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    Living the dream in a #Mercedes on the Monte / #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a / #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a-W180 / #1955 / #Mercedes-Benz-220a / #Mercedes-Benz-220a-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-Ponton / #Mercedes-Benz / #Automobile-Club-de-Monaco

    As a 32 year old, I have friends who are preoccupied with the latest shiny offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. But here in Northern Ireland we are steeped in a motor sport heritage that’s the envy of many in the motoring world, and when I was growing up, not too far from Dundrod, I was told of the 1955 Tourist Trophy by my grandfather, who was a spectator. Images of it captivated me as a boy, and in 2015 I finally decided to stop just thinking about historic racing and to actually do something about it.

    I bought a #1955-Mercedes-Benz-220a – chosen because it is eligible for many events in Europe – unseen from Tasmania via the internet. To my huge relief, it arrived safely and in working order! Then, having researched many historic events in order to choose one that would be suitable for a beginner, I took the not-very-sensible option of diving straight into the deep end with the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique.

    In my naïvety I imagined driving the beautiful roads of Southern France, sipping wine, eating great food and enjoying a good night’s sleep in plush hotels. This thought did not last long, as when I spoke to anyone in motor sport they all had the same response: laughter followed by ‘Good luck!’

    The day before the start from Paisley, our car had no front end and the engine was in bits due to problems with the fuel line and electrics. That co-driver Gary Greenberg and I even made it from Belfast to Glasgow was a victory; everything else would be a bonus! The reception in Paisley was truly fantastic and the realisation hit me that I was at last fulfilling my boyhood dream of a Monte Carlo start.

    When we crossed the Channel into France, panic began to set in as I realised that this was a serious event. Column-shift selector issues in Calais meant that we had no reverse gear, and the roadbook might as well have been written in hieroglyphics.

    The Automobile-Club-de-Monaco officials kindly explained what I had done wrong by passing every Control, but we soon got the hang of it. The good night’s sleep I had hoped for was replaced by two back-to-back days of no sleep and hard driving, including during the night, when temperatures dropped below freezing and tiredness was a constant threat. Our car was pushed to the limits on the demanding roads.

    The fuel-line issue we had before the start recurred on day four, meaning we spent most of it in a supermarket car park covered in petrol. This cost us dearly and we remained at the rear of the field – which meant we had no time to stop and fix issues, because the Time Controls were closing. The stress of continually watching the clock to maintain average speeds was taxing, but eventually we reached #Monte-Carlo , where the sight of the marina made it all worthwhile.

    We had just a two-hour break before the final stage, which started at 8pm and ran until 5am: the infamous Col de Turini. We were warned that it started as dry tarmac but quickly turned to ice, snow and then tarmac again, and there had already been crashes. We came to the decision that you only live once, and went for it.

    The hours in the hills were the most thrilling, exciting and scary of my life, but we did it and made it back over the finishing ramp. It was also our best result of the event, in terms of points. Standing in the middle of Monte Carlo, on the finishing ramp of the rally with the Automobile Club de Monaco medal in your hand, has to be one of the most special feelings you can have.

    Some people might not rate historic rallying because it doesn’t involve the sheer speed of modern rallies, but it is much more than that. It’s an endurance event where crew and car must work together over several days to make the finish. The roads are demanding, stress high, competition fierce – and the reward when you make it to the end is pure and utter joy. ‏ — at Monte Carlo, Monaco-Ville, Monaco
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    Fit for further fun

    CAR: #1955-Jaguar-XK140 / #1955 / #Jaguar-XK140 / #Jaguar


    The Jaguar is continuing to receive winter maintenance work at Classic Motor Cars of Bridgnorth. The big job was to fix the rear halfshaft and worn rear spring mounts, but CMC found a hole in the chassis in front of one rear spring mount. I thought the Jaguar’s chassis was built like the Forth Bridge. Well, they just found a big crack in that too, didn’t they!

    Hmm… seems neither is invincible. The good news is that, with a separate chassis, the repair is relatively easy and should last for another couple of decades. CMC also replaced a worn balljoint on the front suspension, which I already knew about as I could feel and hear it clonking while I was driving.

    The brakes had been playing up as well. New rear shoes and pads helped but it turns out that the front brake piston rubbers were causing the pistons to be pushed back in the caliper, thus creating a long brake pedal. That is now rectified.

    With the new balljoint in place, CMC advised that the front set-up was a bit low at 6½ inches (it should be 7½). I don’t like the front of a car to stand up too high (the XK had spent some time looking like a praying mantis) so I compromised and asked them to set the ride height at 7in. It now looks to be on an even keel.

    So, there was quite a lot more work than I had been expecting but, then, the Jaguar had been used relatively hard last summer during the Octane Tour of Scotland (which ended at the Palace of Holyroodhouse Concours of Elegance) and a highly enjoyable gastro-blast to La Chartre-sur-le-Loir on the Octane Hotel de France Tour.

    Thanks to CMC’s attentions, the Jaguar is ready for more many more motoring adventures at the push of the starter button – and that’s exactly how I like it.

    THANKS TO Classic Motor Cars,
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    Religious service

    CAR #1955-Jaguar-XK140 / #1955 / #Jaguar-XK140 / #Jaguar

    OWNER Robert Coucher

    I’m hardly a fanatical person but one thing I’m religious about is changing the engine oil and filter on my cars. I noticed the XK had done almost 3000 miles since its last oil service and with winter on the way it was a good excuse to motor down to specialist Twyford Moors in bucolic Hampshire.

    There was nothing much wrong with the old bus but the list of niggles included the rear brake lights only coming on if I stood really hard on the brake pedal – not ideal in busy London. And the handbrake needed adjusting.

    With the Jaguar in the workshop, the oil, oil filter and coolant were changed. The TM chaps found (using an electric heat probe) that the electric fan was coming on too soon, as the gauge over-reads by about five degrees, so it was re-set. The car also needed a bottom ball-joint, a brake pedal bearing, a new brake light switch, fanbelt, the wipers freeing off and the steering column bracket tightening up.

    The cost of the parts, which included fresh sparkplugs and a fuel filter, was a reasonable £200 – and the Jaguar takes 12 litres of 20w/50!

    Arriving at Twyford Moors to collect the XK from Ian Mills (pictured left), I was pleased to see it had been beautifully polished and valeted inside. I very rarely wash the XK as I don’t think water is good for old cars. Instead I use a soft feather duster to wipe off the garage dust, which works but not as well as a proper wash and wax.

    It’s amazing how the Jaguar always feels noticeably sharper after a few days down at Clanfield. Driving off, the brake pedal immediately felt much firmer, with reduced travel, and the engine is superbly crisp thanks to the six new plugs. The handbrake now holds the XK’s 1350kg weight and the front suspension is quiet thanks to the ball-joint attention. Pity there’s now salt on our wintry roads, as I really want to drive the XK. Oh well, the Number 19 bus ain’t so bad…
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    Merc duo set to dazzle at auction #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster / #3Mercedes-Benz-300SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W198 / #3Mercedes-Benz-M198 / #1955 / #1957 / #3Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing / #Gullwing-W198 / #Gullwing

    Unmolested 300 SL Roadster and Gullwing head for #Pebble-Beach sale stardom

    Even by the standards of star lots at the Pebble Beach auction sales, Gooding’s latest announcement is breathtaking. Fresh from the sale of a remarkable unrestored Gullwing that fetched $1.46 million at Scottsdale in January, it will be offering not only an even better-preserved unrestored Gullwing with a mere 16,000 miles but a 300 SL Roadster to go with it, owned from new by the same father and son and showing just 38,000 miles.

    The vendor took over the care of the cars from his father in 1964 and has in his own words ‘just kept ’em’. Neither has been driven much, as indicated by the mileage, but both have been stored in perfectly dry garages and started up often enough to arrive in #2017 in good running order.

    The Gullwing was acquired in 1955 after the vendor’s father bought out someone else’s place in New York importer Max Hofman’s waiting list. He paid an extra $65 to have the car painted British Racing Green, which with the tan hide trim makes this combination a one-of for a Gullwing. The marker lights that are all original, and the front bumper has never been drilled for a licence plate, and there’s even original sale paperwork from Hofman Motors.

    The 300 SL Roadster joined the family in 1957, the same year the model was announced. The open car’s greater userfriendliness prompted more miles and a little more wear, with touched-in Silver- Blue Metallic paint and grey leather fading to its un-dyed colour on parts of the dash and seats. It has its original set of fitted Karl Baisch luggage and, like the Gullwing, is surely enough of a survivor to be preserved rather than restored.

    Sales of $1m-$1.3m for the Gullwing and $800k-$1m for the Roadster are expected at the Californian sale on August 18-19, but anyone wanting to keep them as a pair will need serious commitment and financial clout to fight of rivals whose bids could go some way beyond those figures.

    Both the SL Roadster and Gullwing will hopefully be preserved rather then restored.
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    Classic Choice 300SL Gullwing Glamour and Elegance

    After inheriting this beautiful 300SL Gullwing from her late husband, this owner really got into the spirit of classic Mercedes-Benz ownership. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.

    Celebrity 300SL Gullwing owners included actors Clark Gable (whose example changed hands in January for $1.85m, or about £1.18m), Glenn Ford, Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis, and musicians Skitch Henderson and Don Ricardo, a leader of the famous NBC Orchestra. But it wasn’t just the men that had all the fun, women in the 1950s were also known to appreciate the styling and engineering of the 300SL, two of the most notable being actresses Sophia Loren and Zsa Zsa Gabor. In the case of Sophia Loren, Mercedes-Benz heavily publicised her connection to the flagship three-pointed star.

    Move the clock forward more than 50 years after the last Gullwing rolled off the assembly line, and we find ourselves at the 2012 Gull Wing Group convention in Palm Springs, California. There, among all the perfectly restored cars and trailer queens, one Gullwing beckoned us, a silver 1955 model. It wasn’t perfect – the paint showed signs of cracking in spots – but with the doors open the interior carried a patina that told us this car was driven by an enthusiastic owner.

    As we were leaning over the sill and inspecting the odometer that registered more than 100,000 miles, its owner greeted us. “Friends came over to the pool and said that you wanted to talk to me about my car. I’m Penny Akashi.” Getting the introductions out the way, we talked about her history with this very lovely 300SL Gullwing.

    “My husband purchased the car in the 1960s from a man in San Pedro, which was long before I knew him,” she explains. “I became more familiar with the Mercedes after we got married and it went into our garage in the early 1980s. The car pretty much stayed there for most of the next 20 years. Every now and then my husband would just start the engine without taking the SL out.

    “Eventually, he disconnected the battery, the tyres went flat and it was not driveable. He did make some minor attempts at restoring it and once had it towed to a local car show, however it just went back into the garage,” Akashi remembers. “Even though he was one of the very early members of the Gull Wing Group, the only activity I remember us participating in together was a trip to Don Ricardo’s house to see his collection of vintage cars. It was while we were there that I saw person after person drive up in their 300SL Gullwings and realised there were people who actually drove their cars. I would ask why we had a car that we didn’t drive, but I never got an answer that made sense to me – but then again, it wasn’t my car,” she adds with a smile.


    “It was the winter of 2001 when he told me he was having the car towed to Tom Burniston’s in Long Beach, to be restored,” continues Akashi. “Over the course of three years, Tom painstakingly and meticulously restored the engine of the car and documented each step.

    I would see a letter and bill from Tom occasionally, but I really didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just happy to have an extra parking spot in the garage during that time.” The work was finished in 2004, almost simultaneously with her husband’s passing. That’s when she became the owner and, with the help of her brother-in- law, went to pick it up.

    After retrieving the SL, it mostly sat until 2008, except for once-a-month drives around the neighbourhood. That was when her good friend Pete Moyer asked, as a birthday present, if he could get a ride in the car. Akashi was happy to oblige, and with encouragement and support from Moyer, she started taking the Mercedes-Benz out for longer drives.

    Needless to say, she was soon hooked. At this point she connected with fellow Gull Wing Group member Steve Marx, who is well known in southern Californian Gullwing circles as the owner of Marx Mercedes Service in Costa Mesa. “He encouraged me to get the engine checked out and serviced, and said we should start taking the car for ‘real’ drives,” Akashi tells us. “Freeways, the Pacific Coast Highway. Let it really go and get warmed up.”

    After servicing the 300SL and giving it a clean bill of health mechanically, Marx mentioned that there was a Gull Wing Group convention coming up in Sonoma, California, up in the Bay Area east of San Francisco. “He said I should seriously think about driving up and that the members were a ‘nice bunch’. That first long trip that Pete and I took was one of the highlights of my life,” Akashi recalls fondly. “I think the most exciting part was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I couldn’t believe that we were there in that car! Of course, the funny part was that it was getting dark and neither of us knew which knob on the dashboard was for the headlights. We must have tried them all – and one we shouldn’t have touched – before we found it!”


    Working with Gullwings is never anything but pure delight. But when the owner gets into the spirit of things and dresses in period for the photoshoot – right down to the politically incorrect mink stole – it’s a real treat. We headed to the world famous Venice Beach. Now, a #Mercedes-Benz 300SL #Gullwing will draw a crowd no matter what, but when what looks like a 1950s film star gracefully gets out from behind the wheel, well, a near riot ensued! As we continued, someone even asked us what TV show Akashi was starring in, someone else wondering if this was a retro photoshoot for something like Vogue!

    It was a magical experience with a remarkable owner and her iconic classic #Mercedes -Benz. For just a few, all too brief hours, it was wonderful to recreate another era where glamour and elegance were the norm, not the exception. It’s great to have the opportunity to tell, in words and photographs, the story of one very special 300SL Gullwing and its enthusiastic driver who understands the true spirit of the car. Something tells us her husband would be very proud of her.

    It was getting dark and neither of us knew which knob was for the headlights, we must have tried them all!
    It went into our garage in the early 1980s – it pretty much stayed there for the next 20 years.
    The interior carried a patina that told us this car was driven by an enthusiastic owner.
    Getting into the spirit, owner Penny Akashi is the proud custodian of this 1955 classic.
    The vibrant, red leather shows gentle signs of its use.
    This was the first Mercedes production car with a fuel injected engine, the three-litre straight-six developing 212bhp.
    The steering wheel moves to help the.
    Standing in the iconic pose, after years of inactivity, this now restored and often used classic Mercedes still turns heads. driver get in/out.
    The delicate, chrome script glistens on the two-tone dashboard.
    A decent boot and a spare are handy for the miles this SL enjoys.
    Akashi was soon hooked and this SL is now very well used.

    JUST THE FACTS / TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL / #Mercedes-Benz-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-M198 /

    Engine #M198 2,996cc 6-cyl
    Power 212bhp @ 5,800rpm
    Torque 203lb ft @ 4,600rpm
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    Weight 1,295kg
    0-62mph 10.0sec
    Top speed Up to 162mph
    Fuel consumption 29.7mpg
    Years produced #1954 / #1955 / #1956 / #1957


    When introduced, it was a landmark car, attracting the attention of the rich and famous – as it still does today Figures for car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent; top speed depends on the rear axle ratio.
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    Family affair. This rare 1950s coupe was bought as a basket case in 1972, reports Richard Truesdell, after which it was restored over a six-year period – and to this day remains with the same Mercedes loving family in California. Images Richard Truesdell/Daimler AG.

    “The 300sc was owned by luminaries like King Hussein of Jordan and Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby”

    The year was 1978, the car a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc, and the story is of the relationship between a father, his son, and his preservation of his father’s legacy in steel, aluminum, wood and leather. The father, the late Donald Minkoff of Newport Beach, California, was preparing his prized Mercedes for that year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and his son Mark, then 20 years old, was doing what he could, helping to get the car ready for the event.

    “I was destined to be a car guy from the day I was born,” says Mark, sitting in his office in Costa Mesa, California with his wife of 34 years, Sherry. “My dad brought me to my first NASCAR race at Riverside Raceway when I was just five years old. I remember that Roger Penske won the race – from that point on, I was a big fan of any kind of racing.” Today Mark races a short-wheelbase 911 Porsche he acquired 15 years ago, and a Ford Thunderbird in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series for vintage NASCAR race cars.

    I would crawl around the car as an infant trying to ‘help’ my dad with restoration projects,” Mark continues, recalling that the most memorable was the 300Sc. He was involved in its restoration, along with many skilled craftsmen, and still remembers trying to get it show ready the evening before loading the car on the trailer for its trip to Monterey.

    “My dad was the type of guy who was always doing things at the last minute,” Mark remembers. “The 300Sc did make it to Pebble Beach, and miraculously won first in class and was also selected as one of the 10 most elegant cars in the show. Sherry was there, but at the time we were not married. My father being the frugal guy he was, made Sherry and me sleep on the balcony on a mattress instead of reserving an extra room. I think that tells you a lot of what you need to know about my father.”

    He comments that times have changed greatly at Pebble Beach in the intervening 35 years, that what he and his dad accomplished in 1978 would be impossible today. “We don’t attend the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance any longer,” he tells us. “It has become so crowded. In the early days you could spread out a blanket and picnic with family and friends. That year I was proudly standing next to my dad as he received congratulations from Phil Hill, the 1961 Formula 1 champion.”

    Donald Minkoff wasn’t your typical #Mercedes - Benz owner. Born in Los Angeles in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression, he spent his early years in Alhambra, graduated from Alhambra High School, and there, met and married his wife of 57 years, Erna. Happily, Erna shared his love of cars, especially those with the three-pointed star. This afforded the couple the opportunity to travel often to Europe while raising Mark and his sisters.

    Don spent much of his professional life as a salesman for General Mills products and called on grocery stores and supermarkets in southern California. In the early sixties his route passed by a car dealership where he would see W188 300S Coupe on display, falling in love with it. But even for a successful salesman, it seemed that such a car was beyond reach, although that never stopped Don from dreaming that some day he would own the car the stars drove. The 300Sc was owned by 1950s luminaries like King Hussein of Jordan and Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby.

    Over time, as Don become more successful, he moved from the middle class neighbourhood of Encino, north of downtown Los Angeles, to the upscale community of Newport Beach in Orange County, south of LA. Through it all, he never gave up on his aspirations of one day owning a 300Sc. That chance presented itself in 1972, 10 years after his first encounter with the 300S Coupe in that Los Angeles showroom. Purchased for the princely sum of $3,100 (the equivalent today of $17,000, or about £11,400), the car had just reached 100,000 miles. It was something of a barn find, having been purchased from the previous owner who stored it in hut a mile from Mark’s current office.

    The low price reflected its need for extensive restoration, which would become a father-son project over the following six years. While the bodywork was left to specialists, much of the mechanical work was performed by Don and Mark. The 300 series was a special car, with over 1,000 highly skilled man hours applied to each one during its build.

    All components were hand fitted, each item bearing an individually stamped identification number. In seven years of production from 1951, Mercedes made only 760. Of these, 200 were the 300Sc, introduced in 1955 to replace the 300S, and using a new three-litre engine with Bosch fuel injection rather than triple carburettors, which raised power by 25bhp to 173bhp, and torque 18lb ft to 188lb ft. Of these, only 98 were coupes, with very few being equipped with the factory installed sunroof. It is believed that around 60 per cent of all 300 series coupes, cabriolets and roadsters have survived.

    Down the years, Don and Erna travelled often to Europe, and established a successful business importing Mercedes cars directly from Germany. Their Mercedes collection progressively grew, at one time Don owning 10. One of them, a 1956 220SE Cabriolet was a 10th wedding anniversary gift from Don to Erna, in 1963. On the day he gave it to her, he covered her eyes, getting her sat behind the wheel, and saying he bought her a station wagon. But as she smelled the leather, she knew very well that this was no crude, US built truck with a vinyl interior and imitation wood side panels.

    The 300Sc is displayed regularly, at regional events, most recently, this year’s Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance. There, it was parked next to Bruce Meyer’s 1957 300Sc Cabriolet, a car once owned by Hollywood screen icon Clark Gable – and there is a direct link between the two cars, dating back to the days when Don and his family lived on Encino. It seems that Mark detailed the Clark Gable car when it was owned by the late actor’s estate. It was during this time that Don was able to purchase the fitted luggage that now resides in the Minkoff’s 300Sc (we’re thinking that Bruce would love to reunite the luggage with his car but it is likely that Mark will want to keep it with his).

    Don Minkoff passed away on September 15 2010, after a short illness. He was 81, and as Mark will attest, his was a life well lived, especially where his relationship with the three-pointed star was concerned. Since his passing, Mark has faithfully tended to his father’s collection, striving to maintain the cars in perfect running condition, which is something his dad struggled with. “My dad was the type that was happy with how his cars presented but left some of the hidden details untended,” says Mark. “The best example is the under dash wiring harness on the 300Sc. When I refreshed the car after his death, I removed the harness, with all the splices, butt connectors and electrical tape intact. I keep the harness in a cabinet in my office in my ‘man cave’ in Costa Mesa, where I have kept his collection intact.”

    This includes a 1957 300SL Gullwing, it being the ninth from last of the 1,400 coupes built over the three year period. It is probably the most valuable car in the collection, but Mark knows that the 300Sc Coupe was always his favourite. “I am sure my dad is looking down and smiling,” says Mark, looking wistfully at the cabinet with the wiring harness.

    “The 300Sc is displayed regularly, at regional events like the legendary Cars and Coffee show held each Saturday morning in Irvine”
    “The 300 series was a special car, with over 1,000 highly skilled man hours applied to each one during its build”

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Coupe-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300S-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-M199 / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-300S / #Mercedes-Benz-300 /

    Engine #M199 2,996cc 6-cyl
    Power 173bhp @ 5,400rpm
    Torque 188lb ft @ 4,300rpm
    Weight 1,780kg
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    0-62mph 14.0sec
    Top speed 112mph
    Fuel consumption 22.6mpg
    Years produced #1955 / #1958
    All figures from #Mercedes-Benz

    Above. ‘Einspritzmotor’ tells us that this car, unlike early models, has fuel injection.
    Left. Every year Mark takes the 300Sc to varoius classic car events in California.
    Right. The fitted luggage set was acquired later – from a 300Sc Clark Gable owned.
    Right. One of the publicity photos Mercedes issued of the coupe in the mid 1950s.
    Above. Rear seat is best described as cosy, with limited space.
    Left. The 300Sc has 173bhp, a healthy output for the time.
    Below. Few 1950s cars looked as chic.
    Above. The 300-series was offered as the Coupe, Roadster and Cabriolet.
    Above left. This is the cover of the 1951 brochure for the early model, the 300S.
    Below. The polished wood and chromed trimmed dials make for a stylish fascia.
    Above. Mark with the 300S as it is today, 35 years after the restoration was completed.
    Left. Same place, in 1972, with Jim Albin, who carried out some paintwork on the car.
    Left and below. Phil Hill congratulates Don (open shirt) on ’1978 Concours win; Mark is to Don’s right. classic coupe 300Sc.
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    What’s in your Garage? We find out what it’s like to own a rare 502 #V8 . / #1955 / #BMW-502F-V8-Cabriolet / #BMW-502F-Cabriolet / #BMW-502-Cabriolet / #BMW-502F / #BMW-502 / #BMW / #BMW-500-series / #M502 /

    Rare on British roads, as Mike Taylor reveals, this early post-war 502F V8 Cabriolet draws admiring glances wherever it goes Photography: Mike Taylor.

    The Baroque period is said to have run from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century and refers to the exaggerated style conspicuous in art, music and sculpture to produce drama, tension and grandeur. The BMW-500-series of the early 1950s was nicknamed by owners and observers as ‘Baroque Angels’, the moniker being an acknowledgement of the car’s flowing exaggerated lines shared by heavenly figures shaped during the baroque period.

    For BMW, restarting production after hostilities was to prove an uphill struggle involving the possibility of building cars under licence to finance the purchase of machine tools; it was a consideration which wisely never saw the light of day. Another notion was to design a new baby car called the 331. In the event this too was vetoed by BMW board member, Hanns Grewenig, who believed the company’s future lay in the manufacture of low volume luxury cars. With this in mind he tasked BMW’s chief engineer, Alfred Böning to begin with a clean sheet, producing the basis for a luxury limousine. The outcome was the 500 Series. The job of styling the new car was given to Peter Schimanowski while BMW tasked Pininfarina to shape an alternative for comparison. Discussion at board level declared the Italian solution emulated too closely the Alfa Romeo 1900 of the day and it was discarded in favour of the in-house proposal.

    The result was a car that eschewed angular edges for flowing lines; even the grille boasted a double curvature while the headlamps were recessed into the front wings and the front screen was a single panel giving the car a contemporary appearance. At the rear the bootlid flowed gracefully down to meet the bumper line. The most obvious feature was the lack of embellishment, the result being one of subtle elegance. Critically, the 501’s flowing design was very reminiscent of the models emanating from Detroit during the 1930s.

    Beneath was a perimeter frame chassis with double wishbone front suspension and torsion bartype springing front and rear. Steering was a kind of rack and pinion with the rack following the curvature of the toothed pinion. Brakes were large drums allround. Power was supplied by the M337 engine, which was a development of the M78 engine first used in the pre-war BMW 326. A straight-six OHV unit, the engine had been given a reinforced crankshaft running in larger, more modern, main bearings. The cylinder head was reworked to produce better combustion efficiency fed by a new inlet manifold. Initially of 1971cc this engine produced an adequate 64hp.

    Interestingly, the gearbox was mounted remotely between the second and third chassis crossmember rails operated by an ingenious, if complex, mechanism linked to a column mounted gear change, giving a somewhat vague shift pattern. Drive was taken from the clutch to the gearbox via an open shaft with rubber couplings fore and aft to soften drive take up.

    Unfortunately, Schimanowski’s calculations on body weight had been inaccurate; the welded chassis/body shell structure tipped the scales at a hefty 3150lb. The limited power available from the M337 engine produced a lack-lustre 84mph performance with a 0-60 gallop a dull 24 seconds.

    “My first car was my sister’s hand-me-down 1960 Mini, which I had almost free access to, taking my driving test in it in 1964,” explains Benjamin Hargreaves, owner of the enchanting Cherry red 502F V8 we are reviewing. “I then took the Mini to Munich in Germany during my nine months before university where the intention was for me to learn the language. It was here that I really noticed German engineering. I was especially struck by the ubiquity of the saloon version of the 502. Production had only stopped just a few years before so they were quite common on Bavarian roads.”

    The BMW 501 was launched to a receptive audience at the Frankfurt Motor Show in April 1951 where its DM15,000 made it a markedly expensive machine; significantly more costly than its closest rival, the Mercedes Benz 220.

    For BMW, putting the 501 saloon into production proved a tardy and involved procedure. With no sheet steel pressing equipment on hand at Munich to manufacture the bodies, the initial 2045 bodyshell chassis units were assembled by Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart and shipped to BMW’s factory where the drivetrain and suspension components were added. Significantly, customers could also order a two-door coupé or convertible version from Baur or Autenrieth (or a four-door convertible from Baur) as alternatives. Even before 501 production had properly begun, Böning proposed the development of a larger engine to power future versions of the car to BMW’s board.

    His suggestion found favour. Rather than simply expand the capacity of the straight-six engine his approach was to create an all new compact, lightweight V8 similar to the type of engine being made by General Motors for the Oldsmobile Rocket. It would feature a single camshaft located centrally in the cylinder block acting on pushrods operating overhead valves in wedge-shaped combustion chambers. However, the BMW engine would differ markedly from the US engine, its cylinder block being manufactured from aluminium alloy fitted with castiron cylinder liners. Capacity would be 2580cc and, fitted with a single twin choke Solex carburettor, the engine produced 100hp. At this time in BMW’s history the proposed V8 programme would be a costly exercise. Nevertheless, the green light was given, the project being completed by Fritz Fiedler, who replaced Alfred Böning as BMW’s chief engineer in 1952.

    The engine was introduced in 1954 at the Geneva Motor Show in the 502 saloon. Based on the 501, this car featured a much more luxuriously appointed interior and proved a major threat to Mercedes in quality, luxury and performance; at the time of its launch the 502 was hailed as Germany’s fastest saloon in regular production.

    When The Motor road-tested a right-hand drive 501 powered by the new smooth V8 engine it was impressed by its apparent ease at covering long distances without stress to the driver or passengers. The car was capable of just 100mph with a 0-60 acceleration timed at 15.2 seconds. Autocar commented on the almost austere interior with its painted metal facia, cloth-covered seats and rubber floor matting. Significantly, as a right-hand drive model, the column gear change had been changed to a floor shift as part of the conversion.

    Sadly, like the 501, the 502’s elegance and speed came at a price and at DM17,000 restricted sales to a mere 190 units in the first year of manufacture. In 1955 the 502 was given a mild restyle, which included a wraparound rear window.

    “During the 1970s I ran three different two-door BMWs starting with a 1600 and followed by two 2002Tiis,” continues Benjamin. “In those days BMWs were still quite unusual on the roads of the UK. I gave up the brand when people began to recognise what they were! Then I began to drive a company car, a Chrysler Alpine five-door hatchback, which is definitely the worst car I’ve ever had. However, having a car on the business did provide the opportunity to calculate the savings that I was making and I realised I could afford an Aston Martin; in those days the price of a second-hand example matched the cost of a new Ford Cortina. In 1973 I had already bought an Aston Martin DB2 drophead. I then bought a DB5.”

    Like the 501, the 502 could also be ordered in two-door cabriolet and coupé form from Baur. Interestingly, records reveal that a few 501s and 502s were also converted into ambulances and hearses. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1955, capacity of the V8 was increased to 3168cc and fitted to four new cars; the 507 two-seat convertible, the 503 coupé, the BMW 502 and the 505 limousine prototype. Compression ratio was increased to 7.2:1 and power was now up to 120hp. To provide even greater performance, the 3.2 Super was launched in 1957 which boasted 140hp.

    In 1958 the 501 and 502 model designation was dropped when the 501 V8 was renamed the BMW 2.6 and the 502 was given the title of 2.6 Luxus.

    Power steering became an option in 1959 with front disc brakes being added the following year The model names ‘3.2’ and ‘3.2 Super’ were replaced by the ‘3200L’ and ‘3200S’ in 1961, the L model being fitted with a single carburettor and producing 140hp while the S version was fitted with twin Solex or Zenith carburettors, the unit producing a healthy 160hp.

    In 1961 the company’s new model range was launched at the Frankfurt Show: the contemporary styled four-door Neue Klasse saloon with a fourcylinder 1500cc engine and the 3200CS coupé, the last model to be fitted with the Böning-inspired V8. Two years later manufacture of the 500-based models ceased. However, without doubt these cars had taken the Munich-based business from a little known limited production company to worldwide acclaim.

    “My decision to look for a pre-war car began when a friend of mine had a 1930s Aston Martin,” continues Benjamin as we stand admiring his red cabriolet. “I’d completed several runs in it and I’d given him moral support when he began racing the Aston Martin in club events. It encouraged me to begin thinking clearly about the kind of pre-war car I wanted for myself. Above all, it had to be capable of being driven from one side of Europe to the other. I started by looking at the Derby Bentleys, Lagondas and pre-war 2.0-litre BMWs. In the event I bought a Lagonda. On one occasion I was driving out to Munich on a Historic BMW Club Rally following behind two pre-war BMW 319s and wondering whether I was going to be happy with one of these funny little cars. Later, I was in the BMW museum and saw a Baroque Angel, again. Then, I noticed an article about a similar cabriolet in a magazine. I telephoned a club member and received quite favourable reports about it. This car was up for sale and was twice as suitable and a third of the price of a 319, so I bought it in autumn 2008.”

    If appearances can be deceptive then this is certainly the case with the 502F cabriolet, its large curvaceous body and tall stance seeming to suggest a wallowy ride tinged with a relaxed gait. In reality this is far from the case. Moreover, the casual observer can be forgiven for thinking that the car originated in Detroit, until closer inspection reveals the iconic BMW propeller insignias back and front.

    The doors open wide to give easy access, even for those travelling in the rear, while the seats are set high enough to ensure good visibility all-round for driver and passengers. Fit and finish is well up to BMW’s luxury trademark, though there is a tinge of durability attached to the plain leather-covered dashboard and workmanlike rubber matting on the floor. Designed as a true five-seater, legroom and seat sizes ensure a degree of luxury when touring, the front seats proving especially comfortable, only the lack of shape to the backrests preclude any sideways support when cornering.

    Ahead of the driver is the large steering wheel with its period ring-type horn push, a characteristic so prevalent of Fifties cars. In the dashboard there is a semi-circular speedo with rectangular ancillary instruments for petrol, temperature and so on. The handbrake projects from underneath on the left-hand side of the column. Originally the 502 would have had a column gear change but on this car a previous owner has replaced it with a floor change, with the original chrome support for the column lever still being in evidence.

    Starting the 3.2-litre engine presents no dramas, the V8 rumbling into life with ease. On this car clutch travel is pronounced, demanding that the pedal be pushed to the floor to ensure graunch-free gear selection. The movement is long yet precise. Twist and release the handbrake and we’re off.

    Without making demands on the engine acceleration is satisfyingly brisk. Changing up to second involves the long movement of the pedal and gear change, though drive take up is delightfully smooth in harmony with a responsive throttle. Up to third is more of the same, the gate of the ‘H’ being similarly pronounced.

    Top gear provides relaxed reaction from the engine and with probably 115mph maximum speed available cruising in unison with other traffic gives no sign of strain on the powertrain. For a tall car the handling is surprisingly roll-free perhaps indicating that even in the ‘50s BMWs were drivers’ cars. Under way, the tall screen and large side windows satisfactorily mask those inside from irritating wind roar giving a pleasant sensation. The brakes – disc up front, drums behind – are fitted with a reassuring servo to take the pain away from slowing down, despite the car’s 28cwt of unladen weight.

    Clearly a rare car indeed on British roads today, this 1955 BMW 502F V8 Cabriolet makes an impressive sight, especially with the hood down, drawing many admiring, if slightly bemused glances as it glides by.

    “The first owner kept it for four years,” continues Benjamin. “The next owner was a newly qualified engineer in his late 20s and he kept it for 50 years. Other cars including a Gullwing Mercedes came and went but the 502 was the one that stayed in his garage. Today it has covered over 600,000 kilometres and is on its fourth engine. He upgraded it to the highest specification with a 3200 S V8 engine (which produces 160hp), added a disc brake conversion and had the gear change moved to the floor – modifications that the factory offered at the end of the car’s production life. He used it as his daily driver until the mid 1970s.”

    So what has been Benjamin’s furthest trip in his Continent-covering cabriolet? “My furthest excursion was when I used it on a Delage rally, which took us down to Provence in Southern France,” he grins at the memory. “When I take it to Germany, the car receives a lot of attention and there are often people who remember them when the 500 Series was still in production. I even came across someone who worked on these cars in the factory.”

    Clearly, Benjamin derives huge pleasure for his #BAUR BMW . “I do tend to drive it a great deal with the top down – I enjoy open air motoring,” he asserts. “In fact, I might not have been so encouraged to buy it had it not been a soft-top. Once I was driving in East Sussex when a young girl looked at it and said, ‘oh, that’s cool’. It draws that kind of reaction”.

    Clearly a rare car on British roads today, this 1955 #BMW-502F V8 Cabriolet makes an impressive sight.
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  • Post is under moderation
    BIRTHDAY OF A GODDESS / builders / collectors / restorers / #Bertoni / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen /
    Words & Photos by James Nicholls / Citroën’s DS – A masterpiece.

    When the Citroën DS was launched in Paris in #1955 , the public had never seen anything like it. By the end of its life span some 20 years later, and despite the fact that Citroen built one and a half million of them, the car remains to this day unique. The DS, an abbreviation on the French word Déesse (Goddess), was unique from the technical point of view with André Lefèbvre (1894-1963) in charge, along with the input of Paul Magès (1908-1999) with his innovative hydraulic system controlling suspension, brakes and power steering. It was unique, however, in that it achieved the brief, set by head of Citroën, Pierre-Jules Boulanger (1885-1950), to create, “The world’s most beautiful, most comfortable and most advance car, a masterpiece to show the world.” Sixty years on, the DS is still regarded as an automotive work of art. For this, one man is responsible, the designer #Flaminio-Bertoni (1903-1964).

    Bertoni is not to be confused with another great Italian car designer, Nuccio Bertone (1914-1997) who also created designs for Citroën and who was a pioneer of the wedge line with cars such as the Lancia Stratos and designs for Lamborghini. Flaminio Bertoni did not have his own carrozzeria like Bertone, and in fact did relatively few car designs. Those designs that he did however between 1934 and 1963 for Citroën are amongst the greatest and most advanced of all time – the Traction Avant, the 2CV and the futuristic DS.

    Bertoni was an artist, architect, and sculptor with links to the Futurist and Surrealist movements. In 1931, he left his home town in Varese in northern Italy and moved to Paris. In the following year, he started working for one of the most innovative of car makers André Citroën. Working with another new recruit, André Lefèbvre, he developed a front wheel drive car described by one critic as, “so new, so bold, so full of original ideas.” This was the 1934 Traction Avant.

    After André Citroën’s death in 1935, the tyre manufacturer Michelin, which now owned Citroën, installed Boulanger to run the company. Boulanger’s first project was to create a small people’s car, a car which could carry four, fifty kilos of produce, and could still travel at over 50 km/h. Due to the Second World War, the 2CV was not launched until the #1948-Paris-Motor-Show . The purity of the simple body with its removable doors and canvas seats proved an enduring design of simplicity that remained in production until 1990 with over five million units produced. Bertoni had been imprisoned during the war, and after a serious motorbike accident with one leg shorter than the other, was now working on the successor to the Traction Avant, the DS, a car that would revolutionise transport. In the interim, however, he completed his architecture degree in 1949, which he had begun studying for in hospital after his accident.

    When the DS was shown at the Paris Motor Show, the enthusiasm of the public was palpable with an incredible 750 orders taken in the first 45 minutes and 12,000 cars sold by the end of the first day! It was practical, affordable, stylish and modern, using modern materials, had technologically innovative ideas and a look that had never before been seen.

    Its popularity was not just confined to the aspirational middle-classes, so impeccably mimicked by auteur Jacques Tati in his humorous social commentaries like the 1958 film ‘Mon Oncle’. The DS with its iconic space-ship-styling was also, in various guises, the choice of film stars, the Gendarmerie, the ambulance service, Monte Carlo rally drivers and Presidents. Perhaps the most well-known example being the drive of Charles de Gaulle in the 1973 film version by Fred Zinnemann of Frederick Forsyth’s novel, ‘The Day of the Jackal’.

    Gio Ponti (1891-1979), like Bertoni, a multi-tasker, artist, designer and architect drove a DS for many years. Ponti, who could and did design anything from a spoon to a Cathedral, a tea-cup to a hotel, as well as being the creator of the Pirelli Tower, also dabbled in car design. Unlike Bertoni’s designs though, the avantgarde sketches he composed in 1952-3 for Touring Superleggera of Milan based on an Alfa Romeo chassis never reached fruition. They were, though, way ahead of their time and ultimately influential on car design in the ‘70s. Ponti certainly understood motor cars and their place in the modern society, saying of the DS, “This car has had the bravery to be genuine. Unlike the offerings of the American School, it does not seek to woo the buyer with terrible multi-coloured daubings and plenty of chrome plating which is a cover-up.”

    Later, at the age of 80, Ponti also had this to say, “When the Citroen DS came out, the three of us in the Studio – Fornaroli, Rosselli, Ponti – got one each: in homage to its beauty, as others cars work too. For the same reason we only use Olivetti typewriters…”

    The whole concept of the DS was of modernity, of light; it was to use the phrase coined by Robert Hughes in his legendary 1980 TV series and book, ‘The Shock of The New’. No car, and certainly not a car of mass production, had ever been quite so contemporary or fitted to the requirements of its time. Form and function combined ‘in excelsis’ to produce a ride of unparalleled comfort, of precision steering; its technology coupled to design cues such as the Bauhaus-style single-spoke one-piece steering wheel or its high position rear indicators.

    Indeed, the DS, as Bertoni envisaged, was more than just an automobile, it is the very embodiment of the modern automobile. The definitive car essay by one more erudite than any motoring journalist with their banal mutterings on understeer, oversteer, torque and torsion bars, is by the French philosopher, Roland Barthes (1915-1980). In an essay from his 1957 collection, ‘Mythologies’, Barthes wrote about the place of the car in the modern society. The car he wrote about, of course, was the DS, which he said, “is first and foremost a new Nautilus.”

    Master of Arts and Letters, Flaminio Bertoni should not only be remembered for the DS though. After all, in #1956 , his radical system of house construction resulted in 1,000 family homes built in just 100 days in St Louis, Missouri. Before his death in Paris in 1964, he also designed the Citroën Ami 6 to accompany the DS, 2CV and Traction Avant that he had previously inked. It is for these reasons that in his birthplace Varese, there has been a small museum dedicated to his complete oeuvre, including his international prizes for drawing and sculpture. Fittingly, in this the 60th anniversary of the DS, his capolavoro, it will be relocated to the Volandia Museum near the Milan airport, Malpensa. This is the site of the ex-Caproni aeroplane factory which now houses many of the early Macchi aeroplanes. It was at Macchi that Bertoni first found work as an apprentice joiner and later where he became head draughtsman before leaving for France.

    The final word on the DS should go to the philosopher Barthes, “We are therefore dealing here with humanised art, and it is possible that the Déesse marks a change in the mythology of cars. Until now, the ultimate in cars belonged rather to the bestiary of power; here it becomes at once more spiritual and more object-like….One is obviously turning from an alchemy of speed to a relish in driving.”
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