Pebble Beach Concours 2017

Third Sunday in August

Any car buff worth his or her Bonneville Salt has few items on a bucket list more important, and if done right more enjoyable, than at least one chance to attend the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Once you have been to one, it’s difficult to pass it up in succeeding years.

Dawn Patrol

That subtitle is cribbed from an evocative video that was playing on the lobby big screen at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It fits the start of this column as well as any so we’ll stick with it.


You have to catch one of the first shuttles from the Spanish Bay parking to experience the early morning gloom that greets drivers as they bring their cars on the 18th fairway for display.


This is a bit late if you want to see the first arriving cars.

Dream Cars


The Petersen Museum’s Curator Leslie Kendall and Crew maneuver the Museum’s Tex Smith/George Barris XR-6 into display position. Winner of the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award in 1963, the car was invited to participate in a class for ’60s dream cars.


The last Bugatti Tipo 57, an updated ’65 chassis clothed in Ghia bodywork designed by Virgil Exner, who owned it and put fewer than 1,000 miles on it.


The Petersen Museum has the only Bosley Mark I ever built. Ohio horticulturist Richard Bosley only built one other car, this Mark II Interstate. Its fiberglass body rests on a C2 Corvette chassis, powered by a 345 horsepower Pontiac TriPower V8.


“Reactor,” the 1964 Gene Winfield Custom Coupe features an aluminum body welded to a steel tubular frame mounted onto a modified Citroen DS chassis. Power comes from a Corvair Monza Corsa Turbo. It appeared in many movies and TV shows, including a stint as Catwoman’s ride on the Batman show.


People often mistake the sparkles in outlandish customs for diamonds. In this case they are, included in the 30 coats of Swedish Pearl Essence applied by George Barris. Bobby Darin commissioned Chrysler stylist Edward V. Francoise to design the DiDia 150, which took $94,000 and seven years to build. Darin paid $150,000 for it in 1960.


Our image of the 1965 Pontiac Vivant didn’t come out well, so here’s the official photo of the class winner published by the Concours at their website. Created by Pontiac engineer Herb Adams, its Bertone B.A.T. aerodynamic studies’ influence is apparent.


The Dean Batchelor Trophy is awarded to the the most significant car related to our hot rod heritage. This year’s winner is Alex Tremulis’ extraordinary prototype two-wheeler, the Gyro X. The outrigger wheels only came into play when parked. When under power, a hydraulically-driven gyroscope kept the vehicle upright. It drove onto the ramp to receive its award without use of the training wheels.

Rolling In


There’s nothing quite like the thunder of a 427 Cobra to shake the sleep out of your eyes on a cold morning.


The 1955 Ferrari 375 Plus Pinin Farina Cabriolet Special (Easy for you to say!), arriving. When awards were presented later (much later), it won the Strother McMinn Trophy for Most Elegant Sports Car.


Frank Kurtis, designer of successful Indianapolis racers, built “the first true American car,” the Kurtis Sports Car that was later the basis for the Muntz Jet. For High School graduation he gave his son Arlen the pieces to this car. With help from the Kurtis Kraft staff he finished it in 1951. Arlen’s wife and sister found the car in 1990 and restored it for him, completing it in 2011, 60 years after he built it.

Provenance – Doubled

The manager of Mercedes-Benz factory racers, George Tilip, raced a 1954 300SL Gullwing to three SCCA Championships from 1955 – 1957. Then Chaparral builder Jim Hall bought the car and drove it from New Jersey to Carroll Shelby’s shop in Texas. He painted it candy apple red and installed air conditioning, desperately needed in Texas – especially in a car noted for its poor ventilation.


When there were still that now-extinct breed of automobile called the sports/racing car, it didn’t get much better than this. The judges probably marked it down for the aftermarket A/C.

This Year’s Honorees

There are classes that never go away, like Packard, Duesenberg, and Ferrari, but every year they add a few classes honoring cars that usually appear as individuals in the general classes, like America Classic. Here are a couple of classes of special invitees.

Isotta Fraschini

Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini founded the company in 1900 in Milan. At first they sold French cars, but built their own cars starting in 1904. Their fame grew with the introduction of the first automotive straight eight, the Tipo 8, in 1920.The 8A’s straight eights displaced 7.3 liters and boasted an overhead cam. Its intake manifolds were cast into the block, and they drove through a rare synchromesh three-speed transmission.

Huge, impressive, luxurious coachbuilt cars, a 1929 Tipo 8A appeared in Sunset Boulevard, appropriate for a film that emphasized the over-the-top lifestyle of its central character, Norma Desmond. In the movie she brags that it cost her twenty-eight thousand dollars.


That’s an awful lot of real estate for a two-seater, even if it does have a rumble seat. The 1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Fleetwood Roadster of Joseph & Margie Cassini III, from West Orange, New Jersey won the Isotta Fraschini Class, K-1. The cobra Mascot’s fangs are dripping blood! This design was commissioned for heartthrob Rudoph Valentino, but he died before they were finished.


This 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS (“Super Sprinto”) Castagna Cabriolet, was brought all the way from Bratislava, Slovakia by Karol Pavlu. It won Class K-2 for Castagna-bodied Open cars. One of four Isotta Frascinia with the cobra mascot.



This 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A, called a “Commodore” after the hotel of that name, has the same cobra mascot, along with cut glass running board lamps, fender lamps in the shape of a St. Christopher medal, and German silver landau bars. Exhibited by the Bahres of Paris, Maine.



The cobra mascot also adorns the radiator Cap of  this 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS Castagna Special Sports Torpedo, now owned by perennial participants, the William Lyons family. It won Best in Show here thirty-four years ago.


Isotta Fraschinis were known for their distinctive radiator guards, like the one on this 1928 Tipo 8A Castagna Commodore.

The 1932 Tipo 8A Castagna Commodore was shown by Blake and Lauren Atwell of Buda, Texas, second in Class K-2: Isotta Fraschini Castagna Coachwork Open.

This is one of only three Tipo 8Bs known to survive. They had nickel steel alloy block, pistons and rods. Originally commissioned by Danish Consul General Carl Glad, it was designed by Viggo Jensen and executed by Dansk Karosseri Fabrik in Copenhagen.

Ferrari Racers


This one fooled us. It looked like a 250 Testa Rossa, but the book says it’s a 1958 335 Sport Spyder by Scaglietti. It won its class – M-2.  Andreas Mohringer brought it all the way from Salzburg, Austria. The shift gate (below) is jewelry.


The car that put the name Ferrari on the map is the first one to win the 24 hours of Le Mans, in 1949. We’ve seen the 166MM Barchetta at the 60th U.S. anniversary display on Rodeo drive and recently in “Seeing Red” at the Bruce Meyer Gallery of the Petersen Museum, but it’s nice to see it getting some fresh Monterey air.


Also on display at both those events, this is the 250LM that was submitted to the Le Mans authorities in 1965 as a 250GTO, but they were not fooled. They placed it in the prototype class, but it won anyway – the last Ferrari to win Le Mans outright.


Finally – not the outright winner at Le Mans but perhaps the winningest of the famous Ferrari 250GTOs, chassis 4293GT, it won at Spa in its first race, and placed second overall at Le Mans in 1963, winning the GT class before it won overall at Zolder and took another GT win at Reims. It’s among the most original GTOs.


Only 20 of the alloy-bodied Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinettas were built. This is Petersen Museum patron Bruce Meyer’s, 1st overall at the European Cup at Monza and the Brussels Cup, and won the GT class at Le Mans in 1961, placing third overall. It set fastest lap in the Trials for the 1962 Le Mans.


This 1967 Ferrari 412P Competizione was raced with some success in 1967 and 1968 under Belgian yellow racing colors. It was displayed by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, Ohio. In announcing its third place finish in the Ferrari Competition class, the announcer admired its unique wheel/body color combination. There’s no accounting for taste.

Some Fun Stuff


“Monty’s Rolls,” is known for H.J. Mulliner’s distinctive reverse raked windshield. The Phantom IIIs were the only V12 Rolls-Royces until the BMW years. This one was used by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alemien, WWII Commander, to transport Eisenhower, Churchill, etc.


The other Phantom III at the Concours was this amazing 1937 Sedanca De Ville with copper-clad bodywork by Freestone & Webb. The Kneeling Spirit of Ecstasy mascot (below) only appeared on Phantom IIIs.


The Duesenberg class was won by the 1935 SJ Town Car with its Bohman & Schwartz body. It was designed for Mea West but built for candy heiress Ethel Mars. She kept it until her death in 1945. Originally carpeted in chinchilla it is reported to be the most expensive Duesenberg ever made.


The Charles A. Chayne Trophy is awarded to the car that demonstrates the greatest technological sophistication for its era. The 1909 De Dion-Bouton BV Type de Course of John S. Adamick, Westlake Village, California won it, with DeDion’s innovative semi-independent suspension and high speed (3,000 rpm!) engine.


Evan Metropoulos’ Preservation-class 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400 S. Marcello Gandini’s Bertone body, wrapped as it is around the sophisticated transverse-engine V12 chassis, is the very definition of automotive beauty. This one didn’t win anything. Too new?


From one extreme to another. The Petersen has a 1938 Delahaye 135M with coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi. It’s pretty wild, but next to the “narwhal” a 1947 Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet, also by Figoni & Falaschi, it’s downright staid. This car won the French Cup for Wayne Grafton of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

Guess Who

There are certain cars, and certain styles, that we do not usually associate with each other. There were several cars at the event that challenged our assumptions.


The front fender curve and the wheels are clues, but if you have any doubt about the origin of the chassis beneath this car’s Pinin Farina coachwork, see below.


After the above there’s no suspense about this Zagato-bodied XK140.


Did Sir William have this car in the back of his mind when he designed the original XJ-6? Its Pinin Farina body is on a 1955 Ferrari 375 America chassis. Jack and Debbie Thomas of St. Louis brought it.

Open

American Muscle


Cobra CSX2005 was driven in The Killers, a movie that featured Lee Marvin, Angie Dickenson, Ronald Reagan and John Cassavetes. The “T” is from its duties as training car at the Shelby School of High Performance Driving, where it was driven by celebrities like Steve McQueen and James Garner. It now resides in the collection of German Curt Englehorn.


Put CSX2005 on Tour de France-level steroids and you get CSX3108, a 427 with those bulging fenders. This is a rare street 427 with rear exit exhaust, one of the first ten built, therefore powered by the “real” 427, not the 428 truck engine of the later examples. Cockpit below is a rare example without Carroll Shelby’s autograph on the glove box door.


This Ferrari 275GTB/4 Scaglietti NART Spyder is the last of ten built. A red sister car set a record for a Ferrari at the RM Auction in Monterey at $27.5 million, perhaps partly because proceeds went to charity. In The Thomas Crown Affair Faye Dunaway drove one which later took second place in the GT class at the 12 hours of Sebring, driven by Denise McCluggage and “Pinky” Rollo.


The Nash Healey was built on the same chassis as this Healey Silverstone. Owner Rich Myers was mildly insulted that his successful racer might be associated with such a boulevard cruiser, although an alloy-bodied racing Nash Healey finished third behind two 300SL Mercedes in the 1953 Le Mans.


The body and chassis of the Waterfall Grille Bugatti, above and below, a 1939 Tipo 57C Cabriolet by Voll & Rohrbeck shown by Jim Patterson, were separated during the sixties and reunited by the Patterson Collection. It won Class J-3 for European Classics – late.


George & Valerie Vassos of Westfield Massachusetts won Class C-1: American Classic Open, with this 1932 Studebaker President Series 91 Convertible Sedan.

Closed

The R-Type Bentley Continental was called the fastest four-seater of its day. It was bodied in aluminium (sic) by H.J. Mulliner because Dunlop limited the car’s weight to 34 “long hundredweight” (3,740 pounds) to preserve the tyres (sic) at a 120 mph cruise. Perhaps they should have mounted Firestones! The prototype was nicknamed Olga after its registration plate OLG 490.


Showing some patina, this 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental, brought over from Maldon, England, by Derek Hood, won the FIVA Postwar Trophy for preservation.


The 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS Boano Coupé Speciale of Tony Shooshani of Long Beach, California won Class O-2: Postwar Closed.


The 4.9 Liter (299 cubic inch) V12 of this 410 SuperAmerica Pinin Farina Coupe was monstrous by Ferrari standards in 1957. From the Herrington Collection, it won Class M-4: Ferrari One-off Specials.

There’s Always One

This year the car that surprised us and caught our eye was Mary and Ted Stahl’s 1909 Austin Model 90 Touring. Confusion with the British Austin Motor Company is natural, but these were made in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by the Austin Automobile Company.


The 1909 Austin’s cheerful pinstriped white paint, polished brass and varnished wood finish attracted a lot of spectator attention – to a photographer’s consternation.


Austins were presented as powerful, luxurious cars. The Model 60 had a 12.85 liter (784 cubic inch) F-head six of 90 advertised horsepower.

Bet You Thought We Forgot


This year’s Best in Show award was bestowed on the 1929 Mercedes-Benz Barker Tourer shown by perennial participant Bruce McCaw of Bellevue, Washington.

What looks like a chrome-plated muffler on the side is really a kind of tool box/running board. Apparently it did not contain the tools the mechanic needed for some sort of adjustment (below).

Don’t Forget!

As we said, your bucket list is incomplete without attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at least once. If you are planning for next year’s event though, it will fall on the fourth Sunday in August (the 26th) instead of the third. I hope to see you there!

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.

 

 

 

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The Italians Again

Seaside, California Hosts the Concorso Italiano

Even at a time when many young people are more interested in having the latest electronic teat to latch onto than they are in getting a driver’s license, you might be surprised how many can be seduced by beautiful automotive sheet metal (or carbon fiber). For them (and the rest of us), there is no better place to be than at the annual extravaganza of Italian rolling art known as the Concorso Italiano at Black Horse golf course in Seaside California.

This year is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, and while a substantial amount of acreage at the event was occupied by examples of the cavallo rampante, there are lots of other beauties to catch the eye or, if you stick around and listen, the ear.


Monterey Bay, ancient Monterey pines, and the sweeping fairways of the Blackhorse Golf Links provide a beautiful and relaxing backdrop for viewing Italian automotive treasures.

Alfa Romeo

There is no automobile manufacturer building cars today that can claim a racing heritage to compare with Alfa Romeo. They have won more races around the world than any other.


When even many expensive American cars were powered by L-head engines with valves in the block, exhausting between the cylinders into “siamesed” cast-iron manifolds, the typical Alfa engine had a racing engine’s dual overhead cams, hemispherical combustion chambers and beautiful sand-cast alloy headers. This Alfa 6C also has twin-park ignition and triple carburetors.

After WWII, Alfa continued its winning ways, capturing the first Formula One Championship and many other prestigious titles. But no manufacturer can live on race victories alone, and the company improved its survival chances with a range of small, efficient cars with features no other contemporary firm approached.


While the British were building sedans with agricultural pushrod engines, Alfa went upmarket with dual overhead cams and five-speed gearboxes straight out of their sports cars.

A “moveable feast” typical of the Concorso, spread out between Jim Felice’s Giulia 1600 “Berlina” sport sedan, above, and its spiritual successor, his new Giulia turbo four.

Below is Alfa’s challenge in the upper end of the sport sedan market, the 505 hp “Quadrifoglio” version of the Giulia, continuing a tradition that dates back to 1920.

Racing Superstition – Now a Tradition

In 1920, Ugo Sivocci was a member of Alfa Romeo’s four-man racing team that included Enzo Ferrari. Ugo had never won a race, but he changed his luck for the 1920 Targa Florio by painting a green four-leaf clover in a white square on the front of his car, a “quadrifoglio.” He won the race, and thereafter Alfa’s team cars always carried that symbol. It must have worked. They won the first manufacturers’ championship. Today, the highest performance version of every Alfa carries the Quadrifoglio.

A Master’s Early Promise


The Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV and its siblings like the Giulia Sprint GT and others, designed at Bertone by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, stand as some of the most perfectly proportioned cars ever.

In 1983, the last of the “105-series” Alfa Romeo Coupes was an affordable Italian semi-exotic. You could pick up a nice one-owner GTV 2000 for $3,000. Fast-forward to 2017 when a beautifully restored example just sold for $76,500.

Back in the USA

In 2008 it had been 13 years since Alfa had imported a car to the US. Alfisti were encouraged by the arrival of the 8C Competizzione, but that initial entry into the US market was too limited in production, and too exclusive for the average buyer to aspire to.


Alfa Romeo  re-entered the American market with the 8C Competezzione, a limited-production high-performance coupe and spider. A 4.7 liter cross-plane crankshaft V8 of 444 naturally aspirated horsepower, assembled by Ferrari, gave them a top speed in the 180 mph range and a different sound from their flat-plane-crank brothers from Marenello.

Alfa Romeo introduced their 4C sports car in Europe in 2013, and began imported them to the US starting in July of 2014. It had been 19 years since a new series production Alfa was officially imported to the US.


Although sadly unavailable with a manual transmission, the 4C’s light weight (Its 143 pound carbon fiber chassis tub weighs less than the wheels on many cars.) puts it in an agility category of one, and allows its 240 hp turbo four to give it the performance of a more powerful car.

Wolves in Lambs’ Clothing


The Lamborghini Miura was the car that put the marque on the map, but the one that put it on all the middle school boys’ walls was the Countach. The name is usually translated to a less euphemistic form of “OMG!”

After a little research, we learned that the car in the foreground is a 2013 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2. Their website states it was listed for €320,000 plus taxes.

Does 185?

It’s difficult to walk among the Maseratis at a concours without being infected with an earworm of Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good to Me.” The consensus seems to be that he was not referring to an actual car when he sang “My Maserati does 185.” In the long nightmare that was emission controls in 1978 there was no Maserati that could do 185 mph. The most powerful Corvette could only manage 127.


Your correspondent rates the Maserati Ghibli of Giugetto Giugiaro (working at Ghia), among the top ten automobile designs of all time. It is assumed that Joe Walsh was talking about this model in his song, although if he was, he meant kilometers per hour. The Ghibli only goes 185 kph, not mph.


If Joe was in Europe when he wrote the song it might have been about a Bora, the later mid-engine car (again by Giugiaro, this time at Italdesign) powered by a version of the same 4.7 liter four-cam V8, although even  the European version only did 174 mph.


The V8 was enlarged to 4.9 liters for the Khamsin, probably to make up for federal emission controls. This one was a Marcello Gandini design for Bertone, characterized by Gandini’s vertical glass tail widow with floating taillights. The federalized version was ruined by mounting the taillights below that widow and adding awful bumpers.


Black is a good color on the GranTourisimo Convertible, currently available. It manages to avoid the slightly stubby proportions of the Coupe, at least with the top down. It’s powered by a more modern interpretation of the 4.7 liter four-cam V8.

The Main Event

Where does one start? All Ferraris are interesting, and with acres of them to choose from, we’ll just pick a few and run with them.

The legendary Ferraris are the classic front mid-engine V12s of the fifties and early  sixties, like the Cabriolet above. The Marenellos, 550 and 575 below, carried on the tradition for ten years from 1996 to 2006.


The last Ferrari model with manual steering was the 348. This “TB” with the fixed roof is the more sought-after, according our photographer, who regrets selling his one-owner 1991 “TS” with the removable roof panel. Speculation is that these are the next Ferrari to take off in value.


The successor to the 348 was the F355, with its power steering, scoops in place of strakes and a 3.5 liter five-valve engine, somewhere under all those shrouds and ducts, below.


The Testarossa may have suffered a little from its association with the drug drama “Miami Vice” but they are recovering in value. In black, there is no more menacing Ferrari.


Hard to believe all that stuff fits in a Testarossa’s trunk.


Two-tone paint is not as popular as it was on American cars in the ’50s, but this 458 was special-ordered in nero and rosso.


We just recently lost the American designer Tom Tjaarda. Your correspondent has a soft spot for his Pininfarina 275 GTS. Only 200 built, it’s the first open Ferrari with IRS, and the only open 275 other than the seven 275GTB/4S NART Spiders, renowned for their appearance under Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, success under Denise McCluggage at Sebring, and their value.

Lancia

Lancia was maker of cars with advanced engineering, luxury, and high performance. Their Flaminia Berlina was a luxurious roomy coachbuilt sedan featuring the Jano V6, DeDion suspension, and a four-speed transaxle. The Pininfarina version had windshield wipers on both the inside and outside of the rear windscreen.

Lancia swept the podium in the 1953 Carerra Panamericana with their D24s, their D50 Grand Prix cars won five of the fourteen races entered, and they won the World Rally Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976 with the Stratos.


This fourth generation of the Aurelia GT coupe featured a transaxle, DeDion suspension and the first series production V6, designed by Vittorio Jano, designer of the Grand Prix-winning Alfa Romeo P-2, and Ferrari’s Dino V6s and V8s.


Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos, introduced at the 1971 Turin show. It was powered by Jano’s Ferrari Dino V6 after a reluctant Enzo approved it.

Italian-Americans

Neighborhood American mechanics, accustomed to relatively primitive flathead and pushrod engines, might be excused for being wary of the overhead cams and foreign sounding components on Italian exotics like Ferrari and Maserati.

Several Italian manufacturers saw this as a barrier to sales, but along with other foreign car makers they also saw an opportunity to provide power and torque unheard of where large engines were heavily taxed. Thus was born the American-European hybrid.

De Tomaso

Alejandro De Tomaso was born in Argentina, and built prototypes and racing cars, including the 1970 Williams Formula One car. His first car was the Vallelunga, a mid-engine sports car powered by a Ford Cortina engine.

Mangusta

Only 3.3 inches higher than the Ford GT40s, the mid-engine De Tomaso Mangusta was sexy and exotic. The name is Italian for mongoose – the cobra’s mortal enemy, and it may have been an inside joke between Alejandro and his friend Carroll Shelby, who reportedly supplied the 289 cubic inch Ford Mustang GT350 engines that powered the prototypes and European versions. Only 200 American examples were built with the glowering quad headlights before regulations forced the change to pop-up headlights that gave the last 50 cars a cross-eyed look during daylight.


This might have been the very car we rode home in from Orange County Airport in 1971 on discharge from the Army. The Pullman suitcase had to be left in a luggage locker.


Giugiaro, working for Bertone, incorporated butterfly doors over the rear luggage deck and engine compartment. Emission regulations meant American cars had the 302 V8, down 85 from the 306 horsepower of the European 289s. A 32/68 weight distribution and willowy backbone chassis yielded challenging handling characteristics.

Pantera

The successor to the Mangusta was another Tom Tjaarda design (see Ferrari 275GTS, above), this time working at Ghia. With a unibody rather than a backbone chassis, and powered by Ford’s Cleveland 351 cubic inch V8 of 330 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, handling and acceleration were both improved. It has been written that one factor in the improvement was that the ZF transaxle was inverted in the Pantera, dropping the engine in the chassis for a lower center of gravity.


A luscious burgundy finish complements the less aggressive styling of the Pantera, belying its greater performance capability. Around 5,000 Panteras were imported by Ford and distributed through Mercury dealers.

Others

Italian cars with American drive trains included Isetta designer Piero Rivolta’s Iso Grifo and Iso Rivolta, powered by Chevrolet V8s.

The Apollo Coupe was a very low-production American project with body designed by Italian Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione. In 1963 Intermeccanica in Turin built the bodies, which were shipped to Oakland, California, where the 218 cubic inch Buick alloy V8 (used in various forms in everything from Range Rovers to the Brabham Formula 1 Champion) was installed.


That’s the Chevrolet-powered Iso Rivolta, far right, and the Apollo Coupe, center. We didn’t get the name of the car on the left.

Three Countries, One Car

Around 1950, Donald Healey was returning to England from the U.S. on the Queen Elizabeth. Cadillac had declined to supply him with their OHV V8 for his Silverstone sports car, but on the ship he met Nash-Kelvinator CEO George Mason, who agreed to supply the Nash Ambassador engine and transmission for the car.

In addition to the more luxurious production cars, they built four endurance racers with an lightweight alloy body made in Birmingham by Panelcraft Sheet Metal. After two years coming in fourth, they won a podium third place behind two Mercedes 300SLs in 1953. The car averaged 13 mpg and needed no oil or water added during the entire 24 hours.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted an exhibit in 1951 entitled “8 Automobiles,” featuring the Cisitalia 202 Coupe by Pinin Farina. After Mason saw that car, all 1953 Nashes were designed by Pinin Farina, including the new Nash Healey.


The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles owns the Pinin Farina Nash Healey loaned by Dick Powell to George Reeves for him to drive in the TV series The Adventures of Superman when he was in his Clark Kent guise. It was his explanation why he always arrived at the crime scene before Lois Lane.

And Finally


It’s not all about red Ferraris and orange Lamborghinis. The Italians also invented the bubble car and the first really mini van, the Fiat 600 Multipla.

Plan Ahead

Monterey in August is the destination for automotive pilgrims of all types. If Italian brands spark your fantasies, be sure to reserve a spot in your calendar for the event where you will see more of them than just about anywhere, anytime, the Concorso Italiano. Next year be sure to check online for the date. The Pebble Beach Concours has moved to the fourth Sunday to avoid conflict with a golf tournament, so surrounding events like the Concorso are likely to follow suit.

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Grand National Roadster Show 2017

A Different Kind of Hot Rod

There is a Jay Leno Big Dog Garage segment about him, and the Petersen Museum is blessed to have his “Rusty One” in its Vault, but Gary Wales is always looking for another project. His latest was shown at the Grand National Roadster Show which opened Friday, January 27, 2017, and will culminate with the selection of its prestigious AMBR (America’s Most Beautiful Roadster) Award Sunday.

What’s La Bestioni?

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When pointing out the mascot on Rusty One at the Petersen, I had to admit I had no idea what it was. Gary was no help when I asked him. He answered, “La Bestioni.” He was equally enigmatic regarding those red eyes, which I always imagined lit up at night. The most he would say is that he wouldn’t say they do not.

The story of La Bestioni starts with Gary’s love of old fire engines. When I say “old” I mean back in the teens – 21st century teens, that is. These were huge machines, with chassis built for durability and monster under-stressed engines made by stringing huge individual cylinders together on a common crankshaft.

The reason for that construction method was a lack of confidence in the precision of the boring and machining process. If they had used one large six-cylinder block and there was a problem honing just one cylinder, the whole block was salvage. This way only one cylinder at a time was vulnerable to damage in machining.

These engines had four spark plugs per cylinder, for redundancy. Gasoline and lubricating oil quality was variable and could lead to piston ring binding, allowing oil into the combustion chamber. They were insuring against the unacceptable possibility of failing to get to a fire due to a fouled plug.

Because of their stout construction, the engines and chassis of these machines survived decades of abuse and neglect, so that when Gary found one in a shed or a field, there was plenty of strength left in the bones.

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A picture of a picture. Gary’s display included montages of the influences and progress of this car’s gestation. This is what the car on display looked like when it was discovered. Twenty-one trees had to be removed to get what remained of the original Seagrave fire engine out.

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Attention to Detail: The front beam axle, visible in the “as found” image above, as restored, with various insignia, some appropriate and some perhaps less so. One imagines the huge Marchal Cyclops headlamp projecting the Bat-signal into the fog at night.

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Gary lived next to “King of Kustoms” George Barris for years, and they sometimes collaborated on projects. George followed the progress of the Batmobile Bestioni, and bestowed his stamp of approval on its fuse box just before his passing.

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File under “Apple Sauce from Rotten Apples” as Gary says. When moving the car one day, an improperly installed spark plug mount failed, sending the spark plug through the hood. Rather than repair it, Gary incorporated it into the comic book Batman culture.

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The car’s sixteen-liter six-cylinder engine. Its over ten liter size would have qualified it for the special class perhaps ten years ago at Pebble Beach where Jay Leno’s Tank Car and the original Chitty Bang-Bang (only one “Chitty” on the real car) were displayed.

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The “Bat-Cockpit.” Toggle switches and gauges abound. With such a massive vehicle to maneuver, that steering wheel is much too small for proper leverage.
Below: The secret is a power steering booster disguised in the steering arm.
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Gary Wales, with his latest La Bestioni. He imagined what would Bruce Wayne have found if a secret chamber in the bowels of Wayne Manor were opened, and he had discovered that his grandfather had been into that bat stuff, and built a crime fighting vehicle.

boattailbatman00The Grand National has hundreds of classes, and this one fits into the loosely defined “Special Interest Motorized” class. In collector nomenclature it’s probably best described as a boattail speedster. It demonstrates once again that you never know what you’ll see at the Grand National.

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The Petersen Automotive Museum – II

There is nothing permanent except change

– Heraclitus

Keep ’em Coming Back!

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When Board Co-Chairman Peter Mullen cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum back in December, 2014, one of his stated goals was to reverse the ratio of first-time attendees to repeaters, which had been somewhere around 65/35 before the remodel. To improve attendance and widen the educational impact of the Museum such a switch was mandatory.

The many new interactive displays helped a little. The museum is now stuffed with screens that can be swiped and clicked for hours, making it impossible to experience it all in one, or even two or three visits. So far, it’s worked. Repeat attendance is up.

The Gallery Displays

The focus of any automobile museum though, is the cars. They are the candy that tempts the kids (of whatever age) to trek to a wild-looking building on the southwest corner of the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. Until they do that, all the fancy screens and Jay Leno narrations are just so much inert hardware.

So they began rotating cars out of the exhibits. The first ones to rotate were the Precious Metal cars in the Bruce Meyer Gallery on the Second Floor. If you showed up for the first days of the New Petersen, you saw some spectacular cars finished in silver. If you waited to show your friends, some of your favorites might have been replaced.

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Yes, this is a color photograph – Ferrari, Horch, Duesenberg and a fender of 007’s Aston Martin DB5. On Opening Day of the New Petersen, the Bruce Meyer Gallery was host to (among others) three winners of the prestigious Best in Show award from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. If you didn’t get to the Museum in time, you missed two (and the Aston).

The Hollywood Cars also rotate frequently. At the opening, one of the Aston Martin DB10s from the James Bond Feature Spectre was shown, but only briefly. In that slot, the exhibit now features the replica Duesenberg used in the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby.

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The novel The Great Gatsby was set in 1922, six years before the introduction of the Duesenberg Model J, but reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby’s car, it matches this recreation of a Duesenberg J Dual Cowl Phaeton perfectly. Of course no collector would risk a real J in the scenes portrayed in the Robert Redford film.

The Grand Salon

On October 23, 2016, most of the Art Deco Cars of the first exhibit in the Peter Mullin Great Salon were replaced with a new exhibit, the Art of Bugatti.

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The Bugatti family was prolific in many art forms.

The installation features not just cars, but art in various media from various members of the Bugatti family, including original paintings and drawings by Carlo, Rembrandt and Lydia Bugatti from the Mullin Automotive Museum and elsewhere. The most compelling for us are Rembrandt Bugatti’s bronzes, but you’ll pardon us for concentrating on the cars.

Sympathetic Sculpture

The story of this member of the Bugatti family is particularly heart-rending. Born in 1884, Rembrandt Bugatti showed early talent in sculpting, and combined his skill and a deep empathy with animals to create remarkable renderings of animals he befriended and studied in the Antwerp Zoo. He suffered from depression, and when he returned from ambulance duty in WWI he found that feed shortages had led the Zoo to euthanize many of the animals he had come to love. He took his own life in January, 1916.

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Above: Mes Antilopes. 1908. Cast Bronze. National Arts Program, USA.
Below: Grande Girafe, Tete Basse (Grand Giraffe, head lowered), 1913, Cast Bronze. From a private collection on loan from The Slademore Gallery, London. One sold for an estimated $1/$1.5 million in 2010.
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Crouching Jaguar. Cast bronze. 1908. From the Mullin Automobile Museum.

The Cars

Not all the cars from the opening exhibit were replaced, since there is a substantial overlap between the Art Deco Era and Bugatti’s cars.

Jean Bugatti’s Masterpiece

Jean Bugatti created what is considered by many to be the ultimate expression of Art Deco automotive styling, the Aérolithe coupe, shown at the 1935 Paris Auto Salon. Its body was constructed of one of the Elektron alloys of aluminum and magnesium produced by the British company of that name. Magnesium burns intensely, so it could not be welded. As a result, standing seams and aircraft-style riveting were employed. The styling affectation was adapted to the three “production” examples built, though they were constructed of an aluminum alloy without the magnesium component.

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Three Type 57SC Atlantic coupes (“S” for “Surbaissé” [Lowered], and “C” for “Compresseur” [Supercharger]) were built. One was destroyed in a collision with a train. This is the one owned by a consortium that includes Petersen Co-Chairman Peter Mullin, and normally resides in his museum. The other is owned by Ralph Lauren. Both have won Best in Show at Pebble Beach.

Royally Resplendent

Envisioning an automobile fit for a king or queen, Ettore Bugatti produced the consensus greatest luxury automobile of the Classic Era, the Type 41, called the Royale, though no royalty ever took delivery. Alphonso of Spain was deposed before he could accept his car, and the car on display spent WWII in the sewers of Paris without ever making it into the possession of the King of Romania. Only six were built, and only three sold to the public.

To offer some perspective, the Bugatti Royale’s chassis is over a foot longer than the long chassis Duesenberg Model J, and its engine is 360 cubic inches (85%) larger. The Chassis alone cost $30,000 – about $2.0 million in today’s money. Coachwork, perhaps another $5,000 worth, ran the gamut from an incredibly long and flamboyant roadster to stodgy formal limousine.

Their twenty-four inch wheels prevented what might have been a disastrous wheel-to-body proportion, and the cars appear surprisingly well balanced considering their size.

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This is the second Type 41 (other than the prototype, which was destroyed), chassis 41111. Originally bodied as a rumble seat roadster, it was rebodied in 1938, and is known as the Coupé de Ville Binder, after the coachbuilder. Now in Bugatti’s own collection. The Rearing Elephant mascot (Shown: example from the Type 41 in the Henry Ford Museum) is from an earlier sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti.

Word is that a 57SC Atlantic and a Type 41 Royale have never before been shown together.

The Home Team

Among those shown are several from the Petersen Museum’s own collection, including a show winner with royal provenance.

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Bugatti Type 57C “Prince of Persia.” In 1939 the French government commissioned Vanvooren to create this virtual copy of the contemporary Delahaye 165 Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi, right down to the retractable windscreen. Unconfirmed reports claim Vanvooren got the commission because Figoni et Falaschi asked for too much money for the work. The French presented it to the Prince of Persia, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, future Shah of Iran, as a wedding gift. It won the French Cup at Pebble Beach in 2014.

The Atalante

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The Type 57 chassis was foundation for some of Bugatti’s most elegant cars. Many of them were designed by Ettore’s son Jean, like this 57C Atalante “Long Tail” that we might call a “sunroof coupe” today. Executed by Gangloff, the Petersen’s is the only one with that roll-back roof and chrome side spear. 

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Not technically a Petersen car, but its owner Bruce Meyer is Co-Chair of the museum, so the exhibit’s 1935 Type 57 Ventoux Coupe is a family member. Said to be one of the purest of Jean Bugatti’s designs, this one entered a private collection in France and spent over forty years hidden away.

The Mullin Cars

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Peter Mullin’s Type 57C Atalante, without the Petersen car’s long tail, looks a little blunt. His is a rare postwar car, built by Jean Bugatti to his prewar design from leftover parts in 1949.

There was some stirring of concern when Peter Mullin, owner of the eponymous museum in Oxnard that features French cars exclusively, was made Co-Chairman of the Petersen. The fear was that a museum founded in California car culture, dry lakes racing, and the hot rod (Robert Petersen’s first publication was Hot Rod magazine), would become a satellite of the Mullin.

Maybe it did not, but an argument could be made that as of now it looks as though his gallery at the Petersen is.

With an opening exhibit of cars from the Art Deco era, many if not most of which were French, and many of those from his museum, the argument might have had some support. When it was followed here by an exhibit dominated by perhaps the most well-known French car of the classic era, the Bugatti, many of them his, it’s difficult to avoid an impression that this is a trend.

But really, who can blame him, or the Petersen? He has one of the greatest Bugattis (see the Type 57SC Atlantic, above), perhaps the greatest collection of Gallic road art extant, and the connections to see to it that any he does not own are graciously put at his disposal for an exhibit that is hard to fault on curatorial grounds.

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The car that cemented Bugatti in the history of auto racing was the Type 35C. Instantly recognizable features include the most classic version of the horseshoe radiator, and one-piece, radial spoke, alloy center-lock wheel/brake drums. These cars were nearly unbeatable on the track, winning over 1,000 races in their day, including five consecutive Targa Florios from 1925 through 1929. Chassis 4634, above, a 1925 car, was acquired by Peter Mullin in 1991.

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Before he allied himself with Ovidio Falaschi, Giuseppe Figoni created many custom bodies for a variety of European automakers. The Type 43 fitted one of his elegant open bodies to the Type 43 racing car that was based on the Type 35. This 1928 one was fitted with a Type 44 engine in 1959. Materials do not explain the reference to Parma on the bonnet.

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Carriage-style bodywork characterized the 1929 Type 44 Fiacre. One of the more stately styled Type 41s had similar coachwork on a larger scale. 

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The Type 46 was designed as a smaller version of the Type 41, more powerful than the 43 or 44, but significantly more accessible than the Royale. Nearly 500 Type 46s were built, of which this convertible coupé is one of only 30 to survive.

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In 1931 Bugatti introduced a light and powerful version of the 46, powered by a 5.0 liter version its 5.4, designed after the Miller engines that ran at Indianapolis. In supercharged form the Type 50 produced a torquey 225 horsepower, causing some trepidation among British agents about the prospects of these speedsters tearing up narrow British country lanes. It requires little imagination to visualize this car’s previous owner, legendary automotive journalist Ken Purdy, doing the same on American roads.

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gnore the horseshoe radiator and center-lock one-piece alloy wheel/brake drums and this could be an MG, Morgan or SS Jaguar – probably accounting for our affection for the car. The Type 54 boasted an impressive 300 horsepower in 1931, and only ten were built, mostly in open-wheel racing form. The literature states that they tended to throw their tires.

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After the type 54 it’s hard to justify the Type 55, with a mere 130 horsepower, as the “ultimate sports car” as stated in the accompanying literature, but it certainly looks more “Bugatti-ish.” Based on the Gran Prix Type 51, it carries the unmistakable Jean Bugatti Style.

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Of the Type 57s, this Aravis is said to have been Jean Bugatti’s favorite. One of the eleven with body executed by Gangloff, the other eight were built by Letourneur et Marchand.

After the War

Revival Attempts

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Contemporary style and power, with hints of Jaguar XK in the nose and room for four did not capture the imagination when the 101 was introduced in 1950. It’s chassis was little changed from the Type 57 and although no price is quoted, it was said to be high. Chassis number 101501, this is the only 101C, indicating it is supercharged. Now in the Mullin Collection, it was once a feature of the Pantheon Museum in Basel, Switzerland.

New Management

Romano Artioli bought the Bugatti trademark in 1987 and commissioned Giampaolo Benedini to build an ultramodern factory outside Ferrari hometown Modena.  Both the Petersen and the Mullin have examples of the only product of that endeavor.

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The EB110 (“EB” for Ettore Bugatti, “110” for the 110th anniversary of his birth in 1991) was the first “supercar” to feature a carbon fiber chassis. Its 3.5 liter five-valve V12 was quad-turbocharged and rated at 611 horsepower in Super Sport trim (as in the Mullin car above), driving all four wheels. In that form it was the fastest car available at the time, surpassing by five the Jaguar XJ220’s measured top speed of 213 mph.

Volkswagen Takes the Helm

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The trademark name Bugatti and its logo were acquired by Volkswagen in 1998, and development of several projects was begun. The only production product of that development was the EB 16/4 Veyron, introduced in 2001 but not sold to the public until 2005.

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The Veyron on display has a clear coat over its blue-dyed carbon fiber body. The roof scoops identify it as the “base” car ($1,260,000). The Super Sport (1,200 hp, top speed 267.856 mph but limited to 258 to spare the $25,000 Michelin PAX Pilot tires), has NACA ducts to reduce drag.

The original Veyron simply set the standard for road-legal “production” cars. Jaded writers accustomed to picking apart any car with pretensions of superiority were reduced to babbling about the insufficiency of superlatives. With 1,001 horsepower (Rated. In truth it was around 1,010, but who’s counting?) from its four-bank, four-turbo 16.4 liter “W16,” it was tested by Car and Driver on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track and achieved 253 miles per hour. At that speed it would drain its gas tank (26.4 gallons) in 19 minutes – 80 miles.

After eleven years, the claims of various specialty manufacturers regarding top speed need to be addressed. One-off Bonneville racers are obviously disqualified. As to production cars, we cite the FIA standard that was applied to GT cars in order to be considered “production” in the ’60s – a minimum production run of 100 identical cars. 450 Veyrons have been produced to date, while none of the challengers have produced 100.

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Cooling an engine with 1,500 horsepower takes a lot of air, and Bugatti has cleverly incorporated a classic Bugatti styling “swoop” into the intake system of the new Chiron. All the statistics for the Veyron are bumped up a notch, and it’s only a matter of time before this car is declared the new top speed record holder. Volkswagen claims they make a profit on them at $2.6 million.

Extrapolation

In 1939 Jean Bugatti began work on a Type 64 chassis and body. Three Chassis, with a 130 inch wheelbase and powered by a 4.4 liter DOHC 16-valve straight eight, were completed, but the Atlantic-style body, with its signature “papillon” doors, never was. Peter Mullin acquired one of the chassis in 2003, and organized a project to complete the car as close to Jean’s vision as possible.

Following “decades of research” Mr. Mullin challenged the Art Center College of Design students to realize Jean Bugatti’s project. The final result is the product of the school’s Chair of Transportation Design Stewart Reed’s design, and Mike Kleeve’s Automotive Shaping’s execution. A full-size mahogany buck was constructed and body panels were hammered in the traditional manner and checked against the body buck,

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The body was unveiled at The Art Center’s annual Car Classic on October 27, 2013.

Marine Experiment

The plan was to offer several sizes of self-powered dinghy, the Type 75, designed and executed with typical Bugatti thoroughness.  Somewhere between five and ten prototypes were built, and thousands of brochures published, but the planned 1948 launch at the Maisons-Lafitte boatyard never happened. Called the “You-You,” it was to have been powered by a 170cc engine of about five horsepower.

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Constructed of mahogany and spruce using thousands of small copper rivets the Type 75 “You-You” dinghy on display was so fresh from the shop that the faint scent of linseed oil still hung about it.

A New Attraction

The re-imagined Petersen Automotive Museum was a hit from the day it opened. The new displays in the Mullin Family Gallery contain enough automotive gems from the Bugatti oeuvre to bring people back and satisfy the car buff, with sufficient information for the casual visitor to come away informed. In addition there is considerable scholarship available in the displays and interactive features for those seeking deeper background.

One of the goals of the Museum is to put the automobile and its history in a larger context, the non-automotive parts of the new exhibit would seem to advance that goal well.

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Pebble Beach Favorites

Ground Hog Day for Auto Journalists

Like Phil Conner (Bill Murray) at the beginning of Groundhog Day, in August when writers for all the mainstream car magazines gather to cover the events at Monterey, they must get a bit jaded. Every year they have to come up with a fresh angle on a bunch of beautiful old cars. Fortunately, it’s not the same groundhog every year.

The Monterey Groundhog is the car that wins Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This year it was a 1936 Lancia Astura, exhibited by Richard Mattei of Paradise Valley, Arizona.

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In the detail above and in glimpses below viewed over the heads of scrambling photographers and between the owners and presenters, you can get an idea of what won Best in Show at Pebble Beach this year.
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Contender

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Ephraim Levy, our photographer (for whose work we are deeply indebted this year), was so convinced that the winner of the American Classic Open class and “Elegance in Motion” prize, the 1931 Stutz DV32 LeBaron Convertible Victoria of Joseph and Margie Cassini III of West Orange, New Jersey was going to win Best in Show, that he concentrated his lens on the car.
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Stutz DV32 engines were rare technological competitors with the Duesenberg J, with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder (Thus DV for “Dual Valve”). When the Bentley Boys finished 1, 2, 3, 4, at the 1929 24 Hours of Le Mans, a supercharged Stutz DV32 took fifth.
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Honored This Year

Delahaye and Chapron

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Sibling Rivalry? The Petersen Museum of Los Angeles showed their long-chassis 1938 Delahaye 135 M Figoni et Falaschi Roadster (above), and Petersen Co-Chairman Peter Mullin’s entered the shorter chassis Cabriolet (below) from his Museum in Oxnard, in Class K-1 for prewar Delahayes.
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There are just two of these spectacular V12 Delahaye 165 Figoni et Falaschi Rumble Seat Cabriolets. Both are red. Peter Mullen has the other one, and you can see it at the Petersen Museum and judge for yourself which is the prettier. This one, owned by the Lees of Sparks, Nevada, won the class and was selected to compete for Best in Show.

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There are a few exhibitors who seem to bring some new and wonderful car to the Concours every year. John Shirley is one. He and Kim Richter won the Chapron-Bodied Delahaye class with this 1937 135 Chapron Coupé des Alps.

BMW Centennial

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Elvis Presley painted his BMW 507 (this one) red to stop women from leaving lipstick messages on it. BMW returned it to its original white/black livery for their 100th anniversary, and showed it at the Concours. If you want to see the class winner (another 507), it was in the lobby of the Petersen last we saw.

The Winning Ford GT40s

We were promised every Ford GT40 that ever won a significant race. By all accounts they delivered. The first place cars that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, ’67, ’68, and ’69 were all on display. Not only that, but the three cars that placed 1, 2, 3 in 1966 were included.

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Seldom has a single marque’s dominance been so well represented on the grass of the Pebble Beach Concours. Number 6 above is P/1047, Mirage M.10003, one of four GT40s displayed by Greg Miller of Sandy, Utah. It has the distinction of being the first GT40 in the famous blue and orange Gulf livery to win a race – the 1000 km of Spa in 1967. 

No surprise, the class winner, entered by Robert Kauffman of Charlotte, N. C. is the first Le Mans-winning GT40. The Ken Miles/Denny Hulme car had led until the team ordered the three cars to cross together, giving Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon the victory, because it had started further back on the grid and had therefore driven the farthest in the 24 hours.
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In 1967, Ford introduced the “J-Cars,” with the powerful, torquey, and reliable seven-liter NASCAR 427 V8. The smaller-engine high-revving Ferraris had no chance, and Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt finished three laps ahead, the only time American drivers, driving an American car for an American Team, won the race.

On the podium after the finish, Dan shook the celebratory bottle of Moét et Chandon and sprayed everyone, starting a tradition. The bottle was eventually returned to him and now sits in a glass case at his All American Racers in Santa Ana, California.

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You know this is the Gurney/Foyt car because of the “Gurney Bump” in the roof that made room for his tall frame in a car only 40 inches high (thus the name). It raced in that one race, won it, and immediately retired undefeated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. 

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1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV J-4, another GT40 owned by Greg Miller of Sandy, Utah, is the first of the so-called “J-cars” to race. It led the 1967 Sebring 12-Hour race from start to finish with Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti driving.

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Three-time World Champion and honorary judge Sir Jackie Stewart poses with dignitaries around J-4, sporting tartan cap and trousers (of no Stewart plaid I know). Ephraim asked if he should introduce us, and before we could think about it, we were shaking hands and discussing how the British don’t understand the Scots.

Miuras

There were five Lamborghini Miuras to celebrate their 50th anniversary – one each in blue, red, and green, and two in orange. As so often happens, we got pictures of the red car and the blue, neither one of which won the class.

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Miuras started out with a feature from the original Mini – a single sump for both engine and transmission. In the later SVs the two lubricating systems were separated to prevent damage from one from metastasizing to the other. This Miura, owned by Adam Carolla of Van Nuys, is an early SV with the longer body and wider rear track, but was produced before the sump partition was introduced.

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Sumptuous “biscuit” Italian leather. Another Mini feature was the transverse engine (below), but with three times the number of cylinders, and situated behind the driver. Jerry and Ann Brubaker of Reno’s red bull was among the last non-SVs delivered.
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Bizzarrini

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Following the AMC Javelin’s Championships in the Trans-Am in 1971 and 1972, Dick Teague worked with Giotto Bizzarrini to create four 160 mph prototype “halo” cars, the AMX3. The cars were tested in high-speed runs on the Monza track with Trans-Am champion Mark Donahue at the wheel. This is that car, winner of the Bizzarrini class R, and the only AMC car to ever win an award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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Wedge cars, like this 1966 Manta were a popular theme in the ’60s. Underneath Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign wedge lies the third Bizzarrini P538 chassis. The louvers below the 15 degree windshield are operable, providing some forward visibility in town, and closing for aerodynamic efficiency at speed. Wikipedia image.

Coachbuilt Fiats

Taxes and fuel prices in war-ravaged Europe put big-displacement cars beyond the means of most people. Fiat built high performance small cars, and the Carrozzerias were more than happy to clothe them in handsome bodywork. Fiats so-bodied, were honored with a special class, with some really lovely results.

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Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli famously mistook Ford’s “V8” moniker as a trademark, and called their two-liter 70° version the “8V” (Otto Vu in Italian). Thirty-four of the eventual production of 114 were bodied by Zagato, some of the prettiest cars of the period. One won the class, but not this 1953 example entered by Larry and Jane Solomon of Palo Alto.

The Golden Age of Sports Racing

From the first MG TCs imported by returning GIs back in the late forties until massive corporate involvement and huge sponsorship deals began to take over the sport in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, people could drive to the track and compete successfully in their own cars. The result, at least in the fog of nostalgia, was some of the best racing, and coolest cars ever.

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Maserati’s A6G 2000 provided the foundation for a lot of beautiful coachwork in the ‘50s. Nineteen of the 76 were clothed in Zagato bodywork and are considered by many (ourselves included) to be the most attractive. This is the 1956 example exhibited by Bill Pope of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 in Aston Martin’s DBR-1/2. That year Road & Track featured a Road Test of the Touring Superleggera DB-4 with Roy Salvadori himself driving, setting a new standard by accelerating from zero to 100 mph and then braking to a stop in what we remember as about 24 seconds. From that day, Aston Martins have had a special place in our pantheon of automotive greats.

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Before the Petersen’s closed for renovation, the last exhibit in the Bruce Meyer Gallery was called The World’s Most Beautiful Sports Coupes. It featured one of our all-time favorites, an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. David McNeil of Hinsdale, Illinois, brought this 1962 example to the Concours. It was the only one of nineteen built to be delivered in Australia, where it won many races.

An Open and Closed Case

Most Elegant Closed Car

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Steadily increasing in recognition for its significance, beauty, and value, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale was a Bertone project in 1957. Corrado Lopresto brought the prototype all the way from Milan to win Most Elegant Closed Car. Is this a trend? Are postwar cars beginning to gain acceptance for the big awards?

Most Elegant Open Car

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The products of Errett Lobban Cord’s automotive operations produced some of the most sought-after cars of the Classic Era. The V12 Auburn Boattail Speedsters, with their styling by Gordon Buehrig are some of the most rakish. This one, a 1932 12-160A Boattail Speedster owned by Ted Reimel of Wayne, PA, won the award for Most Elegant Open Car.

They’ve Got Class

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We have a picture of the prototype Ferrari 250 GT California Spider that won the Ferrari Grand Touring class (left above) all by itself, but where’s the fun in that? Ephraim gave up the camera so we could show you him with Ayala Or-El (“Doe, Light of The Creator” in Hebrew). She represented the maker of many of the clear plastic components on the restorations at the show, including the headlight covers on the California Spider.

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The “S” in the Bugatti 57S type designation stood for Surbaissé (“Low”). Add a “C” and you get “Compressor” – supercharged. This 1937 57S from the Rare Wheels Collection in Windermere, Florida is bodied by Gangloff. It won Class J2 for European Classic, Late.

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We’re always on the lookout for a nice Duesey, and you can count on Pebble Beach to bring out a rare J or two. This supercharged J (popularly called the “SJ” although Duesenberg never used the name) was originally a Murphy Convertible Coupe (the most popular style) but went back to the other Pasadena coachbuilder, Bohman & Schwartz in 1937 and was rebodied for a sleeker look. Entered by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, Ohio, it won class G.

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With no fastback roof or Q-installed defensive measures, this Aston Martin DB5 looks smooth in Guards Red. Only 123 convertibles were built, and only 19 were left-hand drive. This is the one that represented Aston Martin at the 1963 New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows. Shown by William H. and Cheryl Swanson of Boston Massachusetts, it won the Postwar Touring Class.

We stuck around for the awards this year and were glad we did, but after wandering the fairway and practice green for about twelve hours and climbing back up the hill, we were all the more grateful to find a seat at the Gooding & Co. tent for their Sunday evening auction, the final event of the weekend. Stay tuned for a word or two about that later.

So What?

Just as it’s difficult to bring a fresh approach to a bunch of pictures of pretty cars, it’s also hard to come up with any kind of original conclusion as to what this all means.

So this year we’ll point out to those killjoys who complain about all that money “wasted” on old cars, these events are all charitable. Over $20 million has been donated from the proceeds of the events. It is unclear whether that includes the multiples of $2,500 collected for charity by Jay Leno from those seeking a tour of his Big Dog Garage.

And it should be noted that all the money that went into the care, restoration, and preparation of these cars went to people who do that sort of thing for a living, and it puts food on their tables, clothes on their kids’ backs, and a roof over their heads.

Besides, you need some beauty in your life!

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility
Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist: Dick Stewart.
The author’s camera went missing somewhere between Pacific Grove and Citrus Heights – along with its memory card full of images. Credit for all these goes to Ephraim Levy, unless otherwise noted.

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Italian Gems

2016 at Concorso Italiano

It may be unwise to begin a story about beautiful cars with pictures of an ugly one. Nevertheless yes, there are ugly Italian cars. There. I said it. This one was at the Concorso Italiano three years ago and at the Auction at Gooding the following year. I posted a picture of it in my coverage of the Auction, so this may be repetitious.

Drogo 330GTC

With so much Piedmontese pulchritude everywhere on the Bayonet Black Horse Country Club links, it’s good to be reminded that the other side of the “freedom to excel” coin is the freedom to fail. This 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Speciale is a one-off (thanks be!) by Drogo. It failed to meet its reserve when offered at Gooding & Co. in 2014 (below) for an estimate of $400,000 – $600,000.

Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Speciale

Alfas – Resurgent?

Alfa Romeo as a new car brand was absent from the US market for so long, and promises of a return were so frequently unmet that those of us who admire the marque became wary of premature anticipation.

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The Alfa Romeo 4C has been with us for a while, but we must be forgiven for withholding our sighs of relief  until a less single-focus, mainstream Alfa came along.

With the prospect of deliveries of the new Giulia previewed by the introduction last year of the 500-plus horsepower “Quadrifoglio” version, we now dare to hope.

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Only shown in rather drab gray at the Los Angeles International Auto Show last year (and under the tent at the Concorso this summer, below), the Giulia “Quad” seduced in a midnight metallic blue on the grass.  A rather generic profile is rescued by very Alfa-esque wheels and an unmistakable face. With 503 SAE net horsepower (510 DIN) from its 90° twin-turbo V6, it promises class-leading performance.
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Georgetto Giugiaro, in his early career working for Bertone, created the Alfa Romeo 105 (115 in the U. S.) in 1961, with proportions that still look perfect today. The cars have appeared in some ten variations, with four different displacement versions of the same alloy DOHC eight-valve engine. Our photographer, Mr. Ephraim Levy, is just finishing up refreshing his own 1974 2000 GT Veloce.

50th Anniversaries

The Fiata

The average Joe has a tough time justifying the luxury of a two-seat sports car. That was as true in 1966 as it is today, and as today there were few choices then that did not break the bank. British sports cars had agricultural pushrod engines sourced from staid upright sedans. An Alfa had overhead cams and a five-speed gearbox, but they were half again as expensive as an MG.

Enter the Fiat 124. With styling cues recognizable as related to the lovely Ferrari 275 GTS from the same American Tom Tjaarda, it just looked right. Powered by a dual overhead cam four driving through a five-speed gearbox, it was a delight to drive, if not to maintain. But they were priced right.

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Carrozzeria Touring, with their patented Superleggera coachwork system, was honored at the Concorso this year. We were grateful that a few Early Fiat 124 spiders snuck into the background of this shot so we could show a glimpse.

Today, with Consumer Reports and the J. D. Power rankings exposing any such shortcomings, Fiat did the smart thing. They went to an established Japanese carmaker with a proven record of making affordable roadsters that didn’t break, and partnered with Mazda on the development of their latest MX-5 Miata.

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he elongated hexagon of the grille, signature hood cam bulges, and the sensuous sweep of Italian fender line leave no doubt of the inspiration of Fiat’s new 124 Spider. Mazda underpinnings promise a level of unfamiliar reliability, while a turbo four sourced from the frisky 500 Abarth, offers a few more beans in the recipe over the naturally aspirated Miata four.

The Graduate

Even if someone knows nothing about cars, they probably know this one. A poorly documented story has a young Dustin Hoffman (Benjamin, in The Graduate) introducing his uncle, an executive with some connection with Alfa, to the director, facilitating the product placement coup of the day.

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Above, displaying their “cuttlefish” tails, Alfa Romeo Duettos crowd each other on the Concorso fairway on the 50th anniversary of the model introduction. The name was trademarked by a biscuit maker, so the factory never officially called it that, but few Alfisti care. Below, a lone Duetto punctuates a gathering of GTVs.
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Mid-engine Magic – the Miura

A little like Henry Ford before him, Enzo Ferrari was wary of change. He was late in employing disc brakes, for instance. While racing cars, including his own, were steadily adopting the rear-mid engine layout, his first excursion into road cars with the engine behind the driver involved only cars that did not bear the Ferrari name – the six-cylinder Dinos.

Ferruccio Lamborghini, on the other hand, embraced innovation. Given the freedom to experiment, three of his engineers built a transverse-mid-engine exotic chassis incorporating the Lamborghini V12. Ferrari had refused to build a mid-engine V12, but Ferruccio welcomed the idea, and they were tasked with building a show chassis for Turin in 1965. It was a smash hit.

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Many mid-engine cars are ill-proportioned, with the length of an engine between the cockpit and the rear axle line giving them the look of a kind of exotic pickup truck. Some manufacturers employ styling artifices such as sail panels and flying buttresses to reduce the effect. With its transverse-mounted 4-liter V12 mounted almost directly atop the rear axle (above), the Miura needed no such tricks. It remains to this day a paragon of Italian design and engineering. Below is a shot of one at Pebble Beach. The model was honored at both shows.
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The Miura has to be counted as the first exotic car. Nothing had been built like it for sale before. With a 170 mile per hour top speed, it was easily the top dog among sports cars.

Italian Animals

When I was discharged form the Army in 1971 my father picked me up at the Orange County Airport in his fly yellow DeTomaso Mangusta, so I have a special affection for the products of Alejandro DeTomaso’s Modena Car Company. Before that I was captivated by the sheer audacity of the Mangusta’s Giugiaro design. Extreme low-set quad headlights, butterfly engine compartment lids, and those staggered tire sizes that made it look as though it was gathered to spring gave it a menace unmatched then or since.

The attraction, of course, was all that exotic Italian flair without the angst of multiple overhead cams and carburetors that baffled your corner garage. The prototype Mangusta had the Hi-Po Ford 289 V8, but by introduction time emission controls had arrived, and it was replaced with a 302 of mild tune and low redline.

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Spectators approach the DeTomaso Mangusta display on the 50th anniversary of its introduction – or are they just headed for the temporary washrooms behind?

The Mangusta had a reputation for challenging handling characteristics, so when Ford commissioned a replacement, the transmission was inverted to lower the center of gravity, and that, along with the substitution of the 351 Cleveland V8 addressed most of the Mangusta’s concerns. Above you’ll find the Fiat 124’s design attributed to Tom Tjaarda, and he was at Ghia when they styled the Pantera. It’s a nice design, with hidden headlights that met the Federal standards that caused the Mangusta to contract a case of strabismus in 1970, but it lacked the ‘Goose’s visual impact.

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With a longer run and Mercury dealer support, Panteras far outnumber Mangustas (6,128 to 400). Owners are passionate, and not shy about dressing their cars up. They show up with regularity in large numbers at these shows, like 227HKV below, exhibited in 2013 and 2016.
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It’s no Concorso Without Ferraris

The Ferrari answer to the Miura was pretty ordinary by the new standard – the front-engine 365 GTB/4 Daytona. It was a high-performance car to be sure, but front-engines were so ’60s.

The mid-engine V12 that Enzo finally built, the 512 BB (Berlinetta Boxer) didn’t arrive until the Miura had been out of production for a year, in 1973.

The BB’s replacement was a rather strange machine. Impossibly wide, with cheese-grater side strakes, the Testarossa and subsequent 512 TR suffered briefly from its association with the TV show Miami Vice and the occasional Camaro-based imitation. Appreciation is recovering though, and the cars are now regaining some of the value lost recently. One thing is for sure – like the Miura, you don’t mistake one for anything else (except maybe one of those Camaros).

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Above: Looking like something Darth Vader might drive, a 512 TR in black is as menacing as it gets. Behind it on the right is the last of the classic front-engine V12 Ferraris, the 365 GTB/4 Daytona. Below: all that width is needed to make room for a 48-valve horizontal-opposed twelve-cylinder engine and the radiators to cool it.
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To many, the sexiest classic Ferrari is the 275 GTB with its shark-like shape. This dark shade of Rosso displays its sensuous contours well.

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During the mid-engine V12 drought at Ferrari, the gap was filled by the V6 Dino, named for Enzo’s son. Long derided for its “entry-level” market placement, these cars are now recognized by many as among the most beautiful the company produced. Eventually Ferrari relented and deigned to affix his name to cars, like this 246 GTS. A preservation class winner sold for $330,000 (including commission) at Mecum this year.

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Drum brakes and solid rear axles seem quaint these days, but they do not diminish the collector appeal of vintage Ferraris, like this 250 Tour de France.

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It’s difficult to suppress a snigger over the name, and the color (probably a “wrap”) is just out there, but the performance of the Ferrari LaFerrari cannot be so easily dismissed. Its hybrid drivetrain produces 950 total horsepower and a nice even 900 Nm (664 Lb-Ft.) of torque. Aided by an electric motor’s instantaneous torque, it is said to reach 100 mph from a stop in 3 seconds flat.

Legacy Brands

Alfa Romeo racing credentials predate Ferrari’s by some 36 years. In 1926, fifteen years later, the Maserati brothers won the Targa Florio with the first racing car carrying their name. Highlights of the marque include Wilbur Shaw’s two consecutive wins (1939 & 1940) at the Indianapolis 500 in the 8CTF.

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Tradition has the winner of the previous year’s Indianapolis 500 awarded number “1” the following year. Wilbur Shaw drove this Maserati 8CTF, displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2010, to victory in 1939 and 1940. Maserati is the only Italian marque to have won the 500.

Maserati’s bread and butter cars in the late ’50s and early ’60s were the 3500GTs, powered by twelve-valve in-line sixes, as were the Jaguars and Aston Martins of the day.

Maserati competed for the World Sports Car Championship in 1957, coming in second to Ferrari with their V8-powered 450 S. A variation of that engine was adapted to road cars, including the car many consider the first high performance 4-door sedan, the Quattroporte, with elegant coachwork by Frua.

Cutting eleven inches out of the Quattroporte’s chassis, Maserati created the equally elegant Mexico 2+2, so-named because the prototype was delivered to Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos.

These two cars, with their airy greenhouses, pleasing proportions, and DOHC V8 performance, were standouts in the luxury car market of the early ’60s.

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Today we’ve become accustomed to gun-slit windows and non-existent rear visibility in our sports coupes. Maserati’s Quattroporte and Mexico (above) gave new meaning to the term “greenhouse” with there slim pillars and vast glass area.

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bout the time Lamborghini was phasing out the Miura, Maserati was bringing out its first mid-engined cars, the V6 Merak (left above) and the V8 Bora (right), named (as was Maserati’s custom then) after famous winds.

Others

Italian Style, American Power

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itting a big (by European standards) U. S. V8 into elegant Italian Coachwork was high concept in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Renzo Rivolta and Giotto Bizzarrini got together and built some lovely cars under the name Iso Rivolta, powered by Chevrolet Corvette V8s.

The Eyes!

A car has to have a “face.” Given that, you can screw up an automotive design with the wrong “eyes.” It has been an issue with cars that feature hidden headlights, and with the freedom afforded with modern technologies like LED lighting and even lasers, there are whole new ways to mess up the frontal aspect of a car.

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Impressive engineering, with a Mercedes AMG-sourced  twin-turbo V12 rated at 720 horsepower and 811 pound-feet of torque, and active aerodynamics, give the Pagani Huayra (Hoo-Wye-Rah) extreme performance. Claimed top speed is 238 mph, with lateral acceleration said to be up to 1.66 g. But you still have to look at it.

Join Us

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A little suggestion: If you are considering joining the fun next year, be sure not to ignore the non-Italian car display. There are always some interesting cars, like this Jaguar E-Type tricked out as a racing car, in British Racing Green.

 

 

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Ford, Ferrari, and Le Mans 2016

Can They Do It Again?

It’s Not Bragging If You Can Do It

There is a real risk in setting a goal and announcing it in advance. If you fall on your butt you do it in the full glare of media scrutiny. John F. Kennedy did it with the Apollo Program, and history applauds him for it, as much for the audacity as for accomplishing it.

Bringing it down to earth, Ford Motor Company has set itself the goal of reclaiming the glory days of the sixties when they beat Enzo Ferrari in his favorite venue by competing in and winning the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, and they have not been shy about announcing that they intend to win.

Enzo at Le Mans.

Although a successful racing driver in his own right, Enzo Ferrari never drove at Le Mans himself. Instead, his legacy is founded in his management of the Alfa Romeo racing effort, until after WWII when he created his own marque, Ferrari S.p.A., in 1947.

His open-wheel racers enjoyed some success in 1948, but it was Le Mans where his road racing cars played an oversize part in establishing his racing credentials, starting in 1949.

003ChinettiLeMans166Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 2015.
Above: The first Ferrari to win Le Mans. Expatriate Italian Luigi Chinetti ‘s Co-driver fell ill, so he drove it for all but about twenty minutes of the entire 24 hours. Enzo Ferrari rewarded him with the Ferrari franchise for the United States.
Below: The last Ferrari to win Le Mans outright, 1965 Ferrari 250LM Chassis Number 5893, driven by Jochen Rindt, Masten Gregory, and Ed Hugus.
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In 1949 the winning Barchetta chassis 0008M, was clothed in a Superleggera body by Carrozzeria Touring, and all twelve cylinders displaced a mere 2 liters. Ferrari would go on to win the event outright fourteen times, including six years in a row beginning in 1959.

Total Performance

At Ford Motor Company in the late ‘50s, Henry Ford II had promoted safety as Fords’ marketing theme. While today that’s a legitimate strategy, back then it was a dud. Legendary marketing whiz Lido A. “Lee” Iacocca convinced “The Duece” to switch to “Total Performance,” a program emphasizing special competition cars in many different racing classes.

The Snub.

What was really going through the mind of Enzo Ferrari in 1963 will never be known, but for whatever reason, he “let it be known” that he wanted to sell his company to Ford. An enthusiastic Henry Ford II dove into negotiations in earnest. He was eager to have the immense prestige of Ferrari to rub off on other Fords and he was willing to pay just about any price, provided the terms were right.

Somewhere in the negotiations the two reached an impasse. Some say it was over Ferrari’s stated intention to build cars to race at Indianapolis. Ford didn’t want the competition for their Lotus-Fords, and on that note, Ferrari walked out. Of course no Ferrari ever did run at Indy thereafter, so once again his true motivation may never be known.

Ferrari would win Le Mans two more times, but meanwhile, within two weeks of Ferrari’s cutting off negotiations, an angered Henry Ford II determined to beat Ferrari where he was most famous. By the time they were done they had won Le Mans four times and Ferrari would never win it outright again.

Ford started by engaging Aston Martin’s John Wyer to run the effort (Aston Martin had won in 1959 with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori sharing driving duties), with Eric Broadley of Lola assigned to create a Ford capable of winning the race, based on a mid-engine racing coupe he’d been developing.

Close but no Cigar

The first Lola-designed “MKI” Ford GT40s (so-named for their 40 inch height), powered by 255 cubic inch Ford Indy 500 “stock block” pushrod V8s, were fast but suffered aerodynamic problems, and crashed out at Le Mans. An aero fix was successful, and Cobra 289 V8s were fitted, but rear suspensions proved fragile, and the cars failed to finish at the Nassau Speed Weeks.

After the 1964 Le Mans entry suffered further suspension failures, the cars had failed to finish in all nine starts. Consequentially, Ford severed its ties to Lola and moved operations to California under Carroll Shelby, who had his own grudge against Ferrari, after being deprived of a potential GT-class championship when Enzo managed to get the final race of the season cancelled with Cobras within striking distance (pun intended) in the standings.

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The fourth GT40, Chassis number 104, sold for $7,000,000 at Mecum’s Houston Auction in 2014. It used thinner-wall chassis tubing for lighter weight. Although it never won a race, with a best finish of third at the 1965 2000 km Daytona Continental, its provenance included drivers like Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant, Richie Ginther, and Jo Schlesser.

No More Mister Nice Guy

Ford chose the nuclear option in 1966, and replaced the small-block Cobra engines with a version of the proven NASCAR 427 cubic inch V8. While the 3-liter V12s in the Ferrari 250LM that won the 1965 race made a peak of 320 horsepower at 7,500 rpm, in 1966 the big Ford MKIIs were loafing along (comparatively) developing their 485 horsepower at about 5,000.

For that season Ford mounted a multi-faceted campaign, with the Shelby team, one by Holman and Moody, and one by Alan Mann in the UK. They were successful right out of the box, sweeping the podium at both Daytona and Le Mans, and finishing 1-2 at Sebring.

Stupid PR Tricks

The 1966 effort at Le Mans is infamous for a PR stunt that cost rightful winners Ken Miles and Denny Hulme the victory. Fords stood 1-2-3 with an insurmountable lead when someone in Ford thought it would make a great publicity photo to have the cars cross the finish line abreast, so Miles slowed to let his teammates catch up. Unfortunately for him and his co-driver, the Le Mans winner is the car that travels the farthest in the 24 hours, so because the car of Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren started further back on the grid 24 hours before, they had traveled a few more feet at the finish and were awarded the win.

Climbing out of his car in the pits, Miles was heard to mutter, “Screw it!” He died two months later testing the Ford “J-Car.”

Let Us Spray

The J-car was developed into the factory entry for 1967. It was an entirely new design, with a honeycomb structure and a body with a “lobster-claw” nose developed in a sophisticated wind tunnel. Four were entered at Le Mans in 1967, with two wiped out in a single accident and a third coming in fourth. That left Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt.

Gurney had taken the lead early and he and Foyt were never really challenged. Gurney’s lead was so great that Ferrari sent Mike Parkes, four laps down in a 330 P4, out to harass him into doing something stupid. Gurney recognized the tactics.

“He was all over me under braking at the end of the Mulsanne straight, flicking his lights like crazy, trying to get me to drive harder,” Gurney said later. Instead, he pulled off onto the grass and stopped. Parkes stopped behind him, but after a few seconds, pulled back on the track and Gurney soon passed him. Foyt finished the race, 32 miles ahead of Parkes, averaging a record 135.48 miles per hour.

In one more historic moment, at the podium, Dan Gurney took the traditional celebratory bottle of Moet & Chandon, shook it up, and sprayed all and sundry with bubbly, creating a tradition still practiced today.

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Ford won Le Mans four times, the second time in 1967. This is the car that Dan Gurney (note the “Gurney Bump” on the roof to accommodate his long torso.) and A. J. Foyt drove to victory. It was the first win at Le Mans for an American car, driven by American drivers for an American team. It ran only in one race, won it, and retired undefeated to the Henry Ford Museum, as shown here.

Icing on the Cake

The win was so convincing that, perhaps fearing withdrawal of European teams in future races (Ferrari, you think?), organizers placed a cap of five liters on subsequent entries.

It didn’t matter. Ford came back with improved MKIs in 1968 and 1969 powered by the ubiquitous 289. With revised bottom end and the Gurney-Weslake head design that had the carburetors bolted straight onto the heads, they produced a reliable 500 plus horsepower on gasoline. They won again, entered by John Wyer as Mirages. Having slain the dragon, Ford retired just in time to avoid being steamrolled by the next juggernaut, the Porsche 917.

GT40s for the Street

Between the first successful GT40 MK IIs and the big-block MK IVs, Ford produced just seven MKIIIs for use on public roads. They were given more luxurious interior appointments, a slightly higher ride height to better negotiate driveway aprons, etc., and an engine that was essentially the Mustang GT350 289 cubic inch V8, with an identical 306 horsepower rating. It cost about $18,500 when new.

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In case you wondered if the Petersen cars are driven, this is the Petersen’s GT40 MKIII in Steve Beck’s shop in Mar Vista in 2003 for a clutch replacement. That was at the Los Angeles Chapter of the Shelby American Automobile Club’s annual Holiday Party there. Steve road-tested the new clutch with a trip to Oxnard for another Shelby club event (with the blessing of the Museum, of course).

Tribute Cars – The GT

Ford had many more racing successes, with their DFV V8 developed for Formula One becoming the winningest engine in history, but the Le Mans wins stood out in such bold relief that in 2002 Ford showed a tribute car called the GT40 Concept, to be a part of the Ford Centennial Celebration. That car reached production as the Ford GT (Someone else had picked up the rights to the GT40 name.) in 2004 with a supercharged 5.4 liter 4-valve V8 based on the Mustang SVT Cobra R’s, making 550 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque.

The last of the 4038 cars built had an MSRP of $149,995. Demand far outstripped supply, and dealers typically placed asking prices on the cars more in keeping with that of the Ferraris and Lamborghinis with which they competed well in performance.

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The Ford GT at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2004.

With the 50th anniversary of the historic wins at Le Mans approaching, Ford is celebrating by introducing a new GT with a shape that won Automobile magazine’s Design of the Year award.

Like the Jaguar XJ220, the new GT is powered by a twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6. Technology has improved in 23 years so the new engine will develop perhaps 600 horsepower versus the Jag’s 542.

A carbon fiber chassis and efficient aerodynamics should make it a good deal faster, while even at an expected price of $400,000 or so, it should be a better value than the $678,000 that Jaguar asked for the XJ220. About 250 a year are planned for the new car, with no word yet on how many years of production are envisioned.

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Ford’s latest tribute to the Le Mans-winning GT40s carries enough design cues to be recognized as a descendant of those cars, while incorporating innovative features like the tunnels that allow air to easily move around the central pod without generating lift. It is on display at the Petersen Museum now, along with the Museum’s GT40 MKIII.

The Big Gamble

This time, instead of the Deuce, It’s Edsel Ford II taking a gamble with the new GT, announcing its intention to contend in the LM GT Pro class. If the car is even marginally successful they will gain great PR for their EcoBoost technology that is taking over for big displacement V8s, V6s and even a four, in their mainstream consumer products, from the tiny 1.0 liter three-cylinder turbo available in the Fiesta and Focus to the 400 hp 2017 Lincoln MKZ version of the 3.5-liter turbo. If they fall on their faces, someone is going to fall on his (or her) sword.

So far, results have been mixed. After some teething problems at Daytona and Indianapolis (the road races, not the NASCAR and Indycar events) they held together at the tough Sebring course, and might have achieved a podium finish if not for an unfortunate shunt late in the race with minutes to go. Remember – it took two years for them to get there the first time.

2017GT00RThe new Ford GT will compete in both the FIA Endurance Racing Championship and the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship.

Changing the Game

Full-on heavily-financed factory-supported teams have become the norm at Le Mans and the associated championship series. Industry giant Volkswagen seems to allocate resources to one division or another according to some corporate marketing scheme; Porsche winning for a while, then Audi, and even a car with the Bentley name on it winning in 2003.

It’s good to remember that it all started back in the early 1960s, with Henry Ford II getting ticked off at an enigmatic Enzo Ferrari.

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