Monthly Archives: February 2016

image_pdfimage_print

Yellow Fever!

John Elwin dropped in on the new Interclassics Brussels show, as ever he found plenty to comment on for our edification.

IMG_9229-32

It is always interesting to spot new trends as fashions come and go at classic car shows. At the inaugural Interclassics Brussels event a preponderance of yellow cars shone through (quite literally!). Now it may have been because yellow happens to be the national racing colour of Belgium, or more hopefully, perhaps we are moving away from the domination of drab silver, grey and black cars that fill our roads today.

IMG_9117-2

Actually, one could have been forgiven for thinking one was in Italy rather than Belgium for the full gamut of Italian machinery was on display, from tiny ‘Etceterini’s’ to those from the Raging Bull and Prancing Horse stables. Leading the way was the central Brussels-based Autoworld museum, promoting its own forthcoming Italian Car Passion exhibition by bringing along a vibrant yellow Lamborghini Miura and an OSCA 1000.

IMG_9323-50

The OSCA was one of many small racers on view and Belgian dealer Marreyt Classics had a particularly delightful three-car line-up comprising of a 1951 Stanguellini Barchetta MM, 1952 Parisolto Sport 750 Spider and a 1953 Bandidi Maserati.The latter claimed to be one of just four built and that too seemed to be a bit of a trait with many cars claiming to be ‘one of just…’. Another well-known Belgian dealer, LMB Racing, had a pretty pale blue 1955 Moretti 1200 Special, this one representing half of the total production! Whilst many of the small sports racers of the day were Fiat powered modifying Turin’s finest was not confined to the track, with some very pretty road-going machinery being produced too, as personified by the Lombardi Grand Prix 850 Sport.

IMG_9226-31

On a rather grander scale, Bonham’s was showcasing a trio of mouthwatering Italians, all of them rare survivors of very small production runs. The 1959 Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint Coupé, in silver and black, was one of just five cars so-bodied by Carrosserie Ghia-Aigle, the 1961 OSCA 1600GT Coupé was one of only two built by Touring Superleggera, whilst the 1968 De Tomaso Vallelunga (in yellow, of course!) was positively mass produced, with 53 having originally been built. Its dainty lines rather put it in the same class as the Ferrari Dino but somehow doesn’t quite please the eye in the same way. There was in fact a Dino (yes, a yellow one!) on a neighbouring stand, whilst a 246 GT Competition in the more traditional red, could be found elsewhere in the show.

IMG_9239-35

Back to Marreyt Classics where aside from the cars we have described there were two very different variations upon the Lancia Aprilia. Farina was responsible for the rather glorious white Convertible dating from 1948 and claiming to have had only one lady owner, whilst Francis Lombardi created the more utilitarian Woody estate car. Bugatti was the show’s featured marque, of which more later, but Marreyt was offering a 1938 T57 Atalante chassis that had been part of the Schlumpf Collection, where it was separated from its bodywork at the time the French authorities took control.

IMG_9243-36

Aside from Bugatti, the 60th anniversary of the Citroen DS was also honoured with a small but select display which as much as anything featured the work of coachbuilders such as Henri Chapron, who created the gorgeous Le Dandy Coupé amongst other things.

IMG_9213-30

There were ‘Best of Show’ awards presented for different era’s and it was gratifying to see the 1980’s trophy awarded to a metallic green 1980 Lotus Eclat that was once the personal property of Colin Chapman, who in turn presented it to French journalist Gerard ‘Jabby’ Crombac, for so many years a personal friend to both Chapman and Lotus. The Oliver Winterbottom-designed Eclat was developed in tandem with the Elite, representing a big leap forward for the Lotus company when they were launched forty years ago.

IMG_9282-42

There was a lot to like at Interclassics’ first effort, the show attracting a good attendance with one couple even choosing it as their wedding venue! The organisers have already announced their dates for next year (18-20 November 2016) and also that they will be doubling the size of the show from two to four halls.

John Elwin, February 2016

Old Pals’ Act

A quick tour of The London Show from Classic & Sports Car featuring more stunning work from Simon Hildrew, supported by yours truly.

Bugs in Brussels!

Our old friend, John Elwin, paid a visit to the InterClassics Brussels recently and discovered a treasure trove of Bugattis. 

IMG_9133-5
A major feature of the inaugural Interclassics show staged at Brussels Expo was an impressive display of some 30 Bugattis, ranging from very early cars right up to the Veyron and including some rare and unusual machinery.

IMG_9131-4
1930 Bugatti T46
In 1997 this example toured the world in the company of another T46, covering some 40,000 trouble-free kilometres in the process.

IMG_9135-6

1931 Bugatti T49
Originally sold by the Swiss concessionaire to Prague where it was fitted with a berline body by Uhlik and displayed at the Prague Salon. After the war it was re-bodied as a roadster by the Leipzig coachbuilders, Rühle.

IMG_9138-7

Bugatti T41 Royale Coupé

Napoleon 12.7-litre engine

IMG_9143-9

1932 Bugatti T50

IMG_9142-8
The steeply-raked screen of this T50 coupé made it one of the most aerodynamic vehicles of its type from those evocative inter-war years.

IMG_9150-11

1954 Bugatti T101 C Coupé

IMG_9147-10
Wearing bodywork by Antem, this is chassis no. 101.504, the last car to be built by Bugatti. It was purchased when new by Brussels concessionaire and collector Jean de Dobbeleer, subsequently passing through the hands of Bill Harrah, Nicholas Cage and Gene Ponder.

IMG_9152-12

Display centrepiece

IMG_9153-13
Bugatti Veyron

IMG_9157-151937 Bugati T57 C Coupé Special

IMG_9154-14
Designed by Jean Bugatti as a birthday present for his father, as the name suggests it had a few special features such as a Type 101 engine, Cotal transmission and a glass roof.

IMG_9158-16

1938 Bugatti T57 Aravis
One of two similar cars designed and built by Albert D’Ieteren, the Brussels –based coachbuilder, and delivered to the unlikely-named Mr .Baggage! Since restoration it has appeared at Pebble Beach, in 2009 in a special Bugatti class. D’Ieteren is an interesting organisation, laying claim to be the oldest company in the world associated with wheeled vehicles, having started out as wheelwrights more than 200 years ago. Today, still family owned, it is the Belgian importer for all the VAG brands, which of course includes Bugatti.

IMG_9160-17

 

1938 Bugatti T57 Brown

IMG_9161-18
This 1938 chassis was actually clothed with some very futuristic bodywork designed by Franco-British artist James Brown. It was manufactured from the then-new polyester material in the early ’50s.

IMG_9165-19
1939 Bugatti T57 Compressor Aravis
Two-seater cabriolet bodywork by Letourneur & Marchand adorns this T57 chassis.

IMG_9172-21

1931 Bugatti T54

IMG_9168-20
This 4.9-litre Grand Prix car was originally raced by Achille Varzi, its subsequent Czechoslovakian owner, Prince Lobkowicz, was killed in it competing at Avus in 1932.

IMG_9173-22
1928 Bugatti T35B Grand Prix
Originally imported into Belgium by its first owner, Rene Dubeck, it was raced on various occasions during that year in France, Spain and Italy.

IMG_9177-23
Bugatti Blues

IMG_9185-24
1927 Bugatti T37
Built to compete in voiturette racing for 1500cc cars, this T37 has passed through the hands of many owners, yet still retains matching numbers.

IMG_9186-25
1927 Bugatti T37
This car, chassis no. 37246, was supplied to Elisabeth Junek for use as a training car for the Targa Florio.

IMG_9194-26
Baby Bug

IMG_9195-27

1924 Bugatti T30
Something of an amalgam, based on the T13, but fitted with the engine from the T29, Bugatti’s first GP car.

John Elwin, February 2016

Street Life

The Regent Street Motor Show has proved to be a roaring success, helped it must be said by the wonderful autumnal weather. Simon Hildrew and the editor were out armed with cameras, plus a little help from the organisers.

Pictures at an Exhibition

The Goodwood Revival always is a riot of colour and excitement, captured here by ace snapper, Simon Hildrew, with a bit of support from the editor.

Cars at the Palace

2015 JB General

Until recently there were no car shows, classic or contemporary, in Central London, now we have three. I looked at the London Classic Car Show, held in Docklands early in the year.

SUCCESFUL FIRST DAY AT CLASSIC & SPORTS CAR – THE LONDON SHOW

This weekend North London’s Alexandra Palace, one time home to the BBC, was the venue for The London Show from Classic & Sports Car magazine. Classic car shows tend to fall into one of three categories, those aimed at the car clubs, those supported by current manufacturers displaying their proud heritage and those aimed at the flourishing classic car market. This show was firmly in the later category.

There were a number of feature stands and exhibits but the focus was definitely dealer driven. Given the lively, some would say over-heated, state of the classic car market that is hardly a surprise. London has more than its fair share of the wealthy and many of them are car guys and gals, so it makes sense to bring the market to them rather than try and entice them out of London to view and possibly purchase.

2015 JB General

The centrepiece of the themes adopted by the organisers was ‘Best of British’. A jury of 100 experts, celebrities and owners, the automotive version of The Great and The Good, argued with each other till just ten cars were left for the readers of C&SC to vote for. The list was made up of the Jaguar E-type, Mini Cooper ‘S’, Austin Seven, Ford GT40, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Jaguar XKSS, Lotus Seven, McLaren F1, Bentley Speed Six and the Range Rover.

Ant Anstead unveils the Best British Car Ever

When the votes were counted the slightly surprising winner was the E-type, here being unveiled by a TV personality who I had never heard of. The E-type is great car, but better than a McLaren?

I certainly would not rank it above the Jaguar XKSS, which in the mid-’50s was Jaguar’s solution as to what to do with all the D-type racers that had been built but did not sell. Convert them for road use with a windscreen and bumpers (fenders) plus a few other creature comforts was the solution. There were 25 examples originally planned but nine were destroyed in fire at the Browns Lane Jaguar factory.

This car was the last XKSS to be built before the flames consumed the others. Steve McQueen owned one and when they come up at auction they fetch stratospheric prices, north of $20 million, not bad for a car that had no takers back in the day.

2015 JB General

I would put a Bentley Speed Six in front of the E-type, ’60s cool or not. In 1929 Ettore Bugatti attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans witnessing Bentley taking the top four places and is alleged to have observed “Mr. Bentley is a very clever man to make his lorries go so fast.”  This statement has passed into legend, Bugatti denied the remark and wrote to WO Bentley to apologise if any offence had been taken.

A year later and the above Speed Six finished second in the 1930 edition of the French Classic driven by Frank Clement and Richard Watney.  It would be nearly 70 years before a factory Bentley would once again race at La Sarthe.

Norman Dewis OBE in the Best British Car Ever

I did not recognise the TV presenter, a consequence no doubt of rarely watching the box, I did see a number of genuine automotive heroes. Given that I have written about Jaguars above it was most fortuitous to see Norman Dewis at “Ally Pally”. Looking very sprightly at 95 years young, Dewis was chief test and development driver at Jaguar Cars from 1952 through to 1985, a truly important figure in post-War British motoring.

Ross Brawn being interviewed on the Live Stage

Another British motorsport icon was to be found discussing his career in Formula One with an appreciative audience. It was, of course, Ross Brawn. Brawn is a member of a very select group, people who have won F1 World Championships with a car bearing their own name, a feat he achieved in 2009, with Brawn GP winning the Constructors and Drivers Championships. Prior to that he was a major part in Michael Schumacher’s career, first as Technical Director at Benetton (two Drivers World Championships and one Constructors) then the same role at Ferrari (five Drivers and six Constructors). After one season he sold Brawn to Mercedes-Benz whose team has dominated the past two seasons in Grand Prix racing. Brawn retired at the end of 2013 and is widely credited for putting in place the structure that has allowed Mercedes-Benz to enjoy so much success.

Professor Peter Stevens on The Live Stage

One friendly face keeping the crowds entertained was the designer Peter Stevens. He discussed his involvement with McLaren F1 project and his time at Lotus and Jaguar. Fortunately he did not mention this episode that I brought you a while back.

Lotus Seven - Best British Car Ever feature

Peter has been a visiting professor of automobile design at several colleges and his views on design and style are always worth listening to. He gave his take on the greatest British Car question.

Austin Seven – “The first low cost ‘proper car’, it could seat four people, was economical and reliable, looked perfectly proportioned and had a fine little engine and gearbox. It also became a successful racecar and was the basis for my next choice, the Lotus 7.”

Lotus Seven – “Minimalist, lightweight, enormous fun, economical, easy to work on and great value for money; the perfect sports car. I remember cycling across to Lotus’ original showrooms in Hornsey to beg a brochure from a young Colin Chapman and then building a balsa wood model so I could have my own ‘7’.”

Range Rover – “While Jeep in America had first offered a more comfortable family-focused version of the famous four wheel drive off-road vehicle, Land Rover took the concept further and, in doing so, started a marketing trend that every manufacturer has had to follow.”

C&SC The London Show 2015

McLaren F1 – “Still a delight for me to see because it will always remind me of the great little team of guys who worked together on the car; it was very hard and concentrated work but we had a lot of fun together and produced something that we are all still very proud of.”

Bentley Speed Six – “Wonderful two-time Le Mans winning car, less flashy than the ‘Blower’ 4½s, a properly impressive race winning road-car. All the French jokes about fast lorries can’t undermine the fact that is a great machine.”

Back amongst the cars on display there was a stand honouring Aston Martin with models from the company’s history, right back to the earliest days.

Indeed there was one piece of furniture also paying homage to Aston Martin on display that ticked all the boxes, right down the registration number, being one of the three featured in ‘Goldfinger’  on James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. JamJarJunkies was the intriguingly named provider of this and other motoring-themed artifacts.

Nyetimber Bus

Nyetimber Wines brought along a Routemaster to act a movable sparkling wine bar……..all very civilised.

Sir Stirling Moss, one of the greatest drivers of all time, was saluted with a tidy exhibition of some of his former race cars, it was an extension of the ‘Best of British’ theme. #7 on the left is a piece of motor sport history being the Ferguson P99. This single-seater was the first four-wheel drive Formula One car and the last front-engined Grand Prix car to win a race, Stirling Moss (who else?) taking the honours in the 1961 Oulton Park International Gold Cup.

2015 JB General

The Lotus 18 was also campaigned by Moss in 1960, the final year of the 2½ litre formula. With this Coventry Climax-powered car he won the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, the first victory for Lotus in the World Championship.

2015 JB General

Further back in his career Moss drove the BRM P25 a couple of times in 1959 without a win. The Vanwall VW5 was much more successful taking Moss to six Grand Prix victories in ’57 and ’58, Tony Brooks scored three further wins and, as a result, Vanwall won the first World Constructors Championship.

2015 JB General

Morgan were present with an illuminating cut away to illustrate the three major elements used to produce this most traditional of sports cars, ash, aluminium and leather, a fantastic fusion of craft, art and performance.

Bike display in the Panorama Room

The two wheel fraternity were given their own space, these scooters have for the past half century been a very popular answer to the question of personal transportation in urban Europe.

Samuel Laurence

The success of the show was hard to judge on Friday, I suspect that the crowds will have flocked into Ally Pally over Saturday and Sunday. The real answer will be revealed when the dealers add up their ledgers and see which side they have emerged on.

John Brooks, February 2016

Photography Copyright and Courtesy of Simon Hildrew and the Author. Additional material courtesy of the organisers.

 

 

 

 

Très Agréable

The Chantilly Arts & Elegance festival has vaulted right to the top of the classic concours season standing shoulder to shoulder with established events like Salon Privé and Concours of Elegance. Held in a fabulous location and attracting  the best of Parisian style and flair it has all the ingredients for success. Our old friend, top Belgian photographer Dirk de Jager, was on hand last September to capture the spirit of the day.

John Brooks, February 2016

 

Across the Borderline

 

2015 JB General

The Concours of Elegance celebrated its fourth edition, this time it headed north, way north, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Continuing with the theme of holding the Concours at Royal Palaces, Holyroodhouse is one of the Official Royal Residences, like Windsor Castle where the first Concours was held.

_DSC4699

 

The link with the Royal family is an important one and the interface between the two worlds is Prince Michael of Kent, the Queen’s cousin, and a genuine motoring enthusiast. Above is the Prince enjoying the delights of a Mercedes Simplex 60hp. One element of the Concours of Elegance that sets it apart from most other events of a similar nature is that it is non­-commercial and raises money for designated charities, in 2014 over $500,000 was split amongst various deserving causes.

_DSC5243

 

Another point of difference is that the Concours is restricted to just 60 cars, the first event was part of the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, hence the number 60, and this salute has been continued in the following events.

2015 JB General
So we have a location that is regal, now we need the cars…………I have already looked at Maranello’s contribution to the party, what else was in Scotland to admire? Rather a lot actually, almost too much to contain in a single feature, so I will confine myself to my personal favourites, other visitors would come up with a different selection, that is part of the attraction of such shows.

_DSC4371
In common with many of the best events on the Concours circuit a tour is organised before the main event. This gives the owners and others an opportunity to witness the cars doing what they were designed to do before they have to pose on the automotive catwalk. The Highlands of Scotland provided a dramatic and romantic backdrop, fit for such a car as the LaFerrari.

2015 JB General
Approaching the Palace of Holywoodhouse, which dates back to 1128, the first treasure encountered was a more much contemporary display from McLaren Automotive, Woking’s finest now firmly established in the world of super and hyper cars.

2015 JB General

Almost the first stand found in the grounds was a salute to the First Man of Scottish Motor Sport, Sir Jackie Stewart and the three cars that carried him to three Formula One World Championships in five seasons.

image005
Sir Jackie is a tireless supporter of charities and good causes and much in demand by international corporations as an ambassador. He was only at Edinburgh for the one day as he was flying off to Monza to drive the BRM that had, fifty years ago, given him the first Grand Prix victory of his career. Motor Sport and racing drivers have much to thank Sir Jackie for, his campaign to make racing safer did not make him popular at the time in some circles, but without his contribution the sport would possibly have struggled to survive.

2015 JB General
It would be inconceivable to consider motor sport in Scotland without reference to the great Ecurie Ecosse team. In Edinburgh there was an almost full turn out of the cars that this outfit has fielded down the decades. In 1956 and 1957 they won the Le Mans 24 Hours outright, the Long Nose Jaguar D Type on show finished second in ’57 with Ninian Sanderson and John Lawrence driving.

2015 JB General

The team faded during the 60’s but were revived in the 80’s taking the C2 class in the 1986 FIA World Sportscar Championship, largely due to a series of fine performances in the Ecosse C286 Rover by Ray Mallock and Marc Duez, in the car above.

2015 JB General

 

More Scottish motor sport legends were present in the form of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti. Dario is an arch-enthusiast and a top bloke. His contribution to the show was bring the 1964 Lotus Cortina that Jim Clark used to win the British Touring Car Championship. Clark is widely regarded to be one of the greatest drivers ever, on a par with Fangio or Moss. His death in 1968 at Hockenheim was a turning point and major motivator in Sir Jackie’s safety campaign. As the top Ferrari driver of the time, Chris Amon, declared when asked about Clark’s death. “If it could happen to him, what chance do the rest of us have? I think we all felt that. It seemed like we’d lost our leader.”

EdinburghConcours-4

I looked at Ferrari’s contribution to the Concours in my earlier post but there were a few close links to Maranello that I excluded. The Touring Berlinetta Lusso is based on the Ferrari F12 and will be pretty exclusive as only five examples are to be built. I admired this Italian beauty earlier at the Geneva Salon.

2015 JB General

 

Another classic on the lawn with a strong Ferrari element is the rally supercar of the 70’s, the Lancia Stratos. Even 40 years on it is a dramatic statement based on a design from Carrozzeria Bertone who would go on to build the car at their plant at Grugliasco. We have encountered the main movers behind this project before, Nuncio Bertone and Marcello Gandini with engineering input from Gianpaulo Dallara, when considering the early days of Lamborghini and the Muira at their Museum………. HERE in fact. Ferrari’s contribution was the 2.4 litre V6 engine found in the 246 Dino. The Stratos went on to win the World Rally Championship from 1974 to 1976 and enjoyed many other competition successes, it is a sporting icon by any standard.

2015 JB General

 

Lamborghini also had a presence in Edinburgh, a 1970 Miura S in original orange is one of only 24 right-hand drive examples built, it is simply stunning in the early Autumn sunshine. Of course there was also a Countach LP5000S that is in the opening photograph, vibrant in white exterior and interior.

2015 JB General

 

Another mid-­engined classic with a connection to Lamborghini is this fabulous BMW M1. Based on a design by Giorgetto Guigiaro, the chassis was from Lamborghini who were scheduled to build the car. However the Italian company was in one of its periods of financial turmoil so missed the contracted delivery dates. Munich pulled out and engaged Baur to complete the task. And to make matters worse plans to race in the World Sportscar Championship were thwarted by a FISA rule change. Someone in BMW had the brainwave of having a one make series, Procar, which would support Grand Prix with the F1 stars acting as guests driving race­ prepared M1s ……………it was a huge success and accelerated the market’s perception of BMW as builders of “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.

2015 JB General

 

Another product of the almost endless Italian talent when it come to styling is this concept car, the Ghia Spider G230S Prototipo. Back in 1966 it was one of the stars of the Barcelona Motor Show and was an attempt by Ghia to interest Fiat in a convertible version of their 2300 model. A similar car was produced later, the Ghia 450SS was Chrysler powered, but was not a commercial success.

2015 JB General

 

One of the earliest of Maserati’s road cars is this A6G 2000 Coupé styled by Zagato. This was a “thinly-disguised racer for the road” with an eye-catching front grill and graphics, stripped out to save weight with an aluminium body. The 2 litre engine was beginning to be perceived as under-powered and the following year the Trident launched its first big road car success with the 3500 GT, with an engine nearly twice the size.

2015 JB General

 

One of Zagato’s finest and most famous creations in almost a century of trading is the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato which has iconic status amongst followers of the English marque. John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable with assistance from the Aston Martin factory entered “1 VEV” and “2 VEV” in the 1961 Le Mans 24 Hours, both cars retired early in the race with head-gasket failure. “2 VEV” was heavily crashed at Spa later in the year, having been loaned to Equipe National Belge at the request of Aston Martin. It was rebuilt only to be wrecked again in ’63 at Goodwood. Following a road crash in 1993 it was restored to original specification and now appears on at special events such as Aston Martin’s centenary celebrations.

2015 JB General

 

The Aston Martin DB4 GT was also the platform for this Bertone take on the car. Once again the work of Giorgetto Giugiaro this excercise nicknamed “The Jet” was the sensation of the 1960 Geneva Salon. The last of the DB4 GT production run was the basis for this extraordinary vision.

2015 JB General
The final choice of my best in show is not even an entrant in the Concours of Elegance but is Series 1 Land Rover that was a gift from the company to Sir Winston Churchill on the occasion of his 80th Birthday. It is quite the antidote to all the rich fare at the Concours, more in keeping with my own motoring level.

image010

 

The Concours of Elegance held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse was a grand affair in keeping with the previous events, the quality of the cars on show was fantastic, the biggest challenge is the keep up the standard in twelve months time, I hope to be there to judge.

John Brooks, February 2016

Photography by the author, additional images copyright and courtesy of Concours of Elegance.

The Regent Street Experience

f212d09a-1d90-4c37-84f3-a5546d77ec61

Great Britain’s capital, London, has a fair number of landmarks that are famous all over the globe. Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament are examples of this notoriety, so is Piccadilly Circus. If one heads north from the statue of Eros, the centrepiece of the latter, it will be along Regent Street, one of the major shopping streets in the West End of London. It was named after the Prince Regent (later George IV) and is associated with the architect John Nash, whose street layout survives, even if all bar one of his creations have vanished.

de3c0dad-55af-4a6b-a087-3a26eaa8f4a9

Busy as this tourist boulevard is, the last Saturday of last month it was closed to traffic from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus for the Regent Street Motor Show. This festival is part of a week-long celebration of cars, The London Motor Week, promoted by the Royal Automobile Club. The organisers claim that hundreds of thousands attended on Saturday, it certainly was busy and the clement weather will have tempted out the crowds.

The central attraction on display was a collection of around 100 cars due to take part in 2015 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the following day.

2015 JB General

The trip from London to the South Coast’s largest city is now the world’s longest running motoring event. First held in 1927, it is a re-enactment of the original Emancipation Run, which was held on 14th November 1896 to celebrate the passing into law of the Light Locomotives Act which raised the speed limit to 14mph and removed the need for a person to walk in front of a mechanised vehicle waving a red flag to warn other road users. The irony of the Health & Safety Regulation-driven use of marshals to escort the cars to their assigned parking spots was obviously lost in translation………ah well.

The participants for the run were from all over the world, accents from Australia, New Zealand mingled with distinctive American twangs, the veteran car fraternity are a cosmopolitan bunch who really get into the spirit of the event with period costume, it is automotive street theatre.

This group of Italians had quite a tale to tell about their Isotta Fraschini dating back to 1902. For those of you who have not heard of this fine Italian car company they produced luxury limousines that were much sought after by stars of Hollywood and the like in the ’20s and ’30s. However the destruction of the global economy following the Wall Street Crash and The Depression and the militarisation of Italy under Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, meant that both production and sales dwindled.

Back in 1931 Henry Ford considered a plan to build a major Ford Motor Company plant in Italy, actively encouraged by Il Duce. As part of the incentives offered, Mussolini “encouraged” Isotto Fraschini to donate the first car they produced to Ford’s museum.

2015 JB General

Unfortunately for the Italian dictator and Ford as soon as Fiat got wind of this plan to install one of their major rivals on home ground the scheme was halted in its tracks. The car sat in the museum until Italy declared war on the USA following Pearl Harbor. It was removed from display and lost in a storage unit for over half a century. It has now been repatriated to Italy in the hands of a collector, a happy ending.

2015 JB General

The populace is regularly told that electric powered cars are seen as the next best thing, well as long as we ignore where the electricity to charge the batteries comes from, assuming it is a form of fossil fuel. That issue will be solved in due course. Certainly great progress is being made on hybrid energy recovery systems and motor sport is contributing to this cutting-edge technology in Endurance racing and Formula One.

2015 JB General

The famous London department store, Harrods, was using electric vehicles back in 1904. This Pope Waverley was built in Indianapolis in 1899 and imported into the UK a few years later. It was used by Harrods for local deliveries to the palaces and great houses that were close to Knightsbridge. Harrods continued to use electric delivery vehicles for many years subsequently. They designed and built their own version, constructing a fleet of 60 vans between 1938 and 1941.

The above vehicle was taking part in the London to Brighton Run and it was estimated that four changes of battery would be required to complete the route’s 54 miles.

79df7a1f-6beb-4baa-876d-91288f9d0a82

Anywhere classic cars are gathered there will be a concours, here are the judges, one of whom is Grand Prix legend, Ross Brawn. Brawn has amassed a fine collection of cars down the years with his major contribution to teams like Ferrari and Honda. He is the proud owner of a 1904 Wilson-Pilcher that he has run twice in the London to Brighton.

7b1c8df5-02e5-45c9-a09b-f26ba4a2b9e5

The Regent Street Motor Show featured other, more contemporary aspects of motoring. Would you fancy turning this pile of bits into a working car? In less than six hours? In front of the public? Well Caterham did.

Actually four of Caterham’s engineers did. Why? Over half of the Caterham Sevens sold in the UK are for self-assembly. This dates from ’50s when sportscars such as the Seven were sold in kit form to avoid Purchase Tax, which could save up to 33%. To get round the rules the kits were supplied with a “Disassembly Book”. Customers had to follow these instructions in reverse……………

There are no such problems these days. The dynamic four managed to complete the task in under five hours, which is impressive.

2015 JB General

Like most major cities London suffers from congestion and pollution that blights the lives of all who experience it. Transport for London are tasked with improving London’s air quality and aim to have the greenest bus and taxi fleet of any city. They had on display one of their new electric buses and also one of their oldest buses as well.

Forming part of this initiative a Low Emission Motoring Zone has been introduced to regulate older lorries and vans. There is a substantial tax ($300 per day) for using vehicles that have not been modified to reduce emissions while operated in Central London. In addition to this as of 2020 there will be an Ultra Low Emission Zone in force in the heart of London with charges payable on a daily basis for non-compliant vehicles. Manufacturers such as BMW, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Renault brought along their latest products to Regent Street to show their solutions to this issue. The star was undoubtedly the BMW i8, Munich’s dramatic hybrid Grand Tourer.

2015 JB General

Speaking of stars, the Aston Martin display attracted much attention from the passers-by and none more than the Aston Martin DB10 that featured in the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.

2015 JB General

Spectre’s premier was only a few days back, so the timing of this exhibit was perfect. The DB10 was created specially for the film, hand-built by Aston Martin. One almost felt sorry for all the other cars.

Almost I said, as for some of us even the DB10 is shaded by the Ferrari ‘Breadvan’ which greeted visitors arriving from the Piccadilly Circus end of the show.

I explained the history of this unique Ferrari 250 GT SWB earlier it is certainly special a very cool car.

2015 JB General

One of the celebrities that turns out for almost every serious motoring event held in the UK is the mildly annoying DJ and new Top Gear presenter, Chris Evans. Evans is tireless in his work to raise money for the charity Children in Need, indeed he has his own event to benefit that cause, I went along last year to CarFest.

e49bcf58-6d64-45d9-8346-c4c57f815b67

Whatever my opinion is of Mr. Evans, he is a serious car-guy, owning a fabulous collection of Ferraris and other desirable cars. In the run up to the 2015 London to Brighton event he trained to drive a bus, getting his PCV Licence. Lodge’s Coaches provided a pair of ’50s vehicles and Evans auctioned a ride to Brighton on his morning radio show. He raised the astonishing sum of $525,000 for 40 passengers.

2015 JB General

The Regent Street Motor Show is the UK’s largest free-to-view, motoring event, if you are in the West End next autumn, pop along you will not be disappointed.

John Brooks, February 2016

Photography Copyright and Courtesy of Simon Hildrew and the Author. Additional material courtesy of the organisers.

 

All the Stars Come Out at Night

P90208887_highRes_27-01-2016-to-31-01--1

The Rolex 24 is back to its former glory, at least that is the conclusion that any savvy observer would draw from the action on the banking last weekend.

Not all the fireworks were fired into the Floridian sky on Saturday, some were constrained by a Nikon body, like this stunning image created by my old mucker, Dave Lister. Great photography is a combination of talent, hard graft, opportunity and the often-overlooked imaginative client, that alignment of planets was to be found in Volusia County last week.

ESM_Quali-Daytona2016_1-1

Speaking of stars, Pipo Derani stood out on track and was major factor in the overall victory for ESM, Ligier and LM P2, so bravo!

Another element that brought a smile were the grumbles from the DP clan about Balance of Performance. In fact IMSA should be congratulated in this respect, they achieved a pretty good score throughout the field.

news-2016-audi-rolex-24-daytona-16-1

The new GTD class was a great success; close, competitive racing as one former promoter used to declare when two cars finished at the head of the field on the same lap. Victory fell at the last gasp to the Magnus Racing Audi – how odd that sounds. Their photographer caught this colourful shot precisely at the point when the tectonic plates shifted in Florida, missed that on the telly.

CorvetteC7RWinsRolex2403-1

The Jewel in IMSA’s crown is the GTLM grid and the class of 2016 is set to shine brighter than ever. Corvette had the legs of the others, so the win was well deserved. But, and you knew there was a but coming, am I the only one who thought Ollie Gavin deserved some form of sanction for punting Earl Bamber’s Porsche out of the lead?

Rubbin’ is Racin’  I suppose.

John Brooks, February 2016