Apologies for absence

Just a brief update to let you know I'm still here and the blog hasn't been abandoned, even though it's more than two weeks into the new year and I haven't published a single post yet. I was back at work on 2nd January after an all-too-short Christmas break and straight into one of our busiest periods, which has meant a hectic schedule and working some overtime, leaving little time and energy to type up the blogs I have drafted in my head. Things are starting to calm down now so normal service will be resumed soon. I'll take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very belated Happy New Year and thank you for your support over the past three years. Rest assured there will be new material coming soon so stay tuned for updates!


Unsung heroes: CVE Omni

Travel on any modern low-floor bus and you'll soon notice a fundamental design problem. With the engine mounted at the rear, a flat floor is impossible and while the front half may be nice and low there's always an awkward arrangement of steps or ramps up to the back seats. Wouldn't it make far more sense to put the engine at the front and drive the front wheels so it's completely out of the way of the passenger compartment? Such a vehicle did exist almost thirty years ago and had the potential to revolutionise the minibus industry but sadly turned out to be a bit of a flop that has disappeared into obscurity, so I've nominated it as my final unsung hero of the year.

H389 KPY is the sole surviving Omni in PSV service
(By Pimlico Badger - EMPHAST H389KPY, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25343829)


The mysterious MilMod

I hope my readers had a good Christmas and got the gifts they wanted. I'm a difficult person to buy for so the majority of my presents were model kits from myself to add to my ever-growing stash, including a couple that are particularly unusual and not at all well documented. I thought it was worth writing something to shed a little more light on the mysterious little-known firm of MilMod, whose approach to kit production is rather individual to say the least. 

The model kit market in 1/76 scale just hasn't been the same since the demise of BW Models on proprietor Barry Wright's well-deserved retirement a few years ago. The moulds for the huge range were sold in batches to various other firms and while some former BW kits have reappeared, others have yet to emerge and their fate currently remains unknown. Thanks to a bit of detective work, some have now been traced to MilMod, with several already available and others scheduled for release next year. I had never heard of MilMod before and they seem to keep a very low profile, so who are they and what are their kits like?


Cedric's Scandinavian adventure

Here's a first for this blog, as I've been asked by someone else to write about their experiences with classic cars. This is such an epic adventure that there was no way I could say no when my friend James asked me to feature his Scandinavian road trip bringing home a rare Nissan he had just bought in Finland of all places. He spent a whole week on the road just doing his own thing, clocking up the miles and living his dream, so read on to find out how this adventure of a lifetime came about...

What a thing of beauty! I bet many of you have never seen one of these.


The Renaultvation continues

It's been a few months since the excitement of finding the Renault 6 hidden in Bob's garage and bringing it to its new home. A lot has happened since then and the car now looks very different from the dusty and forgotten relic we first clapped eyes on, although there is still a long way to go before it sees the road again. There has been a lot of frustration and the term 'because French' has been coined to describe its wilful idiosyncrasies that cause so much swearing and head-scratching, but an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from everyone who has come into contact with the car has kept us going.

It's come a long way from here. Still doesn't run though.

It quickly became the subject of the most popular thread ever on the Autoshite forum with over a hundred likes, and everyone is keen to see it recommissioned. The generosity of forum members is incredible, gladly offering advice and donating rare parts and literature to the cause for no more than the cost of postage, and massive thanks go to everyone who has contributed to the rescue of this rare car. Here's how things have progressed so far...

We're hoping it'll end up like this once more


Unsung heroes: Eagle Premier

This month the unsung heroes series returns to the USA with an especially bizarre choice that non-American readers will probably never have heard of and even Americans are likely to have forgotten. The Eagle Premier is a product of the 1980s, a dark time in US automotive history that created some frankly terrible cars, and if remembered at all is often cited as a perfect example of these with its unreliability and dull-as-ditchwater styling - a site called TheStreet.com even declared it the worst car of all time. I feel that is completely unfair: while the Premier may seem pretty boring it was actually very competent and quite innovative by American standards and I can think of cars that are far, far worse. Read on for the fascinating story behind this Franco-American crossbreed and how it should have shaken up the US motor industry. 

The perfect combination of American and European? It looks a bit like an Audi if you squint
(Image: allpar.com)


More Bobmobiles

Work on the Renault 6 continues at a steady pace and there will be an update soon. In the meantime, an envelope arrived a few weeks ago from Barry, who had been sorting Bob's photos and found some not just of our Renault but of various other cars he owned over the years. Looking at what he drove provides an interesting insight into his character: he seems to have been a Ford man originally before getting into Renaults, then towards the end of his life he had a couple of Vauxhalls. Even though he never married and spent his whole life living alone so he didn't really need two cars, there were times he owned more than one, and of course the R6 sat unused in the garage for more than 20 years while other cars came and went.


Retro Review: Ford Simulator

Although I work in the IT industry I've never really been one for games. I'd describe myself as a very casual gamer who maybe spends a couple of hours a month gaming, and I'm an impatient sort who wants to make quick progress so I tend to stick to simple fast-paced games. As a car enthusiast, naturally it is driving games that appeal most to me and nowadays there is no shortage of ultra-realistic games and simulators to suit all tastes. I grew up in the simpler time of the late eighties and early nineties though, and here I look back at a very odd, obscure and crude program (I hesitate to even call it a game) from 30 years ago that played a part in shaping my childhood.

What kind of super-realistic simulation awaits when I press the space bar?


Dream cars: NSU Ro80

You may have noticed a trend among my previous dream cars: they all have V8 engines, and let's be honest, what true petrolhead doesn't love a V8? This one is different though as it has an engine that sounds almost like a rude word and has no cylinders at all in the usual sense. Alas, that very same engine proved to be its Achilles' heel and caused its manufacturer to go bust less than 12 months after winning a well-deserved Car of the Year award.

Yes, today's dream is the NSU Ro80, a car so packed with innovations it was just too advanced for its own good and pushed the small company that made it over the brink into extinction just a decade after its launch. The Ro80 is celebrating its 50th birthday this year, something you'd find hard to believe looking at its fresh modern styling and the technology underneath, and I have long been among its admirers as it's just so radical and different from what anyone else was making at the time.

Would you believe this is a 50-year old car?
(By Spurzem - Lothar Spurzem - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8042301)


Magnum opus

The Renault Magnum in showland

If I was to ask you to name a typical British fairground lorry, chances are you'd say the classic duo of ERF and Foden, although with those marques gone for over a decade, nowadays Volvo, Scania and DAF are all making considerable inroads into showland at their expense. One manufacturer you probably wouldn't think of is Renault, and there are only a handful of this company's products to be found on the fairs and circuses of Britain.

The Renault Magnum however is one of my personal favourite types as it looks like nothing else on the road with its enormous boxy flat-floored cab and styling that must have been quite space-age at launch in 1991. My love for the Magnum no doubt comes from living in an area where my local fairs are frequently graced by at least one example, so this piece focuses on the Magnums I have photographed on the travelling scene in recent years.

A trio of fairground Magnums in one place, a very rare sight in this country

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