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The strange product from a Transalpine marriage

The strange product from a Transalpine marriage
We told you before that French auctioneers sometimes have an unusual un-French offering. It goes once more for Osenat, who are selling a number of classic cars next weekend. The car above is among them. Nothing unusual with a Renault Dauphine in France, you think? Think again, as this is in fact an Alfa Romeo.

The story of this unlikely model starts with the idea of assembling Renaults in Portello, Italy. Now, you may well know that the French are known for their chauvinism, but how about the Italians? Would they buy a humble Renault model when there is a plethora of Fiat models and quite a lot more available? They wouldn’t. And so came the plan to manufacture and sell the Daupine in Italy, took a strange turning by rebadging the car as the Alfa Romeo Dauphine. And as the slightly more upmarket Alfa Romeo Ondine, which is seen here offered for sale by Osenat. Did the French like the idea? Probably not. But in return the network of Renault dealers were now allowed to distributed Alfa Romeos. That seemed a clever deal, but was it? That’;s the question as the ‘transalpine marriage’ between Renault and Alfa-Romeo didn’t last long. It ended in 1965 after they also built the R4 for a short while…

Some 2,000 Ondines are believed to have been built. Oh, it did differ slightly from the Renault version, say the Italians. It was more luxurious and came with a four-speed gearbox. Hey, and it came with Magneti-Marelli 12-volt electrics, different lights and of course Alfa Romeo badging. Alfa tried it again two decades later. And again it ended in tears…

(Words editor, pictures Osenat) 


Monday, 16 October 2017

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Tough to crack car puzzle #169

Tough to crack car puzzle #169
This beautiful old photograph was sent over to us by Salvador Claret i Sargatal, and it was in fact one of two. About this particular image Salvador wrote: “This is also a (make left away here for obvious reasons), as you may see from the wheels, but other then the first this one has never been published. If you are interested in data of this brand we have a lot of information.”

Well, we thought we’d leave that to you, dear reader. Two things that you can learn from the above. 1. The wheels are a giveaway. 2. The name of the photograph’s owner is another. You won’t be able to find this picture anywhere else, though. In spite of this, that does not necessarily mean that information on this car is hard to find. There is actually enough about it on the world wide web. Survivors of the species are, however, rare. And until recently just two were known, with a third one found just three years ago. Know more about it? Then you can be our next car connoisseur. Let us know by writing your answer in the box below. First, please do read our rules. Have a good and safe weekend for now and don’t forget to wash your hands.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

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Friday the 13th lady – but what’s the Fiat doing there?

Friday the 13th lady – but what’s the Fiat doing there?
A Fiat 131 Mirafiori is not the first car that springs to our minds when suitable transport for a modern-day Dracula is discussed. We were thinking Rolls-Royce Phantom. Ghost, Wraith or Spirit perhaps. There is also the Lotus Esprit or Lamborghini Diablo. While slightly more suitable to you reader, you’ll find the spooky Phantom Corsair or the Fiat 8V Démon Rouge perhaps appropriate.

Why ask in the first place? Well, today is Friday the 13th: a date that is commonly considered to be unlucky and linked to anything uncanny. Count Dracula is a major player in this field, the eerie character created by Bram Stoker, loosely based upon traditional Transylvanian folklore. But why on earth choose that theme for a publicity photograph for the 1974 Fiat 131 Mirafiori? We have no idea at all, and couldn’t find any link. Apart from Italy, the car was built in a record 13 (woohoo!) more countries, among them Turkey, Poland, Egypt, Zambia and Malaysia. But Transylvania – a region in north-western Romania – is not among them.

What we did find is that in 1974 the Transfăgărășan highway, or DN7C, was built right through the Transylvanian mountains. According to some it is the most spectacular road in the world. It did make travelling to this remote part of Europe a lot easier then it must have been in Bram Stoker’s days… Perhaps that was reason enough to explore things with the then-brand new Fiat? Hey, and if you do come across a lady in a Dracula cape then, there’s no way you would not want to immortalize that, right? But is this location Transylvania anyway? Location scouts, come in. No doubt this vampirella is our special Friday Lady for today, though.

(Words Jeroen Booij, picture Fiat PR)

Friday, 13 October 2017

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Spares partner

Spares partner
What do you do when spares for your beloved classic car are getting harder to find? There are several options. You can sacrifice the weekend by going to an autojumble, spend hours in muddy fields and hope you’ll find that obsolete part you need so hard for a couple of pounds/dollars/euros (giving you a tremendous amount of self-esteem). You can also surf the web just as long until you found the part in question - often in a remote part of the world - have it send over to you, hope it is indeed the correct bit and use that (slightly less self-esteemish, but still pretty good). You can also order a brand new part with one of the many specialized companies who remanufacture and sell rare parts for classics now (not quite so good).

But there is a fourth way. You can simply overcome all the trouble above by buying a second (donor) vehicle and keep that in case anything goes wrong. We have seen it more often (last May we bumped into one), and we saw another last weekend. The tank of our project car needed welding, which is not an everyday job for an everyday welder. Eventually we found a craftsman of the old type who was happy to take care of it. His workshop was one that exists no longer in everyday motoring life, more that of a classic blacksmith with proof of his old fashioned welding abilities in every corner. There was no doubt that this man had nothing up with modern stuff in the widest sense. And thus drove a Peugeot 304 pick-up as an everyday car. Not the one in his front garden, which was slowly being overgrown with ivy and seen here. That was the donor vehicle, just in case anything broke on his daily driver... Love it.

(Words and photograph Jeroen Booij)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

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