Our cars: the BMW Z3 gets a cosmetic update and passes technical control with flying colors…


Our Z3 proudly posing in front of the technical control centre, after it had passed the test with flying colors. Note the wheel badges and the nicer looking short antenna…

We told you last time in our column “Our Cars” that we went to Jorssen NV with our cherished Z3, where Jeroen Van der Reeth had made us an offer for the repair(s). On March 9 we were kindly received and told that the repair(s) would take a day. Due to family circumstances we could only collect the car after the weekend, which proved useful, as service manager Roel Smets had contacted us on March 9 in the afternoon that the door grip rubbers had to be re-ordered, as they were not correctly ordered originally.


New wheel badges, antenna and as new looking door handles and its proper rubber surroundings…

So we found our Z3 back next Monday, proudly bearing new wheel badges and a new short external “BMW Sport” antenna, and of course the correct rubber surroundings of the door handles. The final bill of 379,13  Euros correctly matched the original offer, safe for the slight extra for the correct door handle rubbers, and we found all this very reasonable indeed, as it included VAT, labor and parts. The glove box lock had also been replaced, and this had taken only 15 minutes, with the lock and cylinder only setting us back 71,17 Euros. The new wheel badges with its proper chromed surroundings cost only 10,74 Euros a piece. We were very pleased with the result, and it also shows the excellent spare parts policy of BMW, offering original factory spares at very reasonable prices of a (US built) BMW of a good 20 years old now, with last but not least excellent repair times. Replacing the antenna – the shorter new one works better with the car cover and has also improved looks, took only 30 minutes.


With a properly functioning glove box it was now time to check in for the annual technical control, where our BMW Z3 met with admiring looks and comments. Of course everything was OK, with the inspection people commenting “what a fantastic car”, when they scrutinized the car (also) underneath.

So now we are all set for pleasant spring and summer drives…stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Cars – An early spring startup for our BMW Z3…


A (very) early spring startup for our beloved Z3, which has been “sleeping” during winter under its cover, and therefore shines brightly after it fired up instantly…ready for a first drive in 2018…

In our fleet we have since October 2005 a ’97 BMW Z3, which is now more than 20 years old, but is kept lovingly in pristine condition. I purchased it from a very careful previous owner, who kept the car in his garage under cover, and whereas it has stood outside for a year or so in my former house to make room for my classic Jaguar Mk 2, this time it also lives again well protected under cover in its own garage. We did not use it after last summer, so this third week of February we found it the right time to take our Z3 out again for a spin, and have some items looked after…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We had replaced the old battery after more than 8 years of faithful service, and we connected the new battery. The Z3 started up without any problems on first try, and did run immediately totally smoothly.


At BMW Dealer Jorssen NV we stopped on our first 2018 outing to get some repairs done to the glove box lock and get some brittled rubber(s) replaced…just read below! 

Of course, after several months of rest, one has to be very careful to let the engine reach its operating temperature with a very smooth (first) drive. This means running with very light throttle openings, not exceeding 2500 rpm but of course also NEVER let the engine work hard under 1400 rpm. This means accelerating very smoothly in second gear when revs are below 1700 rpm or so. Also be (very) easy on the clutch, and the brakes, which you have to slowly “brake in” again, to avoid roughening up the disks. All this we did on a first tour – albeit with a few stops – of a good 35 kilometers, to let everything really warm up again.

We also topped up the fuel tank, so there is recent fuel again in the fuel system. It is amazing how well the electronics, fuel injection systems and what have you in these ‘90s cars cope with this intermittent use. After a few kilometers, everything went very smoothly, the engine humming pleasantly without the slightest hiccup or vibration. Again we enjoyed the agility and responsiveness of our Z3. What is also a pleasant surprise again is the excellent visibility, which is far better than today’s cars.

On this tour we also steered to BMW dealer Jorssen NV, at Antwerpsesteenweg 126 in Aartselaar, close to Antwerp. We had good reasons for this visit: the lock of the glove box refused to close again, which we noticed at the end of our last trip, and our Z3 needed some cosmetic attention. Having been exposed to the elements for a year, the rubber surroundings of the door handles got brittle, and the surrounding ring of the antenna also showed some cracks. The four BMW badges on the original light alloy wheels also went missing, all four(!) of them.


We were very well received by service manager Jeroen Van der reeth, who came out to inspect the car, and wrote carefully down what was needed. The same day, he had all the necessary parts sourced and mailed me an offer for the repair(s). We made an appointment for March 9, and in the meantime, show you here some photos of our Z3 on its February tour… and will soon also present a report here in these columns on the “Z Story Continues” in the BMW Brand Store in Brussels. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Volvo 850 receives new roofstrips…


Our Volvo now looking “nearly as new” after receiving new roofstrips thanks to the gracious intervention of Volvo Car Belux and dealer Guy Vermant…

The faithful Volvo turns his rounds, after its enjoyable summer trips to Sweden and South of France. It passed recently the Belgian annual(!) official technical control with flying colors and is now fit for service for another year. When it was proudly rolling  of the production line in Torslanda last summer it received admiring looks from the Volvo people there. Of course, the roofstrips shared the fate of many on older 850’s and V70’s, and this was the only manifest flaw on our otherwise relatively pristine Volvo.


Our Volvo in the premises at Vermant Mechelen dealership where in March a special classic car service will be opened…

The Volvo people, both the official importer and Volvo dealer Guy Vermant took this to heart and thanks to their gracious efforts and intervention, our Volvo got new roofstrips, giving it now the coveted “nearly as new” appearance.


The weathered old strips were carefully removed…

Our Volvo received the new strips in a new wing of Guy Vermant’s Malines dealership, where Guy Vermant will start up next March a classic car service, catering not only for classic Volvo’s, but other makes as well.


We already could see here the impressive and well equipped workshop and facilities, admiring also the expertise and workmanship of classic car expert Ruben Bosch (on the left) and his colleague Dave Siebens, who mounted the roofstrips with utmost care and an eye for perfection. Their “savoir faire” truly bodes well for this future classic car service!


Here they both pose proudly before a 1960 Volvo PV 544, wich is still in totally original condition, having led a sheltered life, and which is now being awakened out of a 20 year beauty sleep…

We will tell more about this new service soon, when it will be introduced at the 41st edition of the Antwerp Classic Salon, which will be held at Antwerp Expo from 2 to 4 March.


Our Volvo posing proudly before Vermant’s classic car service workshop, to be opened in March…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


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


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…



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.


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

Continue reading “We had our Volvo 850 repaired at Wondercar…”

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


…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

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

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


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


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.


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.


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…


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.


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”.


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


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


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



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…


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!


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…


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

Continue reading “A tale of men, women and cars: the Volvo people at Torslanda…”

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


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


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.


…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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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

Hans Knol ten Bensel