We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving..even if it doesn’t happen in your part of the world!
Archives for November 2013
By David Beare
It is unlikely that Louis Delagarde, the designer of Panhard’s flat-twin engine, could have foreseen the scale of competition successes his diminutive power-unit would achieve when he began work at his drawing-board during the dark days of World War II.
Delagarde’s brief from Jean Panhard was to create a small-capacity, simple, lightweight engine to power and equally simple, lightweight economy car which could eventually be sold to French motorists come peacetime- whenever that might be. At the time an invincible Nazi Germany was offering the world a one thousand-year Reich so the signs were not at all promising. Delagarde was a life-long motorcyclist and recognized the inherent advantages of horizontally-opposed pistons (balance) and air-cooling (simplicity) – much as had Ferdinand Porsche with the KdF-wagen, aka the Volkswagen Beetle, in 1934.
Additional wartime problems to be solved when drawing up Panhard’s new engine included scarce and poor-quality materials such as gaskets, white-metal for bearings, spring-steel wire for valve springs and lubricating oil. Delagarde had to design his way round these limitations and in so doing came up with a unique series of solutions. “Run” crankshaft bearings were a common occurrence so his solutions were roller-bearing rod big-ends with ball-bearing mains, the unbreakable heart of Panhard’s engine. The rod roller bearings were a new design which incorporated small inverter rollers between load-bearing rollers, so everything turned in the same direction, allowing sustained high revs- something future race car builders would much appreciate. Other advantages were low friction losses and oil quality not being so critical with roller and ball bearings, though manufacturing costs were unfortunately much higher than with conventional bottom-ends, as would be replacement crank & rods assemblies when they eventually wore out.
Head-gasket failure- again very common- was eliminated by the simple expedient of using cylinders without detachable heads. The absence of mating surfaces for gaskets meant large valves in hemispherical combustion-chambers could also be used, maximizing gas flow. Unreliable valve-gear had long given engine designers headaches (one reason Panhard had used Knight sleeve-valves since 1910), with breakages of helical-wound coil valve-springs or valves being commonly responsible for many a wrecked engine. Delagarde bypassed most of these problems in a unique way, by using unstressed slim torsion-bar valve return springs. The weight of the valve-spring itself did not move up and down with the valve, reducing inertia loadings and valve-float at high revs. The torsion-bars were linked at their free ends, thus increasing closure pressure on the shut valve when the other opened.
To celebrate the Ferrari automobile from 1947 to 2013, famed photographer Günther Raupp has added a fantastic new book to his traditional calendar for the discriminating Ferrari owner. The Raupp offerings, now sold via David Bull Publishing, include a HUGE calendar sprinkled with both Ferrari road and race cars, old and new, and a smaller Ferrari Formula 1 calendar with scenes from recent F1 events using photos from the best F1 photographers, selected by Raupp himself. And this year, a very special Ferrari book.
The Ferrari Book
Like Michael Furman, Günther Raupp is at the top of his game and currently he is the official Ferrari photographer. His new book is introduced by Piero Ferrari, who recognizes the difficulties photographers face when creating art with a still medium lacking in motion and the hallmark sounds of the Ferrari engine. Raupp, he writes, makes things move, capturing the essence of Ferrari with his lens. [Read more…] about New Raupp Ferrari Book and Calendar
Fiat Innovates at LA Auto Show
By Richard Bartholomew
Photos by Wallace Wyss
At the LA Auto Show, Fiat had a large display, and showed signs of continuing to offer models that will appeal to those nostalgic for the “good old days” of Fiat. For instance, they came out with what is called the 500 1957 edition, copying the colors of the ’57 model imported to America. Of course back then it just had a two-cylinder city car but still was a worldwide hit, Autoweek saying 3,893,294 were built before production ended in 1975. [Read more…] about New Fiats at the L.A. Auto Show
By Pete Vack and Dino Brunori
Perhaps the mystery of the missing Alfa Romeo 412 began back in 1975 with the publication of the photo book, Alfa Romeo Milano. British journalist Michael Frostick captioned a picture of Felice Bonetto’s special-bodied Alfa Romeo thusly:
Something of a mystery. The Alfa Romeo files say “16 cylinder 4500 Mille Miglia 1954 (Bonetto).” One can only assume a car was made up with a bored-out version of the Type 162, 3 liter, 16-cylinder car, or more likely, someone has made a mistake somewhere!
Indeed there was a mystery and a mistake, as Alfa 2.9 sleuth Simon Moore realized. The Bonetto car was fairly well documented in a variety of contemporary magazines as one of the four 1939 V12 (not a V16) Tipo 412 Alfas, rebodied post war by Bonetto via Vignale. The serial number was 412151, and after it was retired from competition in 1952, it was offered to Henry Wessells III for $3200 by Franco Cortese in 1954. Henry missed the deal and the car reportedly went to Spain. But by 1955 there was no trace of the car. It had seemingly disappeared, as old race cars are wont to do.
Tracing the engine
Although the Bonetto car was not specifically an Alfa 2.9, it nonetheless was part of the family and of great interest to Alfa historian Moore. By the time Moore wrote the second edition of his landmark book The Immortal 2.9 in 2008, he was on the trail of the remains of the car and the engine, but couldn’t quite pull it all together. The rare Alfa V12 engine provided the clue. It was known that the 412 engine was in the possession of Roberta Nardi, daughter of car builder Enrico Nardi. Enter Simon Kidston, working for Brooks Auctions. In mid-March of 1996, Kidston recalled for Moore, “I was contacted by Gino Macaluso, the owner of the Girard-Perregaux watch company. Roberta Nardi, whose father Enrico had left her an old Alfa Romeo engine which was languishing in the basement of her home near Turin.” Kidston recalls that Roberta didn’t know which car it had come from, but she wanted to sell it. Kidston put it up for auction in 1998, and it went to Lawrence Auriana from New York. Moore put the information in his 2008 revised edition, but the whereabouts of the body and chassis remained a mystery. [Read more…] about A Nardi, an Alfa, a Mystery
Last week the owner of the Delage-Bequet described driving his aero-engined Grand Prix car; this week the Brooklands Museum Director, Allan Winn, takes us on a spin with the Napier W12-engined Railton, the car which conquered Brooklands for all time. We think you’ll find his words more informative and interesting than the videos, found at the end of the article. Our thanks to both for these exclusive stories Also, thanks to Paul Stewart, Brooklands Museum Marketing and PR Manager, and VeloceToday’s Jonathan Sharp
Driving Impressions by Allan Winn, Brooklands Museum Director
First off, the Napier-Railton is an enormously powerful, iconic machine. However, the overwhelming impression you have from driving it on a regular basis is how benign and user-friendly it is. That’s not to say it is an easy car to start or drive, but it is an extraordinary, well-behaved machine.
Starting the Napier requires concentration. There is nothing like a choke. The first thing you have to do is to turn the fuel on, then pump the Ki-Gas about eight times, which squirts neat fuel into the inlet manifolds. There is an enormously long distance from the triple carb throats to the rearmost pistons. Then, you need to lock the Ki-gas pump on the dashboard so the handle does not come loose.
Then it’s a case of rocking the car to get it into first gear on the three-speed gearbox, switching on the two magnetos (with what looks a lot like a Victorian electrical house switch), then releasing the fly-off handbrake and getting up to four people to push furiously up to a walking pace. Finally, drop the clutch – after alerting the pushers – and it will fire on the first or second compression.
As soon as it picks up to 12 cylinders, you knock it into neutral, then stop and check that the oil pressure is up to 65 psi and that you haven’t had a spitback through the carbs and you don’t have a fire burning in the inlets. (If it did, any fire should get sucked right back into the carbs and you wouldn’t have a problem.)
Warm up procedure
One must bear in mind that the “broad arrow” Lion W12 is huge, and requires 52 liters of coolant and around 15 gallons (not quarts) of Castrol GP 50. Warming up means bringing the coolant up to about 70 degrees C which can take up to ten minutes. We run it at about 1,000 rpm for first couple of minutes then bring it up to 1,100-1,200 rpm to hasten the process. We are using a waterless vintage coolant which has very good non-corrosive and wetting qualities and keeps the car running much cooler than it did on a water/antifreeze mix. In normal running it’s extremely difficult to get any reading at all on the oil temp gauge.
Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharp
Variety is very important when running a very well-established show. This year’s Classic Car show at the NEC in Birmingham was the 30th running and was probably the largest yet, with over 65,000 people attending over the three days, and the hundreds of cars and bikes being spread out over 11 halls. As the show attracts mainly car clubs as well as exhibitors, amazingly, each year the clubs bring out more cars you hardly ever see, if at all. And while perhaps this year’s content was a bit down on exotics, it certainly made up for it with rare, offbeat, and unusual items.
When was the last time you cast eyes on a Renault 30 from the early 80s, a Lancia Trevi, or a Fiat Uno Selecta? (By the way, the Fiat Uno also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.) Another nice feature of the show is the grouping of the cars; the Italian car clubs are together in one area, the French cars together in another area. You only need to find the appropriate hall and see cars that are of particular interest to you; no need to trudge around 11 halls to find them all. But that would be a shame, because if variety is important, you may just miss something that you had never seen before, even if it was out of your normal sphere of interest.
The Beatles car display added interest, but the display area for the four cars was very small, which is why my shots do not show the whole car; too many ropes in the way. They did however, paint what we in the UK call a “Zebra Crossing” leading up to the display area, similar to the famous Abbey Road Album cover.
By Wallace Wyss
“Mr. Q”, described by newspapers as “a legendary powerhouse in the international motor industry,” died on November 1 in San Francisco at the age of 94.
His name is pronounced completely different from what you expect, more like SHELL CUE-VOL-A. I met him a couple of times, first when I went to his impressive office on San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue to interview him about the period when he imported the first DeTomaso Mangusta to America. I knew when I met him in his office that he was taking the time to meet an unknown journalist to discuss a sensitive topic (and later, you could not mention “DeTomaso” without some friction….). But he was extremely helpful and honest.
Born in Norway in 1919, the son of a sea captain, he showed salesman’s chops early selling household items door-to-door. He migrated to Seattle in 1929 and went on to serve the US military flying transports during the war.
Soon after the war, he bought a distributorship for Jeep. About that time, he happened upon a fellow in San Francisco driving an odd little car. He asked where it was made and the man said “Britain.” Making further inquiries he found out it was a sports car called the MG. Duly impressed, in 1947, Qvale became the MG distributor for the West Coast, calling his San Francisco based company “British Motor Car Distributors, Ltd.” In 1953 Qvale, along with partner Reynold C. Johnson, gave his first order to Volkswagen Germany for 12 VW Beetles to sell in Northern California. Along with his brother Knute, Kjell started Riviera Motors as the sole Volkswagen importer for the Pacific Northwest in 1954, which eventually grew to over 2,500 Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi vehicle sales per month. He later became a distributor for the MG, for Jaguar, for Bentley, for Rover and brought back the name Jensen to America.
He was also very big in sponsoring sports cars in racing. I know he imported the first lightweight Jaguar E-type, one he wrested away from Briggs Cunningham, and if you look at old Competition Press newspapers there are hundreds of examples of cars he sponsored. He eventually reached beyond British and German cars to import Italian cars such as the DeTomaso Mangusta, and later Maserati, with the Bora, the Merak and the Quattroporte.
He helped establish San Francisco’s International Auto Show. But more important to collectors, one time he thought of displaying some cars on the Pebble Beach golf course in a little informal car show and that eventually grew to become the venerable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that takes place each August in Monterey. Being a racing fan he also aided in the creation of Laguna Seca raceway and is credited with the design of the tricky part of the course, the “corkscrew.”
Mott on Manney. Graham Gauld’s article last week on Henry Manney III elicited a special email from the talented artist Stan Mott, who also worked with Manney. Mott is responsible for the humorous and imaginative Cyclops and Pignatelli (art) that appeared in Road & Track and Sports Cars Illustrated. He drew this impression of Manney back in the days when journalists were journalists. It is too small to be appreciated above, so simply click on the artwork and it will appear much larger so that you can read the cartoon’s wording, which you’ll no doubt find hilarious. Published with permission of Stan Mott.
Those who have ridden as co-pilot say that a desire to survive is their dominant emotion.
By Alexander Boswell, owner, driver
It’s an amazing experience to drive any car built for Grand Prix racing. One knows that relentless effort, concentration of resources, and usually a huge budget have contributed to the creation of something technologically remarkable. Despite its 90th anniversary, the 2LCV Delage still encapsulates all these elements. In 1923 this was the only entry from the stable of the Delage company, and therefore it represents the pinnacle of the technology of the time. This car was driven in the French GP by René Thomas, the Sebastian Vettel of his day.
The Delage was raced in 1923 with the world’s first V-12 racing engine. At 2 liters capacity, each piston was no bigger than an eggcup. It was a complex engine, and by our standards today, only moderately powered.
That’s why the addition of a 12 liter Hispano Suiza out of a SPAD fighter in 1925 created such a sensational machine. The brilliance of the finest 1923 racing chassis was mated to the effortless power of a big low-revving engine. This was former test-pilot Maurice Bequet’s inspiration….and it’s still causing a sensation to this day.
In our twelve years of publishing weekly, VeloceToday has never covered the London to Brighton Run. Yet it is the oldest vintage car event in the world, usually dominated by French cars. In the last four years the start in London is augmented by what is billed as the ‘largest free motor show in the U.K.,’ the Regent Street Motor Show. This year, Jonathan Sharp reports on the activities from both London and his hometown of Brighton. See also “Brighton in Photos” (link) for Sharp’s excellent Vintage photos. Remember to click on photos to see larger image!
Story and photos by Jonathan Sharp
Be sure to click on the photos to see much larger images!
Regent Street Motor Show
Early Christmas shoppers had a pleasant surprise when they went down to London’s famous Regent Street on the morning of Saturday the 2nd November. Gone were the red buses and black cabs that normally haunt the glamorous shopping street, replaced by a small lineup of Porsche 911s, there to celebrate their 50th Anniversary, a much larger line up of Aston Martins of all ages there to celebrate their 100th Anniversary, and an even larger line up of Veteran Cars there to celebrate the 117th running of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Billed as the largest free motor show in the UK, the display is called the Regent Street Motor Show and is now in its fourth year. The Aston Martin line up was a good cross section of David Brown models and later V8 models, Saloons, Vantages and Volantes, brought right up to date with many current examples. From a photographer’s standpoint they had been roped off, which made photography a lot easier. Alas, that was not the case with the Veteran cars which proved very popular with the crowds, so patience was called for when taking shots. I am grateful to the sales assistants in the Jaeger store for allowing me to photograph the racing Napiers from the second floor windows of the ladies wear department, and to the Westminster City Council for positioning street lamps along the middle of the street (which gave me something to climb up!)
Three important Napiers [Read more…] about London to Brighton and the Classics of Regent Street