Apollo 11 – the Moon landing’s legacy

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Hand’s up who remembers 21st July 1969? Did your parents wake you up, in what felt like the middle of the night, to watch on a small black and white TV screen the moment that Neil Armstrong, leader of the Apollo 11 mission, stepped out of the Lunar Module (‘Eagle’) to became the first person to walk onto the lunar surface? There are a handful of childhood events, including this momentous step, that this viewer, as an eleven year old, remembers with absolute awe and clarity.

The enormity of men being shot into space ahead a giant fuel canister to orbit the Earth and then be pointed in a different trajectory to the Moon’s orbit and surface, there to land safely, open the sealed hatch and climb out. Simply breathtaking both in its spirit and execution. The First Walk on the Moon was simply awe inspiring.

Armstrong was followed onto the Moon’s surface by his co-venturers, Buzz Aldrin. They spent a couple of hours making auspicious speeches and collecting rocks. After nearly a day in the Sea of Tranquility they blasted back to the command module (‘Columbia’) piloted by Michael Collins. They were returned to terra firma having safely splashed down in the Pacific on 24th July 1969.

I was certainly old enough to realize that the Mission to the Moon was the most magical blend of evolutionary technology of semi-conductors and computers, the guile of America’s military aviators, the obviously immense resources of the NASA Space Program. It was also the culmination of the dream of a brilliant and driven leader, the late President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 launched his country’s aim to land a man safely on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling of all things vintage and American, Coke fridges, leather sleeved varsity jackets, Levi’s and classic muscle cars what else can be seen as the legacy of man’s early musings with space travel?

The Apollo mission kick-started a series of major innovations the legacy of which continue to be seen, felt and enjoyed today. Some of the many spin-offs from the Space Race include the following:

The Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scanner now more regularly used to detect cancer and other abnormalities was used to identify any imperfections in space components that would only be magnified by the unique stresses and environmental issues associated with zero gravity and the g-force associated with space travel.

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The Computer Microchip, the integrated circuits and semi-conductors used in the Apollo mission’s guidance software spawned the modern microchip that appears in everything from you laptop, to you TV remote control and your oven’s regulatory systems.

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Cordless tools. Lacking the inability to plug in electrical tools on the Moon’s surface, power tools including cordless drills and vacuum cleaners were developed – initially by Black & Decker in 1961 – with integral battery packs enabling the collection of rock and dust samples.

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In-Ear Infrared thermometer. A detector of infrared energy that is felt as heat that was developed to monitor the birth of stars found an alternative use with In-Ear thermometers.

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Freeze-dried food. Since the Moon mission we have been fascinated by rehydrated food, Thai pot soups, noodle dishes and the like. Originally devised to minimize weight these packets of goodness fueled the men in space. This technology had first been developed in the Second World War for carrying blood long distances without refrigeration. Nasa was first to create freeze dried iced cream – but it doesn’t seem to have been that popular amongst the astronauts.

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Home Insulation materials. If you have ever unrolled in the your attic reflective insulated matting you may not know that the shiny material used was developed to deflect radiation away from spacecrafts.

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Invisible braces. Each of my three children has received the attention of the dentists and the application of braces that resulted in perfectly straight teeth. The process has been improved by the use of transparent ceramic brace brackets made from materials developed for spacecraft.

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Joysticks as used on computer gaming consoles were devised for Apollo Lunar Rover.

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Memory foam – for many, me excluded, they say that sleeping on a memory foam mattress or pillow results in a splendid night’s sleep. For me they are usually too firm but the underlying tech was created to improve the comfort of aircraft seats and helmets.

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You may not be surprised to hear that satellite television technology, primarily devised to repair relay signals from spacecrafts and to unscramble satellite sound and images sent from space now sits at the core of home satellite driven services.

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At the optician when ordering a new pair of glasses you will almost certainly have been asked if you would like a ‘scratch resistant coating’ to be added. Substantially improving the long term wear and tear on glasses these coatings were developed to make astronaut helmet visors scratch resistant.

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Whilst shoe insoles have been around for years, indeed the likes of trusty beach worn Birkenstocks are based on the eponymous insole a challenge for athletic shoe companies was to adapt an insole for the Space missions boot designs to maximize on ventilation and springy comfort.

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An absolute must around any home is a smoke detector with good batteries. It may surprise you to know that Nasa invented the first adjustable smoke detector that was programmed with a level of sensitivity that prevented false alarms. Just as essential in the small cabins on board spacecrafts.

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The design of a space rocket is perhaps a classic example of drag reduction. Interestingly Nasa deployed the same principles of drag reduction to help create for Speedo a world beating, but highly controversial, swimsuit the LZR Racer.

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Aside from bottled oxygen, filtered and clean water was one of vital elements needed in space. NASA developed a filtering technique that killed bacteria in water. This has subsequently been used to deliver filtered water in millions of homes.

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Velcro – whilst not strictly a product developed for the Space Race, the system of a hook-and-loop fastener was originally conceived in 1941 by a Swiss engineer George de Mestral. NASA made significant use of touch fasteners in myriad of ways including the closing of astronauts’ suits, anchoring equipment during maintained and for trays at mealtimes to avoid them floating away.

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Artificial limbs – Nasa is a world leader in the science of robotics devised primarily to remotely control space vehicles. The technology had been adopted to give artificial limbs greater functionality.

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If you have ever completed the London Marathon, for example, you may recall crossing the line to be shrouded in a silver foil blanket. These blankets were developed in 1964 they are excellent at  reflecting infrared radiation but they also enable the body to they retain heat and reduce the risks from hypothermia.

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The Bacon hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell celebrated British engineer, Tom Bacon, developed an existing and century old technology to create a patented fuel cell that provided electrical power for the Apollo mission. The science that combined hydrogen and oxygen to create a reaction that caused heat that could be converted to electricity also had a useful by-product, water: which the astronauts drank. Fuel cells have been used to create electric vehicles including the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, where the technology is seen as a having great green credentials.

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The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is part of a range of manually winded chronometers launched by the Swiss watch brand in 1957 and used as part of Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. The “Moonwatch”, a combination of both timepiece and stopwatch, was water-resistant, shock-proof, and could withstand 12Gs of acceleration endured by the astronauts during their mission. It was first worn during NASA’s Gemini missions that included the first space walk. The Moonwatch was on the wrists of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, when the former two took their first steps on the Moon. It remains a firm favourite with those who love this Swiss watch brand which has created a series of Special Editions to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing.

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Radio Flyer

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If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies –  Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.

For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item  of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?

2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.

Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.

Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).

Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.

The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.

Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.

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Mike Hawthorn – 1958 Formula One World Champion

 

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At the weekend, with a couple of my kids, I visited the Brooklands Museum – see the Museums website here  – Brooklands Museum in Weybridge Surrey the home of British Aviation and early Motor Racing. My late father had been an early Trustee of the Museum assisting it to secure substantial support from Shell, his former employer. I am told there is a plaque to his memory on site but, sadly, we couldn’t locate it.

My father was a very keen follower of Motor Racing, he ran part of Shell’s  commitment to sport and visited tracks all over the world in the 1970’s and 80’s. As kids we even lived in the village of Silverstone.

Prior his early years in the Army and then in commerce in Africa and elsewhere, my Dad was schooled at Ardingly College in West Sussex. A rather typical English Boarding School which produced well rounded chaps in the 1940’s. His close friends and contemporaries included Bill Cotton (the son of the 1940’s Band Leader, “Billy Cotton”, who became the head of BBC TV) and John Michael (“Mike”) Hawthorn, who because of his hair coloring, was nicknamed “Snowball”. See our previous post mentioning Mike Hawthorn here – Morgan Cars

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Born in Yorkshire on 10th April 1929 this blond and debonair young man was an iconic British racing driver and the very essence of what made motoracing glamourous. He drove a Ferrari and his penchant for racing in a bow tie did much to concrete his reputation as a gentleman racer of the finest tradition. Behind his steely blue eyes lay a depth of grit and ambition that would see him secure the Formula One World Championship alongside a host of other trophies.

Mike Hawthorn’s biography “Challenge Me The Race” carries the line “The first motor races I ever saw were at Brooklands. I was only a very small boy, but to me it was heaven to watch the cars thundering round those towering cliffs of concrete where the banking curved under the Members’ Bridge, to wander along the lines of brightly coloured cars in their stalls in the paddock, to jump as an exhaust snarled suddenly and to sniff the aroma of castor oil.”

Leslie, Mike’s father had relocated from Doncaster to Farnham, Surrey – opening The Tourist Trophy Garage in 1931 – to be nearer Brooklands. His father is said to have driven a young Mike in a Riley 2.0 litre around the legendary track thus sealing his ambition to race. This must have been a fascinating era with the Sunbeam, Napier Railtons and Bentleys battling on the banked curves of the Brooklands circuit.

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Mike started racing bikes in 1947 and after a period in Formual Two driving a Cooper Bristol and being courted by the Jaguar team – managed by Lofty England –  he joined the Ferrari Team in 1953. He suffered burns following a crash in 1954 in Syracuse (Italy) and whilst  hospitalized his father was tragically killed in a car accident. Mike joined Jaguar in 1955 as team leader, replacing Stirling Moss. After a tragic Le Mans in 1955 and a week Jaguar performance at the same race in 1956 – which led to Jaguars retirement from racing – in 1957 Hawthorn rejoined Ferrari.

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On 19th October 1958 – nearly 60 years ago – driving for Scuderia Ferrari, Mike failed to win the Moroccan Grand Prix at the newly built Ain-Diab Circuit. He was beaten into second place by Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall. Despite his position, Hawthorn secured, by a single point (total 42 points), the 1958 Formula One World Championship, the first British driver to do so. Moss came second with 41 points. Anoraks will be amused to note that Bernie Ecclestone competed in the same race – one of only two starts ever by Bernie in a Formula One – the second being the same year at Silverstone.

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Immediately following the race Hawthorn announced his retirement from motoracing after eight amazing years. Sadly, the 29 year old champ was unwell following the loss of his friend Peter Collins and a recurrent, and, many have said probably terminal, kidney complaint.

Sadly on 22nd January 1959 Mike was killed in a British Racing Green, Mark 1 3.4 litre Jaguar – Reg VDU 881 – that had been loaned to him by the Jaguar team, that crashed on the Guilford by-pass. Whilst the circumstances are unclear it seems that on the wet surface with a witness attesting to seeing his car traveling at around 100 mph, he may have been racing Mercedes Team’s Rob Walker, who was driving a gull-winged doored Mercedes 300 SL.

See this dated Pathe newsreel announcing in its staccato voice over the sad news of Mike’s death  Mike Hawthorn Killed

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Image credits – used with grateful thanks Brooklands Museum, Pathe News and Motor Sports Magazine

Morgan Cars

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It may be seen as era specific, but back in the 1940’s, as any Hollywood movie will attest the “half timbered” car was not at all unusual. The huge eight seater Chrysler Town and Country dating from 1941 is perhaps, in many ways, the most iconic example of the Woodie, partly as it became the surfer’s station-wagon of choice. Wood was used as opposed to metal both for budget as well as design reasons. Others had equally evocative names the Pontiac Torpedo, the Nash Suburban and the Buick Roadmaster.

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In 1950’s railway carriages – particularly in France – were made of wood. Solid wood furniture was made up to the 1960’s ahead of “advancements” such as Formica. The surrounds of a Butler’s Sinks in any self respecting 1940’s scullery were always wood.

I recently saw publicity shot for a country house hotel that had a bright green Morris 1000 Traveller in the front drive. Denoting no doubt, that in addition to highly anticipated, hot and cold running water, the hotel would spare no expense to transport its guests back to a drafty era that creaked on the bends. The Traveller – for which I have great affection – was launched in October 1953 and was based on the Sir Alec Issigonis’ – the designer of the Mini – see our earlier piece here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain Morris Minor that debuted in September 1948.

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So let’s be clear that the use of wood in car manufacturer – quite literally – “Went Out With The Ark”. Or did it?

I am fascinated by Morgan Cars, above all, for their quintessential Englishness. They have character and cannot be ignored when assessing iconic sports cars. They also continue to have a waiting list that at times has exceeded ten years but is said to currently be around six months.

Founded in 1910 by Henry FS Morgan in Malvern (Worcestershire, England) who ran the business until his death in 1959 at the age of 77. In 1911, Morgan started building affordable – they attracted a lower road tax as they were treated as motorcycles  – and stable three wheelers. An early version of the three wheeler was shown at the 1911 Motor Cycle Show and Harrod’s took an agency to sell them in London priced at £65.

My family legend has my late father (a Brooklands Circuit Trustee until his death in 1991) being nearly totalled in a three wheeler driven by his school pal and the UK’s first Formula One World Championship (1958), Mike Hawthorn.

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By 1935, in response to more realistically priced four wheeled cars, including Ford’s Popular, the more familiar Morgan “4-4” – four cylinders and four wheels – and Morgan’s first four-wheeled car, was launched at a price of £194. A four seater model was released in 1937 and in 1938 a four seater drop-head version was launched. In 1938 a 4-4 was entered for Le Mans. World War II intervened and production stopped until 1950 when an in-line four cylinder Standard Vanguard engine was used.

The company continues to be 100% family owned and produces more than 1300 cars annually that are all assembled by hand. Unusually, Morgan – despite some run-ins with the Health and Safety guys – particularly in the USA – continue to build their cars with an Ash wooden frame and body shell – the chassis being, of course, metal.

The Plus4 Morgan models launched in 1953, 1956 and 1968 used the Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4A engines. See our previous post here – Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4

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In 1955 production of the 4-4 was revived with the Plus8 chassis and a Ford engine.

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In 1968, Morgan used the Rover V8 (later the Land Rover version) Engine – delivering much better acceleration – to launch the Morgan Plus8 – our featured image – and my favourite Morgan. This model was fazed out in 2004.

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The Morgan Aero 8 was first introduced in 2002 and went through a series of incarnations with the most recent iteration being launched in 2015.

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The Aero 8 was followed in 2008 by the Aeromax that was limited to 100 units. A targa-roofed version, the Aero SuperSports, was launched in 2009 but production ceased in 2015. An Aero Coupe, hard topped version of the SuperSports, was launched in 2011 and withdrawn in 2015.

Whilst a great condition Morgan Plus8 can now fetch a King’s Ransom why not place this scale model die-cast on your shelf. Please click the link below the image

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MORGAN PLUS EIGHT MODEL CAR 1:43 SCALE GREEN CARARAMA SPORTS OPEN TOP K8

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Photo credits – with grateful thanks – Charles Ware’s http://www.morrisminor.org.uk/40-traveller-wood, Hemmings and Richard Thorpe Classic Cars.

 

Airfix by Dominic Baker

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The unmistakable logo that is Airfix will instantly conjure up many very happy memories for some. Fathers, sons and grandfathers all over the U.K. ( and probably further a field). Tables full of newspaper, Radio 4 or the test match cricket on in the background – pouring over the assembly instructions whilst over enthusiastic offspring looked on, frantically chiselling the super-glue off fingers and surfaces before mother got home.

Airfix was founded in 1939 by Hungarian refugee Nicholas Kove – who originally set out to make rubber inflatable toys. The name ‘Airfix’ was very cleverly selected so as the company would come up first in directory searches and had little to do with the products they made at the time. The company introduced injection moulding in 1947 initially to make pocket combs. They were asked to make a scaled replica promotional model of a Ferguson Brown TE20 tractor moulded in cellulose acetate (the plastic often used, at the time, in glasses frames and photographic film) this to be distributed and hand assembled by the Ferguson sales reps.

The tractor went on to be sold by Woolworth retail stores as a kit and in 1954 a Woolworth’s buyer J Russon suggested that Airfix produce a model of “The Golden Hind”. It was made and put in a plastic bag with headed paper with assembly instructions on the reverse and sold for two shillings.

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This became an instant hit and galvanised Airfix into producing new designs with the first Aircraft kit in 1953 of the super-marine Spitfire and then the MK IX Spitfire in 1955 which was a 1/72 scale , it was thought that the new models would bomb in popularity but history has proved otherwise.

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In the 1960s & 70s the interest in the hobby grew exponentially, as did the range of models with vintage motorcycles, cars, space rockets, jets, trains and famous ships. Airfix produced a monthly modelling magazine full of their latest products from 1960 until 1993. In 1963 Airfix tried to compete with Scalextric to produce raceable models but this was shelved.

The 1970s are considered Airfix’s heyday. They produced much larger scale models and ramped up production to 17 different new models a year. At its peak 20m kits were  distributed worldwide and Airfix had 75% of the modelling business in the UK. During this era Airfix acquired Meccano and Dinky Toys to become the UK’s largest toy company.

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The 1980s saw a decline in sales, work place streamlining was met by industrial action, and with a strong £ sales to foreign markets collapsed. Eventually, Airfix filed for bankruptcy in 1981 and was bought by General Mills and then again by a Borden Group/Humbrol in 1986 itself entering liquidation in 2006 when Hornby, the British company that owned of Scalextric, acquired Airfix.

Airfix will always have a place in many peoples heart , the satisfaction of seeing all of its neatly arranged components come together to form such a splendid looking model became an addiction to some with many fine hours spent glueing , painting and, of course, saving up for that one model that would complete your set!

Please click the following link to buy your AIRFIX SPITFIRE on AMAZON  Airfix 1:48 Scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I Model Kit

If you’ve enjoyed Dominic’s piece please see Concorde by Dominic Baker

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Images courtesy of Airfix

Citroën Méhari

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So we are bathed in sunshine, time to go to the beach?

I am fortunate to see the beach regularly and am often joined by those who have what they call a “beach car”. This is a vehicle with a particular attribute, namely you’d happily take it to the local shops, pack it out with provisions for a day in the sun but in truth you’d risk neither your nor your family’s safety on the open road or for any real distance.

The most alluring and iconic of all these beach cars is the variant to the Citroen 2CV, the Citroën Méhari. Designed by the illustrious Count Roland de la Poype, the boss of one of Citroën’s plastics suppliers, named after a dessert dwelling but fast camel and the North African equivalent of a cavalryman. The Citroën Méhari was built for twenty years with a production run starting in 1968 and numbering over 144,000 vehicles. A very good 4×4 drive version was made from 1979 to 1983 with a total of circa 1,300 vehicles were built.

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See the amazingly dated 1975 commercial for the Citroën Méhari here Citroen Mehari advert (1975)

Fellow Aestheticons readers will attest to my guilty pleasure that is the Citroën 2CV one of which we enjoyed as a family long before we became overly conscious of the weighty demands of Heath & Safety. We ran our Plums and Custard, “Dolly” around South London complete with large protective car seats for the kids. In truth, you wouldn’t stand much chance in a motorway pile-up but rattling over the sleeping policemen of Clapham, heading no further than Sainsbury’s in Sands End (Fulham, West London) you’d be ok.

See our earlier posts here Citroën 2CV and Citroën 2CV – Rick Stein “Long Weekend”

Interestingly, in the late 1960’s in the USA the Méhari was described as a “truck” thus escaping many US safety features that bugged European car designers in the era.

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Based on the Citroën Dyane 6 (a later and less attractive incarnation of the 2CV with much the same technology including the 602cc engine), a body made of ABS plastic (which faded over time with extended exposure to sunlight) virtually the same polymer as used to make Lego bricks and a “rag” roof and sides. I have always been amused by the rubber toggles used to secure the bonnet.

An amateur car restorers dream, the Méhari like the 2 CV’s are mechanically very simple and spare parts are readily available either new or from the many Citroen specialist breakers yards to be found along the Mediterranean coasts.

In September 2016, Citroen announced that they were re-imagining the Méhari with the E-Mehari, a battery operated version with a passing resemblance to the original. It launched under several banners but one “More Than Just a Beach Car” really appeals to me. With a 200 km range and a top speed of only 100 kph, my suspicion is that the hefty €24,000 price point (that doesn’t include the battery leasing arrangement) is likely to deter even the most determined Méhari fanatics.

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To remind you to build in “Beach Days” to your heavy schedule place this die-cast model of a Citroen Mehari in your office or Person Cave and its allure will make sure you give yourself some time off! Click the Amazon link below the image

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Norev 150922 1:43 Scale “1978 Citroen Mehari” Die Cast Model

Beach decisions include the T shirt to accompany your fine pair of Vilebrequin shorts – see our earlier post here on this iconic French original icon – Vilebrequin swimshorts

My suggestion must echo your taste for the slightly alternative – it would be uncool to wear a Mehari T shirt but this Motorolics Citroen 2CV T-shirt really does the job! Click the Amazon link below the image.

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Motorholics Mens Eat Sleep Citroen 2CV T-Shirt S – 5XL (2X-Large, Yellow)

If you get lucky enough to acquire a Citroen Mehari you will need a Haynes Manual to keep it in tip top condition. Based on the Dyane, the following Haynes Manual will be invaluable to the Mehari owner – please click the Amazon link below the image

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Citroen 2CV Owner’s Workshop Manual (Haynes Service and Repair Manuals) (2013-04-30)

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks from Citroen, Hayne’s Manuals and Coy’s of Kensington

The Hovercraft

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Seldom do we seen such a dramatic shift away from one established technology with the arrival of a competing and, often, better new technology or solution – this is described by the cruelly true word of “obsolesce”.

A classic example is the Kodiak 35mm film or the Polaroid camera – see our earlier piece here on the Polaroid Camera – when confronted with the dawn of mass digital photography and the ever increasing pixels of the cameras incorporated into mobile phones demand for these former market leaders collapsed.

The powered or manual ribbon typewriter was rendered redundant by the arrival its victor, the word processor/computer.

An equally dramatic commercial market shift can be seen in the impact that the opening of the Channel Tunnel, in May 1994 and the commencing of its passenger services in November 1994, had on the transport links typified by ferry boats and today’s iconic design, The Hovercraft.

On many occasions from the mid 1970’s to late 1980’s I used the Hovercraft services that ploughed between the Kent coasts and Northern France. Akin to flying, rising up then skuttling across the waves on its air inflated “skirt”, the ride was fabulous – if a little noisy – for the sea-sick prone, like me, who could resemble an emerald before a traditional ferry boat had left the harbour!

Not entirely without predecessors, the Hovercraft is regarded as a British invention of  the late 1950’s when mechanical engineer Christopher Cockerell’s and his colleagues developed an annular ring of air for maintaining the cushion and providing lift under the vehicle, combined with a successful “skirt”, resulted in the first practical vehicular use of the concept.

Initially, until no military use was shown, Cockerell’s work and design were Classified. However, it was later Declassified and in 1958 Cockerell obtained funding for a full scale model. Launching in June 1959, it crossed the English Channel on 25 July 1959.

By 1968 a car and passenger cross-channel ferry service was offered by Hoverlloyd from the Kent coast to Calais and Boulogne (France) and, later, by Seaspeed – a joint venture with British Rail and the French equivalent SNCF. In 1981 the two businesses merged to become “Hoverspeed” – whose majestic craft is our featured image.

Hoverspeed Brochure

The Hoverspeed services ceased in 2000 and were replaced by Seacat catamarans until 2005. The reason, often cited for their closure was the impact of the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

I’d also suggest the routes suffered from a decline in so-called “Booze Cruises”, when us Brits, would fill up our cars with lowly taxed beers, wines and spirits in Northern France.

Hoverspeed Booze

Although the Hovercraft continues to enjoy a role, both in the military and civilian services around the world, and production still taking place on the Isle of White – the  home of its design and testing – perhaps like Concorde – see our earlier post here – Concorde by Dominic Baker in years to come and market forces identify demand there will be a revival in the fortunes of the Cross Channel Hovercraft services, I would be a keen supporter.

Hover 2

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Photo credits – Hover Speed And MarkusHerzig.com