We spoke with Jean-Francois Bernaerts, Director Customer & Business Development of D’Ieteren Group about Wondercar

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We spoke with Jean-Marie Bernaerts: we want to make Wondercar the first point of call for the private customer… 

After the swift and professional repair of our faithful Volvo, we got very intrigued about the Wondercar bodywork repair concept. Reason enough for an interview…Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We had our Volvo 850 repaired at Wondercar…

 

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Barely visible from a distance, but in need for repair, and therefore we drove our fiathful 850 to the professional repair booths at Wondercar Zaventem… 

It all happens in an automotive life. The little pole on the kerb one doesn’t see. The front door on the right side of our faithful 1995 Volvo 850 took the little blow. A dent on the lower end of the door was the result.

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So we needed a bodywork shop which specializes in small repairs, and soon we found the right address: Wondercar in Zaventem…

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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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

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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A tale of men, women and cars: the Volvo people at Torslanda…

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The communication manager of the factory, Anneli Ericsson, introduced us to the man and women we interviewed, and we admired her for her kind, meticulous professionalism, as much as we are also grateful to Annika Bjerstaf, Editor and Press manager of Volvo Car Corporation, who accompanied us also during the visit and offered us together with her colleague the “surprise” to take our 850 on the assembly line. 

We start off here with a new series on our site, focusing on the human element. For cars are first and foremost a creation of man. A result of human ingenuity, creativity, talent and last but not least  craftsmanship. So we decided to put this all forward. We start here with a portrait of the people we met at Sweden’s largest factory, Volvo Torslanda, close to the beautiful city of Gothenburg, brimming with industry and quality of life.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Our 850 Volvo visits the Swedish Torslanda factory, and is driven on the assembly line!

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Editor and Press manager of Volvo Car Corporation Annika Bjerstaf photographs our Volvo 850 on the Torslanda plant assembly line…

The trip to Sweden with our faithful Volvo 850 proved to be a wonderful, comfortable and restful experience, and leaves us with many sweet memories, which we will present to you in various reports. But first of all, the highlight of our trip: the visit to the Volvo Torslanda factory, near Gothenburg. We were received by Editor and Press manager of Volvo Car Corporation Annika Bjerstaf and her colleague, communication manager of the factory, Anneli Ericsson. They had prepared a magnificent surprise for us…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The new XC60 is now rolling off the assembly line in Torslanda…

They showed us proudly the facilities and the finishing line of the cars built in Sweden’s largest workplace. The production now includes for instance the second generation XC90 and the latest XC60, which rolled off the production line for the first time in April 26 this year. The XC60 is the fourth model based on Volvo’s in-house developed SPA vehicle architecture, following the introduction of the top-of-the-line 90 series in recent years. SPA actually stands for Scalable Product Architecture. No doubt, we will tell you more about this and present and drive the new models for you soon.

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…and so was our 850! 

Production shows state of the art techniques, as you can expect. Bodywork welding is of course fully robotized. The paint shop is one of the most modern in the world.

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Here you see Ms. Anneli Ericsson on the left, introducing Lena Nihlmar to the right, one of the factory employees having worked two decades ago in Torslanda on the 850. Soon more about her working experiences then and now in a following report…

Miss Annika Bjerstaf and Anneli Ericsson had organized meetings with factory colleagues who had worked in the Torslanda plant at the time the 850 was built. We will present them soon in a following report, where we will tell you also more about Volvo’s human centered production techniques. They will appear as proud premieres in our new series “men, women and cars”, shaping and creating our automotive world.

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But this was not all. “We will take your car inside the factory”, said Anneli Ericsson, with a meaningful smile on her face. She asked me for the keys, and drove it inside. “Sorry, you will still have to wait a bit here, as the car is very wet and dripping. Just a few minutes patience.” But soon enough she asked me to sit on the passenger seat of my faithful Volvo, only to see a charming Volvo employee getting behind the wheel, and… drive it on the production line behind a sparkling V90!

We just show you the film below, as indeed, we did not believe our eyes: our 22 year old Volvo on the production line in the Torslanda plant! Here follows the link:

Actually, this was also a first for the Swedish plant, as the station wagon version of the 850 was exclusively built in Ghent. Only the sedan version of the 850 was being built in Torslanda.

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It brought sweet memories to the older employees on the production line, and awe and surprise to the younger ones, with one of the younger women on the line responsible for inspection of the flush fitting of the doors also performing a quick checkup on our 850!

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As the car was then carefully driven off the line, we met with Lucinda Dimiz, one of the women who was responsible for finishing the doors on the 850 at the Torslanda plant. As one of the covers of the illuminated reflector lights inside the rear doors had gotten loose, this was a job miss Dimiz could tackle with ease, we thought. I quickly grabbed the loose cover out of the centre console where I had carefully kept it, and yes, and she installed it again on our Volvo 850 in the proverbial few seconds. “When I took the cover in my hand, I immediately remembered again how to fit it”, she said with a broad smile.  Thumbs up, as you see on the accompanying photos…

Soon more about the Torslanda plant and is people, which I will present further in the new series. But the tale of this wonderful production line experience surprise had to come first!

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Our Volvo in front of the Torslanda factory, ready for a further thrip through Sweden, before heading home…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We start the trip with our 1995 Volvo 850 from Ghent to Torslanda…

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We start our trip in front of the doors of the Ghent Volvo car factory…

We begin on our journey to Sweden with our faithful 850, and first of all we drove to the birthplace of our still quite pristine 850. We met at the Ghent factory with Marc De Mey, Manager PR and Communications. He showed us around the factory, which impressed us greatly indeed. We stood eye to eye with Volvo workmanship and excellence, and tell you a lot about it soon. Mr. De Mey handed me also two interesting books, one about the history of the factory and a second one about the men and women who make the cars.

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Amongst the 50 personal portraits, there is one of Filip Goedertier, who works at Volvo Ghent since 1885, who governs the quality of the welding and fitting of the body parts. He is the guardian of the welding parameters, so to say… well, it shows clearly on my Volvo 850, which has perfectly flush fittings!

More to come, about the men and machines which build Volvo’s, both in Ghent and Torslanda, and of course also about the exquisite joys to drive a superbly engineered youngtimer…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our cars: soon we will drive our Volvo 850 estate from Volvo Ghent to Torslanda…

 

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Faithful readers know that our Volvo 850 estate is already quite some years with us. If you missed it, just read our report on our previous site autoprova.net. Besides, we let you look again at the photos of our Volvo here, and you will agree it still looks pretty good indeed.

It still soldiers on reliably, and recently passed the official Belgian technical control and safety test again with flying colours, living proof of the saying that “Volvo’s are for life”.

To reward it for its two decades of faithful service, we decide to take it from the Ghent factory, where our was born in 1995, to the Torslanda plant, where 850 Volvo’s were then also assembled. This will be done in a few weeks from the moment of writing, and we will open on our site a “travelvlog”, so we can report you extensively on this trip. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Why we love the Volvo 850…

Like many other Volvo 850 enthusiasts, we like it first and foremost for the way it drives and performs. It was built on the so-called Volvo P80 platform, which was engineered for mid-size sedans with front wheel drive and was adapted to all wheel drive. This platform was used from 1991 to 2005, and built not less than 1,3 million times. It was seen also in the S70 and V70, and with modifications by TWR, also in the C70 coupé.

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It still feels quite modern, with its excellent handling and surefootedness. Mc. Pherson struts are front, with Volvo’s patented Deltalink suspension for the rear axle. Despite its size, a total length of 4,7 meters, the turning circle is merely 10,2 meter. So it is quite maneuverable also in town…

Its interior is quite spacious with of course excellent Volvo seats, with outstanding ergonomic comfort, fit for very long trips indeed. Another forte is the comfortable suspension.

The heart of any car is its engine, and this is where the 850 truly counts. It is the five cylinder version of Volvo’s modular engine family, which it started to build in 1990 right up to…2016. Now you know why the engine of our Volvo still feels so modern! This engine generation was built in 4, 5 and 6 cylinder versions, with capacities ranging from 1,6 to 2,9 liters. Both cylinder head and block are aluminum, and it has DOHC valvetrain, of course.

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Our 850 estate has the B5252FS engine, which is a 2.4 L (2,435 cc) straight-five. It is naturally aspirated and it is equipped with Siemens Fenix 5.2 engine management. Bore is 83 mm (3.3 in) and stroke is 90 mm (3.5 in) with a compression ratio of 10.0:1. It is naturally aspirated, and delivers 144 PS (106 kW; 142 hp) at 5400 rpm with 206 N·m (152 lb·ft) of torque at 3600 rpm. It is coupled to the five speed manual, ideally suited to the engine’s characteristics. Indeed, this unit likes to rev a bit, and the close ratio gears keep it beautifully on song.

Performance is quite inspiring, with acceleration from 0 to 100 in 10 seconds, top speed being 205 kmh. Despite its boxy shape, the 850 is quite aerodynamic, with the 850 R, the superfast Turbo version, being equipped with a rear spoiler, having a drag coefficient of merely 0,29 (!). Our 850 is therefore a quite fast cruiser, keeping up easily with anything that rolls out of the factory doors nowadays.

The styling of the 850 is pretty timeless, and the car is very well proportioned, certainly the estate version. The masterful hand of designer Jan Wilsgaard, who was the chief designer of Volvo Cars from as early as 1950 to 1990, was responsible for all this.  He designed the Amazon, 145, 760 and 850 series, and also the iconic estate versions of these cars. He is also responsible for the beautiful P1800 ES. No small wonder that he was one of the twenty-five designers nominated for Car Designer of the Century…

The engine was built by Volvo Powertrain AB (a company within the Volvo Group) for Volvo Cars. It saw life in one of the world’s largest automotive foundries in Swedish Skövde, Volvo being one of Skövde’s largest employers. Skövde is situated some 150 km northeast of Gothenburg, between Sweden’s two largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern.The plant is also known worldwide for being AB Volvo’s biggest producer of industrial diesel engines (Volvo Powertrain AB also produces blocks, cylinder heads and flywheels as well as engine mounts and disk brakes).

The companies together produced over half a million engines per year in Skövde and combined had over 4000 permanent employees (2100 employees at Volvo Powertrain and 2008 at Volvo Skövde in 2011).

Soon we will tell you more about the route we have chosen for the trip, and who we will meet both in Ghent and Torslanda plants…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Jag goes into winter retreat..

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It is always an exquisite pleasure to drive our classic Jag, but with the first wintery and stormy days coming up it is time to give our faithful Type S a well deserved rest.

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As the Jag is lately beset with (slowly) leaking fuel tanks, we decided to get the car checked out and repaired, while it is standing protected in winter.

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So we acquired the expert services of Didier Spiessens, who will solve the tank problems and keep the car well cared for in his premises.

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We will soon tell you more about all this and treat you also on a full report about the activities of his firm Personal Car Services. We show you here some photos when he collected our car. More about the further developments soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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For your info, here you find the contact data of the Didier Spiessens firm:

Personal Car Services

De Robianostraat 76 – 2150 Borsbeek – Belgium

www.personalcarservices.com

didier.pcs@gmail.com