Monday, October 27, 2014

Born in 1941 : Buick Eight Century

In this article I will introduce the Buick Eight Century 1941, one of the legends of American auto industry. Today this car travels through the streets of Yerevan resuscitating the spirit of 1940's. No-one can resist being mesmerized by the charm of this retro miracle. In spite of its 70-year existence, the Buick Eight Century is no inferior to many modern cars in the quality of assembly materials, comfort, design and many other standards.

The history of this car started in 1936, when Harlow Curtice, the head of the Buick division of GM, decided to rename the entire model lineup for the 1936 model year to celebrate the engineering achievements and design advancements over their 1935 models. Buick's Series 40 model range became the Special, the Series 80 became the Roadmaster and the Series 90, the largest and most luxurious vehicles of Buick, became the limited. As for the Century, it took the place of the Series 60.

The basic principle for the 1936 to 1942 Century was established by mating shorter wheelbase Buick Special bodies to Buick's 8-cylinder engine.Whereas the Special was equipped with Buick's 233 in³ engine with a capacity of 93HP at 3200 rpm, Centuries manufactured between 1935 to 1942 were equipped with Buick's inline 320.2 in³ at 120 HP, which made them the fastest Buicks of all times capable of accelerating the car to 160 km/h. This engine supported by 3-speed automatic transmission earned the Century the nickname "banker's hotrod".

The production of the Century was stopped at the end of the abbreviated 1942 model year, when total model production only accounted for about 10 percent of Buick's total productivity.
To my utter amazement, the owner of the car allowed me to make a few laps...
My impressions-no words can adequately convey what I felt during the ride. That was probably the brightest moment in my life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alfa Romeo 156

The life of a beautiful car is always longer. For this reason, Alfa Romeo allows its models to be on the market, on average, for seven years, which is quite a long time. Moreover, all the works of Maestro Giugiaro who created the design of this car tend to exist as if beyond time. For the Italian company, this car became the successor of their legendary Gulietta model (developed at Bertone Atelier), which conquered the roads of the Apennine Peninsula and the rest of Europe in the mid-1950s. The appearance of Alfa Romeo 156 once again made it clear that, contrary to the claims of detractors, the fact of being taken under the wing of FIAT was not the end, but one of the development stages of the company.

Created in 1997, the Alfa Romeo 156 won the title of 'European Car of the Year' in 1998, thus becoming one of the best-selling vehicles in Europe. One of the key factors for that success was the exterior design of the car. Interesting is that the appearance of the 156 was developed not only by the traditional design partners such as Pininfarina, Bertone and Ital Design, but also by the native specialists of the Alfa Romeo Centro Style development center. The beautiful exterior is perfectly combined with the salon. The interior design is an example of exquisite craftsmanship, its calm and harmonious. I found lots of quaint details in the interior which reminded me of surreal paintings. I guess those details create an indescribably weird atmosphere in the salon. In general... it's damn so beautiful.
In Italy there is only one car manufacturer which has a higher cult status, and this is Ferrari, which shares the same principle: an excellent body built around the engine. 

Alfa Romeo is power, excellent dynamics and good engine sound. The car I managed to test was equipped with 2-liter engine with Twin Spark system (two sparks for one cylinder). The Twin Spark system is the "crown-technology" of Alfa Romeo. The second "fuse" creates a better fuel combustion, thereby increasing the efficiency of the engine.
This 2 L engine has a capacity of 155 HP. The maximal torque reaches 187 N m at 3800 rpm. In my test, the car accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.6 seconds. The maximal speed I managed to reach was 210 km/h ( not bad for a 12-year-old vehicle).
The 156 proved to have a super handling.
In my maneuver test, which simulated a high-speed freeway lane change, the 156 showed amazing results. It went through the slalom of cones at 80 km/h without understeering (instead of traditional 20 meters, the distance between the cones was shortened to 16 meters).

I also tried to figure out the braking distance of this Alfa Romeo. Having accelerated it to 100 km/h, I jammed on the brakes- the car stopped after traveling the distance of 34 meters.
In conclusion it should be mentioned that Italians also managed to find optimal settings for the suspension (front- specially designed construction with two forked levers, rear- MacPherson). It's stiff enough to almost completely eliminate any body-roll and at the same time it appeared to be quite comfortable.
The price of a used Alfa Romeo 156 ranges from $6000 to $11.000 in Armenia. The car is recommendable to those, who wouldn't treat it like an ordinary means of transportation. This vehicle is sure to brighten your driving experiences.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The American Aero-Style or Detroit Baroque: Ford Galaxie Fairlane 1959

Ashot Saroyan is one of the few car enthusiasts, whose hunt for a retro car almost always ends with success. Only recently, he has succeeded in acquiring three fantastic cars: 1940 Buik, 1959 and 1967 Fords. And this is only the beginning of building up a valuable collection of retro cars.
In this article I will introduce one of Ashot's latest acquisitions, namely his enormous Ford Galaxie Fairlane produced in 1959. Although Ashot bought the car two years ago, he only quite recently unveiled it to the public at the Annual Retro Car Show in Yerevan. He found the car in the US and, as he mentioned, loved it at first sight. 

The 1950's American car was generally considered as a symbol of success and obviously differed from the cars of previous decades. In those times, American cars were designed in so-called aero-style, which was also known as Detroit Baroque.

In 1959, by celebrating its 50.000.000th car, Ford Motor Company designed the jubilee model Galaxie 500. Our today's hero is also the product of that celebration.
This 55-year-old sedan amazingly retained its original appearance. Every single detail is the original. The factory-furished salon can astonish anyone with subtle harmony of colors. Even the small floor mats are in perfect harmony with the salon atmosphere.

This Galaxie, like any other Ford produced in 1959, stands out for its beautiful, symmetric and subtle body lines. In 1959, all the models of Galaxie series received a gold medal for unique body styling. In accordance with that era, the Galaxie was decorated with chrome and stainless steel; the body was painted mainly in two colors. It was an image of the American dream. The Galaxie was designed for six passengers, and therefore can be considered as a family car.

As for the engine, in 1950's it was ridiculously inappropriate to own a car with an engine, the volume of which was smaller than 5 liters. The models of Galaxie series were equipped either with 4.8 L or 5.1 L V8 engines with capacity of 200-300 HP. Those engines were supported with 3-speed manual or 2-speed automatic gearboxes.

It is to mention, that the car still demonstrates perfect riding qualities and provides incredible comfort for its passengers. The owner, however, believes that the car will demonstrate better results after some little restoration works.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Porsche Cayenne

The Porsche Cayenne has been an absolute hit for the last few years. Initially, the public was reluctant to accept this SUV produced by one of the legendary car manufacturers of all times, since it had the same roots with Volkswagen Touareg.  But when the fans of the genre tried this mixture of speed, off-road ability and luxury, the car gained in popularity within weeks. Automotive cooperation and unification often produce controversial results, since the creation of a car is not based on design concept, but on financial and marketing component.

It’s obvious that the Cayenne has more in common with the Touareg than with other representatives of the family. When glancing at Porsche 911 and the Cayenne at the same time, it immediately becomes clear “who” the real Porsche is and “who” the carrier of the spirit of the legend is. This concerns not only the interior but also exterior.
But, as soon as you start the engine, all these material observations pass into the background, since under the hood of this car there is a monster with a capacity of 500,5 HP (the figure “500,5” is the result of the vaunted German precision).

Is the back part roomy? Can three adults feel comfortable on the back seats? How big is the trunk? All these questions are no longer important, when you take the wheel and start the rocket-acceleration of this car. I have tested cars with better handling, ride quality and travelling comfort, but as for acceleration, this car has been the best so far. In our times, you can hardly surprise anyone with the acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, and therefore I tried the acceleration after 160 km/h, which was simply astonishing. Returning to domestic characteristics, I have to admit that the rear part of the salon is just a mite cramped for three passengers. Third-row seats are not available even as an option, but at the same time, the trunk lacks for useful volume.

 To my mind, such a big SUV could provide more comfort for the rear passengers. Unfortunately, the Cayenne can boast neither of smooth ride nor directional stability. It’s particularly uncomfortable the acceleration at full throttle on washboards of the asphalt. It requires some tension and concentration to keep the car in the lane after 90 km/h.
The price of a used Cayenne ranges from $20.000 to $50.000 and judging by the abundance of this model, it can be considered as one of the most beloved cars of Armenians.