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The other Sunday morning I pulled my McLaren F1 into a Cars & Coffee meet. A young man, probably in his mid-20s, approached me. ‘What’s it like to drive a car like that, with no driver aids of any kind?’ he asked.
In his driving life, about ten years, he has probably never driven a car without them. In my driving life, which is considerably longer, most of the cars I own and drive have no driver aids at all.
A good example is my #1953-Hudson-Hornet / #Hudson-Hornet / #Hudson / #1953 , made just before the advent of power steering and power brakes so everything is nicely weighted and balanced, this was the first American post-war design that was totally fresh and new. It featured a Monobilt Step-Down design; that’s where the floor pan was not on top of the frame but on the bottom of it. this not only lowered the car but gave you more headroom. At 60in tall, the Hudson was a good 6in or so lower than its competitors, this gave it a much lower centre of gravity and made it the best-handling American car of the era. It ruled NASCAR in the early ’50s; what it couldn’t do on the straight it made up in corners.
Its Achilles’ heel was its 308ci flathead six-cylinder engine with two single-barrel carburettors, which in Hudson-speak was called Twin H-Power. In 1949, Oldsmobile revealed its new 303ci overhead-valve Rocket V8 that, with a four-barrel carburettor, gave 160bhp. Actually that was the same as the Hudson Hornet, but with those two extra cylinders and the gold valve covers it was a lot sexier.
I have a film strip that Hudson sent to dealers, to show prospective customers. It features two cars with the bonnets up: a Rocket 88 and a Hornet. Standing next to the Rocket 88, an exasperated customer yells to a mechanic in a filthy coverall, ‘Why does it take so long to tune up this car?’ ‘It’s those pesky overhead valves,’ the mechanic explains, ‘they’re just too complicated.’
then the camera pans to the Hudson mechanic who, in his clean, freshly pressed uniform, is gently closing the Hudson’s bonnet after torquing the heads, saying, ‘there you go Mr Johnson, she’s fit as a fiddle.’ As the Hudson owner beams with pride, he pulls away knowing he made the right choice with the tried and true flathead design. For a lot of people the last days of old technology were always better than the first days of new technology.
A really old-school Hudson feature was that the clutch is lined with cork and runs in oil. It’s amazing how smooth and reliable it is. Another Hudson quirk is two braking systems, in case one fails: a hydraulic system and a mechanical back-up. It’s said that Stuart Baits, the chief engineer, had a bad accident and was seriously injured while testing Hudson’s new hydraulic brake system.
Baits installed a steel rod, running from the brake pedal to the emergency brake on the rear wheels, to stop the car if the brake pedal ever went past the halfway point. As Henry Ford, who resisted hydraulic brakes up until the 1930s, said: ‘the safety of steel from pedal to wheel.’
If you ever want to talk no driver aids, look no further than the 1913 Mercer Raceabout. I consider this to be, at least in America, the first true sports car. While other manufacturers were putting a huge lump of an engine, some as big as 12 litres, into a lightweight frame, the Mercer, which also has a lightweight frame, has a five-litre, four-cylinder T-head engine, thus making an extremely well-balanced package. It also features a four-speed gearbox and is one of the fastest and best- handling cars of the era, with a top speed of 100mph.
It has a monocle windshield bolted to the steering column, no doors and minimal bodywork, the gas pedal is outside the car on the frame rail; your feet are so far apart that the women who’ve driven it say it’s akin to visiting the gynaecologist.
the brakes don’t so much stop the car as merely retard progress. You have an outside handbrake which stops the rear wheels only, here’s a foot pedal that works as a transmission brake on the propshaft. Caution: use this too often and it will catch fire.
Apart from the magneto, the Raceabout has no electrics. Even though electric lamps were popular, it has gas lamps, the advantage was that you could pop off the lamps, unbolt the fenders and go racing.
My favourite thing is the exhaust cut-out to bypass the silencer. A pedal by your left foot opens the exhaust at the bottom of the manifold, the T-head engine, in full song, sounds like four shotguns fired in unison.
If you’re a real purist about no driver aids, how about this? here’s no electric starter, so you have to hand-crank it. Take that, McLaren F1: who needs an electric starter anyway? Now we’re talking about no driver aids.
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- Post is under moderationASTON MARTIN DB2/4
Year of manufacture 1953
Recorded mileage 389
Asking price £129,950
Vendor Hofmann’s of Henley, Oxon; tel: 01491 848800; www.hofmanns.co.uk
WHEN IT WAS NEW
CAR #Aston-Martin-DB2-4 / #Aston-Martin-DB2 / #Aston-Martin-DB2/4 / #Aston-Martin / #1953
Max power 125bhp
Max torque 144lb ft
0-60mph 11.1 secs
Top speed 117mph
This Aston, the 61st 2/4 off the line, with factory-fitted options of heavyduty dampers and a telescopic steering column, spent some time in New Zealand where it was restored before being repatriated in 1985, and has been re-registered on its original number. It has clearly done little work since because the fasteners underneath are still clean and the recorded mileage is likely post rebuild, only about 120 having been added after its MoT test in 2011. Its history file details all the work carried out up to ’59, which included a 3-litre-spec clutch, Alfin brake drums possibly for a mid- ’50s Alpine Rally entry, and a subsequent engine rebuild at 47,000 miles.
The body is straight, with even and quite close-fitting panel gaps for a DB2-family car. The chassis and bodywelds are sharp, the exhaust is in fine order, plus the paint is nice and even, bar a small area of sinkage at the base of the left ’screen pillar. The wheels are new, shod with a decent set of Vredestein radials with the same on the spare, and the original painted wires are included. Inside, the leather is clean and unworn, while the same goes for the carpets. The dashboard and instruments are excellent, too. The engine is clean and tidy, in factory finishes including black carbs, with no leaks. Its oil is cleanish and near the maximum mark, with green coolant, full in the top tank. The engine-bay wiring loom is new and to the correct cotton-covered spec. The jack and wheelbrace are in place. The ‘six’ fires readily, sounding beefier than its 2.6 litres. It suffered a slight misfire on our gentle test, but clean plugs should clear that because it had been running perfectly when it reached the showroom – according to Hofmann’s. Oil pressure is a steady 50psi – halfway up the gauge when in motion – and the coolant temperature sits at 75ºC. The gearchange is accurate and the brakes pull up straight, with a slight rumble through the firm pedal. Though it now doesn’t need one, the MoT runs until January.
EXTERIOR Smart body and paint; one small sub-surface area not so good
INTERIOR New materials and immaculate
MECHANICALS All appear to have been rebuilt
For + Condition; colour; MM eligible
Against - If you must nitpick, that bit of paint on the ’screen pillar
SHOULD I BUYIT?
Well restored, although in the same ballpark as some very original cars that sold recently at auction for rebuild – so the numbers stack up.
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- Post is under moderationIt’s fun to watch the various permutations that our hobby goes through. When I first got into classic cars, the idea was to have almost over-restored, Pebble Beach-type cars with perfect chrome; there were guys with tweezers literally pulling blades of grass from out between the tyre treads so the car was way better than it ever came out of the factory.
And then the next phase was accurate restoration, where the car looked as it was when it left the factory. If the body was brush painted and varnished originally, then that’s what the owner did and you could see the brush marks in the paint.
Then the next thing to come along was the preservation class - cars that were completely original, which had not been modified or updated in any way. Then came this preoccupation with barn finds. I never realised there were so many barns in the world.
The latest thing to come along is the ‘Derelict’. This is where you take a car, preferably something built between #1934 and about #1953 , and preferably American - and you keep the exterior looking as it is: rusted hood, torn upholstery, scratched glass, whatever. But underneath you put in something sophisticated like an Art Morrison chassis, Brembo disc brakes, modern running gear, decent sound system...
This latest trend was started by a guy named Jonathan Ward. Jonathan’s come to my garage with a number of his vehicles - the first one he had was a #1952 #Chrysler-Town-and-Country with a DeSoto front-end and a modern 425bhp 6.1-litre Hemi engine with the gearbox to match. It had modern disc brakes and could do burnouts all day long.
Jonathan usually starts with a car that is a complete wreck. I’ve just finished driving his latest creation - a #1948-Buick-Super-Convertible - that has the drivetrain from the Corvette ZR1. This car has something like 640bhp and it goes like the new Dodge Hellcat. I mean, it’s hilarious. You get on a windy road, behind a modern 911, and you’re chasing him with this 1948 Buick. I could see the driver’s eyes in the rear-view mirror going: ‘What is going on? What planet are we on here?’
Maybe if the 911 driver knew that the Derelict costs $300,000, he might feel a little better.
There are some people who say: ‘Oh, you’ve ruined the car.’ But most of these projects start with cars that are too far gone to save anyway. That’s sort of the point of Derelicts. And you take something that nobody else wants and is completely undesirable. You know, it’s like when you go to New York City or London and you see women who are wearing all their jewellery and rings but they’ve got a ratty old coat over it, or a scarf round their neck - that’s kind of the idea behind it. You don’t want to draw too much attention to the car, except for when you put your foot down and go around the corner.
I’ve got a #1955 #Mercedes-Benz-Gullwing . When I bought it the engine and transmission were not in the car; it had been left sitting outside. And I thought: let’s just get it running perfectly. So we went through the motor, transmission, did the brakes, put everything back in the car and started driving it. And to my surprise people loved it; they actually loved it more than the restored car because it had so much patina and they loved the fact that I wasn’t afraid to use it.
Taking Jonathan’s lead, I think I will do my own Derelict. I had someone call me up saying his wife ‘wants this crap out of the drive’. He had this #1957 Plymouth two-door wagon... just a rust-bucket, but it has potential. And I thought to myself, well how great - if we keep the body like it is and just put all my money in the drivetrain. So I’m thinking of putting a Hellcat drivetrain in, something like that - should be a lot of fun. With an eight-speed transmission, it will be hilarious.
I think Derelicts will have longevity because they’re the modern interpretation of the Rat Rod. Here in Los Angeles back in the '40s and '50s, Hot Rods became Rat Rods because guys got their parts from junkyards.
I would go to Hot Rod shows around Los Angeles and I would see brand new Hot Rods that were made to look like Rat Rods. They’d have three blackwall tyres and one whitewall. You know... and they’d be old bias-ply tyres with a lot of tread missing. They wanted it to look like it had been made on a shoestring.
Dolly Parton had a great line in her act, about how ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.’ Derelicts are the same.
‘THE LATEST THING IS THE “DERELICT”. YOU KEEP THE EXTERIOR AS IT IS, BUT UNDERNEATH YOU PUT IN SOMETHING SOPHISTICATED’
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- Post is under moderationTIME MACHINES
When 911&PW launched in 1990, the lead story in the news pages was the impending arrival of the 964 Turbo, the pinnacle of the 911 range. In order to assess the passage of 25 years of 911 development, we pitched the 964 Turbo against the current 991 Turbo. You can’t stop the 911 and you can’t stop progress.
Porsche 911 & PW 25th Anniversary Happy Birthday to us! 25-years ago the 964 Turbo was the top dog. We pitch it against the current 991. What better way to illustrate 25-years of #Porsche progress, and 25-years of 911&PW, than by pitching the two top dog 911s of their respective eras. Enter the 964 Turbo and the 991 Turbo for an evolutionary, time travelling showdown.
“The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.” An overused quote (the opening line of LP Hartley’s #1953 novel, The Go Between), but overused for a reason, that being its eloquence and descriptive power. Does any other line sum up the power of progress quite as well? I don’t think so.
In these days of rapid and rampant progress, subtracting 25-years from 2015 to arrive at 1990 appears to be just a short hop back in time, but truly it was a different time. Imagine going back there now? When 911 & Porsche World launched in April 1990, as a finger in the air exercise of publishing, the only way to gauge whether there would be an audience for the title was by simply doing it and putting it on the shelves of WHSmith and a few specialist Porsche dealers.
The brief was simple: To cover all things Porsche and to represent the interest and passion of all things Porsche for owners and enthusiasts. In a world devoid of any form of digital media and communication, that is how things worked. Paper, words and pictures. Copy was typed, pictures were committed to film, pages were stuck together with glue. Typesetters and compositers turned it into reality. What we can do now in seconds, used to take days. 1990 might have seemed all very modern and exciting, but if time travel were possible, anyone from the ’60s would have been able to adapt very quickly indeed. Hell, plenty of cars still had carburettors and points!
Inevitably 25-years of 911&PW, for its eclecticism, also reads like a Porsche timeline from its launch to now. We’ve followed the fortunes of the marque from near bust to a sonic fiscal boom and back again. We’ve followed each new model and have chronicled five generations of 911 from the 964 to the 991, or exactly 25-years of the 911’s timeline. No, the 911 isn’t the be all and end all of the magazine, but its constant presence creates an essential point of reference, just as it does for Porsche the company. No other sports car has been developed to the same degree as the 911, with each generation exploiting the technology of the time. For the first 25-years progress was pretty sedate, but the following 25-years, the 25-years that this magazine has been around, like the rest of the technological world, it’s been rapid indeed, thanks largely to a digital revolution that has left no part of life untouched.
So how best to illustrate this in our own little world? Well, if the 911 is the constant by which the magazine is measured, then why not gather the ultimate 911 of 1990 and wind up the KKK turbo for a bit of time travel and propel into its own future to meet its 2015 future self. Sure there’s a void in between, but all the better to accentuate the massive progress of the past 25-years. We’re going to make one giant leap, rather than a number of incremental steps. Hold on!
Fittingly, the ultimate 911 of 1990 was announced in the news pages of the very first issue of 911&PW. “911 Turbo for the nineties,” was how we introduced the 964 Turbo. Following hot on the heels of the normally aspirated #Porsche-964-C2 and C4, the Turbo featured the same aero front and rear bumper treatment and side skirts, plus 959-style five spoke ‘Cup’ wheels, that temporarily seemed so modern compared with the Fuchs of old. And big too. At 17 inches, they seemed huge. Aero wing mirrors were another improvement, but ultimately there was a feeling that the 964 Turbo wasn’t much of a leap forward over the 930 Turbo and it stuck with the 2WD drive layout, despite the 964 range being launched with a flagship 4WD version. Put it this way, there wasn’t much sense of this containing a great deal in the way of trickle down technology from the 959, which was kind of surprising looking back now, or even then, but we’ll come to that.
Whereas the normally aspirated 964 got what were essentially all new 3.6-litre engines, with twin plug heads, the Turbo rather made do with the 930 Turbo’s 3.3- litre engine and an extra 20bhp, bringing it up to a not inconsiderable 320bhp, thanks to its larger #KKK turbo, larger intercooler, #Bosch-K-Jetronic injection and revised air intake system. Like its 964 siblings, the Turbo also got coil spring suspension all round, with MacPherson struts at the front with aluminium transverse links and semitrailing arms at the rear.
The modernising front and rear bumper treatment deserves more than just a throwaway reference. Without having to do much to the main body shell, Porsche used the front and rear aprons to dramatic aerodynamic effect, but unlike the normally aspirated C2 and C4, the Turbo didn’t get the retractable rear spoiler, but remained faithful to the Turbo defining ‘tea tray’ lid, which rather accentuated its connection with the 930, rather than the rest of the 964 range.
There was, then, a feeling that the 964 Turbo was something of an afterthought compared with the base 964s, which were clearly a leap forward from the G-Series cars that they replaced in terms of sophistication and modernity. But that was then and this is now and 25-years into the future the 964 Turbo has rather come of age. After years in the doldrums it has been reinvented as the last of the old school, rear drive only 911 Turbos, and as such it commands a price above the 930 Turbo. And of course because it’s an air-cooled 911, that price is not inconsiderable.
Above all the 964 Turbo is a product of its time and was constrained by the engineering solutions of the day. It is very much ‘mechanical.’ Much as computers had little to do with the day-to-day production of 911&PW, they had very little to do with the development of the 964, and nor did the 964 have much in the way of on board computing power. Take out the Bosch ECU and you’ll find a few RAM chips to control the fuelling and ignition, with about as much operating power as a 2015 cordless phone. There is also what Porsche optimistically describe as an ‘onboard computer,’ which features an LED screen in the bottom centre of the rev counter, which gives basic distance travelled info, outside temp and boost pressure. There is an equivalent in the 991 Turbo, which will even display Gforce and the engine’s torque curve.
But let’s not sneer. Even if it were possible to convey such info to the driver in 1990, it probably wouldn’t have crossed the engineers’ minds. Why would it? Twenty-five years on it’s just a bit of tech froth, that would only appeal to teenagers and Nissan Skyline drivers. But that’s progress for you and the endless digital revolution, that makes all this stuff possible, some of empowering, essential usefulness, some, like an onboard torque curve readout just a gimic.
On board the 964 is a familiar air-cooled place. The interior of this immaculate example is era defining light grey. The dash is essentially a modernised version of the 1963 original, while the prominent centre console is about the only 959 feature to have made it into the 964 Turbo, and sits on top of the redundant transmission tunnel. The deep bolstered Sports seats are fabulously comfy and offer a modicum of electric adjustability, while the four-spoke ‘lozenge’ centred steering wheel is fixed in all plains. The pedals, naturally, still pivot from the floor and are offset on this right-hooker. For 911 pilots of old, it’s all part of the package, here in the modern world you objectively wonder as to how some of the 911’s quirky features could have lasted for 25 years and beyond. Even in 1990 this essentially ‘modernised’ 911 must have felt rather oldfashioned compared to the competition like the #Honda-NSX , or the #Ferrari-348 (actually the 348 wasn’t a prancing horse, but more a lame donkey, with a gearbox full of rubble. The NSX, however, was a game-changer, held back only by its badge). But that, as we know, is all part of the 911 charm and mystique. If you have to ask, then clearly you don’t understand. Or is that just making a virtue out of a necessity?
But it could, and should have been so much different. Of course the #Porsche-959 hadn’t been forgotten. The car we could have been driving today, if everything had gone to plan, and Porsche hadn’t gone though one of its many financial blips, was called the 969 and was clearly the son of the 959, with a 370bhp 3.5-litre twin turbo engine (other engines were considered, like the V8 Indy car engine – seriously), with water-cooled four-valve cylinder heads and a sophisticated four-wheel drive system hooked up to Porsche’s own PDK transmission, or a manual ’box if the buyer preferred. The 969 was due for a #1991 launch and would happily hold 185mph around the Nardo bowl. It featured the sloped back headlights of the 959 and hoop rear wing. Sixteen prototypes were built. It would have been the pinnacle of the #Porsche-911 range and in all likelihood another form of Turbo would have slotted in underneath.
Internal machinations and costs killed the #Porsche-969 . Too expensive to build, technology not quite there yet, with a potential price tag that could have been beyond market forces and a financial crisis within Porsche, and on top of that the 969 would have launched straight into the early ’90s recession.
So that’s what could have been. It’s what the #993 Turbo vaguely became (twin turbos, four-wheel drive and a lot of the 969’s styling cues) and certainly what the #996 Turbo achieved. But the 964 Turbo? Yes, it really was something of a rush job, stop-gap model, particularly in its first 930-engined based iteration.
So, it would have been great to have been driving the stillborn #969 , and it would certainly have had rather more of a connection with the 991 Turbo, but we’re not, so let’s just get the 964 Turbo fired up. Who’s got the key?
‘Fired up’ is a bit of a misnomer. Typically it ‘churns’ into life and settles into a soft, muted idle, the turbo and the new fangled catalytic converter acting as effective silencers. The 964’s new power steering takes the heft out of steering and the relatively new G50 ’box is an ally in the soon to be forgotten and interactive art of changing gear. Those floor-mounted pedals might feel weird, but the clutch is light enough and the throttle pedal allows full foot coverage. Lifting your footing completely off the footwell to operate the brake is, well, just one of those 911 idiosyncrasies.
Off boost, below 3000rpm, it feels soft and lethargic. Get the big old turbo spinning and the fuel pumping and it picks itself up with a hard-edged vigour. Unlike some old supercars of the era, the 964 Turbo isn’t going to get blown away by a modern turbo diesel. A modern hot hatch maybe (a Golf R would humiliate it), but on boost the 964 Turbo feels like it’s got every one of those 320 horses working, although typically tall gearing (80mph in second) will see it easily drop off boost. It’s a feeling that’s accentuated by the very stiff suspension, that has the Turbo leaping about these not entirely flat North Yorkshire moors. It’s not 964 RS stiff, but it’s not far off, a product of the new to the 964 coil spring suspension, which doesn’t have quite the sense of detachment from the road surface that the G-Series cars did, with their torsion bars. The big 17in wheels and 50 profile tyres don’t help either, but those big wheels do allow massive – for 1990 – 333mm front discs and hefty four-pot calipers, that even now haul the Turbo up with impressive retardation.
In the corners and the 964 is a natural understeerer. It has to be bullied and worked to get to the apex, but then get the boost right and it launches itself out with that characteristic rear-end squat, and charges off with a turbine howl. If the corners are coming thick and fast, then be prepared to work very hard. There’s massive amounts of grip, but the Turbo doesn’t much like changing direction, so a lift at the right moment will activate the tail, but that’s a bit like juggling chainsaws. Get it wrong and it will hurt.
In today’s context it feels old-fashioned, but in an endearing sort of way. It’s got old school Turbo twitches and tendencies. You absolutely know it’s there, influencing the whole demeanour of the car. It’s either on or off. Even in 1990 it was a bit of an animal and not exactly the car that was expected. Uncouth and unsophisticated, something of a thug. But then as we know now (and what wasn’t appreciated at the time), this wasn’t the Turbo that Porsche had intended to bring to the market.
And so to the 991 Turbo. Are we travelling backward in time here or forward? Well forward obviously, but so mightily fast is the 991, and so comprehensively evolved and sophisticated, that an ability to time travel back to 1990 for a look at its predecessor, wouldn’t be a surprise. I’m sure if you were delve in to sat nav settings the time travel option would appear. Just tap in North Yorkshire Moors 1990, and in Terminator style the 991 would appear in a frisson of pulsing, arcing electricity to scare the sheep.
The 991 Turbo is progress on a massive scale, made possible by the advances in digital and engineering technology, but mainly by the former. Its whole build and design was conceived electronically, from the design process to the build process where engineering tolerances are micro managed by computer-controlled machinery. The integration of computer and mechanical is almost cyborg in nature. The machines are taking over and in the shape of the 991 Turbo, and much more in modern life, it’s very much true. We live in a time when a tiny pocket device, originally conceived to simply make phone calls, puts every conceivable piece of information, book, piece of music and visual image within instant reach. Imagine predicting that in 1990?
It’s only when you jump the void from #1990 to #2015 that you realise just how extraordinary the 991 Turbo is, and how we now take all this stuff for granted. Maybe we will refuse to be astonished until cars finally shed their wheels and we start to hover everywhere, or they simply drive themselves, but the only thing that connects the 991 Turbo with the 964 Turbo is the 911 designation, its evolutionary silhouette, its engine location and the fact that it’s got four wheels and a steering wheel and still runs entirely on petrol and, come the next generation of #Porsche-911 , we can certainly expect some form of electric assistance.
There are many things that astound about the 991 Turbo, but the most beguiling and frankly mind blowing facet is just how ludicrously easy it is to make it go fast. Teleport the 964 Turbo owner of 1990 forward 25-years and stick them in the driver’s seat of the 991. They would be able to grasp the concept of putting the PDK-only transmission into drive, the rest is purely turning the wheel and pressing the go pedal. From that point on, the machine takes over. It will take a little while for 1990 911 Turbo man to actually keep up with what’s going on, such is the speed at which the modern Turbo responds to instruction, and that’s before you’ve employed any of the go faster functionality. Best save Sports Plus and Launch Control for another time.
Compared with its 25-year-old ancestor, the 991 defies any semblance of physics. It shouldn’t be able to corner like it does, it shouldn’t be able to change direction like it does. It does so because it has a raft of electro mechanical components that look conventional, but are anything but. Dampers? Yes, they look like dampers, but they’re controlled by electro magnetic valves. The roll bars? They’re electronically controlled too, stiffening to support the side of the car that needs it. The centre diff? Electro magnetic again to deliver power and traction back and forth in a nano second. The rear end steers itself, and Torque Vectoring speeds up the inside rear wheel to facilitate turn in. Hell, even the engine mounts clamp the engine tight when the going gets twisty. And all that’s before you even start to consider the traction and stability management controls and the small matter of nearly 600bhp, not far off twice the power of the 964 Turbo.
The 991 Turbo is fast, but it’s artificially fast. Like a modern fighter would fall out of the sky without its flight control systems, so modern 991 Turbo would fall off the road without all its electronic systems. They are what enables it to function and do the mind altering stuff that it’s so capable of, in the background, making modern 911 Turbo man look like a complete hero.
But that’s progress for you and there’s no going back. The 964 Turbo is like a warning from the past as to how these things used to be. It’s a quaint reminder of the pre digital age. A Sunday toy for a bit of heavy-duty mechanical interaction. The 991 Turbo is a thrilling, flying on the ground, 21st Century marvel and a fitting pinnacle of where the 911 is right now, and I know which one I’d take.
THANKS: Sincere thanks to all at Specialist Cars of Malton for the loan of the #964 Turbo, which is currently for sale. Tel: 01653 697722 specialistcarsltd.co.uk
The 991 Turbo would fall off the road without all its electronic systems.
Far left: The launch of the 964 Turbo as we covered it in the first issue of 911&PW in 1990. Left: What could have been. The sole surviving 969 Turbo prototype, a clear descendant of the 959, but canned for financial reasons.
Direction changes and grip levels in the 991 Turbo border on extraordinary. It has a raft of technological solutions geared entirely to getting it round corners as fast as possible.
Interior is similar to 911s of old, with the curve of the dashboard and placement of the air vents all following #911 tradition. #PDK sevenspeed gearbox is the command centre, with its three modes: Normal, Sport and Sport Plus.
Right: The #Porsche-991 Turbo is bristling with detail. Wheels are massive 20in, diamond polished cross-spokes, with centre lock fixings. Equally huge six-pot brake calipers clamp on to Porsche PCCB discs. Braking is awesome in the true sense of the word.
Unlike some old supercars of the era, the #Porsche-964 Turbo isn’t going get blown away by a modern turbodiesel.
Model tested: #Porsche-991-Turbo-S
Engine: 3800cc, flat-six DOHC, twin turbo
Transmission: Four-wheel drive, seven-speed PDK
Body style: Coupe
Suspension: MacPherson struts (f), multi-link rear
Top speed: 198mph
0-62mph 2.9 secs
Power: 552bhp at 6500rpm
Pale grey interior is very early ’90s. Deep bolstered ‘Sports’ seats are among the best Porsche have ever made. Cockpit feels tight and compact, but visibility is excellent.
Even in #1990 this essentially ‘modernised’ 911 must have felt rather old fashioned compared to the competiton.
964 Turbo looks terrific in white, like a refugee racer on the road. New front and rear aprons, plus side skirts and aero mirrors were a styling success. Tea tray rear wing a 911 Turbo trademark.
Model tested: #Porsche-964-Turbo
Engine: 3300cc, flat-six DOHC, single turbo
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: Coupe
Suspension: MacPherson struts front and rear
Top speed: 167mph
0-62mph 5.0 secs
Power: 322bhp at 5750rpm
Damp, cold North Yorkshire moors roads focus the mind in an old school 911 Turbo, with absolutely no driver aids whatsoever. Not that the 964 feels anything other than grippy and competent.
Left: Distinctive and huge intercooler sits on top of the 964’s 3.3-litre, air-cooled flat-six. Power is 320bhp. Clocks are resolutely analogue, while four-pot alloy calipers were considered huge for 1990.
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- Post is under moderationCentre of Gravity
Morris, Hillman & Austin Oxford meets Minx and Somerset. The post-war British ca r m ark et of gravity revolved around saloons such as the #Morris-Oxford , #Hillman-Minx and #Austin-Somerset , but which is best? Jon Pressnell decides. Photography Tony Baker.
These were the bread-and-butter of mid-century British motoring. The cruel would say that these three saloons are so stodgy that the word ‘porridge’ might be more appropriate. But before you sneer, each one of them was a mainstay for their manufacturer, keeping factories turning, bringing in valuable foreign exchange, and providing hundreds of thousands of motorists with no-nonsense family transport. The #Hillman Minx, #Morris Oxford Series MO and #Austin-A40 Somerset between them accounted for more than 700,000 cars, and that’s a figure at which one should not sneeze.
The three cars were similar in price when new – about £700 including Purchase Tax in #1952 – and they are closely matched in terms of accommodation and performance. Unsurprisingly, in an era when conventional engineering was king, at least as far as Britain was concerned, the mechanical configuration is also broadly the same: independent front suspension, a leaf-sprung live back axle and hydraulic drum brakes. Only the Morris has rack steering, and it also has torsionbar front suspension, rather than the coils of the Hillman and the Austin. Dampers are old-fashioned lever-arms all-round on the Somerset and the Minx, while the Oxford has lever-arms at the front and telescopics at the rear. As for construction, the Austin is built on a separate cruciform chassis while the other two have a unitary shell.
Turn to the engines, and an eyebrow might be raised at this comparison. The Hillman has a seemingly weedy 1265cc sidevalve unit that can be traced back to the first Minx of #1931 , the Oxford has a rather bigger flathead of 1476cc, and in the middle sits the only car with a halfway modern engine, the Somerset with its 1200cc pushrod unit. The Minx might only dispose of 37½bhp, but its kerb weight of 2117lb makes it a full 560lb lighter than the 42bhp Somerset. The Oxford’s plodding sidevalve, however, supposedly insisted upon by an ageing and conservative Lord Nuffield, musters a slender 41¾bhp, but has to haul along a less porky 2386lb of motor car. The bottom line is that the Minx – marginally the shortest, narrowest and lowest of the lot – has the best power-to-weight ratio. Don’t get too excited, though: none of these cars could quite hit 70mph when tested in period, and their 0-60mph times were hardly bodice-ripping.
The Minx and the Oxford were both #1948 Motor Show debutantes. The Hillman began life with its predecessor’s 1185cc unit, along with its four-speed column-change gearbox, but was otherwise all-new, with a transatlantic-tinged body designed with input from Loewy Associates – hence its vague hints of Studebaker. This Phase III Minx became the Phase IV when the 1265cc engine arrived for #1950 . It evolved up to Phase VIIIA, before being deleted in mid- #1956 .
Key changes from 1953 to 1956 were a new grille and lower bonnet line, an enlarged rear window, a 1390cc overhead-valve engine for the Phase VIII (estate and low-rent Special excepted), and ‘Gay Look’ duotones (along with standardisation of the pushrod engine) for the Phase VIIIA. There was a Carbodies-built drophead and, from the Phase VI onwards, a hardtop coupé called the Californian. Over eight seasons, a healthy 378,705 Minxes left the Rootes factory in Ryton.
The Oxford, meanwhile, was a big sister to the Issigonis Minor, and was virtually a pantograph enlargement of the smaller Morris. Originally intended to have a flat-four, as was the Minor, it was hastily given a sidevalve engine extrapolated from the overhead-cam unit of its Wolseley 4/50 sibling. There was much agonising about the Oxford in the higher reaches of the Nuffield Organisation, because it was felt that in going up a size from the preceding Ten the firm would hand the key ‘Ten-Horse’ market to the opposition. In fact, the MO acquitted itself adequately, with 160,482 made over roughly five calendar years – plus 43,600 vans and pick-ups. The only body style other than the four-door saloon and the commercials was the timber-framed Traveller, introduced in October 1952. Replaced in January #1954 by the Austin-powered Series II Oxford, the MO was barely modified during its life, other than receiving a bolder grille for #1953 .
As for the Somerset, it was basically a rebodying of the A40 Devon that had been launched in #1947 . A whisker over 6in longer than its predecessor, and 2in wider, it shared its doors with the bigger A70 Hereford. Roomier than the Devon, it was about 110lb heavier, but its two extra body mounts were said to contribute to a 50% increase in torsional rigidity. Current from February #1952 to October 1954, 173,306 Somersets were made.
Finished in a perky pale green and sitting on whitewall tyres, Denis Young’s Somerset is arguably the most striking of the cars, thanks to its exaggerated roly-poly profile that is almost baroquely rotund, an effect compounded by the brio of that ocean-wave wingline. Dumpy it might be, but with its broad-bottomed rear it also appears to be the biggest of the three; it’s not, the Morris being 7½in longer and 2in wider.
The interior couldn’t be considered inspiring. There’s a brown crackle-painted dash with a full set of gauges, plain door trims with carpeted bottoms, and two individual front seats set against each other to form a bench. Upholstery is in coarse leathercloth with contrasting piping, while there is rubber matting to the front and carpet to the rear. More importantly, the rear doors open wide to reveal ample legroom; a nice ‘Olde Worlde’ Austin touch is that the backs of the front seats are cut away, and in each recess there lurks a footrest.
You sit high, behind a predictably big wheel, a nautical position that seems eminently appropriate when you start driving, as the Somerset rolls and bobs like a ship in a swell. The camand- peg steering is a plus, however, being quick, at 2½ turns lock-to-lock, and with no play or untoward stickiness. The column gearchange is okay, if stiff and lacking precision. Likewise, the brakes are firm, short-travel and effective, even if they need a lean for ultimate stopping.
At 50mph the #Austin is happy enough – not that refined, but not rough, and with sufficient vim to the acceleration. This is helped by the low gearing, as was then the norm: the first three ratios seem particularly short, and you can pull away in second. Change down for a bend, and you feel a jolt if you’re casual about smoothing your way through the ’box. In all this, however, one should issue a caveat. Bought off eBay, the Somerset has been refurbished rather than ever having been fully rebuilt – all Young has done is to overhaul the brakes – so a freshly spannered example might feel crisper. That said, these Austins all suffer from over-soft front suspension.
Mike Redrup’s Phase V Minx has been in his family from 1952, when his father bought the Hillman new – having ordered it in 1946, several iterations of the model before. Redrup learnt to drive in the car, which had a respray back in the ’70s and an engine rebuild about five years ago but has never been restored.
The Minx loses out in the style war – strangely, given the input of top designer Loewy. It simply looks dull and frumpy, with no delight to any of its details. The cabin, alas, is no more tempting, with lots of exposed metallic beige paint, not least on the deep embossed door cappings. Nor does the dash warm one’s cockles, with its sparse instrumentation and two open trays. Upholstery is again plain leathercloth, but you slump lower on the seats and lean back more. Access to the rear is tighter – you winkle yourself in – but you sit upright enough to have reasonable legroom.
In fairness, some of these criticisms would be addressed by later models, which had extra chrome and brighter colour schemes. More significantly, the Minx acquits itself well on the road, making a better fist of things than the Austin. The long-stroke engine puts out 58.3lb ft of torque at 2200rpm and is peppy, and about as refined as the Somerset’s pushrod unit. Again the first three gears are low, but fourth is quite high, making for relaxed 50mph cruising. The column change is well oiled but loose and responds best to a delicate touch. Feel your way into the firstsecond plane, though, and thereafter your passage through the ’box is undemanding. The suspension is soft at the front, possibly because the only anti-roll bar is on the rear axle (it migrated to the front on the Phase VIII); as a result the Minx bobs about on poor roads, but not as much as the Somerset. As for the worm-and-nut steering, that’s free of slack and smoother in action than the Austin’s set-up. The brakes are board-firm, but work well enough, while the Minx is the only car of the three with a pull-up handbrake.
Nigel Anderson’s Oxford starts off with an advantage: it has only 33,000 miles on the clock and was rebuilt in the ’90s, after being in the family since 1956. So any observations on how it drives must be tempered by the fact that it is being compared with two unrestored cars that have loosened up over their greater mileages.
To my eyes at least, the Morris starts out with the major plus of being the most attractive of our trio. There might be bits of 1940s #Chevrolet and #Packard in its make-up, but the lines are neat and harmonious, lifted by the vee ’screen and the brightwork. Longer and wider-tracked than the Minx and Somerset, the Oxford looks more planted. There are also lots of attractive details: pull handles for the doors, a flip-up cover for the starting handle, a painted coachline on the colour-coded wheels. Particularly delightful are the little running boards, with their kickplates, that are exposed when the front doors are opened.
Inside, the brown-crackle instrument panel and gold-painted dash are more obviously styled, right down to the concealed glovebox release. The front bench means a cosier rear, but there’s plenty of legroom, with overall space being similar to the Somerset. As a standard model rather than a De Luxe, the seating is in leathercloth rather than hide – just as there are no bumper overriders, nor a heater and only one sunvisor.
Start driving the MO and the first thing to hit you is that here, at last, is a car with steering that is genuinely good. The Oxford’s rack is needle-sharp, accurate and not at all heavy; it’s delicious. Building on this, the Morris feels more poised over pockmarked Fenland roads with a shifting camber and the poor surface doesn’t throw the car about as it does the other two. The MO has firmer responses, and that extends to brakes that are more progressive plus a crisp column shift.
The sidevalve engine could reasonably be expected to be the deal-breaker, but bear in mind that it is the biggest of the three power units, and delivers its 65lb ft of torque – 3lb ft more than the Austin – at just 2000rpm, against the Somerset’s 2500rpm. Despite the usual low gearing, acceleration is not good in third, but the Morris cruises happily at 50-60mph, the engine never becoming coarse. You can also keep the car on the boil by driving it in a more spirited manner than its rivals, taking advantage of its secure handling to keep speed up through the corners.
The Oxford is in fact the only car of the three that feels to be the work of people who wanted you to enjoy driving. For that reason it stands as the easy winner of this comparison. The Hillman, meanwhile, is a thoroughly acceptable if unemotional transportation device – a sweet, easy car, with decent performance. As for the Austin, its cuddly looks will probably win over more hearts than its less-flamboyant rivals. It does the job – compromised by its suspension – with perfect adequacy, but nothing more. The advantage, sidevalve engine notwithstanding, goes to Cowley.
Thanks to the Austin Counties Car Club: www. psimmonds.org.uk; the 6/80 and MO Club: www.680mo.org.uk; the Hillman Owners Club: www. hillmanownersclub. co. uk; and Tom Clarke.
From top: well-designed cabin – glovebox button is on dash top; sidevalve unit lacks zip; pushing centre of badge releases bonnet; on the road, the Oxford outshines the other two.
‘IT’S THE ONLY ONE THAT FEELS TO BE THE WORK OF PEOPLE WANTING YOU TO ENJOY DRIVING’
Above, l-r: auxiliary dials are just fuel and amps, but only the Minx has a pull-up handbrake; improved prewar sidevalve; badge shows three spires of Coventry. “Whatever gear you’re in, it pulls well,” says Redrup.
‘REDRUP LEARNTTO DRIVE IN THE HILLMAN, WHICH HIS FATHER BOUGHT NEW IN 1952’
From top: sprung wheel and simple dash with two gloveboxes; engine has A40 Sports head, but with larger inlet valves; Flying A opens bonnet; Austin’s performance is fair, but the ride is a bit lively.
‘THE AUSTIN’S ALMOST BAROQUE PROFILE IS COMPOUNDED BY THE WAVE-LIKE WING LINE’
Morris is every inch the overgrown Minor; Minx has Studebaker touches (thanks to Loewy input); Austin cherub shares its doors with larger Hereford.
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- Post is under moderationLEAVES OTHER FERRARIS IN ITS WAKE
This unique Ferrari-powered racing boat features a V12 engine that raced at Le Mans, Spa and in the Carrera Panamericana - before taking to the water. #1957 #San-Marco-Ferrari #KD800
Words Gerald Guetat // PHOTOGRAPHY Henri Thibault. #San-Marco #Ferrari-KD800
Sitting in the cockpit of this single-seater, the pilot activates the fuel pump and turns over the engine for a few seconds on the starter. Then a few pumps of the throttle to fill the carburettors, the magneto is set to position number three and a finger pushes the starter button again. This time it lights an inferno in 12 cylinders. The tachometer needle jerks round to 1300rpm yet, although the driver keeps his foot down, engine speed soon decreases to 1200pm and it remains ticking over. The water in the tank is heated slowly while oil pressure drops gradually from 100 to 50psi. The sound is fantastic, every single moving part of this historic V12 running like clockwork.
Briefly, the pilot contemplates Ascari and Villoresi, who might have won the Le Mans 24 Hours in #1953 behind this engine if it hadn't been for clutch failure - but today he's not sitting in that car, nor any car. Meanwhile, the water temperature has risen to 60 degrees. The pilot shuts down the engine so that the heat is distributed and continues to rise naturally. Three minutes later he fires it up again and engages the propeller shaft by means of a specially designed gimbal, and keeps his foot on the clutch pedal. He must now increase the acceleration while slipping the clutch to drive the propeller without stalling.
The red racer starts to trace its wake of white foam across Lake Como; the engine is hot, and now the driver can attempt take-off. Lift speed is achieved at the point where most boats have already reached their limit but, here, the party has just begun.
Unlike the other two Ferrari-powered classic racing boats still in existence, this is the only one equipped with an engine taken directly from a prestigious race car - the others have motors that were always intended to power boats. This V12's amazing adventure started on the track at La Sarthe in the year of the first World Sports Car Championship, when Commendatore unleashed a pack of three 340MM coupes. Among the contenders, one - chassis number 0318AM - was specially prepared with a reinforced chassis and a higher-capacity engine of 4494cc, actually a 375 engine directly derived from Aurelio Lampredi's #1950 and #1951 #Formula-1 design. This particular unit was reported as having been prepared for the Indy 500 in #1952 with machined (rather than forged) con-rods.
Entrusted to driving aces #Alberto-Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, the 375 beat the lap record at Le Mans at 181.5km/h (112.5mph), dominating the race and leading at 17 hours only for the clutch to fail at 19 hours, after 229 of a total of 304 laps - thanks, possibly, to the increased torque of its bigger engine. Of the two other cars, only 0322AM finished the race (in fifth, driven by brothers Paolo and Gianni Marzotto), while Hawthorn and Farina's 0320AM had been disqualified after 12 hours.
After Le Mans, the three cars were sent back to Pininfarina to be modified for the rest of the season. The next race was the Spa 24 Hours in Belgium on 26 July, for which the other two cars were also fitted with 375 engines. Hawthorn and Farina won the race in 0322AM, #Ascari and #Villoresi retired in 0320AM (another clutch failure), while 0318AM (entrusted to Umberto Maglioli and Piero Carini) did not finish.
It next crossed the starting line in Mexico, all three sister cars having left for the #Carrera-Panamericana under the private flag of Franco Cornacchia's Scuderia Guastalla. This time 0318AM was driven by Antonio Stagnoli and Giuseppe Scotuzzi, who died when the car left the road at almost 180mph after a tyre burst. Only the engine remained intact, and it was preserved in the garages of Scuderia Guastalla in Milan - until Guido Monzino bought it to mount in the 800kg-class racer he had ordered from Milanese boatbuilder San Marco. Owned by champion boat-racer and Ferrari multiple water speed record-holder Oscar Scarpa, the San Marco yard was a perfect match for Ferrari. This boat, hull number 069, was built in 1957 after the precious V12 was checked by the Ferrari Corsa department at #Maranello . #Guido-Monzino was well-known for his chain of Standa stores, but even better for his expeditions: their wide media coverage almost made him a national hero. He was a wealthy explorer who financed his own adventures to the tops of the highest mountains, the North Pole and other remote spots - a thrill-seeker who loved dramatic landscapes and the feeling of living without limits.
His raceboat was of the 'three point7 type that dominated powerboat racing from the Second World War through to the mid-1970s. Its hull is designed with two wide sponsons at the front while the rear ends with a narrow transom, supporting the propeller and rudder mounts. Therefore, at full speed, the hull is in contact with water at only three points, minimising friction between the hull and the water.
Cooling is a crucial factor. The engine coolant is fed by a 20-litre buffer tank, with a heat exchanger to warm water that is collected from the lake by means of a dynamic scoop under one of the forward floats. This is only effective once the boat is running at a speed of 25-30mph. The pilot has to wait for the water to get up to temperature before revving up to 5000-6000rpm by adjusting the clutch to send the required torque to the propeller, which rotates at the same speed as the engine's output shaft.
Ideally, the lake surface should not be too flat: small ripples actually help to tear the hull away from the surface of the water from about 50mph. At that point the boat becomes a true hydroplane, running faster and faster. Just as Monzino wanted it.
Monzino's offices were in Milan, but he spent as much time as possible at one of the most beautiful houses on Lake Como: the Villa del Balbianello, where the James Bond film Casino Royale was more recently made. There he enjoyed both a sporting and refined existence, with his Ferrari racing boat brought to his private dock on request from a nearby boatyard. The servants loved to watch him, impeccably dressed, climbing into the cockpit of the red San Marco, casting off and speeding towards Como with a fantastic roar from its V12 engine. Within 15 minutes, he would alight at the Yacht Club where a Ferrari awaited to whisk him off to Milan. Now that's the way to commute.
Monzino was an accomplished water pilot, yet the only race that attracted him was the Raid Pa via-Venezia, a competition on a wild river that was similar in spirit to some of his great adventures (see panel, left).
By the late 1960s, Monzino had acquired some of the most expensive cars in Maranello's catalogue, such as a 400 Superamerica and a #Ferrari-250GT-California-Spider . Yet his aquatic escapades had become less frequent. Stored at the boatyard near his romantic villa on the lake, the red racer had been almost abandoned when a young student of the Fine Arts Academy of Milan discovered it in #1969 and was fascinated by the aesthetics of this strange machine. Monzino reluctantly accepted a meeting with the young Austrian eccentric, who went by the name of Dody Jost, and a deal was done. Jost took deliver)' of the boat, which was in need of restoration: three-point hulls are delicate and one doesn't launch a #Ferrari racing V12 onto the water without taking certain precautions. Jost went on to own the Nautilus hotel, with its own private dock on Lake Como, and kept his boat there for a few years before starting its full restoration.
The hull was entrusted to respected Como competition boatyard Luccini, while the engine went to the Diena & Silingardi Sport Auto workshop, specialists in rare Ferraris on Modena's Via Toscanini. Conducted piece by piece, the process took years to complete. It was recently exhibited at the Museo Casa Natale #Enzo-Ferrari in #Modena , where it fascinated not only the public but also the historians of the Maranello factor)'. For years they had paid little attention to Ferrari-engined boats yet in 2012 Ferrari Classiche itself made the trip to survey it. After a detailed examination, its engine received official recognition.
Collectable Ferraris with an exceptional pedigree can reach sky-high prices at auction: witness 0320AM, the 340/375MM sister car to the one from which the San Marco's engine was taken, which found a buyer for nearly €10 million at the RM Villa d'Erba sale in #2013 (and which was featured). But the San Marco's potential monetary value is of no great concern to Dody Jost.
'Smaller racers were powered by Alfa Romeo or BPM engines of 2.0 litres or less, whereas these 800kg "monsters" had 4.0-to-6.0-litre engine displacement, and sometimes even more,' he says. 'Driving is a delicate operation requiring a lot of concentration, because to go fast the hull must hover to avoid contact with the water except at the extremities of the lateral floats and the rear propeller. The engine torque is critical because, when starting up, the boat behaves like a mono water-skier. Fast engine response is essential to get the boat to lift out of the water.
This is where the multi-disc clutch is crucial to provide maximum torque for lift-off. The hull of a racer is built to go fast; it is much more manoeuvrable when it is gliding across the surface of the water.'
There's a secret to steering this boat, too: 'The profile of the rudder is designed for high speeds and responds immediately to the slightest command from the wheel, which requires a lot of concentration. The super-cavitation propeller is only half-immersed in water and the pilot can hear its characteristic roar at full throttle: 7000rpm. The torque of the propeller rotates in a clockwise direction and tends to turn the boat to the right. This is why a small winglet is fixed under the left sponson to help stabilise the boat.'
Even that sleight of engineering hand can't help in all circumstances, however. 'Race circuits always turned counter-clockwise around the buoys. Attacking such a turn is very tricky because it requires the pilot to reduce speed but not by too much, to prevent the hull from sinking back into the water, which would bring the craft to a halt within a few metres. One can imagine the race conditions of a pack of boats sending up huge white sheaves of water as they slip out of their trajectories in the furious chop generated by the hulls and propellers.'
How does it compare with racing a car? 'The powerboat champions had no reason to be envious of their colleagues on the track in terms of courage, strength and sense of anticipation. However, as in automobile racing, you can recover on a straight stretch, casing the acceleration to maintain 6000-6500rpm and attain maximum speed over the water. It's an exhilarating sensation - matched by the fabulous roar of the #Ferrari-375MM V12. We'll certainly take his word for that.
Boat #1957 #San-Marco-Ferrari-KD800
ENGINE 6494cc V12, SOHC per bank, three #Weber 40IF4C four-barrel carburettors
POWER 340bhp @ 7000rpm
TRANSMISSION Propeller shaft with manual attachment and multi-disc clutch, twin-blade propeller.
PERFORMANCE Top speed c140mph
Attacking the Raid Pavia-Venezia
The longest river race in the world
The raid #Pavia-Venezia , founded in #1929 , still occupies a unique place in the hearts of powerboat racing enthusiasts in Italy. The route followed some 280 miles of the wide and wild Po river, including locks and unstable sandbanks that were hidden just below the water, as well as blind curves and threatening bridge piles, all passed at high speed.
Taking part is a true adventure through relative wilderness: no wonder it attracted entrepreneur and explorer Guido Monzino. In #1958 he gave Ferrari third place, the best ranking it would ever achieve in the race, averaging 88.26km/h (54.72mph). He finished the race after U hours 36 minutes, AO minutes behind the husband-and- wife crew of Tarcisio and Amelia Marega (in a Timossi-BPM) and 30 minutes behind the great champion of the race, Paolo Petrobelli, with mechanic M Pacchioni (Timossi-BPM).
This was an honourable performance for a casual racing driver. At the time, the regulations required a two-man crew: the driver took the wheel while the ‘mechanic’ was supposed to go down into the river bed to dig the boat out of sandbanks. Today, the race no longer exists in its original form, due to low waters in late spring and, sadly, a lack of sponsorship.
Left and above. This boat was originally built by San Marco of Milan in 1957 for the Italian adventurer and chain store owner Guido Monzino, who used it to commute from his villa on Lake Como. Today it is fully restored and kept by the owner of a Lake Como hotel.
‘THE RED RACER TRACES ITS WAKE ACROSS LAKE COMO, THE ENGINE IS HOT AND THE DRIVER CAN ATTEMPT TAKE OFF
Right. Le Mans 1953: car no 12 was specially equipped with a 4.5-litre ‘375’ V12, but retired due to clutch failure - it subsequently donated its engine to this San Marco racing boat; at speed on Lake Como, fast enough for hydroplaning to take effect.
Right, top and bottom Steering wheel controls a rear rudder, though an additional fin counteracts the torque effect of the V12 - seen here with its triple Weber carburettors, and capable of a 340bhp output.
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- Post is under moderationOne last time. Frazer Nash last competed at Le Mans in 1959 – in this car. Time for Tony Dron to test it on track at Gooodwood.
The gentleman driver #John-Dashwood invited the accomplished club driver #Bill-Wilks to share a Frazer Nash in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. They'd heard about a Frazer Nash with a #BMW-V8 engine but, as no such thing was suitable, Dashwood bought this 1955 Le Mans Coupe from the Frazer Nash makers, AFN Ltd.
But hang on - the name Dashwood rings loud bells in any Englishman's mind. Was this John Dashwood related to the infamous rake of West Wycombe, Sir Francis Dashwood, who founded the notorious Hellfire Club of the 1750s? Yes, indeed, he was of that ilk.
These are arcane matters but the Dashwood baronetcy of West Wycombe is the Premier Baronetcy in the Baronetage of Great Britain. As a younger son in that line, the Dashwood who owned this car in 1959 had no title. He was just plain John and, also unlike his colourful 18th Century forebear, he appears to have led a thoroughly respectable, indeed blameless life - Eton, Oxford, 'something in the City', a nice house in Surrey, a successful marriage and two children - an all-round good chap, for sure.
After driving their car recently at Goodwood, I set about tracing Dashwood and Wilks but 55 years after the event it was not easy. In John Dashwood's case it was impossible but I did eventually track down his son, Tom, who gave me the sad news that his father had passed away in December 2013.
Bill Wilks, however, was eventually found - thanks to the 'VSCC mafia'. He's 80 now, obviously fit and happily retired in Dorset, but in 1959 he was 25 and had already made a name for himself as a quick man in Frazer Nash cars.
'Actually', Bill told me, 'I had just packed it all in because I was getting married and taking out a mortgage but then John asked me to join him at Le Mans and I thought, why not?' Dashwood, who was Five years older than Bill, had chosen well. Young Wilks wasn't just quick, he was also a proper engineer who recalled doing a lot of work on the car himself, putting it as right as he could before they set off for Le Mans, where the ACO had accepted them as first reserve.
The four-year-old Frazer Nash was hardly going to set the pace at Le Mans in 1959, to be frank, and Gregor Grant's Autosport race report stated: 'With the non- appearance of the Conrero Alfa Romeos, all reserves were called in, including the veteran Frazer Nash of Dashwood and Wilks.' Bill was well aware of that but, hey, you don't turn down a drive at Le Mans lightly.
Dashwood's aim was to take part in a good sporting spirit Even so, they reckoned the old Coupe might still be quick enough in its class - and its large fuel tank would ensure long stints between pit-stops. AFN's standard tanks varied from 14 to 25 gallons, with a 5 ½ -gallon auxiliary tank available.
Rumours that they added an extra fuel tank from an Austin Seven set off my personal bullshit sensor. No, Bill Wilks explained that they raised the fuel capacity to about 18 gallons by adding an auxiliary tank of about two gallons: 'I am absolutely certain it was not an Austin Seven tank - I made it!'
Its pace on the long Mulsanne straight in qualifying wasn't bad - pulling 6000rpm in top, which equated to 140mph with the 3.54:1 final drive they had fitted. At that speed, the kink in the straight should have presented no worries but Bill remembers getting a big shock there.
'I looked at that kink and thought, no problem, I can take this on full noise - easy!' As he turned in, the rear suspension jacked itself up, the car took a great lurch and Bill was looking into the trees. 'I thought it was Judgement Day - I really thought that was it.' But he held it and, back at the pits, investigated the alarming handling problem.
Excessive body roll was expected in those cars and earlier, back at the Isleworth factory, the legendary Harry Olrog of AFN had altered this Coupe's rear suspension, creating a Panhard rod arrangement. What Bill recalls now, very clearly, is that the real problem was not that but dodgy dampers. On closer inspection, they had been modified in a curious way, presumably to stiffen them up. 'I think I found some pieces of wood inside but, anyway, I put them aside and found a better set from a supplier in the paddock - Armstrongs, I think they were, but, whatever, they were much better.'
Apart from that, the car had gone well and Dashwood wisely nominated his more experienced co-driver to start the race. There was some concern over whether the brakes would last - some say that it had roadgoing cast- iron drums, though Bill insists that it had Al-Fin racing brakes - 'But they still weren't any good!' he adds.
Three hours into the 24, Bill came in to hand over to John. T told him to be careful because the brakes had gone but I had some sort of premonition as he drove off - I felt something was about to go wrong.
It did. The overheated brakes really were finished and John Dashwood did not complete one lap. At Amage comer the car buried itself in the mound of sand on the exit, where, as Bill recalls, it remained until the end of the race.
Dashwood was devastated, feeling he had let everybody down but you have to feel sympathy for the poor chap - it was really very bad luck.
Legend has it that the gearbox casing was split in Dashwood's effort to slow down before hitting the sand. Bill says that's wrong: 'Reverse gear did break in John's efforts to back out of the sand after the race. The steering was slightly damaged but they managed to patch things up enough to drive it back to England.
So ended the last appearance of a Frazer Nash in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ten years earlier, in 1949, Norman Culpan and 'Aldy Aldington had finished in a blaze of glory, third overall in a Frazer Nash High Speed model, but that was to remain the finest hour of Frazer Nash in the 24 Hours. What concerns us now, however, is how the remarkable Le Mans Coupe of the later years came into being at all.
Since taking over AFN Ltd in the late 1920s, the Aldington brothers, led by the dynamic HJ 'Aid/ Aldington, had made heroic efforts to become big players in the high-performance motoring world. They had made the best of the fabulous chain-driven sports car designed by the company's founder, Archie Frazer-Nash - the man has the hyphen but the cars don't - but they always lacked the capital to become truly independent manufacturers.
That was overcome in the 1930s by a strong link with BMW. When the German company proceeded to design the world's most advanced sports cars, business boomed at AFN. The efficient Aldingtons were well-organised importers, with workshops and a talented team enabling them do far more than merely service the cars they brought in. They made parts and bodywork, modifying cars as required and marketing them as Frazer Nash-BMWs. They worked extremely well with the BMW management and engineers, who were right behind them, and things, you might say, were going great guns in the first months of #1939 .
When the world then came crashing down, AFN Ltd switched to war work. As peace returned in #1945 , they wasted no time in returning to high-performance cars. Had it been possible, the link with BMW would have been resumed immediately but German industry needed time to recover and, anyway, British buyers weren't that keen on German products just then.
Controversially, Aldy Aldington did retrieve some useful items from Germany at the end of the war, but that has probably been misinterpreted. He wanted to resume his business links with the German engineers that he admired so much but, in a radically changed world, he simply couldn't.
Instead, he looked for a link with a large British company. After unhappy meetings with leaders in the Midlands motor industry came to nothing, an agreement was signed between AFN and the Bristol Aeroplane Company to develop new post-war high-performance cars from the legacy of BMW's advanced pre-war models.
That should have provided the industrial muscle Aldy needed but the relationship was doomed. A relatively small business in the motor trade, led by a quick-thinking and impatient visionary, could not work with a large corporation accustomed to the different engineering ethics of the aeronautical industry.
They soon fell out and AFN Ltd went its own way, retaining an agreement for a supply of the new #1971 cc straight-six Bristol engines, which were based on BMW's pre-war engine and ideal for the new models that AFN planned to produce.
The basics of the post-war #Frazer #Nash had been laid down by AFN's John Perrett, who designed a two-seater sports car based closely on the front end of a #BMW-327 , with transverse-leaf suspension and lower wishbones, and the rear end of a BMW 326, with longitudinal torsion bar suspension and a live axle located mainly by an A-bracket. The main frame was based on the tubular chassis of the #BMW-328 .
Aldy then managed to recruit a superstar: Fritz Fiedler who, as the chief designer of BMW cars from #1932 , had been behind all the great BMW sports cars of that decade. Arriving at Isleworth in #1947 , Fiedler took on the development of the post-war Frazer Nash chassis, suspension, body design and construction and also part of the work on the Bristol engine. A mild-mannered genius, he was a very well liked at AFN, if gently amused when they called him 'Doctor' Fiedler.
Fiedler returned to BMW after three years, having made a huge contribution to AFN's early post-war success. He went on to influence BMW's return to prominence, which was secured by the time he retired and continues to this day.
In 1952, a revised #Frazer-Nash chassis was inspired partly by race driver Ken Wharton's wish for a single- seater Frazer #Nash-F2 car but also by a desire to produce a simpler chassis that was cheaper and easier to make.
By 1953, Aldy knew that the adventure as a manufacturer was all but over for AFN. It had been a glorious effort, resulting in some wonderful thoroughbred cars. The Le Mans Replica, a copy of the High Speed model that finished third in the 24 Hours, was and remains a truly great classic. Other superb post-war Frazer Nash models emerged from AFN but the enterprise lacked sufficient scale. The quality of the cars went without question and the few that they could make sold well despite being very expensive.
In the mid-1950s, AFN Ltd became the official importer of Porsche cars, a move that was destined to transform the company into a much bigger, very different business - #Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd.
Only nine Le Mans Coupes were made in all and the first of them, driven by Ken Wharton and HA Mitchell, took a fine class win and 13th overall in the #1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. By then the Le Mans regulations demanded enclosed wheels and encouraged coupe bodywork. AFN's Le Mans Coupe was therefore developed from the open two-seater Targa Florio model.
This particular Coupe was originally sold as a road car to Mrs Kathleen 'Kitty' Maurice (nee Gorst, later Mrs Thomas) in April 1955, and it had a well-documented engine change early in its existence. Kitty Maurice was a keen motorist and, as the landowner of Castle Combe, she had made the conversion of the wartime airfield into a motor racing circuit possible. She soon sold the car to a Dr Mawe, who used it in club competitions in #1956 before selling it back to #AFN late in 1957, where it remained until John Dashwood bought it in March 1959.
Its next owner was the well-known racing driver and Gerrards Cross-based specialist motor trader Roy Bloxam, who fitted disc brakes and other mods such as a #ZF limited-slip differential. He took second in class and tenth overall in the 1960 Autosport Production Sports Car Championship.
Its many owners in the half-century since then have generally cared for it well and it remains remarkably original. At the end of the 1960s, an owner in Malvern had the #Panhard rod removed and an A-bracket restored, taking the rear suspension back to its original specification. By 1963, its original green had been changed to wine red but its Swedish owner in the 1970s, Ake Andersson, had it painted blue. Early this century the colour was changed again, going back to a shade of green close to its original colour.
One owner, though which one isn't known, changed it back to drum brakes - aluminium at the front and iron at the rear. The FLA papers issued for it in 19% show this had been done by then. And, about 12 years ago, a Laycock overdrive was Fitted - a type that would have been available when the car was new. With the standard final drive, an overdrive transforms the car, especially for normal road use - and it might even be about right were somebody to take it back to Le Mans to run it in the Gassic.
It is obviously eligible for top events such as that and the Mille Miglia but would also be ideal for great open- road driving events, such as the Colorado Grand, which it has done twice in more recent times.
My instant reaction on driving it at Goodwood is that it feels like a superb roadgoing sports car, even today - and it's certainly quick enough to outperform most modem traffic. By racing car standards it Is heavy - it was weighed at 2079lb (943kg) by the Le Mans scrutineers in 1959 - but against most of today's road cars it's a featherweight with a formidable power-to-weight ratio.
This car's obviously high value, of course, is largely the result of its genuine Le Mans history, so the normal preference of Frazer Nash fans for the open cars definitely docs not apply here. There's a lovely period feel to the small, high-quality tan interior but tall prospective owners should note that it is best suited to shorter drivers - the seat had to be completely removed for me and I sat on the carpet to drive it.
Even so, it was a pleasure to power it round the Goodwood circuit, where it felt quicker than I had expected. The handling was a bit skittish at first and I went back into the pits after just one lap to have the dampers adjusted. They had been on the hardest setting but, with them suitably softened, the car was much better.
It's a stable car at speed, a true thoroughbred of the old school in some ways - years of sound engineering and the black art of 'chassis-sorting' created a confidence- inspiring machine with sensitive steering. On the straight, it runs true but there is always the feeling that it's ever ready to tackle the next comer. It turns in well and immediately adopts a superbly neutral angle of drift, which the driver can make a little bit more or less pronounced almost by merely thinking about it. The famous Bristol engine is a delight and, in my short run, the brakes were fine - as we know, it takes three hours to knock them out!
This delightful post-war sports car has a great story to tell - the next chapter of which begins after its sale by Bonhams at Goodwood in March.
THANKS TO Tony Bancroft. Blakenoy Motorsport. Tom Dashwood, the #Frazer-Nash Car Club and Archives. Goodwood Motor Circuit, Richard Procter, James Trigwell, and Bill Wilks. Bonhams is selling the car at the #Goodwood 73rd Members' Meeting on 21 March.
Car #1955 #Frazer-Nash-Le-Mans-Coupe
ENGINE 1971cc six-cylinder, OHV, three #Solex downdraught carburettors
POWER 142bhp 5750rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed #Borg-Warner manual, rear-wheel drive
STEERING Rack and pinion
Front: independent, transverse leaf spring, lower wishbones, telescopic dampers.
Rear: live axle located by A-bracket, longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic dampers.
WEIGHT 963kg (2079lb - as weighed by #Le-Mans scrutineers, #1959 )
PERFORMANCE Top speed 140mph claimed at Le Mans. 1959. 0-60mph c8sec
Above, left and right Closed bodywork was developed from the open-top Targa Florio - only nine coupes were made: power comes from a #BMW- derived triple-carb straight-six.
‘DRIVING IT AT GOODWOOD, IT FEELS LIKE A SUPERB ROADGOING SPORTS CAR, EVEN TODAY’
Left. Surprisingly civilised inside for a Le Mans entrant, though it lacks headroom for the taller driver. Tony Dron had to remove the seat and sit on the floor...
Above. With 142bhp from its 2.0-litre straight-six and a (scrutineered) kerbweight of 943kg, the Frazer Nash was capable of 140mph on the Mulsanne straight.
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- Post is under moderationROYAL CARS
An exclusive visit to the Queen’s own collection. Hidden away at Sandringham is a certain Windsor family’s own collection of cars. Octane was granted exclusive access into the royal grounds. Words Giles Chapman // Photography Matthew Howell.
By any measure, it must have seemed a baffling request to the craftsmen at Hooper & Co, the Royal Family's favoured coachbuilders for decades. Queen Mary had paid extraordinarily close attention to the specification of her new #Daimler-DE27 . The driver's compartment, she decreed, was too wide, compromising the dignity of the vehicle, and a more seemly front profile was demanded.
It was 1947, and this was to be her personal car, finished in her favourite dark green and taking four months to build. The narrowing process meant the steering column had to be kinked 2.5in towards the centre, and poked out of a truncated dashboard. Widened wings also needed to be handmade. How her chauffeur felt about his custom-cramped driving posture would, of course, never be disclosed.
Her Majesty's other requests were more fathomable. Because the 80-year-old Queen Mary had trouble bending her neck, she requested 57in of headroom, which made this the tallest car Hooper bodied after the Second World War. The drop-down bootlid revealed a bespoke picnic case, and the rear compartment was a snug of green leather and walnut, with notebook, pencil, ashtray and matchbox built into the armrest. Spring-loaded silk blinds gave privacy, although Her Royal Highness couldn't countenance life on the road without gold monograms on doors and boot. Queen Mary proudly called it her 'shopping Daimler'.
The VIP customer proclaimed herself delighted with her 'shopping Daimler' and Queen Elizabeth II's grandmother used it almost daily until her death in 1953 .
Although this unique limousine now belongs to the National Trust, it's found its circuitous way to a resting place at the Sandringham Estate. And it's not alone. The Queen's rural retreat in north Norfolk, at the centre of its stunning 20,0-acre estate, has an extraordinary car collection.
Despite Sandringham Museum being open to members of the visiting public, it's largely unknown. Sandringham House first welcomed visitors in #1977 , and you can ramble through the estate's tranquil woodland free of charge all year round. But the car collection? Even the estate's website mentions only a highly polished #1939 Merryweather fire engine in the outbuildings. Yet there's much more...
You might never have guessed that Sandringham is home to some of Britain's most important and interesting royal cars. Until, that is, #Drive-My was granted unprecedented access to this most august of classic fleets. There are usually between 20 and 25 cars hidden away there.
When the 21-year-old Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII - was gifted Sandringham in #1862 by his mother Queen Victoria, he received an 18th Century, stucco-fronted country pile that he quickly found too cramped. The builders were soon shipped in and, by #1870 , the new main house was completed. Or, nearly. Additions were constant, including a ballroom and a guest wing, and a stable block that included carpentry and sewing schools for the estate's youngsters.
The Prince was a dedicated techie, with a penchant for cutting-edge machinery. Hence, in #1901 , he installed an electricity generator for the house in an extension to the stable (soon obsolete when mains power reached Sandringham). Likewise, the Prince was fascinated by the earliest cars. The contemporary Lord Montagu introduced him to the motoring exhilaration in 1899 on a New Forest outing aboard his 12hp Daimler; the Prince was smitten, and ordered a 6hp Model A example for himself the following year. It had all the latest features, such as an accelerator pedal instead of a hand throttle, raked steering column, and elaborate electric ignition. Hooper & Co were entrusted with the bodywork for this first British royal car, done in four-seater mail phaeton style with separate hoods for front and back seats. A spacious new garage was soon added to Sandringham's stables to meet its needs.
That very car is treasured here today. It's somewhat changed from its original condition - although the alterations all took place in 1902! A Mr S Letzer, the first royal chauffeur and referred to as the Prince of Wales's 'mechanician', sometimes wound it up to 20mph-plus, but it frequently overheated. Moving the radiator from the back to the front cured that but required a bulky bonnet. At about the same time, new and more comfortable tonneau bodywork was built. A frilled Surrey top was added and the pneumatic rear tyres were changed for solid ones, as the lack of a differential made them prone to peeling off.
The lofty veteran is resplendent in paintwork of royal claret over black, picked out in a bright red that's more respectfully termed vermillion. This livery was adopted from one of Queen Victoria's horse- drawn carriages, and remains the colour scheme for the monarch's official transport today. Not that you'd necessarily spot it. The claret often looks like black from a distance and in certain light.
This is one of the most influential single cars in British motoring history. Edward VII's enthusiasm for it quelled hostility towards cars from landowners and the gentry. Before, mass upper-crust opinion was that they were noisy and dangerous affronts to a horse-drawn world. But the moment the King adopted the new motor car, the mindset rapidly switched.
The pairing of Daimler chassis and Hooper bodywork became the royal staple, and there are two magnificent examples of such later limos at Sandringham. The 45hp Brougham dates from 1914 and its Double Six replacement is a 1929 car. These maroon monsters were fixtures of British public life, the King easily visible behind the towering side windows. The newer car has the unusual feature of headlights that can be swivelled to the left, but both cars have the royal quirk of a black- painted radiator grille surround. A bright shiny thing on the front of the car, a rolling advert for Daimler, might have distracted attention away from the occupants of the back seat.
By the mid-1950s, Daimler's grip on the Royal Household's patronage went limp. For two years between #1953 and #1955 , it didn't even build limousines, and Rolls-Royce stepped in, capping the flow of some 80 Daimlers over five decades with a Phantom IV Hooper Landaulette for Elizabeth II in 1954.
The second of the Queen's official Rollers was a special Phantom V in #1961 . It was retired to Sandringham in 2002 where, in this very low-key car museum, it's the most recognisable one to most visitors.
The #Rolls-Royce developed this car in secret under the 'Canberra' codename, to give the impression it was for the Australian Government (the Australians had followed the Royal Family's switch in allegiance to Rolls-Royce in the late 1950s). The coachwork was entrusted to Park Ward, cutting Hooper out of the loop and hastening its decision to quit coachbuilding altogether, and two near-identical examples were built.
Its most distinctive feature was the cover that could be slipped off the rear roof section, revealing a Perspex dome through which to admire the head of state on her travels. And this car really did go round the world - usually in its own garage on board Britannia. This three-ton behemoth would be craned delicately on and off the royal yacht and rolled carefully into its berth, into which it would just fit, thanks to specially designed demountable bumpers.
Another Buckingham Palace workhorse with dramatic history has also come to rest at Sandringham. The #1969 Vanden Plas Princess limousine is mundane apart from one thing. In March #1974 , the car was ambushed on The Mall by a gun-toting madman intent on kidnapping its key occupant: Princess Anne. Although he shot a bodyguard, the chauffeur and two passers-by, the attempt was thwarted and she was unscathed and, indeed, unbowed. But it did reveal two worrying omissions in Royal cars: bulletproofing and radio contact with the security services - both remedied soon afterwards.
Formality is one thing for the Windsor clan, but at certain times of the year Sandringham is all about the great outdoors. And proper shooting brakes have for decades been as regular a feature of estate life as beaters, gun dogs and hip flasks. Hooper's awe-inspiring shooting brake body on a 57hp Daimler chassis must represent a pinnacle in 1920s sporting life. It was delivered in August #1924 to George V, and an excellent day's shooting would be in prospect with 12 guns in its varnished rack. Roll-up side curtains guaranteed lungfuls of bracing Norfolk air for the ten occupants... and four-wheel brakes added welcome retardation on slippery tracks.
Guides at Sandringham today are accustomed to the huge pull this one has on viewers. It's the paintwork. The rear section is timber- panelled but the thoroughly rural theme continues with the woody effect on scuttle, bonnet and wings. It's called a 'scumble' paintjob: the darker base layer was allowed to dry to the tacky stage and then a lighter paint colour was brushed on artfully with a toothed comb to give the woodgrain look, which was sealed in under three layers of lacquer. The stags and pheasants would never know you're lurking among the trees.
Altogether more modest is George IV's #1951 #Ford V8 Pilot with a Garner woody body. The wheelbase was stretched by 12in and the windscreen height raised by 3in, so it was uncommonly roomy, with the gun rack on the roof. Yet another interesting modification was a floor-mounted gearlever, as the King hated column changes. Yet his untimely death in 1952 meant he barely drove it. The family kept it for sentimental reasons, and it was still burbling around the estate in the '60s.
By then it had been joined by an upstart newcomer, a Ford Zephyr Mkll the like of which you'll see nowhere else. Hardly the most elegant of vehicles, with its hearse-like contours relieved with wood panel inserts, eight people could cram in with Prince Philip at the wheel, and it was custom-made for Sandringham shooting parties.
Yet another category of automotive resident here is the Royal Family's personal cars from years gone by. You can see Prince Charles's 21st birthday present from his parents - a blue #MGC-GT . You can also get up close to several wonderful children's cars. We loved the Imperial 1 midget racing car, a gift for Prince Charles in #1955 from America and, with a two-stroke engine, capable of a hairy 40mph. How many scars can the heir to the throne attribute to spills in this one, we wonder? There's also an #Aston-Martin-Volante Junior that a grateful Victor Gauntlett presented to valued customer Charles in #1988 (to pass on to his sons, Princes William and Harry), and a working replica of the 007 #DB5 given to the Queen on an Aston factory visit in #1966 , as a gift for lucky toddler Prince Andrew.
The Queen's own Rover 3.0-litre has a patina that includes small dents and a cracked windscreen. The Duke of Edinburgh's #Alvis-TD21 , meanwhile, is crammed with unusual features: Prince Philip ordered a taller windscreen, electric soft-top and a leather dashboard instead of polished walnut. #Alvis later fortified the car with five-speed gearbox, disc brake conversion and a power-boosting TE cylinder head to withstand the relentless use the Prince put it to: over 60,000 hard-driving miles to Germany and back, commuting to polo fixtures, and frequently picking up Princess Anne from school.
These days, a Vauxhall Cresta PAis a car to admire rather than disdain, and the rare #1961 Friary wagon at Sandringham was an estate runabout. The Queen liked driving this relaxed old barge, and it carries a jocular MYT 1 personal plate. Indeed, Her Majesty pretty much started the craze for 'private plates' after receiving a #Daimler-DE27 as a gift in #1948 registered HRH 1. Who could be more appropriate for either?
'Her Majesty started the craze for private plates with a Daimler, received as a gift and registered HRH 1’
Space is at a premium in Sandringham's garage block. Spare capacity is taken up by interesting vehicles on loan from non-royal owners, including the ex-Earl Mountbatten #1924 #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Ghost (used by him in India during his spell as Viceroy and later Governor-General in #1947 - #1948 ). There's also a #1929 Armstrong Siddeley 30hp shooting brake originally built for George Vi's use at Balmoral.
When the family is in residence at Christmas, though, the garage is needed for the current fleet of limousines and Range Rovers. Cars such as the #Princess , #Zephyr , #Alvis and #Rover are turfed out into heated storage nearby as the retinue of chauffeurs and security staff arrive.
However, the old cars do not depart under their own steam. The Sandringham collection cannot be faulted for polished spotlessness, but many are non-runners and, indeed, some of the pre-war Daimlers would require much more than a mechanical overhaul to get their sleeve-valve engines purring again. Seizures are a near-certainty. The #1900 #Daimler has tackled the London-Brighton a few times but its last mechanical breakage on the #2005 event has kept it indoors ever since. Nonetheless, all these cars are preserved in a secluded atmosphere that, in itself, couldn't really be any more authentic.
VISIT SANDRINGHAM MUSEUM www. sandringhamestate. co. uk/visiting-sandringham/
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- Post is under moderationWITH ALL DUE RESPECT #1953 FERRARI 375MM PININ FARINA SPIDER
The legendary Phil Hill used to race this glorious Ferrari barchetta - which is why a perfect cosmetic restoration would have been a sin Dale Drinnon was seduced from the start.
For a moment I freeze mere inches from the driver's door in a paralysing wave of angst. Then I do my umpteenth re-check for protruding zipper pulls and ballpoint pens in hip pockets, and slip delicately into the cockpit. Brushing a belt buckle against a sparkling new restoration would be nightmare enough; leaving the slightest mark on this car, though, smacks of tearing the flyleaf on a Guttenberg Bible, and my stomach goes fluttery at the mere thought that mine could be the foot that Anally crumbles the antique clutch pedal rubber, or that my fingers erase the last traces of Phil Hill's DNA from the shifter knob.
This is, after all, more than a rare, milestone, racing Ferrari. It's the singular unrestored #375MM known to remain, a veritable time capsule of 1950s international motor sport, and maybe it really does deserve to be atop a museum pedestal, protected from defilement by un worthies like me. Even after the soothing little pre-launch rituals have been performed, the switches are switched, the fuel pump has pumped, the throttle is half-depressed precisely so, it takes an act of deliberate will to reach out and stab the starter button.
The V12 whoops to life like I've zapped it with a cattle prod. It isn't the high, lilting, operatic kind of V12 whoop, either; it's a big- bore kind that begins as deep, guttural growl and builds to raw berserker bellow. WHOOP. As though all those decades locked away, still and silent, have only made it meaner and rowdier, less a saintly Lazarus returned divinely from the dead than a psycho-killer busted out of prison and utterly boiling over to kick ass and take names. Suddenly I'm not so much worried about the car; hell no, I'm worried about my own hide.
Which probably isn't a bad approach for any of the 375-series sports racers, unsullied time capsule or not. Combining the biggest racing engines Enzo Ferrari would produce before the Can-Am and his lifelong indifference to the science of handling ('I build engines,' went an infamous Enzo-ism, 'and attach wheels to them'), along with his conviction that disc brakes were nothing but British voodoo, they were powerful, direct, and elemental, and not to be taken lightly.
They were also quite effective. Like the 340-series sport preceding it in 1950, the 375 was based on the normally aspirated #Aurelio-Lampredi #Formula-1 V12 that replaced Gioacchino Colombo's much smaller supercharged version. In the case of the 340, it was a 4.1-litre worth 280 horsepower; in 1953, however, Ferrari started fitting two-seaters with the 4.5 (recently legislated out of the monoposto World Drivers' Championship - waste not, want not) making some 340bhp.
Designated the 375MM - for ' #Mille-Miglia ', of course - and usually in closed Pinin Farina bodywork similar to that of (or, in fact, often inherited from) a #340MM , the new car won two of the three victories that secured #Enzo-Ferrari the inaugural World Sportscar Championship. #Ferrari repeated the title in #1954 with help from the 375MM and the 375MM Plus, a 4.9-litre variant with only four additional horses. In the meantime, however, Ferrari announced a special run of 4.5-litre customer 375MM Pinin Farina Spiders. In 1953, for any serious privateer, that immediately became the Big Gun.
And wealthy American amateur Bill Spear was pretty serious. Besides winning the 1953 SCCA overall drivers' championship in a 340 America, he had taken seventh at Le Mans that year for Briggs Cunningham (and during his time earned multiple top-five finishes at both Le Mans and Sebring), where a 340/375 Berlinetta set fastest lap and gave Jaguar's C-types everything they could handle until the clutch went south. Spear came home to the States, suitably impressed, and duly ordered one of the sexy new PF Spiders.
He would receive the car on these pages, Chassis 0382AM, completed in December 1953 and arriving at Luigi Chinetti Motors in New York on New Year's Eve. It was the ninth and final copy from the official batch of 4.5 customer Spiders (although 26 of the 375MM series were reportedly built in total). To break it in properly, Spear entered the car that March in the USA's longest, toughest event - the 12 Hours of Sebring - with frequent collaborator Phil Hill as co-driver.
They made a good team, battling at the front with the fierce #Lancia D24s right from the start, and Spear was leading when a differential problem sidelined them on lap 60. Over the balance of 1954, he ran a busy nine-race domestic schedule with 0382, winning four, coming second twice, and claiming a still- standing track record on the last of the legendary Watkins Glen public road courses. He finished second in season points, behind only the even wealthier Jim Kimberly - in another 375MM Pinin Farina Spider.
For #1955 Spear moved to a #Maserati 300S, less powerful but friendlier, which placed him third at Sebring, and he sold the Ferrari on. It thereafter followed the usual ageing race-car syndrome of owner changes, alternating track and road use, and slow decline, but stayed in SCCA 'new car' racing for a surprisingly long while, until #1966 . In #1972 it finally passed from motoring author and historic racer Joel Finn to John B 'Ian' Gunn, who gave 0382 its last competitive outing, finishing fourth at the #1973 Watkins Glen Vintage GP. He then parked the car in his garage, with tired brakes, a baulky gearbox and general exhaustion.
It stayed there untouched for more than 36 years. But don't assume 0382 was forgotten. Gunn, an eminent physicist specialising in electronics (you're likely near a Gunn Diode even as we speak) as well as a motorcycle racer and collector, and a compulsive home mechanic and machinist, apparently just decided bike racing was more fun, and restoring cars for cosmetic reasons wasn't his style. Nonetheless he loved the Ferrari, and refused to sell it. Upon his death in 2008, those wonky brakes were probably still on his to-do list; it was simply a very long list.
Fortunately, Andreas Mohringer, the well- known Austrian enthusiast of classic racing machinery, has a similar aversion to restoration for restoration's sake. He bought the car from the Gunn family in March 2010 and immediately sent it to Paul Russell and Company, of Essex, Massachusetts, to be mechanically re-commissioned, and left in gloriously age-ripened, as-raced for 19 unpampered years, unrestored condition.
He made an excellent choice of shops; Paul Russell and his colleagues, including those whose jobs don't directly involve the hands-on technical disciplines, conduct their world-class restoration facility in the manner you'd expect from a world-class medical practice - with conscientious deliberation and great concern. The prime directive of this project was in fact, as Paul likes to say, 'the traditional physician's credo: first, do no Harm.'
Given the established mission statement of minimum-possible intervention, that meant considerable patience and commensurate forethought. The engine was pulled, for example, and the cylinders oil-soaked for a week before it was even turned over by hand, and then supplied externally with full oil flow and pressure on a test stand before being spun on the starter.
In spite of the caution, compression was good and so was valve action, so the cylinder heads were never removed. Likewise, the timing chain proved acceptable, but the tensioner was marginal, so a replacement was made for the spacer Ian Gunn had machined in the '70s to address the same problem.
As always, a plethora of little things threw up their roadblocks, too. Removing the lids of old Webers for rebuilding is never straightforward; they're invariably stuck solid, and any attempt at prying them off ruins both the brittle aluminium and the gaskets underneath; in this case, they were no longer available. Standard procedure calls for a gentle sideways hammer tap - which yielded absolutely nothing. The solution, technician Bob Lapane told me, was ultimately 'heat and cold cycles... lots and lots of them'.
‘It’s a genuine delight up to 95%, but in those last five ticks it’ll swing around like a bad habit’
The issue of replacement or refurbishment on an individual component, however, sometimes came down to 'correct for period', and the period chosen was the car's latter SCCA years. Therefore the American brake master cylinder fitted by Gunn right after the 1973 historic race was ditched for original equipment, while the seat covers, looking suspiciously like ski boat items but visible in early-60s photographs, were removed by upholsterer Richard Barnes, painstakingly cleaned, re-stitched, and reinstalled. Even the period tyres, so fossilised they could support the car without air pressure, were re-used, at least for the unveiling at Pebble Beach.
In the end, hardly anything was replaced outright except pure expendables such as clutch friction material. Walking around the car at Russell and Co it looks every inch its battle-scared original self, down to the slightly askew jaw-line leftover from pouncing atop a Formula Junior racer in 1966, the incident that changed SCCA philosophy on which cars should share a track together. On the bulkhead behind the driver's seat a splatter of ancient scrutineering stickers remain; the seat itself is so 1954-close to the steering wheel that it's hard to believe the amply proportioned Bill Spear could have squeezed himself in.
Being medium of build, however, and not of the straight-arm driving school, I'm relieved to find it suits me perfectly. It's also comforting to sit so high in the cockpit, with a clear, reassuring view. Although not really comforting enough to keep my mind off the story of a previous owner I won't name who allegedly looped this sucker on his debut drive. Twice. Before getting out of the car park.
So I'm supremely, agonisingly circumspect in the initial stages and, quite happily, the car responds in kind. Mild-mannered might be a misnomer; it certainly is civilised, though, and well beyond my expectations so long as it's treated with respect. The car can be launched neatly on reasonable revs, although it loads up quickly if asked to labour long below 4000rpm, and a fair dose of raucous throttle- blipping is necessary to keep the carbs clear. (A pity, that. Ahem.)
Clutch take-up is smooth and dead easy; the brakes have a high, hard pedal, pull up evenly and in an acceptable distance on light-to- medium demand, and with four-wheel drums and 340bhp, I have no intention whatsoever of demanding anything more.
The transmission requires some getting used to; on inspection at Paul Russell, the synchros were found to be naught but shrapnel in the bottom of the casing and, since a concours deadline was looming, the internals were shimmed to compensate and it was reassembled as a crash 'box. That said, it still shifts better than some that were designed unsynchronised from the get-go.
Above. The 375MM #Pinin-Farina Spider ( #Pininfarina )looks delicate and pretty, especially from this angle, yet it was tough and brawny enough to compete in the demanding Sebring 12 Hours.
With a measure of low-speed acquaintance safely under my belt, I become progressively braver, and it's easy to see how you could quickly become over-confident with 0382. Whereas the #340MM was constantly nervous and everyone knew it, too many to their mortal detriment, the #Ferrari-375MM is much like a Lancia Stratos or early #Porsche-911 : a genuine delight up to 95%, but in those last five ticks it'll swing around like a bad habit if you're unready or unable. Power oversteer must come to it as naturally as whacking an unwary gazelle comes to a hungry lioness, and with roughly equal warning.
But true to Mr Ferrari's promises, there is nothing at all wrong with this engine. Every start is on the button, as long as you remember to half-crack the Webers; power and response are smooth and instant, and despite my prudent regard for age and provenance - no, honestly - it flings me down the road with a heart-pounding satisfaction. It's loud, macho and incredibly seductive, and soon I'm thinking, well, hey, the owner uses this regularly at events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Bahamas Speed Week, surely it couldn't hurt to have one, good, full-on charge through the gears...
Then, from a sky that scant seconds earlier had appeared completely innocent, a faint sneer of raindrops litters the windscreen; unbidden, my right foot lifts in amazingly direct proportion to the puckering I experience elsewhere about my anatomy.
I immediately turn around, revs barely above tickover, and crawl back to base. There's brave, dear reader, and there's plain old crazy, and, sometimes, you've really got to recognise the difference.
THANKS TO Paul Russell and Company, www. paulrussell. com.
Right. The great Phil Hill once sat behind this wheel and the Ferrari scored four race victories in its maiden season; triple-carb 4.5-litre V12 puts out 340bhp.
Right. Any imperfections that were evident in this gorgeous car’s (now) 62-year-old bodywork at the end of its unusually long racing career are still present - and correct.
Car 1953 #Ferrari-375MM-Pininfarina-Spider
ENGINE 4522cc V12, SOHC perbank, three four-barrel #Weber 40 IF/4C carburettors
POWER 340bhp @ 7000rpm
TORQUE 300lb ft @ 4300rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
STEERING Worm and sector
Front: double wishbones, transverse leaf spring, Houdaille dampers.
Rear: live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, trailing arms, Houdaille dampers.
PERFORMANCE Top speed 170mph. 0-60mph 5.5 sec (est)
'This is more than a milestone racing Ferrari. It’s the singular unrestored 375MM known to remain'
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- Post is under moderation#1953 #Ford #Consul
WHEN IT WAS NEW
Max power 47bhp
Max torque 72lb ft
0-60mph 28 secs
Top speed 72mph
This Consul appears to have had one owner for the first 60 years of its life, changing hands only in 2013 . It’s had a recent freshen-up including a repaint – changing the colour from the original grey to two-tone – although there are already a couple of small bubbles in one corner of the bootlid. The body is straight, with a little filler in the sills, presumably to even up the replacement panels, because the sill-floor joints are well defined and the drain-holes clear. The floors are fine, protected by red oxide paint and there are new brake pipes. There’s been some welding to the rear wheel tubs and the spring hanger reinforcements look a bit frilly on both sides, but if this needs fixing it’ll be done when the car goes for a pre-sale MoT.
All the chrome is good, although the right end of the rear bumper has ‘twanged’ the paint and sprung back with no further damage. The tyres are decently treaded Classico radials with an unworn Matador on the spare – 70-profile 155s that look too small for the car, but that’s simple to rectify.
Under the bonnet, it’s had the strut-top mountings plated. The motor is stock with a topped-up radiator under a new cap, plus oil dark and at ‘Full’. The clutch was changed last year, but there’s no other history, apart from a charming note from the first owner detailing all the capacities and so on.
The optional leather seats have a small split under the driver, but the dash and instruments are excellent. There are a couple of odd, coveredover holes in the bulkhead, although the heater remains under the bonnet.
It starts readily but the pre-Kent 1508cc ‘four’ is tappety; easily sorted. There’s no oil or temperature gauges to worry about, though the ammeter shows it’s charging. The brakes pull up sharply and the three-speed column shift is slick, but it’s quite low geared so only a fairly busy 50mph cruise is realistic. There are minor front-end clunks, but the nearside wheel bearing has a little play that can probably be adjusted out. So start from there.
Newish paint has a few bubbles.
Mostly good; just one small tear.
Sorted bar front-end clonks.
For A rare but usable survivor.
Against Minor cosmetic niggles, although it’s rather better than expected for the price.
SHOULD I BUY IT?
A charming, comfy old thing that drives nicely; out with the Waxoyl to make sure it lasts – and don’t expect to get anywhere fast!
Year of manufacture 1953
Recorded mileage 63,122
Asking price £5650
Vendor Pioneer Automobiles, near Newbury, Berkshire; tel: 01635 248158.
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