Category Archives: Rattles + Squeaks

It’s pronounced “Rruh-no”

You had me a Marchal rally lights

You had us at Marchal rally lights

A French strain of feral fever just struck close to home and, in the spirit of liberté, égalité and fraternité, we’re here to let you know that a 1968 Renault R10 has just joined the fleet.  It’s the damnedest thing when an off-the-wall purchase seems to make sense but that’s the basic story.

Moment of transition

Moment of transition

Air vs water

Air vs water

We had two rear engine cars in the paddock: a ’67 Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) Giardiniera baby station wagon and a ’70 Volkswagen Type III Fastback.  Both of these have air cooled motors stashed under trap doors in the back.   Both have trunks in the front and room for cargo above their respective motors.  The water-cooled Renault R10 is the last rear engine model that the #1 French builder exported to the US.  Their later offerings, the R5 (marketed as “Le Car”) and Kenosha, Wisconsin-built Renault Alliance didn’t really find a market here, especially in the face of the ’70s Japanese car invasion.  After Renault sold its controlling stake in American Motors to Chrysler, it was all over for the offerings of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault as far as the North American market was concerned. Some Renaults, however,  were sold by Chrysler as the Eagle Medallion (in concept, a great car for Sammy Davis, Jr)  and Eagle Premier which sounds like the code name for a South American dictator. 

Respect pour les anciennes

Respect pour les anciennes

We’re now down to just the “new” Renault and the little Giardinera as the Volkswagen Fastback was quickly sold off to make room for the Gallic newcomer.  Maybe it was just too “normal” to make the final cut but it was the most powerful of the three pushers with a 1.6 liter motor developing a whopping 65 horsepower.  The Cinquecento is powered by a minuscule two cylinder motor displacing slightly less than half a liter, making freeway cruising mostly a theoretical endeavor.

Open skies all'italiana

Open skies all’italiana

The Renault R10 falls somewhere in the middle of these two with a 1.1 liter motor that produces 48 horsepower.  It’s vaguely competitive on the freeway — meaning it’s capable of 65 mph under ideal conditions.  The point of its acquisition was not performance but.. hmm.. what was the point?  Oh, yes, the point was that we hadn’t had a proper French car since dear mom’s 1968 Peugeot 404 and a recent visit this winter to the giant Rétromobile* vintage car expo in Paris fired up one’s inner Francophile feelings on a certain level.  There’s always a reason, isn’t there?

Giardinera = gardener, capice?

Giardinera = gardener, capisce?

At any rate, it’s fun to drive and gets more comments than the VW since it’s so unusual and, let’s face it, kinda cute.  So there you have it or, more appropriately, voici la voiture.  Fun to drive, fun to say:  we’ll call that a win/win.

Room for tous les copains

Room for “tous les copains”

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font?

If you’re interested in acquiring your very own Renault, we wish you good luck.  There are very few for sale in this country, probably because they were thought to be disposable but we did find a doppelgänger — is it OK to use a German word in describing a French car? — in nearby Arudel, ME for just $8500.   Enjoy this commercial for the R10 from 1970 in which the car is favorably compared to a horse.

*Here’s our Rétromobile coverage for Automobile Magazine’s website.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:  info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Automotive Eurotrash adds feral dash to the City of Light

We’re just back from a sojourn to Paris where Feral Cars participated in the 40th annual Rétromobile conclave.  Rétromobile is the vintage car event in Europe, if not the world, a  combination  trade show, exotic used car lot, movable museum, high stakes auction and grand bazaar of all manner of automobilia, auto-related emphemera but, mainly, cars.  Lots of car — over 500, mostly high end European makes spread out over two floors of exhibits.   It was, in a word, stupendous, thanks to cadres of professional installers, scenic designers and lighting experts doing their thing.  The result is that even the most pedestrian car takes on added aura with glamorous Rétromobile production values imparting that much more “car cred” to just about everything in the show.

La vie en noir

La vie en noir

While Rétromobile was stellar, our forays into the greater Paris metroplex juxtaposed us with quite a number of continental cruisers of a certain age.  Rétromobile may have brought some of these out of storage but it seemed that some were just les objets trouvés on a certain level.

The future departs

The future departs

We found a number of noteworthy German, Italian and French veterans that appeared to be in regular service and did our best to capture them for you. This being Paris, let’s start with two Citroëns that had us enthralled. That black sedan is a DS of later vintage (note the faired in headlight configuration).  Introduced in 1955, the DS with its air-oil suspension, revolutionary construction and aerodynamic design was truly the car of the future.  When it finally went out of production, nearly 20 years and 1.4 million examples later, the DS was still ahead of its time.

Promotion in motion

Promotion in motion

We’re glad to have seen some rolling examples, at least 40 years old, on the streets of Paris including a station wagon that was used to highlight events sponsored by Citroën Heritage, the forward looking brand’s backward looking promotion department.  We’ll forgive the fact that its rear bumper (le bouclier) was un peu cassee.

Le Truckster de la famille

Le Truckster de la famille

While adhering to a more traditional three box design than Citroën’s aerodynamically advanced line topper, BMW’s 5 series is the embodiment of German sports luxury.  This snow white example which we estimate to be an ’86 or ’87 is impressively pristine.

Beamer en blanc

Beamer en blanc

That sunshade in the back is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas?

White privilege

White privilege

Unlike the many of the Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis seen at Rétromobile, Italian cars parked on the nicely swept streets of Paris were of the decidedly non-exotic variety but still quite interesting. 

Micro muscle car

Micro muscle car

When was the last time you saw an Autobianchi parked at a curb?  The answer is “never,” of course, since this Fiat-derived compact never made it over here. We found two on the same street and both had parking tickets under the wipers so our assumption is they’re owned by the same obsessive person.   They’reAutobianchi 112s but the gray one is technically a Lancia A112 as Fiat slapped that badge on the car for sale outside of Italy.  We like the “70 HP” notice on the front hood as this is the hot Abarth factory tuner model.  We’re pegging this one and the less swanky (only 42 hp) white car to be from the early ’80s.

Abarth = performance

Abarth = performance

That'll rub right out

Think that’ll rub right out?

We noted a super clean dark green VW Golf Cabriolet, the choice of high school girls during the ’80s and ’90s, not far from those Italian anomalies. We’re guessing this is a ’90 or ’91 but it’s unimaginable that it’s parked outside on a regular basis.  This is one clean machine.

Cabrio for thee-o

Cabrio for thee-o

On the other end of the tidiness spectrum is this funky Renault Twingo, a car that could very well have been named after a candy bar.  The expressive headlights that are flat on the bottom make it seem like you’d be more prone to adopt than own it.  The design by Jean-Pierre Ploué debuted in 1993 and the intention was for the front end to resemble a smile. Seems like a tight-lipped one to us but we kind of get it.  We’re not sure what those three asymmetrically placed air intakes are supposed to conjure up. Maybe a set of face tattoos like gang members give themselves in prison?  Probably not.

Smile, darn you, smile!

Smile, darn you, smile!

This smiling, possibly smirking, Twingo seems to have suffered some abuse as indicated by:

  • A huge dent on the rear passenger side
  • The “Party Girl” sticker on the hatch
Party out of bounds

Party out of bounds?

We’ve got a bigger Renault to share but this one is most decidedly not cute.  It’s an early ’80s Renault 18i wagon that also wears a parking ticket under its wiper and, more importantly, more than a modicum of rust, especially under the lift gate.

Rusty wagon

Rusty wagon

These were actually sold in the US back when Renault controlled American Motors before selling it off to Chrysler. They could have called it Franco American Motors and offered promotional cans of spaghetti with the purchase of every car.  No, huh?

How do you say 'bondo' in French?

How do you say ‘bondo’ in French?

Lastly, we encountered a big Alfa Romeo sedan on that same street in the 15th arrondissement. Its official model designation is Alfa Romeo Alfa 6.  Seems as though the Department of Redundancy Department named the car which was Alfa’s top of the line sedan from 1979 – 1983.  Yes,  it’s a six cylinder car — and had a carburetor for each one of them — and was considered to be in the “executive class” just like that BMW 5 series up top.  Coming as it did when the price of gasoline was spiking, this Alfa found few buyers and was never officially imported into the US.

Big brown Alfa

Importata dall’Italia alla Francia

Booty

Smart/Smarter

Rétromobile attracts old car nuts from all over but locally based ones use the expo as an excuse to participate in ad hoc street rallies.  We had to rub our eyes to make sure we weren’t hallucinating when we shot this video of a mass of Fiat Cinquecentos, led by a an ultra-rare Ferves Ranger, one of only six hundred Cinquento-based mini SUVs like this ever made.  Only fifty survive and here’s one in spirited action.  No less an authority than Jalopnik named it “The Mostest Cutest Off-Roader Ever.”

And speaking of cute, you must click to see the introductory commercial back when Twingo was launched in 1993.

We found a breathtaking ’72 Citroën DS wagon for sale in nearby San Francisco, CA.  for a paltry $40,000 which is only around 35,000 so, dépêchez-vous and buy it maintainant!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

Repost: Car of future passed

In honor of Back To the Future Day,we’re revisiting a post of the past.

Stainless steel deal

Stainless steel deal

The year was 1981 and John Z. DeLorean, “Father of the GTO,” having gone rogue after an heroic career at General Motors, finally launched his dream car that he modestly named after himself.  Stainless steel body. Check.  Gull wing doors. Check. Mid-engine. Check.  What could possibly go wrong?  As it happened, most everything. Turns out that DeLorean’s Tuckeresque quixotic windmill tilt-a-whirl was squeezed out for numerous financial, technical and, perhaps, pharmacological reasons, coupled with his own hubris and the inclination of the entrenched auto makers to make life as difficult as possible for upstarts.

0 - 88 in 30 years

0 – 88 in 30 years

We found a well-used example in a “Doctors Only” parking space the other day that is, apparently, a commuter car for a “hipocrat.”  While the DMC12 was projected to retail for $12,000 it ended up costing more than twice that amount despite the fact that power was provided by a somewhat anemic PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) V6. The chassis, though, as engineered by Lotus, was on supercar par.

McFly with me

McFly with me

Despite that shortcoming in the propulsion department, an estimated 9,000 units were built at the factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.  Actually, not too shabby in terms of failed indie car numbers — anybody remember the Vector W8?  Cizeta-Moroder V16T?  Bricklen SV-1?  OK, they built a bunch of that latter gull-winger but not even a third of DeLorean’s output.

Hoverboard on board

Hoverboard on board

Click here to go back to Back To The Future as Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown character introduces Fox’s McFly to the perks of DeLorean ownership.   Want your very own?  There are quite a few to choose from right here in nearby Bradenton FL.  Be sure to ask about the extended flux capacitor warranty.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

VW’s dirty house of lies collapses

Dear Volkswagen,

You’re dead to us.

Not a clean machine but we weren't told otherwise

Not a clean machine but we weren’t told otherwise

When you write about cars it’s natural that friends and family ask you for advice when they’re in the market for something new.  Over the past few years, we haven’t hesitated to heartily recommend any and all diesel-powered Volkswagens because our experience with the current generation VW TDI diesel has been a very happy one since an ’09 Jetta SportWagen found its way to our driveway.

Dirty trucker

Dirty little trucker

That all ended a day or so ago when news broke that we’ve been duped in no uncertain terms. VW (and Audi) admitted that TDI-equipped cars (this so-called ‘clean diesel’ motor is available, for a premium, across many model lines including Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat, A3) have been fitted with software to deliberately violate Clean Air Act emissions laws.  

Oil burning bunny

Oil burning bunny

That’s right, VW TDIs passed emissions tests because “defeat” software was programmed to stifle emissions when the cars were tested but allowed them to emit up to 40 times the legally allowed amount of potential carcinogens into the environment under normal use. This is a literal “dirty trick,” if ever there was. We’re painfully aware that at least three people took our solicited advice and bought or leased a “Clean Diesel” VW.

When they were honest

When they were honest

Volkswagen was a pioneer in equipping passenger cars with diesels for quite some time as photos of surviving diesel Rabbits, an appliance white sedan and beige pick up, attest.  After some quiet years, VW’s US diesel program roared back to life for the 2009 model year with the launch of the TDI “Clean Diesel.”  While, perhaps, not as polluting as the superannuated Rabbits seen here, we’ve found out they’re far from “clean.”

Pre-clean but honest

Pre-clean but honest

We are disappointed that VW engaged in egregious deception and fear that the “fix,” once vehicles are recalled and software is recalibrated,  will diminish performance and fuel economy.  Overnight, we’ve gone from fanboy status to major haters, a consequence of VW’s cheating, snookering consumers and despoiling the environment.   It all makes us yearn for the “good old days” when diesels weren’t marketed as “clean” by a campaign of overt lies.

If you’d like to drive down memory lane, we suggest “the highest mileage car in America,” the Volkswagen diesel for ’81 when they, perhaps, told some semblance of truth.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

MGee whiz

B that way

B that way

We happened upon this very presentable MG-B the other day in our supermarket parking lot.  It’s a ’73, one of the last that had chrome bumpers; later ones had to wear federally-mandated energy-absorbing ugly rubber snouts.  It made us nostalgic for our first car, a ’68 MG-B, the model year was the first in which the B, introduced in 1962, came equipped with shoulder belts.  Ours was blue and had wire wheels and was pretty snazzy when we bombed around Europe that summer when revolution was in the air.

What a breeze to drive!

What a breeze to drive!

Yes, the appeal of an open sports car piloted by a craven youth, pumped up on Gauloise cigarettes and the camaraderie of  student uprisings was an intoxicating mix.  It was a dream come true for a kid barely out of his teens — actually still in his teens at the beginning of that summer — but something of an illusion because, truth be told, the car was not very good.

Sweet, sweet '67

Sweet, sweet ’67

We should have realized something was up when we went over to the London facility where left hand drive, US safety standards-compliant (shoulder belts, etc.), MGs were delivered to Americans who had pre-purchased them.  It was both exciting and frightening to contemplate finding one’s way around London in a brand new sports car that we’d be driving on the “wrong” side of the road.  But gratification was delayed for reasons never explained.  We arrived at the appointed time for delivery and waited. And waited. And waited.  After three hours, our new “B” was presented and off we went to who-knows-where in those wild and wooly pre-GPS times.

Nice rack! (sorry)

Nice rack! (sorry)

We were loathe to drive it much around London since it was impossible to park even back then.  The matter of driving on the “wrong” side with a left-hand drive car made things especially daunting but, soon, we made our way across the channel — pre-chunnel, this was via ferry — and got to open up the car on the Autoroute.  No speed limit back then so, hot damn!, driving 110 mph with the top down proved to be both an exhilarating and enlightening experience.  Our wind whipped ‘Jewfro’ stood up on end as we charged through central France on our way to the promised land, La Côte d’Azur.  On the way, at breakneck speed, we learned an important lesson: the faster one goes the more fuel (premium) is consumed.  The ‘B’ was fitted with two SU carburetors, the pre-diluvian BMC B-series 1,800 cc motor that dated from the mid-1950s. It  churned out 95 hp and mileage was supposed to be around 25 mpg. The problem is that at full throttle, fuel intake rises precipitously and the tank held under 12 gallons so we had to endure costly fill ups every 120 miles or so.

C'est "C" bon!

MT-B GT: it’s a hardtop with a sort of back seat. Photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Amy Treco

That was our fault, not the car’s.  Deeper into our trip through the continent, a red light came on the dash; the owner’s manual led us to believe this indicated unequal pressure in the brake lines.  Losing one’s stopping ability in the middle of the Apennines seemed a tad reckless even for those of us for whom speed limits seemed pointless. Off we went to a local Innocenti (BMC’s proxy in Italy) service facility where the mechanics appeared amused about our talk of la pressione non è uguale tra i freni anteriori e posteriori. Because UK and European market MGs didn’t actually have a brake pressure inequality warning light, this was alien territory to our Innocenti innocents whose company we enjoyed in beautiful Orvieto.

As close to a biplane as you can get while staying on the ground

As close to a biplane as you can get while staying on the ground

Ultimately, we gave up on ever having a brake pressure warning light to which any heed was paid and, indeed, life was the better for it.  After Italy it was on to (then) Yugoslavia/today’s Croatia.  Less than 100Km north of Dubrovnik we chugged to an involuntary stop on an incline as we attempted to wend our way to Czechoslovakia.  This was the first notable instance of electrical failure, a trait that would become a hallmark of this otherwise very nice blue MG-B.

Roadster with removable top

Roadster with removable top – best of both worlds

A truck driver, attracted, one tends to assume, to the allure of an on board glamorous companion, stopped to see how he could help.  He whiped out a pocket knife and did a whole wire stripping number on the spark plug wires and scraped the breaker points in the car’s ignition system.  The car roared to life and we were back on our way to adventures in the land of Dubček and socialists gone gooey, pre-Soviet invasion. Our MG-B with UK plates made everyone assume we were British — they were oblivious to the left hand drive and our Yank origins.  “Hey, English, want change money?” was a recurring inquiry.  It was embarrassing to explain that we weren’t English and that we didn’t want to change money because there’s not all that much to buy with it.  On a dark, moonless night in Prague we drove up a street looking to connect with groovy Czechs at some bar or club and soon realized that the street ceased to exist but the tram tracks continued.  Our MG-B was high and dry, hung up on the above ground  tracks while, of course, there was an active street car, with bell clanging insistently, stuck directly behind us.  Before long, a small crowd had gathered and were kind enough to pick the MG up, six or seven on a side, and carry it off the tracks onto a surface that connected to a passable street.  Again, not the car’s fault but certainly something notable from a geopolitical point of view.

Best of both worlds

Nice rack! (even sorrier )

About three days before Soviet forces deposed Dubček and installed a puppet government, we found ourselves in West Germany when the MG-B came to an all too familiar halt on the side of  a four lane highway.  It was a re-run of our Croatian experience on a certain level but the cause was an accelerator pedal cable that had snapped, the pedal flush to floor.  Soon, a US Army vehicle pulled up and a grinning kid jumped out.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He was a helicopter mechanic from a nearby base.  He fixed the collapsed accelerator pedal with some — yes! — bailing wire and we were back on our way.

Falling in love again..

Falling in love again..

The car survived the streets of Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Amsterdam and back to Paris from which it was dispatched to the New World and a rendezvous with its ever hopeful  owner. Back in New York, things were going well with the car except for the time when it was started and flames shot out from under the motor.  Luckily, the firemen were busy doing something more worthwhile than saving a flaming MG.  The conflagration diminished in short order and the car continued to charm and vex.

Rubber noses aren't funny

Rubber noses aren’t funny (Amy Treco photo)

We drove it out to California — Berkeley, natch — and made a side visit to Madison to pick up a new set of points, condenser, ignition coil and rotor though we admit that we didn’t go there in the MG.  It was stuck on the side of the road in the Wisconsin Dells, 50 or so miles away.  Our trip to Mad City was in the chase car we were fortunate to have accompany us out west.  It was a VW bus, slow as molasses but, taking into account MG breakdowns, it registered a higher coast to coast average speed that the car whose corporate motto was “Safety Fast.”  Glad we didn’t have to test the former and, as noted, the latter only pertained intermittently.

Survivor!

Survivor!

Later, after another cross country trek, It broke down in a snowstorm in the middle of the wilds of New Jersey, necessitating a knock — how cliché! — on the door of a farm house since cell phones were decades away.  We’re honest when we tell you that absolutely no shotguns were involved in that episode. Ultimately, an exhaust system that detached in the middle of New York’s Columbus Avenue and some touch and go overheating adventures manifested during bumper-to-bumper jaunts to Jones Beach actually began to help it sink in that this wasn’t really such a good car.

It seemed like a consummate act of disloyalty to abandon and/or sell the car that had failed you on numerous occasions over the course of its short history.  In the end, reason, of a sort, prevailed and the blue MG was traded in on for a blue 1970 BMW 2002.  While the ink was till drying on the 2002 purchase agreement the MG showed up back in the new vehicle area at the BMW dealer.  Seems the used car manager realized the car had its — how shall we say? — shortcomings.  Our salesman was instructed to raise the purchase price of the BMW to compensate for precipitous and instantaneous depreciation of the MG that we had traded.  I took this as a sign that it really was right to get that glorious MG out of our lives.  I held my ground and threatened to walk since the contract had been unilaterally broken by the dealer and I was certainly in the legal right. It was not my concern that they had bought a pig, albeit a good looking one, in a poke (which must be some kind of dark garage).  A deal is a deal and so it was; the MG-B was, kicking and screaming, out of our lives.

Not so hot mess

Not-so hot mess

That’s the story of a first car, an MG, that provided, as they now say, some wonderful “teaching moments.”  These include to not go 110 miles per hour down a French Autoroute and expect to maintain your hairdo or win the Mobilgas Economy Run.  It’s also not a great idea to try to translate the English language owner’s manual (U.S. edition) into Italian while your car is on a lift and the staff is having a lunch with wine break. We also advise against driving at a high rate of speed in an East Bloc country on a road that turns into a trolley line.  We also recommend having both an on board fire extinguisher and several spare sets of critical ignition parts for inevitable need.

They tried, then they just kind of gave up

They tried, then they just kind of gave up

We also learned that when an MG-B, when it works, can be the source of great fun and excitement and lots of stories on which you’ll look back and wonder what the heck you were thinking.  OK, we remember: you were thinking “I must have a British sports car as soon as possible!”  That dream did come true and we survived it. We’re somewhat the wiser for the experience but probably not all that much.

We’re wildly nostalgic to see this ’67 MG-B that’s for sale in nearby Vero Beach, FL. You can get one for less than half the $12,900 asking price but it probably won’t be anywhere close to as nice.  If you’ve got a spare 18 minutes you might want to watch this mini-documentary about the rise and fall of the MG-B.  Get out the Kleenex.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.