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Sunday, December 23, 2012

1968 Citroen Mehari

One of the most fun things I did as part of my apprenticeship was to island hop the French Caribbean Islands repairing Citroen's that belonged to the resorts and the government. Among the DS19, DS21's and some 2CV sedans and delivery trucks was the French version of the dune buggy the Mehari. The Mehari is a type of fast running Dromedary camel. The Citroen Mehari may be faster on some terrains than the camel, in the Sahara the camel may have a slight advantage. Built on the of the 2CV platform, the steel body was replaced by a very toy like flexible polyester body. The soft long travel of the 2CV suspension, served well to absorb bumps, ruts and rocks that were the off road expectations for the cars use. These cars were replacing WW II surrey topped Jeeps and some Minimokes that went into service in the Islands. Built from 1968 to 1998 the basic vehicle did not change at all. Part of my job for Citroen was to go down to the Docks and unpack the cars from their 4 high stack get them running and drive them back to the Distributor where we would finish putting them together. It also meant driving them with windshield folded and no doors or seat belts through Miami. My whole 4 years of apprenticeship presented a different scope of what I was expected to do. In 1968 armed with a drivers license I was given responsibility by all my teachers to operate on my own in Guadeloupe (including surrounding islands), Martinique, Saint Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy, A tough job for a 16 year old to balance hormonal needs with the responsibility of operating a business. It was great experience flying, and sometimes sailing from island to island staying at resorts and staying out of trouble.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

1963 Studebaker Avanti R3.

In the late 50's Studebaker had been doing everything they could to stay in the Big Four Sales Club. GM, Ford, Chrysler and Studebaker were the  American power house world wide, the automotive Giants. By the late 50's Studebaker was looking for a miracle. They hoped that would come in Raymond Lowery's next revolutionary design. His last design the, 1954 President Speedster was evolutionary and way ahead of its time, with its low profile and and low drag shape. So in 1960 Studebaker turned once again to the genius of Raymond Lowery to set the world on fire. In one short year the Avanti went from concept to prototype and then production for 1962.

The Studebaker V8 was initially  was introduced in 1951 as a 232 cubic inch displacement with 120 horse power, It eventually displaced 304 cid and in the R3 Supercharged configuration it eventually exceeded 330 hp as installed in the Hawk GT and the Avanti. The R3 was fr all intents and purpose a factory race car. very few R3's made it to public hands, this seems to be one of them. The Andy Granatelli Land speed record Avanti was a modified R3 and with a special Supercharger was referred as the R5. That car was clocked at Bonneville just short of its 200 mile per hour goal due to poor traction not lack of power But 197 MPH in a "production" car was rather impressive in the early 60's.