Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Brave Heart - Singer Chamois

Comparing today's Hillman Imp /Singer Chamois with yesterday's FIAT 850 it is hard to believe that the Imp/Chamoise was in production one year ahead of the 850. Unencumbered by an existing design, like the FIAT 850, the clean lines of the Imp / Chamois were the work of Tim Fry and occasional Ferrari F1 driver Mike Parkes who were given carte blanche at the start of the 'Apex' project.

Incredibly, well incredible to my 2010 eyes with 2020 hind sight the FIAT 850 out sold the Imp / Chamois nearly 5:1 despite the Imp / Chamois being in production for 5 more years from 1963 - 1976. This particular vehicle apparently first registered in Bristol in 1966 is the badge engineered high end Singer Chamois Mark II with a conventional throttle cable and manual choke replacing the pneumatic throttle linkage and automatic choke of the MK I in 1965.

The Imp / Chamois vehicles were built in a brand new factory in Linwood near Glasgow by a workforce more experienced in building mighty ships than assembling little cars. Knockdown kit versions were also assembled in Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Venezuela, Uruguay, Costa Rica, South Africa and Australia.

Nearly 200,000 of these vehicles were built from 1963 - 1966 it then took another 10 years to build the same number again. The engine in the rear started life as an iron block FWMA Coventry Climax fire pump engine but was made, unusually for the time, entirely out of aluminium with a redesigned cylinder head in this application.

The 875 cc 53 cui engine delivered 39 hp enough to take the car to a respectable 80 mph. The car was perhaps hampered by having the engines cast in Glasgow and machined in Coventry before being shipped back to Glasgow for installation, a round trip of some 600 miles, but more than any thing the vehicle appears to have been a largely wasted marketing opportunity when compared against the similarly sized FIAT 850.

Thanks for joining me, I hope you have enjoyed today's Scottish edition wishing everyone with a heritage north of Hadrian's Wall a happy St Andrew's day.

Hope you'll join me again tomorrow for another exciting instalment of 'Getting a lil' psycho on tyres', don't forget to come back now !

Monday, 29 November 2010

Project 100 G - FIAT 850 Idromatic

I found this curiously cute 1967/68 FIAT 850 a couple of weeks ago. The car appears to have emigrated west in the 40 years since it was first registered in Greater London.

Code named project 100 G the FIAT 850 was a large version of project 100 the FIAT 600. G for Grande in Italian. 2.3 million FIAT 850's were made between 1964 and 1973.

Production of the SEAT 850 version continued in Spain until 1974. Complete Knock Down Kit 850's were assembled by Pirin-FIAT in Bulgaria from 1967 to 1971. The extravagant decoration on the wheel trim and white striped tyre indicate this was the more powerful high end 'super' variant.

This 850 appears to be fitted with the Idromatic transmission, a fully synchronised 4 speed manual gearbox combined with a torque converter and electrically activated clutch operated by a switch on the top of the gear stick knob.

The high end FIAT 850 'super' was powered by a 37 hp 4 cylinder 843 cc /51.4 cui engine mounted in the boot / trunk which when coupled with Idromatic transmission made it the slowest vehicle tested by Road & Track in 1968. The 60¢ May 1968 issue of R&T noted that while The FIAT 850 Idromatic was not suited for use in 'American' conditions it deserved attention as a 'strictly low speed 2nd car'.

Hope you have enjoyed today's leisurely start to the week and hope you'll join me again tomorrow, don't forget to come back now !

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Racing is life - Le Mans the Movie

While recovering from a particularly pestulant flu virus last week, I took the opportunity to watch one of my favourite films one that was influential in so much as it inspired me not only to visit Le Mans but also to participate in a lesser 24 hour race in 1990.

The film is a classic among many race fans because it is essentially shot in a documentary style, the first 30 mins is a build up to the start of a 24 hour race with only a brief flash back to interrupt the building tension. We see early morning race day footage of the protagonist Michael Delaney (McQueen) arriving at the circuit, in those days entirely on public roads, huge traffic jams, to me now very familiar scenes from the campsite in the middle of the circuit, teams preparing, drivers preparing and then an increasingly slo mo sequence to the 5 min countdown to the start of the race.

The only discernible voice during the build up is a monologue by the race commentator who sets the scene and describes events as they happen during the course of the race.

Unusually for a film with Hollywood involvement their is no love interest, but there is human interest in the relationship between Delaney who the previous year was involved in a fatal accident with a driver called Belgetti, and Belgettis widow (Elga Andersen) which culminates in the films best known quotation.

The film was shot using a mixture of 1970 race footage a host of original cars and drivers.

David Piper seen above at Goodwood in 2009 gets a credit that reads "And Special Appreciation to DAVID PIPER for his Sacrifice During the filming of this Picture" he lost half a leg filming one of the horrifically realistic
accidents in the film.

The essence of the film is a superbly captured Titanic 24 hour battle between the Ferrari and Gulf Porsche teams. The end of the film focuses on a tight finish which is not unusual at Le Mans all though racing is a non contact sport and some of the driving antics seen at the end of the film are more usually seen at the beginning of the race between novices to 24 hour racing.

There is no Holywood finish to the race for McQueens character Delaney though he does his bit for the Gulf Porsche team, which never won at Le Mans in real life despite dominating almost all sports car races from 1970 - 1971 everywhere else. The Porsche Salzburg team won the 1970 race depicted in the film and the following year. By 1972 the Porsche 917's were banned from racing at Le Mans.

At this time of year, between seasons, race fans love quoting using all or part of the 'A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it... it’s life. Anything that happens before or after... is just waiting.' which is Michael Delaney's response to Mrs Belgetti's question what is so important about racing ?

The quotation is originally attributable to Maurice Trintignant a French Formula One driver.

To sum up a must see film for race fans, if only to see the Le Mans track at its murderous best and to my mind the most exciting sports racing cars of all time, Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512, all captured with inventive camera work and superb editing. The best bit about the film is that the usual Holywood cliche's are by and large missing leaving us with an experience far closer to a documentary than say the Frankenheimers Grand Prix with its rather laboured with plot, excruciating love interest and painfully cliched dialogue.

Hope you enjoyed today's film revue, wishing everyone a relaxing Sunday and I hope you'll join me again tomorrow, don't forget to come back now !

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A day at Thompson CT - Austin Healey 100-Six

On the 20th of July 1958 Norris Crosby Chief Engineer at Orangeburg Plastics loaded up the trunk of his Austin Healey 100-Six and headed for the 'Old' Thompson Raceway in the North East corner of Connecticut, on the way he picked up Ed Arnaudin who took these wonderful photographs kindly provided by his son Steve for us to enjoy.

The Austin Healey 100 was designed as a private enterprise by Donald Healey to run on the historically disastrous Austin A90 Atlantic running gear including a 2660 cc /162 cui motor with a three speed gearbox fitted with overdrive on 2nd and 3rd gear the 100 name was chosen because the vehicle was capable of over 100 mph.

When Austin MD Leonard Lord saw the Healey Hundred prototype a deal was struck for the bodywork to be manufactured by Jenson and then shipped to Longbridge where assembly was completed alongside the Austin A90 Atlantic.

The #65 seen here is listed twice as being the 4 cylinder '100' model however the horizontal crinkled grill bars and air scoop tell us that this vehicle is actually a BN6 '100 - Six' manufactured between 1956 and 1959, fitted with a 117 hp 2639 cc / 161 cui in line 6 cylinder BMC C Series motor from the Austin Westminster and a four speed gearbox, overdrive if fitted was optional.

The car on the outside row of the grid from the #65 and the #114 are both earlier 4 cylinder '100' models with distinctive vertical radiator grill bars and no air scoops .

Norris blew his exhaust muffler during the race and came in 5th overall 3rd in Class D in Race 5 behind the race winning smaller Class E AC Bristol of E Hamburger.

(Note results corrected 03/04/11)

In this shot Norris leads F Twaits in his rare Fraser Nash 100/163 down the yet to be finished Thompson CT pit road.

Ed Arnaudin describes riding in the car with Norris on the way home on a dark, cold evening as being "loud as hell" thanks to the muffler blown during the race.

A lovely fuss free way to go racing no trailers just get in your race car pick up your buddy on the way, race and go home.

With thanks to Ed and Steve Arnaudin for taking and providing these photographs, additional material from Northeast American Sports Car Races 1950-1959 * by Terry O'Neil.

Hope you have enjoyed today's edition from the race in 1958, looking forward what tomorrow brings, don't forget to come back now !

* Please note :- I do not in anyway endorse, or have any commercial interest in the products or distributors highlighted in today's feature, I am merely passing information on as an enthusiast of all things motoring, I have no experience of handling these products nor have I used these vendors. I recommend anyone interested in these items or distributors do their own thorough investigation into suitability, reliability and particularly prices of both products and vendors before making any purchasing decisions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Masking Tape Special - Ferrari LWB 250 GT California Spyder #0919

For Ferrari Friday today we have Steve Arnaudin to thank for sending his Dad Ed Arnaudins pictures for me to share, the vehicle we are looking at today is a Ferrari LWB 250 GT California Spyder at Lime Rock, Terry O'Neil's book 'Northeast American Sports Car Races 1950 - 1959' * suggests these photographs might have been taken on the 9th May 1959 from a meeting held over form the 24th April 1959.

Allegedly when it started raining during the second race on the original date Connecticut Law Enforcement officers moved in to cancel the rest of the days activities !

This 250 GT California Spyder LWB was powered by a 240 hp 2,953 cc /180 cui Colombo designed V12 similar to that in the 250 GT Ellena featured last week. The car is capable of in excess of 140 mph.

The California was the brain child of US importers Jon von Neuman and Luigi Chinetti who wanted a competition car for their biggest market from which the car derives it's name, the interior is deliberately sparton with a 'small' heater the only concession to occupants comfort. Notice there is no seat harness.

The bodywork by Scarglietti on this car was made from steel there were two body types available one with closed in headlights seen here the other with regular headlights lights on the front of the wings, this is particularly important because Bob Grossman the driver seen here drove both sorts of body style and both were painted silver. Seven competition versions of the California Spyder were built with aluminium alloy bodies again in both body styles.

Note despite the absence of a seat harness the car is fitted with a roll bar behind the drivers head. It is not clear why Bob added several rolls of masking tape to the front of his car, it may have been a cheap way to protect his paintwork from chips, scratches nicks and bugs.

Originally finished in dark red this chassis #0919, one of just 45 examples, was built in 1958 and sold to Julio Batista Falla in Cuba before Bob Grossman turned up with it in silver and raced it within the USA, clocking up several wins and class victories in SCCA sanctioned events.

Bob more famously raced another silver 250 GT California in 1959, chassis #1451 one of the seven original competition spec vehicles featuring all aluminium bodies, but curiously without the headlight fairings.

#1451 was part of a three car attack on the 1959 Le Mans 24 hour race by the North American Racing Team, Bob and Fernand Tavano came in 5th overall and 3rd in class (not 1st in class as erroneously stated by an auction house recently). Bob also won the Nassau Memorial Trophy Race in #1451.

(Paragraph on subsequent history of #1451 removed 03/04/11)

My thanks again to Steve & Ed Arnaudin, hope you have enjoyed Ferrari Friday at Gettin' a lil psycho on tyres, looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings, don't forget to come back now !

* Please note :- I do not in anyway endorse, or have any commercial interest in the products or distributors highlighted in today's feature, I am merely passing information on as an enthusiast of all things motoring, I have no experience of handling these products nor have I used these vendors. I recommend anyone interested in these items or distributors do their own thorough investigation into suitability, reliability and particularly prices of both products and vendors before making any purchasing decisions.

26 11 10 Erratum Julio Batista's son has informed me that today's featured car was white when his father owned it in 1958, his Dad had never raced it, if he had he would have painted it yellow as he did with his TR # 0698. Apologies for any confusion.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Under US Influence - Morris Minor 4 dr

When the Morris Minor was launched in 1948 it featured headlights set either side of the radiator grill, making the car look rather like the scariest Sci Fi creatures known to man the 'Cybermen'.

In 1949 the Minor was introduced into the US market with the headlights set higher in the wings to meet US regulations giving us the Minor look that is familiar across much of the world today. All Morris Minors post 1951 featured the high mounted US spec lights that can be seen on this early Series II model from 1953.

The centre bonnet contours came about as a result of the car being widened by 4 inches between the prototype and production stages in 1948.

This early Series II model is powered by the same 30 hp Austin designed 803 cc / 49 cui motor as the late Series II Tourer featured yesterday. This engine all though a full 115 cc / 7 cui smaller than the original MM Series engine of 1948 - 1952 was 2.5 hp more powerful than its predecessor.

The extra power improved the Minors top speed performance from 58.7 mph to a full 63 mph, it could accelerate for the first time to 60 mph in just 52 seconds. These improved performance figures were traded against a 6 imperial mpg rise in fuel consumption from 42 mpg to 36 mpg.

One of the stranger things I remember as a child and vehicle passenger in the early sixties in Cyprus is wondering why vehicles ahead would often slow down for no apparent reason then veer into the centre of the road, this happened many times and most times just before the vehicle ahead came to a complete stop in the middle of the road a funny orange coloured pointy thing would seemingly randomly suddenly appear somewhere on the right hand side of the vehicle.

This vertical piece of chrome in the B post is the top of one of those pointy things more commonly known as a Trafficator fully developed by Max Ruhl and Ernst Neuman in 1927 with internal illumination and solenoid operation.

Hard to believe indicators as we know them today on the four corners of the car did not become a legal requirement on new vehicles until the mid sixties in some parts of Europe, the Morris Minor made the switch from Trafficators to corner indicators in 1961.

I mentioned yesterday how the Tourer had big rear lights from 1962, here you can just how small these units would have been on the Tourer when it was new.

I hope you have enjoyed todays edition of 'Getting a lil' psycho on tyres, I'd like to wish all of my American readers and particularly all those who have actively contributed so much fun to this blog a Happy Thanksgiving.

Don't for get to come back for a Ferrari Friday now !

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

One piece at a time - Morris Minor Tourer

Way back in my school days I remember listening to Johnny Cash's tale about taking a piece of Cadillac home from the factory in his lunch box every day and thinking 'if only ...' Looking at this beautiful black nugget of quintessential Englishness I began to wonder if someone had managed to pull off the feat of stealing this car one piece at at time from the Morris Factory at Cowley since the sum of the parts span the entire 3 series of production of the Minor Tourer from 1948 - 1969.

The split screen is from somewhere between '48 and '56
but the grill is post '54.

Not sure what's under the bonnet, at least an eye popping 30 hp 803 cc which comes in at 49cui.

The 'Morris Minor' badge is almost certainly Series II.

And when we look at the back we see those big tail lights match the side lights at the front, definitely post '62.

We know from the 8th series 'VG' licence plate on the boot this car was probably first registered in Norwich and it appears to have been replaced one piece at a time ever since then.

Hope today's edition was a breath of fresh air, thanks for popping by, looking forward to putting tomorrows edition of Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres together, don't forget to came back now !

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More bodywork with an ash frame - Morris Minor 1000 Traveller

The Morris Minor was conceived by Sir Alec Issigonis, best known as the father of the revolutionary 'Mini' and entered production in 1948.

There were 3 series of 'Moggie thou' this particular 67/68 model is one of the third series, distiguishable by a single piece windscreen and officially known as Minor 1000.

Powered by a 4 cylinder BMC A series 1098 cc / 67 cui motor the car could achieve 77 mph.

The two door Estate/Stationwagon version was introduced with the second series of the Minor in 1952.

Minor Travellers like the later Mini Traveller featured a varnished ash framework, the same timber as used internally by Morgan.

At the time production of Morris Minors was discontinued each vehicle was estimated to be losing the British Leyland Motor Corporation around £9.

One might be forgiven for thinking the door lock was an afterthought, but I can remember public awareness campaigns on television advising us to lock cars at all times in the late 1960's early 1970's long before the crime of 'joy riding' had been thought of.

I have driven a couple of Minors and they are very easy to handle at a sedate pace, they do not feel anywhere near as solid or purposeful as a VW Beetle, great for tootling around country lanes all day but not so comfortable on an Autobahn as the Beetle was.

Minors have featured on a number TV series the Traveller probably most famously on 'Heartbeat' a series about the Police in Yorkshire set in the 1960's. There is even a Corgi die cast available complete with Sergeant Oscar Blaketon figure.

For the serious Moggie Thou fan there is also a 1:12 scale model available complete with opening doors !

Thanks for popping by today's sedate edition of "Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres", hope you'll join me tomorrow for more, don't forget to come back now !

Please note :- I do not in anyway endorse, or have any commercial interest in the products or distributors highlighted in today's feature, I am merely passing the information on as an enthusiast of all things motoring, I have no experience of handling these products nor have I used these vendors. I recommend anyone interested in these items or distributors do their own thorough investigation into suitability, reliability and particularly prices of both products and vendors before making any purchasing decisions.