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Adventures in wrenching – An admission of ineptitude

I’d much rather be driving my cars than working on them. To be brutally honest, I only own my own tools and twirl them at my car in order to avoid forking out bundles of cash which I could be spending on fuel. Or old car brochures, probably.

In recent times, though, I’ve become increasingly selective on which jobs I’ll gamely tackle myself – I’m not especially keen on suspension or driveshaft jobs, for example, but will happily take on most underhood stuff, including timing belts and the like. I genuinely relish, though, jobs like the one that unfolds after the jump – principally because they offer so much gain for so little.

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The Carchive: The 1973 Vauxhall Magnum

The 2018 World Cup is now in full swing, so I’ve decided to mark it in my own special style by pretending it’s not happening. Perhaps you’ll join me?

“Magnum” is an astoundingly popular name in the automotive world. We’ve seen it before in car form with the Dodge Magnum, we’ve encountered it in articulated truck form with the Renault Magnum, and if I ever find a Rayton-Fissore brochure on eBay for cheap, we’ll meet it again as a luxury SUV. This time, though, it’s a humble British car from 45 years ago. Welcome to the Vauxhall Magnum. Welcome back to The Carchive.

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When toys are wasted on kids.

Kids, eh? Today’s young’uns have no idea that we used to sit around boxes with curved-glass fronts, which flickered away at less than 50hz and provided us with fewer than a hundred channels. If there was something we wanted to watch, we had to either wait for it to be broadcast, or we had to play it back from a magnetic cassette to which we had recorded it earlier. There then came the battle against tracking, where you end up with pesky horizontal lines of a kind you never see on Youtube.

And then there’s toy cars. Looking at the Matchbox and Corgi toys of my youth, even they seem to have been broadcast in low resolution. What I once thought were perfect replicas of the cars I loved so much, were actually coarse, crude and, in many cases, pretty inaccurate. And when I opened this ‘Junior Rescue’ set by Hongwell – clearly marketed at the younger end of the auto-curious spectrum – it became clear that todays cheap toys are far too awesome.

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The Carchive: The SEAT Marbella

It’s been a while since we last held our collective noses and descended into our dark cavern of decay to peer beneath the boulders of history in search of yesterday’s mouldering, whiffy treasure. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last time it was the Mitsubishi Tredia that came under scrutiny. Today we’re sticking with the ‘eighties and taking a glimpse at the SEAT Marbella: a car that fulfilled that brief of delivering ‘just enough car’; which doesn’t seem to be a thing any more.

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Gonna get myself armrested

Rear wheel drive. A close ratio, six speed manual gearbox. A flat-plane crank V8, twin turbocharged but with so little lag you’d swear it was normally aspirated. Direct-acting rack and pinion steering, with power assistance that gives you no clue it’s there. Grippy tyres with just enough sidewall flex to warn that you’re nearing the limits of adhesion.

My car has none of those things, but what it does have is a socking great big, padded centre armrest, and it’s among the best features a car can boast.

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A taste of the future, in a car from the past

The last time I travelled in a Citroen 2CV, it was right at the beginning of my driving career. I was seventeen, and the venue was a stubble field in a nearby farm, where a group of my schoolfriends had gathered. We were all there in our first cars, and those with the least mechanical sympathy would thrash their steeds mercilessly on the bumpy dirt. Of the motley selection of near-scrap that had assembled, one machine stood head and shoulders above the others where it came to rough terrain prowess – a luridly coloured ‘Bamboo’ edition 2CV.

We each took it in turns to roll the Citroen, gathering as much momentum as possible, making steering inputs that were as vigorous and abrupt as we could. And, although some truly alarming lean angles were achieved, the Tin Snail was resolute on keeping its tyres in contact with the earth. Things might have been different on solid tarmac, but harsh treatment on this loose surface resulted only in understeer. In fact, the 2CV probably did more ploughing on that summer afternoon than the Farm’s Massey Ferguson would later in the year.

Twenty years later and I’m back in a 2CV. Just like before, we’re on private land, but – although the car is broadly the same, the circumstances are rather different. Different enough for me to fear what my next 2CV experience might involve – when I’m 57.

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Nostalgia Express: The Plaxton Viewmaster

Almost five years ago, I posted about one of the buses that tool me to and fro of high school every day in the early 1990s. Its registration number was KJD58p and it had a pretty eventful life, reputedly ending its life as a spare parts donor for one of the open-top Daimler Fleetline sightseeing fleets in North America.

Inevitably, the vast majority of service buses meet their end on the scrapheap. There’s several tonnes of steel in a typical bus, so scrap value remains fairly once service life is over. As a result, most of the buses that I remember from school over twenty years ago have long been turned into Chinese refrigerators. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself climbing up the steps and embarking on a journey to the past.

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Woodall Nicholson Kirklees: The fat end of the wedge

Have you ever beheld a piece of obsolete technology and thought that time ought to have been kinder to it? Perhaps when you slide your favourite, home-recorded Minidisc into your still-functioning deck, or when you pass a once magnificent Sony WEGA CRT television as it sits, screen down, outside somebody’s house – it’s sheer weight having thwarted that inevitable final journey to the dump.

Some technologies and styles meet their natural end, but others seem to follow a far steeper trajectory into premature obscurity. ADO71 – the design more famously known as the British Leyland Princess – was one. It’s a car that adhered to no prior design rules, and wouldn’t inspire any real imitators, either. It was a complete evolutionary dead-end. Personally, I reckon Harris Mann’s wedge-shaped masterpiece was horribly underrated, and this point was rammed home violently when I encountered this fantastic stretched example at the recent Ipswich to Felixstowe classic car run.

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Felixstowe to Ipswich run 2018: Jolly good show

So, it’s Saturday night in the UK, and while families nationwide wallow in the festival of charged socio-political fireworks that is the Eurovision Song Contest, I thought I’d post what I meant to last night – before I spilled most of a can of cider over my laptop. 24hrs and a session in the airing cupboard later, we’re back in business.

The event was the annual Ipswich to Felixstowe run, which is open to any vehicle registered more than thirty years ago – this cut-off rolls so I’ll be able to take part in 2027 in the Rover. There’s always an impressive array of machines in attendance, including a bunch of historic buses, bikes, military vehicles and two Stanley Steamers. Unfortunately, the crowds thronged heavily enough to obscure most of the cars, most of the time.  I got lucky occasionally, though, so here’s a selection of the stand-outs. … Continue Reading

The Carchive: The Colt (Mitsubishi) Tredia

I’ve looked into the psychology behind the hoarding that has lead to The Carchive being created. If it was information I sought, there are infinite alternative sources I could have turned to. The Internet, for one – books, for another. I turn to the latter whenever I seek a fresh perspective on things: In many cases I have several books that cover the same subject, but with sufficiently different approaches that prevent me from sending any of them to the charity shop.

Brochures are another story, though. They tell the story as told from the perspective of the showroom, baiting the hook, casting the line and hoping to reel buyers in. In many cases, they outlive the cars that they’re trying to sell, and this is where collecting the brochures comes in. You see, there’s something inside me that yearns to keep history no at no further than arm’s reach. It’s probably a window into my own insecurity that I feel most comfortable surrounded by the cosy familiarity of recent history. Like hearing a favourite old song or revisiting the same holiday destinations year on year.

Anyway. This week it’s time to look at the virtually extinct Colt Tredia. Welcome back to The Carchive

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