V.I.S.I.T. – The Wisconsin Glaciation Edition

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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?

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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.

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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]


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11 responses to “V.I.S.I.T. – The Wisconsin Glaciation Edition”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    Geology and French cars…. Nope, I got nothin'.

      1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

        And the version we got was called Medallion. Maybe we should have had it badged Nevada, mighta sold better.
        By the way, coming relatively soon to a Hooniverse article near you.

    1. Stu_Rock Avatar

      Me neither.

  2. Alff Avatar

    Dad's air-cooled 911 was a very capable snow car.

  3. Dan Avatar

    RWD Suburbans, while not quite a sedan, and at one time a kind of a wagon, are fun in the snow. They have such a long wheel base that it feels like you can actually look at the back of the vehicle as it slides out, giving you plenty of time to react. It also looks and feels cool to have something so large going sideways (even more so if you're sitting in the third row while someone else does it). I got a girl to smile at me in high school when I was sliding my uncle's Suburban around in the school parking lot after it had snowed. It also has the advantage of being able to sit seven or eight of your closest friends in it while you slide it around, making the hooning a much more economically sound endeavor (more of a hooning experience per person per gallon). Or, as in another case, after you've wowed some member of the opposite sex from your incredible "skills," you will sometimes get the comment (as I once did) "Gee, there's a lot of room back there, huh? Like enough for two people to lay down…" (don't worry, I didn't bite on that one)
    Also, E30s are fun in the snow (but that's kind of expected). They're light, have a tendency to go sideways, and have quite a lot of steering angle. I was once returning from visiting my sister at her college and managed to get caught in a blizzard on the way back. Nothing quite tingles the spine like going sideways past a tractor trailer at 55 MPH and knowing you still have several more degrees of steering until lock. (I was young and reckless, alright? Geez…)

  4. mallthus Avatar

    A couple of things. This photo is from France.
    <img src="http://img.archiexpo.fr/images_ae/photo-g/chasse-neige-67143-1515375.jpg&quot; width=600>
    This is the 505 I would choose for such a situation…
    <img src="http://i48.photobucket.com/albums/f221/bdebruin78/peugeot/505/65eb1_001.jpg&quot; width=600>

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Oh cool, the Dangel-converted 505. I had almost forgotten about them,

  5. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    my dad's old 380SL was very controllable in the snow if you knew what you were doing. my parents had no idea what they were doing, so they put its front end into many things over the years; that chrome bumper had its share of wrinkles, though the damage never seemed to get any farther in than that. when i started driving it around i only spun once, and that was when I was playing in the snow at 2am. i miss that car.
    at present my mr2 is not bad in the snow. i have snow tires and the engine is over the rear wheels. of course, should it ever lose that decent rear-wheel traction there will be no hope for survival, but a cautious driver as i am should not have to worry about such situations.
    my cousins tell me their 300e is not very good in the snow, but i'm inclined to believe they just don't know how to drive it. a friend's mom said her brother was always having a ton of trouble in the snow because of his rear-wheel-drive sports car, a….mitsubishi eclipse. if you say so. my uncle used to have a volvo 740 that he was scared of in the snow, but i don't think those cars made enough power to spin the wheels on solid ice.

  6. markmitchellbrown Avatar

    In terms of snow-driving fun-ness, a friend's old 240SX was brilliant – I remember dancing that thing through an empty, slick, snowy parking lot, maneuvering it sideways with ease and poise between lampposts and curbs.
    But for snow-driving stoicism…not sure I can come up with anything RWD better than a 505 or 240.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      With the 505 fleet undergoing repairs, we didn't get a chance to do a 740 vs 505 comparo when the snowpocalypse hit last week. Such a waste of good snow.

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