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Weekend Edition – Alex and Joe’s German-Finnish Roadtrip

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Remember that ice track post I ran about a month ago or so? It centred on the haps and mishaps of two more or less German guys who drove a 1988 BMW E34 535i to Finland for a laugh, spent a cottage weekend with friends and in the end sold the BMW and flew back to Germany. Anyway, the whole experience was captured on video, and it makes excellent Sunday viewing on the sofa.

There’s time lapse and judgement lapse aplenty, so take a look.

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Weekend Edition – Spring in Beaterland: 1993 from two directions

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Last spring, not quite a year ago, I juxtaposed my then-cars on the same parking lot you see here. The 1990 Mitsubishi Sapporo and the 1995 BMW 518i were two roughly similar sized sedans, and their combined value at purchase was somewhere south of three grand. This year, I again parked two of my cars face to face, but both the Sapporo and the 518i are long gone, in their place the 1997 Xantia Break and the 1990 Saab 900S. And what do you know, three grand would easily buy you these two as well.

But while the Sapporo and the 518i weren’t exactly hewn from the same block, the cars I now have are even more drastically different. Right now, I’m shuffling both the Citroën and the Saab, as they easily suit different uses, both being able to show me their respective strengths. What the other does well isn’t far from the other’s reach, but there’s plenty of justification to run both. Let’s reiterate some of the characteristics.

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Weekend Edition – Awakening the Saab 900S after a long winter

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Spring is here. Finally. The days are getting longer, the sunrays, coy at first, have punctured through the all-encompassing clouds and greyness and it’s at long last possible to feel one’s own solar panels working again. It puts a jolt in your step, it makes your grins stay just a little longer on your winter-beaten face. No matter how rainy or slushy it gets in between of the sunny days, the first promises of a long-awaited summer have been made.

Naturally, that means I get to roll out the one sleeping beauty that has been avoiding the road salt like a plague: my 1990 Saab 900S. I’ve had it tucked away at a corner of a storage barn for five miserable months, a fact helped by the lessening of the yearly road taxes and insurance bills. Despite a couple of disturbances to see how it’s doing, it’s been sleeping since October. But now, I couldn’t resist the temptation any more, and the ice-free roads just had to be visited in the Saab, even if snow is still present on parking lots and roadsides.

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Our Cars – The Final Chapter in the Mazda 323F Story

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Way back when I joined the ranks of Hooniverse writers, I introduced myself and my cars. As well as the Sapporo, I had a red 1991 Mazda 323F which I had just recently crashed into a tire wall at Ahvenisto, a race track in central Finland. The damage to the Mazda necessitated the change of two doors and a fender, after which it was sort of okay-ish but no longer as good as I wanted it to be, as the panels were somewhat rough and ready instead of the clean ones with which it came from the factory.

The Mazda sat the following winter on my street, and after some time it ended up with my brother, who took it with himself to Helsinki, where he lives, works and studies. This past weekend, the 323F fell victim to an attempted theft, which left the steering column and its contents mangled and bashed, along with some vandalism damage on the outside. Little things, but they add up; the now undriveable car was hauled to a garage where the damage was appraised. Most everything in the steering column would need swapping, so the tab ran high and the insurance company ended up offering to total the car instead of getting it repaired.

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Trouble in Beaterland – Citroën Xantia Break, uh, breaks down

Antti Kautonen February 24, 2014 Finnish Line

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My Citroën Xantia Break is my first Citroën and my first wagon. And as of today, it’s my first car to leave me stranded. That’s right, the Xantia just put the Break in “Break”, which obviously is a French term for “Not the Berline”.

After completing a 1300-km drive around Finland this past weekend and successfully bringing me home with the cargo area stuffed with Ikea mirrors and quality German wheat beer, the Xantia was unbearably dirty again. I had spent one evening buffing it to a presentable shine, so having it sit in my parking spot covered in cack was something I needed to sort out, at my earliest convenience. So, as I had thrown my girlfriend the keys and let her drive to the supermarket, I suggested we take a trip through the carwash nearby. This proved to be a mistake.

As the carwash programme ended and the Xantia was seemingly sparkly again, I turned the key. Idiot lights came on as expected, but crucially – no start. No starter whine. No click. Nothing. What?

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Weekend Edition – Back to the Ice Track

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About a year ago, I wrote a couple short articles which showed you just how fun it is to drive to Eastern Finland with your friends and spend a day at an ice track with BMW:s everywhere. This year, with an international FinalGear crowd, we did the same.

By now my own BMW is gone, so I took the liberty to attend the BMW club trackday with my Citroën Xantia. It wasn’t really an offense, as you could also see a Passat, a Mazda RX-8 and a Volkswagen Caravelle T5 doing laps amongst the Bavarian machines.

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Our Cars – Beaterland Returns: 1997 Citroën Xantia Athena Break

Antti Kautonen February 20, 2014 Finnish Line

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Beaterland, as I call it, is not a country but the used car price range under 2000 euros. Most used cars will descend there, and it is especially treacherous to shop there as you might land a bargain or end up fixing things every month due to deferred maintenance. But by buying daily drivers cheaper than two grand, I attempt to get around without monthly car payments and still attain a certain amount of style and comfort that 15-20-year-old cars can easily offer if kept well.

In case you familiarized yourselves with the previous articles detailing the 1,5-year ownership of a white BMW E34 5-series bought for 1600 euros, you might be interested in hearing there’s a new contender I will write about. Here it is, freshly polished for you to see: a 1997 Citroën Xantia wagon. I bought it this Monday to replace the BMW, and so far it is doing that quite well.

After the BMW was sold, I didn’t really have anything useful to drive for a while. Then the 205 returned from a lengthy visit to the school auto shop, and with a fresh head gasket it’s been serving me very well. But, it soon became apparent I needed a hauler that could do longer journeys with comfort unattainable for the 205, transporting longer objects than could fit in the Peugeot and possibly to tow a trailer sometimes. The Saab 900S is too good to be beat on, too thirsty to be a town runabout, and too nice to bear the end-of-winter road salt in its door bottoms and CV tunnels. I needed to buy something – again.

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Our Cars – Giving the Peugeot 205 a long-needed wash

Antti Kautonen February 13, 2014 Finnish Line

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[Echoing Jeff's piece on keeping care of higher end machinery, here are my thoughts on keeping my humble econobox looking presentable, instead of bringing down the property values in this neighbourhood. Then again, as I live in the absolute center of this town, it might not be a bad idea to bring them down a notch.]

When’s the last time you’ve washed your old cheap runabout? The wintertime is cantankerous in that way, you often tend to go weeks without getting the accumulated cack off your daily driver. Freezing temps aren’t ideal carwash weather, even if snowy days do not dirty it up too much either, but at a couple degrees °C the salty slushy dirt just flies and attaches to the once-pristine flanks. And it’s not too good in the nooks and crannies, either.

Tonight, I decided to pony up the required tenner and drive my Peugeot 205 through the nearest Shell carwash, a decision helped by the fact that after 9PM it’s “Happy Hour” over there and all the wash programs are 50% off. And since you guys haven’t seen an update on the 205 front for some time now, it’s more than apt I slap on a couple of photos.

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Used Car Reviews: 1998 Skoda Felicia Combi

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We need a wagon. It seems. Despite it being just the two of us, there apparently needs to be a vehicle in the household that can hold a full length mirror, or a ladder, or anything that’s long enough not to fit in the 205. As we moved house this month, the 205 accommodated a ridiculous amount of stuff and thiiiingggsss but there are length limits to its cargo capacity. “You have the Saab, don’t you?” I hear you ask. That’s correct, but it remains tucked under a protective cover in a garage on the outskirts of town, as I don’t want to rust it out during this Salton Sea Season. And it being a thirsty car for weekend trips at heart, it’s not going to endure the daily traffic light beating the 518i and 205 have been subjected to.

Enter a bewildering array of used cars currently on sale in this town, whittling away the ones with a mileage too high to my taste. Initially I checked out a 650 euro Citroën Xantia wagon with 265k, but as it was dirty as a doormat and had Citroën Xantia Rear Quarter Mudtrap Acne™ coming through, peppering the flank even much worse than the Activa, I didn’t even bother to take any pictures despite taking it for a short drive. The white Tempra remains on sale, too, priced at double its worth.

And as I had taken some shots of a Skoda Felicia some time earlier, I was reasonably eager to see this one-owner example for sale nearby. I hadn’t driven one of these, so it was an omission I needed to rectify.

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Weekend Edition – Snowy Lot Sightings

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Moving out from the town centre, to the ice-covered supermarket parking lot, I kept my camera in check and aimed it at some of the more interesting machinery parked amongst the family haulers. It always seems there are more fascinating ways to do your grocery runs than just the average vanilla wagon.

Starting with the menacing black Cadillac, of course.

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