The Less Than Palatial LeMans Garages of 1972

1972 Porsche LeMans Garage

Porsche’s 1972 LeMans garages were a buzzing environment with cars being tuned and prepared, and busy 1970s technicians with 1970s hair. Porsche’s star was bright indeed coming off of two straight years of wins and the factory was shining.

Wait a second. This doesn’t look like the workshop of a winning endurance racing team. These are the garages of the rag-tag up-and-comers in over their heads playing on a stage too big for them. These are the facilities of underdogs. I have been in lone racers’ shops that were better equipped than this.

Just look at this. This could be your garage. There’s no precision instruments here; not even a flashy (albeit utilitarian) immense tool chest larger than a kitchen counter. Just shove that table out of the way, maybe stack the chairs on it to clear up some floor room. Pull that 55 gallon drum over here so I can pop the engine up on it. Let’s start turning some wrenches.

This. This right here is why I love vintage racing. Looking at these guys, you almost get the sense that anyone could do this. That you could hatch a scheme to race in next year’s LeMans and June would roll around and you’d be there. And this is Porsche we’re talking about. Repeat this for Cooper Garages (or Lotus.. or BRM…) heading into Formula 1 and you see that the pinnacle of the sport in every corner was more likely to be filled with dedicated hot-rodders than aerospace engineers.

via Le Container

Against All Odds: Datsun BRE Racing

It must have seemed absurd at the time when BRE and Datsun decided to take on Alfa, BMW and the other more established sports sedan racing teams. Naturally there’s great film here from Road America, Riverside, and other iconic tracks, but the interview footage and shots from the shop and offices give a fantastic peek into the team and the challenge they faced.

From the grindhouse narration; John Morton and Mike Downs at the top of their game; and the atmosphere of the golden era of the Trans Am Series: this sure is fun to watch. The trackside bikinis don’t hurt either.

One of the great liveries of the 70s. Thanks for sending this in, Craig!

The Art of the Restoration Story

Alpine 110 restoration by AlpineLAB

Car restoration is dirty business, and you feel that grime intimately: There will be chunks of rust stuck between your neck and your collar. There will be endless layers of paint slowly being sanded away. Twisted pieces of steel will be stuck in the soles of your boots from every stupid broken-off bolt you’ll have to drill out. I can understand why restoration shops would rather wait until the car is finished, polished, and with the proper beginnings of a sunset behind her before they get out the camera. What ends up happening, though, is that restorers web sites all tend to look the same: beauty shots of the finished car. There is rarely even a single photo of the car before restoration began.

Germany’s AlpineLAB shows us the kind of beautiful documentation that can happen when a truly passionate restoration workshop has someone on staff that knows a thing or two about curating a web site. Of course, there are miraculously beautiful photos of the finished product worthy of any of the glossies on the newsstand. But the commitment to documenting the restoration and the race history of their Alpine 110 projects is so very refreshing. What I appreciate most, however, is their opening the archives to show us the specific period articles and photography of these cars’ race history. People spend a lot of time establishing a car’s provenance, it’s very appreciated to see those archives opened up for all of us and not just prospective buyers.

Alpine A110 1800VA

The Alpine 110 was an astoundingly capable little machine. I’ve read it described as a car that you wore rather than drove. That kind of machine deserves the treatment that AlpineLAB has given it. I imagine that as more and more restorers enter the community having grown up on the web, the more of this kind of wonderful storytelling we’ll see brought to the world. Clear your afternoon and click over to their site for more of their build stories. These images are but a taste.

Thanks for sending this in, Jürgen!

A T-Shirt Shop Experiment

70s Legends ShirtWhen you sell shirts like we do in the Chicane Shop, there’s a number of questions that need to be constantly asked and answered: How many of that design do we have left? How many of this new design do we think we’ll need? Will this design sell at all? How many of each size should we order?

All of these questions keep me from putting out more shirts, more often. There are services that print shirts on demand as they’re ordered. But they tend to use direct digital printing to the garment and the quality tends to be poor so I’ve avoided them. A recent service has launched that organizes crowdfunding of quality t-shirt screenprinting.

For those unfamiliar with crowdfunding, the basic system is this: A shirt design is proposed and if a certain threshold of people decide to buy it within a certain amount of time, then the purchases are processed, the shirts are printed, and they’re distributed to all the buyers. If not enough people decide they want it, the shirts never happen and no one is charged anything. Anyone who has followed a project on Kickstarter or Indie Go-Go is familiar with this approach to sales.

I’ve decided to give it a go as an experiment. The result is extending the Legends series of shirts we’ve been selling to include the Legends of the 70s; surely one of the most exciting times in international motorsport with some of the most colorful drivers and dynamic moments in racing. If we get 15 people to commit to purchasing the shirt in the next 2 weeks, the shirts will be printed and distributed. Of course we can sell more than 15 too, so tell your friends.

Here is the link to the sales page for the shirt. Head on over and pick one up.

What does this mean for the future of Chicane shirts? It will let us try more different kinds of shirts, more often. Instead of our typical glacial pace of 1 or 2 shirt designs—and infrequent re-orders—a year, we’ll be able to release one a month or one a week. It will also let us take more risks on the kinds of shirts we design. You wouldn’t believe how conflicted I was when I ordered the first batch of Yamura Motors shirts. Would anyone even understand this? Am I going to be stuck with boxes and boxes of this shirt? That shirt has gone on to be our best seller. A crowdfunding model like this takes some of that worry away and essentially puts those questions to a vote. You get to decide which designs make the cut.