 124TC served as a prototype for the SEAT 124 estate, as well as the VAZ 2102 estate, and in facelifted form, the VAZ 2104. Polski Fiat, however, went for an estate based on the 125, which shared relatively few parts with the 124 series cars, which is one of the reasons that VAZ passed up on the 125 range entirely. Polski Fiat got the sweeter (more expensive) end of the deal, as the Fiat 125s had a lot more bells and whistles, but they were far rarer than the Fiat and VAZ wagons.

More photos after the jump

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When was the last time you saw one: RHD Audi 100 Coupe S, 1974

One of the best surprises of German Car Day 2011 at Larz Anderson was this wonderful 1974 Audi 100 Coupe S in RHD, originally a South African car.

It is one of about 600 remaining in the world, and one of 5 Audi 100 Coupes in the states, and is the only one in RHD as one might guess. This car lived in South Africa from new till about 2 years ago, and we have the climate there to thank for its preservation.

One of my top 5 faves at German Car Day 2011, and featured on Bringatrailer.com when it was for sale out of TX:

http://bringatrailer.com/2011/04/10/germany-via-joberg-1974-audi-coupe-s/

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Wayne Carini’s 1963 BMC-Marshall Training Unit Bus

This behemoth is one of several uses that were designed by Pininfarina and built for BMC by Marshall Motor Body of Cambridge, UK, on a Leyland FFK140 chassis. BMC used them for training its dealer service mechanics and for technical support. This particular one is from the first series of these BMC buses, built in 1963 and later, and has a 6 cylinder diesel (not clear if original) mated to a 4 speed manual transmission that is quite difficult to operate if you watch the video below.

More info and photos after the jump

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Major Concours Shakeup for 2012: Fairfield gone, Newport moves to July

Held since 2004, the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance quickly became one of the country’s top ten concours events, nearly eclipsing Greenwich Concours in every category. The loss of the Hunt Club venue led the organizers to search for a new location, but it appears they weren’t been able to find a suitable replacement. Bill Scheffler, the Chairman of the concours noted that “ultimately, we concluded that none of the options enabled us to continue our steady growth over eight years and onward towards our greater goals.” I had heard that Harkness Mansion in Waterford CT, among other places, was one of the alternatives being considered, but I was not especially surprised that it was not chosen as a replacement venue. The departure of Fairfield County Concours is an unexpected and disheartening loss to the northeast car collector community, though its Nutmeg Tour remains.

Newport Concours d’Elegance will now take place on July 15th, though the new venue has not been chosen yet. The last few years have been sort of rough, in terms of the location and field. The concours took place in 3 different locations around Newport harbor since 2008, each presenting its own challenges. Fort Adams is the backup location for the 2012 Newport Concours.

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Rare in the US: BMW Z1

Stated to be the only federalized Z1 in the United States (most others being here under Show and Display), this BMW Z1 belonged to a Miami restaranteur who brought the car into the country in 1993. This very Z1 appeared in the background of the wincingly dated romcom Miami Rhapsody, starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

The BMW Z1 was famous for a couple things: doors that closed downward, and “easily” detachable plastic body panels, which in theory would allow owners to change the color of the car by replacing the body panels in a matter of hours (though in reality people who attempted this generally accomplished the feat in two days). As long as one doesn’t have parts left over when you put it back together, it’s generally going to be okay.

This was one of two Z1s at the 2011 Carlisle Import Nationals, and one of my fave cars of the weekend. These change hands from time to time in North America, but we’re not going to see noticeably more till the earliest examples hit 25 years. Obvs.

More photos after the jump

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Coolest/Least Likely Yardwork Car Found in Connecticut

The owner, who collects early and brass-era cars and vintage motorcycles, uses this 1987 Citroen CX GTi as a work truck and to make dump runs on the weekend. Before the CX this role was performed by his Peugeot 505 wagon which succumbed to old age and parts shortages and was put on craigslist. The surprising part is that the 505 sold in mere hours, was driven to a seaport in NJ, and put on a cargo ship to Africa to join a taxi fleet.

This anecdote may go a long way to help explain where old Peugeot 505s have gone from our roads. The replacement Citroen CX may also make the owner a finalist for the title of The Most Interesting Man in the World.

::voiceover:: “He uses an old French sedan to do yardwork”

Stay thirsty, my friends.

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