Archive for December, 2008

Sebring 12 Hours 1958

Keep your eyes peeled for car #14. It’s the Scuderia Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa piloted by Phil Hill and Peter Collins, 1958’s winning car.

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From the LIFE Vaults: Onboard at Road America

Digging through the Life Magazine archives recently uploaded and indexed by Google, there’s a great deal of vintage motorsport to explore. This time, we’ll go to one of my very favorite tracks for some quick shots of the 1960 Road America 500. And what better way to do that than to ride along in a Briggs Cunningham Lister Jaguar.

Here we are driving up the short uphill straight after just passing turn 5. Today we’d be approaching the Toyota bridge just as the hill crests before we get on the brakes for the slightly blind turn 6. It looks like we’re closing on Wayne Burnett’s Ferrari Testa Rossa.

Whew, that was a quick lap. We’re already back to the finish line. It looks positively quaint compared to the main straight of today’s Road America. The building on the right looks absolutely grand. It looks like we’ve caught up with our Briggs Cunningham teammate in the #60 E-Type lightweight and just ahead of him it looks like Wayne has held us off.

No, I don’t know why that Porsche is facing the wrong way either.

Let’s thank our host for the trip.

The photo isn’t labeled, but I think that’s Ed Crawford (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong).

We’ll see more of the Life archives in the future. Check out our complete series.

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French Grand Prix, 1961 Rheims

In theory, this video has a lot stacked against it. Rheims was never the most popular track on the calendar, and Formula 1 fans objected to the 1.5 liter engine requirement imposed for the 1961 season. Even so, this looks a lot more exciting than the current season of F1.

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Barchetta: Italian for Awesome.

Stanguellini BarchettaActually it means “little boat”; but still, have you ever seen a barchetta that wasn’t absolute beauty on wheels?

Take this 1949(!) Stanguellini Barchetta Sport Colli 1100 currently in the inventory of Digit Motorsport in Arizona. In a method that Carlo Abarth would perfect decades later, the car is based on a Fiat chassis with an 1100 cc Fiat motor—both heavily modified by the Stanguellini crew in Modena. This is a pure Mille Miglia machine, with FIA papers tracing it’s history all the way back to it’s 1948 build date.

While there doesn’t seem to be any specific provenance placing this car at the Mille or Targa Florio, it’s hard to imagine that it never competed in either. 1949 was, after all, very early in sportscar manufacturing. It may only make a whopping 60 horses, but I imagine the thrill is every bit as visceral as driving the latest from Lamborghini or Ferrari.

I fell in love with the barchettas fully and completely at this year’s Continental Grand Prix at Autobahn Country Club at the foot of a Siata 300 Barchetta. I could barely tear myself away from it. Is there any barchetta of any make that isn’t magnificent? The Ferrari 166MM. The Maserati A6. The OSCA MT-4. The Siata I love so dearly. Each deserving of their own posts in a future installment of The Chicane. Hmm.. that’s a good idea.

The early Italian carrozzerias had it right, small engine, small body, beautiful lines.

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Have You Been Good This Year?

You’ll have to have been mighty good to find this under your tree in a couple of weeks. Audi has created an incredibly well realized pedal car version of the Auto Union Type C. The Silver Arrows were unparalleled in their innovation, Grand Prix success, and—in the opinion of this blogger—aesthetic virtue. Although the ferocious anticipation over the Auto Union Type D offered, and subsequently pulled, from last years Salon Rétromobile auction has died down. Don’t fret, you can still park an Auto Union of sorts in your garage; and it’s (almost) affordable.

The aluminum body is outfitted with leather upholstery and steering wheel, hydraulic disc brakes, and a 7 speed transmission. The chain drive of course means it won’t be matching the 1936 Type C’s record of 10 Grand Prix wins, but at 1:2 scale, it still makes quite an impression. Having been release last year with a run of only 999 examples, it’s likely that you’ll have a very difficult time finding one—although surely easier than finding an authentic Type C.

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Stirling Moss: Style Icon

Ok, ordinarily we don’t put Sir Stirling at the top of the Best Dressed list. Trackside, however, many vintage racers could use the inspiration. Look at this photo. Dunlop blues and a non-airbrushed helmet tucked under his arm, as the racing gods intended. If you have a BRDC patch for the breast, all the better.

Technically, yes, you could wear your Team M&Ms race suit. And I’m sure it’s fireproof and everything. But then you’d be wearing a Team M&Ms race suit. You’ve spared no expense making your vintage racer period-correct where possible. You’ve probably retained the original color, placed your racing number and sponsor stickers with care. Begrudgingly increased the height of that roll-bar, mumbling about authenticity under your breath no doubt. It’s not a big leap to take that same attention to detail and apply it to the car’s single most important component—the driver.

Of course the racing drivers of old never worried about pesky things like fire. They just straightened their ties and got on with it, just like our fried Mike Hawthorne here. Thankfully, manufacturers and sells a fully FIA compliant race suit in Dunlop Blue. They demonstrate exactly the kind of restraint that modern motorsport has been unable to.

That being said, they’re a bit expensive. For the more budget-minded driver Sparco’s vintage stripe racing suit from last year can be found on sale through many retailers and makes a great substitute.

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The Chicane's Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again, friends. While I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a special gift for the vintage racing enthusiast in your life, it seemed like a good time to collect some of our, and probably someone on your list’s, favorites. Perfect for anyone snuggled in bed, while visions of racing cars dance in their heads.

Racing Books

It seems that gearheads never have too many bookshelves. Every year another hundred or so racing books are published; these are a few of our favorites.


I would hope that the racer on your shopping list would have these films in their collection already. If they don’t, they’re mandatory.

For The Walls

I’m sure there’s still some small piece of bare wall somewhere. No? Not even in the garage? Maybe the master bathroom.

Video Gaming

It’s winter. Chances are, the racer on your list can’t take their car to the local track until spring. These should tide them over until then.

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On Modifying Vintage Racecars for Safety

I’m of two minds on racecar modification.

There’s the “ownership” school of thought. It belongs to you. You can add a rollbar, five point harness, strengthen crossmembers for impact safety. Hell, you can burn it to the ground if you want. It’s an understandable point of view, you bought this thing.

Then, there’s the “caretaker” point of view. These are objects, yes, but they have intrinsic historical value that supersedes the owner’s impulse to modify. You don’t “own” a Targa Florio winning Porsche 908-3 any more than Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze “owns” David, or the National Gallery “owns” Belshazzar’s Feast. There is a tendency to consider that while, legally, these objects have clearly defined owners; culturally and historically, they belong to everyone. Traditionally, I tend to favor this perspective of stewardship.

Now, it does seem reasonable that to compete with your car, you must meet some minimum safety standards, and that is why we see rollbars increased in height, puncture resistant fuel cells, improved safety harnesses, and arm restraints. For some reason, these mandatory modifications for competition haven’t been applied to pre-war cars. Until today, I’ve appreciated that. I wouldn’t want to add a rollbar to a Bugatti 35. But this video shot during a VSCC event at Oulton Park makes me reconsider.

I should point out that, despite appearances, this driver escaped with nothing more serious than a broken collar bone.

Now I’m wondering if rollbars, or at least seat belts, aren’t a good idea for pre-war cars—if not as a mandatory, then at least something that more individual drivers might consider adding. I’m curious to hear what Chicane readers think about this, so let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Welcome H.A.M.B. Alliance and Jalopy Journal Readers

Wow! Many thanks to Ryan Cochran over at the Jalopy Journal for linking to The Chicane today. As a longtime reader of the Jalopy Journal, Jockey Journal and the Garage Journal, it was quite a thrill to see the post this morning.

Here’s a few posts that H.A.M.B. readers might find particularly interesting.

The “Lost Tracks” series: An ongoing look at the sadly defunct palaces of America’s road racing glory days—before lawyers decided everything is someone’s fault.

The 1947 Cisitalia D46: Surely any fan of American roadsters can find kinship with Italy’s immediate post-war monoposto racers.

A Naked Lotus Formula 2: With the body panels removed, it’s easy to see that the same thrill that inspires the DIY attitude can build a world championship formula car.

and for your headphones, The Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix: Phil Hill narrates this LP recorded as research for John Frankenheimer’s masterpiece, “Grand Prix”.

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Available in Los Angeles: 1956 Ferrari Tour de France

Don’t get me wrong, I like Rosso Corso as much as the next guy. Isn’t it a bit refreshing though, to see a classic Ferrari in a color other than red? This French racing blue 250 GT LWB on offer from Symbolic Motors looks fantastic with it’s tri-color French racing stripes. The long wheel base cars don’t seem to get as much respect as the ridiculously popular 250 SWB, the 250 GT California, and the later GTO; but the extra 8 inches hardly seems worth quibbling about when a car looks as absolutely fantastic as this.

Like all 250s, the Tour de France draws power from the Colombo designed 3-liter V12. Although restricting engine size in the wake of the tragedy at the ’55 Le Mans was a bit unpopular at the time, the engine is still impressive, drawing 240 hp in the early Tour de France configuration. This, coupled with the very lightweight body, allowed to 250 Ferraris to be strong GT competitors.

This car, chassis 508, is the 8th Tour de France of 9 bodied by Carozzeria Scaglietti using the original Pinin Farina designed body style. True to its name, gentleman racing driver Jacques Peron and his co-driver, Jacques Bertrammier, debuted #508 in the 5th annual Tour de France Auto, placing 8th. Peron continued to track the car, largely in mainland Europe, for another 2 years with fairly high levels of success. Notable races include wins at the ’56 Rallye des Forets, ’56 USA Cup at Montlhéry, ’57 Grand Prix of Paris, and what must have been an exotic rally indeed, the 1957 Rallye Allier in Algier.

After Peron returned the car to it’s lessor (who knew you could lease Ferraris in 1956?), the car was sold to Bruce Kessler in the States and dropped out of competition. Damaged in the 1970’s the car sat dormant until a series of restorations in the 80’s and 90’s brought it to the concours quality you see today. 508 took 2nd in it’s class at the 2003 Concours at Pebble Beach and since then has been bouncing around from auction to auction.

There’s no question that the car is beautiful; and a 250GT is an impressive addition to any collection. I’d prefer the car’s interior was kept the original black in the restoration. And the current climate of 250GT sales is atmospheric, even for cars without long racing provenance (the ridiculous price brought in by the ex-James Coburn 250GT California comes to mind). I say that, of course, but if I had the funds I’d be jumping on the opportunity to put this amazing car in my garage. The car last sold for $4.5 Million; certainly a princely sum, but given recent 250 prices, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it breaks that price.

Here’s some footage of the ’56 Tour de France Auto. Keep your eyes peeled for #75—the number this car wore for the race.

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