We drove the Fiat 500 L: your perfect travel companion

The stylish 500 L in front of the Amphitheatre in Nîmes…

We were always quite charmed by the clever rounded shape and styling of the Fiat 500 L. Its curves and lines are drawn by Italian designers which have an uncanny genial talent to hit those ideal, timeless proportions. Indeed, this compact people carrier will still hit the tune of the times within say, fifteen or twenty years. It came to us this time with a restyled front end, clad in charming Donatello bronze metallic and a black gleaming roof which sported a large glass panorama ceiling. We took it on an extensive continental tour through France, and it filled our car loving hearts with joy, every meter we drove it…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne: A genial automotive manager has passed away…

 

He was born in Chieti, on the Italian Adriatic coast, as the son of a carabiniere or state police officer, on June 17, 1952. His father was a wise man, with a keen sense of money and savings, and he had invested enough to retire early. He decided to give his family a bright future in Canada. When young Sergio was 14, they moved across the ocean to Toronto.

His studies gave him a broad view…

Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of FCA, was not altogether a pure “auto” person, rather on the contrary. This prepared him to become an outstanding manager. Just look at what he studied. He started at the University of Toronto with philosophy, earned himself a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, and finally obtained a law degree in 1983 at the Osgoode Hall of York University. He began his career as … a tax specialist.

Luca De Meo, CEO Fiat Automobiles, and Sergio Marchionne, then CEO Fiat Group Automobiles, with the Fiat 500 (2007)

Broad business experience made him an ideal crisis manager…

This keen sense for numbers and figures made him the ideal manager to work out successful turnarounds and save companies from the brink. He moved to a metals trading firm and was also very successful in a trade services company. A broad experience in trading and business together with an excellent mastery of English, French and Italian gave him many possibilities, and having forged himself an enviable reputation of a crisis manager, he was spotted by the Agnelli family, seen as the right person on the right place to save the ailing Fiat company. The fact that he had a broad non-automotive experience was rather seen as an asset. He was appointed CEO of Fiat in 2004, and started with the necessary reforms to lighten the debt burden as soon as possible. He knew soon enough about the existing deal between G.M. and Fiat, and first tried to force G.M. into purchasing Fiat. General Motors had other plans, so Marchionne obtained 2 billion USD in compensation from G.M. to allow them to step out of the alliance. Money he put to good use to rejuvenate the model range, with the 500 being the all-time star.

Mike Manley and Sergio Marchionne with the new Jeep Renegade (09/2014)

A second success with Chrysler/Jeep…

Marchionne knew that automakers with global ambitions also need to have a solid base in the US market, and amidst the 2008 crisis he made clear to the US Treasury that he would be prepared to take control of Chrysler and revive it using the excellent state of the art Fiat group technology he had at his disposal.

He also knew very well that the Chrysler creditors and unions were putting hard pressure on the US Treasury, so he decided to up the ante to the beleaguered US government to ask them to hand over Chrysler to him… for free.

He succeeded, and the good results are known to everybody. Especially the dramatic turnaround of Jeep made the FCA Group now a profitable giant.

He was planning to retire in 2019, but fate has decided otherwise, as a result of unexpected complications after a shoulder surgery on July 5.

Fate has it too that his last official public appearance on last June 26, was to hand over in Rome at a ceremony in the grounds of the Carabinieri High Command, in the presence of Commander-in-Chief Giovanni Nistri, the liveried Jeep Wrangler.(see the accompanying photo).

He is succeeded by Mike Manley, (see photo above),  the head of Fiat Chrysler’s North America operations and its Jeep and Ram truck brands.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

A feast for the senses: we visited BMW Artville in Knokke

BMW’s very first Art Car which also actually raced: the BMW 3.0 CSL created by Alexander Calder… 

Summer is the time to let the creative spirits flow, and enjoy nature and art. An ideal time to regenerate body and mind. Besides enjoying the outdoors, enriching experiences like a visit to exhibitions and art galleries are always firmly on the agenda of your servant. Therefore a visit to the BMW Artville in Knokke (see our previous report in these columns) was a must, and we let you enjoy it here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jan Fabre takes centre stage…

An “autoportrait”  sculpture of Jan Fabre himself adorns the BMW Artville beach…

As we announced already in our previous report, artist Jan Fabre showed a very intriguing “performance” film, displayed on five different screens simultaneously, titled “Schande übers ganze Erdenreich”. The performance of priestess Stella Höttler is very gripping indeed. For photos of this performance film we refer to our previous report in these columns. The two turtles she carries in both hands during her ecstatic performances are for Jan Fabre the “oracle stones” because their shields carry the weight and the memory of centuries. Especially the shield is an object of fascination that breathes life into dream images. The shield and its geometric patterns were already used in the Oracle of Delphi…

A landmark on the Knokke beach: BMW Artville 

In this performance, “Schande übers ganze Erdenreich”, the perforer implores the gods to teach mankind to treat the inheritance of the world more kindly.

Jan Fabre is fascinated by the relations man-animal and animal-man and by the analogy in their nomadic nature. As an artist, he wants to put into language the mystery of the cycle of death, decay, birth and renaissance. In this quest, he uses as his inner compass the synergy between his personal instinct, intelligence and intuition. He constantly searches the changing face of existence.

This is also seen in his series of fourteen new skulls, clad in ballpoint ink, which hold the skeletons of a bird or animal in their mouth. It evokes the “Blue Hour” of Jean-Henri Fabre, where at daybreak the blue night is chased away. Just as the night is eternally changed into day, life is also a constant stream of (re)birth and death.

‘BMW Artville – Jan Fabre curated by BOZAR’ announces two future projects of the artist in BOZAR. “Schande übers Ganze Erdenreich!” takes place in the framework of the Theodoor van Loon exhibition (December 2018-January 2019). The art works from the cycle “The Hour Blue” are the harbinger of Fabre’s solo exhibition “The years of the Hour Blue” (May-September 2021).

The BMW Art Car Collection

On BMW Artville, BMW Belux presents two cars from the BMW ART CAR Collection. We stood admiringly eye to eye with the BMW 3.0 CSL created by Alexander Calder (1975).

Alexander Calder’s design was executed by car painting specialist W. Maurer…

Using the creativity of an artist on a (racing) car was the brainchild of racing driver, art lover and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who actually raced this car in Le Mans, together with the American Sam Posey and Jean Guichet. After 7 hours, the car had to give up due to a defective prop shaft. The car was never raced again and has been on diplay since then.

The unique collection of BMW Art Cars consists today of 19 cars, designed by the following artists: Alexander Calder (1975), Roy Lichtenstein (1976), Frank Stella (1977), Andy Warhol (1979), Ernst Fuchs (1982), Robert Rauschenberg (1986), Ken Done (1989), Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989), Matazo Kayama (1990), César Manrique (1990), A.R. Penck (1991), Esther Mahlangu (1991), Sandro Chia (1992), David Hockney (1995), Jenny Holzer (1999), Olafur Eliasson (2007), Jeff Koons (2010), John Baldessari (2016) en Cao Fei with her BMW M6 GT3.(2017). Artists for the BMW Art Car Project are chosen by a panel of international judges.

According to Thomas Girst, who has been in charge of the BMW Art Cars project since 2004, the purpose of the project has changed over time: “In the beginning the cars were raced. There wasn’t much of a public relations effort around them… Since then, some of the Art Cars have been used in advertisements to show that BMW is a player in the arts.”

Besides the stunning i8 roadster, BMW Belux Corporate Communications Officer Saschia De Rudder kindly showed us two forthcoming BMW models in preview, which formed also a highlight of this artful experience on the sunny Knokke beach and stylish BMW Artville premises… We just let you enjoy the photos here!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

120 years of Renault is celebrated this summer at Brussels Autoworld.

If you visit Brussels this summer, know that Europe’s capital has something in store for car lovers. Indeed, the Brussels Museum Autoworld has opened its doors every day of the week until September 2 to show you the magnificent history of Renault.

Pre-war glory: A 1937 4,1 litre 6 cylinder Vivasport… just dream away behind this sporting version of the Renault Vivastella sedan

We were present at the opening reception, and show you here some photos of the formidable and iconic cars which are on display, and we lift a brief veil on their history…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Jeep Camp in Austria was a legendary feast for 1,200 enthusiasts

We got acquainted with the Jeep Camp in Austria at the presentation of the new Wrangler. It proved also to be the ideal setting for the key event for the Jeep® Owners Group (J.O.G.) held in Austria on the weekend of July 15, attracting massive participation from all across Europe. More than 1,200 Jeep enthusiasts and 600 vehicles came together to confirm the special bond that exists between the Jeep brand and its fans. We can understand them. The Jeep bug bit us too at the presentation behind the wheel of the Wrangler…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Magnetti Marelli: the breathtaking story of automotive genius…

At the presentation of the latest Jeep Wrangler in Austria, we had an elegant and interesting conversation with Cristina Calasso, Marketing Communication Product Marketing at Magneti Marelli, who lifted for us a veil of the magnificent activities and interesting history of Magneti Marelli, a company which stood at the cradle of the automobile.

A Marelli Magneto built in the ’20s. 

She brought us also into contact with her colleague, press contact Maurizio Scrignari, and we subsequently asked him more about the history and growth of the company. So watch out in our column for more about all this soon…

Magneti Marelli is now an important producer with headquarters in Reutlingen, Germany, dedicated to the development, production and sale of automotive exterior lighting products for all major OEMs worldwide. 

All this fits into a new and interesting path we want to walk with you dear reader, into the world of the supplier’s industry. We all know that supplier firms co-engineer and make (up) more than 50 % of our modern cars, yet we pay only scant attention to them. All the more reason to open for you these new horizons on our coveted site.

In this column we start with telling you somewhat more about the actual involvement of Magneti Marelli in the engineering and production of the latest generation Jeep Wrangler…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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A cutting-edge (art)experience in Knokke: BMW Artville

 

The city of Knokke-Heist, BOZAR and BMW strongly believe in the importance of beauty, the power of technology and the impact of art. Together they had the desire to create a place where all of this comes together. In an exceptional location and in a special setting, they invite thousands of people each year to be inspired by the work of a renowned artist, unique and much-discussed. It is the ambition to create an intriguing edition every year that warmly enchants and surprises the visitor and grows into a reference and fixed appointment in your summer agenda. In this unique and exclusive setting, visitors can also enjoy delicious tapas and a glass of wine or soft drink in addition to art.

This first edition BOZAR takes up its curatorship by putting none less than Jan Fabre at the heart of BMW ARTVILLE, the most versatile and surprising living artist in Belgium. BMW ARTVILLE immediately fulfills its central promise: ‘a cutting-edge experience’.

Just come and see it all, at BMW Artville, at the beach just in front of the casino of Knokke-Heist, from July 13 until August 26.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The genius who designed the D Type Auto Union: Robert Eberan von Eberhorst

We treat you this time, dear reader, on a following story about famous men who changed motorsport and/or made such an important contribution to the development of the automobile, that the automotive world has never been the same again since then. Such a man was the Austrian nobleman Robert Eberan von Eberhorst. He made his mark as a formidable engineer not only before WW2, but also throughout the war and also in the fifties, and one of his post-war creations, the Aston Martin DB3 sports racing car, is still raced in historic sporting events, right until this day…

But there is so much more, just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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All is well again with our BMW Z3…

Ready again for beautiful drives in summer Sunshine… 

At the moment of writing, the experts at BMW Jorssen made a swift and expert repair and brought again a broad smile on our face: we are enjoying again undisturbed roadster pleasure in this magnificent summer weather we are having presently.

We suspected rightly some troubles with the master and/or slave cylinder, and we were rather optimistic in believing that bleeding of the system might solve the problems, but alas, when all hydraulic pressure is lost in the system, most of the time more serious things are amiss.

A broken and leaking FAG-made clutch slave cylinder was at fault… 

The experts at Jorssen soon discovered that the clutch slave cylinder was indeed badly leaking and faulty. This slave cylinder is attached with two nuts on the transmission and actuates the clutch. It is manufactured by FAG, which actually belongs to the Schaeffler Group. The FAG brand dates from 1905 and stands for “Fishers Aktien-Gesellschaft.”

The clutch slave cylinder is bolted with two nuts on the tranmission… 

The two brothers Wilhelm and Georg Schaeffler who founded in 1946 INA in Herzogenaurach, took over FAG in 2002 and their firm now has grown to a worldwide giant – the second largest producer of needle bearings in the world – and manufactures amongst other things precision parts like needle bearings, hydraulic valve lifters, hydraulic variable valve timing systems. Did you know that the London Millennium Wheel (also called the London Eye), runs on two massive frictionless bearings made by FAG?

In 2003 LuK (clutches), INA and FAG form the “Schaeffler Group”. It is actually the largest German company which is still exclusively family owned.

But back to our BMW Z3. Because of the leakage, it was feared that some oil would have leaked on the clutch, but I never noticed anything indicating this, and indeed, fortunately the clutch functions perfectly and very progressively.

When the slave cylinder is removed, (see the two loose bolts) one sees clearly the hole where the cylinder is lodged, and where it pushes the clutch in open position with its pin. When mounting this cylinder, one has to be careful that this pin is perfectly centered

The repair bill was very reasonable indeed, with only 20,8 Euros charged for actually removing the old and mounting the new pump, with most of the work – costing almost 89 Euros – being involved in bleeding the hydraulic clutch system. The FAG slave cylinder itself set us back some 129 Euros. We indicate here that these prices here are ex VAT, so 21 % VAT had to be added.

Of course, the hydraulic brake fluid – DOT4 spec- was replaced, as the hydraulic system of the clutch takes its hydraulic fluid from the brake reservoir, and the people at Jorssen was even were so meticulous to also top up  coolant and windscreen spray fluid reservoirs.

The car was repaired in a day, so needless to say we were very pleased with the very swift service.

We will keep you posted, dear reader, on the further life of our Z3, and in the meantime we plan to contact the press officer in our country of the Schaeffler Group, with some questions about service life and eventual maintenance of their FAG clutch slave cylinders… we are very curious indeed!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

Our cars: clutch problems with our BMW Z3…

Our Z3 was towed to BMW Dealer Jorssen with a non functioning clutch…

A torn muscle prevented us for a while to drive our BMW Z3, and with things now having been cured after a necessary rest, it was now time for driver and car to take an exercise run again and flex our legs…

On another shakedown tour we noticed already that the gear changes were a bit difficult, and we decided to have another test today. Startup and the first kilometers were flawless, but at a roundabout the clutch refused all functions, and the pedal had a light, “dead” feeling, meaning indeed that the clutch did not separate at all anymore and hydraulic pressure was lost in the system, with the result that changing gears proved impossible.

It so happed (luck has it) that we were quite close – at walking distance – to the Jorssen dealer where we had brought the Z3 last time to have rubber items replaced and our glove box lock repaired, and so we went there, to hear that they provided no towing service. Fortunately, we are booked at KBC Bank Assistance Service, and they provided swift, kind and efficient help. They brought the car to BMW Jorssen, where it now awaits repair…

Most probably it will be necessary bo bleed the clutch system, as air in the clutch hydraulics can make the system quite stubborn to function, it at all. Bleeding the slave cylinder might do it, pushing in the piston manually with the bleeder valve open, then close it, let the piston come out again totally, then push again, open the bleeder and watch the hydraulic fluid come out. Repeat this several times, and resistance will increase, (which you will feel in your clutch pedal) until the air is out and the system is bleeded.

We will see what the experts will tell us! Of course, we will keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel