Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Never a lender be - not even to Eric Clapton.

Not a huge car fan, but the Ferrari club picnic at Wilton House was excellent - they even had one of Eric Clapton's old cars was there - the 365 he refers to in "Wonderful tonight".

"It's time to go home now and I've got an aching head, so I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed." She was Patti Smith (he bought her a 308 - and the plate Patt1 308, an AA man told me - more later)

Clapton sold the 365 after blowing it up in Spain, and told the new owner the story. Had the Ferrari flown home to be fixed first, mind - now that's what I call minted.

Also on show was an Enzo, Daytonas, a lovely little Lusso and a blue Dino. Plus a sea of modern stuff in watch-your-residual red. And if, like my boy, you're no Red Car fan there was a Lambo, AM V8, Mazzer Q-Porte. Oh, and a Veyron..

But, but ,but had to call the AA on the way home. And as the excellent Lotus-loving patrolman told me, problems with Ferraris always start with the explanation "It was fine until I lent it to.."

With me this was the comedians at Practical Classics rag. Just for static shots at Santa Pod, they said. Fine, I said being a fan and contributor of neighbouring Classic Bike. But family obligations meant I had to pull out at the last minute, and feeling guilty let them come and get my very own Fezzer. Idiot.

So I find the "static shots" involve driving round in circles, until centrifugal force does it's bit, the breather fills with oil, and crankcase pressure dumps 20/50 all over the V8. Including the very tucked away alternator/water pump belt.

So sitting with the AA bod in glorious sunshine, we get the back wheel out, then the splash guard, and tug out the burnt remains of the belt. But does he have a suitable replacement? Nope. So it all goes back together and I wait for a recovery lorry.

So thanks, Practical Classics. I'll send you the bill and you still owe me 5 hours of my life. And I'm never lending anyone anything ever again.

See the pics at http://picasaweb.google.com/teambenzinaphotos/FerrariPicnicAtWiltonHouse?feat=directlink Or wait until next months Practical Classic's is out and see the 308 racing a, um, Mini...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Crappage scrappage

So it's all over - HM government's feeble attempt to rescue our car industry while saving the planet boosted the sales of Korean wheels beyond their wildest dreams, while destroying perfectly good bargain-basement transport and forcing Aston Martin to doll up a dull, dull, dull Toyota iQ.
Now consider Exhibit A above - a mid '70s Honda 500T that managed to be slower, infinitely less cool, and even more unreliable than the CB450 it replaced. Yet here it is on Sidmouth seafront 35 years later, providing some drop-out with his everyday ride.

Compare that with the outrageous-but-true story of a Newbury car dealer who scrapped a 10 year old 23,000 mile Yaris just because elderly polish-it-every-Sunday fancied a new 'un under the scrapage scheme. And these cars really are scrapped - as in "hello crusher" - an idea presumably dreamt by an unemployed IRA negotiator determined these wheels go to the out of reach world where he had to leave his AK-47s. So no breaking 'em for spares, which'll mean more cars become uneconomic to repair,and get scrapped. Car Industry must be laughing crocodile tears at us poor saps. Not that it's cost the taxpayer owt, I hope - after all, there's still 15% VAT on new cars which amounts to pretty much each Government contributed £1,000 pot to take the piss in.

And the next Eco-wheeze? All manufactures to have a maximum average CO2 emission across the range. Manufacturer's of tiny hatchbacks like Fiat can't believe their luck, so run out and buy eco-horrors Chrysler to celebrate. And Aston Martin re brand Toyota's eco-cred laden iQ, ostensibly to give Vanquish owners a city car; the fact that this wheeze almost halves AM's average CO2 emissions apparently hasn't crossed their chairman's Teutonic little mind...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Time for Tee

Unless there’s a wedding, job interview or bank manager to get to, chances are a tee shirt is the default setting for most bloke’s wardrobe. Pull on the tee, dither between cargos or jeans, and us chaps are good to go. But it wasn’t always like this. Invented (as are most good things) by us plucky Brits, what we think of as a tee shirt first appeared in Victorian England as underwear. Always white and hidden from view it was called a vest or undervest, and that’s probably how things would have stayed without two World Wars. So the Germans probably think they invented it.

When the Americans were persuaded to come and win World War I for us hopeless Limeys it wasn’t just our Sopwith Camels they admired. Our nice cotton tees were far more comfy under scratchy wool uniforms than Uncle Sam’s knitted woollen vest, so when GI Joe went home he took our cotton tees with him, although to this day an American will call a white cotton tee worn underneath his shirt a vest.

Sometime between the wars the American military started using the term “tee shirt”. Some say the cut off sleeves led to it being nicknamed amputee, quickly, er, cut short to “tee”. More plausible is that when the tee was adopted as the US Army and Navy training shirt abbreviation loving servicemen labelled it the t-shirt.

So when the Germans got feisty again in 1939 the Americans repeated their trick of turning up fashionably late and overdressed. By now the British Tommy had moved on to what we’d call a vest and dodgy looking gym fiends call a singlet, but our transatlantic cousins were still using the tee as a vest. This was considered very much gentleman’s underwear and to be hidden from a swooning damsel’s sight at all times.

Except Pathe News had other ideas. Noble war heroes were shown in cinemas, stripped to what the wide eyed world considered their underwear, fighting the good fight and defending our freedom. Today there’s nothing at all strange about a soldier fighting in boots, trousers and tee shirt (although we’d expect a Flack Jacket and Oakley shades as well) but in the 1940’s this was groundbreaking. No wonder the Yanks were so good at pulling womenfolk who’d been treated by the local Odeon to the sight of strong young Americans stripped to their undies. Now you know where Arnie and Stallone got their ideas.

So by the time American GI’s returned to peacetime America turning up in a plain white tee and jeans might still have been outrageous but was now just about acceptable, especially if you really were returning from war. Add a leather jacket and the world was suddenly full of wannabe Marlon Brandos and Jimmy Deans.

And as so often happens what was once outrageous was picked up by the Establishment and churned out for a profit. The first printed tee shirt was produced for an American politician’s election campaign in 1948, and within a few years a Miami based business was selling printed tees commercially. From there it’s just a short ride to everything from the designer branded organic high ticket number, all the way down to the guy selling unlicensed logo tees printed in his garage.

So maybe, just maybe, our modern tee is an American invention. But they probably thought that already. But the best are definitley Benzinas - http://www.teambenzina.co.uk/clothing/t-shirts/

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Motogiro was a thousand mile road race that was banned along with all contemporaries in 1957 when the equivalent race for cars, the Mille Miglia, launched the incandescent mix of an Italian Playboy and his Ferrari into a crowd of spectators killing 11 people. So these days the Motogiro “race” involves chasing down checkpoints and time trials.

But the original must have been unbelievable. The 'bikes were a maximum of 175cc, but could touch 70mph (over 100kph) on roads that were little more than farm tracks. One thousand miles in five days would have been tough enough, but turn it into a race which had to compete with other traffic, farm animals and drunken locals was certain to kill more than time. So why do it, apart from the fact the Italians will race anything with wheels. Simple - prizes money and the prospect of sponsorship. In poverty wracked post-war Italy, as one rider put it, your family either died of starvation or you risked death in the 'giro to feed them. Absolute bloody heroes. More pics at www.teambenzina.co.uk/tees-and-cakes/