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The Carchive Special Edition: Ferrari 456M

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While I usually mine The Carchive for the old, the unusual or the downright inexcusable, because today is my birthday I’m going for a completely self-indulgent choice, just like I did this time last year with the Maserati Quattroporte Evoluzione.

The Ferrari 456 is miles off the Hooniverse radar, really. In terms of significance to the marque the 456 is unlikely to go down in history as an outright classic, it was never a track-day superhero nor was it an in-your-face stylistic exhibitionist like the Testarossa or the Berlinetta Boxer.

Despite this, and in some ways, the 456 is my second favourite car in history. Take the jump if you’re interested in why.

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Viva La Bedfordshire: It’s Another Old Vauxhall

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Yesterday we looked at a magnificently accessorised example of one of Vauxhall of Luton’s V-Bombers, the Victor estate. Today it’s the turn of that car’s little sister, the Viva, also appearing at Classics On The Quay, and again in that Hooniverse-friendly Longroof format.

The Viva was, I believe I’m right in saying, the very last car where Vauxhall were allowed to exercise their development muscle without being pressured to share their toys and play nice with Opel. Every subsequent car to wear the proud Griffon badge would have either some or most of its design in common with something from Germany.

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To The Victor Belongs The Spoilers.

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I was raised on a diet of Blue Ovals. Henry was our favourite uncle and he treated us well, and even if the family has grown distant from him over time, we’re still very fond of the way he does things. In contrast, we never really warmed to The General. He seemed a little stand-offish, and we never really related to him. Only now am I starting to realise what a talented guy he was, and how much great work he did.

Back in the early ’70s Vauxhall were still allowed to talk and think for themselves. General Motors still ruled them with a rod of iron and fists of steel, but the Griffon emblem was still proudly affixed to vehicles which, by and large, were all largely developed by the clever chaps in Luton. The Vauxhall Victor you see before you visited the recent Classics at the Quay show, and is completely and utterly magnificent.

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The Carchive: The Caterham 21

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It’s time once more to don our protective gauntlets, attach our safety harnesses and descend into the hazardous void that contains all that automotive literature that time forgot. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last visit saw us drinking in the sheer value of the 1982 Skoda line. Today we’re paying scant regard to practicality and turning the dial on the fun-o-meter up a few notches, with a look at the Caterham 21.

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Fun and Frolics with a FIAT, sorry, FART 126.

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FART made some of the most iconic small European cars of the second half of the 20th century. The pre-war  Toplino or “Little Mouse” was cute, charming and capable. It was replaced by the comparatively less advanced, but stylistically imortal 500, which is revered today quite feverishly. Then, in their infinite wisdom, they replaced the charismatic, classless 500 in 1972 with the 126.

I guess they called it progress, but from being a Loveable Lilliputian the Baby Fart had become just a small car. Yet though it was by no means the best thing to ever come in a small package, it still made a major contribution to the European street scene. Here;s one which visited Classics On The Quay in Colchester this weekend.

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Two Trabants: One Terrible, One Topless.

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This weekend just gone saw this years Classics On The Quay, a varied gathering of wheeled machinery hosted graciously by Colchester Kawasaki. I won’t bore you with all the cars that always show up at events like these; there are only so many times I can see a Porsche Carrera GT or a Bugatti Veyron before it gets a bit samey. Instead, I’ll report on those cars which are either a bit more leftfield, or at least a little closer to the Hooniverse Heartland.

Let’s start with a couple of Duroplast beauties. A brace of Trabants, Emphatically not what I was expecting to see today.

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The Carchive: The ’82 Skoda Range

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Today we sit at the cutting edge of motoring, but getting here has been an arduous journey. There have been many diversions, pitfalls and breakdowns on the way, and quite a few wrong turns. There were stretches of the trip which will be fondly remembered, and periods which will be spoken of only in hushed tones. Join me now as we revisit another footnote in the long story of Car. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last week we were gasping at disbelief at how the ’98 Buick Riviera was marketed squarely at the grey dollar. Today we head back sixteen years to look at Skoda’s improved range for ’82, which held a very different appeal.

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Poles Apart: The Pressing Matter of Quality Switchgear In Car vs Home.

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Switches. Car reviewers love to get all emotional when it comes to the feel of a good switch. Poor switch action can mark the end of an otherwise positive review, which is not really fair. It’s a bit like how the interior plastics are criticised in every successive Corvette release. You don’t buy a Corvette on the strength of interior ambience, and you never will. But a crappy window switch in an otherwise well resolved interior will stand out like a pickled onion in a bowl of Jello.

So, if the feeling of switchgear is so important, and clearly, it is, how come we only ever crow about it in our cars?

I’m doing some renovation work at home at the moment and had cause to replace some of the light switches last weekend. I visited my local DIY Enormo-centre and surveyed all the switches available; they came in a  number of colours and finishes and before I made my purchase decision I tried every single one of them for feel. And, of course, they all felt exactly the same. Whereas a BMW switch is leagues apart from a Suzuki one, there’s every chance that the light switch in my little hovel feels every bit as good, or bad, as the ones in Buckingham Palace.

My question is, are there other things that drive us crazy in our cars but which we don’t bat an eyelid over at home?

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Going Back In Time with the Nissan Juke

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I only had a short period in the company of Nissan’s high-riding mechanised toad, the Juke, so the following can’t really be called a review. Well, it is and it isn’t, if you see what I mean.

I was certainly able to get an impression of the car. I was able to determine that, give or take, I actually quite like the look of it. If the Juke was a person you were meeting for the first time you would find conversation difficult. His nose would be on his forehead, his eyes would be in his cheeks and he would have several little mouths dotted around his chin- which is in the wrong place in itself. Yet, for all his challenging visage you would probably get on with him all right. He speaks sense and is reasonably witty.

On the face of it he seems reasonably up to date, too. His CV bristles with all today’s De Riguer acronyms, his location is satellite pinpointed and his innards are climatically controlled. Furthermore, his breath is fresh and his stamina is long, thanks to Nissan’s PureDrive Diesel technology. Yes, it’s fair to say that my ugly-handsome new acquaintance can stand shoulder-to shoulder with his peers without being too embarassed.

In private, though, he exhibited one or two character traits that I thought had gone the way of empire building and casual racism. Yes, the Nissan Juke does things that I thought we had moved away from years ago.

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Surviving My Non-Car Chores: Mow-Toring Fantasies

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Easter weekend. Four days away from the stresses and rigours of the office… which inevitably end up being used to do all the things I’ve been trying to put off so far this year. You know, interior decorating, bits of home maintenance and, yes, mowing the lawn.

Unlike my American friends, the plot on which The Towers Of Rust stand is somewhat less than prarie-sized.  I have to make do with an electric hover-mower and not the kind of V8-propelled, air conditioned lawn tractors that everybody uses in the ‘states. Still, that doesn’t stop me from turning the chore of hacking my way through grass (which has been abandoned since last autumn) into something approaching hoonworthy.

So the garden becomes a circuit. There’s a sweeping curve south, turn one leads into a tricky chicane then turn three tightens past the garden shed with a double apex before the straightaway which takes me past the swing hammock. After that it’s a drift past the patio doors and ready for the second lap, which takes the same course but on the inside of the track I’ve just carved. Then I continue in an anticlockwise spiral until there’s no more mowing left to do. I’m victorious, and can recline on a deckchair sipping from my magnum.

I need to grow up. Or do I?

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