Monterey 2014 – 5 Days of Automotive Porn – Day 3

Thursday/Friday – Auctions 1

The Benefit of Experience

This year there were at least six car auctions in Monterey. At times there were four going on at once. You get used to it, and learn where to be at what time, and what to skip altogether.

Now it seems there’s a new auction, Bonhams, debuying with a powerful attraction. The presentation did not match the quality of the consignment though, and after attending the first day’s bidding, it’s unlikely we will return unless they make some changes.

The Thirty-Eight Million Dollar Ferrari

Publicity Photo Bonhams Ferrari GTO

Bonham’s publicity photo of yjeir 1962 Ferrari GTO #3851. Styling cues feature a nose with a hint of E-Type Jaguar, punctured with multiple vents to supplement the obviously inadequate primary air intake. This one shares a difference with the car currently on display in “The World’s Greatest Sports Coupes” at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Nearly all 250 GTOs have a pair of small rectangular driving lamps flanking the central oval air intake, those two do not.

Bonhams held the auction of their highly anticipated “Violati Collection,” of which the GTO was part, at the Quail on Thursday evening. Parking was on a mulched field. If you were driving a low-clearance car such as are common among those able to bid successfully on million-dollar collectable cars, you’d have been seriously annoyed, if not angry.

The signature consignment, Ferrari 250 chassis number 3851GT, is one of 41 Ferraris with the designation GTO (some quite different than this example). The name derives from their certification or “Homologation” (thus Gran Tourisimo Omologato – GTO, in Italian) for competition in the GT class. Ferrari was supposed to make 100, but the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile winked, and they were allowed to compete with the lower production.

They were very successful racing cars, with many victories around the world, although the most coveted prize, overall victory in the 24 hours of Le Mans, eluded them. This particular car’s curriculum vitae included 2nd place in the 1962 Tour de France with Jo Schlesser at the wheel.

The auction itself was held in a rather small tent, considering the crowd one would expect. It was standing room only, and since there was no ramp to raise the cars into view, and no cameras flashing live pictures of the cars on the big screen TV monitors (only publicity stills), most of the audience couldn’t see a thing.

Please excuse the stock photo. We didn’t attend the preview, and after the bidding concluded, the car was whisked away behind a screen and covered, so we never got a picture of the star GTO.

Was the Price Right?

As the only example of the model to be offered at auction in many years, there were two possibilities. It could set a new record, or it could be a mythbuster, proving the “$50 million dollar Ferrari” hype was all eyewash. It did both. The hammer price was $34,650,000, setting a new record, but nowhere near what the buzz had the crowd expecting. Of course the popular media called it $38 million, because it’s more sensational. The buyer actually paid $38,115,oo0 plus taxes.

Pundits blamed the “low” price on the car’s unfortunate history, with the only fatality attributed to the model, and the fact that it had been rebuilt after the crash. But the latter is a common issue with old racing cars, and the former is sometimes a factor in inflating a car’s value if it’s infamous enough. We won’t know until the next one comes up at auction. Don’t hold your breath.

The Classy Ones

Among the other live auctions over the long weekend (Rick Cole’s is by remote only) there are two styles.

Mecum, Barrett-Jackson and Russo & Steele are of the circus ring variety, with floor managers hollering and an auctioneer rattling off the patter of a livestock auction. Not our cup of Earl Grey.

Gooding & Co. and RM are of the Sotheby’s style with dignified auctioneers playing the individual bidders against each other with respect, patience and wit as in a fine art auction.

Of the two, RM has the advantage  of being right in downtown Monterey, with ample public parking at a reasonable price and free if you don’t mind walking. Cars are displayed inside the Portola Inn and outside on the large brick-paved plaza. You have to pay to see the cars on the plaza, more if you want to see many of the marquee consignments, even more if you want to be in the hall during bidding.

Both typically have star offerings, and they usually vie with each other for top sale and most total sales. Last year RM had the Ferrari 275GTB/4S that beat Gooding’s 2011 auction record for Ferraris, set with the prototype Ferrari Testa Rossa.

Gooding displays their cars in large well-lit tents where the shuttle buses drop you off from the public parking at Spanish Bay. Since one is right there after watching the awards at the Pebble Beach Concours, and Charley Ross is easily the best auctioneer in the business, the Gooding wins our loyalty.

Gooding's Ferris Bueller Ferrari

Gooding & Co. offered an example of one of the most sought-after open Ferraris, the 250 GT Short Wheelbase (SWB) California Spider that was immortalized (and wrecked) in the teen-rebellion comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not to worry. The one in the movie was a fake.

Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 Special

There was considerable debate as to whether this 1966 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Special, coachwork by Drogo, and consensus selection for “worlds ugliest Ferrari” would meet expectations that had Gooding estimating its value at between $400,000 and $600,000.

Ferrari SWB Berlinetta at Gooding

Successful precursor to the Ferrari 250 GTO, the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta (Italian for “little sedan”) is the next most sought-after Ferrari Coupe. Gooding declined to list an estimate range for this car.

Unrestored Duesenberg With Dash Inset

Fewer than 1,000 Duesenberg Models J, SJ and JN were made. Most of those still working have been restored at one time or another, but this Murphy-bodied J Convertible Sedan is, in the collector-car vernacular, “unmolested.” The cliché is “A car is only original once,” and Gooding estimated that meant it would bring between $1,350,000 and $1,750,000.

Silver 289 Cobra

Unlike the Duesenberg above, while the patina on this 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra CSX2567 is well-earned, you would never accuse the car of being “unmolested.” The original owner is unknown, and it has been modified for racing. So while a more original Cobra with better provenance might expect to bring up to a million and a half, this one was estimated to bring about half that.

CSX 2005 In McCluskey's Shop

The Gooding people though Mike McCluskey’s reputation for expert work on Cobras would boost the value of this, the 5th production, CSX2005,  and they mention it in their catalog. Here it is in his shop ready for trimming out a month or so before the 50th Anniversary tribute at the NHRA museum in Pomona back in 2012. It bears a “T” for “Training” instead of a race number because it was used in the Shelby School of Performance Driving. It also appeared in a couple of movies. Gooding thought that history would help it sell for over $2,000,000.

Other Interesting Consignments

There were hundreds of cars being offered at all those auctions, but the one I was looking forward to was a car at RM that had been on display at the Petersen Museum up until about a week before. Displayed with a couple of others previously owned by Steve McQueen, it’s a Ferrari 275GTB/4.

McQueen 275 GTB4

I admit that curiosity over the “McQueen Bump” had me awaiting bids on the Ferrari 275GTB/4 he once owned. This car was briefly displayed with others from his collection at the Petersen. At least five other 275 GTBs were on the block in Monterey so we’ll see how much that “bump” is worth now.

That takes care of Friday. The Concorso Italiano was Saturday this year, so we’ll have our report on that event in the next issue – along with Saturday’s auction results. Stay tuned.

Carma is a publication of
The OM Dude Press
a service of
Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monterey 2014 – 5 Days of Automotive Porn – Day 2

Thursday – The Tour

The Morning Mists of Monterey

If, like your correspondent, your accommodations are outside the local (read: event-inflated) area, you have to get up pretty early to park within walking distance of the start of the Tour d’Elegance. They don’t leave until 8:00 but it’s exciting to watch them unloading their precious cargo from the transporters and staging them, while munching a donut from the Hagerty courtesy tent.

Among the first cars staged was Jon Shirley’s unusual 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Coupe, rebodied by Scaglietti after a crash. It went on to be the first postwar car in 46 years to win Best in Show at the Big Event.

1954 Ferrari 275 MM

Lucas King of the Road Headlight on Daimler

Above: Last year’s sunny start was an anomaly, and this year Monterey’s usual morning mist sparkled the gleaming brass of the 106 year-old Daimler TC48 Roi des Belges’ Lucas King of the Road Headlamp.

1910 American Underslung

The first car one sees upon entering the Streetscape at the Petersen Museum is a 1911 American Underslung. Seeing William Johnson and Ronald Elenbaas’ 1910 Traveler Toy Tonneau (above) gives one hope that when the Museum is through with its remodel, their car will have been restored to this level of quality.

Ruxton at Tour Start

The Petersen Automotive Museum entered one of the rarest cars from the classic era, a 1929 Ruxton C Roadster built by Baker-Rauling. There were some sixteen Ruxtons entered in a special class this year, out of a total production of fewer than a hundred.

Yellow Testa Rossa

This year there was a special class for the legendary Ferrari Testa Rossas, like this 1959 example from Bruce McCaw, in Belgian racing colors. It won ten international races between 1959 and 1961. I don’t speak Italian, but if the name of the carrozzeria that designed and built its body – Fantuzzi - doesn’t mean “fantasy,” it should.

NART Spyder

Dr. Rick and Angie Workman of Windermere, Florida brought one of ten Ferrari 275 GTB/4S Spyders built. If two is a trend, then these cars tend to be sold at auction for good causes. Last August a one-family car sold in Monterey at RM for 25 million dollars (plus fees) with all proceeds going to charity. The guide does not say how much this one brought for its causes in 1998.

Bojangles Duesey

Rob Hilarades of Visalia, California drove the 1935 Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Duesenberg JN. Much of the uproar over the divestiture of some of the cars in the Petersen Collection was just noise, but this one must have hurt. An African-American who could afford a $17,000 Duesenberg during the depression, when a Ford was about $500, was a historical phenomenon. But the Petersen also has a terrific SJ. Tough decision.

GT40 MK III

Like the Jaguar XK-SS, the Ford GT40 MKIII was essentially a race car made street legal (With more ground clearance, the 40 inch height that inspired the name probably does not apply.), and even fewer – only seven – were built. One is in the Petersen Museum’s collection and on display in Los Angeles in their “Worlds Greatest Sports Coupes” exhibit. This is Gary W. Bartlett’s of Muncie, Indiana.

Multiple Chances

Fortunately, if all you want to do is see the cars, there are at least three other opportunities.

Along the Route

Download the 75-mile route from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance website and choose a spot where you can see and photograph the cars against a scenic backdrop, of which there is an abundance.

Bixby Bridge is a popular spot, but you either get good pictures of the cars, or an image that shows the bridge to advantage. It’s a problem of scale.

Bixby Bridge

Coming north from the Los Angeles area in 2009, I timed my arrival (you have to leave really early) at Bixby Bridge so that I could photograph the Tour cars as they passed in both directions. I also saved a night’s lodging. This is the one shot that showed the bridge’s historic concrete arches. If there had been cars on the bridge, they’d have came out tiny.

Bixby Bridge Variety 02

 With patience and a tripod in 2010. A Bugatti leads Aston Martin, Tatra, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Duesenberg, with a Packard bringing up the rear. Usually the tour cars are mixed in with rented tourist Hyundais, construction contractors’ rigs, and trucks delivering supplies to the shops and restaurants in Big Sur.

Right at the corner of Rio Road and Pacific Coast Highway is where I first saw them, and there is parking nearby. Or just park along PCH south of there, anywhere it’s legal.

The Carmel Assembly

The next opportunity is when the cars are gathered on Ocean Avenue for public display. Be warned. It appears the entire Monterey Peninsula knows about this and descends on Carmel for this event. Parking within ten blocks is nearly impossible after about 10:00, and the cars do not start to arrive until about noon. Wear comfortable shoes and carry liquids.

Despite the hassles, this is an extraordinary opportunity, one that must give the owners of these beautiful, valuable, and meticulously prepared cars ulcers. If you attend, you are begged to exercise restraint, and keep your children, pets, riveted Levi’s, dangling cameras, and belt buckles well away from them.

Sir Sterling

With the press of the crowd, photography at the Carmel display is hard to get, and besides, for me there was the start, and there’s always Sunday. I concentrated my efforts toward elbowing my way through the mob trying to get a shot of Sir Stirling Moss, author of the greatest open road race performance of all time, the 1955 Mile Miglia, in Mercedes SLR number 722 (for its order of departure), sitting in his 300SL Gullwing.

Lastly and most obviously, you can pay the $275 per person ($300 on Event Day) and actually go to the Concours on Sunday. You can get a free program, poster, catered breakfast and lunch, and VIP parking by purchasing Club d’Elegance passes. Last I looked these were about $450 per person, but by 2015 they may have gone up. If you split the cost of one pass among a carload of attendees, the parking alone is almost worth the premium. (It’s only good for two admissions.) You’ll need to draw straws to see who gets the free stuff.

Carma is a publication of
The OM Dude Press
a service of
Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monterey 2014 – Five Days of Automotive Porn – Day One

Wednesday

Little Cars, Big Deal

There are events at Monterey as early as Monday, but for those who don’t have a car that qualifies for the Quail Tour, your best bet is to arrive before noon Wednesday for the Little Car Show in Pacific Grove, free to the public. The name is quite literal, but while there is a specified upper displacement limit of about 1,500 cc, there were cars on display with up to 2,196 cc.

Among the prettiest cars on display was the Abarth Allemano Coupe below.

Abarth Allemano Coupe

Meyers Manxes

Above: This year there was an entire row of Meyers Manx dune buggies. Note the red flag with the Isle of Mann heraldic symbol. Some might have thought the show was for the birds (upper right).

Craig Vetter with YR-1 and Sigil

That Isle of Mann sigil was the inspiration for Craig Vetter’s Logo (inset left). Craig (above), his brother Bruce and your correspondent were at the University of Illinois in the late ’60s when he started his motorcycle fairing business. That’s his second fairing (with graphics by yours truly and Carroll Shelby) on my Yamaha YR-1 on the right. His aerodynamic studies have led to this all-day comfortable luxury motorcycle that only needs 16 horsepower to reach any legal speed.

Mini

Those familiar only with today’s Minis would be astonished by the dimensions and austerity of the original. This 1973 version has all of 37 horsepower.

Volkswagens, DKWs, Renault 2CVs, MGs, a couple of Bantams and their predecessor, the American Austin, Porsches, Fiats and Minis of course, and the marque conspicuous by its absence the last time I blogged about it, Alfa Romeo, all in a lovely setting with good food available on every side.

Alfa Jr Zagato

Ruth Ann Yager rolls onto the Little Car Show field in her sexy Alfa Junior Zagato. It seems the philosophy when Zagato designed it was that sports cars are for driving, not for parking.

To dive into the Monterey experience with one of the big events like the Concorso Italiano, the Tour d’Elegance, or – Oh my! – the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance itself way be a bit overwhelming for some. The Little Car Show in Pacific Grove, coming as it does before these three, is a perfect way to dip a toe in the water and mix with a smaller, more low-key crowd. If you still have not experienced this August ritual, you could do worse than start here. If the drive is short enough, you wouldn’t even have to book lodging.

 

Carma is a publication of
The OM Dude Press
a service of
Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Most Beautiful Ferrari?

Rotating Exhibits

Greatest Sports Coupes Burgundy Lusso

Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum has an extensive collection but they count on a long list of friends and associates for the loan of many cars for special exhibits. Since their “The World’s Greatest Sports Coupe” exhibit opened, two of the cars that were displayed the first day had to find substitutes. One was the burgundy Ferrari 250GT Lusso (above), which was absent for a few days until they found a blue car to take its place (below).

World's Best Sports Coupes Lusso Blue

Form and Function 

I once read the opinion that there have been few really beautiful Ferraris. That could be argued either way, but it is true that their reputation tends to get in the way of an objective assessment. Founder Enzo Ferrari always admitted that he only sold road-going Ferraris so that he could race, and a racing car is as a racing car does, so styling is not a high design priority. That being said, the customer cars had to please the client, and anyway, Italians seem genetically incapable of making anything actually ugly, so even the racing cars were at least attractive.

Barchetta

With its overhead-cam 2.0-liter Giacchino Colombo-designed V12, Ferrari’s 166 MM Barchetta was outrageously exotic in 1948. Its Superleggera styling by Carrozzeria Touring was certainly influential (See AC’s Ace and by extension Shelby’s Cobra), a bit brutal perhaps, but calling it pretty seems to me to be a stretch.

As a youngster my knowledge of Ferrari style was limited to what  I saw on the pages of Road & Track. I thought the Testa Rossa looked cool, but I’d be embarrassed to recall what my undeveloped sense of automotive aesthetics would have called “beautiful” then. Some of the road-going Ferraris of the late fifties and early sixties were handsome, but by then I knew what they cost, and that probably interfered with an unbiased assessment.

Seeing one at rare car events in Illinois did not change that, and it was not until the seventies that I saw one that I would have said was beautiful, a 275 GTB owned by a neighbor of my folks on Lido Island in Newport Beach, California.

Then I went to Monterey in 2003. On a glorious California day in August I found myself standing between rows of old Monterey pines halfway up the fairway on a par five hole at Black Horse Bayonet Golf Links in Seaside. There were Ferraris staged nose to tail all the way up either side. Down the middle was another row arrayed side-by-side – and that was only a fraction of the entire show. As a car nut, on my first visit to Concorso Italiano, I had achieved Nirvana. I stood there in a sea of Prancing Horses, and I did not have to do anything. Just being there was deep down soul-satisfying.

Ferrari Row Concorso 2003

No matter how much you may think you appreciate cars, nothing can prepare you for your first experience of Monterey’s Concorso Italiano in August, where you will see more Italian automotive art than any other place on earth. This year they’ve returned to the setting where I first saw them.

That’s where I saw my first Ferrari 250 GT Lusso.

Lusso-Red Dick and Ephraim

My co-conspirator (and now credentialed photographer) Ephraim Levy and me at Concorso Italiano, on Black Horse Bayonet Golf Links in Seaside, California, August, 2003. That was my first experience of the Ferrari 250GT Lusso, and memorable enough that we coerced another spectator into snapping this picture.

Something about this car’s proportions, the airy interior with its slender roof pillars. the fastback roofline and Kammback tail, the long low nose, the subtle rise of the fenders over the rear wheels – details like the polished aluminum-rim Borrani chromed wire wheels, bumperettes, driving lamps – all comes together in perfect harmony. The interior, with its diamond-pattern italian leather, especially in the color the British call “biscuit” is luscious. I fell helplessly in love.

Lusso Interior Biscuit

When Nissan introduced the Datsunj 240Z in 1969, the interior featured diamond-pattern quilted vinyl on the luggage deck. Not quite the Lusso’s butter-soft Italian leather, but you know what they say about imitation. Roomier than the typical Ferrari sports coupe, one might expect fitted luggage, but no. To be honest, the Jaguar E-Type’s side-opening hatch was way more convenient on that score.

Lineage – Italian Sports Car Luxury

Ferrari’s 250 GT line was very successful, but it was drawing to its close. They needed a car to follow the 25o GT SWB – something with more than the shell bucket seats and bare aluminum panels of the racing cars to attract the kind of buyer who would shell out $13,000 for a two-seater when the average American car cost under $2,500, while they developed the 275 GTB. Elegance was the word, and the 250GT Berlinetta Lusso (Italian for “luxury) was the answer.

Masterfully designed by Pininfarina (whose escutcheon is unaccountably absent from the fender of some examples) and executed in steel by Carrozzeria Scaglietti on a modified GTO chassis, it was roomier than the SWB, and yet relatively light for a luxury GT, weighing 2,249 pounds. (The SWB weighed 2,420.) It was a short-lived model, with only 351 produced from 1963 to 1964, with a list price of $13,375.

The short production run is what invites speculation that it was a stop-gap measure, to fill in while the 275 with its sophisticated transaxle and independent rear suspension, was developed. The Lusso was burdened with the previous model’s antedeluvian live axle and leaf springs, at a time when E-type Jaguars and even Sting Ray Corvettes had adopted IRS. At least they’d gone to four-wheel disc brakes by then.

Of course the 250GT’s 60° three-liter single-overhead-cam 24-valve Columbo V12 continued as the power plant. In this form it produced 250 horsepower, redlined at an ear-pleasing 8,000 rpm. Contemporary road tests put the zero-62.5 mph (100 kph) time at between six and seven seconds. An E-Type might outrun it at the top end, but the Ferrari sounded better doing it!

Lusso Profile

Is there a more elegant profile? Never mind that the restorer left the front marker  light drooping.

Me In Lusso 2010

I can dream, can’t I? Three years after a similar car failed to sell for a high bid of $400,000, Ephraim catches your correspondent in this Lusso (in the proper red/biscuit colors), which was gaveled at $550,000 at Gooding & Co. at Pebble Beach in 2010. This year they have two, one (Chassis 5791 – Number 324 out of 351) with a pre-auction estimate of $1,750,000 – $2,500,00, and the other (5249GT, unrestored, original, 20,350 miles) is what the Tour de France Cyclists might call “hors categorie” – beyond category. In other words, if you have to ask, you won’t be bidding.

Provenance is the Thing

The automotively aware responded favorably to the new design, and well-known owners included Formula One racing team owner and distillery scion Rob Walker, Eric Clapton, and Steve McQueen.

Matt Stone devotes more than six  pages to McQueen’s Marrone (the color of the chocolate on your ice cream sundae) 250GT Lusso in his McQueen’s Machines. Most of it is complimentary, with references to long fast road trips and cruising around Los Angeles, with one photo that would not have been out of place in The Thomas Crown Affair for Cosmopolitan in 1964. Although he kept the car for about four years, eventually soft valve guides that led to persistent oil burning and expensive repairs (Is there another kind on a Ferrari?) had him selling the car in 1967, according to Stone.

In late 2000, Nethercutt Collection President Mike Regalia, who bought the car in 1997, began a painstaking restoration. As often happens, the work dragged on, finishing up just in time for the car to appear by invitation to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where I saw it in 2005.

Steve McQueen Lusso LF

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 2005. Fresh from a comprehensive restoration by Nethercutt president Mike Regalia, former Steve McQueen chocolate/caramel Ferrari 250GT Lusso receives admiring gazes. Any car that looks that good in brown deserves a place among the greats.

It went on to achieve a Platinum Award at both the January Cavallino Classic and Rodeo Drive Concours in 2006, and best in Class at Amelia Island in March.

It will be interesting to see where prices for these cars have gone. In 2007, the same weekend a Lusso without provenance failed to sell for $400,000 at the RM Auction, McQueen’s sold for $2,300,000 at Christies. This year a late production car is up at Gooding & Co. with a pre-auction estimate up around the McQueen car’s territory – between $1,750,000 and $2,500,00, and another is listed at “Available on Request” which usually means  they expect bids to go through the roof. Stay tuned!

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shelby’s Step-child

Ford Mustang GT 350

50th Anniversary Celebration

PetersenMustang Madness 1st Notchback ssX50

The first serial-numbered Mustang was a convertible. The first Mustang notchback to carry a serial number was this car, assembled from miscellaneous sources at a pre-production facility in February 1964, and originally shipped to Vancouver, B. C. It was unaccountable diverted to Whitehorse Yukon Territory, where they had no clue what it was. They used it for a demonstrator, and it knocked around Canada and Alaska, eventually found in New Mexico by its current owner, Bob Fria.

The first Ford Mustangs appeared at dealerships in April, 1964, fifty years ago. Naturally, with what could be argued is the most valuable model name in the automotive industry, Ford is promoting the anniversary heavily and coupling it with the make or break 2015 redesign.

The Petersen Automotive Museum, always anxious to tie its themes of automotive history and Southern California to current developments, has teamed with mega-dealer Galpin Motors of North Hills, CA, to present a retrospective of Mustangs, from 1964-1/2 notchback serial number 0001, through one of three pre-production 2015 Mustangs currently existing (both since moved on), with representatives of all the generations in between and some cool specials from Galpin’s extensive collection.

Shelby – Personal Trainer for the Mustang

Most car nuts are familar with the Ford-powered Shelby Cobras of the early sixties, and how they were succesful in racing against the previously dominant Chevrolet Corvettes. Ford observed though, that as an expensive boutique two-seat sports car of low production volume, the Cobra did not lure people into Ford showrooms to buy other Fords. They wanted a car of broader appeal. They thought a racing Mustang could fill that bill.

A properly-equipped Mustang (especially one with the “K-code” high performance 289 V8) was a satisfying performance car for the street, but it was not suitable for racing against the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) B-Sports Racing Corvettes. To get a car that would provide the “halo effect” for those  Mustangs, Ford turned to the Cobra’s developer, Carroll Shelby, who reluctantly took on the task, delegating it to a team of engineers and racers, with the goal of producing enough race-capable Mustangs to qualify for production-class racing.

Carroll called on former Chevrolet engineer Chuck Cantwell, who had help from racers Bob Bondurant and Ken Miles, as well as Ford’s chief suspension engineer, Klause Arning. They modified the underpinnings, hot-rodded the engine, and came up with what we now know as the GT350.

For SCCA certification, three prototype “R” model GT350s were lined up with 110 standard Wimbledon White Mustang Fastbacks that the inspectors included in the count to meet the “production” quota specified by the SCCA that required that 100 be “constructed” by a December 1964 deadline. They fudged the numbers, giving Shelby until April, when the racing season started, to build 100. Only 34 or 35 “R” models were built (sources differ), but all the parts necessary to convert an “S” model to racing specs were available in a $1,500 package, or ala carte.

There are two stories about where the “GT350″ name comes from. One says Shelby wanted to go Ferrari’s current “250GT” one better, and the other is that he asked project supervisor Phil Remington how far it was from the office in Venice to the shops, and he said 350 feet. Make your own judgment.

Gapin's Barn Find GT-350

GT350 Registration Number SFM5S492, on display at the Petersen’s 50th Anniversary Mustang Exhibit. A rare 44,000 mile unrestored original car delivered to Galpin in 1965 with a sticker prices of $5,200, it had only two owners before Galpin bought it back at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale in 2012 for $350,000  plus commission.

GT350 Owner's Manual Mods Illustration

Above: The GT350’s Owner’s Manual includes a diagram of all the parts unique to the model. Apparently the wood-rim steering wheel was not considered a performance upgrade.
Below: A bit of humor, and a dose of early 60’s non-PC sexism, was included in a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer.

Disclaimer

The Production GT350 was crude, for a road car, but exceedingly effective. With few concessions to comfort, it followed Road & Track editor Tony Hogg’s definition of a sports car, with nothing added that didn’t make it go faster (and corner more tenaciously).

Inside Spare Mount With Galpin Inset

The Goodyear Blue Dot Semi-racing tires on Steve Beck’s SFM5S258 have long ago been retired, but the full size spare on the five-tire rotatable Cragar wheel (chromed steel rim, alloy center) is mounted as they were when they left Shelby’s shop. A running change (There were no production drawings nor part numbers for many parts until 1966.) left the quarter vents on Steve’s car blank on the inside, unlike those in the Galpin car in the Museum’s exhibit (inset).

The most obvious change from a stock Mustang Fastback (until the engine fires up) is the absence of a rear seat, a consequence of the SCCA’s definition of a “Sports Car” as a two-seater. Ordinary Mustangs competed (successfully) in the Trans-Am Sedan Championship. Mounting the spare where the seat was removed conveyed a no-nonsense image appropriate for a racing machine.

A lightweight fiberglass hood, secured with NASCAR-style quick-release hood pins, and three-inch wide racing seat belts were further clues.

Hood, R-Bumper, Pass Seat Belt

More typical of a well-used GT350, Steve Beck’s SFM5S258 has been freshened and upgraded. He gave it a high-quality repaint (It was green when he bought it.) and removed aftermarket drag racing shackles. The hood is original, while the racing seat and fiberglass racing front valence are from the factory catalogue. The grille is from a ’66, and the headlights are high-powered Marchals. Special Order Fords carried the letters “DSO” (District Service Operation) in yellow on the differential case (present but not shown).

When the car starts, any doubt about its purpose fades. Among the engine modifications are welded tubular headers leading through minimal “glass-pack” mufflers to straight exhaust pipes exiting in front of the rear wheels, NASCAR-style. Car and Driver’s August 1965 road test states, “The sound level, from inside the car or out, had virtually no parallel in the history of touring-type automobiles.”

GT350 Right Side ExhaustI

No nonsense here. Chrome exhaust tips give way to plain sewer pipe, as the lightly muffled exhaust exits through NASCAR-style side pipes – loudly.

Other modifications were equally serious. The four-barrel carburetor (rejetted to match the freer-flowing exhaust) is mounted on a special high-rise manifold. Horsepower was rated at 306, a 35 hp increase over the already potent-for-its-day K-code “hi-po” solid lifter 289. More could be had with a little tinkering.

GT350 Engine Bay

Cast aluminum “Cobra” rocker covers, the “Monte Carlo” chassis brace in front of the air cleaner, and Koni adjustable shocks, tops visible above, are cues that this is a GT350. The SCCA allowed modifications to the suspension or engine, but not both. With up to 385 horsepower achievable, most racers just cranked the Konis up to their stiffest setting and mounted the best tires they could get. This is the “cheater” 307 cubic inch engine in Steve Beck’s SFM5S258. He showed his taillights to Petersen co-founder Bruce Meyer’s similar car, which Steve describes as a nice example.

The most radical difference between the 1965 GT350 and a stock Mustang (and later 1966 GT350s) is underneath. There you’ll find a pair of traction bars to rein in the tendency of the rear leaf springs to wind up under heavy acceleration, causing axle tramp. In drag racing practice these would be attached to the bottom of the axle, but here they are mounted over it, thus requiring the clearance of the raised rear deck.

The front suspension is lowered two inches, and the A-arm mounts are relocated to improve camber for better cornering. A “Monte Carlo” bar (after the European rally where Ford’s Falcons were successful) connects the tops of the fenders to stiffen the chassis under cornering loads, and a one-inch diameter anti-roll bar substituted for the stock 0.84″ number helps the cars corner flatter. Koni  adjustable shock absorbers are fitted all around.

To help with weight distribution, the battery was initially moved to the trunk, then back up front in response to complaints about corrosion and fumes. The front brakes had racing pads, while the rear drums were the three-quarter-inch wider units from the station wagons.

Denise McCluggage, who raced against these cars back when they were new, was used to driving (and winning in) those 250GT Ferraris, and told me she was not impressed.

The cars came from Ford with Kelsey-Hayes steel wheels that were almost always replaced with the optional Kragar “semi-mags” (steel rim, alloy center). The 1965 cars were fitted with Goodyear “Blue Dot” tires rated for a sustained speed of 130 miles per hour.

Stripe & Wheel

Cobra Daytona Coupe designer Pete Brock penned what became the car’s trademark – the American Racing Blue rocker panel and hood stripes. When I first saw SFM5S258 in 2003, it wore the obligatory aftermarket American Racing Torque-Thrust mags. These are Steve’s correct Cragars.

Reinforcing the Museum’s theme of California leading the nation (and the world) in automotive trends, all GT350s started life at the San Jose Ford plant, from which they were delivered “body in white” to Hugh Piper’s shop, which is still on Motor Avenue in Palms. Shelby’s operations were about four and a half miles away in Venice, with  offices at 1042 Princeton. Assembly was performed at 322 Carter.

All the 1965 cars were Wimbeldon White, with Pete Brock’s American Racing Blue “GT350″ stripes on the rocker panels. Reports say that only 28% of cars were delivered in 1965 with the familiar twin blue stripes on hood, roof, and rear deck, but dealers could add them at the buyer’s request. Now it is rare to see one without them.

Few other cosmetic changes were incorporated. The stock Mustang’s optional center-dash gauge package of tachometer and oil and temperature guages was standard, as was a wood-rimmed steering wheel with the “angry snake” Cobra emblem in the hub.

Steering Wheel Inset

Steve is justifiably proud of the rare three-hole-spoke steering wheel fitted to his car. All but 75 were equipped with the three-double-spoke wheel in the Galpin car (inset). He cautioned me not to use the steering wheel to lever myself into the too-tight-for-real-people racing seat (an “R” package item). It’s not built for chinning. Steve raced the car 60 or 70 times, until rich guys started showing up with multiple transporters and gourmet chefs. Note the Hurst Shifter for the Ford Top-Loader transmission that replaced the original Borg-Warner T-10 that tended to pop out of gear on the downhill at Willow Springs Raceway. He added the oil and water temperature gauges under the dash pod.

Although the plexiglass quarter windows of the ’66 cars look racy, the ’65s are the purist’s cars (except for the first 24, which were leftover ’65s, relabeled). In ’66 they dropped the Mustang name (warranty issues?); the traction bars were gone, allowing the fold-down rear seat as an option; and you could rent one from Hertz. You could even get a bleeping automatic.

GT35o Memories

My only GT350 memory from back in the day is of seeing one at the Ford store in Champaign, Illinois when I was in Architecture School. I had read all the reports, so I knew it had been tested at 6.5 seconds from zero to 60, about a half-second faster than the Honda CB77 Super Hawk that was my transportation at the time. Its top speed of 135 was about five miles an hour above the speed rating on the tires, and ‘way faster than I had ever driven. I didn’t have the chuzpah to ask for a test drive but a buddy was not so timid. He reported that those traction bars did not completely tame the rear axle hop under a drag-racing start.

My brother Duncan’s Shelby involvement started in spring 1966 when he was just entering Air Force Pilot Training. Shelby people refer  to their cars by registration number and he had two, a fairly early car – SFM5S204 –  and another later  one – SFM5S413. He recalls on first driving 204, he thought, “I must be in heaven,” a thought echoed by my friend Ephraim, who test drove a one-owner car in 1974, which he just missed buying for all the cash he could scrape up – $936. They were just old used cars then.

Dunc’s 204 was later completely restored by two Cobra and Shelby legends, Mike McCluskey of Torrance, and the engine specialist Dave Dralle, who works out of Rosemond, near Willow Springs Raceway. Duncan hasn’t seen that car since.

He reports the transmission, an alloy-case Borg-Warner T-10, while adequate on the street, was subject to tailshaft and synchromesh failure in racing. The usual remedy came from Ford’s parts bin – their excellent tough and versatile top-loader gearbox.

Dunc’s old number SFM5S413 appeared as consignment 103 at Gooding & Co.’s Pebble beach Auction in 2010, and sold for $165,000, a bargain you’d only dream of today.

Gooding GT350 SFM5S413

At Monterey in August, 2010,  GT350s, GT500s, GT500KRs and assorted fakes were as common as weeds, so when one appeared in Gooding & Co.’s auction preview I didn’t bother getting a picture. Fortunately I did get a wide-angle shot of the red Jaguar XK-120 in front of it, so later as I was thumbing through their slick two-volume catalogue, I had an image to go with the exerpt that showed it was  my brother’s old SFM5S413, all detailed and ready to gavel at a cool $165,000.

SFM5S258 Profile

Steve Beck’s BMW specialty shop, Check Point Automotive, is where the Los Angeles Shelby American Automobile Club holds their annual Christmas party, “just up the road from where it all began” (less than 2 miles). It was there in 2003 that I first saw his SFM5S258, the car he’d bought on his 18th birthday in 1974 for $900. This particular car once spent three months duty in the Shelby High Performance Driving School, which gives the car what collectors call “provenance.” That means it adds value.

Perspective

There have been some great Mustangs in the last 50 years. They’ve appeared in many movies, and starred in some. A couple of non-stock models have spawned replicas, like the highland green 1967 930 Fastback Steve McQueen and stunt drivers Bud Ekins and Loren James drove in the famous chase scene in Bullitt, or Eleanor, the customized 1968 GT500 that frustrates the Nicholas Cage character in the remake of Gone in 60 Seconds.

Carroll Shelby reportedly took little interest in the GT350 – until they began winning races. GT350s won the SCCA Road Racing Championship three years running, easily justifying Ford’s experiment. So now when the best Mustangs are recalled, only two stock-based cars have the series-racing credentials  to qualify for legendary status, and one could argue that the second, the Boss 302, would never have happened if not for the first, the GT350.

That they have “arrived” at collector car status was remarked on by none other than the original development team leader, Chuck Cantwell, who in Road & Track’s 50th anniversary article, pointed out that while all the high-end collectors at Pebble beach may have their Duesenbergs and Ferraris, they also have GT 350s.

Finally, it is ironic that Ford’s argument for a more “affordable” Corvette-beater as an alternative to the Cobra kind of loses strength when you note that a race-ready GT35o with the $1,500 “R” package cost $5,995, while a base Cobra listed at $5,595.

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Los Angeles Auto Show – Is Lincoln on Life Support?

The Lincoln MXZ

Whither the Hot Rod Lincoln?

You’ve probably heard some cover version of the late Charlie Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln,” maybe by Commander Cody, or George Thorogood. Johnny Cash and Roger Miller also recorded versions. In the song, a guy driving a hot rod with a Ford model A body and a Lincoln V12 (a V8 in the later versions) chases and overtakes a Cadillac sedan up the Grapevine Hill, the pass that connects the Los Angeles Basin with the Central Valley.

The story ends with a punch line, but in case you’ve never heard it, I won’t spoil it. You can look it up on YouTube.

The song had a sequel of sorts. Back in 1952, 1953 and 1954, Lincolns won the stock car class in the Carrera Panamericana, commonly called the “Mexican Road Race.”

An 8mm film of one of those races convinced my dad to drive the family from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where Mom took us kids to the Detroit Zoo while he negotiated the purchase of a slightly used 1953 Cosmopolitan Coupe. I was ten, but I still remember the sound of chirping rubber as the guy who earlier had provided the film took it for a test drive, once we got it home.

1952 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

The 1953 Lincoln we had (ours was two-tone brown and beige) was little changed from the 1952, as shown above, from a contemporary ad.

In that context, what is Lincoln doing at the 2013 Los Angeles International Auto Show, introducing the MKC, a compact SUV concept, whose signature feature is a system that senses the approach of the owner (or whoever has the key I suppose) and lays down a “welcome mat” of light at the doors?

Meanwhile Cadillac is showing the new CTS with 420 horsepower, more than twice that of Dad’s Carrera Panamericana replica coupe. The largest engine available in the similar-size Lincoln MKZ is a 231 hp turbo four. Sorry, Lincoln, 400 horsepower is the new 200.

Lincoln MKC

The MKC compact SUV. Its 2.3 liter turbo four puts out 275 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. This is Lincoln’s idea of an exciting vehicle to boost its image in the luxury car market? Nice try, but . .

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The MKZ, Lincoln’s latest sedan (above) features a hybrid drivetrain with 188 horsepower (EPA 45/45 mpg) at no premium over a 231 horsepower turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine, but Cadillac’s base CTS sedan (below) boasts 272 and the top “V” version offers 420, while braking from 60 miles per hour in under 100 feet.

Cadillac CTS

The Market

Historically, luxury cars have typically had big powerful engines. One of their attractions has always been their ability to carry the occupants long distances at high average speeds in safety and serene comfort. For too long American luxury car manufacturers put their emphasis on comfort, exemplified by the ubiquitous airport limo Lincoln Town Car, and  lost sight of the performance side of the luxury equation.

Meanwhile, the European luxury makes emphasized precision handling and outright speed. In-house tuners like those at BMW (“M” Division) and Mercedes (AMG) captured the imagination of those who wanted their expensive cars to go, turn, and stop, as well as look good and cosset them, honing the road manners of their cars on Germany’s famous Nurburgring road race venue.

Cadillac finally embraced that lesson, and began engineering their cars to compete with the best of the Germans. Today they routinely test their cars on the same Nordschleife section of the “Ring,” turning lap times the equal of Europe’s best.

Without Jaguar (sold to the Indian group Tata in 2008, along with Land Rover) to shore up the high-profit luxury end of their market share, Ford may be shooting itself in the foot by leaving Lincoln (now The Lincoln Motor Company) to fight for a dwindling number of old buyers lured by the name.

Lincoln needs more than a prestigious history and electronic gimmicks to sell expensive cars. Ford has a turbo V6 in the Taurus that makes 368 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque – way down at 1500 rpm! Why are they fiddling with the grille on an SUV when they should be massaging that engine to make a new Hot Rod Lincoln? How about joining two turbo v6s for a 736 horsepower V12?

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exotic (or not) Rides at 2013 L A Auto Show

On the Road

One of the features of the Los Angeles International Auto Show Press Days that we look forward to every year is the opportunity to drive or be driven in, however briefly, some of the latest in new green technology. This year provided some especially good choices to sample.

A Few Surprises

VWXL-1

Volkswagen’s XL-1 looks like something out of a science fiction film. Its availability at the Ride and Drive  caught many journalists (your correspondent included) by surprise. Built to meet the European economy challenge of under 1 liter of fuel consumed per 100 kilometers, 250 examples of this 800 kilo (1760 pound) streamliner are expected to cost about $150,000. No, they did not let us drive it, but the ride confirmed its “not ready for prime time” nature, with its clattery turbodiesel range extender right behind the passenger’s ear.

The Very Latest Thing

BMWi3-01

BMW has demonstrated a rare commitment to sustainable transportation, bringing out the first mainstream car with a carbon-fiber frame (inset), the all-electric i3. There were twenty-five or thirty of these on hand for the press to drive. Perhaps more amazing, they let us loose on our own, trusting us not to take off for Pechanga for a day of casino carousing. It’s apparent though that there is still some work to be done before we all embrace such a car. The rear doors won’t open without the cooperation of the front seat occupants, the rear windows don’t open at all, and there is a faint thrum in the chassis on every pavement bump. But it’s quiet and very peppy, zipping into any opening in traffic with gleeful alacrity. For those uncomfortable with the range anxiety of a pure electric, a range-extending internal combustion engine option, sourced from BMW’s motorcycles, is planned.

BMW i3 Interior

i3’s staid interior contrasts to more exuberant expression available in the Fiat 500e (below).

Fiat 500e

The opposite of BMW’s “scratch-built” approach to an electric is the more common, to replace the internal combustion engine and gas tank in an existing car with batteries and an electric motor, like the Fiat 500e above.  The trade-offs for that approach showed up in the drive, with a good deal less kick off the line, and a softer go-pedal response all up the range. Still, for about three quarters of the sticker price, it’s worth a look as a commuter.

Fiat 500e Interior

Like the Mini Cooper’s, the Fiat 500e’s interior is very self consciously styled. The danger in that approach is that people may love it or hate it.

BMW328d

The BMW 328d Sportwagon is the descendant of our family car, a ten year old BMW 325iT that we love, so it was practically mandatory that I give this one a try. With the added weight of BMW’s “X-Drive” all-wheel drive system, one might expect some sluggishness in its handling, but in our short drive no such faults appeared. It is entertaining though, to mash the throttle and have the 8-speed transmission upshift at such low rpm, taking advantage of the high torque of the new four cylinder turbo diesel, rather than letting the engine rev to a musical peak like most BMWs. That agreeable shove in the back will have many drivers changing their minds about diesel power.

Not So Exotic Anymore 

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

After the exotica of the turbo-diesel hybrid VW XL1 and the carbon fiber BMW i3 the Hundai Sonata Hybrid felt solidly mainstream. Performance is automotive-ordinary, and the EPA credits it with 36 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. That puts it well behind Honda’s new Accord Hybrid though. That car is this year’s Green Car of the Year, with 50 and 45.

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

Posted in Car Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment