30 November 2011

E12 Alpina B7 Turbo - The Ultimate, Ultimate Driving Machine?

The Alpina B7 turbo. Not so much a wolf in sheeps clothing, more a gangster in a businessman's suit. It was this car that took the solid foundations laid by the 2002-based B4/S (and to a lesser extent the A1,2 & 3 engine fitted to the E21 and E12) and took Alpina's still-fledgling road car business to new heights.

The B7 Turbo was the world´s fastest 4-door car when it was introduced at the 1978 Frankfurt IAA Motor Show  Indeed, it´s still very fast by today´s standards. At first the car was called 530 Turbo, but Alpina soon changed the name to B7 Turbo.

The engine is based on BMW's 3.0 litre 'M30' six; but not much is left of the standard engine. Alpina fitted a KKK (Kühnle, Kopp und Kausch) K27 blow-through turbo with a maximum boost of 12psi. But the boost was variable (by a dial in the interior) between 8psi and the maximum, which means, in terms of power, between 250 bhp and 300 bhp. An intercooler is also fitted located behind the right pair of headlamps.
The turbo blew through race-style Pierberg/Zenith DL mechanical fuel injection, but while there was no ECU needed for the injection, there was with the ignition. In a world first for a road car, the B7 used Hartig adjustable electronic ignition, crucial for reliabilty. Because of the turbo's variable output and the fierce under-bonnet heat, the Hartig system would retard the ignition to kerb detonation, potentially lethal to long turbo life. Lower compression forged pistons and new valves were also fitted, more suited to the turbo installation. To handle the greater power and 342lb/ft torque, Alpina fitted a specially modified 5-speed Getrag gearbox.

The suspension was uprated with Bilstein springs, progressive rate springs, and adjustable dampers. The original brakes, while good, were deemed not up to task of reining in the power the B7 was packing, so were replaced by new, bigger ventilated discs front and rear. The signature Alpina alloys are 7x16 (f) and 8x16 (r), wrapped in 205/55 rubber up front with 225/50s bringing up the the rear. Speaking of the rear, the LSD had it's own oil cooler to compliment the Vader-esque looking diff cover.

Inside, the seats are replaced by hip-hugging items, manufactured to Alpina´s specifications by Scheel. The instruments have been replaced with special Alpina gauges, with red needles. There were additional gauges for turbo boost level, oil pressure and oil temperature. Other changes were the now much sought after four-spoke steering wheel (a Momo item also used on Maseratis of the time) and gear knob, a left foot dead pedal and a variable boost control located between the front seats.

There aren't many changes to the exterior, but that only adds to the subtle menace, in my opinion. The B7 had Alpina's mad 80's striping, but that was a no-cost option, front and rear spoilers and, of course, the trademark Alpina wheels. The B7 is also little lower than a standard 5er, due to the revised suspension.
As stated before, the B7 Turbo is a very fast car, even when compared to today's Autobahnstormers. In Auto Motor und Sport´s test back in 1981, the B7 accelerated from 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 13.8, 0-125mph in 23.6 seconds and reached a top speed of 155mph. That 'Fastest 4-door saloon in the world' tag was no empty boast..

Between December 1978 and February 1982 a total of 149 cars were made. Unfortunately, the chances of finding a genuine RHD B7 Turbo are non-existent - the turbo and manifold would be occupying the same place as the steering, so none were built.
The same is also true of it's successor; enter the B7S.
The B7S was only produced from November '81 to May '82 as a 330bhp suceesor to the B7. The 3.5 version of the M30 was slotted between the chassis legs, together with a larger KKK turbo with higher 12.5psi boost and other refinements to help reduce the B7's savage turbo lag. It was of course, even quicker; 60mph now came up in 5.8, the 100mph mark in 12.5 and was all out at 163mph. Only 60 were built, so finding one for sale is even slimmer than your chances at a 'cooking' B7.

The B7 arguably set the template for the 'super-saloon' and while it has long been surpassed in overall performance, their exclusivity, not to mention their desirability, is still sky-high after all of these years.

Cutlass, Not Gutless

28 November 2011

Citroën VTS-powered Panhard PL17 - PanHARD

Panhard et Levassor (or Société des Anciens Etablissements Panhard et Levassor, to give them their full title);  one of the oldest names in the car industry, having been formed in 1891 (6 years after Benz & Cie and a year after Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was formed), they were one of the largest and most profitable manufacturer of automobiles before World War I. They were also one of the early pioneers in motorsport, having won numerous races from 1895 to 1903. They also developed the Panhard rod, a type of bar that provides lateral location of a solid rear axle which became used in many other types of automobiles and is still known by that name to this day. They produced some fantastic luxury cars in the inter-war period, such as the 6CS and the Dynamic. Post-war (as plain old Panhard), they decided to build smaller cars, such as the Dyna X, the Dyna Z - and the PL17, below.

Unfortunately, the last Panhard passenger car was built in 1967 (the last models being the beautiful 24 BT & CT); the road car arm being absorbed by Citroën in 1965, with them retiring the marque completely in 1968. Panhard still exists as a company however (much like the original Bugatti still does, but that's another story); as from '68 on, they continued to make armoured vehicles, a field in which they are quite successful.

Going back to the PL17, a long-time favourite of ours; it may have a face only mama Panhard truly loves, but it's ugly duckling charm soon grows on you. Based on the preceding alloy-bodied Dyna 54, the PL17 debuted in 1959 and was powered by an 845cc air-cooled, flat-twin engine. It featured front-wheel drive, independent front suspension, torsion bar springing, aluminium bodywork (and a typically Gallic dashboard-mounted gearchange) at a time when Ford for example had just introduced the Popular 100E. The cars were fast for their size, economical and handled well; the now steel-paneled PL17 featured aerodynamic low-drag bodywork and, despite its small capacity engine, proved capable of conveying six passengers at 70mph while returning 40 mpg. The car's controversial looks ensured that it made little impact on the UK market; nevertheless a total of around 130,000 were sold - mainly in Europe - before production ceased in 1964.

Panhard affamé ! nom de nom !

A lovely old classic car, one that will definitely charm the socks off you, if not blow them off. You wouldn't buy a PL17 for say, hooning around on a track day, would you? Before you answer that unlikely question, read on, the example below takes that thought and leaves it in a cloud of it's own burnt rubber.

Est-ce que c'est tout que vous avez ? Je vous laisserai dans une traînée de mes propres vapeurs d'échappement. Hah !

This rare 1963 RHD example has been modified to serve as just that. The original engine has been kicked out, in its place a powerplant from it's Citroën extended family; a 16 valve, 1600cc from a '98 Saxo VTS. To up the ante even further, theres Newman phase 3 cams, a chipped ECU, ported and polished throttle body; and Raceland induction kit. The exhaust system incorporates more Raceland goodies; no doubt this Panhard has a bark (backed by a 160bhp bite) that demands you take it's bug-eyed geekiness seriously in your rear-view mirror.

Est ce ce que le you'l verra qu'une fois j'ai exécuté l'acte de souffler vos portes outre de. Au revoir maintenant !

Other noteworthy features include a Group 'A' solid crossmember - watch those fillings -  a 106 XSi gearbox (closer ratios than the standard VTS 'box), 306 GTi-6 front brake calipers gripping Brembo discs and OMP pads. Theres also Spax PSX adjustable dampers with matching 40mm springs on the front with a 40mm drop on the matching Saxo torsion bar; so to all intents and purposes this Gallic honey is singing from the PSA hymnsheet underneath, and while that may seem a tragic waste of a PL17 to some, you gotta admit the shock factor when this grand dame hitches up her petticoat and gives more modern machinery a run for their Francs would be worth the purchase price alone.
Its currently up for grabs at Bonhams December sale, on the 1st.

Dark Clouds A-Clearing

21 November 2011

A Rant, A Thank You - And A Declaration

The following post will not make a whole lot of sense to readers who don't know about the Retro Rides forum, so feel free to peruse the back catalogue if this doesn't interest you. Apologies also to RR-dwellers who disagree with my opinion, but alas I need to vent so that I can get rid of this negativity and get back to important stuff
And if you do happen to the the two protagonists in question; truth hurts. Suck it up.

While you're waiting for this rant toend, here's a picture of a nice car to keep you occupied.

What is Retro Rides (or as it is known in Amazo Towers, Retard Rides or R#tro Rides)? It's a modish car forum that covers most types of cars but in reality appeals mostly for the type of person who into the 'retro' scene (whatever that actually is). Like all forums, its as good as it's contributors; it has some fabulous content but also, quite frankly, a lot of dirge to dredge through, but no better or worse than most forums.
There are numerous moderators but the two main ones (and the subject of this part of the post) are two individuals with the monikers of 'HotWire' and the seemingly ironically named 'Rmad'.
I've no idea who they really are or what they look like; for some weird reason I keep comparing them to these two, but thats unfair on Hinge & Bracket; those two are funny. No doubt the internet H&B are fine upstanding individuals blah blah in real life BUT, once they're tooled up with a mouse and keyboard, they mutate into some kind of Orwellian parodies; afraid that opinions that don't segue with their own will somehow unravel the fabric of the Space-Time Continuum. How odd.

Hotwire & Rmad, yesterday. Or is that the other way around?
I won't bore you with some of the opinions I've given over the years on there (the most memorable being about a certain ferricly-challeged BMW E28 owned by a self-publicist of limited creativity), but suffice to say these two seem to take a dislike to my individualism. How dare I use my brain, huh? Lots of on-off, on-off jibes ensued on both sides, which grew increasingly nasty on their part, especially from 'Mad, until one day I found my account deleted. And just to really twist the knife in the wound, he blocked my IP address! A bit extreme I think, and the hallmark of a childish attitude that can't get his own way. How adult.
So does this make much difference to me? Not particularly; no-one died because of this, my wife didn't walk out on me, I'm still gainfully employed and the Earth hasn't toppled off it's axis. Add to that, I still post on RR (aren't IP changers great?), ironically under an even older username than 'Amazo'; so what has been proved other than some juvenile strutting I really don't know.
It's just a car forum, just one amongst many on The Internet, just like The Amazo Effect is just another car blog. It isn't a cure for cancer or AIDS, and I'm pretty sure next years Olympics will run on time without our intervention. The difference between us is that I know that.

Still here? Here's another pic, this time of The Jade Idol. Not long now.
It's a shame really; RR has some fantastic contributors, like Dbizzle of the fantastic SuckSqueezeBangBlow blog and The Pollitt of Not 2 Grand, to name just a couple (or twenty - don't feel insulted if I've not given props, I know who you are). But, it has to be said, half of the 'inmates' on RR are well... weird. Maybe this is why Hot & Mad feel the need to be control freaks, to keep these forum 'proles' in line, but please, I have a brain and critiquing abilities. Remember you crazy kids, your forum is only as good as the people who contribute to it. I counted myself as one of the good ones, but constant snarkiness from these two control freaks made me less & less interested in actually making contributions  and more & more interested in starting a blog, ironically a medium I used to look down on.

God, he does go on, doesn't he?
Also, calling me childish insults in PMs and nit-picking my posts (is anyone on RR really bothered that my BMW E30 project is called the green BASTARD? Really? Really?) show the classic signs of two bullies who should take more effort into running the forum rather than waging vendettas against us.
Us? Read on. This is where it gets interesting. And, much less ranty. Phew.

Well, this pseudo-banning has had an interesting side-effect. I was planning to shut this blog down after a year, as I felt it had served it's purpose and was going to start re-posting on my favourite forums (RR included). But I've had a change of plan. Ready? Deep breath:

The Amazo Effect is here to stay.

Not only that, but there will be some guest contributors (ironically also fellow RR-ers) next year, so stick around, its gonna be fun.
I must thank everybody who has visited The Amazo Effect; a huge  thank you to you all. Since staring this blog on the 21st of January, I've had over 40,000 hits to date and after a slow start, now averaging about 250 hits per day.

Now this might be small beer for likes of the Speedhunters and Crank & Pistons of this world, but boy it's sure outstripped my expectations. Thank you again to all of my regular followers, I'm flattered you find my output so addictive.

40,000 views. Whoda thunk it?
Someone sure likes my blog, eh Dbizzle? Kudos.

The world is watching, sort of.

So, Hot & Mad (sounds more like Abbott & Costello to me the more I say it), feel free to comment on this article, I will quite happily listen to your comments. But I know you won't, as will require you to venture out of your RR safehouse into the wilds of the internet - and into this blog - my house.
If you do, here some welcome presents I found on the 'net I just know you'll love...

Back next week with car stuff.