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  •   Dale Drinnon reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    The other day I started up my ’ #1941-Plymouth , for the first time in over a year. Every collector has one or two vehicles that don’t get driven as often as the others. My #Plymouth is not special, just a good old girl. It’s unrestored, a two-door business coupe; the Deluxe model with heater, radio and threespeed column shifter, with a vacuum assist to make shifting easier, a 201ci six-cylinder flathead engine and about 87 horsepower. #Plymouth-Special-De-Luxe-Business-Coupe / #Plymouth /

    Even after sitting for over a year, the engine cranked about half a dozen times and started right up. The reason it made me smile is that so many modern cars would be almost inoperable after sitting for so long. If they are not turned over every week or two, injectors get clogged from lack of use. And you have to keep them on a trickle-charger.

    I have a 2002 Firebird that I had to get emissions-tested. The battery was ten years old so I changed it for the exact same factory-standard battery. And swapping the battery confused the computer, so they couldn’t get it to pass the emissions test. The technician said, drive it for 50 or 100 miles and see if it re-boots. I’m still waiting.

    When I called my #Porsche dealer about getting a part for my Carrera GT, he said ‘We don’t work on any of the really old stuff.’ I said it’s a 2004! He said he’d check to see if any of the old guys are still around who worked on them. I mean, how old could they be? Forty-five?

    I have a warning light on my #2005 #Mercedes-SLR-McLaren nobody can turn off. It doesn’t seem to affect anything. The car runs beautifully. But nobody knows how to deal with it. I wanted to put new tyres on it too and, like many cars, it has a locking lug nut. So I gave the tyre guy the key for the lug. And he lost it. So we called #Mercedes and #McLaren , quoting the serial number, but we couldn’t get one and couldn’t make one. So we had to torch the lug nuts and cut the wheels to get them off.

    The last real maintenance I was able to do on a modern car at my own garage was, surprisingly, on the #McLaren-F1 . Ironically the F1 comes with a tool kit. A tool roll, actually, which contains wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers, all made of titanium. Was there ever an F1 owner whose car broke down on the motorway, pulled out his trusty tool roll and got it going again?

    Anyway, we had to replace the Vanos unit, which controls the cam timing. Taking the engine out was pretty straightforward. And we did it without using a single tool from the toolroll! As sophisticated as the F1’s powerplant is, it’s still a car. It’s a #V12 and compared to modern cars it’s pretty straightforward. A good mechanic can look at that engine and pretty much figure out what they have to do. Would I try this with my #McLaren-P1 or a #Porsche-918 ? Not on your life.

    Remember the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451? Where all the books are destroyed and so each person needs to memorise one book, and become an expert on it. That’s what seems to be happening with supercars. There’s only a few Veyron guys and a handful of P1 guys. I don’t know many #Porsche dealerships that could actually work on a 918; there can’t be many.

    I feel that the days of the general mechanic who can work on anything are just about over. Those lucky enough to be trained mechanics on machines like the #McLaren-P1 and #Ferrari-LaFerrari pretty much have jobs for life, travelling the world, re-booting computers on 10-to-20-year-old supercars, many with very low mileage.

    The way technology is going, collecting modern cars will be extremely hard. The fun part about working on old cars is that, if you don’t have the proper tools, you can measure up what you need, go to the lathe, and make one. On modern cars, if the manufacturer decides to lock you out of their code then that’s it, you’re pretty much done. Unless you have the #Ferrari code-reader, for instance – which someone told me is $25,000 – you’re not going to get to work on the car. That’s it. So any work on these cars in the future will probably mean having to go back to manufacturers. How much is that going to cost?

    That’s fine for rich guys, who will always be able to have somebody take care of their car. It’s the little guy who’s going to get screwed. Unless they stick to analogue cars from the 1970s and earlier.

    In 100 years from now, after my garage has been buried under some massive earthquake, and some automotive archaeologist will find my stash and dig it up, I’m guessing the only one they’ll be able to drive away is the ’ #1941 Plymouth!

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  •   Ben Koflach reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Case histories de Cadenet’s heroes. The defiantly eccentric LJK #Setright was a profoundly knowledgeable and largely self-taught engineer whose writings polarised opinion, but never failed to entertain. #LJK-Setright /

    History is not an account of what happened. History is people’s perception of what happened.’ So wrote the quite exceptional Leonard John Kensell Setright. Obviously a man who determined his own journey because he gave up law, joined the RAF, played clarinet in the band and served as an air-traffic controller. He then had an abrupt change of direction, settling into a comfortable profession as a writer.

    I don’t think this epiphany owed anything to that of Saul on the road to Damascus, but coming from an engineering background LJK initially wrote for Machine Age before finding his true bent as a motoring scribe. What he brought with him was a lucid, fluid way of telling a story or explaining a happening. Coupled with in-depth, mostly self-taught engineering knowledge, this often gave readers a controversial version to consider. Car kept him on its books for more than 30 years. What always struck me was the inspiring way in which he introduced his history lessons, interspersing them with anecdotal offerings, snippets of wisdom and factualities that were very much the icing on his cakes. It conferred an insider’s view, giving subjects a fourth dimension through his knowledge, enthusiasm and erudition.

    His book Bristol Cars and Engines (published by MRP in 1974) got me well stoved up about the marque, while A Private Car (his Palawan Press tome on the same firm) must be one of the most profound histories ever written about a single manufacturer.

    A veritable adventure in words and deeds, it is transcribed in his inimitable way and copiously illustrated. Did you know, for example, that you get wear at the top and bottom of a piston because as it comes to a halt on each stroke the oil is lost at the extremities? The answer was the sleeve valve – made from Brivadium – which never allows the piston to be stationary relative to the valve. That’s why Bristols were so reliable. This in a book about car manufacture, from a man who could have earnt a PhD on Bristol cars and aviation.

    Setright seems to have been more of a Latin scholar than a Greek one: ‘Tradition is a responsibility not a privilege’ is the sort of quote that pops up all over his work. I first met him at the 1981 launch of Pirelli’s History of Motor Sport, which he wrote. Fangio was the main guest and, while I came away with great memories of him, what amazed me was LJK’s knowledge and understanding of prototype racing. His comprehension of aerodynamics and handling eclipsed mine, yet I had actually been trying to build and compete in such cars for 10 years.

    His knowledge spread over every transport front but especially into motorcycles: Bahnstormer all but converts BMW ownership into a religion. I had always thought that if I ever got stranded on a desert island, I’d want to have Michel de Montaigne’s Collected Essays to keep the brain from addling. That was before I read Drive On!, which must be as good a volume as any to take with you to achieve the same result. You have to respect a man who, having heard that the post-war racing fraternity began to share with car dealers a reputation for criminal tendencies, consulted ‘an eminent forensic psychiatrist’ to discover whether there was any validity in this.

    No stone left unturned in his search for truth. If collecting ‘cool’ experiences is today’s mantra for an exciting life, LJK was way ahead of the game. In our world of frivolous worship of virtual reality, it is refreshing for some of us to still become entrenched in one man’s perception of history that is so inspirational. I’m off to buy Setright’s final book, Long Lane with Turnings: Last Words of a Motoring Legend.

    Born 10 August #1931
    Died 7 September #2005
    From London
    Career highlights Wrote for magazines including Car, Bike and C≻ won the Gwen Salmon Trophy for photography.

    LJK was almost as famous for his sartorial elegance, flamboyant whiskers and love of Sobranie cigarettes as he was for his writing.
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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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  •   Antonio Ghini reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The Straight Eight Dolomite is the stuff of #Triumph legend. Devised by Donald Healey to take on the might of the #Alfa-Romeo-8C , it liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the Milanese car in specification, style and execution. The Dolomite may have very little in common with anything else that ever came out of Coventry but, as someone betrothed to the Triumph badge, this enigmatic car represents the Holy Grail.

    Rob Green of Gloria Coachworks shares my enthusiasm for the model and, as the leading exponent of pre-Standard-era Triumphs, he thought it would be a rather nice thing to recreate. Thus was born one of the classic car world’s lesser-known but most delicious replicas.

    Green began work on the first car in #2005 , taking four years to complete it for a customer. The end result is a remarkable doppelgänger of Healey’s Monte mount. The next – and like the genuine article, there are only two – he kept for himself. Inspired by the second of the original cars, period photos and brochure shots were used to ensure the visual accuracy of its body.

    The starting point was a #1938 Dolomite (sixcylinder) chassis, which was modified and then adorned with authentic pre-war Triumph oily bits. Don’t be fooled by the clever siamesing of the exhaust pipes, though: the big difference between Green’s cars and the real thing is that his are powered by a 2-litre ‘six’ fed by triple SUs and breathing through four ports.

    Using 16 gauge aluminium over an ash frame, the homage looks just right to me. Green says it took nearly 3000 hours to build and you can well believe it. No one would claim that this is an actual clone, and there are some practical modifications, but the detailing is simply wonderful from the painted wires to the leather interior. Triumph isn’t renowned for its pre-war sporting excellence, and it wasn’t so long ago that the only model recognised by the VSCC – other than the Straight Eight Dolomite – was the sixcylinder Southern Cross, of which only four or five exist from its single model year.

    In spite of that, the cars feel relatively accomplished and sophisticated for the age. The crossflow 2-litre overhead-valve engine is far from asthmatic and has lusty torque, while the gearbox (with synchro on all gears except first) is a delight to use. In fact, as you zip around in the Dolomite only the weight of the steering gives it away as being a pre-war design. Green’s tribute to the Straight Eight really is a beauty, but he has ‘previous’ when it comes to the art of reviving long-lost prewar Triumphs. He explains: “My love for them goes back to the 1960s when my cousin had one. Influenced by that, I bought my first Gloria – a three-position drophead coupé – for £33.”

    Having served his apprenticeship at a Rootes main agent, Green joined North Stables Coachbuilding before setting up Gloria Coachworks in 1980. He deals with all manner of classics, but about 80% of his business is Triumph-related. He reckons that he has now owned seven prewar Triumphs and restored another 37.

    But it is his obsession with filling the historical gaps and the reason why these cars are so rare that fascinates me most. “It’s because there were so many variants of each model,” Green explains. “You could have a long- or short-chassis, four- or six-cylinders and loads of different body styles, so very few of each type were ever produced.” As well as resurrecting the Straight Eight, Green constructed the delectable Gloria Flow- Free using a factory body.

    And he’s not finished yet. In fact, it was building a replica of the long-lost one-off #1938 #Dolomite-Fixed-Head-Coupé that led him reluctantly to offer his own Straight Eight facsimile for sale. And when that’s done, he has an inkling he might like to build himself a Gloria van! I was intrigued to see what value the market would put on the Dolomite when it came up at Historics at Brooklands’ 7 March sale. The answer: an impressive £81,760. Testament indeed to Green’s craftsmanship.

    For more information about these rare cars, visit: pre-1940triumphmotorclub. org

    ‘Donald Healey liberally borrowed from – some would say shamelessly ripped off – the #Alfa-Romeo 8C’.

    Green’s recreation of the Straight Eight is a joy to drive. Bottom: replica’s lines closer to original than the genuine cars.
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  • Outrageous bid
    Nice to see that Lagondas such as the #1951 drophead coupe are having a resurgence, despite their ugliness. I bought one of these at Cheffins Auctions in #2005 - for £10! It was at the end of the Newmarket Racecourse sale and they’d sold loads of Lagondas from the estate of a deceased owner. I was there with a friend who’d bought a vintage motorbike so we had to wait until the end for him to ride it away (belching smoke everywhere).

    The final lot was listed as a ‘for restoration’ Lagonda coupe, which we hadn’t even seen. When the bidding stalled at the start - the 15 or so people left in the room keeping their hands firmly in their pockets - the price went from £1500 through £1000 to £750, then £500 and finally down to £300. The auctioneer then said: “Somebody, please - this has to be sold'’, so I thrust up my hand and jokingly said “I’ll give you a tenner!” He took the bid and the gavel went down. When you buy a car from Cheffins you usually have to pay a one-off £175 fee, but because I only spent £10 they decided to waive it!

    It was a drophead coupe with matching numbers and reg plate (603 HFY, I seem to remember), but no engine and completely dismantled. We didn’t have the trailer with us so had to go back to Cambridge for it, then dump the car in my friend’s storage unit - it weighed about two tonnes. I sold it the following year for a 10,000% profit. There was also a pre-WW1 Delage windscreen in the extra bits that came with it. Amazing what you can pick up, eh?
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