Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread

UMM mde these from 1977 to 1984. It’s a 4×4 vehicle with a Peugeot diesel engine and gearbox. Production started in France and moved to Portugal in 1979

UMM 4×4, Lisbon

There is not a lot out there about these vehicles and the pictures say the most. What I will do instead is take this as a chance to

discuss my motoring day walking about Lisbon in November 2019. Taxi rides are cheap so I used one to start my day – a Dacia: vinyl seat and a terrible ride over Lisbon’s appalling road surfaces. That took me from the superb hotel to Belem castle, which is to Lisbon what the Eifel Tower is to Paris.

UMM 4×4 interior

From there I walked back into town and saw one of these creatures, the UMM. In fact I saw two and this one is the better of them. The interior comes from another example.

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Visitors to Lisbon will notice the paucity of older cars, something of a surprise given the dry climate. Most of them are typical souther European motors from the cheaper end of the spectrum (a Kadett, a 205 and some Renault 5s). Only two “proper” Classic & Sportscar-type cars stood out, a BMW520 and a pre-GM Saab 900, both parked outisde the same house near St George’s Castle.

Cures baldness
Renault 4, Lisbon

It wasn’t until near the end of my epic trek from Belem to Alfama that I espied this cracking R4 which seems to be a daily driver. And here’s the interesting thing, it’s not a Citroen 2CV. In 20 km of walking I saw not one of those and generally no Citroens at all.

BMW 520, Lisbon

Lisbon is well worth a visit (that’s not news). Fortunately I did not one single piece of visual research before going so the whole place came as a massive revelation, apart from Belem Tower (noted for its Manueline

Opel Kadett, Lisbon (all hail!)

decoration). The other revelation was what was not there, old cars in any great numbers. Dublin and Copenhagen have more older cars on the roads than you’ll see in Lisbon – perhaps our Portugese readership can either correct this misapprehension or explain it.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

49 thoughts on “Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread”

  1. Good morning Richard. It’s years since I’ve been to Lisbon, but it’s a fine historic city and a reminder of Portugal’s great seafaring history. The Elevador de Santa Justa observation tower is an idiosyncratic delight:

    Regarding the E28 generation 5 Series you picture, it was a fine looking car but I always thought the thick chrome strip bisecting the tail lights rather heavy-handed:

    Also, I find the position of the exhaust, off-centre but not definitively enough positioned to the right-hand side, very unsettling. (That might just be me, though!)

    1. Those chrome strips had me thinking. The options were no chrome strips (like a Peugeot 604) and thinner ones.
      Thinner ones would perhaps have been vague and indecisive. The 505, Granada and 1985 Rekord has no chrome (and looks cheap). Maybe the pint was to have a clear differentiation as seen from the rear. And also the strip makes a narrow car look wider (always good).
      I agree about the exhaust. It´s neither one thing nor the other.

    2. Agreed, it would look a bit cheap with nothing, but I thought it might be worth comparing thinner strips (similar to those already above and below the clusters, with the existing:


      (I also had to get rid of the horrible exhaust pipe.)

    3. Daniel: would you be able to see why I think your proposal looks more fragile? With the thicker bar (actual version) the coloured areas seem to be set in a field of chrome. If the middle bar is thin it looks like the thin bar is sandwiched between the coloured lamp cover. However, I can see how might prefer the revised version. What might be the case is that neither option is good enough. A third (or other proposal is called for). Thick bar at the top perhaps? I´d like to know how that bar is attached and if it does anything other than act as a garnish.

    4. Hi Richard, yes, I see what you mean. I suppose I find the thick central bar out of proportion with the thin upper and lower ones. Maybe the best solution might be all three the same size, but thicker than I’ve mocked up?

      Incidentally, they’re all “structural”. Here’s the light cluster removed from the car:

    5. We´re playing armchair feasibility engineering here. It looks like the chrome housing is constructed to hold the coloured panels. They are clipped in from the rear. The thicker central bar is there because of the space needed for the flange around the lenses plus some extra for clipping to. One could make them thinner by a bit but they might not be so robust. The solution looks like it avoids visible screw heads.
      You can see how it´s constructed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_BheN4Dds
      The gaskets fail and water gets into the boot. The lamps are fitted from inside the car and the bootliner cover them.
      Behind the thick bar there is rather thick plug. So the bar is doing something besides looking big. And the cluster is held in place by two 10 mm (?) bolts that seem to need the width the chrome bar affords. But maybe BMW just used the thick bar as as excuse to place those bolts and plug there.

    6. I’m sure you’re right, Richard, that there’s some compromise between aesthetics and engineering involved.

      The clusters are actually quite complex constructions, aren’t they?

      They’re actually held in place by six bolts, which must have been time consuming on the original production line. I would imagine that, these days, the assembly is much quicker to install, if less elegant from from an engineering standpoint

    7. A look at the 1985 Ford Granada shows much simpler and shallower units. Ford did it with one peice.
      The BMW has six bolts to keep the unit pressed to the gasket securely. The last Granada uses 4; the electrical bits are inside a box stuck to the cluster. The BMW´s are more vulnerable to water ingress.
      None of which has to to with Portugese 4×4 vehicles seen in lovely Lisbon.

    8. In regular intervals BMW got one end-on aspect of their cars terribly wrong – think 2000 CS front, E21 rear and E28 rear. Those chrome strips are kitsch. They’re probably there because without the chrome the rear would have looked too much US-like with oversize lights like on an Audi 200. A chrome strip at the bottom was out of consideration because the W123 had one. Those E28 lights look much better on the sportier versions where the strip is black.

      The E28 had its exhaust running between fuel tank and spare wheel well and as there was not enough room between the tank and rear valence the tailpipe had to go out in the centre. Old Alfas had a more satisfying solution for the same problem.

    9. The rear light units on the Alfetta must be among the loveliest objects ever made by humankind…

    10. Wasn’t the E28 a heavy re-working of the previous 5er? That might have led to some odd solutions to create something visibly different from the predecessor model. Although I don’t mind that chrome bar – I think I prefer it to the matt black variation..

    11. The E28 was a comprehensive facelift of the E12. German motoring press made fun of the fact that for the price of a new car BMW had created a nearly undetectable facelift.

  2. As part of the Portuguese readership, maybe I can shed some light.

    The old cars that you were expecting to find are seldom used here as daily drivers. They’re mostly inside garages, only leaving them on sunny weekends. Not that there are big numbers anyway. After decades of truly empoverished motoring, when incomes started to rise, people just left their more modest cars to rot without looking back, and started to embrace the teutonic axis with gusto.

    Don’t you think we have a disproportionate amount of Audis, Mercs and BMWs compared to most European cities (London excepted obviously) ?

    Anyway, you probably would fare better up north, in Porto, where more true enthusiasts can be found than in Lisboa.

    1. Hello PJ: lucky you! You live in Portugal. It has enchanted me entirely. Thanks for your answer. I am afraid to disappoint you but Ireland has very many Mercedes and BMWs. I am sure MB outnumbers Ford and Opel now (so much for exclusivity).
      Those little custard pies are lovely, by the way. The wealth of culinary delights in Portugal is a marvel. The driving is not, however! Stay off the road and eat tartlets. I can´t wait to back: I´d like to vist Porto and Coimbra plus the deep, far northeast.

  3. Those UMMs were highly popular in the 80s. We rarely see one nowadays, but i believe most still exist, owned by “hard-core” 4×4 enthusiasts.
    They are rugged machines built on a license from Cournil in france. Power came from diesel and turbo diesel Peugeot engines.
    They had some entries in the Paris Dakar, but powered by the PRV V6, I think.

    1. In my day´s walk around lovely Lisbon I saw sufficient numbers of them for me to think they were some kind of normal. It´s funny they put PRV V6s into them. My understanding of that power unit was that it was not a paragon of reliability. Maybe it was good enought for short bursts of hard work though.

      Not a day goes by without me thinking about Lisbon and Portugal. Everyone I met was so kind and friendly.

    2. I think some UMMs are being used by tourist operators on the hills around Sintra.
      As for the Dakar, for several years they entered petrol V6s alongside Diesels. The V6 went from 2.7 to 3.0 eventually reaching 260cv.

    3. Does a petrol engine provide something a diesel can´t in principle or is it because for higher power outputs only petrol engines were available?

  4. please Daniel, could you take that frontal shot of the UMM
    and add three full stops to its name…

    1. Good morning, Lorander. That did occur to me too, but Richard had already told me off for obsessing about E28 tail lights here and, as the sainted Judge Judy says, “Umm… is not an answer!”

    2. That logo on the bonnet didn’t look like it was properly centered anyway. Maybe they already anticipated Daniel’s modification.

      It looks like we have to deal with a lot of off-centre details these days. Umm…-logos, exhausts, touchscreens, Volvo badges etc. While I like asymmetry a lot, not all of these are equally satisfying for my eyes.

    3. Hi Simon, as you’ve mentioned both asymmetry and Volvo in the same sentence, it gives me an excuse to post this photo, which will mess with your head a little:

      Yes, those doors are different lengths. The left-hand side of the car is a 244, the right-hand side a 242. There are three competing stories to explain this mutant. First, it’s a production line error. Second, it’s one of a small batch specually ordered by the Swedish police. Third, it’s a one-off “243” model built by an eccentric customiser.

      I’m inclined to believe the third story, but am happy to be corrected.

    4. Before anyone accuses me of a Photoshop April Fools joke, here are another couple of shots,?showing both side profiles:

      Of course, it might still be someone else’s Photoshop trickery, but I believe it is real.

    5. An alternative reading might be a Gothenburg equivalent to the character featured in the 1976 Johnny Cash hit song, “One Piece at a Time”

    6. That was a good song, Eóin. At a time when US automakers indulged in annual facelifts, the results must have been, er, jnteresting. If anyone is wondering what we’re on about, here’s the song:

      Meanwhile, here’s a proper three-door Volvo 200 Series, albeit only a prototype:

    7. Interesting car, that blue Volvo. Seems that it’s the predecessor of the Hyundai Veloster. In a way, this door arrangement makes sense – your kids can only get out on the pedestrian side, not towards the street. And unless you open both front doors and look from the front, you won’t even notice the asymmetry when looking at the car.

    8. Hi Simon. True, but doesn’t a child lock on the offside rear door achieve the same thing without all that extra engineering (and forcing the adult offside rear seat passenger to clamber in over the front seatback or centre tunnel)? I’ve never understood the thinking behind asymmetric cars like the Hyundai Veloster or previous MINI Clubman.

    9. Child lock, pfffff…. Everyone has that.
      (Actually, if you follow my comments here you know that you don’t have to convince me of having enough doors on a car)

    10. I do, that’s why I was a bit surprised at you championing three passenger doors!

    11. I’m always championing the unusual, too. So you’ll find me in some kind of dilemma here.

    12. In the lower photo of the blue Volvo you can see that the left side B-post is at a symmetrical position to the one on the right side. If the left side really had a longer door the post would sit farther back.

    13. For me the lower photo looks exactly like it’s NOT symmetrical. The B pillar on the left side divides the glass area in two roughly equal parts, and there is no pillar separating the third window. If the front door had the same lengths as on the right side, its window should be much less than half of the total glass length.

    14. I believe it is real, whatever its origins. Here’s another couple of photos of it, before and after restoration:

      It’s unlike someone would bother to doctor all the photos, particularly the pre-restoration one.

  5. thank you Dave, for the photo of the Giulia Super,
    one of the loveliest sedans ever, with such an
    intriguing and sculptural rear end.

    1. The Giulia Super´s a brilliant car – and yes, that rear sculpting is a delight. It is pretty well integrated and remarkably distinctive.

    1. I guess you’re referring to the UMM, not the Alfas…
      Yes, in that photo from the back, its forward leaning stance (like a ski boot) becomes obvious. It even looks as if the windshield is inclined forward!

  6. Isn’t it the case that there’s a big 50s/60s American car scene in Sweden? Can anyone verify this? Maybe that led to the One piece at a time Volvo?

  7. I have been to Portugal four or five times in the past ten years and I’ve always been pleased by the number of classic cars still in use. There are certainly more on the road there than here in the U.S. From R4s used as delivery vehicles in Lisbon to fruit being sold out of the trunk of an GS wagon outside Obidos to getting passed at high speed by an immaculate Gamma on the frightening mountain roads on way to the schist village of Piodao, Portugal has never failed to delight.

    1. “…getting passed at high speed by an immaculate Gamma on the frightening mountain roads on way to the schist village of Piodao” That is quite a striking image. Thanks for that. I have to go back to Portugal again. A look at Curbside Classics leads one to think every tenth car is a malaise era Ford or a bashed-up Chevrolet Vega or the like. When I lived in the US (now an awful long time ago) I noticed a lot more semi-wrecked old cars about the place than I saw in Ireland. This evidently has changed.

  8. The sixth generation 1967-72 Chevrolet Suburban had a single driver side door and two passenger side doors.

    The first-generation MINI had it all wrong for its domestic market – single passenger side door and (sort of) two driver side doors. It’s still the only modern-day MINI I like.

    In my Qoros-stalking days I thought better of berating Gert Volker Hldebrand about his contempt for the British Empire. He seemed far too nice a fellow.

  9. There is a good reason for not finding many classic cars in central Lisboa, there is a low emissions exclusion zone in place.
    Specially in the interior and more so in the North there is quite a lively classics scene and a few world class collections.

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