Monthly Archives: September 2013

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The Distant Horns of Summer

2013 Salon Privé

Salon Privé is a delightful affair, relaxed, stylish, just the right way to round off the summer and prepare for the long nights to come. Fabulous cars, gourmet grub and some very pleasant company, what more could you ask for? I even got to ride in an Alfa Romeo 8C courtesy of Dirk, thanks old boy.

So here is a gallery from Wednesday……………..

John Brooks, September 2013

Chapeau Porsche!

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Press releases rarely excite me enough to read, let alone post on DDC, but news from the Nürburgring that Porsche has broken the production car lap record is truly worthy of comment. Actually not breaking the record but smashing it. All round good egg Marc Lieb was at the wheel of the Porsche 918 Spyder which lapped the Nordschleife in 6:57.00 taking 14 seconds off the previous best.

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So salut Marc and Porsche!

Woke up, it was a Chelsea Morning

2012 Chelsea Rendezvous

It has been a week of automotive sensory overload in and around London, Goodwood Test, Salon Privé Tour and Concours, St. James’s Concours of Elegance and today the perfect conclusion, the Grand Chelsea Rendezvous. I need a rest………………

2012 Chelsea Rendezvous

For reasons that are not clear, but almost certainly financial, the Chelsea Auto Legends Show has slipped into history. So here today, as a substitute, is a kind of Cars and Coffee for the Embankment. An interesting selection of cars showed up, some with real history, even the replicas had patina.

2012 Chelsea Rendezvous

There is something comforting about this kind of informal gathering of petrolheads, I hope that it will become even more common in and around the capital..

Here is a small gallery of the participants.

John Brooks, September 2013

 

Finding Places

The Sage of Charlotte is back, considering the the 911’s early years and the dilemmas faced by those crafting the rules for the USCR.

 

When Porsche’s 911 made its public debut at Frankfurt’s 1963 Auto Show its promise as the foundation for a new era in the economic fortunes of Zuffenhausen were obvious. Less obvious though was its motorsport future, for while the era of Ferdinand Piech would not arrive for another two years, the factory’s engineers were already gearing up for a new generation of sports racing prototypes; an effort that precluded the necessary transformation of the new six-cylinder coupé into a serious GT racer.
Not until 1969, and after the aborted lightweight 911R program had been consigned to the dustbin, did Porsche start the at first slow progression of making the 911 into the dominant player it would become in the production-based side of the sport. The delay in the acknowledgement of the 911’s competition potential centered around two words, “mission statements.”
Arguably, in the latter part of the 1960’s the mission statement for Zuffenhausen’s motorsport program focused on developing and building ever better prototypes that would transform the company from a supporting role on the sports car scene into its headlining star, and with it Piech to the overall industry leader he has become today as the chairman of Volkswagen AG.
Indeed, the 911 played little or no role in the Piech’s ego-centric universe because fundamentally he had virtually nothing to do with its conception. Put another way, it wasn’t his “baby,” and in those days he had little interest in other people’s offspring. For him, his mission statement was one of self aggrandizement. So while he pursued his own objectives, the 911 languished in motorsport hell; not released from its purgatory until Ernst Fuhrmann took the company’s reigns in the beginning of the 1970s, when, as its new President, he pushed the prototypes aside for the firm’s long neglected marketplace best seller.

 

On its 50th birthday year, the story of finding a mission motorsport statement for 911 resonates in the upcoming debut of the NASCAR-owned United Sports Car road course tour that will open its doors with the Daytona 24 Hours next winter. Created from the amalgamation of the Grand Am Rolex and American Le Mans Series championships, their new replacement has, as yet, to release its details of its technical regulations, even though testing is little more than three months away as this is being written.The problem, like that of the 911 is in defining its “mission statement.”

 

For the Grand-Am’s Rolex tour, even though everybody on the NASCAR side will deny it, the mission statement was pretty clear: coral the pool of “gentleman” drivers so necessary to the success of any North American road racing series in order to put the ALMS out of business. Given that essentially the NASCAR folks bought out the Don-Panoz title chase, it was a strategy that worked. But now, having “won the war,” what does NASCAR do with the peace? More specifically, what does it do with the Rolex Daytona Prototypes?

 

 

Given the hundreds of millions it takes to field a headlining sports racer these days, the Grand-Am emasculated their prototypes in terms of the technology, thus cutting cost to the point where the rich gentlemen participants could come and play without worrying about their financial security. Ironically this approach has since its 2003 introduction produced some of the best, closest racing in the sport’s history. On the other hand, it has drawn little more than collective yawns from its audience base: the world inhabited by sports car enthusiasts.

 

Collectively, unlike their stock car counterparts, they prefer high technology overt tight, equalized competition, and so far, to a huge extent, they have eschewed the Grand Am and the Rolex series. Up to now, their lack of enthusiasm has not been that much of a problem, given that the ultimate Rolex consumers weren’t the fans, but the participants. Now, however, if new championship is to prosper, the mission statement will have to be refocused on the techno savvy audience which up to now the NASCAR camp has ignored.

 

In light of the fact that NASCAR wants to keep the Daytona Prototypes as the foundation for its top ranked category, there are some hard, but simple choices to be made. Do those behind the new championship dumb down the performance potential of the present LM P2 prototypes and possibly of the Le Mans GTE production contingent scheduled to race next year far enough so as not to overshadow the DP community? Or, do they bring the DP’s performance up to a level where they’re not embarrassed by those surrounding them on the grid?

 

The first will please the “rich kid” gene pool, the second will satisfy United Sports Car Racing’s larger, and perhaps more necessary, audience base. At this point the time to make the decisions is growing ever smaller. And, while someone is going to be disappointed, there will be chaos and true disappointment if something isn’t do soon. In the end, like the case of the 911, it’s all about the necessity for mission statements.

 

Bill Oursler, September 2013

Classics on the Green

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

David Blumlein, September 2013