Tag Archives: Jaguar XK120

The Judgement of Paris


Today is a significant day as the Special Correspondent turns 80 although you would never know it to speak to him or to read his wonderful articles. In defiance of convention the Birthday Boy gives us all a present, his thoughts and reflections of the recent Rétromobile. The show is without doubt one of the highlights of the motoring year, the 2018 edition maintained the high standard set by its predecessors. So please enjoy this cornucopia of automotive ‘Rare and Interesting’.

This is a Matra-Bonnet Djet and is the result of Engins Matra taking over the assets of René Bonnet’s small sports car company in 1965. These cars were made initially in Bonnet’s factory at Champigny-sur-Seine before production was transferred to their own plant at Romorantin.

One of the surviving pre-war prototypes of the 2CV Citroën. The car was designed to carry four people and 50 kilos of luggage at 50 km/h in great comfort. Its introduction was delayed by the declaration of war and it was finally presented to the public at the 1948 Paris Salon.

A Talbot Lago, a Coupé America of 1962, and one of the very last of this famous name.

Simca took over the Talbot Lago marque and its factories in 1958 and went on to complete just five more of these elegant coupés, equipping them with their Simca Vedette V8 engines.

With a 4-cylinder 951 c.c. engine, this Renault Type KG1 was the company’s response to the big popular demand for cars after the First World War. The early Renaults were characterised like this one by their scuttle-mounted radiators and it was only at the 1929 Paris Salon that policy changed and their cars henceforth had their radiators mounted at the front. A wide choice of bodywork was available and this cabriolet dates from 1923.

A one-off Siata built for 500 c.c. class records. It is based on an upgraded Fiat Topolino chassis with the engine reduced to 488 c.c. The bodywork was by Motto of Turin and Borrani made special wheels.

First seen at the Geneva Show in 1947, the Maserati A6 1500 was the company’s first true production road car. The elegant body was by Pinin Farina and the car was in the vanguard of the evolution of the GT car. An example, in the hands of Franco Bordoni, won the 1500 class in the May 1949 Coppa Inter Europa at Monza, the first race for GT cars. This car dates from 1949.

The Renault Type A G was the first proper Parisian taxi. From 1905 it gained in popularity despite customers reluctantly giving up the horse-drawn equivalents. It achieved immortal fame as the type of Renault which became known as the “Taxis de la Marne” when General Joffre needed urgent reinforcements to repel the German attack threatening Paris in 1914. It had a 2-cylinder engine of 1206 c.c.

A 1912 Mercer Type 35 Raceabout. This car was the work of Finlay Robertson Porter and it put the company of Trenton, New Jersey, on the American motoring map. It had a 4916 c.c. T–head engine and was capable of 75 m.p.h. It was often raced and would usually be driven to and from events. Two raced in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, finishing in 12th and 15th  positions; in 1912 one came 3rd while a year later a Mercer finished 2nd. Its great rival was the Stutz Bearcat and their respective fans would taunt each other with remarks such as “There’s no car worser than a Mercer” and “You’ve got to be nuts to drive a Stutz”!

This 1950 Jaguar XK120  was raced privately in period and came 9th and 2nd in class in the first Goodwood Nine Hours race in August 1952.

A Peugeot Type 176. This model was introduced in 1925 and was made in the factory at Issy-les- Moulineaux in southern Paris. It had a 4-cylinder sleeve-valve engine of 2493 c.c., being classified as a 12CV. The body was by Ets Charles Felber. During the Twenties Peugeot used sleeve-valve engines for all their larger capacity models.

There is no longer any trace of the original Citroën 2CV Barbot so this is a replacement – its history is too interesting to ignore. It was the dream of the engineer Pierre Barbot to transform a 2CV into a competition car – he cut off the roof, shortened the chassis, lowered the suspension, changed the aerodynamics and modified the engine extensively while reducing the capacity to less than 350 c.c. to qualify for records in Class J. On the 27th September 1953 Barbot and Vinatier father and son, aided by Yacco oils, drove the car at Montlhéry for 12 hours at an average of 90,960 km/h and for 24 hours at an average of 85,02 km/h, breaking 9 international records. Jean Vinatier also drove the car in the 1953 Bol d’Or at Montlhéry,  car no. 80, finishing in 19th position and winning its class. Interestingly in homage to the records, this replica ran on the track at Montlhéry in 2016 for 6 consecutive hours at an average of 104,31 km/h; among the drivers was a certain Jean Vinatier.

Velam was the Isetta bubble car made under licence in France and the company built this special car with a 236 c.c. motor to tackle records in Class K ( under 250 c.c.). At Montlhéry in 1957 drivers Bianchi and Peslier won seven international records including 24 hours at an average of 109,662 km/h. This is the actual car that achieved those successes.

This is one of two Guépards built in Paris between 1952 and 1953 by S.E.R. It is the car for Paul Bobet and has a tuned Renault 4CV engine and originally a barchetta body by Pichon.


It raced in the 1954 Bol d’Or with Bobet finishing 22nd and after an accident Bobet decided to have it re-bodied with the intention of making an attempt on the world records for the 750 class.


Marcel Riffard designed the new body which was similar to those he had done for Panhard’s Le Mans cars; it was made by Heuliez. The car took on the new name of Riffard-Renault. In 1956 it was raced at Montlhéry but again it was involved in an accident.

At the 1927 Paris Salon Chenard et Walcker presented two new sporting cars: this one, the ”Tank” Type Y8, a 1500 c.c. with an i.o.e. engine conceived by the engineer Toutée. It was based on the very successful racing “tanks” of 1925 and although a road car it was to be found in private hands on race tracks (one ran in the 1931 Spa 24 Hour race) and in the hugely popular Concours d’Elégances.

On the neighbouring stand a Chenard-Sénéchal, a roadster with more conventional body with cycle wings – the Y7 “Torpille” which used the same engine. In 1928 the Sénéchal name was dropped ( Chenard had been making the popular Sénéchals for Robert Sénéchal in the preceding years).

This Y7 saloon was 4,000 Francs more expensive than the roadster and did not find public approval!

Industrialist Jérôme Donnet bought the Zedel concern in 1919 and produced cars of conventional design to become France’s fifth largest car manufacturer by 1927. He then acquired the Vinot Deguingand company with their factory at Nanterre which he expanded considerably and inherited a 4CV design which he produced as the Donnette. This is unusual in having a twin cylinder 740 c.c. 2-stroke engine designed by the engineer Marcel Violet, the acknowledged master of the 2-stroke cycle. Possibly about 100 only were made and this car is thought to date from c.1932.

Marcel Violet presented his cyclecar in 1924 with a 496 c.c. air-cooled flat twin 2-stroke engine. It scored numerous successes, claiming in 1925 alone the Championship of France, two world records and winning all the major races in the 500 c.c. category. This car dates from 1925.

Think of Amilcars and we tend to remember the sporting CC, CS, CGS and CGSS but over the years Amilcar had developed a range of tourers and at the 1928 Paris Salon the Model M was introduced. This Model M3 came in October 1931 and had a lowered chassis, powered by a 4-cylinder side-valve engine of 1244 c.c.

This strange looking machine is a Dolo. It was first seen at the Paris Salon in October 1947 and subsequently at Brussels and Geneva. It had a 592 c.c. horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels and all-round independent suspension by torsion bars. It had a rigid box type chassis and the roof was a “plexiglass” dome, a new material at that time. During 1948 two cars travelled across France, visiting fairs etc. This came to be stored under the Autodrome at Montlhéry and was rediscovered in 1967.

The Deep Sanderson 301 Coupé which made the marque’s first (of three) appearance at Le Mans in 1963. It used Mini mechanicals set transversely amidships (before the Miura!) and was driven by Chris Lawrence and Chris Spender before being flagged-off for covering insufficient distance.


Fernand Maratuech was an inventor/constructer who lacked the means to build his own aeroplane so he made this “aeroplane without a wing”. He used a 250 c.c. single-cylinder motor-cycle engine and covered more than 5,000 kilometres in his 3-wheeler.

David Blumlein, February 2018














A New Year’s Resolution

Been a little quiet here at DDC Towers since the New Year but our Special Correspondent has been out and about. Attracting his attention was the traditional New Year’s Day gathering at Brooklands. He shares with us some of the hidden gems that were on display around the old race track.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Volvo PV444

Probably the best and toughest of all the Volvos, the PV444 was conceived during the war (Sweden was neutral) and was first seen in Stockholm in September 1944. Volvo had been persuaded to purchase a 1939 1.3-litre Hanomag to study its unitary-body construction and this in turn influenced the new car and also the engine which was a 4-cylinder overhead valve with pushrods unit with a 3-bearing crankshaft and gear-driven camshaft. The car had coil spring suspension all round, independent at the front.

Production could not get underway until a flow of supplies was assured and this gave the company time to subject the car to the most rigorous test programme and when cars started to be produced in February 1947,Volvo had a really tough 2-door saloon.

There were no thoughts of competition for several years but when drivers like Gunnar Andersson started to work wonders in rallies with the car Volvo had a change of heart and signed him up as a “works” driver.
The successes were too numerous to list here but mention must be made of Andersson’s victory in the European Championship in 1958, Tom Trana’s two outstanding wins in the R.A.C. Rally in 1963 and 1964 and Joginder Singh’s win in the 1965 East African Safari in a second-hand car!

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Ford Popular
Based on the “sit up and beg” Anglia shown at the 1948 Earl’s Court Motor Show, the Popular was introduced in 1953 but with the 1172 c.c. side-valve 10hp engine which found its way into so many competition cars at that time. It was a very basic car aimed to provide cheap reliable transport – it came with no heater, vinyl trim, only one vacuum-operated windscreen wiper (you could opt for an extra one for the equivalent of £2.47), very little chrome (even the bumpers were painted) and was offered only as a 2-door saloon.
Production was transferred from Dagenham to Ford’s Doncaster factory in 1955 and the car was made until September 1959 by which time over 150,000 had been sold. This 103E model was the last British car to be produced with a side-valve engine.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Reliant Sabre 6

We normally think of Reliants as 3-wheelers and these constituted the company’s main source of activity but by the Sixties they were also making some sporting 4-wheelers. The Sabres with 4-cylinder engines were the most common but Reliant also offered a six-cylinder version, the Sabre 6.
Despite the company’s limited resources it was felt that this car was both powerful and rugged enough to be thrown into international rallies. It had a Ford Zephyr 2553 c.c. engine with Raymond Mays head and three Weber carburettors. In 1963 two of these works cars took the first two places in their class in the gruelling Coupes des Alpes, the second placed car driven by Roger Clark who was having his first works drive.
Just 77 Sabre 6s were eventually made in 1962-63.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Jaguar XK120

Here is an unspoilt example of the beautiful car which stunned the world at the first post-war Motor Show at Earl’s Court in 1948, complete with those lovely rear wheel spats that were worn by the early production cars. Indeed, Jaguar left them on when the factory took three of the cars in red, white and blue to contest the first Silverstone Production Car Race in August 1949, giving the XK120 a début win.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Austin Seven Swallow

And here is how Jaguar effectively began. William Lyons had started by making sidecars for motorcycles in Blackpool and by 1927 he was making 2-seater car bodies on Morris Cowley and Austin Seven chassis; the idea was to tap into the market for more individual cars at low cost. When he showed his Austin Seven Swallow to the London dealer Henlys, they ordered 500 provided a saloon was added to the range. This was done in 1928 and by the November Lyons was seeking larger premises in Coventry so as to be nearer the centre of motor manufacture. He went on to make attractive bodies on other chassis such as Fiat, Standard and Swift and all this led to his launching in 1931 his own marque, SS, which grew into Jaguar.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Singer Roadster

Before the war Singer made their famous Nine sports cars which did well in rallies, races and trials and were serious rivals to M.G., all in addition to their wide range of production family cars. After the war they replaced their sporting cars with the Roadster which was a 4-seater touring model rather than a competition-based car. It had the sound Singer overhead camshaft engine and coil spring independent front suspension but did not create the sporting successes of its forebears.
Rather interestingly a privately-entered Roadster was the last Singer to run in an international sports car race when it finished 13th in the 1953 Tourist Trophy at Dundrod fifty years after the little 4-seater Nine made its first appearance at Le Mans where it too finished thirteenth!

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

A.C. Zagato

Here is a car we know little about so far! Its formal title is the A.C. 378 GT Zagato and it is a product of the Brooklands Motor Company. It has a tubular steel space –frame chassis and is powered by a 90 degree aluminium V8 of 6.2-litres (378 cu.in.) driving through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The body is by Zagato and that firm’s characteristic double humps on the roof can be seen.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day

Tatra 603

Good to see a Tatra 603 which has finally escaped from its communist influence for these cars were not available to the buying public, being reserved for the ruling authorities and eastern European presidents. They were first seen in the 1955 International six-day motor event in Zlin.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day
They did, however, put in some unexpected appearances in the West when they were allowed to compete in the tough variations of the Marathon de la Route during the Sixties. In the last Liège-Sofia-Liège in 1964 their entry came 15th. This rally was by then causing all sorts of complications passing through different countries so it became an endurance event on the famous Nϋrburgring. For 1965 contestants ran for 82 hours and Tatras came 3rd and 4th in the GT category; a year later in the 84 Hours they finished 3rd, 4th and 5th in the GT class, winning the Trophée des Nations. Their final success was in the 1967 84 Hours when they finished 4th and 5th overall. Perhaps we should not be surprised because the Czechoslovakians always made very strong cars.
The picture shows its unusual rear-mounted air-cooled V8 of 2.5-litres.

2013 Brooklands New Years Day
A beautiful early Bentley 3 Litre

David Blumlein, January 2013