N.D.B. Cars and Coffee 3rd Running - June 19th 2011 at 8am in Weston

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Love...

When I think about why I am a VW guy, a lot of it goes back to the day I bought my first car. Although I was an admirer of sporty European cars, if a 1984 Jetta GLI hadn't been on the lot that day, I might well be blogging about Hondas (which I guess I do a bit) or Mustangs (which I definitely don't).

The original Jetta GLI was a GTI with a trunk, but had the benefit of being built in Germany, unlike Mark 1 GTIs which were built in Pennsylvania. Accordingly, they had seats from the Scirocco and the dash from the Euro GTI, not the maroon or blue affairs from the US GTI. It was a great first car...enough power to make it fun, but not so much power to be dangerous. Good luck trying to find one today...most have been heavily modified or flogged mercilessly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mystery Car of the Week


Can you name this classic ride? Hint: it's currently celebrating its 50th anniversary and is the most successful car of all time in its native land.


ANSWER: RENAULT 4

NDB 2 Wrap Up and NDB 3 Plan





Another great get-together was held last weekend in Weston. This time we had a few more cars, including a pristine 928, terrific 2002 and an awesome little 914. Although our "police escort" hampered our run through some great twisties, fun was had by all and we did get to open it up a bit through the wilds of Sudbury.



The gang has decided our next rendez-vous will be Father's Day June 19th. We will meet in Weston again at 8am, then take drive through Sudbury, Wellesley, Needham, Dover and Westwood ending at Larz Andersen Auto Museum for German car day. Although NDB is open to all, it has thus far been an all German affair, so the destination of NDB 3 is appropriate. Hope to see you there!



Here's some shaky video of our NDB 2 police escort:


video

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cars and Coffee Second Running - May 7th

After a successful first NDB Cars and Coffee (see link below) with five cars, the second of our planned monthly get togethers is planned for May 7th in Weston Center at 8am. Please email or comment if you would like to join.

Video from NDB 1...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2hoqFsZI-Q

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Some Predicitions...

The 2011 Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix. This is against a backdrop of the F1 powers-that-be warning that Australia may be dropped in the future from the calendar, and interesting news that commercial head of F1 is in NYC this weekend meeting with Mayor Bloomberg about a Grand Prix on Staten Island. I am happy to leave the politics and wheeling and dealing to others and focus on the racing. Here's my 2011 predictions:
  • Fernando Alonso will win the World Championship
  • Red Bull will win the Constructors Championship
  • Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and Massa will score wins
  • Schumacher, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Button and Barichello will appear more than once on the podium

Enjoy what promises to be a fascinating season!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Best of All Worlds...

I recently got rid of my 1992 Mercedes 300E after a year of service. Although it was a solid performer, I just wasn't smitten. It was underpowered and didn't get my juices flowing. So, after getting a decent offer on it, I jumped and sold it.

I have to say that the replacement for the big Merc' is at the opposite end of the 4-door spectrum. I purchased a 2011 Civic Si. I went from 6 cylinders to four, rear to front wheel drive, leather to cloth, German to Japanese, stolid to sporty, full-size to compact.

I think the Civic Si is the best performance bargain going. For a price of less than $22,000 (after some negotiation), you get a car that will carry a family of four comfortably, provide years of reliable service and be able to rev to 8,000 glorious RPM. This is my first Honda with a VTEC engine and it is awesome. It has a real Jeckyll and Hyde character - below 6,000 is a docile econo-car, but above 6,000 it shows its teeth. So far after six months of ownership a couple of family trips and daily commutes, I have no regrets...oh, and air conditioning works, which is a nice change from the Mercedes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

N.D.B. Cars and Coffee

A group of local Boston-area car nuts are working to organize a regular get-together for folks to talk cars and go for a "spirited" drive. I am sure the group will lean towards European sports cars from the '80, '90s and '00s, but all are welcome. The first meet-up is scheduled for April 16, 2011 in Weston with a route planned through the Weston, Concord, Acton, Subury area...so mark you calendars and tell your friends! Here are the details:

  • What: An informal get together for car talk, coffee and a spirited drive

  • When: Saturday, April 16, 8am meet-up, 8:30am departure

  • Who: Everyone welcome as long as you are passionate about cars. All cars welcome. Just one rule: NDB - that means no Fast and Furious crowd.

  • Where: Intersection of Boston Post Road and Townhouse Road in Weston Center (2 miles from Route 128 exit 26).

  • Route: A 30-40 mile loop between the 128 and 495 belts starting and ending in Weston Center. Maps and directions to be provided.

Back in the Saddle

After a year off, I am going to try to revive this blog. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Crumple Zone indeed...

It's been a while, but it's time to post my first entry of 2010. Given that the World Rally Championship began last week and Formula 1 is starting in a few weeks, you can expect some frequent posts.

Anyway, I am not sure how I came across these, but the two videos below show just how far we've come in automotive safety. The first shows a crash between 2009 and 1959 Chevrolets. The difference is astonishing...needless to say the 1959 driver won't be walking away from this one.



The next one is an early-80s VW transporter fully loaded at about 50 mph. The engine in these is in the rear, so there's not much to stop the momentum. Not only will this driver not be walking away, I am not sure they'll be able to find him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why you should care about Michael Schumacher...

He is often compared to Tiger Woods for his domination of his sport, but Schumi's list of acheivements is much more comprehensive (although his list of mistresses probably isn't). Thanks to ITV.co.uk, here is a comprehensive list of the Formula One records held by Schumacher:
* Most world titles: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
* Most consecutive titles: 5 (2000-04)
* Most grand prix wins: 91
* Most wins in a single season: 13 (2004)
* Most consecutive wins in a single season: 7 (2004)
* Most wins at the same race: 8 (French GP)
* Most wins with one team: 72 (Ferrari)
* Most wins from pole: 40
* Most pole positions: 68
* Most front-row starts: 115
* Most podium finishes: 154
* Most second place finishes: 43
* Most points finishes: 190
* Most points scored: 1,369
* Most points in a single season: 148 (from a maximum of 180, in 2004)
* Most fastest laps: 76
* Most fastest laps in a season: 10 (from a maximum of 18, in 2004)
* Most races led: 141
* Most laps led: 5,108
* Furthest distance led in a season: 2,085 miles (2004)
* Fastest race-winning average speed: 153.843mph (2003 Italian GP)
* Most consecutive podiums: 19 (USA 2001 to Japan 2002)
* Most consecutive points finishes: 24 (Hungary 2001 to Malaysia 2003)
* Most consecutive seasons with a win: 15 (1992-2006)
* Most consecutive wins from pole (6)
* Most ‘clean sweeps’ (pole, win, fastest lap): 22
* Largest points gap between champion and runner-up: 67 (2002)
* Earliest title winner: 2002 (in July, with 6 of the 17 races remaining)
* Longest continuous spell with one team: 11 seasons (Ferrari, 1996-2006)
* Most races with same team: 162 (Ferrari)
* Most time between first and last race wins: 14 years, 1 month and 1 day
* Never outqualified by his team-mate in 1992, 1993 or 1994
* Only driver to have finished every race on the podium: 2002
* Won all his ‘landmark’ GPs, winning on his 50th, 100th, 150th and 200th GP starts
* Only events he failed to win were South African, Mexican and Turkish GPs
* His record of 91 GP wins is only one shy of the combined total of the next two most winning drivers, Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41)
* Scored points in a remarkable 76.6% of all his GP starts
* Led 56.9% of all GPs he started
* Banned or disqualified from more races than anyone else (banned from two races and disqualified from another in 1994; excluded from 1997 world championship results for collision with Jacques Villeneuve)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

He's back, baby!

It's official - Michael Schumacher will be back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car next year. After five world championships with Ferrari and two with Benneton, he will bring his prodigious talents to the all-German uber-squad Mercedes-Benz. Let's see if the forty-year-old has still got it. My money is on yes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mystery Car of the Week

Here's an easy one. To make it a bit more interesting, name the car, the race and the year. Good luck!

Because I can...

That's why I am posting this picture of the Lancia Stratos. Perhaps one of the coolest cars ever.

Schumacher Watch Continues

Rumors continue to circulate about Michael Schumacher's return to Formula 1 next year behind the wheel of a Mercedes. His old boss, Luca di Montezemolo at Ferrari said there is a "very, very, very strong" possibility that he will be back. Count 'em...that's not one very, but three. From what I hear, the only outstanding issue now is his fitness and the state of his neck injury that kept him out of the Ferrari earlier this year.

A Schumacher return would be a great thing for F1. Plus the Mercedes merchandise department must be salivating at the prospect of all the Schumacher Mercedes hats, shirts, flags, etc. that it will sell. I have to admit, I'll be near the front of the queue.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Changing Face of F1

Even with all the controversy, the fans have been treated to some pretty exciting racing over the last couple of years. 2010 should be no different.

We'll see three new teams and a couple reworked teams. With the addition of new teams we'll also see a bunch of new drivers to fill those extra slots...so it looks like even marginal current drivers should snag a seat for next year.

Mercedes notwithstanding, for the most part the manufacturer era is over in Formula 1. Honda pulled out last year. Toyota and BMW have pulled out this year and it appears Renault is on the brink of selling its team (but perhaps keeping the Renault name on the car). It remains to be seen whether this will be good for the sport. I tend to think it will if the privateer teams can secure strong sponsorship.

2010 will see the end of refueling, so cars will be much heavier meaning that drivers have to manage very changeable cars over the length of a Grand Prix. This should really put a premium on driver adaptability.

Last and certainly not least, there is the rumored return of one Michael Schumacher. Remember, him? I thought your would. More on that soon...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Addition to the Family...

We are proud to announce the recent addition of a 1992 Mercedes 300E to the "Scuderia Bellanger." The 300E joins the 2008 Passat, 2002 Astro, 1990 2CV and 1981 Golf GTI. The 300E will replace the Astro as my daily driver (thank God). Given the recent sale of my Aprilia scooter, this addition does not increase the number of wheeled conveyances in the Bellanger household (at least that's how I justified it to my wife).

Although I am not a Mercedes guy, the W124 300E is one of the last great Mercedes built in the pre-Lexus days. (After Lexus launched, Mercedes cut build quality in order to compete on cost with the Japanese.) The W124 is completely over-engineered and over-built. Hopefully it will deliver me years of reliable service.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

OktoberFAST

I had the pleasure of attending the Green Mountain Chapter of the BMW Club's OktoberFast event last weekend in Stowe, Vermont. This was a gathering for all German makes and after a one-year hiatus, the organizers were trying to get the event back on its feet. Although attendance wasn't great, there was a terrific atmosphere and I have the sense that this event will build momentum over the next couple of years. It was also a great chance to drive some of Vermont's great twisty roads at a beautiful time of year. Add to that the fact that my co-attendee and camping partner Brian and I scored some great hardware - Best Original Condition and Best In Show for Brian and his 1989 BMW 325iX and Best VW for me and the GTI - and you have an all-around great weekend.

Dabu Habi, I mean Abu Dhabi

Formula 1 will visit the brand new facility at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi for the last race of the 2009 season. James Allen just posted some great video on his blog of the first Formula 1-style car being driven around the circuit. Looks like a good layout - add to that the fact that this will be a twilight race (starting in the light, finishing in the dark) and it should be pretty spectacular. See the video below...enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Out of Reach...

Here is my personal list of some of the coolest new cars not available for US sale...rather than focus on supercars or exotics, of which there are many, I've stuck to cars that can be considered everyday transport. For space reasons, I will limit it to five cars, but feel free to add your faves in the comments.

First up is the Citroen C5 Wagon. As mentioned in a post below, I think this has to the best looking wagon on the planet. Definitely a stylish way to haul the kids and their gear.

Next in line is the Citroen C3 Picasso. The Europeans, and particularly the French, do tall one-box designs well. This is compact car with tons of space inside and lots of cool design features.

Although we get the four-door Si version, we no longer get the Honda Civic three-Door Type S. At this heart of this polarizing design is a high-revving Honda engine.

We've been denied the new VW Scirocco. Although this is really a squashed GTI, it is a damn-cool car. Bring it over VW!

Along with the Citroen, here's one from a brand not even sold in the US - the Seat Leon Cupra. The Leon is a cool design - given the Cupra treatment it also hauls. It sports a VW-based 2 litre turbo and hits 62mph in 6.4 seconds.




Friday, September 25, 2009

Back to the Scene of the Crime

Formula One makes its way back to Singapore this weekend - the scene of the all-consuming "Crashgate" scandal (see post below for more detail). It should be an exciting weekend...as every race clicks down the mathematical possibility for anyone other than Jenson Button to win the championship diminishes. My prediction for the weekend is a win by Mark Webber with Button, Rubens Barichello and Vettel all mixing it up for points. My wish for the weekend is that Fisi scores some points for Ferrari, but this looks unlikely.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bye, Bye Flav...

Renault has fired Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds over allegations that they conspired to deliberately cause their driver Nelsinho Piquet to crash in last year's Singapore GP, thus setting up their other driver to win the race. This is a bad, bad day for F1. Cheating on technical issues (e.g., design, software, etc.) is one thing, putting people's lives at risks is another.

After 20 years in the sport and four world championships Flav and Pat are now leaving in disgrace. I guess Flav will have to console himself on his mega-yacht with is supermodel girlfriend. Good riddance.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Funny F1 Video...

Two world champs having fun with a very serious subject...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Put Fisi in the Ferrari

The musical chairs continue at Ferrari in the wake of Massa's accident. First it was supposed to be Schumacher, but his neck injury precluded him from racing. Currently they are running their test driver Luca Badoer, who just isn't cutting the mustard and will likely be taken out of the car after the race in Belgium this weekend. Rumors are swirling that they will put Giancarlo Fisichella in the car. I love Fisi...he is nice guy who loves racing and is passionate about Ferrari. The guy has had a long F1 career and driven for half a dozen different teams, but never had a chance to drive for his "national" team. For him, driving a Ferrari would be like someone who grew up in Boston getting the chance to pitch for the Red Sox. Here's what he had to say:

“For sure, it’s a dream for all the drivers,” Fisichella said. “Especially for me, as an Italian driver, let’s say at the end of my career, so it’s a very good opportunity. It would be nice. I have 220 grands prix so far, it would be very good pressure for me. It’s not a big problem, it would be a very good opportunity but so far I can’t say anymore.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saab needs this one...

Saab was saved from the automotive scrap heap by Koenigsegg but for it to be a viable long-term brand they need to update and expand their product line. The first effort on this front is the new 9-5. Although still leveraging GM underpinnings, Saab is working on getting more "Saabiness" (also known as quirkiness) back into its products. This is a good looking car that has some of the traditional Saab design elements and some interesting technology underneath. Let's hope the buyers haven't been scared off by the company's tenuous situation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Arrivederci Clunkachino

So the cash-for-clunkers program is over already! I am biased, but I like any program that gets fuel-efficient, commute-appropriate vehicles on the road and stops people from driving unnecessarily in over-sized gas guzzlers. That said, there are plenty of folks, like my friend Jim, who think this is a waste of government cash. Fair enough, but I say compared to some of the places the government spends its (our) moolah, providing incentives for people to make smart decisions regarding their second-largest purchase, isn't a bad idea.

Anyway, to prove that this process worked as intended (i.e., taking clunkers off the road in favor of fuel-efficient vehicles), take a look at this list of vehicles "clunked" and purchased. I'd guesstimate about a 10-15MPG average improvement...

Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus FWD
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Hyundai Elantra
7. Ford Escape FWD
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt

Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles
1. Ford Explorer 4WD
2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
4. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
6. Ford Explorer 2WD
7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
8. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
10. Ford Windstar FWD Van

Bonus: Here's an interesting video of how they "kill" the engines on the clunkers with sodium silciate:



Friday, August 14, 2009

Mystery Car of the Week

This one isn't too hard. Leave your guesses in the comments. Good luck.

Update: This is the Ferrari Daytona-inspired Rover SD1. A real looker for a big saloon (that's British for sedan), but a mechanical nightmare.

Clunk

By all accounts, the “Cash for Clunkers” program seems to be a success. Sales are up at dealerships to levels not seen in a couple of years. Plus low-MPG cars are being taken off the road and being replaced by more fuel-efficient models.

Unbeknownst to many, this program is based on programs launched in Germany (Strudel-for-Clunkers) and France (Crepes-for-Clunkers) late last year and earlier this year. Those programs were also wildly successful, although they offered much higher amounts for trade-ins and didn’t have as many restrictions as the US programs. Those programs were more about taking high-polluting cars off the road rather than reducing low-MPG cars (since cars in Europe have been much higher-MPG for a long time).

There were two criticisms of the European programs that we haven’t heard much here in the US. The first was from independent mechanics who complained that taking older cars off the road was affecting their livelihood. Fewer old crappy cars mean fewer trips to the local mechanic. The second criticism was from the enthusiast community. Folks were turning in cars that could be considered “future classics” which were then destroyed.

I am not sure why we are not hearing from mechanics in the US. Although, if my local mechanic is any indication, they have more business than they can handle and a few less clunkers probably isn’t affecting them at this point. As for the silence from US enthusiasts, I think they are largely silent due to the fact that the majority of clunkers being taken off the road are pick-ups and SUVs, which have little likelihood of becoming classics. Even so, I am sure there is the odd future classic that is being crushed. Too bad there is no flexibility in the government guidelines to allow a knowledgeable dealer/junk yard to exempt a vehicle if it has significant potential for parts or future collector status.

(Thanks to Scott Snyder for inspiring this post.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Modest Proposal

From time to time I have to head to work on a Saturday morning to clear up some loose ends. I usually leave at about 6:30am when traffic is non-existent and enjoy blasting down Storrow drive. This experience has often led me to daydream about an actual car race on the streets of Boston. Monaco-on-the-Charles, if you will.

Before you dismiss the idea of the Grand Prix of Boston as half baked, think about it. Boston is a great spot…within hours of millions of people and plenty of accommodations. A course could be created down Storrow and Memorial Drives using the Mass Ave. Bridge and Museum of Science Way as connectors for a total of 3.8 miles. It would basically be two long curving straights broken up by a several sharp turns. Pits could be set up along the Memorial Drive access road in front of MIT with grandstands lining both sides of the Charles. There’s plenty of parking for motor homes and transporters in Kendall Square just behind the pits, and space for hospitality areas at Teddy Ebersol fields and in from of the Museum of Science. I see tie-ins with MIT and the MOS on the “science of F1.” Just imagine cars blasting down the banks of the Charles on a beautiful summer day with boats, yachts and Duck Boats plying the river. This would seriously be an awesome event.

Boston is a world-class city… let’s get a world-class event! All I need is approval from the Mayors of Boston and Cambridge, the Back Bay Preservation Society, Turnpike Authority, BRDA, Big Dig, Museum of Science, MIT, CambridgeSide Galleria, DEP, DOT, DCR, State Police, Boston Police, Cambridge Police, Chamber of Commerce…

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DS Reborn


I was reading Top Gear magazine this weekend by the pool (thanks Melissa and Tobe for a kidless weekend). TG is one of those guilty pleasures I rarely indulge in these days due to its US cover price of over $10...I can get Automobile and Car and Driver for the same price. Anyway, it is a great magazine and allows me to keep up on all the cool European cars we don't get to see here in the US. There was a feature on the new Citroen DS Inside concept.

Citroen has chosen to resurrect its "DS" moniker not for a single model, but for a range of models that will sit above its basic line-up. Citroen has really been on a roll lately with its designs and the DS Inside (the smallest of the DS lineup) is no exception. It is intended as a Mini-fighter and has all the right design touches. Apparently it will drive less "go-karty" (my word not theirs) than the Mini and have slightly more space. The design is definitely compelling for a small hatchback with lots of unique touches like the shark fin B-pillar and gaping front end.

The French have really been designing and producing some great cars lately. It's a shame we can't find away to get some of these cars (Citroen C3 Picasso, C5 and C6; Renault Modus and Scenic; Peugeot 1007, 308, 407) to the US. Business plan, anyone?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Behind the Wheel


Schumacher got behind the wheel of a 2007 Ferrari to start his expedited training regimen. Reaction from fans and pundits to his de-retirement has been generally positive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Willi or won't he?

Although Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Webber is "200%" sure that he won't, rumors persist that Ferrari will put the seven-time world champion back in a Formula One car to replace Massa. Given the recent performance of "old guys" Lance Armstrong and Tom Watson, this may not be a bad idea. First, it would give Formula 1 a real PR boost after a year of political silliness. Second, it will give Schumi a chance to prove himself against the new generation of drivers (Hamilton and Vettel). Finally, it would be a touching tribute to the student/teacher relationship that Massa and Schumacher had during their time together at Ferrari. I, for one, am for it.

UPDATE: Holy crap! He's back, baby! Just hours after I posted this Scurderia Ferrari confirmed that the winningest driver ever will substitute for Felipe Massa.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflection...

This weekend’s Formula One qualifying saw something that has become increasingly rare in modern motorsports: a nearly fatal accident. After a heavy spring fell from Rubens Barrichello’s car it bounced down the track and hit Felipe Massa on the helmet. This is far from a regular occurrence (i.e., debris falling from a car, let alone hitting another car) and can be labeled as “freak” accident. Regardless, this incident serves to remind us of the inherent danger in motorsport and the courage and fitness of the athletes (yes, athletes) who choose this profession.

I was in attendance at the Montreal Grand Prix two years ago when Robert Kubica hit the wall at over 150mph destroying his car. In the time between the accident and the update that Kubica had suffered only minor injuries, fearing that Kubica might have been gravely injured, I can admit that I questioned whether it is right to support such a (sometimes) brutal sport. In fact, the entire grandstand went silent – I am sure thinking similar thoughts. Ultimately, we have to accept that the possibility of injury exists in motorsport and also know that the drivers accept that possibility. We are drawn to this sport because of the grace with which drivers guide their cars at over 200mph often on the limits of control. It is inevitable that from time to time the humanness of the drivers will be revealed. When this does happen, we can be thankful that the dramatic improvements in car (and helmet) safety over the last several decades have made injury and death a rare occurrence.

Best wishes to Felipe for a speedy recovery. As the Ferrari team said yesterday, “Forza Felipe.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weekend Preview

I am looking forward to an exciting Formula 1 weekend. I can truly say that there is not clear picture of who has the advantage this weekend in Hungary for the victory. Red Bull and Brawn are obviously both in the hunt, and the McLarens looked very strong in practice today. Let's hope the Rosberg can get his Williams into the mix as well. Going out on a limb, I predict a Hamilton victory, but would love to see another win from Webber.

My plans for the weekend include a stop by the Triumph get-together on Sunday at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. This is usually a good show, and I hope to see a few of my preferred Triumph...the GT6 (see photo above). This is basically a hard-top Spitfire designed for endurance racing events. It is a great looking little car, and (I have heard) a blast to drive.

Have fun with whatever you do this weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Tale of Four Sebastians

Confirming its strange fetish for drivers named Sebastian/Sebastien, rumor has it that Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Red Bull-owned second string F1 team, is considering putting World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb (left) in a Formula 1 car for the final Grand Prix of the year. OK, now try to follow along...last year Sebastian Vettel partnered Sebastien Bourdais on the Toro Rosso team. Vettel did so well (actually winning a race for the small team) that he was promoted to the better-funded Red Bull Racing team for 2009. Toro Rosso decided to replace Vettel with Sebastian Buemi for 2009. Buemi has proceeded to embarrass Bourdais so far in 2009, so as of this week, Toro Rosso fired him. (He is threatening to sue, but that's a different story). For the next couple of races, Toro Rosso has confirmed that Spaniard Jaime Alguesauri will take the race seat. However, there is talk that once Loeb is done with his rally commitments for the year that he will take over from Alguersauri. This will return Toro Rosso to an all Sebastian line-up.

Frankly, I'd love to see Loeb in an F1 car...he's an amazing rally driver and did a great job in a test earlier in the year. It's always interesting to see someone try to cross over from another series. Let's hope that Loeb can do better than other recent transplants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spottings

I've been lucky enough over the last two days to spot two Maserati GranSports - one in Boston, the other on the highway in New Jersey. Maserati is not one of those brands that I think about very often perhaps due to the fact that they always seem to be hanging on by a thread and just scraping by. However, since Ferrari took them over in 1997 (although Maserati is now out of Ferrari control) they've upgraded their product line and seem to be on a more stable footing both in the US and worldwide. As an aside, in a mash-up of two of my interests (cars and U2), Bono's daily driver is a Maserati Quattroporte.

Anyway, back to the GranSport...this has to be one of the most beautiful cars on the road today. The proportions are terrific giving the car real presence. Although the styling is an evolution of prior Maseratis, they really nailed it with this car. Plus, it's got Ferrari guts so you can't go wrong.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

R&R

I am heading to the Jersey Shore for a couple of days of R&R, so don't expect any posts over the next few days. Speaking of R&R, "RR" is the designation sometimes used to indicate a car is "rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive." To the best of my knowledge, the only cars currently in production to have the RR designation are the Porsche 911, Tata Nano and Smart ForTwo...definitely an intersting trio. If anyone knows any others, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mystery Car of the Week


Here's this week's mystery car. I will give you a hint and let you know that, yes, it is French. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vive la France

In honor of Bastille Day, I thought a list of top ten French cars would be in order. Some may question whether French cars are indeed worthy of a top ten list. I say check out the innovative, stylish, quirky and just plain cool autos on the list below, then try to deny that the French have made some real contributions to the motoring world. Remember, this is my list and it largely ignores some great pre-War cars. If you disagree with me, make your own list and post it to the comments.

Citroen DS – Shown above, it is difficult to understand today how radical this car was at its launch in the 50s. So iconically French that the Griswolds drove one in European vacation.

Citroen 2CV - An umbrella on wheels, this is the car that got the French back on the road after WW2. It remained in production for forty years virtually unchanged.

Peugeot 205 GTI – Peugeot’s answer to the VW Golf GTI. Try finding one today that hasn’t been absolutely destroyed by teenage heroics.

Citroen SM – Basically a DS coupe with a Maserati engine. Maybe not the most reliable mechanically, but it sure was stunning.

Renault Alpine A110 – I can still remember seeing these in rallies when I was a kid in France. Based on a Renault 8, this was France’s answer to the Porsche 911.

Citroen Traction Avant – The first mass produced unibody front wheel drive car. It may not look futuristic, but its basic layout underpins most of today’s cars.

Bugatti Type 35 – A beautiful and wildly successful race car introduced in 1924 with over 1,000 victories to its name.

Renault 5 Turbo – Take a run-of-the-mill econobox, stick a monster motor where the back seat should be, connect it to the rear wheels and hold on for dear life.

Citroen C6 – Citroen rediscovered its design heritage in 2006 after 25 years of building bland cars. This car has real presence; too the bad public hasn’t discovered it and they only sell about one a week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Car Show Weekend

I had busy weekend of musical car seats in order to take the kids and the cars to a couple of different shows.

On Saturday we went to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum for the Micro/Mini Car day. As usual, this was a lively event with lots of people who are passionate about little cars. I took my Citroen 2CV, which although not tiny qualifies based on its 602cc two cylinder engine. There were plenty of cool Isettas (unfortunately now known as the Urkel car), Minis, Metropolitans and a few other 2CVs.

On Sunday, Gavin and I took the GTI to Lebanon, CT for the Connecticut VW club's annual summer meet. This was mostly an air-cooled affair. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the turnout...I expected a lot more cars. Anyway, we had fun checking out the amphibious 1943 Schwimmwagen and cool collection of campers, Beetles and Ghias. We also got to drive some great back roads through the Connecticut countryside.

For more photos of both events, please click here.

Good On Ya, Mate...


Fantastic result at the German Grand Prix this weekend for Australian Mark Webber. After years of bad luck and bad machinery, he finally broke his duck, as they say in Britain, and won his first Grand Prix. It's always nice to see someone who seems like a genuinely nice bloke finish first.

In fact, all four title contenders this year seem like guys you'd want to sit down and have a beer with. (Although Button may prefer a Red Bull and Vodka, and I'm not sure Vettel is of drinking age yet.) Unlike the last four world champions (Schumacher, Raikonnen, Alonso and Hamilton), these guys seem to be pretty well grounded and recognize the importance of the fans. No matter who wins, I am sure they will be a good ambassador for the sport...it could sure use one.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This Weekend

Be sure to check out the German Grand Prix on Sunday on Fox. It should be a good race...my prediction is a victory for Sebastian Vettel in front of his home crowd. Although, I would love to see a victory for either Barrichello or Webber.

On the local front, I will be attending the Micro and Mini Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline on Saturday with the kids and the 2CV. On Sunday, Gavin and I will be heading to Connecticut in the GTI for the CVA's New England Volkswagen Meet. I'll give you my thoughts on each on Monday.

Whatever you're up to this weekend, have a blast!

Q-Ships

The term Q-ship originally referred to ships created during WW1 to act as decoys for German U-boats. They looked like normal fishing trawlers or cargo ships, but when the U-boats got close, they revealed their serious firepower hidden below deck. The term has been appropriated by the automotive community to refer to cars that appear to be everyday, run-of-the-mill sedans, but are in fact hiding serious firepower under the hood.

I’ve been thinking about these a lot after German Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum a few weeks ago. In attendance were a couple of the quintessential Q-ships – the mid-eighties Mercedes 190 2.3-16 and the early nineties Mercedes 500E. The former took the entry-level 190 sedan and dropped in a Cosworth 16-valve engine. The latter was hand-built by Porsche for Mercedes-Benz and had a wicked V8. Neither car had much that gave away their true potential other than badging and subtle flares and skirts. Both of these cars remain relatively affordable today (compared with their BMW counterparts from the era)…as long as you can find one that hasn’t had the snot driven out of it.

Some of my other favorite Q-ships include the Vauxhall-Lotus Carlton, Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, Volvo 850R, Ford Taurus V8 police package (not to be confused with the Taurus SHO). If you have other faves, please post them in the comments.
UPDATE: As if to prove my point that these cars tend to be flogged by the yobs who own them, look no further than this video from You Tube wherein a 190 2.3-16 gets mistreated (love the primer on the fenders).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New XJ


Jaguar definitely needed to do something to kick start sales of its flagship XJ sedan...this redesign might just be the thing. It definitely brings the luxo-cruiser into the 21st century and ditches four to five decades of design heritage that had defined this model. Overall, I think it is strong effort from the British/Indian marque. However, I am not so sure about the black-out panels on the d-pillars. And can't we all just please move on from the side-vent thing?

Diff'rent Strokes...


On the train this morning I saw a 40-something woman wearing a prison-style shirt with “Azkaban Prison” written across the back. Now, I enjoy the Harry Potter books as much as the next guy, but c’mon. She was carrying a brief case and was apparently on her way to work…I am not sure this attire would fit with dress code where I work. I started formulating a post in my head that would have likely contained the word “dork.” However, as I thought more about it, there were two problems such a post. First, this rant is not automotive at all and therefore not strictly appropriate for Crumple Zone. Second, I realized that I have my own dork attire.

When I strut my stuff in my VW GTI or my Emerson Fittipaldi 1972 World Champion t-shirts, or sport my awesome new Peugeot 908 HDI cap, I think I look pretty cool. (See photo above for proof of my coolness.) However, I am sure Beatrix Lestrange in her Azkaban shirt looks at me and thinks, “What a dork.” So the moral of the story is: judge not lest ye be judged. Wear your passion with pride whether it be automotive, literary or otherwise. (Unless of course you’re getting together with friends this weekend to play Quidditch, then you’re just a loser.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mystery Car of the Week


Who knows if this will be weekly or not, but let's pretend...

OK folks, time for the mystery car of the week. You'll only get a glimpse of a rare (by US standards) car. Please use the comments sections to post your guess. We'll start out with something fairly easy. Good luck!
UPDATE: And the winner is...the combo team of Suzanne and B Hill (and Google)...nice work guys.
It is indeed the ass-end of a Citroen BX. Sorry Suzanne and B, but until somebody starts paying me for this, the only prize I can offer is a half-empty bottle of Citroen hydraulic fluid.

FIA...worth reading to the end

If you have been following the sorry saga that is the FIA/FOTA/Formula One mess, then I don't blame you for not wanting to read more about it. If you are not familiar with what's going on, just imagine an episode of any soap opera, throw in hundreds of millions of dollars, and season with a cast of egomaniacal characters with complete disregard for the fans who love the sport.

Anyway, the latest is that Ari Vatanen may run against Max Moseley for FIA president, which would be a welcome change. It won't do much to sort out the existing fracas. However, maybe Ari, a true racer (former world rally champion) with political skills (elected to the European Parliament from two different countries...how'd he do that?) can keep a better perspective on what motorsports is all about and avoid messes like this in the future.

Anyway, I said this post would be worth reading to the end. In doing a little research about Ari on the intertubes yesterday, I found this award winning video of him from the mid-eighties driving a Peugeot 406 T16 up Pikes Peak. Awesome stuff.

Wagons


My station wagon fetish is well known. Their versatility and stealth-factor is unrivaled. SUVs and minivans can carry more people/stuff, but aren't as fun to drive and suck gas. Sedans aren't as roomy and are too common.


Wagons I have owned (or borrowed for extended periods from my parents) and loved include a 1988 Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro, 1995 Honda Accord, 1999 Audi A4 1.8T, 2003 VW Jetta 1.8T, 2004 VW Passat 1.8T, 2008 VW Passat 2.0T. It's tough to pick a favorite, but all things considered, I have to pick the A4. The first generation A4 wagon (sorry, Avant) was described by the automotive press as the "most beautiful wagon on the planet," and I tend to agree. Even though the 1.8T was a bit short on power for such a heavy car, it was a blast to drive, and the overall quality was terrific.


For my money, the current holder of the title of "most beautiful wagon on the planet" is the Citroen C5 (shown at the top of this post). Not a familiar one to US drivers, but a great looking car. We saw a bunch of them on our most recent trip to France. Not sure many wagons qualify as "sexy," but this one sure does.

So what's this, then?

What is "Crumple Zone" all about? In a word...cars. In a few more words...it will be a place for musing and discussion about all things automotive, including new cars, old cars, car racing, car events, car accessories, car industry news, etc. It will also give me an outlet to share car-related items that catch my fancy. Prior to Crumple Zone, my only outlet was emailing Brian, but I am pretty sure he's sick of his inbox being jammed with Craigslist postings about jalopies for sale.

There aren't many ground rules...pretty much any car-related topic goes. My opinions are just that, so feel free to disagree. Comments are encouraged as long as they are civil, family-friendly and well-considered.

I should make readers aware of a few biases. My automotive tastes tend toward the European. So expect more postings about Formula One, new Citroens and Sebastian Loeb than ones about NASCAR, Corvettes and Danica Patrick. (However, pictures of Danica are always welcome).

So that's about it. My goal is to average one post a day, but don't hold me to that. I am open to collaborators, so drop me a line if you would like to be a contributor.

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