Cars & More

A personal emblem about my Classic Car Center of Greece idea! This became a reality in Nov. 2014. See here http://www.3cg.gr

wheelsI start this page which covers another “since early childhood” rounded passion of mine, pertaining to WHEELS: classic cars and motorcycles new or old, bicycles and mopeds… Through the compilation of these accounts I have gradually remembered a mouthful of neglected details from years past, hence the accounts presented below have autobiographical annotations. In case there are some omissions or deviations from actualities, well I apologize since my brain storage & retrieval system has accumulated certain mileage and is subject to wear and tear…

serving-platter

Such a round platter used to be my steering wheel of early childhood.

But talking about DNA-tional passion: when I was 4-6 years old, we used to visit every Saturday evening our grandmother Stavroula, our Dad’s mom in Plaka. She had a nice round serving platter while the carpets had sort of a rectangular corridor ornamentation, resembling a road lane. The platter became my steering wheel as I was whirling madly around the dining table, shifting gears, braking and beeping and making all sorts of exhaust sound imitations. My beloved aunt Kiki who was living with Grandma was admiring me to the point that she had promised to buy me a car when I would grow older. Unfortunately she passed away early on so I lost out on that great and never forgotten promise. So here are some accounts about my “Wheeled Story”:

My dad had just returned from his immigrant years in the USA. He brought the first radios in Greece, the well known (at the time) brand of Atwaterkent. Here his car has broken down and all look stressed and gloomy :-(

My dad (left) had just returned from his fifteen immigrant years in the USA in 1938. He introduced the first radios in the Greek market, the well known (at the time) brand of Atwater Kent. Here his Model A (with Company logo on the doors) has broken down and all (his brother George at right) look stressed and gloomy 😦

Emmanuela Riginos early automobile of the mid-thirties. Here with his Ford sedan.

Emmanuel Riginos’ early automobile of the mid-thirties. Here with his Ford Model A Tudor (2-door) sedan.

Our father, after his return by the mid thirties from the USA, (an emigrant from Samos), was one of the few fortunate Greeks at that period to own a private automobile. I believe that his first car was a Ford Model A Tudor Sedan ca. 1930 bearing license plate number 30 914. After several Buick’s, Oldsmobile’s etc, later on in the early fifties, he bought a brand new Plymouth ’52 with a three speed column shift and bench front seat as was the custom of big American cars of the period.

The Plymouth '52 and Byron ca. 1958 in Tsagarada, Pelion.

The Plymouth ’52 and Byron ca. 1958 in Tsagarada, Pelion.

In this Plymouth Cranbrook with a straight six engine producing 96 hp, I learned how to drive, believe it or not, at the age of seven or so. In fact my very first accident was (again believe it or not) with a Policeman and his Harley-Davidson motorcycle when I was eight… What a story! I drove the Plymouth first by sitting on my Dad’s lap, then as I grew older and taller and could reach the pedals, by sitting next to him by the door.

1952 Plymouth Cranbrook

1952 Plymouth Cranbrook

Another memorable and dramatic moment was at a time when Dad was away in Paris for business.

Our Mom's Pitsa Drivers License dated April 1960.

Our Mom’s Pitsa Drivers License dated April 1960.

Mother Pitsa had recently obtained her drivers license for the sole purpose of being enabled to pick-us-up from the Anavryta boarding school in Kifissia (40 km away from seaside Voula), when brother Nikos or myself were punished and restricted to exit on Sunday mornings. But she required further driving practice. I convinced her to engage in doing so in the empty streets of Voula, me aged eleven. Bingo! She conceded but after our third outing, under peculiar circumstances the steering locked hard left at an intersection, she panicked and pressed the gas pedal to the floor instead of the brake…and we hit a wall, quite hard 😦 The poor Plymouth was wounded to the extent that she could not be moved. The family mechanic Mr. Aivazides was mobilized to rescue the car and try to repair it immediately before Dad returned from his trip. Poor mother, she took heavy flak for that one, blamed for being totally irrational to allow just a kid to play a driver-teacher role on his pride and joy automobile without HIS permission!

The image of the Plymouth Sedan 1952 is permanently etched in my memeory!

The image of the Plymouth Sedan 1952 is permanently etched in my memory!

Soon I progressed into secretly ‘stealing’ the car during the hot summer siesta times in Voula, washing the car at least three or four times per week, sitting inside the car endlessly with my pals listening to the AM radio, fantasizing drives on winding hilly roads… Later on, during our early teen age years I was practicing “Hill-climb Races” in ‘Lagos’ hill just above Voula, crashing the car once more (almost totaling it and our lives – those of brother Nikos and our friends Evi & Yorgo). Our poor parents had a very difficult time indeed!

Austin 1800 (ADO17)

Austin 1800 -

Austin 1800 – “Land-crab”

The next milestone was the Pininfarina drawn, Sir Alec Issigonis designed Austin 1800 (Sir Alec was the father of the famous Mini). We bought her new in 1966, in black with red leather seats. The front wheel drive, the Hydrolastic suspension and the 1.800 cc, 96 hp transverse engine (borrowed from the MGB), made this sedan “sporty” for its time. Compared to the heavy and bulky Plymouth of the early 50’s, the possession of the technologically advanced Austin 1800 was quite an upgrade. I immediately fell in love with her impressive handling and leathery smells. I managed to crash this car at age seventeen, while chasing in late night downtown Athens a classmate father’s BMW 2000, exactly at a time when our Dad was being hospitalized, suffering from his first heart attack. What a story (again!), rushing to have the car repaired and intact by the time he was released from hospital, our cool Mother conspiring with me and partially funding the cover-up! This car at the time had the most spacious passenger cabin of any car on the British market (with an awesome rear love seat, ideal for teenagers) and a length of 4,2 m. It was not long before it got the nickname Land-crab.

austin-1800-on-bank

Recently a Buyers Guide about the Landcrabs was published. Here is the link

Few stories about past wheels: bicycles, motorbikes & cars I have owned.
Byron on his first Bauer bicycle-ca.1957 in Voula. In this early picture the seaside road was not as yet constucted! Visible is the rounded Hotel Akroyiali building. An ideal bicycling arena were the salt flats of Voula.

Byron on his first Bauer bicycle-ca.1957 in Voula. In this early picture the coastal road had been carved but not as yet tarmacked! Visible is the rounded Hotel Akroyiali building. The salt flats of Voula were an ideal bicycling arena for youngsters. The joy on the kid’s face is quite evident as he discovers at an early age the sense of freedom!


Bauer bicycle logo

Bauer bicycle logo

My “two-wheeled” story is long, commencing from elementary school days when our Dad bought for brother Nikos and myself our first bicycles. These where “Made in West Germany” Bauers, heavy, without speeds and had primitive mechanical rod type brakes. After few years, on Christmas day of 1958, two brand new “Made in England” RALEIGH Sports D22 bicycles, appeared as a surprise Santa Clause present, parked leaning and gleaming in the morning sunshine on their side stands, in our Voula house front courtyard. A bronze green for Nikos and a sky blue color for me! These were very special bicycles featuring the three speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox with an integrated internal dynamo, the patented “Dynohub”, a chrome headlight with switch, a very beautiful red taillight, self adjusting cable brakes, a touring bag with tools etc. That special Christmas day is permanently engraved in my memory, as upon embarking in a thrilling first test ride, Dad and myself were carried away to the point of riding as far as Vouliagmeni (about 6-7 kilometers away from home). Poor Nikos was waiting anxiously for our return, Mom too, and when we did return after this unprecedented long venturing, my behind was red sore from the new saddle… A great and literally speaking ,”breaking-in” outing.

Velosolex 1700 ca. 1962

VeloSolex 1700 ca. 1962

From the bicycles we progressed after some years and pursuant long and persistent parental arguments and cajoling from our part, into the unique VeloSolex domain! What a change. We were now motorized. The VeloSolex was a very French contraption, built by the famous Solex carburettor company. Its original idea was the placement of a small 50 cc twin stroke engine on top of the front wheel of an otherwise sturdy bicycle frame. At that time you could have any color as long as it was black. They came with the characteristic yellow headlamp of French motoring laws. I also remember that memorable day when we went with Dad to the local Solex dealer in downtown Athens to take delivery of the two black Solexes… and to ride them away for the 20 km trek to Voula! (Poor Dad got a lot of flak from our Mom for being so ignorantly permissive by allowing his two youngster sons to tackle Athens traffic on their first ever ridden mopeds!). Myself and Nikos aged about twelve and thirteen respectively. The experience was one of an incredible sense of FREEDOM. We were now masters of the roads and immediately became the two wheeled pioneers of our emerging young lives. Other friends in Voula followed our example, in turn pressing their parents to buy them a Solex, which eventually became sort of a local cult. On that first night of VeloSolex ownership, we wheeled them both inside our bedroom, oozing their distinctive smells, a blend of new paint, engine parts, plastic compounds, rubber, 2-stroke gasoline and exhaust fumes. What a sleepless night that was! 🙂

The Suzuki's AS-50 single cylinder two stroke engine produced a lively 4.9 bhp at 8500 rpm, which was propelling this light and handsome motorbike to well over 80 kph.

The Suzuki’s Sport 50cc single cylinder two stroke engine produced a lively 4.5 bhp at 8500 rpm, which was propelling this light and handsome motorbike to well over 85 kph.

The next “wheeled” step-up was of seismic proportions for me. This time I had to move secretly, without parental permission or financial support, in order to acquire a proper motorbike which I desired so passionately. To achieve this desire – required an innovative and daring approach -which practically resulted in my first entrepreneurial venture. Such was needed as a financial supplement to my limited money savings. The next step was about orchestrating a borrowing facility from brother Nikos. There was a vision and a mission involved. To get a real motorbike. He could relate to that. At the time, ca. 1965, the first Suzuki dealer had a shop near the Arch of Hadrian in downtown Athens and was a friend of our uncle Sotos Vicopoulos, who was managing the family Evinrude Outboard Motors Corp. dealership on Amalias Avenue. Unannounced arrangements were made that I would get this beautiful motorbike at a demo price. The amount involved was 6.500 Drachmas. I had maybe 2.000 in savings. Quite a gap. Next day I did not go to school (skasiarchion) and took the bus to Voula. Broke into the garage and got on my Solex, holding sideways by the steering bar my old blue Raleigh bicycle. The plan was to go to Glyfada Square and try to sell them both. After some door knocking and young salesmanship, the local barber bought the bicycle and the Glyfada bike shop bought the VeloSolex. Having completed successfully these two relatively easy deals, I took the bus back to Athens with 3.500 Drachmas in my pocket! The dream was now becoming closer. But not quite, as I was about 1.000 Drachmas short! Still a considerable amount (at the time the souvlaki cost 3.50 GRD and a ticket to the winter movies 18 GRD). Nikos was my lender of last resort. But he was a tough nut to crack. He had amassed an enviable collection of polished 20 GRD silver coins, carefully guarded in a couple of Strepsil throat lozenges metal boxes. Not only I had to convince him to hand them over to me, but to reassure him that I would return the same amount of borrowed coins in exactly the same highly polished condition! A brotherly deal was struck late in the night after much deliberation. Next evening we went together to the Suzuki dealer and concluded the purchase of the new and good looking Suzuki Sport M12 powered by a 50 cc twin stroke engine motorbike! I was at the top of the world at age fifteen! 🙂

The Suzuki Sport was my faithful companion; it definitely embossed a venturous stamp on me during the formulating teen-age years, all the way up to the end of 1968. I had by that time finished high school and was moving on, leaving Greece for the USA, heading for College via a brief stopover in Paris to visit a summer conquered sweetheart, then London with crazy friends and a more generous one in New York City lasting from January up to September of 1969. Then onwards to Lake Forest College in Illinois. The story of me ending up as a NYC taxicab driver is another long and interesting one to be recounted at a later time in another section.

My 1966 Ford Econoline Van

My 1966 Ford Econoline Van

While in College at my second sophomore year (i.e. 1970), my first car was a Ford Econoline van, configured as a camper, with an oil thirsty straight six cylinder engine and a three speed shift on the steering column. Initially I bought this van in Chicago in a 50/50 partnership with a classmate friend, Dan Jaffe. Daniel did not even know how to drive, so I had to teach him. Nevertheless, he never became a good driver, causing me a lot of anxiety and soon after I managed to buy out his share. With the help of another good friend, Jeff McQueen, I registered this van in the state of Massachusetts as that state’s insurance policies were subsidized and cost half the price of regular insurance. The van offered few nice amenities to a college student: wall to wall carpet, a sleeping (and making-out) cot, ability for piling up countless classmates and venturing to the Chicago Greek Town to eat at Diana’s restaurant on Halsted Street, venturing for camping trips carrying a canoe on the rooftop and so on. Nevertheless, the van had an unfortunate end, as one windy night I had lent her to a roommate friend, Chris Kluge for an outing to windy city, a.k.a. Chicago; on that extraordinary night, a rotting tree came falling down and crashing on the van rooftop along with several also downed, sparking high voltage power lines. Luckily the bunch of passenger classmates escaped injury but the van was beyond repair 😦

A period advert describes well the features of this utilitarian vehicle

A period advert describes well the features of this utilitarian vehicle

1965 Pontiac Bonneville

1965 Pontiac Bonneville

After this mishap, I bought a 1965 Pontiac Bonneville sedan from an old lady in Evanston, Ill. This high powered car was in perfect condition other than ‘a sticky valve’ which was curable by adding couple of cans of STP oil additive. It was a big machine, gas guzzling (although gasoline prices were still quite cheap in the early 70’s). She was heavy and with the automatic transmission was difficult to hold steady on icy winter roads despite me fitting a pair of studded winter tires. I kept this epitome of an American car for several months, up to the point in time when I took a Spring Semester in Athens! That was in 1971. By selling the Pontiac at a good profit, plus adding some savings earned from a number of part-time jobs, I had a nice cash pot earmarked to buy a car in London; accompanied by my girlfriend Susan Deaner (now a M.D. in Phila.) and another friend, Steven Jamron, the plan was to drive all the way from London to Athens and then enroll in the lovely LFC Classics Semester in Athens, headed by our favorite Philosophy professor Forest Hansen.

Bad Karma strikes outside Paris, France.

The Jaguar Mark X, 4.2 liter automatic with 245 hp, a luxury sedan of the sixties!

The Jaguar Mark X, 4.2 liter automatic with 245 hp, a high powered luxury sedan of the sixties!

Upon arriving in London, I quickly reconnected with few of my Greek friends studying there. The dream car to have for a European student in those days of the Hair Musical, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, was a Mini Copper. I only had few days available for finding a car, buy it, service it and start the long journey to Athens with stopovers in Paris, Milan and on to Ancona to catch the ferry to Patras, reaching Athens in time to start the Spring Semester. Hence a frenetic screening of classified ad’s operation started involving countless of pay-booth telephone calls. But as youths tend to be carried away easily, I did notice an ad for a 1963 Jaguar Mark X (i.e. Mark Ten) offered at a very attractive price.

The plush Jaguar Mk X interior with lovely leathery smells!

The plush Jaguar Mk X interior with lovely leathery smells!

Fate had it that the car was located just few blocks away from my friends house, so I walked to have a look. She was owned by an American professor who was leaving England to return back home within a week or so and he was desperate to get rid of this big luxury saloon. More so, I had US$ in cash! I struck a terrific deal and got the car. Insuring her was another ordeal, as I was young, a non-British resident, the insurance class for a 4.2 liter 285 hp engine was extra high…and boy did I pay a premium. Nevertheless, the thrill was on. Webasto sunroof The car was in very good condition, featuring a Webasto full length sliding roof, automatic transmission, leather seats, wooden dashboard, picnic tables and so on. We were going to travel in style and in comfort. After finishing all our preparations, on a typical London overcast afternoon, we started the first leg of the journey from the city to Dover, aiming to catch the night ferry crossing the English Channel to Calais. From Calais the distance to Paris is about 300 km. My hubris idea was to drive through the night and end up in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, then at sun’s break to open the sliding roof and Voila! offer a memorable spectacle of Parisian skyline to my American friends…

The 125 km trip “sans GPS” those days, from downtown London to Dover was like a treasure hunt game, my co-pilots Susan and Steve trying to make sense of the complicated roads from maps, while I was concentrating driving on the wrong side of the roads behind an unfamiliar right hand steering position. But once on the M20 Motorway, the Jag performed so well, smooth, silent, fast, comfortable. Our spirits were very high indeed, and I was pondering about the impression this great car would make to my friends and family once in Greece! Immediately after debarkation we started from Calais heading toward Paris at night. I was driving of course, we were doing a good clip on the French roads, eventually my friends falling asleep. I was alone, in tune with the car and loving it. But I was tired from all the previous days running, over exited and a smoker those days. I lit up a Rothman’s cigarette. After few minutes I was going to extinguish it. Looked for the ashtray. Apparently few extra splits of seconds detracted my attention. Upon the next visual through the windscreen, recognized that I was on a downhill slope on D901, the Route d’ Abberville to Paris, on Avenue du General Leclerc, doing 50 mph and well into the treacherous sharp right hairpin turn entering the town of Poix de Piccardie. Poix is a small town 28 kilometers south-west of Amiens.

The heavy saloon could not be outmaneuvered nor could be stopped just in time. The impact on the far apex of the turn was hard, against a metal barrier AND a high embankment. The combination was fatal for the front left underside of the car, chassis and steering linkages. Thank God, none of us was hurt. We could barely move the car out of the turn (the steering was blocked) and tried to catch some sleep in the car until dawn. At about 06:30 we heard screeching tires and another heavy crashing-banging noise. A small Renault 4L had hit the same barrier. The driver was hurt. We did not dare go near as we were so shocked. Some locals did (apparently they knew well about these things). Not even after fifteen minutes later, we heard the familiar alternating klaxon siren of a French ambulance car approaching. But as it did, before moving away from the turn, another car collided head on! The impact was strong, both drivers were hurt. It was a a scary scene out of the Jean-Luc Godard film “Le weekend“, with images of a chaotically picaresque car journey through the French countryside populated by increasingly bizarre characters and punctuated by violent car accidents.

The aftermath of the accident was quite tough on me. The car was too heavy to be towed by the flimsy French dépannage trucks. leaping-cat-emblemI had to call Jaguar Cars in Paris. My French were weak to say the least. Luck came my way after several calls were made from the Poix Railway station; I located the Chef du Service who was of Greek descent! He arranged to send me a red Dodge tow truck and after many hours and decoupling of the drive shaft, I rode on this truck to the Jaguar Cars Service Center in Paris by late evening. The Chef kept saying nous avons toutes les pièces(do not worry, we have all the parts needed to fix the car!). How comforting his words were to my wounded heart and dispirited soul. But, the next tricky task was to break the news to my parents in Athens. Little did they know of my doings in London, about buying a car, traveling through half of Europe before continuing my expensive College semester in Athens. Needless to say, the estimated repair bill from Jaguar France was quite high. Dad was raving mad. He took the news very wrongly. He was very pissed off at me. No chance whatsoever to send me money for repairs. He did not even wanted to send me money for the return air ticket to Athens. I had to borrow this amount from my friends. A disaster of big proportions was gradually sinking in. From a plush Jag owner, suddenly I was broke and without wheels! Pressed hard into the corner, I relied on the FILOTIMO [good-will & honesty] of the French-Greek service chief. Understandings were made that he would try to sell the car on my behalf and send me later on the proceeds in Athens. In other words, I had lost the Jag completely. After several months of pressing, telephoning and letter writing, he did eventually send me about 100 Dollars… I hard lesson was learned though.

Next, the VW Beetle saga.

My Volkswagen saga commenced after my return to Lake Forest in the Fall of 1972. Having suffered from the loss of the Jag and the financial disaster that ensued, my options for getting my hands onto a nice car were rather limited. But the land of opportunity was wide open for me, I was living in it. The College bulletin board came to the rescue.

The early Beetles with the split rear window

The early Beetles with the split rear window

An old beat up, rotting VW Beetle was up for sale by a senior student. I took possession of her after paying only 50 dollars! She was a mid 50’s model with the smaller oval rear window. Soon after, I heard that another student, from France named Patrick, had a better looking 1964 turquoise green Beetle but his engine had blown. He was desperate and could not afford a costly repair. I offered Patrick another 50 dollar bill and changed titles at the local Motor Vehicles office next day. Now I had a non-working good bodied car and a working 1.200 cc engine inside a rotting body. Within few hours, I yanked the engine from the older car and transplanted it into the newer, solid bodied green car. 🙂

“Marlen” in Aspen, Colorado, still bearing the ‘F’ decal from Patrick’s French days. Note the “octopus” side exhaust from the Porsche 356B engine!

College mates Rob Harvey, Chris Kluge and John Newman on John’s mildly chopped Harley

Now I was presentable. Gradually I 64Beetlestarted getting deeper into the Beetles and the book “How to Hotrod Volswagen Engines” became sort of a bible; VW’s were still in abundance in the US of the seventies, with many after market improvements and Hot Rod parts readily available. At the time we were sharing a house off-campus with a bunch of College mates. A two car Garage was available and this we had converted to an amateur workshop doing odd repair jobs for student’s motorcycles and cars. I had pooled my tools with those of housemate and Harley chopper rider John Newman, (now President of Laser Technology Inc.).

My housemate Stephen Robeck. LFC, ca. 1970

The other house-mate was Stephen Robeck from Connecticut who owned a BMW 2002ti (founder of EMAK Worldwide) and was also the Technical Editor/Photographer of a DELL Special publication, the Peter Tobey legendary Two Wheel Travel, Motorcycle, Camping & Touring of 1972. Motorheads all of us. It so happened that Stephen had a good friend in Deerfield near Worcester Mass. named Reeves Callaway who at the time was an upcoming Formula Vee race driver and was operating an advanced racing, sports cars service and development center under the name of “Callaway-Gray“. At that time he was also learning to fly small helicopters.

The Porshce 356B engine bay with twin Zenith carbs

The Porsche 356B engine bay with twin carbs

Later in life, Reeves became an automotive legend working with Corvettes and other powerful cars, while his wife Sue Zesiger-Callaway is a distinguished columnist – reporter of the automotive industry and contributing editor of Fortune magazine and CNN.

Steve asked Reeves what could be done to improve the performance of a good bodied Beetle but powered by a very weak and old 36 hp engine. His answer was awesome! He had a half burned Porsche 356B in his yard, with an intact 1.600 cc twin carbed engine producing 95 hp, and yes I could buy it at a bargain price. WOW! What a sleepless nights fueling story! Soon the Christmas holidays were coming and arrangements were made that I would drive the old Bug to Worcester and Reeves would assist me in rebuilding the Porsche engine. I drove solo the 1964 turquoise green Beetle with its dying engine through sleet and snow and barely made the 900 or so miles to destination, adding STP to the crankcase in an effort to prolong the inevitable.

How ominous! An Autodynamics Deserter GT was a Callaway-Gray Co. car! Bearded is Bob Gray at their workshop. Picture from the Callaway Family archive.

What a workshop! In the front display window there was a small single seat Scorpion helicopter. (Reeves was self-learning how to hover by tying the craft to the ground so as to avoid flying away and crashing). Inside the workshop, an assortment of BMW’s, Porsche’s, Lotus, Corvettes and Formula Vee’s and beach-buggies! Tools galore on the walls and trolley cabinets, all surgically clean. I was in dreamland. That was the glorious day when I first met Reeves. After our long chatting and the planning out of the engine rebuilt was concluded, by dusk came the issue of my lodging. I asked if there was a nearby hotel or drive-inn. But Reeves, in his great American openness and hospitality, said that I could stay with him for the duration of my visit in his adjacent to the parking lot wooden barn. With fireplace and heated water bed included!

On the next early cold morning we started by extracting the Flat-4 engine from the half burned 356. Once the unit was in the workshop, we steam cleaned it. Lesson #1 about impeccable cleanliness.

Reeves Callaway ca. early 70's

Reeves Callaway ca. early 70’s

Reeves Callaway, Sales Manager at Autodunamics Inc. in Marblehead, Mass. In company with Formula Vee’s which he also raced.

From then on Reeves went about his daily chores while I started dismantling the engine and carefully putting cleaned parts and bolts into marked cardboard boxes. A new term was instilled to me, “blueprinting” (the re-machining of components to tighter tolerances to achieve better balance) and engine balancing, a practice to be followed later on during the rebuilt process. In that same evening we cataloged the parts required. In these pre-Internet days, the phone was used for placing orders to a tight network of suppliers spanning from the East Coast to California. Thus, new Mahle cylinders with matching pistons, con rods and crown pins, bearings, valves, springs and valve guides, oil pump gears, performance clutch disc, full gasket kit and more importantly, an extractor “octopus” exhaust assembly which would provide not only breathing but also a distinctive roar to the engine. Such would keep me company for many years to come. 🙂 The crankshaft and camshaft were sent to Bridgeport, Conn. for special machining and re-balancing.

The dashboard with the additonal VDO instruments and spots leather steering

The dashboard with the additional VDO instruments and sports leather steering.

A set of VDO instruments were also ordered to monitor the vital oil pressure and temperature of the air cooled engine, plus an ammeter which the spartan VW dashboard was lacking. A final touch was a sporty smaller diameter black leather steering wheel. As the dispatching of the various parts would take couple of days to reach Deerfield, I volunteered to do any odd chores around the shop. When the ordered parts did arrive, we started work on the cylinder heads. Extracting the old valve guides and inserting the new ones. Milling the surfaces and cleaning everything. He taught me how to use the valve spring compressing tool. Now I had to do it on the remaining 7 valves. Trouble strikes. Something went wrong and one of the two small valve cup spring pin fixers slipped and flew away in the distance. I mounted a careful search to retrieve the missing part. After half an hour of floor scanning, sweeping and repeats without result, panic sets in.

I run into Reeves’ office agitated, asking if there was another such small item in his parts bin. “NOPE”. He comes near my workbench area and looks around. Nearby there is a blue full size oil drum used as a garbage can. He asks me if I had looked inside. Of course, No. With one sweeping move he grabs the drum and turns it upside down, emptying 4-5 days worth of workshop refuge on the spotless floor. “Now you do that!” he commands and walks away. After three minutes I had retrieved the minute irreplaceable part from the garbage pile! 🙂 That was Reeves, who always answered the phone by his notorious greeting “I’m ready!”.

Zenith 32 NDIX carbs

Zenith 32 NDIX carbs

Fitting the rebuilt, balanced to high standards unit along with all his other magic producing a flawless 95+ hp into the Beetle’s engine bay and mating it to the existing gearbox was the final step, but not without its challenges. The heater boxes were protruding and as they were rusty, Reeves hammered them away. That meant that the cabin would be left without heating with winter temperatures in the below zero areas. 😦 But I had to move on regardless. After a quick test drive, no leaks detected, re-balancing the twin Zenith 32 NDIX carbs, I was ready to hug Reeves good-by and bid him with a huge Thank-You for his hospitality and assistance in the transplanting job. Now my old VW Beetle was powered by a purring strong Porsche engine! I left for New York City to meet my childhood friend Yiorgo Galazidis and to spend Christmas together with his sister Evi and husband Taki who were visiting from Greece. Then onwards for the non-stop 1.000 mile run from NYC to Chicago-Lake Forest (without heat, wrapped in blankets but happily impressed by the markedly improved performance of the re-incarnated Beetle!).

“Marlen”-Byron’s Porsche powered 1964 VW Beetle, here in Aspen, Colorado ca. winter of 1973. The extra spotlights & fog lights compensated the weak headlights of the standard 6 volt system, adding at the same a “Rallying” sportive look.

Another little story that I just remembered involved the fitting of air horns. The drab “Beep” of the standard issue single German horn was unacceptable, especially now that “Marlen” was behaving as a Hot-Rod or better still as a Volksrod! The Italian flamboyant multi tune Fiamm air horns were quite popular in Greece, but such could not be sourced in the US. I had asked my friend Takis to bring a three trumpet 6v unit with him in NY. While spending Christmastime together, we absolutely had to install them. But where? Into the rescue comes older brother Vasili who at that time was doing his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken N.J. There was a lab there with parts, cables, soldering guns, drills etc. A date was set and after some hours of work on the cold campus parking lot, the singing FIAMM air horns were blowing their merry tunes on the US Highways, pushing traffic aside giving way for this little crazy Bug to fly by!

Marlen’s” third life as a beach buggy will be continued…

Back to Triumph motorcycles in Summer of 1972. 65 Bonnie tank

Triumph Bonnevile T-120

Triumph Bonneville T-120

As it so happened with the mishap of the Jaguar on French roads during ’71, the all important vow for doing a London to Athens run in this lifetime was still pending. It had to be fulfilled and the time was set for June of ’72. This time the choice of wheels was two instead of four! Together with my friend Yiorgo Galazidis we planned to fly from the US to London, buy two used British motorcycles, service them and ride on to Athens via Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Torino, Modena, a seaside rest in Rimini, then boarding the ferry from Ancona to Patras and finally reaching Athens, a distance of about 2.400 km. The task required some organization. Hence I collected my tools including the vital compression tester, all placed in a heavy M.D. style leather bag. I was going to play ‘Doctor’, or a mechanic evaluator role. In London were hosted by friends and the Safari for a pair of twin cylinder bikes was immediately on.

A beautiful T-120 Bonneville example, similar to mine!

A beautiful T-120 Bonneville example, similar to mine!

Selection was not difficult as we were in the Mecca of British motorcycledom. We screened quite few machines. Our performing show was the following: Yiorgo would be the buyer and myself his consulting mechanic. After some preludes, the critical question would be posed on the eager seller: “Would you mind if my mechanic performed a compression test?”. The answer was always affirmative. I would then proceed to ceremoniously remove the spark plugs, smell them as a wine connoisseur does on the cork of an expensive wine bottle, place them both on a clean red mechanics towel and then onwards screwing on my expensive Sears compression tester. The ritual continued after few kicks on the starter and some careful note takings of compression readings with pad and pencil. “Lets go, the motor is no good!” I would announce with disappointment and a frown. Yiorgo would stutter something half Greek half English adding to the ambiguity of the situation. It worked! Prices were immediately dropped considerably! Soon we had two Triumph Bonneville’s 650 cc under new ownership.

A Triumph Bonnie '63 like mine

A Triumph Bonnie ’63 which looks a lot like mine

The original Triumph Bonneville (T-120) was a 650 cc parallel twin cylinder motorcycle made by the Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. (later Norton-Villers-Triumph) between 1959 to 1983. At the beginning it was made as a separate unit construction (separate gear box) but after ’63 as a unit-construction model. The name originated from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, were Triumph and other motorcycles and cars all made attempts to break land speed records. A very popular, high performing and durable British motorcycle. Mine was a classic 1963 blue model with the small nickel plated parcel grid bolted on the fuel tank plus a regular luggage rack in the back and a set of side protective cylinder bars. Yiorgo opted for a modified, sportier example with tweaked noisy exhaust pipes and racy low type handlebars. I advised him that these were not suitable for our long touring expedition, but he had fallen very much in love with this extraordinary example of a Bonneville. He collected the price of this decision though, in ample dividends of back pains.

Working on the bikes

Working on the bikes

Then we commenced the servicing procedure, right there on the sidewalk of fashionable Knightsbridge. Oil leaks and spills were aplenty while the old ladies of the neighborhood were complaining fiercely. After couple of days, we were ready. Also had obtained a good supply of spare parts as brake and throttle cables, tire repair kits and so on. Next was to buy helmets. On Elephant & Castle was a big bike shop at that time. Money was already becoming tight. A tent and sleeping bags as well as anoraks were left to be bought in Paris, as Yiorgo had a girl friend there who was working in a sporting goods store; it was anticipated that she would make a generous deal for us. Onward to Dover and Calais planning to reach Paris by late evening. The bikes were behaving well. Yiorgo had a load issue as his luggage rack was smaller and flimsier. Part of his baggage load had to be lashed in the seat section adding to his uncomfortable, bending riding position. 😦

Byron is working on the front brakes of GPH662C!

Byron is working on the front brakes of GPH-662C! 24 Dec. 2010 Update: I was contacted by Colin Chapple who owned and sold this very bike to me! “Hi, I owned GPH662C just before you did – glad to see it did you great service – cheers Colin”. Read the rest here: https://beracuda.wordpress.com/byrons-blog/

We will never forget the wet leg from Calais to Paris. Soon after disembarkation it started to rain heavily. Pouring torrential. The helmet perspex shields were fogging from the inside and tarnished with road muck and raindrops on the outside. At the same time we had to navigate by glimpsing on folded map sections through plastic protective enclosures placed on the fuel tanks. But maneuvering with such difficulties was nothing compared to the fact that none of us had proper motorcycle attire. I had my US Navy boots on and so did my pal; these soon were penetrated by the heavy water splash and the leather started foaming! Yiorgo was pointing humorously at my foaming boots and I was reciprocating fingering on his! For body protection I had a plastic cheap trench coat with snap buttons which the wind was undoing constantly. Soon enough we were soaked to the bone. Never in my life have I felt so cold and miserable. But we pressed on regardless. We had to reach Paris. Navigating around the ring road (Périphérique) was disastrous, trying to locate the correct exit in order to find the little French lady’s apartment. I had it. I said to Yiorgo, “This is it. We take the first exit and we find the first hotel!”. But that was not the end. Parisian hoteliers maybe of the suspicious types. Upon us entering their Réception, in a wild state, dripping all over their carpeted floors, they would say Occupés, nous sommes désolés, nous sommes pleins, pas de chambres disponibles and show us the door. They were désolés, but we were wet & cold & très-très désolés! 😦 After the third such attempt, I decided to show the money in advance. The trick worked and we got us into a warm room with bath and hot water. That was one of the nicest tub baths I have taken.

The two Triumphs

The two Triumphs cum rain riders

Next day we connected with the Parisian beauty, got us an Andrè Jamet brand two person tent, sleeping bags and some anoraks (still not proper riding protective gear, but for sure an improvement). After Paris we continued south-east towards Dijon and next day to Grenoble. We were eating baguettes stuffed with cheese and spicy hams or sausages and had set a goal to have at least “one square meal per day”. Camping out at night was another issue altogether. One night , I think in a Torino area hilly park, we were caught (again) in a strong rain. The tent leaked and its enveloped type floor was flooded. Luckily next morning it was sunny and we dried out our clothes and gear. A scary riding moment occurred in that same area, while descending a mountain. Yiorgo was in front (as usual because often items were being dropped from his saddle), when at a sharp left turn…well, he kept going straight! Luckily there was a limited dirt section after the tarmac ending and he managed to stop the heavy bike sideways just short off a steep cliff below. It was a very close call indeed as I was witnessing it in slow motion.

George & Byron on their Triumph's just after the end of the London-Athnes run.

Yiorgo & Byron on their Triumph’s just after the end of the London-Athens run.

Upon reaching the Adriatic coast, our first priority was to secure from Ancona our ferry boat tickets to Patras. The ferry would depart the next day so we had one full day of rest. Hence, we rode north to the historic town of Rimini, south of Ravenna. We located a nice beach and camped right in the middle. Behind us was a canteen and in front of us the beach. Very strategic as both were exhausted and could barely move our tortured bodies. Arriving in Patras, unbeknown to us, there was a welcoming committee! Yiorgos sister Evi was there with her mother Sasha to greet us 🙂

After the end of the summer in Greece, come September, we both returned to our academics in the US. Yiorgos’ father, Menios, would arrange for both motorcycles to be shipped by sea to the US. Eventually one November day my beloved Bonneville arrived crated in Lake Forest, Illinois. Immediately I rolled her into the basement of our house and commenced a ground-up restoration. By early spring the bike was ready and sparkling with new paint, polished nickel-ware and a ‘classical music’ exhaust tune. The College bulleting board proved once again quite helpful and the old Triumph was sold at a good profit without much effort. The proceeds were added to my cash pot which included some savings from winter odd jobs as snow plowing, motorcycle and car repairs etc. Being in my Senior year, now I was ready to pass the final exams of early June and to proceed immediately after to fill-in the final chapter of my “Wheeled US experience”.

Yiorgo & Byron riding

Yiorgo & Byron riding “Triumphantly” in Athens, summer of 1972.

“Marlen” turns into “Phobos” in her third life as an Autodynamics beach buggy! GT sketch

A similar Green Deserter GT '73. Mine I named

A similar Green Deserter GT ’73. Mine I named “Phobos”

When I befriended another motorhead from Lake Forest College, Avrum Belzer, the idea was tossed about converting “Marlen” into a light weight high performing with the Porsche engine beach buggy. I also knew that Reeves Callawayhad in the past been the Sales Manager of Autodynamics Inc. of Marblehead, Mass. and a friend of owner Ray Caldwell. After few phone calls I chose a Deserter GT. This was a rear-engined shortened VW Beetle chassis in a dune buggy style body developed originally by Alex Dearborn and was later marketed and sold by Autodynamics Inc. Autodynamics was a race car fabricator very active in Formula V’s and B’s that had done the design work and fabrication of the Deserter for Alex.

Suzan Deaner and her mother's Toyota Corolla, June 73.

Suzan Deaner and her mother’s Toyota Corolla, June 73.

In early June of 1973, Avrum and I borrowed my girlfriend’s car, a weak engined Toyota Corolla E20 1.2 Lit. and drove non-stop to Boston. There we hired a U-Haul trailer and loaded the green Deserter GT car kit body and its parts. Pressed with time, we started the long trip back to Chicago next day. But now with the hitched trailer load, the poor Corolla could not do more than 55 mph flat out on the straights and much less on uphill gradients. Avrum applied the car racing practice of ‘slipstreaming‘ (a.k.a. drafting) behind big semi-trailer trucks, and with first opportunity a risky overtake was made! I recently asked Avrum to reminisce: “What a hoot! How well I remember the drafting….the feeling of being sucked along was amazing. One minor element is that we actually used the draft to go faster, not to pass. As I recall that damn Toy towing the trailer wouldn’t go more than about 45-50 under its own power but when we could follow a truck we could go as fast as they were ~65-70. It was terrifying because we couldn’t see what was in front of the truck when we did that since we had to be so close to the back of the truck to catch the draft. Thank randomness that none of them did any sudden stops! Saved us hours of driving time”. It seemed like ages before we arrived exhausted but excited back home at Lake Forest. Avrum had his own garage floor space near Lake Forest, so we set-up the dune buggy assembling operation there. The only guidance we had was the relevant GT Assembly Manual as it was provided by Autodynamics. The most critical issue involved the chopping of the Beetle floorpan. We unbolted “Marlen’s” old body, disconnected all wirings and plenty of other parts until we had the rolling chassis. Then out had to go the engine and trans-axle, front axle etc. Since neither of us were experienced welders, after measuring and marking the to be cut areas carefully, an expert welder was commissioned to do the honorable carvings and to ensure re-welding securely and safely the new shortened by 10 and 3/4 inches chassis. I will not go into the details of the assembly of the car kit, but believe me it was a lot of work done entirely by the two of us; additionally we were pressed by a time constraint as I had already booked my return to Europe ticket via the famous Sea Liner SS Michelangelo.

Autodynamics Deserter GT advertisement ca. 1969

Autodynamics Deserter GT advertisement ca. 1969

After many efforts and beer cans, the dune buggy was ready for her initial road test. The excitement crescendoed as each of us took turns behind the wheel, accelerating, breaking and slide drifting the monster. From those early phobic experiences, but also because of her appearance and high performance, the new car was named “Phobos” (the Greek word for “fear”, is the root word of phobia). Exhilaration was within few days reversed into a mood of depression as I was loading most of my belongings into the car, to the point that the fat rear wheels were in quite positive camber angles from the weight; I had to say good-by to Lake Forest College, my pal Avrum and to the many chapters of my college years written on the American soil. As a comforting note, was the promise that Avrum would come and visit me in Greece later on that summer, just before my enrolling into the Hellenic Navy. I started the long trip to NYC alone, in a practically untested kit car, heavily overloaded and with mixed feelings about what I was leaving behind and what lay ahead for me.

“Phobos” touring the island of Cephallonia, July 1975

After literally performing a solo trek of about 1,000 miles from Chicago to New York City, racing up to the last minute to catch the boat, then successfully loading the car onto the Michelangelo“, a great ocean liner destined for Naples, I could finally relax and rest, enjoying my first crossing by sea of the Atlantic Ocean. The plan was that upon disembarkation I would transverse the Italian boot for Bari and from there take another ferry to Patras and eventually arrive at my final destination of Athens. “Phobos” would find a new territory based in the sea-side suburb of Voula where we lived. I was using the car as my daily transport means for several years, while many excursions throughout the country were made. At that time, sighting of this car was a sure ‘head turner’ and on close-up people could not believe that the body was made of plastic; thus similar to ‘tire kicking’ as an absurd method to somehow test a car, in this case people were knocking on the body so as to test and determine what it was made of! Naturally countless of questions had to be answered, a practice that after a while became a bit boring. The acceleration performance was clocked at 6.6 sec from 0-60 mph (or 0-100 kph). A very fast car indeed, envied by many friends and a sure ‘girl catcher’. I was very proud in all respects! 🙂

Byron's Deserter GT in Vouliagmeni ca. 1976 with cousin Chris Iliades in the back

Byron’s Autodynamics Deserter GT in Vouliagmeni ca. 1978 with cousin Chris Iliades in the back.

In fact the Steve McQueen famous Dune Buggy which starred in the Thomas Crown Affair” was built by Autodynamics! Have fun with this short video:

As an epilogue, Avrum did come to Greece in late August of 1973. We were both so excited about commercializing the idea of beach buggies in sunny, dry Greece that as young aspiring entrepreneurs we did compile rudimentary business plan. We did visit the Greek Ministry of Development at the time with the idea to start an assembly plant for these babies. Nevertheless, we stumbled upon an insurmountable obstacle in the sense that the Greek Junta had signed an exclusive agreement with a consortium of French Peugeot-Renault for investing in a car factory… which never materialized. Hence our dreams were shelved prematurely. Avrum did drive me wildly on a September early morning to the drafting office at Piraeus, thus commencing my military obligation in the Hellenic Navy. Avrum adds: “I also remember that your face was almost gray the day I dropped you at the Navy. Hard to believe we didn’t see each other for more than 20 years after that. Sure wish we could do it more often!”.

A nice memorabilia which was entirely forgotten, has just surfaced from digging through piles of old photographs. A post card ca. March ’75 that Reeves Callaway had sent me! Apparently he found somewhere a post card picturing the Hydra island harbor which inspired him to drop me a line. He had just moved from Marblehead, Mass. to Old Lyme, Conn., was looking for a job and he also had obtained a dune buggy which was similarly using every day even during the cold winter months! Click on CallawayCars.com to tie-in the story and read about the “Garage start-up” of the Callaway Cars success. 🙂

Reeves Callaway post card to Byron ca. March 1975.

Reeves Callaway’s post card to Byron ca. March 1975.

I kept “Phobos” in Greece for many years, up until the early 1980’s having enjoyed countless of memorable moments. I regret having sold this unique piece of machinery 😦 which I built with my own hands. 🙂

“Agnes” my beloved Austin Healey 3000 Mk. II BT-7 austin-healey Mk II badge

BER A-H and Rocky

My A-H 3000 here during a fashion shooting. The model was a British beauty by the name of Rocky. In this pic the car had standard Greek license plates.

This Colorado Red Austin-Healey Mk II, the 2+2 seat BT-7 model, of 1961 vintage came my way accidentally. “A friend of a friend is selling his sports car” kind of story. When I went to have a look (ca. 1982), could not resist her fiery red passionate charm and closed the deal on the spot.

Byron's A-H Mk II ca. 1986

Byron’s A-H 3000 Mk II ca. 1986. In this pic the PHILPA plates were used in a classic car rally outing.

The car was well known in Athens from her very first owner. I was the third. She was in good original condition but neglected. No rust whatsoever as she was since new domiciled in the dry, hot climate of sunny Greece. I remember push starting her in a downslope street in Kifissia after leaving her garaged home of many years in the hands of Nikos Sinouris. My friend Athanase offered timeless and precious shelter in his garage in Philopappou. Soon after issuing new license plates, I ordered some spare parts from A-H Spares together with a Haynes Worksop Manual and started to gradually improve the appearance and operation of this beautiful car. She was named Agnes(which is a female given name, which derives from the Greek word hagnē, meaning “pure” or “holy”).

“Agnes” was tenderly used only for special occasions, Sunday outings, some classic car rallies entries and other such events of PHILPA.

My sweatheart Marisa, poses during a Classic Car Rally in Marathon.

My sweetheart at the time Marisa, poses during a Classic Car Rally in Marathon.

When business affairs brought me often to England in the mid 80’s, I started to toy with the idea of submitting the car for a professional ground-up restoration. One of the better restorers for this marque (and I believe still remains) is Jonathan Everard, the proprietor of J.M.E. Healeys who served his apprenticeship with the Donald Healey Motor Co. in the early 60’s. I was fortunate to meet Jon during those days, as I went to visit his shop and had lunch together at his house in Warwick. Of course even then his quotation for a ground-up restoration job plus if one considered the transport costs involved to ship the car from Athens to Warwick and back, were prohibitive for my limited financial resources, so that project was perpetually postponed. Nevertheless, she was mechanically sound, the straight six starting effortlessly and consuming very little oil, the overdrive engaging smoothly, while the body if not perfect had an original patina which drew many admiring looks whenever she ventured in the streets, day or night. “Agnes” is another beauty which I have regretted selling, a mistake of great magnitude at that time… 😦

Spilio's

Stable-mates: Spilio’s “Frog Eye” Sprite & my “Big Healey” 3000 Mk.II

Useful Links on Healeys: AH-3000-fascia-emblem

Clubs: Austin Healey Club UK, Austin Healey Club of America, The Healey Drivers Club

Restorations, UK : J.M.E. Healeys, Rawles Classic Healeys,

Wikipedia: Austin-Healey, Donald Healey Motor Company

The current BER 4-wheel stable includes:

Needless to say, the passion about “wheels”, be it cars, bicycles, mopeds, Velosolex, scooters and motorcycles, has been kept alive and well all along the years from childhood to adolescence to manhood. Whatever machinery I get my hands on I try to keep. So here is as far as I got on this track of current ownership within my “wheeled experience”.

Jag Emblem logo-citroeni-h-logo dodge-logo-blckpeugeot-logo-1 audi-emblem-logo Ford Logo smallLancia_Logo_1957 (590x590) mg-cars-logo-emblem

  • Ford Model A Roadster Deluxe (B-40), 3.2 Lit., 40 Hp, 1931, Ch.# 4558478, FIVA Card #049838/10-06-2013
  • Jaguar MK 7, 3.4 Lit., 150 Hp, 4-door sedan, 1953, Ch.# 736464, FIVA Card # 023570/27-01-2004
  • Citroën Traction Avant 11 BL (Leger), 1.9 Lit, 1956 Ch. # 671846, FIVA Card #025268/22-06-1988 (co-owned w. Athanase)
  • Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé (W111), 2.5 Lit, 150 Hp, 1967, VIN # 111.021.12.088627, FIVA card #040329/08-09-2010. (Parted in May 2015)
  • MG MGB Mk. II Roadster, 1,798 cc (1.8 l) B-Series I4, 95 Hp, 1968/9 Chassis No: GHN4L163339G Engine No: MG 18GGWEH897, Commission No: G.23N.014633F. FIVA No:  052721, Issued 25/9/2014, Category A/3.
  • Mercedes-Benz 560SL (R107), 5.6 Lit, 227 Hp, 1987, VIN # WDBBA48DHA059696, FIVA Youngtimers Card # 00003/16-2-2011 (Parted in June 2014)
  • Dodge Dakota LE Space Cab, 4×4 pick-up, 3.9 Lit, 180 Hp 1992, VIN # 1B7GG23X-3NS673665
  • Peugeot 106 XSi, 1992, VIN # VF31CKFZ250195445 (Parted in July 2009)
  • Audi A6 Avant, Turbo Quattro, 1.8 Lit, 180 Hp, 2000, VIN # WAUZZZ4BZ1NO39079
  • Peugeot 207 Coupe-Cabrio, Turbo, 1.6 Lit., 150 Hp, 2007, VIN # VF3WB5FXC33860501

While for the 2-wheelers includes:

bsa_most_popular vespa_logo_1Vespa PX200E emblem logo_gilera bmw-moto-logo

  • Vespa PX200E, 200cc, single cylinder, two stroke, 1985, VIN # VSXIT427274
  • Gilera Runner FX125, 125cc, single cylinder, two stroke, 1998, VIN # ZAPMO700000004387
A picture Gallery follows:

Ford Model A Roadster Deluxe (B-40)

IMG_8214 IMG_8220 IMG_8226 IMG_8228 IMG_8202 IMG_8187

Jaguar Mk VII, 1953.


Lovely Sir Lyons flowing hind lines. Here at a PHILPA event in 2006.

Lovely Sir Lyons flowing hind lines. Here at a PHILPA event in 2006.

Walnut dashboard with period black dialled instruments.

Walnut dashboard with period black dial instruments.

A period brochure depicts nicely the interior features of this luxury car, yet offered by the shrewed William Lyons at an affordable price, targeting successfully the vast USA market.

A Jag Mk VII brochure depicts nicely the interior features of this luxury car, yet offered by the shrewed William Lyons at an affordable price, targeting successfully the vast USA market.

Citroën Traction Avant, 1956

Enjoy a booklet produced in 1984 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the Traction Avant, titled “Long Live The Traction“. Read also the complete history of André Citroën’s legendary front wheel drive car: http://www.citroenet.org.uk/passenger-cars/ac/traction/traction-avant.html

The TA in company with an MG TB & the Jag Mk VII

A spartan instrument panel, metal and minimal.

TA ready for the PHILPA “Flowers & Antiques” event in Spring 2010

Period marketing of the front wheel drive superior stability features! Note the anchor caries double flukes to resemble the double chevron logo of Andre Citroen (resembling gear cogs, the origins of Usine Citroen during the 1st WW).

Citroën Traction Avant late model interior

Lancia Aurelia GT B20S
Positioned in my Garage

Positioned in my Garage

We acquired this lovely Gran Turismo car as a project in March of 2014 together with my childhood friend and fellow petrolhead Athanase. For the complete presentation of the car click HERE! Thereupon we have embarked on a ‘spare no expense’ restoration project, details of which anyone can read by clicking HERE!

The plan is to have the project completed by the end of the year 2014.

Afterwards we would like to keep this car and enjoy her in all her glory by entering few classic car Rallies or other events, before another custodian takes care of her.

Volkswagen Type 113 Beetle (Käfer), De Luxe Sedan 1962

My 1962 VW Beetle before restoration

I acquired this original 1962 Volskwagen Beetle (aka Käfer) De Luxe Sedan in November of 2011 with the notion to re-live the memories and experiences of owning a similar model during my College years back in the early 1970’s. Upon taking delivery of the car and lifting her for inspecting the undercarriage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was practically no rust.

Of course the car needs to be resprayed to its original L469 Anthracite color plus replacing its worn out rubber parts, upholstery and so on. The idea though is to keep this “matching numbers” example into as much an original condition as possible, maintaining its 6V electrical system and so on.

Already (Dec. 2011) all the mechanical repairs have been taken care of so that the car can be used safely in the roads, has been licensed and insured. Beginning from Jan. 2012, the body work and cosmetic details will be taken care of so that by early spring the car will be ready to be enjoyed as a daily runner. An extensive photo album of the car can be be enjoyed by clicking HERE!

Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé (W111), 1967

The pillar-less side view, so characteristic of the Paul Braque design. Here in the silver color as she was when I bought her in Feb 2010.

I acquired this lovely car with interesting Royal history (belonged to HRH Prince Michael of Greece & Denmark) in February 2010. A full description of the car, its history and Repair Log can be found in my Blog Posts.

The car is in very original and good overall condition but undergoes the required service and improvements as changing all rubbers and weather seals, fitting a set of new Semperit tires, new rear shock absorbers and Steel Compensating Spring (replacing the problematic BOGE Hydro-pneumatic Compression Leg) and a number of other improvements.

Since the car is in such good condition and carries street legal license plates, I intend to be using her quite often for short and long outings and Classic Car Rally entries.

And this is a short video clip of the day I first met “Princess Michaela”

The car after her ground-up restoration and re-spray to its original dark blue color (DB 332 Dunkleblau)…

Here after my restoration with the stunning dark blue color, as it was when she left the factory in July 1967!

Read complete accounts of this car here:

The day I met “Princess Michaela” a.k.a. 1967 Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé
The Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé will regain its original dark blue color!
The Mercedes 250 SE Coupé is a roller!
MG MGB Mk. II, 1968/69

Acquired on 15th January 2015, the youngest member of the ‘family’. Intended to be driven and enjoyed regularly.

MGB@C-C&3cg

Another nice shot against the Athens skylight

Another nice shot against the Athens skylight

Mercedes-Benz 560SL (R107), 1987 (parted in June 2014)

The 560SL during her first outing, here in Karies Lakonias

I acquired this beautiful example in Jan 2011, marking my third M-B car. The pointed Star is now complete! In #441 Impala Beige color and matching hardtop, this low mileage ex-Southern California car is practically “as new”, hence can be driven and enjoyed all year round just like any modern car.

The expensive conversion to European spec’s bumpers and headlights not only shortens the length of the car by about 200 mm but restores the elegance of the R107 design in a sweet combination of full features (air bag, ABS, climate control, electric & heated mirror, 4-speed auto, etc), plus the availability of massive torque of 287 lb·ft (389 Nm) @ 3500 rpm, factors which make this car a joy to drive. 🙂

560SL in Vouliagmeni with the top down

A full description of the car can be found elsewhere in my Blog.

Daimler Double Six, Series 3, 1991.
(parted in April 2013)

My ‘new’ Daimler Double Six Series 3 in Kifissia.

The most recent acquisition, done on July 2011 was for a good conditioned 1991 Daimler Double Six, Series 3 example, sporting the silky smooth 5343 cc V12 engine which delivers about 300 bhp along with a massive torque of 436 Nm @ 3900 rpm. Mated to a Borg-Warner 3 speed automatic gear box this car is a joy to drive and despite its relative thirst for fuel she is a perfect, very stylish, British classic luxury cruiser. Unfortunately the cruise control does not function, an item to rectify. Three days after taking delivery of the car, we took her for an extended hot weather test drive of 700 kilometers, up to Lake Plastira area in central Greece. The color is a nice dark blue metallic and includes an electrically operated sliding roof. A nice extra added by the previous owner is the varnished wooden steering wheel, in tone with the veneered dashboard. The magnolia leathers are in excellent condition, soft and comfortable. Front seats adjust electrically while the rear passenger reading lights are very handsome and practical. The climate control works nicely and the cool air it pumps out is too cold even for me!

The impressive Daimler Double Six cockpit with the extra wood rimmed steering wheel.

With this acquisition, I now have a nice pair of Jaguar big saloons! A full description of this car can be found elsewhere in my Blog. An additional photo album of the car can be viewed by clicking here!

International Harvester 1967 & Dodge Dakota 1991.

International Harvester Double Cab L200 4x4, 1967, ex USAF wireless carrierThis rare 1967 International Harvester 1200-4X4-131 Cargo Pickup Truck with Four-Door Double Cabin was an ex. US Air Force radio transmitter carrier with Registration Number “USA OIF-002067” and Manufacturers Chassis Number 783209h744870; she came to the USAF under Military Contract Nr. DAAE07-67-C-2771 and served on a nuclear warheads base (Argyroupolis, Kilkis) in Northern Greece during the late sixties and seventies. She was decommissioned in the early 90’s. Acquired by me at that time from an Army Surplus Dealer and serving in Kea Island as people carrier and for general light pick-up duties from 1995 to 2009 when she was ‘decommissioned’ for a second time and ever-since she has bee placed in storage in Athens. The vehicle is in absolutely original condition w. low mileage (49,160 in Nov. 2009) and has been respectably maintained throughout. A detailed photo album is HERE!

The Dakota in company with the I-H (a.k.a.

American siblings: The Dakota in company with the I-H (a.k.a. “THERISTIS”).

The 1992 Dodge Dakota LE Space Cab, 4×4 pick-up, 3.9 Lit, V-6 with 180 Hp, very strong air-condition and cruise control, was acquired new by during the ‘Datalogic/Datalex’ era of my career. For many years she served as my only car and I am so obliged to this faithful servant as everything that our summer home in Kea contains have been carried on this pick-up.

She has been meticulously maintained exclusively by the authorized distributor, namely Chrysler-Jeep Hellas S.A.

Nowadays, is only used occasionally for light cargo duties and has been kept all along in a closed garage.

The Dodge Dakota in a befitting setting (Kea island)

The Dodge Dakota in a befitting setting (at Kea island)

With a nice backdrop sceenery

The Dakota with a nice backdrop scenery.

The Dakota interior. The cruise control is much appreciated after all these years!

The Dakota interior. Her cruise control feature is much appreciated after all these years!

Audi A6 Avant, Turbo Quattro 180 hp, 2000.

Nov. 2000 at Executive Cars Show in Athens!

Neat A6 engine bay. Very German & very good!

The A6 Avant Turbo Quattro 180 Hp, Y2K, sparkling in the driveway.

The A6 Avant Turbo Quattro 180 Hp, Y2K, sparkling in the driveway.

A bit on the wild side, here at Agrafa mountains ca. winter '06.

Peugeot 207 Coupe Cabriolet Turbo 150 Hp, 2007.

On D Day 31st May '07. We named her

Especially appreciated in the Greek sunny weather!

for very hot summer days or winter time.

Roof closed: for very hot summer days or winter time.

Modern interior, leather seats and stalk radio control add to the convenience of this zippy CC with 150 horses.

Modern interior, leather seats and stalk radio control add to the convenience of this zippy CC with 150 rather thirsty turbo horses.

Mercedes-Benz GLK 300, 3.0 Lit, 7G-TRONIC, 4MATIC, 2009.

Few extra words befit my new 4-wheeled love affair (Oct. 2009) 🙂

The time ripened in October 2009 for buying a new 4WD car after nine faithful (and happy) years with the Audi A6 Avant Turbo Quattro. The search was on for a mid size luxury SUV. The short list included (besides the GLK) the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60. Comparing feature for feature, influenced by a special price offer campaign by Mercedes-Benz Hellas, made the selection of the GLK (factory code named as X204), almost irresistible. Aside from the rich standard equipment, the additional options selected include: Parktronic, Off-Road exterior look, Sport interior and Alarm package. The 7-speed automatic transmission is standard, which includes a Comfort (C) and a Sport (S) shift mode. The “C” drive mode prioritizes drive smoothness and economy combined with high power reserves. Switching to the “S” mode selects a significantly sportier set-up, with a modified driving strategy and accelerator characteristic curve. The automatic transmission also comes with a manual drive mode (M), complete with shift paddles on the multifunction steering wheel. In addition, the 4MATIC powertrain at the heart of the GLK-Class is one of the most capable all-wheel drive systems on the market, incorporating control systems that set new standards.

The main tech specs of the GLK 300 4MATIC are:

Maximum power [hp @ rpm] 231@ 6000 [170 kW]
Maximum speed [kph] 210
Maximum torque [Nm @ rpm] 300@ 2500-5000
Acceleration 0-100 kph [sec] 7.6
Number of cylinders V6
Displacement [cc] 2996
Fuel tank capacity [l] 66
Fuel consumption [l/100km] 10.2
Kerb/gross vehicle weight rating [kg] 1830/2480
Tyre size front: 235/60 R17;
rear: 235/60 R17
Length/width/height [mm] 4528/1840/1698

Quoting from the M-B official web site, the car’s main features are described as:

The sturdy, robust body of the GLK-Class is more than just the prerequisite for exceptional standards of active and passive safety. It also forms the foundation for the well-balanced vibrational and acoustic comfort, while its lightweight construction helps to reduce the vehicle’s fuel consumption.

The new GLK is, in the true sense of the word, a completely new form of Mercedes. In it, two strong personalities merge to create a vehicle concept which is as distinctive as it is innovative. And yet the new GLK remains true to its roots. Because even though this distinctive off-roader interprets the Mercedes principle in its own unique way, the new GLK above all embodies agility, safety and comfort at the high levels you have the right to expect. And that makes it a typical Mercedes.

The tail rounds off the coherent body design, with the individual styling elements coming together to form a perfectly shaped whole: the rear spoiler prolongs the taut lines of the roof, before bringing the vehicle to a neat conclusion with a continuous spoiler lip.

The absolutely unique design of the new GLK is based on striking lines and represents a bold departure from conventional styling. Distinctive character lines dominate the door areas between the accentuated wheel arches. From the powerful front section to the steep rear, its succinct, angular forms give the GLK a refreshingly self-confident presence which is all the more impressive in view of its compact exterior dimensions.

The “Sport” interior option is coupled with the “Off-Road” exterior look.

AGILITY CONTROL offers even grater driving enjoyment and safety by automatically adjusting the suspension set-up in accordance with the condition of the road. In fact, the AGILITY CONTROL steering and transmission turn the GLK into a real all-rounder which is just as much fun to drive in the city as it is on the open road – or off it. Some of the credits for this must also go to the responsive, high-torque six-cylinder engines.

The line-up begins with the 170 kW (231 hp) GLK 300. Even sportier performance is available from the GLK 350 with its rated output of 200 kW (272 hp). All models are equipped as standard with the optimized 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission.

External Links:

Byron’s new M-B GLK 300 on the day of delivery, 15 Oct 2009! The “7G-TRONIC” Automatic is silky smooth while the permanent 4WD “4MATIC” offers gluey high speed road-holding and respectable grip in off road conditions! The F1 derived “shift paddles” on the steering wheel add fun for spirited driving (with the Sport program selected she catapults ahead at a surprising pace) and are quite helpful on downhills or during red traffic light approaches!

GLiKoula (=Sweetie) during her first “Running-in” 2.300 Km journey, here in Kavala on 28th Oct ’09. The cruise control feature was well appreciated, but the frequent refueling stops sunk in as a costly surprise 😦

First trek to Kea with light off-roading on the Katevati Hill & Route 66! Twin chromed rectangular tail pipes are good looking and roar thunderously on kick-downs!

And finally, few video clips showing the car’s features and performance in on & off road conditions:

GLiKoulis is now a Star Family member!

So I have entered into the Star Family, and have named the car GLiKoula (meaning Sweetie in Greek). By the same token my Mercedes Benz alias is GLiKoulis (sweet man). For Greek readers check the Forum on the site www.clubmercedes.gr.

I am sure that this quality car will offer to us many trouble free kilometers and the enjoyment of long excursions inside and outside of Greece 🙂

____________________________________________________________
The current BER 2-wheel stable includes:
BSA Thunderbolt, 650 cc, 1972

BSA 650 ccThunderbolt (single carb) 1972

BSA Logo-BER BSA Instruments-BER

Vespa PX200E, 1985

Vespa PX200E, 198 cc 2-stroke, 12 hp, kick starting.

Vespa PX200E emblem

The PX200E speedo as the rest of the scooter is due for a refurbish.

Gilera Runner FX125, 1998
The Runner is used exclusively in Kea

The Runner is used exclusively in Kea

gilera-logo-red Runner speedo

BMW 650 Funduro, 1998.

a fun motorcycle, an allarounder good for the city traffic, the dirt island roads and the tarmac.

a reliable machine which I am enjoying since 1998!

In SIFNOS, summer 2005

In SIFNOS, summer 2005

My F-650 at the garage

___________________________________________________________________________________

This past September 2008, I longed to participate in the PHILPA International Rally held in our home island of Samos. But fate had it that I got involved with the very exciting project of the Kea Dive Expedition, hence I had to pass the experience of rallying in Samos with my brother Nikos co-piloting.
But here is a short slide show (with a Barry White music score) from that event, so we do remember it and share it:

37th PHILPA INTERNATIONAL RALLYE SAMOS ISLAND GREECE 2008

_____________________________________________________________________

For my car lover friends, few video clips of famous car chases from older movies:

1/ Wild car chase from the movie: in English : “THE BURGLARS” in French : “LE CASSE” …. ca. 1971 with Jean-Paul Belmondo & Omar Sharif. Also starring a Fiat 125 Special & an Opel Record and many old Athens scenes and cars with the obsolete square type licence plates.

2/ Classic”BULLIT” car chase with the one and only Steve McQueen 🙂

3/ “The French Connection” car chase in NYC! One of the best cop movies of the 70’s with Gene Hackman an d Roy Scheider. This scene a cop tries to keep up with a metro/subway/train.
Directed by: William Friedkin
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey etc.

4/ “Cannonball 1976” -A motley collection of petrolheads compete in an illegal trans-America coast-to-coast car race from Santa Monica, California to downtown New York City.
Starring: Dodge Charger ’68, Ford Mustang ’69, Pontiac Trans Am ’73, DeTomaso Pantera, Lincoln Continental etc. and good old Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Farah Fawcett, Bianca Jagger etc.

5/ “Scent of a Woman” the Ferrari Mondial “blind driving” scene with Al Pacino at his best 👍


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20 comments on “Cars & More

  1. Vyrona,
    You forgot to mention that with the Austin 1800, the “Land-Crab”, you also gave driving lessons to your friends, teaching them to roll down from the “Lagos cave” with the power off! Certainly taught me how to steer and brake! What a time you gave to your poor parents.
    Rena

  2. Βύρωνα καλημέρα,

    Φίλε έχεις πολλά ταλέντα !!!

    Μπράβο σου

    Νίκος Χ

  3. Byron-
    Doing a google search to find Jeff McQueen’s address in Western Massachusetts because I ran into him during the summer of 2008 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. We are having a small gathering in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod (find a map if you need to). Attendees that have expressed an interest include Deek Koven, David Pines, Ron Lindenberg, Peter Genta (contacted but not heard from yet Lenny Jordan) We all met several years ago in this nice small beach town and had a great time. If you are interested and on this side of the big water please come and visit with us…we have accommodations for many.
    Your friend,
    David Agger

  4. Pingback: My Blog: 2010 in review « Byron Riginos Weblog

  5. Byron…. much enjoyed your insanely detailed auto history blog!! You are truly a man possessed/obsessed for all things internally combusted 🙂

    My faves of your current stable… the citroen that looks like a 1930’s era gangster car, and the lovely vespa….

    (my own automotive tastes so exceed my means that I just admire the toys of others…… )

    • Thanks Chris!

      U R absolutely right. The obsession is since early childhood, almost DNA-tional, hence I cannot escape it 🙂
      The Citroen is very special indeed, as is a completely original (never restored or repainted; just properly maintained and with only about 50,000 miles). The design is from the early 1930’s.
      The Vespa will be restored during the current year.

  6. Βύρωνα,
    Βλέπω ότι είχαμε αρκετές κοινές εμπειρίες από τά μικρά μας χρόνια. Εγώ έμαθα νά οδηγώ σέ μία STUDEBAKER CHAMPION V8. Τήν είχε αγοράσει ο πατέρας μου από έναν Αμερικάνο τής Αποστολής πού γύριζε πίσω στήν πατρίδα του. Αρχισα καί εγώ νά πλένω τό αυτοκίνητο στόν διάδρομο τού γκαράζ καί νά τό πηγαίνω μπρός-πίσω. Εκείνη τήν εποχή μένανε στό Ψυχικό πολλοί Αμερικανοί πού είχανε φρουρούς χωροφύλακες, μέ τούς οποίους καί είχα άριστες σχέσεις. Πρέπει νά αρχισα νά οδηγώ γύρω στά δέκα μου χρόνια. Στήν αρχή έβλεπα κάτω από τό τιμόνι καί μέ τά χρόνια έβλεπα κανονικά. Κάθε μεσημέρι λοιπόν έπαιρνα τόν χωροφύλακα τής γειτονιάς (άλλο πού δέν ήθελε καί αυτός) καί πηγαίναμε βόλτες. Ποιός θά μέ σταμάταγε τότε μέ χωροφύλακα “συνοδηγό” ?? Ευτυχώς δέν είχα κανένα ατύχημα, όμως νομίζω ότι οδηγώντας τότε χωρίς δίπλωμα, έπρεπε νά έχουμε τά μάτια μας 14 καί νομίζω αυτό μάς βοήθησε στήν εν γένει συμπεριφιρά μας στόν δρόμο μέχρι σήμερα.
    Είχα καί εγώ Raleigh μέ εσωτερικές ταχύτητες καί εσωτερικό δυναμό, καί γύρω στά 20 είχα μία δίχρονη KAWASAKI 350. Φοβερή μηχανή, αλλά έπασχε στά φρένα (ταμπούρα μπρός-πίσω).
    Διαβάζοντας τίς ιστορίες σου, μέ έφερες πολλά χρόνια πίσω καί σέ ευχαριστώ.

    • Ωραιότατα! Οι βίοι παράλληλοι έχουν την αξία τους! Έχω τόσες πολλές ωραίες αναμνήσεις και ιστορίες από τα παιδικά μας χρόνια και όσο βρίσκω χρόνο θα τις καταγράφω σιγά-σιγά. Για την Austin-Healey, ναι εγώ την αγόρασα από τον Νίκο Σινούρη και εκείνος αν δεν κάνω λάθος την είχε αγοράσει από τον Βασιλάτο.

      • Βύρωνα χαζεύω τις ωραίες ιστορίες με τα αυτοκίνητά σου , οι οποίες με πάνε πολλά χρόνια πίσω . Όντως την Austin- Healey την αγόρασε ο Σινούρης από τον φίλο και γείτονά μου στην Εκάλη , τον Βασίλη Βασιλάτο . Είχαμε κάνει με την Austin – Healey την δεκαετία του 70 ωραίες βόλτες με πολλές επιτυχίες !!!
        Γιάννης Χρυσοσπάθης

      •  Σε ευχαριστω Γιαννη, αν εχεις καποια φωτο της Healey απο τα χρονια εκεινε, στειλε μου! 🙂

      • Ευχαριστώ Γιάννη! Μήπως υπάρχει κάποια φωτογραφία της Healey από την εποχή εκείνη; Αν ναι, στείλε μου 🙂

  7. Ξέχασα νά σού πώ ότι θυμάμαι πολύ καλά τήν κόκκινη Austin Healey όταν τήν οδηγούσε ακόμη ο Νίκος Σινούρης. Υπήρχαν άλλες 2 εκείνη τήν εποχή. Μία τού Βασίλη Βασιλάτου καί άλλη μία είχε ή Agnes Κουρτάκη (νομίζω τήν έτρεχε καί σέ Rally η ίδια !!)

  8. Pingback: Αναμνήσεις από τα παιδικά χρόνια #1: Η 2η μου κατάρριψη με το…κλεμμένο αυτοκίνητο του Πατέρα μου… | The Classic Car Center of Greece-3CG

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