The futile pursuit of HiFi on the road.

Chris Haining September 29, 2017 All Things Hoon

Whether you’re shopping at the ‘sensible family car’ end of the market, or considering spending gigabucks on a serious luxury bruiser, you’re likely to find an upgraded audio system on the options list.

Their names are eyecatching – Harmon Kardon, Bang and Olufusen, even the contraversial BOSE carries a certain amount of cachet, and the packages they’re attached to can be impressively sophisticated. You’ll invariably find a generous sprinkling of speakers, a subwoofer or two and perhaps a digital sound processor for ‘concert hall’ effects. In the showroom, when spinning a favourite CD (or an MP3 if you’re one of these modern people) as a pre-purchase test, it’ll sound very impressive indeed.

The problem comes when you hit the road.

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Some horseboxes are wasted on horses

Chris Haining September 28, 2017 All Things Hoon

Who didn’t enjoy building dens as a kid? Whether it be in the forest, using fallen branches and fern fronds to build a camouflaged hidey-hole, or taking snacks and a book under the dining room table – there’s something remarkably appealing about setting up a cosy retreat in a confined space. My parents probably assumed it was a phase when they found I had taken to sleeping in the blanket compartment beneath my bed rather than in the regular configuration, but I had a little radio and a flashlight in that secret miniature room, and it was just so much more fun than laying atop the mattress.

I reckon this was the earliest sign of my ongoing fascination with deliberately compact living compartments. I remember being in awe when I peered through the tiny glass porthole into a driver’s compartment for one of the coaches that served school. It looked comfortably padded, with a reading light and a radio speaker. Then I started visiting boat shows and exploring yachts. The biggest ones, thinks like the Princess 66, were alright, but they were too conventional; too spacious to really interest me. In fact, it was the clever space management of a double berth below the cockpit sole in a Maxum 2500SC that really captured my imagination. As well as, perhaps ironically, the cramped crew quarters of that very same 66′ Princess.

I’m 36 now, and the fascination is still with me. So when I spent the weekend at my Aunt’s stud farm for her birthday, I wasn’t too disappointed when all the bedrooms were taken and the pool house was fully occupied. In fact, I was quite excited. My overnight accommodation had a Scania keyring.

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The Carchive: The third-generation Nissan Patrol

After the Nissan Prairie a fortnight back, and the Citroen Dyane last week, we’re still in Utility Mode here at The Carchive. We’re looking at Datsun / Nissan’s entry to the SUV fray – in the early days of that phrase having traction, so to speak.

It’s fair to say that the Datsun Patrol rather lived in the shadow of the Toyota Landcruiser – the latter was famous as the darling of the Australian Outback, even though the Patrol was no stranger to equally dusty climes and certainly substantially more dependable than, oh I don’t know, a Land Rover or something.

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The Carchive: The Citroen Dyane

Last week we took a look at Nissan’s vision of an ultra-practical family car for the ’80s – the vertiginously styled Prairie. Today we’re moving a little way back in time, a little way North in latitude, and a little way south on the price lists.

This week’s subject car really does go back to basics. In fact, it’s only a little bit more refined than the even more humble car it was based on. The year is 1970, and we’re looking at the Citroen Dyane – the upscale sister to the iconic Citroen 2CV. Welcome back to The Carchive.

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Adventures in wrenching – Playing the odds

Of the three cars that litter the space immediately surrounding my house, our 1995 Peugeot 306 is by far the easiest to work on. It’s massively less complicated than the Audi or the Rover – it has just the one camshaft, not two or four, and it actuates just two valves per cylinder, not five or four. There aren’t many jobs on this car that I dread – and a recent screeching from the fanbelt was a fault that ought to be easy to remedy.

Even the simplest jobs can have their strange twists, though, and so it was to be with the 306. Read on for a mundane, yet strange tale of consequence and serendipity.

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The Carchive: The 1984 Nissan Prairie

It’s back to brochures for this Carchive installment. The last one we covered was the 1980 Dodge Imports – ostensibly rebadged Mitsubishis that sold on value and economy, yet somehow image and fun, too.

Today we look at a machine with absolutely no sense of vanity, no illusions of grandeur, no upmarket pretentions. The Mk1 Nissan Prairie is a car the likes of which we just don’t see any more – the honest all-rounder.

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Hooniverse Asks: If you could be a car designer….

Chris Haining September 7, 2017 Hooniverse Asks

Who’s watched or read “High Fidelity”? In that superb film / novel, Rob Gordon (John Cusack) decides that his dream job is as a music journalist for Rolling Stone, specifically between 1976 and 1979. He’d get to meet The Clash, Crissie Hynde, The Sex Pistols, David Byrne and get loads of free records. It was a dream based on qualification, time, history and salary not being an object.

During my ‘off grid’ holiday I mostly amused myself by reading, but one night I was strongly taken by an urge to ‘do a car’. The result was ungainly at best, but packed all the multiple pop-up headlamps and four gullwing doors that I set out to achieve, and firmly underlined my favourite era in concept car design – the 80s. As a child of that particular decade, the motorshows of the time would thrill me with their wild show cars, many of which were crammed with a mish-mash of totally incompatible features and design cues.

Compared with the graceful flamboyance of the ’50s, ’80s concepts were purposeful in an angular, functional way, long before the curvy, amorphous 90s and ‘organic’ naughties rolled into view. Hence, if I was to fullfil my former dream of being a car designer, I’d want to to it to be in the era between my own birth and 9th birthday.

If you could be a car designer, what era would you pick?

(Image copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)

Off on a tangent: Alternative control techniques

Chris Haining September 4, 2017 All Things Hoon

It was supposed to be a break from cars. We’d been living practically off-grid for a week, beginning with five days in our favourite corner of Cornwall for some R&R, before moving to the ‘Beautiful Days’ folk and rock music festival in Ottery St Mary, Devon.

It was while watching a band called Lau, that I started having impure thoughts. Lau is a Scottish / English folk act with an electronic twist. I had never heard them before, and the music started with all the charm, subtlety and intelligence of your regular folk band. That was until Martin Green fired up his Noise Device. Never before had I seen or heard an instrument sound like this or be played in such a way. And it got me thinking.

What if everything we ever knew about how cars were driven was to change?

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Carchive Special: The European cars that caught me unawares

As we know, true car geeks will feverishly devour any relevant information that comes their way on their journey along the path to enlightenment. The thing is, though, that information doesn’t necessarily arrive in the order you expect it to.

When I was growing up, my local newsagent stocked all the most popular British car magazines, but I had to travel quite a lot farther afield to satisfy my appetite for info on American metal. By 1990 I was pretty well versed on what was happening the other side of the Atlantic – my friends in primary school were probably sick of me going on about the exciting new Chevy Corsica all the time.

I was shocked, then, when the ‘International Car Catalogue’ washed up in the newsagent, to reveal cars you could buy in Europe that I’d never even heard of. I had concentrated so far on automotive treasure near and far, that I’d totally ignored the middle distance.

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eBay finds: W126 Mercedes S-Class….hatchback.

Once upon a time, the hatchback was invented, and we saw that it was good. It allowed small cars a far greater degree of versatility than cars with a separate trunk could offer. Gradually, it dawned on carmakers that this extra practicality shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of the hard of spending, and larger, more comfortable hatchback models came to being.

Until fairly recently, though, hatchbacks never really went beyond the upper mid market. There were loads in the 80s, there was the Ford Granada (or Scorpio in Euroland), the Renault 25, Citroen XM (the hatchback-look CX was a sedan) and, of course, the 1976 Rover SD1 begat the 1988 Rover 800 Fastback. But there was nothing in the premium sector.

Well, if you were a crazy Englishman with a selection of tools and a fistful of determination – it turns out there was.

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