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Prowling The Paddock

Last week I caught up with our Special Correspondent in Belgium and he gave me the good news that he had finished his reflections on this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. So for the enlightenment of us all here is his copy and images.

2013 Festival of Speed

A visit to the Cathedral Paddock at half past seven on the Friday morning is always well rewarded. Here we have the surviving 1939 V-12 Le Mans Lagonda, the work of W.O. Bentley and his team.
The two cars entered came 3rd and 4th, following obediently the speeds set by the master – he wanted to ensure reliability and to go all out for a win in 1940; but that of course never came. The two cars had their final outing in the very last Brooklands meeting in August 1939 before the war clouds moved in. A win in a handicap race for this car crowned their short career before a V-1 hit the garage where they were stored, doing considerable damage. This car represents the works car which took third place at Le Mans in the hands of Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury.
Beware! – some replicas have been made but this is the only genuine survivor!

2013 Festival of Speed

Anyone still somnolent at that time of the morning soon had their condition violently shaken by the shattering bombardment of noise from 12 short-stub flame-spitting exhausts of the 26.9-litre V-12 Liberty engine of Babs being warmed up – wonderful! Babs of course is the real restored car which that engineering genius Parry Thomas had developed from the Higham Special which he had obtained from the estate of Count Zborowski who had been killed at Monza in a works Mercédès in 1924. Thomas worked on the car for a year or so, re-naming it Babs, and in 1926 he set new World Land Speed records in April of 169 and 171 m.p.h. on the Pendine Sands in South Wales.
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The car underwent further modifications prior to Thomas returning to Pendine in April 1927 to try to beat Campbell’s record of 174 m.p.h. set in February in Bluebird. Alas, he crashed fatally and the damaged car was buried forthwith in the sand. It was that enthusiast Owen Wyn Owen who obtained permission to dig up the remains and to restore the car to its original final state as we see here.
Speculation has for a long time suggested that the driving chain came off to cause the head injuries from which Thomas died but this is now discounted – the covers were intact – and it is thought that he lost his life when the car turned over on top of him.
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More record breaking – the Peugeot 208 T16 with which Sebastien Loeb lowered the record at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb by 90 seconds! This one–off machine puts out 875 b.h.p. via the four wheels and set a time of 8 mins 13.878 seconds on the 12.42 mile drive up through the 156 corners of this incredible venue in Colorado.
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It is not often that the sole Cunningham C-6R escapes from its captivity at the magnificent Collier Collection in Florida. This attractive car, however, ranks as a failure. It is the last of the line of cars which Briggs Cunningham built to conquer Le Mans, a goal he never achieved to his great disappointment. It appeared for the 1955 season and differed from its V-8 predecessors in having an Offenhauser 4-cylinder engine more usually associated with Indianapolis than sports car racing. This unit was mounted inclined at 12˚ to the left and was de-stroked to 2942 c.c. The car first raced unpainted at the Sebring 12 Hours but had to retire when the flywheel exploded. By Le Mans it had acquired a fin and traditional American colours of white with a blue stripe. But the engine was not suited to the fuel supplied and its drivers Briggs Cunningham and Sherwood Johnston had to retire. The car raced again a few months later at Elkhart Lane where the Offenhauser failed once more. As Cunningham was by this time becoming involved with racing Jaguars, the C-6R finished its career with a Jaguar engine.
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This is Jaguar C-Type chassis 005 and it has a special place in history. In 1952 Stirling Moss drove it to victory in the Reims Sports Car Race, thus making it the first car to win an international sports car race using disc brakes. Sitting at the wheel here is Norman Dewis who was Jaguar’s long-serving test and development driver. In fact, so precious was he to Jaguar that Sir William Lyons forbade him to race. In 1955, however, the boss relented twice: in that year’s Le Mans, Dewis shared the third long-nosed works D-type with Don Beauman who eventually put the car irretrievably into the sand when lying fourth. Then in the Goodwood 9-hour race Dewis drove Jack Broadhead’s D-type with Bob Berry into a respectable fifth place.
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Over from the Daytona Speedway Museum was the final version of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record car Bluebird. After a break in 1934 from record-breaking which gave Reid Railton time to come up with this all-enveloping body, Bluebird returned to Daytona in March 1935 when this 5-ton machine, complete with twin rear wheels and air-brakes and powered by a 36.5-litre supercharged Rolls-Royce R engine, took the record at 276 m.p.h. However, Daytona Beach was becoming increasingly unsuitable for these higher speeds and Campbell opted to try the salt flats at Bonneville in Utah – by September he had become the first man to drive a car at over 300 m.p.h., 301.129 m.p.h. in fact. Campbell had achieved what he wanted and retired from the arena.
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One of Bluebird’s air-brakes.

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Tucked away from the general crowds on the southern fringes of Goodwood were two Rolls-Royces, unlabelled and without any apparent supervision. One was the 1913 Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle which James Radley used in support of the three works cars which brought success to the Derby marque in the Austrian Alpine Trial that year. Rolls-Royce had entered the cars to redeem their reputation after Mr Radley had driven his private Silver Ghost in the 1912 event and had failed to climb the Katschberg Pass because its 3-speed gearbox lacked a sufficiently low ratio. Needless to say, the 1913 cars had 4-speed boxes and other modifications:
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To recall their ultimate success, Rolls-Royce introduced the special edition “Alpine Trial Centenary Collection” version of the current Ghost model painted a pale blue and here can be seen the two cars from the rear.

David Blumlein, August 2013




Return to the Grand Palais

Our Special Correspondent visited the recent Bonhams Sale at the majestic Grand Palais, as ever he cast a keen eye over the cars assembled, here he shares some thoughts with us.

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A welcome back for cars in the Grand Palais, home of the prestigious Paris “Salon de l’Automobile” from 1901 to 1961. This impressive building with its extensive glass vaulting and iron and light steel frame was constructed for the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900 and was duly opened on 1 May that year. The Motor Show outgrew it and was re-located to the capacious exhibition halls at the Porte de Versailles but it did not take the atmosphere with it!

Well done, Bonhams, for choosing such a nostalgic setting for your auction! Here are a few of the more interesting cars put up for sale:

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1916 Packard Twin Six

In May 1915 Packard made history by introducing the world’s first quantity produced V-12 engine. It was a 60 degree L-head unit of 6,950 c.c. and over 30,000 were made before production ceased in 1923. The smooth running of this engine is said to have inspired Enzo Ferrari to adopt the V-12 configuration for his own cars. And it was in a Packard Twin Six that the American President, Warren Harding , was driven to his Inauguration in 1920, the first time a president travelled by car to this important ceremony.

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Here is a Packard V-12 engine.

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Marion Bobcat Speedster

Speedsters and Roadsters like this were all the rage in America in the five years or so before the Great War, with the Mercer Raceabout and the Stutz Bearcat the most well-known. The Marion was one of those numerous makes that hailed from Indianapolis and, interestingly, their Chief Engineer from 1906-10 was Harry C. Stutz who would certainly have had some input in this car which is thought to date from 1911.

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1921 Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle

The 40/50 Rolls-Royce was introduced in the autumn of 1906 and soon became known as the “Silver Ghost”. It was the car that established the company’s reputation and was the only model produced from 1907 until the introduction of the “Twenty” in October 1922. This variation arises from the sporting activities of one James Radley who privately entered his Silver Ghost for the 1912 Austrian Alpine Rally and found that the car would not climb the Katschberg Pass owing to the inadequacy of its 3-speed gearbox. As can be imagined, this did not go down well back at the factory in Derby and their answer was to develop a car with more power, to fit a new 4-speed gearbox and build four special cars and enter a “works” team of three plus one for James Radley in the 1913 Austrian Alpine event. These cars did very well, winning six awards. With honour restored, the company decided to build a series of customer cars to the same specification and these were called officially the “Continental” model. However, the Chief Tester Ernest Hives, later Lord Hives, nicknamed them “Alpine Eagles” and the name has stuck ever since!

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1928 Detroit Electric Model 95

Electric cars were popular in America until the late Thirties. Detroit Electric was one of the main manufacturers and it is estimated that this company produced over 35,000 such cars in the three decades of its existence, all with similar looking bodywork. Even in the earlier days of production these cars had a range of 70 miles and could reach 45 m.p.h. – oh dear, we have not come very far since!

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1977 Stutz Black Hawk VI Coupé

The Stutz rose to become one of America’s most prestigious makes by the time of its demise in the mid-Thirties. Harry Stutz made his first car in time to take part in the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911 where it finished 11th. This enabled Stutz to proclaim his slogan “The Car that made Good in a Day”, and there was a demand for replicas. Stutz cars were very involved in competitions in those early days and the company was turning out such racy production cars as the Bearcat roadster, initially with Wisconsin engines before Stutz started making their own in 1917. The Stutz name was revived in 1970 in New York and the ex-Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner penned this extravagant design. The bodies were made in Italy and the cars used GM mechanicals, this one using a Pontiac V8. Although various body styles were available, the cars were very expensive and only about 60 were produced. The above car takes its name from a famous Stutz sporting car which in 1928 very nearly beat the Bentleys at Le Mans!

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1948 Tatra T.87

Hans Ledwinka was the genius behind the remarkable Tatra cars. His trademark was all independent suspension with a backbone chassis, and he presented in 1934 the stunning T.77 which had a futuristic aerodynamic body on typical Ledwinka mechanicals but with a rear-mounted air-cooled V8 engine. Initially this car had a centrally placed steering wheel, an idea copied by the Panhard Dynamic and the McLaren F1 road car, but more importantly the body gave a co-efficient of drag of only 0.21, exceptional for that time. Despite the engine giving out a mere 59 b.h.p., the T.77 could reach 87 m.p.h. Its weakness was in the handling department with all that mechanical weight concentrated at the back and Ledwinka answered this by drawing up the T.87 in 1936. This was shorter and lighter and had a 3-litre V8 which gave the car a 100 m.p.h. performance with a still impressive drag of just 0.36. The T.87 remained in production until 1950 and among its clients were Ernst Heinkel, Erwin Rommel, Felix Wankel and King Farouk of Egypt.

TAILPIECE

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This is an example of the Fiat 238 van that claims a place in the company’s history because it is the first production Fiat to have front-wheel drive. The mechanics are based on those of the Autobianchi Primula car.

David Blumlein, February 2013