31 December 2012

Peugeot Peugette

*Originally published 11/4/2011.

Despite the name (which means 'Small Peugeot') and use of Peugeot mechanicals, the Peugette concept car was not a Peugeot factory effort. It was actually a 1976 Pininfarina design study built with hopes of generating interest from Peugeot (with whom Pininfarina had a good relationship with at the time).
Under its unique body, the Peugette was mechanically identical to the '76 Peugeot 104ZS.

The 104 was an economical small hatchback, but certainly not a bad car (by early-’70s European standards). Upon its introduction in 1972, reviewers praised it for it's handling, ride and slick-shifting gearbox. It sold well and remained popular well into the ’80s. For a utilitarian hatchback, the three-door ZS version had reasonably legit sporting pretensions.

Unusuallly for Pininfarina, the Peugette was designed with manufacturing efficiency as a top priority. The idea was that the Peugette would be a stylish, satisfying car accessible to European youth whose motoring dreams outstripped their economic resources. It was a “lifestyle" vehicle before that awful marketing phrase came into being.
 The Peugette’s remarkable, even bizarre appearance was a result of its dual purpose to be both dramatic and cheap. The body panels are all symmetrical, left to right and front to back. Thus, the front and rear bonnet and wings are interchangeable, as are the doors. Same was true of the dashboard’s modular instrument “pods.” This was intended to cut down on the parts that needed to be developed and manufactured for initial assembly, as well as stocked at dealers for accident repairs.

Light weight, low power cars of course don’t tax their underpinnings as much as larger, vehicles do, and therefore don’t need extremely sophisticated chassis components to shine; Lotus for example have demonstrated this for decades. The Peugette did receive some strategic chassis bracing - most notably, a roll bar made from thick flat stock with an accompanying lower crossbeam welded in behind the cockpit. This reportedly only made up for the Peugette’s loss of body rigidity over the 104ZS, bringing it back to par while adding some rollover protection, rather than noticeably increasing stiffness over the donor car. Thanks to the Peugette’s wider rims and tyres and lighter weight than the 104ZS, contemporary road tests said the Peugette was wickedly fun to drive in urban situations and tight back roads, where its meagre power output didn’t spoil the party.

Unfortunately, those road tests didn’t generate much more that passing interest from the motoring public after the Peugette’s 1976 unveiling. So Pininfarina revamped the project a year later, and showed it again with the addition of a Barchetta version that replaced the full windscreen with a passenger-side hard tonneau and a small racing windscreen that wrapped around the monoposto driver’s seat.

Despite some interest, Peugeot eventually decided that selling an utterly impractical car to people who had no money was not a great marketing strategy... The couple of Peugettes built found their way into European car museums where they remain today.
Here at Amazo Towers, we're amazed that this did not make it into production; when it's principle competition in the UK would have been the MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire and maybe the FIAT X/19 and Alfa Spider in Europe (both larger cars), you don't need a slide rule and compass to deduce the car could have been a hit.

Click on the image to read article

28 December 2012

Lamborghini Countach Turbo S - Follia Turbo!

*Originally published 30/8/2011.

The Lamborghini Countach Turbo S.
Only two examples were built by the Lamborghini factory, one of which was a prototype. Apparently the prototype is either lost or doesn't exist anymore, which makes this car one of a kind. It doesn't seem to be the only turbo'ed 'tach in existence though; there was a Turbo kit from Koenig if I'm remember correctly, but I'm not sure any car was fitted with the kit other than Koenig's demonstrator..
One of these kits had been for sale some months ago. There were also two turbo cars converted by Bob Wallace (ex-Lambo engineer and test driver) in the USA. Al Mardikian apparently had two cars equipped with turbos too.
Who built what might be a little bit of a mystery, but this 'blown Countach is very real.

The 4.8 litre V12 with twin turbos (and six Weber carburettors!) had a power output of 748bhp and a stump-pulling 646lb/ft of torque. It managed to do 0-62mph (0-100kph) in 3.7 seconds and kept going all the way up to nearly 207mph (333 km/h).

Next to the the steering wheel there is a turbo adjuster. It could be manually turned to boost the turbo from 0.7 bar to 1.5 bar at which the engine performed its maximum power output.

Both this car and the lost prototype were built in 1984. This one was bought by a Danish guy who kept it in the garage among his Ferrari collection. It only had done 9,000 km when it was found by the plasterer Dietmar Götz who bought it and took best care of the car. It was thereafter found by an accordion teacher who I think owns the car today.

The Countach rolls on 15" wheels;  255/45 front and 345/35 for the the rear.

the speedo goes to 425 km/h. That's just over 264mph. Gulp.

L-R: LP 5000 QV with 455bhp, the Turbo S with 748bhp and the LP 400 with 375bhp:

Chilling with a Grandkid; the old man would still give a good account of himself against the Reventon:

What you don't see is the crowds of people running for cover from the raging bulls patrolling the street; I suggest you two run while you still can..!

26 December 2012

Blue Devil vs. Blue Angel

*Originally published 3/10/2011.

638bhp of supercharged V8 grunt vs. 32,000lbs of afterburner-fed thrust. A fair contest? hardly, but who cares when you get a photo opportunity like this. Editor-At-Large Arthur St.Antoine of Motor Trend magazine took the Chevy Corvette ZR-1 to the U.S. Navy's primary flight-training centre, Air Station Pensacola in Florida to see if the 'Blue Devil' (GM's nickname for the ZR-1) could lock horns with a Blue Angel, one of the planes used in the U.S. airforce's demonstration team.

Be a Maverick and take the Highway To The Danger Zone, here.

And some action pics of the Blue Angels in action. I feel the need; the need for speed.

'Gutsiest move I ever saw, Mav '

The graph tells the whole story. Sure wasn't Touched By An Angel, more like...

And a must-watch; the video from Motor Trend's YouTube site:

24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Back in 2013 for  The Amazo Effect  - Year 3!

Street Ocean Life - Tara Expeditions Schooner

It's Christmas Eve; Amazo Towers is silent (save for the leak flooding the basement car park), probably because this article was written last week before everyone buggered off for the break. But wait just one moment before you stagger back to the TV/pub/wife's loving arms/wife's glowering stare, I have a story about a boat. Yes, I know right now this seems highly ironic, given that the UK is experiencing non-stop rain showers and flood warnings, but this is no ordinary boat, as we shall see. I wasn't even aware of this craft's existence until myself and Lady Amazo (bows head) saw it honing into view at St Katharine's Dock back in September.

Tara is a schooner with an extraordinary history. She was purpose-built for polar expeditions as Antarctica in 1989 by Dr Jean-Louis Étienne, with a specially designed aluminium hull curved so that the ice packs can’t crush it to smithereens like Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance.
Later, she was bought by Sir Peter Blake after he retired from racing for his exploration tours around the world, and renamed Seamaster. It was his mothership in his work for the United Nations Environment Programme, and it's on-board this ship that he was murdered by pirates in the Amazon in 2001, a tragic and pointless end for one of the most talented yachtsmen of our times.
It was then bought and renamed Tara and put to service for Tara Expeditions for various expeditions. One of these was the pilot project Damocles (Arctic Modelling and Observing developing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies ) that was part of Tara Arctic 2007-2008. This project aimed to observe, understand and quantify climate change in the Arctic.
She spent over 500 days trapped in the Arctic ice, drifting with the icepack to measure global warming. Today she’s on a round-the-world trip set to take her pretty much everywhere, that will end just about now. After a few months of stopovers in French ports, in May 2013 Tara will attempt to go through the Arctic Ocean by the north-west and north-east passages, ice permitting.
In 2014, Tara will continue her voyage to the Pacific coral reefs with a team of scientists, sailors and film-makers.

She gets around...
But enough of having an amateur on the subject conduct matters; read this excerpt from their website and marvel:

'Tara Expeditions has been organizing missions aboard the research schooner Tara for the past 9 years. Our goal is to learn more about the impact of climate change on ecosystems. Tara Expeditions is a non-profit association based in France that provides samples and data to the scientific community worldwide. One of our main objectives is to increase environmental awareness among the general public, and particularly young people through our Tara Junior outreach program. We also make movies and books.'

'The Tara Expeditions project is affiliated to the United Nations Programme for the Environment. Through the work of scientists and also artists, we are observing our changing environment, and learning more about the complex and fragile ecosystem called Earth.
Thanks to the initiative of the French designer agnès b. and Etienne Bourgois, Tara has accomplished 8 successful expeditions – to Greenland, Antarctica, Patagonia, southern Georgia, the Arctic and all over the world with the latest expedition Tara Oceans.
After stopovers in Europe this winter, the schooner will leave for a new mission in 2013. We will continue to give you reports on the results of all Tara expeditions accomplished since 2004.'

'In May 2013 we will head for the Great North. Tara will attempt to go through the Arctic Ocean by the northwest and northeast passages, if the ice pack permits this. Most of the scientists and institutions  already participating in Tara Oceans will continue working with us, studying the polar marine ecosystem and completing the research done in 2009. This will also be the occasion to add new research programs specific to the region, concerning plastic particles and traces of pollution. Of course we will share this adventure, and all newsworthy subjects concerning this fascinating and difficult region of the globe.
2014 seems far off, but Tara will continue her voyage to the Pacific coral reefs with a team of scientists, sailors and filmmakers. We are already defining the contours of this expedition with director Luc Jacquet and diver/photographer Laurent Ballesta.

Tara objectives are:
–  finance scientific research concerning the impact of global warming on ecosystems
–  increase general awareness about environmental issues
–  diffuse scientific data for educational and policy purposes'

And a little more about the craft herself:

Tara was manufactured by Societe Francaise De Construction Naval (Sfcn) and conceived by Luc Bouvet and Olivier Petit. With an overall length of 117.8 feet (35.9 metres) and a width of 32.3 feet (9.85 metres), Tara has room for 12 passengers and 6 crew. She has a deep draught (the vertical distance between the waterline and the keel [bottom of the hull]) for a schooner of 11.5ft (3.5m) (11.5ft) and weighs 287 tonnes (gross) and 200 tonnes (net).
She was officially launched in Villeneuve-La-Garenne in 1989 as Uap-Antarctica; she was renamed Seamaster after Sir Peter Blake bought her in 1996 and had a major overhaul and refit in 2000. She was re-christened Tara after Etienne Bourgois, (the boss of the clothing and cosmetics company agnes b.) bought her in 2003. Her aluminium construction and deep draught determines the type of harbours she can enter, due to needing a specific depth.
Powered by twin Deutz-MWM 15.9 litre V8 turbo-diesel engines producing approx. 255bhp each (so a combined output of 510bhp), Tara is propelled by twin screw propellers and  can attain a high speed of 12 knots, cruising at a speed of 10 nautical miles per hour.
She also has sails to help conserve fuel; twin masts give a sail area of 600 Metres².

Battle scarred - you should see the ice...

An some more info from Tara Expeditions YouTube channel; in French alas for you: