Sunday, September 30, 2012

Passionate lover and his muse

Already during many years I am following a magnificent shaped diary with about 70 entries and wonderful clear ( technical ) pictures from the passionate Spider-lover Eduardo ( Eddie ) Relvas and his muse ( he calls her tenderly ' Betty ' ) from Portalegre, Portugal under the compelling title:

Today ( September 30. 2012 ) Eduardo writes in his diary:
'Reading back on my previous posts, it seems I've acquired the routine of apologising at the beginning of every post for not writing more often. So no more apologies.

No, the irregular post frequency does not mean the car has not been in use. Far from it.
In fact, it continues at its peak. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, and get the story up to date.

First event to take place after the last post was when I finally bit the bullet and admitted that the engine would never be properly sorted until I took matters into my own hands. Regular readers will remember my complaints that it never was as smooth as I knew the 1438 should be, and through several failed attempts it kept running too rough for my taste. So come Easter, and the engine was extracted from its usual resting place for a quick recommissioning...

I took the opportunity because the engine was starting to show the very first symptoms of tired main and rod bearings, and the timing belt was due as well, so timing was perfect.

Within a couple of days I'd gone through it, inspecting the general state of affairs, and dismantled the lot. Then the overhaul proper started:

The whole engine was cleaned and checked. I was quite pleased to see that the engine was very well preserved, not showing anything to worry about. I did find the culprit of the vibration, though... someone that had been there in the past assembled the whole bottom end not paying attention to the factory balance marks. The crank, flywheel and even the front pulley and cover assembly are all staked to show their relative positions so that factory balancing is preserved. There was also one piston with the rings incorrectly spaced, so that might not have helped either.

Soon I was into the assembly phase... I love this sort of work.

And it wasn't long before the whole lot was being put back where it belongs...

I know, I could have taken the time to spruce up the engine bay, but this was done against the clock as I only had the two weeks of Easter break so I could use the missus' car to get to work. And I did it, with not much time to spare, but it went back into service.

Soon after that, I had a conference to attend in Evora, 100 km away, and this was my first real opportunity to test the newly-minted power plant.

As you can see, the old gal was finally put back the way it should. The engine now revs eagerly and smoothly, and it's an absolute delight to drive. It winds all the way round the rev counter scale with no hint of displeasure at being put through its paces. A proper Italian engine, at last! Success!'

Now that I 've boosted your interest in Eduardo's gorgeous diary, you better visit his own pages about HIS RESTORATION PROJECT THAT STARTS IN JULY 2004 .

( Diary entry and picture reproduction granted with Eduardo Relvas' permission. )

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fascinating Automotive Designs

About ten years ago I stumbled over a thrilling picture of a quite UNUSUAL MOTORCYCLE .
Because of my unremitting curious nature, I wanted to know who designed and created this
WONDERFUL VEHICLE and found out on a Russian ( ! ) website, that it was created by the Italian engineer, automobile and motorcycle designer ( Francesco Zefferino ) FRANCO SBARRO , living and working in Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland.

And . . . . on these completely unexpected Russian pages a fascinating new world opened in front of me. I lost all my consciousness of time and was dreaming in a fantasy world for many, many, many hours.
I found myself on the website of CARDESIGN.RU which was at that time only in the Russian language. Because of the widespread international interest in the site, a part of it was separated later in the English language with the address CARDESIGNCOMMUNITY.COM describe themselves as: a professional informative online service and online community aimed mainly at professionals in the automotive industry, design students and transportation design devotees.
The project was launched in 2001 as a Russian-speaking web-source, which deservedly gained general popularity in Russia and other countries – starting with the specialists, who work in the industrial and automotive design sphere. today is the most Ru-net wide popular resource of transportation design, it is visited monthly by over 200 000 people, who view about 1.5 million pages. They are confident that will multiply its success!’s audience are always in the know, about the latest red hot information in the automotive world and allied fields. On they post fresh Autonews, their reporters visit all the main International Auto Shows and exhibitions, providing quick and detailed reports and photo-reviews. They cover, best transportation design degree-shows, carry out analytical test-drives, do interviews with famous designers, publish historic reviews, inform of changes in design studios and world famous schools preparing industrial designers, announce design contests which are being held all over the world, introduce their readers to some useful information in allied design spheres. The site has a reputation as an independent source of valuable current information in the transportation design field. is an international online community for automotive designers. Their mission is to introduce designers to the automotive market and being an informational source on design subjects.
    They facilitate with:
  • effective and convenient interaction between transportation designers all over the world;
  • enriching the design outlook for their audience;
  • self-development of young specialists and those who want to become a designer – in professional, informational and personal aspects;
  • establishment of direct communications between the designers and their potential employers.
A magnificent concept creation and prototype was made for BMW: the BMW i8 Concept Spyder 2012, which was on the Moscow International Automobile Salon from August 31 - September 9, 2012:

( The represented pictures are taken from the website of )

Friday, September 21, 2012

Romancing the Road

Maybe it's built into us, or maybe it's the influence of literature and the movie screen, but few would try to deny the romantic appeal of A HAPPY COUPLE riding off together into the sunset. It's the honeymoon ideal, the inspiration for a thousand song lyrics, the fantasy of untold legions of Cupid-struck lovers. Even if the mode of transportation is a trusty Toyota instead of a red convertible or a black stallion, many lovebirds find the call of the open road irresistible.

For every couple that returns from a maiden road trip in dream-come-true mode, however, there's another that comes home thinking: "Never again!" The gap between fantasy and reality hits many road trip dreamers like four simultaneous blowouts at speed. "This is nothing like we imagined!" blindsided travelers wail as a simple decision like where to eat turns into a full-blown civil war.

I personally know of a divorce that was hastened by a horrible road trip. While that couple probably would have split up eventually anyway, their ill-fated road trip widened the cracks in their relationship quickly and irreparably. Just as they can be a wonderful chance to bond and build a gallery of fondly shared experiences, road trips can also create -- or add to -- intense tension and disharmony.

The reason there's a dark side to road trips is that, while they seem like the ultimate in carefree travel, they are in fact tiring and stressful. Before you actually hit the road, your mental image is likely drawn from car ads filmed on a perfect day in a perfect car on an empty road with endless vistas and no speed limit. You've left your troubles behind, and your biggest worry is that your hair -- because you're in a convertible, of course -- might get tangled. To help ensure that a snarled coiffure really is your biggest problem when you hit the road with your soul mate, here are eight tips to help you plan the romantic getaway of your dreams.

  • 1. Plan your trip together. Surprise excursions are usually more fun for the planner than the recipient. Why? Because anticipation is as important to enjoyment as the physical experience, and you'll also learn about your partner's preferences as you make your decisions. Road tripping is a learned skill. If one partner is more experienced, build in some extra consideration for the newbie. Keep first-time trips short and sweet. A weekend cruise to a nearby scenic area is a great way to start out.
  • 2. Don't turn a road trip into a chore. It's tempting to plan too much to do and too many miles to cover. Remember that you're not a long-haul truck driver, and you don't have to "get there." Allow plenty of time for moseying and stopping when something unforeseen catches your eye. Smell the roses. Feel the sand between your toes. Watch the sun go down. Romance thrives on time, and nothing wilts it faster than an alarm clock and a packed schedule.
  • 3. While you're on the road, lavish your partner with extra consideration and kindness.
    Be proactive -- past acceptable behavior may not be enough. Because a road trip is constantly taking you into new territory -- not only physically but mentally, too - it pays to keep channels of communication open. Listen to your partner, and share your own feelings.
  • 4. Assign the responsibilities, and then resist the temptation to interfere with how tasks are accomplished. If one person is acting as navigator, the other needs to trust the directions. Even if the navigator occasionally gets things wrong, it's better to bite your tongue and take a detour. Why? Because you will get things wrong once in a while, too. Patience and consideration are key, and if you've followed Tip 2 above, you've got the time to enjoy the side trip instead of ranting about your soul mate's inability to read a map.
  • 5. Think carefully about the driving, as this is the biggest single task on a road trip.
    Will you share this responsibility, or will one of you be the designated chauffeur?
    If one person is going to do all the driving, think about a "Plan B" if that person becomes incapacitated.
    A friend of mine set off on a trip with his girlfriend in a vintage Volkswagen. "I'll do all the driving," she promised, but when a case of a sudden allergic reaction made her eyes swell shut, the situation changed. The guy was faced with the challenge of driving a stick shift, which he had never done before. To make matters even more exciting, his driver's license had expired. The relationship ended around the time they got home.
  • 6. Don't let the grouches get the upper hand. Once bickering begins, it can easily lead to knock-down, drag-out war. Eating meals on a consistent schedule and getting enough sleep are the best defenses.
  • 7. Keep a journal, and if you take pictures, take the time to organize them into an easy-to-enjoy format. Recalling shared experiences is not only romantic, it strengthens relationships in the long term. These days, a road trip blog is a great way to preserve and share memories.
  • 8. Remember that the journey's the thing. Make it a priority to enjoy every moment, even the unplanned ones. Attitude can make all the difference when something unexpected happens. Believe it or not, even a case of an allergic reaction and an expired driver's license don't have to ruin a trip. Some of my own favorite road trip memories are of getting stuck in a snowdrift in Austria and running out of gas in Scotland.
With thought, preparation and consideration, a road trip can be one of the most romantic getaways you'll ever take. Once YOU AND YOUR PARTNER have discovered your preferences for traveling together, you'll have endless opportunities for more adventures. Even if you never hop on a black stallion together, you can enjoy "happy ever after" experiences long after the honeymoon is over.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leading Auto Innovation

Volkswagen presented last February its new platform called MODULAR TRANSVERSE MATRIX - the German acronym is MQB ( MODULAR QUER BAUKASTEN ) - for the Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. This platform will be shared by a larger number of models within the Volkswagen's group in relation to current platforms.

It's an important enhancement in automotive production representing a turning point in the design and production of future automobiles. VW expects to cut costs, production time and cars weight with the MQB platform. This platform represents a major step forward in VW's strategy to become the world's largest auto manufacturer by 2018.


The Volkswagen Group is based in Germany and is one of the world's leading automobile manufacturers and the largest in Europe. The Group is made up of ten brands: Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, VW Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN. Each brand has its own character and operates as an independent entity on the market. The product spectrum extends from low-consumption small cars to luxury class vehicles. It also has a stake in Porsche AG, which is expected to fully integrate the VW Group in the short-term.

The strategic plan of the company called "Strategy 2018" aims to make the VW Group worldwide leader in 2018. Over the long term, VW aims to increase unit sales to more than 10 million vehicles a year and intends to increase its return on sales before tax to at least 8%. To achieve these goals, the MQB platform will play an important role.


Usually, each automobile platform is designed specifically for a market segment and shared between cars of similar size. A typical mass-market VW platform spans not just several model variants, but in fact underpins a variety of models sold under different brands. VW is now creating shared modular platforms to serve the needs of its different subsidiaries. The MQB platform is the most recent and will be used for mass-market models with front-wheel-drive cars, for which the engines are transversely mounted.

The modular part of its name refers to its versatility in size and type configurations. With the MQB platform the only dimension that is fixed is the distance from the front axle to the firewall. Front and rear overhangs, wheelbase, width, and track all can shrink and grow.


THE MQB PLATFORM allows the Volkswagen group to produce worldwide high volume and niche models at extremely competitive costs over the long term. The MQB exploits synergies in key technologies and allows greater economies of scale through the production of more models with the same platform.

Since the invention of mass production by Henry Ford in the 20's, this may be the most revolutionary step in the automobile development and production.

The modular platforms concept is a major structural advantage for VW's in the global automotive industry, allowing it to reduce costs and be more competitive on prices. By this way, it can gain market share from General Motors and Toyota to become the world's largest automotive manufacturer.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tom Tjaarda's creation: Ferrari 365 California Spyder

Shortly after the last FERRARI 500 SUPERFAST was made in 1967, the Ferrari 365 California Spyder was announced as the model's successor. It was the continuation of a series of limited production cars which included the 410 AND 400 SUPERAMERICA'S.
These cars were marketed to attract premium customers who demanded a MORE UNIQUE COACHWORK on their grand touring machines. To keep costs down, but exclusivity high, the 365 California was only offered to select VIP clients of Ferrari.

To much success, the California title had been already been associated with the earlier 250 GT SERIES . Around one hundred 250 California Spyders were built with some light alloy competizione examples actually racing Le Mans and Sebring. Drawing on this rich heritage, Ferrari decided that the NEW 365 SPYDER would be marketed as the next California model.

Much like the 250, this 365 used a well developed chassis to provide a basis for the next Calfornia Spyder. Released alongside the 330 GTC at the 1966 Geneva Auto Salon, the long and low 365 CALIFORNIA SPYDER was basically a reworked 330 GT chassis featuring a striking Pininfarina body. As far as engineering was concerned the 365 California Spyder was uninventive, having a wishbone front suspenion and live rear axle held by leaf springs.

Powering the 365 was a COLUMBO LONG BLOCK V12 . This engine was common in the 365 range, being an enlarged version of the unit found in the 330 GT. Other evolutions of this engine powered the 365 GTB/4 Daytona, GTC/4 and standard 365 GT coupe.

The area in which the Spyder was the most developed was styling. Most of the costs associated with the project went into designing and building an appropriate form that could carry the evocative California name.

Working for Pininfarina, Tom Tjaarda was responsible for styling of the 365 California. He used a culmination of design cues from the 500 Superfast and 330 GTC to create a harmonious cabriolet of grand proportions. Unique elements to the car include its covered headlights, pop up driving lights and door handle treatment which faked a mid engine air intake. Especially unique was Tjaarda's treatment on the rear area on the car which was a departure from Ferrari's traditional design language. The rear was very angular and even payed homage to the Kamm tail as found on cars like the 250 GTO and Breadvan.

In total only 14 EXAMPLES OF THE 365 CALIFORNIA SPYDER were made. Each featured the identical bodywork which kept the already high production costs down. The limited production run can be attributed to such costs and the fact that Ferrari wanted to keep THIS MODEL EXCLUSIVE , much like the 500 Superfast.

For a short impression click  HERE.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Top 10 signs of transmission trouble - part 2


Leaking transmission fluid is probably one of the easiest ways to identify that your transmission needs attention. Automatic transmission fluid is vital to your car's shifting capabilities, so a little fluid on your driveway can quickly turn into a major problem. Automatic transmission fluid is bright red, clear and a little sweet-smelling when everything is working correctly.

When you check your automatic transmission fluid, make sure it's not a dark color and that it doesn't have a burnt smell. If it is, you'll need to take it to a mechanic and have it replaced. Unlike your car's motor oil, the transmission doesn't really consume or burn up any fluid during use, so if you notice you're running low on fluid, then it's definitely leaking out somewhere.

If you have a manual transmission, checking the fluid levels may not be as easy as simply lifting the hood and reading a dipstick. Manual transmission fluid has to be checked right at the transmission case -- usually through the fill plug. Again, if you suspect your transmission is losing fluid, have a mechanic locate the leak and have it fixed.

If your fluid level is good, there's another easy way to know if there's something wrong with the transmission: go on to the next item to see how you can find out if your transmission is having problems -- without even having to pop the hood.


The check engine light can be a great early indicator that something is starting to go wrong with your transmission. The check engine light can come on for any number of reasons not related to your transmission as well, but don't overlook this clear warning sign.

In newer cars there are sensors throughout the engine that pick up irregularities in the engine and notify the computer that there's something wrong in a particular area. In the case of transmissions, these sensors can pick up vibrations and early problems that you may not even be able to feel or see.

If you want to know if your check engine light is telling you about a transmission problem, you can purchase a diagnostic scan tool that you plug into your car underneath the driver's side of the instrument panel. The scan tool will display a code that corresponds to the area of the vehicle causing the fault. If the code tells you there's a transmission problem, well, that's a good time to see your mechanic.

But even if your check engine light isn't on, you can still be on the lookout for transmission problems. In the next item, see what type of movements your car can make when the transmission requires service.


Depending on whether you have a manual or automatic transmission, your car may respond differently when your transmission isn't working correctly. As noted in a previous section, with a manual transmission, a common sign of trouble is a grinding sound or feeling when you shift into a new gear.
If you fully engage the clutch, shift and then hear a grinding sound, you may have a worn clutch or you may just need to have it adjusted. Or perhaps one or more of your transmission's gear synchronizers, or synchros, is worn out or damaged. Grinding gears can be caused by a number of different factors.

For automatic transmissions problems, you'll most likely feel the car shimmy into each gear rather than the typical almost unnoticeable shifts, or the transmission will make a jarring transition into the next gear. Both are signs that your transmission needs attention. If you notice anything other than a smooth transition between gears, then you might need to have your automatic transmission looked at for adjustments or repair.

But feeling transmission problems aren't the only way to use your senses. Go on to the next item to see what sounds you should be listening for as well.


It's difficult to nail down exactly how your car may sound if there's transmission trouble, but one thing's pretty certain, you'll probably get a that-doesn't-sound-right feeling when you hear it. Every car is built differently, so the sounds they produce can vary greatly, but if you have an automatic transmission, there's a good chance you may hear a whining, humming or even a slight buzzing sound.

With manual transmissions, the sounds will usually come across as a bit more abrupt and mechanical sounding. If you shift gears and hear a clunking sound, then you definitely need to have it checked out by a professional. But a clunking sound from underneath your vehicle may not always point to a transmission problem. Your constant velocity joints (CV joints), or even your differential may be the culprit.

The sounds you hear may happen from time to time at first, but if you neglect the noises, they'll occur more frequently as time goes on.


Transmissions are designed to go into the correct gear every time, so when they hesitate or refuse to go, it's a sure sign there's something wrong. With manual transmission problems, you may notice after shifting into a gear that the car's engine will rev up, but the car won't be moving as quickly as the engine is running. In this case, a worn-out clutch or more serious transmission problem may be occurring.

Automatic transmissions have the same lack-of-response problem, but will usually manifest the issue while engaging the "Park" or "Drive" selection. The car should shift quickly into either of these modes, but if your transmission hesitates to go into either one, then it's likely there's an issue with the transmission. (Source: howstuffworks)

Top 10 signs of transmission trouble - part 1

Diagnosing car problems yourself may seem like an impossible task, but try to think of it in terms of your own body. For instance, if your stomach begins to hurt without warning, you'll probably start thinking of the last thing you ate in order to figure out why you're having the pain.

A similar type of thinking goes into diagnosing car trouble. The moment you start noticing something out of the ordinary, it's time to start considering the problem and finding a way to fix it.

Mechanical auto problems, as opposed to electrical auto problems, are usually coupled with distinct sounds and sensations that are key indicators that something isn't functioning the way it was designed to. Transmissions take a lot of use over the years, and after a while, they're bound to start having some problems. Transmission repairs can be expensive, so it's worthwhile to pay attention to anything that seems unusual.

If you think you may be having some car trouble or if you're just looking to learn more about potential transmission problems, check out these 10 signs of transmission trouble and stay one step ahead of your car.


Believe it or not, there are still quite a few people out there who practice the fading art of shifting manually, with a foot pedal and a "stick" gearshift, and who do so willingly.

Despite their somewhat simpler operation, manual transmissions nonetheless have their share of things that can go wrong. One potential problem is that the transmission refuses to budge when you depress the clutch pedal and attempt to move the stick shifter.

It may happen when trying to get into first gear from a stop, or at any point up and down the assorted gears. Common causes include low transmission fluid, wrong viscosity (thickness) of fluid, or required adjusting of the shift cables or clutch linkage.

The nose knows when it comes to things being not quite right with your vehicle. Continue to the next item to find out how your olfactory sense factors into transmission diagnosis.


If you get a whiff of burning transmission fluid, be advised it is definitely not the sweet smell of success. That's because it may indicate your transmission is overheating. Transmission fluid not only keeps the transmission's many moving parts properly lubricated, but it prevents the unit from burning itself up, by providing much-needed cooling.

In some vehicles, the transmission even has its own mini-radiator (an oil cooler) that circulates fluid to transport heat away from the transmission unit itself.

Common causes include low or inadequate transmission fluid, which can in turn indicate a leak or dirty fluid that needs changing.

If you thought your transmission was safe from wear at least while it was in neutral, the truth might surprise you. Look to the next item for the scoop on noises in neutral.


It seems intuitive that if you hear weird noises when the car should be shifting, that the transmission is acting up. But would you suspect it if things were going "bump" in neutral? Yes, it could be the transmission.

Such sounds could have a simple and inexpensive solution -- as with many of the problems on our list, adding or replacing the transmission fluid sometimes does the trick. Bear in mind that as is the case with engine oil, different vehicles do best with the specific formulation called for in the owner's manual.

Alternatively, lots of noises from the transmission while it's in neutral could signal something more serious, like mechanical wear that will need the replacement of parts. In this case, common culprits are a worn reverse idler gear or worn bearings, possibly coupled with worn gear teeth.


In a normally functioning transmission, the car stays in the gear you designate, or that the computer designates for a given RPM range, until you or the computer initiate a gear shift.

But on a transmission in which the gears slip, the car can spontaneously pop out of the gear it's in while driving and (in a manual) force the stick back into neutral.

This is unnerving at best and potentially dangerous at worst: when you mash the gas pedal to avoid an out-of-control vehicle, the last thing you want is a transmission that doesn't get power to the wheels. No need to scratch your head over whether this is trouble or not: if it happens, you know it's time to have your transmission examined.

Our next trouble sign might seem like a real "drag" if it happens to your vehicle, but its fix is often not so complicated -- see what it is on the next page.

Losing control while driving is never a fun experience. Find out in the next item how a bum transmission could have a car "slipping" toward disaster if not repaired in time.


Here's another transmission trouble sign that haunts manual transmission vehicle owners: the dreaded dragging clutch. A dragging clutch is one that fails to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel when the driver pushes in the clutch pedal.

When the driver attempts to shift gears, he or she can't because the still-engaged clutch is still spinning along with the engine. The driver is abruptly made aware of this by the grinding noise that then ensues with each attempt to shift.

Fortunately, the most common cause for this problem is not that severe or costly to fix -- at least not compared to some other transmission issues. More often than not, the problem is too much slack in the clutch pedal. With too much free play, the cable or linkage between the pedal and the clutch disk doesn't have enough leverage to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel (or pressure plate).

Some transmission trouble signs are plainly visible even to the lay person -- if that person knows what to look for. To learn about one of the most obvious ones, continue to part 2 of this series about transmission trouble. (Source: howstuffworks)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Auto China 2012: Electrification and Connectivity

General Motors unveiled at Auto China Motor Show 2012 Chevrolet conceptual vision of the EN-V 2.0. This is another version of an innovative electric vehicle, which debuted at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

The original EN-V or ELECTRIC NETWORKED-VEHICLE was presented in SAIC-GM Pavilion at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai and became famous as one of the most interesting concepts in the history of GM. This two-seat electric vehicle that redefined the concept of the car due to the convergence of electrification and connectivity. The concept was designed to solve the problems of traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability in cities.

THE NEW MODEL EN-V 2.0 uses extra features desired by customers, such as air conditioning and practical storage space. The car also gained the possibility of movement in all weather and road conditions in the city.

Wireless communication system used in the concept allows the creation of a "social network" for drivers and passengers that can be used while driving to communicate with friends or business partners. Currently, GM plans to start a pilot study in China of prototype models of the EN-V 2.0.