Tag Archives: Citroën

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The House on The Hill

In yesterday’s post I stated my intention to remain in an analogue world rather than the brave new digital one. If any confirmation were needed of this being the right course a breathless release arrived overnight confirming that ByKolles was on pole for the virtual Le Mans 24. No further evidence to present, m’ Lord. So continuing to mine the recent past in search of treasure we should once more look at Goodwood, this time the Festival of Speed and Simon Hildrew’s amazing photos.

In any normal year I would getting ready to cover Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans later this afternoon. However, we are living in strange times; normally we would also be anticipating a trip to the South Downs and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. That pleasure is denied to us this year, so we must make do with memories. A look back at 2019 will have to do.

Speed and style are crucial elements in the DNA of the Festival of Speed, so is heritage. As the years roll by anniversaries hove into view, arguably one of the most significant in 2019 was Bentley’s centenary. Naturally there were many fine examples on display, but I was drawn to XM 6761, a 1922 3-Litre. This car is very significant for Bentley and Le Mans, as it was entered in the first race back in 1923, laying the foundations for the ‘Bentley Boy’ legend that did so much to raise the profile of the French endurance race in the early years.

Frank Clement and John Duff ignored W.O. Bentley and entered the 3-Litre, the only non-French car in the field. They set the fastest lap and eventually finished joint fourth after a stone punctured the fuel tank.

UU 5872 has been described as “The most valuable Bentley in the world. This is the actual – and totally original – supercharged 4½-litre that Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1930. Its sister car won the race but this car played a key role in that victory when Birkin acted as a hare and, eventually, Caracciola’s chasing Mercedes SSK broke.” It is automotive royalty of the highest order

Mercedes-Benz were celebrating 125 years of motor sport, a truly great heritage. Amongst the many stars was this 1937 W125. Powered by a 5.6 litre supercharged straight-eight, the Silver Arrow took Rudolf Caracciola to a second drivers’ title.

Fast-forward a few decades to the Sauber-Mercedes C9 that conquered Le Mans in 1989 in the hands of Jochen Mass, Stanley Dickens and Manuel Reuter. Its rumbling V8 song is unmistakable.

Also eligible for a telegram from Her Majesty was Citroën, well they would be if they were not French. Despite that disadvantage they were especially welcome at Goodwood, having produced some of the world’s truly great cars, consistently marching to a different beat. Where would Maigret have been without his Traction Avant? What would France profonde have done without the 2CV?

Fifty years have passed since Sir Jackie Stewart won the first of his three World Championships. It was wonderful see the whole family as guests of His Grace, Lady Helen has not been well for a while. Sir Jackie has, in recent years, thrown his considerable energy and influence in the Race for Dementia charity, if anyone can help to defeat this terrible condition, it will be him.

Sir Jackie, and his sons Paul and Mark, demonstrated his championship-winning cars, a Matra and two Tyrrells.

Another champion from that era was Jacky Ickx. In ’69 he won the first of his six victories at La Sarthe, eclipsing all others, except a great Dane.

The Ford GT40 that carried Ickx and his co-driver, Jackie Oliver, to the closest victory in Le Mans history, 120 meters ahead of Hans Herrmann’s Porsche, is a legend in its own right. #1075 also triumphed in the previous year’s race, making it one of only four cars to win the French classic twice.

’69 also saw the debut of the Porsche 917 at La Sarthe, here Derek Bell is reunited with #045 that he shared with Jo Siffert in ’71. Of course during that race it was in the iconic Blue and Orange Gulf livery but during a restoration in the ’70s it was re-liveried as a Martini Porsche.

Richard Attwood drove #023 up The Hill, he and Hans Herrmann scored Porsche’s first outright win at Le Mans in ’70, the race immortalised by Steve McQueen.

Aston Martin celebrated a 70-year relationship with Goodwood. The parade is led here by the DBR1/2, its wundercar of the late ’50s, with two victories in RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood as well winning Le Mans in ’59.

Aston Martin were also the marque featured on the traditional sculpture in front of Goodwood House, courtesy of Gerry Judah.

As happens most years there is an automotive sensory overload during the Festival of Speed, just how important it has become is illustrated by the loss of the event in 2020, it will be back, and so will we.

In the meantime fill yer boots courtesy of Simon Hildrew’s magnificent gallery.

John Brooks, June 2020

Autumn in Paris

2014 Automedon

Le Bourget is the place to head to in the Autumn if you are near Paris and looking for some classic cars. Automedon is the name of the show and it is a very worthwhile effort, focussed on the clubs and enthusiasts who are steadily being priced out of the really big events, such as Retromobile.

2014 Automedon

Cutting off the base of the classic car movement in pursuit of profit is not a wholly French trend, I heard similar mutterings at the NEC last week, it really must stop. If not then the big events will suffer too in time.

2014 Automedon

However rather than preach to the choir I will instead have a quick look back at the show, which was truly delightful. One of Automedon’s great attractions is the authentic Gallic flavour of the show. At present the French Car industry is in the doldrums, however there is still much to celebrate from the past.

2014 Automedon

Typical of the flair traditionally found in French automobiles is this Citroën DS19H Le Paris, only one of nine built the Carrossier, Henri Chapron.

2014 Automedon

Chapron’s creations are much in demand, adding style to the already iconic DS range, this is the kind of confident approach that is lacking in today’s French motor industry.

2014 Automedon

This Simca 8 Deho Sport, dating from 1938, is an example of pre-war co-operation between car companies as it was built on license from Fiat. Once again the French attitude gives it an art deco feel with form as important an element as substance.

2014 Automedon

A Citroën SM may not be an obvious choice for motor sport but this very car ran in the 1974 Spa 24 Hours with factory backing and was entered by Guy Ligier.

2014 Automedon

It did not finish the race as Guy Chasseuil crashed out at Les Combes.

2014 Automedon

There was a particular tribute to Panhard and D.B. at Automedon with an impressive collection on display. I will prepare a separate piece on the Le Mans’ cars that were at the show. D.B. was the imaginative name that the alliance of pioneering aerodynamicist Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet, a racing driver and constructor of some repute, gave to their business.

2014 Automedon

One strange car that did catch my eye was D.B. Formule 1 from 1955. This was one of those ideas from a brain-storming session that should have been dismissed at once, instead of escaping to the drawing board and then into the real world. Front wheel drive and half the weight of the more conventional racers. It was powered, if that is the right expression, by a 750cc supercharged engine derived from a Panhard twin. This unit produced a reported 85bhp, which was about a third of that available to drivers of a Maserati 250F, and the engine was hung out over the front axle.

2014 Automedon

This whole project had the hallmark of a cunning plan drawn up by Baldrick and in the one time that the cars raced, the 1955 Pau Grand Prix, the results demonstrated the madness of the scheme. Starting from the rear of the grid, Claude Storez retired but his team mate Paul Armagnac managed to trundle round to the finish, some 18 laps down on Jean Behra, in, of all things, a Maserati 250F.

2014 Automedon

Another weird creation that came from the D.B. stable was this D.B. Racer, aimed at the growing 500cc Formula 3 category in the early 50’s. A Panhard engine powering the front wheels, the car enjoyed success in the French arena till more conventional designs from the likes of Cooper relegated it to the sidelines.

2014 Automedon

A much better racing record for this Snobeck Racing Services Alfa Romeo Alfetta 2.5 GTV 6 which raced very successfully in the early 80’s in the French Touring Car Championship.

2014 Automedon

In 1982 Danny Snobeck finished third in the Drivers’ Championship, the following year he went one better, only beaten by his team mate Alain Cudini. Their twelve victories across the two seasons were racked up against quality opposition such as Jean-Louis Schlesser and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, as well as saloon aces such as René Metge and Claude Ballot-Léna.

2014 Automedon

Automedon was much more than motor sport, it afforded an opportunity to stretch the imagination of the exhibitors, like Garage DSMP, whose Citroën DS21 pick up truck had me expressing doubts initially.

2014 Automedon

However the more I considered it I grew to approve, it would a seriously cool car to take to the seaside whether Saint-Tropez or Santa Monica. Le Beach Boys, anyone?

2014 Automedon

I am not entirely convinced about the though processes that led to this diorama or why anyone would attempt to bring the spirit of Daktari to Automedon.

2014 Automedon

At least the image of the Great White Hunter was dented by the lioness smugly about the feast on the poor unfortunate’s right forearm.

2014 Automedon

Another strange scene from the wilds of Quebec is this Simca 8 Estate, sorry Station Wagon.

2014 Automedon

It would appear to have been modified to do duty as a chainsaw, cue “The Lumberjack Song”, take it away Mr Palin.

2014 Automedon

When in doubt chuck a bale of straw on the car and Hey Presto it is a barn find.

2014 Automedon

Another prominent feature of shows such as Automedon are the stalls selling, well selling anything………..

2014 Automedon

Books anyone?

2014 Automedon

Models of course

2014 Automedon

Oil cans

2014 Automedon

And for those who have a sweet tooth.

2014 Automedon

There is a strong motorcycle presence

2014 Automedon

And the Custom Car fans are catered for

2014 Automedon

Before and after Restoration, Sir. Well that’s what they would like you to believe.

2014 Automedon

Outside the car parks have all manner of goodies to enjoy, a very British pair of Rovers.

2014 Automedon

A brace of Maigret Citroëns aka Traction Avant.

2014 Automedon

A beautiful Panhard CD, named after its designer, Charles Deutsch, sits alongside a VW camper van, which was considerably more popular than the French sportscar.

2014 Automedon

René Bonnet’s side of the business, Automobiles René Bonnet, was eventually acquired by Jean-Luc Lagardère’s Matra empire, the first car designed and produced in house was this 530.

2014 Automedon

More Matra style was seen outside Automedon, continuing the mid-engined trend these Murenas.

Automedon is a charming, and thoroughly French, classic car show. For those of us on the good side of the English Channel it is just a trains from London, then a suburban service from Gare du Nord, if you have the time in 2015, go, you won’t regret it.

John Brooks, November 2014

 

 

Un Siècle de Génie Automobile Français au Grand Palais

2013 Retromobile

Bonhams recent sale in Paris was also the scene of a tribute to ‘A Century of French Automobile Genius’. Held in the majestic location of the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysees, the auction house, with support from Peugeot and Citroën, assembled a collection of around 30 cars that illustrated the major contribution that the French have made to the development of the automobile.

2013 Retromobile

The setting of the Grand Palais for such an exhibition is of course extremely apposite, given that this was the site of the Paris Salon which was held there for many years until the show outgrew the hall.

2013 Retromobile

As with any collection of fine automobiles they are all equal, but inevitably some are more equal than others and while I recognise the quality of the very early cars, some dating back to the 19th Century, my own preferences are more modern. Star of the show as far I could see was the two tone Bugatti Type 57 C Coupé Special dating back to 1938.

2013 Retromobile

About as original as is possible, right down to the wiring loom and electrical components, the car was used by Ettore Bugatti and Jean-Pierre Wimille prior to World War Two. After the Fall of France, Grand Prix ace and Le Mans winner for Bugatti, Robert Benoist, prudently hid the vehicle to ensure its safety. Benoist, recruited into the SOE to organise and support the Resistance, did not survive himself, being captured twice by the Gestapo, eventually he was murdered at Buchenwald in 1944.

2013 Retromobile

The Type 57 was returned to Bugatti at the end of hostilities and it was subsequently used as a test bed for new ideas and components which explains the Lockheed Hydraulic brakes. It was, and is, utterly beautiful and desirable, well we can all dream.

2013 Retromobile

From the lofty expression of automotive art that is the Bugatti, I was drawn to the familiar functional shape of the Peugeot 905, this example being the actual car that Geoff Brabham, Eric Hélary and Christophe Bouchut drove to victory in the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Peugeots swept all before them in that last gasp of the Group C era.

2013 Retromobile

With power in abundance from a 3.5 litre V10 engine and staggering amounts of downforce these were some of the fastest race cars ever built, at Silverstone in 1992 the Peugeot would have qualified on the second row of the British Grand Prix, and this from a car designed to race for 24 hours.

2013 Retromobile

It was interesting to compare this thinly disguised Grand Prix car with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, a diesel powered endurance racer that, in 2009, routed the much vaunted Audi Sport team. This example was the second placed car at Le Mans that year, narrowly beaten by their sister car.

2013 Retromobile

Much more in touch with the real world was the Citroën 2CV, introduced to an expectant public in 1948 who were clamouring for simple, inexpensive solutions to their motoring needs. With nearly four million examples made in the following decade, this quirky looking car came to symbolise the French automobile industry.

2013 Retromobile

 

Another Citroën with a record of success is the World Rally Championship Xsara WRC which racked up win after win in the hands of Sebastian Loeb, cementing the French manufacturer’s domination of top flight rallying in this century.

2013 Retromobile

Back to the time when the French car industry seemed to be an offshoot of the Louvre, so elegant were the designs, is the Delage D8 Torpédo, built in 1931. The Delage factory at Courbevoie was the most modern of its time and its produce was snapped up by celebrities and Royalty alike, the looks have weathered the test of time.

2013 Retromobile

From the early days of motoring, the De Dion Tricycle and the Peugeot Type 17 illustrate the birth of the French motor industry. Other absolute classics on hand were a Bugatti Type 54 Grand Prix car, a Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet and two more icons from Citroën, a 1953 Traction Avant and a DS19 Décapotable. The latter was originally an adaptation by Henri Chapron that the factory eventually adopted for their own.

2013 Retromobile

Only on for two days during the Bonhams Sale, the exhibition flowered brightly and briefly, certainly worth an hour or two in Paris.

John Brooks, February 2013

 

A Very Classic Car Show

To Birmingham’s NEC with The Special Correspondent for the 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show. The Show has expanded this year to fill even more halls and the extra space is very welcome.

Of course it being the NEC there are always a few issues………….the lighting in the exhibition halls remains sub-standard and arguably in breach of Health & Safety legislation, and the level of grumpiness shown by those unfortunate to travel to Birmingham by car was at an all time high. Tales of 45 minutes to get parked at the facility were common, not excusable at such a venue. On the other side of the ledger, those of us arriving by train were greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of staff, who cheerfully steered us all the way to the other side of the site. One could not fault that welcome, so credit where credit is due, more to the point the staff were still there and still cheerful we came to leave.

Once inside the Show there was a bewildering array of automobile heritage, the quality of the content certainly matches any other event of its kind, anywhere. There were so many jewels to see, such as the Aston Martin Atom, a prototype built in 1939. This was the only example of the marque that David Brown drove before acquiring the company in 1947, all of the glories that followed can be traced back to this advanced car and the impression it made on DB.

While in the fullness of time out Special Correspondent will produce one of his Rare and Interesting pieces I propose to have a quick look at what was on offer that caught my eye. A car that represented a significant step in the German Auto industry was to be found on the Audi stand. The work of Paul Jaray back in the ’20s inspired Ferdinand Porsche when designing the Wanderer Type 8.

Porsche would develop the aerodynamically efficient shape when producing one of his masterpieces, the Volkswagen. Jaray’s Ugly Duckling turned into a swan.

The Coventry Transport Museum’s collection provided another pioneering vehicle, the Ferguson R4 Prototype. Harry Ferguson designed a four wheel drive system back in the early ’50s, it featured independent suspension and Dunlop disk brakes and Maxaret anti locking device, all very advanced for the time.

The backbone of the Classic Car Show is the support provided by the car clubs. Stand after stand featured great cars backed up by real enthusiasm and deep knowledge of those manning the exhibition. Questions, no matter how basic, were generally answered with patience and good humour. So while virtually all the stands had something to interest there were some that I preferred to others. A tad Orwellian I suppose, all exhibits are equal but some are more equal than others…….Bugatti for instance had several fine cars, all promoting the scene at Prescott…………….from the early days to the present.

The Maserati stand also had a nice bunch of cars, I have always been a fan of the Trident, even more so since visiting the factory a few years back.

Strange, but Ferrari does not appeal to me in the same way, though who could resist this Dino?

This gorgeous Continental was the pride of the Bentley/Rolls Royce stand.

One strange trend that was more common than might have been expected was adorn a “barn find” with some straw…………..what this achieved was anyone’s guess.

And of course the trend was taken to the next level with a string of onions draped on a Citroën Traction Avant……………..no stereotypes here then, no none at all……………..what next we hesitate to enquire?

There were a few competition cars at the Show, mainly sportscars such as the Jaguar XJ220 that won its class at Le Mans in 1993 but was subsequently disqualified, a casualty in the long running conflict between TWR boss, Tom Walkinshaw, and Alain Bertaut of the ACO.

No such problems afflicted the Aston Martin DBR9 in 2007, with a convincing GT1 class win.

Less successful was this TVR, first retirement in the 1962 race.

Shows such as this always throw up a few oddities, who could resist a chance to sit in a truck used by the Great Train Robbers?

Try explaining Del Boy to an American, eh Rodders?

And this optional extra for all aspiring Bond villains would prove very tempting on the M25 morning commute.

Candidate for the worst colour scheme on display………this Lea Francis Lynx, representing the end of the line for the marque.

The 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show was another resounding success and if you have even a sniff of petrol in your veins you should seriously consider making the trip in 2013, I will be there certainly.

Here is a gallery of images, please excuse the weird colour in some shots, them pesky lights again.

John Brooks, November 2012