Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Being Killboy

Killboy channeled Yoda in a reply to a commenter on sliding the rear end: "Always funnest it is.  Fastest is not."

Lately Killboy has posted two useful videos about riding/driving technique on the Dragon.  See the top link on my 04/26/13 post for the first one.  And here's another (top link below).  Sitting at a very much on-camber turn, he walks you through off-camber turns and camber sequences.  "Following Jay on his Multistrada" remains his best demo/training run (bottom link below).

There's a page of written instruction on a back page of Killboy.com that covers the same ground as the recent videos (under Tips & Area Info), but who clicks to the back of a site to read a page of text these days?  As for my Being Killboy reference, his reply to the commenters who say "I wish I had your job" is a LOL.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Who's Your Daddy? (Jaguar D-Type Photo Essay)

Yesterday's post about Jay Leno's XK-E brought to mind its father, the D-Type race car.  When the
XK-E came out in 1961, its styling was an obvious homage to the D-Type, but I didn't realize until later how similar it was was technically.  Malcolm Sayer designed both cars (and the C-Type, the race car which preceded the D).

William Lyons, who owned and ran Jaguar, was interested in LeMans.  The promotional value of winning the most famous sports car race in the world was obvious.  He was not particularly interested in other races or the World Sports Car Championship, although factory Jags entered other events and private owners raced C-Types and D-Types everywhere.  Jags were not well-suited to tight circuits like the Nurburgring or bumpy courses like the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio.  They performed best on "power circuits" with long straights like Spa, Reims, and LeMans.  Jaguar won the 24 hour race four times in the postwar classic era: 1953 (C-Type) and 1955-1957 (D-Type).

A major factor in the C-Type's 1953 win was Dunlop's perfection of fade-resistant disc brakes, which Jaguar used first in racing.  The C-Type was an otherwise conventional ladder tube-frame car--and a bit long in the tooth by 1953.  It was also clear to Lyons and Sayer that Ferrari (and others) were developing big-engine cars that might overwhelm Jag's 3.4 liter six.

So Sayer designed a new "clean sheet"car: the D-Type.  Aside from its solid rear axle and the iron-block inline six carried over from the C-Type, it went beyond state-of-the art to innovative.  Sayer used a monocoque aluminum center tub, the rigidity of which was enhanced by a partially enclosed cockpit (then permitted by the rules).  To this he bolted two steel semi-space subframes for the engine and the rear axle.  This structure was designed to mate with streamlined front and rear body sections to maximize top speed and stability on LeMans's long Mulsanne Straight.  While it was not light or rigid by later standards, it was comparatively light and very robust for its time.

Here's a good video discussion of the D-Type:


And here's the photo essay:

Above: beyond state-of-the-art for 1954: innovative.  This rendering is of the later Long Nose D-Type.
Below: a good view of the structure of the aluminum monocoque center section of the chassis.

At LeMans in 1954, the D-Type's 3.4 liter six did not have the beans to stay with Ferrari's 4.5 and 5.0 liter V-12's in
the 375 and 375 Plus.  This car came second, a lap down, driven by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton, who had won
LeMans a year earlier in a C-Type.  This picture was taken at a modern demonstration run.

In 1955, it came right for the D-Type when Mike Hawthorn/Ivor Bueb won LeMans as the dominant Mercedes-Benz
300 SLR's withdrew after the terrible crash that killed over 80 spectators when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes was launched
into a grandstand.  At the time, Jaguar and Hawthorn denied all responsibility for the crash.  But the modern consensus
is that Hawthorn swerved in front of Lance Macklin's Austin Healey to enter the pits, causing Macklin in turn to
swerve into the path of Levegh.  This picture is of Bueb passing the pits in the rain on Sunday morning.

Jaguar withdrew as a factory team after 1956, but supported private teams.  In '56, the Scottish Ecurie Ecosse team won
LeMans after the factory cars retired (Ron Flockhart/Ninian Sanderson).  Ecosse repeated with this car in '57, driven
by Ron Flockhart/Ivor Bueb.  Here, Flockhart is seen entering Arnage.  Jaguar built 71 D-Types and 16 XK-SS's
(its road-going adaptation), numbers comparable to the car counts of the later Ford GT 40 and Porsche 917, and far
higher than those of any other racing sports car of the 1950's.

The Jaguar XK-6 engine had a remarkably long life: 1948-1992.  It was important in racing throughout the '50's.  It was
continually developed, first as a 3.4 liter with a Big Valve head, then as a bored-out 3.8 with carburetors and later fuel-
injection.  It ended its run as a bored and stroked 4.2 liter production engine.  This is a 3.8 carb engine in an Ecurie
Ecosse car  in Scottish Blue with carbs and velocity stacks tuned for low-end torque. 

End of the line: the all-aluminum Lightweight E-Type.  It was a success in British racing; less so in international FIA
racing because its 3.8 liter engine fell between the 3.0 and 5.0 liter class sizes.  The E-Type was a sensation when it was
introduced in 1961 because it was, essentially, a D-Type done in steel with the monocoque extended to the rear of the
car to provide a mounting structure for the (new) fully independent rear suspension.  It was thus a stiffer platform than
the D had been.  The Lightweight was simply a E-Type done in aluminum. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

(Partly Invented) Romantic Back Story

Timeless.  Better in green, but perfectly OK in white.

Doubtless Jay Leno knows the entire, real, back story of his new/old XK-E.  I don't want to hear it.  It might interfere with my fantasy.


It's obviously an L.A. car, or a Southwest car--no moisture but a rare rain storm.  I love the idea that a young woman bought this car new in 1963 for herself.  Manual 4-speed, with no syncromesh on 1st and no air conditioning.  She was not gonna let the need to master it, put up with its shortcomings, and carefully maintain it, get between her and this car.  I would like to think she was a young professional.  In any event, she was an independent woman with a restrained sense of style: white/black.  I like to think she chose a coupe over a roadster because the design of the XK-E Series I coupe can't be improved upon.  (A roadster would have been the obvious choice for a young woman in a sunny clime.)

She used it all over L.A. or Phoenix or someplace similar.  She drove it sympathetically enough to "lap in the gears in the box."  She "had it up to 80 once," drove it for 48 years and kept it for 50.  The original seats have seen leather conditioner, but not many u.v. rays.  She knew what she had, and what she was doing.

Eventually, she peered into the abyss (per my recent post).  The Jag went under a carport for a couple of years.  When it was clear she would not drive it again, she asked herself "Who would appreciate this car?"  Leno.  She sought him out and sold it to him.  High-five to you, lady: way to enjoy a fine GT for decades, keep it as pristine as a car in normal use can be, and pass it along for more unmolested preservation.

 I feel romantic about this car's story.  So much so that I had to partly make it up.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How To Double-Apex On The Dragon

When Killboy speaks, smart people listen.  You can learn a lot about driving the Dragon from watching his in-car videos.  And he rode the Dragon for years on sportbikes.  This video is a fine tutorial about how to handle a double-apex that isn't an obvious one.

There was some chatter in the Comments section of Killboy's Highlights page about "What a double-apex is."  Is it two bends (turning in the same direction) strung together, or a single bend with a radius that varies?  For purists, it's the former.  But from the viewpoint of this tutorial, it's a distinction without a difference.  A bike line is slightly different from a car line, but the basic principle is the same: you want to turn it into one continuous, flowing, corner.  Without running out of road at the exit.  And, on the Dragon, if you've run out of lane, you've run out of road.


If you want to see the Dragon done really fast, here's another recent Killboy video:


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fun With Search Terms (#2)

Here's the most recent batch of search terms that plopped people into a blog that probably told them more, or less that was useful, than they wanted to know.  And the thoughts that came to my mind.

"What did Joan of Arc look like?"  Who knows?

"Alfa tubular GTZ"  Yes, it was--totally...

"Ferrari GTZ"  You're in the right church; the pews are but minor theological quibbles.

"Brooks Racing Enterprises Datsun 510"  Close enough (Brock Racing Enterprises).

"Malmedy"  The town?  The massacre?  The corner?

"MG front wire wheel hub"  Uh oh, that sounds like a frustrating scavenger hunt.

"unrestored Sherman tank"  Even tougher.

"Porsche Carrera striping"  Could I interest you in my proposed Stripe Delete Option?

"driving shoes Porsche 911"  I'm a Porschephile, but they ain't that special.  Any good shoe will do.

"OZ Alleggerita White"  Most advised me that Anthracite was the way to go, and they were right.

"Miles Collier Museum"  Actually, it's called CH Motorcars, and open only by appointment, if you can get one.  Which is sad (it used to have regular hours).  It is the history of road racing in the U.S.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Was Wrong With Speed Channel And Why

I mean besides having long ago become The NASCAR Channel.  And it's academic, anyway, now that Speed Channel will become Fox Sports 2 (or whatever they're going to call it).  It will no longer be exclusively about motorsports.

I couldn't understand why Speed's programming had become progressively more brain-dead over the past few years.  Not just the "How To" programs that shill for aftermarket products, or Tommy Kendall's "road tests," and the like.  I mean the idiot reality shows, of which there were more and more. And which themselves became sillier and sillier.  I don't follow "media"or study it, so it was a mystery to me.

The answer was supplied by a media critic who I happened to see (on TV) last weekend.  He was explaining the decline of network news, and the rise of dumbed-down cable news channels.  But he used Comedy Central and Lifetime as examples.  Nobody can get, or goes for, a mass audience any more.  That's why network news operations, with an audience of about 9 million, are shadows of their former selves--and advertising revenue.  By contrast, if a cable news show can get 1 million viewers, it's doing pretty well.  So today, the strategy is to micro-target an audience and "serve" the living daylights out of it.  Thus Comedy Central targets "males aged 18-24."  Lifetime targets "females, aged 44-60."  And so on.  That way your advertisers know exactly who's watching, and can micro-target their message. The lower ad rates make it practical for them to produce inexpensive commercials, and run them endlessly on your micro-targeted channel.

Viola!  Speed Channel targets males, aged 18-24.  (Come to think of it, I don't watch Comedy Central as much as I used to.  Same reason, same demographics.)  My bet is that Fox Sports 2 (or whatever they call it) will be "All Stunts, All The Time."  Bread and circuses, with the emphasis on circuses.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peeking (Not Peering) Into The Abyss

The Car of My Future.  Distant, I hope.  Beyond boredom: Full Ennui.

When I was in my mid-20's, an old guy I knew of voluntarily gave up driving.  He was in his early 80's.  He ran a Volkswagen Beetle off the Interstate with his Lincoln Town Car--and didn't know he'd done it.  That's why he gave up driving, after the Highway Patrol called it to his attention.  He understood lane discipline, but could no longer practice it.

I'm friends with two couples, one in their 80's and one in their 90's, who really shouldn't be driving.  But they live in the single-family suburban homes in which they raised their families.  Those homes are their lives.  They need to drive: to the store, to church, to their other activities.  Giving up  their licenses would be surrendering life as they've known it, not to mention their personal autonomy.  They will not do so until they can't pass the vision test.  Even now, they shouldn't be able to pass that test: their peripheral vision is very poor.  Their reaction times and concentration are poor.  They try to avoid driving at night, and they stay off the freeways.  (If they need to get to the airport, or we want to take a day trip, I drive.)

Eventually it will be time for me to slow down.  Give up my toys and my radar detector.  Move to an apartment near my children.  Drive mostly on straight roads, only to get where I need to go.  What an existence!  Want to know how to slow yourself down as your vision and reflexes degrade?  Buy an econobox with the standard wheel/tire package and an automatic transmission.  It's pointless to try to drive such a car.  So every time I get behind the wheel of my current vehicles, I savor the experience.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Weather Rant

It's unnatural; it just ain't right.  The top should be down, the trees should be budding, and the grass greenish.

I try to keep the miles off my toy.  It goes out only for fun, never in rain or salt.  Its lifetime average mileage in March and April is 70 and 90.  This year, so far, it's been 30 and 15.

On the Tail of the Dragon a year ago, it was sunny shirtsleeve weather.  This year we got 7 inches of snow over two days.  Minneapolis got three days of snow last week: enough to screw up commutes and get the snowblower out.  Hotshoe and I have been trying to schedule our monthly pasta extravaganza here in Chicagoland.  It rained most of last week.  This week we've had 50's with rain.  Snow flurries are forecast for Friday with a high in the 40's.  Enough already!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Roller Bearing Cranks

This crankshaft has roller bearings on the throw journals, not just the mains.  Most did.

I love the beatuy of roller cranks: they're triumphs of precision manufacturing.   Wouldn't want to own one--not that any manufacturer would be crazy enough to put one in a car for sale to the general public.  The maintenance intervals and costs were "for racing only."  But in their day they had very practical value.

They were important for racing in the '20's and '30's because babbit bearing technology and tolerances could not stand up to the pounding of high loads and r.p.m.'s.  But you could "do" a roller crank with tighter tolerances and much lower friction losses.  Thin wall shell bearings solved the durability problem, although their friction losses are higher.  They took over from rollers in car racing engines in the 1950's.  Rollers are still common in small, high powered, racing engines.

Because the piston rods of a roller crank are a single piece, with the bearing press-fitted into them, the crankshaft itself must be made from multiple precision-machined segments and assembled around each throw journal.   The Hirth joints themselves are in the crank's main journals, surrounded by (more) roller-bearings.

Except for highly specialized applications, the roller bearing crankshaft has gone the way of the precision-movement mechanical watch, and for the same reasons.  It was complicated and expensive, both to produce and assemble.  Advanced materials and electronics provide better solutions to the same problems (loads and revs).  So it is an almost-forgotten achievement of the mechanical age.  But making one was an achievement maybe even more impressive than imagining it.

Illustration of a Hirth Joint.  If you think about the dimensions and tolerances in an automotive crankshaft, and the
loads put on the joint in operation, you can see how precisely the joint must be machined and how carefully the
crankshaft must be assembled.

Thing of beauty: a Bugatti straight-8, 5 main-bearing roller crank.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Killboy's Hondas

Being in the tank for my own Civic Si may have caused me to over-collect Hondas for my "Best Of Killboy" picture file.  Anyway, here are my faves so far.

To begin at the beginning: great car (and motorcycle) companies are built on great technical heritage.
Mike Hailwood on the 1966 Honda RC 166 6-cylinder GP 250 bike.

  Nice Tribute Colors!

Acura NSX: easy supercar to live with, and to use (some of) its performance in the real world--if you travel light.
I'll have mine in silver, please.

 Acura RSX Type S: Honorary Si--or maybe the Si is an Honorary RSX Type S...  Best-looking mass-market Honda.
By now, all the pieces were in place: d.o.h.c. iVTEC, great gearbox, limited-slip, quality i.r.s., and good looks.

Stock is good enough for me.  Maybe a set of wheels... Well...a turbo kit would be nice...  If you're a flatlander, a case
can be made for a pony car.  If you live within a 100 mile radius of the Dragon, the S-2000 is a no-brainer.

Speaking of turbo kits...  The Gen 5 Civic Si, with a d.o.h.c. transplant or turbo kit may be the most bang-for-the-buck
Honda has done.  Great basic platform: light car with A-arm front suspension, not struts.

If you're gonna do a tuner car, why not a restrained "Tribute To Honda Racing" vibe?  Curb-cut challenged, though.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Best Unknown American Grand Prix Driver

Paul Richard "Richie" Ginther (picture: BARCBoys)

Stirling Moss's tribute to Tony Brooks, "the best unknown racing driver there has ever been," reminded me of Richie Ginther.  He had only one Grand Prix victory, Mexico in 1965.  But he had lots of high finishes and drove for factory teams from 1960 through 1967.  He drove at LeMans from 1957 through 1960 (in privately-entered Ferraris).  He drove Ferrari factory sports cars in 1961 and GT 40's for Ford 1964-1966.

Ginther grew up in Santa Monica, CA, and went to work in Douglas Aircraft's tool and die shop after high school.  He got into racing through his older brother's acquaintance with Phil Hill.  His first race was in a Ford-engined MG TC in 1951.  After two years in the Air Force as a mechanic during the Korean War, he was Phil's riding mechanic in Ferraris in the Carrera Panamerica in 1953 and 1954. They were DNF in '53 when Hill crashed the car and 2nd to a factory Ferrari in '54.

Ginther's success in his own race cars got him rides in Johnny Von Neumann's Porsche 550 Spyders and Ferraris, which in turn brought him to the attention of Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari's representative in the States, and rides with Chinetti's North American Racing Team.  This filled in his resume from 1955 through 1958.

Ginther won a lot of races for Johnny Von Neumann's Continental Motors, the California distributor for Porsche and
Ferrari, in the mid-1950's.  Von Neumann's competition numbers were always 11 or some three-digit variation of it.
(Von Neumann usually took several cars to a meet and often drove himself, as did his step-daughter.)  Above: an early
version of the Smiley Face on Von Neumann's Porsche 550 Spyder; below, Ginther in Von Neumann's Ferrari 250 TR.

Ginther in the Ferrari 156 at the French Grand Prix at Reims, 1961.  Reims was notorious for its July heat, which caused
the tar in the pavement to bleed to the surface.  The organizers' solution to the problem was to sprinkle gravel around,
which the cars' tires threw at those following.  Cracked goggle lenses and facial cuts were not uncommon at Reims.
Ferrari's standards of preparation were high, but any Formula 1 car looked pretty used up after a weekend there.

Ginther had a one-off drive for Ferrari in Formula 1 in 1960.  In 1961 he was the Number Three  factory driver, behind Phil Hill and Wolfgang Von Trips.  By this time, he had a well-earned reputation as a development driver based on ten years of experience wrenching and driving his own and Von Neumann's cars.  When Ginther left Ferrari, he was picked up by BRM as their Number Two driver (to Graham Hill) for Formula 1 and by Ford for their GT 40 program.  In 1965 Honda hired him as Number One for their new Formula 1 team.  Here are Ginther's finishing positions in the World Driving Championship for his five full years in Formula 1:

                                           1961   5th   (Ferrari)
                                           1962   8th   (BRM)
                                           1963   3rd   (BRM)
                                           1964   5th   (BRM)
                                           1965   7th   (Honda)

Daytona 1965: Phil Remington (left) and Ginther (center) confer with Bob Bondurant (in car) during practice.  In the
race Bondurant/Ginther came third behind the other Shelby GT 40 (driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby) and a Cobra
Daytona coupe driven by Schessler/Keck/Johnson.  Ginther drove for the GT 40 program from 1964 through 1966.  

Honda hired Ginther as their Number One because he was an excellent development driver with a team-player approach and experienced on the European courses.  Also because he was American, a market where Honda was getting ready to sell cars as well as motorcycles.  (Ronnie Bucknum, another American, was Honda's Number Two.)  Despite its power, the Honda RA-272 was uncompetitive at first. By season's end, Ginther had helped develop it into a car that was on pace, if not a winner.  They won the last race of the season, in Mexico.  It was Ginther's only Grand Prix victory and Honda's first.

Above and below: "Hmmmmmmm...." and (finally) victory in the Honda RA-272 1.5 liter V-12 in Mexico in 1965.

Ginther retired from racing in 1967.  He was working on qualifying a Gurney Eagle for the Indianapolis 500 when a fuel line let go, soaking him.  Earlier in his career he had been burned, painfully but not seriously.  And, like all drivers of his era, he had lost plenty of associates to accidents.  He pulled into the pits and walked away.

In the modern era, since the advent of carbon fiber, fuel cells, and h.a.n.s. devices, "front-rank drivers never die, they just slowly fade away" (to borrow a quote from Douglas MacArthur).  Well...they rarely die, and usually give TV interviews after spectacular crashes.  They lose a step to their younger competitors, or they get bored, or other things become more important to them.  But in Ginther's era, you picked your time to quit when you just couldn't justify the risk any more.  Or an accident picked it for you.

Ginther died of a heart attack in a Paris hotel in 1989, on vacation with his family.

Counting the cost: Ginther (back to camera, in Goodyear jacket) turns away from the wreckage of Walt Hansgen's Ford
GT 40 Mark II at the LeMans Test Days, April, 1966.  Hansgen, ten years older and even more experienced in big-bore
sports cars than Ginther, lost control in the rain in the fast Dunlop Bridge sweeper and hit a bank nearly head-on.  He
died a few days later of internal injuries.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Almost Famous (Jaguar XJR-5)

To my eye and ear, the Jaguar XJR-5 was the best-looking and sounding IMSA GTP/FIA Group C car of the 1980's.  Alas for Jaguar, Porsche's venturi tunnels and wing were a better aero solution, and its turbo 6 was more powerful than Jag's normally aspirated 12.  The XJR-5 was slightly bigger and heavier than the Porsche 962.

In 1983, Bob Tullius, a longtime SCCA racer of MGB's, Triumphs, and XK-E's, persuaded Jaguar to supply V-12 engines and some financing for IMSA pro racing in the States.  He race-prepped the engines in his own shop.  He hired Lee Dykstra to design the XJ-5.  Dykstra is still engineering for open-wheel teams today; he got his start as a junior engineer in Ford's GT-40 project.  By the mid- 1970's, he was the "D" in Dekon Engineering, which designed and built the Chevy Monza tube-frame IMSA silhouette racer.  (The "k" in Dekon was Horst Kwech; Dekon signified Design and Construction.)

The XJ-5 was competitive in IMSA, but the front-rank Porsche 962 teams had to falter for it to win. Tullius took it to LeMans in 1984.  But, when Jaguar decided to get serious about Group C racing in Europe in 1985, they hired Tom Walkinshaw Racing to do a series of cars (the XJR-6 through 14), the most successful of which were V-6 turbos.  These were the then-famous purple/orange/white "Silk Cut Jags."  They were more competitive (and won LeMans), but not as classy-looking as the XJR-5.

Actually Famous: a later series Silk Cut Jag V-6 turbo at LeMans.

This is the best video with sound I could find of the XJR-5; the low-r.p.m. crackle is fine, but I wish it better-captured the high-rev scream of the V-12:


Group 44 took two cars to LeMans in 1984.  This car was DNF early with a blown engine.  The #44 car ran as high as
5th, but was never in contention for the win.  Before the transmission failed, it completed enough laps to come 13th.
But the LeMans regulations required that you cross the finish line under power at the end of 24 hours, so it was not
classified as a finisher.  The XJR-5's color scheme (white with narrow two-tone green accent stripes) went back to Bob
Tullius's days as an SCCA amateur: all his race cars looked more or less like this.  That is, sharp.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Damp Dragon Pass With Idle Chit-Chat

This was our first pass on a damp Dragon last month.  The video is in low-def mode, but you get the idea.  I do like a hand-held camera that can pan into a corner: it provides a better feel for the road than a fixed mount.  As previously posted, you can have almost as much fun at 6/10's in 3rd gear as you can on a dry Dragon at 8/10's in 2nd.  Thanks to Hotshoe for struggling against the g-forces to film. And thanks to TDOT and NCDOT for turning snowy slush into salty runoff.  (That's not meant ironically: they saved our trip.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ruby Slippers

A word on driving shoes: these are the best I've found.  I've had them for about a year.  They are New Balance "Minimus" running shoes.  They're illegal for racing because they're not fireproof.  But they are great for HSAX or street performance driving.  I recently wore them (all day) to, from, and on the Tail of the Dragon. Any heel-and-toe problem I still have can be set down to clumsiness.  I drove the Dragon in the wet, and their rubber-on-rubber grip on the pedals is fine.  Pedal feel is superb.  Comfort is superb.

I've tired several pairs of allegedly purpose-made leather loafers with soft soles and uppers, and various iterations of Dockers.  The former seem not to be soft enough, and tend not to have a broad-enough sole to heel-and-toe easily.  The latter fit looser than I like, and some have soles that stick out far enough to get tangled in the pedals.  Both can be lived with, but I was still looking...

The Minimus shoes are advertised for non-pavement runners.  They were designed for lightness and maximum "feel" with a very thin sole.  New Balance does not recommend them for routine wear or pavement running: they have no arch support.  (I have worn them all day at a flagging station, where I can sit down between races.  I wouldn't dream of trying to walk a significant distance in them.)  The uppers are breathable nylon mesh.  The eyelets for the laces are cloth (not brass) and I wonder how durable they are.

Red was not a great color choice, and I'd have been glad to buy black, grey or white.  But the alternatives were neon purple or lime.  So I live with the looks of bemusement and amusement they cause on the faces of outdoorsy types (with which I am never confused) and my friends.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Leonardo's Moretti

Over lunch on our recent Tail of the Dragon trip, Hotshoe Wannabe told me about his Uncle Leonard. Leonard provided the yeast that made Hotshoe's automotive bread rise.  Hotshoe got rides in Alfas before Pilote knew what they were.

Leonard had a liberated spirit.  He was a Purchasing Agent for Ford in the glory days of the '50's and 60's.  He was also an Italian car freak--which certainly made him stand-out in Detroit in those days.  He owned two Alfa Giuliettas before he bought his Moretti Gran Sport.  And a Hillman and another Moretti.  When I went to work for a steel distribution firm in Cleveland in 1972, I asked if the United Steel Workers would take hammers to my Datsun 510 in the employee parking lot.  It was not an idle question.  (They didn't, and imported cars became commonplace in the lot as the '70's wore on.)  So I asked Hotshoe if Leonard, fifteen years earlier, had anxieties about his Italian Jobs in the Ford lot.  He looked at me with an expression that said "You just don't get my Uncle Leonard."

Moretti was famous for making the major components in his cars, including the Gran Sport's jewel of a 750 c.c. engine.  Most Italian specialist carmakers used a lot of Fiat parts, some of which they modified, or even started with a Fiat platform.  Think Abarth.  Leonard decided it would be fun to autocross his Gran Sport.  But he also thought it needed some major upgrades to be enough fun.  So he replaced its 750 c.c. engine with a 1.3 liter Alfa.  This took the horsepower from 71 to 90--a 30% increase.  (Leonard may have been an Italian car freak, but his solution to the power problem was straight out of American hot-rodding.)  He had 1-inch spacers made in the Ford machine shop that did GT 40 parts, which allowed him to replace the Moretti's stock 15 X 4 inch wheels with wide 13 inch Halibrand mags.

Leonard, and his cars, fell on hard times.  Eventually, Hotshoe restored the Moretti.  He was sad to learn that its irreplaceable stock wheels, rusting in the back yard, were binned by a family member who "cleaned the place up" while Leonard was in the hospital.  The Halibrand mags were also corroded beyond saving.

After he restored it, Hotshoe took the Moretti to autocrosses and car shows for a few years.  At 1200 lbs. (13 lbs. per horsepower) it was a hoot to drive and the Michelotti body drew crowds.  The tiny car was hard to get into and out of, but once inside there was plenty of room even for a 6-footer.  He took it to Road America once and discovered that, at higher speeds, the quarter-elliptic springs at all four corners made the handling and ride lively to the point of instability.  Eventually he sold the car.  He's heard that it is now back in Europe, fully restored to original Moretti 750 Gran Sport specification: engine, wheels, and all.

As we paid for lunch and walked out of the diner in Robbinsville, Hotshoe and I agreed that his Uncle Leonard had been misnamed.  He should have been called Leonardo.  Leonardo Bigblock.

Leonardo's Moretti as received by Hotshoe: Alfa engine, revised hubs and spacers for Halibrand magnesium wheels.
But as is clear from the picture, the car had seen better days.  The color was a faded dark blue.

One-of-a-kind. This pic shows the Moretti in mid-restoration by Hotshoe.  The 1.3 liter Alfa engine is a "Testa Rossa,"
with Hotshoe-rebuilt internals.  The hub spacer/adapters were retained because, luckily, Chevy Vega steel wheels fit
and resembled the original Moretti wheels as closely as anything likely to be found in the States in the 1980's. 

 C'est finis: Hotshoe's tribute to Leonard, and Giovanni Moretti.  He repainted it Italian Racing Red.  Its competition
number was the year of its manufacture.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

The original 911 still blows me away.  Being professionally lit and snapped doesn't hurt.