Tag Archives: David Blumlein

The Spa 24 Hours A History


A new book has just been published, The Spa 24 Hours A History. Its author is David Blumlein, a regular on this website and an automotive historian of note. The subject matter is a comprehensive review of one of the world’s greatest endurance motor races, the Spa 24 Hours. It is the first such history written in English.


This year marked the 90th anniversary of the classic race and the book traces the events down the decades and illustrates the changes that the Spa-Francorchamps has gone through from the earliest days.


The chapters are arranged in a logical fashion to cover the races that were run to common regulations as the event has changed from Le Mans-type sports cars to Touring Car and now to GTs.


Each chapter is enhanced by a selection of “Further Facts” which give detailed background information that might otherwise be missed. Similarly the photography seeks to show the more unusual aspects of the race such as the Ferrari Mondial of Keke Rosberg in 1989.

One of the successful Škodas at Eau Rouge in 1948. (Chpt 6)

There is a comprehensive set of Appendices detailing such subjects as those who lost their lives at the race, a profile of some of the more important Belgian drivers and, of course, the results. The author is candid about the conflicting records on the lower placed finishers and has attempted to use the most reliable sources.

Moskvitches lined up before the start in 1971 (Results)

There are forewords from François Cornélis (President of the RACB), Stéphane Ratel (CEO of SRO Motorsports Group) and Belgian drivers Pierre Dieudonné and Eric van de Poele who have eight victories in this great race between them.

Here is the Peugeot 806 People-Carrier!

There can be very little left to be discovered about the Spa 24 Hours that is not covered somewhere in this book.

2004 Spa 24 Hours

I must disclose a personal connection as I have supplied some of the photos used including the one above of Lilian Bryner at dawn on her way to victory in 2004 driving the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.


Furthermore I assisted David in this enterprise in a capacity of Project Manager, so it would be fair to say that I am not objective about the book.

A view of the daunting Burnenville section on the old circuit. (Chpt?)

When David and I set out on this journey it was agreed between us that we should strive to produce something that we could be proud about and in my opinion we have done just that. It is a good read and will be a valuable reference work in the years to come.


The design is clean and elegant, just what you would expect from Marcus Potts. There are many others who given significant assistance along the way and when you buy the book you will read of them.

The Publisher is Transport Bookman Limited and the book can be found at the link below.

Chaters Motoring Booksellers

26 Murrell Green Business Park,

Hook, Hampshire
RG27 9GR 


T: +44 (0)1256 765 443
F: +44 (0)1256 767 992

E: books@chaters.co.uk

Price £39.99 or €52 plus postage


John Brooks, December 2014


Nϋrburgring Natters Two

Our Special Correspondent has been over to Germany for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. As usual he kept his eyes open and his ears pinned back, here is some of the knowledge he acquired on the trip.

The 2012 Nürburgring 24 Hours

In their reports of this wonderful race the general motoring press tend to mention the winners and the main contenders and tell us very little else. But there were 169 cars in this year’s race, so here is a brief selection of some of the other cars that took part:

The weather was in fact nice and warm in the early afternoon on the Sunday so this Porsche had no real need for extra ventilation! A replacement door was indeed fitted shortly after this picture was taken and the Frikadelli Racing Team car went on to be the highest placed Porsche at the finish, taking a well deserved 6th overall. The factory Porsche drivers were not so lucky this year, suffering all sorts of problems.

Three of the McLaren MP4 12C cars started the race, this Gembella Team car having no less than Nick Heidfeld and three times winner Klaus Ludwig on the driving strength. Alas, none of the cars survived into the Sunday, falling victims to accidents.

And this Ford GT did not last the race either!

The Peugeot RCZs are regulars at the Nürburgring 24 Hours these days. Although its team-mate failed to finish this year, this car went on to win its class. They are assembled by Magna Steyr in Austria.

Aston Martin are also regulars in this race and last year they ran their two new prototype Zagato cars, nicknamed “Zig” and “Zag”. This year they brought along just “Zig” which ran steadily into 26th place and 2nd in class. Here it is seen with a backcloth of the famous Nürburg Schloss.

Toyota love to use the 24 Hour race as a workout for their forthcoming and new models – for them it provides the best test session they can have. The Lexus LFA was here as usual, winning its class, but we also saw the new GT86 cars, Toyota’s rear-wheel driven sporting car developed in conjunction with Subaru whose flat-four engine powers it:

This car won its class.

Hyundai adopt a similar attitude. Here is their Genesis Coupé which finished 105th.

Jaguar saloons are not new to success in endurance races at the Nürburgring. In the 1962 12 Hours and 1963 12 Hours on the Nordschleife, Peter Lindner drove his 3.8 Jaguar Mk 2 saloon to victory, first with Peter Nöcker and secondly with Hans-Joachim Walter (European Rally Champion). This was the longest event held at the Nürburgring  at the time – the 24 Hours did not start until 1970.

This Jaguar XF saloon therefore carries on a Jaguar tradition and it not only won its class but was the first diesel car to finish the race. Privately entered by Carvell Motorsport, it had a 3-litre V6 diesel and completed 109 laps finishing 92nd.

One of the attractive features of endurance racing is that the teams are invariably reluctant to give up if there is the slightest chance of keeping the car going. Having received a considerable mauling, this BMW 135D managed to reach the finish scoring 2nd in the diesel class.

This Ford Fiesta, clearly proud of its heritage and managing to hide its ravaged nearside bodywork from the crowds in the main stands, finished 110th and 2nd in its class.


The no. 11 Manthey Porsche, one of the original favourites and crewed by three former winners, had a troubled race and suffered the indignity at the end of being towed away after being rammed just before the finishing line by a Renault Clio.

David Blumlein, May 2012







The Veritas – A Noble Effort


At a VLN race in April this beautiful Veritas RS was seen in the paddock at the Nϋrburgring.

At the end of the Second World War Germany’s industries lay in ruins. There was very little to support an immediate revival in motor sport except for some pre-war surviving racers, such as Bugattis, and mostly BMW 328 sports cars. But by August 1946 enthusiasts had made a re-start with a five mile hillclimb at Ruhestein in the Black Forest – it was won by the pre-war Mercédès Grand Prix star Herrman Lang in the 1940 Mille Miglia BMW Coupé.

Then in March 1947 three former BMW employees, Ernst Loof, Georg Meier (racing motorcyclist and ex- Auto-Union driver) and Lorenz Dietrich formed a company to build sports racers using the familiar BMW 328 mechanicals. They called the car a Veritas (Latin for “truth”) and basically customers would have to supply their 328s which would be stripped and re-built using a space –frame chassis based on two oval tubes, all clothed in a streamlined body; the finished product became known as the Veritas RS (Rennsport). Rising star Karl  Kling had already won the 1947 Hockenheim race in the Mille Miglia BMW Coupé when he gave the Veritas its competition début in the Eggberg hill climb – he retired with oil pump failure. But he went on to win the 2-litre German championships with Veritas, scoring five victories in national events in 1948 and seven in 1949.

It is interesting to note that German drivers were not allowed to race abroad before 1950, Germany having only joined the FIA in October 1949. So some Veritas cars found foreign owners, two for example coming to Britain for Dennis Poore and Ken Hutchison; 1938 Le Mans winner Eugène Chaboud drove one to finish a very creditable third in the Coupe des Petites Cylindrées behind two Ferraris at Reims in 1948 and Emile Cornet scored a win at the Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay in Belgium in 1949.

There were of course only so many BMW 328 cars still  available (just 462 made at Eisenach originally) and these were now being gradually outpaced as the opposition grew. Loof therefore decided to make his own engine, a straight-six with single overhead camshaft which was designed by Erich Zipprich and manufactured by the aircraft firm Heinkel. Lack of development and consequent unreliability meant that Veritas, with limited resources anyway, struggled to survive. The company had also constructed some single-seaters to compete in the Formula 2 category and were making a series of road cars, the Komet coupé, Scorpion 2-seater cabriolet and the Saturn luxury 3-seater coupé; there was even the Dyna-Veritas with the famous Panhard flat-twin but when the company started to fall back on Ford and Opel engines the marque began to fade. Sadly Ernst Loof himself died of a brain tumour in 1956.



David Blumlein, October 2011

Song of the Mistral

David Blumlein is on a roll. Following on from Essen, he travelled south to Le Castellet for the opening round of the 2011 Le Mans Series. His observations can be found below.

The Circuit du Castellet, set on a high plateau between Marseille and Toulon, overlooked by the mountainous hills of Sainte-Baume, has not a long tradition of long distance sports car racing. One recalls the Matra V-12s at the height of their fame coming here in 1973 but the circuit is chiefly remembered for its staging of the prestigious Grand Prix de France in former years. Having since fulfilled the rôle of a test track, it is now back to hosting international races and was chosen as the venue for the opening round of the Le Mans Series in 2010 when the race was of eight hours’ duration. Happily it was the opener again this year but the race was reduced to six hours.

Unhappily this event will be chiefly remembered for the inexcusable confusion at the start, which severely damaged four GTE Pro Porsches and the Jota Aston Martin – only the latter car and one of the German cars were able to resume albeit way down the field. It seems that the Pace Car decided to do a second starting lap and the GT runners at the back could not see this and, finding that the lights on the starting gantry were set at green, began racing in earnest.

All this pandemonium spoilt the real Porsche versus Ferrari battle that is a regular feature of the GT field.

One of the endearing qualities of long distance sports car racing is the opportunity it provides for a good car to carry on winning even after several years of involvement in competition. Look at the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 in the Thirties and the Aston Martin DB3S, which still made it to a fine second place at Le Mans in 1958 after five seasons of successes. So it is with the Pescarolo which unusually came back from a year’s absence during which the team’s very existence was in doubt! From the back of the grid at the start (to where it was relegated owing to a small technical infringement in practice) to the front at the end was a dream result for Henri Pescarolo and his loyal team, but it seems relevant to ask what future developments  can they look forward to?


The LM P2 class was rich in variety. Among the nine entries were six different chassis and three types of engines. We had two different Lola chassis, one the ex-RML MG Lola, the Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN, two HPD ARX-01d cars, three of the new Oreca-03 chassis built nearby to the circuit and the Norma M200P which made its début at Le Mans in 2010.The HPDs are an interesting mixture: they use a Courage-based tub on to which is grafted the work of Nick Wirth and they are powered by the Honda developed 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6.

The RML team could not have been happy to see their former MG-Lola finishing two places ahead of their newer car – older cars doing well in long distance events again! The new Nissan 4.5-litre V8 was used in two of the Oreca-03 chassis and in the Greaves Zytek; the rest of the class had the Judd HK, a 3.6-litre V8.

The Rebellion Lolas marked the return of Toyota to international sports car racing, the Japanese motor giant having developed a 3.4-litre V8 derived from a Formula Nippon block.

Having opted to give Sebring a miss, Aston Martin gave its new LM P1 challenger, the AMR-One, its race début at Le Castellet. The car is still too new and the team was in reality treating the race as a test session. It arrived at Paul Ricard having recently tested at Pembrey and Dijon and its unready state was emphasised by its only doing one solitary lap in Friday practice. The car differs from its rivals at Audi and Peugeot by having an open cockpit and, most interestingly, a 2-litre straight-six turbo motor; such a configuration has not been seen in the LMP class for many a year. The car started the race but later spent a long time in the pits, apparently with a misfire. Aston Martin has been very tight-lipped over the details of its newcomer but it is clear that the engine has been causing problems. The car came out again during the last half hour of the race, almost unnoticed.





With the Porsche ranks depleted in GTE Pro, the new Ferrari 458 Italias  helped themselves to the class win but one notices that Zuffenhausen put it over Maranello in the GT Am category with the remaining Felbermayr car.








How pleasing to see Nissan win the LMP2 class with their new engine especially in view of the awful troubles back in the homeland. This success was by courtesy of the Greaves Zytek, the combination staking claim to the third spot on the overall  podium as well.

David Blumlein, April 2011

Tecno Classica from a Special Correspodent

It has been a busy few weeks on the road, Essen, Le Castellet, Zolder, Monza, Le Mans, all in short order. So posting to the blog tends to get lost in the fog of priorities but the beast must be fed.


We are lucky to have David Blumlein on board to dispense automotive wisdom. Listen, learn and enjoy.

John Brooks, April 2011.




Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale.

Alfa Romeo owes its revival in sports car racing in the late Sixties to Carlo Chiti’s T33 sports –racer, powered by a 2-litre V-8. The company wanted to offer the public a taste of what they were achieving on the tracks and the result was this exquisite Stradale version, shown at the 1967 Turin Show. It was designed by Franco Scaglione but only 18 were made.

Wedding Present



1928 Mercédès-Benz Nürburg saloon.

A typical product after Benz and Daimler A.G. merged in 1926. Its name celebrated the recently opened Nürburgring circuit on which one of the company’s cars won the first race.




A roadster version took part in the 1929 Alpine Trial driven by future star Rudolph Caracciola.

Rear Gunner



1934 Mercédès-Benz 130H

Influenced by former Benz engineers, the Stuttgart company experimented with some rear-engined designs in the Thirties and this Type 130 H (Heckmotor – rear-engined) was introduced in 1934 – it did not sell well!

Hanomag Kommissbrot



Hanomag Kommissbrot and Rekord

A name largely forgotten nowadays but Hanomag started life in the mid-19th century producing steam locomotives and then trucks, tractors and military vehicles in Hannover. By the Twenties they had turned to petrol vehicles and in 1925 they made the Hanomag 2/10, an open 2-seater with a rear-mounted 500 c.c. single-cylinder water-cooled engine. Because it resembled a loaf of Army bread, it was quickly nicknamed Kommissbrot but it was popular – 15,775 were made.

Up Town Top Ranking



By the Thirties Hanomag had moved up market and the 1.5 litre Rekord dates from 1938.

Every Silver Cloud has a Lining



1967 Glas 1304T

Hans Glas rose to fame with the introduction of the Goggomobil in 1954 which proved to be a very popular micro car. The Glas range moved up market in the following years with bigger cars using mainly 4-cylinder engines, of which this car is typical. Glas is remembered also for the fact that he was the first to use belt drive for overhead camshafts. BMW took over his Dingolfing factory – today it produces not only BMW cars but also the bodies for Rolls-Royce cars.

W.O.'s You Know...............



Bentley 8-Litre

The top of the range Bentley with a 6-cylinder overhead camshaft engine, designed to compete with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Only 100 were produced between 1930 and 1931. This was W.O. Bentley’s own car.

It's Mr. O'Reilly, Sybil.



1936 Riley Sprite

The Riley Sprite (1936-1938) was the last of the sporting Rileys before the Second World War, using a developed version of the famous engine with high camshafts and hemispherical head, introduced in the Riley Nine in 1926. Rileys had an enviable reputation in competitions particularly in endurance events. This car has special bodywork by Pourtout and was raced privately in France. The Riley company failed in 1938 and was absorbed into the Nuffield Organisation.

Bob Marley & The Wailers



1963 BMW 1500

This model, introduced at the Frankfurt Show in 1961, was the car which saved BMW. The Munich firm was in serious financial trouble by the late Fifties – the market for Isetta bubble cars was declining and the big V-8s were hardly profitable. Fortunately the 1500, with its excellent overhead cam engine, was the right car, at the right time and was an immediate success – all the cars that followed stem from it. It is no exaggeration to say that without the 1500 there would be no BMWs today.

Iron Curtain Cruiser



Tatra 603

Hans Ledwinka showed his sensational streamlined Tatra T77 at the 1934 Berlin Show. It had a rear-mounted air-cooled V-8 engine and initially a central driving position. Derivatives followed and when Czechoslovakia fell under Communist control the theme was continued with this, the 603. A team of these cars performed well in the Marathon de la Route at the Nürburgring.

La Sarthe Limousine















Skoda 1101 Sport

This is the actual car that Skoda raced at Le Mans in1950 but without success. Nationalisation kerbed future ambitions.

Monte Carlo or Bust





1937 Skoda Popular Sport Monte Carlo Coupé

Back Seat Drivers


Skoda made advanced cars in the Thirties and this example, one of just 72 made, is a celebration of Skoda’s second in class and eighth overall in the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally. It has not only independent suspension all round but also a transaxle.




Notice the linkage to the rear-mounted gearbox.

Bulldog Spirit



Lanz Bulldog

And now, for something completely different! The Bulldog tractor made by Heinrich Lanz in Mannheim from 1921 to 1960 had a single-cylinder horizontal hot bulb engine whose capacity was gradually increased over the years from 6.3-litres to 10.9-litres. No wonder it needed a large flywheel! It was very popular in Germany and some 220,000 were made.


David Blumlein, April 2011


Straight, No Chaser

Breaking News



Le Castellet, Provence, was the venue yesterday for the next chapter in the long and glorious history of motorsport and Aston Martin. The Aston Martin AMR One broke cover and was seen in public for the first time.

Mind you you had to have sharp reflexes, as it covered only one installation lap before bolting back to the garage. Most of us missed this historic event.

Naturally, Our Special Correspondent, was on hand to capture the moment.



Armstrong Siddeley Special

One of the best things about blogging is the ability to draw on the wisdom and expertise of others. In, what is hoped to be part of an on-going series of pieces, my good friend David Blumlein will bring his knowledge to the blog to share with us all. In a recent visit to Brooklands a particular car caught his eye, here is why he thinks it is both rare and interesting..

Rare and Interesting

Armstrong Siddeley Special

To a car lover a trip to the historic site of Brooklands on New Year’s Day is most rewarding. It needs dry weather and this year there was gathered a massive selection of older and very interesting machines, all carefully tended by their proud owners. One can always rely on there being some which one has never seen before and my eye fell on an Armstrong Siddeley Special, a model that I cannot recall ever having encountered before – plenty of Armstrong Siddeleys in my youth but never one of the rare Specials. The name Armstrong Siddeley will not mean much to the modern car enthusiast, the marque having ceased car production in the early Sixties, but in its day it was of sufficiently good quality to attract royal patronage, the cars having a reputation of being well engineered gentlemen’s carriages.

The inspiration behind them was one John Davenport Siddeley, later to be ennobled as Lord Kenilworth. At the turn of the twentieth century he had started his business by importing Peugeot cars to which he gradually added his own bodywork while re-naming the cars as Siddeleys. His designs caught the eye of Vickers Sons & Maxim who offered him a post he could not refuse. As Vickers owned Wolseley at the time the cars became known as Wolseley-Siddeleys but by 1909 he had moved to the Deasy Company in Parkside, Coventry. Here he re-organised the company so efficiently that he soon became the Managing Director. By 1912 this company had changed its name to Siddeley-Deasy and a year later the firm started to make its own engines. At this time the London-based Burlington Carriage Company was acquired, their activities being moved to Parkside. Siddeley-Deasys were characterised by their scuttle-mounted radiators and a fine example can be seen in the Coventry Transport Museum.

The onset of war gave Siddeley’s entrepreneurial spirit scope to expand the whole business: production included lorries, other vehicles and, most significantly for the company’s future, aero engines. Very soon these were being made for the R.A.F. (as it became) but the designs were considered unsatisfactory and Siddeley’s engineers turned their attention to creating much better motors, the Puma becoming the first in a long line of aero engines the company was to turn out in the succeeding decades. With the advent of peace the company was taken over by the Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth & Co. engineering firm at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in May 1919 which had been making cars such as the Wilson-Pilcher prior to marketing cars under their own name; the combined firms adopted the new identity of Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd., based in Parkside.

However, before considering the subject of this article in more detail we must note two significant developments that came about. First, Armstrong Siddeley began car manufacturing by producing a large 5-litre 30 hp model. Siddeley’s son, Ernest, had paid a visit to America to study their motor industry’s progress and developments and returned to Coventry very impressed by the Marmon 34 which had been introduced in 1916. It is thought that one of these American machines was secretly imported to Coventry where it was carefully studied. Suffice to say here that the new Armstrong Siddeley 30 had certain significant features in common with the Marmon, including a six-cylinder O.H.V. engine, a 3-speed gearbox with central change (unusual at the time) and much use of aluminium, experience of which had been gained by both companies in the production of aero  engines. The 30 was sufficiently impressive to receive an order from the Duke of York (the future George VI) and one of these staid heavy carriages was stripped by its owner and driven to a race victory at Brooklands in 1921!

The second point to note resulted from John Siddeley’s meeting with Walter Gordon Wilson who had already gained a reputation as an outstanding engineer. He it was who designed the advanced Wilson-Pilcher car, a beautiful example of which was one of the highlights of the 2009 N.E.C. Classic Car Show. He had also had a hand in the design of the original army tank but it was for his ingenious epicyclic gearbox – what we came to know as the pre-selector gearbox – that he is lastingly remembered in the annals of motoring history. Siddeley and Wilson formed Improved Gears in 1928 and they set up a design and development facility in Parkside, the company later becoming Self-Changing Gears Ltd. which was to go on to supply other manufacturers as well as some racing car constructors. Armstrong Siddeley became the first manufacturer to offer this advanced transmission as standard on its range of cars (1928).

In its first decade Armstrong Siddeley offered various models smaller than the 30 which continued in production until 1932. Worthy of mention is the fact that the 20hp car was thrown into the demanding Alpine Trial in 1932 where it did not disgrace itself although one never thought of Armstrong Siddeleys as sporting cars.

1933 Armstrong Siddeley Special with a Hooper Limousine Body

It was at the 1932 Olympia Show that John Siddeley sprung a surprise, for on the company stand was a chassis of what we can think of as the spiritual successor to the 30 – the new Armstrong Siddeley Special. This car continued to use a large capacity engine, 4968 cc, and overhead valves but its real interest centres around the use that was made in the engine of the newly developed alloy, hiduminium. This material was the result of collaboration between Rolls Royce and a Siddeley subsidiary, High Duty Alloys, and it was developed because Rolls Royce was initially having problems of durability with the V-12 engines it was building for the Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes. Hiduminium was therefore used for the crankcase, cylinder block and pistons of what became the Rolls Royce “R” aero engine, the “R” standing for “Racing”. History records how Mitchell’s Supermarine S.6 equipped with this improved engine went on to win the Trophy for Britain but motor car lovers will know that Reid Railton, who worked for Thompson and Taylor at Brooklands, decided to re-engine Sir Malcolm Campbell’s updated “Bluebird” with this Rolls Royce “R” motor which brought new Land Speed records at Daytona in March 1935 (276.2mph) and at Bonneville in September that year with Campbell being the first to top the 300 mph mark with 301.129.

1933 Armstrong Siddeley Special Engine

In the Siddeley Special the crankcase and cylinder block used the RR50 alloy and the pistons the RR53 just the same as in this famous aero engine. The car’s specification was otherwise fairly conventional for the period: a channel section chassis with semi-elliptic springs all round, worm and nut steering, cable-operated Bendix brakes but of course a four-speed Wilson pre-selector gearbox. Chassis came in 12 ft Long form and 11ft Short and at the Olympia Show in 1933 there was a beautiful Hooper limousine on the long chassis and a Burlington-bodied Sports Saloon on the shorter one. These cars could obtain 90 mph in top, 70 mph in third gear and reach 60 mph in 18.2 secs which was certainly impressive for a 38 cwt car in the mid-Thirties!

They were indeed “special” because only 253 were built and one possible explanation for their rarity is that the precious alloy in their engines was commandeered for the war effort. Among the lucky owners was Sir Malcolm Campbell who bought a Sports Tourer with a 4-light Burlington body, almost certainly finished in his favourite “Campbell blue”. And the company even considered entering a Special for the 1933 Le Mans 24 Hours but the idea was turned down as it was feared that failure would undermine the company’s image.

Words and images by David Blumlein