Archive for September, 2009

The Life Magazine Archives

Grand Prix article in Life MagazineFollowing on the success of Google Images archive of the Life Magazine photographic collection, Life has extended the relationship with Google and has uploaded their entire pre-1970 archive of magazines to the Google Books service. Another trove of auto racing booty awaits!

Let’s start with the October 28, 1966 issue’s piece by Hugh Moffett about the then-upcoming Cinerama popcorn movie, John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix. Yes, it’s another Grand Prix post. It’s an obsession.

While the article is a pretty light and typical ‘upcoming fare from Hollywood’ piece, it does reveal a few details about the project. Among them that the 16 camera crews shooting compiled over 300 hours of footage. That simple tid-bit makes the features included in the Grand Prix Two-Disc Special Edition DVD release feel woefully underdone. There has been a long-standing search underway by Nostalgia Forum commenters for the missing footage, including a rumored shooting session filmed at the Nurburgring that Frankenheimer was compelled not to use owing to a exclusive agreement between Nurburgring management and another film project. This article doesn’t mention the Nurburgring footage, but does give some delightful detail about the Formula 1 greats that participated in the movie, including a wonderful story about the thrill the writer got when Phil Hill popped him into the passenger seat of a race-prepped Ford Cobra for a few flying laps around a wet Brand Hatch.

Well worth a read: see the complete article here on Google Books.

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Cars and Boats and Planes, Oh My!

Photo from The Orlando Sentinel, who puts Roar 'n Soar in their list of 10 best festivals in Florida.

Photo from The Orlando Sentinel, who puts Roar 'n Soar in their list of 10 best festivals in Florida.

As the vintage racing season starts to wind down in the North half of the US, it’s easy for us to forget that those of you in warmer climates can just keep on going. Scheduling of this interesting event that combines vintage aircraft and boating displays with a historic autocross in November sounds like pure folly to this Mid-Westerner. Which is, of course, the benefit of hosting the 2009 Roar ‘n’ Soar in Polk City Florida.

The Roar ‘n’ Soar weekend looks like a great day out for every variety of gearhead and vintage enthusiast. Vintage aircraft from the Fantasy of Flight Collection will be on display, with aerial demonstrations on their little brothers: hang gliders, paragliders, and RC planes. A display of vintage racing boats will pepper Lake Agnes in conjunction with the Classic Race Boat Association. Photos of a previous year’s event show show a large contingent of hot air balloons as well, but I don’t know if that’s continuing this year.

Of particular interest to Chicane readers though, is the adjoining autocross sponsored by the Jaguar Club of Florida. I’ve been to my share of autocrosses, and I’ve never before considered them particularly good spectator events. A great deal of fun to participate in, to be sure. But with no overtaking, it simply pales in comparison to wheel-to-wheel action. I think the team behind the Roar ‘n’ Soar has found a way to change all that. The simple overload of vintage machines at every angle make the autocross part competition, part high-speed car show. This is one autocross I would definitely attend as a spectator. Better yet, bring your vintage machine.

Any vintage machine, apparently.

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Dutch Barchetta? The Gatso 1500 Sport

Gatso 1500 SportFiat Chassis? Check. Hot Rodded 1.5 Liter Fiat straight-6 with and inline overhead cam? Check. Coachbuilt aluminum bodywork? Check. So far, so good, right? That description is basically the formula for every perfect little Italian sportscar. The wrench in the works in this very unique case is that the coachbuilt bodywork isn’t Italian in design, it’s Dutch.

This 1948 Gatso 1500 Sport is a fantastic little racer designed and built by Maus Gatsonides; the inventor and Dutch racing and rallying prodigy. He was a race winner before his 20th birthday, and when the time came to create his own racing car, it sure looks like he did a right good job of it. The Fiat chassis was shortened for greater maneuverability. The high compression Fiat 6 banger was good for 55hp at 5,500 rpm. The experimental French-made brake drums were lightweight and finned for greater cooling (although their fragility would be this car’s downfall).

Gatso 1500 Sport InteriorAfter Gatsonides was forced to sell off this brilliant little car during financial hardship, the car largely disappeared until a Maserati collector happened on it quite by chance in 1974. A 16 year restoration followed, and now this amazing little racer is available in The Netherlands for €148,000.

These swooping curves in the bodywork and lovely little proportions make for a beautiful little gem of a car. I find it hard to even look at it without imagining whipping through autumn leaves on a narrow country lane. She’s lovely.

More information on Dutch dealer The Gallery’s detail page. More photos can be found from Flickr member willemalink’s visit to The Gallery.

Read more about Gatso cars here.

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Dedication to a Dream: 1919 Excelsior Boardtracker replica

I followed this project—experiment really—as it was being developed in 2005-6. It was an audacious project. More than that; it was a journey of discovery—an archeology of sorts. I was reminded of this sheer insanity of this experiment this morning, and looking back through it again today I am still amazed that it paid off. Paul Bodie’s build of a 1919 Excelsior Auto Cycle boardtracker might be the boldest home engineering and machining project I’ve ever seen.

1919 Excelsior Boardtracker

It’s uderselling it a bit to call Paul a home-engineer. His motorcycle shop, Flashback Fabrications, has spent many years building and maintaining race bikes of unusual origin. Racing takes a toll on any machine. If you’re going to go through the headache of rebuild after rebuild, and burn through a steady supply of disposable maintenance parts, you’ll want to do yourself a favor and pick a race vehicle common enough to not make every rebuild a quest for parts made of unobtainium. Paul is having none of that though, he raced a series of Aermaccis.

Home-made 1919 Excelsior V-TwinAll of this ended up being good training for what was to come: building a replica of a 1919 Excelsior. This is a bike with no surviving examples. There are a scant few photos of the bike, all of them from the right side. Armed with the photos and a partial engine case, he set about building the bike. The frame is easy enough, but engineering a overhead-cam V-twin from scratch, from a photo, that’s something else. There is no surviving engine to copy. There is no archive of technical drawings. Just a photo. Madness.

And somehow, he pulled if off. More importantly, he was careful to document it thoroughly for us to enjoy. Dig through the project page-by-page to see how you can mold a combustion chamber from perforated metal and bondo (to be sand cast later), and other seemingly impossible tasks. It’s a mind blower.

1919 Excelsior Combustion ChamberThe site chronicles the build from photo reference and sketches through the construction of a prototype. Paul has since built 4 more examples (of an eventual 10) which he’s selling at $155,000. That’s no small price for a motorcycle without brakes that you can’t drive on the street. Looking through the chronicle of the work that went into its development though; it’s a bargain.

In the time since developing this replica, Paul has since turned his attention to re-creating an 1896 Roper Steam Bike. I guess the plain-old Excelsior V-Twin was too easy for him.

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La Ronde Infernale

Grab some popcorn and settle into this 4-part film of the 1969 24 Hour of LeMans. The “Les Vingt-quatre Heures du Mans” jingle at the beginning is outstanding. Does anyone know the singer? I’d love to hear the whole song.

Some nice interviews here with Quick Vic Elford and Mike Hailwood, and a bit of footage of scrutineering deciding the Porsche wing controversy.

Here are Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

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Ex-McQueen Siata Available in California

McQueen's SiataHoo Boy! This one leaves me almost speechless. I do love a Siata 208. I love any Siata 208; but a Siata once owned by Steve McQueen — now that’s a show stopper. This Siata was the sportscar that McQueen bought himself shortly after his film career began to take off. This was in Hollywood’s studio era, and when studio management saw it, they forced him to sell it. They said it was too flashy. You know a car is something very, very special when it’s too flashy for a movie star to drive around in. I can’t image what would be more eye-catching, seeing this little grey barchetta (before it’s respray) bombing through Topanga Canyon, or seeing “The Cooler King” behind the wheel. Today, Fantasy Junction in Emeryville, CA has this stunner sitting in their showroom.

McAfee was the West Coast's Siata importer.Famous ownership aside, it’s impossible to not fall in love with the details of the car. Everything from the braided leather door strap and hinge, to the chrome door jams, the original Ernie McAfee Foreign Cars sticker in the window, the Heuer clock and chronograph on the dash, the recessed door handles — you can get lost in every square inch of this magnificent machine.

There were some small sacrifices made for reliability when the engine was rebuilt in 2008, opting for a modern distributor and generator (the original parts come with the car). These modern upgrades certainly won’t keep you from entering this car in any event I can think of. Even the notoriously difficult to enter Mille Miglia would certainly accept a Siata 208S of any provenance. At 137hp, there aren’t a lot of places you can’t drive this car. 137 is a huge number for horsepower in 1953; a ’53 Cadillac had 210hp, and weighted 4800 lbs. This little Siata 208S weighs less than half that.

The best angle to appreciate the Siata 208S, behind the wheel.There’s no question that this is a tremendous car. Sure it’s $1.3Million, but then modern Ferrari Enzo’s have been known to trade at those kinds of prices, and I know which I’d rather have. Don’t worry though, popping over to the dealer’s detail page and basking in the photos is free. You can also read more about this Siata 208S in the marvelous book, McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon, which I highly recommend.

Wow.

Just, wow.

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Goodwood!

Anachronism is perfected in this Goodwood Aston Martin garageWell my friends, The 2009 Goodwood Revival is already in the books. We spent an inordinate amount of time blasting you with every bit of minutia we could a few weeks back for the Monterey Historics. Sadly, the truth is very likely that the world’s greatest classic motorsport festival doesn’t take place on American soil at some desert track. It doesn’t even take place at my beloved Road America. It is almost certainly on the disused service roads surrounding the decommissioned airfield on the country estate of Lord March.

Sharknose!MatchlessPerfectly attired

The beauty of the event, as I’ve said many times before, isn’t the tremendous quality of its racing cars and motorcycles, it isn’t the period-appropriate track itself, it’s not even the vintage aircraft that share the spotlight. The sheer enthusiasm of the period-attired participants and spectators for this event are the reason she so outshines her peers.

Goodwood LotusGoodwood Motorcycle FieldGrand Prix BeautiesDrool-worthy Ferrari transporter

Enough of my jealousy of having missed Goodwood yet again, on to the booty! Videos and photos have been flooding the interwebs in the past week. Here are links to some favorites:

These Flickr streams were the sources of the photos above and offer many many more lovely captures from the weekend:
simmoB44, Bernie Condon, Eduard Mossinkoff, richebets, jobeywan, Natasha Baille, andAston-Phillips.

Of course, Octane is also on top of it with galleries from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Available in Massachusetts: 1953 Cunningham C3

Cunningham C3This Cunningham C3 is the first of the mere handful of Briggs Cunningham built cars designed for the road and is simply astonishing. This Vignale-bodied beauty, chassis 5206, is often referred to as “the prototype”, being the first of the 20 coupes assembled and its unique stance (it’s 2 inches shorter than the others, and curved side glass (the other 19 built had flat windows). This car was originally owned by Brigg’s friend Carl Kiekhaefer, the owner of Mercury Marine and prominent NASCAR team owner.

Chrysler FirePower HemiPaul Russel and Company offers this majestic machine now, and it looks built to their usual concours winning standard. It is not, however, completely original. The powerplant has been upgraded to a period appropriate Chrysler FirePower Hemi coupled to a modern GM 5-speed. The brakes have been swapped for front discs and contemporary brake cylinders. The original parts come with the car, but these upgrades seem like a fine idea for classic rallying and touring. I might scoff at a contemporary Corvette block dropped in there, but a mid-fifties Hemi seems like a perfectly logical and non-jarring upgrade, with oceans of improved experience on the road.

Call it frivolous if you like, but a real standout feature of this car for me is the included and original fitted luggage. What could look more refined and orderly than interior leather matched luggage properly strapped in place in the perfect fittings. It couldn’t look more streamlined and sophisticated.

C3 Fitted luggage She’s simply a stunning car, and with only 20 C3 coupes produced, there certainly isn’t likely to be another on your block. Or State. There’s certainly not going to be many restored to this level of quality. Simply amazing.

I can think of worse ways to spend $875,000. More photos at Paul Russel, and Concept Carz.

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2009 Monterey Videos

While most of us have been bombarded with pictures from this years events very few videos have surfaced. So click on the link below to view my video page and as always, enjoy!

Cliff Reuter

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Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2009 Photos

I have returned, and have mostly recovered, from the always spectacular Fall vintage event at Road America. The VSCDA always puts on a good event, and this particular event is among my favorite every year. This was also the first year that I was able to tear myself away from the track long enough to take in some of the racecar procession around the old Elkhart Lake road course that was used from 1950-52.

I have a soft spot for this particular 356, a photo of which was the header for The Chicane for 2 years.

I have a soft spot for this particular 356, a photo of which was the header for The Chicane for 2 years.

Eric Dean's Merlyn 20A was among the most beautiful cars at the trackMatching livery for this brace of Ground PoundersThis Corvair was a highlight of the parade through town.Who isn't a sucker for Gulf Blue?

Here’s a small sampling of the photos that I took this past weekend, you can see more on Flickr.

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