Our classic Suzuki Samurai runs as fit as ever…

Our Samurai in front of the scenic village of Rochecolombe…

Our faithful Suzuki has reached true oldtimer status now. It is eligible to become “Voiture de Collection” in France, and we are preparing the final documents now to register it. This means the gleaming Samurai has only to pass every five years at the technical control, it can run on original “vintage “ French license plates of the sixties/seventies, and can even carry the famous French yellow bulbs in its headlights. Wow!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In the meantime, our mid-eighties Samurai certainly has leaded a rather protected life in our hands, and the result is that it still looks virtually “as new”. Also pristine are the mechanics. We just dropped the battery in and after two starting attempts to allow the fuel to reach the carburetor, we gave it a blip on the accelerator pedal to start the automatic choke, and there it started in a smooth idle. Carefully warming it up for a minute or two to “run in” the waterpump and ancillaries after their long winter sleep, and off we went. 

Our Samurai in the Vineyards near St. Maurice d’Ibie

The 80 HP 1,3 litre Suzuki is a fine performer, and of course very much at home off-road. Small “V” or “Voirie” roads in the French mountains are its favored playgrounds, and one cannot think of a better four wheeled companion to make those mountain tours far from the (Corona)maddening crowds. This jeep is therefore much cherished and immensely popular amongst outdoor lovers in the  French mountain regions, due to its sturdy compactness and excellent offroad qualities.

The interior is still in mint condition…

We took it amongst others on a scenic tour to St. Maurice-d’Ibie, on the D 558 towards Les Salelles and then turning right on the D1 through Lagorce, from there on to the right on the D 401 to Rochecolombe. Here we also took some photos for this report.

The Samurai is pleasantly short geared, so steep hills are an absolute breeze, and in slow crawling traffic in the small village alleys this Samurai feels totally at home.

On the scenic road towards Les Salelles …

Again consumption depends on your driving style, but keep the revs low, and this efficient 1,3 litre combined with the light weight of the Samurai will not let you down at the pump, and consumption averages below 8 litres/100 km are quite achievable.  

We loved again every minute behind the wheel of our Suzuki again, and look forward to see it again in autumn, Corona times helping of course…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Mercedes A Class still going strong…

The holiday tale of our cars continues with our faithful A Class, which is showing its solidity and utter reliability. The battery did not quite survive its lengthy sleep, and we had to replace it with a new “Point S” 70 h battery, setting us back some 100 Euros. We decided for the future to take it back home, as we did with the Suzuki and Beetle, and keep it charged regularly. We should of course have done this in the first place!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

But that’s about all we had to do with the still cute and contemporary looking A Class. It fired up without problems and runs quite smoothly, and proved with its 102 hp 1,6 litre four-cylinder petrol engine to be quite zesty and amusing to drive. Acceleration from 0 to 100 is around 11,8 seconds with the auto box and top speed is 180 km/h, so no problem to keep up with today’s traffic…

The engine is admirably supported by a five speed automatic, which is a pleasure to use in the mountainous and hilly areas of the French Midi and Massif Central. For the photo session of our faithful mount we took it on a scenic ride from the charming village Ailhon via a small Départementale 359 to another gem of a village, Fons. From there on to the neighbourhood of Chapelle s/s-Aubenas, leaving it on our left side and continuing in the direction of Chassiers, on the D 103, to the villages of Rocher and Prunet via the D5, through and alongside dense woods, running in the valley of the Ligne river. From there on, the D5 treated us to some breathtaking views to be enjoyed on the Col de la Croix de Millet, at an altitude of 776 meter. On the panorama, we even caught a glimpse of the Mont Ventoux!

With a “classic” electro/hydraulic operated Daimler Benz automatic, your driving style is of course of paramount importance. But when driving with some restraint, the gearbox takes economy well into account. When left in “D” mode, the gearbox keeps revs low at smaller throttle openings, so the engine runs hardly above 2000 rpm, resulting in quite reasonable consumption figures between 6 and 7 liters/100 km.

Further photo was taken after a vigorous rain and hailstorm whilst we were driving from St. Pierreville to St. Julien-du-Gua, 11 kilometers over a very narrow D58, giving us a scenery which was worthy of a Wagnerian opera, and indeed we felt like the Flying Dutchman, only happy to find ourselves behind the wheel of a car with the good three pointed star. After this drive, we crossed the D122, and on these crossroads we photographed the car, driving at an altitude of roughly 1000 meters.

So nothing but good news of our A Class, which proves again the point that quality built cars really stand out when the years go by. To be continued!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Cars: almost faultless in holiday time…

We made the trip to the French Midi with our Lexus: 4,3 l/100 km…

At the moment of writing we are spending our holiday as usual in a village in the French Massif Central, which is now luckily rather “Corona Safe” simply because it is not densely populated. This means of course that everybody has go remain very careful as even – as we have seen in the earlier stages of the pandemic – mountain villages can be hotspots spreading the disease.

As our holiday car to make the 1,000 km trip to the south we picked this time our faithful and oh so frugal Lexus CT200h, which just had its service done only a month before. Besides the usual checks and a filter and oil change nothing else was needed.

It proved a very comfortable trip in the true Lexus style, and with the drive mode selector in “ECO” and good use of the cruise control, we managed a fuel consumption of 4,3 litres/100 km over the trip, which equals some 54 miles per US Gallon or 65,6 miles (!) per Imperial gallon.

Digital airco and excellent sound deadening in combination with the good sound system made it a very enjoyable and relaxing affair.

In our holiday home we found back our Mercedes A Class and the VW New Beetle 1.4i, and last but not least our Suzuki Samurai, which we will endeavour this year’s holiday to register it as a “Voiture de Collection”.

At the moment of writing, we have used so far the compact Mercedes, so ideal for the necessary supermarket/grocery errands, and the New Beetle for the scenic mountain trips in the surroundings. Both cars fired up without any hesitation, and drive as smoothly as ever.

A driver’s dream: the road from Génestelle to Mézilhac

Whilst we took our Beetle on a very scenic route over Antraigues, Genestelle and Mézilhac, the right rear side window cable snapped, leaving the side rear window in half open position. This means for us getting a new cable set and doing the extensive repair, rather time consuming as the complete rear upholstery, seats and coverings have to come off.

En route over the Vivarais mountains, the rear window stayed open due to a broken cable…

A nice project to tackle next year, as we decide to use the car for our touristic trips this year anyway with the right rear side window half open. It is summer time and the car can be locked up safely also inside the cabin with glove box lock. As it is a convertible, access to the boot lid and fuel filler cap can be locked off too, by locking the commands in the driver’s door. It spends the rest of the year in a closed garage, so there is no problem there either….

The coming days we will start up the Samurai, and we will make also some nice (offroad) mountain tours with it. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our BMW Z3 fully repaired…

Our BMW is happily running again. When we found out that the rubber backstop which held the hook into the hole of the lever commanded by the throttle pedal was missing, we contacted our local dealer BMW Jorssen to order the part. Of course, in Corona times the dealer was not open to the public at the time, but they were fully prepared to order for us the rubber circular stop.

First Jorssen sent us a mail with an exploded technical drawing to make sure this was the missing part we wanted. It appeared to be part number 35 41 1 152 331 “Rubber tule”, and a few days later it arrived neatly in our mailbox at home.

The service was excellent and punctual. We soon went to our BMW Z3 to install it, which proved to be a breeze. Just push it over the end of the hook. We re-installed the dashboard cover above the pedals, and presto, we were ready for another (test) drive.

But before we started the engine, we took another inspection in the foot-well area and around the throttle pedal whether we wouldn’t find somewhere (a piece) of the old backstop? You would never know! Indeed, after some good and meticulous cleaning around the throttle it appeared: indeed, we found a completely broken half of the original backstop…  


So after all, we were completely correct in our diagnosis, and went for a happy, smooth short drive.

Our BMW Z3 is again in top form, but alas, in Corona times, it still has to wait a bit to make these beautiful trips we all dream of now…

Stay posted for more BMW Z3 stories!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We got our BMW Z3 running again…

In Corona times, one meets many challenges. Such as repairing a quality car like the BMW at home. Something we would never envision to do in normal times. But as our beloved Z3 was standing in our home garage with a loose throttle pedal connection, and as garages are still on lockdown at the moment of writing, the only thing to do was to tackle the repair ourselves. Moreover, as we have to move up a gentle upward slope when driving our of the garage, we need more than just idling power, so we had no alternative than to get the throttle connected again.   

So we took all our courage and screwdriver in our hands, and first removed the cover beneath the dashboard on the driver’s seat, shielding the throttle linkage. This proved rather straightforward, with only two plastic screws to be loosened. Then we gently took the cover off, and looked at the throttle mechanism, more especially the lever where it takes up the hook at the end of the throttle cable. We just hoped and prayed that this hook just had snapped off the lever commanded by the throttle, and that the throttle cable itself was not broken.

We fixed again the hook end of the throttle cable into the hole of lever commanded by the throttle pedal…

We remember when we abruptly went of the throttle when we saw the female jogger almost jump in front of our car, we didn’t hear any noise of a popping or snapping cable, so a loose hook was probably it. The cable hadn’t been sticky either, as throttle operation was always very smooth and progressive, so again it was unlikely that it had snapped.

And hurray, the throttle cable was not broken, and indeed only the hook had come off its hole in the lever. The reason was also soon found, why this has happened. The rubber stop to prevent the hook from sliding out of the hole in the lever was just missing. So the thin hook was just gingerly lodged in the hole of the lever, as the photo here below clearly shows.

As the throttle lever has two holes, we did have to check whether we had chosen the right one when we reconnected the hook, and we had to check that the engine was responding well to the throttle movements and still idling well properly when we did not touch the throttle pedal.

So yes, we took our beloved BMW Z3 for a brief spin, and were delighted that throttle movements where as smooth as ever, and that the engine responded beautifully.

Now we just have to order the right rubber backstop preventing the hook from (again) sliding out of its hole, and we will try our luck with our local dealer BMW Jorssen in Aartselaar. Then we can re-assemble the cover again neatly, and everything is again forgotten, hopefully.

To be continued!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Our Lexus CT 200h passes annual technical test with flying colors…

Our Lexus is now just more than a year with us, and has proved to be not only a smooth performer, it also is immensely frugal. Our average consumption over the whole year was an astonishing 4,7  liters/100 km. Nothing whatsoever was amiss with our Lexus, it started always at the first push of a button, and we didn’t have to add anything except 95 octane fuel.

It was time to put it through the annual technical inspection, which it passed with no remarks at all. The MOT inspectors were also impressed when looking underneath the car: the drivetrain units and transmission were totally dry, no leaks whatsoever, suspension top notch, as was the bodywork.

A green inspection report, OK to drive another year…

These results are hardly surprising when we read the latest press announcement from Stephan Lesuisse of Lexus Belgium, announcing that the Belgian consumer organization “Test Aankoop/Test Achat” (translated Test Purchase) has awarded Lexus with the title of the most reliable brand in 2019. International consumer surveys with 43.000 clients participating put Lexus on top with Toyota being a good third, and also other Japanese brands scoring very well in the top 5 group. Only one brand in this group is not Japanese…

Our Lexus proved fault free at the annual inspection…

Lexus ended with a 95 % score, with a 93% result for Toyota. But that is not all. Lexus cars has earned the 2020 What Car? Reliability Award in the UK. This honour follows on from Lexus’s exceptional performance in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey, in which the brand was the highest-ranked manufacturer for the third year running and its CT 200h hybrid luxury hatchback recorded a 100 per cent fault-free performance across the previous 12 months.

Need we say more? No small wonder that we are continuing to drive our Lexus CT 200h with a broad smile on our car loving face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Our Suzuki Samurai passed the “contrôle technique” with flying colours…

The technician at the “contrôle technique” puts a broad smile…

Indeed, this is the second part of a very happy story. As we said earlier, we took our faithful runner to the “Point S” station, and got the oil and filter changed, and the brake system cleaned and brake fluids replaced. In the meantime, the slight brake friction we had felt on the left front wheel had already disappeared.

We first went to “point S” for a checkup…

The next day we presented it to the “Securitest”, and as expected, it passed the test without a hitch. “C’est une très bonne voiture!” acclaimed the man who checked the car. We photographed him in front of our Samurai at the end of the test, after he had put the small sticker with the test validity date on the window.

Indeed, it is immediately visible for anyone in France whether the car is properly insured and has passed the MOT test, as it is obligatory to put both the insurance and the MOT test sticker on the window. Very clever!

The validity date of the last “controle technique” is put on “la carte grise” or the grey card, which are the car’s identity papers.

Contrary to Belgium, the control is valid for a period of two years instead of one, which is far more logical if you consider the present state of technology of our modern cars.

Our 1988 Samurai passed…

Indeed, even with the soaring heat wave temperatures well above 30 degrees we are experiencing at the moment of writing, our youngtimers, the 21 year old Mercedes A Class and this 31 year old Suzuki, perform perfectly without the slightest hint of overheating or whatsoever. It proves again how much superior car technology is and has been since more than thirty years ago, compared to present day public transport trains and their infrastructure, if one reads the horrible stories of thousands of people stuck in overheated, defect trains and rail infrastructure this week. Quod erat demonstrandum!

We are now enjoying our Suzuki, driving it along vineyards and historic villages with good places to eat, and are now putting things in place to get it registered as a “voiture de collection”…

More to follow!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our faithful Samurai will become an oldtimer, or “voiture de collection”

As some readers will remember, the stable of cars at our French holiday house also includes a 1988 Suzuki Samurai, which has now reached the venerable age of more than 30 years, and is therefore now elegible to become a “collectors’ car”. It hasn’t been running last year, but that didn’t prevent it for starting right away after 2 years, after an initial 7 second burst on the starter motor to get the fuel up. After this first burst we waited for about 20 seconds or so, and then turned the key again: tchch-vrooom it shot into life right away, settling immediately in a smooth 1300 rpm on the automatic choke, without any hiccup or misfiring. Soon, after a minute or so, it ran at the 800 rpm normal tickover, and that was that. After this first start, it fires up immediately every time.

We depressed the clutch, which was free moving, and we cautiously moved it slowly in first and reverse, to loosen things up further. Clutch and brakes seemed OK. So we took it out of its garage and went for a first 10 kilometer mountain drive, only to notice that the left front brake must be not completely loose as after a 4 kilometers or so, the Samurai started pulling a bit to the left and indeed the left front wheel rim was running warmer, and this could be felt by hand. Luckily the rear drum brakes were fine, as the wheels stayed cold. We stopped and luckily noticed that even the slightest descent got the car rolling, so the friction could not be that much. We will drive it quietly tomorrow to the service station “Point S” to get the brakes checked and the oil and filter changed, and the day after it will be a visit to the “contrôle technique”.

To be continued, we will keep you posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Cars: The Mercedes A Class is still going strong…

In our stable we also have some “French” cars, which live in our French country house, where they serve as holiday transport when we enjoy “time out” in la Douce France. One of these is a 1998 A Class 160 with a five speed automatic which we bought used now more than 14 years ago and which has seen intensive (professional) daily use by my wife for more than a decade; it has since 3 years found a new home in France. It is an ideal fit for the winding roads in the French Midi, its zesty 1,6 litre petrol engine is well mated to the auto box, and it is our favoured transport for outings and shopping.

In France, older cars have to pass a “contrôle technique” every two years, and they are checked for brakes, steering, windows/wipers, lights, suspension, chassis corrosion, seats and seat belts, interior, all commands, door locks, etc. With of course last but not least brake efficiency and emissions testing included. The multinational SGS actually is the company organising technical car controls under its “securitest” label in France and the test items and procedures can be found on their website securitest.fr.

Our trusted A Class passed the test with flying colours, not very surprising as the car is properly maintained. The “contrôle technique” is done by appointment, so you don’t waste any time, and is concluded by a very kind and detailed personal comment about the points which need attention on the car in the coming two years. On our A Class, it was the condition of the last muffler and of course brake pads, although not critical, the latter which indeed are due for renewal within the coming months. 

So our A Class, with now 248.000 km on the clock, is soldiering on still further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our Lexus reaches new consumption records…

Our personal Lexus CT200h is demonstrating its amazing economy ever more.

On a recent 96 km summer trip along scenic coastal roads in our low countries, we reached a new personal low of… 3,9 liters/100 km.

Of course we were driving with anticipation, taking full advantage of the hybrid system, but moving along with the pace of holiday traffic, and with the airco full ablaze in the recent hotter (heat wave) weather. So nothing special there.

You can also read this on the instagram page of Lexus Belux, who were so kind, after we told them enthusiastically about our feats, to mention it also on their page…

More (positive) news soon, stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel