Ahoy me hearties…

I’ve been spending some time researching a blog but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for it a while longer as I stumbled across this and had to post it here. I’m amazed we’ve never seen it before as it’s quite well documented on the web but I guess I’ve never searched for a…

Fiat 1100 Boat Car
This extraordinary vehicle was made in 1953 by Carrozzeria Coriasco, the famous Turin company which was known for making commercial vehicle bodies based on standard Italian models (clue to the next blog!). It was produced as a promotional vehicle for the Scarani Scuola Nautica, a sailing school in Bologna and as such is just a car and was never designed as an amphibious vehicle. fiat-boatcar-nosefiat-boatcar-rearfiat-boatcar-sidefiat-boatcar-back

Built on a Fiat 1100 it had many nautical design features such as portholes, lifebelts and teak decking. The shape of the wheel arches and the wavy blue paintwork was supposed to represent the sea.

The boat car has had about 4 owners and underwent a complete restoration before 2006 when it was sold at auction in Monaco by Bonhams for just under £35,000. Today the Boat Car is on display in the Louwman Collection at Den Haag, Netherlands.

I’d love to know more about it’s early life and it’s condition before restoration but despite searching extensively I have been unable to find any more information or images prior to it reappearing in 2006, please let us know if you have any more information. Maybe Mario would like a little continental trip to visit it!
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My big brother Regie…

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a ‘Big Brother’, ‘Regie’, the Renault 4cv convertible, I thought it was time he got a bit of the glory and thought we’d tell you his story…

Regie wasn’t the families first classic, the human’s first car, when she was at college, was an A35 but we’ll keep that for another post. However with the A35 off the road a visit to a car show had introduced us to a Renault 4cv – the french equivalent of the A30/A35, Morris Minor etc and a love affair was born.

Now 4cv’s or 750’s as they were known in the UK were pretty few and far between over here so while on holiday in the South of France in 1993 we went to look at one for sale in the village near our friends house, where we were staying. It was OK but the owner wanted too much money so we left it. A few months later, just before Christmas our friends phoned and said they had found us a convertible model for sale, did we want it? So without knowing anything about it we said yes and sent a jiffy bag, with if I remember rightly about 8000 francs, in the post. We received back in the post these polaroid pics.scan017

The car apparently ran but had been used by the wife of the local Citroen dealer as a beach car and as such had no roof at all! When we started researching the convertible – not as easy in those pre-google times – we discovered that the convertible or Découvrable as it was known in France was very rare, the factory only made 9518 convertibles compared to over a million salons. As Regie was built in Sept 1958 and factory convertibles were only made up until 1956 we believe that our car is an ex-factory conversion, done when the car was new, an option which was available at the time.

So in February 1994 we set off for the South of France with a borrowed estate car and trailer to collect the 4cv. We took along the now rather sad A35 to give to another friend of ours who had always wanted one, they are as rare in France as the 4cv is here. When we first saw the 4cv at our friends house we were very pleased that it was running and had fun driving it around the grounds and even popped down to the village for some fuel. It was very cold for the South of France and there was snow in the hills and mountains when we went to watch the Monte Carlo Classic Rally come through, no need to say that we didn’t travel in a roofless 4cv! We took the opportunity to use our friends pit to have a good look underneath and were pleased to find it was pretty solid. The Cotes d’Azure climate had been kind to it.scan018 scan019We stopped off in Paris on the way back to go to the Retromobile show and pick up some bits and pieces for the restoration. We purchased a new badge for the front – the Renault diamond shape but in the 50’s the company was ‘Regie National Union Renault’ or RNUR which appears on the badge and has confused lots of people ever since! It is also of course where the name ‘Regie’ came from.

Once home we cracked on with the plans for Regie, this was ten years before James started his restoration business and so this was going to be a ‘hobby’ project. Initial work included the re-bushing of the suspension and completely overhauling the brakes. On my birthday on 23rd March, James surprised me by picking me up from the train in Regie, he’d secretly got an MoT and attracted lots of looks driving into the Station to collect me. By April we’d managed to sort all the paperwork and the car was registered in the UK… MFF 448 was born.

As James was working out of a small lock-up at home and he had no facilities in those days for body/paintwork, we set off on our first adventure driving round the M25 to Stevenage to our friend Mike’s who had a paint shop.scan020To save money we spent a weekend striping everything off the car, removing all the glass etc ready for Mike to start on the bodywork. Mike soon discovered why the bonnet didn’t fit too well – the front was about 2 inches shorter than it should have been, having obviously had a front end impact at some time which had been bodged rather than repaired properly. Mike, a real expert, soon put that right, fabricated and fitted new foot wells and repaired other minor damage.scan021 scan022Our initial idea for the colour had been French Racing or Gordini Blue, that lovely sort of mid toned colour, however Mike had other ideas and when we went back to Stevenage to put the car back together we were confronted by something much brighter! Mike had thought that the original choice was too dark and so mixed by eye some ‘Bugatti blue’ and sprayed the car. Once we’d got over the initial shock, put our sunglasses on and put all the brightwork back on the car we knew he was right and the colour was and still is to this day just perfect for Regie.scan023 scan024The car had been missing it’s distinctive ‘Moustache’ bars from the front (6 on early cars, 3 on later) but we’d been able to retrieve some from a car that was used for filming ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. The original ‘old stock’ RNUR badge we had picked up from Neo Retro at Retromobile completed the look. The chrome wing piping was also a nice finishing touch. The dashboard, inner window frames and steering wheel were sprayed back to their original contrast colour. James and Mike had constructed the missing roof frame from some publicity pictures but they turned out to be from a pre-production car so a mark2 version had to be constructed later.scan025

We took Regie home in his ‘half finished state’ and took a couple of weeks out to drive him around and have fun, this was perfect as long as the weather stayed fine as we still had no hood.

June 19th 1994 was our first big outing, James was away at Le Mans but I had a ticket for the enthusiasts car park at the 94 Goodwood Revival, this was inside the park on what is now part of the display area and I was determined that Regie would be on show. We still had no roof and the seats were held together with gaffer tape and then wrapped in tartan blankets but the bodywork looked cool and so with my parents and a picnic on board we set off for Goodwood. My Dad was convinced that the tiny engine wouldn’t make it up Goodwood Hill but it did, just! The car attracted a lot of attention even in it’s half finished condition.scan026The most important thing was to make the car waterproof. The mark2 frame was correct and our Trimmer Jeff did a brilliant job working out the right lines for the hood. We had the hood made in some lovely BMW material which is dark blue on the outside but beige on the inside so the car interior didn’t seem too dark, this was possible thanks to a small inheritance I had received from my Grandfather, he was always very enthusiastic about old cars and taught me to drive, he would have loved to have seen the Renault but unfortunately died just before we got it so it seemed a very fitting thing to do to remember him by.scan028scan032

The trimmer also rebuilt the seats and covered them with some lovely authentic cloth and trimmed all the inside, door panels etc. The french cars only ever had rubber mats on the floor, so luckily we were able to get a repro set from France at great expense but they fitted perfectly.

Now the car was protected from the elements, the last thing was to sort the engine. Originally a 750cc, 3 speed it was rather low on horsepower and we had been given an 850cc Dauphine Gordini engine and four speed box by our french friend in return for the A35. James picked it up when he went to Le Mans and we were pleased to find it was pretty complete and so James rebuilt the Gordini head, inserted new pistons and liners and replaced the bearings. Then one weekend in August, with the help of yours truly and a crane we changed the engine in the car park at home. The old engine was out in under two hours, the whole thing comes out on the axle, you just lift the car body up over it and pull the wheels and engine out! The new engine went in as easily and it started first time!scan027 scan029 scan030 scan031On the 7th September 1994, 7 months after collecting Regie he was back on French Soil. After an overnight ferry to Le Harve, breakfast in Honfleur and then an easy journey to Paris to get the MotorRail down to Fréjus in the South of France for the short drive to our friends in Grasse. We had a great time, Regie is the perfect car for cruising the Cotes d’Azure, we met up with many car orientated french friends and some english ones who loved a trip out in the glorious sunshine.scan033 scan034 scan035In the 20 years we have had Regie we have been to Europe on many occasions, taking him to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, over the Alps and the Pyrenees, to the Monza Grand Prix twice and to some fabulous car shows. We have had ups and downs, broken 2 crankshafts and been recovered home, had overheating problems, a broken windscreen and had the engine out in a square in a small village and then had a blacksmith weld bits up. But it’s all been tremendous fun and we have many very happy memories. Over the years James has fettled and developed the car so it is reliable, with the Gordini engine it runs at a sensible speed and keeps up with modern traffic meaning it is safe and practical to take on long journeys across Europe. We have added a few bits of French ‘bling’ – chrome sills and shiny Robri end plates to the wings – in period there were hundreds of accessories available for the 4cv. Other than the mentioned crankshafts and the cooling system we haven’t had to do much to the car, in fact many of the parts are the same as when it was restored. After an incident at one Goodwood Revival when a wing got damaged, we did have the outer repainted as the paint had always suffered a strange reaction and used to form small blisters in the heat which disappeared in cooler weather.

Reggie attracts attention wherever he goes and many times in France we have had to ‘park and run’ to avoid the French mob who want to tell us that that they ‘learnt to drive in one’, their Grandmother owned one, they were ‘born in one’ etc. We’ve even been chased  and stopped by the police on several occasions, who just wanted to take a look. Back at home, Regie was one of the first taxi’s at the Goodwood Revival, on it’s second running in 1999 when Renault organised the taxi rank and we were invited to take part, as regular readers know was the start of another story.

Regie is our ‘first born’ and is a very important member of our family who will be with us forever.



The making of Cynthia…

You may have read in previous posts that Mario has a new girlfriend… Cynthia; a retro styled bicycle. We got interested in the idea of a ‘vintage’ bike when James did the Tweed Run earlier in the year. So James found me a bike on Ebay, the right style and most importantly with a basket! DSC01917DSC03546IMG_1167 She was collected rather inelegantly, returning from Swindon, upside-down on the back of the car. Although it looked pretty good in the photo’s it was a bit tatty around the edges and so a restoration to match Mario was plotted. There was a fair bit of discussion as to how she would look which I blogged about earlier.

We put some pictures on Mario’s FaceBook and our personal pages and got our friends to vote on the combination they preferred! James set to taking Cynthia apart and got on with preparing, priming and spraying the frame and other metal parts, using the paint we had left from restoring Mario many years ago – proving that two-pack paint keeps perfectly well. He also striped down the gearbox, cleaned it all and reassembled it which will hopefully solve the problems with the gears slipping and polished all the alloy frame components to a mirror finish.photo 2photo 1
10552512_730254053697077_6924704042527702638_nIn the meantime I set to work at home in the kitchen sink with bleach and brillo-pads and cleaned the wheels and tyres, handlebars, saddle etc. The handlebars went in the dishwasher which brought them up really well, they were then lacquered to seal them. I managed to get rid of all the little rust marks and although the chrome is still a little pitted it looks pretty good. DSC04183 DSC04185 DSC04187 DSC04188 DSC04191She was soon being put back together with the addition of some rather nice checker tape to match Mario’s bling. We had contacted Cicli Cinzia the original manufacturer to try and get some decals, they didn’t have any of the originals but very kindly sent us some from their current range of bikes, as the logo is quite retro looking which looked perfect and finished off the frame. It’s nice that you can still see the manufacturer especially as they are Italian. They also confirmed that Cynthia was originally manufactured in the 80’s (1986, marked on the gears) which is good news as Cynthia will be eligible for some of the vintage events. James also lightly sprayed the baskets blue which we rubbed back to give a distressed look and added some flowers round the front basket to complete the vintage feel. We also managed to get a perfect black and white elastic skirt guard which fitted perfectly in the holes on the mudguard.photophoto-3photo 3photo-2DSC04194 DSC04206 DSC04207 DSC04208photo 2-2 DSC04209

Now everybody knows that many of the top automotive launches take place at Goodwood and so the GRRC Open Day seemed a perfect venue for Cynthia to make her debut. The first thing was to see if we could fit the bike inside Mario. With all the seats folded flat into the floor the Multipla has a huge load area comparable to it’s size and Cynthia just fitted. With some fiddling and strategic positioning of bungee straps she was very secure and we had a easy journey to Goodwood House. The previous posting tells of our day out at the Open Day but I’ll just say here that Cynthia went down a storm and made a beautiful pair with Mario, she even had her own little sign!
DSC04210DSC04213DSC04221DSC04225DSC04268DSC04303Layout 1We are delighted with the result and are looking forward to more seaside cycling and hopefully taking part in a few vintage cycling events in the future. Mario is just pleased to have a new friend.

In the beginning…

Recently we were asked a question about how Mario became part of the family and  realised that I’ve never blogged his story…

A Fiat 600d Multipla had been on my ‘wish list’ for a while and although we kept a look out on an Italian holiday there weren’t many around and in those days it wasn’t as easy to source vehicles without such extensive use of the internet and ebay as there is today. We already had ‘Regie’ a 4cv convertible which I used to drive as a taxi at the Goodwood Revival. Every year I used to take a Dutch magazine publisher out round the track perimeter, in 1999 he gave me a copy of his latest magazine and I spotted a Fiat Mutipla advertised in the small ads. The car was in Holland at a Classic Alfa Romeo dealer, who had acquired the car as part of a ‘job lot’ of Alfa’s. James went on a rally in Northern Europe in January 2000 and on the way back made a detour to ‘kick the tyres’. On his return we decided to buy the car and set off on the 5 Feb 2000 with a car and trailer on a ferry day-trip to Eindhoven to buy it.

Arriving at ‘Alfa Mario’ I was really excited to see the Multipla for the first time and it was my first opportunity to sit in one. It was a little daunting as the ‘project’ needed a lot of work – there was an awful lot of filler in the doors, half of the seats were missing and the engine was hardly running, however I loved him on first sight and as the car was mostly complete and it wasn’t much money we loaded it on the trailer and set off for home. Mario was an obvious name, we brought him from ‘Alfa Mario’, he was Italian and we discovered it used to belong to a plumber just like Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario’.mario010 mario011 mario012 mario013 mario014 mario016James was still working for Kodak so this was to be a ‘spare time’ project, although this spurred him on to take up restoration as a career. Mario was installed in the workshop and the mountain started to be climbed. The engine was removed, stripped down and rebuilt, that was the easy bit! The body was sanded, the rust removed and metal repaired, all the filler removed and the bottom half of the doors fabricated and some structural welding done. The rear seats were used as a pattern to create a full set.

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mario030 mario027At last it looked like something was happening and the engine was complete the engine bay painted and the engine installed. The suspension and brakes were completely overhauled, painted and rebuilt. The dashboard was restored and new wiring fitted. The inside and underneath was painted – we chose the colours by colouring in lots of black and white drawings until we got a combination that we liked, it is not an original Multipla colour scheme but they are Fiat colours from the era and it suits him.

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Finally the day came when I could drive the semi-assembled Mario around the yard, no glass, lights or doors but an exciting day none the less.mario026

The outer body was prepared and primed and then Mario went off to be painted in the cleaner environment of a friends body shop, he arrived back looking fantastic.mario023 mario028mario029

The job was far from over though, all the glass had to be fitted, the old windscreen had cracked when it was removed and we had to source one from Switzerland. Luckily we had most of the trim pieces and we managed to source the few missing pieces including a reproduction badge from California at great expense. From Italy we sourced door rubbers and a complete reproduction set of rubber floor mats – such a practical car never had carpets. The seats pads were made and trimmed with some period style vinyl and we made and trimmed all the door panels and parcel shelf. we had a lot of assistance from a Multipla owner in the states who sent us a series of photos and detailed measurements of the seats and fittings so everything could be replicated perfectly. The final touch was a bit of Italian Bulls*** some wonderful checkered trim around the roof.mario031multipla_closeup 0024 multipla_closeup 0064As this work was all being done in our spare time it took about 18 months to compete. In the mean time we had to get Mario registered in the UK. In Italy the paperwork is all returned to the government when a car is sold and so we had very little to go on, not helped by the fact that lots of Fiat’s own records were destroyed in a Turin flood many years before. Initial searches gave us a manufacturing date of third week of March 1963, very exciting as I was born on the 23 March 63 so we could share a birth date! Unfortunately good old DVLA didn’t like this date, they must have had a Multipla with an older chassis number registered before then, then after some correspondence with Alfa Mario with managed to produce some translated documentation and DVLA agreed to register Mario as November 1962 and issued the period number plate BAS 521.mario032

Taking Mario on the road for the first time was amazing, we couldn’t believe the attention he attracted and that hasn’t changed 12 years on. We managed to finish the restoration just in time for the 2001 Goodwood Revival where he was a great hit as press car, especially with Jan the publisher who had given me the original ad, he was delighted that his ‘gift’ had resulted in ‘Mario’s’ creation and to this day he still enjoys a ride around the circuit!