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  •   Steve Bennett reacted to this post about 9 months ago

    We’ve all worked on #MG s and #Triumph s, or maybe changed the occasional starter motor on a Mustang, These relatively simple backyard jobs give us a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment, especially when they turn out well. Does your car run better when you’ve washed it, waxed it and really cleaned the windscreen? I know it’s mostly psychological, but it does seem to be true.

    My first car was actually a truck. A #1934-Ford-pick-up with a flat-head V8. It was easy to change the plugs and adjust the carburettor. I remember opening the hood of a friend’s #1968 #Mustang at the time and thinking, oh my God, what a complicated mess this is. Compared with today’s vehicles, that ’ #1968-Ford-Mustang engine seems like a single-cylinder lawnmower.

    I have a friend with a late-model BMW . When the battery went dead, the dealer told him not to change it himself because it would negate all the codes on the car’s computer. So he had it towed to the dealer, they changed the battery and it cost $600. Had he known to run jumper cables to the positive and negative terminals to keep the computer codes alive, he could have done the job himself for a third of the price.

    The greatest gift to buy yourself if you have a modern car is a code-reader to plug into your onboard diagnostic (OBD) system. When I took my 2005 SLR Mercedes-McLaren to be smog-tested, the ‘check engine’ light was on. I listened politely as my dealer explained all the expensive parts that needed to be replaced. I thanked him, went back to my garage, plugged in my code-reader and got a reading of 442. That pertained to the EVAP system, which prevents petrol vapour from escaping from your fuel system into the atmosphere. It usually requires no maintenance but can turn your ‘check engine’ light on.

    Your fuel system up to the tank is pressurised, so a loose petrol cap can activate the light, but it wasn’t that. My next thought was the gasket on the gauge sender unit - after all, the car’s 15 years old - but after dismantling the rear of the SLR I found no dampness or weeping there.

    This was getting scary. How much more of this car do I have to dismantle? I decided to follow the fuel lines, and I came to a plastic T-fitting that had a hairline crack in it. Not enough to leak fuel, but perhaps enough to suck air? As I examined this fitting it broke in my hand. Could it be this simple? Never a fan of plastic fittings - after all, this one had lasted only 15 years - I got one made of brass, installed it, tightened all the fittings... and voila! The ‘check engine’ light was out.

    I plugged in my code reader, the code had cleared. I drove it to the smog station and passed the test, the cost, about three bucks. My little $30 code-reader had saved me thousands of dollars. I have to admit that accomplishing this little task was as much fun as actually driving the car. Rather than looking like a rich guy driving it around, I had actually fixed my automobile.

    Old cars are simple but faults can be hard to diagnose. New cars are very complex, but with code-readers you can find the problem quickly. Who’d have thought it?

    My second supercar problem concerned my #2005-Ford-GT . It ran fine but would not pass the California smog test. Once again, I plugged in my handy code-reader and it told me that all my codes were fine, except for the catalytic converter, The dealer told me how much a catalytic converter would cost and how complicated it was to install. ‘After all, Mr Leno, the car is 15 years old.’

    Could it be something else? I took the car for a long drive and noticed the temperature gauge was reading about 160°F. Most modern supercars tend to run close to 200°F. Asking around, I ascertained that the GT was running too cool to activate the computer that regulated the catalytic converter. We pulled out the thermostat and found that a build-up of limescale was holding it open, so it was allowing more cooling water through than was necessary.

    I picked up a new thermostat at my Ford dealer, that’s the thing about a Ford GT: it might be a supercar, but it’s still a Ford. Once it was installed, the car ran at between 195 and 205 degrees. I took it for a drive, about 15 miles at 45mph, plugged in my code-reader and all the codes read OK, including the catalytic converter. I then drove to the smog station and passed the test. Supercars might be complicated, but they’re still cars. And for all the electronics that make supercars complicated, there are other electronics that help make life easier.


    Do yourself a favour. Buy a halfway-decent code-reader and find your modern car’s OBD port, then, the next time your dealer tells you ‘This is going to be complicated’, why not just plug it in and find out for yourself?
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  •   Malcolm Thorne reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    It was the first Japanese car to be built in Europe. It was the last Triumph car to be built. But was the Acclaim worthy of its name? #Triumph-Acclaim / #Triumph / #1981

    The Triumph Acclaim proved that us Brits could certainly build a reliable car.

    The Acclaim, based on the Ballade, was the first fruit of a 1979 deal struck with Honda by British Leyland boss Sir Michael Edwardes. BL achieved a double-whammy: an easy, development-cost-free insertion into the model range, and a sidestep of the Japanese import restriction.

    The Acclaim's rounded-of square headlamps paid accidental homage to the old Herald, while the swerve of its bonnet over the headlamps gave a nod to the 13/60. The engine was a light alloy, 1335cc, twin Keihin-carbed SOHC transverse four driving the front wheels. It made 70bhp at 5750rpm and 74lb ft of torque at 3500rpm. The standard transmission was a five-speed overdrive unit. If you enjoyed the occasional nap behind the wheel, you could order your Acclaim with a two-speed Hondamatic auto, daintily renamed the Triomatic. The cabin was a sickly mélange of Caramac plastic and beige velour, but at least there was no shortage of equipment.

    An Autocar vox pop revealed that 55% of us didn’t regard the Acclaim as British, but it wasn’t an issue: UK motorists were ready to embrace something that promised reliable ongoing movement. Housewife of Middlewich was well informed, pointing out that her Cortina came from Germany, 'so what’s the difference?' Quite so.

    In 1981 Autocar’s Michael Scarlett had a pre-test squirt in the top-spec Acclaim CD. He liked the zesty feel and sound of the 1300 engine, though he did point out that a low-speed flat spot in his car occasionally grew into a full-blown cutout when tackling steep hills in a high gear. That was more of an indication the Acclaim was very much Japanese and a bit short on the torquey chuggability expected of a British car.

    Overall, Autocar rated the Acclaim as 'fast, comfortable, economical and a good replacement for the Dolomite'. It also predicted good reliability, which turned out to be correct. The Acclaim’s title of ‘fewest warranty claims for a BL car’ was perhaps only slightly more impressive than ‘least embarrassing reality TV show personality’.

    The magazine's only qualm was the Acclaim's ability to weather the storm of imports when the import restriction was lifted. That turned out to be a fair shout – the Acclaim sank in 1984 after three years, taking the Triumph name with it.

    The model to hunt down is the rare Avon Turbo. It featured special duotone paint, a vinyl roof, colour-coded wheels, Turbo written in big letters down the side and about four acres of stuck-on black plastic.

    Frankly it was a mess, and the suspension mods didn’t really work either. But the Turbo Technics unit did boost power to a lag-free 105bhp, bringing the 0-60 time down from 12.9sec to 9.6sec. Unfortunately, the conversion cost £2990, so few were built. In 2010, the 001 press car (VWK 689X) was put on sale. It was advertised at offers over £10k, to much guffawing from Triumph Owners’ Club members. It made it, too… The last laugh wasn’t theirs, though, or even Honda’s: it was the British motor industry’s, reborn on a new foundation of trust established by the Acclaim.
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  •   Antonio Ghini reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The Straight Eight Dolomite is the stuff of #Triumph legend. Devised by Donald Healey to take on the might of the #Alfa-Romeo-8C , it liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the Milanese car in specification, style and execution. The Dolomite may have very little in common with anything else that ever came out of Coventry but, as someone betrothed to the Triumph badge, this enigmatic car represents the Holy Grail.

    Rob Green of Gloria Coachworks shares my enthusiasm for the model and, as the leading exponent of pre-Standard-era Triumphs, he thought it would be a rather nice thing to recreate. Thus was born one of the classic car world’s lesser-known but most delicious replicas.

    Green began work on the first car in #2005 , taking four years to complete it for a customer. The end result is a remarkable doppelgänger of Healey’s Monte mount. The next – and like the genuine article, there are only two – he kept for himself. Inspired by the second of the original cars, period photos and brochure shots were used to ensure the visual accuracy of its body.

    The starting point was a #1938 Dolomite (sixcylinder) chassis, which was modified and then adorned with authentic pre-war Triumph oily bits. Don’t be fooled by the clever siamesing of the exhaust pipes, though: the big difference between Green’s cars and the real thing is that his are powered by a 2-litre ‘six’ fed by triple SUs and breathing through four ports.

    Using 16 gauge aluminium over an ash frame, the homage looks just right to me. Green says it took nearly 3000 hours to build and you can well believe it. No one would claim that this is an actual clone, and there are some practical modifications, but the detailing is simply wonderful from the painted wires to the leather interior. Triumph isn’t renowned for its pre-war sporting excellence, and it wasn’t so long ago that the only model recognised by the VSCC – other than the Straight Eight Dolomite – was the sixcylinder Southern Cross, of which only four or five exist from its single model year.

    In spite of that, the cars feel relatively accomplished and sophisticated for the age. The crossflow 2-litre overhead-valve engine is far from asthmatic and has lusty torque, while the gearbox (with synchro on all gears except first) is a delight to use. In fact, as you zip around in the Dolomite only the weight of the steering gives it away as being a pre-war design. Green’s tribute to the Straight Eight really is a beauty, but he has ‘previous’ when it comes to the art of reviving long-lost prewar Triumphs. He explains: “My love for them goes back to the 1960s when my cousin had one. Influenced by that, I bought my first Gloria – a three-position drophead coupé – for £33.”

    Having served his apprenticeship at a Rootes main agent, Green joined North Stables Coachbuilding before setting up Gloria Coachworks in 1980. He deals with all manner of classics, but about 80% of his business is Triumph-related. He reckons that he has now owned seven prewar Triumphs and restored another 37.

    But it is his obsession with filling the historical gaps and the reason why these cars are so rare that fascinates me most. “It’s because there were so many variants of each model,” Green explains. “You could have a long- or short-chassis, four- or six-cylinders and loads of different body styles, so very few of each type were ever produced.” As well as resurrecting the Straight Eight, Green constructed the delectable Gloria Flow- Free using a factory body.

    And he’s not finished yet. In fact, it was building a replica of the long-lost one-off #1938 #Dolomite-Fixed-Head-Coupé that led him reluctantly to offer his own Straight Eight facsimile for sale. And when that’s done, he has an inkling he might like to build himself a Gloria van! I was intrigued to see what value the market would put on the Dolomite when it came up at Historics at Brooklands’ 7 March sale. The answer: an impressive £81,760. Testament indeed to Green’s craftsmanship.

    For more information about these rare cars, visit: pre-1940triumphmotorclub. org

    ‘Donald Healey liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the #Alfa-Romeo 8C’.

    Green’s recreation of the Straight Eight is a joy to drive. Bottom: replica’s lines closer to original than the genuine cars.
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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago


    Let’s face it, we all like an underdog, especially here in Britain. I suppose you can apply the idea of an underdog to motor vehicles. Without wanting to anthropomorphise inanimate motor cars, human beings have had a long and illogical relationship with their motors. A car is a strong reflection of its owner’s personality and position in society and there is no brand stronger than a motor vehicle. #Audi , #Bentley , #BMW , #Ferrari , #Mercedes-Benz , #Jaguar , #Porsche , #Rolls-Royce and so on spend a fortune burnishing their brand credentials and it works. Aston Martin was recently the coolest brand in Britain, ahead of #Apple , #Nike and #Rolex .

    People very seldom just purchase a ‘car’. They buy a product that reflects themselves. As the doyen of advertising David Ogilvy said: ‘You have to decide what "image" you want for your brand. Image means personality.
    Products, like people, have personalities.’ Sure, people buy cars based on price, but the mid-market 3-Series has long outsold the perfectly good #Ford-Mondeo - because it has a BMW badge on the front. And why do so many urban dwellers want a 4x4?

    Because a soft-roader is a lot cooler than a sensible saloon.

    Of course, those of us who are ‘into’ classic or historic cars have a real attachment: we actually love our old cars, which is faintly ridiculous, though also great fun and rewarding. Apart from the engineering and performance, classic car types are acutely aware about what their cars say about them. Both an E-type Jaguar and Mini are cool icons of the 1960s but are totally different, only having the fact that they are motor vehicles with four wheels in common, unlike a Morgan three-wheeler. Classic cars offer a wide canvas for tweedy types and Teddy Boys alike.

    But because classic car enthusiasts actually have a bond with their cars, they can see beyond just the brand image in a way drivers of modern cars don’t. Of course, modern cars are built to hammer down endless motorways and sit in traffic, whereas classics are for enjoyment. That’s why many classic car owners will often have an underdog in their garage along with a more recognised classic. As well as his C-type Jaguar and #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Ghost , the late Alan Clark MP also enjoyed A #Citroen-2CV and a #VW-Beetle (the latter admittedly with a #Porsche-356 engine shoehorned into the rear).

    Americans call these ‘trinket’ cars. Fiat 500 Jollys used to be trinkets but, now that owners of superyachts want them as tenders, they are priced like expensive jewels. I’m sure, like me, you have a soft spot for the automotive underdog, a classic that is not about the smart badge on the bonnet. The first time I drove a classic Mini I was shocked at how good it was on a tight road. It made the Porsche 356 I was driving at the time seem a bit numb. And years ago my father had an immaculate #Lancia-Aurelia-B20GT . To be fair it was the last of the line, a heavy sixth-series example. But when I raced him in my boxy, four-door #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia saloon, I’d blow his (two) doors off every time.

    As a member of the #Drive-My team I’m fortunate to get to drive some pretty impressive pieces of kit. And it is interesting to see quite how good some cars are - often the underdogs - and quite how lousy some of the supposed great classics can be. My good friend Ray Jones of Sydney, Australia, invited me to take part in the #Mille-Miglia with him in #1999 . We were to drive his #Chrysler-75 .

    Some in the vintage world look down on these Americans. Halfway through, #Bentley specialist Stanley Mann wandered over. ‘What sort of supercharger do you have fitted to the Chrysler?’ he asked (we’d overtaken his vintage Bentley a number of times). Ray opened the bonnet. Its two huge SUs and banana-branch exhaust header would have given your average VSCC scrute heart failure but there was no blower. Stanley was amazed. And the #Chrysler had excellent, original hydraulic brakes.

    In 2007, deputy editor Mark Dixon and I competed in the #Mille-Migila in a bog-standard #Triumph-TR2 , mustering just about 90bhp. Not powerful, but it handled well. In the mountains this light car was ace because of its overdrive gearbox, which operated on second, third and top. The #Triumph really annoyed a number of drivers of heavy Mercedes-Benz Gullwings with their wide-ratio gearing. Up the steep mountain roads we indulged in some of the most impertinent overtaking ever.

    Yes, it was a proper underdog.


    Robert grew up with classic cars, and has owned a #Lancia-Aurelia-B20GT , Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Porsche 356C. He currently uses his properly sorted #1955 #Jaguar-XK140 as his daily driver, and is a founding editor of this magazine.
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