Thursday, February 18, 2016


Back row: John Surtees, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jo Bonnier
Centre: Graham Hill
Front row: Jim Clark, Richie Ginther, Bruce McLaren

Gods of the Track!


Amazing how one can build a story from a single photo. A good friend of mine in Italy sent me this great photo from pit lane at the 1957 Sebring 12 Hour Race, showing Ferrari’s engine maestro Carlo Chiti (pronounced Kee-tee) alongside American Richie Ginther.

Carlo Chiti and Richie Ginther
Ginther was there to drive a privately-entered Ferrari 500 Testarossa with fellow American Howard Hively. Chiti of course was the architect of all Ferrari’s racing engines at the time, and he was on hand to assist Phil Hill, Oliver Gendebien and Wolfgang von Tripps, all who failed to finish.

Ginther was just getting started on the sports car scene and lucked out in 1957 when Temple Hoyne Buell Jnr, son of the famous American architect, agreed to sponsor Ginther and Hively in one of the first four cylinder Ferrari Testarossas to be built. The engine was by Chiti, the body by Scaglietti, and it would go on to bequeath a legendary reputation to one of the most famous Ferrari models ever produced.

Ferrari TR by Scaglietti

Ferrari TR by Touring of Milan
Scaglietti produced 30 TRs, and three were produced by Touring of Milan, many saying it was a prettier car than Scaglietti’s original.

However, the 1957 Sebring race was perhaps more famous for the pre-race shenanigans.

Just as the organisers were setting up shop on the Sebring airfield circuit, the FIA decreed that all cars must change the ‘spare’ tyre at the first tyre change. Some cars were unaffected, but the Ferraris and the Maseratis used different size tyres on the front and rear. Eventually British driver Mike Hawthorn and the organisers developed a strong argument which resulted in the FIA backing down and withdrawing their rule.

Fangio and Moss pre-race tactics meeting
Fangio had won the 1956 race for Ferrari, but Maserati offered him SIX brand new practice cars if he would sign with them. Fangio swapped teams, joining Stirling Moss at Officine Alfieri Maserati.
Maserati 450S
There were 86 cars entered, 76 showed up, and 66 qualified! One of the largest fields ever. This was the last year that qualifying was to be decided by engine size, rather than lap time, and this put the new 4.6 litre Corvette of John Fitch and Piero Taruffi on pole. In fact the V8 Corvettes filled the first four spots on the grid.

The Corvette’s designer Zora Arkus-Duntov created a single lightweight (magnesium-bodied) SS car for Fitch-Taruffi, but it completed only 23 laps before the suspension failed.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette SS
Prior to the race many drivers asked Arkus-Duntov if they could drive the new American racer, but he chose only Fangio and Moss to test it. Within four laps Fangio had smashed the lap record with a time of 3.27.8. Moss was just 0.2 seconds slower in the Corvette!

Team Lotus
Colin Chapman brought four Lotus 11s, uniquely funding the entry by pre-selling each race car to an American owner who would be allowed a stint in the car, but title wasn’t transferred until the race was over!

Race start
Corvettes away!

Fangio's 1957 Maserati 450S
Fangio and Jean Behra won, with Moss and Harry Schell second. Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb were third in a D-type Jaguar, sponsored by my former employer Jaguar Cars North America.

The Ferrari 290S of Masten Gregory and Lou Brero was fourth, with Briggs Cunningham's Jaguar D-type driven by Walt Hangsen and Russ Boss fifth and the factory-entered Ferrari 315S of Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant was sixth with Alfonso de Portago and Luigi Musso seventh, in the second Ferrari 315S.

Ginther and Hively finished tenth.

All in all a good race for Ferrari despite Fangio’s team switch; and Chiti went on to develop a great V12 engine for future Testarossas.

Back in the mid 60s most American collectors treated TRs as banged-up, clapped-out old race cars, and they rarely sold for more than $65,000.

In 2009 Bonhams sold a 1957 500 TR for nine million euros, but the record goes to the sixth-placed Ferrari from the 1957 race, which was sold this year in Paris by auction house Artcurial for 35 million Euros!

Photo - Artcurial
The car, driven by Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant in 1957, was owned by the family of former French racer Pierre Bardinon who died in 2012. It’s believed the car was bought by an American, and most people are betting it was Ralph Lauren.

Richie Ginther went on to drive for Scuderia Ferrari and won his first F1 race, in Argentina in 1960, in a career that lasted just seven short years.

Interestingly Ginther did not die on the racetrack, he passed away while on vacation in France in 1989, from a heart attack.

Photo of Carlo Chiti and Richie Ginther from

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Ford Vulcan V6
Here’s another successful Trans-Pacific Partnership, Yamaha and Ford.

In 1984 Ford wanted a performance version of its big-selling Taurus sedan, then powered by Ford’s Vulcan V6.

Vulcan was a general purpose workhorse engine, used in cars, trucks and transit vans.

Lacking internal resources for the project Ford turned to Yamaha to develop a suitable high performance engine.

The result was a jewel of a powerplant.

At the time Yamaha had designed a beautiful Formula One engine in V8, V10 and V12 configurations, and starting in 1988 Yamaha supplied engines to Arrows, Brabham, Jordan and Tyrrell F1 teams.

They were used in 116 races, but the highest podium placing was second in the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha

The engine (OX11A 3.0 V10) was last used in an Arrows A18, driven by Pedro Diniz in the 1997 Argentine Grand Prix.

At the same time Yamaha was working on the SHO engine, Ford asked Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital Design to develop a coupe concept to be powered by the new V6 engine.
Ital Design Maya
Ital Design came up with the Maya concept, and a driveable prototype was produced powered by a Vulcan V6 – the donor engine.

However, the Design Centre in Dearborn also began working on a prototype in secret, worried that the Ford Board would choose the Ital Design concept over a local design.

Ghia AC concept
Design Director Jack Telnak's team in Dearborn did collaborate with Ghia, taking ideas from an earlier concept Ghia had done for the British company AC.

Ford Cobra (GN34) concept
The Ford Dearborn concept was codenamed GN34, and a few auto show cars (wearing Cobra monikers) were produced, and some with the new SHO engine, but money was tight for new cars and the program never went any further.

By 1986 Yamaha delivered the first engine to Dearborn, and two Ford employees, Will Johnston and Mike Klein built the first running prototype Taurus SHO. 
The official launch of the Ford Taurus SHO was the Detroit Auto Show in 1988. The engine produced 220bhp (164 kW) at 6200 rpm, and 200 lb.ft. (271 Nm0 at 4800 rpm.
The engine’s redline was 7200!

The engine was highly praised at a 1990 meeting of the SAE for its innovative manifolding, and the combustion chamber design, which was inspired by Yamaha’s F1 engines. Yamaha told Ford the iron head/block engine was too heavy, so Yamaha developed alloy heads, mated to the cast iron block.

The SHO Taurus was a successful marketing move by Ford, but every dog has its day, and after three versions (built on the DN5 and then DN101 platforms) the Taurus SHO was dead and buried, as sales plummeted. For Version 3 Ford ditched the V6 favouring a 4.3L SHO V8 engine, which featured alloy heads from Yamaha, with block by Cosworth.

The SHO badge was reintroduced in 2009, on the D3 platform, with AWD, and a 3.5L Ecoboost V6 turbo, based on the Durotec engine (a development of the Mazda L engine from 1991).

2009 Ford Taurus SHO

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Name what I think is one of the most globally-successful Japanese motor companies?

I’ll put you out of your misery. It’s Suzuki.

Maybe not by outright volume, or sales, but certainly for providing access to basic transport in more countries than you’d think.

Australia, Germany, Great Britain, India,  Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Middle East, Pakistan, USA ……. 

The list is large.

When is a Suzuki not a Suzuki? When it’s wearing Fiat, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Bedford, Maruti, Mazda, Holden, Daewoo, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi and many other badges.

Michio Suzuki
Suzuki Loom Company started in 1909 making weaving looms for silk and cotton manufacturers, and by 1937 the founder, Michio Suzuki decided to expand into automobiles. However, along came World War II and Suzuki shut down virtually everything until the war was over.

Then it got back into making weaving looms, and in 1952 Suziki released the 36cc ‘Power Free’, a lightweight motorised bicycle.
Suzuki 'Power-Free'

By 1955 it had developed its first car, the Suzuki Suzulight, which featured four-wheel-independent suspension, front wheel drive and rack and pinion steering.
1955 Suzuki Suzulight

Okay, the styling may have been a little clumsy, but its technical specifications were first rate.

 The Suzuki motorcycle story began in 1960, when the company made its first entry into motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man, with the RT-60.
Suzuki RT-60

From that moment on Suzuki figured large in all aspects of the motorcycle business, and motorcycle racing. In 1963 Suzuki became the first Japanese company to win the Isle of Man TT race.

Today Suzuki motorcycles are as highly respected for their racing achievements as any of its competing Japanese brands.
1961 Suzuki Carry

In 1961 it launched the Suzuki Carry, a small commercial vehicle.

It was the forerunner to a range of light passenger cars and commercial vehicles which would ensure Suzuki’s engineering talent crossed the globe, and provided the means for a range of car companies to exploit the tiny Japanese company’s engineering and design skills.

Suzuki LJ80
In 1977 Suzuki launched the first of its highly successful LJ 4x4 vehicles, also named the 'Jimny'.

I smile when I hear auto writers making a big deal about the Toyota Rav4 leading the way to the compact SUV revolution. Suzuki's Vitara was there way earlier, and in its latest iteration looks like it will continue Suzuki's successful formula in that segment.

Suzuki technology has been at the heart of some of the world’s most widely sold and commercially-successful vehicles that have emanated from Japan. Suzuki is also famous for marine engines, powered wheelchairs and a range of light industrial engines.

Suzuki has an impressive history, and astonishing technical achievements. Not only has it developed sophisticated engines and powertrains, but it has adapted these technologies to provide basic automotive packages which were then developed into ‘accessible’ motoring for many third world countries.

Suzuki may not have grabbed the headlines, but it has been a quiet achiever and today is one of the most respected names in the automotive world for its integrity, innovation and initiative.

2015 Suzuki Kazashi

And let's not forget Suzuki's latest worldwide sedan car success - the Swift.

In 2010 Suzuki and VWAG signed an agreement for Suzuki to buy diesel engines from the German giant. However less than six months in, VWAG complained that Suzuki was still buying diesel engines from FIAT.

In recent court documents which came to light when international arbitration demanded VWAG sell its 19.9% stake in Suzuki, it turns out that continuing to buy diesel engines from FIAT was always part of the original deal!
The relationship became poisonous because of lack of transparency from VW, and the fact VWAG management, especially Chairman Martin Winterkorn, treated Suzuki with arrogance and disdain, and attempted to dictate business strategy to the Japanese company.

It all ended in 2015, and Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki said: "We were very concerned about VW's secrecy over the details of its diesel engines, and we did not want VW trying to exert control over us."

It's clear to me that Suzuki is a company of the highest integrity, and worthy of respect.

In light of 'VW-Dieselgate' it looks to me like Suzuki dodged a bullet!