Tuesday, July 27, 2021


‘Shark Nose’ - to Formula 1 buffs it can only mean one car – the 1961 Ferrari Tipo 156.

Recently I wrote about the 156 when it carried  Phil Hill to the F1 Drivers’ Championship in 1961. I also mentioned in passing the amazing victory by Giancarlo Baghetti in the 1961 French Grand Prix at Reims in a 156.

Baghetti pipping Dan Gurney's Porsche on the last lap at Reims in 1961

Baghetti recorded 21 starts in F1 between 1961 and 1967, but his victory in the French GP was spectacular because it was his first-ever Grand Prix.

He is a member of an exclusive club of just three men who have won their first championship race.


I had an opportunity to meet and chat with him several times on the 1977 Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally, and what a pleasure it was. Although his youthful looks from his 1961 F1 mugshot had passed into history, he had matured into a distinguished, sophisticated Italian gentleman.


Having made my very first trip to Italy, and his hometown of Milan the previous year, I’m afraid I must have bored him to death gushing about how much I loved Italy, and what an impact my first visit had had on me. Being very much the gentleman he patiently tolerated my enthusiasm, but as the Rally went on we met several times, twice over a meal, and I’m glad to say he warmed to this enthusiastic little Aussie Italophile.


During the Rally’s five day layover in Chennai (Madras) we had the chance for lunch together. The discussion was all about his F1 career and his many drives for Scuderia Ferrari.

Born in Milan in 1934, Giancarlo was the son of a wealthy Italian industrialist, so he’d owned and driven his fair share of sports cars by the time he went to Maranello to meet Il Commendatore at the start of 1961. Full of youthful enthusiasm, but tempered with a maturity rare among young Italian men, Baghetti impressed Ferrari with his sensitive control of the little 156.


Imagine Ferrari’s delight when Baghetti scored his maiden victory for the Scuderia.

Baghetti again drove a 156 in 1962; and in 1965 he drove a Ferrari 275 P2 in the Targa Florio, but was a DNF.

Baghetti -Tipo 156 in 1962; and 1965 Targa Florio in Ferrari 275 P2

Baghetti told me one of his most enjoyable seasons was in 1968, after he joined Autodelta, driving the Alfa Romeo Tipo T33/2 with Nanni Galli at Brands Hatch (where they finished fourteenth); and in the Targa Florio with Giamiero Biscaldi, where they finished sixth.

Targa Florio 1968

He said the Alfa was a sweet car to drive with its 2.0L 90° V8 designed by the great Carlo Chiti.


However, at the end of that year the joy of motor racing was beginning to fade, and the following year, in June, he was involved in a massive crash at Monza in a Ferrari Dino Formula 2. At the end of 1968 he retired.


He then turned his hand to journalism and photography and became well known in Milan for fashion photography. He was also commissioned by Fiat to produce a series of industrial documentary films. So he was well-known to Fiat management.


In 1977 when Abarth was commissioned by Fiat to develop a diesel version of the 131 Mirafiori for the London-to-Sydney Rally, the team manager called his old friend Giancarlo, pairing him with the engineer in charge of developing the Abarth engine, Tommaso Carletti, in a three-car team.


Giancarlo told me that the overall plan was to ‘just finish’ the Rally, as the diesel version was due for public debut in April 1978 at the Turin Auto Show. As it transpired two of the three cars finished. Team leader Bob Neyret came home fifteenth with Baghetti in twenty-third place.

Bottom right: Carletti & Baghetti during the London-to-Sydney Car Rally (Photo: John Stathatos)

Baghetti's original 1977 Fiat 131, now owned and restored in Italy

The Rally finished at the Sydney Opera House on Monday, September 27, and on the following Friday evening I was invited to a reception for the Fiat team at the Italian Consulate in Sydney, hosted by the President of the Italian-Australian Chamber of Commerce, Dottore Silvano Tagini, who was also the MD of Alfa Romeo Australia.


I had travelled to Italy in May 1976, with Dr. Tagini, and he was well aware of my newfound affection for Italy and Italian culture.


During the Rally reception I got to talk with Baghetti’s co-driver Carletti. I asked him about the choice of Baghetti, to which he replied: “We thought, he’s a safe pair of hands, he will treat the car with care, but he will be fast – after all, he drove for Ferrari!”


This anecdote is just another in the many hundreds of such meetings which I have enjoyed throughout my 40 years in and around cars.


I corresponded with Baghetti a couple of times throughout 1978-79, and my letters must have remained in his correspondence file, because in 1995 I received a card from the family telling me Giancarlo had passed away after a battle with cancer.


He was the epitome of a sophisticated and urbane Italian gentleman, with a great love of Italian fashion, opera, and fast cars – what a great combination!



Sunday, July 25, 2021

VW'S RE-SKINNED T-ROC by John Crawford

Chasing the ‘go faster’ market in the USA, Volkswagen has just released photos of a concept called the ‘ATLAS CROSS SPORT GT’.

Built in its Chattanooga plant, there are precious few details about the car, other than what you see from the photos, and the news that it’s powered by the Golf R powertrain, including a 7-speed DSG transmission and four-motion AWD.

The concept features four Recaro shell seats, so it’s not so much of a family car, just a racy cross runabout.

I’m sure it delivers, but as it’s basically the T-Roc/T-Cross underneath, you could liken it to ‘Lipstick on a Pig’ and just another way to create an additional sub-segment in the market.

John Crawford

Saturday, July 24, 2021


Would you buy a car from this guy?

Turns out, it wasn’t his to sell.


However, this is a great used car story.


Just hours after Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 the American Secret Service found themselves in a bind when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was scheduled to give his ‘Day of Infamy’ speech to the joint houses the following Monday.

Although the trip from The White House to Capitol Hill was a short one, the federal agents were not sure how to transport him safely.


At the time, Federal Law prohibited government agencies to buy any car costing more than $750, and to ex-appropriate a recently acquired, appropriate car would require special clearance from Congress, and nobody had time for that.


However, one proactive Secret Service agent pointed out that the U.S. Treasury had recently seized the bulletproof car that mobster Al Capone owned when he was jailed in 1931.

So, Al Capone’s bespoke 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan became FDR’s limo in December 1941.

Mechanics worked all night to clean the car and give it a tick to say it was running properly. And, it did. Capone had the car painted black and green to look identical to Chicago’s police cars at the time. It even had a police siren, specially-installed flashing lights behind the grille and a police scanner radio!

However, the clincher was that Capone’s car had 3,000 pounds of armour plating and inch-thick bulletproof windows.

Footnote: Capone’s Caddy was finally sold, to a private buyer in 2012 for USD$341,000! But, no warranty!



Tuesday, July 20, 2021


 If you regularly follow DRIVING & LIFE, you will no doubt notice inconsistencies in the on-screen formatting, such as Large type for most of the Post, then it may break out into Extra Large type.

There is nothing I can do about this, except keep an eye on the Posts, and correct the inconsistencies.

It's all down to Google and how it manages the Blogger platform formatting, and this aspect has only come about over the past year.

Google has made it harder and harder to use its Blogger platform, and mysteriously slides these inconsistencies into your Posts when you're not looking.

I would seriously consider moving my Blog to another platform, like Wordpress, but according to what I read, that platform has its own set of challenges for users.

Also, as I have been publishing DRIVING & LIFE since mid-2010, I have so much material on Blogger it would be very time consuming to move all the content elsewhere.

Perhaps, the only alternative may be to move my Domain to a website funded by me, which I then would have complete control over.

However, given that I turn 78 this week, and feel as though I have less and less to comment on (not liking SUVs, autonomous vehicles, BEVs and sundry automotive minutiae leaves me less to discuss), I think I will just stay with the Blogger platform - hope for your indulgence, about my self-indulgent Blog.

I guess 'forcing' me to ensure the Blog appears with consistent formatting is probably a good way for this old fart to retain open neural pathways and avoid the onset of the dreaded dimentia.

Thanks for your support.


PS: See, it even happened in this short Post which contains no photos!

Monday, July 19, 2021


The fans at Silverstone got what they paid for this weekend at the British GP. They watched a great race, filled with tension, and saw Lewis Hamilton take the chequered flag. 

After a first lap collision took out arch rival Max Verstappen (for which Hamilton received a 10 second penalty), Hamilton chased Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for a good part of the race after a red flag restart, until the closing stages when he nudged past the Frenchman to win. It was a great fight back by Hamilton.

I don't pay for FOX SPORTS' expensive subscription, and instead get my kicks from the highlights on F1.com, but even that was enough to show what a fight Hamilton delivered to take the champagne.

Great to see Danny Ricciardo come home fifth after some disappointing performances. Maybe this means a positive change for the remainder of the season.

However, as my mate Wayne Webster pointed out there will be few extra resources expended on this year's cars, because it's all change for 2022, and the teams' millions will be going into next year's cars.

So, whatever performance the current cars are delivering, don't expect to see much change, which I think it's good. It means a more level playing field for the rest of the races and now, it's all down to the drivers. Now, they'll be racing.

John Crawford

Monday, July 12, 2021

VW'S BIG BRAND SALE? by John Crawford

 Just musing about Volkswagen Group's somewhat surprising offloading of Bugatti to Croatia's Rimac company.

This was, after all, Piëch's 'Jewel In the Crown'; but also, a project which swallowed millions and millions of Euros to bring to fruition.

When I first met the Veyron at a test day at Ehra-Lessien, about a 30 minute drive north of Wolfsburg, I was told by one of the engineers that each car cost nine million Euros, but the retail price of USD$1 million didn't even scratch the surface of trying to recover a Return-on-Assets invested in this 'folly'.

Right now VWAG is facing a pummeling on costs and charges like never before. Investments in new technology; fines in the USA and EU for fudging emissions results in the 'Dieselgate' scandal, and more recently an additional set of fines for combining with Mercedes-Benz and BMW to avert emission compliance.

VWAG may be earning good return on its products globally, but that still doesn't help it face these huge charges to its bottom line, so it's a good bet a lot of the Euros and Dollars paid out in fines are borrowed money - and that probably applies to its emerging technical challenges as well.

So, the decision to shed itself of Bugatti, and stop shovelling money into, let's face it, the world's most useless car, was not only pragmatic, but in the future will be seen as a turning point for the VW Group.

Every time Piëch approved more spending on Bugatti, there were probably more than a few wincing faces among the VW Group Management Board.

The words, "Just think of what we could do with that cash" instantly spring to mind.

So, consistent with this newly-discovered spirit of pragmatism, and a realistic view of the cost of new products and programs, I was wondering if there's a possibility we might see other ego-centric brands on the block?

There have been rumblings over the last 5-8 years that VWAG may jettison Bentley; plus, Lamborghini and Ducati?

With the death of the VW Phaeton, the rationale for sharing its platform and powertrain with a variety of Bentley Continentals, has disappeared. Today there is only one brand which used the D1 & D2 platform - Bentley.

The hit on Lamborghini sales during the pandemic, although perhaps not all that serious gives rise to speculation that it could follow Bugatti and Bentley out the door; and you might as well sell off the world's most beautiful motor cycle, Ducati - where every model is a work of art, also soaking up Euros, which could be better spent on EVs?

The control of the VW Group today is in the hands of a Management Board led by the taciturn Herbert Diess, and it's a very serious gang - cautious about how money is spent, and on what it is spent.

The financial challenges of the past five years have been enormous, so despite the 'halo effect' which brands like Bentley, Lamborghini and Ducati provide - there must surely come times, when balancing the scales, the question arises, "can we do without these Euro-swallowing projects?"

Just saying.


Saturday, July 10, 2021


Those lucky enough to be at Goodwood for the FESTIVAL OF SPEED got the first glimpse of the Valkyrie, and whilst not running at full roar, the car’s ‘minder’ (Aston Martin’s Darren Turner, right) certainly turned heads as the car sprinted up the hillclimb.


Commenting on where Valkyrie fits in the automotive landscape, Darren said:


“It really is another level of performance. In the ages of the automotive world, you have the Ferrari 250 GTO in the ‘60s, the McLaren F1 in the 1990s. This feels like another entirely. It’s extreme and completely bespoke.”

“When we were away testing, you might go out and be following one in another area in the proving ground. That’s my favourite view, that rear, you can see fully how small and compact it is."

"You ask how they could possibly have got that V12 and the gearbox in with that underbody aero?"

“We’re so close to the end now, customers will have them by the end of the year. They understand the wait and know we needed to get it right. There’s been a bunch of us, development drivers, that have had the pleasure of driving this car. I’m now looking forward to the people who’ve bought them being able to drive them.”

The Valkyrie, the product of Red Bull Racing’s chassis genius, Adrian Newey, first showed its face at Goodwood four years ago, with its 856kW, 6.5L Cosworth V12 – which revs to 11,000rpm.

Currently, you’ll need AUD$4.3 million to have one in your driveway, but hurry they are almost all gone!

John Crawford

(Photos courtesy of Goodwood Festival of Speed)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

VW LOSES ITS JEWEL by John Crawford

It would never have happened if Ferdinand Piëch was alive. Bugatti has exited the VWAG stable! Sacre bleu!

Upstart Croatian EV sports car maker Mate Rimac now controls 55% of Bugatti, in a deal which sees VWAG transfer ownership of Bugatti to Porsche, which will enter a JV with Rimac to develop future models based on Porsche-Rimac technology.

t’s an all-stock deal, which means no money changed hands, but despite the obfuscation created by the mechanics of the deal, and even though Porsche retains 45% of Bugatti, the Molsheim-based supercar maker is now controlled by the Croatian company.

Dr. Piëch considered Bugatti the jewel in the crown of the VW empire, his own plaything. It was Piëch who came up with the outrageous Veyron, and its later models like the Chiron, personally fashioning and delivering the immensely powerful W16, quad turbocharged engine, and its incredible performance.


First announced as a car which would develop 1001bhp, top 300km/h, and cost one million dollars a copy, Bugatti has been VW’s headliner, acquired by Piëch in 1998 for a mere USD$50 million – along with Bentley and Lamborghini.


But as far back as September last year there were rumblings that VWAG’s current management saw the world’s fastest car brand as a millstone, which interfered with the demands of developing new technology and cars for its more prosaic brands.


VWAG no longer wants to lavish its resources on a ‘folly’. Back in 2015 the then VWAG Board argued with Piëch about the consequences of continuing to squander valuable resources on Bugatti. Now that Ferdinand is gone, so too is Bugatti.


But, Mate Rimac has great connections. To the British royals no less!

It was Rimac which created the Jaguar E-type EV which Harry and Meagen used to drive to their wedding reception - so Mate Rimac knows how to 'feed' the publicity hound.

Is this a good deal for Rimac? I think it probably is, as the company has focussed on sports cars with similarly insane performance credentials as Bugatti – so my thought is? Let ‘em go for it, and basically, who cares?

These cars may be dream machines to some, but I think they are an inconsequential part of the automotive world – even if Rimac’s technologies are producing incredible EV sportscars.


They are, to most of us, basically irrelevant – an interesting historical sidebar in the life of the ‘car’ – nothing more.



Saturday, July 3, 2021

PHIL & 'THE SHARK' by John Crawford

I was 18 in 1961 when two significant events occurred in Formula One, which would impact me decades later.


First, the late, great Stirling Moss won what he described as his most exciting Grand Prix to date, the Monaco GP in a Lotus 18, up against fierce competition and more powerful cars.


Second, in 1961 Phil Hill became America’s first ever world champion, driving the most exciting-looking GP car, the Ferrari Tipo 156 – otherwise known as ‘the shark nose’.

At Monaco that year, Hill struggled to get on the podium, and was beaten by his Ferrari teammate and fellow American, Richie Ginther, and Jim Clark in a Lotus Climax.


But, at year’s end it was the quiet, unassuming gentleman, Phil Hill, who took the laurels in a car which wrote a great page in F1 history, but of which none remain.

The Tipo 156 was wholly-designed by the great Carlo Chiti, for the change in engine size from 2.5L, to 1.5L. The beautiful, superleggera 156 featured a 120-degree V6, which you could describe as jewel-like – a gem of an engine.

Top: Carlo Chiti and Enzo Ferrari. Bottom: Tipo 156s on the Monaco grid 1961

However, Enzo Ferrari was the target of much criticism after an accident at Monza which killed his third driver, Wolfgang von Trips, and 14 spectators. Folklore has it, that at the end of that year Ferrari ordered all the 156s cut up, and used as reinforcing metal in the concrete floor of Ferrari’s engine test building.


So, I very much enjoyed sitting down to read the June 2021 issue of Britain’s motor racing bible, MOTOR SPORT, and a big feature celebrating the 156, and words from Phil’s son, Derek, who drove a replica 156 for the story. F1 writer Nigel Roebuck contributed a wonderful yarn about Carlo Baghetti, who also raced the 156, winning in his very first GP.

But it was the personal insights from Derek Hill which delivered so much pleasure in reading about, probably, the most unusual and beautiful F1 car of that era. It took the motor racing world by complete surprise when it first appeared, at Monaco in May 1961.


However, Phil Hill was no stranger to motor sport victories driving for Ferrari, having won Le Mans in 1958 with Oliver Gendebien in a Ferrari 250 TR/58. Plus he stormed to victory in 1960 at Monza, driving a Ferrari Tipo 246.

Photos: Jesse Alexander

Now, to my own connection to these great drivers. It was to be 20 years on from Moss’s Monaco win, that we began our 39 year friendship; and 39 years after Hill’s F1 championship that we also became friends.


Stirling and I worked well together, very often, over the ensuing years, promoting Jaguar cars, in which he won his first ever sports car race in pouring rain at Dundrod in Ireland, driving the brand new Jaguar XK-120.

In 2000, I invited Phil Hill to join me and a band of top-level automotive writers for a Bentley Grand Tour through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, to sample the Continental T. These photos show a relaxed Phil Hill over lunch, and later driving the Bentley Continental T at speed, with me photographing his profile.

So these two photos below, taken at Pebble Beach are among my favourites, and as I look back on my very fortunate life, I recognise the great honour it is to have been able to call these two champions good friends.

John Crawford