Archive for Rare and Interesting

Old Paris

The month of February brings the Retromobile in Paris, our Special Correspondent jumped on the train to see what was on offer. Now he shares some of his wisdom with us.

2014 Retromobile
Sunbeam 350 h.p.
This car was the creation of Louis Coatalen in 1920. A native of Brittany, he had worked for various car companies including William Hillman before becoming Chief Engineer at Sunbeam in Wolverhampton. Sunbeams had been very busy during the First World War producing aero engines (so much so that the production of their popular Staff car had to be farmed out to Rover in Coventry) and Coatalen selected one of the company’s V-12 18.3-litre Manitou engines, albeit modified for his new record/sprint car.

2014 Retromobile

On its first appearance in 1920 at Brooklands it crashed in practice but in October that year René Thomas set a new record at the Gaillon hill climb. On 22nd May 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness set a new Land Speed Record of 133.75 m.p.h. on the Railway Straight at Brooklands. A month later Malcolm Campbell borrowed the car and reached 138 m.p.h. at the Saltburn Speed Trials.
Campbell persuaded Coatalen to sell him the car, painted it blue and re-named it Blue Bird. After a futile trip to Fanoë in Denmark, Campbell sent the car over the winter of 1923-24 to Boulton Paul at Norwich for wind-tunnel testing – they recommended a streamlined cowl over the radiator, a long tapered tail with a headrest and the rear suspension cowled; the rear wheels had disc covers. This work was then carried out by Jarvis of Wimbledon.
Late in August 1924 another trip to Denmark proved unsuccessful and Campbell then discovered a suitable beach in Carmarthen in South Wales. Here on September 24th on the Pendine Sands Campbell set a new Land Speed Record of 146.16 m.p.h. – by just 0.15 m.p.h.! He returned the next July and raised this to 150.766 m.p.h. in the car now fitted with a long exhaust pipe.

2014 Retromobile
Lancia D24
In 1953 Lancia raced the 2.9-litre V6 D20 Coupés, scoring third and eighth places in that year’s Mille Miglia. Maglioli then gave the car a win in the Monte Pellegrino hill climb and in the Targa Florio. But the pretty coupés were noisy and uncomfortable because of cockpit heat. Lancia therefore commissioned Pinin Farina to produce an open spyder version, the D23. In August 1953 for the first Nϋrburgring 1,000 km race Lancia produced the D24, a 3.3-litre version of the D23. The two D24s suffered broken batteries when leading the race. However, in 1954 the model won the Mille Miglia in the hands of Alberto Ascari and this chassis gave Taruffi victory in the Targa Florio after earlier winning the Giro di Sicilia.
This chassis 005 was the last built and is the unique survivor.

2014 Retromobile
Rolls Royce EX17
There had been criticisms of the Rolls Royce car, suggesting it was old-fashioned and of poor performance. So Henry Royce decided to build a Sports Phantom at the end of 1925 and this car, 10EX, was used for extensive testing especially at Brooklands. Royce sanctioned three more experimental Sport Phantoms of which the third was 17EX. This was running by the end of January 1928, although waiting for its body from Jarvis of Wimbledon. Tested alongside 10EX, 17EX was noticeably superior in acceleration and lower speeds. The blue-painted body was delivered to Derby in July and testing resumed until October when the car passed to the Sales Department, having covered just 4,400 miles.

2014 Retromobile

1921 Delaunay- Belleville

Delaunay-Belleville was a manufacturer of ship and locomotive boilers at St Denis, Paris. From 1904 cars were made and a familiar feature of the early cars was the rounded radiator, reminiscent of the boilers! From 1910 the cars were generally chauffeur- driven. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was a regular customer and both Lenin and Trotsky liked driving their Delaunay-Bellevilles. This car is a 6-cylinder 5-litre 30CV model with a 4-speed gearbox and body by Lambourdette of Madrid.

2014 Retromobile
The engine used side-valves but some manufacturers provided covering to give the impression that more sophisticated valve-gear was used!

2014 Retromobile
Alfa Romeo Van
We tend to think of Alfa Romeo in terms of sporting and racing cars but the company produced high quality commercial vehicles especially in the Thirties when the State-controlled firm needed to supply lorries for Mussolini’s military ambitions.

2014 Retromobile

Diversification after the war included the production of these light vans (1954-68) and this example has true Alfa Romeo pedigree – it is powered by the Guilietta twin cam engine mounted well forward.
2014 Retromobile
1932 Amilcar C6
Amilcar of St Denis made small capacity sports cars in the interwar years. This C6 is rather special: Clément Auguste Martin replaced the six-cylinder engine with a four-cylinder unit which he had modified and pursued a very successful competition career with it, especially in the Bol d’Or races where it scored class wins.

2014 Retromobile

At Le Mans in 1932 the car finished 8th overall, winning the 1100 c.c. class. It also ran in the 1930 Routes Pavées (3rd in class) and in the 1932 Spa 24 Hour race.

2014 Retromobile

1964 Facel 6

Jean Daninos introduced his luxury Facel Vega car at the Paris Salon in 1954, powered by a large V8 Chrysler–based engine. In 1960 he presented the smaller Facellia with its own 1.6-litre twin cam 4-cylinder engine designed by former Talbot engineer Carlo Marchetti. Unfortunately it was noisy and very unreliable. A Volvo-engined replacement was offered in 1963 and then this 6-cylinder version using a linered down Austin-Healey 3000 unit. The original company was declared bankrupt in 1965.

2014 Retromobile
1955 Cooper Bristol
The Cooper Car Company of Surbiton created for 1955 a central-seat sports car based on their F3 designs. This car, the T39, was powered by the new Coventry-Climax FWA 1100c.c. engine and was clothed in an attractive aerodynamic bodyshell whose tail was cut off- a Kamm tail, named after the German physicist who demonstrated the aerodynamic benefits of such a design. The car immediately acquired the nickname “Bob-tail”.
A young Australian, Jack Brabham, obtained agreement to build one of these cars with a 2-litre Bristol engine for use in Formula 1. The chassis was extended by 2 inches and all the sports car equipment such as lights was dispensed with. This one-off T40 ran at Aintree in the British Grand Prix but the engine overheated causing retirement. Brabham then had a wonderful duel with Stirling Moss’s Maserati 250F at Snetterton finally finishing fourth behind Moss and the two leading Vanwalls.

2014 Retromobile
Peugeot World War 1 Lorry
This is a Type 1525 4-ton lorry dating from 1917. It has a 4.7-litre 4-cylinder Type KM engine, a 4-speed gearbox and, as can be seen, shaft drive. Expect 22-30km/h when fully laden!

David Blumlein, February 2014



Rare and Interesting at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show

We have been a bit preoccupied here at DDC Towers, and a bit neglectful of our loyal readers. No matter, there are a number of stories and features in the pipeline to keep everyone entertained and informed over the Festive Season. Our Special Correspondent made his annual trip to the dim lights of the NEC for the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, as ever he uncovered a few gems.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show

1935 Jensen Morris Eight
A very remote part of the Jensen story – Jensen produced a short run of aluminium bodies for the then new Morris Eight at their West Bromwich factory.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show

It had a chassis lowered by 3 inches, a special dashboard and a spring spoked steering wheel.
2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
1913 Morris Oxford
This was the first Morris car to leave the factory. It quickly acquired the name “Bullnose” because of the shape of the radiator.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show

It was basically an “assembled” car until William Morris was able to buy up his major suppliers – these early cars used White and Poppe side-valve engines.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
1951 Lanchester LD10
Frederick Lanchester was one of the most gifted motor engineers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many innovations, still used today, are credited to his genius – for example , the balancing shaft fitted to modern bigger capacity four-cylinder engines. Production of Lanchesters moved to Daimler in Coventry in 1931 and there was much badge-engineering of models during the Thirties. However this Ten had no Daimler equivalent and used a 1287 c.c. o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine coupled to the familiar Daimler fluid flywheel transmission. It also had independent front suspension with coil springs. The car was produced between 1946 and 1951, these attractive bodies made by Barker.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
1937 Talbot Ten
When Rootes bought the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq combine in 1935, they effectively put an end to the Talbot tradition for finely engineered efficient cars that had been built up over the years by their outstanding Swiss designer Georges Roesch. Rootes put Roesch to work on adapting their Hillman Aero Minx into a small “sporty” car, the Talbot Ten, which still had the side-valve 1185 c.c. engine but with an aluminium head from which Roesch extracted 40 b.h.p. This pretty car with underslung rear chassis sold well, owners evidently proud to be able to afford a prestigious name such as Talbot!

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
1939 Sunbeam-Talbot 4-litre Saloon
Rootes were never sure what to do with the Sunbeam marque, not being interested in carrying on that name’s very sporting tradition. So they played around with their “parts bin” and created a new make, Sunbeam-Talbot. This 4-litre is quite simply a Humber Snipe under the attractive bodywork. Introduced in 1938, the car was never made in large numbers and the design did not survive the onset of war.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
1951 Jowett Jupiter
Several coachbuilders built saloon bodies on the Jupiter chassis. This is one of four made by Abbotts of Farnham. The chassis was delivered to the Wrecclesham factory in June 1951 and the car was completed in the December. Abbotts is remembered nowadays for creating estate versions of Ford’s Zephyr and Zodiac models.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show
IKA Torino
The IKA Torino was made in the Santa Isabel suburb of Cordoba in Argentina by Industrias Kaiser Argentina under an agreement with American Motors in 1966. It used either a 3 or 3.8-litre overhead camshaft straight-six Jeep Tornado engine originally developed by Kaiser Motors in 1963 for the Jeep Gladiator and Wagoneer 4-wheel drive vehicles. The body, based on that of the AMC Rambler, was redesigned by Pinin Farina at the front and rear to give the car a more European look. The Torino made its first public appearance on 30th November 1966 at the Buenos Aires racing circuit. A high performance version, the 380W, was equipped with three double-barrel Weber carburettors, front disc brakes and a floor-mounted ZF 4-speed manual gearbox.
In 1969 three such cars were entered for the 84-hour Marathon de la Route at the Nϋrburgring, a gruelling event which replaced the equally demanding Liège-Rome-Liège and Liège-Sofia-Liège rallies. One of the cars completed 334 laps after three and a half days’ racing, more than any other competitor but it was relegated to a final fourth place overall owing to penalties it had accumulated. Five times World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio had helped with the team’s management and in recognition of his guidance IKA presented him with the above car. Other famous owners of the Torino include Fidel Castro, Colonel Gaddafi and Leonid Brezhnev.

2013 Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show

This 1899 French Decauville has, as can be seen, independent front suspension by transverse leaf spring – There’s nothing new under the sun, Eccl 1.9

David Blumlein, December 2013


Top Kop

The Special Correspondent has been a bit quiet recently, he is working on a grand project, more about that later. The Kop Hill Climb was a recent event that he attended and of course he brings us another feast of Rare and Interesting.

2013 General iPhone

1914 Marlborough
The Marlborough was an Anglo/French car. In 1909 production was taken over by T.B. André, of shock absorber fame. The cars had 4-cylinder engines, 3-speed gearboxes and shaft drive.
2013 General iPhone
This car is powered by a 1043 c.c. side-valve Ballot engine. Ballot was a French engine maker which later turned to car production. Their 3-litre straight-eight Grand Prix car finished 2nd (and 2-litre 3rd) in the 1921 French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Ballot is best remembered for its 2-litre 4-cylinder sports car, the 2LS, the first production car to have a twin-overhead camshaft engine.

2013 General iPhone
1947 Alvis Duncan saloon
Pictures 0546 and 0549
The all-aluminium car bodies built by Duncan Industries of North Walsham, Norfolk, are usually associated with the early Riley-engined Healeys but the company made 30 of these sports saloons on the Alvis TA 14 chassis.

2013 General iPhone

The car had a 4-cylinder 1842 c.c. OHV engine. It is thought that about 15 survive.

2013 General iPhone

Berkeley 2-seater sports
Most car enthusiasts think that Colin Chapman’s beautiful Lotus Elite of 1957 was the first car to have a glass-fibre chassis-body but it wasn’t – this Berkeley sports car, which made its début at Earl’s Court in 1956, was! Built by Berkeley Caravans of Biggleswade, a firm with vast experience with glass-fibre, the car had a 2-stroke twin-cylinder engine driving the front wheels. Fabricated aluminium structures were bonded into the underbody at the centre, as can be seen, and nose to provide additional beam and torsional strength which were necessary in an open car. The design was conceived by Lawrence Bond, better known for his mini-cars.

2013 General iPhone
1926 Morgan Family
Morgan’s first four-seater was seen at the 1919 Olympia Show and this “Family” version of the famous three-wheeler was the company’s most popular model during the Twenties.

2013 General iPhone

This car has the optional OHV Anzani 1078 c.c. water-cooled engine giving about 40 b.h.p.

2013 General iPhone
1925 Cubitt Tourer
Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire may seem an unlikely town in which to manufacture a motor-car but it was here in Bicester Road that Cubitt’s Engineering Co built the Cubitt car from 1919-1925. It was a subsidiary company of Holland, Hannen & Cubitt Ltd, builders who were responsible for the new east wing of Buckingham Palace and the Cenotaph among many other London landmarks. The Cubitt car was a straight-forward design with a 2185 c.c. 4-cylinder side-valve engine. Rather big and heavy, the car was slow to sell. In 1922 the ex-Napier head of A.C. Cars, S.F.Edge, bought Cubitt and engaged J.S. Napier (no connection with the Napier car) from Arrol-Johnston to redesign the car. (It was J.S.Napier who designed and drove the winning Arrol-Johnston in the first Tourist Trophy in 1905). Napier made no drastic changes to the Cubitt, replacing the cantilever rear springs with semi-elliptics and fitting an underslung worm-drive rear axle; he gave the engine aluminium pistons and lighter connecting –rods. But by 1925 the company had gone into voluntary liquidation. This tourer is one of the last survivors as is the car in the Aylesbury Museum.

2013 General iPhone
1919 Hispano-Suiza H6B
This was designer Marc Birkigt’s post-war masterpiece, built in the Paris factory to rival the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and Phantoms.
2013 General iPhone
It had a 6-cylinder 6.6-litre engine with the camshaft driven by a vertical shaft, a feature derived from his amazingly successful World War 1 V8 aero-engine (A8) of which nearly 50,000 were produced, many under licence (Wolseley in Birmingham for example). The shaft can be seen at the front of the engine.


2013 General iPhone

Your correspondent is about to be whisked up the hill in the Rowlands’ superb Austin Seven Swallow, courtesy of his friend Robert.

David Blumlein, November 2013

Classics on the Green

The “Classics on the Green” at Croxley Green near Rickmansworth invariably turns up some unexpected gems.
1993 Tatra 613. Having used the Tatra 603 since 1957 the Czechoslovakian Communist officials wanted a new flagship – the result was the 613, styled by the Italian Carrosserie Vignale, the first Tatra not to be styled in-house.
In the best tradition of the distinguished former Tatra designer Hans Ledwinka, the engine is a rear-mounted air-cooled V8 of 3.5-litres.
1934 Riley Imp. This car was delivered to Freddie Clifford in August 1934 and was immediately entered for the Tourist Trophy on the Ards circuit. The car was flagged off after 30 laps and was sold shortly afterwards to South Africa.
1931 Buick 8 – it has an 8-cylinder o.h.v. 5.6-litre engine. The parts for this right-hand drive car were made in Canada and the car was finally assembled at the General Motors factory at Hendon in northern London.
1935 Triumph Gloria Vitesse. A lovely example of the typical offerings from this Coventry manufacturer. The Gloria line marked a change of direction as Donald Healey became Technical Director. Power came from a 6-cylinder Coventry-Climax engine.
1954 Frazer-Nash Le Mans Coupé. Only eight of these attractive cars were made after Wharton/Mitchell won the 2-litre class at Le Mans in 1953.
This car differed from the others by being supplied from the factory with wire wheels.
Question – what is the link between this rare American Indian motor-cycle and the Le Mans Cunninghams? Answer – G. Briggs Cleaver who designed the American cars was, before the war, the Chief Engineer of the famous motor-cycle manufacturer.

David Blumlein, September 2013

Classical Gas and Thunder Road

The Professional

No it is not a call for Mason Williams or Ryland Cooder, however timeless they are, but it is mid-August so the Monterey Peninsula is buzzing with automotive gold. Whether it is down on Pebble Beach or up at Laguna Seca there is something for every kind of petrolhead and I hope to bring you more during the coming weeks. Here is a bit of the real stuff. Jürgen Barth in a 911 sporting Catalan colours, courtesy of our friend David Soares.

2013 Brooklands Mustang

Meanwhile on the other side of the world I popped over to my local track, Brooklands. The reason was to see the Mustang and other Americana event and well worth the time it was too. More from that later……………OK it was not The Quail but the same spirit is found here around the Byfleet Banking, Percy Lambert’s ghost still races his Talbot and with the right kind of imagination you can feel that Certain Sound.

John Brooks, August 2013

Prowling The Paddock

Last week I caught up with our Special Correspondent in Belgium and he gave me the good news that he had finished his reflections on this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. So for the enlightenment of us all here is his copy and images.

2013 Festival of Speed

A visit to the Cathedral Paddock at half past seven on the Friday morning is always well rewarded. Here we have the surviving 1939 V-12 Le Mans Lagonda, the work of W.O. Bentley and his team.
The two cars entered came 3rd and 4th, following obediently the speeds set by the master – he wanted to ensure reliability and to go all out for a win in 1940; but that of course never came. The two cars had their final outing in the very last Brooklands meeting in August 1939 before the war clouds moved in. A win in a handicap race for this car crowned their short career before a V-1 hit the garage where they were stored, doing considerable damage. This car represents the works car which took third place at Le Mans in the hands of Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury.
Beware! – some replicas have been made but this is the only genuine survivor!

2013 Festival of Speed

Anyone still somnolent at that time of the morning soon had their condition violently shaken by the shattering bombardment of noise from 12 short-stub flame-spitting exhausts of the 26.9-litre V-12 Liberty engine of Babs being warmed up – wonderful! Babs of course is the real restored car which that engineering genius Parry Thomas had developed from the Higham Special which he had obtained from the estate of Count Zborowski who had been killed at Monza in a works Mercédès in 1924. Thomas worked on the car for a year or so, re-naming it Babs, and in 1926 he set new World Land Speed records in April of 169 and 171 m.p.h. on the Pendine Sands in South Wales.
2013 Festival of Speed
The car underwent further modifications prior to Thomas returning to Pendine in April 1927 to try to beat Campbell’s record of 174 m.p.h. set in February in Bluebird. Alas, he crashed fatally and the damaged car was buried forthwith in the sand. It was that enthusiast Owen Wyn Owen who obtained permission to dig up the remains and to restore the car to its original final state as we see here.
Speculation has for a long time suggested that the driving chain came off to cause the head injuries from which Thomas died but this is now discounted – the covers were intact – and it is thought that he lost his life when the car turned over on top of him.
2013 Festival of Speed
More record breaking – the Peugeot 208 T16 with which Sebastien Loeb lowered the record at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb by 90 seconds! This one–off machine puts out 875 b.h.p. via the four wheels and set a time of 8 mins 13.878 seconds on the 12.42 mile drive up through the 156 corners of this incredible venue in Colorado.
2013 Festival of Speed
It is not often that the sole Cunningham C-6R escapes from its captivity at the magnificent Collier Collection in Florida. This attractive car, however, ranks as a failure. It is the last of the line of cars which Briggs Cunningham built to conquer Le Mans, a goal he never achieved to his great disappointment. It appeared for the 1955 season and differed from its V-8 predecessors in having an Offenhauser 4-cylinder engine more usually associated with Indianapolis than sports car racing. This unit was mounted inclined at 12˚ to the left and was de-stroked to 2942 c.c. The car first raced unpainted at the Sebring 12 Hours but had to retire when the flywheel exploded. By Le Mans it had acquired a fin and traditional American colours of white with a blue stripe. But the engine was not suited to the fuel supplied and its drivers Briggs Cunningham and Sherwood Johnston had to retire. The car raced again a few months later at Elkhart Lane where the Offenhauser failed once more. As Cunningham was by this time becoming involved with racing Jaguars, the C-6R finished its career with a Jaguar engine.
2013 Festival of Speed
This is Jaguar C-Type chassis 005 and it has a special place in history. In 1952 Stirling Moss drove it to victory in the Reims Sports Car Race, thus making it the first car to win an international sports car race using disc brakes. Sitting at the wheel here is Norman Dewis who was Jaguar’s long-serving test and development driver. In fact, so precious was he to Jaguar that Sir William Lyons forbade him to race. In 1955, however, the boss relented twice: in that year’s Le Mans, Dewis shared the third long-nosed works D-type with Don Beauman who eventually put the car irretrievably into the sand when lying fourth. Then in the Goodwood 9-hour race Dewis drove Jack Broadhead’s D-type with Bob Berry into a respectable fifth place.
2013 Festival of Speed
Over from the Daytona Speedway Museum was the final version of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record car Bluebird. After a break in 1934 from record-breaking which gave Reid Railton time to come up with this all-enveloping body, Bluebird returned to Daytona in March 1935 when this 5-ton machine, complete with twin rear wheels and air-brakes and powered by a 36.5-litre supercharged Rolls-Royce R engine, took the record at 276 m.p.h. However, Daytona Beach was becoming increasingly unsuitable for these higher speeds and Campbell opted to try the salt flats at Bonneville in Utah – by September he had become the first man to drive a car at over 300 m.p.h., 301.129 m.p.h. in fact. Campbell had achieved what he wanted and retired from the arena.
2013 Festival of Speed
One of Bluebird’s air-brakes.

2013 Festival of Speed
Tucked away from the general crowds on the southern fringes of Goodwood were two Rolls-Royces, unlabelled and without any apparent supervision. One was the 1913 Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle which James Radley used in support of the three works cars which brought success to the Derby marque in the Austrian Alpine Trial that year. Rolls-Royce had entered the cars to redeem their reputation after Mr Radley had driven his private Silver Ghost in the 1912 event and had failed to climb the Katschberg Pass because its 3-speed gearbox lacked a sufficiently low ratio. Needless to say, the 1913 cars had 4-speed boxes and other modifications:
2013 Festival of Speed
To recall their ultimate success, Rolls-Royce introduced the special edition “Alpine Trial Centenary Collection” version of the current Ghost model painted a pale blue and here can be seen the two cars from the rear.

David Blumlein, August 2013

Un Mélange Manceau

Our Special Correspondent was at the 90th Anniversary Le Mans 24 Hours. He shares with us a different but important historical perspective on the world’s greatest motor race.

2013 Le Mans 24

The week leading up to the Le Mans 24 Hour race is always rewarding for a motor car enthusiast. This year marked 90 years since the first running of the race in 1923 and on the Tuesday there was a special celebration of the old Pontlieue Hairpin – the original circuit ran deep into the southern suburbs of the city, doubling back at a tight hairpin in Pontlieue, a favourite spot for those early photographers as the cars were travelling comparatively slowly.

2013 Le Mans 24

The roads still exist although the more distant approach sections are unrecognisable today as they have to cross the ring road. The corner was suitably adorned with signs of the time:
2013 Le Mans 24
The President of the A.C.O. Pierre Fillon unveiled the traditional sign marking the corner, having arrived in a contemporary (and boiling!) Vinot-Deguingand, a French marque which took part in the very first race.
2013 Le Mans 24
The 1924 –winning Bentley also did some runs. The corner was foreshortened for 1929-31 by which time the A.C.O. had purchased the land between the start/finish area and Tertre Rouge. Here they opened in 1932 the section of track which still comprises the Esses, and Pontlieue fell into disuse from then onwards.

2013 Le Mans 24
Present at the ceremony was the 1923-winning 3-litre Chenard et Walcker.
Chenard et Walcker (not to be confused with another French marque, Chenard, the cars of Louis Chenard one of which ran at Le Mans in 1924) was in the mid-Twenties France’s fourth largest car manufacturer, turning out some 100 cars a day in its factory at Gennevilliers in Paris. Not only did it take the first two places with its o.h.c. 3-litres in the first race in 1923, but a smaller-engined version won the 2-litre class in 1924.

2013 Le Mans 24

The company is also remembered for the exciting little Henri Toutée-designed 1100 c.c. “tanks” which had widespread success in sports car races in 1925/26. Two such cars, one with a larger engine, ran as private entries at Le Mans as late as 1937, albeit with no success.

The museum at the circuit can always be relied upon to vary the exhibits and some recently loaned cars are worthy of mention. This year sees a serious revival of the Alpine marque with Renault not only developing a new production Alpine sports car (in collaboration with Caterham) but also adapting an Oreca 03 LMP2 car to run in the 24 Hour race as an Alpine A450. It was, of course, 50 years ago that Jean Rédélé’s company made its first venture into endurance sports car racing with the M63 coupés; there is one currently on show in the museum.
Their first attempt at Le Mans was unfortunately shadowed in tragedy – one of the Project 214 Aston Martins dropped all its oil on the Mulsanne Straight on the Saturday evening causing a number of cars to crash seriously, one of which was the M63 of the young Brazilian Alpine agent, Christian “Bino” Heins. His car flew off the circuit, struck a telegraph pole and exploded in flames, giving the poor driver no chance of survival. Despite this setback, the Alpine cars went on from 1964 to score manifold victories in endurance races in the smaller categories, especially with their A210 coupés.

With a 3-litre limit slapped on prototypes from 1968, Alpine saw the opportunity to go for outright wins and Gordini developed a V-8 engine for them. This was initially tried out in an A210 coupé, this one-off prototype being re-named the A211.
The car was raced briefly and came to Le Mans for the Test Day, but it was clear that the engine was too powerful for the chassis and the all-new A220 was designed.
This is a V.P., a Verney-Pairard, the work of two enthusiasts, Just Emile Verney who had driven in every Le Mans race from 1931, and Jean Pairard, a Parisian industrialist. They were keen to create a not-too-expensive sporting car with a view to gaining the support of the Regie Renault for small series production. One of Pairard’s engineers, Roger Mauger, drew up a tubular chassis with all-round coil spring independent suspension and a Renault 4cv engine at the rear, the whole bodied by the French coachbuilder Antem. They took their first car to Montlhéry for some trial runs and the performance caught the eye of Franςois Landon, head of the Regie’s Competition Department. He recommended that they try for records and the car, duly adjusted aerodynamically with full wheel spats, ran in October 1952 at Montlhéry, taking eight International Class H records. The Paris Salon was just opening and Renault took over the car, giving it pride of place on their stand and re-naming it a Renault R1064!

This car ran with the necessary lights etc. at Le Mans in 1953 along with a new coupé V.P. which had an oversize cockpit roof to accommodate the corpulent Pairard! The “Renault R1064” retired in the seventh hour while the little coupé, much handicapped by its excessive frontal area, finished last. No long-term support for V.P. was forthcoming from Renault and the R1064 reverted to being a V.P. once more! It then received revised bodywork for 1954 when it returned to the 24 Hour race.
At the Drivers’ Parade, mercifully dry until the very end, it’s back to Chenard et Walckers. The real gem was this Torpille seen above.
At the 1927 Paris Salon Chenard et Walcker introduced two 1500 c.c. sports cars: one was a production version of their little “tank”, the Y8, and the other a more conventional model with cycle wings, this Torpille, the Y7. The latter was sold in “bleu France” as seen here, and both models were used in national competitions by private owners – no more works cars from the Gennevilliers company.

In the Thirties they made some technically interesting models such as this Super Aigle 24. Their Super Aigle range adopted front-wheel drive at the 1934 Paris Salon when Citroën more famously did the same, and they also used torsion bar independent suspension. This Super Aigle 24 dates from 1936 and has a Cotal electromagnetic gearbox. Alas, these advanced features did little to save the company which was taken over by Chausson who substituted Ford and Citroën engines. By the early post-war period the Chenard et Walcker name was on a forward-control 2-cylinder van soon to be Peugeot-powered and then Peugeot produced.
Perhaps it was appropriate that this year’s Alpine drivers should have been chauffeured in a Renault – a 1904 3.7-litre 4-cylinder Type U model.
There are always representatives of the pioneering De Dion Bouton company in the parade. Here we see an example of their popular ID model, dating from 1919. It is interesting to note that the company gave up using their famous De Dion rear axle as early as 1911/12 yet it is still used on today’s little Smart!

2013 Le Mans 24
And so to the race. First, a small tribute to Allan Simonsen, by all accounts a lovely person and a highly-rated driver who tragically lost his life on just his third lap of the race. Here he is completing his second lap and starting his third fateful one just moments before disaster struck.

2013 Le Mans 24
And here is his class team-mate passing the tragic spot at Tertre Rouge where the public road joins the private section of track. At the specific request of Simonsen’s family the Aston Martin team carried on racing.
2013 Le Mans 24
Looking back at that first race ninety years ago, it is interesting to reflect on one or two similarities with today. In 1923 the organisers used army searchlights to illuminate the corners – here is the Dunlop Chicane illuminated using more modern technology:
2013 Le Mans 24
And the public road leading to the Arnage corner is still basically as it was –

2013 Le Mans 24

the left-hander at Indianapolis then the short straight to the right-hand bend.
2013 Le Mans 24
And here is the road out of Arnage looking up towards what are now the Porsche Curves but used to lead to the Whitehouse Corner – that road is still there.
2013 Le Mans 24
The gruelling nature of this race is reflected in the general state of some of the cars by Sunday. Here is the Murphy Team’s Oreca 03 looking distinctly grubby.
2013 Le Mans 24
And two AF Corse Ferraris which have seen some battle, this was #71

2013 Le Mans 24

And #51 was not much better
2013 Le Mans 24
The sudden rain showers can catch out the best.
2013 Le Mans 24
But to cross the line after 24 hours is worth all the effort:

David Blumlein July 2013



Cars, Bikes and The Cooler King: The 2013 Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show



It has been a quiet time here on the DDC front, in common with almost everyone else, the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours wiped us out. However green shoots are now emerging and first up is a look at a cool car show that happened earlier in California. So thanks to Lizett for the eloquent copy and to Bruce for the stunning imagery.


There’s something really gratifying about witnessing an event take on a life of it’s own, and after five years that’s exactly what is happening here. That satisfaction intensifies when the gathering benefits a worthy cause. Throw some star power into the mix and you have a potent prescription for long-term success.

Based each year on a McQueen movie theme, The Sixth Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show, held in June, revolved around The Great Escape. The one-day a year event featured more than 300 cars and nearly 100 motorcycles on display to approximately 5,000 attendees. The proof is in the numbers.


“The first year we made about $14,000 with about 200 cars,” said co-chairman, Ron Harris. “This year we approached $250,000.

The cause is the Boys Republic of Chino Hills, CA. Established in 1907, the school is a private, non-profit community for at-risk teens. Steve McQueen attended from 1947-49 and credited the school for pointing him on the path to success. McQueen never forgot and was a frequent visitor, even after he became a Hollywood star and legend.

“He stayed in constant touch with the school and when he passed away, he left a nice chunk of change to build a recreation center,” said Chad McQueen, son of the famous actor.

The McQueen family continues that involvement through the car show and other activities.


This year, spectators enjoyed a diverse collection of the classic, the expensive and the rare. Highlights included Bruce Canepa’s Coooper T-52 Formula Junior and Chad McQueen’s black Speedster, both owned at one time by Chad’s famous father. A very original 1965 Ford GT40, 1949 Belly Tank Lakester and Roush Mustang were crowd favorites. A 1935/41 Miller-Ford NOVI-Winfield drew many admirers, as did the impressive gathering of Porsches and Mustangs. Steve McQueen’s love of all things two-wheeled are well documented and the motorcycle display paid tribute with affection. The man would have applauded the choice of the 1940 Zundapp motorcycle with sidecar that was the recipient of The Great Escape Trophy.


When it comes to war movies, director John Sturges 1963 film, The Great Escape, is likely on every World War II aficionado’s list of “must haves”. As the car crowd mingled and strolled the Boys Republic campus, a realistic reproduction of Stalag Luft III, the POW camp depicted in the movie, stood as silent sentry, complete with guard tower, cooler, tunnel, and barbed wire fencing.


The set exploded into life as the California Historical Group, a World War II living history association, re-enacted the legendary escape scene portrayed in the film, complete with McQueen’s character, Hilts, infamous motorcycle jump atop a Triumph SR6 650 masquerading as a German GMW R75. Rifle-carrying German soldiers fired on the M4A1 Sherman tank as a P-51 Mustang, complements of Chino Airport Planes of Fame Museum, performed a flyover.

“The show gets bigger and better every year,” said Chad. “Of course, we have the Porsches, which will always be standard fare with my Dad, but also a pretty eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles.”


Chad said he has so many memories as a small boy with a famous father. He offered this recollection of the film Le Mans:

“You had a young kid and his whole life was cars and motorcycles and nothing else. I was there for five months surrounded by racecars and racecar drivers. I was ten. It was just sensory overload. I think the high point was my Dad putting me on his lap for a ride in the 917, that was pretty bitchin’.”

Anyone out there care to disagree ?

Lizett Bond, July 2013



Power & Passion 2013

Up early one recent Saturday and onto the train bound for Manchester Piccadily. There the Special Correspondent and I met up with David Lister, the photographers’ photographer. He chauffeured us over to Trafford Park for “Passion & Power”. It was a great little show, well worth a visit when it comes round next year. The Special Correspondent casts his eye over the ingredients and comes up with his customary tasty automotive bouillabaisse. 2013 Passion for Power
1937 Riley 1.5-litre Touring Saloon
By the late Thirties Riley, like Triumph, were offering a wide range of different models. The Touring Saloon was one of the range of 1.5-litre 4-cylinder cars and was distinguished by having an extended luggage boot, not so usual in pre-war cars. The engine was the classic Riley unit with two high-mounted camshafts in the block as devised by Percy Riley for the 1087 c.c. Nine in 1926; it had been re-designed with a similar layout by Hugh Rose as a 1.5-litre for the new 1935 range.

2013 Passion for Power
Vale Special
These little sports cars were made in Maida Vale from 1932-35. They used an 832 c.c. Triumph Super Seven engine, and its underslung frame and consequent low centre of gravity gave it excellent roadholding. In 1935 a 1098 c.c. Coventry-Climax engine was fitted. This car is no. 25 of 100 cars made. Ian Connell raced a supercharged version in 1935.

2013 Passion for Power
1954 Hudson Metropolitan
Based on a Nash prototype of 1950 called the NX1, this sub-compact car was put into production in 1954 by Austin at their Longbridge, Birmingham factory. It had a unitary construction convertible or coupé body and an Austin A40 4-cylinder o.h.v. engine initially of 1200 c.c. but in 1956 of 1489 c.c. The cars were at first for export to America only but became available in Britain from 1957. Known mainly as Nash Metropolitans some were sold as Hudsons; Hudson had merged with Nash in May 1954 to form the American Motors Corporation. The car was popular and was intended as a rival to imported European cars such as the VW Beetle – up to 97,000 Metropolitans were sold by 1961.

2013 Passion for Power
1924 Morris Cowley
It is entirely appropriate that the Show should contain a Bullnose Morris – 2013 represents the centenary of Morris car production which began with the 2-seater Morris Oxford in the Cowley works on the south west side of the city of Oxford. Some 11.6 million cars of various sorts have emerged so far from the site and BMW continues to produce the majority of Minis there to this day. William Morris soon realised the limitations of his original Oxford model having only two seats and planned a 4-seater version which would appeal much more to the family man. This was the Cowley although after the First World War the Cowley tended to be the more basic of the two Morris models.

2013 Passion for Power
1948 Wolseley 25 Limousine
When William Morris bought Wolseley in 1927, he inherited their overhead camshaft engine designs, which were influenced by Wolseley’s First World War experience of building large numbers of the excellent Hispano Suiza V8 aero engines; these Viper motors had their overhead cams driven by vertical shafts. Morris used the Wolseley layout for his early Minors, M.G. sports cars and Wolseleys but by 1935 Nuffield rationalisation was taking over, instigated by the controversial Leonard Lord, and Morris and Wolseley cars had to settle for pushrod o.h.v. engines across the board while the Minor had gone side-valve!
2013 Passion for Power
The biggest Wolseley made from 1938, the 25, used a 3485 c.c. 6-cylinder o.h.v. engine based on a Morris Commercial unit. Very few limousines were made up to 1948 when the completely new monocoque 6/80 and 4/50 models were introduced, surprisingly with overhead cam engines!

2013 Passion for Power
1931 Lancia Artena
When Lancia needed to replace the outstanding Lambda, it was decided to offer two models: the 1924 c.c. V4 Artena and the 2604 c.c. V8 Astura. The Artena’s engine was a very narrow V4 and the car had a box-section chassis with the familiar Lancia sliding pillar independent front suspension, a layout used extensively these days only by Morgan. By 1939 the Artena was only made as an army staff car or a light van chassis.

2013 Passion for Power
1953 Ford Popular 103E
The last of the upright “sit up and beg” cars from Ford. When introduced in 1953 it was the cheapest full-size car in Britain and consisted of the E494A Anglia stripped to bare essentials and given the 1172 c.c. 10 h.p. engine from the discontinued E493A Prefect. It was the last British car to have a side-valve engine and when production stopped at Ford’s Doncaster factory in 1959, some 155,000 had been made.
Some local cars:

2013 Passion for Power
1927 Crossley 3-litre
Introduced at the 1925 Olympia Show, this was an important model for Crossley whose main factory was at Gorton in Manchester and whose reputation for making tough reliable cars was forged during the First World War with their RFC s. It was their first 6-cylinder car and had an o.h.v. engine of initially 2.7-litres and from 1928 of 3.2-litres:
2013 Passion for Power
As part of its development programme the prototype was subjected to a continuous 24-hour test run at the banked Sitges track in Spain, a venue only ever used for racing in 1923! Among notable clients were the Duke of York and the Prince of Wales.

2013 Passion for Power
1910 Rothwell 20 h.p.
The Rothwell brothers made cars in the early 20th century in Oldham, Lancs. Their most successful model was this 20 h.p. which had a big 4150 c.c. 4-cylinder engine with dual ignition and bodywork built on the premises. About 60 Rothwells were made in all and production ceased in 1916.
2013 Passion for Power
No, not a Peel but a slightly bigger Scootacar, dating from 1962 and made by an offshoot of the Hunslet railway locomotive company in Leeds. A single passenger could sit astride the engine cover which housed the 197 c.c. 2-stroke single-cylinder Villiers motor. Less than 1000 were made by 1964 when microcars were falling out of fashion.

David Blumlein, April 2013


Bay City Rollers

The recent trip to Florida concluded with a visit to the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, a top notch affair. The Special Correspondent found much to appreciate and now brings us his latest ‘Rare and Interesting’ piece.

This is a museum that offers quality rather than quantity. It has a very rare collection of pre-war cars each of which is of great technical interest. Here are some of its rare gems:

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Panhard Dynamic

The Dynamic was the last production Panhard  to come out of the Avenue d’Ivry before the war. It was unusual in having a 6-cylinder sleeve-valve engine of 2.5, 2.8 or 3.8-litre capacity. It had all-round independent suspension by torsion bars, a unit-construction body with a wrap-round windscreen and three wipers. When introduced in 1936, it had the rare feature of a central driving position:

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

In 1939, this was changed to left-hand drive. Among its admirers was Léon Blum, leader of Front Populaire, who was to be seen frequently in Paris in his black example.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Willys-Knight Model 56

This is another sleeve-valve car and in the 1920s Willys made more of these engines than all the rest of the world put together. This car has a 2.6-litre 6-cylinder engine.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Tracta A

Jean Albert Gregoire was in 1927 the first to bring a front wheel drive car to the Le Mans 24 Hour race.  The car pictured above ran at Le Mans in 1929 driven by Gregoire himself and Fernand Vallon and finished 10th overall while its teammate finished one place above and won the 1100c.c. class.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

The two cars were powered by overhead valve SCAP engines of 985c.c.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

The cockpit of the Le Mans car which has bodywork by Duval. Notice the lovely little gear-lever with a gate which has to select the gears right down to the front of the car.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Tracta E

In 1930-1931, Gregoire started making more luxurious saloons and coupés. This car has bodywork by Henri Le Moine and has a 6-cylinder Continental side-valve 2.7 litre engine driving the front wheels.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Cord L-29

Errett Lobban Cord was an entrepreneur who had rescued the famous Auburn and Duesenberg marques before making a car with his own name. He had been impressed by Harry Miller’s front wheel drive racing cars and the L-29 was the first front wheel drive American built car offered to the public. He had also acquired the Lycoming engine business and his car was naturally powered by a Lycoming 8-cylinder side-valve engine:

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

The car was introduced at the time of the Depression and only some 4,400 were sold.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

The front suspension is unusual in having two quarter-elliptic springs on each side, neatly keeping out of the way of the drive-shafts.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto MuseumCord 812

In 1935 Cord introduced this aerodynamic car designed by Gordon Buehrig. It has a “coffin nose” which houses a specially made V8 Lycoming engine driving the front wheels and, advanced for the time, pop-up headlights. If a supercharger were fitted, it became the 812. Problems with the electro-vacuum transmission and other delays caused sales to drop off and the car was very expensive. Just under 3000 had been made before production ceased in August 1937.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Aero Type 50

The Aero aircraft company of Prague started making light cars in 1929 with 2-stroke engines. In 1934 a new range of Basek-designed cars were introduced, the Type 30 with a twin-cylinder engine and by 1938 the Type 50 with a 4-cylinder in-line 2-stroke engine driving the front wheels:

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Not many enthusiasts will be familiar with an in-line four 2-stroke!

The Aero must not be confused with the Czech Aero Minor which was based on a JAWA design. 

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Amilcar Compound

Amilcars, like Salmsons, were the typical small French sports cars of the 1920s and both companies began to make bigger touring cars in the following decade. In 1937 Amilcar was taken over by Hotchkiss who engaged Jean Albert Gregoire to design a light car for them. This was the Compound which had unitary construction in Alpax alloy, all independent suspension with transverse leaf spring at the front, torsion bars at the rear and rack and pinion steering. The engine was a 4-cylinder side valve of 1185c.c. which naturally drove the front wheels! In 1939 it acquired overhead valves but the war intervened and less than 900 Compounds were made all told.

2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Derby V8

These V8s were the last Derby cars to be produced. The Lepicard designed cars had engines with side inlet valves and exhaust overhead valves driving the front wheels. This roadster has a body called “Montlhéry” and was used by Gwenda Stewart in the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally. Two V8 Derbys ran unsuccessfully at Le Mans in 1934 and a single further entry also retired in 1935.



2013 Tampa Bay Auto Museum

Fearing in August 1914 that their Saint-Denis factory would fall into enemy hands as the Germans advanced towards Paris, Hotchkiss decided to set up a works in Gosford Street, Coventry where they began in 1915 to build machine guns for the Allied war effort. After the cessation of hostilities, the company started to mass produce engines for William Morris and launched a V-twin air cooled 1080c.c. engine of their own which went on to power the B.S.A. Ten car. This engine was successfully tried out in an old Morris Oxford chassis which was run in the 1921 Land’s End Trial where it won a Gold Medal. In 1923 William Morris bought the whole Hotchkiss factory and changed it into Morris Engines. However, B.S.A. were given the licence to carry on producing the engine for their cars. The above picture illustrates one such engine in a B.S.A. three-wheeler.

David Blumlein, March 2013