Tuesday 30 April 2024

Shop Makes Modern Jeep Wranglers Look Like Weird 1930s Off-Roaders

source - Wikimedia Commons/ Hurtan-club.de

Well, as I sit out in the dappled sunshine gracing my garden it seems I've just about kept my promise from the last post to come back in April (this being the last day)!  That pesky thing called life conspired to get in the way again, although there were some pleasant interludes along the way - not least an enjoyable week away in Scotland (more perhaps on that another time).  Anyway, here we are again and back to it with this latest article that has been languishing in my Drafts folder for the last four months(!). 

Clockwise l-r: Panther J72; NG TD Roadster; Bufori Geneva; 
Devaux Coupe; Wiesmann MF3; Mitsuoka Roadster
source - Wikimedia Commons
GTHOAndrew BoneEl monty/Alexander Migl/ WmeinhartDavid Howard)

The market for retro-inspired cars is a remarkably (but perhaps unsurprisingly) popular one - one only has to look at the success of Fiat's 500 range, BMW's MINI brand or Porsche's 911 (not to mention the wonderful anachronism that is Morgan) to see the draw nostalgia still has on the motoring public.  However the desire for producing cars designed to look like machines from a previous age has been around for longer than most people might think, dating back at least as far as the early 1970s.  In Britain companies such as Panther, NG and Dutton rode the wave of popularity that kit cars enjoyed throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s with their models resembling prewar Jaguar SS100s, postwar MGs and Caterhams respectively, all using easily obtainable and maintainable parts usually from Fords or Triumphs.  More recently international manufacturers such as Japan's Mitsuoka, Germany's Wiesmann  and Australian concerns Bufori and Devaux (among many others) have produced beautiful pre- and postwar-inspired vehicles (in Mitsuoka's case based on Nissan platforms; the others relying on bespoke designs) and even more "mainstream" companies like Bentley can't resist dipping into their back-catalogue for the super-rich vintagista.

Hurtan Albaycín T2
source - Wikimedia Commons/ Berthold Werner

However, until now I must admit I had never heard of Spanish-based business Hurtan - despite the fact that they have been producing vintage-styled sports cars since 1991.  Their Albacyin range has, to this author's eyes, a very definite prewar BMW or Mercedes look about it and looks all the better for it (their forthcoming Grand Albaycín has an equally attractive '60s MG vibe, I'd say).  Thanks to this news story I am now fully aware of this little Spanish sports car maker and its latest model - the Vintage.  Based on the already retro-inspired Jeep Wrangler 4x4, the Vintage lives up to its name and goes for the full Thirties aesthetic - with mixed results, it has to be said.  

One problem with attempting to graft older designs on to modern underpinnings is overcoming the differences between the base mechanicals and the bodystyle shape.  In short vintage cars tend to be smaller than more modern ones, with the result that a vintage bodystyle, when placed over a modern chassis, can look somewhat stretched and misshapen.  The track (width) can look too wide, the bonnet/grille can seem a little exaggerated and very often the wheels are (admittedly sometimes by necessity) modern reproductions that tend to be too small and fitted with wider tyres, which only helps to spoil the overall look.

While the Vintage does fall into this trap somewhat, as with so many "modern vintage" reproductions it is something that cannot be avoided and while to the trained eye its Jeep origins are still obvious the aesthetic remains pleasing enough to make me glad that Hurtan created it.  Very much a niche market of one it is perhaps the answer to the question "what if off-roaders had existed in the 1930s?" and enjoys the advantage that all modern reproductions have of combining vintage aesthetics with modern comfort.    

Even more pleasingly I have discovered in the writing of this post that a Hurtan Vintage is plying the streets of Madrid, Toledo and Segovia as a tourist bus, taking visitors around the sights and sounds of those historic cities in suitably old-fashioned and luxurious style.  I congratulate Vintage City Tours on their business idea and choice of vehicle -something that could easily be adapted for other [capital] cities around Europe (and beyond) - and if I ever visit Spain I will be sure to seek both them and Hurtan out.

Friday 29 March 2024

Get Into the Spirit of Spring

To all my readers, followers, visitors and vintage friends - have a Happy Easter
and I will see you again in April!  
In the meantime, do as the song says and
Get Into the Spirit of Spring (weather permitting)!

Wednesday 27 March 2024

All types of news

Downers Grove 23-year-old repairs typewriters for a living

Time for a round-up of more typewriter-related news from the last coupe of months now, starting with another familiar - but always welcome - story of an "old soul" (this time inhabiting the body of 23-year-old Chicagoan Lucas Dul) who continues to maintain the noble art of typewriter repairing.  All the usual traits are here - the then-teenager fascinated by the mechanical writing machine in his local antiques store, the desire to learn its secrets in order to get it working once again and the almost inevitable path it has taken him along in the intervening 9 years to becoming practically a full-time typewriter repair man.  It is a path that he is still only just starting out on, but already he clearly has the passion, knowledge and desire that we typosphereans know so well; once again it is wonderful to see from this article how this self-taught typewriter aficionado enjoys his job and truly appreciates the analogue nature of these machines, not to mention the generally old-fashioned world from which they originate.  It's a pleasure to read of young Mr Dul's accomplishments, his determination to make a proper - and clearly much-needed - business out of typewriter repairs (and sales) and the rewards he already gained (not least another machine from Tom Hanks' collection!) from his chosen calling. 

Ghostwriter - AI Typewriter from Arvind on Vimeo.

What Lucas Dul - or indeed any typospherean - would make of this next item I wouldn't hazard to guess but I suppose with the frighteningly fast advancements in artificial intelligence it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the notion of combining this futuristic tech with the simple tactility of the typewriter.  So it is that that engineer-designer Arvind Sanjeev has taken an old, battered Brother electric typewriter and, using a Raspberry Pi computer along with other gubbins of which I am ignorant, has hooked it up to an OpenAI GPT-3 chatbot which will read and respond to anything typed on the now charmingly-named "Ghostwriter".  This is very much at the forefront of old-meets-new technology and Mr Sanjeev's intentions in creating this remarkable crossbreed are most thought-provoking - questioning, as we all are, AI's place in the world and the impact it has (and will doubtless continue to have) on our lives.  To marry it to analogue machinery as a way of making it more familiar, less overwhelming and more of a recognisable tool - especially for users of "old tech", creatives and so forth - is a fascinating take on the of AI and I commend Mr Sanjeev for his visionary thinking in mating these two seemingly quite disparate technologies so seamlessly and successfully.  The Ghostwriter definitely makes AI seem less intimidating for me and would certainly find a place amongst my collection! 

Finishing off closer to home now - well, the UK at least, although Winchester is my ancestral home (and I may even be related to one of the lecturers featured in this article!) - we find two more like-minded creative writers who are organising what amounts to a type-in at the forthcoming Bournemouth Writing Festival on the 26th-28th April.  An AI-linked typewriter would be an interesting addition to their "Stanza Room", I fancy, but regardless the idea sounds a wizard wheeze, with the plan for various typers to be laid out for visitors to write whatever they like from poems to artwork while Dr Rutter and Ms Waite serenade them on their own machines.  I am sure it will prove to be a worthwhile addition to the festival and I am only sorry that I will be unable to attend, nor to provide any related paraphernalia that they are understandably requesting.  Still I have no doubt that the endeavour will be a success and I will be with them in [typewriting] spirit if nothing else!

There we have it, then - three more stories that prove typewriters are as alive and healthy as they've ever been with the very real expectation that they will continue to have a future in society, from repaired originals [at writing festivals] all the way up to AI-powered hybrids.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Tintin and the Red Devils: Belgian football teams present new comic-themed shirt

You'll forgive me I trust for skipping forward chronologically with this next post (there are still some news stories from earlier in the year waiting in my Drafts folder), but this was too good an item to pass up and I wanted to publicise it while it was still a forthcoming event rather than a past one.  That event is a football match between England and Belgium, a "friendly" pre-season encounter prior to the Euro 2024 tournament (so I am told) due to take place next Tuesday the 26th March.

I don't normally follow the football so what am I doing writing a post about it and the Belgian national team in particular, I hear you ask?  Well the answer is pretty self-explanatory (I hope!) from the accompanying articles.  Yes, the team has had the wonderful brainwave of paying homage to one of Belgium's greatest [fictional] sons - Tintin - by designing their 2024 away kit to emulate the famous boy reporter's best-known outfit!  That means a sky blue shirt with a white collar, brown shorts and white socks to create more than a passing (ahem) resemblance to the most recognised image of Hergé's great creation.  So if you are sitting down to watch the match on the 26th, don't be alarmed to see eleven Tintins running around the pitch - it isn't a group of Tintinoholic cosplayers invading Wembley stadium, just the Belgian national team. 

This brilliant decision has made my week, I can tell you.  Imagine if Belgium made it all the way to the finals of Euro 2024?!  Eleven footballers dressed as Tintin, holding the cup aloft amid cheers and celebrations could catapult the character even higher in to the world's consciousness (and maybe even inspire Messrs Jackson & Spielberg to get on with the next instalment in their promised trilogy of films - whoops, nearly got on my soapbox then!).  Wouldn't it be something if all countries' football teams also fashioned their kits in the style of celebrated cultural icons?  (I struggle to think what England's would be - black and red stripes in honour of Dennis the Menace, perhaps?😕)  It could even encourage more people like me to take an interest in the sport if as much thought as this was put into the kits - in fact at the risk of appearing unpatriotic I may even tune in to watch the match next week and cheer the Belgian team on.

England vs. Tintin Belgium Euro 2024 Qualifier will be broadcast in the UK on Channel 4,
Tuesday 26th March 2024, kick-off at 7:45pm GMT

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Britain’s youngest-ever female pilot set to fly WW1 Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Britain’s youngest-ever female pilot set to fly WW1 Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Huzzah!  We've finally made it in to 2024 (just!) with this latest item of news, featuring a modern aviation pacesetter and someone who will certainly go on to do great things in the industry - 21-year-old female pilot Ellie Carter.

Miss Carter first made the headlines four years ago when, on her 17th birthday, she became Britain's youngest-ever licensed woman pilot.  Flying has obviously been in her blood for much longer, though, judging by the story related in the accompanying articles about her run-in with the USAF authorities at the age of nine(!) not to mention her subsequent aeronautical experiences that led to her record-breaking qualification.  

Now another record is set to be broken by this committed aviatrix, as I am delighted to see that she has been chosen to be the first person - and the first-ever woman - to fly a newly-completed [replica] of a workhorse aircraft of the First World War, the Sopwith 1½-Strutter, built over the last 23 years by a team of enthusiasts in East Lothian.  Even better the B.B.C. have approached her with the intention of making a documentary about her life and this ground-breaking flight, which is due to be aired later this year.  Definitely something I will be looking out for in the schedules!  

source - Picryl
French-built Sopwith 1½-Strutter at Air Service Production Centre No. 2,
Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918

As ever with this type of young, dedicated individual it is wonderful to see the obvious, palpable enthusiasm for her chosen calling and her clear desire to make a life's career out of aviation.  At the same time her down-to-earth (if you'll pardon the expression!) attitude is equally admirable and, in conjunction with her degree in Aeronautics & Astronautics (which if she hasn't already achieved at the time of writing, I'm sure she will!) will keep her in good stead as a worthy ambassador for women and young girls in aviation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in general.  She reminds me very much of another lady pilot (about whom I have also previously blogged), Tracey Curtis-Taylor; I am sure that Ellie Carter will follow a similar path and that this will not be the last time she appears on these pages, or in the annals of aviation history.  To borrow an expression familiar to those original 1½-Strutter pilots - "soft landings and no dud engines!"

Friday 15 March 2024

Ukraine finds British WW2 Hurricane planes outside Kyiv

Ukraine finds British WW2 Hurricane planes outside Kyiv

Back to Hawker Hurricanes again for this next story, featuring the extraordinary recovery of eight airframes that have been found buried in woodland just outside Kyiv, Ukraine.  While the almost-too-good-to-be-true story of Spitfires and Mosquitoes buried in Burma a few years ago turned out to be just that, with no physical evidence of such aircraft being found, this tangible discovery - as first reported back in July 2023 - is far more promising and all the more remarkable since it is occurring in the middle of an active warzone.

Hawker Hurricane II ’11 white’
Hawker Hurricane II ’11 white’ recreation, on display in ‘Victory Park’,
Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow, Russia.

That has not deterred the members of the National Aviation Museum of Ukraine who took advantage of an unexploded bomb disposal nearby to locate the remains of the eight aircraft and begin excavations, with the aim to retrieve as many parts as possible in order to hopefully recreate one complete aeroplane.  How far they have progressed in the intervening eight months it is not possible to say; the museum is unsurprisingly closed for the duration so I expect work is severely limited but it would be nice to think that the parts could eventually be reassembled into a full-scale display once all the unpleasantness is over. 

A Hawker Hurricane Mark IIB, Z5253 'GA-25' of No. 134 Squadron RAF
taxies out past Russian sentries at Vaenga, near Murmansk, October 1941. 
Several British squadrons were originally sent out to train Russian pilots
before handing the Hurricanes over to them.

I take my hat off to the museum's volunteers, who must have been working under immense pressure - and probably not a little danger - to get these relics to safety and so begin the job of sorting through the parts needed to create a complete Hurricane.  Cleaning, repairing and cataloguing are strenuous undertakings at the best of times but what it must be like with the evils of war hanging over you is almost unimaginable.  That these men are driven to rescue these long-abandoned machines, with the desire to return one to period condition in honour of the brave [Ukrainian] pilots who flew them on the Eastern Front during the German invasion of Russia, is more than admirable and I wish them every success in their endeavour (when the situation permits) - stay safe, gentlemen!

Wednesday 13 March 2024

91-year-old car enthusiast, teen bond over restoring vintage Model A Ford

91-year-old car enthusiast, teen bond over restoring vintage Model A Ford

We resume normal service now on Eclectic Ephemera with this heart-warming story from Washington state in America and which initially appeared in June 2023.  Proof, if proof were needed, that age is no barrier to friendship - especially if interests are shared as in the case of the two gentlemen who form the subject of the article.

Serendipitous events like the one which brought this pair of enthusiasts together are the sort of thing that make the world seem a little bit of a brighter place, where two people at the opposite ends of the age spectrum can meet by chance and hit it off in such a splendid manner beneficial to them both.  Quite apart from the obvious rapport that they enjoy Mr Sage gets to pass on his extensive knowledge on the subject of Model A Fords (see below for an example) to the younger generation and so ensure its ongoing perpetuation while Mr Mpare learns valuable skills - both of the life and the mechanical variety - that he has already put to good use building his very own Model A from parts sourced by the Model A Ford Club of America no less!  It is simply joyous to read of how an unexpected meeting has led to this firm friendship, the passing of the torch of experience, the obvious enthusiasm shown by both men for their common interest.  It goes to show that one never knows what Fate has in store for us and that unlooked-for opportunities should be embraced whenever possible - who can tell where they might lead?  Once again it is also splendid to read of another "old soul" - one with a nonetheless very mature outlook on past, present and future, who understands and appreciates the importance of traditional know-how such as this and the rewards he has gained as a result - the companionship of a responsible and grounded gentleman with a lifetime of experience, which in and of itself can be of great benefit to a teenager just starting out in life (a fact that young Mr Mpare and his family clearly appreciates) and, if that wasn't enough, his own antique motor car built with his own hands!  Well done and congratulations to Messrs Sage and Mpare, indeed!  May their friendship continue to blossom and may many more Model A's ultimately get back on the road as a result.

 Dan's Model A


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