A Micro Marathon… part 2

Continuing our adventures in ‘Nippy’ the Subaru 360 on the Micro Marathon in 2009. It had all been going so well but that was all about to change…DSCN3024

Day 5 – Wednesday 9 September Alcañiz to Tarragona
Straight back to Motorland first thing in the morning, where we had a Spanish breakfast of coffee and wonderful little cakes. Another three lap test but on a shortened course from the night before. This time there was no ‘squealing’ brake in Nippy and we went clear, so did Craig and Victor. Mark and Jane in the Messerschmitt were too fast again, had to seriously slow for the line and ended up over the bogey time again, so the competition was now on with ‘Kato’ and the Messerschmitt equal on points.

Target 2:00:4
2 Isetta 2:18.8
4 Subaru 2:00:1
5 Subaru 2:00:1
6 Messerschmitt 2:01:4
7 Fiat 500 2:07:4
8 Fiat 500 1:58:3
10 Trabant 2:10:1
11 Morgan 2:05:5DSCN3627 DSCN3632 DSCN3657 DSCN3692

It was another beautiful but hot morning with a good route including a section on a ‘Camino Rural’ which wasn’t on the map. We had a good run but following the stop at the kart circuit, time was tight to make the lunchtime stop at Morella and we had to average more than 50km an hour to make the stop, quite a feat in a 360cc car. At Morella, a spectacular mediaeval walled town, which is normally pedestrianised, we had special permission to drive through the main gates and through the town, where we had a civic reception and were officially welcomed to the area. We parked up and had a wander around the town and grabbed a spot of lunch.DSCN3725 DSCN3739 DSCN3764 DSCN3798

The afternoon was initially uneventful, apart from some roadworks, a few miles was just dirt. We got all the photo controls but then shortly after leaving Miravet and joining a main road to Tarragona, the Subaru suddenly became noisy and after a metal on metal squeal James immediately pulled over and discovered the bad news that the engine had seized. James took part of the engine apart on the side of the road and managed to free it off but the diagnosis wasn’t good, it appeared that a bearing had failed in the bottom of the engine – Nippy’s rally was over.DSCN3808 DSCN3810 DSCN3814 DSCN3816

We decided the best thing was to use the rally support to get Nippy to the hotel in Tarragona which was only about 40km away, where we could access the situation and organise recovery. Several of the competitors stopped to check we were OK and shortly after, Roy and Clive the rally support crew arrived. We all put on florescent tabards and put out two triangles as per Spanish law which was just as well as the Police turned up just after we had turned Nippy round and were pushing him onto the trailer. Initially they helped but them got quite angry and appeared to be telling us that we must use a lorry for the car not a trailer. They spoke no English and just shouted more, I eventually remembered some letters that the organiser had given us from the authorities giving permissions to run the event, when we showed them these, they decided to let us continue but made a real fuss of directing the traffic. We thought they were the local bobbies but afterwards discovered that they were the Civil Guard who generally shoot first and ask questions later!

Roy towed us into Tarragona, he is a professional heavy truck driver but I have to say I prefered the kart track to that drive down the hills to the coast! After several days of unexpectedly beautiful scenery, hitting the Mediterranean coast was the Spain we had been expecting, very industrial and developed, building sites, oil refineries and the roller coasters of Port Adventura in the background. Nippy was unloaded into the hotels parking and I rushed to sign in seconds before the deadline just in case a miracle happened and he could be fixed. After a quick shower we phoned the assistance, they were insisting that the car had to be taken to a Subaru dealer for assessment and possible repair so we tried our contacts at Subaru to see if they could help. We made the dinner in the hotel where the rest of the crews were all very sympathetic and everybody was offering help and more importantly very large Spanish Brandies.

Day 6 – Thursday 10 September Tarragona to Andorra
A day of two parts – heaven and hell. Heaven for the rest of the rally crews, they set off heading towards the Pyrenees. A lunch stop at the Classic Motor Club de Bages allowed a good viewing of a private collection including lots of unusual microcars. Climbing back into the mountains, the final control of the day was at the National Automobile Museum of Andorra. The competitors made their way to Soldeu and the nights halt at the Sport Hotel – a great ski resort high in the mountains.

For us though the day was hell. We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over Tarragona bay. We unloaded everything from Nippy and put it and our luggage in the baggage van, we felt very sad to see everybody heading off on the days adventure but we were hopeful we’d be catching up with them soon in a hire car. It all appeared to be going well so I had a wander around the town until James called to say there had been a problem with Subaru helping us and we had to call our own assistance. This started a catalogue of problems lasting over eight hours and involving two taxis, two hotels, a station, two hire cars, two airport terminals and loads of phone calls to an incompetent office which lied all day. It was all very complicated as the assistance wanted to fly us home and collect the car but A. I don’t fly, B. Our car and trailer was in Toulouse plus all our luggage was headed for Andorra with the rally and C. We wanted to complete the last bit of the route and go to the final dinner in Carcassonne. This caused lots of problems as we needed a hire car that we could collect in Spain and deliver back in France. At 7.30pm we finally got into a hired French Registered Smart car at Barcelona Airport and set off for Andorra, at least it was an ideal car to follow a microcar rally. DSCN3848 DSCN3879 DSCN3880

The traffic was very heavy as the Spainish were travelling to the mountains for the following Catalunia National Day holiday. The Smart car was brilliant but by 9.30 we were still a long way from the hotel and so stopped in the last small town before the high mountains for a quick steak and chips. Back in the car and several impressive roads and long tunnels later we made it to Soldeu in Andorra at 11.30pm, to be met by the hardy members of the rally in the bar to a round of applause. The Sport resort was a lovely hotel which we didn’t get a chance to appreciate but we had a couple of drinks and caught up with the days happenings, Bernie and Dan in the Giardiniera were back on the road and finally enjoying some rallying but the Berkley was back on the trailer.

Day 7 Friday 11 September – Andorra to Carcassonne
Up early for the best breakfast of the trip, an amazing spread being cooked in front of us. Everybody checked out, shivering in the early mountain air, the microcars looked great parked outside the flower decked hotel. After waving the cars off we followed in the Smart car – Mike the photographer well wrapped up against the cold winds got a massive surprise when we appeared at the top of a mountain! The first Col, Port d’Envalira was the highest of the trip at 2408m although the roads weren’t as impressive as those earlier in the week and they were busy with locals as one of the tunnels was closed. We continued via Port de Pailhéres 2001m, (where we had to stop for a wolf in the road), Col de Moulis 1099m and Col du Garavel 1256m we left the mountains and crossed back into France, entering the rugged Cather area of bare cliff faces with impressive ruined castles clinging on to the ridges. The rally wound through the incredibly narrow Gorges de Galamus, a popular tourist attraction with a traffic jam, as there was very few places for oncoming traffic to pass unless you were in a microcar!DSCN3905 DSCN3926 DSCN3938 DSCN3942 DSCN3955 DSCN3979

With the possibility of the event result being a draw there was to be a tie break photo – a detour was made to Chateau de Peyrepertuse, this amazing castle is only reached by a very steep and uneven climb on foot over the rocks, in the now very hot midday temperatures. Showing competitive behaviour Vic & Craig and Jane & Mark both had to scramble to the very top to try to get a ‘Passage Control’ picture to impress Malcolm the organiser – I’m not sure how impressed he was with the results as rather too much flesh (not shown here) was exposed! Vic fell over on way down, I did point out that both members of the crew had to be alive to win.day7castle DSCN3992 DSCN4010

We left the castle for the final run to the finish. About 40km from Carcassonne we came across the American crew Keven and Loree in the Trabant on the side of the road with a problem, Mark who had also stopped and James diagnosed the problem as a failed coil, the Trabant has one for each cylinder. First they tried Marks spare which was also faulty, luckily Hedwig and Nicole in the Morgan had one which was fitted and we followed them towards Carcassonne. Seeing the medieval city in front of us was very sad as Nippy wasn’t reaching the finish. The cars gathered outside the city walls and then drove in together through the narrow crowded streets.DSCN4028MM_1617carcassonne DSCN4080 DSCN4105MM_1744

A final dinner was held in the Hotels Restaurant – local specialities of goats cheese salad and cassoulet. Malcolm and the head of PR for Fiat France made speeches and presented the awards. Everybody was presented with a finishers medal, all the drivers and navigators were there even though some cars hadn’t actually made it to the end. Although the Messerschmitt and the Subaru had finished equal on points, the overall winner was declared to be Vic and Craig, as they had the smaller engine and on the tests they were clear on two and on the other it was impossible for the Subaru to achieve the time. Craig also got the drivers prize and Jane Southgate the navigators. So there we were at the end of a brilliant weeks event and all that was left to do was party… MM_1796DSCN4150 MM 096

So another great event was over. There had been highs and lows but most of the brave little cars completed a week of hard driving, high temperature, steep passes and track challenges. Poor ‘Nippy’ made it home on a transporter about a week after we did. He requirers fairly major surgery to replace a failed bearing, pistons and rods. This has been delayed by lack of time, money and technical difficulties. The language barrier with Japan and the small number of the Subaru 360’s throughout the rest of the world has made sourcing new parts very difficult. We are still hopeful that he will be fixed before too long and be ready to go on whatever will be his next great adventure…


Little cars also tackle the mountains…

As you know Mario doesn’t go that far from home but his ‘little brother’ Nippy a 1967 Subaru 360 has been a bit more adventurous and in 2008 James drove and Jane navigated him on the Leige Brescia Leige Microcar Rally a unique event for small cars.360team

The story really starts in 1958 when in response to the Suez Crisis car manufacturers of the day entered their new sub 500cc models to prove that their performance and economy was a match of their ‘big brothers’. The original event was run over  3 days through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia and Italy. The only stop was in Brescia where the remaining entrants turned round and headed for home. Run over a mix of terrain from the newly opened Autostrada to the dirt roads of the high passes, the event was a test of true endurance and only 13 of the original 30+ entrants finished. One of the cars was driven by Pat Moss and others by top competitors of the day.liege-brescia-liege-2011

Half a century later it was decided to run the event again, although in consideration for the age of the vehicles and the comfort of the competitors the event was over 10 days. Closely following the original 2400 mile route but avoiding the motorways the rally went from Liege-Karlsruhe-Munich-Cortina-Ljubijana-Bolzano-Brescia-Bolzano-Munich-Karlsruhe-Liege and finished 50 years to the day of the original. The event was organised by Malcolm McKay of Classic Rally Press.DSCN1316

We started the event as a three car team of Subaru 360’s, us in Nippy, our friends Victor and Craig in Kato and Terry and Steve in a 360 belonging to Subaru which had recently been recommissioned. We trailered the cars to Liege and the actual event set off on July 10th 2008. The event was a navigational exercise with photo checkpoints, we had to take identical photo’s showing our car to prove we had been there and completed the whole route. DSCN1331

58 cars started the event including Fiat 500, BMW Isetta and 600/700, Berkeley, NSU Prinz, Goggomobile, Vespa, Messerschmitt, Citroen 2cv, Zandapp Janus and Heinkel.DSCN2662DSCN2736

The weather was terrible with teaming rain which was to last for the next 4 days. Our first stop was at Spa where we did some very soggy timed laps of the Kart Circuit. A long drive followed and Jane on her first rally, soon learnt the rally rules – you only stop when you can do everything at once – refuel, eat, drink and pee! DSCN1387

We crossed the Rhine and arrived at the first stop in Karlsruhe. Unfortunately the third Subaru had been having problems all day, they finally arrived at the hotel on a tow truck after Midnight, James set to work and took the engine out but it was a terminal problem and they had to retire. Team Subaru was down to two cars.DSCN1417DSCN1426

Day two was another test on a local kart circuit, followed by a day of tricky navigation to arrive at the BMW museum in Munich.

From Munich we travelled through the Black Forest and into Austria and over the Brenner pass into Italy. At 1375m this was our first real pass and our first opportunity to see how the ‘little’ cars performed – we were pleasantly surprised. We arrived in Cortina at the splendid Hotel Miramonti Majestic Grand, a great setting for the little cars.DSCN1521DSCN1542DSCN1588DSCN1595

We were now high in the Dolomites and day four included several high passes to reach the Slovenian border, some of them driven in heavy hail storms and as many of the hairpins were still traditionally cobble stones it wasn’t the most comfortable journey. The rally spent the night in Ljubljana, a fantastic city.We were allowed to park the cars up in the famous Preseren Square where they attracted a great deal of attention including TV crews covering our arrival.DSCN1725DSCN1757ljubljanaDSCN1773

The next morning we finally had sunny weather as we crossed back into Italy and a lovely lunch stop at a great family museum. Three more passes including Passo di Pordoi 2239m. Many of the field were late into Bolzano and lots of fettling was required. The Isetta didn’t make it until 5am after having to make major repairs in Ljubljana.DSCN1839

Dissappointingly due to all the storms, the Stelvio pass was closed with a landslide but after a deviation we managed to double back and still climb the Gavia from the Southside and get the Passage Control photo at the summit, at 2621m it’s not much lower than the Stelvio 2757m.


Once back down it was a very pleasant run along the shores of Lago di Iseo and into Brescia. In the town we were welcomed with a civic reception with all the cars in the main square as on the original 1958 event, they even ‘broke the cheese’ where a whole Grande Pandano was opened for us to taste, a great honour.Brescia2DSCN2149DSCN2161

Day 7 started with a trip around the impressive Mille Miglia museum and then set off back to Bolzano, actually managing to stop for lunch on the way. Getting out of Bolzano the next morning wasn’t easy but we were soon climbing the Passo Pennes at 2215m it was one of the best of the rally.DSCN2181DSCN2193DSCN2320DSCN2432

After another night in Munich we had a lovely drive through the German countryside with several stops at motor museums and the impressive Schloss Lichtenstein, this fairytale castle perches on a steep cliff and is a spectacular sight.DSCN2505DSCN2591

The final day saw us back at Karlsruhe kart circuit where we had much better times in the dry, although by the time we’d got back through Spa in the afternoon it was inevitably raining again. We finished back at Liege for the prize giving. We won our class with Victor and Craig second and Jane won the Ladies prize so a very successful evening with a lot of celebrating.DSCN2775DSCN2800DSCN2810DSCN2833DSCN2902

We all had a great time even though we were a bit tired and grumpy at times. The event although quite straightforward for James was a challenge in such little cars and Jane enjoyed her first event and got into the spirit of classic rallying. We all enjoyed it so much that we did it again a year later but that’s for another blog.

Wow – what a ‘mega’ microcar sale…

Following our last couple of posts, we watched (online) the RM Auction sale of the Bruce Weiner Microcar car collection with great interest, and boy what a sale, it certainly kept our attention and broke several world records.285347_10151426288838815_655708310_n12986_10151426288793815_368970717_n285347_10151426179823815_1354659249_n19781_10151426289073815_1687511394_n

The sale over two days had both memorabilia as well as cars and this saw toy microcars fetching more than we paid for Mario! The sale obviously generated the same ‘mad’ bidding behaviour we witnessed back in London in the 90’s. After the two days of bidding an unusual 100% sale rate was achieved but as no item had a reserve price this was to be expected. The auction saw $9.1million in sales (30% up on estimate), with many of the car lots achieving over $100k.

We watched the sale on RM Auctions line feed which held up pretty well and we were very grateful to Microcars online who were at the sale and kept their blog updated throughout the day with the hammer prices of all the lots. RM always have a very ‘full on’ almost theatrical style of auctioneering and you felt the excitement online so it must have been to quote the Americans ‘awesome’ to be there. Max Girardo the auctioneer will need a holiday after this, keeping up his enthusiasm for the 200 plus car lots, he’s certainly good at encouraging people to part with their money.

65251_10151430421203815_1272858693_n11397_10151426179948815_850591681_nThe star lot of the sale was a 1958 FMR (Messerschmitt) Tg 500 Tiger, a microcar with a top speed of a nearly 80mph (although the Subaru 360 beat it on track during the Micro Marathon!). This mini ‘beast’ in a rather fetching rose and black colourway, had an opening bid of $100k and finally went for a staggering $280,000 plus commission.

Apparently one guy brought 20 of cars on the first day, he is reported to have recently sold his business and thought he’d start an instant collection. The sales success was put down to being a ‘one type’ auction which meant that collectors from all over the world were at the sale or on the phone bidding against each other, plus RM did a superb marketing job, including this wonderful video building hype in microcar enthusiasts everywhere.

On a personal note the Multipla went for a hammer price of $57,500 which although a lovely example, seems rather inflated, especially as Multipla’s aren’t as rare as many of the unusual prototypes and small production cars in the sale. Although several examples have fetched high values particularly in the US, maybe we need to take a look at Mario’s insurance! The Subaru 360, a 1970 model fetched $22k so looks like Mario’s ‘brother’ is also increasing in value.

68953_10151426179828815_606271739_n32171_10151428324108815_890253027_nOf the lots we would have liked if we’d won the lottery, as seen in our recent posts, most went in excess of their estimates (we have good taste!), hammer price for the Fuji Cabin $110k, Peel Trident $90k, Jurisch Motoplan Prototype $90k, Inter 175A Berline $140k. The Frisky Family 3 which had an estimate of $15-20k ended up at $50k but the Mazda R360 Coupe and the Autobianchi Special were within their estimates at $25k and $30k respectively so maybe there’s still hope in increasing our family one day!

The top 12 lots are below, prices including commission and tax
1. 1958 F.M.R Tg 500 “Tiger” – $322,000

156411_10151430410798815_1968127562_n2. 1951 Reyonnah – $184,000 (the front wheels can be moved inwards to make the microcar easier to store)

3. 1958 Goggomobil TL-400 Transporter “PEZ” – $172,500

65276_10151430411613815_647011428_n4. 1955 Inter 175A Berline – $161,000

5. 1959 Goggomobil TL-400 Transporter Pickup “Coca-Cola” – $138,000

6. 1963 Goggomobil TL-250 Transporter “Dubble Bubble” – $132,25

527913_10151430473888815_1242736266_n7. 1955 Fuji Cabin – $126,500

525091_10151428249988815_1124309669_n8. 1964 Peel P50 – $120,750

9. 1955 Messerschmitt KR 200 “Vic Hyde” – $115,000

10. 1957 Messerschmitt KR 201 Roadster – $103,500

377602_10151430346123815_1033296417_n11. 1966 Peel Trident – $103, 500

560480_10151428260128815_1964952951_n12. 1957 Jurisch Motoplan Prototype – $103,500

So at the end of the weekend a big result for the tiny cars, we will have to wait to see what effect it has on the ‘normal’ microcar market but whatever happens Mario is still priceless.



Small is beautiful…

… in our eyes anyway

Continuing on from the last blog we’ve had time to peruse the Microcar auction catalogue and discover yet more gems. This is a bit of a lazy post but so many of the cars offered for sale are unique and soooo cute we just need to share.

Lets start with this ‘banana’ car, a 1957 Biscuter 200F Pegasin – it just looks bent! almost like a cartoon car squealing to a halt, maybe the design makes it look like it’s going fast.BW13_r227_01

This 1956 Avolette Record Delux could be a road going bumper car but at a estimated price of $45-55k you really wouldn’t want to bump into anything but it sure is cute with it’s one central headlight. Somehow this looks much more modern then the others, maybe it’s the rounded simple bumpers and smooth lines.BW13_r121_01Another cutie, a 1959 King S-7BW13_r149_01

Next up one of the smallest, a 1959 Scootacar MK1BW13_r258_02

Now here’s one closer to home a custom version of Mario’s little brother Nippy – a 1967 Subaru 360. This estate version looks quite different but I guess it still doesn’t have much extra space inside.BW13_r221_01


Streamlined and rather mean looking this 1958 Goggomobil Dart is very stylish, one of these competed on the Leige-Brescia-Leige Microcar rally which we took Nippy on in 2008. We loved the design then but it was rather unpratical as it has no weather protection and we often saw the car with the driver and navigator huddling under an umbrella.BW13_r259_01


And finally this fabulous 1955 Fuji Cabin, I’ve never seen one of these before, Fuji (heavy Industries) as a car company became Subaru and the 360 was their first car, so not quite sure where this fits into the companies history. Again the sweeping lines look rather modern or even futuristic – look at some of the designs for electric record breaking cars. This one has a guide price of $75-100k so is one of the more expensive lotsBW13_r122_01BW13_r122_02


We will certainly be following the auction next week with great interest and will report on the results. If you want to know more take a look at the online catalogue




Oh to be a millionaire…

On February 15/16 in Madison, Georgia, USA, RM Auctions will be holding a sale of the entire collection from the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum. There are some 200 microcars up for sale and how I would love to add some to our ‘small’ family but we would need to have a significant win on the lottery first!


Now what is strange about this auction is that it isn’t the first time it’s happened. Bruce Weiner an American who made his fortune in Bubble Gum, I believe started collecting ‘bubble cars’ many many years ago to promote his business. He went on to build a collection, opened a museum and then on the 6 March 1997 they were auctioned by Christie’s at the Jack Barclay Showrooms at Nine Elms, London.

We were there and that’s what fuelled our love of small cars. That auction was amazing, there was such an atmosphere with hundreds of people crammed in and outside the showroom and prices went ballistic. Bidding was frantic with prices beating the estimates many times over, bearing in mind this was fifteen years ago a Peel Trident estimated at £3000 fetched nearly £30k and it looks like it will be happening all over again.

At  the time we already had Regie the Renault 4cv and had fallen in love with the idea of getting an original Fiat Multipla, there was one in the Auction with a guide price of £500, so we went to have a look. It wasn’t that good, needed a lot of work and ended up selling for the best part of £3000.

There is a Multipla in the upcoming sale, it looks much better than the one in 1997 (the catalogue photography is beautiful but obviously ‘processed’ so would be interested to see the real condition) but the current guide price is $50-60k! Mario will be watching the sale with interest, although to us he is priceless.



Now what happened 15 years ago… well for Bruce it was the thrill of the chase that excited him and collecting and displaying his finds, so once he had sold his original collection he began collecting again and so here we are all these years later and the much improved and enlarged collection is going to auction again.

Bruce says “To me, it’s all about the thrill of the chase,” Weiner adds. “My collection has brought me incredible joy over the years, but simply finding and restoring these cars is not enough for me. In order to fully appreciate them, I need to share them. I’m really looking forward to the sale and happy that these unique cars will be spread to other passionate collectors throughout the world. As I see it, we’re enlarging the microcar community by letting these go and helping keep history alive.”

Amongst the lots is a Peel Trident, the car that took our interest all those years ago. This 1966 model is now estimated at $40-50k not such a big increase as the Multipla. I actually got to sit in one at the Goodwood Revival in 2005 and there really isn’t much room but we always fancied having one so we could dress up and look like aliens.BW13_r123_01DSCN2607 So what we would we bid on if we won the lottery. My favourite has to be this fantastic 1957 Jurisch Motoplan Prototype, it’s amazingly cute but with only three ever being made and an estimate of $50-75k looks unlikely to be joining the collection.BW13_r127_01
Next up would be this 1956 Fuldamobil S-6 $40-50k
BW13_r150_01 and this mad looking 1955 Inter 175A Berline $40-50kBW13_r212_01 A beautiful 1959 Frisky Family 3 is more affordable at $15-20kBW13_r256_01Or this adorable 1962 Mazda R360 Coupe at $20-30k which would be a great stable companion for our Subaru 360.
BW13_r217_01Or one that’s been on the wish list for a while a 1961 Autobianchi Bianchia Special Cabriolet just like Audrey Hepburn drove round Rome in ‘How to steel a Million’BW13_r232_01

The maddest thing in the auction and probably the most expensive is the 1959 BMW Isetta “Whatta Drag” a working creation of a Hot Wheels model. Not sure how practical it would be though. See it run in this video.BW13_r268_01So if we come into a fortune in the next couple of weeks I will be bidding like mad for some of these beauties. There are loads more oddities and rare examples plus lots of the more usual microcars up for grabs as well as an extensive collection of models and memorabilia, take a look at the online catalogue.

RM are putting on a very slick auction with a fantastic ‘micro’ catalogue which runs to 800+ pages and I’m sure will become a collectors item in it’s own right but comes with an $80 price tag, to get into the auction itself there is a charge of $150 for two people, there seems to be lots of hype already so maybe the audience will be as excited as in 1997 and the already high estimates will be exceeded. I suppose this will be good for the small car market in general but frenzied bidding creating over high prices which will never be realised in the normal sales market and will only lead to disappointment when microcars are sold or valued after the event so we will have to wait and see. Whatever happens it will raise the profile of small cars around the world and hopefully more people will grow to appreciate them for what they are – great examples of design and above all such a lot of fun.