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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 moderationLINCOLN INDIANAPOLIS ORANGE APPEAL
Boano’s dream car for the #1955-Turin-Motor-Show .
In the fifties America was enjoying a post-war bonanza thanks to its industry, which had burgeoned by supplying the international military machine. More jobs meant more money and a booming economy. But while the US was rich and vigorous, Europe, and especially Britain, was not faring as well - Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally paid the Americans back the British war debt as recently as #2006 - so the whole 'export or die' notion was in full swing.
Before World War Two, Italian styling houses had established themselves as the pre-eminent designers and coachbuilders and, by the 1950s, they were keen to offer their services to the ever-expanding American auto industry behemoths. Motown could churn out vast numbers of automobiles at affordable prices to satisfy the local market and, while some American styling was very adventurous and even outrageous, US manufacturers were keen to draw upon the Italians' skill for their show cars. You can just imagine the Big Swingers in their boardrooms showing off to their alter-egos down the road at the next vast manufacturing plant. Like Cuban cigars, Swiss wristwatches, English suits and French furniture, the auto industry bosses just had to have a littl' ol' Italian styling house jumping to their demands.
And so it was: Chrysler had #Ghia , #Packard had #Bertone and #Hudson landed #Carrozzeria-Touring . On top of that Chevrolet was doing exciting things with its swanky Motorama events, with the original #Corvette first seen in 1953. As for Ford, its pug-ugly Edsel series was a dismal failure thanks to boss Henry Ford II's styling interference, particularly with its very peculiar nose treatment. Although Ford was well-known for his taste in European design, he had a unique sense of automotive styling, so it is no real surprise he chose the somewhat obscure and avant-garde Carrozzeria Boano Torino to add a halo effect to #Ford 's upmarket #Lincoln range. The result was rolled out onto the turntable of the #1955 Turin motor show - and this is it!
In 1955 young #Gian-Paolo-Boano was in his early 20s but had been designing cars alongside his father Felice Mario Boano for several years, first at Ghia, then at Carrozzeria Boano Torino. By all accounts Gian Paolo was a bit of a playboy and enjoyed life to the full. As he later said, 'I have always lived with enthusiasm. I was able to fulfil all my desires.'
Sounds like he had life waxed, so having the chutzpah to produce a design concept for Henry Ford II was never going to faze the young Italian.
A friend of Boano had worked with the Ford Motor Company and he suggested that Carrozzeria Boano produce a car based in a Lincoln chassis for the Turin motor show. The Boanos were accustomed to working with overseas clients. When at Ghia they had enjoyed considerable success building show cars for #Chrysler .
In 1955 Boano took delivery of Lincoln chassis number 58WA10902, and was charged with the task of producing a complete showcar in time for that year's Turin international motor show - the pre-eminent showcase for Italian coachbuilders.
The running chassis featured a 225bhp 341ci pushrod V8 with a single four-barrel carburettor, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs and dampers and a live rear axle with leaf springs and four-wheel drum brakes. What you might call a cooking specification, then... but not for long!
Named the Indianapolis, the project was typical of Italian coachbuilders of the era. It began with little more than large-scale sketches, sheet metal and tubing and that unsuspecting chassis. Clearly the jet-set age had an influence on the outcome. The finished styling includes an extended drooping nose, which has no visible cooling air intake, and is flanked by vertical quad headlights and features a large chrome bumper. The front wings extend back into the doors and end with three shrouded chrome faux-tailpipes, balanced by tall air intakes in the forward edges of the rear wings with five chrome supporting strips.
The chrome wheels are half-covered by the curved wings and are shod with the obligatory whitewall tyres. The Indianapolis's stance is rakish, helped by the neat lowline hardtop roofline, with radically curved front and rear windscreens and even more chrome finishing strips.
Finished in correct and original nuclear orange, the coachwork is liberally covered in badges: the name LINCOLN adorns the nose, there are chequered flags on the front wings, and script on the hardtop proudly announces 'Exclusive Study by Boano Torino'. If you miss those, there are more #Carrozzeria-Boano #Torino badges elsewhere, as well as others that proclaim simply Boano. Just in case.
The interior is a riot of colours, featuring the original-looking cream and black upholstery (another nod to racing's chequered flag), and the dashboard features a clever body-coloured cover that can be closed to hide the sci-fi instruments. The slim steering wheel is huge in diameter and the gearshift lever is located on the steering column.
While not exactly beautiful or elegantly discreet, the Indianapolis is certainly striking and extremely futuristic for 1955. As a one-off show car it does its thing dramatically. The startling orange hue helps but this is one very arresting piece of kit. The Boano even made the cover of the November 1955 edition of Auto Age magazine, which asked the question: 'Is this the Next Lincoln?' These days, top-line concours events are well over-subscribed but, with the Lincoln Indianapolis Boano, entry has never been a problem.
Following its successful showing at the Turin show, the Indianapolis was then shipped to America and delivered directly to Henry Ford II. The urban myth is that he gave it to his friend, the famous actor Errol Flynn, but that cannot be substantiated. It passed through several hands before going into the 20-year ownership of well-respected Packard collector Thomas Kerr. He remains the Indianapolis's longest-term owner and was responsible for its resurrection after the car suffered fire damage and was partly dismantled following an incomplete restoration attempt.
Thomas Kerr finally got around to thinking about restoring the Indianapolis and, as is his wont, decided to do it properly, because he recognised the car's significance. Kerr handed the project to his favoured restorer Jim Cox of Sussex Motor and Coachworks in Pennsylvania, the brief being to return the Indianapolis, '...to the way Gian Paolo Boano would (should) have built it in 1955, had he had the time.'
As you will understand, show-cars were built to last for the duration of a show. While they weren't thrown together as such, they were hurriedly assembled to perform a singular, immobile function: looking good. Jim Cox's task was made difficult because the Indianapolis was a one-off, so he had no frame of reference. It was also a very rushed job by Boano to get the car completed in double-quick time. The car had then been fire- damaged and a good deal of it arrived at his workshop in boxes. A serious challenge.
Two years later Cox had the Indianapolis restored to a better state than ever. Originally it had its bonnet release clamps constructed of Quaker State oil cans that were bent to fit and painted. The driver's side wing was an inch- and-a-half longer than the passenger's, the roof was askew and the bonnet misaligned. And lashings of lead-loading had been used to make everything line up. Half a 55-gallon drum's worth, in fact! Jim Cox did a superb restoration and now the Lincoln Indianapolis Boano is correct and on the button.
Under normal circumstances, you probably don't really want to drive a show car, an automobile whose function is to park itself in prime position and look amazing. But this Lincoln was so improved, it took part in and completed the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance in 2001 and went on to collect top honours in the Post-War Custom Coachwork class. It won more awards at the Amelia Island Concours as well as the Greenwich Concours in 2003, where it received the Most Outstanding Lincoln award.
In the ownership of collectors Paul and Chris Andrews, the Indianapolis completed the 2013 Tour d'Elegance and was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Trophy when Lincoln was the featured marque at #Pebble-Beach .
Gian Paolo Boano had only five months to construct this car and he did a superb job of creating a fanciful, outlandish, exuberant and flamboyant showpiece. But the Indianapolis today is more that that. It is now a properly engineered and restored automobile that will be welcome at every great concours event. And you can even drive it there and back. The dilettante showgirl is now also a domestic goddess. Ah, of this dreams are made.
BUY IT YOURSELF! #Lincoln-Indianapolis Boano
The Lincoln is part of a collection for sale by RM Sotheby’s.
This Lincoln Indianapolis by Boano is part of the Andrews Collection to be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s on 2 May in Fort Worth, Texas. Well-known auto enthusiast and collector Paul Andrews and his son Chris have amassed a superb collection of concours cars over the years. Their museum houses 100, all in excellent condition. But the Andrews have now decided that the maintenance of so many cars is too much and that it is time to slim the collection down to about 15 or 20.
‘When you get down to it, the most fun you can have in a car is using it how it's meant to be used... on the road,' says Paul. ‘We want to get down to a smaller number of cars that we very much enjoy driving and that we can take on events with the family. There are many events we'd like to try and, in order to do that, we need to focus on a more manageable collection.'
In total some 75 cars from the Andrews Collection will be auctioned, as well as a wide assortment of automobilia. Highlights of the sale include the famous Ethel Mars #1935 #Duesenberg Model SJ Town car, a #1962 #Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet and an authentic #1963 #Shelby 289 Competition Cobra. See www. rmauctions. com
Car 1955 - #Lincoln-Indianapolis-Boano
ENGINE 5588cc ‘Y-block’ V8, OHV, four-barrel carburettor
POWER 225bhp @ 5000rpm
TORQUE 260lb ft @ 3500rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
STEERING Recirculating ball
Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers.
Rear: live axle, leaf springs, telescopic dampers.
PERFORMANCE Top speed c90mph
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