Friday, October 30, 2015

Dirty Penny

"Dirty Penny" is one of my favorite 911's.  One reason is its "Cocoa Brown" metallic brown paint.  This color doesn't look great on most cars--including my own Mazda RX-7.  But it works on the subtle curves of the 911.  Another reason I like "Dirty Penny" is because it's the perfect compromise between a track-day car and a street car: truly dual purpose.

A partial listing of the specifications of this Pelican Parts build:  some light-weight body parts on a 1978 911 SC, stripped interior, a "built" 3.2 short-stroke engine driving through a a 915 gearbox with special ratios to 15 X 9 rear wheels (15 X 7 fronts).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Harley Earl Look

My choice of the 1958 Oldsmobile to represent Harley Earl is maybe a bit unfair.  But he'd like this angle.

Here's a link to an interesting Petrolicious piece:

While on the subject of great-looking (but under-appreciated) mass-produced cars, I'll return here to a pet peeve: Harley Earl's ugly designs for General Motors.  The 1958 GM lineup was the worst, and the '58 Olds was the ugliest of them all.  Lineal yards of chrome applique looking desperately for a unifying theme--any theme--to be hung on.

Consider the classic GM design of the 1950's, the "tri-five" ('55-'56-'57) Chevy.  I believe Earl's aesthetic input was minimal because he wanted its simplicity to direct attention toward his more garish Pontiac and Oldsmobile stable mates.  The "tri-five" itself got progressively less attractive as Earl hung gingerbread on it.  The '55 Chevy can hold its head up in any company.  The '56 and '57 were progressively less attractive.  When Earl finally turned his full attention to Chevy in '58 and '59, he created two of the ugliest Bowties to come off the line: finally, part of "his" GM family.

Consider other sedan designs available in the '50's: Jaguar, Mercedes, Lancia--even the low-priced Fiats and the V.W. Beetle.  More to the point in those pre-world-market days, consider what Virgil Exner did with American Gingerbread in the late '50's as he was chasing Earl's styling "lead."  Nobody did wretched excess better than Exner in the '57 and '58 Chrysler lineup.

The Earl story has a happy ending.  Upon his retirement, Bill Mitchell succeeded him as head of G.M. design.  It took two years to flush Earl's tortured sheet metal stampings out of the system.  But by 1961, General Motors was headed toward some of the best-looking cars to come out of Detroit.

This image choice is fair enough: from an Olds catalog.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Unsung Heros Of Mass Production, Great Lookers Category (#3)

Acura RSX Type S (2002-2006)

I believe I've posted about this car before--as The One That Got Away (from me--one of the ones  ;-)  ). I vividly remember seeing my first one in the flesh, waiting in the oncoming lane for the same red light I was stopped at: "Wow...that's a styling home run."  I still wish I'd needed a new car at the time.  One of the pix below shows an aftermarket tuner car wing.  Even that integrates successfully and inoffensively.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing Is Not Necessarily Believing

Gordon Shedden and his Honda Civic Type R: 2015 British Tour Car Championship... Champions.

I have watched this video half a dozen times and still don't fully believe it.

A valid argument can be made against "equivalency series" which add and subtract weight depending on where the manufacturer finished in the last race, or strangle the engines with induction restrictors, or whatever.  I understand the gripe and often agree with it.  But the top series, including Formula 1, do the same thing, don't they?

The BTCC is brilliant racing and this is the most brilliant drive I've seen in many a day.  Suck it, Formula 1:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Who Wudda Thunk?

Among other things, the Mille Miglia was famous for hordes of Fiat 500 Topolinos which, as Stirling Moss said (I paraphrase) "had no business being in the event and mostly crashed and burned within the first few kilometers."

The Citroen 2CV was even more underpowered than a Topolino.  Henry Lobes and Yves de Faily were DNF on those baby buggy wire wheels.  The Beauty Part: they were only 30-40% down the list of DNF's, so they outran or outlasted many of the Topolinos.  Sacrebleu!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Unsung Heros Of Mass Production, Great Lookers Category (#2)

Normally, I'm not a fan of random creases and swoops to make a box look less boxy.  Just be honest: form follows function and, as Mies van der Rohe said, "less is more."

Not to mention wrap-around tail lights and other tricks to make a small car look bigger.  So I have no explanation for why the Generation 5 Hyundai Elantra appeals to me.  It just does.

And as always, reader nominees for this series are welcome.  (Or thumbs-down on this nominee?)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Early 1950's California Road Racing Film

Thanks (once again) to the Chicane Blog for the link.  Santa Barbara, Torrey Pines, and Pebble Beach. The video is 19 minutes, but there are some interesting and rare cars in it (an Arnolt-Bristol, for instance):

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Unsung Heros Of Mass Production, Great Lookers Category (#1)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the cliche goes.  Or, as a friend says when someone comments negatively on the appearance of his cars, "You do you, I'll do me."  On the other hand, as my sainted mother sometimes muttered, "His/her taste is in his mouth."

The idea for these posts came to me in (where else?) a parking lot.  These cars are my nominees for great-looking, affordable, vehicles that nobody talks about.  At least, nobody has grabbed my arm and said "Look at that!"  Nor do I recall ever saying anything similar, even though they registered on my radar.  These posts may correct that in a small way: honorable mention by someone, once.

The first couple/few, at least, will be of contemporary or relatively modern cars.  And I will forbear from nominating my own 2005-2009 Mustang and the Generation 8 Honda Civic.  Those cars were obvious choices, but then I would nominate them, wouldn't I?

Other nominees from readers of this blog?  (Or thumbs-down on mine?)

First up: the Generation 7 Toyota Celica GT:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Random Porsche 906 Post

Mike Rahal/Werner Frank/Hugh Wise were DNF at Sebring in 1971 with a broken oil line in Mike's 906.  Decades
later, Bobby Rahal tracked this car down, restored it, and gave it to his Dad.

This fun short clip gives me an excuse for some random comments on the Porsche 906:

The car had large wheel arches to accommodate it's original 15-inch wheels (not shown above).  And that was because Ferry Porsche insisted that Ferdinand Piech use wheels, hubs, brakes, and suspension arms left over from the 904 racing cars.  Any wonder that Ferry hired John Wyer to run the factory 917 race cars in 1970 because he thought Ferdindand was spending too much money on the racing program?  (In fairness, Porsche was a much smaller company back then.)

The 906 was plenty fast for a 2-liter race car.  I saw one hang onto a Ford GT 40 easily, at an SCCA Regional in Connellsville, PA in 1967.  As long as it was raining.  ;-)

I've always loved the 906 because it was street-legal in 1965.  Emissions regulations were still three years away.  The orange one in the video appears to have LeMans gearing--that's a long first gear.  And when was the last time we heard carburetor stumble, even in a race car, as it pulled away from rest?

I know a guy who owned a couple of 906's.  He sold them both.  He'd have kept one except that A) he didn't fit--the cockpit, especially head room, is even more cramped than Piech's later 900-series cars and B) the flimsy gullwing door kept popping open.  Maybe because he was conking it with his helmet?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More Trivia

What is it?  Which end is the front?

I knew a guy in college who had one.  He commuted to and from home (in Connecticut) to school (in Western Pennsylvania) in it.  Six round trips per year.  It took him 12 hours, one way.  It topped out at about 60 m.p.h., the same as my Mini 850.  But my commute was 2 hours, on secondary roads.  His was mostly on the New York Turnpike.  Even he, a big fan of the marque, allowed as how this was a loooooong trip.  He gave me a few rides in it.  I recall that the starting and warm-up procedure in winter was complicated, but that may just be a faulty memory playing tricks because I can't remember what it actually was.  The body roll in corners was impressive.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Road America 1958 (Film)

Gaston Andrey won the 1958 Road America 500 in this Ferrari 335 S

This fine old film shows Road America three years after its birth.  No passive safety of any kind, but great spectator sight lines.  There is plenty of in-car too, and some fine paddock shots.  Its long (28 minutes), with hokey narration, and obviously paid for to promote Onan generators.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Eau Rouge Through The Decades

Some say that, lately, Eau Rouge can be taken flat in a Formula 1 car.  But that's not true of lesser race cars, and hasn't been the case for any car for most of Spa-Francorchamps's history, which goes back to 1925.

Early post-war; the alternative course that went straight after the Eau Rouge bridge to a hairpin, and then uphill to rejoin
the course at Raidillon, is clearly visible in this picture. The first international race at Spa-Francorchamps was in 1925.

A sports car race in 1953.

Alberto Ascari's Ferrari 500 Grand Prix car in 1952 or 1953.  He and the 500 won the Belgian GP here in both years.

A sports car race in 1955, led by a Ferrari Monza.

Start of the Belgian Grand Prix, 1965.  Graham Hill leads Jackie Stewart, both in BRM's, from Richie Ginther in a Honda.

Practice for the 1000 Km race, 1969.  Jo Siffert tried this 917, but chose a 908 for the race.  It was becoming very clear
that the 917 was very (aerodynamically) unstable at speed.  But Porsche wanted some racing experience with the car,
so two other drivers were assigned to start it.  One of them over-revved and blew the engine on the first lap.  Some
say, intentionally.  I would have.  ;-)

In 1970 the Richard Attwood/Hans Herrmann Porsche Salzburg 917K finished 6th.

Fernando Alonso (Renault) leads Timo Glock (Toyota) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (Renault) in 2008 or 2009.

Monday, October 5, 2015

But At What Cost?

Porsche 911: 1964 and 2015

Anyone who remembers cars with radical street cams and big carbs cannot object to variable valve timing and electronic port injection.  My Honda Civic Si makes twice the horsepower of a 2-liter engine of fifty years ago (at 33% more revs), idles smoothly at 700 r.p.m., and pulls with gusto from 1200 r.p.m.  I'm glad my cars have catalytic converters, and that same "intelligent" fuel injection that makes the atmosphere cleaner.

Who among performance drivers can object to grippier tires on wider wheels?  Some of us have even adjusted to "intelligent" floppy-paddle gearboxes.  At my age, I won't even object to air bags, which would probably save me from a broken neck in a collision.  But I could do with a little less sheet steel and aluminum surrounding me in those crashworthy "crush zones."

If you wonder why a modern car weighs 40% more than the cars of our youth (at least the youth of anciens), there's your answer.  It also explains why they don't feel as agile and spirited, even though they go much faster, corner much harder, and stop much quicker.   Modern high-performance cars are not as much fun.  The picture visualizes the question, "How much is enough?"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

One of my favorite local vintage racers, the Alfa GTA/GTV of Barb Nevoral, snapped by Eric Blank at Road America.