Archive for October, 2009

Vintage Racers: The Chicane Wants Your On-Board Videos

We’re putting out a call to vintage racers around the world. The Chicane wants to showcase your on-board videos. We’re eager to serve as an informational hub for vintage racers, and that includes seeing and familiarizing the community with tracks around the U.S. and around the globe from the perspective of our own.

If you have a stockpile of videos or film cans to share, a youtube, vimeo or other source online video of yours to point out, or information on how to get your videos to us for publication (and stories of the events they capture!), drop an email to or leave a message below in the comments.

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Early Porsche 550 Spyder Footage

No further comment necessary — don’t you agree?

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Available in Italy: OSCA 1600 GT Zagato

OSCA 1600 GT ZagatoI’ve often read of the interesting origins of Officine Specializzate Costruzioni Automobili – Fratelli Maserati SpA (sensibly shortened to O.S.C.A). This is, you’ll remember, the company that the Maserati brothers founded in 1947, 10 years after selling their namesake sportscar company to Adolfo Orsi. Ernesto, Ettore, and Bindo Maserati were gifted sportscar engineers. If they could have managed their business operations better I wouldn’t doubt that we’d still be talking of the rivalry between Ferrari, Porsche, and OSCA today.

I’d long been aware of the Bologna-based OSCA. I’d seen a few photos and read some race reports. It wasn’t until I finally saw an OSCA 1600 in the flesh at this summer’s Kohler International Challenge at Road America, that I could truly appreciate the simple beauty of this wonderful car. Photographs of sportscars, particularly Italian sportscars, seldom do justice to the cars themselves. Perfect proportions and lines can be appreciated, but the scale is always lost until you get up close to them. That was certainly the case for me and the OSCA 1600. The lines and proportions in photographs lend it an essence reminiscent of the Jaguar E-Type or an Aston-Martin. The comparison to any Grand Tourer, though, is completely lost when you stand next to it. The scale is compact; not small. It’s no bigger than it needs to be to wrap a slippery aluminum body around 4 wheels, a hot-rodded 1500 Fiat engine, and two passengers. It is beautiful economy of construction and aesthetic. It’s remarkable.

1600 GT Zagato InteriorRecently, one of the even rarer Zagato-bodied OSCA 1600’s has come available in Italy. Auto Classic is offering one of the 32 1600 GT Zagato’s to come out of the OSCA workshop. Even more precious, this particular example is one of the initial prototypes. This one looks to have been race prepped; that aluminum footbox doesn’t match the interior of other road versions that I’ve seen. Without the chassis number, which sadly isn’t listed among the listed details, I can’t be certain if this race preparation was done during the recent restoration or at the factory. Each of the 32 examples was custom built to the purchaser’s specifications, so there’s quite a bit of variety between each example.

The paint looks almost over-restored in these photographs. This looks especially glossy and over clear-coated for a 1962 car, particularly if it was indeed prepared for the track. I’m very particular about red cars. I’ve never owned a red car, and never plan to unless she’s Italian. It’s not exactly an issue of traditional racing colors either. I just think that red is a difficult color that only suits a few cars – Jaguars, Corvettes, and Porsches look absolutely dreadful in red. But maybe that’s just me. It certainly doesn’t stop people from buying them in droves. Another example though, that sold at the 2007 Geneva auction is absolutely sublime in light blue. Stunning. She looks great on the track too.

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Around Rouen with Graham Hill

With a first row start and fastest lap in the race, the 1962 French Grand Prix really should have belonged to Graham Hill. But a minor bump with a privateer and later engine problems forced Graham to finish 10 laps off the pace. This race was made famous, of course, by Gurney’s win in a Porsche — the first Formula 1 win for both. Let’s take a spin around the forests of Normandy with Graham Hill at the wheel of his unlucky BRM, shall we?

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Porsche Archive Find: Going for Broke

Redman and SiffertSometimes it pays to dig around the archives of sportscar manufacturer’s web sites. The other day I spent some time sifting through the depths of Porsche does more than most to inform contemporary car buyers about the history of the marque’s many glories on the track. Their Targa Florio multimedia experience of a few years back is among the best example of using racing heritage to sell contemporary road cars that I’ve seen in recent years.

Despite this, even Porsche could do more to bring their archives to the public. In the digital era, access to Porsche’s (or any other similar maker’s) archives could be easily opened up to the public through the web at minimal cost to the manufacturer. This is particularly true in Porsche’s case, as they already manage a very extensive archives available not only as an internal resource, but also to outside journalists, scientists, and researchers. This archive, part of the new Porsche museum, catalogs the entire history of the company and the Porsche family and includes: 2.5 million images, more than 1,000 hours of video, and 3,000 volumes of text. And that’s just one manufacturer’s history! What I wouldn’t give for manufacturing blueprints for the 4-cam 547 engine and a skilled machinist.

Behold! The Porsche archives

Behold! The Porsche archives

We’re not quite there yet. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not completely without vintage archival information. Porsche has posted “Going for Broke”, a wonderful article about the 1969 World Sportscar Championship season from the Porsche customer magazine, Cristophorus. While the arrival of the 917 in 1970 sealed the deal for Porsche’s Le Mans dream, the 908 of the previous year was a tremendous car that has been sadly overshadowed by its younger brother. This is, after all, a car that clinched the manufacturer’s championship at the hands of Porsche’s talented pool of drivers frequently led by Brian Redman and Jo Siffert.

The article tells an extraordinary tale of openness. After celebrating the championship, race engineer Peter Falk invited the sporting press to examine the broken parts that cost Porsche dearly: The shredded camshaft gear teeth that cost them the 24 Hours of Daytona, The cracked chassis that forced Redman/Siffert out of the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 917’s failed clutch from LeMans. While most manufacturers would hide these failed parts away, if not destroy them, Falk and the Porsche team viewed these apparent failures as the very reason for eventual success. Through these experiments and missteps, progress is made, and that should be shared with the wider world. Incredible. Ah, the age before the PR department. This spirit of openness is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about in this call to further open up historic archives of this type.

The complete article is fantastic, read it here.

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Race Winner From the Honda Collection

Hailwood's Isle of Man R166 HondaCheck out this stunning photography of a very special Honda RC166 from the Honda Racing Heritage collection. This example bearing number 7, was piloted by Mike Hailwood to victory in the 1966 Isle of Man TT. It wasn’t just on the ring around the dependency that Hailwood brought the 166 in for the laurels. Hailwood won 10 championship races in 1966 onboard RC166. This is an incredible racing machine, which captured the World Manufacturers Championship for Honda in the 250cc category for two years on a trot in the mid-60s.

Love the old Honda wing on this RC166Looking at these photographs, it’s little wonder that the Hailwood RC166 has become such a popular inspiration for tribute cafe bikes in a variety of engine configurations. The demand for 1960s Hondas remains high as a source for cafe bikes sporting this livery. I must admit, these photos certainly whet my appetite for one of these small displacement racers. Like their 4-wheeled counterparts, the barchettas, these small displacement bikes are the epitome of sports riding for me. Short wheelbases, light weights, and high maneuverability is a recipe for fun on the road or track. There are few machines on two wheels or four that would compete with this Honda RC166 (or it’s many imitators) for a magical afternoon on a twisty stretch of road. Check out the complete gallery, including some video and ringtones(!), on Honda’s MotoGP history gallery.

I found this via the motorcycling photography spotters at Bike EXIF, which also turned up this wonderful 50cc Honda Dream 50R. Hot.

More on this and other early Honda racers at

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Racing Advertising: Champion Powers Winners

Champion Powers the Winners

Old racing ads are just better, aren’t they? I also love that they focus on a variety of racing types, not just NASCAR like contemporary racing advertising does.

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