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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Golden Days of Delahayes

In "Hudson Commodore", a haunting song by Jason Isbell, the protagonist, an independent-minded lady who has raised two kids in the Bible Belt without much help, dreams of escape. We're not told that her story unfolds in the late 1940s, but the cars she admires are a clue. Isbell tells us that she'd like to be driven around in a Hudson Commodore, perhaps like the characters in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.  He sings that "she just wanted to ride in a Delahaye 135...no need to worry anymore."  

From the middle of the 1930s to the dawn of the 1950s, a Delahaye 135, especially a convertible, was a smooth and speedy way to travel from Paris to the French Riviera, and it was also a guarantee that you'd be noticed as you hummed along life's highways.  A Type 135, dressed in the best custom bodywork French coach builders could offer, would insure that you'd arrive in style and comfort.  But the cars weren't always associated with high style.  Emile Delahaye founded the company in 1894, and by the mid-1920s Delahaye was associated with a line of sturdy trucks and stolid, unexciting family sedans.  The onset of the Great Depression prompted the company's conservative managers to seek out clients where the money still was, and they were encouraged in that effort by loyal customer and racing team funder Lucy O'Reilly Schell*, who purchased one of the firm's first sporting efforts, a Coupe des Alpes model, named after an Alpine road rally.  Initially offered as a 3.2 liter grand touring car, it soon grew to 3.5 liters and the model number 135 reflected this engine size. 


This 1948 Type 135 cabriolet was bodied by Henri Chapron with harmonious curves set off by Chapron's typical zest in employing two-tone paint schemes and bright chrome accents...


The car features a reliable inline overhead-valve six cylinder engine of 3.5 liters, with power sent to a live rear axle by way of a Cotal electromagnetic pre-selector transmission.  This transmission was part of a trend toward pre-selectors in luxury cars during the period preceding automatics, and had a parallel in the pre-selector transmission for the Cord 810 which appeared across the Atlantic in 1936.   


The interior was generally cushier than that in Delahaye's sister car from this period, the Delage D6. While both cars featured an independent front suspension, Delahaye retained mechanical brakes until after WWII, while Louis Delage was an early advocate of hydraulic brakes, and insisted on retaining them after the Delahaye takeover of his firm.*


In 1937 Delahaye launched the Type 145 racing car as a response to a French government prize of a million francs* for a car that could beat a speed record for 200 kilometers held by Alfa Romeo. The construction of four cars was financed by the O'Reilly-Schell racing effort, which ran a factory-supported team for Delahaye.  The engines were 60-degree V12s of 4.5 liters (thus 145) and featured light blocks of magnesium alloy as well as overhead valves operated by pushrods actuated by 3 camshafts.  Unlike the 135, rear suspension was a De Dion type.  The effort paid off when Delahaye took 1st and 3rd places at the 1938 Grand Prix at Pau, France, beating the more powerful and better-financed Mercedes team.  The winning driver, Rene Dreyfus, later won the Grand Prix at Cork, Ireland. That same year, a Delahaye 145 finished Italy's thousand mile race, the Mille Miglia, in 4th place.  One of the racers, likely the actual million-franc record setter, was re-bodied by Franay with sweeping elegance and economy of line, as shown below.  Note the central fin on the rear deck lid.


Today this car has been reunited with a rare V12 engine and restored; it won an award at the Pebble Beach Concours...


Two of the 145 racers were re-bodied by Henri Chapron as closed coupes in somewhat more sober style, with (for Chapron anyway) restrained paint jobs belying the wild machinery underneath the curves... 


In addition to the 145 racers, Delahaye decided to offer the V12 engine design in a luxury road car, the Type 165.  Mechanical differences on this larger and heavier car included an engine block of mere aluminum instead of magnesium alloy, 12 spark plugs instead of 24, and a live rear axle from the 135 in place of the De Dion rear suspension. Four and possibly five Type 165s were built, including show cars for Paris and the New York World's Fair which were bodied as spectacular streamlined roadsters with retractable windshields by Figoni and Falaschi. The World's Fair car was shipped with an incomplete engine (no pistons, crankshaft or connecting rods) as war clouds loomed over France and forced a halt to this extravagant project.  The New York car received a complete engine years after the war; today the two surviving 165s seem to float above the lawns at car shows, their spatted wheels hiding behind wave-themed chrome accents... 


In the car-hungry postwar market, Delahaye decided the epic V12 had no place, instead devising a brand new 4.5 liter inline six for the new Type 175, which featured a De Dion rear suspension, hydraulic brakes (finally) and a Dubonnet front suspension which had first appeared on that inventor's 1938 Xenia.*  The new engine had seven main bearings to the 135's four, and a twelve-port head.  Chassis side rails were parallel, making for a wider passenger compartment.


Another sign of modern thinking at Delahaye was the left-hand steering, a first for the company. Like many upper-crust makes in France (Talbot, Bugatti) and Italy (Lancia), Delahaye had held onto right-hand drive as a sign of status.  The left-hand drive may have also reflected an interest in exporting cars to the States and Canada. Delahaye and its coach builders were pioneers in adopting colored bakelite (in this case, gold) as well as clear lucite for steering wheels...




This 1949 Type 175 Coupe de Ville was bodied by Jacques Saoutchik with typical two-toned, chrome-accented verve. The car was a part of casino owner William Harrah's collection, and he gifted it to singer Bobbie Gentry ("Ode to Bille Joe") when he married her. It's a true coupe de ville (sorry, Cadillac) in that the roof over the driver's compartment is removable, leaving the rear seats covered by a sweeping expanse of metal.


By the time the 175 arrived, it was pretty heavy metal.  The bodywork that coach builders like Saoutchik fashioned for the new chassis was often a bit too heavy for the new suspension Delahaye had designed.  This led to problems with handling as well as frequency of repair on the new model.  The massive three-place cabriolet bodied by Saoutchik during this period was an example.  Shown below, floating above four hidden and possibly overloaded tires, it was presented as a gift to actress Diana Dors...



Sadly, the expense of the new model in the heavily-taxed French market, and the failure to attract sufficient interest in North America, where Hans Hoffman had taken on selling Delahaye after the war, resulted in discontinuation of the 175 and related 178 sedan and 180 limousine by the end of 1951.  Ironically, it was the same year that two special 175S models with aluminum-head engines and alloy bodywork by Motto* finished 1st and 5th in the Monte Carly Rally.  It wasn't enough. Total production of the three related models amounted to only 105 cars.  In search of a more practical formula, Delahaye fell back on refurbishing the old reliable 135, and that same year introduced the Type 235.  This somewhat lighter, less extravagant car was based on the 135 chassis with its simpler independent front suspension, smaller engine and live rear axle. Customers got hydraulic brakes, engines uprated to 140 hp with 3 carburetors, and a choice of still-lavish bodywork by the dwindling number of specialists still working in Paris.


These included Henri Chapron, who built a couple of these graceful coupes. Note the way the front fenders swoop above the surface of the low, louvered hood.  At least two nearly identical cars were bodied in this style, and two additional stylistic variants appeared in1953 with more squared-off fender lines, anticipating the Mercedes 220S coupes.  Despite its rarity, this coupe provided reliable transport for decades to its loyal French owner...


Sauotchik offered a two-seater roadster as an alternative to the Chapron coupes, but it appears only one was built.  This car appears below; note the central deck fin which seems a faint echo of the Franay 145 cabriolet.



Saoutchik built a single fastback coupe on the 235 chassis in 1953, and the design shows a masterful integration of the designer's traditional sweeping fenders with the more restrained chrome and trimmer proportions of the 235.  Note how much closer the wheels are to the car's flanks and corners than on the enclosed-wheel Saoutchik 175 roadster.  Note also that the steering wheel is back on the right side, perhaps a sign that Delahaye had abandoned the idea of exports to North America.


Though simpler than the 175, the 235 cost more than twice the price of a better-performing Jaguar XK120, and this hurt sales. Delahaye lowered costs by about 30% by getting Chapron to offer a "standard" body design which resembled a two-door sedan more than a coupe.  Designer Phillipe Charbonneux came up with a kind of design template for the modernized 235 in 1951, and copies of this full-width envelope body which foreshadowed later Facel Vegas were built by Motto in Italy (a single prototype) and Letourneur et Marchand and Antem in France...


But nobody tooled up for enough bodies to get the costs down enough, and Delahaye's most promising venture during this period was building its own clever alternative to the Jeep for the French Army.  In 1954 the old firm was absorbed by Hotchkiss, which was also having trouble selling luxury cars, and had designs on the French "alternative Jeep" market. The last Delahaye road car appeared at the Paris Salon in 1954.



*Footnote:  For the story on Delahaye's adventure in GP racing, visit the archives for the essay entitled "Dreyfus and the Million-Franc Delahaye vs. the Third Reich", posted on Nov. 22, 2015. A brief history of Delahaye's eventual sister marque, Delage, appeared on May 20, 2018 under the title "Delage: A Car for the Ages."  Andre Dubonnet's dream car, the Xenia, has been featured three times in these posts, first in "One of One: A Brief History of Singular Cars" on Sept. 7, 2015 and again in "Roadside Attraction: Rolling Sculpture" on Dec. 31, 2016, and finally in "Hispano Suiza" on Sept. 25, 2017.  Cars bodied by Rocco Motto were showcased in "Unsung Genius: Rocco Motto" on March 25, 2018.

Photo credits:
1st thru 4th from top:  the author
5th:  Tom Burnside
6th thru 8th from top:  wikimedia
9th thru 12th from top (Type 175 Saoutchik Coupe de Ville):  the author
13th:  carmelmissionclassic.org
14th (Type 175 Saoutchik cabriolet):  customcarchronicle.org
15th & 16th (Chapron 235 coupe):  lesdelahaye235.blogspot.com
17th thru 19th from top (silver 235 roadster and black coupe): wikimedia
20th & 21st (red Type 235):  the author



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Graceful Winners: Dan Gurney and His Eagles

Sam Smith's Road & Track appreciation of race driver and car constructor Dan Gurney after his death in January quoted him posing the question, "If you have the chance to make something beautiful, and you don't, well, what does that say about you?" Of all the many tributes that appeared in the press after Gurney's passing, this one offers perhaps the most visceral way of understanding the cars that he built.  Gurney was still racing after piling up an enviable record of success in sports cars and Formula One (his first Grand Prix win at the 1962 French GP stands as Porsche's only F1 victory) when he decided in the mid-1960s to build an American entry for the new 3 liter Formula One that would appear in 1966. Motivation to develop his own car may have been rooted in experiences ranging from disappointment to disaster with other builder's designs. The worst of these was a case of complete brake failure while driving for the BRM team at the 1960 Dutch GP.  The resulting accident, which killed a spectator who was in a prohibited area and broke Gurney's arm, prompted a changed driving style with more emphasis on saving the brakes, a rigorous emphasis on testing, and also in Gurney's healthy skepticism when evaluating the work of engineers. Before a race at Riverside in California in the mid-1960s, a reporter asked him about the Lotus 40 he would be driving.  Without hesitation, Gurney replied that a Lotus 40 was essentially "a Lotus 30 with ten more mistakes."


Designer Len Terry, the creator of Jim Clark's 1965 Indy-winning Lotus 38, would lay out the chassis for Gurney's new F1 project, while engineering the entirely new V12 engine was entrusted to Aubrey Woods, with construction by Harry Weslake's English engineering firm. Weslake had been involved in all Jaguar engines from that firm's beginning.  Gurney's All American Racers introduced their Eagle Mark 1 GP car during the 1966 season.  For the first few races a stopgap Climax 2.7 liter four powered the car until the Weslake was ready. The new 60 degree, 4-cam, 48-valve V12 produced 360 hp at first and eventually 400, but reliability was compromised by loose tolerances resulting from employing World War 1 era tooling (it was surplus; this was a budget project) and problems with the dry-sump oiling system that reduced power after the first few laps. Still, the car's handling and speed showed promise, and its visual design was universally admired. The low snout with oval air intake, vee-shaped in plan and outlined in white, recalled a beak to some, while the slim profile of the double-skinned alloy monocoque shell, deeply curved in section and with air extractor slots behind the front-mounted radiator, seemed organic and sharklike.  A similar design scheme was applied to the Eagle Mk. 2 Indy cars, and the 4-cam Ford V8 engines were ready for those before the V12 appeared in the Mark 1...


AAR entered five Mk. 2s with Ford V8s in the 1966 Indy 500, but the new cars suffered from teething problems.  Ultimately 6 cars would be built, and in the 1967 Indy Gurney would pilot an Eagle to 2nd place.  A.J. Foyt was so impressed he bought the car. 


In March of 1967, as a kickoff to the GP season, Gurney won the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in England, which despite the name did not count towards the World Championship.  It did, however, show that the Eagle with the Weslake V12 was going to be competitive. That, and the 2nd place at Indy proved to be a sign that AAR and Gurney himself were about to have a memorable year.  Less than two weeks later, Gurney and A.J. Foyt shared a Ford GT Mk. IV to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans after leading for 22 hours.  A week after that, driving the last of 4 Eagle GP cars built, Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix.  It was the first and only time that an American driver won a Formula 1 race in a car of his own manufacture.  Today, the Eagle Mk. I is considered by many designers and collectors to be the most beautiful racing car ever built...     


Gurney also finished 3rd at the Canadian GP and led the German GP until a driveshaft failure a couple of laps from the end.  That 1967 win at Spa in Belgium proved to be the last win for Gurney, as well as the Eagle, in F1 racing, but the AAR effort with the Eagle Mk. 2 would win a USAC National Championship.  Racing in this series would ultimately yield 22 wins and 33 pole positions and numerous championships; 7 of the 22 wins would belong to Dan Gurney himself.  


In 1971 Dan Gurney had the idea of adding a small vertical tab to the trailing edge of the rear airfoils during tests with Eagle team driver Bobby Unser, and this was found to increase downforce so much that the car began understeering.  When Unser suggested adding a similar vertical projection at the top trailing edge of the front airfoil, lap times came down noticeably.  The device was named the Gurney flap by aerodynamics staff during tests at Douglas Aircraft, and was the first example of a device developed in automobile racing to be adapted to aeronautical use.  The flaps were employed in a new Eagle design the next year, when Jerry Grant drove the turbocharged Offenhauser-powered Eagle shown above to capture one of racing's holy grails, the first-ever 200 mph lap certified by the USAC, while practicing for the California 500.  This 1972 Eagle design was successful enough that at the 1973 Indy race, 20 of the 33 starters would be Eagles. The '72 wedge with airfoils had a fairly long life for a racing car; Bobby Unser's winning Eagle at the 1975 Indy 500 was very similar.  By the late 1970s, Eagle Indy cars had appeared with the Cosworth DFX V8 shown below, and these were in use into the 1980s, along with V8s from Chevrolet.



Designer Pete Brock* met and worked with several legendary car constructors and found nearly all of them to be remarkably egocentric and inconsiderate, but discovered Gurney to be an exception to that rule.  In noting that exception, he said, "He doesn't seem to know he's Dan Gurney," and commended Gurney's sense of fairness in dealing with everyone, regardless of their station in life. In an era when we receive daily reminders that nice guys don't always win or even place, it's somehow reassuring to know that someone could reach the top of a profession while adhering to this ethic. "If you have the chance to make something beautiful and you don't…what does that say about you?"  In our era, this might be a good question to keep in mind for everyone from architects and engineers to city planners and politicians...



Photo Credits:
Top:  Gooding and Company
2nd & 3rd:  Ian Avery-DeWitt
4th:  All American Racers
5th & 6th:  Paul Anderson
8th:  Wikimedia

Special thanks to old friends Paul and Ian for shooting so many pictures after my batteries gave out at the Revs Institute Collier Collection, which has an impressive array of Formula 1 cars and Indy racers.

*Footnote:  The Road & Track Gurney article was featured in the March-April 2018 issue.   Designer Pete Brock's career and designs were surveyed in these posts for January 16, 2017, under the title "Unsung Genius:  Pete Brock, Car Designer."  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Porsche Effect at the Petersen Museum


The Porsche Effect, an extensive (and expensive) exhibit currently on show at LA's Petersen Museum, is a sort of automotive Wayback Machine, to borrow a phrase from a cartoon series that gained popularity at around the same time as these cars. The introductory display recalls a time and a car that most visitors will not remember...


…and revisits the 1938-39 period, when prototypes of Ferdinand Porsche's design for a "people's car", then called KdF, were being tested and shown to the public.  As part of the publicity and fund-raising effort* designed to finance production of what became the Volkswagen, Porsche also planned a lightweight road racer on the Beetle's underpinnings.


Three examples of the resulting Type 64 (it wasn't yet called a Porsche) were built, each with thin alloy all-enveloping bodywork featuring a narrow cockpit with teardrop roof flowing smoothly into the tapered tail, and spats over all four wheels. The overall form recalled Auto Union speed record streamliners (also Porsche designs), the stillborn Type 114 road version of the Auto Union GP car, and (deliberately, it seems) the humble Beetle in the profile of its roof.


The car was often called the Berlin-Rome VW because it was intended to compete in a road race between those two cities. The air-cooled 985cc flat four was tweaked to make about 50 horsepower.  And while the design is now claimed by Porsche to have been "the shape of things to come", it both was and was not.  The lines are slimmer, more elongated and more fluid than the first Porsche road cars, partly because of the fully enclosed fenders, but also due to this coupe's retention of the Beetle's 94 inch wheelbase, a full foot longer than the later Porsche 356. The graceful taper of the rear fenders helps, too...


The other part of the future that the Berlin-Rome prototype failed to anticipate was that there would be no Berlin-Rome road race because Germany launched a war instead; in that regard, Rome went right along with Berlin...

The Type 64 cockpit would have been a perhaps excessively cozy place for pilot and co-pilot.  It was so narrow that the navigator's seat was staggered in order to allow a bit of shoulder room, and the steering wheel was close to the center.  This is the only Type 64 known to survive; it was raced in the postwar period, and later restored by the Pininfarina coach building house, no less.  After the war, and after Ferdinand Porsche was released from prison in France*, the idea of the Berlin-Rome car was resurrected in a series of cars built at first in Gmund, Austria.  Among the things carried over were the VW-based engine and transmission, and while the Porsche team shortened the wheelbase, they also simplified the bodywork to involve a tub shape rather than a series of teardrops.

    
Signs that this is one of the roughly 50 cars made in Gmund include the Porsche lettering  above the hood opening rather than below it, and the 4 chrome strips around the license plate frame. Engine size had been increased about 10%, too.


The side view shows other telltale signs, with the non-opening "vent" windows in the leading edge of the door curved in plan, and a correspondingly narrower windshield than later cars like the one below.  This windshield was in two flat pieces. In addition to the Gmund coupes, there were 8 cabriolets, half a dozen of which were bodied by Beutler in Switzerland.  Any of  these would be a holy grail for Porschephiles today.


This restored convertible is not one of those cars; instead it's an example of a production model cabriolet from 1955, bodied by Reutter.


It's an example of the kind of car that Max Hoffman* sold at his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed showroom in New York, and despite its simple mechanicals and modest power, the solid craftsmanship and fine level of finish impressed Americans in the first flush of postwar sports car fever.  That name, "Continental" was, like the stripped-down Speedster sold alongside it, Hoffman's idea.  He wanted model names instead of numbers...


But Ford Motor Company, a few months away from launching its expensive new Continental Mark II, protested, and this name came off the Porsche in 1956. Somehow Studebaker never minded "Speedster" (perhaps because Porsche had gotten there first), and so that name stayed on the entry-level ragtop Porsche. 


Spyder is a name that has appeared on other cars, but none so famous as the original Porsche Spyder, Type 550.  Originally appearing in 1953 with the pushrod, VW-derived engine, it soon was released in racing trim with a 4-cam, roller-bearing crankshaft racing engine that would win its class in road races in Europe and the USA. 


Around ninety of the Type 550 would be made before production ended in 1957.  The car gained notoriety with the American public when James Dean died on the way to the races in central California driving a Spyder*.  That was in 1955, the year of the blue-striped car in the above photos.


This 1956 example of the Spyder is claimed to be the most original specimen in existence...


The California license plate refers to Porsche's biggest individual market (more were sold there by 1960 than in Germany) as well as to two other landmark personalities of that era, an era which marked a turning point with the introduction of the Type 901, a six-cylinder car with dry-sump, single overhead cam engine offering the fruits of Porsche's years of racing experience to suburban commuters...


Soon after release, Peugeot would complain that it had a monopoly on triple digit designations with center zeroes, and Porsche complied by calling the car 911; soon those numbers would soon be associated with the most successful dual-purpose GT car ever. But that epic is quite another story, one which has been told by more obsessive and probably better historians, in other places...


*Footnotes:  The VW Beetle design saga is summarized, along with a related lawsuit concerning intellectual property theft, in "Cars & Ethics: A Word or Two on VW" in these posts for 11/27/15, while the Revs Institute's Collier Collection of classic Porsche racing cars is surveyed in "Pantheon of Paranormal Porsches" from 3/19/17 and "Porsches by Another Name" from 3/25/17.  The Cisitalia PorscheType 360 racing car project which got Dr. Porsche out of jail is reviewed in "The Etceterini Files, Part Eleven—Cisitalia" in these posts for 4/22/17.  And for the tale of Max Hoffman and his launching of Porsche in the USA, see "Max Hoffman: An Eye for Cars, and the Studebaker Porsche" from 5/1/16.  The James Dean story is revisited in "On a Lonesome Highway in California" in the archives for 1/18/16. The Wayback Machine is, of course, from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show", and is also spelled "WABAC", which stood for Wavelength Acceleration Bidirectional Asynchronous Controller. It was allegedly even more complex than the notorious Porsche roller-bearing crankshaft...

Photo Credits:  All photos were taken by Porsche enthusiast Dr. Marcus Nashelsky on his long-awaited first visit to the Petersen, which is at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  The Porsche Effect will be on show until January 2019.  You may want to tell your own doctor about experiencing classic symptoms of Porsche obsession, and ask him (or her) if heading down life's highways and byways in a dry sump, air-cooled, turbocharged projectile is right for you...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Immigrants Make Good in America: Maserati 8CTF




Modern consumers may be unaware that before Maserati became an upmarket lifestyle accessory, it was a line of successful racing cars engineered and built on a meager budget. During the period that stretched between the 20th century's two biggest wars, the five Maserati brothers* experimented with such abandon that there were almost as many types of Maserati as there were actual Maserati cars.  Among the many engines, there were inline  twin-cam fours, sixes and eights, as well as a 4-liter V16 confusingly named the V4.  The brothers' long experience finally paid off with something like fame in America when the same Maserati, a sister to the 8CTF below, but owned by the racing team of Mike Boyle, won back-to-back victories at the Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and '40 with American Wilbur Shaw behind the wheel.  The background to this achievement also involves an American living in Europe...


A confluence of tides resulted in the Maserati wave that landed at Indy. The GP racing formula was changed from a no-holds-barred 750 kg maximum weight affair to an 850 kg minimum weight after 1937, the same year the Orsi family of successful industrialists bought the Maserati factory and name from the eponymous brothers, signing three of them (Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo) to a ten-year contract under which they provided design and engineering services exclusively to the new firm. Ernesto laid out a new GP car to challenge the Germans in 1938, the same year that former race driver Lucy O'Reilly Schell financed a successful challenge to the German juggernaut at the French GP with Rene Dreyfus leading her semi-official Ecurie Bleue team of Delahaye V12s across the finish line in 1st and 2nd places*. Mrs. Schell soon noticed that the new Maserati was even more powerful than her Delahayes, and bought two of them...


The 8CTF engine design was essentially based upon tandem blocks of the 1.5 liter 4CM Maserati had produced for voiturette racing. The new engine featured a head in unit with the block, or testa fissa (the TF in the model designation), and two valves per cylinder operated by dual overhead cams.  Two Roots-type superchargers boosted horsepower to 350 in the first versions, and when this was raised to 365 in final form it was still over 100 hp less than rival Mercedes got with their supercharged V12.  Also, the volatile fuels then used in European GPs exposed some fragility in the design...


It would be an understatement to say that the Maserati engine was happier running on the alcohol-based fuel used at Indy.  The third 8CTF built, serial number 3032, became the most successful specimen of any car ever to race at the Brickyard.  Wilbur Shaw won in 1939 and 1940, and the same car finished 3rd twice and 4th once, running its last race at Indy in 1953. A sister car, the one in these pictures and one of two owned by Schell's team, finished 10th at Indy in the hands of Rene Le Becque and Rene Dreyfus. Dreyfus had  been spirited out of France by Schell's Ecurie Blue before the invading Germans could get their hands on him; they were still upset that he had beaten their best at that '38 French GP*.


This car, chassis #3030, the first of only three 8CTF models built, is likely the one in a state closest to its original form. Only one spare engine was originally produced by the factory.  Despite that, chassis #3032, the Wilbur Shaw car, enjoyed a 15-year career, an eternity in racing, even in a time of slower technological change.  That car is now on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.  


And at the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida, you can get close enough to the first 8CTF to  gather some idea of how it might have been to sit in the narrow, form-fitting seat behind the wheel with its distinctive curving spokes drilled for lightness, and face the new challenge of racing on a bumpy, banked oval for 500 miles on your first job assignment as a new immigrant to America.  After finishing 10th at Indy, Rene Dreyfus joined the US Army and served in Italy, opening a restaurant called Le Chanteclair in New York City after the war.  His bistro was known to provide good food and a congenial environment to talk about cars.


*Footnotes:  The Maserati brothers' saga was summarized in "Almost Famous", a post in the archives for 4/20/16, and a story on 4-cylinder 1950s Maserati sports racers appeared in "Before the Birdcage" from 9/30/17.  Earlier we recounted the story of Lucy O'Reilly-Schell's racing efforts with Rene Dreyfus in "Dreyfus and the Million-Franc Delahaye" on 11/22/15.  

Photo credits:  

Top:  the author
2nd from top:  Ian Avery DeWitt
3rd from top:   psychoontyres.co.uk
Balance of photos:  Ian Avery-DeWitt