Saturday, May 30, 2015

STYLING FROM THE STRATOS-SPHERE!

One of the stars of the 2015 Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Lago di Como was a beautiful Lancia Stratos HF, a car with an amazing birth story.

Lancia Stratos HF (Photo: Tim Scott for Sports Car Digest)

Bertone desperately wanted a connection with Lancia, to expand its client portfolio, but Lancia traditionally turned to Pininfarina for inspiration. Bertone’s chief designer Marcello Gandini produced a concept car for the 1970 Turin Motor Show, called the Lancia Zero.
1970 Lancia Zero Concept
When Bertone arrived at the factory gates to present the car to Lancia, the workers stopped and applauded.

To create the running concept car, Nuccio Bertone prevailed on one of his personal friends to ‘donate’ his Lancia Fulvia to the project, which he chopped off at the sills and mounted the concept body.

Within a year Lancia had approved the creation of a production car, known as the Stratos, which was developed from the Zero concept. The car was to be fitted with a Ferrari Dino V6 engine, however Ferrari was cautious about approving the acquisition of the engines as he thought the Stratos may damage sales of the Ferrari Dino.

1971 Lancia Stratos prototipo
The bright orange Stratos prototype appeared at the 1971 Turin Motor Show.

When production of the Dino ended, Il Commendatore apparently had a change of mind, and in typically dramatic Italian fashion, had 500 engines dumped at the front gates of the Lancia works at Chivasso in 1973 for the construction of the 500 cars needed for homologation. The cars were built up at Bertone’s operation, then shipped to Chivasso for final finish.


The Stratos was immediately successful, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976, mostly at the hands of Sandro Munari, who was a quiet, studious and very technical driver.
Sandro Munari 1975

Bjorn Waldegard also figured in Rally wins with the sleek, wedge-shaped Lancia. Production ended in 1976.

I had the chance to meet Sandro Munari in Sydney in 1976 when he was on his way to New Caledonia for the car’s final rally event. In our MODERN MOTOR interview I asked him if the handling of the car was as diabolical as reported.



He said: “It depends what you mean? If you mean do you have to pay attention at every change of direction, yes, it’s true. Otherwise, it spins!”

The wheelbase/track ratio of the 950kg Stratos was almost ‘square’ so consequently it was like driving a car which pivoted around a central spindle! The 24 valve version of the Dino engine produced 320bhp, so at rally speeds it was quite handful.


Marcello Gandini with Lamborghini Muira
However, one thing is certain, Gandini, designer of the Muira and Countach, produced an exceptionally striking design.


Friday, May 29, 2015

CARS WITH CHARISMA, AT COMO

Last weekend the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este was held at the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este on Lago di Como.




Along with the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the Amelia Island Concours, the Italian event is becoming a must-see, every second year.




Tickets are hard to come by, and if you want to attend you need to start now, for the 2017 staging.
Our friends at Sports Car Digest have the BEST gallery of featured cars, and the class winners. The overall Best of Show was a beautifully original 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C Spider by Zagato.




See: www.sportscardigest.com (Photos by Tim Scott)



If you love classic car design, set in a beautful location, plus the excitement of the Mille Miglia Storico, then you need to be in Italy this time every other year.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

TOURING - ALONG THE WAY Part 1

My Grand Tour through Italy and France last year fielded some great photo opportunities for what I will designate an abstract collection - herewith:



Sunflowers near Carcassone



Packing Grand Pere's car



Checking out the fishing fleet



Breakfast in Bordeaux



Coffee in Carcassone



World Route Number One, near Cahors, France

This is what travel is all about. Memories, Moments and Living Large!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

THE SMALLEST BENTLEY? Bring It On!

The Geneva Salon is famous for dynamic new car reveals, and Bentley Motors conquered all this year with its unveiling of the smallest contemporary Bentley yet - the EXP 10 Speed 6.



Yes, it's a concept car, but already mouths are watering, and chequebooks are being flashed around the world as Bentley enthusiasts wait for the go-ahead to series production.



Even though there's no powertrain details, or any technical specs, the would-be buyers are already lining up.

Regardless of which engine powers the beast, it features Bentley muscularity and a very aggressive front end, following the theme of its big brother, the Continental GT.
(Photo: hdwallcarpic.uni.me)

My good friend, Georg Kacher, Europe's leading automotive writer had a brief pre-Salon drive of the EXP 10, and pronounced it a must-have sports car.

Designed by Bentley Motors' new Director of Design, Luke Donckerwolke and designer Yangsup Lee, it's just a shade bigger than an Aston Martin Vantage.



I can't add information via captions, so you just get the photos from Geneva, and Georg's short drive.


(Photo: hdwallcarpic.uni.me)

Monday, May 25, 2015

THE BENTLEY 'BLOWER' - The Real Story

Bentley Blower
After reading the post on the recent Mille Miglia Storico, a couple of regular followers of Driving and Life have written asking about background to the Bentley Blower.

It’s an interesting and twisted tale of enterprise, determination, folly, and the spirit of competition, which is so ingrained in the overall history of Bentley.

Colonel Sir Henry Birkin
Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, one of the famous ‘Bentley Boys’ suggested to W.O. Bentley he approve a supercharger for the 4.5L four cylinder in order to win at Le Mans.

W.O. Bentley (indicated) with the 'Bentley Boys' at Le Mans. Birkin, front, third from left.
Bentley himself had tried supercharging a 3 litre car in 1927, and had decided it “corrupted the original design” and if he wanted more performance, he would simply make the engine bigger – which he did with the 6 litre, Speed Six!

Birkin, however persisted and engaged supercharger expert Amherst Villiers and one of W.O. Bentley’s favourite drivers, Captain Clive Gallop to help him develop a prototype. Bentley agreed to provide a basic car, and Birkin set up a ‘works’ at Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Dorothy Paget
As he had dwindled away his own funds, Birkin became friends with the wealthy Lady Dorothy Paget, and this is an interesting sidelight to the whole Blower story.

Dorothy Paget inherited Leeds Castle in Kent and her immense wealth ($200 million in today’s money), from her family, and became one of Britain’s most famous (and fortunate) race horse trainers.
Leeds Castle, Kent

Dorothy with 1934 Derby Winner
'Straight Deal'
She was big, gambled big, and won big, but famously stated she could “not stand the sight of men”, however she was star-struck by Birkin and agreed to fund the entire ‘Blower’ project and his racing team. After all, she was a gambler!

We can only guess at the true depth of their friendship, but despite Birkin having a reputation as a dashing ladies’ man, it seems unlikely the friendship became intimate – but who knows?

Blower number 1 appeared at Brooklands on June 29, 1929, but was unreliable and failed to finish the Essex 6 hour race. He did however set a new speed record for Brooklands, at 137.98 mph!

Tim Birkin on the banking at Brooklands in Blower Number One

A rare Blower 'Demonstrator', one of the 50 production
cars (now owned by Bentley Motors)
Undeterred, Birkin ploughed on, with support from the major backer of Bentley Motors, Woolf Barnato.

Birkin eventually persuaded W.O. Bentley to produce the 50 production ‘Blowers’ to qualify the model to compete at Le Mans.


Bentley Blower team car dashboard
Birkin created a racing team of five cars (Number 2 - UU5872 - is now owned by Bentley Motors), but because of production delays the Blowers never appeared at Le Mans until 1930.

Birkin’s racing performance that year was nothing but heroic. He chashed, raced, pushed and dominated the supercharged Mercedes-Benz SSK of Rudolf Carracciola – so much so that both cars stretched their performance potential beyond the breaking point and neither car finished.
 
Bentley Blower 'Number 2 Team Car' at speed in France, driven by Richard Charlesworth
(Photo: D. Fontenat)
Woolf Barnato
The 1930 race, the final appearance of the Bentley Motors ‘works’ team, was won by company Chairman Woolf Barnato in a Speed Six, thereby confirming W.O. Bentley’s contention that supercharging made the engine too ‘fragile’ for 24 hours of racing.

In 1931 Bentley Motors was taken over by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and apart from some privateers, that was the end of Bentley Motors’ racing exploits.


That is until the modern Bentley Speed 8s appeared at Le Mans in 2001, 2002, winning the race in 2003 – a fitting tribute to the achievements of W.O. Bentley and the Bentley Boys.

MAYHEM IN MONACO!

There'll be at least two very angry F1 drivers this morning as they reflect on what might have been in the Monaco Grand Prix.

(Photo: F1.com)

Race leader Lewis Hamilton had a handy 25s lead by Lap 64, when the Safety Car was deployed, and Mercedes called him in for a precautionary pitstop for new tyres. Hamilton complied thinking that Nico Rosberg and Sebastien Vettel would do the same. They didn't!

Rosberg took his third Monaco victory in a row, and Vettel finished second for a great win for Ferrari. Hamilton came 3rd, no doubt grinding his teeth!

(Photo: F1.com)
Our Australian boy wonder, Daniel Ricciardo (who started from 4th) muscled his way up to the leading group, but on the final lap Red Bull's Christian Horner, ordered Daniel to allow teammate Kvyat to move ahead and take fourth place, leaving Daniel in 5th. Force India scored welcome points with Sergio Perez finishing 7th.

Monday, May 18, 2015

BUGATTI WINS 2015 MILLE MIGLIA STORICO

Winner 2015 Mille Miglia
After four long sections (Brescia-Rimini; Rimini-Roma; Roma-Parma; Parma-Brescia) the 2015 Mille Miglia Storico saw the 1927 Bugatti Type 40 of Juan Tonconogy and Guillermo Berisso take the chequered flag.

The original race covered 1,000 miles, and keeping in mind that the current event takes four days, Sir Stirling Moss won the 1955 race in 10 hours, 7 minutes at an average speed of just over 98mph!
 
Moss-Jenkinson on the way to winning 1955 Mille Miglia
1957 wreckage of De Alfonso Portago's Ferrari
The event began in 1927 and was run until 1957 when a serious accident resulted in the tragic deaths of spectators, including children, and Italian authorities shut down the mad race on public roads.

It was revived as a ‘Regularity Event’ in 1977 and is now probably the most important recreated historic rally in the world.

Bugatti's entering Roma, 2014
One of the more interesting section controls is the Vatican City in Rome!

More than 450 cars took part in this year’s Mille Miglia, which only accepts entries of cars which actually, previously participated between 1927 and 1955, or exact (authenticated) models of cars which competed in the original race.

1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 MM
I’m pleased to say that the marque which scored the most wins in the original race was Alfa Romeo, but this year the highest-finishing Alfa Romeo was Massimo Greselli’s 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 MM in 22nd place.

Richard Charlesworth & Blower in 2012
Bentley Motors’ supercharged 1930 ‘Blower’ Bentley crewed by Bentley’s Richard Charlesworth, and German journalist Stefan Grundhoff finished in 200th position.


Bugatti took 1st, 3rd and 4th place this year. Ettore would be thrilled!