Archive for Rare and Interesting

Testing Times at Brooklands

The Special Correspondent has been spending some time down at Brooklands since finishing his Spa 24 Hours’ history. As is his wont, he regularly finds cars that are rare and/or interesting and the recent VSCC Driving Tests event was no exception to this rule. He shares this discovery with us below.

John Brooks, February 2015

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The Société des Moteurs Salmson made aero engines during the First World War as well as magnetos and other components; they also made some of their own aeroplanes. With the cessation of war contracts they diversified into car production and initially they made G.N. cyclecars under licence at Billancourt in Paris. This is a Salmson-G.N., recognisable by its brass radiator and steel body. Salmson- G.N.s were used after the war by the Paris police.

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This 1923 Crossley 19/6 tourer is powered by a 4-cylinder side-valve 3.6-litre engine. It has no front brakes and a 4-speed gearbox with the traditional right-hand change.
Crossley was a very versatile company, making engines, commercial vehicles and buses at their Gorton, Manchester plant and is remembered especially for its 25 h.p. RFC/RAF staff car which became standard equipment during the First World War.

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This Frazer-Nash BMW 319/55  was first delivered in February 1937. It is back at Brooklands after 78 years, having taken part with Don Aldington at the wheel in the 1937 JCC Brooklands Rally. It has a 6-cylinder o.h.v. engine.

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Rileys were at the peak of their powers in competitions in the Thirties and the factory entered no less than six cars for the 1934 Le Mans 24 Hour race. They were driven down by road from Coventry, calling in at Brooklands for some preparatory laps on their way to France. This Riley Imp, one of two specially prepared Imps for the race, was driven by Jean Trevoux and René Carrière but lost two laps early on in the pits for repairs to the tail following a spin at Mulsanne. This left it 44th and last but it recovered to 12th and 3rd in class. The car made up for this later that year by winning its class in the Tourist Trophy on the Ards circuit.

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Here is the famous Napier-Railton, a brute of a car! Commissioned by John Cobb with a view to tackling the World 24 Hour record, it was designed by Reid Railton and built by Thomson and Taylor at Brooklands. Gurney Nutting supplied the bodywork and Napier the 502 h.p. version of the First World War “Lion” W-12 aero engine with cylinders in three banks of four, giving it a capacity of 23,970 c.c.

The car won its début race in the 1933 August Bank Holiday Brooklands meeting but then went to Montlhéry to try for the 24 Hour record but tyre failures spoilt this. Back there again in 1934 but the very competent Riley driver, Freddie Dixon, crashed it. So it was over to Bonneville Salt Flats in America in 1935 and here the car took the record at 137.40 mph driven by Cobb, Charlie Dodson and Tim Rose-Richards. This success was repeated a year later when Cobb, Hindmarsh, Brackenbury and Rose-Richards pushed the record for 24 hours up to 150.6 mph.

After the war ownership of the car eventually came to the Hon. Patrick Lindsay who raced it at Silverstone in the 1960 Martini Trophy meeting, coming third behind two E.R.A.s. It now resides with loving care in the Brooklands Museum.

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An example of a rare “chain-gang” Frazer-Nash. This is a 1932 “Exeter” model of which only 5 or 6 were made and named after the London-Exeter Trial – Frazer-Nash cars scored twelve Premier awards in the 1931 event. It has the usual Meadows engine but the bodywork is by Corsica.

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Here is an offside view of the brute’s engine!

David Blumlein, February 2015

A New Year at Brooklands

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The gathering at Brooklands on New Year’s Day grows ever bigger – over 1,100 cars turned up within its sacred borders! The weather stayed dry this year and amidst the rows of tedious MGBs, MX-5s etc., there were, as usual, some real gems for the true enthusiast to enjoy:
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A.C. cars were very active on the Brooklands track during the Twenties, scoring many successes and setting many speed records. It was, however, John Weller’s superb overhead camshaft 6-cylinder engine which forged A.C.’s reputation, this unit staying in production for some forty years. Here we see one of the final expressions of the vintage 2-litre A.C. Sixes before the Hurlocks took over the company in 1930, ushering in a new era.
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The M.G. 18/80 was introduced at the Olympia Show in 1928 but so was the first M.G. Midget. And it was the Midget line that would go on to create a future for M.G. The 18/80 was the first to use the traditional M.G. radiator and was a dignified model with many Morris mechanicals beneath the surface including a 6-cylinder overhead camshaft engine. The big M.G. came in Mark Ι and Mark ΙΙ forms and there were even five Mark ΙΙΙs, the Tigresse model. One of these, in Cecil Kimber’s favourite cream and brown colours, tackled the 1930 Brooklands Double Twelve race but it was soon clear that the heavy car was no opposition to the Aston Martin and Alfa Romeos. It mercifully faded early on, not with the advertised carburettor problems, but with run bearings. And that spelt the end of the 18/80 as a serious competition car – it was all Midgets from then on.
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One certainly does not expect to see a Borgward 2400 at Brooklands! This is thought to be the only one in the country. Carl Borgward introduced this bigger model in 1952 to compete with the Mercedes 220 and Opel Kapitan. It had a 2337 c.c. 6-cylinder engine with hemispherical combustion chambers giving 80 b.h.p. and came with either a 3-speed box or the Hansamatic transmission which was to cause serious problems. Originally the car, a full 6-seater, had a sloping back but a fully booted version was introduced in March 1953. Sales were small with only 1132 made of which 356 were the second series with a 2240 c.c. 100 b.h.p. engine. The model was withdrawn in 1958.

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One of these cars took a fine 3rd in the over 2-litre class of the 1953 Italian Sestrière Rally driven by Count Von der Mϋhle and former Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team driver Hans Hugo Hartmann who was to take charge of Borgward’s competition department.
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And one also does not expect to find a New York taxi at Brooklands! This is one of the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victorias, for years the staple diet of the yellow cab fleets. It was an old-fashioned body-on-frame design. In 1992 it was given a 4.6-litre overhead camshaft V8 and in 2003 it had an all-new frame with re-designed front suspension and rack and pinion steering. The last one made came off the line at St Thomas, Ontario, Canada in September 2011.
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A Riley once more on the Members’ Banking! Rileys were among the most competitive cars at Brooklands in the Thirties; this one wasn’t born then but the RM series carried on in many ways the company’s fine tradition in the early post-war years. They offered either a 1.5 or 2.5-litre version of the splendid high-cam 4-cylinder engines and boasted torsion bar independent front suspension unashamedly cribbed from Citroën’s Traction Avant.
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During the Fifties Dick Jacobs was a familiar participant in British motor sport, invariably involved with M.G. cars for which his Mill Garage in Essex were dealers. He purchased this YB 1.25-litre M.G. saloon to enter for the 1952 Silverstone Production Car Race where its chief opposition came from Jowett Javelins especially that of Bert Hadley. In the race Jacobs managed to tuck in behind Stirling Moss in the big Mark VΙΙ Jaguar while being lapped and this slip-streaming brought the M.G. nearer Hadley whose Javelin then started to emit steam – thus Jacobs managed to win the class. In 1953 he did it again and in 1954 he won the class for the third time! This car is therefore special in M.G. racing history but soon was put back to family duties
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To understand the weird Trojan it is necessary to appreciate some of the ideals of its designer Leslie Hayward Hounsfield. He had strong views about the place of the car in society and believed that speed was a bad thing for all concerned. He also disliked the idea of a car indicating social status, believing that style and fashion should have no place.
No danger of his contrivance conveying status! This odd machine has an under-floor engine, a twin-cylinder (with two pistons per cylinder) two stroke which drove through an epicyclic transmission with a big flywheel. The output was 11 b.h.p. at 1,200 rpm with exceptional low-end torque. He originally planned to have no bonnet, Lanchester-wise, but was advised that no one would buy a car without a bonnet, even though it was empty!

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But they did buy them, some 25,000, and these were made for Trojan under licence by Leyland Motors from 1922-29 in their Kingston-on-Thames factory where Sopwith planes had formerly been made. And a Trojan stood alongside the big new Leyland Eight on the company’s stand at the 1922 Motor Show. Which of the two was most successful?

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The Alvis 12/50 was an ever present part of the Brooklands vintage racing scene. C.M. Harvey used a special racing version to win the JCC 200-mile race in 1923 whereas the normal production car scored notable victories at the track including best on handicap at the 1927 Essex Six Hour race and winning outright the JCC 4 Hour Sporting Car Race that same year.

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Here is a superb example with the duck-back tail treatment; the other is the beetle-back version.
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It is indeed appropriate to see a Bentley Brooklands at Brooklands! Bentley produced two distinct models: a full-size luxury saloon replacing the Mulsanne (1992-1998) as shown here, and a fixed head version of the Azure, first seen at Geneva in 2007.

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Just 550 of these were built up to 2011.
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How can anyone suggest that Jaguar’ current F-type is prettier than this XK 120 Coupé?

2015 Brooklands New Year

David Blumlein, January 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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1947 Alvis Duncan saloon
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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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This car differed from the others by being supplied from the factory with wire wheels.
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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.

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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!

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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One of Bluebird’s air-brakes.

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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:
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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.

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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.

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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:
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.

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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.
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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:
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And the public road leading to the Arnage corner is still basically as it was –

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the left-hander at Indianapolis then the short straight to the right-hand bend.
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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.
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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.
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And two AF Corse Ferraris which have seen some battle, this was #71

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And #51 was not much better
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The sudden rain showers can catch out the best.
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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

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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