Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Remains of the Dinosaur (Tatra T87)

As we found this car, I at once recalled Aesop’s fable: like the dog in the manger - can't use it themselves and won't let anyone else use it.

It all started last spring, when some guys turned to me in order to gain knowledge about their retro car. Judging by the first description, the finding seemed to be quite interesting.  When describing the appearance of the car, they mentioned the streamlined body and a massive vertical fin at the back of the car. They didn’t report anything about the package contents. Only few models of Bugatti and the Czech Tatra might have fit the description. I was burning with curiosity and decided to go and see what car it was.
As it appeared, my suppositions had been close to reality- it was the legendary Tatra T87. The first impression was simply indescribable.
Have you ever participated in excavation of prehistoric animals? It’s scary even to touch the bones, since they may collapse and turn into dust right in your hands. I had this very feeling when I was about to touch our “fossil animal”. The body (or what was left of it) was completely decomposed and devoid of any mechanical components and assemblies- no devices on the dashboard. 

There were only a couple of devices in the interior, which were shamelessly borrowed from the soviet GAZ -20 (apparently, a distant similarity in the exterior had affected the “upgrades”).  The owners swore that once, long ago, the car had arrived in the garden by its own (then, it seemed to have decided to self-destruct, but for some reason was unable to bring its obsession to the end). As it turned out, over the years, the idle car had had considerable popularity among the fans of making profit on someone else’s wealth. But the  “proud” owner of the Tatra, a person living in a dream world that had nothing to do with modern realities, always found a pretext to get rid of the bothersome dealers. Over time, however, people gradually lost the interest in the car, but the owner’s ambitions remained the same. The price he offered for the remains of his “dinosaur” was the height of absurdity, I even feel uncomfortable to discuss it here.

Tatra T87 is indeed a rare collection car. This luxury model was produced from 1939-1950. In all there were produced 3056 copies. The car had numerous revolutionary features for those years: an air cooled engine, independent suspension for all wheels, centralized lubrication system for chassis and steering components and, in some versions, a metal roof hatch and an additional head lamp that had mechanical-hydraulic drive synchronized with the steering wheel which was able to illuminate from beneath turns.
With all due respect to this venerable car, our boundless optimism, enthusiasm and the love for retro cars it is impossible to return it to its original appearance- so badly damaged it is.
The example of this Tatra may serve as a lesson for those who behave like “the dog in the manger”. The owner could have saved it just a few years ago, but he stupidly waited for the moment until it completely fell into decay.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Ghost-Car (Cadillac Eldorado) Part 2

After the death of Spartak his car was a pain in the neck to his children, since it was no longer safe to use it without the communication might of their father. In order to keep the car out of sight, Spartak’s relatives concealed it at a car park close to the cycle track. In spite of the fact that the cycle track was located right in the city center, it was the most appropriate place to shield the car from prying eyes.

By that time the original 6.4 liter V8 engine had already been replaced with a ZMZ-13 soviet engine, which had the same amount of cylinders. According to unverified data, local craftsmen managed to aggregate it with the native 4-speed “Hydra-Matic” automatic transmission.
It’s impossible to find out exactly how many years the Cadillac stood there idle. On the side of the old cycling track now there is a monotonous new building. Neither can we find old witnesses.
This story could have developed into another urban legend, if there hadn’t been a single “but”…
One day, walking through the back streets of the city in search of “car junk”, we came across the ghost-car and even managed to capture that great event by using the cameras of our phones. As you can see on the images, this is a Cadillac DeVille series 6300 in the modification 4-window sedan (index 6339B).
This is a modification of the year 1959 and only 12308 units were produced throughout the whole period of its production. The body has a length of almost 6 meters. And although it’s in a deplorable condition, it can still attract you with it charisma and make you feel that it was once a magnificent car.

Interesting is that when we saw the car, it had just appeared in the yard, and no-one had any idea who it belonged to or where it came from. The next day, we came back for our new discovery, in order to collect some information about it and its owner, but to our utter regret and astonishment, we found nothing but an empty space. The ghost-car had vanished without trace. I think this story might soon be continued…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Ghost-Car (Cadillac Eldorado) Part 1

It’s still unbelievable how in a tiny capital of a little country as ours, where almost all people know each other in person, unique cars can not only suddenly appear but also vanish without trace from it.

By using the phrase “unique cars”, we primarily think of classic cars, which couldn’t be widely spread in Armenia just because of geographical reasons. I guess the brightest representatives of this category are all the cars of American origin. No matter whether it was a luxury Cadillac or Lincoln, a unique Buick or Pontiac, a gorgeous Chevrolet or Oldsmobile, all these cars were considered as disgusting legacy of the malicious capitalistic regime, and the rare holders of such cars were constantly under the close surveillance of KGB. For those reasons, it was almost impossible to see a foreign car on public roads during the Soviet period.
It was rumored that in the early 60’s there was an airport employee named Spartak , who had the courage to drive his Cadillac in the soviet Yerevan. As far as I know, no mere mortal could get a job at soviet airports, and our hero was among those few special ones. The black Cadillac obviously stood out on the background of endless stream of indistinguishable soviet cars, thus attracting the attention of countless envious people.
But times have changed and what was once considered as a “forbidden fruit”, now, depending on your financial capabilities, is quite accessible without the fear of political repression.  But, unfortunately, the trouble is that no material thing lasts forever, as well as our hero with his gorgeous vehicle.

To be continued...

Monday, August 11, 2014

American dream: Ford mustang 1969

I guess we all have our dreams and each of those dreams has a chance to be fulfilled. Of course, on the way to realization, there comes a moment when the dream transforms into a goal; we get entirely motivated and voilà- here we’ve got the result!
Now, you might ask, ‘what’s the point of such a lyrical digression?’

The underlying reason for this is that our today’s hero belongs to those motorists, who have spent years of exertions to achieve his dream.  His subject of desire was the first generation Ford Mustang, which was produced by the American company over the period between 1964 and 1973. It was the first mass- and relatively affordable sports car, which revolutionized the US automobile market and became the absolute leader in the category of best selling car throughout the whole period of production. If you are a true mustang admirer, you must be addicted to the first generation model. 
Over the years, the Mustang has become part of American history, like Coca Cola, the Marlboro Man or ripped Wrangler Jeans. Naturally, this legendary model is admired across all continents of the earth. And lo and behold our hero also got infected with “Mustang Disease”. He dreamt of the great-grandfather of the all American muscle cars since an early childhood! In spite of 10 and a half thousand kilometers that separate Armenia from the US, his dream came true.

I won’t go into details about the hardships and miseries in our little country- there came the very day when a dream turned into a goal- the time had come to submit a bid on an internet auction. The necessary lot was in the state of Texas. It was a carefully restored Mustang- hardly anyone could have resisted the temptation of its glittering bright orange. The price was also quite affordable. The deal ended positively and there remained nothing but to wait for the happy moment of meeting the car in Yerevan, which took more than a month. At the beginning of the year 2013, the orange Mustang found its new home.
Now a few words about the Mustang: the car was manufactured in 1969. It’s equipped with a straight-six carburetor 4.1 L engine, which produces 157 HP at 4000 rpm. The torque produced by this engine is 240 Nm at 2600 rpm. Transmission: 3-speed automatic.
The lucky guy, whose dream came true in front of the all people of Yerevan, intensely exploits his car. The orange Mustang can be seen every day, basically, in the center of Yerevan. It’s impossible to pass by this piece of art indifferently. Perhaps, that’s why the owner gets confused by pulling out scraps of paper with sale proposals and other nonsense under the wiper every day.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Powerful Car for Powerful People (Audi Q7)

Not having taken the wheel yet, I started to discuss two things with a friend of mine: the beautiful appearance and high price of the Q7. Externally, the Q7 is really impressive: powerful, sporty, with an expressive radiator grille.

 The price is also impressive and you may ask yourself at once, ' but isn't it a bit too much?'. To find an answer to this question, we need a proper examination of the interior and driving qualities of this huge SUV.
The first and undeniable advantage was shown to me right at the sales center: thanks to magic air-suspension, the road clearance was lifted from 205 mm to 245 mm! Believe me that was very impressive. The air suspension has one more useful function: for a convenient loading/unloading, you can significantly lower the rear clearance. By the way, the rear door is equipped with an automatic electric drive. As for internal decoration and trimmings, there was nothing to carp at- everything was at the highest level. The only thing is that the middle  console ,in front of the back seats, looks a bit rough with its dual air conditioning ducts but without 4-zone climate control. However, this little shortcoming is applicable only to the configuration of this Q7. It was very comfortable to use the multiplex interface of the MMI.

Audi Q7 shares the same 4.2 FSI V8 engine with Audi R8. This engine is so perfectly balanced that produces both great power at high speeds (engine capacity- 350 hp, 0-100 km/h in 7.4 seconds) and an excellent rpm at low speeds (85% of the maximum torque was already achieved at 2000 rpm).

Fuel consumption (for such a volume) is also pretty good- 19.5 /100 km in town. The car is aggressive in everything starting from the moment when you start the engine, so you needn't rev up the engine to the full to feel it. I tried a Land Cruiser with a 4.0 engine soon after the test. Naturally, these are quite different cars. However I couldn't get the same extreme form the LC. But the biggest surprise for me was that the Q7 demonstrated pure characteristics of a sedan in acceleration and maneuvers (amazing lightness and ease on the turnings). The proprietary Quadro System with redistribution of torque traction and self-locking interaxiall differential make the car more predictable both on and off-road.
I could write a separate novel about the equipment of the Q7- the car is equipped with almost everything. Therefore, having driven the Q7, I can confidently say, 'Yes, it is fairly worth its price'.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

For Folks (VW Passat, Part2)

I think the only downside of this engine is its acute dependence on fuel quality. The TSI engine has also been criticized by some specialists for a sluggish nature; however this characteristic is highly subjective. In fact, the acceleration of 160hp 1.8L engine was far more impressive than that of 2.0L FSI.

Frankly, in the normal mode of operation, the Passat seemed somewhat depersonalized. Yes, the acceleration was still good and the high torque of 250Nm at 1500rpm allows you to quickly reach the desired speed. But the switch to a higher gear is a little earlier than I would like. It’s okay when stuck in city traffic, but outside the city, I had to part with precious seconds. The difference between the modes normal and sport is so significant, that it seems as if you changed not only the position of the gear stick, but also the car. The process of gear switch was longer and the engine sound got new and higher colorations. The alliance between the turbo engine and 6-speed automatic transmission looks self-sufficient and perfectly viable, so you needn’t worry about the fact that the Passat TSI is not equipped with the more sophisticated DSG transmission. It’s true that the ordinary transmission doesn’t change the gears with lightning speed- there are some tiny gaps when the gears are changed, but it’s just nitpicking.
Fuel efficiency: although the manufacturer’s 11.3liters in-town is slightly different from reality, it’s still not a bad result.
I particularly appreciated the silence and vibration isolation of the salon. In fact, the FSI wasn’t noisy either, but this one is quiet as a mouse. 
The brakes are responsive and reliable: the pads instantly dig into brake discs confidently slowing the sedan. But the system lacks more informativeness.
On bumpy roads the chassis of the Passat demonstrated an optimal rigidity and didn’t allow the body to shake, and at the same time, it was so soft that those potholes remained unnoticed for me.
I wouldn’t say that this Passat has undergone radical changes- it has just been improved through a new engine: slightly faster, a little quieter and certainly more fuel efficient.