Get Stuck In

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We are enjoying something of a purple patch from The Special Correspondent, last week he travelled to the vintage venue of Shelsley Walsh for something truly special…………….

In the Twenties and Thirties the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb acquired considerable importance for British motorsport. After the Kop Hill accident in 1925, use of the public roads for competition purposes was completely banned, providing an impetus for Shelsley, which was located on private land. Participants in motor sport in Britain therefore had a choice of only the Worcestershire hill climb or Brooklands until Donington came on the scene in the mid-Thirties and Prescott in 1938.

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This had the effect of attracting good quality entries and manufacturers were certainly aware of its importance. For example, we find the Riley Motor Company electing to introduce its new “Nine” to the public at the 1926 Shelsley meeting. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin attended the meeting in 1928 and famous foreign racing drivers like Rudi Caracciola appeared with the big sports Mercedes-Benz. The very rare Spanish Nacional Pescara came hunting European Hill Climb Championship points and Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son, brought the four-wheel drive Type 53 Bugatti – alas, he crashed it at Kennel Bend. And there was even Count Premoli’s supercharged class-winning Bugatti-Maserati which had been towed all the way from Milan!

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In 1930 the Bergmeister Hans Stuck appeared with the blue and white 3-litre Austro Daimler and set a record time of 42.8 seconds which was not broken for nearly three years. In 1936 he came back with a C-type Auto Union Grand Prix car, with a shortened chassis and twin rear wheels. He was unlucky because it rained when he made his climb and the big German car with over 500 b.h.p. was too much of a handful in the conditions to set a new record – “too many horsepowers” – he proclaimed.

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The 80th anniversary of this appearance formed the highlight of this July meeting. The Audi factory had previously commissioned the totally faithful construction by Crosthwaite and Gardiner of a C-type Auto Union which Audi uses for demonstration purposes. The son of Hans Stuck, the well-known current driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, was dispatched complete with this car to Shelsley to give four demonstrations, two on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Here is the car in the paddock, where everyone can go:
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The mighty V 16 engine

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and the cockpit:
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Now we see Stuck letting the car loose on the hill, first approaching the Crossing with the Kennel Bend in the background,

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then in the Crossing

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and further up the hill turning into the Bottom S:
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During the lunch break Stuck gave a public interview in the Courtyard after which he freely chatted with the race-goers; isn’t he like his famous father?
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There was further nostalgia to be experienced – this is the Whitney Straight Maserati 8CM which went on to lower the record after Stuck (senior) had set it in the Austro Daimler:
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And here it is approaching at very high velocity the two S-Bends:
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There were, of course, masses of other cars taking part, including these potent three-wheeler Morgans, lined up in their sheds in the paddock:
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and the famous Shelsley Special Spider 11:
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On the Sunday afternoon Stuck gave his last demonstration of the Auto Union, this time wearing the cloth helmet and goggles used by his father in the pre-war days:
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It was intriguing to watch the mechanics inserting the electric starter in the shaft at the rear to bring the raucous V 16 to life;
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as Stuck sets off up the famous hill:

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The beautiful setting of Shelsley Walsh in the valley of the River Teme in rural Worcestershire. The paddock and main buildings are behind the trees on the right.

David Blumlein, July 2016

Reflections from the South Downs

The Special Correspondent paid his annual visit to Lord March’s Goodwood Estate for the Festival of Speed. He found much to admire and pass comment on, and he favours us with his reflections.
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How better to start a visit than to be confronted with the new Bugatti Chiron?
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One is not at Goodwood very long before one sees a rare gem such as this KTM X-Bow GT4. Developed by Reiter Engineering it uses an Audi 2.0 TFSI 4-cylinder engine.
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This 1924 Vauxhall Wensum is an example of the bespoke coachbuilt body styles fitted to the popular 30/98 chassis. Vauxhall’s works driver, A.J.Hancock, kept a fast motorboat on the River Wensum near Norwich, hence the boat tail and wooden marine decking interior.
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Following his Lambda masterpiece, Vincenzo Lancia created in 1931 the Astura with a brand new 2604 c.c. V8 engine for fast touring.

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This is a 1933 example with Pinin Farina bodywork, one of a batch of five cabriolets for Lancia dealer Ernesto Bocca.

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After the records by the 40CV cars in 1925 and 1926, Louis Renault asked his engineers to create a new record breaking car, the Nervasport, this a faithful recreation as the original has disappeared. It had a straight 8 side-valve engine and 3-speed gearbox. At Montlhéry in April 1934 it covered a record-breaking 5000 miles.

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2016 DB GeneralThis Mercedes-Benz W25 R attained over 230 m.p.h. in 1936.
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This is the 1940 Mille Miglia-winning BMW 2-litre, driven by Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Baumer.
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This unusual version of the Lotus Europa has a turbo BDA as used in the Zakspeed Capri. The car’s only noteworthy result was a sixth place at Hockenheim in 1979, driven by Harald Ertl.

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It took Ford three years to win Le Mans, achieving it with the 7-litre GT40 Mk 2 in 1966.
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They repeated their success in 1967 when Dan Gurney and A.J.Foyt drove this Mark IV.
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Ford returned to Le Mans this year with their new GT and successfully won the GTE Pro class.

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Here is their trophy:
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The 1936 Auto Union C-type warming up in the paddock.

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Here is its 6-litre supercharged V16 engine.
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An 1898 Stephens Dog Cart – note the independent front suspension!

David Blumlein, July 2016

Vintage Style

The Special Correspondent took a run out to the Chiltern Hills Vintage Rally recently. It proved to be a charming occasion with much to admire……………
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Made in Biggleswade by Berkeley, Britain’s biggest maker of caravans which had vast experience of glass-reinforced plastic fabrication, the Berkeley sports car, in 1956, was the world’s first production car to use a fibreglass chassis/body unit, pre-dating the Lotus Elite by some twelve months.
This car is Chassis no. 10 with the Anzani 322c.c. twin cylinder two-stroke air-cooled engine. Only 163 Berkeleys were made.
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A real vintage car, a 1924 Humber 12/25 saloon.

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Humber was a well-respected make which, in the Twenties, fitted their cars with overhead inlet and side exhaust valve engines – this is the 1795 c.c. 4-cylinder unit in this car.
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This is one of the first production Morgan 4/4s, dating from October 1937.

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Here is its Coventry-Climax overhead inlet and side exhaust valve engine.
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In 1957 came this rather charming Wolseley 1500, based on a modified Morris Minor 1000 floorplan and given a BMC B-series engine. This is a Series 3 version, produced from 1961 until 1965. The cars were made at Longbridge.
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A 1935 6-cylinder Riley Kestrel 15/6. The Kestrel was not a separate model but a body style built by Riley in their Coventry factory and available on a variety of their chassis. Riley – like Triumph and Singer – made far too many different models, a policy which hastened their demise.
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The Austin 16 was the company’s first new post-war model. It used the chassis of the Austin 12 which was introduced only a few days before the outbreak of war in 1939 but had a completely new 4-cylinder 2.2-litre o.h.v. engine developed for military purposes. It was a good car, comfortable, reasonably priced and with a good performance. It was the first production Austin car to have overhead valves.
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A 1935 Wolseley Hornet Special with the 6-cylinder single overhead camshaft engine. Wolseley only supplied Hornet Specials in chassis form, leaving buyers to select their own choice of body builder. This car has a one-off body by an unknown maker.
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Last of the legendary 1172 c.c. Ford side-valve engines. This one is in a 1960 Popular De Luxe. These Ford engines were the last side-valve units to be in production in Britain.

David Blumlein, July 2016

Geneva Reflections

The month of June has been its usual struggle, Le Mans consumes all time and energy from those who are involved, so some pieces have stacked up here at DDC Towers but fear not we are still rumbling away. The Special Correspondent sent me a few reflections from the Geneva Salon a while back, time to share them with the wider world.

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Designers of supercars give scant attention to the need of their occupants to carry some luggage – try squeezing even a holdall into a Bugatti Veyron! It seems that they have come full circle with the early vintage cars which had no normal facilities for accommodating luggage – suitcases had to be strapped to a grid at the rear of the car’s body.

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McLaren has made a reasonable attempt with its new 570GT to correct this omission as can be seen above.
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Porsche introduced their new version of the Boxster which was given the additional title of 718.
The original 718 dates from mid-1957 when Porsche produced a successor to the 550 and this was 20kg lighter and fitted with coil spring rear suspension dispensing with the low pivot swing axles. Low drag was a priority, even enclosing the headlamps behind Plexiglass.
Among successes in 1958 was a superb 3rd place overall at Le Mans courtesy of Behra and Herrmann. The 1960 regulations demanded a full windscreen as seen here and that year’s highlight was an outright win at the Sebring 12 Hours by Herrmann and Gendebien.
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This is the Morgan 4/4 80th Anniversary edition.
The first 4/4 prototype (called then the 4-4) appeared back in 1936, making the type now a world record for a production car. That prototype used a Ford engine and then the early production cars switched to the Coventry-Climax unit but the basic car is still the same with hand-rolled aluminium bonnet, ash frame and sliding pillar independent front suspension. Currently a Ford Sigma 1.6 engine is used with a Mazda 5-speed gearbox.
This special version is characterised by among other changes the disc wheels with brass centre locks, a quad bonnet strap, a brass mesh behind the grille and a brushed walnut dashboard.
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This beauty describes itself as a Touring Superleggera Disco Volante Spyder. It is based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Spyder and once one such donor car is received, Touring will build you one of these within six months.
It is inspired by the Alfa Romeo C52 Disco Volante of 1952 which can just be seen in the left background. The stunning original never made production – it produced too much front end lift!
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Recalling past successes, Abarth has come up with this impressive Rally Coupé version of Fiat’s new two-seater 124.
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Spyker is back! This company, one of the oldest and a pioneer of four-wheel drive, has a chequered history. More recently the cars were being made by CPP in Coventry but they closed down in November 2011.

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ADV replaced them and the association with Spyker was re-formed in November 2015 – they will make a few Ailerons and then this new Preliator.
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Surely the prettiest of all the Grand Prix Hondas? This, the RA 272, is also the first to win a Grand Prix, Mexico in 1965 with that gutsy little Richie Ginther at the wheel.

David Blumlein, July 2016

Kentish Times

Brands Hatch, nestling on the outskirts of London, is one of the great venues in the world for motorsport. I have a particular affection for the place, some 46 years ago I witnessed my first motor race, the 1970 British Grand Prix, at this track. A visit to this spot in Kent is never a disappointment.

Recently Brands Hatch played host to the Historic Masters Festival. Formula One and James Hunt were celebrated as we recall that is 40 years since the summer of ’76 and the utter madness of that year’s Grand Prix. Who knows where the time goes?

Our dashing photographer, Simon Hildrew, is from that neck of the woods and he brings us a taste of this colourful event – enjoy!

John Brooks, June 2006

Vintage at Montlhéry

Montlhéry is the venue for a charming vintage motorsport meeting held biennially. The Special Correspondent attended and now gives us the benefit of his observations. This piece got lost in the system and has now resurfaced a year on. I consider it is worthy of exposure even a little later than intended.

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Every two years pre-1940 French cars gather at the L’autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, south of Paris – it is an Aladdin’s cave!
Here is the famous start/finish area which has thankfully been saved.

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So good to find a Hurtu-built Léon Bollée Voiturette pottering around the Paddock area.

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Salmson made aero engines during WW1 and diversified into car production afterwards. They began by building G.N.s under licence; this is one of them.

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A 1938 Simca Gordini (chassis T8 823885). This car won the Bol d’Or 24 hour race that year here at Montlhéry.
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This is an Amilcar CC, the firm’s first model. André Morel used one to win the first Bol d’Or on the Vaujours circuit in 1922.
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One of France’s best small sporting cars of the 1920s, the Sénéchal. The marque won numerous successes including the Bol d’Or in 1924, ’25 and ’26 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
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Bugatti Type 39 with a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine. A Grand Prix de Tourisme was run at the time of the French Grand Prix in the early Twenties, the last at Montlhéry in 1925. This took place on 19 July, a week before the big race and Bugatti entered five of these Type 39 cars. Clearly derived from the Type 37, they had wider bodies, long flowing wings, hoods and full lighting equipment. They were driven to the circuit from the factory at Molsheim and had little difficulty in dominating the 1500 class, only one of them retiring. It was noted at the time that the race was very poorly supported by the public, the main grandstand occupied by only 59 spectators!

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An early Sizaire-Naudin. These cars were noted for their transverse-leaf independent front suspension.

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Notice the rocker-operated valve mechanism on the big 1-cylinder engine.
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The Amilcar C6 into which C.A. Martin had inserted a 4-cylinder engine. This car scored many successes in the early Thirties, including an outright win in the 1933 Bol d’Or and a class win at the Spa 24 Hours that same year.
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A very pretty Amilcar with a body by Duval.
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In 1921 Georges Irat introduced this 2-litre 4-cylinder o.h.v. sporting model. It went on to score many successes in the long- distance sports car races of the Twenties – the Routes des Pavées, the Spanish and Moroccan Touring Car Grands Prix and the Coupe du Roi in the 1927 Spa 24 Hours are some examples.

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Ariès of Courbevoie, Paris also supported endurance racing in the years after the First World War especially in the 1100 class – a notable success was a class win in the 1924 Le Mans 24 Hours, the car driven by Lapierre and Fernando Gabriel, the victor of the 1903 Paris-Madrid race.

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2015 Montlhery VintageThe company then developed this big 4-cylinder 3-litre car which was very unlucky to lose victory in the 1927 Le Mans; some compensation came with a win in the Georges Boillot Cup and a 3rd overall and class win in the Spa 24 Hours that same year.
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Eventually Hotchkiss bought Amilcar and for 1938 introduced the completely new Amilcar Compound. This may be a rather tatty example but the car has a very interesting specification: unitary construction in Alpax alloy, a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox mounted ahead of the (initially) side –valve 4-cylinder engine which drove the front wheels, all-independent suspension with torsion bars at the rear and rack-and-pinion steering. Only 681 were made.
David Blumlein, May 2016

A Recollection of Times Past

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The Targa Florio was the last of the open road races, a breed that died out in the early ’70s, changing attitudes to safety ending this toughest of challenges to man and machine.

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The Sicilians are rightly proud of the heritage of this great race, so celebrated the 100th edition recently with a collection of fantastic cars that had starred down the years. Porsches, Ferraris, Alfa Romeos and many others brought the memories flooding back of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie

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There were also a number of the gladiators present who risked life and limb back in the day. Former champions such as Arturo Merzario, Vic Elford and Gijs van Lennep were joined by other luminaries such as Jacky Ickx and Andrea de Adamich.

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DDC’s Simon Hildrew made the trip to the tip of Italy to bring us this wonderful gallery………………Bella Vista!

John Brooks, May 2016

Route des Vacances

John Elwin is currently hitting a rich vein of classic car events, this one came to him in his corner of France and it displayed a true Gallic motoring flair.

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“We’re all going on a summer holiday!”
Who can forget the words to Sir Cliff Richard’s jolly little sing-a-long ditty as he and his pals headed for the seaside in a big red bus? That scenario was created (almost) on a chilly Sunday morning in Northern France recently.
Introduced only a few years ago, the ‘Route des Vacances’ has rapidly become a major event, a must-do for participants and onlookers alike.

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Catering for classic cars and coaches, it retraces one of France’s traditional holiday routes from the industrial and mining area around Lens to the Cote d’Opale seaside resort of Berck-sur-Mer. And being France, there’s a lengthy lunch stop in the market town of Hesdin, attracting throngs of interested bystanders. The event is always run on Pentecost Sunday, which this year was in mid-May and blessed with rather cool weather more akin to a British bank holiday.

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The popularity of the event was proven by the fact that some 400 vehicles took part, together with about 900 people, many of whom travelled in the half dozen or so classic coaches. Cars ranged from pre-war Citroëns and Renaults right up to a BMW Z4, which looked rather incongruous amongst the more traditional classics. As you would expect, French brands dominated numerically with Citroën leading the way, thanks to a huge group of unruly 2CV’s but Peugeot, Renault and Simca were well represented too. British sports cars are popular in France, so MGBs abounded and Triumphs …well, triumphed.

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We caught up with the activity in Hesdin, where the awaiting crowd was entertained by the town’s excellent brass band, before the big bass drum was drowned-out by a cacophony of air horns and the like, announcing the arrival of the first of the cars. From around 11.30 a steady stream of cars, many entering into the holiday theme by towing period caravans or with loaded roof-racks, were marshalled into parking places either in Place d’Armes or one of the side streets – with so many participants parking was at a premium.

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Despite acting like a bunch of delinquent children the 2CV brigade were the most organised, arriving rather noisily altogether but they parked very neatly in a line along a one-way street, albeit facing in the wrong direction!

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Whilst some enjoyed a picnic, many others queued to buy traditional ‘les baraques a frites’ from a couple of friterie vans. One of them is run by Christine, who is something of an institution in Hesdin; having been serving frites to locals and tourists alike for 40 years, she’s said to be the richest woman in town!

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All too soon, 14.30 arrived and it was time to pack-up and head for the coast. All at once of course, which leads to more good-humoured noisy chaos as exit from the square is dictated by a set of traffic lights a short distance away. However, they were soon on their way, with the coaches bringing up the rear. One of them contained a party from Chorale la Lievinoise – I wonder what they were singing?
John Elwin, May 2016

Chiron

The launch of a new Bugatti is a very rare event, like the alignment of the planets, it may come but once or twice in our life spans. So the opportunity the witness the latest model from this most exclusive of brands in the flesh was not to be missed by our Special Correspondent. So he set course for Geneva and here are some of his reflections.

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For this scribe the chief excitement of the 2016 Geneva Motor show was the début of the Bugatti Chiron. Based on the Veyron, the Chiron pushes all the limits of its predecessor further ahead.

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It’s taller and wider and the 8.0-litre quad turbo W16 has been re-developed to give a staggering 1,479 b.h.p., almost 300 b.h.p. more than the Veyron, by dint of stronger titanium connecting rods, enlarged (by 30%) turbos while 1.4 kg have been machined off the crankshaft. There is an up-graded 7-speed Ricardo DCT with a bigger crown wheel, stronger universal joints and stouter driveshafts. Carbon silicon brakes with eight pistons and an air-brake help to arrest the unbelievable performance. The car sits on a new lighter carbon-fibre monocoque to which is attached the adaptive suspension and specially developed tyres. The carbon-fibre bodywork is a bold mix of curves and straight lines and a cutaway rear end is used to get rid of the enormous heat.

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Some 300,000 miles of testing has proved that these improvements are up to the job and customers (existing Veyron owners are given first refusal) are invited to part with a mere £1.9 million as from the autumn. To reassure them the road car is limited to a top speed of 261 m.p.h. Bugatti expects to make up to 500 Chirons, taking production up to 2024.

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Let us not forget that there was an earlier Bugatti Chiron, a concept car which appeared at the Frankfurt Show in 1999. It was a 2-seater mid-engined coupé, labelled “EB 18/3 Chiron”, the 18 indicating the number of cylinders and the 3 representing Volkswagen’s project.
So why Chiron, and who was he? Like Pierre Veyron he was a successful Bugatti driver but he drove other marques as well.

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He was born in Monaco in 1899, the son of the Maître d’Hôtel in the Hôtel de Paris. Having joined the French Army as an artilleryman, he became the chauffeur to Marshal Pétain. He was then able to obtain a Bugatti T22 which was prepared and supported by Ernest Friderich who was the Bugatti agent in Nice. In 1923 Chiron started taking part in local sprints and hill climbs, registering an initial success with a 3rd place in the Mont Agel hill climb.

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By 1926 a Bugatti T35 was bought for him by Alfred Hoffman, heir to the Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceutical empire, and Chiron finished 4th in the Grand Prix de Province, his first circuit race; a win at the Grand Prix de Comminges followed. For 1927 Hoffman obliged with a T35T which was converted to T35B specification. A first at Miramas was scored and then a second in the supporting race to the French Grand Prix. Chiron took 7th at Indianapolis in a Delage 15S 8 before going on to Brooklands where he finished 4th in the British Grand Prix.

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All this brought Chiron to the attention of Ettore Bugatti who invited him to drive for the works team. So for 1928 a T35C was used to win at Rome, Reims, San Sebastian and the Grand Prix d’Europe at Monza. In 1929 he won again at San Sebastian and took victory in the sports car Grand Prix von Deutschland. By now the T35 was becoming outclassed but he still managed to win at Spa.

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The twin-cam T51 restored his fortunes and in 1931 he won his home race, the Monaco Grand Prix, as well as taking a shared victory (with Varzi) in the French Grand Prix; he also won at Brno. 1932 began with a 9th place in the Monte Carlo Rally, Chiron driving a big Type 50 Bugatti, but back on the circuits the T51 was in turn being outpaced by the P3 Alfa Romeo; nevertheless, he managed victories at Nice, Dieppe and Brno again.

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So in 1933 it was all change to Alfa Romeos, initially teaming up with Caracciola to form Scuderia CC but this fell apart when the German ace crashed badly at Monaco. Chiron joined Scuderia Ferrari and threw away a certain win at Monaco with two laps to go in 1934. He made up for it with a splendid victory over the full might of the German teams in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry. A season with Mercedes-Benz in 1936 did not work out well and this prompted his (premature) retirement. He was tempted back to drive sports T150C Talbots in 1937 and won the French Grand Prix, whereupon he retired once again.

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Chiron returned to Talbot after the war and won the first post-war French Grand Prix at Lyon, repeating the victory at Reims in 1949. His best performance in 1950 was a 3rd place at Monaco in a Maserati 4CLT/48. In the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally he brought his Delahaye 175S up to 5th overall by being the fastest in the Test around the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. His last Grand Prix was at Monaco in 1955 when he finished 6th in one of the Lancia D50s at the age of almost 56 years; he had won the Monte Carlo Rally the year before in a Lancia Aurelia. Non-qualification at Monaco 1958 in a Maserati 250F saw his last Grand Prix appearance, and a class win that year in a Porsche Carrera at the Vuillafans-Echevannes hill climb brought his impressive career to a close. He then devoted himself to organisation with the Monaco Club and died in 1979, appropriately, in Monaco.
The new car has much to live up to!
David Blumlein, May 2016