V.I.S.I.T. – Peugeot 405 DL

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The 405 was so amazingly popular when it came out in the US in 1989 that, uhh, no 405 sedans were imported in 1990 just to create buzz on the interwebs Usenet newsgroups and to generate an artificial shortage! Yeah, that’s right! That’s how popular it was! Actually, 405 sedan sales were so poor when the model first appeared that dealers still had unsold 1989 models on their lots, and only the 405 wagons were imported the following year in a failed effort to transition the 505 crowd on to a newer model.

The example above seems to have suffered from all the usual cosmetic pitfalls of the 405, but not to an extreme degree, suggesting that this car spent at least some of its life garaged. Actually, as far as driver 405s go, this one was in pretty good condition as it had minimal paint fading and flaking on the hood and trunk, and the side moldings weren’t especially faded either. This one likely spent its entire life in suburban/rural Connecticut, so aside from the road salt it was not really subjected to extreme traffic conditions that meant a short life for many 405s in the northeast.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4.5 W108

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When is it too cold and slushy to take your classic out? For some owners it’s never, apparently. I spotted this W108 280SE 4.5 not too long ago on Connecticut’s salty roads after a major snowstorm, looking rather smug sitting on Nokian Hakkapeliitta 2 winter tires. Clearly, some classics are better able to handle such conditions than others. For instance, you would never see a classic Alfa Romeo, even some unloved Alfetta sedan, being driven on the interstate behind a salting truck.  But this Benz seems to be made of stronger stuff.

This example appeared to be in much better than driver condition, and if I had the time to examine it closer, it would have probably appeared closer to club concours condition than anything else. Some of you will recall that the W108 and W109 didn’t stay in production for very long, only being made from 1965 till 1972.  And the W108 seen here only gained the 4.5 liter engine in 1971, which was available for less than twenty four months until the model was replaced by the W116 in November of 1972.

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V.I.S.I.T. – 1989 Peugeot 505S V6

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If you don’t immediately recognize this car from the back from a distance (like I didn’t), that’s because the North American-market 1989 Peugeot 505 sedans, for reasons not well understood by scientists, arrived on our shores with European-spec tail lights and rear bumpers.

As much as I’d like to chalk up the random appearance of Euro-spec tail lights to sloppy spreadsheet work on Bull computers or some tooling snafu at the Sochaux plant, the reality is perhaps more mundane: it was a cheap way to facelift an aging car for the North American market. Unfortunately this sudden change didn’t extend to the headlights, which were still the somewhat awkward sealed beams. It’s easy to forget now, but 505 sales were getting so sluggish by this time that no 505 or 405 sedans were imported for the 1990 model year, as dealers couldn’t move the stock that they had.

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Hooniverse Bookshelf: Cars of Eastern Europe: The Definitive History

Jay Ramey January 14, 2013 Cars You Should Know

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You know when you’re watching a Hollywood film set in Eastern Europe or Russia, and there is a whole mishmash of cars that parade across the screen that you suspect as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like an UAZ 469 rubbing shoulders with a Polski Fiat and an Oltcit, in what’s supposed to be 1950s Prague? To be honest, Hollywood has been getting better at this sort of thing, with the emergence of IMCDb and legions of enthusiasts who will nitpick the accuracy of the license plates on some random car deep in the background. The biggest gaffe I’ve spotted recently was a late-80s GAZ 2410 in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film ostensibly set in the early 1970s. That film also suffered from not being edited to run chronologically, and from Seinfeld-quality green screen effects for in-car moving shots, but who am I to complain? Perhaps they ran out of money in the end for editing software, who knows.

Well, now you’re going to be able to tell which cars are supposed to be seen in which country, and which ones never even came within a hundred miles of each other, period! In a follow-up to the surprisingly popular Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definitive History which we reviewed a few months back, author Andy Thompson released a tome similar in concept titled Cars of Eastern Europe: The Definitive History. Myself and a number of other people might dispute the second part of the book’s title, but overall it’s a solid effort that tries its best to cover an immense and arcane topic. Let’s take a look inside.

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On the set of “On the Road”

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Wandering around old Montreal in November of 2010  after enjoying some poutine, I inadvertently stumbled on to the set of On The Road. In the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel, which opened on December 21, the historic part of Montreal stands in for New York City of the 1940s with its old art deco buildings and minimal visual intrusion of technology.

The crew were only a couple dozen in number, and while they were getting ready to do a take, they were cool with me hanging around and chatting with them for a half hour as we drank coffee. I was dressed as a 21st century American in subzero Quebec, so unfortunately I couldn’t finagle a role as an extra. No, not even a cameo as a time traveler.

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V.I.S.I.T. – First Generation Honda Accord LX

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Not quite what you picture when someone says Honda Accord, is it? Don’t worry, this isn’t what I picture either, and I don’t even know what the modern Accord looks like anymore now that I think about it. Before the Accord became the Accord that we all know and love (uhh, right?), the Honda Accord looked like this. And it looked great, I have to admit. This first-gen Accord LX hails from a time when Japanese cars were built in Japan, and from a time when V8s were belching out facepalmingly embarrassing horsepower figures.

Made between 1976 and 1981, the Sayama-built Accord hatchbacks and sedans were offered with 1.6 and 1.8 engines, and rode on a stretched Civic platform. The LX trim offered a few more creature comforts than the base model, specifically in the form of A/C and power steering as standard equipment. By all accounts of the time this was quite a nimble, popular car, though the tin worm seems to have claimed most of these on both coasts.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Mercedes-Benz 230S W111

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Now here’s a classic Benz one doesn’t see every day, the 230S W111 “tailfin,” or heckflosse, built between 1959 and 1965. Even this very dramatic and very American design feature, Mercedes managed to pull off in a very understated manner. As in: okay, we’ll give you a small tailfin… but the rest of the car stays very restrained and serious. And that’s pretty much how it came out.

The W111 is not even seen at every German car or Mercedes-Benz gathering. I believe this is merely the third or fourth W111 or W112 tailfin sedan that I’ve seen in the US. These sedans were the volume, bread and butter cars of for Mercedes-Benz of the time, and even now aren’t valued especially highly even in concours condition, which is why we don’t see too many of them. Driver examples can still be found in pretty miserable cosmetic condition, and it’s of course the 280SE coupe that Mercedes collectors are after. So it was nice to see a daily driver sedan with one of the base engines for a change.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Mercedes-Benz Unimog U406

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The Unimog always was and continues to be the automotive equivalent of the Swiss Army knife. You name it – it’s been mounted on a Unimog chassis. That probably includes some pieces of equipment that I wouldn’t be able to identify even if I had The Interwebs at my disposal. But the version seen here is pretty straightforward, with a small (in proportion to the rest of the truck) cargo bed, and attachment mounts front and back. The attachment mounts are what allows the Unimog to interlock with several other Unimogs to form the SuperMog, which of course battles other large robots in an unconvincing and poorly lit urban diorama populated with scale models of Japanese public housing.

As you’ve probably guessed, the attachment mount on the back of this ‘mog is to accomodate an attachable excavator arm, which then folds up over the pickup bed resting over the cabin. The mount on the front is probably for a plow or a front loader. The excavator arm has obviously been taken off for journeys into town (though one could argue it may be useful for creating parking spots/reshuffling parked cars) but the bar over the roof remains, alongside what looks like a rerouted exhaust pipe.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Veteran Peugeot 505 SW8

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Here’s an interesting example of a Peugeot 505 SW8 that I came across some time ago. The SW8 was of course the version of the 505 wagon with third-row seating, being able to seat (at least theoretically) a total of 8 people. My favorite factoid about these is that with the back seats folded down, the 505 offered 13 more cubic feet of cargo room than a 2001 Jeep Cherokee.  The 505 SW8 here featured recessed fog lights in the grille, which I have to admit looked pretty neat. Why they weren’t all offered like this, I don’t know.

This 505 was purchased new (and by new I mean new in our sense of the word: new to the buyer) by a Peugeot enthusiast from the midwest. At the time he wrote the following on a Peugeot forum about his purchase “Saw it on Craigslist at noon, it was in my garage by 7pm. Man, talk about an impulse buy. Mind you, I’ve wanted one for a while. This one isn’t -exactly- what I wanted in an SW8…not a turbo or a diesel, not a manual transmission. On the other hand, it does only have 132,700 miles on it and apart from the suspension needing some serious attention and a slightly loud exhaust, it works flawlessly. The only damage is the left-front corner, from an incident which totaled a Corolla.” Now THAT, gentlemen, is in true hoon spirit.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Peugeot 505 V6 STX

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Straight out of Poozhoe Province comes this tidy-looking 505, this time in the flavor of the top of the line V6 STX. So what makes these special? How about a 2.8 liter V6 with 170bhp on tap? Okay, okay, so those don’t sound like spectacular figures now, but lest we forget, back in the day our own domestic V8s barely managed to achieve even those figures. The Douvrin-built PRV (Pug-Renault-Volvo) engine was shared by those three automakers, perhaps gaining the most recognition stateside in the Volvo 760 sedans and wagons, though it also made a guest appearance in the Peugeot 604. And I say guest appearance because 604 wasn’t exactly a hot seller in the states. Or anywhere else for that matter.

The 505 sedans were always admired not only for being plush highway cruisers, but also for being quick on their feet and offering wonderful chassis feedback, the sort that could only be found on the larger German cars of the time. So it’s perhaps surprising just how few of them have survived on our roads into the present day.

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