Monday 24 October 2011

RM Auctions, London - the night before

Tonight on the way home I couldn't resist and had to go and take a look at the parking lot of the Enterprise in Battersea Park. Tomorrow RM will open the gates to this year's auction there and I will offer plenty of coverage for this blog. It was one of the most glorious parking lots I've ever seen. I've been waiting for the Ferrari Pinin Concept, the Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3, the Lamborghini Miura SV or the Alfa 1900c SS to show up but had to leave before they arrived. I still had my 45 minutes of silence and solitude with the Bizzarrini 5300 Gt Strada, the Ferrari 250GT LWB Berlinetta and the Lister "Knobbly". Can't wait for tomorrow and wednesday.
In the meantime just enjoy the pictures I quickly shot with my phone. 
Click HERE to access the full catalog of the auction.

Jensen Interceptor, Reborn and Future Regret

Looks like Browns Lane in Coventry is going to host again history of English motor culture or at least another attempt.

CPP, a British specialist automotive group, has been appointed by Jensen’s owners, Healey Sports Cars Switzerland Ltd, to engineer, develop and build the all new Interceptor. The car will apparently be a full aluminium body and will presented officially in late 2012. The first customers thou can't expect to park it in their driveway before 2014, any many things can change by then.
The first images are at least encouraging, the "forte" of the lines seems to be updated but preserved and seems to be more than the usual "lower the car and put 21" low profile rims on it", even if they actually put 21" rims on it. The legend of the Interceptor tell also stories of dreadful fuel consumption dictated by the scary 6.2 and 7.2 V8 and this is a detail that I see less and less appropriate in a world where hybrid racers are about to approach the 24h of Le Mans.
The intriguing aspect is that a brand new aluminium chassis is a perfect chance to solve the "barge like" handling of the original car, another legendary aspect of this British icon.

This isn't the first attempt to update the Jensen, the Interceptor R hit the market few years ago, but the asking price puts the car in a closed niche of enthusiasts with more money than sense, really. The old shell is completely stripped and rebuilt, engine, suspensions, brakes and transmission updated to what seems a corvette swap. The result is far from being a track day car or a performance GT and only love could make you ignore the much better cars available for a fraction of the price.

So while waiting for the end of 2012 to have a clearer idea of what will truly be on offer, the best way to go seems looking for a real deal and try to stay away from money pits projects.
A quick search brought me this example for sale in Cheshire. The sentence "body needs attention" sounds alarming but the price tag of "£4.000 or sensible offers" sounds reasonable enough to be worth a visit in person. It seems material for a Future Regret.
Sure is a far cry from the most desirable "FF" with its first time full 4WD ever seen on a production car, anti lock brakes and traction control. Only 320 of these were ever built and I haven't seen one of those for sale at reasonable price for years.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Michelotti Jaguar D-type

I was very nicely surprised to find a picture of Michelotti's D-type between D.C.'s pictures a couple of weeks ago (ref. to the older post HERE) because is one of the "unlucky" specials that never had the attention it deserved.
It all started with XKD 513, a Jaguar D-Type short nose sold to the French Equipe Los Amigos for the 1957 Le Mans. Painted in the patriotic French Blue Livery it was taken by the duo Lucas-Brousselet to third place overall, in a glorious year for Jaguar (scoring and unrepeated 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th). Recording the average of 110.17mph was enough to leave in the dust a fierce opposition of Maserati, Aston Martin and Ferrari.
The car was then equipped with a new 3litre engine to comply with 1958's regulation and registered its new entry for the French endurance with Jean-Marie Brousselet and Andre Guelfi. At 10PM, after many storms washed the track over and over, Brousselet lost control in the Dunlop bridge. The oncoming Bruce Kessler  on his NART Ferrari could not avoid the collision with the blue D-type already overturned.
Brousselet was dead.

The main section of the remaining car was put into storage until 1960, when Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti bought it and took it to Turin for a styling exercise. The new design sat on the undamaged original chassis and was completed in time for 1963 Geneva Motor Show where it won first place.

The car remained in Michelotti's hands until the end of the decade, when it was sold to Richard Carter and exported to the United States. Many sources state that the car was there used to raise money for an undisclosed Church, taken around on a trailer. In 1973 Andrew Gortway took this rare beauty out of that misery but didn't have good plans for it. He knew in fact what the original chassis was and asked Lynx Engineering to revert it to D-type specs. Thankfully the delicate Italian coachwork was not scrapped and it was equipped with the mechanics of a 4.2 E-Type (20 KOG).
It is not clear what happened to the car next, but it is likely to have remained in the U.K. with Bill Lake for another decade the least. This would be confirmed by D.C.'s picture, even if unfortunately he is not able to give any further detail about what he did on the car and when.
Michelotti's D-Type reappeared in France, where Roland Urban, the new owner, apparently managed to rejoin the car with some parts originally given to the Lynx replica. In 1999 the car was sold to Spain and it's not clear when it appeared for sale (and sold) on
Some sources report the car being now in Switzerland but what is confirmed is that Williams-Welding in Oxford reverted it to the original light metallic blue of when it was first exhibited at the Geneva car show back in 1963.
It is a very delicate dress for the D-Type chassis, gracefully balanced towards the rear axle in favour of  a long and clean bonnet. The dashboard is frankly not up to the standard but the tail is a very happy interpretation of the Grand Tourer of the early sixties. It's easy to spot in the rear arches hints for the future Triumph Fury and the consequent Spitfire, whether the front will be a starting point for the OSI 1200 S Sport. In the following image Giovanni Michelotti is holding a preliminary model for this very car, and the similarity is quite obvious.

on the edge of disaster

Ford Escort MKII
1976 circa

Monday 17 October 2011

D.C.'s workshop, English Motorsport Heritage

When my friend Simon asked me to get a day off work to go and see the state of his Frogeye Sprite's restoration I didn't have to think twice.
He took me to a dusty shed lost in the English countryside where we were welcomed by an amazing character cleaning his hands with a dirty cloth. In the yard I could already see beautiful spares left there to rot, few "sleeping" projects and a Giulia SS that has clearly been there to long. I lift the merciful plastic that covers it only to find the frame rusted way beyond repair. The car is basically collapsed in the middle. A real, sad shame. 

DC - "Oh, you saw the Alfa, huh? Nothing else can be done for that one, I'm afraid. The owner left it here about fifteen years ago. He did pay for the job to be started but then disappeared. I kept it inside for five or six years, but then I had to put it there. Beautiful car that was, I'll have to sell the few salvageable spares one of these days".

I knew that the visit to his workshop would have been worth a day off work but didn't expect such a start.
CCT - "I would like to take some pictures and write a feature for my blog, would you mind that?"
DC - "Take all the pictures you want, ask me all you want to know but please don't mention my name or say where I am. I've been trying to retire for the last 12 years and I keep on receiving projects. I had enough, mate. Really had enough."

He lets me into the office for a cup of tea and while he updates Simon on the latest about his Sprite I take a look around. It's exactly how I pictured it, maybe even better. He is now sitting at his huge desk with feet on the table, in front of him spare parts catalogs, bills, few dirty mugs and a tin of biscuits. On the walls a staggering amount of pictures collapsing in the frames or curled by the years. He clearly loves his job but it all also shows he had enough and he's been ready to "let go" for a number of years already. 
On the left a big panel collects 80 yellowed pictures. In that alone there could be material for a year of this blog. The beautiful D-type Michelotti sticks out. He remembers working on the car "about twenty years ago, nice car that was". Will tell the amazing story of this car in a separate post.

On the opposite wall a healthy number of XK's and E-types didn't distract me too much form finding the nose of a 512BB LM peeping in a picture.
DC - "I didn't do much on that car, the body was damaged on its way to England and I've been asked to fixed it. I reckon I did a very good job on that."
I wonder if the owner ever found out...

We then walk inside the workshop and a funny grin stuck to my face. It was just as expected. A dusty and chaotic mass of spares was framing projects of all sorts. A Jaguar Mark 2 guarded a Fiat X1/9 under a dusty plastic cover the same way an old pussycat would guard a wounded kitten, a 1939 Aston and a 1936 HRG  seemed ready to leave any minute now, the usual (and still sexy) group of MGs, chassis and engine of a pre war Cadillac than I can hardly figure on the road ever again.

D.C. has been very busy lately to put back on the road a Gwynne 180px, apparently a present of an extremely cool parent to his/her daughter. A very cute bath tube shaped design and a single door on one side. He just finished setting up the leather seats, hand stitched by an old friend of his, retired after a whole life in Aston Martin.

Finally, in a room of its own at the bottom of the workshop, Simon's Frogeye sits on a cart. As many other projects, he came in for a dent and ended up in a nut and bolt restoration that lasted over five years. It's not road worthy yet, but it sure looks amazing. Take a look for yourself.

It's really hard not to tell about other fascinating details of D.C.'s life, but a promise is a promise. If for any reason you think you need to contact him please enquire and I will ask for his consent.