Monday, 30 April 2012

'57 Chevy 3200

There's an argument for leaving trucks like this unrestored. They haven't been subject to the corrosion accelerators that we have in the UK - harsh winters, gritted roads - and have warmly accumulated patina through decades of rugged usage and sunshine. They've served their functional duties and then some: let them retire disgracefully. Give them a modern twist - rip out the load bed and fill it with compressors, get it sitting on the floor over some shiny hot-rod rims. If you could ask it, that's what it'd want.
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The world's oldest Toyota

Toyota's first road car was called, rather appropriately, the AA. Representing a shift from the company manufacturing things like weaving looms, this foray into passenger cars was a strong start; 1,404 AAs were built betwen 1936-43. It was largely an exercise in copying - the shaped was informed heavily by the Chrysler Airflow (indeed, Kiichiro Toyoda bought an Airflow and stripped it down to see how it was made), and the chassis and electrics were copies of Ford designs - but it proved that the company could make and sell cars successfully.

When Toyota's 50th anniversary arrived in the eighties, they couldn't find a single surviving AA with which to celebrate, so they built a replica using old plans. However, it subsequently came to light that one sole AA had survived, tucked away for all those years in a shed in Vladivostok; on its discovery in 2010, it was snapped up by the Louwman Museum in Holland, who display it to this day in its derelict state. It may be tired but damn it, it's a significant car.
Of course, there's no way of knowing whether there's another one somewhere, collecting dust and cobwebs and biding its time...

SSBB plug: AmD & Milltek

This weekend I took the SuckSqueezeBangBlow-mobile - the 2002 SEAT León Cupra 20V T - down to AmD Essex for a little treat. I needed the exhaust replacing anyway, so I thought I might as well do the job properly and get something that'll last, as well as having a few performance benefits. So, what are these benefits? Well, unlike cheaper systems that are often designed solely for noise or fashionable aesthetics, Milltek systems are designed to complement and enhance the engine application in question, so this exhaust isn't just built to fit the car, but to help it. Indeed, despite being a non-resonated system (i.e. one that deletes the front silencer and replaces it with a straight pipe), it's no louder in day-to-day use than the standard exhaust. However, under enthusiastic acceleration it has a creamy, throaty burble and, if you're feeling particularly playful, pop-pops cheerfully on the over-run too. The best of both worlds, then; the fact that the tailpipes are beautifully finished is merely a fringe benefit. And, of course, being stainless steel, the exhaust will probably outlive the car. (Below you can see the before and after shots - the standard-fit SEAT exhaust, then the Milltek system as fitted.)

As for AmD, I can't recommend them highly enough. Friendly, informative chaps who take the time to talk you through the tuning possibilities of your car, and also very accommodating: when I arrived at 9am, they said that the car would be ready to collect early- to mid-afternoon. I put on my panic face and said 'Ah, I promised my wife I'd be back in London by two...'. 'No problem,' they said, 'we'll crack onto it now.' It was ready shortly after 11! AmD are also running a tremendously good value offer at the moment whereby you can get a half-price remap if you're buying a Milltek exhaust. I didn't take them up on this (although I probably should have - I just don't have the funds at present), but £150 for a pro remap is a pretty damn good deal, given that it includes a road test, before and after rolling-road runs with printouts and, for the Cupra, around 30bhp & 67lb.ft extra as well as better fuel economy. I'll certainly be paying them a visit for that in the future...
I did take them up on the Pipercross panel filter, though. At £35 with free fitting, it'd be foolish not to - it'd nearly cost that to have the standard filter replaced anyway, and the Pipercross offers the advantages that it'll last far longer, add 3-5bhp and, combined with the freer-flowing Milltek system, it just gives me the feeling that the car's breathing properly now.

Incidentally, AmD haven't given me anything to plug them in this way. I'm just very keen on the idea of honest peer-to-peer reviews! If you drive something from the VAG stable (or a BMW 3-series, or a Ford Focus, or a Nissan GT-R - they cater for all sorts) and you're after a little more bang for your buck, I suggest you give AmD a try. If nothing else, you'll be hugely entertained by the savage-looking content of the car park...

Click here for more info.

Friday, 27 April 2012


The idea of a desirable Volga estate is one that you'll never be able to sell in to a lot of people. But they're missing out, as you can see here; this wagon, borne of an era of austerity, looks gloriously battle-scarred with its frilly edges and gentle patina, yet at the same time defiant in the face of modernity. Its suspension has had a fair wedge of height hacked from it, while the arches accommodate polished Cragars - this Volga cocks a snook at its own functional ethos, blending a little American warmth into its icy surroundings. And there's something rather wonderful about that.
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World Cup Rally Austin Maxi

Saviour of British Leyland. Alec Issigonis' magnum opus. International rally winner. Coveted design classic. The Austin Maxi was none of these things, although its significance to the British motor industry in the 1970s is often underestimated. It was spacious, well-appointed, competitively priced, reliable (apart from the early gearbox issues - best not to think about that) and, above all, frugal - a key selling point during a fuel crisis. And, if nothing else, it showed the world what a useful thing a hatchback was.

It was still pretty fresh out of the box for the 1970 London-Mexico World Cup rally, the model having been launched in '69. MCE 7G, the car you see here, was one of four Maxis entered into the rally, campaigned by Marshalls of Cambridge. It was significantly modified from standard in order to survive the gruelling challenge; it received fibreglass doors and bonnet, Perspex windows and a welded tailgate with saloon-style boot containing a bag fuel tank. The Hydrolastic suspension was kept (it was useful to the manufacturer to prove that this was durable and versatile!), along with auxiliary Koni shocks. Under the bonnet was a 1750cc engine with twin SU carbs.

What's most important, of course, is that the car made it to Mexico. Furthermore, it's now for sale, sensitively restored to original specs - click here and here.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Puerto Rican Jeep Rod

This Willys Jeep-based hot rod is a riot of detail. You can't fail to love the piston wing mirrors, the schoolroom plastic chairs are nicely offbeat, and the grandma's-parlour carpeting is fantastically odd. In fact 'fantastically odd' sums the thing up rather well overall. SuckSqueezeBangBlow's favourite detail, though? The gauge markings painted on the fuel tank. That, combined with the satanic porcupinery of the open headers, creates a glorious object of slapstick lunacy. In the most serious way possible.
Click here for more. 


This FD Mazda RX-7 is a remarkable car. How so? Is it the 13B motor, rebuilt to run a single Garrett GT35R dual ball-bearing turbo? Is it the fact that it's a daily driver, running on E85 ethanol and producing 505bhp? Perhaps it's the zero-offset Rotas, the Tein coilovers, the fuel-lines running through the rear diffuser, the tangerine paint?
No, it's the fact that it caught fire during this photoshoot, and had to be hosed down by the New York Fire Department. That's really unfortunate...
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You may have laughed in the eighties, but you're coveting this Lada now, aren't you? The VAZ-2103, known over here as the Lada 1500, was basically a Russian Fiat 124. It offered such Western decadences as four headlamps, a powerful(ish) 75bhp 1.5-litre engine and sporty-looking instruments, as well as certain modifications to make it more appropriate for Siberian weather; an emergency starting-handle, an auxiliary fuel pump, thicker-gauge steel.
This particular example blows away the cobwebs of stereotype and cliché, sporting vibrant, verdant paint and arrow-straight bodywork. Modifications are limited to a gentle tickle with the lowering sickle and a gorgeous set of white steel wheels with whitewall tyres. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful Lada. Yes, it's OK to say that now.