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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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  •   Secret Supercar Owner reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    JAY LENO The Collector / #2017 / #GM / #Cadillac-Escalade / #Cadillac / #SUV /

    Like me, Octane readers look at cars differently. To most people cars are like an appliance. They do a job. To me, cars are vehicles of excitement and fantasy. I mean, I would no more put lumber in the back of my #McLaren than put skis on a car.

    But to most people the automobile is an appliance like a refrigerator and they just want to combine the elements of one with the other. Americans are like that: ‘I’d like a two-seater sports car but it needs to carry five people.’ Well that’s not a two-seater sports car! So car companies came out with an SUV.

    GM and Ford created the SUV in the ’80s. Trucks did not have a luxury tax because they were trucks, they were utilitarian vehicles. So a number of people, including Ford, said: Why don’t we make a Lincoln version of the truck? Let’s take that 5% that people would have spent on extras for the car, fit a leather interior, aircon, and make a luxury truck. This is where the SUV came from. Personally, I would say that if you want a truck, get a truck. Combining car and truck does not work.

    SUVs are being made by almost all luxury and sports car companies now. #Bentley , #Jaguar , #Porsche ; #Lamborghini soon. It might be a bit strong to say making SUVs has saved these car companies but it certainly allowed the likes of #Porsche to breathe a little bit easier and spend a little more time and some of the profits from #Porsche-Cayenne on the latest version of the 911 – and the 918. I don’t think you’d have the 918 without the Cayenne.

    The car business is a compromise. How many musicians have to play commercials before they can make the album they want to do? I’m not sure how many car designers set their goal as creating an SUV. They all want to do an Aventador or a Miura or a #Ferrari-458 or a #McLaren-P1 . But if anybody can make one look good it’s Ian Callum. To design the F-Type and the new #Jaguar-F-Pace and make both work is a talent.

    I find when I buy magazines I skip through the #SUV road tests because I’m going to be reading about the cupholder and the seat that folds down so you can get this in and you can get that in. And none of that concerns me. I can’t think of any SUV that ever made me say ‘Oh man! I’d like to be able to try that.’ Except maybe the ridiculous #Lamborghini-LM002 . When the #Lamborghini LM002 came out it seemed enormous. I said, Oh my God, this is the biggest roadgoing vehicle I’ve ever seen. And now it’s probably smaller than an Escalade.

    The Escalade is one of Cadillac’s biggest-selling vehicles so it has helped keep the brand alive. It’s an enormous thing and it’s hugely popular. It’s replaced the Lincoln Town Car as the go-to vehicle for Hollywood award-winners. I get invited to these things and they used to send stretch limos that would bottom out on my driveway; now they come with this huge SUV, with tremendous ground clearance.

    The question of whether SUVs will kill off sports cars is not a worry. What is more likely to kill off sports cars is our roads, which are so terrible now, not only in LA but also the UK, I hear. I’ve had two wheels bent over the last five years or so, just driving home on the streets I take every day, because potholes open up and nobody fills them. Bang! You hit them hard in a car with maybe a 17- or 18-inch rim on it and it damages the wheel. Whereas a big SUV with a big rubber tyre and 22-inch rims is going to absorb that fairly easily.

    I can see that rationale for an SUV. Also, as roads get more crowded, people want a little more space in their vehicle, they want more room. You can’t really drive fast anyway so maybe an SUV is the way to go if you gotta carry a crib and this and that. I talk to a lot of moms who like a commanding view of the road and a lot of metal around them. I understand the need for it but I just don’t find them interesting as vehicles. To me, automobiles are about fantasy and style and I just look at SUVs and go hmmm. It doesn’t work for me.

    Having an SUV in the line-up might help brands whose traditional cars might limit potential buyers with their image. Like Rolls-Royce. Suddenly you’re not seen as just driving a #Rolls-Royce , it’s a #Rolls-Royce-SUV . It adds more of a lifestyle air to it, I suppose.

    Anything that keeps cutting-edge manufacturers going is fine with me. However, I don’t see #McLaren-SUV building an SUV any time in the near future and Ferrari will probably never build an SUV. Though it did build #Ferrari-SUV World – an amusement park – in Abu Dhabi. Now they’re talking about a Ferrari World in the United States. That’s like an SUV, isn’t it?

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  •   Stephen Prior reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Boys on Tour Auto Across France. At speed. In a #Porsche-911 Editor David Lillywhite takes part in the 25th running of the Tour Auto in a fast ’n’ loud 911. Photography René, Mathieu Bonnevie, Julien Hergault, David Lillywhite.

    Forget the name. Until the bike race kicked up a fuss, this was the Tour de France. It’s where the #1957 #Ferrari-250GT obtained its TdF moniker. It’s the source of legendary tales of automotive derring-do and, frankly, madness: from 1899 until 1986, more or less annually, cars raced across France, and sometimes into Germany and Belgium, taking in hillclimbs and race circuits. Of course it was stopped eventually. But only five years later it was revived as a historic event, as spectacular, bonkers and simply French in as many ways as the original. That event, now called Tour Auto and organised by Peter Auto (the group behind Le Mans Classic, Chantilly Arts & Elegance, etc), celebrated its 25th running this year.

    And so it is that Team Octane is wandering wide-eyed through the Grand Palais in Paris a day before the start of Tour Auto #2016 , applying stickers to a #Porsche 911 and staring in trepidation at the tome-like roadbook. ‘Team Octane’, by the way, is me and property developer friend Guy Harman, whose 911ST seemed a perfect choice. We’re parked alongside other 911s and a neat Alfa Giulia, with a gorgeous Alfa TZ2 just behind. In all there are more than 300 cars in the beautiful 1890s building, most of them French-owned.

    They vary from tiny Abarths to monstrous Group 4 Panteras. Oh, and a Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, which we agree is as gauche as it’s inspirational. In essence we know that the plan is to leave Paris on the Tuesday morning and head for the start proper, just outside the city. By Saturday evening we should be in Cannes, in the south of France, having by that point sampled four circuits and countless closed-road regularity stages, some of them with Monte Carlo Rally history. Plus, this being the 25th edition, there’s a never-done-before treat of a night stage out of Cannes on the Saturday night, going into the early hours of Sunday. There’s nothing on that in the roadbook, and much talk around the Grand Palais of what it will consist of.

    Most of the cars have arrived over the weekend. Porsche specialist Steve Monk of Bodywerks finished checking over Guy’s newly bought 911 the previous Thursday, and it was picked up a day later by a transporter to be brought to France.

    Could it have been driven over? Probably, except that Guy and I were both working frantically until just hours before leaving on the Sunday-night Eurostar – and the car is set up for competition, so not the most comfortable steed, and we’re relying on Tour Auto’s rescue squad and a can of oil, two screwdrivers and a 3/8in-drive Christmascracker socket set for technical back-up.

    Monday is set aside for signing in, be-stickering the car, and collecting our nice Tour Auto jackets. Turns out the jackets are too big, prompting some fine Franglais (‘Bonjour, je suis trop… er… puny… pour la veste’). Incredibly, we get smaller replacements and, even more incredibly, that’s it, the day gone, finished off with a beer at the cocktail party amongst the cars. Most of the time has been spent trying to work out what we should be doing and where we should be. If only I’d concentrated in French lessons 30-odd years ago.

    Tuesday starts early. The 300 cars are divided into grids: 1-3 for Regularity, 4 and 5 for Competition. Basically, in regularity you drive fast to achieve a stipulated average speed on special stages, and a consistent time over four laps on circuits; and in competition you just drive fast. We’re in grid 2 – more on that later – which happens to be the last grid to leave from Paris, so the hall is near-empty as we line up behind car 76, wondering why so many pictures are being taken of it. More on that later, too.

    The first few minutes of any rally are always tough, as you acclimatise to the style of directions (tulip diagrams on the Tour), and it’s not helped by not having a proper rally tripmeter – we’ve had to remove the new RetroTrip, because neither of us had realised that Tour Auto has to be navigated via the car’s own tripmeter. Cue lots of craning across from the passenger seat to read it (for the next five days) and a stark reminder that it’s important to read all the notes and regulations. Guy has driven the 911 for approximately 20 minutes before today; I’d not even sat in it before.

    It’s built to ST specification, a retro-fit kit sold by Porsche in 1970 and ’71 for conversion to a road/ track specification. Because of this, there’s no set specification for an ST but Guy’s car is fairly typical, with a 2.5-litre short-stroke engine, Weber 46IDA carbs, wide rear ’arches, 7in Fuchs at the front and 9in Minilites at the rear, and RS bonnet. It’s a revelation! Sure, it’s stiffly sprung and suffers a heavy clutch, but it’s easy to drive even through Parisian traffic, the power just keeps on coming and the steering is perfection. By the time we arrive at the start, at Château de Courances, we’re both in love with the rorty Porsche.

    After the hectic early start from central Paris, Courances is as relaxed as can be. Cars are set off at 30-second intervals into the countryside, and once again we follow car 76 – an early 911 – as it’s surrounded by camera crew and selfie-takers.

    Seems that its driver is famous, but we don’t know what for. We’ve already said hello to ever-cheerful Jochen Mass in a De Tomaso Pantera (‘Why is it you Englishmen always choose German cars?’ he asks) and spotted Ari Vatanen in a new #BMW M4 official course car and Porsche engineer Jürgen Barth in, of course, another 911.

    Navigation that day is relatively simple but the pace is fast – really fast – overall. The grids up front are in the Competition category, while we’ve ‘sensibly’ opted for Regularity, this being our first time on Tour Auto. Some of our grid are taking it much easier than others on the roads from the lunch stop at the famous Abbaye de Fontenary to our first circuit, the equally famous #Dijon-Prenois , once home to the French Grand Prix.

    The idea at the circuit is to practise for ten minutes and then, on sight of a green flag on the startline, continue for four timed laps, which have to be as consistent as possible. But this is our first time on track in the 911 and we’re excited by how well it handles and how strong the engine feels.

    Guy is enjoying the drive, I’m keeping an eye out for other cars taking less [cough] conventional lines, and somehow neither of us notice the green flag, which means our times end up all wrong. But we come away amazed at how narrow but wonderfully undulating is the track, and a little bit more in love with the 911.

    Honestly, though, the two of us are having doubts about the event at this stage. The regularity is more serious than expected, the roads not quite as good as we’d hoped, and a queue into one of the small towns and a very deliberate Tour Autotargeted police speed trap have flattened the mood. Have we done the right thing?

    Then, at the exit to the circuit, a #Maserati-200SI pushes in front of us, and we both bristle with English indignation at the lack of respect for orderly queuing until the driver shouts across an apology and explains that they’ve been delayed, and are meant to be much further ahead. Perhaps it helps that his female co-driver is as beautiful as the car, but we relax, and spend the next hour following the perfectly formed ensemble at high speed along sweeping roads as dusk falls.

    It’s a turning point in our attitude to the Tour Auto; it’s not a French Mille Miglia, it’s much more refined. Dinner that night in Beaune is superb, catering for drivers, co-drivers and service crews – over 700 people in all – and from that point Tour Auto just gets better and better for us.

    The further south we go, the more the roads improve. The more regularities we do, the further up the results table we climb (though our times remain horribly inconsistent). The more fellow competitors we meet, the more friends we make. The harder we drive the Porsche, the better it feels.

    On day two, we visit Circuit de Bresse, which I drive, call in at Abbaye de Cluny, and finish in lovely Lyon. There we chat with the driver of car 76, who turns out to be Grégory Galiffi, presenter of an extremely popular French motoring TV show. The locals go mad for him, and he spends all his time generously signing autographs, posing for pictures and promoting a children’s charity. A very nice man with a lovely girlfriend. We secretly hope he’s hiding a dark secret…

    On day three, to Valence, there’s no circuit but one of the regularities is at Saint Bonnet le Froid, a Monte Carlo stage, and the afternoon’s route twists through the rocky tunnels of Route de la Combe Laval. The views are spectacular, and improved some more by the accompanying cars – the Hemi ’Cuda, a full-bore Stratos , understated Cobra 289 and a sublime #Ferrari 250 GT SWB.

    Day four sees me on track at Circuit de Lédenon, which looks like an oversize kart track, but serves up a brilliantly technical drive. The special stages are stunning, if treacherous, and the day ends at the regenerated old harbour in Marseille, a fine location for a bière or two.

    Day five, and we’re off to Paul Ricard circuit. I’ve driven there before, and it’s Guy’s car after all, so he sets off at a super-fast pace that gets harder and harder to match as we encounter more traffic on later laps – but it would have been criminal to take it any slower. It’s then a fast run, via the Saint- Baume and Esterel mountains, to the finish at the Croisette seafront at Cannes. It’s gone so quickly.

    The Majestic club on the beach has been set out for food, and there’s just time to grab some and drop bags off at the hotel, because we’re due out on the night stage at 10.30pm. Grid order has swapped, so the Competition bunch won’t start to leave until after midnight, and there’s talk of 200km…

    We’re given the route book at the start, and breathe a sigh of relief to find that it’s 100km, with two special stages. The first stage gets cancelled, which means we’re able to make full use of the twisting closed-road climb without having to worry about timing. With spotlights piercing the darkness and exhaust bouncing off the rockfaces, it feels like a real rally drive. The exhilaration is only mildly tempered when we nearly run out of fuel, but we make it back to Cannes.
    It’s been one hell of a week. The 911 has been incredible. I always forget how much the steering wheel waggles in an early 911, feeding back every bit of information about the road surface, but this ST does that in the extreme, which is disconcerting at first, delicious once you’re used to it. It turns in oh-so-precisely, grips ferociously, and when it lets go it doesn’t seem to snap round.

    That 2.5-litre flat-six pulls and pulls, never seeming to run out of puff, the cooling fan noise gradually replaced by a wonderful howl of intake and exhaust. What an engine!

    If there was a downside it was the long, heavy clutch and equally long gearshift. Typically 911, and noticeable only when ambling along; mix in a bit of adrenaline and it all comes together, though – which just leaves the uncomfortable seats to moan about. Guy has already changed them.

    And Tour Auto? It’s really quite special, and it would be spectacular to do it in something truly lairy, such as DK Engineering’s much-admired GT40. It costs €9000 for a crew of two, with hotels and all meals, so it sure ain’t cheap. But there’s a waiting list, and plenty who come back year after year. We’d love to do the same.

    THANKS TO Peter Auto,, Bodywerks, CARS and the many friends we made.

    Left, above and below. The finish at Cannes; David and Guy after the final night stage; and the overall-winning Group 4 #Ferrari-308GTB-Michelotto .

    ‘With spotlights piercing the darkness and exhaust bouncing off the rockfaces, it feels like a real rally drive’

    Clockwise from above. View through the Octane 911’s windscreen; Stratos sounded as good as it looks; Shelby Cobra on one of the special stages; the Octane 911 at Dijon-Prenois circuit; French TV star Grégory Galiffi signs yet more autographs; #Alpine-A310 V6 at special stage start; lunch at Abbaye de Bouchet; awesome #Ligier JS2 DFV; Italian metal dominates.

    Clockwise from left. Pre-start gathering at the Grand Palais, Paris; the Octane 911 ST awaits the official start at Château de Courances; 911s are a perhaps-too-popular choice; quick snack, Tour Auto style.
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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago


    Let’s face it, we all like an underdog, especially here in Britain. I suppose you can apply the idea of an underdog to motor vehicles. Without wanting to anthropomorphise inanimate motor cars, human beings have had a long and illogical relationship with their motors. A car is a strong reflection of its owner’s personality and position in society and there is no brand stronger than a motor vehicle. #Audi , #Bentley , #BMW , #Ferrari , #Mercedes-Benz , #Jaguar , #Porsche , #Rolls-Royce and so on spend a fortune burnishing their brand credentials and it works. Aston Martin was recently the coolest brand in Britain, ahead of #Apple , #Nike and #Rolex .

    People very seldom just purchase a ‘car’. They buy a product that reflects themselves. As the doyen of advertising David Ogilvy said: ‘You have to decide what "image" you want for your brand. Image means personality.
    Products, like people, have personalities.’ Sure, people buy cars based on price, but the mid-market 3-Series has long outsold the perfectly good #Ford-Mondeo - because it has a BMW badge on the front. And why do so many urban dwellers want a 4x4?

    Because a soft-roader is a lot cooler than a sensible saloon.

    Of course, those of us who are ‘into’ classic or historic cars have a real attachment: we actually love our old cars, which is faintly ridiculous, though also great fun and rewarding. Apart from the engineering and performance, classic car types are acutely aware about what their cars say about them. Both an E-type Jaguar and Mini are cool icons of the 1960s but are totally different, only having the fact that they are motor vehicles with four wheels in common, unlike a Morgan three-wheeler. Classic cars offer a wide canvas for tweedy types and Teddy Boys alike.

    But because classic car enthusiasts actually have a bond with their cars, they can see beyond just the brand image in a way drivers of modern cars don’t. Of course, modern cars are built to hammer down endless motorways and sit in traffic, whereas classics are for enjoyment. That’s why many classic car owners will often have an underdog in their garage along with a more recognised classic. As well as his C-type Jaguar and #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Ghost , the late Alan Clark MP also enjoyed A #Citroen-2CV and a #VW-Beetle (the latter admittedly with a #Porsche-356 engine shoehorned into the rear).

    Americans call these ‘trinket’ cars. Fiat 500 Jollys used to be trinkets but, now that owners of superyachts want them as tenders, they are priced like expensive jewels. I’m sure, like me, you have a soft spot for the automotive underdog, a classic that is not about the smart badge on the bonnet. The first time I drove a classic Mini I was shocked at how good it was on a tight road. It made the Porsche 356 I was driving at the time seem a bit numb. And years ago my father had an immaculate #Lancia-Aurelia-B20GT . To be fair it was the last of the line, a heavy sixth-series example. But when I raced him in my boxy, four-door #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia saloon, I’d blow his (two) doors off every time.

    As a member of the #Drive-My team I’m fortunate to get to drive some pretty impressive pieces of kit. And it is interesting to see quite how good some cars are - often the underdogs - and quite how lousy some of the supposed great classics can be. My good friend Ray Jones of Sydney, Australia, invited me to take part in the #Mille-Miglia with him in #1999 . We were to drive his #Chrysler-75 .

    Some in the vintage world look down on these Americans. Halfway through, #Bentley specialist Stanley Mann wandered over. ‘What sort of supercharger do you have fitted to the Chrysler?’ he asked (we’d overtaken his vintage Bentley a number of times). Ray opened the bonnet. Its two huge SUs and banana-branch exhaust header would have given your average VSCC scrute heart failure but there was no blower. Stanley was amazed. And the #Chrysler had excellent, original hydraulic brakes.

    In 2007, deputy editor Mark Dixon and I competed in the #Mille-Migila in a bog-standard #Triumph-TR2 , mustering just about 90bhp. Not powerful, but it handled well. In the mountains this light car was ace because of its overdrive gearbox, which operated on second, third and top. The #Triumph really annoyed a number of drivers of heavy Mercedes-Benz Gullwings with their wide-ratio gearing. Up the steep mountain roads we indulged in some of the most impertinent overtaking ever.

    Yes, it was a proper underdog.


    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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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The story of how some lucky, and you do not have / #Porsche-356 / #Porsche / #2015

    As many as 15 consecutive years in #Portugal was itself abandoned mansion, and nobody was interested in them. The heirs of a dusty manor decided to anything to fuck with him and sold the property. I get for pennies a new home owner wandered through its territory and noticed an old barn, locked on a rusty but strong castle. He hacked and found it (no, he, of course, first rubbed his eyes, pinched myself hand) a warehouse of vintage cars!

    In total there were 180 machines found in perfect condition, the cost of which still can not be assessed.

    Most interestingly, the former owner of the estate just hid all this treasure, and so he died, no one shared his secret.

    Summarize: Why so many cool cars, if you do no one could envy.

    PS I ask all who knew the make and model of the car to sign them. ‏ — at Portugal
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  • One last time. Frazer Nash last competed at Le Mans in 1959 – in this car. Time for Tony Dron to test it on track at Gooodwood.

    The gentleman driver #John-Dashwood invited the accomplished club driver #Bill-Wilks to share a Frazer Nash in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. They'd heard about a Frazer Nash with a #BMW-V8 engine but, as no such thing was suitable, Dashwood bought this 1955 Le Mans Coupe from the Frazer Nash makers, AFN Ltd.

    But hang on - the name Dashwood rings loud bells in any Englishman's mind. Was this John Dashwood related to the infamous rake of West Wycombe, Sir Francis Dashwood, who founded the notorious Hellfire Club of the 1750s? Yes, indeed, he was of that ilk.

    These are arcane matters but the Dashwood baronetcy of West Wycombe is the Premier Baronetcy in the Baronetage of Great Britain. As a younger son in that line, the Dashwood who owned this car in 1959 had no title. He was just plain John and, also unlike his colourful 18th Century forebear, he appears to have led a thoroughly respectable, indeed blameless life - Eton, Oxford, 'something in the City', a nice house in Surrey, a successful marriage and two children - an all-round good chap, for sure.

    After driving their car recently at Goodwood, I set about tracing Dashwood and Wilks but 55 years after the event it was not easy. In John Dashwood's case it was impossible but I did eventually track down his son, Tom, who gave me the sad news that his father had passed away in December 2013.

    Bill Wilks, however, was eventually found - thanks to the 'VSCC mafia'. He's 80 now, obviously fit and happily retired in Dorset, but in 1959 he was 25 and had already made a name for himself as a quick man in Frazer Nash cars.
    'Actually', Bill told me, 'I had just packed it all in because I was getting married and taking out a mortgage but then John asked me to join him at Le Mans and I thought, why not?' Dashwood, who was Five years older than Bill, had chosen well. Young Wilks wasn't just quick, he was also a proper engineer who recalled doing a lot of work on the car himself, putting it as right as he could before they set off for Le Mans, where the ACO had accepted them as first reserve.

    The four-year-old Frazer Nash was hardly going to set the pace at Le Mans in 1959, to be frank, and Gregor Grant's Autosport race report stated: 'With the non- appearance of the Conrero Alfa Romeos, all reserves were called in, including the veteran Frazer Nash of Dashwood and Wilks.' Bill was well aware of that but, hey, you don't turn down a drive at Le Mans lightly.

    Dashwood's aim was to take part in a good sporting spirit Even so, they reckoned the old Coupe might still be quick enough in its class - and its large fuel tank would ensure long stints between pit-stops. AFN's standard tanks varied from 14 to 25 gallons, with a 5 ½ -gallon auxiliary tank available.

    Rumours that they added an extra fuel tank from an Austin Seven set off my personal bullshit sensor. No, Bill Wilks explained that they raised the fuel capacity to about 18 gallons by adding an auxiliary tank of about two gallons: 'I am absolutely certain it was not an Austin Seven tank - I made it!'

    Its pace on the long Mulsanne straight in qualifying wasn't bad - pulling 6000rpm in top, which equated to 140mph with the 3.54:1 final drive they had fitted. At that speed, the kink in the straight should have presented no worries but Bill remembers getting a big shock there.

    'I looked at that kink and thought, no problem, I can take this on full noise - easy!' As he turned in, the rear suspension jacked itself up, the car took a great lurch and Bill was looking into the trees. 'I thought it was Judgement Day - I really thought that was it.' But he held it and, back at the pits, investigated the alarming handling problem.

    Excessive body roll was expected in those cars and earlier, back at the Isleworth factory, the legendary Harry Olrog of AFN had altered this Coupe's rear suspension, creating a Panhard rod arrangement. What Bill recalls now, very clearly, is that the real problem was not that but dodgy dampers. On closer inspection, they had been modified in a curious way, presumably to stiffen them up. 'I think I found some pieces of wood inside but, anyway, I put them aside and found a better set from a supplier in the paddock - Armstrongs, I think they were, but, whatever, they were much better.'

    Apart from that, the car had gone well and Dashwood wisely nominated his more experienced co-driver to start the race. There was some concern over whether the brakes would last - some say that it had roadgoing cast- iron drums, though Bill insists that it had Al-Fin racing brakes - 'But they still weren't any good!' he adds.

    Three hours into the 24, Bill came in to hand over to John. T told him to be careful because the brakes had gone but I had some sort of premonition as he drove off - I felt something was about to go wrong.

    It did. The overheated brakes really were finished and John Dashwood did not complete one lap. At Amage comer the car buried itself in the mound of sand on the exit, where, as Bill recalls, it remained until the end of the race.

    Dashwood was devastated, feeling he had let everybody down but you have to feel sympathy for the poor chap - it was really very bad luck.

    Legend has it that the gearbox casing was split in Dashwood's effort to slow down before hitting the sand. Bill says that's wrong: 'Reverse gear did break in John's efforts to back out of the sand after the race. The steering was slightly damaged but they managed to patch things up enough to drive it back to England.

    So ended the last appearance of a Frazer Nash in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ten years earlier, in 1949, Norman Culpan and 'Aldy Aldington had finished in a blaze of glory, third overall in a Frazer Nash High Speed model, but that was to remain the finest hour of Frazer Nash in the 24 Hours. What concerns us now, however, is how the remarkable Le Mans Coupe of the later years came into being at all.

    Since taking over AFN Ltd in the late 1920s, the Aldington brothers, led by the dynamic HJ 'Aid/ Aldington, had made heroic efforts to become big players in the high-performance motoring world. They had made the best of the fabulous chain-driven sports car designed by the company's founder, Archie Frazer-Nash - the man has the hyphen but the cars don't - but they always lacked the capital to become truly independent manufacturers.

    That was overcome in the 1930s by a strong link with BMW. When the German company proceeded to design the world's most advanced sports cars, business boomed at AFN. The efficient Aldingtons were well-organised importers, with workshops and a talented team enabling them do far more than merely service the cars they brought in. They made parts and bodywork, modifying cars as required and marketing them as Frazer Nash-BMWs. They worked extremely well with the BMW management and engineers, who were right behind them, and things, you might say, were going great guns in the first months of #1939 .

    When the world then came crashing down, AFN Ltd switched to war work. As peace returned in #1945 , they wasted no time in returning to high-performance cars. Had it been possible, the link with BMW would have been resumed immediately but German industry needed time to recover and, anyway, British buyers weren't that keen on German products just then.

    Controversially, Aldy Aldington did retrieve some useful items from Germany at the end of the war, but that has probably been misinterpreted. He wanted to resume his business links with the German engineers that he admired so much but, in a radically changed world, he simply couldn't.

    Instead, he looked for a link with a large British company. After unhappy meetings with leaders in the Midlands motor industry came to nothing, an agreement was signed between AFN and the Bristol Aeroplane Company to develop new post-war high-performance cars from the legacy of BMW's advanced pre-war models.

    That should have provided the industrial muscle Aldy needed but the relationship was doomed. A relatively small business in the motor trade, led by a quick-thinking and impatient visionary, could not work with a large corporation accustomed to the different engineering ethics of the aeronautical industry.

    They soon fell out and AFN Ltd went its own way, retaining an agreement for a supply of the new #1971 cc straight-six Bristol engines, which were based on BMW's pre-war engine and ideal for the new models that AFN planned to produce.
    The basics of the post-war #Frazer #Nash had been laid down by AFN's John Perrett, who designed a two-seater sports car based closely on the front end of a #BMW-327 , with transverse-leaf suspension and lower wishbones, and the rear end of a BMW 326, with longitudinal torsion bar suspension and a live axle located mainly by an A-bracket. The main frame was based on the tubular chassis of the #BMW-328 .

    Aldy then managed to recruit a superstar: Fritz Fiedler who, as the chief designer of BMW cars from #1932 , had been behind all the great BMW sports cars of that decade. Arriving at Isleworth in #1947 , Fiedler took on the development of the post-war Frazer Nash chassis, suspension, body design and construction and also part of the work on the Bristol engine. A mild-mannered genius, he was a very well liked at AFN, if gently amused when they called him 'Doctor' Fiedler.

    Fiedler returned to BMW after three years, having made a huge contribution to AFN's early post-war success. He went on to influence BMW's return to prominence, which was secured by the time he retired and continues to this day.
    In 1952, a revised #Frazer-Nash chassis was inspired partly by race driver Ken Wharton's wish for a single- seater Frazer #Nash-F2 car but also by a desire to produce a simpler chassis that was cheaper and easier to make.

    By 1953, Aldy knew that the adventure as a manufacturer was all but over for AFN. It had been a glorious effort, resulting in some wonderful thoroughbred cars. The Le Mans Replica, a copy of the High Speed model that finished third in the 24 Hours, was and remains a truly great classic. Other superb post-war Frazer Nash models emerged from AFN but the enterprise lacked sufficient scale. The quality of the cars went without question and the few that they could make sold well despite being very expensive.

    In the mid-1950s, AFN Ltd became the official importer of Porsche cars, a move that was destined to transform the company into a much bigger, very different business - #Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd.

    Only nine Le Mans Coupes were made in all and the first of them, driven by Ken Wharton and HA Mitchell, took a fine class win and 13th overall in the #1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. By then the Le Mans regulations demanded enclosed wheels and encouraged coupe bodywork. AFN's Le Mans Coupe was therefore developed from the open two-seater Targa Florio model.

    This particular Coupe was originally sold as a road car to Mrs Kathleen 'Kitty' Maurice (nee Gorst, later Mrs Thomas) in April 1955, and it had a well-documented engine change early in its existence. Kitty Maurice was a keen motorist and, as the landowner of Castle Combe, she had made the conversion of the wartime airfield into a motor racing circuit possible. She soon sold the car to a Dr Mawe, who used it in club competitions in #1956 before selling it back to #AFN late in 1957, where it remained until John Dashwood bought it in March 1959.

    Its next owner was the well-known racing driver and Gerrards Cross-based specialist motor trader Roy Bloxam, who fitted disc brakes and other mods such as a #ZF limited-slip differential. He took second in class and tenth overall in the 1960 Autosport Production Sports Car Championship.

    Its many owners in the half-century since then have generally cared for it well and it remains remarkably original. At the end of the 1960s, an owner in Malvern had the #Panhard rod removed and an A-bracket restored, taking the rear suspension back to its original specification. By 1963, its original green had been changed to wine red but its Swedish owner in the 1970s, Ake Andersson, had it painted blue. Early this century the colour was changed again, going back to a shade of green close to its original colour.

    One owner, though which one isn't known, changed it back to drum brakes - aluminium at the front and iron at the rear. The FLA papers issued for it in 19% show this had been done by then. And, about 12 years ago, a Laycock overdrive was Fitted - a type that would have been available when the car was new. With the standard final drive, an overdrive transforms the car, especially for normal road use - and it might even be about right were somebody to take it back to Le Mans to run it in the Gassic.

    It is obviously eligible for top events such as that and the Mille Miglia but would also be ideal for great open- road driving events, such as the Colorado Grand, which it has done twice in more recent times.

    My instant reaction on driving it at Goodwood is that it feels like a superb roadgoing sports car, even today - and it's certainly quick enough to outperform most modem traffic. By racing car standards it Is heavy - it was weighed at 2079lb (943kg) by the Le Mans scrutineers in 1959 - but against most of today's road cars it's a featherweight with a formidable power-to-weight ratio.

    This car's obviously high value, of course, is largely the result of its genuine Le Mans history, so the normal preference of Frazer Nash fans for the open cars definitely docs not apply here. There's a lovely period feel to the small, high-quality tan interior but tall prospective owners should note that it is best suited to shorter drivers - the seat had to be completely removed for me and I sat on the carpet to drive it.

    Even so, it was a pleasure to power it round the Goodwood circuit, where it felt quicker than I had expected. The handling was a bit skittish at first and I went back into the pits after just one lap to have the dampers adjusted. They had been on the hardest setting but, with them suitably softened, the car was much better.

    It's a stable car at speed, a true thoroughbred of the old school in some ways - years of sound engineering and the black art of 'chassis-sorting' created a confidence- inspiring machine with sensitive steering. On the straight, it runs true but there is always the feeling that it's ever ready to tackle the next comer. It turns in well and immediately adopts a superbly neutral angle of drift, which the driver can make a little bit more or less pronounced almost by merely thinking about it. The famous Bristol engine is a delight and, in my short run, the brakes were fine - as we know, it takes three hours to knock them out!

    This delightful post-war sports car has a great story to tell - the next chapter of which begins after its sale by Bonhams at Goodwood in March.

    THANKS TO Tony Bancroft. Blakenoy Motorsport. Tom Dashwood, the #Frazer-Nash Car Club and Archives. Goodwood Motor Circuit, Richard Procter, James Trigwell, and Bill Wilks. Bonhams is selling the car at the #Goodwood 73rd Members' Meeting on 21 March.

    Car #1955 #Frazer-Nash-Le-Mans-Coupe
    ENGINE 1971cc six-cylinder, OHV, three #Solex downdraught carburettors
    POWER 142bhp 5750rpm
    TRANSMISSION Four-speed #Borg-Warner manual, rear-wheel drive
    STEERING Rack and pinion
    Front: independent, transverse leaf spring, lower wishbones, telescopic dampers.
    Rear: live axle located by A-bracket, longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic dampers.
    BRAKES Drums
    WEIGHT 963kg (2079lb - as weighed by #Le-Mans scrutineers, #1959 )
    PERFORMANCE Top speed 140mph claimed at Le Mans. 1959. 0-60mph c8sec

    Above, left and right Closed bodywork was developed from the open-top Targa Florio - only nine coupes were made: power comes from a #BMW- derived triple-carb straight-six.


    Left. Surprisingly civilised inside for a Le Mans entrant, though it lacks headroom for the taller driver. Tony Dron had to remove the seat and sit on the floor...

    Above. With 142bhp from its 2.0-litre straight-six and a (scrutineered) kerbweight of 943kg, the Frazer Nash was capable of 140mph on the Mulsanne straight.
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  • The Amazing #Volkswagen /// MARCH #1955 ///

    What Started as Hitler’s Fraudulent People’s Car, In a Plant Bombed Out by the War, Now Leads All Auto Production Outside the U.S. at 180,000 Yearly /// By KLAUS KALLMORGEN

    Yankee production methods are turning out 835 cars daily at the vast rebuilt Volkswagen plant in Germany. Here's one day's output rolling off the assembly line.

    The pre-war Volkswagen was launched with much waving of Nazi banners as Hitler proudly announced the German “People’s Car” with promises that never came true. About 300,000 citizens invested 25 million pounds in this dream, and Hitler built only 210 cars before turning the plant over to his war machine.

    Today’s car is a vastly improved version which outsells all other cars in five European countries, and which is fast capturing new export markets for Germany. Heinz Nordhoff, 55-year-old boss, says with satisfaction: “A few years ago British and French manufacturers were saying we didn’t have a chance. Today Morris in Britain and Renault in France are producing about 400 cars a day. We’re making 835.”

    Only six years ago the Volkswagen works was just another fragment of war wreckage.

    The vast plant in #Wolfsburg , 100 miles west of Berlin, had been largely destroyed by Allied bombing. Six thousand employees were spending most of their time clearing rubble. In 1945 they produced only 713 vehicles. Authorities in the British zone offered what was left of the factories to anyone who would take it away. Not even the Russians were interested, and their zone was only 10 miles away.

    Nordhoff had trained with the German subsidiary of General Motors, the Adam Opel A.G. and became chief of its lorry production plant, biggest in Europe, during the war. Because he had held this position, he was forbidden to do any job other than manual labour in the American zone where he lived. The British urged him to take over reorganization of the Volkswagen and he reluctantly agreed.

    Nordhoff began by sleeping in one of the empty offices. He adopted a “get tough” policy with the workers and told them that the 400 man-hours which they were taking to produce one car must be cut to 100 (it has been done). At the same time, he organized the building of new homes (4,000 have been completed) and gave his men an extra meal per day.

    The car itself was branded by its appearance of stark austerity. The power was low, and the engine had a life of only 10,000 miles. Nordhoff brought in new experts who redesigned every vital component, working on the original pre-war designs of Porsche, (who made his reputation at the other extreme from the mass-produced Volkswagen, building handmade sports cars).

    The new car was quieter and more powerful, and had hydraulic brakes and shock absorbers. Soon, models with luxury touches were introduced.

    There was still a sellers’ market, and Nordhoff brought the pressure of consumer demand into psychological play in the works. Every finished car was delivered immediately, but there were always big stocks of materials standing ready for use, a constant urge to the workers to produce faster. Production in 1949 was more than double that of 1948; the 1950 figure doubled 1949’s again.

    As more cars were sold abroad, foreign countries introduced new restrictions on imports. Nordhoff countered by setting up assembly plants in Ireland, South Africa, Belgium, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. With a third production line coming into operation at Wolfsburg, his immediate target is over 1,000 cars a day.

    The #Heinz-Nordhoff was the second son of a banker, who moved his family from Hildesheim to Berlin when his bank failed. Heinz trained as an industrial engineer, and served as a private in the first World War. He gained his most important experience working for Opel, when he had the opportunity to visit America and learn American sales and production methods on the spot. Today he still does much travelling, and last year in Africa bagged two lions.
    One of his problems is the question of ownership- of the Volkswagen company, which is under the custody of the German Government. Some of the optimists who put their money into Hitler’s Volkswagen have gone to law to get their money back; a court ruling that they have a legitimate claim is now the subject of an appeal by the company to the Supreme Court.

    Nordhoff, never a member of the Nazi Party himself, feels that people who invested in the #Nazi-Reich should not profit from it. He thinks as little of Germany’s political past as he thought of the original model Volkswagen.

    Bringing a new spirit into relations between management and labour, he is author of a profit-sharing plan which is being adopted by others. He is strongly in favour of Germany’s “codetermination” system, whereby labour representatives sit on boards of companies in certain industries.

    Over 200,000 of the half million Volkswagens which have been produced since 1945 have been exported to over 100 countries. This represents vigorous competition for the world’s biggest car exporting country, Britain. And Britain can see the results of Germany’s phenomenal recovery in a dozen other export fields.

    One of the reasons for Germany’s success may well be the tax concessions which the Government, until recently, granted to exporting companies. Now that this system has ceased to operate, the struggle is on even terms. There are many lessons for Britain in Germany’s industry, with its capacity for hard work at all levels, its ingenuity in design, and in its policy of hard selling. But Britain can still point to Germany’s low living standard, and to the fact that the German economy does not yet have to bear the heavy load of defense production. The German living standard is 15% below Britain’s, while wages are more than proportionally lower. As a result, Germany is not consuming enough goods and so not encouraging mutual trade, which is the main strength of the Western countries. (Only 412 of Volkswagen’s 20,000 employees drive the cars which they produce!) In its new prosperity, Germany will have to meet these responsibilities.

    Proudly lined up are the 27 men who have a shore in building each Volkswagen.
    Just one clay's output from the revived auto plant, leading all European makes.
    Aerial view of Volkswagen works where 20,000 men and women are now employed.
    The works were heavily bombed during the last war and were 60 per cent destroyed.
    Hitler stands next to Prof. #Porsche who designed Volkswagen, later built sports cars.
    Heinz Nordhoff is boss of the Volkswagen works. Not a Nazi, he trained in U.S.
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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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  • There was much office debate this month over the Wankel engine. Thanks to Mick Walsh enthusiastically researching his piece on the #Mazda #RX-500 , the rest of us discovered that we already knew a surprising amount about the ingenious rotary even before debating the two crucial questions: 1) why didn’t it take over the world; and 2) once it was clear it wouldn’t, why did (does) Mazda persevere? It had already watched the brilliant- in-theory unit kill off #NSU and then take #VW ’s #Audi NSU Auto Union wing to the brink. The first question - basically rotor-tip reliability and maintenance by people who didn’t understand it - was easier to answer than the second.

    Left: proud #Hoffman X-8 owner Myron Vernis on the #Pebble-Beach fairway where the car decided that it would not be driven by Elliott. Below: can anyone name another #X-8 equipped car, or something weirder?

    As ever, however, such a conversation soon turned into the usual mental Top Frumps between the Drive-MY team, this time the verbal trading cards being weirdest/most unlikely motor types and configurations used in road cars. Naturally, we ticked off jet-powered cars and propeller-driven fare pretty quickly, but when someone ‘stole’ the card I was planning to play - the should-have-been-but-never-was Doble-steam-powered #1953 #Paxton #Phoenix-it it reminded me of (I think) an even better one.

    The second car came to mind because, like the Paxton , it is owned by my good pal Myron Yernis. To understand the car, you need to understand the man. The superficially ‘normal’ Myron, mastermind of the Glenmoor Gathering in the US, is so obsessed with Porsche engines that he once bought a Stuttgart- powered ski-lift from Europe and shipped it to Akron, Ohio. He is a man so fascinated by the off-the-wall that he bought a Mazda Cosmo to be the run around at his Greek holiday home.
    Apart from perhaps the Lane Museum, therefore, it’s hard to imagine anywhere more appropriate for the wonderful Hoffman X-8 to wind up than with Myron. The what? The Hoffman X-8 - a futuristic, Deco-tinted utilitarian steel-monocoque saloon with independent suspension built by Detroit engineer Roscoe C ‘Rod' Hoffman in #1935 . As an aside, if I had a name like Roscoe, there’s no way I would want to be called anything else. Back to the car: it was given to Brooks Stevens and stayed in the designer’s museum even after his death and right up until #2010 , when it came to Myron.

    'Superficially "normal" Myron once bought a #Porsche ski-lift in Europe and shipped it to Ohio'

    It is a captivating little thing and, though slightly resembling a host of classics, for me it most looks like a Renault 4CV mated with a Stout Scarab. Best of all is its engine. Properly rear-mid-engined, it is a (sort-of) radial unit and I can’t think of another road car that went down this route. Perhaps with good reason. Ford certainly experimented with an air-cooled flat- head X-8, as did GM pre-war, and Honda is said to have investigated the possibilities for racing in the 1960s, but all clearly thought better of it. Hoffman, under commission (though no one is certain for whom) and having started filing patents for such a beast years earlier, pressed on with his water-cooled overhead-cam unit. You could argue that the single-cam X configuration of twinned V4s is not actually ‘radial' at all. For a start, it doesn’t have the odd number of cylinders that is de rigueur with four-stroke radials, but that’s enough science.

    Despite being 170cu in and supposedly good for 75bhp - when it works - the engine does not exactly drip power, being fed by a single twin- barrel carb and driving through a three-speed transaxle. But it sounds great, spitting through its pea-shooter exhausts like an amplified version of one of those miniaturised desktop model V8s.

    I know this because, thanks to Myron showing the Hoffman at Pebble Beach in #2012 , I have at least seen the car and heard it running. In fact, it created quite a stir and stopped Jay Leno and his XX crew in their tracks. Sadly, my planned drive and feature - most likely the first since Michael Lamm’s brilliant article for Special Interest Autos in #1974 - was thwarted when the clutch (which couldn’t be repositioned anywhere in the bay to get any hotter) gave out and we ended up gently pushing the car off the showfield.

    This was long after die red-trousered crowds had dispersed, of course, yet to see the Hoffman X-8 silently slipping away unnoticed despite all the furore it had caused earlier in the day struck me as probably the perfect epithet for the car’s place in motoring history.
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