Category Archives: Cool Stuff

image_pdfimage_print

The Moment

I spend a lot of my working days looking at motor-sport photographs, both mine and those by others. To put it mildly there is a fair amount of dull dross around, and that’s just my archive. There are currently several “ace practitioners”, as they might witlessly describe themselves, who are nothing of the sort and whose output is embarrassing. The other side of the coin is to find an image that captures both the moment and the spirit of an event. I encountered the above while researching pictures for a book and it immediately grabbed my attention. It could only be Spa and the 24 Hours back in 2009……………of course it is the work of the great French agency DPPI who have been at the top rank of motor-sport photography for decades, the individual credit goes to Gregory Lenormand. So Monsieur Lenormand, Chapeau! Bravo! Respect!

 

John Brooks, August 2016

Zoute Suits You, Sir

The Zoute Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the Classic Car season…………a fantastic location and a selection of cars to match. Local hero, Dirk de Jager, braved the elements to bring us this gallery, bravo!

Bugs in Brussels!

Our old friend, John Elwin, paid a visit to the InterClassics Brussels recently and discovered a treasure trove of Bugattis. 

IMG_9133-5
A major feature of the inaugural Interclassics show staged at Brussels Expo was an impressive display of some 30 Bugattis, ranging from very early cars right up to the Veyron and including some rare and unusual machinery.

IMG_9131-4
1930 Bugatti T46
In 1997 this example toured the world in the company of another T46, covering some 40,000 trouble-free kilometres in the process.

IMG_9135-6

1931 Bugatti T49
Originally sold by the Swiss concessionaire to Prague where it was fitted with a berline body by Uhlik and displayed at the Prague Salon. After the war it was re-bodied as a roadster by the Leipzig coachbuilders, Rühle.

IMG_9138-7

Bugatti T41 Royale Coupé

Napoleon 12.7-litre engine

IMG_9143-9

1932 Bugatti T50

IMG_9142-8
The steeply-raked screen of this T50 coupé made it one of the most aerodynamic vehicles of its type from those evocative inter-war years.

IMG_9150-11

1954 Bugatti T101 C Coupé

IMG_9147-10
Wearing bodywork by Antem, this is chassis no. 101.504, the last car to be built by Bugatti. It was purchased when new by Brussels concessionaire and collector Jean de Dobbeleer, subsequently passing through the hands of Bill Harrah, Nicholas Cage and Gene Ponder.

IMG_9152-12

Display centrepiece

IMG_9153-13
Bugatti Veyron

IMG_9157-151937 Bugati T57 C Coupé Special

IMG_9154-14
Designed by Jean Bugatti as a birthday present for his father, as the name suggests it had a few special features such as a Type 101 engine, Cotal transmission and a glass roof.

IMG_9158-16

1938 Bugatti T57 Aravis
One of two similar cars designed and built by Albert D’Ieteren, the Brussels –based coachbuilder, and delivered to the unlikely-named Mr .Baggage! Since restoration it has appeared at Pebble Beach, in 2009 in a special Bugatti class. D’Ieteren is an interesting organisation, laying claim to be the oldest company in the world associated with wheeled vehicles, having started out as wheelwrights more than 200 years ago. Today, still family owned, it is the Belgian importer for all the VAG brands, which of course includes Bugatti.

IMG_9160-17

 

1938 Bugatti T57 Brown

IMG_9161-18
This 1938 chassis was actually clothed with some very futuristic bodywork designed by Franco-British artist James Brown. It was manufactured from the then-new polyester material in the early ’50s.

IMG_9165-19
1939 Bugatti T57 Compressor Aravis
Two-seater cabriolet bodywork by Letourneur & Marchand adorns this T57 chassis.

IMG_9172-21

1931 Bugatti T54

IMG_9168-20
This 4.9-litre Grand Prix car was originally raced by Achille Varzi, its subsequent Czechoslovakian owner, Prince Lobkowicz, was killed in it competing at Avus in 1932.

IMG_9173-22
1928 Bugatti T35B Grand Prix
Originally imported into Belgium by its first owner, Rene Dubeck, it was raced on various occasions during that year in France, Spain and Italy.

IMG_9177-23
Bugatti Blues

IMG_9185-24
1927 Bugatti T37
Built to compete in voiturette racing for 1500cc cars, this T37 has passed through the hands of many owners, yet still retains matching numbers.

IMG_9186-25
1927 Bugatti T37
This car, chassis no. 37246, was supplied to Elisabeth Junek for use as a training car for the Targa Florio.

IMG_9194-26
Baby Bug

IMG_9195-27

1924 Bugatti T30
Something of an amalgam, based on the T13, but fitted with the engine from the T29, Bugatti’s first GP car.

John Elwin, February 2016

This One Is For Bob Carlson 1948-2008

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

 

filename-6734

 

 

 

 

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

filename-6736
Aside from sneaking outside to have a smoke, Harling was keeping in contact with his PR ilk at Daytona on the status of the P-cars. He would return to the table  and give me the updates. My feelings towards the proto-turtles of Grand Am hasn’t changed and it’s doubtful if it ever will. But David Donohue is one of the genuinely good people out there and he has come close, very close, so many times in so many events. I was there the last time a Brumos Porsche won the 24 in 1978 and then there is the matter of time loving a hero as David’s father won Daytona 40 years ago. The recent passing of Bob Snodgrass, who for so many years was a major force behind both Brumos and Porsche, was also present with us all. If David Donohue could go from Pole to Victory Lane, well… who wouldn’t cheer a story like that?

filename-6720

 

 

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

filename-6731

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

filename-6730

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

filename-6735

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

passing-the-1-1

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

filename-6722

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

filename-6733
Bob Carlson wouldn’t want a tribute, that wasn’t his style but it looks like he has left something that will continue to be a tribute to what he worked for. After the 50th Anniversary of Porsche in 1998 that was a first class bash at the Monterey Historics, Bob hit on the idea of having a get together of like minded Porsche enthusiasts and their race cars every few years instead of waiting for ten years or longer. Support for the idea was tepid at first but after the success of the original Rennsport Reunion held at Lime Rock in 2001, the planning for an even larger event to be held at Daytona in 2004 was put in place. This time, many of the great names of not only the drivers, but the engineers, were to be honored.

filename-6721

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

Kerry Morse, February 2009

View from the Perimeter

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

unnamed (16)
The Amazing Randy and I went to Sebring Saturday to the Sebring Vintage and Used Racer Festival.

unnamed (15)

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

unnamed (11)

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

unnamed (13)

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

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

unnamed (9)

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

unnamed (14)

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

Why not?

“TESTING, GO AWAY!”

unnamed (4)

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

unnamed (1)

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

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

unnamed (2)

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

unnamed (7)

 

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

unnamed (6)

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

unnamed (5)
So I wait……and I wait…and I wait….. then I hear radios behind me, I don’t turn around. It’s the authorities. (Sebring Airport Authority)

‘What are you doing?’

‘Watching,’ I said.

‘Who you work for?’

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

unnamed (10)

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

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

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

unnamed (8)

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

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

unnamed

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

unnamed (3)
It was nice shooting, never on Raceway property, working all the angles, just for fun, but serious fun, y’know.

 

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

Words Between the Lines of Age

A despatch reaches DDC Towers from the Golden State, it is the latest literary output from our old friend, David Soares. He took his 911 for a spin last weekend, destination the NorCal Vintage VW and Porsche Treffen………..

DSCF0411

During the far-off days of the mid-20th Century, the Porsche Design Bureau’s Volkswagen Type 1 Käfer became the global icon of mobility for Everyman. Ben Pon’s Dutch spin-off, the Type 2 Kombi/Microbus/Samba was the gypsy traveller van for every long-haired seeker, surfer, and acid-tripper looking to turn-on, tune-in, and drop-out. One of my own earliest memories is of being driven in an open-top ’59 Beetle cabriolet to the Joan Baez children’s concert at the Berkeley Folk Festival, held on Sproul Plaza not long before it would become Ground Zero for the Free Speech Movement and the Revolution that would be televised.

DSCF0468

We Californians of a certain age have a special soft-spot for the lowly Volkswagen, and for Ferry Porsche’s special-bodied Käfer spin-off, the 356. Ferry wanted to market his car to the moth-eaten remains of the European aristocracy, but his former countryman Max Hoffman had a different pitch in mind. The Baron of Park Avenue asked for de-contented cars to sell to the Amerikaner as hot-rod Beetles, eventually overcoming Ferry’s initial resistance and mass-marketing thousands of Porsches such as the stripped-down Speedster to us posers. By the early ’70’s California was lousy with the rusted lace-like floors of old Bugs and Porsches being driven by anyone who had the floor-jack and bag of hand tools needed to cobble-up a motor. I looked at dozens of rusted sub-$900 356’s before my father bribed me with the promise of paid insurance cover if I bought something Japanese (I was able to get a Wankel-powered Mazda past him). I still pine for the freshly-restored ’57 Speedster that I had to pass-up because I couldn’t reach the required $4500. Today a $350K car.

DSCF0600

With all this automotive counter-cultural history buried deep within California’s psyche, a sort of anti-Pebble Beach has grown over the past 10 years into the NorCal Vintage VW and Porsche Treffen, an informal gathering of the tribe held the first Sunday of August at Dave Brubeck Park in the blue-collar town of Concord, east of the San Francisco-Berkeley axis. There is no pre-registration, $15 per car covers the city’s park-use fee, and participants are invited to “park wherever you like.” There’s no champagne bar, but there are a couple of urns of Starbucks in the morning, and at lunchtime a local taco truck shows up.

DSCF0499

The crowd and the cars are an eclectic bunch — a tribal meeting of old and new counter-cultures, drawn together by the anti-establishment symbolism of the cars of ’60’s revolutionaries and acid-rock icons, but attuned to both psychedelia and the hot-rodder’s innate sense of style. There were plenty of gray-beards, but the t-shirt was their uniform of the day, not the blue blazers now worn at the Lodge — ironically, their t-shirts give off much more of the vibe that I remember from my first Pebble Beach concours back in 1969 (my last was in 1991 when the vapid pretentiousness became unbearable). The youngsters sported plenty of ink beneath their flat-brim ball-caps and Pendleton shirts.

DSCF0483

What of the cars? Enough of my own pretense. I happened to have my camera along, and remembered that my friend Brooks suffers from a similar nostalgia for that brief moment when these little German cars symbolized some sort of hope for a more peaceful and egalitarian world — before LIBOR-rigging and wars-without-end made the very notion of the People’s Car something for weepy losers and dirty hippies. If you weren’t there, let me set the mood with the words of the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, from his non-fiction masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972). No captions or recitations of provenance; let’s let the cars speak for themselves.
“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda.… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

David Soares, August 2015

The Battle of Evermore

I have only a few rules in this house, not reposting stuff is one, but here I am breaking it. This piece deserves a second airing……..40 odd years gone and still burning brightly………….

All things considered I have been a lucky man, perhaps not in a financial sense, I have been too slow to really make more than a buck or two, but I have met many fine folks along the highway of life and I have been enriched by them in other ways. My old friend David Soares has brightened up my (and hopefully yours) day with this peek into that lost continent, the past. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Wealth is not only measured in monetary terms………….

Can Am 1972 Start

The title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again has launched a thousand journalistic ruminations about the futility of searches for times lost but perhaps, like other ruminants, they’re simply contributing to climate change.  In opposition to this popular view, the Romans saw history as man’s long downfall from a past Golden Age and they aspired to restore the past, not to dismiss it.  This month I saw two tributes to our own past, which served to remind me that maybe we ought to stop re-inventing the wheel and just maybe aspire to revive our own Golden Age.

Paddock Pair Morning

The first was the recent Kennedy Center Honors for the boys who recorded at Bron-Y-Aur cottage forty years back.  After a pathetically American introduction by Jack Black, the now gray-haired Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones nodded politely at a few lame attempts at impossible covers.  It seemed as if the ghost of Keith Moon was in the room and that things were going over like the lead gas-bag he famously predicted.  Then Ann and Nancy Wilson (who long ago performed as a Led Zeppelin cover band before calling themselves Heart) took the stage accompanied by an orchestra and full chorus, along with the only man who can truly lay down a Bonzo percussion line, his son Jason Bonham.  From Ann Wilson’s first notes, their rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” was better than perfect.  By the climax of Shayne Fontaine’s note-perfect tribute to Stairway’s soaring solo, Jimmy Page was mouthing the cord changes and smiling beatifically while Robert Plant openly wept.  You can go home.  (See their performance here: http://youtu.be/JK_DOJa99oo)

Can-Am Rev 4

Ten days after, I went home to 1972 once again.  The proprietor of this website, Mr. Brooks, has been after me for years to purchase a decent scanner to digitize my trays of Kodachromes from the amazing early-‘70’s Laguna Seca Can-Am races that I’ve been carrying around since my boyhood.  There is no sight or sound like a field of thundering Group 7 cars taking the green on the front straight at Laguna, driven by the likes of Revson, Hulme, Donohue, Follmer, Siffert, Stewart, Andretti, Oliver, Cevert, Scheckter, Elford, and Redman.  I freely admit to having been warped for life by the experience by a monkey that I will never get off my back.

Can-Am Rev 5

My neighbor down the road, Bruce Canepa, recently began fettling George Follmer’s 1972 Can-Am championship-winning Porsche 917/10, chassis -003, for the new owner after handling the $5.5M sale this past August at Mecum’s Monterey auction.  The crew of his state-of-the art facility in Scotts Valley, California is handling several cars for the same enthusiast owner, including Peter Revson’s 1970 L&M Lola, Denny Hulme’s 1970 Can-Am championship McLaren M8D, and the ex-Jackie Oliver 1974 champion Shadow DN4 recently purchased from Don Nichols.  Bruce is no stranger to the mighty 1000-horsepower 917/10, having owned and raced the ex-Georg Loos chassis -017 for the past decade.  The car was to be rolled-out shortly after New Year’s at a private track day at Laguna Seca, where I had seen the car raced over 40 years ago.

Mark in 9 1972

Much has changed at what is now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the four decades since the original Can-Am, but in many ways the start-finish straight is like it was when I was a teenager with hair hanging down below my shoulders and a borrowed range-finder camera.  The day began wet, just as the weekend did back in ’72, but in the afternoon the clouds parted and the track dried.  Mr. Canepa took -003 out for a few laps to warm the fluids and conduct a final systems check before turning the car over to its new owner.  Bruce came around for his final lap and I stood at the pit wall as he properly opened-up the throttles the way George Follmer did back in the day.  Suddenly, I was transported back in time by the whoosh of 12 air-cooled and turbocharged cylinders making a big chunk of their Metzger-designed 1000 horses.  The sight and sound of a 917/10 returned to its stunning white, red, and black L&M tobacco livery literally made me weak in the knees.

Follmer 72

What was special about those Canadian-American Challenge Cup races?  The races were, after all, just races.  The reason that we turned up every year was to see what was going to come off the trailers.  The fields of Group 7 were incredibly diverse.  Jim Hall introduced wings and sucker-cars for Hill and Elford; Gordon Coppuck’s papaya-orange Big Macs driven by Bruce, Denny, and Revvie were different every season and always better than the Trojan customer cars; Don Nichols’ AVS Shadows were truly innovative; Eric Broadly’s Lolas gave drivers like Surtees, Stewart, and Donohue something new and different; and Hans Metzger and Helmut Flegl changed the game with their 917 variants for Siffert, Donohue, and Follmer.  The amazing cars were reason enough to turn up, and in those days before Led Zeppelin performed at Bill Graham’s first stadium show, thousands did.

Mark D 1972

Most pundits have wanted to place blame for the demise of the Can-Am at the feet of Roger Penske and Mark Donohue, who with Metzger and Flegl developed 1972’s 917/10 into the amazing 1200-horsepower 917/30, but I will have none of it.  The year 1973 was the beginning of a long global economic crisis linked to oil.  Nobody had the budget to go racing in the unlimited class, and gas-hog 8-liter Chevy’s and 5.4 turbo Panzer’s were far from politically correct when most Americans were lining-up for hours to simply pump gas into their Pintos.  The result has been decades of spec and consumption-based sportscar formulae which lack the pizzaz and diversity of the Golden Age of the Can-Am.

Papaya Orange

Today, with the takeover of the ALMS by NASCAR’s Grand-Am subsidiary, we are again being fed more spec-formula pablum.  Close racing is promised, between the same cars and teams year after year.  No diversity.  No anticipation of seeing something new, different, and better.  The racing will be good, but if I want to see good racing I can watch the shit-boxes of the WTCC.  This is why Rich Guys lined-up transporters at Laguna to run a bunch of old cars rather than invest in spec-racers.

Can-Am Rev 2

As Robert Plant crooned 40 years ago in Stairway to Heaven, “Ooooh, it makes me wonder.”  Why can’t we go back?

Paddock Pair Left 1972

Kremer

LMB

Howmet

 

Follmer in 9

David Soares, January, 2013

 

London Calling

2015 London Classic Car Show

There was a new classic car show launched this year in London’s Docklands. The London Classic Car Show is further evidence of the strength and popularity of the premium automotive heritage movement and was considered by observers to be a success right from the word go.

2015 London Classic Car Show

There were the usual suspects for an event of this nature in the UK, top end classic car dealers, TV celebrities, motor sport legends, plenty for the crowd of over 25,000 to ooh and aah over.

2015 London Classic Car Show

Next year the Show will be back at the Excel London, and the date has shifted to 18-21 February to avoid any potential clashes, it is certainly one for the diary.

John Brooks, March 2015.

Heavy Load

2015 Retromobile

In Paris for the Retromobile, that great classic car show, that truly brings Gallic automotive flair out for admiration. Sometimes though muscle will beat brains, Goliath gets David and this 70 ton monster was the Big Daddy back in 1944. Nicknamed the Königstiger or the King Tiger it was, perhaps, the most feared armoured vehicle that the Allied soldiers on either the Western or Eastern Fronts would have to face.

Even at rest in the Porte de Versailles it has real menace and when the bellowing 23 litre V12 engine was fired up we all jumped for cover. If you are in Paris over the next few days get down to the show, it is packed with great cars.

John Brooks, February 2015

The McLaren of Jane Austen – or The Pie, The Bull and other things…

The events that led to this fine story took place a few years back, when my friends Lizett Bond and Kerry Morse paid a visit to the UK. As usual when Kerry is around things get a little out of focus, nevertheless this tale is worth repeating and New Year’s Eve is as good as any time to do so. And it is also an appropriate time to remember those who are no longer here to celebrate a New Year, one such individual was Jim Bamber, the great cartoonist and artist who passed away in the summer. He is greatly missed by his friends.

So to those who persevere with this site, may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2015. 

John Brooks, December 2014

2013 General

Think of Jane Austen country. What comes to mind? Landed gentry, leisurely strolls through verdant pastures, sheep, cattle and, of course, the horses? Yet, might there be horses of another type hidden in those peaceful, green hills? Sense tells us this is prime horse country, what if sensibilities were interrupted by the roar of something that travels on four “legs” of a different kind?

I love horses. I cut my teeth on “National Velvet”. One of my favorite daydreams consisted of riding The Pie across a pasture, wind whipping my short hair. In this daytime fantasy, Mi coached from the fence line.

Imagine how I jumped when the opportunity arose to actually spend some time in the English countryside. When I discovered that the village of Bentley, my destination, was in Jane Austen territory, I adjusted, trading in Mi and The Pie for Colonel Brandon, Mr. Willoughby, and romance.

2014 JB General

Jane Austen country, so steeped in history, was soon to provide some modern surprises, and the contrast between historical and modern would prove pretty striking.

2014 JB General
There were several reasons to be in Jane’s neck of the woods.  First, the MP4/3 McLaren.  A Formula One racecar with historical significance and modern interest, I would have the privilege of observing the shakedown of this fine steed at the famous Donington Park racetrack.

2014 JB General

The second was to spend time with a Jaguar XJ and a bright yellow Porsche 997 Carrera. These fine carriages, provided by the manufacturers, awaited our arrival at Heathrow Airport after a flight from Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic.

2014 JB General

Our destination was the Bentley Mill Inn. Cars aside, during my visit I wanted to meld into the community and meet the locals. I wanted to belong, if only for a short time.

2014 JB General

It was dark as we rolled into the outskirts of Bentley, and after an unplanned tour of the small village, we found our lodgings.  Ann and David Hallett, proprietors of the converted mill, proved the quintessential English hosts. A cross between English country gentleperson farmers and extremely cultured, worldly travelers, we were welcomed into their home.  In spite of the comfort and quaint ambience of this establishment, there was an air of quiet refinement, as one would expect. A paper mill, originally built in 1640, the Bentley Mill sits virtually atop The River Wey.

2014 JB General

And there were more delights to follow. A short walk from the Mill sits the Bull Inn. The classic English Pub, right down to the fireplace, the locals and the atmosphere, The Bull Inn serves breakfast, bar snacks, drinks and dinner.  Oh, heaven!  If I wanted to experience another world firsthand, I’d found it. Or as Ms Austen would say, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other”. The regulars at the Bull Inn are right out of a PBS Masterpiece Theatre production.  Sandy, an occasional bartender at the Bull, is the perfect character to stand behind said bar, a lot of fun, and “Sex In the City” has nothing on her. One would expect an old curmudgeon, but instead, the owner of this establishment is an ultra modern sophisticate, driving a Porsche and vacationing in Vail, Colorado.

2014 JB General

Feeling as if this was now my local, dinner at the Bull became a nightly ritual. One special evening at the Bull was topped off by dinner with renowned race cartoonist and artist, Jim Bamber and his wife Sally.

How could one resist the urge for further exploration? In order to access the hamlet of Bentley from the Mill Inn, one has two choices; get in a car and trek the A31 or, the best to any traveler, stroll right out the front door, turn right on the narrowest country road ever and hit the footpaths through the pastures.  Bentley was meant for ambling and the juxtaposition of historical cottages and new mansions was marked as I sauntered along.  The imagination is well exercised with a pasture promenade and, like Jane Austen, I preferred “taking a turn in the shrubbery”.  I fancied an encounter with Miss Steele as I traveled the footpaths to the little village of Bentley.

2014 JB General

Another day trip included a visit to Austen’s home in Chawton, where she resided for the last eight years of her life and penned some of her best works.  The house is now a museum.

An excursion to the city of Winchester also provided some timeless contrasts. Being December, the weather was quite chilly and rather dreary, but a Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral, along with street musicians and the aroma of assorted treats, set the mood. I was transported to another century. Walking into Winchester Cathedral, I was struck by the presence of the humanity who had trod these floors before me.

2014 JB General

However, leaving Winchester in the comparative safety and luxury of a new Jaguar XJ jolted me back to modern times.

However, speaking of centuries past, The Bishops of Winchester inhabited Farnham Castle in the village of Farnham, for over 900 years. Bentley is just a stones throw from Farnham.

2014 JB General

Since my countryside reverie was about to be interrupted, combined with, or attached to, a trip to Farnham, I began to wonder just what this little escapade would bring to the table.  How could it possibly compete with Bentley, and Ann of the Mill, or Sandy of the Bull Inn, of sheep in the pasture, or ancient bibles, and, well, all of it? But seriously, as the purpose of the trip was car stuff, what could complete this trip more than a visit to the “shop” of a major historic racecar player?

2014 JB General

Once there, the contrast took my breath away.  Obviously a horse and cattle operation in times past, the fantastic barn had been restored to its original splendor. What was behind those wooden doors?  How about a fantastic collection of vintage racecars.  Vintage, in Jane Austen country, is a relative term.  What constitutes a vintage car?  Well, cars are a relatively new creation and Ms. Austen would not have known them, so we are modern/historical in a relative sense.  Our prejudices are just challenged. But I digress.

2013 General

The purpose of the visit is a photo shoot. And not just any old vintage racecar either; a McLaren MP4 Porsche powered F1 rolling stock. To record the event, eminent racecar photographer John Brooks is on hand, with all his paraphernalia, along with racecar historian Kerry Morse.  Their goal, to photograph the McLaren, in the mist, in the cold, in the historic setting, to express the essense of the car and the people who influence racing.

2014 JB General

But, wait, there’s more! Did I want a ride in an F1 GTR McLaren?  The ex Ray Bellm 1996 F1 GTR still in Gulf Oil colors?  Of course!  Did I realize what I was getting into?  Of course not!  This fabulous looking McLaren rolled out of the shop, still wearing those championship Gulf colors of blue and orange. It was, well, romantic and loud and full of horsepower. It was Colonel Brandon and I was in Jane’s countryside. It was The Pie and a steeplechase. I wanted to cut my hair short and pretend!  Did I turn down the ride? Of course not.

2014 JB General

I pried myself around the roll cage and into a tiny racing seat located to the left of the driver, as the McLaren is a center steer. Strapped into a seat that allowed for NO movement, I decided my safety was in the hands of my driver.  “These cars are built for catastrophe,” I told myself, and, “Hey, this guy knows what he is doing”. I plastered a quivering smile on my face and we were off. Nothing compares to a drive through the English countryside in a McLaren “street legal” racecar with a proficient driver.  Behind us, yet another McLaren F1 followed, this example being of the production type. Bringing up the rear came Brooks and Morse, in the yellow Porsche 997, trying their best to keep up with the McLaren duo.

2014 JB General

I could scarcely turn my head, partly out of fear, and partly out of, well, the inability to turn my head in such tight seating.  Feeling a bit like Plato’s workers in the Allegory of the Cave, I was aware only of what was going on directly to the front of me.  Conversation with my intrepid driver was impossible.  He couldn’t hear my silent screams, and his reassurances would fall on deaf ears. Not that he seemed to feel any need to comfort me.  I could see, in my peripheral vision, people staring at the ride. I focused on the road ahead, foot mashing an imaginary brake pedal.  Seriously though, is there anything cooler than traversing speed bumps, in front of a school full of teenaged students, in an extremely rare and fast car?

2014 JB General

As we sped into the countryside, cows, horses and sheep grazed quietly in a pastoral setting, not even raising their heads at the roar of the McLaren. I was able to see these creatures, sort of…they went by so fast!  I felt as if the cows were tigers about to be churned into butter.  Finally, we pulled into what appeared to be an upscale dairy.  Upscale, indeed. We’d arrived at a warehouse chock full of historic racecars.  Let’s see, historic racecars in a modern warehouse in the middle of land that makes me think that all creatures are truly great and small.   Old, new, old…wow, forget Mi and Colonel Brandon, even Mr. Darcy…bring me Mr. Firth, bring me Mr. Rickman!

2014 JB General

Eventually, I had to come back to reality, to my own half of the world.  I had to say goodbye to Ann and David of the Mill, Sandy of The Bull Inn and to Brooksie….the ‘other half’ of SportsCarPros.  A confession; the countryside, the Jag, and the sightseeing took precedence over Donington. While the intrepid crew of SportsCarPros was shooting away at the track, I was tooling around in that beautiful black Jag or in my own black riding boots, which doubled as walking boots.  After all, as Jane once wrote, “Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

Lizett Bond, December 2006