Archive for May, 2010

45 Years Ago Today

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New Photos Surface of Pebble Beach Road Races 1953

Los Angeles based photographer Erik Jensen has dropped a set of never before seen photos of the April 1953 road races at Pebble Beach on his site. Motorsport photography will never again be as good as it was in the era that these shots were taken. No amount of telephoto lenses and levels of zoom will replace the immediacy of these photos—there’s simply no substitution for being able to get closer to the action than contemporary motorsport allows.

Among my favorites of the set is the photo above, which shows Hildebrand’s Nardi-Fiat battling K.J. Davis in his MG TD. Just look at how hard the MG’s suspension is working as Davis tries to catch up. There’s also this fun ‘staged’ shot of Ken Miles crossing the finish line in his Special. He was indeed the winner of the under-1500cc race, but apparently there was no adequate photo captured of the actual race win, so a quick photo-op was thrown together. Hilarious.

Head over to Erik’s gallery for the full set.

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9 Months Later David Love's Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Looks No Worse for Wear

You’ll remember the panic that ran through the classic sportscar press last summer when David Love’s brakes went out as he rounded Laguna Seca during last year’s Monterey Historics. The car quickly met the wall and suffered an ugly black scar down her passenger side.

I’m happy to report that David took the car to this year’s Marin Sonoma Concours d’Elegance and it looks wholly restored. Looks perfect.

Sports Car Digest has a wonderful gallery from the event, where Porsche was the featured marque… Check it out.

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2010 InterMarque Spring Kickoff

I headed to the InterMarque Spring Kickoff event this morning in St. Paul, MN, which had a very good turnout of vintage sportscars despite the gloomy weather. The highlight of the show for me was this homebuilt Crosley Special, garage-built in 1951 and with hillclimb and gymkhana history in Indiana going to back to the mid 50s. It was a stunning little car, and far and away my favorite of the day.

As gorgeous as this little Crosley was, it was by no means the only show-stopper on hand. There was a very strong showing from a variety of makes: Plenty of Citroens, MGs, Healeys, Triumphs, and Jags—with a few Maseratis, pre-war luxury cars, and a few vintage bikes as well. A wonderful mix of cars, in conditions ranging from Pebble Beach Competitors (the Daimler pictured below has competed there), to well preserved, to rusty and rattle-canned. Excellent variety of cars at virtually every level of collecting. The Vintage Foreign Motors of the Upper Midwest hosts a very fun event that has grown many-fold in recent years. Excellent!

Here’s a few more shots from the event.

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05/21/10 – Legends of Motorsports with Bobby Rahal – Birmingham, AL

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Ground Pounders at Brainerd 1969

From back when the Trans Am series looked a whole lot more like modified road cars than it does in the modern era. I’m not really even a huge fan of the contemporary pony cars, but is there anyone who doesn’t want to see the modern Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger racing full out on a road course? I’d love to see a return to the ‘stripped down road car’ aesthetic of the early Trans Am. Particularly if it can capture even a fraction of the spirit of the racing in this clip.

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Reminiscing Over a GTO

If you had a Ferrari GTO at 19 or 20, I bet you’d have some good stories too.

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One-off Ferrari 212/225 Vignale Available in Germany

Usually I try to space out my posts about cars for sale. The Chicane’s focus has always been about the larger world of classic motorsport, and car collecting and sales are only one small part of the sport. Furthermore, I always try to extend the time between posts about a particular make for sale and it was only 2 days ago that we featured a lovely Ferrari 500 TRC. Although I know I tend to prattle on about vintage Porsches, we really do try to represent many different makes and models of racing cars. It is, after all, the variety of cars that makes vintage racing so interesting. But when Jan Lühn contacted me about this one-off, Vignale designed, 212/225 Ferrari that just arrived in his showroom how could I not share it with you?

I’m a sucker for the European interpretation of the tailfin, which has become the hallmark of American automotive design of the late 1950s. It’s been made as big and as aircraft-inspired and rocket taillight adorned as possible stateside on businessman’s chariots and weekend cruisers. The european take on it though, has always appealed to me more—looking as functional and necessary as on this 212 as the solo tailfin of a D-Type.

Often the Ferrari coupes of the era are a little too much like a miniature luxury car to me. They look like lovely little cars, but lack the exotic good looks and racy stance of the spiders. Not so with this 212. The huge headlamps inset into the grille opening, the sloping roofline, and the great big competition fuel cap put this car’s appearance firmly in the utilitarian racer camp. The silhouette brings to mind the Ferrari effort at the 1952 Carrera Panamericana and the 340 Mexico, but this car predates them by almost a year, and—to my eye—looks like a more lithesome, subtle machine; simpler and more precise.

Ferrari 0179 EL was originally built early in the lifecycle of the 212 engine. The V12 was still a bit persnickety and after cylinder failure very shortly after she was built, the engine was swapped at the factory with the 225 before it was ever delivered to her first purchaser. After changing hands in Italy several times, Luigi Chinetti imported the car to the States and delivered her to a sports writer in Texas, Loren McMullen. These bits of automotive history always get under my skin. I know more than a few journalists, some of them have been quite successful. I don’t know any that drive Ferraris. This guy McMullen wasn’t the owner of a printing group or the city paper’s publisher or even the editor in chief—he was on the sports desk and imported a Ferrari.

Naturally, McMullen raced the car a bit in Texas. In one race meeting in 1961, he raced against one of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, one of which crashed out of the race. McMullen negotiated the purchase of the car’s big V8 and it was somehow shoehorned into the 212. The power of the American V8 was such that some modifications were required. An air scoop added to feed the huge volume of air needed, and a new rear windscreen—reportedly necessary after the acceleration force of the new engine caused air to push the rear window out!

Some time later the car was imported to Holland and restored—apparently immaculately—by Piet Roelofs. Today, the car looks absolutely majestic. Everything from the paint to the interior to the engine bay looks ready for a weekend drive up the coast or the next Concours. There’s no information on Jan Lühn’s site on the car yet, but I’m sure details will be arriving on their inventory page.


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Tales from the Pits: the First Santa Barbara

At the Coronado Speed Festival four years ago we had a Torrey Pines reunion; among the five cars there that actually raced at Torrey Pines were the ex-Phil Hill 2.6 Ferrari Barchetta and MG Magnette 0878, which my Dad had driven. Standing between the two cars on the pre-grid I was reminded of the last time I had stood in the same position, at tech inspection at the first Santa Barbara road races, Labor day, 1953. I told an amused Phil how while standing behind his former car–then owned by Howard Wheeler–Wheeler had started it up and sprayed wet carbon dust on my new blue denim trousers. For two months I wouldn’t let my mom wash them, and she refused to let me wear them!

We towed from Pasadena on Friday and checked into the Mar Monte hotel next to the bird refuge, and I was sent to the dining room while our entourage left for the King Supper Club on upper Milpas St, where they watched a stripper while eating their steaks. At the hotel, my waiter pointed out to me Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie at the next table, there to film “Johnny Dark” at the races. In the film Curtis plays Johnny, an ambitious auto engineer who is unaware that the Brass see the sports car he is developing only as a publicity stunt. In the film Curtis’ rival for the Boss’ daughter (Laurie) wins the race in the experimental car after Hill’s Ferrari (pictured above) conks out while leading. In the real race, Hill in his 2.9 Vignale bodied car wins after Bill Stroppe spins his Kurtis into the ditch at turn two. The film car is the  Woodill Wildfire, a Glasspar bodied Willys. When we went to the film at the Crown Theatre in Pasadena, they had the car in the lobby. Woodill built and sold only a few. It had a slightly different grill and tail from the standard Glasspar body and was quite good-looking. When I entered UCSB in 1960 I found Mike Woodill, son of the builder, living in my dorm. Mike and I had some success building push carts for the then popular college sport of push cart races.

At this race only the pits were on the grass between the start/finish and the double back stretch rather than on the opposite side by the hangars. There was a little tower there, and the film has some shots of the cars from the tower, including a staged one of Hill’s car dying, and a real one of the Cannon Spl being pushed to the grid. Turn one was marked by bales and cones and was sharper than in later races; Stroppe spun there too, and Ernie McAfee in his new Siata 208s hit the hay three times on Saturday. His car was entered in the Concours at the Biltmore later in the day; after judicious hammering, he borrowed some red nail polish from my Mother to retouch it!

Most race weekends prior to this had practice on Saturday and four races on Sunday. Here, Ken Miles used his newly gained influence to have a program of six or seven shorter races each day. Hill and Jim Lowe in his new Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash staged a good battle in the big bore production race, Lowe holding off Hill’s Ferrari for several laps. But though both models supposedly qualified for production status according to the FIA, both were disqualified for having locked rear ends! Miles, of course, won the semi-main in his first MG special R1. Dad finished seventh both days in Magnette 0878, pictured here at Palm Springs with uncle Pete Jacobsen at the wheel for the novice event.

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Available in Switzerland: 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC

What a beautifully photographed example of the Ferrari 500 TRC. This dramatic angle in particular is eye-catching. Hard to imagine an angle that this car wouldn’t look great from though. This paint is absolutely remarkable. I love the choice of this almost buttery english white for the stripe. It is so much richer and full of character than a pure white and contrasts the red marvelously. The polished grille and Borrani’s almost make it look over-restored. It’s some of the shiniest chrome I’ve seen this side of the Oakland Roadster Show.

That is not to call this car a trailer queen that’s lived a pampered life. Chassis 0686 MD/TR has been around the block once or twice. Some of those blocks were the 1957 Mille Miglia (10th overall, 2nd in class), the ’57 Nurburgring 1000km (1st in class), the LeMans 24 Hours, the ’58 Cuban Grand Prix, and Sebring. That’s quite a resume for any car. To even compete in such a storied list of events is noteworthy, to be a strong contender at them seals the deal. That she came through all that and look this good is remarkable.

Ok, she doesn’t just look this striking by chance. Although this isn’t her original bodywork (it was reskinned during her restoration by Ferrari specialists DK Engineering), the 0686 has been reunited with her original engine after spending some time with an ill-advised American V8 engine swap. Despite her rebody and exquisite detailing, the car is a regular competitor at the Monterey Historics and looks well poised for next year’s Mille Miglia. Stunning.

More on dealer Kidston’s details page and DK Engineering’s restoration gallery.

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