Wot Abaht The Frogs?

…asks Reader Brad:

“You talk about VWs, Lancia, etc., all the time, but don’t seem to make much mention of what the Frogs created.”

..and then points me to this list.

Speaking frankly [sic],  the Frog cars are a classic case of where Gummint stuck its greedy fingers where they didn’t belong, i.e. by levying a tax on horsepower — the lowest tax being on engines generating (from memory) less than 15hp.  This meant that most passenger cars were perennially underpowered, despite the technological superiority that French car manufacturers had over most others in the world.  Now add the recent development of adding yet another layer to the puissance fiscale  (PF, or “power tax”) by incorporating a carbon dioxide emission multiplier:

PF = (CO₂/45) + (P/40)^1.6

where P is horsepower, and Frog cars are still underpowered except where they’re not, i.e. in rally-style cars or hot (and expensive) hatchbacks.  The giant Citroën DS’s engine, for example, never generated more than 100hp so despite the DS having the smoothest ride of any car (before and since), it was a lumbering beast whose 0-60mph time was measured by calendar rather than stopwatch.

For the most part, too, outside the luxury cars like the DS, French fit and finish have always been crappy, and the non-use of vulcanized steel meant that in a country which has wet, damp weather much of the time, you can hear the car rusting when you turn off the engine.  [some hyperbole there]

This does not mean that the French make lousy cars.  When they are allowed to, they make absolute monsters, such as the Peugot Le Mans sports cars which were Audi’s only serious competitors at that race during the mid-2000s:

…or the Matra-Simca race cars which so dominated sports car races in the early 1970s:

…or for that matter, the Renault F1 factory cars of the early 1980s:

…with their engines winning several drivers’ championshops for Williams (Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost etc.) in the early 1990s.

So what about the passenger cars?  Looking at the list above, there’s probably only one I’d take, the Venturi Atlantique 400 GT:

…because of its wonderful 1980s styling.  (Reader Brad lusts after the 1930s Delahaye 135MS, even though that long bonnet hides a 3.3-liter engine which produces only 110hp, i.e. <10 PF units):

However, my favorite French car of all time is the wonderfully old-fashioned Citroën Traction Avant:

Because if I’m going to drive around in an underpowered Frog passenger car (1900cc, 56hp, <4 CF units), I’ll take style and comfort as the benefits, thank you.  And put up with the  water leaking into the passenger compartment every time it rains — in true Gallic fashion, Citroën never fixed that problem, after making the TA for nearly a quarter of a century.

This car, by the way, is still the hands-down favorite choice in France as a bridal car.

Toy Cars

I was having a long email exchange with Reader Chaz from Britishland, and we were talking about Ferraris and guns and what have you, and on the subject of cars, I actually surprised myself by saying this:

For a toy car, I would certainly choose a Caterham over any Ferrari made today, and not just because of the price, either.

Here’s the subject car under discussion:

 

…and I have to confess I was very influenced by this episode of Harry’s Garage, where at about the 13-minute mark Harry Metcalfe talks about how the increasing performance and sophistication of modern cars is making them heavier and less fun to drive — “too much power” (harking back to something I’ve said often with regard to Dodge Whatevers with 500hp engines), complexity following from stupid shit like emission controls and electrification, too many driver options (such as “sport mode”, “memory seats”) and so on.

Increasingly, in my sunset years, I want simplicity in a car:  get in, turn the thing on, and drive off.  (It’s one reason why I love driving New Wife’s Fiat 500 Sputum:  stick shift, nothing to touch in the car — yes, it has a Sport mode button, but on a non-turbo 1400cc engine, it is to laugh and I’ve never used it — and driving it is an absolute pleasure.  Forty-odd miles to the gallon doesn’t hurt, either.)

If I were in the market for a truck, I’d get a base model Toyota Tacoma with a stick shift.  As I’m planning to keep the Tiguan forever, the car issue is moot — but if it was totaled or otherwise became unroadworthy, I’d probably pick a base model VW Jetta with a stick shift.

Or a Caterham with a 2-liter Ford Duratec engine, if the insurance gods were feeling really generous.

Top Picks

Hagerty (UK) has just published its latest list of “future collectible” cars (i.e. older models that are sought after both by car lovers and investors).

(right-click to embiggen)

So:  if you were offered just one of those cars, which would you take, and why?  (And yes I know, some would be insanely expensive to maintain and keep running — Maserati hem hem — but ignore that for this exercise.)

Read more

Have The Greens Won?

In the Comments to yesterday’s post,  Longtime Reader and Friend geekWithA.45 said this:

And if you start to dissect exactly where this premise that the internal combustion engine must be phased out, and by what authority such decrees are proclaimed, you end up with a lot of nudge and smoosh; hints of legitimate authority, but without its actual substance.  A regulation here, and interlocking requirement there, a dash of social opprobrium there, it all adds up with zero accountability, socialized responsibility, and no single bad actor to point your finger at.  The art of smiley faced fascism reaches a new high.

Looking across The Pond, where this Green foolishness has reached its apogee, you get statements like this one:

Junior transport minister Trudy Harrison, 45, told a sustainability conference owning a car was outdated ’20th-century thinking’ and the country should move to ‘shared mobility’ to cut carbon emissions.

“Shared mobility” means at best enforced carpooling and such, and at worst public transport, which denies people the freedom to go anywhere except where the bus routes and train lines so they can.  Individual choice, then, is left to bicycles or this confounded electric scooters.

But note the condescension towards “20th-century thinking” — that would be the twentieth century which outdid the Industrial Revolution in its engineering development and progress, that created the explosion of knowledge distribution which outdid the invention of the printing press, and gave individuals all over the world freedoms unknown since the beginning of recorded history.

In fact, if you think about it, the junior minister’s statement would put individuals back onto trains, buses and bicycles — i.e. the transport systems of the nineteenth century — and no doubt for reasons of animal cruelty, no horseback travel would be allowed, thus making the twenty-first century’s inhabitants even worse off than their nineteenth-century forebears.

A couple years ago, BritPM Boris Johnson decreed that internal combustion-engined cars would be banned from manufacture by 2027 — by what law he didn’t say, which is a topic all by itself — thus making the hapless subjects of the Crown eventually reliant on electric-powered transport, to be powered by an electrical system which is even now insufficient for its existing purpose, let alone the gargantuan future needs of all-electric transportation — hence the suggestion of the junior minister (age 45).

All the same is true over here, although I would suggest (or hope) that any U.S. president who decreed the end of car manufacture as we know it would be thrown out of office at the next election — if not before — and the sheer size of the U.S. market would make the demise of gasoline-powered cars and trucks a remote eventuality indeed.

Although, as The Geek has suggested, the internal combustion engine will most likely meet its end by the death of a thousand cuts rather than by any single authoritarian decree.

It may well be, however, that the key word here is “remote”.  I’ve seen several studies among the future generation (under 25 years old) that they are all in favor of the above foolishness — electric cars, mass transport systems etc. — and to be perfectly blunt, if all this is a matter of demographics, then fine:  let the future generations revert to nineteenth-century transportation and be governed by twenty-first century totalitarianism.

My generation will all be dead by then, and the little buggers can live with the consequences of this Green silliness that they and their parents adopted oh-so willingly.

Last In The Line?

Many years ago, Jeremy Clarkson gave a V12 Aston Martin a test drive, and lamented along the lines of:  “What’s terrible is that this magnificent engine is soon going to disappear, because governments and Greens are going to force it to be phased out.  And that makes me very sad.”  Very unlike him to be so gloomy (as opposed to enraged or vitriolic), made all the more so because it was the final scene of a season-ending episode.

I had a similar feeling when I read this review of the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, especially this part:

“Cadillac’s engineers knew for a while that along with the CT4-V Blackwing, the CT5-V Blackwing would be the brand’s last internal-combustion super sedan. They wanted to go out on a high, and there’s something gloriously absurd and subversive about this car in particular. By the middle of this decade, Cadillac will be all-electric.”

It’s one thing to hear Clarkson making a prediction, but it’s quite another to be faced with an unstoppable corporate decision.

I’ve never wanted to own a Cadillac of any description or era, but I have to tell you that right at this moment, if I had the cash, I’d go and buy one of these just because.

Then again, why would I want to reward Cadillac, when it’s going to stab us gear/petrolheads in the back soon with their Duracell cars?  With the same cash situation, I would be even more tempted to buy one of these, simply because it has a V12 engine:

     

Don’t even get me started on some of the V12 oldies… e,g,

A pox on the Greens, may they all burn in the gasoline-powered flames of hell.

Alternative Fuel

OR:

You could buy a second-hand VW Jetta TDI for less than half the price of a Tesla.  The Jetta has a 20-gallon diesel fuel tank which will take you over 500 miles, and which will burn those 20 gallons of diesel more efficiently with a lower carbon footprint than the generator takes to burn 9.  And at 30,000 miles, you won’t have to spend a further $10,000 to replace its battery.

Just a thought.