Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sprint Start

Fast Ford

The Summer of Love was on the way soon, we would all go to San Francisco and wear flowers in our hair……..and think of how daft we looked………thank  you very much, Scott McKenzie.

No love lost here though, as Bruce McLaren and the rest of the field sprint across the tarmac at the start of the 1967 edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring. The track had been revised after the spectator fatalities the year before. Also new was the Ford Mk. IV that the New Zealander and his co-driver, Mario Andretti, took to a famous victory.

Another fantastic image, courtesy of Ford.

John Brooks, February 2012

Financial Reporting

La Route est Dure

It would appear that Peugeot’s sudden withdrawal from its Le Mans campaign has provoked a state of ire amongst the motorsport mavens of the UK’s journalistic community. As I noted recently, Autosport ran a piece last week purporting to the REAL reasons behind the Lion’s retreat. Of course, it did nothing of the sort and I was surprised at the reaction of those who took the time to peruse and reply to my piece. Some of what was written would not make comfortable reading for the magazine’s leadership, as they appear to have alienated a significant section of what should be their core market. Maybe only the cranks write to me, an unrepresentative selection; it would make perfect sense.

This week Damien Smith, editor of Motor Sport, gets into the act in his monthly editorial “Matters of Moment”. Mr Smith correctly declares that the stuffing has been knocked out of FIA WEC and Le Mans as a result of Peugeot’s withdrawal and Audi having little or no opposition, except a small Japanese company called Toyota. However getting the bit between his teeth he veers away from the rational.

“Peugeot is likely to return one day, if finances allow. But for now the best thing about a company that produces dull road cars is over. What a shortsighted and plain selfish decision, totally in keeping with a corporate bean-counter boardroom mentality.”



Motor Sport has been one of the recent success stories in the motoring print media. Since being sold to an independent publisher by the Haymarket empire, it has put on circulation, bucking the trend in the market and I would guess that advertising revenues are also on an upward course. The secret of this performance is simple really, well written content matched to top level production values; it is a premium product. This is why I take issue with the statement quoted above. It is completely at odds with the customary intelligence displayed throughout the magazine.

PSA Peugeot Citroën is Europe’s second largest car manufacturer, employing around 200,000 directly, though recent events have seen that number cut by over 5,000. So perhaps up to a million or so people are directly affected by the company’s performance, a number that is amplified many times when one considers those employed in the supply chain and other related businesses. Then there is the huge amount of tax that these people pay, directly or indirectly. These are big numbers.

Furthermore, in common with virtually the whole motor industry, PSA has strategic alliances with other giants such BMW, Chang’An, Dongfeng, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Renault and Toyota, either producing models under licence or developing new technologies. So even more people around the world who are directly affected if there are problems at PSA. New legislation is being introduced throughout the world is aimed at reducing emissions from motor vehicles, a costly process with all the expenditure and risk front loaded, a major financial headache for the management of any car manufacturer. Consideration must also be given to the social responsibilities that large corporations are bound by, particularly in Europe. The fortunes of PSA have potentially a major impact on the financial stability of France, Europe and the rest of the world. The Supervisory Board of PSA have on their shoulders a heavy responsibility. Many people depend on them doing the right thing; peoples’ future prosperity is at stake.

I wrote last week of the catastrophic losses in the second half of 2011 suffered by Peugeot.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In last October PSA planned a reduction of annual overheads amounting to €800 million, coming at a cost of 6,000 jobs. Subsequently further cost cutting of around €200 million from annual overheads has been considered necessary. A race programme consuming a rumoured €50-60 million per annum would be an obvious target for both management and unions, given that any easy options had already been exhausted.

The losses will have also drained the cash reserves of PSA, so assets are being disposed of. The company raised €440 million from the sale of car rental company CITER and there is plan to dispose of real estate which is anticipated to raise a further €500 million. Perhaps the most significant sale is that of an undisclosed shareholding in wholly owned transport company GEFCO. Even in the difficult market conditions of 2011 GEFCO accounted for 16% of the PSA Group’s profits. Furthermore, disposing of these assets in the prevailing economic climate and in the circumstances of a fire sale is hardly likely to maximise potential returns. The PSA Group is hoping raise €1.5 billion from these transactions, a tall order.

What I had not looked closely at until now was the cash flow statement. Cash and liquidity are the life blood of any business. You can be profitable but if you run out of cash then you will go out of business. Even I can understand that.

The PSA Group had net cash and cash equivalents at the 2011 year end of €5.7 billion, a drop of €4.7 billion from the end of 2010. This massive decrease can be attributed to several factors, some planned, some not. On the planned side of the ledger the accounts reveal investment in new plants and ventures in India and China, markets that are expanding while Europe contracts. In addition there are the development and launch costs anticipated in 2012  of the Peugeot 208, the Citroën DS5 and the introduction of four other diesel hybrid models. During the first quarter of 2011 PSA also repaid €2 billion to the French State, the balance of a financial assistance package agreed in 2009.

What could not be foreseen at the time of budgeting for 2011 was the calamitous effect that the European Sovereign Debt Crisis would have on trade, particularly in PSA’s major market sectors. There are several problems affecting cash flow that manifest themselves in these circumstances, lack of profitability as margins are eroded, the holding cost of inflated inventory levels and the difficulty of hedging against currency fluctuations. The cost of raw materials was also increased unexpectedly by the instability on the currency exchange market. The ability to raise finance is also under pressure as sovereign nations struggle to meet their own liabilities. Put simply, borrowing and lending are a matter of trust and that is in short supply right now. Another unforeseen event that had an adverse effect was the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, causing a costly interruption of the supply of vital components.

So taking all of these factors into account it is difficult to see how the Supervisory Board of PSA could have done anything but axe the Le Mans project. If they are to continue to raise finance in an adverse market, then they need to demonstrate that they are willing to make difficult decisions and what better way than making a substantial cost saving in a high profile manner? There is also the small matter of the powerful French Trades Unions. There is no way that are they going to allow a non core activity such as racing to continue while their members are faced with possible redundancy. The argument that the new technology necessary to provide personal transport in the future will be developed faster in the heat of competition is a valid one, but all the technological advances in the world are pointless if the business has gone bust. The development will go on, perhaps at a reduced pace, but we live in an imperfect world.

Most people do not have as the centre of their universe a small city 120 miles to the west of Paris. Motorsport will not bring the cure for cancer or save the universe; it is part entertainment, part technological development and to those, like myself who are lucky to being involved in some minor capacity, mostly hugely enjoyable. Like all children I do not want my toys taken away, but just occasionally it has to happen. Who is being selfish now?

Finally calling the members of the PSA Supervisory Board “corporate bean-counters” is not polite nor strictly accurate. The Vice Chairman of the Managing Board is one Jean-Philippe Peugeot. He is definitely a motorsport enthusiast, having raced in 2010 in the Nurburgring 24 Hours in a Peugeot RCZ HDI. He also took part in four rounds of the 2005 Le Mans Endurance Series, driving a Pilbeam MP93 in the LM P2 class with Pierre Bruneau and Marc Rostan; he scored points in two races, including a podium place at Spa. However much Mr Peugeot enjoys motorsport, as senior management at PSA, he has responsibilities that must be discharged. A lot people are depending on him and his colleagues. I suspect that others in high places are “car guys” too.

So Mr Smith, withdraw your remarks. They are not in keeping with the brand values that are proclaimed on Motor Sport’s front covers:

Passion, Independence, Perspective, Opinion, Authority.

John Brooks, February 2012

Missing In Action

V24 Goodness

The news that came down the mojo wire yesterday was not good. An announcement that Risi Competizione would not be racing at Sebring was exactly what we did not want to hear. The press release went on………..

Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, spoke of the difficult decision:  “Unfortunately the current economic climate has not allowed us to approach the 2012 season as we would have wished.  None of us want to go into an event such as Sebring feeling less than 100% ready and prepared, and we aren’t at that point.


“Risi Competizione, racing with Ferrari, has been a stalwart of the Series for the last decade and we fully recognize the extremely high level of competition it supports.  To race a Ferrari is to enter into a partnership with history and legend.  The standards are so high that commitment must be total and complete.  Risi Competizione knows better than many what it takes to win the 12 Hours of Sebring, and I feel that, right now, we wouldn’t be representative of our best.”

The 2012 12 Hours of Sebring will be a poorer place without the Team, Giuseppe, Beaky and the Contessa, come back soon.

Happier Times in 1999 with a brace of fabulous 333SPs.

John Brooks, February 2012


Showroom Soliloquy

As money is losing value almost as fast as the politicians and bureaucrats can waste it, many are turning to assets to hedge against the silent theft of their wealth by the State. So art dealers’ businesses are  flourishing, as are those in the buoyant classic car market. Our Special Correspondent paid a visit to the hallowed ground at Brooklands, to see for himself what was on offer in the first big sale of the year in this locality.

Auctions invariably turn up some interesting cars and that of Historics at the Mercédès-Benz World at Brooklands was no exception, and a quick excursion into the museum at the old track also revealed one or two new exhibits as well.

1934 Hillman Aero Minx Streamline

Conceived by Capt. J.S.Irving – designer of the “Golden Arrow” Land Speed Record car – and A.H. Wilde, the Hillman Minx was launched in 1931 and went on sale in 1932. Some six months later the Aero Minx was introduced.

1934 Hillman Aero Minx Streamline

Mechanically similar with the same 1185 c.c. 4-cylinder side-valve engine, it was given a new under-slung frame, a high compression cylinder head and a remote control gear-change. To give a more sporting appearance the radiator grille was swept forward at its base. The standard bodywork style was a 2+1 fastback coupé with the rear seat set crosswise. From late 1934 an all- synchromesh gearbox was fitted and the Streamline open two-seater body was available.

1934 Hillman Aero Minx Streamline

By 1936 Rootes badge-engineering had taken over and the car evolved into the new Talbot 10.

1938 Lancia Aprilia

Irresistible was this beautiful blue Lancia Aprilia, Vincenzo Lancia’s last masterpiece. Of monocoque pillarless construction it boasted all independent suspension

1938 Lancia Aprilia

and a little gem of an engine, the 1352 c.c. V4 .

1937 SS Jaguar 1.5-litre

This was the smallest car Jaguar ever produced. Like all the stunning SS Jaguars introduced in 1935, it relied on Standard mechanicals, in this case the 4-cylinder Standard Twelve 1608 c.c. side valve engine. In the picture below you can see the name Standard stamped on the cylinder block.

1937 SS Jaguar 1.5-litre

While by 1938 the bigger 2.5-litre and 3.5-litre models were using special Weslake-developed overhead valve heads, the 1.5-litre used the Standard Fourteen 1776 c.c. engine with Standard-produced o.h.v. – this engine went on to power the post-war Triumph Roadster and Renown models as well as the what-was-now the Jaguar 1.5-litre. The early small SS Jaguar can be recognised by the spare-wheel cover whose top is higher than the level of the bonnet.

1937 SS Jaguar 1.5-litre

This “baby” Jaguar easily outsold all the other models in the pre-war range.

1924 Peugeot Quadrilette Type 172 Grand Sport

In the last days of 1919 Peugeot revealed their successor to the Bugatti-designed Bébé: the Type 161 Quadrilette which had a 4-cylinder 667 c.c. engine and the two seats mounted in tandem; this successful little car was made in the factory at Beaulieu in eastern France. In 1922 it was re-designed as the Type 172 and it acquired staggered seats. By 1924 production was moved to Peugeot’s main plant at Sochaux and later the engine size was increased to 720 c.c.

It was joined in 1924 by the Grand Sport, a 5CV model of which only 100 were made. It was clearly a tough little car as one of them won its class in 1926 in the car-destroying Circuit des Routes Pavées, a demanding race around cobbled roads in the southern outskirts of Lille. The standard model evolved into the 5CV Type 172 which appeared at the 1924 Tour de France and examples of the car took the first three places in its class in the first Mille Miglia in 1927. Certainly a rugged little car!

Nanette – a Brooklands Special

Felix Scriven was well-known as a driver at Brooklands in the 1920s where he campaigned an unlikely Austin Twenty which he painted in a variety of colours according to his whims. Later he commissioned F.W.Bond to design a 2-seater special for road and track use. Bond is chiefly remembered for his low-slung 2-seater sports cars  which he built in 1926/28.

The car for Scriven had a low under-slung chassis built by Rubery Owen and the engine was initially a 6-cylinder Sage unit but as this soon proved very unreliable Scriven was able to persuade the great Parry Thomas to provide him with a 4-cylinder 1847 c.c. Hooker-Thomas engine. Named “Nanette”, the car brought Scriven a convincing win in the “90 Short” race at the Summer B.A.R.C. meeting held at Brooklands in 1926.


A Pair of Peels

As examples of the modern production of electric-powered Peels, they provide an excuse to say something briefly about the original little Peel cars which qualified as almost certainly the world’s smallest passenger cars.

Mention the Isle of  Man to a car enthusiast and you will probably conjure up thoughts about the early Tourist Trophy races run around the island up to 1922 or the British Empire Trophy sports car races held at Douglas from 1951-53. But the Isle of Man had its own little car “industry” when the Peel Engineering Company of the town of Peel on the west coast, as fibreglass pioneers, decided to manufacture these extraordinary tiny cars.

The first model, the P50 similar to the blue car in the above picture, had a D.K.W. 49 c.c. fan-cooled 2-stroke single –cylinder engine mounted under the single seat and drove the single rear wheel by chain via a 3-speed gearbox. The little fibreglass-bodied car was only 53 inches long and 39 inches wide! The P50, which appeared in 1962, was joined by the 2-seater Trident in 1965 and this was all of 72 inches long!

Of special interest is the fact that British Leyland commissioned the Peel company to produce some fibreglass-bodied examples of the original Mini. Apparently these prototypes stood up very well to the rigorous testing schedule to which they were subjected but the project seemed to fizzle out.

David Blumlein, February 2012

Hold The Presses

Friday morning’s mail for once includes the latest issue of Autosport, arriving a day earlier than of late. The cover features a snap of the Kimster looking “slightly foxed” as Private Eye would say. The accompanying headline screams “Kimi – I’m not in it for the money. I won’t give up, even if I’m not winning races”. Yeah, whatever.

Further down the page another headline really caught my eye, “Why Peugeot has REALLY quit Le Mans”, a non F1 feature making the cover, now that is special. Then the story of a major manufacturer quitting a new World Championship and the World’s greatest race without notice really is news.

Turning through the acres of pre-season F1 stories I reached page 34 and settled in to read the feature penned by Gary Watkins. As one might expect of such an experienced and skilled journalist, the piece was well written, stacked with quotes and facts that were relevant, a succinct summary of “five years of the 908”. Unfortunately that was not what had been promised.

Nowhere in the article was vulgar subject of money mentioned, no attempt to answer the question as to why the total cancellation of this high profile project without notice was considered necessary by the Supervisory Board of PSA Peugeot Citroën. As one of my highly respected colleagues put it, the piece read like a retrospective that might run in Motor Sport in a few years time. Certainly there was no commentary to support the promise of the headline on the front cover.

So what really happened at Peugeot to force such a draconian measure? About ten minutes on the Internet gives all the answers. Peugeot cars made an operating profit in 2010 of €621 million. In the first six months of 2011 a further profit of €405 million was accrued but when the year end was reached this had fallen to an overall loss of €92 million, a six month loss of €497 million, that is not sustainable for any enterprise in the long run.

It would appear that the company has still been turning out cars as normal but selling them in the tough market conditions at a loss. Chief Financial Officer Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon admitted inventory levels of assembled vehicles at the end of 2011 were “unsatisfactory”. That is a way of saying that potentially, further financial pain is on the way. Back in the last century when I had a real job, the accounting convention was to value Stock and Work in Progress at the lower of cost or net realisable value. It was a fantastic accountants’ equivalent of advertising industry’s weasel word, as an element of subjectivity is introduced under the cover of  objectivity. Valuation of stock has a direct affect on the profitability or not of a company’s accounts. A perfectly reasonable judgement, made with all due diligence, can, with the passage of time, turn out to be erroneous. To be fair predicting the future is an inexact science and you have to do the best you can with the information available.  I am not in a position to judge whether the value of Peugeot inventory held at the year end remains valid today. All that can be said is that car sales throughout Europe have plummeted in January 2012 and the expectations for the next few months are no more optimistic.

Figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) show sales of passenger cars fell 7.1% to 968,769 in January compared to the previous year. Sales in Portugal collapsed, falling 47.4%, while France saw sales drop 20.7%, Italy was down by 16.9%. This makes it even more unlikely that Peugeot, already suffering, will be able to trade its way out the hole that it finds itself in. Will the inventory even make the written down position as at the end of December 2011 and what will be the likely effect on margins?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In last October PSA planned a reduction of annual overheads amounting to €800 million, coming at a cost of 6,000 jobs. Subsequently further cost cutting of around €200 million from annual overheads has been considered necessary. A race programme consuming a rumoured €50-60 million per annum would be an obvious target for both management and unions, given that any easy options had already been exhausted.

The losses will have also drained the cash reserves of PSA, so assets are being disposed of. The company raised €440 million from the sale of car rental company CITER and there is plan to dispose of real estate which is anticipated to raise a further €500 million. Perhaps the most significant sale is that of an undisclosed shareholding in wholly owned transport company GEFCO. Even in the difficult market conditions of 2011 GEFCO accounted for 16% of the PSA Group’s profits. Furthermore, disposing of these assets in the prevailing economic climate and in the circumstances of a fire sale is hardly likely to maximise potential returns. The PSA Group is hoping raise €1.5 billion from these transactions, a tall order.


As has been proved time after time, manufacturers only go racing when it suits them, it is not part of their core activity and while bragging rights are great for the marketing department, they mean little to the employee on the shop floor whose livelihood is under threat. I have been told, but cannot possibly confirm, that the competitions department was shut as part of the horse trading that went on between the PSA management and the very powerful French trade unions. Suggestions that the programme might reappear in a year or two are wide of the mark. The factory and equipment are being liquidated as part of the asset disposal plan, I know of teams that been given the opportunity to purchase the inventory. The personnel are being redeployed within the PSA group, or so we are told. While the high profile drivers and team bosses scramble to find another role, the real tragedy lies in the fate of the foot soldiers. For over 30 years Peugeot have been a major force in motorsport, successful in pretty much everything they have attempted. The wins have been founded on the efforts of the Jean-Michels and Jean-Philippes of the factory floor, for the most part anonymous but vital to the result. In recent years they have taken on the might of Audi and for the most part beat them comprehensively, two high profile defeats at Le Mans in 2010 and 2011 being the only black marks. Those who toiled at Peugeot Sport can look back on their achievements with pride, it is not their fault that the department has been closed.

Which brings us full circle to the Autosport feature, which has a very good explanation of the recent racing history of Peugeot, without any mention of the financial issues that killed off that activity. I would have expected both inter-related areas to have been covered, especially from the headline on the cover or indeed the banner above the piece. Insight – Peugeot’s Pull-Out. Anyone might surmise that the sub editor writing the headlines had not read the piece.

But what do I know?

John Brooks, February 2011

Boulevard Périphérique

The Parc des Expositions located at Porte de Versailles, Paris is the venue each year for the Retromobile, a top notch celebration of automobiles, old and new. Now just a few hours by Eurostar from the centre of London, the show has attracted much attention from enthusiasts living on this side of the English Channel. With typical Gallic flair there is always something rare and interesting to enjoy. Who else but our Special Correspondent should be our guide to the treasures? Enjoy.

Delahaye Type 145

Delahaye Type 145

The mainstay of Delahaye’s competition activities in the late Thirties was the Type 135 sports car, particularly the Compétition Spéciale versions. Their motor was based on the tough old Type 103 lorry engine and among the Type 135’s many successes was its outright win in the 1938 Le Mans 24 Hour race. For the impending 3-litre supercharged/4.5-litre unsupercharged Grand Prix formula which was finally implemented in 1938, Jean Franςois designed a full V-12 racing engine which was used in the 145 chassis. Its greatest success was in the 1938 Pau Grand Prix when René Dreyfus drove a stripped version to defeat the official Mercédès-Benz Grand Prix team.Two two-seater cars were constructed and entered for the 1938 Le Mans race, the first V-12 –engined cars to take part in this famous event. They failed miserably, one through gearbox trouble after just seven laps, the other succumbing to overheating problems.

1923 Georges Irat 2-litre

1923 Georges Irat 2-litre

Georges Irat made fast touring cars in Chatou from 1921 with 4-cylinder o.h.v. 2-litre engines designed by Maurice Gaultier who had come from Delage. All but the body was made in-house and this example has coachwork by Carrosserie Morlaix of Courbevoie. Georges Irat had considerable racing success, usually thanks to Maurice Rost – he won the demanding Circuit des Routes Pavées, in the suburbs of Lille, in 1923 and 1925. He also won the Spanish Touring Grand Prix at San Sebastian in 1927 and the 2-litre class in the 1926 and 1928 editions of the Spa 24 Hour race. However, the cars ran without success at Le Mans in 1923-24-26.

1923 Georges Irat 2-litre

Georges Irat made a 6-cylinder in 1927, based very much on Gaultier’s engine, and in 1935 a small two-seater Ruby-engined car with front wheel drive; a Citroën 11CV unit became available in 1938, but these cars were not seen in serious competition.

1937 Renault Nerva Grand Sport

1937 Renault Nerva Grand Sport

Renault traditionally had large-engined top-of-the-range cars in their catalogues – the 6-cylinder 9-litre 40CV springs to mind, a car that set many records at Montlhéry in 1925-26, while the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally was won by an 8-cylinder Nerva Sport model.

At the 1934 Paris Salon the Grand Sport series was added to the range, having more aerodynamic lines inspired by the Caudron-Renault Rafale record-breaking aircraft. The Nerva Grand Sport was the first Renault to be fitted with the bigger 5.4-litre 8-cylinder engine. For 1937 the cars were face-lifted with V-shaped radiator grilles, headlights fully merged into the wings, spats on the rear wheels and a proper luggage compartment. Outwardly impressive with their long bonnets, the cars were still based on a vintage-style chassis with rigid axles and semi-elliptic springs all round and all up they weighed some 2.5 tons.

1937 Renault Nerva Grand Sport

Only 22 of these dropheads were made before the model was superceded at the 1938 Paris Salon by the Suprastella which used the same basic chassis.

1937 Renault Nerva Grand Sport

Notice how the lanky gear-lever for the central change is controlled through a slot in the dashboard – very unusual.

Skoda Hispano Suiza 25/100

Skoda Hispano Suiza 25/100

Skoda acquired a licence with the French-based Hispano Suiza company to manufacture the luxury H6B cars. The first car came off the production line at Plzeň in 1925. The first fifteen chassis were built from original parts supplied by the factory at Bois-Colombes in France; from the sixteenth car onwards all were truly Skoda Hispano Suizas built entirely in Bohemia – Skoda made the chassis and the bodies were by various Czech coachbuilders.

The first car was delivered to the country’s President, T.G. Masaryk – a black six-seater limousine with body by Vaclav Brozik & Sons. Production stopped in 1929 owing to the economic climate.

1936 Chenard et Walcker Super Aigle 24

1936 Chenard et Walcker Super Aigle 24

The French marque Chenard et Walcker is chiefly remembered for the fact that one of their 4-cylinder 3-litre cars won the first Le Mans 24-Hour race in 1923. One recalls also the superb little 1100 c.c. “tanks” of 1925 which did so well in sports car racing. By the mid-Thirties the Gennevilliers company was producing a very complex range of cars with too small an output. This Super Aigle 24 is one of a family of cars with an advanced specification: front wheel drive, independent front suspension by torsion bars and the option of a Cotal gearbox even if the 4-cylinder 2.5-litre engine still had side-valves. It did little to help save the company!

Lancia Lambda Spider Mille Miglia

Lancia Lambda Spider Mille Miglia

The Lancia Lambda, introduced at the 1922 Paris Salon, must go down in history as one of the landmark designs with its monocoque chassis, narrow V-4 engine and sliding pillar independent front suspension. Vincenzo Lancia did not see this innovative design as a candidate for competitions but made an exception for the Mille Miglia.

Lancia Lambda Spider Mille Miglia

From 1927 Lancia made a series of “Da Corsa” versions destined for the Italian 1,000 mile race. Crewed by Strazza/Varallo this car finished 4th overall and first in the 3-litre class in the 1929 Mille Miglia. It also helped Lancia to win the Coupe du Roi in that year’s Spa 24 Hour race.

Fiat 1500

Fiat 1500

Entered by Jean Brault at Le Mans in 1950 for himself and Louis Paimpol, this Fiat 1500 with special roadster bodywork was forced to retire in the 11th hour with gearbox problems. Jean Brault then ran the car in the Sports Car race that constituted the main event at the inaugural meeting of the Rouen-les Essarts circuit on 30th July  1950. Out of  twenty starters the car finished 17th.

Fiat 1500

This Fiat has sometimes been credited with having a V- engine but in fact it used the normal Fiat 1500 6-cylinder unit. Here’s the proof, thanks to the helpful folks on the stand.


What, pray, is this?

Trippel Type SG6/38

It is a Trippel Type SG6/38 built in 1941 with a 6-cylinder Opel engine, one of Hans Trippel’s amphibious creations. I have only included it because it was made in the German-occupied Bugatti works at Molsheim – triste dictu.

David Blumlein February 2012.

Our Friends in the North

The 2012 season stutters into life, while racing is almost impossible in the prevailing inclement conditions, there are always The Shows to visit. So the end of January and the arrival of February heralds two of the best, Retromobile and the Bremen Classic. More from Paris in due course, but in a recent visit to the Hanseatic City of Bremen our Special Correspondent has once more unearthed some ‘Rare and Interesting’ cars for our edification.

1955 Lloyd LP 400S

Appropriately, the Bremen Classic Car Show reflected something of the history of the north German car industry. Bremen itself was the centre of the Borgward empire but it was also the home of the Focke-Wulf aircraft factories, whose potent FW 190 fighter caused all manner of problems to the Allied air forces. Thus did Bremen invite much attention in World War Two from the Royal Air Force and Eighth Air Force bombers and by the end of the conflict the Borgward factories, which had been producing military vehicles, were about 80% destroyed. Yet the energetic Carl F.W. Borgward was to turn out Germany’s first all-new post-war production car, the Hansa 1500, and he was to achieve much success in the Fifties with his Lloyd, Goliath and Borgward vehicles. But , like so many of his ilk, the dynamic leader was not so good at the accounting and his world collapsed in 1961, partly because he was not making enough cars to be competitive and therefore profitable and because his ambitious plans for the Borgward Kolibri helicopter, designed by Professor Heinrich Focke, somewhat drained the funds!

The Borgward works were eventually sold to Hanomag who, by this time, were producing light commercials rather than cars and when Hanomag itself was swallowed by Daimler-Benz in 1971 we find the Sebaldsbrϋck factory, greatly extended, turning out Mercédès cars still today.

Bremen, in conjunction with Bremerhaven, possesses after Hamburg the largest harbour in Germany, and its most important activity is handling containers and motor vehicles. Each year more than a million containers pass through the terminal and the harbour is Europe’s leading port for the turnaround of cars – more than a million pass through the docks annually. Huge freight trains of container wagons and car transporter wagons can be seen plying incessantly night and day through Bremen’s Hauptbahnhof – Bremen is still very much involved with the motor car!

1955 Lloyd LP 400S

The Lloyd was a small car built to cater for the bubble car boom, the Lloyd Motoren Werke Gmbh of Bremen being part of the Borgward Group. Initially it had a 293 c.c. 2-cylinder 2-stroke 10 b.h.p. motor and the car had a wooden frame covered in leatherette. In 1953 the engine was enlarged to 386 c.c. and in 1954 steel bodies were used. They were very successful, 45,000 being sold in 1955.

1939 Adler Trumpf Junior

Adler (German for “Eagle”) hailed from Frankfurt am Main and by 1930 they were Germany’s third best selling car behind Opel and BMW. In 1930 the directors decided to move towards a more popular market and appointed Hans Gustav Röhr, who had just left his eponymous company, as designer. He came up with the most famous Adler of all, the 1.5-litre Trumpf which appeared at the 1932 Geneva Show. It had front-wheel drive , a 4-cylinder side-valve engine, all independent suspension and an all-steel body by Ambi-Budd of Berlin. It was, along with the 995 c.c. Trumpf Junior, a great success, 128,443 being made by 1939. It had much success in competitions (including Le Mans) and was built under licence by the Belgian firm Imperia of Nessonvaux and in France by Rosengart.

1966 Glas 1700GT

The Glas company started out by making farm machinery but in 1951 they produced a motor scooter, the Goggo. The firm is remembered best for the little 2-stroke economy car, the Goggomobil, which appeared in 1955 and which lasted until 1965. More conventional cars with 4-stroke engines gradually took over and the 1962 Glas 1004 was the first car ever to use a belt-driven camshaft. The 1300GT and 1700GT were styled by Pietro Frua  and were made from 1963-67.

1966 Glas 1700GT

Glas cars were good but had to compete with BMW and Porsche; they also made too many different models to be commercially successful – only the Goggomobil made a profit. BMW bought Glas in 1966 and adapted some models for a while – the GTs became the 1600GT with a BMW engine before being phased out in 1968. The Dingolfing factory was given entirely new production facilities and produces 5, 6, 7 series BMWs and bodies for Rolls-Royce. Glas cars did well in competitions, the 1204TS winning the Coupe du Roi at the 1964 Spa 24 Hour race.

1935 D.K.W.-Jawa


This is one of only 200 or so D.K.W.s with special bodywork by the Czechoslovakian manufacturer Jawa in Prague.

1935 D.K.W.-Jawa

It is an appropriate collaboration because Jawa turned to the impressive D.K.W. 2-stroke mechanicals as inspiration for their own designs (as did Saab).

1949 Tempo Hanseat

In the austere years after the war, Tempo 3-wheeled light commercials were to be seen everywhere in Germany, rugged single or 2-cylinder front-drive workhorses, usually with ILO 2-stroke engines. Car versions were made in small quantities but this 396 c.c. example is typical of the Hamburg company’s products.
Eventually Hanomag took over and then Daimler-Benz. Tempo made an interesting twin-engined military car, the G 1200, which was used by the Wehrmacht and armies of several other countries.

1935 Opel 1.2-litre

In 1931 the Opel 1.2-litre, styled like a Fiat, replaced their 4/20 model and it became Opel’s biggest seller by far between 1931-35. It was in turn replaced by the P4 briefly and then by the more familiar unit-construction Olympia and Kadett models.

David Blumlein, February 2012

A Fork In The Road


There comes a point in all our lives when we reach a crossroads, the road we take determines our future, rarely do we have the chance to go back. Often we are not even aware that the choice has been made or is really significant. For me this position was reached some 40 years ago and certainly at the time I was oblivious to the consequences. However if I had not taken that course back then, it is highly unlikely that I would be writing for you, the audience, today.

Siren Song

1971 was the year when I really caught the motorsport virus, from that small start I have ended up making some sort of career out of the sport, but it is at that time that I passed the point of no return. I had been following the glamorous and seductive racing scene second hand, reading everything and anything I could about this world, so unlike my own life as a rather dull-witted schoolboy. Some of my contemporaries found their escape in Hollywood, I found it at Le Mans, at Monaco, at Nürburgring, anywhere that racing happened. Autocar, Motor Sport, Autosport and other long forgotten titles were devoured eagerly, I can still remember race results from 1969, when now I get confused about what happened ten minutes ago. I had actually managed to attend the 1970 British Grand Prix, seeing Jochen Rindt score a last lap victory over Jack Brabham but the following year I was geared up for seeing as many races as I could.


Everyone has heroes, especially when we are younger, they are those that we look up to and imagine that one day, we too might acquire some of the qualities that we admire. Back then my heroes were two drivers, Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez, I was inspired by their performances in arguably the greatest sportscar of them all, the Porsche 917. I would read the race reports, especially in Motor Sport, from Denis Jenkinson, Michael Cotton and Andrew Marriott, the last two I would later become friends with. I simply HAD to go and see these guys race that year, the situation was given an urgency by the crazy decision of the FIA (where have we heard that before?) to scrap the 917s and 512s. There was only one solution, as I was too young to drive, I would get the train and bus to Brands Hatch. It was only on the other side of London.

March Hare

The calendar in 1971 had several international races held at the fantastic Kent track. First up for me was the Race of Champions. Back in the dark ages BE (Before Ecclestone), there were non-Championship Formula One races, so you could get to see the Grand Prix circus several times in a season, especially if you lived in England. OK, not all the F1 regulars turned out but that was also the case at some Grand Prix, especially the far flung ones, there was no FOCA package back then. One thing that has not really changed in 40 years is the grim weather, cold, damp and grey, that bit of Brands Hatch in March remains a constant. The front row had Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell on pole with Denny Hulme alongside in his McLaren and completing the line up was Clay Regazzoni in the delicious Ferrari. There were former and future World Champions Graham Hill, John Surtees and Emerson Fittipaldi in the field but my two heroes were missing, both on Gulf 917 duty at Sebring. A couple of things stuck in my mind from that race, the variety of noses on the cars with wild variations ranging from the Brabham BT34 “lobster claw” to the March 711 “tea tray”, did any of them really work? That day also saw the début of the Lotus 56B powered by a Pratt & Whitney gas turbine, one of Colin Chapman’s ideas that worked as an Indianapolis 500 car but was not suited to the Formula One world. I cannot remember much about the race, except that Ferrari and Regazzoni won it.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

A few weeks later and I was back at Brands Hatch for the BOAC 1000 Kilometres, now I would get to see both Siffert and Rodriguez and the Gulf Porsche 917s. These guys would see off the opposition for sure, but as I would find out, life is not that simple. The weather was similar to the previous race and near freezing point. I thought, perhaps it is always like that in Kent. The field was a bit thin, frankly. The pair of Gulf 917s were backed up by two Martini & Rossi cars  and  privately entered 1970 spec 917. Against this line up was a lone Ferrari 312P and a brace of Alfa Romeo T33/3s run by Autodelta. Even I could see that the rest of the field of upgraded 512Ms and 2-litre prototypes would have real chance in the race.


Midday saw the race get underway and immediately my version of the script was proved wrong, with Ickx and the Ferrari taking the lead with the two Blue & Orange 917s in pursuit from the Alfa Romeos. Soon the natural order of things was restored as the Ferrari disappeared for several laps leaving the Mexican star leading his Swiss team mate, this was more like it. Then after an hour or so I went tramping around the track and  noticed that the #7 Porsche was missing, after a while I found it parked up at Dingle Dell. I read later that the fuel filter had been clogged up with debris from an experimental pit refuelling system that the team were trying for the first time. Siffert too was having problems with changing tyres, an new alloy hub had expanded meaning that getting the nuts undone and done became almost impossible. JW Automotive had comprehensively shot itself in both feet. The upshot of all this was to hand Alfa Romeo its first international motorsport victory in 20 years. It looked as if Rolf Stommelen and Toine Hezemans, with a lap advantage over Andrea de Adamich and Henri Pescarolo, would be the heroes for Autodelta but the race had one final twist. A suspected piston failure halted the leading T33/3 in a cloud of smoke. Some 30+ years later I was enjoying the company of Hezemans, father and son, in a bar, where else? I happened to mention to Toine about seeing him all those years before at Brands Hatch. His answer was a stream of invective directed at Carlo Chitti, who he blamed for all the car’s problems, the competitive fires still burn. Of course being Toine this was also very funny, being almost paralysed with the combination of beer and laughter is the only thing I can recall from that evening. Long may he go on.


I had seen the Men and the Machines but there had been no fairy tale victory. Indeed things would take a very dark course for the rest of the year. The British Grand Prix was due to be held at Silverstone and I had persuaded a neighbour to let me come along with him. The BRMs that both Rodriguez and Siffert drove were competitive that season, arguably the last year that could be said. So I was really looking forward to seeing them take the fight to Jackie Stewart. Of course that did not happen, Pedro had decided to accept a drive the weekend before in Herbert Müller’s Ferrari 512 at the Norisring. Early in the first race a front tyre punctured, the Ferrari went out of control and hit a concrete wall. The impact destroyed the car and Pedro died soon after from the injuries received in the accident. Back then there was no internet, no TV news channels, so I did not hear anything about  the death of the Mexican till a few days later when I was back at school, it was very unreal, unbelievable. Of course it was very real and all too believable. Two BRMs lined up at the Grand Prix instead of three and I had almost lost interest in the proceedings. It was a dull race dominated by Jackie Stewart but at least it was a proper summer’s day at Silverstone. No Pedro though.


Later that summer the news arrived regarding the cancellation of the Mexican Grand Prix due to be run in October. A replacement event was put together, The Rothmans World Championships Victory Race, to be held at, yes, Brands Hatch. Another chance to see Formula One, in my back yard, this race was to be held in the honour of the new World Champions, Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell. Jo Siffert had stepped up to the plate after the death of his team mate and had won the Austrian Grand Prix, as well as taking the lead role in Porsche’s Can-Am campaign. So he was one of the favourites for the last race of the year and indeed started from pole position. My mate James and I made another journey by train and bus to arrive in time for the race. We wondered over to South Bank to the point where the cars head out of the stadium onto the Grand Prix loop. It was a beautiful sunny day, generally a good way to sign off a difficult season. When the cars reached us on the first lap, a BRM was leading but the helmet was a dark blue and not the red and white of the Swiss flag, it was Peter Gethin not Jo Siffert.  The Swiss driver had a problem at the start and was down in 9th place. Gradually he climbed through the field up to 4th, then on lap 15 he accelerated away out our sight and never came back. It is thought that the rear suspension had failed at Pilgrims Drop, pitching the car into a bank where it rolled and collected a marshals’ post and then it exploded in flames. Attempts to rescue the unfortunate Siffert failed and he was asphyxiated in the delay, his only other injury was a broken ankle.
From our viewing point at the bottom of the circuit we could see nothing but it was clear that something was very wrong. We were advised that racing was done for the day (it was not) and to go home. So we trudged to bus stop and joined the queues, over 40,000 had turned out that day.  I still had no idea what had happened until arrived back at my house, my father broke the news to me. Another bad day.

Is it not passing brave to be a King, and ride in Triumph through Persepolis?

The year ended with death of my two heroes and the end of the endurance career of the Porsche 917. I have to admit that my interest in the sport dipped for a while as I struggled to understand the events of 1971, but motorsport is like a drug, once you are hooked you never really get over it. The year had seen the release of the film “Le Mans” which of course I had to see, and I did several times. The 917s and 512s, the stars, Le Mans, and some of the greatest action footage ever shot. The ACO should thank Steve McQueen every day that the sun rises, the coolest guy on the planet made the coolest movie about the coolest race. Even the sparse dialogue contained some philosophy that helped me to understand the motivation of drivers like Siffert and Rodriguez, in the face of almost certain death or injury.
“A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it… it’s life. Anything that happens before or after… is just waiting.”
Michael Delaney’s words struck a chord with me, perhaps such a simple statement could explain why I am still chasing the sport some 40 years later. On balance I think I took the right road back then, there has been no looking back.



John Brooks, February 2012

Treasures from Italy

Italy as a state celebrated its 150th birthday in 2011. As part of the festivities the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile was rebuilt and reopened in Torino. Motorcars are as much a part of the true spirit of Italians as pasta and opera, a world without the automotive art of Italy would be a poorer place. So late in the year our Special Correspondent paid a visit to the collection, one or two rare treasures caught his eye.

1908 Brixia-Zϋst 10 h.p.

Founder Robert Zϋst, of Swiss origin, had a precision tool manufacturing plant at Intra on Lake Maggiore. At the turn of the century the company experimented with prototype cars and in 1905 the Zϋst company was founded in Milan to make cars and commercial vehicles. Initially expensive large cars were produced but a branch was set up in Brescia to make lower-priced smaller cars under the name Brixia-Zϋst – Brixia is the Latin for Brescia.

This splendid example has a monobloc 3-cylinder engine of 1386 c.c. The company was taken over in 1917 by O.M. (Officine Meccaniche). Production of the bigger S305 was continued until O.M. introduced their own designs, one of which won the first Mille Miglia in 1927.

De Dion rear axle

Here can be clearly seen the layout of the famous de Dion  suspension arrangement mounted on one of the company’s very popular runabouts. The de Dion tube is attached to the two rear uprights, helping to keep the wheels vertical (and thus more in contact with the ground) as the suspension rises and falls.

The arrangement became universally popular on racing machines from the Thirties onwards and production cars occasionally adopted the design also e.g. the Rover 2000 (P6) and the Smart City car. Interestingly de Dion themselves abandoned it for their own production cars from 1911!

1925 Diatto Tipo 30

Diatto was a carriage building firm dating from 1835 which gradually diversified into railway engineering and iron founding. Come the 20th century the company turned to cars and, during the First World War, aero engines including Bugatti’s 8-cylinder under licence. In 1922 the Tipo 20 2-litre overhead camshaft 4-cylinder car was marketed and from this evolved the Tipo 30, one which finished 11th in the 1925 Le Mans 24-Hour race.

Diatto built a number of Bugatti Brescia cars under licence and their straight-8 racing design was taken over by the Maserati brothers as the basis for their own Tipo 26.

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Nuvolari

Piero Dusio made his fortune through his textile business which specialised in oil cloth, sporting goods and military uniforms. He was no mean racing driver either, having finished third in the 1938 Mille Miglia driving the previous year’s winning Alfa Romeo. He set up the Corsorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia, Cisitalia, in 1944 to produce some exquisitely styled sporting coupés and spyders with Pinin Farina bodies. They were the work of Dante Giacosa (father of the Fiat Topolino), Giovanni Savonuzzi and Piero Taruffi and were based on the 1100 Fiat o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine. There was a multi-tubular chassis of chrome-molybdenum tubing, transverse-leaf independent front suspension and a rigid rear axle on coil springs and quarter-elliptics which served as radius arms.

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Nuvolari

This spyder was one of five entries for the 1947 Mille Miglia and almost provided the great Italian driver Tazio Nuvolari with his second Mille Miglia win. Dusio’s over-ambitious commission of a Porsche-designed flat-12 four-wheel-drive Grand Prix car caused the money to run out and Dusio moved to Argentina in 1949.

Chassis of the 1935 Fiat 1500

Fiats are often thought of as straightforward run-of-the-mill cars but from time to time this company has come up with some special designs – the 8V for example. There was inspired thinking behind the new 6-cylinder 1500 introduced at the 1935 Milan Show. This replaced the mundane Tipo 514 and was a breath of fresh air: aerodynamic bodywork, tubular backbone chassis and independent front suspension, a first for Fiat. It became a rival for the outstanding Lancia Aprilia in the late Thirties.

David Blumlein, February 2012