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    Some of my favourite collectable cars are those I like to call noble failures, cars that were ahead of their time and no-one realised. The #1935-Chrysler-Airflow / #1935 / #1934 / #Chrysler-Airflow / #Chrysler is a good example. Call it the shock of the new, because the 1934 model with its #Art-Deco streamlining and waterfall grille was so different from the previous model that people just couldn’t take it in, especially the long-wheelbase Imperial version. Luxury cars were supposed to have huge imposing radiators with prestigious-looking hood ornaments like the Rolls-Royce flying lady or the Packard cormorant. They learned their lesson. After that first year they switched back to a more traditional front end.

    The car I’m writing about today is not so much a noble failure as a forgotten one. I have been after one for years, but I could never find quite the right example until recently. By the mid- ’60s the pony-car craze was in full swing. Ford had the Mustang, Chevy the Camaro, Pontiac the Firebird, Chrysler the Barracuda.

    Common to all was a V8. Sure, you could get a six-cylinder if you wanted, but that was a base model which was primarily a grocery- getter. Except for the Pontiac.

    John DeLorean was the engineer behind the Pontiac GTO. He enjoyed thinking outside the box.

    Of all the button-down engineers at GM he was probably the most European in his thinking and his lifestyle. He was the guy who put the big honking 389ci V8 into the smaller-bodied Tempests and Firebirds, but he was also enamoured with the Jaguar E-type. Why not develop an American version of the classic European straight-six?

    The engine grew from the standard Chevrolet six- cylinder but had its own cast-iron block and head castings. Only the valve cover and camshaft carrier for what was America’s first mass-produced overhead- camshaft engine were aluminium. It also featured a reinforced glassfibre belt to drive the camshaft, which was considered quite advanced back in the day. With a one- barrel carburettor and a mild cam this 3.8-litre engine put out I65bhp, and was mated to a three-speed manual gearbox as the base powertrain package for the Firebird.

    DeLorean then added high-compression pistons, a hotter cam, dual valve springs, a split dual-exhaust manifold and the new-for-’66 Rochester Quadrajet four- barrel carburettor. This took power to 207bhp, increased to 215 for 1968. Some guys convert their engines to Weber carburettors, which look a lot sexier but don’t seem to give any more performance than the Quadrajet.

    So, instead of a heavy V8 pony car with its 60/40 weight distribution, would Americans go for a European- style pony car with lower horsepower but better handling? The answer: not so much. Pontiac built 108,000 Firebirds for the 1968 model year, of which just 4662 were six- cylinder Sprints. And only 1025 of these had the high-performance engine package.

    The car I have finally found is a 1968 Firebird Sprint with this engine, the very desirable four-speed gearbox, the Safe-T-Track 355 rear end and the hood-mounted tachometer. This combination cost as much if not more than the V8 when new and in America, where bigger is always better and performance was measured in quarter-miles, why would you do that?

    Americans didn’t much cotton- on to six-cylinder engines, and still don’t. When the latest Ford GT was introduced with a six-cylinder, howls of protest were all over the internet. It took the 2016 Le Mans win to overcome all the scepticism.
    But as a teenager I was intrigued by this hopped-up six because it was so different from everything else coming out of Detroit. Overhead camshafts, especially back in the ’60s, were things that came from Europe and were to be seen on the autobahn, the Stelvio Pass or Silverstone. Not Woodward Avenue.

    Over the years I came close to finding the right Sprint. I looked at one but it was an automatic, another had the three-speed. Finally, a friend called to say he’d found the perfect one, a convertible in Caribbean blue with a blue interior, a white top and all the right options. It was a three-owner car, never restored but well maintained. For its first 25 years it had been a daily driver. It had just over 100,0 miles but ran nicely.

    After driving it for a while I have decided to give it a full restoration. The great thing with cars such as Firebirds, Camaros and Mustangs is that every single part is available, many of them new old stock.

    The best part will be when it’s finished and I take it to a Cars and Coffee, park in the Pontiac section next to a couple of Trans Ams or 455 HO big-blocks, open the hood and hear guys go ‘What is that? A six? Cool!’
    That’s my dream, anyway.
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    Man & Machine David Lane and the UK’s sole Jensen-Healey racer

    Posted in Cars on Monday, 08 July 2019

    Man & Machine Racing in a different key David Lane and the UK’s sole Jensen-Healey racer. Words and photography Paul Hardiman.

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    Adam Wilkins
    Adam Wilkins posted a new blog post, Ultima Sports

    Ultima Sports

    Posted in Cars on Monday, 08 July 2019

    Russell Horner has owned no fewer than six Ultimas – but his current Sports is the best of the bunch. We met him to find out why. Words and pictures: Adam Wilkins.

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    / #1928-Bentley-4½-litre-Blower / #1928 / #Bentley-4½-litre-Blower / #Bentley / #Blower

    BENTLEY AT 100 / DRIVING THE FIRST ‘BLOWER’ Exclusive blast on California roads in the magnificent, pioneering YU 3250

    Celebrating a century of success, from ‘Blower’ to bargains, luxury to #LeMans

    ‘The car today is much as it was when it went to #Le-Mans in 1930, the great protruding supercharger reminding everyone that this is no ordinary vintage Bentley’
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    When Bullitt came out with Steve McQueen I wanted to know everything about the Ford Mustang. The same with #Knight-Rider – I remember tuning in just to see the car. These days most people don’t notice the cars the stars are driving, but they seem to know the ones in the video games, like Gran Turismo 6, which just came out.

    / #Steve-McQueen / #Bullitt / #1968-Bullit / #Gran-Turismo-6 / #1966-Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Ford-Mustang / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Mark-Donohue

    The idea that concept cars make their first appearance in video games makes a lot of sense. A movie opens and it makes $50 million and is a huge success. A video game launches and makes 700, 800, 900 million dollars on the first day because people want to see those vehicles.

    In the movie you tend to think of your self as James Bond or Steve-McQueen , whereas in the video game there is no human element, it’s just the car. So you are the driver, as opposed to that person, and you can make it do whatever you want it to. And the video games are way more accurate than the movies. There’s a whole cottage industry of picking out all the little mistakes in various car films. The only thing missing from games now is the gasoline and rubber smell. When you watch a game like Gran Turismo 6, they’ve gone to great trouble to recreate the sounds exactly. A friend of mine got one of the driving games and it has Mark Donohue’s Camaro in it. And he couldn’t last past a certain time, he just couldn’t get any better. Then he read Mark Donohue’s book about how he set up his Camaro and his tyre pressures and things, and he put all the stats from the book into the video game. He was lapping faster. So you actually are driving the car.

    When I got to drive a Jaguar at the Nürburgring, I practised on the video game. Braking points, the Karussell, all of it was exactly as it was in real life. Not that I had it memorised, but it meant that the track was not foreign to me when I got there.

    The amazing thing to me is the amount of time people dedicate to it. If you’r e going to sit down and play a game it’s the same as watching a two-hour movie. You sit down and pick your team, your tyres, and your car. It’s hours of information and input. You’re racing against some guy in Thailand and he’s racing against some guy in Finland. It’s a huge commitment.

    My #1966 #Oldsmobile Toronado is in Gran Turismo 6. They did a great job with the Toronado. The attention to detail is amazing because you just take for granted that when a car goes by you see a shadow. You don’t realize how many hours went in to making that shadow. When they did the car, they came to my garage with a secret camera and they put the car in the middle of the floor with a big tent over it. It was some kind of 3D camera but I don’t know what it does because I wasn’t allowed to see it. It is not just the look but the feel they have replicated well. The heaviness of the big sedan is matched in the game just great.

    I had the #Mercedes-Benz Gran Turismo concept car in my garage recently. It’s stunning. The front of that car looks like an SLR from the ’50s. The pure design of it I thought was really really good. I thought it was a clean design, it looked masculine, and it looked Mercedes-Benz. It looked futuristic yet it looked like it could also be a real car.

    People ask why Mercedes would go to all that trouble for a video game. When you say it like that it sounds disdainful, but when you use the words they used, ‘Gaming Console’, it suddenly sounds more important. It is a gaming console that is played by millions of people. It’s why games, not movies, are seen as the future.

    If a car is in a movie it might only be in the shot for a second. There was some hype about Lexus in that movie with Tom Cruise, but he got in the car and drove away in a second or two, before you even realised what he was driving. In a video game you know your car is going to be seen by exactly the people you’re trying to reach – young men, aged 12 and up. Guys who will soon be getting their licence. And what car are they going to want to drive? The car they lusted after in the video game. It’s very clever marketing. In the future I think you will see people going to dealerships and taking virtual test drives in a simulator. An actual seat from the car and the dashboard in front of you and you’ll ‘drive’ this ‘car’ instead of taking it out on a real test drive. You’ll go on a virtual test drive to see if you like it. I think that will happen. We will see cars reach reality, having started on video games. We already have. Every major car company will do this.

    ‘WHEN I GOT TO DRIVE AT THE NÜRBURGRING, I PRACTISED ON THE VIDEO GAME SO THE TRACK WAS NOT FOREIGN TO ME’
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