During the late Pleistocene era, specifically between 110,000 and about 12,000 years ago, the North American Laurentide ice sheet covered most of present-day Canada and US. This glacial formation extended southward toward the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, and reached its peak about 21,000 years ago. This period is known (in nerd circles) as the Wisconsin Glaciation, and you can still see evidence of the glaciers’ retreat all across present-day US and Canada, often in the dramatic form of a boulder the size of a house sitting in the middle of a cornfield. The Wisconsin Glaciation is also credited with creating a land bridge across the Bering Sea, as the glaciers contributed a lower sea level worldwide. This allowed early hoons fed up with the suffocating tax regimes of Asia to cross over to North America, where they survived by hunting mammoths, and (for dessert) small saber-toothed rodents who had a strange affinity for acorns. But last week the glaciers suddenly returned for a one month only special engagement in New England and Acadia, and did a reeeeaaal number on pretty much everything. And that brings us to this Shackleton-style tableau.
I think it’s been well established that the 505 and its predecessors from Sochaux can handle extremely hot climates for years on end without complaining. More than three decades after their debut the 505 continues to be a popular car all over Africa. Just a couple years ago an acquaintance’s US-market 505 was purchased through the popular periodical gazzette Sir Craig’s Listings & Notices within mere hours of its posting. And just days later it was already on a ship sailing out of the Port of New Jersey, doubtlessly to join a vast taxi fleet in some place like Morocco. But was the 505 really built for snowy climates?
Canada and the US received only nominal numbers of Sochaux’s finest. Russia imported even less, and only after the fall of the USSR. So it’s really only the Scandinavian countries, unexpectedly enough, that had rear-wheel drive Pew-joes for a continuous period of several decades in what can be described as a mixed temperate/subarctic climate.
The 505 wasn’t exactly tailor made for snow, but second-hand reports suggest that they weren’t all that bad in the snow either. For large rear-wheel drive cars designed in the late 1970s, that is. The narrow tires fitted to most US-market versions of the car have been said to steer well in the snow. And the steering, despite a relatively long lock-to-lock travel time, is said to behave well in icy conditions.
Volvos have always been held in high regard when it comes to being driven in snowy conditions, despite getting into the AWD game practically yesterday. But in many ways they had the same qualities as the Pugs: an healthy heft coupled with a selection of narrowish tires and wheels, and a decided lack of sporting ability (which often prevented them from getting in trouble in the first place). Powerplant choices were also very similar, down to the dreaded PRV V6. Suspension behavior on the bigger cars, like the 505 and the 740, also didn’t seem to differ much. The 505s were also helped by ground clearance and wheel well radius much greater than many other European sedans and wagons of the time, and the range of their suspension travel was perhaps second only to Citroen’s offerings.
What RWD sedan or wagon have you found to be an unexpectedly capable performer in the snow?
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]