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

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

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

John Brooks, December 2014

2013 General

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

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

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

2014 JB General

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

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

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

2014 JB General

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

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

2014 JB General

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

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2013 General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

2014 JB General

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

Lizett Bond, December 2006

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel……………..

We don’t normally endorse events on DDC but having run a piece on this event in 2013, it seemed appropriate to do so………… can see the piece HERE


The 7th Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel…”

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping…

Chino Hills, CA: Save the dates of June 6 & 7, 2014, for your own extraordinary affair as The 7th Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show celebrates “The Thomas Crown Affair”. The soiree will commence Friday, June 6, at the beautiful campus of The Boys Republic of Chino Hills, CA

Thomas Crown and Catherine Banning may not be in attendance, however, the original 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow two-door sedan and 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S NART Spyder used in the film will make their cinematic presence felt throughout the entire event. Friday night’s celebration will feature elegant dining on the grass, with a repast prepared and served in sophisticated style by students of the Boys Republic. The gathering, emceed by automotive author and expert, Matt Stone, will include a silent auction, a memorabilia display and a high-spirited live auction. Once again, famed automotive artist, Nicholas Hunziker, has created an original work of art capturing the King of Cool as the suave Thomas Crown.

“We are also excited to have the involvement of Bruce Meyers, creator of the legendary Meyers Manx, the dune buggy that became an icon of pop culture,” said Ron Harris, co-chair of the event, with Chad McQueen.

The Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show has experienced steady growth and increasing popularity witnessed by the array of more than 300 classic cars and nearly 100 motorcycles at the 2013 show. Approximately 5,000 attendees perused the grounds, enjoying up close and personal views of collectible cars and motorcycles.

Last year’s event donated approximately $210,000 to the Boys Republic, established in 1907 as a private, non-profit community for at-risk teens. Alumnus Steve McQueen attended from 1947-49 and credited the school with pointing him on the path to success. McQueen never forgot and was a frequent visitor, even after he became a Hollywood star and legend. The McQueen family continues that involvement.

The car and motorcycle show will take place Saturday, June 7th. Pre-registration will be open online at the website after January 1, 2014. Due to space limitations, pre-registered vehicles will have first priority in display placement.

All proceeds will benefit the Boys Republic

For further information on making plans for your affair with Thomas Crown:

Post Time with Jürgen Barth at The Monterey Motorsports Reunion

More from our favourite Bond Girl, who put this fine piece together for us a few weeks back. Life imitates Morse and I have been extremely tardy in posting, apologies to all, will do better, yeah, right!

Our correspondent - ps


As a lifelong equestrian, it’s both humbling and awe inspiring to watch a professional trainer take an already awesome horse and elevate said beast to new levels of jaw-dropping excellence.

double d - ps

Such a presentation calls for a unique combination of talent, drive and experience. As an amateur, I usually want to hurry home, saddle my own horse and attempt to replicate that caliber of horsemanship.

a venti latte - ps

A racecar isn’t a horse and vice versa, but the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion provided race enthusiasts with the opportunity to witness the same type of demonstration.

Barth on the Grid practice -ps

In general, vintage events tend to restrict the run groups to amateurs. Professional involvement is usually kept to a minimum and for good reason. However, with Porsche celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 911, the organizers encouraged the participation of several pro drivers by creating a special run group of 911’s built from 1964 to 1973.

Nine eleven Hell - ps

Over forty entries were accepted for Group 8B known as the Weissach Cup. One of those drivers on the grid was Jürgen Barth. Barth embodies the motorsport professional. Experienced in virtually every aspect of the game, the Barth resume includes driver, with overall and class victories at Le Mans, factory development driver, race organizer, international steward, and established author. His steed for Monterey was indeed a special 911 and one that Barth was very familiar with. The 1970 911 ST, chassis number 911 030 0949, is one of the factory lightweight rally cars. Its impressive history includes such famous names as Waldegard and Larrousse taking turns behind the wheel.

For 1971, the car was used by Barth as a service car for the Monte Carlo Rally and then sold. The new owner retained the services of the young driver and the 1971 Tour De France should have been the high point for Barth and this particular 911. Unfortunately, a loose flywheel and a damaged the crankshaft resulted in a DNF. Barth finally got his first 911 win later that year in this same car at a French National race.

In 1998, with Porsche celebrating a 50th anniversary, owner Roy Walzer asked Barth to drive this special car at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races. In that race, Barth started 5th and was to lead every lap right up to the last few feet of which Hurley Haywood got by in the Brumos 914-6.

The MAN - ps

Reunited again in 2013, the car sported the Tour De France colors, the same colors that took Barth out of the hunt. This was the second “go” for both Barth and the machine at Laguna Seca. Attrition and incidents cut the field down in Group 8B for Sunday afternoon’s race and thirty 911’s filled the grid. The organizers made the decision to split the field and utilize two safety cars, with the first group getting the green flag approximately fifteen seconds ahead of the second.

Grid 1 - ps

Due to an electrical problem that sidelined Barth on the track during the morning race, he started in 29th position – the back row of the second group. Simply making the start was an achievement of sorts, the electrical problem meant Barth would be driving with no functioning instruments, including the tachometer. His race would be accomplished by the sound and feel of the car, a professional at work. Additionally, the Barth 911 was one of the few cars in the field to race with the correct motor displacement, however, talent can overcome such occasional inconveniences. At the end of the first lap he had dispatched the entire second group of cars and took off after the first group with a beautiful display of consistent driving and carrying far more speed in and out of the corners than any of the other 911’s. After eight laps it was all over and Barth settled for 8th place with a lap time that on paper would have been third or fourth against more powerful RSR’s.

Jurgen Knocked em - ps

In the end, and in horse-speak, Barth “spanked” the field. But, for us amateurs, it’s not a punishment. It’s a lesson. A little tutorial that provides an aspiration for the next time we ride into an arena or drive out of the pits.

Lizett Bond, October 2013

Mea Culpa, I failed to credit David Soares for the photos………….

Indian Summer

2012 Salon Prive

2012 was weird time to live in and around London, the coincidence of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the staging of the XXX Olympiad meant that there were many events occurring that would never be seen again in the lifetimes of those who witnessed them.

2012 Salon Prive

Given the strong heritage that the automobile enjoys in Britain it came as no surprise that there would be some form of motoring celebration that would pay tribute to the Queen’s anniversary.

2012 Salon Prive

The question would be where, as any concours would have to be in suitable surroundings at least the equal of Villa d’Este or Pebble Beach.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

The answer was really rather obvious, although actually getting permission to use it would have required great diplomacy on the part of the organisers.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Windsor Castle’s Upper Ward was the final choice, a private area in the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest occupied palace in Europe. It does not get much better than that.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

So that is how I found myself in the Queen’s palace, reputed to be her favourite, last September. I was not really sure what to expect as this was new event and usually it takes a few years to get matters up to speed.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

I had been to Pebble Beach and Amelia Island a few years back and knew how high they had set the bar. However nothing prepared me for the astounding display of automotive treasure arranged on the lawn.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Within the castle walls there were 60 of the world’s greatest cars, chosen with great care by the organising committee, one for each year of the monarch’s reign.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Although all present were worthy inclusions we all have favourites, so here are a few of mine starting with the Embiricos Bentley 4¼ Litre Pourtout Coupé, an absolute gem of a car.

I have written about this unique creation HERE

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

It was not just the French coach builders who overwhelmed our senses in the 1930’s, this Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, one of six built with a roof, was not just a pretty face, similar models won the Mille Miglia and the Spa 24 Hours outright.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

A more modern Italian is this Lamborghini Miura SV in a dramatic yellow livery.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

And what concours would be possible without a contribution from Maranello? This Ferrari GT SWB Berlinetta is a fine example.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Let us not forget contributions from the locals, a Jaguar E-Type and an AC Cobra sit in the shadow of the Round Tower.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Aston Martin in the shape of this DB6 Volante, owned by HRH Prince of Wales, was also on display.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

And when it comes to perfection of outline it is hard to imagine anything more sublime than the Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Berlinetta

2012 Salon Prive

More elegant luxury is found with this Bentley Continental S Type with HJ Mulliner bodywork.

2012 Salon Prive

Arguably the most imposing vehicle on display was the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupé, brought over by the Petersen Automotive Museum in California. The art deco style bodywork with oval doors is absolutely stunning.

2012 Salon Prive

It is not a car for mere mortals, only a Maharaja or a Hollywood star of the 1930’s could really carry off being seen with such a creation.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

So looking back at last year’s event the question is will there be a repeat?

Thankfully the answer is in the affirmative.

I quote the release from the Concours’ organisers.

Sixty of the world’s rarest historic cars will gather on the Royal lawns of St James’s, Central London from September 5-7, 2013.  Some of these cars have never before been seen and the public is not normally allowed access to this area of St James’s.

In addition to the amazing Concours cars will be a line-up of Lamborghini’s to celebrate the marque’s 50th anniversary plus the Royal Automobile Club is bringing its Spirit of Motoring Tour.
On the opening morning, our Royal Patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent will lead the convoy of Concours cars as they leave the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace to travel down The Mall before turning into Marlborough Road and into the Concours.
Members of the public who own a historic, GT or sports car can also be part of this display of automotive sculpture as they will be allowed to park along part of the Mall just outside the Concours.
Tickets and more information from
My recommendation is that if you can attend, do, the quality will not be surpassed anywhere and the cost of a ticket is very reasonable considering what is on offer.
In the meantime here is a gallery from 2012.
I looked at the cars that were parked outside the castle walls earlier HERE
John Brooks, August 2013


Superb Syon!

2012 Salon Prive

There are many celebrations of the automobile taking place in every corner of the globe, inevitably some are better than others. So the top table would be composed of the likes of the concours at Amelia Island, Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach to name but three. Here in England we could advance the charms of Goodwood’s twins, the Festival of Speed and the Revival, which stand comparison with any. However until recently London, one of the true world cities, did not have a motoring event to match, not even a domestic motor show.

2012 Salon Prive

That omission has now been put right and we now have not one, but two world class events within reach of the capital. Even better they are at around the same time, early September. The first of these is Salon Privé, currently held at Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland, a truly magnificent setting and less than ten miles from the center of town.

2012 Salon Prive

Held over three days the event combines a passion for automobiles with a taste of the finer things in life, all very agreeable. There is something for everyone at this festival of the car.

2012 Salon Prive

The 2013 edition will take place on 4-5-6 September and details, tickets etc., can be found HERE

2012 Salon Prive

The highlight of the event is the Concours d’Elegance, which is judged on the first day, by the likes of Le Mans legend, Derek Bell, and design guru, Peter Stevens.

2012 Salon Prive

There are also Hyper and Super car exhibitions and a number of new cars will be shown in the UK for the first time. It is a top class affair and well worth the time and expense. The tickets are not cheap but you get very well looked after in the refreshments department and it certainly beats the crowds at Goodwood or the misery of Silverstone. Go, you will not regret it.

John Brooks, August 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



24 Hours at the Starlight


A recent celebration of the Steve McQueen classic “Le Mans” in Los Angeles brought out all the stars. DDC’s own Bond Girl was on hand to add lustre to the occasion and here she gives her take on the screening.

When the film “Le Mans” was released in 1971, I was barely driving. It was the era of the Saturday night date at the local drive-in theater. I saw “Le Mans” at the Starlight. Please rest assured that any exuberance exhibited while watching cars racing around a track in the French countryside existed purely for the benefit of the boyfriend of the moment. However, it wasn’t all feigned. There was that crush on Steve McQueen. As far as I was concerned, the King of Cool just embodied the sexy Hollywood superstar. So while a trip to the drive-in to see Le Mans was, for some, all about the racing footage, I just wanted to gaze up into those dazzling blue eyes. Talk about a passion pit.


In the racing world, however, it wasn’t just about McQueen’s taciturn Michael Delaney and those charismatic facial expressions. Beyond his craft, enthusiasts respected the man as a competent racer, making the role a realistic fit. For all that, the movie itself co-starred in pole position with the Circuit de la Sarthe. Considered by many to be the most influential racing film ever made, some forty years later, “Le Mans” enjoys an almost cult like following. From Delaney’s slate gray 911S, to the Heuer Monaco on his wrist, to the 917 in Gulf Colors, the film resonates.


Still, aside from McQueen, just who and what were we actually watching? For starters, actual footage from the 1970 24 Heures du Mans. Moving on from there, how about a supporting cast including the likes of Brian Redman and Jo Siffert to name just a few of the notables – piloting various Porsche 917’s and Ferrari 512’s. In addition to list of drivers named in the credits was a very young Jürgen Barth. When asked of his own role in the film, Barth replied, “I drove the 911 that caused the crash.” We were watching legends at work, no wonder it all appeared to be so authentic.


Voyeuristically, we screamed along the Mulsanne Straight in the rain, at night and in the home stretch. And that’s what makes the film more of a documentary, that insider’s perspective. At the time, a good percentage of us truly had no idea we were watching the real deal as we munched popcorn and steamed up the windows of our own rides.


Today, aside from in-home, Blu-Ray screenings, the chance to revisit “Le Mans” on the big screen is almost never going to happen. But the opportunity did arise recently, and what better venue than The Chinese Theater in LaLa Land? Hollywood is not only the land of the star, but playground to the luxurious, the fast, the cool, the expensive automobile. These attributes converged at the Turner Classic Movie Festival with Porsche Cars North America joining the celebration by hosting Club TCM, held at a venerable hotel. A pre-screening discussion presented two of racing’s own cool cats, Derek Bell and Vic Elford, on the dias, and rounding out the expertise was McQueen’s son, Chad. Each reminisced about a simpler time in racing, about McQueen and his driving, his personality and their own experiences during the filming of the movie.


Basking in the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown, the approach to Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel revealed two Porsches positioned on their own crimson runner; a brand-new, bright yellow 991, and a black, completely original 1965 911. Needing no introductions, the pair stood in silent welcome as fans of the film and the marque arrived to revisit 1971 in the comfort of Hollywood’s Chinese Theater.

Dave sees a

It may not have been the Starlight, but then again, I’ve been driving for a long time now.


Lizett Bond, May 2013

Photos courtesy of Lizett and scans courtesy of Michael Keyser, taken from my review of his book on the making of the movie