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MR_BOL'S EUROSHITE SCANS - New Jan 2018 - Renault 4 built by Alfa Romeo


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#1 ONLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 10:23 PM

ALRIGHT SHITERS, I've got something here that might pique your interest for a short while. I've got a pile of 'gazoline' magazines, its the French equivalent of practical classics, and it often has some spectacular shite in it. By spectacular I mean european stuff that is too obscure to make it into the UK classic car mags. I have often thought it would be a great exercise to scan in a few bits and translate them, to bring some of this stuff onto the UK SHITE RADAR.

As you know I got in a tiz lately about the Autobianchi A111 which is for sale on LeBonCoin. I'm still trying to sort somethign out with the seller on that, but he clearly has other things to think about than selling this car so its a slow process!!! Not a stationary one however so watch this space. In the meantime i have dug a bit on the interweb and paid €1.50 to download a Gazoline article about the A111. Its the only article i've ever seen on them anywhere. Anyway i have translated the main text and converted the images to a slightly crummy jpg so you can see whats going on. I will try and scan a few bits in from time to time and add to the thread. I found an article on the SEAT 1200/1430 coupe, thats the level of shite we're talking here. Anyway, here we go. The formattings not great, but TBH I dont know how to improve it without spending yonks on it, the translation took a couple of hours to type up anyway. I havent done the captions but if you want to know something, just ask.

A111_1.jpgA111_2.jpg

Front-drive, or stick it all at the back? At the end of the 1950’s, this question came up time and time again at the heart of Fiat’s engineering department. The engineer Dante Giacosa was convinced that FWD was the logical choice for family cars. But he doubted that, for city cars and especially for those supposed to be sold at very low prices, FWD was the solution due to the higher complexity and associated costs relative to a RWD layout. The commercial success and the reliability of the 500 and 600, and across the Alps the Beetle and the 4CV and Dauphine, gave plenty of validity to these thoughts. Even the 1959 arrival of the mini did not change his view. He certainly admired the technical solutions of that car, particularly the gearbox-in-sump arrangement, but reasoned that even if this setup gained some inches of cabin space, it shortened considerably the bank balance of the owner during purchase and maintenance. He reckoned that at that time, Fiat buyers could not afford that luxury. Following the tricky launch of the 500, the Italian company struggled to find its place in the newly opened-up market of the EEC. The 850 of 1964 and the 126 of 1972 would thus remain loyal to the all-at-the-back layout. Buyers would have to wait until the 1980 Panda to see Fiat offer a true FWD city-car.
We’ll not get into the politico-psychological reasons why, before the war, Fiat got so firmly into the RWD habit (noting that ‘Le Senatore’ Agnelli pushed it very firmly following a serious accident he’d had in an early FWD Fiat prototype). But anyway this layout had served Fiat well, though without convincing Giacosa of its universal applicability. He regularly opened this question up to discussion, particularly with test director Carlo Salamano. To take it further, they needed a ruse....

A111_3.jpg

Project G123

At the end of the 50’s, when the aging Fiat 1100 was due for a replacement following its final restyle in 1953, Giacosa asked his advanced engineering function to look into some recent technical developments “without worrying too much about the final outcome†but with a particular product in mind: a prototype mid-market vehicle known as G123 (G for Giacosa, 123 being the next available number in the Fiat project nomenclature system) which would incorporate the latest and greatest technologies available. Advanced Engineering was of course created for such a task. Alongside commercial activities, its job was to conquer unknown technical territories, test out ideas, take concepts and develop them into marketable solutions or conclusively prove they were unfeasible, and to come up with prototypes which would often be exhibited in exhibitions round the world, showing Fiats technical know-how. This helped to cancel out images of Fiat as a manufacturer of basic, commodious buzz-boxes with little flair or personality.
It was clear to most within Fiat that despite the grandiose wording surrounding the project title, what was being worked on here was a prototype of a high-volume next-generation family saloon. The team came up with 4 options - all were a 4-dr saloon of 760-780kg with an 1100cc engine mounted in the front or rear. The first two, G123 E1 and E2, were startlingly avant-garde, including the engine. The old 1100cc ohv four was gone, replaced by an in-line 3 with overhead cam and cooling by air and oil! Two engine configurations were proposed: one was the more classical vertical installation; the other, more audacious with a horizontal engine block. This remarkable 1157cc unit was certainly more compact than the 600’s 4-cyl unit and a lot more powerful. To go with it the engineers devised a clean-sheet 3-speed gearbox with semi-automatic change and dash-mounted selector buttons rather than the usual gearstick. Not a million miles in fact, from the Ferlec system found on Renner dauphines and 8’s.

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Non-conformism

These technical innovations were complimented with an exterior style equally radical; two-box saloons with a stubby short ‘bustle back’ boot (achieved by prolonging the rear wings in the style of the Austin A40), hatchback and panoramic rear window, grill-less front end and, on the rear-engined E2, the horizontal engine layout permitted a boot area above the engine to add to the space available in the front luggage compartment. This seemed the most enticing prospect from a customers viewpoint, but not for Giacosa who found it too radical and, encouraged by the warm responses to two of the other prototypes by Fiat management, pushed these two forward for further development. The nomination to the post of company strategy adviser of Salamano in January 1962, complicated the situation somewhat, but his successor Montabone in test engineering broadly agreed with Giacosa’s thoughts on small and medium cars.
However the game was changing externally and Fiat was in greater and greater need of some new products, never mind pushing technology boundaries forwards. Fiat management agreed to carry on with the G123 in some form, on the understanding that the project would give birth to a car that was not just experimental but ’realistic’. Out went the semi-auto box, the 3-cyl OHC engine, and the new-fangled styling. Now the G123 was looking like a fairly dull 3-box saloon with the 1100’s old engine fitted through a ‘false door’ at the back like on the 600!!! The initial enthusiasm soon gave way to general discouragement, but Giacosa tried to play one last card. He came up with an E4 three-box, with lined that were certainly orthodox (‘classical’ in his words) but with a front wheel drive transmission and the good old 1100 engine fitted transversely. “The engine was baptised the 103G1 and the car drawings had the logo ‘109....â€
Fiat knocked the idea back but Giacosa presented it in parallel to Nello Valechi, director of Autobianchi, a satellite operation founded in 1955 in a JV between Fiat, Bianchi and Pirelli. He was certainly keener and managed to convince Fiat to let him build the fwd car in his under-utilised Desio factory. The birth of the Primula in 1964 at the Turin Salon allowed Fiat to judge the interest in the new FWD layout. Available in hatchback, saloon and coupe bodyshells, this car would appeal to the many people who deemed the Fiat range too staid, particularly outside Italy where the Autobianchi marque carried much more ‘panache’ than the ubiquitous and rather stodgy Fiat brand.

A111_5.jpg

In parallel, Giacosa worked away at Fiat on the FWD 123 project, but ultimately without success; it was quashed in favour of the more classical 124, a RWD with front-mounted 1200cc engine that woud ultimately replace not the 1100 model but the next range up, that of the 1300-1500 saloons. It would be necessary to wait till March 1969 and the launch of the 128 to see Fiat join the club of FWD converts.
Elsewhere, the Primula was enjoying a very long and successful career; it also installed itself in Fiat showrooms in the hope of extending its lifespan further (in March 1968 it received the 124 engine and a welcome facelift), and the coupe model was offered with the new 1438 engine later to be seen in the 124 Special. In fact its success was a sort of worry to Fiat, who feared it would steal customers who would otherwise buy its own 128 estate which was coming in 1969. The Primula’s modularity, in its 3 and 5-door versions was a boon for customers who like the saloon-like bodyshape but with the ability to transform itself into a useful estate car “without looking like oneâ€. Italy had never been a fan of cars which looked ‘too utilitarian’. This worry grew until eventually, Fiat felt unable to continue Primula manufacture and stopped it point blank! It did not have the intention to kill off Autobianchi however, so dug out a suitable project that would keep the company’s engineers and assembly lines busy. Which one fell to hand.... but the G123 E4! Or, more precisely, one of its variants, abandoned at prototype stage in 1963 and left to fester. A reasonably elegant saloon, with a slight chiselled shape to the bodywork’s shoulderline (not unlike the Alfa Giulia), a neat grille integrating square headlights and indicators right on the corners of the body. Enrico Ghiretti, Autobianchi’s then recently-appointed boss was quick to agree that this car could make a suitable replacement for the Primula. The platform was identical to the Primula, with the wheelbase being lengthened by 6cm and most mechanical parts being shared (the rear springs were upgraded to 4 leaves rather than 3) and engine wise, the 1438cc OHV unit from the 124 coupe was selected.

The A111 is not a cheap car

Just a few months later the project came to realisation, and it was in March 1969 that not the Fiat 123, but the Autobianchi A111, was revealed. It was not proposed as a straightforward Primula replacement, but as an all-new vehicle designed to take Autobianchi upmarket and into new sales territory. The price was 1.316 million Lire, 25% more than a Primula 4-dr and 10% more than a Fiat 124 special. Even an Alfa Giulia 1300 was cheaper, at 1.295 million. The A111 nailed its colours to the mast as a quality saloon car, a ‘premium product’ in today’s marketing speak. This commercial approach was imposed by Fiat who again was protecting its own products, this time a fear of Autobianchi stealing 124 sales, and who attempted to justify the position with a high-quality construction, notably classier than Turin’s usual efforts. Beneath the angular bodywork, the A111 hid a plush interior with a real wood dashboard, a smart 3-dial instrument pack with integral rev-counter, comfy seats, thick carpets and a comprehensive heating and ventilation system. The wheel tubs in the boot were fully trimmed to better protect your suitcases. The influence of the Fiat 125, in both styling and detailing, is undeniable.

A111_5.jpg

The launch budget for the A111 was not bank-busting by any means. Autobianchi was used to getting the most out of small investments but the lack of Lire meant that the sales dept had to come up with new ways to get the A111 message out there. The Autobianchi network was thus instructed to invite customers for a test-drive, not for 10 mins with a salesman, but for a full half day without any distance limit and no accompaniment. The aim was to let the A111’s quality and driving appeal speak for itself. The technique worked well and customers were very complimentary. A discreet facelift in 1970 added appeal; the chrome over-riders disappeared, to be replaced by rubber strips on the bumpers, a second set of rear light were fitted (!), a chrome tailpipe fitted, new model badge fitted on the front left wing, chrome wheels were replaced by gloss black ones with a chrome trim ring, the hubcaps were changed and now featured a black centre badge. A strange detail; in preparing a 1971 press pack for the A111, Autobianchi showed a set of photos featuring a new set of chrome embellishments on one side, and the existing ones on the other!!! Plenty of mods happened inside as well, though not all functional – a new glovebox positioned beneath the dashboard, where previously there had been a small shelf for additional storage space. More interestingly, the gearstick was shortened and positioned atop a centre console (no doubt brought on by deleting that shelf) which also held the controls for the heating and ventilation. On the door-tops, a strip of false wood replaced the black trim of previous models, but it looked a bit out of place next to the real wood of the dashboard itself. The seats, in velour or vinyl, were much better finished than on previous models. A bright yellow hue was added to the colour options. No mechanical changes took place. Finally, French market versions were now badged as ‘BS’ (for ‘berline sportive’ – sports saloon).

Premature end

Sadly, the A111 did not live very long. In Autumn 1969, Fiat’s purchase of Lancia reshaped the group strategy somewhat. Fiats new top-line models would now be Lancias and the Beta would now pick up the baton of ‘premium sports saloon’. That spelt the end for the A111 which disappeared from the catalogue in Oct 1972, after 56,894 examples had left the production lines. That doesn’t sound many, but taking into account its high price and unusually angular styling, its not so bad, especially for something thats ‘no more than a re-clothed Primula’ according to Eduardo Cima, owner of two very smart examples. Both series 2 models, one ‘president blue’ with ‘cardinal red’ interior, registered in Dec 1972 (2 months after its official retreat from the market) and the other, white one, slightly older (having hit the road in June 1972).
The slightly brutal square-rigged styling encourages you to look harder for interesting stylistic details. The reversing light, beneath the rear bumper, is not just placed there for want of a better idea, but the rear valance is carefully sculpted to accommodate it. In the boot, the bootlid counterweight springs are covered with fabric sleeves. When the front doors are opened a red warning light on the door edge illuminates, alerting cyclists and pedestrians to the risk (a feature which is missing from many modern cars). Interior accommodation certainly privileges the front passengers, at the cost of unfortunates who have to sit in the back, knees around their ears. The trim is velour or vinyl on the sides and rear of the seats and appears to be of a significantly better-than-usual quality if the condition of our two examples is anything to go by. Many accessories have come from the Fiat 125 (steering wheel, grab handles) or the 124 (gearstick, ignition switch). The instrument pack comprises speedo, rev counter graded to 8000rpm, fuel gauge, temp gauge and 8 warning lights, all of which point sharply upwards, which makes them difficult to read in some lights. The radio, in the middle of the dash below the ashtray, is a period accessory. A small plastic hook is hidden in the front passenger door trim; useful for madam’s handbag perhaps?

A111_3.jpg

Disappointing roadholding

If the look of the A111 is encouraging, the feel of it is less so. In period, many people criticised the A111, subsequently finding themselves being labelled as ‘front drive haters’. With the passage of time, its easier to be frank about the car, and to be frank, it disappoints. Its not dangerous by any means, its just not very engaging. Probably the fault of a too-short development cycle which retained the old Primula platform without optimising it for the new larger, heavier and more powerful car. The tyres are too tall (155/13), suspension too soft and very unsporting, and the resulting understeer is marked. Its difficult to position the car well for cornering, at least until you have got the hang of countering the inertia of the front suspension. Don’t try to place it carefully in the hope of following the perfect cornering line. As the Italian magazine Quattroruote said in its October 1969 issue, ‘you have to drive as if the corner starts 100m beforehand!!!’ Edoardo is less harsh, recognising that, compared to the Primula coupe, the A111 requires a much more tranquil driving approach. Its not a sports car. He comments that the gear ratios are exceptionally well chosen for the torque curve of the engine, but the selector mechanism is vague and somewhat obstructive, and the steering very dull indeed during acceleration. Happily, the brakes are excellent and the motor sounds good, good enough to convince you there is some sporty DNA in this car somewhere. Evidently the A111 never had the career, or more particularly the development it deserved. Born from an aborted project and rushed into production, it served above all as a test-bed for front wheel drive technology that Fiat had not yet fully committed to. That it was ultimately sacrificed for reasons more political than commercial, is ultimately not very surprising. Sadly it’s the destiny that often awaits such ‘prototypes’. Shame......

A111_6.jpg

Owner's View

For Edward Cima, 61-yr old shopkeeper from Turin, driving an A111 is entirely natural. “in 1968, to celebrate me getting my degree, my Dad gave me a special present: a brand-new Primula Coupe S in blue. Since then, I’ve had plenty of cars, but i’ve stayed loyal to my first Autobianchi. In fact, I still have it!†Technical registrar for the Autobianchi club of Italy which looks after the legacy of the Desio firm, Edouardo bought a second Primula coupe S before getting ‘into’ A111’s. In 2003, he acquired the blue one. “it had only had two owners from new and needed nothing but a service and coat of paint.†Today it has 134,000 km on the clock and has just been twinned with a second A111, also a series 2, slightly older but less used. “the kilometrage, 51,000, is ridiculous. It was parked up unused for 15 years. I spent 3 years trying to get my hands on it, but the sale of it was blocked by a tribunal, following some complications around the title of the car (the only owner had died 20 years previously). With a fresh battery and some petrol, and a bit of twiddling, the engine started up and sounded sweet. This was not a total surprise, as the 1438 OHV fiat engine is a tough and reliable old unit.


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#2 OFFLINE   Shep Shepherd

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 10:27 PM

That's the sort of obscure motor I'd expect Classics Monthly to cover, if they could find one in the UK :)
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Cars come and cars go, but The Volvo abides.

 

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#3 ONLINE   r.welfare

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 10:33 PM

Great stuff Bollox, I bought a copy of Gazoline when I last went to France about 3 years ago and it seemed like a quality mag, although it certainly taxed my well-rusty (1993) GCSE French - so thanks for the translation of this piece.

2003 Renault Espace IV 2.0 petrol - living up to its reputation...


#4 OFFLINE   seth

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 10:37 PM

Wow, after reading that it really goes to show how perfectly shite a vehicle it is. Sounds like that owner would be the one to ask about windscreens - if its common to anything else I bet he knows.

Top Work Mr B!

#5 OFFLINE   ashmicro

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 10:39 PM

Top work there Bol. An great read.
I am the Pope.

#6 OFFLINE   michiel

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 09:32 AM

Excellent work, I'll copy, paste & print for later.

#7 OFFLINE   gearoil

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 11:15 AM

Nice post and translation there Mr B, standard suitably raised...! Can anyone top or equal that with something...?

#8 OFFLINE   Mr Lobster

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 11:49 AM

Gazoline is a great magazine, I always get a copy when I'm in France. My I also recommend Youngtimers magazine which is similarly excellent.

Model of your shite, sir?

 

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#9 OFFLINE   scruff

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 01:30 PM

Awesome thread Bolz. More please!!

#10 OFFLINE   pompei

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 09:51 PM

Thanks for your hard work, Mr_B - that clearly was not an online translation :roll:
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#11 OFFLINE   Gompo

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 08:14 PM

Quality effort Bollox, thank you.

#12 ONLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 08:33 PM

I've got another one of these lined up, Fiat 127 Moretti. i will 'get it up' early next week.

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#13 ONLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 01:22 AM

OK i've spent a bit of time tonight knocking up another of these for your delectation: FIAT 127 MORETTI

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Any energy crisis, inevitably brings about discussion of the Arlesienne (French term for electric/alternative energy) car. This famous electric vehicle appears every time the crude oil price jumps, or conventional fuels are rationed for whatever reason. Today, its under ‘green’ auspices that assorted ZEV and hybrid projects are served up. But back then, it was lack of fuel, as testified by the VLV (voiture légère de ville) 377 of which were produced by Peugeot between 1942 & 1944, or the ‘Elettrovettura’ conceived in 1944 by Moretti, a small, atypical Emilien car builder.

Giovanni Moretti was one of the self-taught artisan types from the countryside between Bologna and Rimini, and who made themselves a name in the car industry through the strength of their passion. Born 21st July 1904 at Reggio Emilia, into a very poor family, he had a somewhat complicated childhood. Giovannis father died before his 9th birthday, and, having finished school, Giovanni started work in his Uncle’s workshop, where he worked 12-hour days in hellish conditions. Despite all this he found the will to carry out a distance learning course in engineering and secured a diploma in mechanical design. By this time he was 12, and soon started work at a motorcycle manufacturer called Elettra. Unfortunately, destiny soon dealt another lousy hand and at 20, he found himself head of the family, with 2 younger brothers in charge, following the death of his mother. Then, the motorcycle company announced they were moving to a new site in Turin. What should he do? Find another job locally or move to Turin with Elettra? He went for the second option, reasoning that it was better to hold onto what he had already. To finance the move he was forced to sell his only decent possession, a racing bicycle.

They say that its in difficult circumstances that the true character of a person is revealed. Moretti is a good example of this. Hard at work, never satisfied with himself, he continually strived to learn and to progress. At 20 he was already workshop manager, so was doing well for someone who had had to quit school at 8, but he was not satisfied and two years later left to launch his own company. He opened a small workshop on ‘via St. Anselmo’ in which he serviced and repaired motorcycles, and also ran a concession selling Morini and DKV motorcycles. He also produced a very small number of motorcycles & side-car combos. He even produced a small 2-seat cyclecar with a rear-mounted 500cc engine, which exists today only in a few grainy photos.

This guy, we have seen, was resourceful. When WWII broke out, and petrol was rationed, he had the idea of applying electric propulsion to utility vehicles. He built a small number of these which quickly acquired a solid reputation as seriously useful tools. He produced 3 trucks of increasing size with tipping wooden rear beds and engines of 4, 7 and 17hp which gave working ranges of 80, 100 and 130km. These ‘Autocarri Moretti’ vehicles, built in a small factory on ‘Corso Valentino’, were accompanied in 1944 by an electric car called the ‘Elettrovettura’ which was capable of 50km/h and a range of 100km. A ‘monospace’ before their time, it could accommodate 5 or 7 passengers depending on the model. After the war, he came up with the ‘Cita’ (Piedmontese for ‘small’), a city car with shaft transmission to the rear wheels and a horizontally-mounted 250cc engine made by Erfim. By 1948 the Cita was longer and wider and had a tubular chassis, rigid rear axle with leaf springs, in-house 350cc watercooled flat twin and 4-speed box. It was available as a saloon, open-roof saloon, taxi and estate with wooden rear sides. Against the ancient Fiat 500 B and C, the Cita was a winner with customers and in 1949 Moretti was able to improve it again into the Cita 600 which was larger and more powerful and subsequently the Cita 750 with Michelotti coachwork. Already Moretti was offering sports models; the 750 Gran Sport of 1953 had a 750cc twin cam of 55hp, there was a 1954 750 coupe Zagato (58hp), a 1956 sport coupe of 75hp….. It was Moretti’s golden age, his products recognised and admired by his customers and his peers.

In 1956, the base model evolved technically (30hp, platform chassis and 115km/h) and aesthetically (3-box 4-dr saloon). And, in an Italy that reckoned estate cars were only for carpenters and plumbers, it was offered as a 5-door ‘quattro usi’ with 4 individual, removable folding seats making it completely configurable between 2/3/4 seat saloon/estate/van set-ups (in the style of a modern people carrier) for little more than a Fiat 1100 Familiare. Right up till the end of the 50’s, Moretti continued his energetic approach to new models, offering a 1200 model with a DOHC engine of 62, 65 or 80hp, then a 1500 EGT styled by Michelotti, with all this modern technology coming from his own workshops.

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But, the economic situation across Italy and beyond was changing, and at the start of the 60’s, Moretti felt the only way to secure the future of his company was in a venture with Fiat. Accordingly he signed an agreement with Gianni Agnelli which required him to cease activity as a stand-alone car manufacturer. In return Fiat would assure him an authorised supply of chassis and mechanicals to be used with his own designs of bodywork, and also adopt him as a sub-contractor in the field of concept car design and prototype manufacture. It was via this agreement that, apart from a few accessories for the Fiat 600, Moretti became the principal supplier of prettily-styled Fiat mechanicals.

The first 2+2 on the 600 floorpan came out in 1958, and was a great success. In 1962 came the 750 coupé and spyder on the 600D platform, also available as an elegant 3-box 2-dr saloon. Next came a forward-control van on the 600 Multipla floorpan, a huntsman’s coupé based on the 1500 and even a few 6-cylinder coupes that compted directly with Ghia’s efforts. The Moretti 2300 cabriolet was an original design however and also included some home-grown engine work that increased the engine to 2454cc and 170hp!!!

Although a few transformations of Alfa and Maserati chassis feature in Moretti’s history, Fiat was by far their biggest and most loyal partner. The 500 featured heavily and Moretti created an astonishing estate based on that model. To get around the inconvenience of the rear-mounted engine and its associated loadspace-eating compartment, Moretti shifted the whole lot to the front, and increased the overhangs greatly; 16cm at the front and 14 at the back. Now the Moretti 500 ‘Giardinetta’ was a front-drive, with the diff of course being inverted. A huge rear door (that did nothing for rigidity) permitted bulky loads to be carried. On a no doubt hopelessly optimistic period drawing, Moretti claimed the car could swallow a washing machine and a fridge!!!! The loadspace length was 1.3m and the width 1.18m. Not a lot remained of the original 500 beyond the doors and the dashboard, but the ‘500 trazione anteriore’, which did manage to sell a dozen or so examples, showed the capability and the eclecticism of Moretti and his team. It was offered at 800,000 lire, 65% more than a saloon, at the same time as a 600 multipla was available for 745,000 lire.

In 1967, the coachbuilder came back to one of his signature products, the electric car. At the Turin show he displayed a 500 elettrica 2-seater, of which the rear passenger compartment was completely full of batteries, as was the front ‘boot’ and the part of the rear engine bay that did not have the 3hp electric motor in it (sounds hideous!!!!). It had a 100km range, a recharge time of 10 hours and a top speed of 55km/h. Beside this prototype, a design for a tiny one-box car showed Moretti’s interest in this field of space-efficiency, beyond of course maintaining his existing business and product range, which was now becoming quite extensive. In 1964 he launched an entire range based on the 850 (4-dr saloon, coupé and spyder), followed in 1966 by another 850 coupe, and in 1968 an 850 berlinetta. Not forgetting his products based on other mid-range Fiats: 124, 125, 128 and 127.

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The stylistic soul of these cars came from a Swiss stylist, named Danny Brawand, born in Vevey in the Vaud canton. Joining Michelotti in 1952, he came to Moretti in 1966, at the point where the the workshops on Via Montenegro were moving away from Fiat towards projects with BMW, Triumph, Japanese companies and others. He stayed with Moretti until their closure in 1987, from where he launched a consultancy office and worked with Fiat until the mid-90’s, particularly on the aluminium space-frame vehicle that became the modern Multipla. Today aged 74 he’s retired and we have had the chance to meet him during the photoshoot of the 127 Moretti you see here.

‘Our strength’, he explains, ‘was the speed with which we could come up with a new car. Before Fiats production models were unveiled, we only had knowledge of the proportions of the chassis – width, length, track, wheelbase and so on – and from that scant information we had to come up with our own design. Once Fiat’s model was available, it was a frantic race against the clock to finalise ours, and usually in less than 3 months you could buy our car from a dealer!!! Each time we gambled our own survival because Fiat often offered its own coupe and spyder models within a few months of the saloon becoming available. Our ‘big chance’ was to get ours to market before theirs and this meant we had impossibly short timelines for everything. Form the 1970’s it became even more complicated as Fiat’s own 128 coupe was a great success, and that would have been our choice sector of the market. I managed to convince ‘Le Commendatore’ (Moretti himself) to let us build the 127 MidiMaxi, a sort of Mehari-type buggy with a steel body. The angular looks were down entirely to our lack of funds to tool up complex pressings. It was the last and most popular Moretti, selling 6000 examples in 10 years. It was a kind of 2wd SUV of its time.

The Midimaxi was presented at the Turin Salon of 1971, just 7 months after the launch of the 2-dr Fiat 127 saloon. At the show it was stood beside a more classical 127 derivative, the coupe, another fruit of the frenetic efforts of Mr Brawand and his team. “It was more straightforward,” says Mr Brawand. “Fiat had no plans to make a coupe version of the 127, preferring to concentrate on the 128 coupe which had made a step upmarket relative to the days of the 850 coupe with its 1100 and 1200 ohc engines. We reckoned there was a gap in the market for a coupe below the Fiat offering, using the 900cc engine that had been so popular in the 850 family of cars. The 127 Moretti coupe came about as simply as that”. Its profile is strongly evocative of the Dino coupe. “Le Commendatore did not worry too much about originality at any cost. He was a big fan of the Dino coupe, and as he had previously done with out 124 and 125 coupes, which he has insisted should have a similar wheelarch profile to the Dino, he also insisted that the 127 should have some Dino styling cues as well”. Longer than the saloon, the Moretti 127 is also wider and lower, and these proportions give it a much more slender line, doing their best to mask a wheelbase and track that are really too small for the bodyshell, having come straight from the 127 saloon. “Admittedly those characteristsics are not ideal for a supposed sports car, but we had so little time and money that modifying the floorpans was not really an option for us, and even if we had done it, the sale price would have increased and caused us a new set of problems. In a similar vein, I was obliged to hunt the Fiat parts bin for many fittings, to guarantee a reasonable purchase price and continued availability.” Thus we can see the Fiat 1500C front indicators and 124 rear lights and indicators. Also for economy reasons, the interior comes from the basic 127, with the exception of the front seats which have been upgraded with head-rests.

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Silvio Cibien’s example, shown here, was built in 1972 and hit the road in 1973. For some reason it has a 124 instrument pack, which suggests perhaps a period modification by the original owner. The general presentation is of a much higher quality than a standard 127, with various details giving a feel of class; The aluminium ‘Moretti’ treadplate on the sills, the double-length armrests/door pulls, the little chrome handle on the drivers door shut for the bootlid, the additional reflectors set into the lower door trims, the grab handle inside the B-pillar for rear passengers, opening rear windows….. and so on.

This particular example which has stayed with its only owner from new until 2007, shows just 95,000km and is exceptionally free from rust and repairs. “The front end of one of the sills has been repaired and the rear end will need some attention at some point. It will have to be done well as you can fail the MOT here in Switzerland on a rivet!!” This state of conservation is a great surprise to Dany Brawand. “Fiat sent the chassis with an electrophoretic coating. But, that was removed wherever we needed to weld, and while the finished cars were always checked and signed off by Fiat quality inspectors, lets say long-term corrosion protection was not a priority during construction”.

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At the wheel, one has the impession of piloting a standard 127. The encroachment of the wheel tubs means the pedals are offset slightly relative to the steering column. Despite this, and the reduced headroom, one quickly feels at ease. On starting, the noise from the 4-cyl ohv is a bit disappointing. The 47 horses are certainly willing, and depite a 30kg weight gain, the Moretti is quite responsive, with a gearbox that is a real pleasure to use. But, despite the looks, overall the driving experience is a bit of a let down. If you close your eyes its difficult to imagine you’re in such a pretty and rare coupe. Having said that, a slight lack of power has to be better than too many horses, as the car is quite an understeerer and is frankly noisy above 100km/h. On the evidence, its qualities are elsewhere. Maybe in its exceptional usability in town, the steering being a model of fluidity and precision, even during manoeuvres. And, in its looks, appreciated by the beautiful people who used it daily as a second car, for visiting friends and general pottering, in a car that looks like a Dino, coloured like a Dino, but which is in the end just a little Fiat, prettily re-styled.
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#14 OFFLINE   retrogeezer

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 08:15 AM

wow, they are gorgeous - I want one!
RIP Julie & Maisie

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#15 OFFLINE   carlo

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 10:19 AM

Absolutely wonderful stuff Mr B, and beautifully translated, mind you we would expect nothing less going on the quality of your other posts. Look forward to seeing some more. I'm also a fan and have many Gazolines collected whenever in France. An absolute godsend if you're a french car nut like myself, but they must be so much better with a fluency in French to understand them. It would appear from your translations that the French journalists actually stick to interesting and accurate descriptions of the cars' history and specifications, as opposed to a lot of the increasingly 'Top Gear' style hyperbole infecting most British classic car mags. I recall a particularly low point being reached in Classic & Sportscar with the lamentable Richard Heseltine's reference to 'sloppy seconds' when driving a couple of Dodge Chargers. Now, if you could just brush up on you German perhaps you'd be able to translate a few of my treasured Glas 2600 V8 articles..?

#16 OFFLINE   chaseracer

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 11:15 AM

I subscribed to Gazoline for a while a few years back. I'm thinking I might do so again - cheers, Monsieur_Testicules! 8)

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#17 OFFLINE   Split_Pin

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:49 PM

Excellent find and nice work too!

From some angles the car looks quite Maserati-esque. I love it. I will need to check to see if Pilen or some other company made a scale model of this. I have their 124 Coupe model.

#18 Guest_Leonard Hatred_*

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:04 PM

I've really enjoyed reading these, all completely new information to me.
It's a pity the boring, boring British classic car magazines seem blithe to tread over the same ground decade after decade.

#19 OFFLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:27 PM

To be fair to the british classic mags, the french ones can be quite 'stuffy', i reckon the 'keep your old knacker alive for a bit longer and have a laugh while you're doing it' attitude, as seen in practical classics would raise a few eyebrows over there. You would never see a 'mig-welding basics' article for example, the French would expect you to take your car to a classically-trained coachbuilding artisan to have some new sills manufactured and fitted at eye watering expense, (rather than chopping down some Marina ones or something and cobbling them on).

I've got any amount of these articles on unheard-of old shite, i'm gonna try to do one a week or so i think. It almost seems a bit too 'serious'' to stick em here amongst the desktop background comps and 'OMG my neighbour is a c**t' rantings but i haven't got any better ideas about where to post em up so they might as well go here until I have a better idea.

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#20 ONLINE   gearoil

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 04:36 PM

That Fiat is a lovely little thing, something I've never seen before. 8)

#21 OFFLINE   barrett

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 04:53 PM

I've got any amount of these articles on unheard-of old shite, i'm gonna try to do one a week or so i think. It almost seems a bit too 'serious'' to stick em here amongst the desktop background comps and 'OMG my neighbour is a c**t' rantings but i haven't got any better ideas about where to post em up so they might as well go here until I have a better idea.


This.
If you carry on putting these up hopefully it'll shame some more people into putting genuinely interesting stuff up on here. Which is what I'd like to see happen. You almost convinced me, the world's laziest man, to cobble together an article about something, if only I could think of something that I actually know about and could be bothered to get out of bed. Keep putting these up and I might eventually do it. As should everyone else!
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#22 OFFLINE   Tayne

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 05:54 PM

.

It always amuses me that e46s vie with the PT Cruiser as the car that's too shit for Autoshite, 

 

 


#23 OFFLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 03:26 PM

This week: Renner 6 TL 6-page article coming up later!

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#24 ONLINE   pogweasel

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 08:37 PM

I literally cannot wait!!!!!!

#25 OFFLINE   The Reverend Bluejeans

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 10:38 PM

To be fair to the british classic mags, the french ones can be quite 'stuffy', i reckon the 'keep your old knacker alive for a bit longer and have a laugh while you're doing it' attitude, as seen in practical classics would raise a few eyebrows over there. You would never see a 'mig-welding basics' article for example, the French would expect you to take your car to a classically-trained coachbuilding artisan to have some new sills manufactured and fitted at eye watering expense, (rather than chopping down some Marina ones or something and cobbling them on).


The German mags are a bit of both. I read a few over there, mainly Oldtimer Markt* and you'd see some article every month about how to replace sills on an Opel Commodore etc. They seem far prouder of their old shite than the French do as well - the events pages in O.M are huge - literally two events every weekend.
Then again, Ze Germans have a far better back catalogue of old cars than the French do.



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#26 OFFLINE   Mr_Bo11ox

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 11:34 PM

OK here's this weeks effort, in honour of long term Shiter WUVINGTON STEELE:

RENNER 6 TL

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Is it possible to imagine such indifference to a new car launch? Admittedly, ambitions were modest. Pierre Dreyfus had even warned: Project 118 really was nothing more than a ‘Modernisation of the Renner 4’, with a bigger, more imposing, more luxurious and more expensive bodywork for the 1968 Salon. The idea was to slot in the forthcoming Renault 6 in between the rustic and rural R4 and the bourgeois and technologically advanced R16. And to replace the ageing rear-engine R8 and R10 models. It would borrow the platform from the first and the hatchback style of the second. On paper this sounded like it made a lot of sense, but in practice it led to a rather soulless car, which often induced little more than a half-hearted ‘Mmm’ or a sympathetic smile from the showgoers. Over a million and a half examples would be sold, but the R6 never stood up well in comparisons with its competitors, the ultramodern Peugeot 204 and the innovative Simca 1100.

First problem: The styling of the car, angular and oddly-proportioned. For reasons of cost, the R6 took the R4’s platform without modification, meaning it had that car’s asymmetric wheelbase (forced by the transverse torsion bars). Not just asymmetric but also small, at 2443cm on the left and 2395cm on the right. This is about 17cm or so less than the 204, a true family saloon. To balance out this handicap, the stylists had few options other than to increase the front and rear overhangs, stretching the car artificially at the expense of a rather unbalanced visual aspect. Although, the boot profited from this approach. Large and deep, it did away with the 16’s annoyingly high lower edge, while conserving the oblique angle of the tailgate.
Compared to the R4, the glazed area is a lot larger, particularly the windscreen. And from the start the R6 had glazed rear quarters, a luxury that the early R4 had to do without, any yet a very useful means of creating a lighter and more appealing cabin. No doubt to add a touch of glamour, a few chrome twiddly bits brought some sparkle to the stylistic landscape; a stainless steel trim runs the full length of the sills, and the windscreen, rear window and rear quarter windows all have chrome trims in their rubber seals. The grille and the headlight surrounds got a similar treatment, as did the numberplate light and the tail light surrounds. On the other hand, the sidelights, derived from the R16’s units, remained chrome-free. On the inside, we find more of this ‘replastering’ with a presentation that hesitates between the practicality of the R4 and the modernity of the R16. The dashboard is novel, with a fake wood surface, a very stylised set of gauges and chunky rocker switches for the controls. Theres also the R4-style gearlever poking out through the dash with a map pocket on the floor and a second glovebox. The steering wheel is a two-spoke item with a heavy central hub and a fine Bakelite rim. Even the light and indicator switches look fragile in an environment which is neither rustic nor bourgeois but somewhere in between. The front bench seat, the R4 pedal box and the removable rear seat (which is very difficult to refit single-handedly) all back up this ‘neither here nor there’ impression. And what can you say about the miserable support for the tailgate, which looks like its going to give way at any moment?

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To complicate matters, the engine was definitely not a plus point. The R4 deliberately had a simple, basic powerplant, and the R6 ended up with its engine. So at launch the R6 did not have the 5-bearing unit from the caravelle or R8 major but the archaic 845cc three-bearing Boulogne block. 34hp DIN at 5000rpm, a feeble torque of 5.8 m.kg (57Nm) and a low compression ratio to allow running on cheap fuel. It was little better than the R4, and looked poor next to the 204 (53hp DIN) with its transverse alloy block or the 50hp of the Simca 1100. However it put up a decent fight against the...... Ami 6 with its aircooled twin! Claiming any sort of ambition for such a hopelessly underpowered car was seen as a bit of a joke and the R6 quickly became the ugly duckling of the Renner family.

Nonetheless, just like the Hans Christian Anderson story, the R6 would transform itself, and in Sept 1970 the R6 TL was born. This car was still an R6 in name and bodyshell, but now featured the 1108cc engine which developed 48hp at 5300rpm - a substantial increase. It was still far from blowing its competitors away - they themselves would soon gain a few more horses to keep well ahead of the R6 - but it was a much more satisfactory vehicle, and would not be progressing any further in the arms race (admittedly it gained a bonus 2.5hp in 1973 thanks to a compression ratio increase). The r6 had been conceived as a means of bridging the gap between two key models, and would remain a ‘transition’ car in Renaults range until its disappearance in May 1980, with the TL having made a good effort at repairing the tarnished image of the 6.
To go with this new engine, the gearbox of the TL was similarly upgraded. Out went the old ‘wallet gearbox’ of the R4 with its aluminium casing and 4th gear under a bolted-on front housing. Now, the gearbox had a beefier iron housing with a separate upper cover to reduce vibration and noise, and the syncromeshed ratios were now slightly taller – 24.8kmh/1000 revs in top rather than 23.3. This equated to a max speed of 135kmh with the 3.875:1 diff ratio (the diff was inverted compared to the 845cc model as the 1100 unit span in the other direction!) Not too bad, although the torque was still unimpressive at 8m.kg at 3000 revs. Its clear the R6 was not going to be climbing trees, and trying to compete with even the basic R16 was a hopeless game. But, driven well, the R6 had nothing to fear from contemporary traffic and in a further show of confidence (!) the fuel tank was increased from 32 to 40 litres, giving a 400km range.

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Externally a few tweaks were introduced at the same time. The most noticeable is probably the numberplate, which moved from the front valance to the bumper. In its old location, 3 ventilation slots were opened up to aid cooling, and the new, wider radiato was now mounted behind the grille instead of on the gearbox support. The cooling circuit still had a large expansion bottle on the RH front inner wing, and the fan was now under thermostatic electrical control. Some new wheel rims were introduced (these would also find their way onto the new R5, 2 years later) and a new ‘TL’ badge appeared on the rear wings and the dashboard. No doubt you would agree that doesn’t sound like much for a car thats supposed to be improved on all fronts. The interior also underwent a similarly minimalist overhaul, with a one-spoke steering wheel, a new stalk controlling indicators, lights and horn on the left of the steering column, some elbow supports on the door panels, a 10kmh top speed bonus marked on the speedometer, a sun visor with courtesy mirror, separate front seats and a dippable rear view mirror. The gearlever moved below the dashboard ‘for ergonomic reasons’, though really it was the new radiator position that allowed this improvement. The handbrake also was reworked, now operating on the rear drums rather than the front, and the front brakes were now discs with sliding Bendix callipers.

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Dating from July 1971, Pierre Bonnal’s example shown here is surely one of the most interesting models of the range. Its date of manufacture means it profits from all the technical and aesthetic improvements (except the alternator introduced in 1972) without suffering any of the losses of its most appealing features, which were gradually deleted over the later years of the R6. Indeed, deciding it had been too generous until then, Renault instigated a mean cost-cutting programme on the exterior trim: deletion of the external sidelights, of the hole for the starting handle, of the chrome trims in the screen seals, of some of the chrome grille strips, a smaller/thinner chrome strip on the sills, and the ugly restyle of 1973 with its sad plastic grille and square headlights. No doubt a modern solution of its time, but today a far less appealing prospect than the more decorative face of the 1st series R6. “I much prefer the early models” confirms Pierre. “the grille with its chrome trims give the car much more charm that the series 2, which is a symbol of a time when plastic was just starting to invade volume cars”. No doubt as an apology for the judicious use of plastic, later R6’s had a chrome strip which tried to highlight the angle of the main body line, but this was not a very successful ploy.

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If aesthetically, the R6 never quite made the grade, and if mechanically it was always a bit on the weak side, then surely the interior will account for some of its large sales volumes. Pierre agrees: “My R6, i use it pretty much as my second car. I get a great pleasure out of using it in all traffic and weather conditions, while treating it respectfully of course. As it belonged to an elderly couple, I try to continue to avoid rushing it!” I get the message, and as I slip behind the wheel, I am conscious that i’ll have to go very easy on the accelerator! In any case, its the best way to drive the R6, in order to appreciate its comfort and gentle driving experience. The response and feedback of the suspension is absent, accelerations happen in slow motion and its really on the endurance run that the R6 comes into its own. As I drive an R4 daily, i don’t feel deprived. Strangely though, while one often tends to row the 4 along on the gearlever, the ambience of the 6 encourages you to sit back and take it easy. Why is this? Its a strange sensation, and perhaps due to the cosy ambience inside, with a stylish brushed aluminium strip on the dashboard, soft, comfortable seats, wide elbow-rests on the doors, and simple lap-type seatbelts, a real flavour of the past.

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The good-quality wine-coloured vinyl trim inside Pierre’s car was an optional extra. It replaced (and improved on) the fabric offered as a default, a fragile material which did not appreciate the sun or being sat on. As you look at it, the tiny instrumentation block seems lost in this strange asymmetric dashboard which slopes toward the passenger. The position of the gearlever, poking out under the dash, seems odd when you’re used to the higher position of the R4, but theres no doubt its more comfortable to use out on the road. Added to the comfy seats is a soundproofing package much more comprehensive than the 4 and a greatly reduced level of body roll, with ARB’s front and rear (as opposed to rear only on the 4 and the basic 6). This soundproofing makes it almost worth fitting a radio, but as there’s no slot provided to install one, it has to go in an unattractive separate console, in this case made of ‘wood-look’ plastic, hardboard and rubber. Its not a Renault part but a ‘universal fit’ one of the day, which incorporates the single loudspeaker and emits a suitably period quality of sound. Its not a problem though as the combination of mechanical and wind noise seriously limit the scope for listening to the radio. With hands well clamped on the partially fabric-bound wheel rim (a bit like the dauphine gordini) and seatbelt awkwardly buckled (it twists itself into all sorts of knots, and is really nothing like a modern inertia reel belt), you start the engine via a simple key switch on the steering column. The engine noise is familiar, delivering a similar noise and vibration to the later R4’s which use this engine, even if this one has an additional 11hp or so. But its more the boost in torque that you notice out on the road rather than the peak horsepower number. No need to cane it to progress quickly, just be patient and set it away – it weighs 820kg, which is a good 100kg or so more than a 4GTL. The difference is noticeable in the through-the-gears performance and in the top speed. With some persistence it is possible to get yourself photographed (in black and white sadly) by an automated roadside police photo-booth, but you have to put the effort in.

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The brakes are excellent. Theyre not servo-assisted, but in view of the weight of the car and they are more than adequate to stop the R6 from any speed which it could attain, and the handling and road holding is also vice-free and neutral. The best way to appreciate the R6 then, is to hang your elbow out of the window and dabble with the accelerator rather than go all out, and the flexibility of the engine is such that once you get to 35-40kmh you can leave it in top from then on. Just take it easy. Take it easy on the styling too, to call it ‘ugly’ seems almost excessive. “Even I can’t say its a thing of beauty” says Pierre, “and i’m not very objective because its my car and I like it. I would even go as far as saying that I love it. So OK, clearly its not as pretty as, say, a 404 cabriolet. But, so what? I use it every day, in all weathers. Its never let me down. The only problem it has, as far as i can see, is a serious image problem. Apart from people who’ve owned one, no-one seems to remember that it even exists. R6’s are worth next to nothing, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. The worry, its that the last few nice examples will progressively fall victim to scrappage schemes. It’s a real shame, because the day when collectors realise what they’re missing and start to search them out, it’ll be too late.”

Who could have imagined such indifference?!
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#27 ONLINE   pogweasel

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 11:54 PM

Thankyou for another excellent piece translated Mr_Bo11.

One of these R6's is right at the top of my SHITE GOLD MEDAL PRIZE list. I would love to own one, but I bet the number of rhd survivors is in a single-digit status.

The pics of that spartan interior bring back childhood memories of my parents R6, journeys spent sitting on an old orange sofa cushion so I could see out of the window, journeys that seemed to take forever as we thrummed along in the slow-lane whilst more modern and more powerful cars whizzed past. Wonderful.

#28 OFFLINE   garycox

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 12:09 AM

A great read, thank you for translating!

1967 Simca 1301
1981 Austin Morris Mini 1.0 HL

1998 Vauxhall Astra 1.6i Convertible

2000 Ford Mondeo 2.0 16V Ghia X Estate

2006 Ford C-Max 2.0 Ghia Auto


#29 OFFLINE   wuvvum

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 01:24 AM

Cheers for that Mr_B. Pretty informative article - quite a bit in there that I didn't know. Being a 1972 car, mine has sadly lost the funky side repeaters and the weird seatbelt setup, and the chrome strip on the grille (don't think I've ever seen a 6 with the chrome before). Reading that article has also reminded me that I really must track down a set of original-spec rear lights - mine has the later light clusters which are just plain plastic and look rather boring in comparison.

Being anal for a moment, on the instrument panel photo, the gauge next to the fuel gauge is an ammeter - in common with seemingly rather a lot of French cars, there's no temp gauge on the 6. Otherwise the article is pretty much spot-on - not sure I entirely agree with the writer's comments about the performance, but then the example he drove had been Sid'n'Doris owned so probably never been over 40 in its life.

#30 OFFLINE   pompei

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 08:34 AM

Thanks for your work Mr_B :D
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