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FIAT 131 Racing: Sportiness with authenticity, not fancy dress.

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Before we mention the car, I want talk for a moment about war heroes.

In the little cul de sac in Frinton-On-Sea where I grew up, one of our neighbours was an elderly gent by the name of Vic Whale. Softly spoken and always well turned out, he was a quiet chap who kept himself to himself. By all accounts he was a lovely man, and loved the presence of youth, especially his own children and grandchildren. He actually owned a brown ’81 Fiat 131 Supermirafiori for a while, before replacing it with an ’87 Rover 820i. I liked him very much.

However, it wasn’t until after his passing that I got to know him. During his funeral I learnt more about him than I had ever known when he was alive. I knew about his air-force service in africa and his fighter-pilot past, but I had no idea of his belonging to the Guinea-Pig Club. This was the name given to the support group formed among that group of incredibly brave men who received pioneering plastic surgery to repair wartime injuries. I think you’d have liked him, too.

The most notable thing about him, and my own grandfather, for that matter, is that they seldom advertised their heroic conducts.

Now, why can’t cars be that understated, too?

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A Stab in the Dark: The Touchscreen Cataclysm

Chris Haining November 21, 2016 All Things Hoon

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An article recently hit those newstands that stock the Sunday Times; Dashboard screens risk drivers’ lives”

Well, This!

As somebody who never quite made it into a design career, I nevertheless can appreciate the worth of sound ergonomics, both from the perspective of a designer and, of course, as a motorist. Over the years considerable progress has been made in this area, especially by the Germans and the Scandinavians. Ideally you should be able to into a car, any car and be confidently driving in a few minutes, having familiarised yourself with the basic controls, and maybe a few of the less fundamental ones.

In my mind, this should include those key to the enjoyable operation of the car, not just the functional aspects. And as soon as the small step of fitting touchscreens to the centres of dashboards all over the world was taken, ergonomics took a huge leap backwards for all mankind.

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When it all comes flooding back.

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On Christmas day 1988 I was given my first ever personal cassette stereo. I was seven years old at the time, and It was a Saisho (a brand invented by Britain’s largest electrical retailer) City Beat, with a three-band graphic equalizer. As soon as I been gifted this piece unprecedented of high tech, my Dad set about making cassettes from me. The very first he made me was of Brothers In Arms, the Dire Straits album. He copied it for me while we were eating our Christmas Dinner.

The next tape he made me was the one in the photo above. On one side it contained Misplaced Childhood by Marillion, on the other a compilation of tracks by Pink Floyd, The Who and Caravan. I know, odd choices for a seven year old, but I was very much my father’s child in that respect. It only occurs to me as I write this, that my Dad would have been the exact same age I am now when he made this tape for me.

Playing it in this particular car stereo has a special significance.

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Carchive Special Edition: ’89 Jaguar Salesman’s Guide

I know this is not our regularly scheduled appointment, but welcome to a mid-week helping from The Carchive: special edition.

I don’t know how many of you have spent time mired in the murky waters of car sales, I’ve done my stint and am kind of pleased to be out of it. I’m ‘lucky’ enough to have only ever sold in the ‘prestige’ sector, first for BMW and later for Mercedes. During my time as a shiny suited, smooth talking, silver-tongued car-monger I trotted out line after line of beautifully scripted sales spiel, and believe it or not, in a healthy proportion of instances it returned the desired result.

Seeing this little pamphlet on eBay brought memories flooding back, so of course, I had to buy it and share it with you.

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Diecast Delights: 2001 Mercedes CLK DTM Race Car

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Will I be hounded from Hooniverse for admitting that I’m not actually the biggest fan of motorsport?

It’s like this: Seeing a DTM race live is one hell of an experience. Watching a BTCC Volvo 850 barrelling into Coram Curve, Snetterton from just 50 yards away is unforgettable. The machinery, too, is awe inspiring. I’ve stood next to Richard Petty’s Superbird on start up, been surrounded by ’80s Formula One cars idling in a paddock. It’s just that, like any other competitive sport, I can’t be bothered to follow it. Right now I couldn’t tell you what the Formula One championship standings are any more than I could tell you how Tottenham Hotspur are doing in the soccer Premiership League, if they’re even in it.

Next time I’m at a live motorsport event I’ll be grinning from ear to ear, and probably high on hi-test fumes, combing burnt rubber particles from my hair. Then, I’ll go home and probably not look at any of the race stats again, because it’s just not that important to me.

The cars are, though. Oh, God yes. Here’s a nice one that’s been in my collection for ages.

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When technology has the last word

Chris Haining November 9, 2016 All Things Hoon

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During the hours between 9:30 and 17:30 I live on the cutting edge of technology. My MacBook is linked directly to mission control, fresh software patches coming through seemingly on the hour. Work necessitates this, and I’m fine with that. But come 17:31 and I switch back to my trusty Core i3 laptop and take a step back into the past.

I’m actually far from being a technophobe, I’ve simply found that incremental increases in technological complexity rarely enhance my life. Every now and then a significant leap will be made – I continue to enjoy 1080-line resolution courtesy of a Playstation 3, but doubt I’ll be embracing 4k for a good few years. Most troubling, though, is when I find technology actively obstructive. When it physically restricts my liberty. When it demands the upper hand and won’t take no for an answer. I’m already experiencing this with my phone. What if this insatiable, revenue-led insistence on unwanted media bombardment makes it across to cars, too?

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The Carchive: The ’99 Suzuki Carry

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While all the other automotive websites reel and rally to attract clicks and page views, each biting from the same news sources, each speculating on the next bit of big news that may – or may not – matter, here’s that moment where we sit back and look at the things that definitely did. Welcome back to The Carchive.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home” was never used in an advertising campaign for Suzuki’s diminutive, long-lived series of small panel vans.  In keeping with, and concluding the the theme of tiny commercial vehicles that has accidentally been established within this weekly feature, let’s take a look at Suzuki’s miniature marvel for the Millennium.

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Check You Are Bumper Stickers

Chris Haining November 4, 2016 All Things Hoon

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I’ve only ever allowed one bumper sticker on a car I’ve owned. It was on a Saab 9000 and exclaimed simply “Don’t be a dick”. Simple and to the point, though not enough, ironically, to prevent dickish behaviour from the tailgaters who simply couldn’t get close enough. Although I’m not keen on displaying them on my own cars, I’m generally tolerant of bumper stickers, if they’re sufficiently witty or have something interesting to say. Sometimes wit is all they can offer – I’m not mad on for those which serve solely to underline the allegiances or leanings of the driver, but everybody has a right to freedom of expression.

My one solid, steadfast rule, though, is that a bumper sticker should be properly thought through.  The one photographed above has clearly not been adequately scrutinised by either the people who made it, or whoever chose to apply it to their poor, unsuspecting Ford Ka.

If you’re gonna display a bumper sticker, please, please check it for spelling and grammar. What’s the most poorly executed bumper sticker you’ve ever encountered?

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Diecast Delights: A Peugeot 206 CC in 1:18 Scale

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Yes, owing to overwhelming public demand, Diecast Delights is back!

It occurs to me that diecast models can be split into two distinct categories: those which act as miniature shrines of worship to iconic classics (see probably 95% of all 1:18 models out there) and those models which portray cars that were treated as consumer white goods, some of which are coming close to extinction.

Today’s model falls into the latter category. The Peugeot 206CC was a popular small coupe-convertible, but sixteen years after launch there’s nowhere near as many on British roads as there once was. It seems unlikely that they’ll ever become truly sought after, let alone recognised as classic.

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The Carchive: The Piaggio Ape 50

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It’s Friday Monday afternoon, and time for our weekly trip into the recent past. After the Daihatsu Hijet and last week’s Citroen C15 it became apparent that a theme had accidentally become established (again). So, to conclude our look at tiny commercial vehicles, lets look at the tiniest.

So put on your white canvas suit and explorer’s hat, grab your machete, net and a stock of bananas and we’ll go hunting in the Urban Jungle, see if we can catch us an Ape.

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