A Most Thorough Survey of Proper Motor Cars at British Car Day 2013

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This past weekend the Larz Anderson Auto Museum held it’s annual British Car Day, one of the top three best attended events during the summer. Each year the Brookline, Massachusetts-based museum holds over two dozen lawn events on its scenic grounds, with German, British and Italian Car Days being the most popular events. Last week Kamil and I browsed the field during the museum’s German car day, finding a good candidate for the Hooniverse Mobile Headquarters in the form of a Mercedes-Benz bus that formerly transported the Swiss hockey team before being converted to a rather swank motorhome. But our finances were tight that day so we settled for a couple matchbox cars and a 1:43 Renault 5 Turbo Rallye RACE car.

This past Sunday the Larz Anderson museum opened its gates in the most cordial, gentlemanly manner to sporting and unsporting British Motor Cars alike, under a merciless sun and 38 degree centigrade temperatures. No Motor Cars ended up overheating to the best of my knowledge, but some small dogs were seemingly stricken ill with bouts of Coma. The selection of Motor Cars was very eclectic, with everything from MGs to Aston Martins to Jaguars in attendance. In addition, there were a number of Jag-you-ares on the field, and a Jag-wire or two.

The 1997 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Mulliner Park Ward Motor Car above caught my eye, attracting quite a bit of attention from the crowds. Putting aside for the moment the question of just who would order a vermillion over white Rolls-Royce in 1997, this machine oozed quality, and not hydraulic fluids, which is always a plus when it comes to these cars. The weight of the doors alone and the materials used seemed like it would make the doors bullet-resistant even before any actually armor was added. And this is effectively one of the last Silver Spurs built before the debut of the Arnage and the, uhh…Silver Fang? Silver Spoon? Silver Seraph? Anyhow, let’s take a look a what  didn’t break down on the way to the show turned up this year, along with a mystery car at the bottom. Winner gets a jar of original Lucas electric wiring smoke, hermetically preserved since 1983.

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Misselwood Concours Preview: 1976 GAZ 24 Volga

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There is no getting around it: the GAZ 24 is a rare sight on our roads. For every GAZ in the US, there are approximately ten Tatras, which puts that into perspective. I mean, when was the last time you saw a Tatra anyway? Not counting the one we saw last week at Greenwich Concours’ Bonhams auction. And, umm, not counting the two that we featured last year on Hooniverse. And not counting the Tatra I am probably going to see tomorrow.

The 1976 GAZ 24 above appeared at Misselwood Concours d’Elegance in 2011, where it attracted quite a bit of attention from the crowds, as you might expect. And the 2013 edition of Misselwood Concours is just around the corner, so it’s not too early to start making plans.  The concours will take place on July 28th on the grounds of the Misselwood estate at Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts. And with the untimely demise of the Fairfield County Concours as well as the Newport Concours, Misselwood has emerged as a popular event during the second half of the summer. And given it’s spectacular location, right on the cliffs overlooking Beverly Harbor and Salem Sound, with the city of Boston visible in the distance, it’s easy to see why this event has grown so much during its first three years. Now let’s take a look at this Volga from Misselwood 2011.

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Diecast Delights: Wartburg 353 Pickup

Jay Ramey June 20, 2013 Diecast Delights

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Eastern Bloc states weren’t big fans of small commercial vehicles, despite whatever impression Hollywood films may give you. The reason was quite simple, small businesses that would need things like pickups simply didn’t exist, and nobody really owned any huge private property out in the countryside to the point where they’d need a pickup. So the few pale impressions of the El Camino that existed out East were never plentiful. And one of those rare pickups was the Wartburg 353.

The Wartburg 353 came out in 1966, and was powered by a 993cc two-stroke engine. Though “powered” may be too strong a word, since the 353 was underpowered even by Eastern Bloc standards. Aside from this minor shortcoming (coupled with a ridiculously long waiting list time) the 353 was a pretty popular car. These are still in daily use in some places where there really shouldn’t be that many of them, like St. Petersburg. No, not St. Petersburg, Florida. The other St. Petersburg, the original one.

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Mercedes-Benz Motorhome Steals the Show at German Car Day

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This past weekend Kamil and I made the arduous, 20-minute long trek to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA, for their annual German car day. Every year the museum hosts more than two dozen lawn events on its scenic grounds, and every year it seems like there is less and less of a chance to find a parking spot. German Car Day is one of the museum’s top three best attended events, and this year the field filled up so quickly that the field ran out of room. And the cars that turned out were definitely worth the wait, with an impressive selection of early and late model German cars. In addition to all the marques that you’d expect to see at a show like this, there were rarities like a Glas Goggomobil, an Opel Manta Coupe, and more.

Even though German car day is all about passenger cars, this 1961 Mercedes-Benz O 321 H above just about stole the show. This 1961 6-cylinder diesel bus originally shuttled around the Swiss national hockey team, before being converted to a motorhome complete with two beds, two long couches, at least six standard bus seats, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a nice big parcel shelf just over the engine. (The “H” at end of the model name stands for hockey, in case you were wondering). Buses of this type were common pretty much everywhere in Europe well into the 1990s, so it was nice to see one of these here across the pond. Kamil and I briefly considered making an offer on the thing with the intention of turning it into the Hooniverse Mobile Headquarters, but that plan fell apart as soon as it was discovered that we only had 16 bucks and change (some of it Canadian) between the two of us that day, not counting a Fiat 500C Abarth press car.

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Diecast Delights: VAZ 2121 Niva

Jay Ramey June 19, 2013 Diecast Delights

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I don’t think anyone will dispute that the VAZ 2121 Niva is everyone’s favorite Russian 4×4 hatchback (ignoring for a moment the fact that it is the only Russian 4×4 hatchback). But unlike VAZ’s previous efforts, it wasn’t based on anything that FIAT designed or manufactured, withthe Niva using a minimal number of FIAT parts-bin bits.

The Niva first appeared on the market depressingly long waiting list in 1977, with a 10,000 ruble price tag. To put that into perspective, an average annual salary of a high-earning Soviet citizen at the time was 2000 rubles. So for around 5 annual salaries you could get on a waiting list to get one, umm, at some point in the future. Maybe. I’m going to let you decide for yourself what a combined 5 annual salaries buys a person today, but for some reason these weren’t as a rare on Russian roads as you would think with a price tag like that. Luckily, there’s no need to spend five years’ worth of income on this die-cast version, as it typically retails for just 12 bucks. Let’s take a closer look at this 1:43 scale model.

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British Car Day Preview: 1970 Marcos GT

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If you’re going to be in the Boston area on the weekend of June 22nd and 23, and you’re in desperate need of a classic car fix, you can’t do much better than British Car Day at Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. Every year the museum hosts more than two dozen lawn events which bring together cars and car fans from all over New England, and one of its most popular lawn events happens to be British Car Day. And it is one of the few events in the country where you have a chance of seeing some truly rare British machinery, like this 1970 Marcos GT.

Not exactly what pops into your mind when you think of a GT from Olde England, is it? The Marcos GT is a rare beast, no question about it. The company was founded as a kit car manufacturer in 1959 by Jim Marsch and Frank Costin. Their first car was called the Xylon, which looked approximately how the name sounded: like it came from outer space. And not the sleek, trendy sectors of outer space, but quite unappealing ones depicted in John Carpenter films. But their next car, the GT, was a resounding hit.

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British Car Day Preview: Bristol 403

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Your typical summertime British car show is always full of rubber-bumper MGBs and Triumph TR6s that had sat out in the sun too long. But British Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum is not your typical British car show. And every year it never fails to surprise, with rarities that you’d normally only be able to catch at a top tier national concours event. And last year, one of those rarities was this Bristol 403 saloon from 1955.

Bristol is not marque we see often in the US. Last year I had spoken to an owner of a Bristol 406 sedan, and he told me there were only about a couple dozen cars in the US and Canada. That’s of course not counting the Arnolt Bristol Bolide, which trade hands at major auctions pretty regularly. And of those Bristols in the US, very few are the later models from the 1970s and 80s. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that there is not a single Bristol Blenheim the US. Those Blenheims, however, are relatively plentiful compared to what we’re going to take a look at today, as only 275 examples of the Bristol 403 were made.

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Citroen Rendezvous Preview: Peugeot 504 GL

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Some of us remember a time when Peugeot 504s were more or less common on our streets, provided those streets were either on the left coast or the right coast. It seems it wasn’t that long ago that these were just used cars and everyone’s grandma had one locked away in the garage out back with 27K on the clock after something broke. Some of us may even remember a short period of time when 504s were used as taxis in New York city. That’s right, for a time in the early 1980s New York experimented with fleets of foreign cars. Since clearly nobody remembers that little experiment, I don’t have to explain which cars New York ended up choosing.

Regardless of the 504’s people-moving skills, which are considered legendary in Africa by the way, the 504 disappeared from our roads quite abruptly by the end of the 1980s. Ignoring for a moment the fact that these were not real strong sellers in the midwest, to put it mildly, the bulk of former 504 owners had by then already been driving 505s, or something else altogether. And just about the only chance you have of seeing one today is at a classic car show, like the annual Citroen Rendezvous in Saratoga Springs.

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German Car Day Preview: 1980 BMW M1

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If you’re looking for a fun summer time German car show, you’re unlikely to find something as eclectic as Larz Anderson’s German Car Day in Brookline, Massachusetts. Every year the Larz Anderson Auto Museum hosts over two dozen lawn events, and the one devoted to German cars is one of its top three best attended shows. If you’re going to be in the Boston area on the weekend of June 15th and 16th (aka this weekend), go ahead and stop by on Sunday morning and early afternoon. It’s one of the few car shows in the country that can boast a BMW M1 as a regular entrant.

This particular M1 hails from 1980 and is owned by Neal Heffron, who also took a BMW Batmobile to Greenwich Concours just a couple weeks ago. This M1 has some celebrity ownership in its past, as it was purchased by Christopher Cross after his album managed to receive a total of 5 Grammy awards in 1979. The current owner stated that he doesn’t take this car to the track, just because of the expense of servicing it and preparing it for the track. That, and also the possibility that something expensive might break. And that’s perfectly understandable, as the M1 is not exactly as easily serviceable as a contemporary Ferrari. Also, if something were to go wrong, everyone would be saddened and sympathetic to the owner, something that is not guaranteed to happen if a Ferrari suffered a mechanical failure or some body damage on a track.

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One Hoon’s Quest to Find the Source of all Diecast Cars

Jay Ramey June 12, 2013 Featured

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For diecast collectors around the world southeast Asia, namely the city-state of Hong Kong, has always been that mythical mecca of miniature cars. It is the place where they are made, and it was always said to be best place in the world to find scale models. Or so they said. Stories abounded about shops filled to the ceiling with thousands upon thousands of cars, enough to make otherwise rational men sell their camera gear with the film still inside and get on the horn to their friends back home to ask for loans, making up stories about being in the hospital and needing money for surgery after food poisoning. Or having been robbed. Or being held for ransom by vicious Hong Kong salarymen and their administrative assistants turned kidnappers. Because of, umm, the turmoil in the city’s financial district and everything.

Living in Hong Kong for a summer, I decided on a whim to visit every diecast store in the city and neighboring areas. Since they were all listed in the phonebook as well as lists compiled by diecast aficionados, finding them was easy enough (except for the ones that moved years ago and now hosted stores selling insects the size of guinea pigs). But just how well would the diecast meccas they square up to their legends, and what treasures might lurk there?

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