Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Bentley Motors has a hard-won reputation both in the marketplace and among luxury carmakers as the only car company capable, and willing, to embark on ‘Personal Commissioning’ for buyers.

For most companies which mass-produce cars, Personal Commissioning is a complete no-go area. They haven’t got the time, nor the inclination to break out from the mainstream and produce something completely different for a potential buyer. Bentley Motors sees those customers very differently.

Here’s an example: Back in 2000, an American Bentley customer asked if the company could produce a completely one-off car, to suit his personal requirements.
He wanted a coupe, but not one with a tiny rear seat suitable only for little people with short legs. He wanted a unique two-seat coupe with the area behind the front seats given over to a luxuriously-appointed bench trimmed in the same leather used on the seats and doors.


Then he wanted uniquely-designed ‘fitted luggage’ to occupy the space, featuring design details harking back to the days of the famous Bentley Boys of the 1920s. In short, he was prepared to pay whatever it cost to have something completely different, totally unique and uniquely his.
Bentley Motors turned to freelance designer Hanna van Braeckel to visualize the concept and  specify the interior treatment.
Hanna was also to design the luggage itself – which was a bespoke commission to an exclusive Italian luggage manufacturer.

The result was a complete success and is just one of many requests received back in the day by Bentley Motors to satisfy the special needs of its customers. To do this work Bentley Motors maintains the Mulliner Division, which is completely responsible for creating and delivering unique concepts.

Despite the bespoke nature of the commissions and the actual cost of creating and delivering on the customer order, it’s not the profit margin that is uppermost for the Bentley company. It is maintaining the trust and confidence Bentley customers invest in the company which provides their ultimate dream of a truly unique luxury car.
Bentley's flagship saloon - the Mulsanne

Monday, June 29, 2015

ALFA ROMEO'S NEW GIULIA - Replacement for 159 and BMW M3 competitor!

The first of eight new Alfa Romeos has been revealed at the Alfa Romeo museum at Arese, near Milan, in a tightly-controlled media event.

The only model shown, the Giulia Quadrifolgio, intended as a BMW M3 competitor, is fitted with a Ferrari-massaged 500hp twin turbocharged V6!

Very few details were revealed, but much was made of the Giulia's lightweight materials and impressive power-to-weight ratio.

The car will extensively employ carbon fibre and aluminium, keeping the weight down to 1500kg. The hood, driveshaft and roof will be composite, as will the rear suspension cross beam. Aluminium is used on the doors, front wings, external mirrors and the front suspension.
Note: Start Button on the steering wheel

RHD rear wheel drive models will be launched first in the UK in September 2016.

Friday, June 26, 2015

PORSCHE PIT STOPS - What a difference 57 years makes!

Since I wrote about Porsche's 17th victory at Le Mans I have been searching my archive for a special photograph, and I'm pleased to say I finally located it.

From the superb collection of photos by legendary motor sports photographer, Jesse Alexander, comes this fabulous shot of a Porsche pit stop at Le Mans in June 1958, which contrasts hugely with the same activity from this year’s 24 hour race.
Photo: Copyright Jesse Alexander, Le Mans 1958
This is car #29, driven by Jean Behra and Hans Hermann, an RSK 718 Spyder which finished first in class and third overall. The power came from a 1.5 litre quad cam flat four which produced just 142hp!

Contrast this with the 2015 Porsche 919, a hybrid racer with a 2.0 litre turbocharged V4 engine, with an energy recovery system which adds 1.7kW per lap of Le Mans to its lithium-ion battery system. It also features an exhaust-energy recovery system operating through a turbine in the exhaust system.

This year the fastest pit stop took 1.39 minutes, and that very definitely contrasts with the somewhat leisurely appearance of the 1958 stop.

I first met Jesse Alexander at Laguna Seca in 1991, and never fail to be amazed at his incredible portfolio of motor racing photographs.
Jesse Alexander and cameras - Leica and Rollieflex
He began in the 1950s by using money from his mother to travel to Mexico and photograph that year’s La Carrera Panamericana. Then he took himself to Europe and drove his own Porsche from race to race.

He engaged not only with the drivers, but anyone in front of the camera, whether they were bystanders, mechanics or race fans. He has a wonderful personality and is one of those rare people who makes you feel as if you are the only person in the world, when he is talking to you.

If you have the chance to check out Jesse’s wonderful collection of motor racing photos, do it, you will be amazed at the shots he has captured throughout his career.

See:  www.jessealexander.com

Monday, June 15, 2015


Coming off a strong 8th place finish in the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix, Nick Hulkenberg capped off a great month by winning the 83rd Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans, with his teammates New Zealander Earl Bamber and Brit, Nick Tandy in the Number 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid.
Australia’s Mark Webber with teammates Bernhard and Hartley made it a solid 1-2, just one lap behind the winner. In the #17 car.

Derek Bell, who won Le Mans four times for Porsche, was on hand to witness the great victory said “This is a new era for Porsche. I am thrilled with this victory after such a great race.”

Porsche, and 13 times winner, Audi battled neck and neck throughout the race, swapping the lead, but a series of mishaps and missteps cost Audi any chance of winning.

More than 263,000 spectators attended, but yet again the ACO’s greed in charging huge sums for television rights meant that the only free access to vision of the race was from free streams from specific race teams. This means you only get the race progress from that team’s viewpoint, but hey! It’s better than nothing.

Further back in the field the same old names peppered the class results, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ligier, Porsche 911 and Oreca. General Motors scored its 8th victory at Le Mans winning the LM GTE Pro class, finishing in 17th place outright. The first win for the Chevrolet Corvette C7.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Not only did Porsche 919s lap the Sarthe circuit fastest to claim pole position, but the Stuttgart Stormers are 1-2-3 on the grid.

Porsche is a company which, when it goes racing, does it properly. After a poor initial showing last year - although revealing loads of potential, the hybrid racers look set for a dominant performance this year.

When I spoke with Mark Webber at the launch of the 919 Racer at Geneva last year, he said he was looking forward to his Porsche driving role, because the cars impressed him so much - and also the company personnel behind the team and the concept.

Coming from a skilled driver like Webber, who is not big on BS, that's impressive.

I look forward to the results from the Vingt Quatres Heures du Mans on Sunday afternoon.


Ford has announced that the Ford GT will race again in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 on the 50th celebration of its dominance in 1966.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I love being on the open highway, despite police patrols and hidden speed cameras. So do many others, who enjoy the wide open spaces Australia has to offer, in their car of choice. Combining the love of cars and driving, together in the company of like-minded companions is what Driving Happy is all about.

Around the world there are millions of car enthusiasts who band together to enjoy each other’s company and share the pleasure of their cars.

(PSCAA photos: Terry Appleby)
Take the PSCAA for instance. That’s the Port Stephens Classic Automobile Association comprising 130 enthusiasts who get together and stage Rallies from their home town near Newcastle (NSW), venturing off into the wide open spaces of the State for the sole purpose of Driving Happy.

New England Highway, near Armidale, New South Wales
Last month I was driving home from a visit to an old friend in Port Macquarie, and stopped for diesel in the sleepy country hamlet of Walcha. As I exited the store, there was a gorgeous red Lancia Fulvia HF pulled up next to my Alfa Romeo 159. What a handsome pair they made.

Two Red Cars
The car was imported from England a few years ago, and has been lovingly returned to original condition.

The 1.6 litre engine produces 100bhp, and the basis for impressive rally performances by a variety of European rally drivers competing for HF Squadra Corse Lancia between 1967 and 1974.

During conversation with the Fulvia owner on that bitterly cold forecourt he couldn’t get the smile off his face.

Yes, he was Driving Happy, along with 20 other members of this small car club who were headed for a weekend in Inverell, NSW, ostensibly to visit the National Transport Museum.

Cold start to the day, Inverell NSW, elevation 600m (Photo: Terry Appleby)

Along the way there were pitstops for warming drinks, BBQ lunches and dinners, a lot of good wine consumed, and plenty of tall tales from ‘behind the wheel’, but when you think about it – what better way to celebrate a love of cars and driving?

I certainly left that tiny town with a smile on my face too, as I wound up the Alfa to an appropriate pace on a deserted back road, reveling in the sweep and undulations of a great driving road.

That’s Driving Happy!