Reader Non-Restoration: Phil Knudsen’s ’58 Alfa Giuletta Veloce Spider


“I am not restoring this car, its a REAL time capsule race car from the 50’s and 60’s. Restoring this car would be like erasing and restoring a Monet… it wouldn’t be the same. It will not be modified with new parts. It will find its way back to the track but not to compete. I’ll let other the guys destroy 750F’s… this one will stay a barn fresh nostalgic racer.

A car can only look its age and experience once.”

And with those words, I turned from casual browser of Phil Knudsen’s AlfaBB thread on his ’58 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce Spider Race car into an enthusiastic fan.

It started commonly enough, Phil had sourced this retired racer from the John Murphy collection in Atlanta. The engine was out of her and he was looking for more stories and photos of her time as a frequent racer up and down the East Coast.

Naturally, I assumed he was trying to establish provenance while he tore the body down and started restoration. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that he’s decided to keep her bodywork and even paint as she was when she went into storage. Only newly painted (but beautifully aged looking) new numbers were added to bring her back to her old racing livery.

Of course, there were those that disagreed. Suggesting that not fixing the paint was tantamount to neglect. Keep the rust away, sure, but no top-shelf restoration can possibly make her any more beautiful than she is today.

Keep fighting the good fight, Phil. That patina is priceless and she’s only original once.

Click on over to Phil’s build thread on AlfaBB for more.

Me and My ASP Pt. 4: She’s Finished!

The ASP is done! Last Thursday I rolled the car in the trailer and headed for Gingerman Raceway on the west side of Michigan but not before taking a few photos that Harlo posted here last week. My good friend and famed photographer Fabrizio Costantini also came by to take some beautiful photos as well.

I arrived at the track late in the afternoon to shake the car down at their test and tune night. I got to chase around several other open-wheeled cars of various formula. The ASP felt like an old familiar friend and it handled better than I remembered. It might have something to do with changing the geometry of the tie-rods for better bump steer and definitely has something to do with calling over Garret Van Camp (the set up maestro) to help me dial in the camber and toe. I took it pretty easy as I made about 10 laps around increasing my speed with each lap, seating in the new piston rings.

The car felt good, sounded good and then after about 20 minutes of remembering why I love FV so much something went amiss. I couldn’t seem to find any gear other than 4th, so i pulled into the paddock to find out what was going on. A broken shift rod was what was going on. Upon further inspection, it appeared to be made of paper thin steel tubing that must not have held up to the nickel plating process. Perhaps it’s the one part on the car that was designed by Collin Chapman to be as light as possible. I was done for the day. The next morning I began my quest to find some adequate steel to remake a part that would last. I found a steel supplier conveniently located a few miles from the track and the guys at Trackside Motorsports which is as the name suggests is conveniently trackside. They assisted me in remaking a new and improved shift rod that had me back in action for Saturday’s qualifying session.

It is my hope that the rings are still seating and that is what landed me 11th on the grid out of the 30 cars but in truth it was probably some combination of my time out of the car, the rings and the stiff competition. The car did seem to make more power as the weekend went on though… or at least I imagined it did. For the start of the race on Sunday I got away quickly and managed to get around 3 cars before turn 1. By the 3rd to last lap I had made my way into 5th place but then was passed back by Guy Dennehy. I stayed on his gearbox for the next lap hoping I’d be able to draft around him on the back straight. As we came up to the Turn 5/6 combination he went in a little too hot and back end of his Lynx started stepping out and I sensed he was going to lose it.

The car spun left and I went right, then he tried to correct and it snapped back across the track in front of me and I went waaayyy right off the track (as to not spear my pal Guy). I tried to not give the wheel any sudden input and edge it back toward the track surface but as has happened so many times before when two wheel are on grass and two on pavement, my car too snapped into a spin. Most every car I’d worked to get around, got around me in an instant, and several of them too close for my comfort… I had a front row seat to oncoming racecars. As soon as the last car went by I whipped around in anger (just an expression) and started trying to chase down the pack. With only 2 laps to go I knew it wasn’t likely but my heart was pumping and my tires were sticking. I passed all of the lapped traffic before the last lap and had Guy and the rest of the pack in my sights but they had just made up too much ground. If I’d had one more lap who knows. I finished lucky 7th, feeling lucky that I could roll the car back on the trailer unscathed to fight another day.

See the complete restoration story here.

Stay tuned for details on the next project which is nearing completion… a 1969 Merlyn MK11A Formula Ford.

Monterey Auction Preview: 1949 Talbot Lago T26 Monoposto

Can we already be closing in on Monterey Week? I’ve barely had time to brace myself for the enormous influx of vintage racing giddiness that it brings each year. As a result, I’ll ease into the season by showcasing this repeat visitor to the Monterey auctions—this gorgeous 1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Racing Monoposto.

Gooding & Co counts this magnificent 1950 Paris Grand Prix winner among it’s featured cars for their Pebble Beach Auctions to be held on August 14 and 15. What a true beauty. This transitional immediate post-war period between the pre-war racers and the Grand Prix greats of the mid 50s is such an interesting time period for racing cars. They had much of the same visual aesthetic as the pre-war cars with their elegant boat tails and proportions that hide the enormous scale of the cars. The technology leaps of WWII were just starting to make the transition to civilian use. These immediate post-war cars present a fascinating period of technological transition. The beauty of the pre-war, mixed with the utility of the post-war.

This example, chassis #110006, wears her French blue paint with pride, having carried Frenchman Georges Grignard around 50 laps of the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in 2 hours 05 minutes 38.8seconds to capture victory; 4 laps ahead of Louis Gérard’s Delage. The race must have been grueling indeed, only Grignard, Gérard, and fellow Delage driver Marc Versini finished the race at all. The other 8 racers all dropped out with mechanical problems (including Stirling Moss at the wheel of the #17 HWM-Alta which dropped out with a connecting rod failure). It’s no surprise that #110006 wears the livery today, with Grignard’s racing number 8 and driver identification hand-painted ahead of the cockpit. Grignard even played a part in the restoration of the car many years later when he provided the spare parts he’d kept from his campaigns with the car. I love the notion of Grignard caring for the car so many years after they’d parted.

Even without the marvelous history, this Talbot-Lago would be no less attractive. The aggressive stance that would surely strike a chord with any American hot-rodder; the bodywork and brightwork that any warbird pilot would feel comfortable in; that exaggerated steering wheel that would feel small in a bus driver’s hands – they unite in a singular display of shear racing beauty and menace. I find myself looking again and again at the simple hand-painted graphics on the car (if you can even call them graphics), just their simplicity and touch of personality communicate such romance and history. It’s simply perfect. If you were to meet Gooding’s estimated bid of $650,000-$850,000 and take this Talbot-Lago home, I’m sure you’d provide a warm and inviting home for her for many years.

Unless, of course, you were the buyer of #110006 at Bonham’s Exceptional Motorcars and Automobilia at the Quail Lodge last year. The car was just as stunning as she is today, and was expected to bring an even more handsome sum, with an estimate of $1-1.3Million. Selling without reserve, though, has its risks and I’m sure there was a very disappointed owner with more than a few shed tears when the car sold for a mere $557,000.

So it’s a year later and that very lucky buyer is looking to see if their good fortune has lasted another 12 months, with an estimated $100,000-$300,000 turn on last year’s investment—not a bad return just for keeping a car in good kit for a year. I hope that this Talbot’s next caretaker doesn’t think of her as a mere investment, and that #110006 finds herself back on the track, not locked in a vault waiting for the next sale.

Ex-Denny Hulme McLaren Formula 1 Car at Auction

RM Auctions will be hosting their first ever event in Monaco in a few weeks, “Sporting Classics of Monaco“, and they’ve certainly pulled out all the stops. The catalog is absolutely mesmerizing, with offerings including the 1937 BMW 328 Mille Miglia “Bügelfalte”, The stunning Birdcage Maserati we looked at a few weeks ago, and some high-demand Ferraris (275 GTB, Tour de France, Daytona Spider).

This car though, hasn’t been featured much in the sportscar press and I didn’t know it was included in the sale until I happened upon the full catalog today. You are looking at one of the three M14A Formula 1 cars that McLaren built to compete in the World Championship for 1970. The McLaren team entered the new decade in absolute dominance of the motoring world. Their Can-Am effort the previous year was in complete control of the series, with Bruce McLaren or Denny Hulme standing atop the podium at all 11 races of the season. They’d also claimed a handful of wins in ’69 in Formula 1 as well. It was time now to continue that amazing success into the 1970s. This car looked well poised to do it too, with a 2nd place finish in her debut race at Kyalami for Hulme—in this very car. The team was on the podium twice more in the next three races. Not a bad start.

That’s when everything went South. Denny suffered a bad methanol burn following practice at Indianapolis. Bruce of course died in a crash at Goodwood testing the new Can-Am car. Amazingly, Denny missed only two races and returned to the car for the French GP. In the next 8 races, Hulme would finish on the podium 3 times more and finished the season in 4th. Incredibly, he won that year’s Can-Am drivers’ championship—oh for the era of driver versatility.

The car itself, chassis M14A2, looks absolutely perfect. Although it had a short stint in her post-F1 years as a Formula 5000 car, the car was fairly quickly returned to the original specification (is this the original engine?) Ford-Cosworth DFV and Hewland gearbox. The car is presented in the livery she wore during the 1970 season and that orange shade is just so brilliant. The photography for the catalog is absolutely stunning and looks like you could just reach into the photo and take her for a spin. I’m surprised that RM’s estimate is as low as it is at $340,000 – $400,000. I can’t believe I just referred to $400K as a low price on something. But really, who needs a house (or two), when you could take a few laps in this.

More information in the auction catalog – I hope more auction houses follow this practice of releasing their full catalog online.

More Unseen Racing Footage: March AFB 1954

In this installment of the John McClure archives, the November 7, 1954 running of the Orange Empire National Sportscar Races at March Air Force Base. It is a real treat seeing the racing action ahead of scores of aluminum planes in the background.

Unfortunately, the Briggs Cunningham team that swept the previous year’s race was a no-show. This race, however, was significant for Porschefiles as the first US race run by a 550 Spyder. Sadly, the car crashed and burned in practice with the driver escaping reasonably unscathed. Instead, Ferraris ruled the day, with 7 of the top 10 spots in the featured over-1500cc race. Also in the film is a parade lap of Historic cars (teens and 20s).

Cliff has race results over on Etceterini.

Art Appreciation: Mefistofele

Look at this fire breathing beast; this terrifying, gigantic thing.

This is the very aptly named 1923 Fiat “Mefistofele”. This was the car that a very brave Ernest Eldridge attempted to wrangle to a World Land Speed Record in 1924. This mammoth machine—powered by a 350-horsepower, 21 liter airship engine—certainly looks up to the task, and despite it’s truck-like size, which surely is larger than she looks, Eldridge somehow managed to control the mighty Fiat long enough to achieve the record.

Eldridge and Mefistofele topped out a 146.013 mph over a flying kilometer in Arpajon, France. He had earlier piloted Mefistofele to a standing start half-mile record of 23.17 seconds at 77mph. Now a 23 second half mile might not sound like much to the muscle car fans among us, but I imagine that the only way to simulate the experience would be if you ran your ‘Cuda at the drags while strapped to the front bumper.

This, my friends, is a proper racing car: a little scary, a little elegant, a lot purposeful looking. Let me just say again 21 Liter airship engine. Traction control? Automatic shift? Anti-lock brakes? No. Driving this machine must be like trying to tame a dragon. Mefistofele indeed.

Let us all salute this impressive monster, and the man who tamed her as an example of the bravado and determination that so roused our collective passion for motorsport.

Porsche’s 1939 Berlin-Rome Coupe Visits the States

This might be a good side trip to add on to this year’s Historic Challenge at Road Atlanta. To celebrate Porsche’s 60th year in North America, the Porsche Museum will be exhibiting the 1939 Berlin-Rome Type 64 at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art exhibit The Allure of the Automobile from March 21-June 20. The car is undoubtedly the spiritual ancestor to every Porsche made since and was the first appearance of many of the design hallmarks that would define the cars. The exhibit will also feature the ’53 550 LeMans Coupe.

The 64 was a prototype hand built special assembled in Zuffenhausen immediately before the Porsche family left Germany for Austria during WWII. The car was designed for the Berlin-Rome race, the nimble and lightweight car would be a perfect competitor for a long overland race through the Alps. Three examples were made: one was destroyed in a bombing raid, one was joy-ridden to death by celebrating American soldiers, the only remaining example holds a prized place in the Porsche museum since it was re-acquired by the factory in 1951.

This is indeed a rare opportunity to see this priceless and important machine in the only setting anyone is likely to ever see it again, a museum pedestal.

CarCulture.com has some marvelous photos of the Berlin-Rome car here.

Update: Still looking into an inconsistency on this bit of news, the High Museum exhibit lists the ’39 on display as a replica, Porsche seems to be listing it as the genuine article – waiting on confirmation from Porsche on this.

More Unseen 50’s SCCA Footage: Paramount Ranch 1956

More footage from the John McClure archives, this time from the August 56 running of the Paramount Ranch road races. The footage here is nice and close, it seems John staked out the perfect spot for the featured Sunday races.

The under-1500cc consolation and feature races in the first half of the video has some great shots of Richie Ginther absolutely walking away with the feature race in his #211 Porsche 550 Spyder; the aftermath of Rex Huddleston’s crash in his #75 Maserati-powered Lotus; William Binney’s beautiful #359 Doretti; an interesting shot in the pits of someone’s front-engined(!) Porsche 4-cam powered racer (is it a Lotus 11?). Nice to see some Cooper Formula IIIs mixing it up with the road cars and specials in the low displacement race.

In the larger displacement race, there’s some nice shots of the lovely little battle between Eric Hauser, Bill Krause, and Harrison Evans. Each of them took 1st in their classes piloting their #70 Morgensen Special, #27 Jaguar D-Type, and #130 Ferrari Monza 750.

Seeing the track in use really highlights was an absolutely beautiful location Paramount Ranch was, even moreso than when we featured it in our Lost Tracks series.

1973 Porsche 2.7 RS Touring at Silverstone

Martin Vincent’s Retromobile Photos

Looks like I’ll have to add Salon Retromobile to my list of future automotive events to attend. I usually prefer my vintage racecar events to include some racing, but these photos from Martin Vincent’s Flickr Stream have me convinced that the fact that this event is held indoors is no barrier to seeing some very high quality machines. This unveiling of an ex-Regazzoni, Andretti, Galli and Merzario Ferrari 312B really puts me over the edge. Beautiful!


See more of Martin’s remarkable shots at his Retromobile Gallery.
More on the Ferrari 312B at Hall & Hall.