Monday, 2 August 2010

It has been far too long since I updated this blog. I’ve fallen into the blogging trap that so many of us promise to avoid but inevitably succumbe to; real life. Family and work commitments popped up and stole my time and invalidated my automotive promises! By this point in the year I’d hoped to have attended more shows, been to several drift events and had a thriving blog. As it stands I have a drift-ready car but no free time at the weekends to use the damn thing in anger! Anyway enough moaning. Tuesday the 3rd of August is D-Day. Wastegate Chatter will rear its ugly head once more, hopefully for longer this time! Thank you for reading. (If anyone is still out there…)

Sunday, 18 April 2010


A brilliant series of contemporary videos detailing the 1984 European Touring Car Championship. What’s not to like about Rover V8’s, synth soundtracks and suspect moustaches? Enjoy!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Bouncing Czechs

In the modern world of the World Rally Championship where teams test their challengers in minute detail before they even touch a special stage there is little scope for a rubbish car. Long gone are the days of miserable machines like BL’s group 4 Allegro, Lancia’s misguided Beta spyder and Citroen’s utterly abysmal BX. The stakes are so much higher nowadays ,the budgets so much bigger and technology much better. Despite this there has been one car that competed in the last ten years of the WRC that must be classed as a comparative failure, the Skoda Octavia. Measured by the standards of the dreadful cars listed earlier the Octavia wasn’t that bad. Indeed when viewed as the springboard to Skoda’s more committed assault on the championship with the Fabia it can be said the big car preformed admirably. However none of this can disguise the fact that Skoda had entered a car that was fundamentally poorly suited to modern rallying and outclassed by all its major rivals, being left to scrabble for points with Hyundai and VAG stalemate ,Seat. But realistically what other options did Skoda have in its limited model range? The humble Felica had proved itself a tenacious competitor in lower formulas when in the right hands ,especially Stig Blomqvist in the 1996 RAC, but lacked an engine large enough to be homologated into top flight rallying. That left the Octavia as the only option, sharing many of the traits that had made Skoda’s previous forays into rallying a success. It was rugged to the point of indestructibility and mechanically simple. All the WRC running gear such as the four wheel drive system and suspension came from Prodrive and the engine and gearbox were VW based and modified by a German company. It used a five valve unit with the regulation two litre capacity and turbocharger putting out a competitive three hundred bhp. However this couldn’t disguise that the chassis was unsuited. In the 60’s, 70’s and even the 80’s ,when ruggedness counted for more, such cars could do well on events like the Safari ,Acropolis and Ivory Coast. By the early part of the twentieth century manufacturers expected their cars to be reliable and competitive everywhere. The Octavia just came across as heavy and unwieldy.

Even this might have been initially excusable if the cars had been reliable out of the box, another trait of Skodas of yesteryear, but they weren’t. At their first event, the 1999 Monte Carlo, neither Armin Schwarz or Bruno Thiry got further than parc ferme before mechanical failure sidelined them. Quite the inglorious start to the year. But Skoda persevered ,spurred on by the desire to get the upper hand as the rally branch of the VAG stable. Indeed the Octavia spent most of its competitive life fighting against the mechanically similar Seat Cordoba. Whilst this scrap for points raged the rest of the rallying world wondered what VW was thinking allowing two of its manufacturers to contest the same championship at the same time. Echoes of the Fiat/Lancia fiasco in the mid seventies were all to clear.

However eventually Skoda did manage to make the Octavia the reliable rally car it had always promised to be. It was still too long though and was never lighter than 1300kg so was never destined to be particularly competitive on asphalt. However on tough gravel events with high rates of attrition it came good. The car came home an impressive 7th in the 2000 Safari in the hands of Schwarz and whilst Thiry’s 4th on the 1999 RAC was fortuitous it nevertheless showed the cars inherent strength.

Such results were the exceptions that proved that Skoda really needed a small hatchback to compete regularly for podiums in the high speed European events. The Fabia WRC was always on the cards and soon it became evident that the Octavia was no more than a stop gap and a test bed. In 2000 the team resorted to using Luis Clement, a pay-driver through and through, to help fund their championship assault. By the end of 2003 it was curtains for the big, noisy car as the Fabia debuted on the German rally. Although unreliable the new machine certainly looked much more at home on a special stage with its neat styling and short wheelbase. It had much more promise but it must be said ,lacked the drama of its predecessor which was always one of the noisiest of the modern crop of WRC cars. So the axe came down on the Skoda Octavia WRC. It must be classed as a failure if such things are measured in the amount of silverware collected. However the Octavia did succeed in one crucial respect; Seat withdrew from the sport at the end of 2000. Skoda had won the inter-company struggle to compete in the WRC and the Octavia had seen off Seat’s equally unsuited Cordoba.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Auction Fever

Ebay. I'm sure this is well covered territory but what an awful website it is when it comes to not being tempted by clapped out old cars? Innocent things like setting the search criteria from between £0-£1000 and the 1970-1992 soon turn into a huge list of 'watched' auctions, scoured and checked meticulously each day. At the time of writing I have five different cars that I'm keeping tabs on, all just about in budget, all requiring work and more money to get them up to form again. At my age it's insurance that proves the most problematic factor though. Sure I could just about afford that tatty V8 Soarer, but putting the specs of the car into an online insurance firm causes their website to grind to a halt. So inevitably it comes to the final hours and minutes of each car's auction and I sit here, occasionally chucking a cheeky bid in but always deeply relieved when I'm pipped to the post. I'd never have managed to get that '78 Mazda 323 home without a trailer anyway...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Some more choice snaps taken from the weekend by Adam, Spaz ,Brock and king-of-gingers. Thanks again guys.

The Fast Show

So another show season has finally begun and what better way to kick start a summer full of automotive voyeurism than spending a weekend basking in glorious spring sunshine at The Fast Show? That was the theory anyway. In practice Saturday brought torrential downpours and reduced the camp site to a muddy quagmire the likes of which haven't been seen since the bad old days of Silverstone and the British GP. Not to worry though, camping with members of ensured a great bunch of people who never once let the shocking weather get them down. In any case the bloke on the Santa Pod PA had promised us better for Sunday and we had a noisy generator to power some fairy lights (just). Instead of watching V8's laying rubber we had to be content with Saxo's with failing head gaskets slowly digging themselves deeper into the mud as their teenage owners tried to solve the dilemma with the only way they knew how, more throttle.Needless to say Santa Pod recovery team had a busy morning.

Sunday did indeed turn out to be a much better day weather wise. So much so that I actually manged to get sunburned, an odd sensation when coupled with the constant 'squelch' of muddy shoes and socks! Thankfully rat-look being full of clever, forward thinking individuals* had decided to camp next to the movable fence separating the mud from the road, so when morning came we simply reversed out to safety.
Setting up of our stand was carried out with the constant throbbing of a drink-induced headache but eventually all the cars were lined up, chequered bins were stolen and sex toys were placed on cars. Then the important business of the morning could be tackled. Breakfast. Brockmeister makes a mean sausage and bacon sarnie it must be said.

The rest of the day was spent ogling some of the fantastic cars that had made the journey to 'the Pod.' My personal favourites included an e21 3 series on banded steels with an insane amount of dish, a monster Chevy flatbed truck that ran sub 11 second quarter miles and a Volvo 340 trampdrifter. This latter car I've utterly fallen in love with and am in the process of trying to buy right now!
As with any good show there were plenty of cars that divided opinion. Corsas and Neons with acres of plastic were present in large numbers but it takes all types I suppose. However the vast majority of cars present made me feel a bit light headed and I lost count of how many times I yelled 'I need that in my life!' much to the bemusement of the vehicle's owner.
So in conclusion a brilliant weekend despite the mother nature trying to rain on our parade in the most literal sense possible. Guess I'd best dig out the Waxoyl though, I'd hate my car to get rusty.

*This might have owed more to fluke than good judgement on our behalf


Well hello everyone (anyone?), all blogs have to start somewhere and this one will have its genesis here and now. I've had various unsuccessful ,unfocused blogs in the past but I feel now is a good time to start afresh, what with the 2010 show season and various motorsport championships kicking off.
I have no personal hard and fast rules as to what I will and won't include in here but it will all be linked in a strong way to cars and to the people who ,like me, devote a large portion of their free time to them.
From a personal perspective I've always loved older cars. The various beetles, 2cv's, Renault 4's my dad had when I was younger not only infuriated my mum but instilled in me a deep seated interest in old, cheap cars that most members of the public consider at best laughable and at worst abhorrent. Clapped out old Fords move me to ecstasy, rusty Volvo's make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and the sound of a tatty BMW 325 with a well fettled engine thundering past makes me stop and gawp. Can anyone empathise here? If so please bookmark this blog and join me in what should be a cracking year for unappreciated cars in shows all over the UK. Thanks for reading,