All the Stars Come Out at Night

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The Rolex 24 is back to its former glory, at least that is the conclusion that any savvy observer would draw from the action on the banking last weekend.

Not all the fireworks were fired into the Floridian sky on Saturday, some were constrained by a Nikon body, like this stunning image created by my old mucker, Dave Lister. Great photography is a combination of talent, hard graft, opportunity and the often-overlooked imaginative client, that alignment of planets was to be found in Volusia County last week.

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Speaking of stars, Pipo Derani stood out on track and was major factor in the overall victory for ESM, Ligier and LM P2, so bravo!

Another element that brought a smile were the grumbles from the DP clan about Balance of Performance. In fact IMSA should be congratulated in this respect, they achieved a pretty good score throughout the field.

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The new GTD class was a great success; close, competitive racing as one former promoter used to declare when two cars finished at the head of the field on the same lap. Victory fell at the last gasp to the Magnus Racing Audi – how odd that sounds. Their photographer caught this colourful shot precisely at the point when the tectonic plates shifted in Florida, missed that on the telly.

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The Jewel in IMSA’s crown is the GTLM grid and the class of 2016 is set to shine brighter than ever. Corvette had the legs of the others, so the win was well deserved. But, and you knew there was a but coming, am I the only one who thought Ollie Gavin deserved some form of sanction for punting Earl Bamber’s Porsche out of the lead?

Rubbin’ is Racin’  I suppose.

John Brooks, February 2016

New Year, Old Cars

The Brooklands Museum celebrates the arrival of a New Year with an open house to all manner of interesting cars. Where else would our Special Correspondent be on January 1st? He found lots to see and enjoy.
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One of the very first Jensens. It is based on a Ford V8 chassis and mechanicals but has a Jensen body. It dates from 1935.

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A completely unrestored B.S.A. Ten from 1933. It has a 4-cylinder side-valve engine of 1172 c.c. and a 4-speed pre-selector gearbox in the then current Daimler tradition.

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B.S.A. was at the time also making front-drive three-wheelers and they used the same engine but this had to be turned round to drive the rear wheels conventionally on this car.
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One rarely has the pleasure of seeing Armstrong-Siddeley cars on the roads these days – they were fine, well-built, dignified cars which appealed to the well-to-do customers. This 1960 Star Sapphire is one of the last to be made before car production ceased. It used a 4-litre 6-cylinder engine with hemispherical combustion chambers, a design which was cloned by Humber for their final run of big saloons.

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It is often forgotten that the Dennis Brothers made cars before switching entirely to commercial vehicles and buses – many of London’s buses today are of Dennis manufacture.

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This 1904 Dennis was, like so many cars of the time, powered by a single-cylinder De Dion engine.

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How to improve an Austin Seven! This 1929 Swallow version is an example of the work of William Lyons (later Sir William) which led him on to make the first SS cars which in turn became the SS Jaguars.

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A lovely Sunbeam Alpine with its body modified by Harringtons. Thomas Harrington was an old-established coachbuilder of Brighton, later Hove, whose main business after the Great War was building coach bodies but they also bodied a wide variety of cars.

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One of these Alpine Harringtons won the Index of Thermal Efficiency at Le Mans in 1961.

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You are not going to see another one of these!

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It is a one-off Alvis prototype dating from 1932 and consists of a Firefly running gear, a 6-cylinder three SU carburettored Eagle engine mounted on a narrowed Speed 20 chassis with a Charlesworth body!
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Surely the most desirable of all the Bristols?

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The 404 was nicknamed the ”Businessman’s Express” but this writer remembers spying prototypes running around near Filton as a teenager and feeling that I had seen the best looking car ever!
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Renault’s first post-war car, the 4 CV or the 750 when its capacity was reduced for competition purposes.

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This example was made at the Billancourt factory in Paris but these successful little cars were assembled at Renault’s factory on the Western Avenue at Acton until 1956.
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There were three completely different versions of the Hillman Husky.

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A sports tourer on the Hillman 14 chassis in the 1930’s, a little utility on a shortened Minx chassis in the mid-Fifties and this smart version based on the Imp 5cwt van
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A wonderful example of a 1950 Allard P1 saloon, complete with a steering column gear change and of course a big V8 engine from Ford. In 1952 Sydney Allard won the Monte Carlo Rally outright in one of these, the only occasion when a driver won in a car of his own construction.
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A bit grubby but the Bentley 3-litre looks lovely in blue.
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The Fiat 508 Balilla, named after a Fascist youth organisation, was a small car equipped with a 995 c.c. side-valve engine, 3-speed gearbox and either a 2-door closed or open body. It was introduced on 12th April 1932 at the Milan Motor Show although Mussolini had been given a preview in Rome on the 8th April. Inevitably sporting versions soon evolved and an open 2-seater with lowered body, sweeping front wings and a tail fin became the 508S. These cars were quickly plunged into competitions, an ohv engine and a close-ratio 4-speed gearbox being available from March 1934. Just two examples of their many successes were class wins in the 1933 Mille Miglia and in the 1936 Tourist Trophy at the Ards.

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Interestingly, the Scuderia Ferrari entered one for the 1934 24 Hour Targa Abruzzo at Pescara, to be driven by one Zoboli, the Fascist Party official from Modena. Proudly wearing the emblems of the Prancing Horse on the sides of the scuttle, the car finished in 7th place. Another such entry was in the 1937 Mille Miglia for Piero Gobbato, the son of Ugo Gobbato, the head of Alfa Romeo who was assassinated as he walked from the factory to his nearby home on 28th April 1945.
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Daimler did not just produce staid motor cars but got heavily involved in developing fighting vehicles for the armed forces. Their Scout and Armoured Car Mark 1 were produced in quantity during the Second World War and this Ferret was in production into the 1970’s when it gave service to the NATO forces.

David Blumlein, February 2016

Day For Night At Daytona

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Winning Ford Mark II (#98) leads two other Ford Mark II cars (#95 and #96). CD#0777-3292-0443-10

The presentation recently of the Ford GT program to race at Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the confirmation of the drivers for the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours invited comparison with a similar set of circumstances some 50 years ago.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Race winning Ford Mark II driven by Ken Miles/Lloyd Ruby makes a scheduled pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-3

In 1965 Ford had suffered public humiliation at the Le Mans 24 Hours when all six factory cars retired before the halfway point. What is often overlooked is that the four Maranello-entered Ferraris also fell by the wayside leaving Italian honour to upheld by the ageing privateer NART-entered  Ferrari 250 LM driven by the unlikely combination of veteran American, Masten Gregory, and the mercurial Austrian, Jochen Rindt.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Bruce McLaren in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-7

In 1966 there would be no repeat of this debacle, Ford would dominate endurance racing in a manner rarely seen, the Board and, more importantly, Chairman Henry Ford ll had decreed it, Ferrari were to be crushed. There was an expression popular at the time “You can’t beat cubic Bucks!”, Ford would prove that conclusively. The first shots in the campaign would come in early February at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway with the first running of the Daytona 24 Hours.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Walt Hansgen/Mark Donohue Ford Mark II makes a pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-2

The Ford GT40 had been superseded by the Ford MK ll, which had been thoroughly tested and improved after tripping up in 1965. Five examples were entered, three by Shelby American and two for Holman and Moody. Ferrari decided to give the race a miss, persistent labour relations problems, a new set of regulations for Formula One and the prospect of a drubbing all contributing in some measure to this course of action. A Ferrari 365P2 was entered by Luigi Chinetti’s NART outfit, the same folks that had humbled Ford at La Sarthe the previous year but even with drivers of the calibre of Pedro Rodriguez and Mario Andretti this was not expected to be competitive in the face of the Detroit armada. The other speedster in the paddock was the brand new Chaparral 2D with backing from General Motors but this project was too new and untested to pose a serious threat to Ford.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Privately owned Shelby GT350 Mustang driven by Roger West/Richard Macon. CD#0777-3292-0443-9

The race wasn’t much of a spectacle for the reported 22,000 crowd, Ken Miles in the leading Shelby American Ford overtook Jo Bonnier’s Chaparral on lap two, motored off into the distance, and that was that. Florida in January can provide great contrast in the weather and in 1966 the daytime was pleasant enough but frost was reported on the banking during the long hours of darkness.

Just over 2,500 miles later Ford would monopolise the podium with 1-2-3-5 places, the only blot on the copybook coming with the second Holman and Moody Mk ll suffering a failure of its experimental automatic transmission.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Ken Miles in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-6

Ken Miles was a key part of the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40 programs. He had served in the British Army during the Second World War as part of a tank crew. He left Britain for California in 1952 and soon immersed himself in the growing sports-car competition scene on the West Coast. A succession of wins and a growing reputation for engineering and developing racing cars brought him to the attention of Carroll Shelby.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Dan Gurney (#97) in his Ford Mark II leads two Ferraris. CD#0777-3292-0443-1

Miles is widely credited with the eventual success of the Cobra, I looked at that Here and here. He was also a major contributor to turning the Ford GT40 and its successor the Mk ll into truly great racing cars.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Lloyd Ruby (left) and Ken Miles (right) in victory circle after winning their second consecutive race. CD#0777-3292-0443-5

Miles shared victory at Daytona in the Ford MK ll with Lloyd Ruby, a veteran of many Indianapolis 500 campaigns and a fast, safe pair of hands. They would share further success at the 12 Hours of Sebring a month or so later but that would be the high point for Miles. In August 1966 while testing an experimental Ford J Car at Riverside Miles was killed in an unexplained accident, the entire Shelby American team were devastated at the loss of their charismatic driver.

Photography copyright and courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

John Brooks, January 2016

 

Another Classic NEC Classic Show

One of the highlights of the UK Classic scene is the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, despite its NEC venue. It is heavily rooted in the fine work of the enthusiasts’ car clubs and not some dealer driven event. There is so much to admire it is almost an overload but fortunately our Special Correspondent was on hand to bring to our attention some of the rare and interesting…………..

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The post-war Healeys, powered by the 2.5-litre Riley engine and manufactured by the Donald Healey Motor Company at the Cape, Warwick, were formidable sporting cars.

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This example was one of two works Westland –bodied cars which ran in the 1949 Mille Miglia. Driven by Geoffrey Healey and Tommy Wisdom, it won the over 2,500 c.c. Touring class, beating a works Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro (Venturi/Sanesi) and a works Bristol 400 ( H.J.Aldington/Count Lurani).

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The other Healey came 4th in class driven by Donald Healey and Geoffrey Price, who was the Service Manager at the factory.

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Healeys grew into Austin-Healeys and the big 6-cylinder car became a tough competitor in the international rallies. This was Pat Moss’s pet car and she used it in 1960 to win with Ann Wisdom the notorious Liège-Rome-Liège rally, a 96-hour non-stop marathon.

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This is one of two prototypes, the other a convertible, the last Jensens to be designed by Eric Neale. They were both powered by the Chrysler 383 V8 engine and this car was built in the winter of 1965/66. The design never reached production because, at the time, Jensen was in the process of being taken over by the “Norcross Group” and their own designer, Kevin Beattie, chose to have Jensen’s next car designed in Italy…..the well-known Interceptor.

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Sunbeam Rapiers were very active in competitions and Rootes had agencies all over the globe. The Rodriguez brothers, Ricardo and Pedro, drove two of these cars to a dominant 1-2 in the 1600 class in the 1961 Carrera Cuidad de Mexico.
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By 1932 sales of the hitherto successful Singer Junior (introduced in 1926) were dwindling and the company needed a new model. An excellent engineer, Leo Shorter, joined in 1932 and soon increased the capacity of the Junior’s overhead camshaft engine from 848 c.c. to 972 c.c. giving it an RAC rating of 9h.p. This car was the Junior Special and it heralded the famous Singer Nine series.
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This 1934 Rover Twelve Sports Saloon with a 4-cylinder 1496 c.c. ohv engine was supplied by the Leicester Rover agents to Sydney Clutterbuck.

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Being a keen rally driver, he entered the car for the RAC Rally in March and it was specially prepared with non-standard items such as knock-off wheels, larger headlamps etc. Despite wintry conditions, it successfully completed the rally at Bournemouth.
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Originally a 4-cylinder P6 Engineering Development car, it was heavily modified for racing and was fitted with a 4.3 Traco-Oldsmobile V8. From April 1970 it competed in eight races driven by Roy Pierpoint, winning at Castle Combe and at the Silverstone 100-mile Saloon race.
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The first car from Dagenham, the Ford Y-type which sold as the £100 Popular.

David Blumlein, January 2016

Thirty Years Gone

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The 1986 SunBank 24 at Daytona was forecast to be the race where the old order in IMSA would be toppled. The old order was in the form of Porsche who had won eight out of the previous nine editions of the Floridian endurance classic. Even the March chassis that took honours in 1984 was Porsche-powered, quite a record.

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Leading the charge of Weissach’s finest were no less than nine Porsche 962s. IMSA’s regulars dominated this pack with Jim Busby bringing two BF Goodrich sponsored examples, this was supported by singleton efforts entered by Al Holbert, Preston Henn, Bruce Leven, Rob Dyson and Bob Akin. Europe’s honour was to be upheld by further 962s from Walter Brun and Reinhold Joest, a truly top quality selection of Porsche teams.

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The pretenders to the endurance crown were factory-backed efforts from BMW and Chevrolet, with the Group 44 Jaguars also in contention, so a serious bunch to combat Stuttgart.  However the threat to Porsche’s hegemony had melted away even before the cars lined up on their way to the Green Flag and the start of the race.

BMW tested at Road Atlanta the week before the race and one of their GTP prototypes was consumed by fire while on track and, as the cause was not clear, it was considered prudent to withdraw the second car. One down.

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The other significant threat to Porsche’s supremacy was in the shape of the Corvette GTP of NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick. The potential of the turbocharged V-6 powered car was evident as Sarel van der Merwe stuck it on pole position. However after an engine change a vibration was noticed in the morning warm-up. When this was investigated the cause was found to be a cracked engine block and there was insufficient time to change the unit. Scratch two!

So it was Bob Wollek who led the pack on the formation lap in Bruce Leven’s Bayside Disposal Racing 962 with Price Cobb and Paolo Barilla itching to pass the veteran French racer.

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The Group 44 Jaguars were the new XJR-7 cars, a complete update of the XJR-5 and probably lacking sufficient mileage to seriously threaten the 962 gang for the top step of the podium. Team owner Bob Tullius would be partnered by Chip Robinson and Claude Ballot-Léna in #44, while in #04 there was an all-star line up of Brian Redman, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood.

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New rules for 1986 also impacted the Porsches and would play a significant part in the race itself. The biggest change was the addition of 160lb of ballast, this would tax the already stretched components. The Daytona 24 Hours has a reputation as a car-killer and even the 962s would suffer.

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First of the leading contenders to exit the race, after only 6 laps, was the Joest car suffering a broken distributor rotor. A few laps later Hans Stuck hit the wall in the Coke-sponsored 962, the drink that is, this was after all IMSA. Then Bob Wollek collided with a suddenly slowing car on the banking and that was the end of his race and that of the Leven 962. Also out before sunset was the Brun 962 with some form of electrical malady.

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Down in the GTO class NASCAR fans had something to cheer with the #50 Jack Roush Ford Mustang having a crew comprising Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Kyle Petty and Ricky Rudd, all Winston Cup regulars. This car ran in the leading group of their class in this Ford-supported effort till Rudd hit the barriers coming out of the back stretch chicane sometime during the night.

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As forecast before the race the Group 44 Jaguars struggled on track with various suspension and transmission issues, then the engine failed in the #04 car. There was some measure of satisfaction for the team as the #44 Jag cruised home to sixth and fourth in class despite spending over an hour behind the wall during the race.

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The only real challenge to the 962 armada, aside from self inflicted injuries, came from the March 85G Buick driven by John Paul Jr., Chip Ganassi, Whitney Ganz and ex-Ferrari Grand Prix star, Ivan Capelli. JP posted the fastest lap of the race and the car ran in the top three till the engine cried enough, just past the halfway point.

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Further carnage in the 962 field saw the Dyson car go out with engine failure. Jan Lammers had one of the biggest crashes of his career when the brakes failed on the second BF Goodrich 962, he had to be extracted through the windscreen as the car had folded up around him. By some miracle he survived without a scratch, only a few minor sprains.

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Delays to the Holbert Porsche for brake line failure and broken throttle cable meant that the lead during the darkness was disputed by the Swap Shop 962 of the owner, Preston Henn, and his trio of Indianapolis 500 winners, A.J. Foyt, Arie Luyendyk and Danny Sullivan. Opposition came from the surviving BF Goodrich Porsche of Derek Warwick, Jochen Mass, Darin Brassfield and Jim Busby, these two cars swapped the lead during the night, apparently in a race of their own. In common with the Holbert car, some distance back, these Porsches were being wrung by the neck, each lap treated like a qualifying effort.

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Then, as the sun appeared from the East, things started to go wrong for the leading pair. #67 suffered a broken CV joint and then a driveshaft failure, time was being lost in the pits, any chance of victory also seemed to have evaporated.

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#8 was also in the wars, an oil line had to be replaced as did a turbo wastegate. The biggest issue was a sticking throttle and the team elected to fix it costing some eight laps, however the problem persisted and their once substantial lead was disappearing fast.

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At one point the Holbert 962 had been 22 laps off first place but as their rivals struck misfortune they closed in on the top spot. Holbert, Bell and Unser Jr. knew all about the cruelty that the Daytona 24 Hours could inflict on those seemingly destined for glory. A year previously they had seen a 13 lap advantage while leading on Sunday morning turn into a 17 lap deficit that would result in second place.

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If further proof were necessary about the capricious nature of racing round the clock at Daytona Beach consider the fate of the #07 Ford Mustang. The driver trio of Klaus Ludwig, Scott Pruett and Bruce Jenner (Yes, THAT Bruce Jenner) built up a lead of 90 laps over their nearest class rivals. Late on Sunday morning they had to witness this apparently impregnable advantage unravel as they were stuck in the pits trying to repair an oil leak, they still managed a second in class and fifth overall, a good indication of the attrition suffered by the whole field.

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The closing laps were tense as the lead of the #14 car was just over a minute from the #8 962, with #67 a further lap adrift. The final result saw the Holbert car record 712 laps, just 1:49.150 ahead of their rival after 24 hours, it was the closest finish of the race to that point and also a distance record of 2,534.72 miles.

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There would be no repeat of the crushing disappointment of 1985, Holbert, Bell and Unser Jr. would get to spray the Champagne and hoist the trophies. They would repeat this triumph a year later but Holbert’s time was running out, he was killed in a plane crash in September 1988, an endurance champion was lost.

John Brooks, January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Values

The Special Correspondent has been a bit quiet of late but, fear not, he has been beavering away in the background. Visits to diverse events such as Kop Hill and the Manchester Classic threw up a number of ‘Rare and Interesting’ cars for our enjoyment. 

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Behold a superb Aster, a very rare beauty. It is a 1924 18/50 Fixed Head Coupé.

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Aster was a French maker of proprietary engines at St Denis in northern Paris at the start of the 20th century, supplying many makes of early cars such as Gladiator and Argyll. They opened a British branch in Wembley, Middlesex, and from 1922 entered the private car market.
This beautifully preserved car has cantilever rear springs and a 6-cylinder o.h.v. Wembley-built engine:
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Note how the spark plugs are set in the block rather than the head.
In 1927 Aster merged with the Arrol-Johnston of Dumfries and the cars became Arrol-Asters, made in the Scottish factory.
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An early 1948 Healey Elliott saloon. Donald Healey, having before the war been involved with Triumph, set up his own company in Warwick in 1946, making initially successful sporting cars using the 2.5-litre Riley engine.
The saloons were bodied by Samuel Elliott & Sons of Reading, a company that was more used to joinery and making shop fronts! These cars were the fastest production saloon cars at the time, recording 103.76 m.p.h. at Montlhéry in the hands of Tommy Wisdom. Also in 1948 examples came 13th overall in the Targa Florio, winning its class, 13th and 1st in the Touring class in the Mille Miglia, and 8th overall (second in class to a 3-litre Delage) in the Spa 24-Hour race. In 1949 a Healey saloon finished 13th in the first post-war Le Mans 24-Hour race.
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This is a 1932 Riley Gamecock. The model was introduced in 1931 to offer a sports 2-seater to fill the gap between the famous Brooklands racing model and the remainder of the company’s saloon car range. Only about 750 were made, mostly in 1932 and it was superseded by the popular Lynx 4-seater.
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Built in July 1934, this Frazer-Nash has a twin-cam 6-cylinder Blackburne engine and took part in various competitions including the 1937 Brooklands Relay race, at Shelsley Walsh, the Brighton Speed Trials, the Lewes trials and the long distance Land’s End and London- Edinburgh events.
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A Jensen FF, the first production car with 4-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes. Jensen was an interesting company, the brothers Alan and Richard starting as coachbuilders before making their own cars. They diversified a lot and made some commercial vehicles – the little Jen-Tug mechanical horse being a favourite of this scribe; it first used a Ford Ten engine! The West Bromwich plant also assembled Austin A40 Sports, Volvo P1800s, Sunbeam Tigers and the big Austin–Healeys among others.
Jensen made only 110 of the FF model with its Vignale-styled body and potent Chrysler 6.3-litre V8 producing 330bhp.
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This Unipower GT is chassis number 9 of 75 Unipower GTs made at Perivale in Middlesex between 1966 and 1969 using Mini Cooper engines, modified suspension and brakes. It had a square tubular space frame built by Arch Motors and a body by Specialised Mouldings.
It is the first lightweight competition model made by the factory and after being displayed at the 1967 Racing Car Show it was purchased by the Salisbury tuning company Janspeed who prepared it for works driver Geoff Mabbs to race in 1967. It was then sold to Brian Harvey, who eventually founded Grand Prix Models.
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A 1937 Riley 1.5-litre Touring Saloon, a beautifully preserved example. The car has a Briggs steel body which is characterised by the boot extension. Rileys made good cars but like some other manufacturers made too many different models which caused serious problems by the end of the Thirties.
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This was Chevrolet’s answer to the Chrysler PT Cruiser. It is the HHR which stands for Heritage High Roof. General Motors made some 60,000 of them in Mexico.
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The Rochdale Olympic has an important place in motoring history – it is one of the first cars to have a fibreglass monocoque chassis/body. After a disastrous factory fire in 1961, the company concentrated on these Olympic models.
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It is surely appropriate that a Manchester exhibition has a local product on display – a fine 1927 Crossley 20.9 hp 6-cylinder o.h.v. 3-litre model from the factory in Gorton.

David Blumlein, January 2016

A Most Agreeable Event

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One of the highlights of my motoring year is the Salon Privé, a fusion of the automobile and a traditional English garden party.

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Held this year for the first time in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, a fitting arena for the show.

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And I was lucky enough to get an invitation to ride with Dirk de Jäger in the Cisitalia 202S-MM that finished fourth overall in the 1947 Mille Miglia. I wrote about that red letter day HERE

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The Cisitalia was a rival for Ferrari back in the immdiate post-war period in Italy.

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I had a closer look at the fabulous Italian sports car HERE

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Another amazing Italian on the lawn at Blenheim was the Ferrari FXX K, a universe away from the Cisitalia.

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Boasting 1,050hp obtained with the latest technology HY-KERS system topping up a more traditional V12 lump. More can be seen HERE and if you get time click on the film of Sebastian Vettel wringing the neck of the FXX K at Fiorano, astounding.

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Going to these high end car events I have come to the conclusion that a Concours can be judged on the quality of the Ferraris on display, arbitrary and unfair, but so is life.

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Salon Privé ticked all the boxes in this challenge as illustrated HERE

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Numerically outnumbered by Maranello’s crop, Porsche was represented by several models from its illustrious past, the pick of the bunch was the ex-Ben Pon 904 GTS, more on that HERE

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One of the attractions of Salon Privé is the range of cars that are assembled each year. Away from the usual content there are always autos on display that have you reaching for the catalogue to figure out what they are. Two of these Lancia Sport Prototipo Zagatos were built in 1964 though this is the sole survivor.

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Another one-off is this Goldmanini, Italian styling from the ’50s at its simple best.

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Even the car park will produce the unusual, a Zagato-styled Bentley Continental GTZ. More can be seen HERE of these cars.

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The quality of the cars on display encourages my photographic side, so the Fujis are fired up searching for THE shot.

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Naturally I cannot find it but it is not for want of trying.

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The full gallery can be seen HERE

The next Salon Privé will be held at Blenheim Palace on 1-3 September, don’t miss it.

John Brooks, December 2015

Autumn Colours at Brooklands

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I have not been able to visit Brooklands this year as much as I would have wished, too many clashing dates but back in mid-October I found a window to go for a few hours to Weybridge for the Autumn Motorsport day.

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There was a very strong Italian element on the day, a close relationship with Auto Italia magazine who stage a day each year on site meant that there was a fine selection of automotive art to admire and appreciate.

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There was a comprehensive turnout of Abarth’s finest with the owners keen to get a run on the Test Track at the neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World.

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And who could resist this Montreal?

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Brooklands is undergoing great changes as the Bellman Hanger is to be moved and the Old Finishing Straight is being brought back to life. Evidence of this work was to be seen and by the time the Autumn Motorsport Day comes round in 2016 it will be a very different Brooklands but with the same spirit that has sustained this corner of motor sport for over a century.

John Brooks, December 2015

This One Is For Bob Carlson 1948-2008

Scanning social media while enjoying a glass of red on a Friday night is a largely pointless exercise, mostly involving dog, cat or toddler videos or folks getting worked up about the latest idiocy from Trump or Hillary (a plague on both of their houses). My attention was caught by a post from Deborah Kay Carlson, the widow of the late Bob Carlson, marking the seventh anniversary of his passing. Being a Brit I did not really know Bob that well but my man, Kerry Morse, did, and wrote a fine piece at the time. I am posting it again as a tribute to Bob and a small attempt at bringing comfort to all those who have suffered a bereavement at this difficult time of the year.

 

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I didn’t see any of the Daytona 24 Hours but I was certainly surrounded by the emotions of what the Porsche victory meant. A late dinner that Sunday evening in a large room of a new hotel in Sicily and PCNA’s head PR honcho, Bernd Harling kept leaving the table to escape the masses of journalists who made the trip to drive the new Boxster around the roads outside of Palermo.

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Aside from sneaking outside to have a smoke, Harling was keeping in contact with his PR ilk at Daytona on the status of the P-cars. He would return to the table and give me the updates. My feelings towards the proto-turtles of Grand Am hasn’t changed and it’s doubtful if it ever will. But David Donohue is one of the genuinely good people out there and he has come close, very close, so many times in so many events. I was there the last time a Brumos Porsche won the 24 in 1978 and then there is the matter of time loving a hero as David’s father won Daytona 40 years ago. The recent passing of Bob Snodgrass, who for so many years was a major force behind both Brumos and Porsche, was also present with us all. If David Donohue could go from Pole to Victory Lane, well… who wouldn’t cheer a story like that?

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Harling vacated once more for the cool air of Sicily and my mobile buzzed as dessert was being served. It was Mr. Brooks who proceeded to describe the final lap and the scene from the Brumos pits. Harling returned, stood up, gave a short speech and then a toast all around. Thousands of miles away in victory circle a whole different set of emotions were on display. David Donohue made it certain that Bob Snodgrass got his due but also for one who had been responsible for what has kept Porsche Motorsport so visible in the U.S.

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Bob Carlson was always in motion. Until cancer finally overtook him, it wasn’t his style to complain, he always was thinking ahead. He spent the last quarter century of his life pulling the levers and oiling the squeaky wheel behind the scenes of public relations of Porsche in America. It may seem like a dream job but this was a time of transition for Porsche and Bob put in a lot of long hours getting such mundane tasks as the “details” done correctly. The man stayed out of the public view and never cared for being in the spotlight, he was far more comfortable being the lighting director and getting that spotlight trained on the task. He never overshadowed his subjects, the cars, the drivers or the company. To Bob, it was Porsche first and foremost.

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Bob Carlson was born and grew up in San Jose which meant that Laguna Seca was his “home” track. He covered motorsports for the town paper, got a fistful of degrees from SJSU and eventually the road led to a full time gig with Porsche Cars North America and in a “I can’t believe my good fortune scenario”, was put in to racing PR. This was the time of the late, great Al Holbert and the 962 era. I can still picture Bob at Daytona during the 24 hour race, running back and forth from the official Porsche truck to the Holbert pits, gathering his notes. He was always energetic while a pack of us burned out hacks would sneer and wonder aloud why we kept coming back year after year. Bob carefully maneuvered through the PR minefield of the Porsche Indy experience, putting the best face possible on a series of missteps and mishaps and then the tragic plane crash, which claimed the life of Al Holbert.

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Porsche was having it’s own internal struggles and the sales slump that hit in the early 90’s stretched the bounds of credibility. Bob Carlson caught a lot of flak from many of us in the business, but it was always in a behind the scenes, good natured but with a point, manner. He caught a break because even within the boundaries he was honest and forthright and while many of the answers were considered off the record, that bond was honored. One must remember, he was a gringo working for a German company. For many, that thought is a migraine in progress. As the company rebounded, both in sales and the overall product, a move for PCNA to Atlanta, gave Bob the springboard for creating some new ideas to modify the dreaded ‘arrive and drive’ staple that most automotive company invites had become.

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My personal favorite was in 2000 and quality seat time aboard the new 911 Turbo. The event was based in Reno which offered up ample opportunity of making the best of a route that covered several hundred miles, the highlight was the chance to make timed runs out in the desert region of Black Route. This was a true USAC sanctioned record run through a series of timed stages. Weather had a lot to do with the overall times, that were set, ground condition, wind direction, just like the real world but it was a great experience and one befitting the car.

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Later that evening at a historic house near Carson City, the after dinner entertainment was Mark Twain, or about as good as you are going to get to the real Mr. Clemens. That was Bob Carlson, eclectic in his choices, but always memorable. Being a hockey fan, he would check to see if there were any games, even in the minor leagues, on any number of press trips. Picture this, a game with so many penalties that there were only two players remaining for each team as the rest had been ejected. Bob leaned over and said, “You think these guys will get to the bigs?”

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Bob Carlson wouldn’t want a tribute, that wasn’t his style but it looks like he has left something that will continue to be a tribute to what he worked for. After the 50th Anniversary of Porsche in 1998 that was a first class bash at the Monterey Historics, Bob hit on the idea of having a get together of like minded Porsche enthusiasts and their race cars every few years instead of waiting for ten years or longer. Support for the idea was tepid at first but after the success of the original Rennsport Reunion held at Lime Rock in 2001, the planning for an even larger event to be held at Daytona in 2004 was put in place. This time, many of the great names of not only the drivers, but the engineers, were to be honored.

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And then again in November of 2007, a gathering of 917’s were the highlight of Rennsport III. Bob Carlson, although thin and suffering the effects of treatment for cancer, happily wandered through the maze of people and cars, smiling and taking it all in. And then the 2009 edition of Daytona and it’s 24 Hours for Brumos, for Porsche and for David Donohue. It’s what Bob Carlson would have wanted and more importantly, deserved.
Kerry Morse February 2009

View from the Perimeter

Lee Self is one of the Elders of the Turn Ten tribe, that mythical assembly that convenes each March in Highlands County to worship at the Great 12 Hours. He is also one of the truly good guys and I can personally attest to him being a mean provider of concierge services. Lee dropped me a note earlier in the week describing his latest adventure and I can think of no finer way of kick-starting DDC back into life this winter than a tale from our favourite piece of Florida real estate.

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The Amazing Randy and I went to Sebring Saturday to the Sebring Vintage and Used Racer Festival.

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I went back over to the track early Monday morning, to see what I could see. Drove straight to the Airport and had a quick breakfast at the Runway Cafe. It was decorated with World War II Hendricks Field vintage photos………

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Did I mention it was Dec. 7th, Pearl Harbor Day here in the US? So I was right in the Period, very cool and most appropriate.

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Went out to my car, got the little camera and shot some of the inside decor.

Walked back out to my car, really didn’t see anything, got back in the car and drove over to the Hotel that Don Built, you know, Chateau Elan.

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I parked, sat for a bit. walked on, then back out to the car to poke around at my camera gear, then down the side towards the track, easy to get to and nobody watching over the area.

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Then back to the car, drove around over to the Office/Gate. I asked if I could go in and look around. Got a stiff “NO!”

Why not?

“TESTING, GO AWAY!”

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So I went back out to the main road, turned left towards the power building and down the outside where they park pre-race staging campers. Well, they’re building an Ice Cream Bar factory in that field, lots of trucks, workers and traffic, so off into the mess I went, ended up at the west most edge of the circuit/airport property at the end of the runway.

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I could see the last turn before the long original straight down to T17, but just a bit of it, and at my max distance with a 200mm lens. Got some shots of the GTLM Porsche 911 turning laps, which he did on and off most of the day.

So anyway, I look to my right and see a Mexican fellow with a jeep looking down the runway, through the fence. He sees me taking shots, no problem. He said the airport called and said there was a cow and calf in the property, he was looking for it.

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So enough from there. I drive back to the track entrance area, and just drive right past the gate, then the hairpin then and then zoom into the industrial park. Drove around in there a bit, to see where I could go, and what I might be able to see of the track… not much luck, but I did notice a perfect parking spot in the General Parking lot right as you enter the park (right where the chicane used to be) pulled up in there, parked and just watched for a while. noticed I could see the cars sweeping past from leaving the hairpin through Fangio Chicane and in places on the outside I’m high enough to see track clearly.

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Maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour goes by. I drive back over and park at the Airport / Runway Cafe parking lot, right where the cars exit Tower Turn. I have a clear view of the corner. I walk out by the road, and wait, the 911 keeps going by. Then I notice If I look straight ahead, due north I can see the Audi rig, set up next to the former Peugeot building. I can see the mechanics and engineers working around the car.

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Suddenly it comes out and has passed in front of me and is gone before I’m ready. It does a full circuit lap, then right back into their pit box setup. and they push it right back into their “garage”.

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So I wait……and I wait…and I wait….. then I hear radios behind me, I don’t turn around. It’s the authorities. (Sebring Airport Authority)

‘What are you doing?’

‘Watching,’ I said.

‘Who you work for?’

‘Nobody.’ I said I was watching the Audi guys, that I made paintings of racing cars, and that I had the idea to do a Skunkworks-type image, and was watching to see what I could see.

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I had the camera in hand, my kit on my belt, I whipped out my business card, introduced myself. They were cool, I had a Turn 10 hat on, he asked if I was with their crew?

‘Yep, I make the hats and stickers’ I said.

So it turns out his name is Ricardo, and he is best buds with Sammy who is Lola’s husband and the names keep coming………… but the best part is I know all of the folks he’s talking about.

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He says, ‘Ok, shoot away, just don’t go across the perimeter road.’

‘No problem, the sensor will do the work.’ I said I was gonna stick around, walk the perimeter road up to the hairpin and back. He said no problem. So that’s what I did for the next two hours. Got Audis, Got Porsches. Even saw the security guy giving me the eye on one of his passes and got a nice wave in return.

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Eventually I head back to the car, so I drive back to Chateau Elan and order some lunch. Watch for the Audi through the window. then took my Iced Tea and sat on the back porch, by the pool for at least half an hour. The didn’t come back out by 4:00pm, and I was done, If you saw the Audi test video on FaceBook it was shot from right there on Hotel grounds.

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It was nice shooting, never on Raceway property, working all the angles, just for fun, but serious fun, y’know.

 

Lee Self, December 2015 – images copyright and courtesy of the author