Cars of Tintin Series – Standard Vanguard 1950

Standard Vanguard_cIn melee that followed Captain Haddock’s attempt to remove the bovine road block, our Captain ended up riding the holy cow. It transported him adding to the chaotic Delhi traffic which ended up in many a scrapes between some of the iconic and now revered cars in the world. The last one we saw was the Mercedes Benz 220 which went and hit the rear side of a Morris Six. The next victim of the angry and offended cow being ridden by Mr sea salt was a Standard Vanguard. I saw a picture of this car for the first time as a six year old and found it pretty intriguing.

Standard Vanguard_1The Standard Vanguard was produced in UK, Australia and New Zealand by the British manufacturer Standard Motor Company from 1947 to 1963. This was the first post was car offered by Standard. It was a completely new design as the process started in 1945 and was mainly aimed at the export market. The car was named after the last British Battleship, the HMS Vanguard. The idea was to appeal to a large population of ex-servicemen (veterans) who had served either the Army or the Navy during the recently concluded World War. It took quite some effort on behalf of the company to coax the Royal Navy to allow use of the name. Interestingly, the Russians claimed that the design of this car was influenced by the GAZ-M20-Pobeda. May be the only case of a western car being influenced by a Soviet design. The rear ends and profiles of both the cars are definitely similar.

Standard Vanguard_3The Vanguard was showcased at the Brussels Motor Show in 1948. Initially all cars were reserve for export only. It was offered as:-

  • 4 door Sedan/ Saloon
  • Estate
  • Utility Pickup
  • 12CWT delivery van

Standard Vanguard_2This car was more popular than other British imports to the USA as it could seat five and at times six people as compared to usually four seater Austins. It had adequate power to keep up with American traffic and looked familiar to pre- and post war Fords thus mingling well in the scenery. The Vanguard had a body on frame construction with a fast back shape which though appealing to most looked stubby to a few. The design was modern with integrated fenders and an envelope body. Even the rear wheels were covered with removable fender skirts. The seating was more generous at the front where the bench seat could easily accommodate three abreast. The rear seat could comfortably seat two and squeeze in a third if required. The car was pretty compact in dimensions with a length of 4,216 mm (166″) width of 1,753 mm (69″) and height of 1,626 mm (64″).

Standard Vanguard_5Though all Standard Vanguards were exported initially, it did not set the sales charts on fire abroad. It was moderately successful in the USA as it looked and felt like a pre-war American car but was slightly smaller and much less powerful than one. It was more popular in the Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Though it sold in small numbers, it was the third most popular import in Germany despite being much bigger than the competing imports which were tiny people cars from France.

Standard Vanguard_4The Vanguard was powered by a 2,088 cc (127.42 cu-inch) inline four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine which produced 68 BHP at 4,200 rpm while breathing through two Over Head Valves per cylinder. It also produced a torque of 146 N-m (108 ft-lb) at 2,000 rpm. All the power and torque was transferred to the rear wheels through a three speed manual gearbox. This engine could push the 1,191 kg (2,626 lb) car to a top speed of 129 km/h (80 mph). It could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 21.5 seconds. The suspension was independent at front with coil springs and had a live axle at the rear mounted on leaf springs.


Cars of Tintin Series – Austin Cambridge A50

Austin A50 Cambridge_cIn my last post we had seen that Captain Haddock had an involuntary ride on an angry cow on the streets of Delhi. The scene, before the Captain Haddock was dumped in the Cadillac Type 75, shows the Captain holding on to the neck of the running cow and  number of cars swerving to save themselves. The blue car depicted in this scene is an Austin Cambridge A50.

Austin A50 Cambridge_1The A50 was manufactured between 1954 and 1971 at Cowley, England. Later versions of this car were also manufactured in Australia as a pickup called the Coupe Utility and in Japan by Nissan as a 5-door Estate. This car had a monocoque construction. It was a great leap forward for Austin which had been manufacturing traditional cars with separate body and chassis till then. It had integrated wings and a full width radiator grille. The A50 was a pretty successful car with 114,867 cars being sold between 1954 and 1957. This car was offered in a number of body styles like:-

  • 4-door saloon.
  • 4-door estate.
  • 2-door van.
  • 2-door pickup.

Austin A50 Cambridge_4These cars had a live rear axle supported by leaf springs while the front had independent suspension with wishbones and coil springs. They were provided with heater, leather seats, carpets, arm rests on doors and a passenger side sun visor. These cars had more chrome as compared to the A40s whose body was shared by the A50. These cars were powered by a 1,489 cc (90.9 Cu-inch) inline four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. This engine breathed through two valves per cylinder, operated by push rods. It was capable of producing 50 BHP at 4,100 rpm and 100 N-m (74 ft-lb) of torque at 2,100 rpm. The power and torque was transferred to the rear wheels through a four speed gear box which was provided with a Borg-Warner overdrive on three of the four gears. It was also offered as a semi-automatic, called the “Manumatic”. This gearbox permitted clutch less gear shifts. However, it was not very popular with the buying public.

Austin A50 Cambridge_2The 1.5 litre engine in the A50 could push the 4,121 mm (162.25″) long, 1,562 mm (61.5″) wide and 1,562 mm (61.5″) tall car weighing 1,045 kg (2,304 lb) to a top speed of 113 km/h (70 mph). This car could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 25.9 seconds while a 0 to 60 mph came up in a slow 23.6 seconds. In case you felt like drag racing, the Austin A50 would cover the quarter mile strip in 22.5 seconds attaining a speed of 94 km/h (58 mph) when the anchors were dropped. Stopping power was provided by 9″ Girling drum brakes in all four wheels.

Austin A50 Cambridge_3


Cars of Tintin Series – Cadillac Type 75 1937

Cadillac Type 75 _cAfter saving the rule of Emir Ben Kalish Ezab and foiling the nefarious plans of Rastapopoulus in “The Red Sea Sharks”; which had one of the largest collection of cars in any Tintin; our young friend moved on to his next adventure. This was a humanitarian effort where he embarked to find and save his friend Chang, who was aboard an aircraft that crashed in the Himalayas. Tintin, the sentimental fellow never believed that his friend was killed in the crash. He convinced Captain Haddock to accompany him to find his friend in “Tintin in Tibet.” I developed a bonding with this book because it was the first book where Herge showed some real Indian cities. Cadillac Type 75_1I was especially excited as my hometown Patna was mentioned in the book when an air hostess explained the route from New Delhi to Kathmandu with Patna as the stop over city . Herge had frequently depicted the imaginary Indian kingdom of Gaipajama in some of his earlier books though. During a street scene in Delhi, Captain Haddock had attempted to remove the ubiquitous cow found on Indian roads and the angry bovine, on being disturbed, had dumped Captain Haddock in an orange convertible taxi. This car was a Cadillac Type 75, the first generation of Cadillac 70 series.

Cadillac Type 75_3The Cadillac Series 70 was manufactured as a full size American car (a road mobile luxury villa, if I may so call it). This car was manufactured from 1936 to 1976 and then again from 1984 to 1987 covering a total of 11 generations of the car. The car in the book was the first generation Type 75. This car was manufactured only for one year that is 1936 to 1937. This car was designed by Harley Earl and was made available in a number of body shapes like the following:-

  • 2-door coupe.
  • 2-door convertible.
  • 4-door sedan.
  • 4-door convertible.
  • 4-door town car.
  • 4-door limousine.

Cadillac Type 75_5Though the cars had all the ingredients for a successful luxury car; V-8 engine, a body built by Fleetwood, stylish and smart design; the car was launched in the midst of the Great Depression. The price of $ 2,445.00 was too high for the period and only 5,248 cars were manufactured in 1936. The car shown in “Tintin in Tibet” is a 1937 model year car, as it has an egg-crate grille. Herge has also shown the chrome die cast strips at the rear of the hood side panels and the integrated boot that appeared in the 1937 cars.

The Type 75 were huge cars, 5,484 mm (215.9″) long, 1,890 mm (74.4″) wide and 1,748 mm (68.8″) tall. They weighed in at between 2,000 and 2,400 kgs (4,500 to 5,300 lbs). These cars could seat between five and eight people depending on the model one chose.

Cadillac Type 75_6The Type 75 was powered by a 5,678 cc (346.49 cu-inch) naturally aspirated 90 degree V-8 petrol engine. Breathing through two side valves per cylinder, this engine could produce 135 BHP at 3,400 rpm. All the power and torque from the front engined car was transferred to the rear wheels through a single disc clutch using a three speed manual gearbox with synchromesh. The drive was transferred through a semi-floating rear axle with spiral bevel drive. Stopping power was provided by four hydraulically operated drum brakes, one on each of the wheels.

Later generations of the Type 75 were honoured to be the car of choice for the President of the USA.



Cars of Tintin Series – Volvo PV544

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cToday we come to the last car in the parking lot of the Vagabond Car Club Rally. Over the last few weeks I discussed about one after the other classics of today. Some of the most exotic as well as popular cars of the day. Hats off to Herge for making such a detailed frame in the book “The Red Sea Sharks”. I am sure all the cars selected to be drawn must have been curated with detailed consideration. The car we discuss today is a red fastback numbered 24, parked between the Citroen DS and Triumph TR3. This car is the Volvo PV 544.

Volvo 544_4The PV 444 followed by the 544 were near identical cars. These cars were manufactured from 1944 till 1966. The only visible difference between the PV 444 and PV 544 other than the badging was the replacement of two straight windscreens on the PV 444 with a single piece curved wind screen. Though there were many upgrades under the hood with larger engines and four speed gearbox replacing the smaller engines and three speed gearbox of the PV 444. These cars were offered only in one body shape and that was a two door fastback which could seat four people. The shortage of raw material and fuel during World War II made Volvo realise that the post war era would need a small and fuel efficient car which was robust. They designed and started manufacturing the PV 444 in 1944, but it was only in 1947 that the sales did pickup well.

Volvo 544_5This was Volvo’s first moncoque construction car. It was based on the Hanomag 1.3 litre from 1939. The Hanomag had been purchased and “studied” by engineers of Volvo. This car had more than double the fuel economy of an average American car of the era and the performance was also brisk. The added advantage of four seats won over many an American sports cars drivers who got the same driving pleasure but with an added advantage of carrying the whole family.

Volvo 544_1The PV 544 was actually introduced in 1958. In addition to the subtle difference between PV 444 and PV 544 discussed earlier, the PV 544 had a ribbon type speedometer which was in style at the time. It was probably the only modern styling element in a car that was still styled for the 1940s. This was also the first Volvo to be manufactured outside Sweden; in Canada.

Volvo 544_3The PV 544 was offered with three engine options, the B16; a 1,582 cc (96.54 Cu-inch) inline four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that produced 72 BHP of power at 5,500 rpm and 117 N-m (86.29 ft-lb) of torque at 2,600 rpm. Another engine was the 1,778 cc (108.5 Cu-inch) inline four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine which produced 75 BHP of power at 4,500 rpm and 137 N-m (101.05 ft-lb) of torque at 3,000 rpm in the single carburettor guise; the B18A. With twin SU carburettors installed, the same engine; now called the B18D; produced 95 BHP of power at 5,000 rpm and 142 N-m (104.73 ft-lb) of torque. The 1.6 litre engine could push this car to a top speed of 153 km/h (95 mph). It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 15.6 seconds.

Volvo 544_2All this power and torque was transferred to the rear wheels using a four speed gearbox. The PV 544 measured 4,500 mm (177″) in length, 1,570 mm (61.8″) in width and 1,520 mm (59.8″) in height. The car weighed in at 972 kg (2,140 lbs). The front suspension was independent with coil springs, telescopic dampers, wishbones and anti-rollbar. The rear suspension comprised live axle, coil springs, telescopic dampers, torque arms and Panhard rod.

The PV 444/544 was a very successful car for Volvo, they sold around 440,000 cars during its lifetime. The cars were so popular and loved by their owners that Volvo had to give ads apologising for stopping production and replacing the car with the Volvo Amazon.

Cars of Tintin Series – Triumph TR3

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cIts been 12 weeks in the garden of Marlinspike. Thanks to the car rally organised by Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club. It brings out the details to which Herge went while drawing the various Tintin stories. This parking lot is full of the best and most popular vehicles of the time. To a person not very keen on cars, its just the last frame of the book “The Red Sea Sharks” which is full of a large number of colourful cars. But to a keen eye it represents a immense effort to capture the motoring world of the time. The next car in the parking lot is car number 36, a green roadster. This car is non other than the famous Triumph TR3. A cheap and happy runabout which was great fun to drive and which fired the enthusiasm for affordable sports cars from Britain.

Triumph TR3_4The TR3 was manufactured by Standard Motor Company from 1955 to 1962. It came in three versions, mostly cosmetically different, the TR3 , TR3A and TR3B. This car was manufactured in UK, Australia, Belgium and South Africa. However, its biggest market was the USA where it satisfied the American driver’s insatiable thirst for some open top wind in the hair driving. The car was light, fast and handled well making it a fun car to have. It was offered as an open top two seater roadster, however, the options list included an additional rear seat or a bolt on hard top also. It had simple interior which was functional, there were no windows and the doors had been shaped such that the driver and passenger could easily rest their hands on the doors. It came with options like a heater, which was not very effective, a radio and an electrically operated overdrive function on three of the four gears. This function was operated from a switch provided on the dashboard.

Triumph TR3_2This car was powered by a 1,991 cc (121.5 Cu-inch) inline four cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. All the four cylinders breathed through one inlet and one exhaust valve and sipped petrol through two SU H-6 carburetors. These engines produced initially 95 and later 100 BHP at 5,000 rpm. It also churned out 159 N-m (117 ft-lb) of torque at 3,000 rpm. All the power and torque was transferred to the rear wheels through a manual four speed gear box. This power was enough to propel the 904 Kg (1,993 lb) car to a top speed of 169.5 km/h (105.3 mph). The engine could accelerated the car from 0 to 60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 10.8 seconds. If you took your TR3 for a drag race, you could beat any car covering the quarter mile in more than 18.1 seconds.

Triumph TR3_1The TR3 was a small car measuring 3,835 mm (151″) in length, 1,422 mm (56″) in width and just 1,270 mm (50″) in height. The front suspension comprised double A-arms, coils springs and tube shock-absorbers. You could opt for an anti-roll bar also. The rear suspension comprised conventional leaf springs supporting a solid axle. The wheels could also be ordered with either 48 or 60 spoke wire wheels. Stopping power was provided initially by drum brakes on all wheels. However, from 1956 onward disc brakes were provided in the front wheels making them the first British sports cars to sport one.

Triumph TR3_3The TR 3 was pretty successful in motorsports, no wonder it found a place in Joylon Wagg’s rally parking lot. These cars won six victories in the “Coupes des Alpes” awards. They successfully participated in rallies like RAC, Monte Carlo, Circuit of Ireland, International Tulip etc and Liege-Rome-Liege, Tour de France races. They were extremely popular in continental hill climbs as also endurance races like the Mille Miglia and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Triumph TR3_5

Cars of Tintin Series – Porsche 356A

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cAh!….into what a parking lot had the garden of Marlinspike hall converted into. Thank you Joylon Wagg for being such a nag for Haddock. Another great car seen participating in the Vagabond Car Club Rally a small blue car, the number 8. It is an icon of motoring excellence coming out of Austria and Germany. The Porsche 356A.

The 356A was the second car in the 356 series which covered the 356, 356A, 356B and 356C. These cars were light weight luxury sports cars built by Porsche from 1948 to 1965. For the first two years these cars were manufactured by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH at Gmund in Austria. Porsche 356A_3Thereafter the production shifted to Zuffenhausen where these cars were manufactured by the German company, “Dr Ing h c F Porsche GmbH”. The Porsche 356 was designed by Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, son of Dr Ferdinand Porsche. This was the first car manufactured by Porsche, earlier the company had designed cars for other manufacturers like the Volkswagen Beetle, Cisitalia race cars and Auto Union race cars.The idea behind the 356 was to install a powerful engine in a small car which would be fast and easy to maneouvre. These cars were a hit with enthusiasts who drove them to work through the week and raced them over the weekend. It won its first laurels at Innsbruck in 1948 where it won its class.

The 356A was manufactured between 1955 and 1959. It was offered as:-

  • 2-door coupe
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door roadster.

Porsche 356A_4These cars had a unitary (monocoque) body construction. The basic design of the car did not change through out the life span and only functional upgrades in the structure were carried out. As the USP of the car was sportiness and speed and not mass appeal, superficial annual changes in the cars were not carried out. One of the models offered in the USA was a stripped down open top car with a reduced wind screen which could be removed easily for racing. These cars were extremely popular in California, USA. The 356A was offered with a curved wind screen instead of the bent screen offered on the 356.

Porsche 356A_5These cars were made available with various engines which were further offered with different states of tune. As a result we had two 1.3 litre engines, a 1.5 litre race engine with four cams called the Carrera and three 1.6 litre engines. These engines generated power as follows:-

  • 1300 cc – 44 HP.
  • 1300 cc Super – 60 HP.
  • 1600 cc – 60 HP.
  • 1600 Super – 75 HP.
  • 1500 GS Carrera – 100 HP.

Porsche 356A_2All these engines were installed in the rear and drove the rear wheels. The power and torque were transferred to the rear wheels through a four speed gear box. The 356 weighed in at a mere 820 kg (1808 lb) and the 60 HP 1600 cc engine could push it to a top speed of 177 km/h (110 mph).


Porsche 356A_1

Cars of Tintin Series – Plymouth Belvedere 1957

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cA red and cream coloured car number 7 dominates the foreground in the last picture in the book “The Red Sea Sharks”. Its huge and dwarfs the other European cars. Competition is offered only by car number 17, another behemoth from across the Atlantic. A Cadillac Eldorado. The car under discussion is the Plymouth Belvedere. Actually, in 1957, when the Belvedere was launched, General Motors, manufacturer of the Eldorado and Ford had gone into shock. The car was touted as the future presented today. The advertisements from Chrysler Corporation trumpeted – “Suddenly – It’s 1960!” and “1960 — Now, Plymouth is three full years ahead.”, another advert went on to say – “In one flaming moment, Plymouth leaps three full years ahead—the only car that dares to break the time barrier! The car you might have expected in 1960 is at your dealers today!”. What Chrysler had done was scuttling the complete five car line up just two years in production and introduced a planned 1960 model in 1957. While products of GM and Ford were inspired by the aircraft, especially jets, the Belvedere was inspired by the space ship. It was designed by Virgil Exner.

Plymouth Belvedere_3The Belvedere was manufactured by Plymouth from 1954 to 1970. It was the top of the line full sized American car, in effect a small apartment on wheels. The car was lower and wider, though shorter than the outgoing 1956 model car. It was endowed with the “Forward Look of Motion”, in effect a wedge shape comprising low front fenders and bonnet, a gently sloping wind shield, tapered rear windows, and rising fins topped with a razor thin flat roof. Side trim was minimal, enough to allow the dual paint schemes to be implemented effectively where required. These cars were offered in a number of body styles like:-

  • 2-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 2-door hardtop
  • 4-door hardtop
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door station wagon
  • 4-door station wagon

Plymouth Belvedere_5These cars were offered with a number of power train options that included the following:-

  • 3,772 cc (230.2 Cu-inch) inline six cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine producing 132 BHP at 3,600 rpm and 278 N-m (205 ft-lb) at 1,600 rpm.
  • 4,474 cc (273 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 197 BHP at 4,400 rpm and 366 N-m (270 ft-lb) at 2,400 rpm.
  • 4,933 cc (301 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 215 BHP at 4,400 rpm and 278 N-m (386 ft-lb) at 2,800 rpm.
  • 5,211 cc (318 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 290 BHP at 4,400 rpm

Plymouth Belvedere_1All the power and torque generated by these front mounted engines was transmitted to the rear wheels through either a three speed manual transmission or a two or three speed push button operated automatic transmission. The Belvedere was the best handling American car of its time. Its suspension comprised a torsion bar set up with ball joint steeling. This was complemented by the “Torsion Aire Ride”. The leaf springs were re-designed with short, stiff leaves in front of the axle and long, soft leaves at the rear. The arrangement of the springs minimised rear end squatting under acceleration and also lowered the center of gravity thus improving rear end stability. The weight distribution was near perfect approaching theoretical sports car distributions.

Plymouth Belvedere_2Stopping power was provided to the cars through four 11″ drum brakes on all four wheels. Police cars were provided with 12″ drum brakes. As far as luxuries of life are concerned, Air conditioning was offered as an option. As a move towards modern air conditioning, all components of the air conditioner were moved into the engine bay and the system was integrated with the heating system. This move also liberated more space in the boot as earlier some of the air conditioning components were installed there. A Benrus watch was offered in the hub of the steering wheel.

Plymouth Belvedere_4The Belvedere was an extremely popular car with 762,231 cars being manufactured in the year 1957 itself. This helped the brand to move ahead of Buick and claim third position which it had usually occupied. However, in their hurry to launch a 1960 car in 1957 followed by the breakneck production to meet demand, Chrysler did not test the cars completely and quality was hit. Thus leading to a number of issues later, including leaky bodywork, torn upholstery, flaked paint etc. This image of poor quality cars went ahead to haunt Chrysler till the 1980s when Lee Iacocca turned around the company.