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Friday, August 31, 2018

Concorso Italiano 2018 Review: Going for the Gold Package

The Concorso Italiano was once the bargain-priced upstart of what is now called Monterey Car Week.  If you were lucky enough to attend one of the earlier ones, you may remember seeing all kinds of prototypes, racers, one-off show cars, and arcane etceterini, and being treated to stories of racing, repairing and rebuilding these cars by their longtime owners.

Well, the Concorso is still happening, but now the price of admission is $180, not far behind the $250 you get charged for the Pebble Beach Concours.  How does it compare to the free show on Ocean Avenue*, or to the variety of cars you might see by spending $60 or $70 for a day of historic race-watching at Laguna Seca?  You do get to see some fairly uncommon machinery at the Concorso.  The 1936 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 racer was a prime example, but the postwar 6C 2500 road car in the background (engine shown below) was featured at the free show on Ocean Avenue. 

There were a few one-off cars, but some of the most compelling cars at this year's Concorso were production cars rarely seen in the US.  One example was this lovely Fiat 2300S coupe, with body styled by Ghia and built by OSI in the early 1960s.  The owner had bought the car recently on the Bring a Trailer auction website, and was delighted with the car.

The 2300 and 2300S Ghia coupes were built from 1961 to 1968, when the Dino Fiats took over their place in the Fiat lineup. This example shows the glassy proportions and clean lines reminiscent of the Dual Ghia L6.4 designed around the same time by Sergio Sartorelli. The car is almost exactly the same size as the later BMW 2800CS, wheelbase and all

The 1961 Maserati 3500 shown below looks like a "standard" Vignale Spyder, but it's actually a unique body built to order with different grille, lighting details, vents and trim than the production model, which was rare enough anyway, with just over 240 built.

The Frua-bodied Mistral which followed the 3500 in Maserati chronology was represented by this well-used example, complete with parking lot dings (I loved it) and a pristine show car in gray.  Both had the Lucas fuel injection, which was often replaced in use by Weber carbs.
The Ghia-bodied Ghibli, penned by Giugiaro, was the next Maserati in the line of 2-seaters, appearing in 1967. It was one of the first production cars to use the maestro's "fold and crease" design theme.  Engines were 4-cam, dry-sump alloy-block V8s of 4.7 or 4.9 liters, in contrast to the 3.7 and 4.0 liter inline sixes in the Mistrals which preceded them.

Giugiaro also designed this ASA 1000* coupe when he worked for Bertone; the first one appeared in 1960. One of Ferrari's first efforts get what is now called an "entry-level" car into production, it was produced with a single overhead cam inline four which was essentially 4 cylinders of the Ferrari 250 V12. Potential buyers were not thrilled with paying twice the price of an Alfa Giuietta for a car with less power, so the De Nora family which built the cars took quite a long time to sell not many more than a hundred. 

The ASA's rounded contours have more in common with the Iso Grifo pictured at the end of this piece, also a Giugiaro design, than with the more sharply defined planes of the Ghibil.  

Any early-1950s Ferrari is a rarity, and any Ghia-bodied Ferrari is a scarce treat to encounter. This car is both.  A few of these bodies were built by Ghia on the Ferrari 195S chassis (2.3 liters) which came after the famed 166.  At least one car competed in the Carrera Panamericana, the road race across Mexico.  The grille is interesting, as designers had not yet made the oval egg-crate design pioneered by Touring and Vignale a universal feature on Ferraris.

My selection of favorite Ferraris concludes with 275GTB4 below, a sister car to the immaculate example found at the Hillsborough Concours* in July, featuring the first 4-cam V12 to appear in a production Ferrari Berlinetta.  The car was in what is now called "barn-find" condition by show-goers.  What that really means is that it looks like a used car, complete with cracked and chipped paint. 

Here's that engine.  If the owner keeps driving the car and refuses to restore it, he or she will have decisively avoided what Jean Jennings at Car and Driver once called the "dead car in a plastic box syndrome."  The happy guy in the photo below has been avoiding that syndrome since 1961 with his 1951 Siata 1400 Spider.
He seemed glad to talk with me about driving and working on the car over all those years.  This 1400 spider is likely the only Siata 1400 still running its original engine.  When I asked why, he told me that the Siata-modified inline fours were "powder kegs."  After 57 years with this car, he's turning it over to his son this year.  The alloy body is by Stablimenti Farina, a sister (or really, brother) company to Pinin Farina.  Like the maroon Alfa in the top photo, this car was also featured in the Ocean Avenue show on Aug. 21.  Other than a couple of Abarths, this Siata was the only species of etceterini on the field…

That scarcity, along with a scarcity of owners who knew as much about their cars as this guy, is another measure of the changes in the Concorso.  The owner of the 1924 Lancia Lambda Series 4 below had a similar long-term commitment to his car, and was ready to show some of its unusual features. The Lambda was the first production car to feature unit body construction.  It also featured a narrow-angle V4, another first.  In the photo below, the owner demonstrates the clever spotlight, which can be removed from its mounting to double as an under-hood trouble light.

The Lancia Aprilia pictured above and below was mobbed, despite its scruffy, well-used condition…another escapee from the "car in plastic box" syndrome.  And what a car it was.  Unit construction, narrow-angle V4, and what became a signature Lancia feature, the suicide doors opening to reveal the whole interior, with no B-pillar.  Along with the Citroen Traction Avant which also appeared in 1934, it pointed the way to the modern car.

The Superleggera Touring-bodied Flaminia below brings back memories of similar coupe I once owned.  Close examination revealed details I failed to remember, like the tiny crease formed into the alloy door skin that fades away two-thirds of the way across the window sill.The whole car was full of those kinds of expensive details.  Like the Aurelia, it had an alloy 60 degree V6 and a four-speed transaxle…

Rounding out the survey of Lancia design history is this Fulvia Zagato I found not in the show, but in the parking lot. Narrow angle V4, front wheel drive, teardrop shape formed in alloy on early models and steel later on…

And below is a not-quite-Lancia, the New Stratos, which is not coming to a dealer near you anytime soon. For the story of the New Stratos, you may want to refer to the post called "Lost Cause Lancias" from 2/15/18.
The Concurs afforded a chance to see some of the Lamborghinis I missed at their feature  event in Hillsborough last month.  But really, there were more of them here, including the two Isleros shown below. These updated versions of the 400 GT were built by Marazzi when  Superleggera Touring closed.  Note that the later car in green has vent windows in the doors, while the earlier one doe not.

No Lambo review would be complete without a Miura*, and you might as well have a lime yellow one with bright blue interior, right?  

There were many reasons I enjoyed the free show on Ocean Avenue more than this one, and one of them is that there was no thumping techno music, no fashion show, and there was a greater diversity of cars. That's also true of comparisons with earlier Concorsos.  Yes, I know the early concours in Europe had fashion shows too, but when there is a transverse-mounted V12 sharing its oil with the transmission to discuss (see above), it seems fashion is a distraction. A photographer (perhaps from some lifestyle journal, not from a car mag) asked me about the car below, and wanted to know if it was some kind of "Austin Martin".  I had not the heart to tell him there never were any Austin Martins.  He was amazed to find out that the Iso Rivolta and the Grifo pictured were made by the same people who designed the egg-like Isetta 300 later built by BMW.  "Iso as in Isotherm", I pronounced.  "They actually made refrigerators before they made cars." It is really irresponsible to distract guys trying to have a serious discussion about refrigerators with a parade of supermodels pirouetting across a manicured fairway to booming electronic dance music. The best way to enjoy Monterey Car Week, unless you want to buy a car at auction, is to check out the free show Tuesday on Ocean Avenue, and then spend the weekend at the races.

*Footnotes: The Hillsborough Concours was featured in two parts  on July 26 and  29, 2018.
The saga of the ASA cars appeared in our Etceterini Files for 2/2/16.  The design story of the Miura was recounted briefly in our post for 7/11/17, and the free car show on Ocean Avenue in Carmel appeared in two parts on August 21 and 25, 2018.  These overviews of Monterey Car Week 2018 mark the third anniversary of this blog, which has only a few intrepid subscribers but has had over 73,500 visits over the years. Thanks for having a look.

Photo credits:  All photos are by the author, including the blurry impressionistic ones.

Errata:  The first version of this account reported that just over 100 Maserati 3500 Spyders were built; the real number was 245. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sunday at the Races: Monterey Historics Part 2

This year's field was peppered with vintage Alfa Romeo models, including this Touring-bodied 6C1750 from the 1933 and the 1932 Monza below it. The Monza developed around 170 supercharged horsepower from that 2.6 liter straight eight, really two inline fours joined at the center and with dual overhead cams. 

This 1933 Maserati 4CM appeared ready to face the competition with silver flame-painted  radiator shell.  Engine is a twin-cam inline four; in supercharged 2 liter form it developed around 165 horsepower, about the same as the Alfa Monza.  The 4CM was also available with a 1.5 liter version of this engine. 

This Jaguar C-type was the model that established Jaguar as a force in endurance racing, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1951 and 1953; the second victory was the first at Le Mans with disc brakes.  The 1952 effort was hampered by an experiment with a lower, aerodynamic nose which proved to interfere with the cooling system.  Jaguar quickly returned to the design shown below…

The Siata 208CS* below was designed during the C-type Jag's era.  33 examples  of S and CS were made from 1952 to 1955.  All used the  70 degree V8 engine from Fiat's  2 liter 8V. 

Bodies came from a variety of coach builders, with coupe models (CS) like the one above originating with Stablimenti Farina (a branch of the Pinin Farina family) and continuing with Carrozzeria Balbo after the first firm folded. Roadsters (S) were offered by Motto. Suspension was independent at all four wheels. 

The Porsche Abarth Carrera* GTL shown below displays a similar smoothness of compound curves. It was also a product of Italian design, in this case from Franco Scaglione.  The first body by Viarengo and Filipponi was too rough for the minions of Porsche, and the balance of the twenty-car order was reputedly built by Rocco Motto*.

The first car appeared in 1960 and won its class at a rainy Le Mans despite leaky doors and window seals. The engine was a 1.6 liter version of Porsche's 4-cam Carrera unit with roller bearing crankshaft. The whole project was intended to extend the competition life of the 356 chassis until new cars (901, 904) were ready.

The Abarth Carrera GTL reunited Carlo Abarth, who had been with Cisitalia* during the  abortive Cisitalia Porsche 360* GP car project, with his old friends and rivals at Porsche.  Abarth lined up the design and construction team, and they succeeded in reducing the weight and frontal area of the old bathtub 356, and making in competitive again for awhile.  They also succeeded in giving Porsche and Abarth collectors something to dream about…

A Birdcage Maserati* (Tipo 60 and 61) is a rare sight (there were only 22), and this may be the only time you'll see one flanked by a Lotus 23 and an Railton from the 1930s.  The latter car was usually powered by an American Hudson engine, and often seen in touring form with weather protection and fenders.  The green one in the photo is stripped down for a weekend of racing…The Birdcage was known for the space frame chassis of slender tubes, welded into a rigid unit and visible inside the cockpit.  Engines were twin-cam inline fours of 2 liters (Tipo 60, of which 16 were built) and the rarer 2.9 liter Tipo 61 that Stirling Moss used to win at the Nurburgring. The Lotus 23 from 1962-'63 featured midship-mounted engines from Climax, Cosworth, and Lotus in a version of the Elan twin-cam.  Sizes ranged from 750cc to 1.6 liters in what turned out to be the Swiss Army knife of club racers.

*Footnote:  The Siata 208 series and its Fiat 8V sister cars are featured in "The Etceterini Files, Part 10" post from 11/13/16 as well as in "Hillsborough Concours Part 1" from 7/26/18. Both Siata 208S and Porsche Abarth are featured in "Unsung Genius: Rocco Motto, the Closer" from 3/25/18.  The Abarth Carrera story is detailed a bit more in "Revs Institute Part 3: Porsches by Another Name" from 3/25/17. Finally, the Cisitalia Porsche connection is described in "The Etceterini Files Part Eleven" from 4/22/17.

Photo Credit:  All photos are by the author.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

1st Impressions at the Monterey Historics: Whatever Lola Wants…

Friday's visit to the first day of competition at the Monterey Historic Races yielded some close encounters with old race cars.  The silver Lola GT featured above and below was a hit at the London Race Car Show in 1963, but it was a surprise here.  It would be a surprise anywhere, as only 3 of the lightweight (under 1,500 lb.) cars were built.  

Because the mid-engined Lola GT was powered by Ford's then-new thin-wall V8, it attracted the attention of Ford and also of Shelby American, which started building Cobra roadsters powered by the same engine in 1962, the year the car appeared.  Note the large round tail lights; they're from an English Ford Cortina. This particular GT was purchased from Lola by a Shelby staffer over 50 years ago, and he still owned the car when Jay Leno interviewed him last year…

The red car below is a Ford GT40* roadster, one of only 6 roadsters out of the 105 GT40s built betwixt 1964 and 1967. This roadster is also the only GT40 with aluminum panels, rather than steel, in the stressed skin of the chassis.  The overall design of the GT40 was inspired by the Lola GT, and Lola designer Eric Broadley went to work on the GT40 program early in the car's development. 

Eric Broadley went back to the drawing board after his experience with Ford, and came up with the Lola T-70.  The black car below is one four T70 Mark IIIB cars built for the Canadian American Series for 1967.  It was Dan Gurney's car for that series, and was also Ford-powered, in contrast to most T70s, which employed Chevrolet power.

Broadley also developed a coupe version of the T70 to compete in long-distance endurance races like Le Mans. In the US, however, the T70 is mostly remembered for running in the early Can Am races, and represents perhaps the last of the lyrical, intuitively aerodynamic race car forms before the wedge shape took over.  Even though the early wedges weren't computer-designed, they looked like they were…

This McLaren Mk 6A, also from 1967, shows the trend to less romantic shapes dictated by concerns for air penetration and downforce.  In terms of competition on the track, anyway, Bruce McLaren's baby was clearly not what Lola wanted

On the endurance racing front, Porsche introduced its 3 liter, flat-eight powered 908 in 1968, the year Ford's GT40 captured the FIA World Championship for Makes.  Porsche captured the title with the 908 a year later.  Which car was more efficient, the 3 liter 908 or the 5 liter GT40?  Well, Porsche used 42 dedicated race cars to clinch the title, using most of the cars only once before rebuilding and / or selling them.  Ford had an engine 40% bigger, but used less than 10% as many cars

Discussions of efficiency seem beside the point when faced with the sheer exuberance of form on Lancia's D24 endurance racer from the 1953-'54 period.  On closer examination, though, you realize you're looking at the product of a company run by engineers.  There's the fact that the brakes seem invisible at first glance. That's because all four finned drums are inboard-mounted to reduce unsprung weight. The rear drums (discs on the later D25) flanked Lancia's transaxle, a feature adapted from the Aurelia production car.   

The various scoops deployed to admit cooling air to the radiator, Weber carburetors, brakes and cockpit are like the rivets in the magnesium alloy body (by Pinin Farina) in that they substitute for surface decoration.  The engine was a 3.3 liter, 60 degree aluminum V6 with 4 overhead cams. Power was sufficient to seize 1st, 2nd and 4th place in the Carrera Panamericana against competition from Ferrari, Jaguar and others, and win both the Mille Migila and Targa Florio in 1954. 

What it wasn't able to do was avoid red ink on Lancia's ledger.  The endurance racing  program, along with Lancia's D50 V8 GP racer*, bankrupted the company.  Only two original D24s are known to survive; at least one additional car has been built up from scarce drivetrain parts. Drivers in the D24 hall of fame included Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, and Piero Taruffi…

A visit to the pits wouldn't be complete without a Ferrari; this one is a 250GT SWB (short wheelbase) from 1960 to '61 (the '59 had different side windows). The "short" designation tells us the wheelbase is 10 inches less than the previous Tour de France coupe.  It's also about an inch shorter than the competing Aston Martin DB4 GT, and 4 inches shorter than the E-type Jaguar that was just around the corner.  Chassis engineering was conservative compared with the Lancia, with a live rear axle.

Engineering was fairly conservative on Aston Martin's DB3S, built from 1953 to 1956.  Engines were based on the W.O. Bentley-designed Lagonda twin-cam six that powered the DB2, but punched out to 3 liters, at first with 6 spark plugs and later with 12. There were 11 factory-sponsored racers and 20 customer cars, a flotilla compared with Lancia.  There were successes in racing on the home front, but success at Le Mans eluded them in the years when Jaguar dominated that race.  Pretty, though…

This Delage* GP car would have been a Formula One star in its day (1927) if that line of racing had been called F1 back then.  The jewel-like straight 8, dual overhead cam power plant was only 1.5 liters in capacity, but managed up to 170 supercharged horsepower.  This car was beautiful in places nobody could see; those cams, the connecting rods and the crankshaft did their work with the help of over 200 roller and ball bearings.  The Delage team won the driver's championship and also the manufacturer's title in 1927, using 6 cars.   It's always been a rarity but is nearly extinct today, with survivors about as scarce as the Lancia D24.

*Footnote:  The Ford GT40s are featured in our posting for Dec. 31, 2017, a visit to the Ford GT collection at the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, CO. For further reading on the Lancia D Series racers, see this blog's archives for "Prancing Elephants" from October 8, 2016.  The Delage GP racers, along with the road cars, are featured in "A Car for the Ages" from May 20, 2018. 

Photo Credits:  All photos are by the author.

Errata:  Owing to the presence of the idiotic Autospell feature on this Mac, my note about the Lagonda twin-cam six in the Aston in the first version of this essay was changed without my noticing to "Laguna", which is proof that artificial intelligence may still be a long way off.  Apologies…