Bob Harper

Bob Harper

Bob Harper Bob Harper 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Automatic W113 1 year ago

Faster automatic

It was with great pleasure that I read the articles regarding the W113 ‘Pagoda’ Mercedes-Benz (60 Years of the Mercedes ‘Pagoda’). I served my apprenticeship on Mercedes cars with the Normand group, initially at the workshop above the Cumberland Hotel, just round the corner from Marble Arch. The W113 was current in those early Sixties days and working on them was always a pleasure. During the last part of my apprenticeship, I often had to drive the 230SL on the road. A tough life!

Sam Dawson commented that the car’s automatic box felt ‘right’ – the 230SL was also faster 0-100mph as an automatic than as a manual. When used in full automatic mode, as against manual selection of the auto, the gearchanges were spot-on every time, and top speed was only 2mph slower with the auto. My time at Marble Arch was just before the 70mph speed limit came into force. We used to offer an engine enhancement comprising a different camshaft, bigger inlet valves and a ported cylinder head, allowing it to pull 7000rpm in top! Because the car was geared 20mph per 1000rpm, this equated to 140mph. No idle boast – as a passenger in an enhanced 230SL on the M1, I watched in amazement as the speedo nudged 140mph. Sadly, the 70mph law killed the project – we did one car for America and completed a job that was already in the workshop at the time, and that was it!

Bob Harper Bob Harper 2023 Smit Oletha - BMW Z4 E86 V8 GT that thinks it's a Z8 E52 1 year ago

Oletha Z4 Smit

Vehicle Engineering’s Oletha, based on the Z4, from your November issue simply blew me away. I always wondered what more BMW could have done with the Z8 and the Oletha pretty much answers that question. The opening quote in the feature from Willem Smit: “It’s the car we wish BMW had made,” made sme realise that it’s cars like this that I wish BMW were making too, not the utter, ugly rubbish they are churning out these days. In my view BMW has lost its way, thank goodness there are still some fans out there like the Smit brothers with a genuine passion for the brand – and some vision.

Bob Harper Bob Harper 1983 BMW 316 E21 1 year ago

Talking of restorations, the E21 in this issue is another car brought back to life by a dedicated BMW enthusiast. For a long time you could pick up a decent E21 for not very much money while it sat in the shadow of the E30, as values of E30s have risen so the E21 has become more popular, and rightly so – the pure lines of the first generation of 3 Series and its ultimate simplicity make it a fabulous first classic car. Read about the rebuild of a lovingly restored 316.

Bob Harper Bob Harper Ex-Top Gear 1994 BMW 850Ci E31 1 year ago

BBC TV's Top Gear became ingrained in car culture decades ago, but it did something more than that. In its original form, with Clarkson, Hammond and May, it managed to go further than any «car show» had before – making cars mainstream. The programme became popular light entertainment for people who didn't care about cars, regardless of what you think of the show that's no mean feat. Now, as you undoubtedly know, the trio's antics over the years were peppered with controversy but even with that fact, for car enthusiasts, often it was their three-way car buying adventures that stuck in the mind – even if they ended in destruction. This month's cover car is a former star of one of those episodes – a survivor. The E31 850Ci was purchased for the show and raced by Richard Hammond against Jeremy Clarkson and James May in 2011. I won't spoil the feature for you but suffice to say the car hung around afterwards until a member of the production crew saved it following an eight-year lay-up. Read the full story.

Bob Harper Bob Harper All new BMW i7 G70 and what it can tell us about Bavaria’s next EV phase 1 year ago

The headlines in the BMW world this month have mainly been about the new 7 Series. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but I do struggle to understand what on earth is going on with the current direction of BMW’s styling. I’ll just say that I think it looks like a mess and leave it at that. Instead I’d like to look at the opposite end of the motoring spectrum and talk about the Dacia Jogger.

Not the most glamorous of brands but a huge success story, selling no frills cheap cars by the barrel load, perhaps signalling that buyers aren’t interested in the latest gadgets and gizmos simply preferring a machine that just gets on with the job. It was among the top three manufacturers for retail sales in Europe in 2021 which is impressive for such a budget brand. Reviews are generally pretty positive but some of the shine was taken off it recently when Euro NCAP, the crash test body, awarded the Jogger a one star safety rating. Would you buy a car if it only garnered a one star for its crashworthiness? Or would you actually know what criteria it was based on?

Its actual occupant protection scores aren’t too bad – not stellar, but by no means dreadful – but the main reason for its poor showing is that it’s not packed to the gunwales with safety equipment. Do a little more digging and you’ll discover that Euro NCAP didn’t even test a Dacia Jogger, instead basing its one star rating on a test it carried out last year on a Dacia Sandero Stepway. Yes, the two cars are virtually identical from the B Pillar forward but one’s a five-door hatch with faux- SUV styling and one’s a seven seat MPV.

While it doesn’t seem very transparent or professional to not test a particular car because it’s a bit similar to one its already tested it’s also a bit strange that the Stepway received two stars while the Jogger has only garnered one. The difference? The Jogger has seven seats and doesn’t have a seat belt reminder for the third row of seats. And that lost it a whole star making it 20 percent less safe than a car it is, according to Euro NCAP, virtually identical to? Doesn’t seem right to me. I also worry that Euro NCAP is placing far too much emphasis on safety assistance systems in its results. Yes, some of them can be useful and could possibly even save your life but if you need a lane departure warning system to keep you safe on the road then I suspect you probably shouldn’t really be driving at speed on a motorway. In theory automated braking systems are a great idea but I’ve experienced a malfunction with these systems in four different cars, the brakes being slammed on because the car has detected an obstacle that simply wasn’t there. Had anyone been following a little too closely I’d undoubtedly have been rear ended.

I’ve not driven a Dacia Jogger but all the press reports prior to its one star rating were almost universally positive – it’s a cheap and cheerful MPV that’s a great buy for those on a budget. A one star safety rating implies that it crumples like an empty crisp packet and that it’s not fit for purpose but that just isn’t the case. So, I’m going to take Euro NCAP’s star ratings with a large pinch of salt from now on and perhaps it’s time to just stop paying attention to star ratings full stop. Unless you’re talking about the new 7 Series’ styling where a one star rating would appear to be overly generous.

Can Bob really keep quiet over the styling of the new 7 Series?

Bob Harper Bob Harper BMW acquires Alpina 1 year ago

We hopes Alpina will continue to exist as a separate brand

There’s been a lot of weeping and wailing in my social media feeds of late and I’m not just talking about the global situation where it looks like we’re all going to be heading to hell in a handcart. No, amongst the important stuff there’s been a thread of concern about BMW’s purchase of Alpina with many wondering what will become of the Buchloe-based concern. It seems that many are worried that the absorption of Alpina into the BMW portfolio will inevitably lead to a dilution of the Alpina brand and the spectre of seeing a 2 Series Gran Coupé ‘Alpina Edition’ is, indeed, a worrying one.

Bob cogitates what the future will hold for Alpina.

Many argue that BMW already has form for this and point to the dilution of the M brand with virtually every model in the range now available to buy slathered in M badges, but personally I think this is unlikely to happen with Alpina. The bottom line is that Alpina is a very small niche within the BMW world and while it produces superb cars and has afforded me a huge number of great drives over the years the name just doesn’t have a broad appeal. Sure, among our aficionado niche of the BMW world we may all be familiar with the Alpina name, but in a wider context there are a huge number of folk who just aren’t aware of the company. You have to remember that Alpina made 2,000 cars in 2021… BMW sold 2.2 million.

In global terms these days 2,000 cars a year just isn’t going to cut the mustard. In order to be competitive you have to produce 50 or a hundred machines and charge several million Dollars, Euros or Pounds for each one or churn them out by the million. There just isn’t any room for anyone to occupy the middle ground – virtually every small manufacturer left is part of a much bigger conglomerate.

In truth BMW and Alpina have been very closely linked for a number of years, indeed the majority of Alpinas are now built on the BMW factory line with a small amount of finishing done at Buchloe. As far as I’m aware Alpina has been doing plenty of work and development for BMW for a number of years in its state of the art research and development centre so there are already plenty of ties binding the companies together. Historically there has been much discussion between the two companies about power and torque outputs and performance figures, with BMW M beating the Alpina in one regard while the Alpina might eclipse the M car in another, all in a carefully choreographed Top Trumps contest.

My hope is that Alpina and BMW will continue to coexist as more or less separate brands with their own closely linked, but still separate identities. It has been becoming harder and harder for Alpina to continue this thanks to the virtual elimination of the normally-aspirated engine where its traditional skill sets and techniques would previously have been able to shine. Where Alpina has more than made up for this is in its chassis prowess which really has been second to none in recent years, often putting the equivalent BMW product to shame.

While we’re unlikely to see any more of Alpina’s wilder creations such as the glorious B8, an E36 3 Series with a 4.6-litre V8 under its bonnet, anymore, I do hope that BMW will continue with machinery like the B5 Touring as it’s a model for which there’s no direct BMW competitor. Time will tell I guess, but I’m not going to be losing sleep over the possibility of Alpina-badged 2 Series Active Tourers and can only hope that BMW will keep the Alpina brand flying high for those who value something just a little bit different in our increasingly homogenised world.

Bob Harper Bob Harper Tesla-powered 392bhp 1996 BMW 840Ci E31 1 year ago

Nice conversion — but petrol power of V8 is just perfect

Bob Harper Bob Harper Next 2023 BMW M2 G87 gets set to rip 2 years ago

I’m so relieved that the new 2 Series doesn’t feature those horrible grills seen on the latest 3 and 4 Series BMWs. I have an F22 220d M Sport and I’m looking to trade it in soon for another BMW, I love the 2 Series so the new version was top of my shopping list, but I was worried the styling would be too challenging. I must say that the G42 M240i looks especially fantastic – well done BMW!Beauty Contest (Part 3...)

Bob Harper Bob Harper 1969 MG Midget Mk3 - a family heirloom in the making 2 years ago

Like this cool version of MG

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