Monthly Archives: January 2016

Day For Night At Daytona

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Winning Ford Mark II (#98) leads two other Ford Mark II cars (#95 and #96). CD#0777-3292-0443-10

The presentation recently of the Ford GT program to race at Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the confirmation of the drivers for the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours invited comparison with a similar set of circumstances some 50 years ago.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Race winning Ford Mark II driven by Ken Miles/Lloyd Ruby makes a scheduled pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-3

In 1965 Ford had suffered public humiliation at the Le Mans 24 Hours when all six factory cars retired before the halfway point. What is often overlooked is that the four Maranello-entered Ferraris also fell by the wayside leaving Italian honour to upheld by the ageing privateer NART-entered  Ferrari 250 LM driven by the unlikely combination of veteran American, Masten Gregory, and the mercurial Austrian, Jochen Rindt.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Bruce McLaren in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-7

In 1966 there would be no repeat of this debacle, Ford would dominate endurance racing in a manner rarely seen, the Board and, more importantly, Chairman Henry Ford ll had decreed it, Ferrari were to be crushed. There was an expression popular at the time “You can’t beat cubic Bucks!”, Ford would prove that conclusively. The first shots in the campaign would come in early February at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway with the first running of the Daytona 24 Hours.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Walt Hansgen/Mark Donohue Ford Mark II makes a pit stop. CD#0777-3292-0443-2

The Ford GT40 had been superseded by the Ford MK ll, which had been thoroughly tested and improved after tripping up in 1965. Five examples were entered, three by Shelby American and two for Holman and Moody. Ferrari decided to give the race a miss, persistent labour relations problems, a new set of regulations for Formula One and the prospect of a drubbing all contributing in some measure to this course of action. A Ferrari 365 P2 was entered by Luigi Chinetti’s NART outfit, the same folks that had humbled Ford at La Sarthe the previous year but even with drivers of the calibre of Pedro Rodriguez and Mario Andretti this was not expected to be competitive in the face of the Detroit armada. The other speedster in the paddock was the brand new Chaparral 2D with backing from General Motors but this project was too new and untested to pose a serious threat to Ford.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Privately owned Shelby GT350 Mustang driven by Roger West/Richard Macon. CD#0777-3292-0443-9

The race wasn’t much of a spectacle for the reported 22,000 crowd, Ken Miles in the leading Shelby American Ford overtook Jo Bonnier’s Chaparral on lap two, motored off into the distance, and that was that. Florida in January can provide great contrast in the weather and in 1966 the daytime was pleasant enough but frost was reported on the banking during the long hours of darkness.

Just over 2,500 miles later Ford would monopolise the podium with 1-2-3-5 places, the only blot on the copybook coming with the second Holman and Moody Mk ll suffering a failure of its experimental automatic transmission.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Ken Miles in the cockpit of a Ford Mark II. CD#0777-3292-0443-6

Ken Miles was a key part of the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40 programs. He had served in the British Army during the Second World War as part of a tank crew. He left Britain for California in 1952 and soon immersed himself in the growing sports-car competition scene on the West Coast. A succession of wins and a growing reputation for engineering and developing racing cars brought him to the attention of Carroll Shelby.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Dan Gurney (#97) in his Ford Mark II leads two Ferraris. CD#0777-3292-0443-1

Miles is widely credited with the eventual success of the Cobra, I looked at that Here . He was also a major contributor to turning the Ford GT40 and its successor the Mk ll into truly great racing cars.

Daytona 24 Hour Race, Daytona, FL, 1966. Lloyd Ruby (left) and Ken Miles (right) in victory circle after winning their second consecutive race. CD#0777-3292-0443-5

Miles shared victory at Daytona in the Ford MK ll with Lloyd Ruby, a veteran of many Indianapolis 500 campaigns and a fast, safe pair of hands. They would share further success at the 12 Hours of Sebring a month or so later but that would be the high point for Miles. In August 1966 while testing an experimental Ford J Car at Riverside Miles was killed in an unexplained accident, the entire Shelby American team were devastated at the loss of their charismatic driver.

Photography copyright and courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

John Brooks, January 2016

Another Classic NEC Classic Show

One of the highlights of the UK Classic scene is the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, despite its NEC venue. It is heavily rooted in the fine work of the enthusiasts’ car clubs and not some dealer driven event. There is so much to admire it is almost an overload but fortunately our Special Correspondent was on hand to bring to our attention some of the rare and interesting…………..

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The post-war Healeys, powered by the 2.5-litre Riley engine and manufactured by the Donald Healey Motor Company at the Cape, Warwick, were formidable sporting cars.

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This example was one of two works Westland –bodied cars which ran in the 1949 Mille Miglia. Driven by Geoffrey Healey and Tommy Wisdom, it won the over 2,500 c.c. Touring class, beating a works Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro (Venturi/Sanesi) and a works Bristol 400 ( H.J.Aldington/Count Lurani).

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The other Healey came 4th in class driven by Donald Healey and Geoffrey Price, who was the Service Manager at the factory.

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Healeys grew into Austin-Healeys and the big 6-cylinder car became a tough competitor in the international rallies. This was Pat Moss’s pet car and she used it in 1960 to win with Ann Wisdom the notorious Liège-Rome-Liège rally, a 96-hour non-stop marathon.

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This is one of two prototypes, the other a convertible, the last Jensens to be designed by Eric Neale. They were both powered by the Chrysler 383 V8 engine and this car was built in the winter of 1965/66. The design never reached production because, at the time, Jensen was in the process of being taken over by the “Norcross Group” and their own designer, Kevin Beattie, chose to have Jensen’s next car designed in Italy…..the well-known Interceptor.

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Sunbeam Rapiers were very active in competitions and Rootes had agencies all over the globe. The Rodriguez brothers, Ricardo and Pedro, drove two of these cars to a dominant 1-2 in the 1600 class in the 1961 Carrera Cuidad de Mexico.
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By 1932 sales of the hitherto successful Singer Junior (introduced in 1926) were dwindling and the company needed a new model. An excellent engineer, Leo Shorter, joined in 1932 and soon increased the capacity of the Junior’s overhead camshaft engine from 848 c.c. to 972 c.c. giving it an RAC rating of 9h.p. This car was the Junior Special and it heralded the famous Singer Nine series.
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This 1934 Rover Twelve Sports Saloon with a 4-cylinder 1496 c.c. ohv engine was supplied by the Leicester Rover agents to Sydney Clutterbuck.

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Being a keen rally driver, he entered the car for the RAC Rally in March and it was specially prepared with non-standard items such as knock-off wheels, larger headlamps etc. Despite wintry conditions, it successfully completed the rally at Bournemouth.
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Originally a 4-cylinder P6 Engineering Development car, it was heavily modified for racing and was fitted with a 4.3 Traco-Oldsmobile V8. From April 1970 it competed in eight races driven by Roy Pierpoint, winning at Castle Combe and at the Silverstone 100-mile Saloon race.
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The first car from Dagenham, the Ford Y-type which sold as the £100 Popular.

David Blumlein, January 2016

Thirty Years Gone


The 1986 SunBank 24 at Daytona was forecast to be the race where the old order in IMSA would be toppled. The old order was in the form of Porsche who had won eight out of the previous nine editions of the Floridian endurance classic. Even the March chassis that took honours in 1984 was Porsche-powered, quite a record.


Leading the charge of Weissach’s finest were no less than nine Porsche 962s. IMSA’s regulars dominated this pack with Jim Busby bringing two BF Goodrich sponsored examples, this was supported by singleton efforts entered by Al Holbert, Preston Henn, Bruce Leven, Rob Dyson and Bob Akin. Europe’s honour was to be upheld by further 962s from Walter Brun and Reinhold Joest, a truly top quality selection of Porsche teams.

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The pretenders to the endurance crown were factory-backed efforts from BMW and Chevrolet, with the Group 44 Jaguars also in contention, so a serious bunch to combat Stuttgart.  However the threat to Porsche’s hegemony had melted away even before the cars lined up on their way to the Green Flag and the start of the race.

BMW tested at Road Atlanta the week before the race and one of their GTP prototypes was consumed by fire while on track and, as the cause was not clear, it was considered prudent to withdraw the second car. One down.


The other significant threat to Porsche’s supremacy was in the shape of the Corvette GTP of NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick. The potential of the turbocharged V-6 powered car was evident as Sarel van der Merwe stuck it on pole position. However after an engine change a vibration was noticed in the morning warm-up. When this was investigated the cause was found to be a cracked engine block and there was insufficient time to change the unit. Scratch two!

So it was Bob Wollek who led the pack on the formation lap in Bruce Leven’s Bayside Disposal Racing 962 with Price Cobb and Paolo Barilla itching to pass the veteran French racer.

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The Group 44 Jaguars were the new XJR-7 cars, a complete update of the XJR-5 and probably lacking sufficient mileage to seriously threaten the 962 gang for the top step of the podium. Team owner Bob Tullius would be partnered by Chip Robinson and Claude Ballot-Léna in #44, while in #04 there was an all-star line up of Brian Redman, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood.



New rules for 1986 also impacted the Porsches and would play a significant part in the race itself. The biggest change was the addition of 160lb of ballast, this would tax the already stretched components. The Daytona 24 Hours has a reputation as a car-killer and even the 962s would suffer.


First of the leading contenders to exit the race, after only 6 laps, was the Joest car suffering a broken distributor rotor. A few laps later Hans Stuck hit the wall in the Coke-sponsored 962, the drink that is, this was after all IMSA. Then Bob Wollek collided with a suddenly slowing car on the banking and that was the end of his race and that of the Leven 962. Also out before sunset was the Brun 962 with some form of electrical malady.


Down in the GTO class NASCAR fans had something to cheer with the #50 Jack Roush Ford Mustang having a crew comprising Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Kyle Petty and Ricky Rudd, all Winston Cup regulars. This car ran in the leading group of their class in this Ford-supported effort till Rudd hit the barriers coming out of the back stretch chicane sometime during the night.


As forecast before the race the Group 44 Jaguars struggled on track with various suspension and transmission issues, then the engine failed in the #04 car. There was some measure of satisfaction for the team as the #44 Jag cruised home to sixth and fourth in class despite spending over an hour behind the wall during the race.


The only real challenge to the 962 armada, aside from self inflicted injuries, came from the March 85G Buick driven by John Paul Jr., Chip Ganassi, Whitney Ganz and ex-Ferrari Grand Prix star, Ivan Capelli. JP posted the fastest lap of the race and the car ran in the top three till the engine cried enough, just past the halfway point.


Further carnage in the 962 field saw the Dyson car go out with engine failure. Jan Lammers had one of the biggest crashes of his career when the brakes failed on the second BF Goodrich 962, he had to be extracted through the windscreen as the car had folded up around him. By some miracle he survived without a scratch, only a few minor sprains.


Delays to the Holbert Porsche for brake line failure and broken throttle cable meant that the lead during the darkness was disputed by the Swap Shop 962 of the owner, Preston Henn, and his trio of Indianapolis 500 winners, A.J. Foyt, Arie Luyendyk and Danny Sullivan. Opposition came from the surviving BF Goodrich Porsche of Derek Warwick, Jochen Mass, Darin Brassfield and Jim Busby, these two cars swapped the lead during the night, apparently in a race of their own. In common with the Holbert car, some distance back, these Porsches were being wrung by the neck, each lap treated like a qualifying effort.



Then, as the sun appeared from the East, things started to go wrong for the leading pair. #67 suffered a broken CV joint and then a driveshaft failure, time was being lost in the pits, any chance of victory also seemed to have evaporated.


#8 was also in the wars, an oil line had to be replaced as did a turbo wastegate. The biggest issue was a sticking throttle and the team elected to fix it costing some eight laps, however the problem persisted and their once substantial lead was disappearing fast.


At one point the Holbert 962 had been 22 laps off first place but as their rivals struck misfortune they closed in on the top spot. Holbert, Bell and Unser Jr. knew all about the cruelty that the Daytona 24 Hours could inflict on those seemingly destined for glory. A year previously they had seen a 13 lap advantage while leading on Sunday morning turn into a 17 lap deficit that would result in second place.


If further proof were necessary about the capricious nature of racing round the clock at Daytona Beach consider the fate of the #07 Ford Mustang. The driver trio of Klaus Ludwig, Scott Pruett and Bruce Jenner (Yes, THAT Bruce Jenner) built up a lead of 90 laps over their nearest class rivals. Late on Sunday morning they had to witness this apparently impregnable advantage unravel as they were stuck in the pits trying to repair an oil leak, they still managed a second in class and fifth overall, a good indication of the attrition suffered by the whole field.


The closing laps were tense as the lead of the #14 car was just over a minute from the #8 962, with #67 a further lap adrift. The final result saw the Holbert car record 712 laps, just 1:49.150 ahead of their rival after 24 hours, it was the closest finish of the race to that point and also a distance record of 2,534.72 miles.


There would be no repeat of the crushing disappointment of 1985, Holbert, Bell and Unser Jr. would get to spray the Champagne and hoist the trophies. They would repeat this triumph a year later but Holbert’s time was running out, he was killed in a plane crash in September 1988, an endurance champion was lost.

John Brooks, January 2016







Traditional Values

The Special Correspondent has been a bit quiet of late but, fear not, he has been beavering away in the background. Visits to diverse events such as Kop Hill and the Manchester Classic threw up a number of ‘Rare and Interesting’ cars for our enjoyment. 

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Behold a superb Aster, a very rare beauty. It is a 1924 18/50 Fixed Head Coupé.

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Aster was a French maker of proprietary engines at St Denis in northern Paris at the start of the 20th century, supplying many makes of early cars such as Gladiator and Argyll. They opened a British branch in Wembley, Middlesex, and from 1922 entered the private car market.
This beautifully preserved car has cantilever rear springs and a 6-cylinder o.h.v. Wembley-built engine:
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Note how the spark plugs are set in the block rather than the head.
In 1927 Aster merged with the Arrol-Johnston of Dumfries and the cars became Arrol-Asters, made in the Scottish factory.
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Then we find a 1948 Healey Elliott saloon. Donald Healey, having before the war been involved with Triumph, set up his own company in Warwick in 1946, making initially successful sporting cars using the 2.5-litre Riley engine.
The saloons were bodied by Samuel Elliott & Sons of Reading, a company that was more used to joinery and making shop fronts! These cars were the fastest production saloon cars at the time, recording 103.76 m.p.h. at Montlhéry in the hands of Tommy Wisdom. Also in 1948 examples came 13th overall in the Targa Florio, winning its class, 13th and 1st in the Touring class in the Mille Miglia, and 8th overall (second in class to a 3-litre Delage) in the Spa 24-Hour race. In 1949 a Healey saloon finished 13th in the first post-war Le Mans 24-Hour race.
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This is a 1932 Riley Gamecock. The model was introduced in 1931 to offer a sports 2-seater to fill the gap between the famous Brooklands racing model and the remainder of the company’s saloon car range. Only about 750 were made, mostly in 1932 and it was superseded by the popular Lynx 4-seater.
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Built in July 1934, this Frazer-Nash has a twin-cam 6-cylinder Blackburne engine and took part in various competitions including the 1937 Brooklands Relay race, at Shelsley Walsh, the Brighton Speed Trials, the Lewes trials and the long distance Land’s End and London- Edinburgh events.
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A Jensen FF, the first production car with 4-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes. Jensen was an interesting company, the brothers Alan and Richard starting as coachbuilders before making their own cars. They diversified a lot and made some commercial vehicles – the little Jen-Tug mechanical horse being a favourite of this scribe; it first used a Ford Ten engine! The West Bromwich plant also assembled Austin A40 Sports, Volvo P1800s, Sunbeam Tigers and the big Austin–Healeys among others.
Jensen made only 110 of the FF model with its Vignale-styled body and potent Chrysler 6.3-litre V8 producing 330bhp.
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This Unipower GT is chassis number 9 of 75 Unipower GTs made at Perivale in Middlesex between 1966 and 1969 using Mini Cooper engines, modified suspension and brakes. It had a square tubular space frame built by Arch Motors and a body by Specialised Mouldings.
It is the first lightweight competition model made by the factory and after being displayed at the 1967 Racing Car Show it was purchased by the Salisbury tuning company Janspeed who prepared it for works driver Geoff Mabbs to race in 1967. It was then sold to Brian Harvey, who eventually founded Grand Prix Models.
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A 1937 Riley 1.5-litre Touring Saloon, a beautifully preserved example. The car has a Briggs steel body which is characterised by the boot extension. Rileys made good cars but like some other manufacturers made too many different models which caused serious problems by the end of the Thirties.
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This was Chevrolet’s answer to the Chrysler PT Cruiser. It is the HHR which stands for Heritage High Roof. General Motors made some 60,000 of them in Mexico.
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The Rochdale Olympic has an important place in motoring history – it is one of the first cars to have a fibreglass monocoque chassis/body. After a disastrous factory fire in 1961, the company concentrated on these Olympic models.
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Finally it is surely appropriate that a Manchester exhibition has a local product on display – a fine 1927 Crossley 20.9 hp 6-cylinder o.h.v. 3-litre model from the factory in Gorton.

David Blumlein, January 2016