Just watching the Beast of Turin’s engine fire up a few months ago was flabbergasting. To see her spin around the grounds at Goodwood is downright magical.
It’s jarring to see a racing machine that is as tall as a man’s shoulder. Climbing up on to the seat of the 28.5 liter Fiat S76 is more like perching in a biplane than easing down into a low-slung racing car. You emerge from a car like this with your whole body numb from the battle—shaking and tingling for hours afterwards.
Thick in the early salvos of the Cobra Ferrari Wars and the Fords were in prime shape. This one, though, wasn’t just about the big boys. There was a healthy field of Porsches, Elvas, Lotuses, a lone Stanguellini, and even one of the ultra-rare Echidnas.
I love seeing old footage of Road America because you can immediately see how little it’s changed in the intervening years: Turn 5 is still tricky and prime viewing; the blind turn into 6; Canada corner managing to get the best of more than a few drivers.
Easy to forget that for a few years the development of spoilers and wings was the wild west. It seems like Formula 1 teams tried a slightly new configuration every race, sometimes with spectacular or terrifying or hilarious results.
The oldest Porsche 901 in the Museum’s collection is undergoing a complete restoration which they acquired following a long-neglected stay in private hands. I hope there are periodic video updates released as she starts to come together.
I wish we could find a way to clone the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and stamp an event just like it in the expansive parks in several major metropolitan areas. Imagine a race calendar that included New York’s Central Park Vintage Grand Prix, Detroit’s Belle Isle Vintage Grand Prix (the course is already there!), A revived San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Vintage Grand Prix, Los Angeles’ Griffith Park Vintage Grand Prix… I could go on. I would love to go on.
Perhaps no other event shaped the future of motorsport more than the 1955 LeMans crash that caused more than 80 spectator fatalities. Among other things, motor racing was banned in Switzerland as a result of this crash until 2007. Mercedes pulled out of the race and didn’t enter a factory-sponsored team in any race until the 80’s. Certainly track design was forever changed.
It’s not just snow-fencing, hay bales, and sitting on the curb while sportscars fly by anymore. I once paused momentarily while descending the stairs at the Michigan International Speedway during a race just to experience the sensation as a car wooshed past at 200mph only feet away. It was thrilling then, even with that handful of feet, a concrete wall, and high fencing between us. I can only imagine what it must have been like without those physical barriers there—I occasionally wish for it. But looking back at LeMans ’55 is a good reminder of why it simply cannot be. Even in today’s tracks with their 20 foot crash fences, endless runoff, and limited view for spectators, there is still an element of risk just sitting in the stands at the track.
With all the excitement surrounding the new Ford GT that was unveiled this week, I think it’s a better idea to just enjoy these laps of the 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype that sold at last year’s RM Monterey auction as she takes in the sights at Willow Springs.
This isn’t for the squeamish. I’ve long been fascinated by the Cuban people’s ability to keep the cars of the 1950s on the road without a steady influx of parts. The ingenuity and determination of Cuban mechanics and their ability to cobble together bits and pieces or wholly create spares that keep those old Dodges and Chevys rolling through sheer force of will is just artistry. Why then, couldn’t one or two devote that masterful ability to this Gullwing? Instead it looks to have been abandoned and cannibalized over her years hiding under a banana tree. It’s heartbreaking.
After 100 years of sitting idle, Duncan Pittaway and his team have breathed life into this former Landspeed Record Fiat S76. More than 100 years after the two S76s were built by Fiat to take the flying mile and flying kilometer records away from the Blitzen Benz, this fearsome hellbreathing dragon has spun up her four valve-per-cylinder, multi-spark, overhead cam 28½ Litre (!) engine and it. Is. Staggering. Without exhausts fitted, this view of the combustion chambers spitting the remains of burning fuel straight into the camera lens makes me feel like Gandalf staring down a Balrog in Moria.
Modern engines are absolutely pushing envelopes. The sophistication of engineering and artistry that powers contemporary racing machines is very, very impressive. But none of them have the Earth shattering brutality of this 104-year-old Fiat. Terrifying. And Gorgeous.
Hat tip to Stefan Marjoram on this one. More to come in the new year, it seems. I can’t wait for more of the Beast of Turin.
Marvelous 20 minute film of Team Shelby’s racing exploits. Even if this film was just the Willow Springs chalk talk with Peter Brock it would be worth the watch. That it’s interspersed with sequences of Dan Gurney or Ken Miles illustrating his lecture on the track makes it mandatory viewing. You might just learn a touch of racecraft that’s just as true today as it was 50 years ago. Of course that first-generation GT40 and a spinning and drifting 289 Cobra aren’t hard to look at either.