We drove the New Beetle Peace & Love 1.2 TSI : an icon of pure joy…

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We all love icons, as they are part of our times. The beetle is such a four wheeled icon. Volkwagen gave it even a new life with the New Beetle, which appealed also to many new drivers who never owned the original one. And now it has coupled this New Beetle, which is in its second generation already, to another iconic era, when flower power and its lifestyle conquered the world. The result is a car which turns heads, and wins your (and our) hearts… Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We visited the Oro Tempo show in Brussels: watches and jewellery for car lovers…

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The end of year festivities are approaching fast, and therefore it is high time that we bring you some suggestions to spoil you and your partner or spouse with memorable and timeless gifts. So when Pascal Dewulf, press and communication officer of the Oro Tempo show at the Heysel, invited us to attend the event, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

This report marks also the start of a regular column on the lifestyle section of our site, where we will report regularly on watches, jewellery, and all the finer things which enhance your personal style.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the BMW 520D: combining sportiness and refinement to perfection…

 

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The BMW 5 series have a long tradition of being formidable driving machines, being equally at home on urban boulevards as well as fast Autobahnen. They offer comfort, driving pleasure, style and elegance, and last but not least spoil you with superb build quality, excellent workmanship and frugal longevity. All these qualities we find back with even more purity in the latest edition of the BMW 5 series. Honed to perfection, this new 5 series is a proud pleasure to drive and own. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the all new Ford Fiesta: more than ever a feast behind the wheel…

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Ford presented its all new Fiesta for us in front of a charming chateau in ST-Line, Vignale and Titanium versions… 

Ford’s long awaited successor of its class winning supermini has finally hit our roads, and we were personally invited at a classy chateau to sample first driving impressions. Ford has always had a formidable card up its sleeve with the Fiesta. It has been successful for 40 years now, and the previous Fiesta remained throughout its full eight production years always near the top of its class.

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Competition in this segment is fierce however, with contenders offering ever more cabin refinement, driving aid and connectivity electronics. Time for Ford to catch up here with its latest Fiesta. The result is truly impressive. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Further motoring pleasures: driving our New Beetle Cabrio through the Alps and Italian Riviera…

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…we attacked the highest alpine route in Europe, the Col de la Bonette –Restefond, reaching an altitude of 2802 meters…

Faithful readers know we are the happy owners, for quite a few years now, of a gleaming black New Beetle Cabrio, as one can read on our previous website www.autoprova.net.

It sits well garaged in our holiday house, and therefore bears a French license plate. It has a supersmooth 1,4 liter 75 HP petrol engine, and offers very refined progress. This year, we decided to take it on an extended alpine tour and drive it also to Ventimiglia for a family visit resulting also in quite a few culinary delights.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Sweet memories, and some very famous signatures…

 

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When moving automobilia to our house in the French Midi, we (re)discovered a large frame with a table napkin in it filled with signatures. My father had kept it carefully, and had commented it. What a unique memory it proved to be. It now has a very special place in our French maison de pierre, where it is displayed on an old stone wall. Indeed, it was a table napkin, which my father carefully lifted from the table at the celebration dinner of the (re)opening of the renovated Nürburgring on May 12, 1984.

“This napkin, my dear son, will make history”, he said with a solemn expression. “Look at the people here. They embody the history of motor sport, and soon, some of them will not be here anymore. So we now pass this napkin around and let them all sign it”. A brilliant idea.  Here it is, and dear readers, I want to share it on my site with you.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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One has to read the napkin clockwise from the right side above. It starts with Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the legendary Mercedes development engineer, responsible for designing the revolutionary pre-war W 25 Mercedes Grand Prix Car,which he further developed into the W 125. He designed and engineered all the post war Mercedes Grand Prix cars of the fifties, and then the 300 SL and SLR, amongst others. Below it, one finds Juan Manuel Fangio, then Alain Prost and Carlos Reutteman.

Then follows Hermann Lang, the legendary pre-war Grand Prix driver, and Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg and former Mercedes Benz Museum Director Von Pein. Then the former President Director of Mercedes Benz, Dr. Werner Breitschwert, and Eugen Böhringer, the man who won the Monte Carlo Rallye in the Mercedes 220 SE “Heckflossen” limousines, and the 1963 edition of the grueling Luik-Sofia-Luik rallye in the then just launched Mercedes “Pagode” 230 SL.

Then comes Karl Kling, member of the famous pre-war Mercedes GP team, followed by Alan Jones, Formula 1 World Champion in 1980, and the second Australian to do so following triple World Champion Sir Jack Brabham.  Alan competed in a total of 117 Grand Prix, winning 12 and achieving 24 podium finishes. In 1978 Jones won the Can-Am championship driving a Lola. Then follows John Watson, third in the F1 championship in 1982, now a commentator in the Blancpain GT series. Last but not least James Hunt, F1 World Champion in 1976, who then became a famous F 1 commentator at the BBC and unfortunately died from a heart attack aged 45. He was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame on 29 January 2014.

Then there is Ewy Rosqvist-von Korff, the legendary female driver who won the East African Safari in a Mercedes 220 SE, Jack Brabham, twice F1 World Champion, John Surtees, F1 Word Champion in 1964 and Jodi Scheckter, F1 World Champion with Ferrari in 1964.

Needless to say, I cherish this napkin, and hope it will last generations…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Holiday delights: we drove our Volvo to the French Midi…

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Driving through the scenic valley of the Doubs, home region of the famous painter Gustave Courbet, here parked in front of an old brick manufactory. 

Our faithful Volvo 850 has some busy times lately. After the Swedish trip, it was time to take it to France, enjoying it driving through historic towns and mountain passes. The Volvo needed little preparation. Oil consumption is nil, so no topping up was necessary. We just had the rear windscreen wiper changed, and that was it. We already mentioned we had the car cleaned, with some more thorough valeting of the interior. Of course we were careful to check the tire pressures before the trip. Here follows our (travel) story…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Inside beautiful Besançon, cars are prevented from reaching the city centre…

With our faithful TomTom set up, we headed south, and decided to have a first stop at Besançon. We were so fortunate to have the good idea to avoid Luxembourg completely and drive from Brussels via Longwy, immediately entering France. Driving leisurely at the legal speed limits, which were mostly set at 110 km/h, consumption hovered between 7 and 8 liters of 95 octane fuel. Of course it runs sweetly on the new formulated “Euro” 95 fuel, Volvo’s can do this since…1977! Being totally in the holiday mood, we decided to stay on the Routes Nationales after Nancy. It proved to be quite a relaxing drive indeed, appreciating the good quality of the RN’s, well maintained and usually in excellent condition.

We had booked a fine hotel in the historic centre of Besançon, which is a stunning renaissance town with Vauban defense walls around it.

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Unfortunately, a “braderie” or flea market was going on in the centre at the moment of our arrival, and the hotel proved that day totally inaccessible by car. In our modest opinion, European and National politicians are eager to make city centre’s car free, but then fail to provide adequate provisions for tourists who happen to have luggage and are not 19 year old athletes. So gentlemen politicians, why not provide for the unfortunate few hotel owners who are the victims of these draconic,  albeit temporary measures, a couple of nice electric golf cars with the city logo on it, which can be used as luggage shuttles? Or some healthy young students? Now the poor hotel owner, manifestly going literally a (very) long way to satisfy his clients, came personally to haul our luggage on his shoulders and carry it a few hundred meters to his fine hotel. We suggested he should have a good conversation with his mayor. The local politicians should provide solutions for their hotel businesses for these special days when the city centre is locked off for a special event. “C’est l’Europe”,  the hotel owner answered. Well, it is not. Europe issues a directive with aims to alleviate the city centre’s from car traffic, but it leaves the national authorities and local politicians the free choice on the ways and means to implement it.

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It must be said that the overnight tariffs for the parking house in the city centre are very low indeed, and that the next morning the hotel was totally accessible by car, once the flea market was over. Here you see our Volvo parked in front of the Hotel Vauban the next morning. Loading the luggage proved a breeze…

We had the same problem in the historic centre of Ventimiglia, but that is another story, of which more later…

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The fortified city of Besançon offers some stunning perspectives…

The next day, we set our sails to Ornans, the birthplace of Gustave Courbet. A smaller characteristic town, dubbed “Venice of the North” as it has the Loue running through it. He painted with love the region around this town, in the valley of the Doubs, and indeed it is beautiful.

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Our Volvo was in very good company on the market square of Ornans, with an Alpine Berlinette parked next to it, which was taking part in a local “Rally des Doubs”.

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We drove through the impressive “Forêt de la Joux” or the forest of the Joux via Champagnole to Les Rousses,

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and then went on to Gex via the magnificent Col de la Faucille, which offers truly stunning views on the Lac Léman.

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Of course, Geneva and the magnificent view from the Col de la Faucille was tempting us, see the photo below,

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but we stopped short of it and visited Ferney Voltaire, where the château of the famous French philosopher Voltaire offered us a grand view over its gardens, with Geneva in the background. Certainly a magnificent backdrop for all the philosophical thoughts one might have…

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From there on, it was heading further to our holiday house, via Grenoble and Valence.

There our Volvo was happy to meet its brothers, amongst others the shining black New Beetle Cabrio, which was taking us further around during our holiday in the French Midi, and driving us through the Alps to the Italian Riviera and back, but that is another story. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Kia Optima GT: the delights of sportiness

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If you think that in today’s traffic and driving conditions not much fun is to be had with a car that has a zest of sportiness, than just get behind the wheel of this Optima GT. The Korean designers have made their homework to put a broad smile on your face…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Julien Mampaey passed away: our very personal memories…

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A formidable figure in Belgian motor sport has recently left us. We have known him for a very long time. Actually, when I lived with my parents as a young law student, I was the happy and proud owner of a dark blue second hand beetle, and Julien Mampaey serviced it with dedication.

He owned a small Esso service station at the corner of the Fruithoflaan in Berchem, Antwerp; right across our apartment, and I came to appreciate his mechanical talents. But I was also struck by his generous enthusiasm, and soon we embarked in hours long conversations about cars, me telling him bold stories about fast rally and racing cars, as I went with my father often to the Zolder circuit to see the races there. I entertained him with my stories, when I needed an hour or so break from my studies, and he was listening with awe while of course he continued to work and service the cars for his clients. His interest was awakened, and I decided to coach him somewhat more and gave him copies of the German magazine “Auto Motor & Sport”, which he read feverishly after a hard day’s work in a nice warm bath.

He devoured then everything there was to know about Alpina BMW’s, which were then all the rage. His eyes lightened up when he told enthusiastically about what he had read. Soon his gold metallic 1100 cc Renault 8 Major had to go. In its place came an orange second hand BMW 2002, with matt black accents around the bonnet. He decided to test his talents, go to Zolder and race it. “I put one litre of oil more in the sump than prescribed, so the engine gets oil in the corners”, he said proudly. He made its first successes, got bitten by the bug, and the rest of the story is well known.

There we the glorious victories of the Juma team in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 hours, which his team won in 1977, 1982 and 1983.  One one of these victorious races, I vividly remember a pitstop where quick work had to be done on the engine. I stood in the Juma  pits, was very close to the action. Actually, the radiator was leaking and had to be replaced. Not a second was to be lost. Of course, no easy thing on a red hot racing engine. Here, the immense bravery and commitment of Julien Mampaey clearly showed. With boiling water splashing all around, he grabbed the radiator both hands, then unbolted the hoses together with the other mechanics. He gave the brave example, as a true team leader should.  He didn’t hesitate to come very close to the red hot exhaust manifold too. The job was done in no time, the engine growled again, and the car shot away from the pits, towards victory.

He had started the JUMA team up in 1975, and raced right away to victory with a 530iUS. The name of the team got even more famous when in 1998 his son Bart Mampaey achieved the last victory for BMW in the touring car championship at the wheel of a BMW 320i. Bart had then founded already his own R(acing)B(art) M(ampaey)  racing team. Julien Mampaey and his team had also won the Belgian Championship with the BMW 535i, with Jean-Michel Martin, the father of Maxim at the wheel. Today, Maxim drives as a BMW Motorsport pilot in the BRM team of…Bart Mampaey.

Julien Mampaey was a man of passion, with a generous heart, which he devoted to cars and motorsport, to family and friends.

His daughter Pascal, which I remember as a small child in the Esso shop, now runs the succesful BMW JUMA concession in Mechelen together with her husband Gunther Van Lent. It is heartwarming to see the work of this valiant man continued, and his name living on.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

Driving a youngtimer on long holiday trips…an undisturbed joy!

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Our Volvo standing proudly before the Cathedral in Danish Roskilde…

Many people looked at us with some amazement: driving your 22 year old car for thousands of kilometers, all the way to Scandinavia and back? With no further preparation than just ordinary maintenance? Just step in and go?  We were also anxiously asked about fuel consumption, and the need to take on spare parts. Well, as you guessed form our previous reports, this trip proved to be actually great fun, and was a very relaxing and comfortable experience too.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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