Archive for July, 2009

Sebring '67

I know I’ve said it before, but the recent increase of people digitizing their old 8mm home-movies and uploading them to YouTube continues to be a major source of delight. This time, it’s footage from the 1967 12 Hours race at Sebring. It looks like our cameraman picked a good corner to stakeout, lots of overtaking and a few harrowing spins here.

1967 Sebring Program CoverMario Andretti and Bruce McLaren brought home the checkers from pole in their Mk IV Ford GT40 by a whopping 12 laps. Their Ford teammates A.J. Foyt and Lloyd Ruby were second; with the Mitter/Patrick Porsche 910 in third.

The program cover artist was pretty insightful when he crafted this cover, it shows 2 GT40s and a 910. Nice call on the podium finish!

Racing Sports Cars has photos and race details.

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Vintage Minnesota Club Racing Photography

Club Race '57Racing photographer Tom Moran has uploaded some scans of photos of Minnesota’s racing past. There are dozens of painfully fantastic shots of the action and cars (and a few bikini-clad spectators) from the heydays of Donnybrooke Raceway (now Brainerd International Speedway). There are a handful of photos from a 1957 SCCA Land O’ Lakes region event that looks to have been an airstrip race. The set also includes a lush green (maybe that’s the Kodachrome) racing afternoon in the mid-60’s.

Of course, no Minnesota racing gallery is complete without some ice racing action. The sun sets mighty early up here in the north woods, so these racers aren’t just hitting the ice and trying to keep it from spinning, they’re doing it after dark. Impressive.

The entire gallery is definitely worth checking out. Thanks for sharing these shots, Tom.

70s Ice RacingThe Crowd Likes this Alfa Minnesota Racing 1966 Yowza!

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The Backbone Chassis Still Looks Like a Good Idea

Lotus Elan's Backbone Chassis
The Lotus Elan was one of the early wave of Lotus’ chassis innovation: the backbone chassis. This ad for the Elan is from 1964, but this platform still looks reasonably modern.

Look how easily this chassis could be adapted to fit any number of one-off or series built fiberglass rebodies. A few years ago, General Motors’ “skateboard chassis” touched on many of the same principles. Alas, it was just a concept.

A major reason for the sad lack of modern racing specials is the unibody chassis. If the tubular frame is indeed a thing of the past, can’t more modern manufacturers consider the backbone chassis as an alternative? We have to work together if we want to preserve the future, not just the past, of racing specials.

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Elkhart Lake Kohler Challenge Vintage Parade

We pulled into Elkhart Lake for the 2009 Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman last Friday night hoping to catch the parade of vintage cars from the track into downtown Elkhart Lake for a small concours d’elegance on the streets of my favorite small town. Parked in front of Siebkens, the crowds and the rain kept us from taking in too much of the rows of gorgeous machines lining both sides of the street. So, as is traditional, we disappeared into the Siebkens bar for a few Spotted Cows. When we finally made our way back into the streets, we caught this procession of the cars making their way back to Road America.

I’ve identified as many of the machines as I could in this video. It really says something when there’s just too many GT40s and Cobras to accurately identify which one belongs with which driver. Ah, Elkhart.

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Paul Finishes His First Race in His Vintage McNamara Vee

Paul wrote in to tell us of his first outing in his recently acquired McNamara Sebring Formula Vee. The car finished the race, he passed a few fellow racers. All in all a successful first outing.

But I’ll let Paul tell you the story:

Paul's vee in his first raceI finally finished my vee a few weeks ago and took it up to BIR for my first vintage race weekend. Considering all that we had done to the car, things went pretty well. Since I am 6’1″, we moved the pedals and heelstop 1.5 inches forward. We fit new 6pt belts and mountings into the car. I added vintage legal oil cooler and charging system and all new brakes and brake lines in addition to giving the whole car a good cleaning. I fit in the car really well and had no troubles with driving the car. Previous to arriving at the track, I hadn’t actually driven the car since completing all of the work on it.

I was dinged for a few things in tech, but nothing the would prohibit me from running – a few rod ends holding the z-bar that are possibly worn, the steering wheel pin was deemed a bit outdated (go figure) and my car also lacks a working integrated fire system which the VSCR doesn’t require. The car was however deemed safe enough to run the weekend.

We ran two practices and a race on Saturday and a practice and race on Sunday. The VSCR is relatively small, so everyone runs in one run group. That means that I was out there with one other monoposto, lots of MGs, an Austin Healey, a TVR, a bmw powered elva, a Jabro, a 356, a few old vw gtis, a 914 and 3 or so big block Corvettes – which were really the only things from this weekend that I found to be frightening.

The track was wet for the first two practices and I actually turned faster lap times than 4 or 5 cars. This was particularly noteworthy because of a big problem that became apparent on my first practice lap – The car wouldn’t shift into third gear at speed. Apparently in my thorough cleaning of the car I had cleaned away the gunk that was keeping the shifter linkages tight. As a result, I ran all of my laps in fourth.  At BIR you really want to run about a third of the track in 4th and the rest in 3rd.  It was probably all right in the rain laps since the lack of power was an added advantage coming out of corners.

For the first race they started me at the back of the pack since they didn’t want me causing any problems with my errant shifter in the middle of the field during the start. I was able to pass the 4 or 5 cars that I outpaced during practice despite my shifting problems.

Sunday was more of the same except that they started me in the middle of the pack for the race. The start was quite an experience, since it’s on the fastest, scariest part of the track (through two and into three). I’ve never gone through two side by side with another car before. 

Overall, it was a successful first weekend, we made it to the track and back home, the car ran well and we didn’t have any incidents. Now I just have to take care of my next car to-do list before going to Road America in September. So much for ‘finishing’ the car.

Congratulations, Paul! I know Paul is hoping to compete in the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival at Road America in a few months time. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the track.

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Martin Brundle's Ride in a Lotus 49

As part of the lead-up to the 60th anniversary of Formula 1, Martin Brundle has taken a few of the sports more iconic racing machines for a spin. This segment features a favorite of mine, The Lotus 49.

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How to Tell If You're Super Cool

910 at the pump.
Do you drive your Porsche 910 through town to gas it up?

If yes. You are super cool.

More photos here.

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Rizk Gets it (Almost) Right

Rizk Automotive DBR2-Inspired RoadsterThere’s been quite a bit written lately about Phoenix-based Rizk Automotive’s recent release of images of their reproduction of the Aston Martin DBR2 using modern technology. In the time since, I’ve been considering how I feel about it.

My first impulse was to praise Rizk for a job well done. It is, after all, quite beautiful. With the available V8 or V12 power plant it’s sure to have plenty of power. Modern suspension almost certainly means it will handle like a dream. It’s lovely, and I’d be happy to drive one. I don’t have a problem with reproductions and replicas as road cars either (whether they should be allowed to compete at vintage events is another story). Besides, I already spread some love around in the same way for the recent proposed re-creation of the Gullwing Mercedes using modern technology and methods. But the more I think about it, the more conflicted I become.

The Aston Martin DBR2, like the Gullwing Mercedes, is a tremendously beautiful car. And these interpretations certainly evoke them. Ok, maybe it all starts to fall apart a bit on the interior. The photos of the odd overlapping angles, thoughtless typeface choices, and visible carbon fiber make the whole endeavor feel anachronistic. In re-reading Rizk’s promotional materials for their sendup of the DBR2, I stumbled across something that made it all click into place for me.

It all starts when they describe and evangelize the laborious process of 3D scanning the body lines of the DBR2. This process is expensive, but important to get the body lines of the DBR2 exactly right. 3D scanning technology is also helpful to reproduction houses in that they don’t have to convince the owner of of one of these priceless machines to go through the messy process of having a mold pulled from their car.

Ok. So they’ve got this perfect 3D model of the Aston Martin DBR2 body. The next part should be easy, right? Find a panel-beater or die-maker or mold-maker and prepare for production. But that’s not what Rizk did.

“Once the 3D model of the original was fully built on the computer, we spent almost a full year completely redesigning every curve and intersection. We enhanced the original front fender curves to add greater fullness. The car’s dimensions were increased in length and width, the door size was resized for proportionality, and finally the entire body was engineered to adapt to a space efficient and immensely stiff monocoque chassis.”

Wait. What? You went through the expensive and laborious process of 3D scanning of a Aston Martin DBR2 and then you just arbitrarily change everything? Was your goal suddenly to make a car that ‘kinda looks like a DBR2’?

1957 Aston Martin DBR2 at SpeedThen it hit me of course. Look at this photo of an actual DBR2 being put through it’s paces. The wheel is practically joined to the driver’s rib cage. Most well-heeled car buyers wouldn’t actually want to drive an exact reproduction of a DBR2. The giant steering wheel would be much too close for buyers used to the more horizontal driving position of modern sports cars; or any modern car for that matter. Then again, it doesn’t look like they extended the driver’s seating area much, if it all. Now I’m right back where I started from: confused about the whole thing.

On the whole, I guess I would say I’m glad that these iconic machines are influencing builders of actual cars intended for sale. After all, I’d rather see Rizk’s near-DBR2 pass me on the freeway than just another BMW or Audi.

What do you think? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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Walter Cronkite at Speed

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, we’ve lost “the most trusted man in America”. It wasn’t until today that I found out having spent the weekend at the Kohler International/Brian Redman Challenge at Road America (more on that to come as I sort out my photos and video from the weekend).

Cronkite was also once a promising young racing driver in the 1950s, campaigning his Volvo PV444 at endurance events on the East Coast, as well as piloting a Lancia at the ’59 Sebring endurance race. There’s a lot more wonderful information about Cronkite’s racing and race-reporting at this New York Times article.

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Luggage to Fit Your Classic

Jochen 70's Mille Miglia bagAfter you’ve finished restoring your vintage sportscar, after you’ve accessorized it in period options, after you’ve carefully placed your “Last Open Road” decal on the rear window, you’re ebay searches are likely to turn to some of the rarer accessories for your ride; the factory luggage. Manufacturers continue the tradition today and everyone from Ferrari to Porsche to Mercedes offers, at prices to match the cars, custom luggage designed to fit precisely in the diminutive trunk.

Don’t fret if you can’t find the original Triumph dealer bag to fit under the bonnet of your TR3. Austrian specialty luggage maker Jochen 70 has released a line of bags designed to fit in your classic, and look appropriate doing it. You can even order with your choice of colored racing stripes to match your livery. Following in the tradition of specialty motoring luggage, sadly, is the expense. Their launch bag, available only to participants of this year’s Mille Miglia and customized with the driver’s name and car number, are available for €1,000. Yeesh.

Let’s hope the expense is simply the Mille Miglia Driver tax and that once the final line is available, it’ll be so at a variety of price points.

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