Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Magnificent German (Part2)

Over the next few years, the company managed to produce a range of new cars with the flagship model 326. The 326 was BMW's first four-door sedan and was first introduced in 1926 at Berlin Motor Show. The streamlined shapes of the car were considered as a modern design in those times, and therefore, the car was publicly accepted later in 1950. One of the features of the 326 was its box-section frame, which could easily be modified for next generation models. The torsion bar rear suspension, inspired by the dead axle suspension of the Citroën Traction Avant, and the hydraulic braking system, the first to be used on a BMW car, were also innovations.
Styled by Peter Schimanowski, the 326 was offered as a four-door sedan and as a two- or four-door cabriolet. All these allowed the 326 to rank with Mercedes Benz, the owners of which were basically the rich. In spite of its heavy weight (1125kg), the car could be accelerated to 115 km/h with a fuel consumption of 12.5L/100km. The “newborn” German was equipped with 2L six-cylinder engine with a capacity of 50 hp. This impressive performance was supplemented by the quality and comfort of the saloon: there was a foldable armrest between the rear seats, the front seats were adjustable in all directions, the front doors were equipped with electric side windows and there were an ashtray and a lighter on the dashboard. The first electronically controlled windshield wipers and turn lights were also practically applied on this car. All this guaranteed superior comfort for the driver, and it is not a coincidence that BMW’s cars were and are inspired with the idea of “to create a car for a driver”, in contrast with Mercedes, whose main ideology was ” to create a car for a passenger”. Later on, the 326 was recognized as the best German prewar car, an icon of comfort and luxury, which was unlike to BMW’s sporting character.
In other words, the 326 became the “guarantor “of BMW’s future fame and success.
The model I came across was brought to Yerevan after the war, most probably, as a war trophy. It is notable that, not being a cabriolet, the car has a folding textile roof (convertible) and is obviously different from the base model, which indicates that this is a custom-made model. Unfortunately, there is very little left from the original.

To be more exact, the only original part is the body. Both the chassis and the interior are totally changed and we’ve got no opportunity to glance even the slightest trace of the one-time German luxury.
The present owner has done everything in his power to restore this Bavarian miracle. No doubt, it will be on the road for a long time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Magnificent German

There are some cars which are not picked out by the owner-instead, the car itself predetermines the choice and highlights the characteristic peculiarities of its owner.  One such car is BMW. Once having owned a BMW, you are sure to become a great admirer of this car forever.

This legendary brand has been amazing the whole world with its innovations for more than 90 years; the appearance of each new model is a grand occasion for all motorists.
It all started at the beginning of the 20th century, when Germans, on the northern outskirts of Munich, set up two aircraft engine companies. The demand for those engines was enormous particularly during the First World War. In 1917, both of these industrial organizations were registered as BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke) and received a blue and white logo resembling spinning propellers against the background of sky and this logo is decorating the cars of the Bavarian car manufacturer to this very day.
Being a factory of a country that lost the war, BMW fell into dire financial crises. The manufacture of aircraft engines was banned. However, the way out was soon found: at first, the company branched out into producing motorcycle engines; and later on it set up the production of motorcycles.

In 1923, BMW introduced the R32, its first vehicle.
In 1929, BMW launched the mass production of its first car, the 3/PS Dixie, which in fact was the same as English Austin specially modified for German conditions. 
The birth of Dixie marked the dawn of a new era of German automobile industry. In 1939, another legendary model, the BMW 303, was produced. This small family car was the first BMW equipped with a six-cylinder engine and the first BMW with “kidney grille” associated with the brand. The platform of the 303 was used for several other BMW cars, including the BMW 309, a four-cylinder version of the 303, the BMW 315, a 1.5 liter version of the 303 which replaced it in 1934 and was built until 1937, the BMW 319, a 1.9 liter version of the 303, and the BMW 329, a development of the 319 with styling based on the newer, larger BMW 326, that shortly replaced the 319 in 1937.
To be continued…

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The German Captain in Yerevan

Every time, when it comes to retro cars, the technical characteristics are kind of passed into the background, because people are more curious about the history, owners and hard restoration way of a car.
Our today's "hero" is the Opel Kapitän, manufactured in 1938.
The car was brought to Yerevan during The Second Wold War, when Armenian guerrillas transported German war prisoners to the front. After the war, the car stood idle in the garages of National Salvation Committee for several years. In 1953, at a price of 1500 Rubles, the car was acquired by a friend of the present owner's father, who used the car for 30 years. In 1983 he gave his glorious car to his friend's son and since then, the car has been faithfully serving to its new owner.

The Kapitän is a German middle class car. It was produced from 1938 to 1970 at one of the branches of Adam Opel AG, a subsidiary of the General Motors Company. The Kapitän was the best-selling product of the American automotive giant in Europe and the last prewar "representative" of the Opel. In 1938 the car was first introduced for the domestic market. The following Spring, it was shown at The International Geneva Motor Show. In the Autumn of 1940, before the civil automobile industry was suspended, the company managed to sell 25374 cars. The Kapitän was produced in three versions: a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and cabriolet. The price was ranging from 3575 to 4325 Reichsmarks depending on the body type.
The car had a progressive design for its time; besides it was equipped with independent front suspension and had a monocoque body, which made it one of the best cars of mass production in Europe. The Kapitän was equipped with a straight-six 2L engine with a capacity of 55 HP and 3-speed manual transmission. The headlights had an interesting six-sided structure.

The present logo in the shape of lightning hadn't been created yet,the bonnet was embellished with a rocket-looking logo instead. During the war years, this reliable and unexacting car was appreciated not only by Germans,but also by the officer personnel of the opponent. After the war, thanks to the support of GM, Opel was the first German automobile company who relaunched the mass production of the cars. It was decided to restore the production of the Kapitän, but there was a major obstacle: the command center of the allied countries had banned Germans to manufacture engines with a capacity of more than 1.5 liters ( the engine of this car had a capacity of 2.5L).

And only on October 1948, when the allied countries weakened the control over the conquered territories, the postwar generation of the Kapitän was introduced. The car was practically no different form its predecessor, except for the headlights. The six-shaped structure was replaced by round a round shape. The car was no longer produced in three body versions-the only modification was a 4-door sedan.
In 1950 the car was equipped with a new transmission with a gearstick placed on the steering column. The postwar production of the Kapitän was extended for many years and the car became one of the most respectable models of the company.

As for "our" Kapitän, it has round headlights, although it was produced before the war. Presumably, one of the owners had a difficulty to get the six-shaped ones.
This car was known to Soviet car enthusiasts not only from war movies, but also from the streets of their native cities. Thousands of Kapitäns were brought to Soviet Union as a war trophy, one of which is now beautifying the streets of Yerevan.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Leader of Maserati Tribe (Part2)

As soon as I reached the testing track, I started my “experiment” with an acceleration test. The 4.2L 400hp V8 engine supported by the 6-speed automatic ZF, according to manufacturer’s data, can accelerate the 2365-kg car up to 275 km/h; the speed of 100km/h is reachable within 5.5 seconds. In my test, the car did 100km/h in 7.1 seconds, which was slower by 1.6 seconds. However, there were some objective grounds for such a result: there were three passengers in the car during the test, the poor quality of the track surface, and the most important, the car had been used for 8 years! It's true that nowadays some executive sedans have a better acceleration performance, but the concept of a supercar implies not only mind-bubbling acceleration, but also "supermaneuverability".

In the latter aspect, I really doubt that the Quattroporte has any serious rivals. You only need to open the hood to realize the super potential of the car-the front part was half empty, the mighty V8 was placed in the deepest section, behind the front axle. The transmission was placed closer to the rear axle, which makes the balance of the car closer to some super cars with central-located engines.
It's worth noting how easily this heavy car took the turns and bravely resisted all my crazy tricks. During the moose test ( at 60km/h and 90km/h) the car was good and displayed stable dynamics. I was slightly disappointed at the braking characteristics of the Quattroporte- after accelerating the car to 200km/h, I jammed on the brakes, and before stopping completely, it travelled a braking distance of 30 meters. I think, for this car, the result of 25 meters would have been more appropriate. But, let's not forget about the above mentioned objective grounds!
The car is unique, mesmerizingly beautiful and at the same time aggressive. It's no coincidence that the Quattroporte aroused the interest of such people as Michael Schumacher, one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, and Gianni Agnelli, an Italian magnate and principal shareholder of Fiat, and found its level among their cars. This proves that this Maserati can be perfectly used both as a sportscar and an executive sedan.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Leader of Maserati Tribe

This unusual car is a rare spectacle on the streets of Yerevan. It can never be mixed up with German, English or American cars. This is a 4-door sports sedan (when translated from Italian, the word “quattroporte” means four-door), the production of which was launched in 2003. The one I will be testing was “born” in 2006.

Everything in this car, starting from design, which is made by the outstanding specialists of Pininfarina, to technical equipment, makes you fall in love with it at first sight. The exterior of the car is a real masterpiece of the modern automobile design-it’s ideal, unique and exquisite in every detail.
Until recently, the Quattroporte acted as a black sheep in the executive class-this car was designed with a primary idea of comfort, but in fact, the Quattroporte was originally a sports car in a “costume” of an executive sedan.
The car is equipped with an engine by Ferrari, a robotized Duo Select  transmission with speed switches at the core,a transaxle layout (the gearbox is transferred to the rear axle for a better weight distribution), a stiff suspension and with a sharp steering wheel-this set seems to be slightly radical for an executive car,doesn't it? There is also a monstrous version Sport GT, which I really hope to get some day to test it out.
However, comfort was sacrificed to the pronounced sports character of the car, which hindered the sales of the executive sedan on the US market, which was a top priority for Maserati. The majority of wealthy buyers are of course satisfied with the elegance of the interior,melodiousness of the engine and the unique appearance of the Quattroporte, but, at the same time, they get exasperated at the jerky gear box. I must say that throughout the time of production of the car, the specialists attempted to improve the algorithm of the Duo Select and succeeded in doing so. However, when compared with the automatic gearbox, even with the simplest one, the Duo Select is obviously inferior in respect of smooth running. Finally,the constructors of Maserati invented the six-speed automatic transmission ZF. Externally, the version with ZF is no different from the ordinary Quattroporte.

The only visible difference is in the salon, between the front seats: instead of the little joystick Dual Select, you can see the gracefully decorated full-fledged  selector of the automatic transmission. By the way, I didn't see any Sport Mode indication on the slit of the gear selector. It turns out that the Sport Mode is activated through a separate button on the central console. The active dampers also automatically shifted to Sport Mode through this button.
To be continued…

Monday, May 12, 2014

Maximal Extreme in a Minimal Size (Part 2)

According to factory data, the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 115 hp at 6000 rpm- this "little monster", accompanied by a six-speed automatic gearbox, accelerates the car to 100km/h in 10 seconds- the maximal speed is 190 km/h. Although the car was manufactured in 2004, my test showed that the above mentioned technical data, thanks to the highest quality of the details and the adoption of new technologies during the assemblage, is still valid. Now, I am starting to realize, why the Mini is such an expensive car for its class- the price for a used Mini ranges from 3.500.000 to 5.500.000 AMD in Armenia.

The car pleasantly surprises with dynamic behavior-the acceleration up to 4000 rpm is simply excellent, after which it slightly slows down.
The automatic transmission also makes a positive impression. It's slower than the mechanical one, but only slightly-the gears are shifted with minimal delays.
Now, let's get down to riding characteristics. The controllability is excellent-the steering wheel was highly informative and responsive to my commands. No matter how much sharp is a turn, the car corners perfectly, without deviating from the path. I even disabled the CBC and made a couple of crazy drifts, but, all the same, the sense of control over the car never left me. I think this effect is mainly caused by the low position of the seats and lowered center of gravity, which makes the body of the car almost touch the surface of the road. It’s true, the Mini has an outstanding controllability and “respectfully executes” all the commands of the driver; however, it requires the same approach and properties towards itself.

Interestingly, the car has almost no rival on the market. Very few automobile manufacturers produce “toy cars”, which, actually, is the Mini. At the moment, I can only recall the Fiat 500 built on the basis of the Panda. The French may also have their Mini in the future, if they succeed in reincarnating the legendary Citroen “Deux Chevaux”.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Citroen DS found in a garage

A beautiful Citroen DS is found today in Yerevan.A man from Yerevan bought this car in Moscow, which used to be the car of a French consul, and took it to Armenia. Unfortunately, he passed away about 14 years ago. Now his sons decided to sell the car.
The engine and transmission are said to be in a good condition.The car only needs body work and saloon repairing.

Hope someone will buy this beauty and take it to the road!
More photos are available in our page on Facebook

Maximal Extreme in a Minimal Size

Never try to compare the Mini with, let's say, Fiat Punto or Daewoo Matiz, because, in spite of its size, this car is capable of astonishing you with some features that are only characteristic of real super cars. For instance, can you remind of any car of this class which would be equipped with multilink independent rear suspension? Don't even try-there is none.
The front axle is built on the McPherson suspension strut principle. Of course, the Mini has ABS and CBC (Cornering Brake control) electronic systems. Besides, there is a range of brand ESC (Electronic Stability Control) systems. Optionally, you will be offered 16- or even 17-inch wheels. The latter are set under the car which I am going to test.
Under the bonnet there is a "power installation" called Pentagon, which is the joint development of BMW and Chrysler. Interesting is that these engines are manufactured in far Brazil, whereas the car is produced in the UK, in Oxford. It's not a secret that since 1994, the Mini has belonged to BMW group. Although the BMW has been producing mainly rear-wheel-drive cars, the "my" Mini is equipped with front-wheel drive, the advantages and disadvantages of which I I'll try to figure out during the test drive.

Prima facie, the car reminds of a toy, and as I saw it, the first question that crossed my mind was if a tall passenger could squeeze into the car. At nearly right angle opening long doors allow front passengers to easily get in and feel quite comfortable in the inside. As for back passengers, I’d rather refrain from making any comments in order not to mar my overall positive impressions of the car. Neither can you make much use of the dummy trunk, the volume of which, without folding down the rear seat back, is only 150L.

I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the beautifully trimmed interior-in terms of ergonomics, I have nothing but praise for the Mini. The only thing that aroused my criticism is the wing mirror-it's too small and almost useless.

The round tachometer is situated immediately in front of the driver seat; the huge "scale plate" of the speedometer is placed just above the central console, thus enabling back passengers to witness the impressive performance and outstanding dynamics of the car.

To be continued…

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hudson Terraplane: A Story About a Real American Car (Part2)

By the way, the name of the car is mistakenly associated with the river that flows through eastern New York.
In those years, as the whole America was starting to move on wheels, the company made a healthy profit on its first Hudson Model 20 Roadster. The car was equipped with a 4-cylinder 20 hp engine, which was able to accelerate the car up to 80 km/h. The price of this model was 900 dollars, slightly more expensive than the famous Ford T, but its technical features were no way inferior to those of much more expensive cars. In 1917 the company established the Essex affiliate with the aim of manufacturing light engine models. However, in 1922 they merged, when their production volume equalized.

Due to rapidly growing demand for inexpensive cars, the Hudson-Essex group gained mass popularity and was the third in the US market, after such giants as Ford and Chevrolet.
Soon the company started the manufacture of 6-cylinder engine expensive cars, which were preferred by such famous people as the US president Herbert Hoover, the millionaire Vanderbilt and Enrico Caruso. They particularly appreciated the conservatism of the car. Whereas, by the 20s, the cars had already received round shapes, the Hudson was still producing square shape bodies, because they were easy and cheap to manufacture, which positively affected the price of the cars. Thus, people were able to buy a car at a relatively reasonable price, which was no worse than expensive Cadillacs, Buicks, etc. in 1921, the global automotive industry experienced a postwar recession, but Hudson managed to cope with all the problems and even lowered the prices. In 1929, Hudson set a record by selling 300962 cars.

During the Prohibition-era, the Hudson was in its heyday and it is most likely that the kings of clandestine trade of alcohol such as Al Capone were on Hudsons when chased by the police.
In 1919 the company unveiled the first Essex model, which in 1932 was renamed as Terrraplane. The car proudly bore this name until 1938. The technical performance, indeed, justified the aviation name Terraplane-this “ground aircraft” was equipped with 3.5L V8 engine and had fantastic dynamics.
In 1930s the car met a couple of technical solutions, which have been applicable to this very day. Firstly, it was the gearshift system “Electric Hand” by Bendix corporation- a modern floor gear stick, which was additionally manageable with a lever under the dashboard, secondly, the Rhythmicride   (radial safety control), which was intended to secure the car from drifts and shocks.
In 1938, due to financial purposes, the name Terraplane disappeared and the car was named simply Hudson.

The Hudson, in 1940, was equipped with front indipendent  suspension and was declared as the safest and the most reliable vehicle of US.
In 1954, after a decade of almost unremarkable activity, the company was aqcuired by Nash-Kelvinator Corporation to form  the American Motors Corporation, which ,three years later, was renamed Rumbler.
Here comes the end of the short but eventful history of the company that was the creator of the one and only Terraplane in Yerevan.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hudson Terraplane: A Story About a Real American Car

The American car named Hudson Terraplane used to have a very reasonable price, and therefore after careless exploitation, it was doomed to be thrown to junkyard.  But the destiny of our “hero” was quite different, probably because it was specially designed for a US ambassador in Germany. It is reasonable to assume that an embassy car enjoyed incomparably better conditions and wasn’t used too much.
As for how the Hudson appeared in Armenia and how was its “odyssey”, is an interesting story which told me the owner of the car Smbat Balayan.

The Second World War was about to come to an end.  The Armenian legendary 89th Tamanyan Rifle-Division commanded by General Nver Safaryan was among those who invaded Berlin first. The General’s driver came across this beautiful car in ruins of the US Embassy in Berlin and reported on the find to the general. The car, as a war trophy, was taken to Russia and then to Armenia. The General was said to be in love with this “belle”. It was not only fantastic in appearance, but also had some revolutionary innovations for that time: an automatic transmission, electronically convertible roof, heating, powerful engine, top speed of 200km/h, etc.
Soviet car factories wanted the General to provide the car for technical researches and after numerous talks and attempts at persuasion, the General agreed to sell only the engine of the car, after which his love for the car seemed to have cooled and he gave it to his son. Afterwards, the car changed many owners who apparently didn’t treat it in a proper manner, since it reached to its present owner in an awfully worn-out condition. It was Mr. Safaryan’s immense persistence that did not allow the car to rest somewhere in a town dump. After hard restoration works for 7 years, the car got its present look. Of course, particularly in our country, it was almost impossible to find all the original spare parts and details for a car which had gone down in history. The majority of missing parts were either recreated manually or replaced from other retro cars.
Now I’ll try to give some insight into the history of this car.

The Hudson Motor Car Company was founded in 1909 by two prominent men: Joseph Hudson, a Detroit department store owner and founder of Hudson's department store, who provided the necessary capital and gave permission for the company to be named after him and Howard Coffin, a talented engineer and the owner of a little car factory, who had great plans but little financial possibilities. The company was named after the magnate not for the reason that money could dictate terms but simply for marketing purposes-we all know what the word coffin means and it is hardly imaginable that a car named Coffin could have a success.
To be continued...