And now for something totally
There has been a rush of folks telling me they have cars for
sale, and before you ask, last week’s Audi has gone already. However, this
little gem has also arrived in the For Sale basket - a Citroen, of uncertain
age, and even more uncertain parentage, but most probably an immediate post-WWII
vintage. The plate says it is an 11BL, but it is certainly no ‘ordinary’
Citroen. Those interested in what can be done, while retaining the ‘period’
look, keep reading. Dyed in the wool Traction Avant aficionados should, however,
move to the next item!
Bodywise, from outside the car, it retains those unmistakable
Citroen lines, with the long louvred bonnet and sloping tail, though I do find
the imitation wire wheels a jarring note. The flagpole on the bonnet proudly
flying a Union Jack could also be considered an anti-French snub, but the
proudly British current owner (and seller) does not see this as an oxymoron.
Flags have to be replaced every six months, as they get a little tatty and
Open the doors, and immediately you can see something is
‘wrong’, but the end result is ‘right’. High-backed late model seats,
covered in a buttoned velour trim, continue throughout the interior and up into
the roof lining. Yet it somehow does not look out of place. The dash is also not
original, but period instruments have been used, so there is nothing that looks
out of place, though the Italian Nardi wheel, certainly is!
Now to some of the mechanical aspects. Whilst Citroen’s
plugged on with front wheel drive, long before Sir Alec Issigonis came up with
the Mini concept, this particular Citroen is now Traction Arriere! Yes, it is
still front engined, but now rear wheel drive. And before you wonder just how
this was done with an 11BL engine, a previous owner, used the 11BL engine for an
oyster lease, and fitted a 2 litre Mitsubishi engine, mated to a Mitsubishi auto
gearbox leading to a live rear axle on leaf springs. Purists are now running in
horror, threatening to string up the heretic, but if you stop for a moment, the
running gear now makes a lot of sense. A late model engine and drive train has
the potential of making this a daily driver, not something taken out only on
fine weekends after a few hours of tinkering to get it running each time.
The ‘modifications’ do not stop there. With a larger and
heavier lump under the bonnet, the front suspension was also changed, to
incorporate VW torsion bar suspension, assisted by McPherson struts as well.
Since it now had the ability to travel much faster than
Monsieur Citroen had imagined, the retardation is now done by Toyota disc
brakes, with power assist. And to really bring this vehicle out of yesterday, it
has air-conditioning, though when I was taken for a ride, the owner had wound
the hinged front windscreen out, and we were treated to dynamic forced air
(without the conditioning)!
It is something of an anachronism, but one that can be used
as daily transport, which the current owner has done, and in fact this car is
well known in the Pattaya area.
Reason for sale? He now has around nine dogs, and the car is
not suitable for the enlarging ‘family’. He is looking for offers around
580,000 baht, and so if you think you would be interested in owning a rather
unique piece of Thai motoring history, contact me and I will pass on contact
details to the owner, but definitely no tyre-kickers, or pukka French gentry!
I almost forgot to mention - the car does have a tape player,
complete with French music! Ask nicely and I’m sure you could score the
Marsellaise or the Bouillabaisse or Edith Piaf or something appropriate.
Another (sort of) French car!
Word has come through that the Bugatti Veyron 16/4 is being
built, and has indeed had a slow test run. During the outing on the VW test
track, it clocked over 400 kph! That will make it the fastest production road
car in the world.
So is this a first for France? Yes and no! Bugatti, the
famous French car manufacturer from pre WWII, is these days owned by Volkswagen!
Yes, the German manufacturer bought the Bugatti name in 1998.
After making much noise that they would produce a 16 cylinder
quad-turbo engined car that would do 400 kmh, they have now proved all the
doubting Thomases were wrong. But it comes at a price. In Europe it comes with a
1 million Euro price tag. That’s around 50 million baht on straight exchange.
Now factor in the usual small 300 percent import duty, freight and a little tea
money, and I think the price would be around 250-300 million baht, which is
nothing, if you’ve just ordered the odd bomb scanner for security at home.
The new Bugatti engine delivers a cool 750 kW, which is more
than Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F1, and being all-wheel drive, the time for
0-100 kph is a staggering 2.9 seconds. That’s FA 18 Tom Cat jet fighters on
full boost sort of performance!
Bugatti claims that the test car, one of 11 prototypes
developed, achieved the magic 400 clicks several times on the test track. One
source also claims that to haul the car down from 400 kph will need huge brakes,
and it will still take 750 meters before it comes to a standstill.
There were some (very) rich people who were prepared to put
some money down for one of these road-going projectiles, but the delivery date
has been pushed out from the end of 2003 to the end of 2005. And you thought
that a five month wait for a Toyota Fortuner was bad!
To maintain its exclusivity, the factory will only make 300
of the supercars over the next six years. And in case you think it might be fun
to have one here, it will only come in Left Hand Drive. I think I’d rather
have a Mercedes CLS, a GT3 Porsche, a Bentley coupe and an Elfin sports, and
I’d still have around 200 million baht left to make garages for them all.
By the way, the (currently) most expensive car in Thailand, the Maybach 62,
is being trialled as the resort run-about at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi
Resort in Chiang Mai! And before you go rushing off to book a room for the
night, at last count the cheapest room was something like USD 500. (With air,
The Lexus is still number 1 for quality
The Initial Quality Study from J.D. Power and Associates in
the US has Lexus maintaining its number 1 ranking of quality after 90 days of
ownership with a score of 81 problems per 100 vehicles, which was slightly
better than their last year’s winning figures. The industry average was 118
problems per 100 vehicles.
Lexus SC 430
Toyota had the top-rated vehicle in 10 of 18 segments, and
the Lexus SC 430 was the highest-rated vehicle in the study at 54 problems per
100 vehicles. The factory in Tahara, Japan, which builds the Lexus GS 300/430
and LS 430, was again the top-rated factory for quality. The public idea that if
you have a Toyota you will have trouble free motoring is world-wide. And the Big
3 wonder how did Toyota manage to take over the planet? With all the financial
strife that GM and Ford are in at present, and with Toyota making a healthy
profit each year, I wonder if it is time to review the ratings?
Hummer, which finished last in the 2004 study with a score of 173 problems
per 100 vehicles, rose to a tie for 10th place with Hyundai this year.
Hummer’s 2005 score was 110 problems per 100 vehicles.
RAAT Championships at Bira Circuit
Some of you have asked for the Bira calendar, so here you
are. The following is the ‘newest’ calendar for the RAAT Championships held
at the Bira circuit. It is presented with bated breath and all good faith, so
don’t shoot me if it changes!
SuperCar championships also at Bira
The Super Car people are quite separate promoters, so they
have their own timetable too. So pencil in these as well.
Last week, I asked what company was the first to sell over
1,000,000 cars in 12 months, in the world? It was Ford in the USA with 1,216,792
delivered in 1922. Which was easy, judging by the number of responses.
So to this week, and let’s stay with cars manufactured. The
first European company to deliver more than one million cars in one year, did so
in 1962, 40 years after Ford! Which company was this?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]