Monthly Archives: April 2012

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

Müller Lite

Touring cars have always brought out the inner hooligan in racing drivers, looking through the archive the other day I happened upon this little cracker.

I wrote about this incident at the time,

BMW faced factory efforts from SEAT, Peugeot and Ford. But their closest opponents was the squad of Alfa Romeo 156 S2000s. At Spa the lead driver for the Italians was Augusto Farfus, who led Race Two till he had to serve a drive through penalty for this bit of mischief on the second lap as Jörg Müller’s BMW attempted to pass………………the cars are flat in fifth, climbing up the long Kemmel Straight to Les Combes, so repeatedly biffing the car next to you and putting them on the grass is regarded as a bit much………….I am pleased to report that my man Jörg did not lift…………..when I asked him after the race about the incident he looked surprised that I even considered the possibility that he would take his foot off the gas for a fraction of a second………………..

A Real Racing Driver

John Brooks, April 2012

Deutsche Post



Others may try to emulate or even usurp Techno Classica’s position as the biggest and best classic car show in Europe but they’ve got a long way to go to match the sheer breadth and depth of quality drawn to the Messe Essen where organisers S.I.H.A. packed all nineteen halls of the huge complex and even have a waiting list of exhibitors. The visitors obviously appreciate their efforts too, as attendance figures of 181,400 testify – and that was up by just over 11,000 despite there bizarrely being a rival event staged in Stuttgart on the same weekend.

Techno’s strength is the sheer variety of exhibits from major manufacturers, high-end dealers, clubs large and small and an array of traders and autojumblers. Many European manufacturers are proud of their heritage; Mercedes for instance made much of the 60th anniversary of their SL models which began with the 300SL and that Le Mans victory in 1952, whilst the VW Audi Group now encompasses so many brands that they fill an entire hall with everything from a humble NSU to Lamborghini Countach. Opel meanwhile were concentrating on record breakers from their past.

Numerically, Porsche 911 was probably the most common car with every conceivable variant to be seen, but the factory chose to honour the RS Carrera with a pair of Martini-liveried racers adorning their area in the VW hall. 356’s abounded too with several restorers – most notably Hackenberg – displaying their abilities, whilst one of the dealers concentrated on cars that had clearly spent too long in the Californian sun!

BMW somewhat amusingly put a lot of emphasis on the British brands – Rolls-Royce and Mini – that they now own. But did they shoot themselves in the foot by displaying their latest Mini Coupe alongside a gorgeous Broadspeed Mini GT? The latest product looks truly hideous anyway, only emphasised by putting the Broadspeed gem beside it.

As befits a company that has passed its 100th birthday, Alfa Romeo has had much to celebrate in recent times and this year the boxy-looking but remarkably aerodynamically efficient Giulia saloon clocks up its 50th. Celebrations are taking place in Italy in June but in the meantime the factory brought an example along from their Museo Storico, whilst other examples were to be found on club stands, one of which was also marking the 40th birthday of the Alfasud, almost certainly the best small saloon of all time (well, this writer did own four of them over a 27-year period so should know!).

Moving on to a more obscure anniversary, did you know that the Volvo Amazon Kombi is 40 this year? Well, no neither did I until I got to Essen but Volvo devoted their entire display to the model, with examples in Polis and Fire Chief livery as well as a mildly customised one (it had big shiny wheels). Attracting most interest though was a rather ratty 1967 model that had been converted to electric power in 1995 and has subsequently covered some 200,000km despite having a range of only 120km. For longer journeys the owner takes a trailer-mounted generator with him.

Show organisers S.I.H.A. always mount an impressive central display and this year featured Spanish manufacturer Pegaso, bringing together a remarkable 21 of the total 86 cars built. They made for an eye-catching display arranged around the outside of S.I.H.A’s ‘palace’.

Indeed, look hard enough at Essen and you will find examples of many obscure and long-forgotten marques but who would have thought that a humble Riley would be awarded the ‘Best in Show’ accolade? Actually this particular representative of the Blue Diamond was not so humble, being a one-off coach-built model built for the 1949 Geneva Motor Show by Walter Koeng, who was better known for working on more upmarket brands. However, he created the Riley as his personal dream car and it remained in his ownership for many years until passing it on to a close friend. Only now has it come to market via well-known dealer Lukas Huni, who was showing it at Essen.

Having visited Essen several times in the company of a Riley enthusiast who has always been frustrated by the lack of Riley’s, it is somewhat ironic that he did not come this year as there were several examples to be found. In particular, pre-war sports cars were found on several dealer stands, a reflection of growing interest on the back of a burgeoning series of events in Germany for just such cars.

Whilst many of the dealers inevitably cram as many cars as possible into their allotted space, making inspection and photography difficult, it’s often some of the smaller traders and individual sellers that have the real gems. How about a 1961 Austin Mini Seven with less than 3,000 miles on the clock? This genuine, remarkably original example must be one of the lowest mileage Mini’s to be found anywhere and comes with all its original documents and some very period accessories.

The clubs run their own competition, leading to some innovative displays, some very well done, others a little bizarre (how about the gay car club promoting sex on the beach?) but again you never know what you’ll find. Whilst the Smurfs carrying out maintenance on a VW Kafer was different, equally so was the one and only 4-door version of the original Audi Quattro, restoration of which had only been completed the night before the show opened.

And that’s the beauty of Essen – there really is something for everyone. Next years’ event has already been confirmed for 10-14 April 2013, so make a date. More information can be found on

John Elwin, April 2012



Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 1935-2012

The automotive world lost one of the least known, but perhaps most influential of its design geniuses last week with the death of 76-year-old Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, better remembered by most as “Butzi,” in Salzburg, Austria after a lengthy illness. The eldest son of Ferry Porsche and the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Butzi carved his own niche during his tenure as head of the sports car company’s Styling Studio.

It was while he was in charge that he penned the body shape for the iconic 911, whose original bodyshell, with modifications, remained in production from the fall of 1964 through the mid 1990’s. And, while it has been superseded in the years since, the overall “look” of the 911 has remained intact to this day.

After leaving the company at the end of 1971, in a change of direction to broaden the outlook of the firm that saw all family members, including Ferry Porsche himself, depart their day-to-management positions, Butzi formed his own company, Porsche Design. His talents quickly made it famous for its award winning high end consumer products led by its long line of watches and sunglasses that were almost required purchases for aspiring “in crowd” members.

Less well known, was his contribution to the motorsport side of Porsche. There he made history as well with his design of the Porsche 904, the two-liter, first all-fiberglass car ever fielded by the Zuffenhausen factory. Not only is the 904 considered the most beautiful of all Porsches, it dominated the small displacement sports racing category for more than two years between 1964 and the early part of 1966.

In addition to the 904, Butzi likewise worked with the engineers during Porsche’s first foray into single seat, open wheel racing. It was his design, the 1962 Type 804 that brought the factory its first and so far, only Formula One triumph as a chassis and engine builder. That highlight moment came when Dan Gurney won the 1962 French Grand Prix at Rouen. In addition, he drew the bodies of Porsche’s later Spyders and several of their enclosed coupe counterparts that kept Porsche in the sports racing game until the 904 made its appearance.

He is survived by his wife and three boys.

Bill Oursler, April 2012

Traditions – Porsche and Sebring

For years Porsche played the role of a supporting player in sports car racing around the world. It played it well – perhaps Academy Award winning well, but nevertheless seemingly destined to remain as a class and not an overall winner capable of standing alone in the center stage spotlight.

Yes, there were outright wins in the unique over-the-road events like the Targa Florio as well as the important hillclimb arena. These, though, for all their tradition – the Targa going back to 1906 – were perceived to be outside the mainstream. The general consensus being that such affairs suited well a small displacement entry like a Porsche Spyder because handling and balanced performance rather than a reliance on outright horsepower and speed were the keys to winning.

That perception of Porsche changed one March Saturday in 1960 when Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien drove their underrated RS60 Spyder to an overall victory at Sebring, leading a one-two Porsche sweep and humbling the far more powerful Ferrari Testa Rosa in the process. Before the decade was out not only would Porsche repeat its Sebring success in 1968, but would also go on to claim the World Manufacturers Championship just a year later.

But, while under Ferdinand Piech, then head of Porsche racing, and today the chairman of giant Volkswagen, Zuffenhausen transformed itself into the mega, global headlining sports racing star it now is, no where has its greatness been more evidenced than at the Florida 12-hour classic.

Porsche’s Sebring record shows it has amassed no less than 67 class triumphs, 207 top ten finishes, and led 19,977 miles out of the 2, 4 million miles covered by its cars and their 3,300 drivers that have participated at the Central Florida airport circuit.
Perhaps more important than those impressive statistics is the fact that of the 60 12-Hours held so far,Porsches have won 18, or just under 20 per cent, 13 of those wins being consecutive between 1976 and 1988. And, as if all that weren’t enough, it was Derek Bell who set the existing lap record of just 130 miles an hour in a Porsche 962 during the 1986 event.

Will Porsche win Sebring again? With the factory preparing to re-enter the prototype scene for 2014 don’t bet against the engineers from Weissach.. Remember their last overall Sebring triumph came in 2008 when Roger Penske’s supposedly underdog RS Spyders took the checkered flag ahead of the then undefeated headlining Audis. If they could do that, with a car not necessarily designed and made to race at the front, you can bet they’ll be a favorite to carry on what was one of their most proud winning tradition, not only at Sebring, but that everywhere they race.

Susann Miller, March. 2012

Susann Miller ( is a noted Porsche author and enthusiast, with 12 books and numerous articles to her credit on the subject of Zuffenhausen and its cars.