Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Continental III

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Lincoln's stately Continental was always, traditionally speaking, a luxurious flagship for Ford's high-end division. The original 1939 Continental was designed to be Edsel Ford's own personal vehicle, who then greenlighted production so that the public were able to drive the opulent and extravagant thing that he drove. This pretty much sums up the model's best-of-the-best legacy, which ultimately spanned nine design generations (although, admittedly, the latter-day Taurus-based ones are rather less special).

The fourth-gen examples of the 1960s are iconic and widely celebrated, with their suicide doors and absurd, cartoonish length, and these often overshadow the third-generation cars, such as the one we see here. Built from 1958-60, they were richly studded with exciting features: a reverse-rake rear 'breezeway' window that rolled down behind the seats, aircon vents in the ceiling, an FM radio (ooooh!), and a saucy-sounding 'Auto Lube' system. They didn't sell brilliantly, though - in fact, Lincoln lost sixty million dollars on the mkIII, reflecting the vast cost of developing an enormous unibody land-barge that was considered excessive even in an age known for not being particularly understated.

Still, it's a fairly magnificent thing to behold, isn't it? I love the ridiculousness of having a car this large that only has two doors, and my favourite detail of all is the dashboard. Sure, it's basically a silver-painted tea tray with dials glued into it, but imagine how space-age it must have looked in the late fifties! Positively NASA-esque.

Spotted in the car park at the 2013 Goodwood Revival - click here for more photos.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Kia GT4 Stinger

Words - Daniel Bevis; photos - Kia

Remember the Kia Pride? That grim little badge-engineered Mazda 121/Ford Festiva of the late eighties? Yeah, that's not really what Kia are about any more.
Several years of quality output from Kia and Hyundai have taken the stuffing out of that 'the Koreans are coming!' hysteria, with South Korean brands positioning themselves squarely and credibly on the global map, melding quality and longevity with keen pricing and unrivalled warranty schemes. But I don't think anyone saw the GT4 Stinger coming...

Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show a couple of weeks ago, the Stinger is a 2+2 concept with a turbocharged 315bhp 2.0-litre four-pot and a six-speed 'box. Designed in California, its focus is on visceral thrills and driver engagement (hence the manual gearbox, in a world of ever-slicker self-shifters); it's got centre-lock wheels and vast Brembos to please the Gran Turismo generation, but the key element of this Ignition Yellow concept is that it's proudly wearing a Kia badge on the nose. And why not? They've brought the name from embarrassment through acceptance and into credibility, and it seems that desirability is the next rung on the ladder. With design and integrity like this, how can they fail?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

205 Mi16

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

I was at Pug1Off recently - the Northants-based Peugeot specialists - having some work done on my 205 GTI. While there I had a wander around the yard behind the workshop, and there was all kinds of interesting stuff to pore over; a rallycross 106, a 205 that was clearly a fibreglass refugee from the nineties, and this rather special Mi16 trackday special. For the uninitiated, the Mi16 is the 16-valve engine that could be found in period under the bonnets of the Citroën BX 16v and Peugeot 405 Mi16. It's effectively a 16v variant of the 1.9-litre 8v XU engine in the 205 1.9 GTI, benefitting also from having double overhead cams and offering 160bhp instead of the 8v's 130. So it drops in pretty easily, and adds a slug of extra power as standard as well as opening up endless tuning potential.
The jazzy engine upgrade is complemented in this Miami Blue example by the lightweight Speedlines with sticky tyres, buckets, rollcage, and general angry demeanour. If I had the funds, this is pretty much what my GTI would be like. Marvellous.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

SSBB Fleet: Octavia vRS

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Say hello to the newest member of the SuckSqueezeBangBlow fleet - the 2005 Škoda Octavia vRS. This replaces the old '02 SEAT Léon Cupra 20VT, which met an ignominious end two days before Christmas. (Unfortunate business. 2mph crash, hit by a guy in a Vectra in a bus lane, wrote the poor thing off, don't want to talk about it.)
So, why an Octavia? Well, we'd been very happy with the Léon as a family car, and the Octavia vRS has exactly the same 180bhp, 1.8-litre, 20v turbo engine as the Cupra (right down to the AUQ engine code) as well as many other shared bits. Hell, it's basically the same car. But it's also 32cm longer, meaning that it has an absurdly capacious boot, big enough to swallow pushchairs and luggage with casual aplomb. The interior's a bit nicer too, with swanky half-leather seats in a shade of white that will undoubtedly be ever so practical with a toddler on board...
It's done 124k, but that's barely run in with one of these, right? It used to be a paramedic car so there's oodles of service history, and the dealer fitted a new cambelt & water pump and a new clutch & dual-mass flywheel before we took delivery. (I was very pleased about this last part - we contributed £250 toward the clutch, compared to the £1,100 we paid for the same job on the Léon in 2012...!) So, it's all looking good. Future plans include new discs & pads, better tyres, and a speaker/head unit upgrade - but for now, the SSBB family barge is ready to rock 'n' roll. A slightly expensive silver lining to the Léon debacle, hopefully.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Project87 - wheel refurb

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Project87, for those that don't know, is the 1987 Peugeot 205 GTI that I'm running as a project car for Retro Cars magazine. The latest instalment, on the shelves now, marks the halfway point in the project. This month's big change? The wheels...
A few months ago I invested in a fresh set of Wolfrace's new-wave Slotmags, as seen in the picture above. They're pretty cool, with plenty of dish and a nice nostalgic throwback to seventies/eighties custom cars, and they suited the car very well. But project cars are all about evolution, and the GTI's standard Speedline rims are a design classic, so I decided to have them refurbished by Lepsons in Kent - it's an incredibly involved process, and at £55 a corner it's pretty damn good value. You can read all about it in the new issue of the mag...

Friday, 17 January 2014

Mountune Fiesta ST

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

SuckSqueezeBangBlow reviewed a Mountune-fettled Fiesta ST before Christmas, and it was brilliant. The base ST is a phenomenal thing in itself, but the Mountune tweaks (all covered by Ford's warranty) take the power up to levels that trouble the 208 GTI and Clio RS. The dynamics are flawless too, it's such a fun car to drive - oodles of power, razor-sharp handling, everything is very, very well judged. You can read all about it here.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

166 Inter-Sport Corsa

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Hot on the heels of the Oblin 166MM is this, another 166. It's a 1948 model, an Inter-Sport Corsa, and is one of just nine such models built by Ferrari in that year.
The first five years of its life were spent racing in a typically hair-on-fire manner, after which point it received the body you see today, lovingly hammered together at the Scaglietti workshop. The barchetta body is a one-off, and it wears the patina of sixty-odd years of enthusiastic use with some pride. It's never been restored, wearing its original racing chassis, and it looks gloriously worn-in. The seats are a saucy snakeskin, the interior floors are masterfully battle-worn, and that bakelite gear-knob is a work of art. A wonderful little slice of Modenese history, this.

Spotted at Salon Privé 2013 - click here for more photos.