Category Archives: historic cars

A-Z of Car Stuff: P is for Porsche 917

A-Z of Car Stuff

This is one in a series of posts on cars, drivers, designers etc. that have interested me over the years. I’ve bored my family and friends with this stuff for years – now it’s your turn!

See A-Z of Car Stuff page for more posts in this series.

So, what’s so special about the Porsche 917?

To my mind – the things that make the Porsche 917 special are:-

1) Form and function working in harmony. A perfect combination of a lightweight but beautiful body/chassis with a brutally powerful air-cooled flat 12 engine to fling it round race circuits.

2) The 917 took outright speed to new levels at Le Mans and it took outright power to ludicrous extremes in the Can-Am series. It was designed to reach 250 mph and it achieved this on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in K (K=Kurz-heck or short tail) form pretty well straight well out of the box. In Can-Am racing – engine power reached 1100bhp in race mode and a crazy 1580bhp for qualifying!

3) The 917 finally secured Porsche’s 1st outright win at Le Mans in 1970 in the capable hands of Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann. A further outright win came the following year when a 917 driven by Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko crossed the line first.

I think there are many  parallels between the development of the pre-war Auto Union race cars (Types A, B & C) and the Porsche 917. Both were bold and radical Porsche designs targeting domination of the new race formulae in which they were about to run. Both had well established and highly proficient competition in the form of Mercedes for Auto Union and Ferrari for the 917.

Both cars went through a phenomenally rapid design and construction phase and both attempted to mitigate risk as much as possible by utilising as many  tried and tested concepts, technologies and components as was possible at the time.

Continue reading A-Z of Car Stuff: P is for Porsche 917

A-Z of Car Stuff: G is for Gordon Keeble

A-Z of Car Stuff

This is one in a series of posts on cars, drivers, designers etc. that have interested me over the years. I’ve bored my family and friends with this stuff for years – now it’s your turn!

See A-Z of Car Stuff page for more posts in this series.

So, what’s so special about Gordon Keeble?

1) The name! Let’s face it – if someone asks you what you’re driving these days and you respond by saying with “well actually old chap I’m driving a Gordon Keeble” it’s highly likely to be a conversation stopper. You might as well say – “I’m driving a Milton Keynes”.

2) Beautiful and understated Italian designed GT bodywork. This was a Giorgietto Guigaro design when he was still working for Bertone and it contains some design details which link it to other Guigaro designs for Alfa Romeo in particular. Unusually – the bodywork was executed in fibreglass instead of metal but this doesn’t detract from the overall beauty of the car.

3) Seriously powerful and flexible Chevy Corvette engine, all round disk brakes and De Dion suspension. Depite being manufactured in tiny numbers – there were some great design features on this car and using a race proven engine, Dunlop disk brakes and sophisticated De Dion rear suspension was a master stroke.

4) Its rarity but also it’s influence on cars to follow. Only 100 Gordon Keebles were made of which around 90 are thought to survive. Despite this – certain aspects of Gordon Keeble design had a profound influence on Giotto Bizzarrini in his creation of the Iso Rivolta GT, the Iso Grifo and the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada/Corsa.

5) Its tortoise badge. This was a more than ironic touch as the car’s power train meant it was definitely no slouch with 70mph achievable in 1st gear and with a 140mph top speed. Continue reading A-Z of Car Stuff: G is for Gordon Keeble

A-Z of Car Stuff: B is for Bizzarrini

A-Z of Car Stuff

This is one in a series of posts on cars, drivers, designers etc. that have interested me over the years. I’ve bored my family and friends with this stuff for years – now it’s your turn!

See A-Z of Car Stuff page for more posts in this series.

So, what’s so special about Bizzarrini?

Well it depends if you’re talking about the designer or the car!

Starting with The Designer:-

1) Giotto Bizzarrini designed/developed some truly iconic sports cars. These included the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 250 Drogo Breadvan, Iso Rivolta GT, Iso Grifo and the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada & Corsa.

2) He created one of the most fantastic and enduring V12 engines. The V12 engine created for Ferruccio Lamborghini was an up-scaled version of Bizzarrini’s design for an unused ATS engine. The Lamborghini V12 remained in production from 1964 (when it initially powered the Lamborghini 350GT) until 2010 (when in much expanded and highly developed form it powered the Lamborghini Murcielago).

3) He was a brilliant hands-on development engineer. Bizzarrini masterfully combined insightful test driving technique with his engineering skills to effectively and directly convert issues into engineering development solutions. This approach was epitomised in his rapid development of the Ferrari 250 GTO and he subsequently applied the same principles to other cars he created and developed.

Moving onto The Car:-

4) The wonderful Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada/Corsa. This Livorno (Bizzarrini’s hometown) manufactured car was built for an all too brief period between 1965 and 1969 resulting in just 133 examples. This beautiful car was a wonderful amalgam of Italian style, inspired engineering and reliable/powerful Chevrolet grunt. Thankfully many survive and some are still enthusiastically raced at historic events.

Continue reading A-Z of Car Stuff: B is for Bizzarrini

Donington Historic Festival – Sun 4th May 2014

Donington – Sun 4th May 2014

I’ve always liked Donington as a racing circuit. Like Brands Hatch – its setting in rolling countryside makes it much more visually interesting for spectators than the airfield-flat-frozen-tundra of Silverstone.

Maserati 250F
Maserati 250F

I used to visit Donington regularly many years ago to attend historic racing events and it’s really great to see this historic racing tradition being successfully revived over the last couple of years under the Wheatcroft family’s fantastic stewardship.

From the vast array of earth moving vehicles parked at the entrance and evidence of what they’ve been doing inside  the circuit – its clear that Donington is slowly but surely being remodelled after the disastrous attempt to convert it into an F1 circuit simply to pander to Ecclestone’s pathological hatred of Silverstone and the BRDC.

My 911 parked amongst Porsche Club GB cars on the inside of Redgate Corner
My 911 parked amongst Porsche Club GB cars on the inside of Redgate Corner

The Donington atmosphere is also as it was – open, friendly and catering really well for classic car enthusiasts by providing cheap ticket deals for car club members, free access to the paddock/garages, Car Club reserved parking in the infield and opportunities for owners to drive their beloved classics around the circuit on parade laps during breaks in the racing. Continue reading Donington Historic Festival – Sun 4th May 2014

Aston Martin Owners Club Event – Silverstone Sat 5th April 2014

AMOC Event

Sat 5th April 2014

1934 Aston Martin Ulster Le Mans Team Car
1934 Aston Martin Ulster Le Mans Team Car

In BM/BD years gone by (Before Marriage/Before Daughter) me and my mates used to regularly attend club races at Silverstone, Donington and Brands Hatch. They were always incredibly friendly and enjoyable events with full access to the paddock, the garages and the grandstands around the track. It was great to be able to wander around chatting to drivers, owners and other enthusiasts and it was a privilege to see some lovely old motors being flung around the circuit as if the driver’s lives depended on a good finish.

1963 Aston Martin DP214 Replica
1963 Aston Martin DP214 Replica

I’m pleased to report that my latest visit to the AMOC event at Silverstone on Sat 5th Apr clearly shows that cheap (£10 a ticket), friendly, well organised and open access motor racing experiences can still be had.

This is in stark contrast to the increasingly remote and expensive F1 experience and even to events such as Goodwood Revival which have become a little too puffed up with their own self importance. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great cars (and bikes) at the Revival but it seems to be more dominated these days by professional/celebrity drivers rather than enthusiast/gentleman/amateur owner/drivers.

1976 Aston Martin V8
1976 Aston Martin V8

Surprisingly – the World Endurance Championship has managed to stay relatively sensible and down to earth in terms of expense – £20  a ticket for this year’s Silverstone round is very reasonable for 6 hours of full-on racing. The WEC events also maintain a good degree of roving access to the pits and open grandstands for the paying enthusiasts. Long may it remain so!

Coming back to my AMOC day out – it a was a really great if bone jarringly freezing experience.

Continue reading Aston Martin Owners Club Event – Silverstone Sat 5th April 2014

911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 13: 911 Repossession Completed!

Fri 28th Feb 2014

After the dyno running-in and set-up of the engine, Steve and I both thought  all we would have to do is insert the engine back in the car, connect everything up and away we go.

It didn’t quite work out that way, there were a few snags, but Steve and Dave thankfully sorted out the last few issues and I headed up to Wembley on a cold and wet Friday afternoon to pick up the car.

Continue reading 911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 13: 911 Repossession Completed!

911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 12: Car & Engine Reunited

Wed 12th Feb 2014

I called Steve at Jaz on Tue 11th Feb to see how he was getting on after he’d picked-up the engine from Neil Bainbridge’s dyno the Saturday before. The good news was that the engine was “almost” in the car. The “almost” was due to bit of a problem with modifications to the oil cooling system  – he suggested I visit the following day to see what was what.

My mate Stan and I headed up to Jaz on the 12th to find engine man Dave at work underneath the car which was up on one of the Jaz ramps. The engine was fully fitted and attached to the gearbox which had remained in the car whilst the engine rebuild was in progress.

Continue reading 911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 12: Car & Engine Reunited

911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 11: The Long Awaited Dyno Test

Tue 4th Feb 2014

I called Jaz on Mon 3rd Feb and got the great news that, at long last, my engine was being run-in on the dyno at BS Motorsport.

Earlier, Steve had temporarily given up on his fight to bore out the mis-matched 2.0L inlet manifold to 2.2S spec. However, through a fortunate and timely parts swap, he got hold of a proper matching 2.2S manifold to stick on the engine which enabled dyno testing  to go ahead.

Steve had delivered the finally complete engine to Neil Bainbridge (who heads-up BS Motorsport) a couple of weeks previously, but we had to wait patiently for Neil to return from his annual pilgrimage to Daytona and then for him to then catch up on a backlog of other engine jobs.

Inside the BS Motorsport dyno control booth - Neil Bainbridge at the helm
Inside the BS Motorsport dyno control booth – Neil Bainbridge at the helm

With running-in under way – I arranged to meet Steve at the dyno the following evening (Tue 4th Feb) to discuss the running-in results with him and Neil and to observe adjustments and further power runs to optimise engine set-up and performance.

Continue reading 911 2.2S Engine Rebuild – Part 11: The Long Awaited Dyno Test

A-Z of Car Stuff: B is for Bell & Bellof

A-Z of Car Stuff

This is one in a series of posts on cars, drivers, designers etc. that have interested me over the years. I’ve bored my family and friends with this stuff for years – now it’s your turn!

See A-Z of Car Stuff page for more posts in this series.

I was reading an article in the Nov/Dec 2013 edition of Classic Porsche about a recent celebration at the Nurburgring of the late, great Stefan Bellof and it reminded me of the times I’d seen him race in Group C endurance cars in the early 80s.

I was fortunate to see him during a period where he was one vital half of a wonderful racing partnership with Derek Bell driving a Porsche 956 in the Rothmans sponsored factory team. What I didn’t realise was that Bellof was idolised by a young up and coming fellow German driver – Michael Schumacher! Shades of the Vettel & Schumacher relationship in more recent times.

Continue reading A-Z of Car Stuff: B is for Bell & Bellof

Regent Street Motorshow – Sat 2nd Nov 2013

1904 Oldsmobile. 1 cylinder, 7hp. Note the boat like tiller instead of a steering wheel!
1904 Oldsmobile. 1 cylinder, 7hp. Note the boat like tiller instead of a steering wheel!

This event has been held annually for a number of years now to coincide with the weekend of the London To Brighton Veteran Car Run. To show the cars Regent Street is closed is closed off between Oxford Circus and Picadilly on the Saturday to allow a range of the veteran cars participating in Sunday’s run to be viewed at close quarters. Their owners also tend to turn up clad in matching period costume which makes for quite a spectacle.

Continue reading Regent Street Motorshow – Sat 2nd Nov 2013