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  •   Alastair Clements reacted to this post about 1 year ago

    Critics carp on about France’s economic woes - and indeed they are very real and biting hard - but Paris has never been a smiley upbeat place like, say, Miami or Monterey. No, Paris is brooding and crotchety, grey, cold and brusque - well, certainly in early February.

    The Eurostar was busting with well-dressed British car types in tweed, waxed jackets and brogues heading for the #2015 edition of the famous Salon Retromobile on the outskirts of Paris near Porte de Versailles. Having been ‘off games’ over Christmas, sheltering from the worst of the winter weather, these car types were once again enthusiastic and raring to go. Yes, Retromobile is the kick-start to the season, and everyone is in good cheer and looking forward to getting back into the saddle.


    Now that I’ve figured out the complicated-looking Metro system - it’s actually simple with the help of the website - Paris is all yours for just 61.80 a trip. Be smart and buy a booklet of tickets at the Eurostar terminal.
    This year’s show officially opened on Wednesday 4 February, but all the old hands get there a day or two earlier to bag the choice pieces. With no entrance tickets available that early, it’s a case of blagging your way past the
    security guards on the set-up day. Carrying an empty cardboard box and mumbling about it being needed on your stand is one wheeze. Being a gentleman of the press helps, but this being France the process is not simple: you need to get to the Press Office, inside, to sign on. But the security guard won’t let you in because you don’t have a Press Pass. And, of course, you need to get inside to actually get it... pure Inspector Clouseau.

    For 2015 the show was held in the huge Hall 1, with 450 exhibitors on the floor and 500 cars on show. Retro always has a slightly mad exhibit, and this year was no exception. Towering above a display of three large Bugatti Royales was an enormous Royal Tiger tank in full battle camouflage, the only surviving fully working example. It made the Allied tanks look like tin cans, with its 18cm-thick armour, 88mm canmon and 70-tonne kerb weight. Powered by a 23-litre, 12-cylinder 700bhp #Maybach engine, it was impregnable, but it’d overheat and slurped 500 litres every 100km, so the range was limited - thank goodness.

    British firm Fiskens had a wonderfully impressive stand, with the immaculate and unique Bequet Delage - powered by a V8 aero engine from a French WW1 fighter plane - in pride of place. Nearby, JD Classics’ eye-watering display included a superb #Porsche-356 quad-cam Carrera finished in original burnt orange. No wonder it was soon wearing a SOLD tag on the windscreen.

    With #RM and #Bonhams auctions taking place on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and sales records achieved with a bit of work (are there now too many auctions going on?), the star event was the Artcurial sale of the Baillon Collection on Friday. The remains of these vintage and classic cars were moodily exhibited in a separate hall. (See full report)

    The jewel was the #1961 #Ferrari-250GT-SWB-California-Spider , which appeared solid and totally original. Should it be restored? No! I hope the owner gets it mechanically perfect but leaves it scruffy, just as Alain Delon did, judging by the archive photos. This collection was our cover feature in the last-but-one issue, but actually seeing what remains of these wrecks in metal makes me sad. I know ‘barn finds’ are all the rage and there is a romance about rescuing a car that’s almost totally disintegrated. But these cars - some of them once great examples - have been badly neglected and allowed to perish almost totally.

    Baillon must have known that the California Spider was special, because it was kept in dry storage. But the poor old #Talbot-Lago-T26-Grand-Sport is in a terrible state, yet it sold for £1.3 million! It is just a pile of rust, which is a tragedy. However, classic car collectors are an optimistic bunch, and the word, post-Retromobile, is that the #Delage-D6-11 is going into a full restoration with the intention of showing it at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance next year.

    Apart from Retromobile, classics are seldom seen on Parisian streets. The occasional #2CV or #Renault van is a rare survivor, which is odd because they churned out millions of them. No, the French don’t seem to care for their automotive history - and parking is a contact sport! But the latest news is that, starting this July, older cars will be banned from the centre of Paris. Haven’t they heard: it’s diesels that are the problem, not classics.


    Robert grew up with classic cars, and has owned a Lancia Aurelia B20GT, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Porsche 356C. He currently uses his properly sorted 1955 Jaguar XK140 as his daily driver, and is a founding editor of this magazine.
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  •   Guy Baker reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    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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  •   Malcolm McKay reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    CAR #Facel-Vega-HK500 / #Chrysler-383 / #Chrysler-V8 / #Facel-Vega /
    Year of manufacture #1961
    Recorded mileage 35,610
    Asking price £144,950
    Vendor DD Classics, Brentford, London; tel: 020 8878 3355;

    Price £4740
    Max power 360bhp
    Max torque 425lb ft
    0-60mph 8.5 secs
    Top speed 131mph
    Mpg 12

    This HK500 looks to be just out of restoration and was at DD Classics’ new showroom off the Great West Road rather than the old premises behind Kew Gardens. A New York-supplied example – originally white with a black leather interior – it was in Alabama in 2008 and then restored in Europe. The last time we saw it was at RM Auctions’ Paris sale in February 2015, when it had done 35,563 miles. It arrived with DD recently, looking just as good but now sporting an alternator.

    The paint is lustrous – deep, consistent, even and just about flawless – and the side aluminium trims look new. The chrome is excellent, save a few polish marks, likewise the amazing cathedral tail-lights. The wire wheels appear new and the Goodrich tyres are recent, with a matching spare. The hide seems fresh and hardly used, plus the tan goes well with the metallic Royal Blue exterior. The carpets are new, too, and clean bar a couple of marks under the pedals. The painted veneer-effect aluminium dash is perfect – so convincing that it could even be a photoprint and wrap rather than brushwork. The quilted leather headlining is pristine, and the original His Master’s Voice pushbutton radio is still in place.

    There’s a new carburettor as well as the alternator, and boxed in the boot (even the fuel tank is quilted) are the dynamo and a pair of right-dipping headlights. The engine fluids are all clean and to the correct levels, while the automatic transmission fluid is clear and pink.

    The ‘wedge’ Chrysler 383cu in V8 starts easily and the push buttons engage the gears reliably, plus the autobox changes smoothly and kicks down when you request it, although the acceleration is good enough for modern traffic either way thanks to the massive torque. This one has power steering and the all-round disc brakes, though a bit heavy, work well. Oil pressure is 60psi and the coolant temperature is steady at 70ºC. The electric windows function and the MoT runs until July.


    EXTERIOR Excellent paint and chromework
    INTERIOR Like new; amazing dash finish
    MECHANICALS Only just restored so viceless; recent alternator upgrade, too
    VALUE 7/10
    For Style, in a better colour than it was originally; condition
    Against Keeping it that way; 12mpg

    No issues and pretty much on the money. You could have had it cheaper at auction last year but the importation has been done.
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  •   Andy Everett reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    Perhaps the most bizarre recent market trend is for fantastic sums being shelled out for what have traditionally been novelty cars based on common-or-garden underpinnings. Beach cars are the latest executive tov to command huge money. The fun-factor counts in their favour, but when someone pays £109,000 for a #Mini it is time to sit up and take notice.

    But that car - sold by Bonhams at Quail Lodge - just reflected a growing trend. Even Philippe Starck’s #1972 Fiat Shellette starts to look like good value having sold for ‘just’ £33,000 at Artcurial’s 2014 Retromobile fixture. There were more interesting examples in the #Monaco sales: a #1963 #Autobianchi Bianchini Jolly (£42,000 at Coys) and a #1969 #Fiat 500 Mare by Carrozzeria Holiday (£39.5k at RM).

    There’s no denying the rarity of these cars, but the prices are still staggering. In the same way, it is difficult for long-term enthusiasts to accept something such as an Amphicar commanding £50k-plus. Twenty years ago, you could pick one up in the Triumph Sports Six Club’s Courier for little more than the price of a decent Vitesse.

    Scroll back a few years and the market deemed an ex-Gianni Agnelli #1959 #Fiat 600 Jolly by #Ghia to be worth £31,000 at Bonhams. When new, such a car would have cost roughly twice the price of a factory-fresh 600, so that seemed to be an intimidating-enough value. Yet a year later a similar example without the celebrity ownership made £50,000 at Quail Lodge.
    In #2013 , RM took £51,500 for one at Monterey; by March this year a #1959 car sold for £60,000 at RM in Amelia Island. To top it all, at Monterey in August a #1961 example - sold as a pair with a #1957 #Multipla - made an astonishing $231,0 (£ 140k).

    The Fiats and Minis have always carried a premium, but just look at the asking prices for the ‘man in the street’ models. They may not be nudging £100,000, but try to find a #Citroen Mehari in the UK for under £ 10k. Likewise, 1960s Mokes are routinely £15k-plus. Same story with #Renault 4 Plein Airs. Playtime is over.

    'Twenty years ago, you could pick up an Amphicar for little more than the price of a decent Triumph Vitesse'
    Clockwise, from main: #1962 Mini beach car sold at Bonhams' Quail Lodge auction in August; Philippe Starck's Fiat Shellette made £33k.
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  •   Matt Robinson reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    OSCA 1600GT. What Maserati’s founding brothers did next. Size doesn’t always matter.

    This tiny Italian concern built a tiny number of tiny cars - but its founders are among the giants of Italian motoring lore. Words Richard Heseltine. Photography Mark Dixon.

    Great changes tend to have great side effects. For Italian carrozzerie, the 1950s and early '60s represented a period of tumultuous upheaval as grandees of the movement expanded out of all recognition. Traditional coachbuilding gradually made way for mass-manufacture as the likes of #Bertone , #Pininfarina and #Zagato became subcontractors to major players. Touring of Milan was among their number, the difference being that adapting to new circumstances and chasing volume would prove to be its undoing.

    In #1961 , Touring bodied only two OSCA 1600GTs, but the parallels between marque and coachbuilder are apposite. OSCA had struck a deal with a major brand that should have acted as a protective cloak for a company that was habitually underfinanced. Yet OSCA failed to see out the decade.

    Italian motoring lore is littered with fallen acronyms and few ever matched OSCA for sonority and brevity. Strictly speaking, it should be OSCAFM, but the last two consonants were dropped on account that it was impossible to pronounce. Yet it's the 'FM' bit that matters, for it stood for Fratelli Maserati. You see, for a decade or so, 'real' Maseratis were OSCAs.

    The fratelli were Ernesto, Bindo and Ettore, who had sold the marque that bore their name to #Adolfo-Orsi in #1937 , five years after sibling and guiding light Alfieri perished in a racing accident. Retained under contract for a further ten years, a decade that was said to have been less than amicable, the brothers left #Modena the moment the agreement expired. They regrouped and set up shop in a disused part of the original Maserati factory in their home town of Bologna to build small-displacement racing cars. Orsi retained the rights to their surname, so the brothers contrived the alias Officine Specializzate per la Costruzione di Automobili - Fratelli Maserati SpA.

    With Ernesto as designer, Ettore the artisan and Bindo running the show, the trio introduced their first model, the MT4 (Maserati Type 4), in 1948. This skimpy device was aimed at the 1100cc category that was popular on the home front. OSCA was soon at the sharp end of the tiddler class; often in contention for outright wins, too, attracting such stars as Gigi Villoresi, Felice Bonetto and Luigi Faglioli. After an embarrassing foray into #Formula-1 (and F2), the brothers stuck to sports cars thereafter, the highlight being outright victory in the #1954 Sebring 12 Hours for Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd aboard their MF4 1450 barchetta.

    By the dawn of the 1960s, it was a different story: OSCA was ill-equipped to bat away competition from the emergent British garagistas. There was some light on the horizon, however, as the firm's 1.5-litre twin-cam engine, as used for that Sebring win, had attracted the attention of Fiat. The Turin giant was looking to create a competitor for the sporting Alfa Romeo Giuliettas, and approached OSCA with a view to using the alloy-headed four in its proposed 1500 model. The brothers were receptive to the overture, but OSCA was in no position to produce the engine on an industrial scale given the amount of machining, honing and laborious fettling required per unit. Fiat was undeterred: a deal was struck whereby it would manufacture the engines in volume and supply them back to OSCA.

    In a roundabout way, this led to OSCA producing proper road cars as opposed to street-legal racing cars. This began with an approach from an existing customer who requested a small gran turismo, the resultant Tipo 1600GT becoming a catalogue model after it broke cover at the #1960 Turin motor show. The work of ever-creative pen-for-hire Giovanni #Michelotti , the prototype was dramatically - some might say controversially - styled, but it struck a chord. Beneath the square-rigged skin, this new strain featured the proven four-cylinder allied to a five-speed gearbox, mounted in a tubular ladderframe chassis. Suspension was all independent by double wishbones and coils, and there were Girling disc brakes front and rear.

    Predictably, numerous styling houses treated the 1600GT as a blank canvas, with Zagato's pretty take on the theme proving the most popular. Offered in various states of tune from 95 to 140bhp in twin-plug GTS spec, a full-house 710kg (down from 817) version was added to the line-up in 1963 with dramatic - some might say ugly - #Zagato coachwork. Only one was made. That same year saw the Maserati brothers sell out to the Agusta motorcycle/helicopter combine, and 1600GT production ended.

    The new regime instigated new models in time for the #1964 Turin motor show. The 1600TC (Trave Centrale) featured a backbone chassis (hence the name) and 'shock-proof' glassfibre body, but it failed to find favour. Same for the 1050 Coupe and its Spider sibling, which were based on #Fiat 850 platforms. The final ignominy heaped on this once-respected marque was the bizarre MV1700 - which featured 1.7-litre #Ford-V4 power and open or closed bodywork moulded by boatbuilder Corbetta. In 1967 it was all over. Tooling was destroyed, as were remaining spares.
    That wasn't quite the end of the story. The name was revived in #1999 using Japanese finance, yet the Ercole Spada-styled, #Subaru flat-four-powered 2500GT (or Dromos) remained unique. To many, the 1600GT remains the last true OSCA, yet precise production figures are a source of debate. Chassis numbers started at 001 and ended at 00127, of which Zagato bodied 98 (with three subtly different body styles), Fissore 24 (three of them convertibles), Touring a pair, Morelli just the one and Boneschi a trio of angular coupes. The problem is, some historians believe there are gaps in the chassis log and that the actual figure is closer to a mere 66 cars.

    Either way, the 1600GT is uncommon in any of its many flavours. 'Our' car was first seen on the OSCA stand at the #1961 Turin motor show, Road & Tracks Henry Manney III going so far as to describe its outline as being 'pleasant'. He went on to ponder the likelihood of it entering series production as a standalone variant. No chance: Touring had bigger fisher to fry.

    That same year saw Touring's principal Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni entertain George Carless, the ironically named general manager of the Rootes Group's newly established Italian headquarters. This led to an agreement whereby Touring would open a facility big enough to accommodate production lines. Britain was outside the European Common Market at the time, so it made sense to have a manufacturing site within the EC's borders. Sunbeam Alpine and Hillman Super Minx models would be assembled there, with Touring tailoring niche models.

    Touring had contracts with other manufacturers, but they were pared back in preparation for the manufacture of 10,000 Rootes products a year. Rootes then got cold feet and Touring employees went on strike in 1963. The firm's Nova Milanese factor}’ was never used to its full capacity - not even close - and it lurched into receivership in March 1964. There were attempts to turn around its fortunes: a batch of 400 Hillmans was assembled in short order from CKD kits, along with 100 Sunbeams. There was also the stop-start construction of #Lamborghini-350GT and #Alfa-Romeo Giulia GTC bodies. A year later, Touring was given the task of repainting a thousand unsold #Lancia Flaminias that had remained on the company's books. There were other orders, but none that could possibly return the company to prosperity. By late 1967, the game was over.

    It was a sad end for a carrozzeria that had produced a slide-show succession of design icons spanning several decades. Following its Turin showing in #1961 , chassis 0014 was sold to a trader in Genoa who moved it on the following year to a woman from Pasaro. She retained the car for 50 years before selling it to a dealer in Bergamo. It was acquired by arch-collector Corrado Lopresto in 2012. He is at pains to point out that the car hasn't been restored so much as titivated. It was mechanically overhauled, while the bodywork is largely original. The 1600GT has, however, been returned to its original colour, having been painted in a lighter shade of green early in its life. It has since gone on to win several concours prizes on more than one continent, most recently at the #2014 Warren Classic.

    Photographs don't really lend a sense of scale: the OSCA is barely 3900mm long, 1497mm wide and approximately 1200mm high. As such, there's an art to getting into it that doesn't involve you banging your noggin against the delicate ally skin. What's more, it's worth the effort. The cabin trim, from doorcards to carpeting, is all original, having merely been cleaned. The body-coloured dash is fronted by an attractive alloy-spoked wheel, its array of Jaeger instruments bearing the legend 'Fratelli Maserati Bologna' at their bases. The speedo runs to 200km/h, the revcounter to 8000rpm. There's no redline.

    Prior experience of OSCAs informs you that they're unhappy in traffic, not least because of the high-profile cams, yet this example is wonderfully well-mannered, if noisy. That rather goes with the territory - but what a noise. There's little urge below around 2000rpm but, once free of hectoring commuters and on less congested roads on the outskirts of Milan, the 1600GT comes into its own. It thrives on revs, becoming increasingly choral past 5000rpm. It feels like a thoroughbred engine, and it is precisely that. While Fiat made ample use of the OSCA unit, it supplied the blocks to OSCA unmachined. These in turn were honed and modified to the point that there were significant differences, not least increased oil flow to the journals, the use of special pistons and so on. Its competition heritage is palpable. It crackles with energy.

    The in-house gearshift is close-coupled to the point that it's all-too-easy to fluff a change and move from first to fourth but, with familiarity, it's delightfully precise. The steering, too, is light but accurate with it. You guide the #OSCA with smooth, minimal input rather than sawing at the wheel. Turn-in is crisp, and there's little discernible weight transfer. The ride is a little unyielding, but even the briefest of sorties is an immersive experience. It's a wonderful car, and one with bags of character.

    Whether success eluded the #1600GT or it eluded success is a moot point. It's a step above most small-series sports cars of the day, one that was capable of sub-8 second 0-60mph times, depending on state of tune. What's more, it had an enviable competition pedigree and wore distinctive outlines conjured by some of the more celebrated styling houses of the day. If not quite its final curtain, this was OSCA's last triumph.
    THANKS TO Corrado Lopresto, his son Duccio, and Massimo Delbo.

    Car #1961 #OSCA-1600GT
    ENGINE 1568cc four-cylinder, DOHC, twin Weber 38DCOE carburettors
    POWER 115bhp @ 6800rpm
    TORQUE 105lb ft @ 4800rpm
    TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
    STEERING Rack and pinion
    Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
    Rear: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers.
    BRAKES Discs
    WEIGHT 817kg
    PERFORMANCE Top speed 118mph

    'This ear was first seen on the OSCA stand at the 1961 Turin motor show’
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  • Think the dashboard is really important to a car. You want to marry a woman with a pretty face because that's what you're going to be looking at over the breakfast table every day. And it’s a bit like that when you get in a car: when you look at that dashboard it should be pleasing.

    The term 'dashboard' goes back to the carriage days, when there was a piece of wood between the horse and the people riding in the carriage. The board would protect the occupants from dirt, manure or whatever was being kicked up by the horse’s hooves. And with the advent of horseless carnages, that board developed into the instrument panel.

    Walking around my garage. I was just thinking about the evolution of the dashboard. In Amenca the first totally modem dashboard was probably the #1913 #Packard Model 38. Because that was the first American car in which you would have all the controls - gauges, switches, everything you needed - right in front of the driver. Move on a decade or two and. as cars evolved, so too did dashboards.


    Bugattis like the Type 57 always had the thinnest needles of any gauges I’ve ever seen. They were so delicate, and I always thought that gave an air of accuracy.

    When Duesenberg came out in about 1927, Charles Lindbergh had flown the Atlantic. Aviation inspired automobiles. So everybody in the '30s wanted aircraft-styte dashboards. And all Duesenbergs had an altimeter built right into the dashboard. Why would a car have an altimeter? It made the car look aircraft-style. I remember a Humphrey Bogart movie - Black Legion - made in #1937 . The car Bogart bought in it was, I believe, a #1936 #Ford . He tells his kids: 'Look at that dashboard. Strictly aeroplane type.’

    One of the all-time most beautiful dashboards was the Cord’s. It had a brushed aluminium finish. That was the first car to have a horn ring instead of a push switch in the centre of the steering wheel. It was also one of the first cars to have a built-in radio. The speaker and volume control were in the roof. Very cool.

    The 1950s and early ’60s, at least in America, were. I think, the most fun time for dashboards. My #1957 #Buick-Roadmaster has a thing called the 'safety minder'. The speedometer is a ribbon that changes colour the faster you go, and you can set a little dial to a predetermined speed. When you hit that speed it gives out a kind of anaemic buzzzz. They called it a boon to driving safety.

    My all-time favourite speedo is probably from the #1961 #Chrysler-300G . It had a neon dashboard that looked as much like the Wurlitzer jukebox as you could possibly imagine. The most complicated thing to fix and restore. But just beautiful to look at at night - it bathed the whole interior of the car in neon.

    It’s hard to beat the Series 1 E-type. #Jaguar has done a lot of great dashboards but the E-type's is one of the prettiest. I always loved the toggle switches and the brushed aluminium finish too. I loved the three-spoke steering wheel, with its dimimshing- diameter holes, and the speedometer mounted on one side - it went to 160mph - and the tachometer on the other.

    As you'd expect from the French, the #Citroen-DS has a fascinating dashboard. The annoying thing about a lot of cars is the spokes of the steering wheel: you always have to look around them to see what you're hitting, the red line of the tacho or a number on the speedometer. With the single-spoke steering wheel, the three main dials on a DS are right in front of you. And the speedometer has a cool thing on it... Within the dial is an inner wheel that tells you your braking distance, how long it will take you to stop, at the speed you're going.

    The best dashboards are those that are easy to read. You know where you are with the car by the position of the needle. I like ones where the dials are large and easily legible. The reason #Porsche stuck with five circular dials for so long is because it was timeless and clear. I always found the #Bugatti-Veyron a little tricky to drive, because you go at such tremendous speeds and you glance at that dashboard and you’re not quite sure where you are.

    What annoys me most about modern dashboards is that nothing is intuitive. In any old car, to set the time, you look at the dock, pull the stalk out, turn it and you've done it. With modern cars you’ve got to read the manual. Hold down the dimmer switch while pressing the glovebox release simultaneously... Nothing is intuitive, you know, it's all sort of computerised. I really don't care for that.
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  • A forgotten gem of what might loosely be termed the British noir genre of late-'50s and early-'60s films that may not have been particularly successful at the time, but were once an essential element of any truly successful school skive on a rainy weekday afternoon, is Payroll.

    This was in the 70s, of course, when regional TV stations (such as my own once-respected Granada) had the balls to show black-and-white films to their captive audience of pensioners, the infirm and truants whose only alternative at that time of die day was die test card on BBC 1.

    Thus, if you could endure Crown Court, The Cedar Tree, Painting With Nancy and perhaps General Hospital, then the reward was the Monday matinee and, likely as not, a film of the order of Payroll. Curled up with some toast and a glass of Vimto - and with the Mancunian rain lashing unanswered against the window - life didn’t get any better, especially if you could be sure Mum or Dad wouldn't turn up unannounced. The latter in particular would have been deeply unimpressed by such indolence.
    For me Payroll is up there with the hard-bitten ’50s American crime capers that inspired it, such as Concrete Jungle and The Killers. Yet it is a very British story of a factory security van heist that goes badly wrong. The miscreants - led by the darkly handsome Michael Craig as Johnny Mellors - get away with the £100k, but in the process fatally impale die driver of the armoured van on his (very non-collapsible) steering column by crushing him between Thames Trader 7 Ton tipper and Land-Rover battering rams.

    The factory workers attempt to take on the villains - after all, it’s their wages that are being made off with - and one hero manages to attach himself briefly to the bootlid of a speeding getaway Jaguar before ending up in the gutter.
    This was violent stuff for #1961 cinema audiences and I was pretty shocked myself watching it 15 years later. Seeing it again now by the magic of DVD, you can see that there is very little sentimentality to be found among the thieves and certainly no honour. Anyone who threatens Craig’s liberty is shot, poisoned, drowned in sinking sand (do they have that in Newcasde?) or simply left to die if they are no longer useful.

    The failed aspirations of the clerk are illustrated by the way he cowers behind the wheel of his Ford Pop'.

    Warning: this film even makes a Hillman Minx look sexy.

    In this and many other ways, Payroll is a precursor to Get Carter. It was shot mostly on location in Gateshead and Newcastle and, although there are no local accents, it has an authentic feel and should not be confused with the much more routine (but still appreciated on one of those rainy Monday afternoons) Edgar Wallace B features it superficially resembles. The use of a provincial location gives Payroll a slightly ‘kitchen sink' feel that was fashionable at the time (this being the era of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and other celebrated social realism films). And you can see the North East in all its raw industrial grittiness of backstreet garages, pubs and cobbled roads.

    As well as the underrated Craig, the strong cast includes the even more overlooked Tom Bell, the wonderful Kenneth Griffith and an unusually powerful pair of female characters who are given more to do than just simper and look pretty for once.
    A redoubtable Billie Whitelaw, fresh from Hell is a City (and soon to be muse of Samuel Beckett), plays the feisty spouse of the skewered security van driver while the smouldering Frangoise Prevost provides continental sex appeal as the cold-hearted, money-grabbing French wife of the snivelling factory dark (played by William Lucas, later the Doctor in Black Beauty) who gives the villains the information they need to carry out the heist.

    The vehicles are well cast, too. As mentioned, there is the inevitable #Jaguar MkI getaway car, while the Police drive poverty Ford Consuls (this is the North after all). The failed aspirations of the morally jelly-like clerk are well illustrated by the way he cowers behind the wheel of his miserable ‘sit up and beg’ Ford Popular.

    Rootes fans will be pleased to see that the true four-wheeled star of Payroll is a Hillman Minx convertible that Craig and Prevost – fatally attracted in their reflected avarice and duplicity - manage to make look pretty damn sexy (surely the first and only time in the on-screen history of the Minx) as they plot and connive on the bench front seat. The grieving Whitelaw tenaciously tracks down her husband’s killers and it becomes clear as the final scenes are played out in South- wold - where Mellors/Craig plans to escape to the Continent by boat - that this loot is not going to make anyone happy.

    The film makes me happy even without the Vimto and toast and all concerned can look back proudly on Payroll, not least Craig who was later in Life at the Top, but for me will always summon up visions of Triangle, the #Austin-Allegro of failed '80s soap operas about North Sea ferries.
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