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Author Archives: John Brooks

View from the Gasworks End

The 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting was a perfect example of how to run a classic car event; speed with style, even the chilly weather did not soak us, rare for March down near Chichester.

Taking encouragement from others I broke out the Canon gear and shot for fun, I hope that the results are worth it.

John Brooks, April 2017

The Members Assemble

The recent 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting was a timely reminder of the good things about our sport. Great cars driven with verve and élan in front of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience, even the Spring weather held up, a great way to kick off another season.

Simon Hildrew was on hand armed with cameras, here is his brilliant catch.

John Brooks, March 2017

Rare and Interesting at the 2017 Rétromobile

The Special Correspondent has been on his travels, the target in February was the Porte de Versailles and the Rétromobile, that celebration of the automobile that is an unmissable part of classics scene. He brings us a menu of rare and interesting……….


Today hatchbacks are justifiably popular but to the French they are nothing new. Citroën and Peugeot were, for example, making the “commerciales” from the late Twenties onwards. Here we have a 1939 Traction Avant Citroën Commerciale showing off the considerable capacity available.

Jacques Bignan was one of the big names in French motor sport in the Twenties. He made a variety of sporting cars , a 3-litre version winning the 1921 Corsican Grand Prix, a race considered to be the first proper sports car race. This car is a blatant case of badge-engineering – it is a Salmson AL3 with a Bignan radiator! Ever the enthusiast, Bignan spent too much money on racing and his company did not last the decade. However, one of his 2-litre cars won the 1924 Monte Carlo Rally and Jacques himself went on to win the 1928 event in a Fiat 509.

This is a very rare car, in fact the only known survivor. It is a Crossley Bugatti Brescia, part-machined and assembled by Crossley Motors Ltd of Gorton in Manchester.

Bugatti’s factory was in a pretty poor state after the Great War and he licensed out some production of his successful Brescia model to Rheinische Automobilbau AG in Dϋsseldorf in Germany ( the Rabag cars), to Diatto in Italy and to Crossley. Not many were made in England, possibly 24/25. A Diatto-Bugatti led home two O.M.s in a race at Brescia in 1921.

This was a surprise because this unique car has normally resided in the Le Mans Museum. It is the 2-litre class-winning Moynet which ran at Le Mans in 1975 with an all-female crew.

Still at Le Mans but a year later and again a unique car. This Lenham P71 used a 1.8-litre Ford engine but retired just after half-way.

The DB3 was Aston Martin’s first sports racing car. The company was hoping that the Le Mans organisers would soon abandon the prototypes which were introduced after the war as a temporary stand-in and get back to production-based sports cars but the prototypes were too big an attraction, so Aston Martin was obliged to join in!Prof. Eberon von Eberhorst was called in to design the car but its development turned out to be too protracted; furthermore it was late on the scene, it was too heavy and was powered only by Aston’s 2.6-litre engine which was inadequate.

It did take some class wins and won outright the 1952 Goodwood Nine Hour race against works Jaguar C-types but Aston Martin only found real success when “Willie” Watson, on his own initiative, offered the team his much lightened version, the DB3S.

J.A.Prestwich (JAP) was famous for making single and twin-cylinder engines for a wide variety of motorcycles, cyclecars, road cars such as the three-wheeled Morgan, the 500c.c. Formula 3 racing cars and others. In 1908 JAP decided to construct some V8 and V4 engines aimed at the budding aviation industry.
Here we see an overhead valve JAP V8 engine mounted in a pre-WW1 GN wooden chassis. It is the prototype unit and is one of only four known surviving JAP V8s; it has a capacity of 5-litres.
In a more modern context, JAP made the cylinder heads for the Lotus Cortina.

This is a DB Panhard 848c.c. with bodywork in aluminium by the coachbuilder Cottard of Bourg en Bresse. It was lighter than the plastic-bodied cars but only five were constructed, all in 1958. The third car made was destroyed during that year’s Tour de France Automobile at Reims.

A rare sight indeed! We associate the all-conquering 1100c.c. Salmsons of the Twenties with their superb twin-cam engines but before these Emile Petit had devised a clever arrangement whereby his 4-cylinder engine had its valves operated by only four pushrods! The special rockers can be seen.
TAILPIECE

Breguet was well- known as a French aircraft manufacturer from Toulouse and, because of the acute shortage of petrol during the German occupation in World War Two, Louis Breguet joined the ranks of electric car makers.

This is his A2 2-seater coupé with a Paris-Rhône motor mounted at the rear. It had a range of 65 miles, top speed 30 m.p.h.

David Blumlein, March 2017

Drive to Arras

40th ARRAS BOURSE D’ECHANGES

With the centennial commemorations of the Battle of Arras just three weeks away, the organisers of the city’s annual classic car event must have felt they were fighting a new battle as gale force winds and lashing rain poured down during the run-up. Fortunately the rain at least had abated by the day itself and Club Ravera will have heaved a collective sigh of relief as the 500-space outdoor parking once again filled-up with classics of every sort, whilst indoors the large autojumble thronged with those anxiously seeking that vital component.

Fighting a battle of their own must have been Ray and Kathleen Brogan as they had journeyed over from Kent to display their ex-London County Council 1952 Reliant Regent three-wheeler van. With open sides and a top speed of 40mph it would have been quite a journey – their first problem was convincing Eurotunnel that the vehicle actually existed! They are regular visitors to the show, more usually with a Sunbeam Talbot, but this was the first time with the Reliant.

And they were not the only Brits to take part, with others bringing vehicles ranging from a stunning fabric-bodied Austin Seven saloon to a Ferrari 328 GTS. Morris Minor owners from Kent were also in attendance. They are in the main repeat visitors, knowing that they will get a very warm welcome from the organisers and show visitors alike.

The indoor display represented good variety, ranging from pre-war machinery such as a Chenard Walcker, Panhard and Peugeot, through to familiar cars and ‘bikes from more recent times. There was variety a-plenty too, from a Fiat Dino Spider to a 1941 Gnome-Rhone motor-cycle and sidecar that was used in large numbers on the Russian Front. Many were imaginatively displayed too, such as the Peugeot 404 and caravan in holiday mode. Amongst the clubs, the Matra Simca Rancho owners were celebrating the cars’ 40th anniversary, and in true French style the members were tucking into some very creamy chocolate cake!

Outside there was the inevitable plethora of Citroen 2CV’s and Traction Avante’s, including one rare LHD Slough-assembled 1950 Light 15, one of just 304 built between 1949-54, it was delivered new to Casablanca in 1951. There was even a couple of Lomax’s, one three-wheeled, the other with four wheels. The British-built kit car is based on 2CV components, but now with the relentlessly upward trajectory in 2CV values in recent times it must be becoming increasingly hard to source donor vehicles.

Otherwise there was the full spectrum from rat-look VW 1500 to a superb Aston Martin DB6 that appeared to have travelled a bit. Although French registered, the RHD car bore a Wales badge on the back and a New York City technical inspection sticker on the windscreen.

It was not the only car present to have crossed the Atlantic as Americana was very much in evidence with several Ford Mustang’s, an enormous Buick LeSabre and Chevrolet El Camino pick-up amongst others. The show was stolen late in the day though, by the arrival of a stunning black 1971 Buick Riviera which quickly had the crowds gathering round.

An extremely enjoyable event that not even the weather could spoil; always held on the third Sunday in March, it’s well worth a quick hop across the Channel.

John Elwin March 2017

A Classic at Antwerp

The 40th Antwerp Classic Salon celebrated Ferrari’s 70th anniversary with a magnificent display of Prancing Horse machinery that included cars with significant history. The selection ranged from a 1947 166 Inter Coupe to an F40, and included a 500 Superfast that had once belonged to Peter Sellers together with a 275 GT Spider, formally the property of Raquel Welch. Those two cars alone could surely tell a few stories! Meanwhile, a 288 GTO was previously owned by Belgian driver Jean Blaton and also father-in-law of one-time Ferrari F1 driver Jacky Ickx. Blaton himself, now aged 87, raced sports cars under the peudonym of “Beurlys”, twice finishing third at Le Mans in a Ferrari.

Ferrari’s long associations with Le Mans was covered by a rarely-seen 512 BB in ‘European University’ colours, as raced at La Sarthe in 1981. The 512 BB was progressively developed by Pozzi and examples appeared at Le Mans over several seasons, starting in 1978 when a car due to be driven by the aformentioned Blaton retired before he got behind the wheel. The car on show at Antwerp (chassis #35525) was entered by Rennod Racing and driven by Belgians Dieudonné, Xhenceval and Libert, finishing ninth overall and third in class. The result was all the more credible as Dieudonné fell ill and only drove for four hours.

Ferrari’s origins were not forgotten either; before building cars in his own right, Enzo Ferrari’s team raced Alfa Romeo’s and on show was a 6C 1750 that Ferrari sold new to Luigi Scarfiotti, the father of later Grand Prix driver Ludovico. The car was entered in the 1930 and ’31 Mille Miglia events under the Scuderia Ferrari banner, finishing in sixth place on the latter event.

More modern Formula 1 activity was covered by an 87/88C that was used by Gerhard Berger en route to third place in the 1988 World Championship, beaten only by the battling duo of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Antwerp is not primarily about exotica though; whilst there are plenty of other rare and unusual vehicles to be found, it is also an event where more mundane machinery gets a look-in. Thus it was that the concours judges found themselves selecting as ‘Best in Show’ a rather superb Mercedes-Benz 280SE Cabriolet that was actually a hire car! The green machine would make the ideal holiday tourer. The concours classes were split into three ages groups, the earliest being for vehicles from 1885-1995, where first prize was awarded to a Talbot Lago whilst second went to a rather splendid MG TD.

The MG was offered for sale privately by the very engaging Stephan Mackertich, who lives in France, and had taken the MG in part exchange for a Jaguar E-Type. The English owner of the MG had apparently bought it fresh from a superb restoration and having driven it only a few miles decided an E-Type was what he really wanted. By contrast, Mackertich was also showing an unrestored LHD 1952 Morris Minor Convertible that he had brought in from Sri Lanka where it had originally been owned by a diplomat. The green car was well-patinated and the owner was inclined to keep it that way.

Again, in the 1956-1975 class it was the second-place car that had a lot of appeal, being a 1967 Alpine A11 in rarer cabriolet form but in the end it was just pipped by a Borgward. Alpine of course is very much in the news with the launch of the new A110. A Volvo might sound like an unusual choice, but the judges awarded the 1976-1990 class to a Belgian-built 1983 Volvo 240 Turbo that had been superbly restored by its passionate private owner at a cost of some 40,000 euros. The judges felt the fact that this was the work of an enthusiast rather than a restoration company deserved recognition and so it won out over a very low mileage 1988 Morgan +8 that local dealers Oldtimer Farm are selling. Third in that class went to an MVS Venturi Cup, not a marque seen too often at shows.

One hall at Antwerp is devoted to club stands and as ever the range of ingenuity and machinery on display covered the full spectrum, with everything from microcars to the mighty lime green Plymouth Hemicuda that local club Scuderia Antverpia was displaying. British brands were well represented, from Austin-Healey to Rolls Royce, the Healey club showing a rare Rolls-powered car. Aside from the Plymouth, Americana was also prominent, in particular by the Belgian Mustang Club, and from the ’40s & ’50s there was a monster hearse. Closer to home, Minerva was a local manufacturer with a factory not far from Antwerp and, although cars have not been built since the war, there is still a keen following. The factory was requisitioned by the Luftwaffe to use as a repair centre for fighter aircraft during World War Two, so not surprisingly, it was bombed by the Allies. Post war the company did for a time assemble Land Rovers, primarily for military use.

Amongst the rarities to be found was a Brazilian-built Volkswagen SP2. Dating from the mid-seventies it was an attractive sports coupe based on the period VW Variant chassis with a rear-mounted 1700cc flat four air-cooled engine. It was never officially imported into Europe so is quite sought-after. Almost as rare but very much in as-found condition was a Saab 92, whilst a Mercedes 190SL also posed as a barn find. At the opposite end of the scale, with unpainted body panels, was the superb 1934 MG Type P-Q owned by Gaston Lenaerts.

A busy autojumble and private car sale area rounds out the delights of Antwerp Classic Salon, an event which seems to steadily improve year on year. Always held on the first weekend in March, it is well worth a visit.

John Elwin March 2017

Excellence at the Excel

The London Classic Car Show has grown in stature and importance in its brief, three year career. This year it had doubled its original footprint, taking up 40,000 square feet and incorporating the Historic Motorsport International show. The quality of the cars on display was impressive, in particular Joe Macari’s salute to Maranello’s finest, to the celebration of Le Mans in the form of the legendary Jacky Ickx and his fellow victors at La Sarthe, Jackie Oliver, Derek Bell, Jürgen Barth and Emanuele Pirro.

Simon Hildrew is on top form as ever with cameras in hand, so enjoy his stunning work in the following gallery.

More from me on the show later.

John Brooks March 2017

The French Class

Driver shoots, don’t ya just love ’em? Herding cats would be easier and nothing has much changed in the 49-odd years since this scene at Le Mans. Even the scrum around local favourites still continues, the only thing missing is a selfie-stick………….but this bunch of drivers from the 1968 Alpine Le Mans team is also a bit special.

L to R as far as I can tell: Bob Wollek, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Alain Serpaggi, Christian Ethuin, André de Cortanze, Jean-Luc Thérier, Jean Vinatier, François Castaing, Alain le Guellec, Jean Rédélé, Bernard Tramont, Jean Guichet, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Henri Grandsire and Gérard Larrousse.

They would win Grand Prix, Le Mans (driving and designing), rallies and many, many races, a very select bunch.

John Brooks, February 2017

 

Docklands Delights

February arrives and brings with it the promise of a new auto season, both on and off the race tracks and concours halls. The Rétromobile in Paris is an annual high point but now here in London we have a show worthy of comparison, if one accepts that it is still in a developmental stage. I am, of course, referring to the London Classic Car Show, now in its third year and double the size of the original.

Right from the start the show had some good ideas, taking advantage of the space available they created the Grand Avenue so that the attendees could see the exotic collection of cars actually in motion and experience the physicality and noise of racing engines, we’re all kids at heart, especially when encountering a V12 Matra……….

Another feature that is very popular with attendees is Car Club Square. I am firmly of the opinion that any classic show should encourage the car clubs who are the foundation of our thriving classic scene.

Where there are classic cars to be found, there will be dealers and they too provide an important element of the show, bringing their stock for out appreciation and hopefully, for them, our custom.

 

There are some enhancements for 2017, notably the addition of the Historic Motorsport International, backed by the Historic Sports Car Club. This gives a new dimension to the show and will greatly broaden the range and variety of cars on hand.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2017 is the Beaulieu Autojumble and there will be a pop-up version at the LCCS on the Saturday and Sunday to give those of us less well heeled folk something to afford.

 

2017 will see a number of features specially aimed at enthusiasts. 70 years of Ferrari will be celebrated with a display reflecting the glory of the brand specially put together by Joe Macari, former Le Mans racer and one of London’s leading specialists on high performance cars.

Half a century has passed since the introduction of the Cosworth DFV, the engine that changed Formula One out of all recognition. At Zandvoort in June 1967 Jim Clark took a dominant victory in his Lotus 49, the first of 155 Grand Prix in the following 17 seasons. So a tribute to Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin’s stroke of genius is most appropriate and to illustrate the scope of the engine’s career there will be a display of cars at HMI, it is bound to be a highlight.

The opening day, Thursday 23rd February will feature a salute to one of the greatest racing drivers of them all, Jacky Ickx, who will be present as the show’s Guest of Honour.

Not only that but two of his co-drivers from his six wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Jürgen Barth and Derek Bell will also be present. Completing the circle of Le Mans’ giants will be five-time winner Emanuele Pirro, so if La Sarthe is your thing head on down to Docklands.

The London Classic Car Show and HMI will be held at ExCeL London, on 23-26 February, with access to both shows included in the entry price. Historic Motorsport International will open its doors at 12.00pm on Thursday 23 February, while the London Classic Car Show will burst into life at 3pm that afternoon.

Tickets to the 2017 London Classic Car Show/HMI are now available from the show website – thelondonclassiccarshow.co.uk – and start at £24 for single adult entry (£27 on the door on the day). Gala evening standard entry costs £42 or for access to the Grand Avenue Club, where the interviews take place, tickets cost £70.

 

To get a flavour of the event have a scan through Simon Hildrew’s stylish photopgraphy from 2016; go along, you will not regret it.

John Brooks, February 2017

 

 

ASI 2017 and all that

The endurance season has kicked off, Dubai 24 a few weeks back and yesterday the Rolex 24, both preceded by the Autosport International at the charmless Birmingham NEC. ASI is under new owners and that can only be a good thing, the format is tired and dull, and frankly it is difficult to get any enthusiasm for the event. That being said, the display of Lotus 49s and the history line provided by Williams Grand Prix were worthy of attention, so I will be generous and hope that the show can get back to its former glories.

One constant is the excellent work of Simon Hildrew…………long may he continue.

John Brooks, January 2017

Thirty Year Itch

The Daytona 24 Hours in 1987 was an almost exclusively Porsche affair in the leading GTP class, no less than nine 962s chased victory. Five of these were powered by a 2.8 litre flat six and the other four a 3.0 litre version of the classic Porsche unit, power was traded off for less fuel stops, a bit of a leap of faith at Daytona.

Leading the charge was Jochen Mass in Bruce Leven’s 962 posting a pole lap of 1:41.005. The German star shared the car with the owner and Klaus Ludwig. They led the first four hours or so of the race but contact while passing a back marker on the banking led to a big shunt and retirement.

Also in the wars early in the race was the other front row Porsche of Jim Busby sharing with Bob Wollek and Darin Brassfield. Valve failure after 89 laps put the BFGoodrich 962 out.

Three 962s were left at the top contesting victory. The American road-racing royalty of Rob Dyson, A.J. Foyt and Al Holbert each had a car capable of winning. Dyson shared with his regular co-driver Price Cobb and they were supported by Vern Schuppan.

Holbert, running the same #103 chassis that had been the winner in the 1986 race, was on a roll, chasing a third consecutive 24 hour win with co-driver Derek Bell, having triumphed at Le Mans the previous June. Initially Holbert did not plan to drive leaving that to Al Unser Jr., Chip Robinson and Mr Bell. The demands of the race would change that strategy

The legendary A. J. Foyt, twice a winner at the Daytona 24 Hours was looking for his third win, running with Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Sr. The race would come down a dog fight between the #1 and #14.

Best of the non-Porsches was the Chevrolet Corvette GTP-T710 of Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy but they went out in the night with engine failure after running in the leading pack.

Another car that succumbed in the darkness to engine problems following a fire was the Jaguar XJR-7 of Bob Tullius, Hurley Haywood and John Morton after running as high as second.

Less impressive in the GTP ranks was the Zakspeed Ford Probe GTP of David Hobbs, Whitney Ganz and Momo Moretti. Not really competitive, they also disappeared in the night with engine maladies.

IMSA GTP Lights were the property of the factory entered Spice-Pontiac Fiero.

Bob Earl, Don Bell and Jeff Kline overcame electrical issues in the night to run out winners.

IMSA GTO class was hotly contested. The Roush Ford Mustang was chasing a hat trick of wins at Daytona. NASCAR star Bill Elliott ran with Scott Pruett, Lyn St. James and Tom Gloy.

More NASCAR talent was on show in the Protofab Chevrolet Camaro of Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Greg Pickett. They led the class at the halfway point but lost a wheel out on track and that was that.

Another strong Camaro was the Rick Hendrick-entered Peerless version for Jack Baldwin and Eppie Wietzes but they were another victim of engine issues.

Dan Gurney had a pair of Toyota Celicas, #98 for Chris Cord and Steve Millen, #99 had Ricky Rudd, Jerrill Rice and Juan Manuel Fangio ll on driving duties.

Problems late in the race struck both All American Racing cars with #99 retiring  and #98 clinging on to second spot despite rear suspension issues.

All of which propelled #11 to the top step of the podium. A sweet victory for the Roush Ford outfit.

Back at the head of the field things appeared to be going the way of Foyt’s 962 but there was not much margin in it. The Unsers engaged in an early morning Father and Son duel after which they had breakfast together. There were epic battles between the two teams and any advantage gained was soon pulled back.

Al Holbert had to change his strategy as both Al Unser Jr. and Chip Robinson were exhausted and Derek Bell needed time to recover for the final stint. Al jumped into the Porsche to take the fight to rival 962.

The race was decided in the final hour when the normally bullet-proof Porsche motor in the #1 car let go with 50 minutes left to run. Victory for the Holbert car, huge disappointment for Foyt’s outfit.

Second place fell to the Brun Motorsport 962 that had lost 14 laps in the first hour with a faulty weld on a pipe. Once that was fixed they began the long climb back from 54th place. They were the quickest car on track during the night, sometimes as much as five seconds a lap! Once the Foyt car stopped they were elevated to the podium just ahead of the Dyson 962 with the unfortunate Texan effort classified as fourth. It was a just reward for Walter’s team of Oscar Larrauri, Massimo Sigala and Gianfranco Brancatelli.

Messrs Holbert, Bell, Robinson and Unser Jr. celebrated a famous victory, a really tough race for them. The race was flat out from the start and the winning crew covered 753 laps breaking the previous record set in 1986 by 41 laps or 146 miles. The race average speed was 111.6mph, a champion performance by any standards.