The Boss’s Car

The Artcurial sale at this year’s Rétromobile was bursting with interesting cars, one of the cream of the crop was this Ferrari……………..

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What do you give to the man who has almost everything? This was the conundrum faced by the management of Ferrari back in 1986. They wished to make a gift to the President of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli, to celebrate his 40th anniversary as head of the Italian industrial empire, which, of course, included Maranello’s finest back then.

Eventually the corporate equivalent of the Papal Conclave White Smoke was seen in the skies above the Ferrari factory, they would build “L’Avvocato” a car. Not, I grant you, an original thought, but the vehicle itself would more than make up for that lack of creativity.

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In 1984 Ferrari unveiled their latest supercar, the Testarossa, to an appreciative audience at the Le Lido in Paris, a venue that has seen its share of curvaceous red heads in its time. Powered by a 4,943 cc flat-12 engine giving around 400bhp, this elegant two-seater put Ferrari firmly back at the head of the performance pack. It was also the first high performance Ferrari to be designed with the contemporary lucrative North American market in mind. That meant considerable changes to previous approach to building cars, comprehensive regulations covering safety and pollution had been legislated and had to be complied with.

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So, a very special car to begin with, but one example was to be even more special, unique in fact, Agnelli’s present from Ferrari would be a Testarossa Spider. Chassis 62897 entered the production line at the end of February 1986 and four months later it was delivered to the Boss in time to enjoy the Italian summer, complete with a personalised licence plate TO 0000G, no detail too small on this project. Even the choice of colour, silver, was part of a plan, the symbol for this element in the periodic table is AG.

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The building of a Spider was no matter of just hacking the roof off and pulling together some canvas contraption to give a measure of protection from the elements. Pininfarina were tasked with providing a solution befitting the car and, more importantly, the recipient. The chassis was reinforced to reclaim the rigidity that had been lost with the removal of the roof as were the windscreen pillars. The new rear deck enhanced an already handsome automobile and provided an ingenious solution to storing the roof when not needed.

One other significant modification aimed directly at Agnelli was the option to dispense with the clutch and drive the Testarossa in automatic mode, he had sustained leg injuries in an accident back in his youth and this sometimes made using a manual transmission system uncomfortable.

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Agnelli kept the car till 1991 when he sold it one of his poker-playing buddies, how the other half lives. Despite entreaties from Ferrari’s customers the factory refused to produce any copies, so those desperate to enjoy a similarly configured Testarossa were reduced to commissioning the likes of Pininfarina to recreate their work. It is said that they built a number for the Sultan of Brunei.

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The family of the lucky poker-player recently decided to sell and that is how I came to encounter the car during the Rétromobile. Despite the market conditions generally trending downwards, the Testarossa sold and exceeded its estimate to finally reach €1,210,080 – about eight times the amount that a Testarossa with a roof made at the same auction. The new owner not only has acquired a piece of history but also automotive art of the highest order.

A Vintage Crop at Silverstone

The Special Correspondent visits Silverstone for the Spring VSCC meeting, rare and interesting is his quarry…………….

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A beautiful spring morning tempted me to drive up to Silverstone to this event where there is always an abundance of interesting cars especially when the sun shines to lure owners out with their treasured possessions. Before leaving the car park I came across this lovely Lea Francis.

It is a 2.5-litre Sports – they made 77 between 1950-53. Lea Francis was active in competitions before the war, particularly in the late Twenties when they won outright the 1928 Tourist Trophy and scored two class wins at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.
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A very unexpected visitor! A 1913 Morris Oxford, representing the start of the extraordinary William Morris story. These early cars had the White and Poppe engines.
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At the other end of the scale! This is a 1928 4.5-litre Bentley, one of the Team cars. It came 7th in that year’s Tourist Trophy, never a race to suit the big cars of W.O. In the first Double Twelve at Brooklands in 1929 it retired but redeemed itself at Le Mans by completing the quartet of Bentleys which dominated that year’s results at La Sarthe. In the final Brooklands Six Hour race it came 3rd and managed 5th in the Irish Grand Prix.
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This is the Nash-Healey which finished 3rd behind the two Mercedes-Benz 300SLs at Le Mans in 1952, driven by Leslie Johnson and Tommy Wisdom, winning also the 3,000-5,000 c.c. class.

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It is known as X8 and was hurriedly put together to replace the Le Mans Coupé (X6) which was badly crashed in the Mille Miglia.
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The big 4.1-litre 6-cylinder pushrod Nash engine.
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I loved this 1929 Amilcar Type M, completely unrestored.

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Amilcar, of St Denis in Paris, is chiefly remembered for its little sports two-seaters, rivals to the Salmsons in the Twenties but at the time of this saloon the company was giving up competitions and concentrating on touring cars.

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Here is its side-valve 1244 c.c. motor.
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A Kurtis 500 with solid front axle and Chevrolet small-block V8 – all very American!

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There were masses of Frazer-Nashes at Silverstone. This is a Sebring model, the last of the Isleworth-built two-seaters – this one made in August 1954, the first of just three.
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This Riley is a mixture! It has a Sprite chassis but is allegedly powered by the engine from Raymond Mays’s “White Riley” which had developments leading to the E.R.A. engines which were of course Riley-based.

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Appropriately for this meeting some BMW 328s with right-hand drive marketed as Frazer-Nash-BMWs to reflect Isleworth’s involvement with the Munich company.

David Blumlein, May 2016

The Italian Job

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Name the odd one out – Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Bugatti, Lancia, Alfa Romeo. Easy I hear you cry, Bugatti! – Though Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan almost all of the cars that bore his name were built at Molsheim in the French province of Alsace. Since the acquisition of the marque by the Volkswagen Group production has returned to Molsheim. The rest are all Italian car companies so that is that.

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However, there was, some 30 years ago, an attempt to revive Bugatti and locate it in the shadow of Modena (where else in Italy?) at a purpose built factory in Campogalliano. The author of this plan was Italian automotive entrepreneur Romano Artioli who somehow persuaded the French state-owned industrial conglomerate, Snecma, to sell him the rights to the brand of Bugatti, succeeding where so many others before him had failed. Perhaps he made them an offer they could not refuse.

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Artioli had a vision of the car he wanted to create, this had been hatched over several years with an old friend, Ferruccio Lamborghini, yes that Lamborghini. This was going to be the fastest, greatest car in the world and to achieve this aim Artioli recruited some of the stars of the local auto industry. Designer Marcello Gandini was a logical choice given his record with such supercars as the Alfa Romeo Montreal, De Thomaso Pantera, Ferrari Dino 308GT4, Iso Grifo, Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos and Maserati Khamsin plus many others. The technical side was handled by Paolo Stanzani who drew up the initial concept of a two seater mid-engined sportscar with four-wheel drive, powered by a 3.5 litre V12 with four turbochargers giving over 600bhp in extreme form. Chassis were initially planned to be aluminium but this lacked the necessary rigidity so French aeronautics experts, Aérospatiale were called upon to develop and build a carbon fibre unit.

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Artioli managed to fall out with both of his project leaders prior to launch but the EB110GT continued its development and during this period recorded a record speed of 212.5mph, making it the fastest production car on the planet. The EB110GT was launched in 14th September 1991 at La Grande Arche de la Défense to the west of Paris to a crowd of 5,000 media and guests. The date was the 110th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s birth and 1,800 VIPs celebrated into the night at a sumptuous reception and dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

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Such extravagance set the tone and were to have consequences particularly as there were cost overruns at Bugatti and, to compound matters, Artioli acquired Lotus Cars from General Motors. He also launched the Ettore Bugatti fashion brand, all of this funded by a combination of personal wealth and borrowings. Artioli’s luck deserted him, his principal income streams, a large Ferrari dealership and being Suzuki’s agent in Italy, were experiencing difficulties with the general economic situation and the financial crisis that hit Japan at that time. Two other factors worked against the EB110GT, failure to get a foothold in the vital North American market and the arrival on the scene of the McLaren F1 which took SuperCar performance levels to a new dimension.

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In an attempt to drum up business in the face of the new arrival from Woking an even more extreme version of the EB110 was launched, the Supersport, but it was too little too late. The planned output of 300 units per annum was never achieved and in the end only 140 cars were built, including 38 Supersports.

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The end for Artioli’s Bugatti dream came in September 1995 when the corporation was declared insolvent with debts of $125 million, eventually after a couple of years of financial and legal wrangling the Volkswagen Group acquired the Bugatti brand. The Veyron was the next exotic chapter in the story of Bugatti and the recent launch of the Chiron at the Geneva Salon points to the future.

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So the EB110 is a rare beast, so to encounter two of the Supersports sharing the same stage is highly unlikely scenario, that they were in the company of a prototype EB112 saloon is even more so, this is hen’s teeth territory.

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The trio had been owned by Monegasque businessman, Gildo Pallanca Pastor, and closer inspection showed the cars to be even more important that I had first believed. The two Supersports appeared to have competition history, that much I figured from the sponsors’ logos, one turned out to be a world record holder. On 2nd March 1995 Pastor set a new record for a car on ice of 296.34 km/h (184 mph) at Oulu Finland, the record being set on winter tyres without spikes.

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Pastor was not finished with returning Bugatti back to the race-tracks, following the lead of Michel Hommel who entered an EB110SS in the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car ran competitively till an accident near the end of the race forced it into retirement. Pastor took his other SS to the USA and ran in two races with two finishes in 1995 before heading to Japan for the Suzuka 1000kms, a round of the BPR Global Endurance Series. He was partnered with 1993-Le Mans winner Eric Hélary but transmission problems caused the Bugatti to retire. Pastor entered the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Joining him at the wheel was Derek Hill, son of 1961 F1 World Champion Phil Hill, and Olivier Grouillard but they went out after 154 laps with gearbox failure.

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This inspired Pastor to enter Le Mans but that initiative sank almost at the start of Pre-Qualifying when ex-Ferrari F1 star, Patrick Tambay, crashed the Bugatti beyond immediate repair and, aside from a club race at Dijon a few months later, that was the end of the competitions career of Bugatti, which is unlikely to be revived under the current ownership.

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The EB112 also warrants more attention, something it attracted in spades at the 1993 Geneva Salon when it was shown to the world for the first time. Powered by a 6 litre V12, the elegant saloon design was the work Giorgetto Giugiaro at ItalDesign. The engineering team was under the guidance of the great Mauro Forghieri, whose work for Ferrari in the ‘60s and ’70s is legendary, producing four drivers World Championships and eight Constructors titles. Two EB112 prototypes were built and the project was set to go into production in 1996 but the financial disaster that engulfed Bugatti ended that dream.

Under the new owners Bugatti returned to its spiritual home in Molsheim, the automotive Risorgimento was done.

John Brooks, April 2016

Techno Prisoners?

Prize-winning Fiat 8V Vignale

The Techno Classic is one of the great car shows in the historic calendar and we are fortunate to have John Elwin pay his annual visit to Essen and bring us his observations.

Swedish BP tanker on Autostadt stand

Size isn’t everything, or so they say, but they think differently in Germany where Techno Classic Essen has long held sway as the biggest and best classic car show in the world (as Jeremy Clarkson might say). Show organisers’ S.I.H.A. were not content with that however, and the biggest just got bigger.

Pozzi Ferrari

Despite having previously had a total floor space of 120,000 square metres to fill, S.I.H.A. have a growing waiting list of exhibitors wanting to join the party; construction work is due to start imminently on an upgrade and expansion to the Messe Essen, but three extra halls were added to the show this year by taking over the adjacent Grugahalle concert venue, together with a temporary structure, to give a total of 127,000 square metres spread over twenty one halls. Squeezed into that space was some 1,250 exhibitors representing thirty different countries, whilst the in excess of 2,500 classic vehicles on display must surely have satisfied the tastes of every one of the record 201,034 visitors who passed through the show during the five days.

A girl can dream

There, that’s the statistics dealt with, but what was the show like? Pretty good actually, although admittedly my visit was briefer than normal this year, meaning that I probably missed as much as I saw.

Droptop Mercs

I did notice that – going against the grain – some of the manufacturer displays were a little reduced from previous years, notably Mercedes-Benz and BMW. They were impressive, all the same. Mercedes’ emphasis was on cabriolets, with a fine display from down the years, well laid out as usual.

BMW 635 Convertible prototype

BMW have a centenary to celebrate this year and so the emphasis was on BMW Classic, with little evidence of Mini and Rolls-Royce history to which they usually like to lay claim. Cars on display were predominantly from the various 3-Series generations as well as the 1500/2002 predecessors.

BMW 2002 turbo

Amongst them was a 2002 Turbo, complete with mirror-image script across the front. From the early days of ‘all or nothing’ turbo power, it was said to be a bit of a handful on the road. Oh, and there was an aeroplane hanging from the ceiling…

VW Golf-based concept

Apparently untroubled by their woes in other parts of the world, the VAG constituent brands once again filled an entire hall with machinery from the back catalogues. VW itself was majoring on 40 years of the Golf GTI, which in keeping with the ‘getting bigger’ theme has put on a bit of middle-aged spread over the years, but then haven’t we all?

Porsche 924 prototype

By contrast, Porsche was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the transaxle models by showing a 1974 924 prototype, which looked rather more bulbous than the eventual production models. Also on view was a 1995 928 GTS, the very last one built – but weren’t these cars supposed to spell the death-knell for the 911 range, which twenty-one years later is still showing no signs of fading away?

Audi Group S rally car

Audi can always be relied upon to bring along something interesting and this time it was a prototype rally car. Back in the mid 1980’s the World Rally Championship was contested by fire-breathing Group B monsters such as the Peugeot 205 T16 and Metro 6R4, whilst Audi was using the closer-to-production quattro. With a revised set of rules, designated Group S, due to be introduced in 1987 Audi set about creating the Mid Engine Rally Prototype. However, a series of dreadful accidents led the FIA to can both Groups B and S, eventually taking rally cars back to a more production-like formula in a bid to curb performance, consequently Audi’s new car never turned a wheel in anger. It has to be said that the plain white machine is not the prettiest thing to emerge from Audi but no doubt it would have been effective.

Audi Avus concept

Far more appealing was the Audi Avus quattro concept car alongside, which dazzled the crowds with its polished aluminium bodywork at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show.

Abarth's new rally-prepared 124 Spider

Elsewhere on manufacturer stands, Alfa Romeo gave its new Giulia model its German debut, shown alongside some of its forbears, whilst Fiat and Abarth both had examples of the very appealing new 124 Spider, Abarth’s being in rally trim. Volvo meanwhile was marking the 60th birthday of the Amazon.

Mistral-bodied Jaguar XK120

You can always count on the high-end dealers to bring along some interesting exhibits and this year was no exception. Switzerland’s Lukas Hüni never fails, this time showing a one-off re-bodied Jaguar XK120. In 1954 Californian Bob Young Dahl tried to buy a C-Type to race in West Coast events, but Jaguar had sold out of the model, offering him instead an XK120SE, which he bought although he really wanted the racer. However, he discovered that the British company, Microplas, produced a glassfibre body called the Mistral, so he obtained one and had it fitted to his Jaguar. He contested a number of races but eventually badly damaged the car and lost interest. It lay unloved in storage for many years before being bought and repaired in 1989, eventually finding its way to Belgium in 1999. Subsequently Frenchman Xavier Lebeuf took it on and conducted an extensive restoration, such that it now has an FIA technical passport and is up for sale.

Bentley R Graber Convertible

Thiesen’s had a couple of fine examples of the Bentley R-Type’s with very different bodywork. The 1950 Contintal Cabriolet was one of just four produced with bodywork by the Swiss Carosserie Graber, the rear-end styling displaying similar lines to those deployed on the Alvis by the same company. Meanwhile the aluminium bodywork adorning a 1955 Continental Coupe was a one-off creation by the French company of Marius Franay, working in conjunction with Chapron.

Ferrari 250 GT Boano

Axel Schuette Fine Cars is another dealer that is always worth a visit, and this time the stand was home to the FIVA ‘Best of Show’ concours winner in the shape of a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta. In addition to that award a panel of journalists – including your correspondent – also make their own choices in various classes in addition to ‘Best of Show: Cabriolet/Limousine/Coupé. Here we too demonstrated a definite bias in favour of Italians by picking a 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Pescara, 1934 Lancia Astura Series 3 and a 1953 Fiat 8V Vignale respectively.

1960 Fiat Abarth record breaker

Two very different Italian machines but with a common link in that they were both styled by Pininfarina attracted a lot of attention too. Remarkably, they both dated from 1960 but couldn’t have been more different. American dealer Hyman had the remarkable Pininfarina X, whilst Auto Classic srl brought the Fiat Abarth 1000 record-breaker on its first journey away from Turin, where it has resided in a private collection, in more than fifty years. Originally conceived as an engine test bed, the sleek silver machine – dubbed ‘La Principessa’ by the mechanics – went on to establish no less than eight speed records in the hands of various drivers such as Giancarlo Baghetti and Umberto Maglioli at Monza in September/October 1960.

Fangio's Mille Miglia Merc, or is it

The Italian theme was continued by show organisers’ S.I.H.A., the subject of their central display being the 1955 Mille Miglia. It was headed up by a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR from the Mercedes Museum and ‘replicating’ Fangio’s car from the race in which he finished second to Stirling Moss. However, amongst the others on display was the fourth-place Maserati A6 GCS and the Ferrari 750 Monza that came home sixth.

1951 BMW Canta

There was just so much more to see at Essen, but time ran out. I’ll just mention three very different exhibits, all with a BMW connection, that caught the eye. Upstairs in the private sales area was a ‘prototype’ 635 Cabriolet – was it a factory job? Looking like new on stand was a very low mileage BMW 600, somewhat optimistically described as a Limousine, whilst French specialist La Galerie Des Damiers brought along a 1951 BMW Canta – a combination of a BMW 750cc engine mounted in a tubular chassis and clothed in aluminium bodywork by Canta of Turin. It might be a tiny machine but it’ll want an awful lot of work!

Next years’ show takes place on 5-9 April 2017. For info:

John Elwin, April 2016

All Roads Lead to Arras

Saint-Exupéry may have written of flying to Arras in his classic  wartime account but our man in France, John Elwin, took the Alfa. His target was the town’s car show and autojumble…………….

The long queues of traffic heading for Club R.A.V.E.R.A.-6A’s one-day event, staged in Arras’s Parc des Expositions, suggest the organisers have hit a winning formula. It is so much more than just a Bourse – that’s French for autojumble. Whilst one of the Expo’s large halls does indeed contain a vast array of autojumble, automobilia and even the odd car, and the other features club displays, for many visitors the real attraction is outside.

The 500-space car park adjacent to the Expo is reserved for classics and owners respond by bringing along a huge variety of machinery. This year, amongst the stand-outs was a 1920’s Rolland-Pilain, a pair of yellow-hued Saab 96’s and a pretty little DB Panhard. Inevitably there were cars offered for sale, the most outstanding being a sublime Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti offered for a very realistic 16,800 €. Others included a nice Morgan +8 and a very original 1985 Peugeot 205 GR with just 38,900 Km (24,000 miles) on the clock. Having been professionally valued at 4,800 € just the week before, the owner was open to offers.

Whilst everyday cars from the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and even ‘80’s abound, there’s always a sprinkling of exotica, but whilst a Gulf-liveried replica Ford GT40 attracted a lot of attention – especially when the owner rather obligingly revved the obviously rather potent Ford V8 – a silver Ferrari Daytona passed almost unnoticed, parked amongst Citroen CX’s and so on. A trio of Citroen Maserati’s lined-up together couldn’t fail to catch the eye. There were no less than six of the gorgeous beasts to be seen around the event. Probably more of a beast, however, was a bright red Renault Turbo 2.
Whilst that particular Renault may never have tackled a rally stage in anger there were other visitors that had, notably a couple of Renault 4’s that contest the R4 series (yes, there is one) and also a pair of Citroen Traction Avant’s that have contested long-distance rallies. Inside the exhibition a rally-prepared Volvo 66 could be seen, whilst lurking amongst all the ephemera there was a 2CV-powered Apal single-seater.

Inside, much of the display space was taken up by a contingent of visitors from Britain, mostly with pre-war cars, ranging from a Simplex racer to an imposing Ford Model T with three rows of seats – who said MPV’s were a modern invention? Indeed, Ford seemed to be the dominant marque on display with other offerings including a very smart 105E Anglia, and a real rarity in the shape of a 1954 Comete Monte Carlo with bodywork by Facel.


Always staged on the third Sunday in March, this event is well worth a visit, only being an hour or so from the Channel ports, and an entry charge of just five Euros should leave plenty to spend in the Bourse! The exceedingly friendly organisers are always welcoming, so why not give it a look? This year a contingent from the Kent section of the Morris Minor Club made the trip across the Channel, with a low-light Convertible and a Van in Ever Ready livery parked very prominently opposite the entry to the Expo.
For information, visit

John Elwin, April 2016

Upstairs, Downstairs

The 2016 Rétromobile expanded to an additional upstairs hall, mainly occupied by the Artcurial Auction lots. The quality was outstanding, like a museum display and The Special Correspondent had a field day.

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The Graham brothers built up their business by producing large numbers of trucks using Dodge mechanicals and then bought the Paige-Detroit Motor Company. In January 1928 the Graham-Paige range of cars was announced.
It was ambitious and in 1929 the firm made 77,000 cars – they even won the Monte Carlo Rally that year! The Paige name was dropped in the early Thirties and the company attracted plenty of customers with its new ”Blue Streak” styling in 1932, the cars having sloping grilles. In 1934 Graham offered a supercharger on the Custom Eight and, apart from the Auburn 851 Speedster, it was the only American company to feature a supercharger (until 1939). For 1938 a new styling innovation was introduced with sloping-back grille, square headlamps set in the front wings and spats on the rear wheels, this aggressive design earning the nickname “shark nose”. The public did not take to it and only 8,800 were made up to 1940.
The above car is a 1939 Type 97 supercharged cabriolet, a rare example having bodywork by the French coachbuilder Pourtout. It has a straight six 3.5-litre engine developing 115 b.h.p. and a 3-speed gearbox with overdrive.
A final thought: a Graham-Paige of uncertain vintage was bought in 1935 by a Mr Baker for less than £50 and ,with the 8-cylinder engine rebuilt and a two-seater long-tailed body made specially by Harrington of Hove, it went on to win in August 1939 the last ever race at Brooklands!
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In 1922 Georges Irat was making at Chatou an excellent 2-litre sports tourer with a 4-cylinder o.h.v.engine, the work of the former Delage engineer Maurice Gaultier. These cars performed well in the long-distance races of the era. In 1935 the company switched to making attractive 2-seater sports cars, first with Ruby engines and then with Citroën units.

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After the war a completely new prototype was shown at the 1946 Paris Salon with a lightweight magnesium alloy frame, a flat-four engine and all-enveloping bodywork. There was no positive response to this and a second attempt was made for the 1949 Paris Salon. This is the car shown here with its Lambourdette body found in the factory at Bègles (near Bordeaux) but it has since been underpinned with a Simca Huit chassis. Again it aroused no commercial interest and thus sadly represents the end of Georges Irat motor cars.
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Designed by Marcello Gandini, the Bugatti EB110 had a mid-mounted 3.5-litre V12 60 valve 4 turbo engine driving through all four wheels and a carbon fibre chassis made by Aérospatiale. It came about when Romano Artioli, a big Ferrari dealer in German-speaking northern Italy and the first to import Suzuki cars into the region, set up Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. in a brand new factory at Campogalliano near Modena.. The cars were produced between 1991 and 1995 after which the firm went bankrupt.
The appearance of the EB110S at Le Mans in 1994 has been well documented but less well-known is the racing history of this EB110SS of Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, a Monégasque entrepreneur who entered the car during 1995 and 1996 under the banner of his Monaco Racing Team.
The car’s first race was at the Watkins Glen 3 Hours in June 1995 where Patrick Tambay co-drove it into 19th place. Three weeks later Pallanca-Pastor came 16th on his own at Sears Point. A switch to the BPR Championship race at Suzuka in August brought retirement when a broken front drive-shaft sent Eric Hélary into the sand. The 1996 Daytona 24 Hours saw the car running in the GTS-1 class but there was no luck for Derek Hill (son of World Champion Phil Hill), Olivier Grouillard and Pallanca-Pastor, the gearbox failing after 154 laps. Even more disastrous was Tambay’s accident at the start of the Le Mans Test Day, effectively ending Pallanca’s hopes of running in the 24 Hour race.
The car’s last race came at the non-championship GT event at Dijon in June. Pallanca-Pastor finished 3rd in Heat 1 but Bertrand Balas, having initially led in Heat 2, was cruelly pushed off by Wolfgang Kaufmann’s bi-turbo Porsche 911.
To date this was the last racing appearance of a Bugatti in period.
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This is the Citroën 15-Six H (Hydropneumatique), a limited series available to selected clients only in 1954, which had the hydropneumatic rear suspension destined for the forthcoming DS19 which appeared at the 1955 Paris Salon. It served as something of a test-bed for the complicated new system and trials revealed that the front suspension needed adjustment to compensate – hence the front torsion bars were lengthened, being extended out at the front.
All this rather mirrors what Citroën did in 1934. Having launched a completely new range of 8, 10 and 15CV at the 1932 Paris Salon, they became known as the Rosalie series after Citroën had gone record-breaking at Montlhéry with Yacco-sponsored special versions, labelled “Rosalies”. In 1933 an 8CV collected many long-distance records, this car known as the “Petite Rosalie”. In May 1934 Citroën equipped the Rosalie cars with the independent torsion bar front suspension that was just appearing on the recently unveiled Traction Avant, Citroën feeling that it was wise to continue offering the Rosalie range while the completely new car was getting established.
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The Simca 8 Sport started life as an elegant cabriolet prototype with a Pinin Farina body at the 1948 Paris Salon in the Grand-Palais. The Head of Simca, Henri-Théodore Pigozzi, liked it so much that he decided to market it and production was entrusted to Facel-Métallon; the process was unusually complicated with the pressings made at Amboise, the assembly at Colombes and the final touches put on at Dreux! A fixed–head coupé accompanied the open version and the car was given an upgraded 1200 c.c. engine.
The coupé gained glory in the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally where the cars finished 4th and 5th overall, Scaron/Pascal winning the 1.5-litre class. A year later the cars were outclassed by the Jowett Jupiters, the Scaron/Pascal Simca Sport finishing 16th and even Trintignant managing only 48th.
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One of nine Frazer-Nash Le Mans Fixed-Head Coupés. It has the usual adjustable slats in front of the radiator, centre-lock wire wheels, an Austin rear axle, iron brake drums and adjustable torsion bars. It was ordered by Mrs Kitty Maurice of Castle Combe and completed in April 1955. It travelled to Le Mans in June 1955 as a support vehicle for AFN’s entries. Mrs Maurice did not keep it for long and AFN eventually bought it back in November 1957.
XMC 1 was sold to John Dashwood in March 1959 and he had AFN prepare the car for that year’s Le Mans race . The rear axle location was modified with a Panhard rod and rose joints in place of the original A-bracket. Driven by Dashwood and Bill Wilks, this was the last Frazer-Nash to race at Le Mans. After three hours Dashwood slid into the sandbank at Arnage when the brakes faded. The gearbox split as he tried to slow down and the steering was damaged.
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When launched at the 1934 Paris Salon the Renault Vivastella Grand Sport had a 3.6-litre 6-cylinder engine. But shortly after the Show the Vivastella Grand Sport became the Viva Grand Sport (Type ACX 1) and this had a 4.1-litre motor and more aerodynamic lines inspired by the famous Caudron-Renault Rafale aircraft, holder of the World Hour Record. The first Viva Grand Sport for 1936 (Type ACX 2) appeared in the summer of 1935 at the Concours d’Elégance du Bois de Boulogne. Refinements included a single-piece windscreen and a re-designed rear profile.

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This 1936 example is one of only three drivable surviving cabriolets. Notice how the gear lever, although operating a central change, is deployed through the dashboard! I note that the prominent French racing driver of the Thirties, René Le Bègue (winner of the 1937 Monte Carlo Rally and the 1939 Comminges Grand Prix) began his career using a Renault Viva Grand Sport.
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This is a Bugatti Type 40. Jean Bugatti took it off the production line in 1928 and designed a “fiacre” type body for it especially for his younger sister Lydia. The car was often “borrowed” by Bugatti racing drivers!
Bugatti launched the 4-cylinder racing Type 37 at the end of 1925. In mid-1926 he introduced the Type 40 to replace the Brescia as the 1.5-litre touring car. He took the engine of the Type 37 and fitted it to a new touring frame, stronger than that in the Brescia. He gave the car a narrower track and a new radiator.
Two French ladies, Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko, drove a Type 40 in the 1930 Le Mans race, finishing in 7th place.
Approximately 830 of the Type 40 and 40A were made.
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In 1908 you could buy a Detroit Electric car which would do 45 m.p.h. and have a range of 70—80 miles; not much progress since then evidently! There is currently a new vogue for electric cars in the name of zero emissions but, the moment the car is plugged in to recharge its batteries, the pollution is, of course, merely transferred to the power stations!
Under German Occupation during the Second World War, the French had little alternative to resorting to electrical power with a serious shortage of petrol and raw materials. All sorts of crude cars came on the market, this 4-wheeled Pierre Faure being one of the better ones. Constructed from October 1940 onwards at Vitry-sur-Seine, this 2-seater had a backbone chassis with a narrow track at the rear to avoid the use of a differential and front suspension by a transverse leaf spring. Six batteries were located in the nose and these gave a speed of approximately 25 m.p.h. with a range of some 50 miles.
The car was shown at the 1946 Paris Salon but could not compete with the new petrol cars and production ceased in 1947. It is thought that about 20 were made.

David Blumlein March 2016

Rétromobile 2016-style

The Special Correspondent made his annual pilgrimage to Paris and the Porte de Versailles for the Rétromobile. As might be expected there was plenty to see that was ‘Rare and Interesting’…………..

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The Renault 40CV was for 20 years the top of their range. A large luxurious model, it originally came as the 50CV with a 9.5-litre engine in 1908, the company’s first six-cylinder. By 1911 it had been re-named the 40CV with 7.54 litres. The model evolved to become by 1925 the Type NM, having in the meantime acquired 9.12 litres and cantilever rear suspension.

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By no stretch of the imagination could the big 40CV be considered sporting but in 1925 two successes gave it something of a competition reputation. First, a private 40CV NM Weymann saloon won the Monte Carlo Rally, and then Renault decided to go for the 24 hour record, an activity that was all the rage in the inter-war years. An open 4-seater with special bodywork by Lavocat et Marsaud went to Montlhéry and on the 4/5th June duly pushed the 24 hour record up to 87.63 m.p.h. Alas for Renault, Bentley arrived in September when Duff and Barnato stole their honour by averaging 95.2 m.p.h. for the 24 hours. Not to be outdone, Renault returned in 1926 with a single-seater streamlined 40CV, a re-creation (acceptable because the original no longer exists) of which is shown here. The car boasted three carburettors for the 9.1-litre side valve six, a 55 gallon tank in the rear, a radiator behind the engine as Louis Renault insisted (and as was normal for production Renaults at the time) and provision to carry nearly 8 gallons of oil! Plessier and Garfield dutifully won back honours for Renault in the July, leaving the 24 hour record at 107.9 m.p.h
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Production of the Renault 40CV was phased out during 1928 and the car was replaced at that year’s Salon de Paris by the new Reinastella, a 7.1-litre with Renault’s first Billancourt-built 8-cylinder engine and the first production Renault with a front-mounted radiator, the rest of the range soon falling into line. In 1930 a smaller Reina, the Nervastella, was introduced with a 4.2-litre 8-cylinder motor. This model soon won the Rallye du Maroc (taking the first three places) and it was followed in March 1932 by the Nervasport, a shorter, lighter version. In 1934 the engine size went up to 4.82-litres and then at the end of the year to 5.4-litres. This Nervasport dates from 1935 and commemorates the model’s outright win in the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally.

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Jean-Pierre Wimille was one of France’s greatest racing drivers. During the war (while working for the Resistance as a member of the Special Operations Executive) he planned a car (La Wimille) that would set modern trends for the post-war era: tubular chassis, mid-mounted engine, central driving position with three seats (recalling the 1936 Panhard Dynamic), aerodynamic bodywork and panoramic vision.

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The first prototype, with 11CV Citroën four cylinder engine, was built in 1945 and made its first public appearance at the occasion of the Grand Prix de l’Autoroute de l’Ouest on 9 June 1946 at St Cloud where Wimille first drove the Alfa Romeo 158. Other prototypes followed with bodywork designed by Philippe Charbonneaux and powered by a Ford Vedette V8 engine.

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Shown is the third prototype but the whole project came to nought, alas, when Wimille was killed in practice for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix in a Simca-Gordini.

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Pictures DSCN 3510, 3504, 3505
In 1961 Deutsch and Bonnet (DB) followed the then current trend towards mounting the engine behind the driver – all the result of Cooper’s Formula One World Championship successes in 1959 and 1960.

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A DB was run in that year’s Le Mans with the Panhard engine so positioned (finishing 19th).

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DB also made a Formula Junior racer with the Panhard engine ( modified to 954 c.c.) duly mid-mounted. It was entrusted to Gérard Laureau for a race at Rouen where it was outpaced and never raced again. The pictures show the one such car that was ever made.
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It is always a pleasure to see a Panhard CT 24. This was the last model of this famous firm which was one of the very first to produce motor cars. Still powered by Louis Delagarde’s amazing flat- twin, its aerodynamics gave it a respectable performance but Citroën had taken over at the Avenue d’Ivry and killed off car production in 1967.
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BMW broke into car production when it bought the Dixi car company in 1928. This Eisenach firm had been making Austin Sevens under licence and BMW initially took on this rôle, steadily developing the cars according to their thinking. Here is a 1931 BMW 3/15 DA4 model still with the 743 c.c. engine but the bodywork is by Ambi-Budd of Berlin and , although it still looks like Sir Herbert’s baby. But notice…it has independent front suspension, something no “real” Austin Seven ever had!
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This is the beautiful Bugatti T55, the body design the work of the talented Jean Bugatti. The model, which appeared for 1932, was the true successor to the T43 and , just as that car had used the T35B Grand Prix engine , so the T55 was powered by the T51’s 2.3-litre twin overhead camshaft unit.

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Surprisingly, neither of these cars achieved real success in the international sports car racing; Bugatti had to wait for the T57’s variants to stamp Molsheim’s name on Le Mans etc.

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Ets Ballot made engines (it was one of several French companies to produce the Hispano Suiza V8 aero engine) and after the Great War it built some racing machines with Henry-designed twin o.h.c. motors, competing at Indianapolis in 1919 and the French Grand Prix in 1921 and 1922. This design was used in the exciting sports 2LS and this van, based on the 2LT with single o.h.c., has been restored to represent a “works” version.

David Blumlein March 2016

Antwerp Classic Salon

John Elwin graces our pages with his take on the recent Classic Salon at Antwerp.

Forget the old stereotype jokes about Belgian heroes. For this years’ Antwerp show, organisers S.I.H.A. chose the theme of Belgian Racing Victories. Rather than focus on the exploits of Grand Prix stars such as Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen the central display featured cars that had achieved (mostly) success in the Spa 24-Hours. Cars like the BMW 635 CSi from 1985 that Boutsen drove together with Switzerland’s Walter Brun and German Harold Grohs, or the earlier 530i crewed by Eddie Joosen and Dirk Vermersch with Frenchman Jean-Claude Andruet.


Tucked away in the corner was a Mini Cooper as driven by well-known Mini exponent Julien Vernaeve. However, they were all upstaged by a quietly-spoken lady who was keeping a watchful eye on a couple of the cars; in fact, someone who could be described as a Belgian heroine.

Yvette Fontaine made quite a name for herself as a fast lady driver in the 1960’s and 70s. Growing up close to the Zolder circuit, she was soon attracted to the sport, although she actually began by competing in rallying. Racing was her true metier and she quickly made an impression when she switched disciplines, so much so that works-supported drives soon came from first Alfa Romeo in Belgium, then Ford. She won the Belgian national touring car championship outright in 1969 at the wheel of a Ford Escort, and as well as contesting several Spa 24-Hour races she also co-drove a Porsche at Le Mans on two occasions.


A quite remarkable and unassuming lady, chatting to her at the show, it was hard to imagine her hurling her Capri RS flat-out through Eau Rouge or around the streets of Chimay, but the records show that she did so very successfully. Yvette now has replicas of both Escort and Capri race cars which she regularly demonstrates at events. Indeed, she was leaving Antwerp for another event on the Sunday.

The fact that Belgium has also had a car manufacturing history of its own must not be forgotten and after due deliberation the concours judges awarded ‘Best in Show’ to the rather splendid 1927 Excelsior Albert displayed by local company LMB Racing. It was a difficult decision but this imposing tourer ultimately won-out over another Belgian-built, but very different car, the 1928 Minerva limousine that Speed 8 Classics were showing, alongside a replica Blue Train Bentley.

Whilst these pre-war cars stood out, there was some equally eye catching machinery from later periods such as Oldtimer Farm’s 1947 Talbot T26, although this otherwise beautiful car was let down a little by the fact that it is missing a few minor parts. The 1957 Porsche Carrera with Mille Miglia history offered by IMBU certainly shouldn’t have been missing anything with a price tag of around 750,000 euros! It didn’t have ‘matching numbers’ as the original engine had been replaced, but according to my 356 expert that’s not unusual as Carrera engines had a tendency to blow-up. The magnolia-like paint job didn’t do it any favours though. More recent ‘youngtimers’ are becoming increasingly popular – cars like the metallic blue Lotus Europa Twin Cam at BBC Cars, or Car Cave’s Renault 5 Turbo 2. The value of Alpine Renault’s also seems to be climbing faster than the cars themselves did on the Monte Carlo Rally stages too.

For real rarity one had to dive into the private sale area, where one vendor was offering a clutch of unusual Fiat’s, including a 1959 1200 TV, an 1100 Pick-up, and a 1966 1500 Sconieri, with bodywork by Michelotti – the seller deservedly took a concours trophy home for that one.

If you fancied getting your hands dirty, there was a couple of ‘barn finds’ on offer. Flying Red Baron has a Fiat Abarth 850 for which they are asking 55,000 euros. You might need to spend a little more to get it back to A1 condition. At the other end of the scale a 1969 Ford Cortina 1600GT Mk2 with light front end damage was on sale privately. Comes with a donor car too.

As ever, the Antwerp show has much to offer – aside from the high-end dealers (of which there are many in Belgium and Holland) a lot of the clubs, representing a huge variety of makes, put on innovative displays, whilst the wide range of traders in the autojumble areas make for some happy browsing.
John Elwin March 2016

The Art of the Car

John Elwin is a man who enjoys many different aspects of the automotive good life, from Alfa Romeo to Lotus and here the art of customising………..enjoy his observations at the recent Essen Show.


Much is made of the BMW Art Cars, whereby somebody who is apparently famous for being famous, has randomly sploshed some paint over an otherwise innocent car and it suddenly becomes a work of art. Your average four year-old could achieve the same result but fame would most certainly not come his way, more likely a thick ear from his dad!
To my mind, the car itself is the art, having originally been created by a stylist who has toiled long and hard to create the right lines but very few car stylists become household names. Then there are those who feel they can improve upon the work of the original stylist, or even the engineers who created the oily bits. Some of these individuals have become well-known for their work, particularly in America, the spiritual home of customising. One might think that the increasingly stifling regulations dreamed up by bureaucrats the world over might have stymied this creativity, but far from it.
Visitors to the recent Essen Motor Show in Germany who remembered those wonderful Custom Car shows at London’s Ally Pally back in the 1970’s could have been forgiven for thinking they had been transported back in time. A goodly batch of cars had been brought over from the ‘States to join a large and varied collection of European cars. The different approaches were readily apparent for – hot rods aside – appearance is the dominant theme with some very detailed and labour-intensive paint work (no splosh jobs!) together with re-worked interiors. The Europeans meanwhile, have a more technical approach although current vogue seems to be how low you can get it.
Choice of vehicles varies; for the Americans it’s either Ford Model A-based hot rods, or large saloons from the 1960’s-70’s. For the Europeans pretty much anything is fair game, from the inevitable VW Combi to all generations of the BMW 3-Series. Why, even a Porsche Panamera got the lowering treatment, but one can only improve upon the looks of that thing!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here.
John Elwin, March 2016

New Kid on the Block

The Interclassics at Maastricht has been a feature of the classic car season in Europe for some time, late last year they expanded to a second event in Brussels for what was, by all accounts, a very successful début. Dirk de Jager is one of the masters of his craft, so enjoy his trip round the stands…………..