Martin Buckley takes us for a wound-up ride in his zesty NSU Ro 80.
As an obsessive gearhead with some engineering background to boot, it seemed Martin Buckley was a young man destined to spin wrenches for a living—but he had different plans. “I went down that road a little bit, but being a mechanic didn’t seem to have anything to do with liking cars. It was almost about hating them,” Martin reflects. “There was nothing glamorous about it at all. I wanted the sexy part of it.”
So, Martin took an unusual but highly rewarding route in turning cars into another career: writing about them. Jokingly referring to his self-proclaimed “Motoring Connoisseur” title, Martin wrote his first piece for Classic and Sports Car magazine at age 16. The topic? The then new and now iconic BMW E9 coupe, which Martin admits was the car he was “completely obsessed with at the time.” Understandable.
Ever since then, Martin has been wholeheartedly committed to motoring magazines and professional automotive journalism, ranging from Classic and Sports Car to EVO, Autocar to Top Gear. His dedication to the car crazy wordsmith craft has paid off, too. With an assorted collection stabled in his automobilia-plastered garage, Martin has, as one might guess, a widespread appreciation for all types of automobiles.
His passion for petrol is vast, but he does have a soft spot for the quirky but clever, funky but charming, NSU Ro 80. “I do remember seeing them on the road as a kid,” Martin remarks on the Wankel-whirling Ro 80, “Even in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it still looked futuristic, and it somehow still looks futuristic now.”
Martin first purchased this NSU a decade ago. It was a decent original driver with sunbaked paint and a neglected powertrain. Within an hour of having it home, Martin and a friend were able to get the rotary revolving again after just minimal maintenance. After going through the rest of the drivetrain, Martin secured an MOT and sold the car to a friend… who eventually sold it back to Martin.
As a second-time owner, Martin felt inclined to do the slick sedan justice by treating it to a fresh coat of paint. Now shining brightly and mechanically sound as well, Martin is free to enjoy what he loves most about these cars: driving them.
It’d be easy to make excuses to only occasionally use such a rare machine, considering all the nonexistent replacement parts not so readily available, but this auto journo doesn’t care. “I think people get worried about things they don't need to get worried about. It's bollocks,” Martin laughs, “As long as that thing has petrol and oil in it, it'll go.
The Fourth of July may not be celebrated outside of the US, but an appreciation of American muscle knows no bounds; join us this week as we take a rumbly ride in Mathieu Houtreille’s crisp Ermine White 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray through the back roads surrounding Luxembourg, Belgium.
Like many of us, Mathieu grew up under a gearhead’s roof. His father, Jean-Luc Houtreille, ensured he raised his son properly. “Ever since I learned to walk, my dad took me to all the car affairs,” Mathieu tells, “I would see the mechanics work under warm hoods, and the smell that emerged would captivate me.” A natural-born car-obsessed boy, where his father leaned towards the Italian marques, Mathieu differed, oddly falling for old American steel and iron.
Mat says, “For me, the monsters that gave me goose bumps were the ones with massive V8s and a thunderous sound coming out of their tailpipes. That's what I loved.” Forever longing for Detroit muscle, a trip with his wife stateside sealed his fate with Corvettes. Referring to this excursion, Mat clarifies, “It is a country with a lot of wide-open spaces. It is magical, and you can't understand unless you've been there, and taken those roads, because you can't describe it [otherwise].”
Learning of the ‘50s and ‘60s American car culture’s love of machine as well as its street racing scene, Mat realized this era was a special time that no longer exists, admitting that oftentimes, “If you tell people you hand-wash your car and you love your car, they will think you're dumb.” The sad truth is, most people view that mentality as outdated, but not Mathieu of course.
Call it born in the wrong country in the wrong generation if you want, but we prefer to regard Mathieu’s passion a dying romance we’re happy to see still has a heart with a strong pulse. After wheeling a C3 for a while, his appreciation for the earlier C2 Stingray turned into an obsession. “I had to acquire one of those sacred monsters,” Mathieu says, determined, “my love for the C2 grew. With its perfect aesthetics, it is the epitome of the mid-‘60s.”
After seeing a flawlessly restored C2 in the flesh at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas, Mat’s desire for his own Stingray only continued moving from want to need, and he was lucky enough to find an ad a few months later for an Ermine White 1965 model—his preferred color. With a friend accompanying him to see the car, they arrived to the seller’s town. “It smelled of dreams,” Mat says smiling, “It smelled so good.” The seller turned out to be an avid car collector with a multi-story garage full of classic goodies. “The door opened, and I saw cars everywhere.”
Suppressing his excitement as to not get his hopes up too high for the Corvette in question, Mat smirks, “It was time for a test drive.” Too intimidated to drive the car initially, Mat turned down the seller’s offer and insisted on riding shotgun. A drive post-rainfall through forested roads at 110 miles per hour was all the conviction Mathieu really needed, but the step-off of the accelerator which summoned vicious backdraft pops and bangs was the final verdict: this was going to be the one.