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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

The PetersenAtNight02

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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


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.

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.

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.


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,

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.

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.

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.


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.
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.

Honored This Year

Delahaye and Chapron

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
Lone DuettoWith GTVs

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Italian Style, American Power

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Another Kind of Art of the Automobile

Another Local Resource

With all the hooplah over the reopening of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles it’s good to remember that the edifice is founded in a hobby. Robert Petersen’s fortune, and the collection that it allowed him to assemble, came from a publishing empire that started with a little special-interest magazine named Hot Rod.

Every year at this time the faithful of the Rod and Custom hobbies (Sometimes the lines between the two get blurred.) gather in Pomona for the Grand National Roadster Show, where you’ll see more sparkling chrome, shimmering clear coat, sensuous sheet metal and mouth-watering color than just about anywhere else on earth.

The 2016 AMBR Award

Sometimes classic proportions and detailed execution win out over flash and exaggeration. Darryl and Terri Hollenbeck recruited Dan Webb and Cory Taulbert to help in the building of the Hollenbeck32, a car that might have just completed a SCTA run on a California dry lake. If you visit the Petersen, you can see the Hot Rod Magazine 5oth anniversary tribute car, built by Terri’s father, two-time AMBR winner Andy Brizio. Darryl calls the color he mixed, “rotten avocado.”

Beauty in all Forms

Following the passing of legendary King of Kustoms George Barris, it is only appropriate that his famous Lincoln Futura-based TV Batmobile be a featured display.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Some of the roadsters shown alongside this year’s AMBR contenders caused us to do a double take. Several award winners from the an earlier event were displayed, perhaps for a historic perspective?

2010 multiple award-winner Magnatude (above) was back, as was Metallica’s James Hetfield’s Aquarius (below), a car that would look right at home in the Bruce Meyer Gallery’s current exhibit of Precious Metal at the Petersen.

BlueBayouIMG_4655We appreciate a good (or bad) pun as much or more than the next guy, so Charles C. Evans’ Deuce, Blue Bayou (Blew By You – get it?), built by Charly’s Garage, Mesa Arizona, attracted our attention almost as much as its unusual sky blue hue and honkin’ Chrysler Fire Power Hemi V8.

Another Hemi-powered (’57 401 CID) Deuce, Gary Metranga’s aero-informed creation shuns many traditional roadster cues with hidden headlights (rectangular, no less) and refrigerator white scheme.

Hollywood Hot Rods of Burbank created this eye-rest green ’36 Ford Roadster based on a design by Eric Black for Jeff Romig, incorporating ideas from the Lincolns being built alongside them at the Ford plant on Long Beach’s Ford Avenue.

It’s not all Deuces, and anyway who can resist a great flame job, like the one on this ’39 Ford Convertible?
Chopped tops, lots of chrome, and wild paint characterize a pair of turn-of-the-half-century customs. Ford and Chevrolet may be bitter rivals in the market but here a Mercury and Chevy can co-exist peacefully.

No Rod Report would be complete without at least one Little Deuce Coupe. Bob and Sherry Franklin’s Green Thump has a custom Van Gordon supercharged V8 in place of a flathead mill.

Nancy and Buddy Jordan’s 1947 Cadillac in gorgeous “Sparkling Merlot” is CadZZilla dialed back about six notches.

It’s all about rescuing a nice old car. Gotta love the before and after comparisons – even if it’s just approximate.

You gotta show at least one lilac Cadillac,

. . . one real racing sports car (Mickey Thompson’s Z06 Corvette with the 427 “Mystery Motor” driven by Junior Johnson at Daytona in 1963), 

 . . . and one really outrageous – something.

Adding to the fun is the thought that one of these will no doubt soon show up in one of the galleries at the Petersen. Drop on by and see.





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The Petersen Re-Imagined I


Los Angeles’ Museum Row Gets New Landmark Look

The PetersenAtNight02
The exterior treatment of the new Petersen is stunning, especially at night.

As media reaction to the new Petersen Automotive Museum exterior’s hot rod flame treatment rolls out it’s difficult not to be reminded of how critics panned the design of the Disney Concert Hall downtown.

Our most vivid recollection is of someone remarking that it looked as though they’d left the architectural model sitting out in the rain. A while back we had an extended opportunity to experience it on a daily basis, and it seemed everyone who passed was admiring it. Look at any rack of postcards in the area and you’re sure to find pictures of it. It’s become something of a symbol of the city.

In our opinion, the new Petersen is headed toward that kind of acceptance. It will be the southwest anchor of the Miracle Mile and Museum Row in Los Angeles, and as one critic admitted, the public will probably love it.

The Penthouse Deck on the fourth floor retains the original tea room from the days of the original Seibu Department Store that constitutes the bones of the building, with the exuberant treatment of the building exterior flowing overhead.

You don’t have to pay the admission fee to see a few great cars at the Petersen. The Mullin Family Concourse is open to the public, giving access to all of Museum Row from the Petersen’s garage, and teases with a few automotive treasures to entice you in.

Walking into the concourse, one of the first cars you see now is among the most famous of the Petersen Collection, this 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I – the “Round-Door Rolls.”

Originally an open car, the Round Door Rolls was rebodied by truck builder Jonckheer of Belgium in 1934, reportedly for the sole purpose of winning concours. It worked. The car won the Prix d’Honneur at the Concours d’Elegance at Cannes in 1936. The car had a short show-biz career in a carnival, painted gold and passed off as the Prince of Wales’ ride. Found in derelict condition, it is one of the few cars in the collection actually restored under the Petersens’ care.

Big Changes

The previous Museum’s first floor consisted of a Streetscape, depicting the history of Los Angeles and the cars that facilitated its sprawl, illustrated in dioramas and exhibiting cars from the times. The second floor had an alternative fuels exhibit and several galleries for rotating exhibits based on themes. The third floor had offices and the Discovery Center where kids could learn about cars and play with automotive-themed artifacts.

The trouble with that scheme was that it severely limited how many of the over 300 cars in the Petersen Collection could be displayed at any one time, not to mention any cars loaned from other collectors and museums.

Now all three floors are chock-full of cars, arranged in three themes. They are arranged so that they are best experienced from the top down.

The Third Floor

Administrative offices went to the basement and it’s now themed as the History of the Automobile, arranged by themes rather than chronology.

It starts with one of the Museum’s Crown Jewels, the Steve McQueen 1956 Jaguar XK-SS, in front of a screen showing a film about what we like about our cars, what we do with them, and where we go with them.

On this floor there’s everything from the Collection’s 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen to one of the earliest pilot production Dodge Viper SRT8s.

There’s a row of cars associated with Hollywood, including the Volkswagen van from Little Miss Sunshine, one of Fatty Arbuckle’s cars (a Renault), Elvis Presley’s DeTomaso Pantera, complete with the bullet holes it got when he shot it for failing to start, the Magnum P.I. Ferrari, and an Aston Martin DB10 from the James Bond movie Spectre.

One of the James Bond Aston Martins, a DB5 FHC from Goldfinger, complete with ejector seat and tire slicers, is included in the Precious Metal exhibit. This one, a DB10 from Spectre, closes the Circle to date, and is among the Hollywood cars on exhibit, a small sample of the Museum’s extensive collection.

There are rods and customs, including two of the nine America’s Most Beautiful Roadsters (AMBR) in the Petersen’s Collection. One is the very first rod to win the AMBR award in 1950 at the Oakland Roadster Show (now the Grand National Roadster Show, held in Pomona).

We’re not alone in considering this the most beautiful custom car ever built. 26 years ago Billy Gibbons, lead guitarist for ZZ Top commissioned legendary customizer Boyd Coddington to create CadZZilla on a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette foundation based on a concept Gibbons imagined with Cadillac designer Larry Erickson. Gibbons shows the car here and there, but usually it calls the Petersen home.

Recently deceased George Barris partnered with his brother Sam in 1952 to create the quintessential ’49-51 Mercury “Kustom Koupe,” chopping the top and removing the “B” pillars, among other features.

Appropriate for a museum founded by the Petersens and co-chaired by prominent hot rod collector Bruce Meyer, hot rods have a significant presence, including one that pretty much set the pattern for Deuce roadsters.

The genesis of the Doane Spencer Roadster, currently a key component of Petersen Co-Chair Bruce Meyer’s collection, goes all the way back to 1944. It’s the first Deuce to be fitted with a DuVall windshield (Hot rodders keep track of these things.) and introduced other features later copied on other Deuces. At one time it was prepared to race in the Carrera Panamericana, receiving extra chassis bracing and exhaust was channeled through the frame rails for improved ground clearance.

The “Niekamp” Roadster, winner of the first AMBR award. Like most rods, it’s made up of pieces from four or five different cars, with some custom fabricated parts. In the Background is a mildly customized Mercury, and the largest-selling motorized vehicle in history, the 50cc Honda Cub.

In 2010 Scott’s Hot Rods were racing literally up to the last minute to meet the 12:00 deadline for entering “Possessed” in the AMBR competition, facing setbacks like wrong-size tires and a freeway snarl between Oxnard and Pomona 90 miles away. They arrived at the scrutineers with the trailer dragging traffic cones and chased by parking attendants, at 11:59. The story wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if they hadn’t won.

General Motors didn’t want any of its concept cars to fall into private hands, and ordered them destroyed. Fortunately for us, several were discovered in pieces in a junk yard by Joe Bortz, who rescued them and restored them. This is the 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP37, whose lines hold up pretty well today. Sharp eyes may recognize some design elements that showed up in the Corvette and Corvair.

The Second Floor

The Second floor is dedicated to the Automotive Industry. Everything from the earliest stages of product planning to the showroom floor is explored. There’s even a studio that’s an extension of the Art Center College of Design, where design students will work on their projects.

Car construction is illustrated with a cutaway of a Jaguar XKF.

The new Discovery Center lures the kids (of all sizes) in with interactive displays created by Pixar, using its Cars characters (with the actual actors voicing them) to demonstrate how cars work, and allowing the participants to design their own cars.

Lightning McQueen, in full size, gets star billing in the new Discovery center. The movie character was actually engineered according to current NASCAR practice to insure accurate depiction of the car’s behavior on the road or track (up to a point, of course) in the movie. As a result, the interactive displays that show his inner workings are both correct and true to the character.

There is an exhibit showing the stages of building a Maserati Quatroporte, one of the most beautiful four-door sedans available today. Here is the Final Product.

Motorsports as a driver of design and engineering is a major theme on the second floor. One large room displays significant racing cars from the Nearburg Collection, with a 180 degree wrap-around film depicting racing in all its varieties and nuances.

Road racing in the early ’50s was contested by the greats – Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, etc. Not to be forgotten is Lancia, whose D24s won both the Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia. This 1953 D24R is the car that Juan Manuel Fangio drove to victory in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana.

In the electronic age, it is not just racing that manufacturers use to convey an image of performance. Ford reaps tremendous PR from the YouTube exploits of Ken Block in his 650 horsepower all-wheel drive Ford Fiesta.

Individual Exuberance

In many cases, it was the work of back-yard mechanics and the shops that served them that pushed American manufacturers to improve performance in their cars. Young men who had learned skills in the service during WWII came home and continued a tradition begun long before, of building their own cars from pieces of others, perhaps scavenged in junk yards.

Robert Petersen was the first to recognize the popularity of hot rodding and put the sport in print. In January of 1948 he published Volume One Number One of Hot Rod magazine. Regg Schlemmer’s roadster graced the cover of that issue (inset), and served as the inspiration for Roy Brizio’s tribute car, commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the magazine.

Two Wheels Only

There was a short period in transportation history when the fastest form of travel was by motorcycle. The Petersen’s extremely compact motorcycle exhibit spans from a 1903 Thor to a 2015 Kawasaki supercharged  liter bike with over 300 horsepower. In between there are bikes with one, two, four, six and eight cylinders (unaccountably omitting the Triumph and BSA triples), and an example of some of the most significant motorcycles ever. The word “iconic” is grossly overused but certainly applies here.

Other motorcycles, such as Steve McQueen’s Indian Big Chief and an example of the first four-cylinder motorcycle can be found on the third floor.

Anyone who has seen the David Lean movie Lawrence of Arabia has seen a Brough Superior. T. E. Lawrence owned at least four of these expensive motorcycles, and it was on one of these that he crashed in 1935 as seen in the movie. This is “Old Bill” the prototype SS80 that George Brough himself raced to great success in hill climbs. The Red machine behind on the left is a Crocker, built in Los Angeles and said to outperform the Indians and Harley-Davidsons of the day.

Silver Salute

Today we seem awash in silver cars. At one time though, the combination of silver paint and lots of bright metal was a feature of the most elegant and prestigious cars, going back to AX201, the 1907 Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce. For its opening, the Museum presents ten stunning silver cars, ranging from a Ghia Fiat Supersonic two-liter V8 to the all-conquering “Silver Arrow” Mercedes Benz W196.

3BISsStanding in one place, one is within feet of three cars that have won the prestigious title of Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Viewed over the starboard wing of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, on the right is the Nethercutt’s 1933 Duesenberg J Rolston Arlington Torpedo Sedan called the “Twenty Grand” for it’s purchase price. On the left is Jon Shirley’s 1953 Ferrari 375 MM, originally owned by film director Roberto Rosellini who had it rebodied by Scaglietti. Behind it is the 2009 Best in Show 1937 Horch 853 Cabriolet, with a few period-correct enhancements added since it won.

The Mullin Collection’s 1938 Hispano Suiza Dubonnet Xenia with aero bodywork by Saoutchick. There are more typical examples of French coachwork in the first floor Mullin gallery, but none more impressive than this. The doors open parallel to the car’s axis on patented parallelogram hinges, and the suspension design by the heir to the Dubonnet aperitif fortune, André Dubonnet, was bought by General Motors.

The First Floor

Art on Autos, and Vice Versa

In 1975 Hervé Poulain persuaded BMW Motorsport Director Jochen Neerpasch to supply a car for him to race at Le Mans. He then commissioned American artist Alexander Calder to unleash his creativity on the car, creating the first “Art Car.” The idea caught on, and BMW bought into the idea, commissioning 17 other artists to create their own versions. The Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery was devoted to an exhibition relating that series.

The car that started it all. 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL Le Mans race car with decorative paint job by Alexander Calder. Behind it is the BMW 850si painted by David Hockney, and on the wall are pictures and descriptions of the other BMW Art Cars.

Car Painting
It’s one thing to paint a car, but BMW got creative and used a car to paint. This is a section of a huge “canvas” created by taking the BMW Z4 displayed and applying paint to its tires with squirters, then driving it as directed by the artist, Robin Rhode.

Cars as Sculpture

The Art Deco movement affected every aspect of design. On cars it manifested as an attempt to capture the idea of speed and motion in the design of the vehicle itself. Aerodynamics were studied and applied. The result in many cases was a car that looked as though it was moving fast while standing still.

Since the French were at the forefront of the movement, there are bound to be  mutterings that the Museum’s Board Co-Chairman Peter Mullin is turning a museum founded on hot rodding into a French car museum, but with an entire museum of his own in Oxnard devoted to that theme, there’s little to fear.

The upside of the Mullin connection is that the Petersen gets to show some of the most stunning cars ever built. The car rumored to have set a record for the private sale of a car ($35 million), the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic above, was in the Art of the Automobile display.

With almost 100,000 square feet of display space, the reader will understand that only a tiny fraction of the experience is documented here, and no photograph can convey what you experience seeing it in person. On top of that are all the interactive features, including the Forza Racing Experience, where you can drive a simulator and compete with real racing drivers and your friends and neighbors. During the real Le Mans race in June you can actually race in real time as though you were there.

So the obvious admonition is to get down to the Petersen Automotive Museum yourself and experience it personally. Admission fees are reasonable (Adults: $15, Students and Seniors: $12, Kids: $7, Under 3 free). The first 20 minutes of parking is free if you want to dash in and buy a Holiday  gift at the store.

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 attributed otherwise.




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