Car hunting in Nouméa

Noumea (3)Cars aren’t usually what initially springs to mind when you think of think of New Caledonia, the tiny collection of idyllic tropical Pacific islands situated 1,200km East of Australia. At the mere mention of the place any normal person would immediately visualise palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them. But Noumea is a city that hosts a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, so there’s gotta be at least a few gearheads about the place, right? With a rainy Thursday free to explore the city last week, I kept my eyes open for any automotive treasures I could chance upon.

Noumea (8)Less than half an hour after arriving I stumbled upon probably the coolest thing I would see all day – this camouflaged Suzuki Jimny. With a replacement nudge bar, big mud tyres, flares and a snorkel intake it looked like the perfect tool to explore the tiny dirt roads and discover deserted tropical beaches.

Noumea (9)The Jimny was pretty rough but what it lacked in polish it made up tenfold in charm, and it struck me that this is a vehicle perfectly suited to its location. I’m struggling to think of more appropriate transportation for this place, assuming a dash of fun is a requisite.

Noumea (1)New Caledonia as we know it was settled by the French, in a similar way to how the English settled Australia. In the capital city of Nouméa the French influence is felt everywhere, and it’s easy to forget how close you are to Australia. French is the most commonly spoken language, the architecture is commonly Parisian and there are tons of simply incredible pâtisseries and boulangeries scattered about for connoisseurs of fine breads. However anyone with an inclination towards cars will no doubt notice the sheer number of Peugeot’s, Citroen’s and Renault’s getting about – more than half of cars on the road are French. Most of them are sacked out hunks of junk, but occasionally you can find something cool like this 205 GTI. The little details are interesting too, like how the automotive sections of the newsagents contain more single marque French car titles than you ever knew existed. I picked up an issue of a magazine devoted just to the Peugeot 205 for some friends back home.

Noumea (5)How often are you walking down the street and find a Ligier dealership? I got a little excited when I saw images of the company’s fine and detailed history on the building facade.

Noumea (4)Motorsport anoraks will of course know of the company started by racing driver Guy Ligier in 1968 in Vichy, smack in the middle of France. Their JS2 road car used the same Maserati V6 as the Citroen SM, and they competed at Le Mans from 1970 until 1975. Not only that, but they fielded a Formula One team from 1976 until 1996 whose highlights included running the famous Matra V12 in 1976 and winning a race in 1977 with Jacques Laffite.

Noumea (6)So how did they fall from these dizzying heights to become the worlds second largest manufacturer of microcars and the largest manufacturer of drivers license exempt vehicles? I don’t know, I don’t even want to know. These things are only one step away from a gopher. It’s not even a case of another company buying the Ligier name – Guy Ligier’s son is still the CEO.

Noumea (2)As it turns out Nouméa still is a place devoted to the art of Pacific Island living, outside of major events at least. And whilst palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them were the primary reason for Any Given Reason’s visit, it still pays to keep an eye out, right?

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

AGR Readers’ Rides – The Virtual Burger Meet

DSC_0052The theory that the people who read Any Given Reason typically drive the kinds of cars that we’re all interested in is the thinking that initially lead to the first Any Given Reason Burger Meet. Unfortunately it’s not possible to hold Burger Meet’s all the time, so why not a virtual Burger Meet?* A few weeks ago the word was put out, and since then I’ve received a huge variety of readers’ rides to post. So here we go!

If you missed out this time, email me a shot of your ride for next time – andrew@anygivenreason.com

*Actual burgers not available at the Virtual Burger Meet

Brady_AldousBrady – 2006 Mazda MX-5 NC. I’m turning 40 next month and my beautiful wife allowed me to purchase a 2006 NC MX-5. She and I love it and the lifestyle it has given us. My plans for it are to eventually do some track work, some hillclimbs and maybe a tarmac rally (regularity) in the future.

Hamish_ScottHamish – Subaru WRX Hatch. To the average person it’s a stock looking car.

Steve_SchmidtSteve – Fiat 124 Spider. The Fiat 124 Spider, decluttered of its USA legislated bumpers and sidelights the purity of this Pininfarina design is allowed to shine through. Continue reading

The Cartier Style et Luxe at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

DSC_0914The final chapter in Any Given Reason’s coverage of the Goodwood Festival of Speed is The Cartier Style et Luxe, a premium concours d’elegance for around fifty hand selected and high quality examples of mechanical art.

DSC_0502Set in a relaxed yet tasteful atmosphere on the lawns of Goodwood House, far from the noisy din of racing engines tackling the hillclimb, the Style et Luxe features possibly the widest spectrum of entrants spread over ten classes spanning automotive history.

DSC_0272Given that the Festival of Speed was celebrating 50 Years of the Porsche 911, it is no surprise that the rear engined cars from Zuffenhausen featured prominently in a class of their own. Taking center stage was a 1973 Carrera RS Lightweight, which was raced by Fritz Muller in the European and German National GT Championships.

DSC_0515Right alongside was one of only a handful of what has to be the ultimate air-cooled 911 – the 1995 993 911 GT2.

DSC_0282Right across was the most extreme 911 to have ever been built – the 1998 911 GT1 Street. New regulations in international GT racing in 1998 meant that manufacturers could enter a car that had been designed from scratch, providing a road going version was offered to the public. Strangely enough this is the only road going version to be built and none ever reached any customers, however the model finished first and second at Le Mans that year, giving Porsche its 16th victory. Continue reading

The Goodwood Festival of Speed Forest Rally Stage

DSC_0103As the Goodwood Festival of Speed slowly expanded in size, so did the number of rally cars taking part. Until 2004 they had to be content with running up the famous tarmac hillclimb with everyone else, but for the past 9 years the rally cars have had their own special home in the Goodwood forest.

DSC_0504The Forest Rally Stage started as a one off but it proved so popular that it is now a permanent fixture, running every day of the Festival of Speed. The course was designed by none other than Hannu Mikkola, and for 2013 has been expanded with longer sections before and after the forest.

DSC_0532The stage starts in an open field right next to the holding paddock at the end of the tarmac hillclimb…

DSC_0537…where it snakes around the field for a few hundred meters…

DSC_0414… before delving deep into a tight and technical course through the forest. The rally stage is quite close to the hillclimb, and in some places it is almost possible to see both at the same time. It’s quite an odd sensation to be standing in the middle of a forest watching rally cars, and then have a Formula 1 car roar past at full throttle just behind you. Continue reading

Cité de l’Automobile Collection Schlumpf

DSC_0045Mulhouse isn’t the typical city most tourists usually visit. Located so far in the East of France that it’s almost in Germany (in fact it was a German city in semi recent history), it’s a lovely town, but with the famous Champagne producing regions on the Paris side and Switzerland on the other, it’s typically skipped by most travelers for its more scenic neighbors. But for over fifty years Mulhouse has been home to the largest automobile collection in the world, and for me it was one that simply couldn’t be missed.

DSC_0163The Schlumpf Collection is probably most well known for housing two of the world’s six Bugatti Royale’s, however its chequered history is arguably more interesting than those two large cars. The Brother’s Schlumpf, Hans & Fritz, were an odd pair. Their interest in cars was only beaten by their almost obsessive dedication to their mother, and the boys worked hard before the second world war building their textile empire, with Fritz finally acquiring his first Bugatti which he used in local races. All of that was put on hold with the outbreak of war, and once the war finished the brothers put everything they had into further building their textile empire in Mulhouse. By the time of the swinging 60’s, the brother’s had enough spare capital to acquire a couple of cars.

DSC_0034The term ‘a couple of cars’ is of course used very loosely as they built their collection at a fanatical rate from the early 50’s through the mid 60’s. The brother’s contacted the likes of Enzo Ferrari offering to buy cars, and with a particular penchant for the local Bugatti brand (located just down the road in Molsheim), they struck up a friendship and bought direct from Ettore himself. They famously sent a letter to every member of the Bugatti owners club with an open offer to buy their cars, which in 1963 resulted in the acquisition of an entire 30 Bugatti American collection in one hit along with several individual cars.They bought ten racing cars from Gordini, three Lotuses from racing driver Jo Siffert and several cars from the Mercedes Benz factory museum. With new prosperity after the war people were looking to upgrade their 1920’s and 30’s automobiles, and the Schlumpf’s used this wholly to their advantage.

DSC_0173Even as their textile business began to falter in the 70’s as cheaper production emerged in Asia, the boys kept building their collection in total silence. They employed 40 staff to work full time restoring and maintaining the cars, who were each sworn to secrecy and forced to sign non disclosure statements about their work. The collection grew as production at their factory further declined, so the Brother’s converted one of the disused warehouses into a museum to house their now 400 strong private collection. They employed yet more staff to lay red tiled floors and create grey gravel display areas and installed thousands of replica Parisian lamp posts. All of this was just for themselves – the collection was still top secret. Continue reading

The Goodwood Festival of Speed

DSC_0176Sometimes in life we are blessed by experiencing something truly incredible. Be it driving a particularly fast or rare car, making no mistakes on the perfect rally stage, finally hearing a favorite song live or witnessing the sun rise over a remote mountain range, these are the rare moments that are remembered vividly, never forgotten and used as comparison for everything that comes after.

DSC_0422These moments are bittersweet, because whilst experiencing them is something of a privilege, it is tinged with the knowledge that this is probably going to be the pinnacle.

DSC_0727Sitting back now and writing this post about the Goodwood Festival of Speed, I’m coming to terms with the fact that there’s probably not a lot out there that can compare to the magic of Goodwood. The sheer quantity and quality of cars, the peaceful forest surroundings, the relaxed and open atmosphere and the diversity is something impossible to replicate. Continue reading

Checking in from the Le Mans 24 Hour

DSC_0479A few years ago I remember sitting in the turn 1 grandstand at the Clipsal 500 on a Friday night, watching the hour long Australian GT race as the sun gradually dipped below the horizon. It was then and there that I made a secret pledge that I would one day attend the Le Mans 24 hours. After years of dreaming and months of planning, Any Given Reason is now finally in person at Circuit de la Sarthe.

DSC_0465And it’s absolutely everything I dreamed it would be.

DSC_0363AGR might not be posting for a few days, instead soaking in everything that makes up the most famous race in the word. But rest assured, camera is in hand, and posts will soon follow describing what it’s like to attend this race.

DSC_0367Are there any requests for anything you’d like me to chase down while I’m here? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best. Obviously I don’t have the full media access and it’s almost impossible to bluff your way in when you don’t speak the language (I tried), but arguably what makes this race great is not what happens behind closed doors. Continue reading