Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Found it!

Lady Sonia, my new best friend! She's a darling and she will make me a weekly horoscope for some of my clients. It's a welcome addition to the newsletter I send some of them. I met Sonia last weekend (still) in route to Paris. I leave London last week to go to Paris and meet and aunt I didn't see for some 10 years. Sonia is such a darling that will let me post her horoscope here so be prepared, from next week we have the stars to guide us not only the satelites from GPS

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stars smile on me

As I travel alone most of the time I learned a few tricks along the way. One of them is that staying in a chateau it's a bit of a gambling. It's great, quiet and relaxing only if your castle doesn't host some over talkative newly weds or, even worse, the teambuilding for the sales department of some bank in Bulgaria.
The family and staff at Château des Monthairons is quite intent on treating each guest as someone special. (Look for Château des Monthairons in the Michelin Hotel and Restaurant Red Guide for France.) A beautiful 19th century château with fairytale turrets, Monthairons has much to offer visitors -- from a private beach on the River Meuse to an elegant restaurant serving such delights as Homard rôti et servi dans un coeur d'artichauts breton et pointes d'asperges vertes (roasted lobster served with hearts of Breton artichokes and green asparagus tips). And there are no less than 11 choices on the dessert menu! I pay €180 for my room wich was more an apartment. For €90 you could have a smaler but equally charming room.
This time I get lucky. There were only 6 other guests. 2 couples from Paris and my new best frient lady Sonia and her traveling companion miss Claire. At 65 lday Sonia is younger at heart than most of my 30ish friends. Like any old lady she is quite a bridge player. I didn't play bridge since colege but with these 2 ladies, Catherine (the owner) and a few glases of Maison Laroppe I had quite a wonderfull evening. Lady Sonia is a astrologist. I have to admit I gasp a little when I found out fearing she will try to read my future and nag me "Piscies this, and Virgo that..". I was thinking this serves me right allready for diching my aunt. But lady Sonia didn't even ask my sign.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Psichology... (2)

Actually I don't really know if I am where I am now (Clastres, France) due to psychology, social sciences or engineering. I almost made peace with myself yesterday and hit the highway to Paris to see my dear old Miss Cecilia (this is no joke, it's my aunt name so imagine the state of blessing I felt contemplating 3 hours of "My dear nephew I missed you so much. Are you sure your not hungry?"). Luckily, using the nav in the Merc CL500 I'm driving it's a real challenge so, I fiddled with it trying set the (otherwise obvious) course to Paris. I was 100Km from Calais when I catch on the nav screen a glimpse of some place named "Clastres". The name ringed a bell but wasn't sure why. I remembered just in time to "miss" the exit for Paris:
Pierre Clastres was a French anthropologist and ethnographer. He is known for his theory on stateless societies. Some people regard him as giving scientific validity to certain anarchist perspectives. I know this from college or my days as socialist revolutionary not sure which.
Also Clastres it a village where, a year ago, I went to the opening of "Le circuit de Clastres" the newest (I think) in France.And here I am, last year at the opening in the little Lotus of Mike L, my musical friend (he is a drummer :) )

Psichology is your friend

Last week, I left London for Paris to meet an aunt I manage to avoid for the last 10 years. You know, the type that ask you "when are you going to settle down". This time it seemed I would have no escape so I borrow a CL500 from D (tnx mate) and head for the e-Tunnel. As I was aproaching the end of M20, my dear friend Sigmund Freud whispered in my ear "Don't take tunnel, try ferry and hopefully you'll board the wrong one or the ship will sink or the martians will kidnap you". So, as I push on to Dover (wich is still ungly and full of lories as the last time) a new found fear of tunnels taked hold of me. I set the navigation for the port, get lost as usual, bougth a tiket for next morning and find a place to stay. The part with the place to stay was easy because I staid before at the Lighthouse witch is half way between Dover and Folkestone. I love this little inn. It's for some, the perfect place for souls searching with it's stunning views of the channel, for other the start of constant pickering about the trip they are about to embark (I heard people complaining the railway it's to close - never a problem for me). I staied there 3 different times allready and the only introspective attempt I had was the promise some day I'll take the path from the clifs and walk down to the sea. It never happened, it never will. The thought of climbing back or the shame of calling a cab to take me back it's to much for me :)
The next morning I boarded the ferry. It's a 2 hours trip filed with smels and sights of the transport factory that this kind of ship is.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Auto Union at half the price

This unique racecar was built by the order of Adolf Hitler before the World War 2. He offered 500,000 Marks in 1933 to build the fastest and most powerful racecar ever, to show the whole world that Germany is the most advanced country. Auto Union was an amalgamation of four German automobile manufacturers (Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer), established in 1932. The company has evolved into present day Audi, as an subsidiary of Volkswagen Group.
The Auto Union D Type won several Grand Prix races, but after the war most of the cars were destroyed or lost. In the 1980's an American D Type fan, Paul Karassik, found the only 2 remaining car in the Soviet Union. One of these is the 1938 pre-model, and the other is the 1939 improved model. The 1939 model was auctioned in Paris on 2007 for €11.5 million. Now, the car will be put under hammer at Bonhams & Butterfields sale at Quail Lodge in California on August 14 and is expected to raise €6milion.

Alone with the beast

Ms M went back to Monte Carlo so I'm left alone in London with a TVR Tuscan on my hands. What better choice of restaurant to go to than Galileo's, on Haymarket st, across the Royal Theatre Haymarket. Tuscan car, tuscan food right?!
I parked at Leicester Square Masterpark witch is 2 mins away. I don't know much about tuscan cuisine. I know about Caccuccio witch is a rich soup made from a tomato and fish base. The secret is to use many different types of fish, pureed bones and all directly into the base of the soup. They don't had any in the menu so I went for the carpaccio and grilled lamb. And of course the usual suspects, pecorino cheese and pastry everything floated in olive oil and herbs. By the time I was finished it was 10pm and I was to tired do something else so I went to bed to see more news about Susan Boyle on tv. Come on people! do we really need to know every move of that poor creature?!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

John Lenon grandmother

Small enough to explore easily on foot, but big enough to be wonderfully cosmopolitan. Walk around the traffic free heart of Chester city centre and it is impossible not to fall under the spell of a city buzzing with real, vibrant 21st century life.
I arrived in Chester at 1pm and grab a late lunch at The Bear and Billet. The restaurant is housed in one of Chester's more beautiful buildings and, after more than 200 years in business, this pub seems to have the basics down pretty well. I had a quite decent salad and a pepper steak sandwich with chips and a pint of Guiness for around 7 british pounds. And I found out this: "Enthusiasts of obscure Beatles information may be interested to know that John Lennon's grandmother, Annie Jane Milward, was born in the Bear and Billet in 1873"

I phoned the owner of the Tuscan and he came to take me from city center to his home to show me the beauty. At 4pm I was comfortably seated in a 380hp sport car speeding back to London.

And if at the end of the day you'll get to drive all the way back to London a TVR Tuscan life is really wonderful.

Now, the car...

Too raw for some, scary for others due to the temperamental reputation or by the troubles the company is going through. Bought by Abramovitch's 24 years friend, Nicolay Smolensky in 2004, TVR is now, after several attempts to change ownership again, going as slow as melases in january.

Still the car I drove to London was anything but slow. It's... loud. It's a raging bull this car. You feel the power of the 6 inline engine straight to your lungs. The sering is heavy and the brakes feel like your actualy put your foot on the pavement to slow down. At slow pace it's manageable but as I pick up speed I get scared senceless. I actualy don't know exactly how fast it is because for 300Km Chester to London I had only one thought: "Phone mother. Say I love you one last time".

Another job (almost) well done

Last weekend I saw ms M in London and manage to finalize the list for their move to UK in September. The initial budget was €200.000 but I think we can go well below that. With this kind of job I have a rule of thumb that say the purchase price should be around 60% of budget. The rest is for repairs, cosmetics, papers, taxes, insurance, transport and the rest. So we had €120.000 to buy our 5 cars.
And the winers are:

Land Rover Defender2001

Land Rover Discovery

Jaguar XJS1991

TVR Tuscan2000

Mini Clubmannew



We are well under budget witch is not bad since the XJS will probably need a lot of (well deserved) attention. Those wonderful cars were designed to be "the quietest, most comfortable and luxurious high performance car on the market” according to the press release from 1975.
Meant to be the replacement for the legendary E-type, XJS was not so much a sport car but a grand tourer. The car’s shape was created by Malcolm Sayer (also responsible for the E-type), who worked closely with company founder Sir William Lyons. The V12 engine catered for an exclusive market. Direct competition were the Mercedes 450SLC, Maseratti Indy, Lamborghiny Espada, Ferrari 365GTB or Aston DB6, ranging respectively from 20% to 90% more expensive.
Maintenance on the V12 is more costly than on a 6 cylinder car, not only because there are twice as many plugs, wires, injectors, etc... but because with such a big engine access is limited; this is the price to pay for the V12 badge.
Rust is a problem and can be very costly to fix.
With any luck and some €15.000 for a complete overhaul, I'll be able to deliver to my dear M's a glamorous V12 cabrio.
I love the others to but XJS and the Tuscan are clearly the jewels of the collection. The Defender is for hunting, the Clubman is a perfect city dweller with plenty of room in the back for Lassie (yeah, I know, such an "original" name for a collie) and the Discovery for everything else.
The Tuscan I didn't saw yet. I'm to go in Chester near Liverpool to see it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How to became a supercar manufacturer in 3 easy steps

I was searching some new car for one of those clients that say "yes it has all these features I'll never use and the wiper blades are made of solid gold, witch is fine because in my country never rains, buy it's still not expensive enough". All I could come up with are the same old Lambo's for american pop idols or middle eastern AMG's so heavy with diamonds that can barely make it to 150Km/h. I then turn my attention to the niche manufacturers, the ones children decorate walls with. That's how I came up with this guide that can turn anyone into a supercar manufacturer in less than 3 weeks and under 3000:

Buy or borrow a computer
Any computer will do, even a laptop. You can find on the net, open source professional 3D software but if you're to lazy to learn Blender there are people that just use paintbrush. Half the pictures on teenagers walls are just that: pictures. They are as close to entering the production as I am to wining the marathon. All you need to do is draw some huge wheels and some doors that open in a more complicated fashion than a Nijinsky performance at Ballets Russe. Add some gargantuan wings and cover everything with carbon fiber texture. You now have a "concept car". You will proceed to find a name. Since the more famous ones like Bugatti or Ascari, are already taken and/or protected you can try an obscure garage dead for 30 or so years like Veritas or Voisin. Or be bold and put your name on the car however unpronounceable may that be. If Koenigseggrtssggmlgrstt can do it why can't you?! (investment - 0 - €200)

STEP2 Media buzzThis is the expensive part. Now, endowed with a name and a pretty picture for your supercar, set up an internet site (any teenager can help you for under €200) and call a press conference to announce the price and production date. The price should be no less than €1.500.000 and the technical specifications should be as evasive as possible but contain something like "23 cylinders with 7.3 valves/cylinder and over 2000HP from a Helium Engine". It helps if around the date of the press conference you crash a rental Ferrari while driving drunk with 2 naked strippers around Monaco.
For the press conference itself find a derelict farm in France and declare it's the birthplace of the famous tram driver or blacksmith your car is named after. Buy some sparkling wine (€3 at supermarket) some chips and biscuits. Borrow tableware from a wedding firm and a few bottles of Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot for display. Attention, if someone's trying to give you Billecart-Salmon or Bruno Paillard because they're better don't take it. They are better bur your gussets won't recognize the names. Dress sharp (outskirts of Milano - €20) and preferably show up with the stripper that wares cast collar so you can tell again the story of you famous crash (investment: 400 - €1000).

STEP3 International investmentWith any luck, after your press conference you or your stripper well be invited at some ukrainian demigod villa that might also place an order for your supercar. With the down payment you'll rent a garage and buy a second hand Mitsubishi Eclipse (350) and some fibreglass body-kits to build your car. If you manage to get more than €50.000 in downpaiments you can even commission a special body from a studio that has leftover designs in storage. With a second hand american V8 engine and drive-train (€200) you now have a "rolling prototype" to be paraded around autoshows. Depending on your budget you can go to the big events like Geneva or Paris or just to the lucrative ones like Kiev and Kuwait. Look sharp (see Step2). This is where you'll meet your fortune, your international investor, your true god. He will most probably be of slavic, vedric or islamic descent. He will buy your company for a few milions (the semi-defunct TVR went for 15mil pounds to Abramovich's friend Nicolay Smolenski). He can also keep you in charge for a nice salary (Victor Muller founder of Spyker cars takes 240000 from it's Lithuanian investors).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Slow progres, slow driving

I'm still in Saudi Arabia and things are not moving along as expected:
"The Court of Cassation of Makkah Region approved Saturday a jail sentence of 20 years and 3,000 lashes (...) against Faisal Al-Otaibi, a stunt driver famously known as Abu Kaab. The defendant caused death to three people during driving stunt here four years ago. The sentence also involved banning the defendant from driving for life."
So the famous saudi drifting (see youtube for details) gets a tough blow while I still get no idea what "Some new cars" might mean. HH has already 39 cars, 9 of them bought for him by myself. The palace of residence has place for 16 cars so I guess I'll make a list of 7-9 proposals and I'll ship for viewing 5-6 of those. Unfortunately what "those" mean I'm yet to figure out. I saw there is no Spiker on the list so at list one could be a C12 Zagato(if I could find one in time). I'll also bring a Tesla just to test the reaction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The curse of the magic words

In my line of work, once in a while, you hear from a client the mesmerising "unlimited budget" and despite what you may think, it's not always a blissful joy. It's even worse with those (few to be fair) clients that don't even talk about it - it's self-implied that the budget is "unlimited".
Knowing how much I hate airports or remorsing he was about to flush my self-esteem and confidence to the toilet, HH put me in a Bombardier Global Express and flew me to Al Riyad. We had a... no, that wasn't a meeting, maybe an encounter that, traditional gift exchange included, took 3 minutes. Essentially I said hello, I gave him the autographed book of James Oliver (tnx Michael for the tip!!) and he gave me (yet another) traditional dagger. Then HH said he has to run to a meeting (with the king I supposed) and that he wants: "Some new cars". He left leaving me standing in the middle of the room like manure on a silver plate.
"Some new cars"... Aha, great... now what!?
Now, frustrated and humiliated I book a room in Radisson SAS, took a shower and try to sleep. Tomorrow I'll go to the Jeddah to the auto salon hopefully to get some inspiration.

Lamborghini Spyder raises $270k

Fundraisers have always been a great way to buy overpriced cars. Last weekend, Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis raised a record $2 million aided by the generous bid of $270,000 for the first new Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder to be delivered to the United States. The bid was placed by Malibu couple Kymberly Gold, co-founder of True Religion Jeans, and music producer Victor Newman, who will receive the car next month when US deliveries are scheduled to begin. The car was prepared specially by Lamborghini for the charity event, in black with orange accents to mirror the charity's colors.

No Ferrari for me!

I hear this more and more and I think it's just sad! I totally agree with "no furs", no flashy jewelery or no yacht over 30m but what's wrong with Ferrari? You can buy now a decent Ferrari for less than one of those soulless corporate cars.
Let me tell you what's wrong: the trouble is that you can also buy “Felipe Massa's original overall” for little under 9000€ and this, to be honest, has nothing to do with either style or Ferrari. It's just opulence and bad taste. The auction took place at the newly opened Ferrari store in London – one of 40 more to be opened around the world in the next 3 years.
Cups, bicycles, pens, t-shirts, soap and shampoo – a plethora of cheap byproducts that transformed the name of a respected car manufacturer in a brand with an identity crisis. Like a “Puma” tail coat or bow tie. Between Ferrari drive days (ex.) and Ferrari stores and Ferrari underwear and... the brand acquired quite a stench of noveau rich. And this is just sad.
Or is it?Despite the slip into mercantilism, Ferrari, while milking the brand in an almost obscene way, it's still the car-maker that gave us, for example, the 308 GTB now going for 20 to 50k€ for a really exquisite exemplar. Due to brand errosion (and some overcommenter crisis) the second hand prices drop constantly. Even icon models like the 250 Dino could be found for under 200000€.

New Project at "M"'s

This weekend I went to the "M"'s in Roquebrune Cap Martin to discuss their move to London. I'm so excited about this project because it's their first time RHD (right hand drive) experience so we have to make a totally new list and buy all the cars. And I love them so much, they were my third couple of clients ever. They're 40ish, both doctors and have a wonderful 3 years collie.
Sunday we went to Montecarlo to play with the electr
ic carts at the Stade Nautique Rainier III (by the way, hope they won't demolish it). It was decided I'll go with madamme M, two-tone, red-burgundy '64 Silver Cloud, to talk a little more about her "chauffeur" in London. Robert wanted to thake a 1999 Versace Diablo (the orange one with black leather if you remember - I'm sorry I can't show you my client's car). He also had at the villa a brilliant '62, rosso corsa, Maserati 3500Gt and I argued that it's better, even more so since it was somewhat clowdish and the violent orange of the "versace" would have looked dull.
He's such a darling and calling me a "develish yoda" took my advice and we set off to what has been a quite enjoyable afternoon.
The job didn't went so great unfortunately. Robert has a one year research contract in London but there's no definitive choice of residence and I hate when this happens. If I don't know not even how big the garage will be, how am I supposed to do my job?
Monday I had to return home and I'm a little concerned that I didn't manage to clarify any details. We settled for 5 cars and agreed on one cabrio (to be decided) and 2 4x4s (definitely one Defender). The rest of the list will be settled in two weeks when I'll visit them again and until than the house will be settled.