Tag Archives: Mini

Top 5 German Cars in Red

24 Oct

Italian cars can come in a multitude of colours and look sexy. Let’s take Ferraris as an example. Now, if I ever perchance to buy a 355, I would buy one in red, naturally, and the same will probably be true when I get my Enzo, and almost certainly true when I get my F40. But what if I were to buy a 456? I’d get that in dark blue. A 550? Silver. My 250 Lusso? Did they do it in British Racing Green?

Travel north to Germany, however, and things are a bit different. I know I seem to give Germans a bit of a hard time about taste, but they do get it badly wrong sometimes. And, seeking to emulate their Italian automotive counterparts, they sometimes produce their cars in postbox red, or bucca delle lettre rosso, if you’re in Rome. And nearly every one looks, in the immortal words of Samuel Pepys, “bleedin’ ‘orrible”. Would you drive a red E-Class estate? A red R8? A red 5 Series? I thought not.

But sometimes, there is a synergy of colour and teutonic car that transcends nationality and just looks excellent. And so below is my run down of the Top 5 German Cars in Red, in no particular order:

1. Porsche 959

The Porsche 959. In a quarry of some kind.

What a great looking car this is. Like a 911 turned up to….well, 11. Sparred in the 80s with the aforementioned F40 for the title of World’s Fastest Production Car and yet, unlike the F40, it was also used for rallying and is thus imbued it with some fairly major kudos. And it looked good in red, hence its presence here.

2. Audi Quattro

"Fire up the....." blah blah blah

Originating in the heady days of Group B rallying, when no limits were put on a car’s maximum output, the Audi Quattro has emerged as something of a legend. It was the first car to introduce four-wheel drive into rallying, which would have been a comfort to the driver, given that some Quattrtos had close to 600 horsepower. Homologated for the road, the car offered a tantalising mixture of performance and discretion that made it the ultimate Q car of the 1980s. Unless you got it in red. Which it looks good in.

3. BMW M1

The BMW M1. In a sexy puddle

Originally built in 1978 as a collaboration between BMW and Lamborghini, the M1 was essentially a homologation special intended for competition (kind of like the Porsche 959. And the Audi Quattro). It was mid-engined, had a cool slatted roof, was designed by Giugiaro and….looked good in red.

4. Mercedes 190SL

Mercedes 190SL. Looks good in red.....

We’ve been hanging out in late 70s/early 80s Germany so far for this list, so let’s take it back a bit. The 190SL, essentially a cheaper, slower, less roofed and thus less gullwing-doored, version of the 300SL, was an archetype of graceful 1950s style. It only had a 1.9 litre engine, as its name suggests, which meant that your only option was to cruise slowly around the Riviera, with the top down, taking in the sights. Sounds terrible. Quite nice in red, too.

5. BMW Isetta

The BMW Isetta. Plus man.

OK, not a German car in the strictest sense, as the car was licensed to BMW by an Italian firm. But BMW put a lot of their own bits on and in it, it had a BMW badge, and that’s good enough for us. Released in the same year as the 190SL, but entirely different, the Isetta is a little cutie pie, albeit a cutie pie that uses the flexibility of your knee joints as its crumple zone. It seems ironic that, despite all our advancements in the automotive industry, automakers are now (non leg-based safety devices aside) trying to emulate the simplicity of the small cars of the 1950s like the Isetta, as well as the Mini and the Fiat 500. All of which look good in red. But only one of which can be counted as German. The Isetta. In red.

Well there you have it. And I appreciate that whether or not a German car looks good in red is subjective (well, it’s objective really, but for politeness’ sake let’s say it’s subjective). But then again, this is my blog, so lump it. Or, better still, tell me your Top 5. Comments welcome!

In praise of….the UAZ

26 Aug

During my time in Mongolia recently, I kept spotting these old Soviet vans dotted around the place. They looked ancient, such as you’d see in a documentary of 1960s Berlin, and yet this was the go-to vehicle for the police, the ambulance service and, of course, the tourists being constantly ferried to and from The Mongolian Wilderness.

Well, it turns out this van is called a UAZ-452. I imagine that its proliferation around Mongolia is a result of the Soviet ideal of everyone owning the same thing, which is why places like Budapest are still littered with those horrible Trabants. But, in an age that has given us the new Beetle, the new Mini, the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the Plymouth Prowler, the new Fiat 500 (shall I go on?), I think that the UAZ should be rehabilitated for the modern age. And more importantly, should be allowed the travel through Checkpoint Charlie and into the glorious West, filled as it is with that sense of liberty, equality and fraternity so often seen in place like the U.S…..

My idea, which I was kind enough to share with some Australians on a trip into The Mongolian Wilderness, and who looked most interested, was to ship one back to the UK, rip out its engine, which will doubtless be of a 1970s Soviet design (and therefore total crap) and put in something small and diesely, maybe the longstanding 1.9 diesel from the Volkswagen Audi Group (I thought that was better than writing VAG). Then, lo and bloody behold, you have an amazing looking van, which is significantly cooler than a Volkswagen Camper, not least because it won’t be driven by people trying to creat some sort of hippy parody, which will be built like the proverbial shithouse and it won’t break down. As much. Basically, a winner then. Get your orders in now.

(Addendum: my friend in Mongolia reliably informs me that the UAZ-452 is known colloquially as the Forgon, to differentiate it from the UAZ jeep, which looks very similar to the Jeep Wrangler or equivalent. Presumably it is called this as it’s a “Forgon” conclusion that the thing will break down somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned Mongolian Wilderness and you’ll be mauled to death by angry sheep intent on their revenge against the Mongolian people, who have been slaughtering them for centuries and serving them up in bowls of milk. This actually happens.)

The Dockland Motor Expo thinginy-jig

15 Jun

So, this weekend, I had a hankering to watch the film Amelie. Don’t know why, these things just happen, particularly with Amelie which is an especially beauteous film. So off I went on my little bicycle to an HMV in Canary Wharf, purportedly my closest outlet. As I arrive there, what should Carficionado see before his very eyes? A car show. Suffice it to say that I had no choice but to get snapping and report back to you, the good people. Here’s what I saw, bearing in mind that I don’t think car manufacturers were waiting for the Docklands Motor Expo to unveil any of their latest offerings.

First off, I saw this rather tasty MX5 roadster type thing. I didn’t enquire as to what its purpose in life was (Mille Miglia in an MX5?) but it looked cool.

Then I saw what was for me a bit of a revelation. The new Saab 9-5. I like Saabs. My dad has an old 9-5 estate and it’s a very nice place to be. I personally thought the new car looked stunning (sorry for News of the World terminology there). There’s a hint of the Vauxhall Monaro about its rear fascia, which is fine but the overall shape and design of the front? Sehr gut! Echt gut! In the automotive world where so much slime carries on living regardless (I’m looking at you Kia Magentis), Saab’s a company that deserves a new beginning and particularly a GM-less one, and I hope that this 9-5 marks the start of that emancipation.

Elsewhere I saw a Tesla, which is no longer newsworthy I don’t think, but good to see one up close. The new Jaguar XJ which looks nearly very very brilliant. There’s just something that I don’t like about it though. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Although the interior, I can safely report, was luscious.

One genuinely new car was Mini’s new Countryman. Now I’ve been in a fair few regular Minis and they are very cramped. Considering Alec Issigonis’ original was roughly the size of one of the newer Mini’s wheels, it was certainly about as, if not more, practical. The Countryman is intended to target the Golf more directly, and doubtless will. It was notably bigger, a little jacked up as if intending to do some soft-roading and had a decent sized boot. I couldn’t get this image out of my mind though. Imagine a regular Mini sneezing….

Otherwise it was business as usual. The new Volvo S60 which looks….pretty good. A brace of Norton motorbikes which look the part but are heinously expensive, more than twice the price of my Triumph Bonneville. And the new BMW 5 Series, which looked so anonymous that I barely noticed it. Does have a very big boot though. So the Docklands Expo, or whatever it was called. Not the greatest car show I’ve ever been to, but always nice to spend a Saturday sniffing around some shiny new cars.

Now, something which I didn’t see at the Expo but is still noteworthy was this rather tasty Renault Alpine GTA that I stumbled upon in rural Oxfordshire. Didn’t get to hear its V6 unfortunately, but I always enjoy spotting a bit of curios.