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

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


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


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


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!


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.


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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