Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo of the week #6

2007 24hrs of Daytona, Stevenson Motorsports Corvette. Middle of the night repairs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest review: Citroen C3

I had the opportunity to rent a Citroen C3 for two weeks while on vacation in Sardegna, Italy. Due to differences in driving culture and habits, road design, and most importantly emissions restrictions, this is not a car that you are going to see in the U.S. anytime soon.

I have to start by apologizing for not getting some critical information, such as the precise model year (the vehicle we had is from at least 2009, probably newer) and the exact engine configuration. My rental vehicle was a naturally-aspirated turbocharged diesel with a 5-speed manual transmission. This car had front disc brakes a rear drum brakes.

So that you know where we are coming from, my garage currently consists of a 2007 Honda Civic LX with a 5-speed manual and a 2004 Nissan Frontier XE in a 2wd and automatic transmission configuration. I previously owned a 1995 Subaru Legacy with an automatic and my wife had a 1997 VW Jetta with a 5-speed manual.

In keeping with apparent Italian tastes, this car is a compact 4-door hatch back. In general I saw very few sedans either in Tuscany or on Sardegna. The vast majority of passenger cars we saw were compact hatchbacks or larger station wagons, including BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes, along with the other European nameplates.

Driving position was nice and very adjustable. I like to be relatively upright and close the steering wheel, while not having my legs cramped. I was perfectly happy driving for up to 2 hours on twisty roads with lots of gear changes. Rachel really liked the front passenger leg room. Back seat leg room was non-existent (something like them1997 VW Jetta), but luckily we didn't need that seating space.

Similar to the Peugot 206 (which we spent a lot of time riding in but did not drive), the C3 has no cupholders and power windows in front, but crank windows in back. My sense is that cupholders are not considered to be important because when you are driving in Europe, you are driving, not drinking your coffee (although talking on your cellphone while driving is apparently legal in Italy and France).

Sardegna is a very rural and mountainous island in the Mediterranean with few divided highways. Except for a few developed tourist areas (such as the very chiche Costa Smeralda) the island is generally quite poor relative to the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and most of mainland Italy. The primary roads, however, are generally in very good condition (particularly by U.S. standards). This may be why the Italian debt situation is particularly bad.

This allowed for some fun (and at times scary) driving. The Citroen C3 was quite adequate for handling hills, cornering, and passing on straightaways (although the natives don't feel that need to wait until straightaways with adequate sight distance to pass). Body roll was minimal and steering was quick and precise. The C3 has a short wheel base and can get around corners quickly with minimal deceleration. The little diesel was more than adequate to bring this seemingly lightweight car back up to speed even on inclines.

The gearbox was fine. Generally I think that noticing characteristics of the transmission is not good and this one was easy to use with no oddities, similar to my Civic (the same cannot be said for the 1997 Jetta). Likewise braking was fairly unmemorable.

Italians have a reputation for being crazy drivers (but perhaps not as crazy as the reputation of Mumbai drivers). Superficially this may be true, but I found that they generally take driving very seriously while not taking the actions of other drivers personally. It seems that there is an expectation that drivers are fully alert and focused on the road, which does not generally seem evident on the roads here in the U.S.

Sardegna is mostly popular with German motorcyclists but is otherwise off the beaten path. Only once did we see a fleet of sports cars and that was a line of Ferraris that came pass in the opposite direction on a particularly narrow and twisty road. I would have thought that with cars such as Testarossas, F40s (I think) and 308s, among others, they would have had the cornering ability to stay in their own lane on blind curves. To be clear, this was near the Costa Smeralda and the drivers may have been some nouveau riche from who knows where in the world that decided to rent some Ferraris, rather than Italian or even European drivers. I was glad to have C3s abilities and small size to avoid a very expensive accident.

On the last day we had the car the service engine light came on with a message about the motor oil.

Maybe European motor oil is supposed to be black and thick?

I returned the car the next day and it became not my problem.

All in all, the Citroen C3 is a no frills, budget car that has nothing particularly special about it, however, the engineers did remember that a living person would be driving it, unlike some of the offerings that come out of some companies. Toyota and Chrysler come to mind.

While I would still choose a Honda Civic over this, I was perfectly happy to drive a car designed for driving while not violating Oliver's instructions from his dad never to ride in anything made in France that goes over 200 mph.

Happy motoring,

Photo of the week #5

This is for last week. Another one from my Father in law's collection. This is Connie Kalitta at a dragstrip on Long Island, NY. Around 1969-70.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Orange is my favorite color. It isn't always the best color for cars but this one is so cool. It popped up on a dealers lot near me this week. Give me a 1970 Plymouth Superbird in Vitamin C orange a Lotus Elise in Chrome orange and this Audi TTs in Solar Orange

Car Movies The Bad

Save yourself some time skip these movies. I haven't seen all of these. I was forewarned by others who care. I will start with Cannonball Run II. I owned the DVD and started watching it 3-4 times and could never bear to finish it. Days of Thunder was terrible. The story was great and done right would have been a great NASCAR movie. The script made me want to puke. Skip watching Days of Thunder and watch Stroker Ace instead (I'll let you borrow it). Cars II was a disappointment. I really feel that the first Cars movie was a great movie. The second had a poor story line and added violence that wasn't needed for the story. I have never seen Driven or Dukes of Hazzard the movie and never will. There are probably many more for this list I just can't remember right now.

Car Movies The Good

There many "car" movies that have been made over the years. I started a list of some of my favorites and it started to get a little long. I came up with thirteen pretty quickly. There are also a few movies I hope to see soon the I anticipate could make a top ten type list. I have yet to see the new movie Senna based on the life of Aryton Senna. here is a brief list of some movies I would recommend for the auto enthusiast.
Some of my favorite children's car movies are The original Herbie movies, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and of course Pixar's Cars. There are the fun 70's classics like Blues Brothers, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run (early 80's really), and Convoy. These movies were all fun movies with lots of burnouts and crashes. How much better can you get. Some of the drama car films that I enjoy to watch are Greased Lighting, Grand Prix, and LeMans. LeMans and Grand Prix have some of the greatest car sounds ever. Crank up the volume on the TV when watching LeMans. There are some documentaries that one should see. Dust to Glory comes to mind. It is about the Baja 1000 race in Mexico. I hope to seen Truth in 24 soon. this documentary is about Audi preparing for the 2008 24 Hours of LeMans race.
If you get stuck in the house on a rainy or cold winter weekend check out some of these movies. There should be something on this list for all moods or tastes.

Dan Wheldon

I was sad to learn today of the passing of Dan Wheldon. I had the pleasure of watching him race in 2006 when I attended the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. He won the race driving for Chip Ganassi. He was a true champion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Photo of the week #4

I actually bought this black & white photo at a flea market for around $.25. I know it is a Porsche, I am assuming a 356.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Porsche Exhibit

This autumn season the Saratoga Auto museum's main exhibit is Porsche automobiles. My family and I stopped over this Sunday to check out the new display inside the museum. They also had a small show in the front parking lot. It was nice of the Porsche owners to brave the early wet weather to bring their cars out for people to see.
The Display inside was as always second to none. There were some nice LeMans 24hr race cars as well as street cars both modern and classic. Also on display for the weekend was Porsche's new 918 RSR hybrid race car.
If you get a chance this fall stop up and see the display.