Every year at the New York International Auto Show, the Saratoga Automobile Museum sets up a display of some of the finest classic cars. This year, the theme was “Italian” – and while there was no Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale do drool over, the collection did not disappoint.
On a Friday evening with a thunderstorm slowly building in the distance, a gorgeous piece of automotive history changed hands off Park Avenue in upper Manhattan. The 1964 Cheetah, one of only eleven original design ever made, was auctioned off by its owner of 53 years who was only the second owner of the car. Built by Bill Thomas with Chevrolet to be their answer to the Shelby Cobra, Cheetah #4 was the first to be made of fiberglass after the aluminum prototypes. The unmodified, un-refinished car was raced extensively in its early years – and it’s got the pitted paint to prove it. Talking to the family, it’s amazing how many original parts it has. It was built with three fuel tanks for racing, but the two on the side were taken out (but kept), the injection holes visible in front of the side mirrors. Two original magnesium wheels – with original tires from the 60’s! – come with the car, though they aren’t on the car in the pictures. Even the headlights are original – in fact, the owner’s son-in-law said that this was the first time he had ever seen them in the car, re-installed for the sale.
Designed as a coupe for better aerodynamics, the Cobra Killer’s slim gullwing doors are lifted by hand for the driver to slide in. The driver’s legs are by the engine, and it can get a bit hot very quickly. Chevy influence is under the hood powered by a Chevrolet Corvette 327 Rochester in the front and a C2 Corvette rear differential. It was clocked at speeds up to 215 MPH. It hasn’t been driven than hard for years though; it has enjoyed a long retirement being displayed at classic car shows and driven moderately at vintage races. Either way, there’s no way to tell tow many miles have been put on the car as the original design did not include an odometer.
The Cheetah was much-loved by the family gathered in New York City, and the auction was bittersweet. While sad to see such a cherished member of the family go, they were also excited about selling the car and passing it on to the next owner to be enjoyed. Held outdoors in the courtyard between Guernsey’s auction house and the Russian Orthodox Church, there was no reserve – the car was going to be sold no matter what. Sam Goins, the seller, started the engine for the very last time before bidding started. Bidding began at $300,000, with several bidders present and on the phone. The bidding slowly went up, up… until the auctioneers on the phone both gave the cut-off signal. The final in-person bidder won the auction and the car for $625,000. After chatting so much with the family about the car, I even got a little lump in my throat when the bidding was over. The old and new owner shook hands and the Cheetah legacy was passed on to another enthusiast.
September 17th, 2016 dawned wet and the rain only seemed to increase as the day wore on. Yet many of the cars at the Brack Classic Hill Climb at Inglis Falls near Owen Sound, Ontario, still lined up ready to take the starter’s flag to commence their runs up the hill. Cars and motorcycles were scheduled to run Inglis Falls Road past houses with the residents waiting on their front lawns to see the action. They were watching for the cars to blast their way through the puddles in the road.
The Mclaren M8 E/F of Steve Gidman shod only with large slicks sat under a tent. Steve considered it unwise to run with standing water on the hill. Bill Brack left his Lotus 59/69 also equipped with slicks, in his trailer. The bikes, still on their trailers, left early realizing it was safer on 4 wheels than 2 on the hill in the wet.
The cars still lined up ready to take the starters flag to charge up the hill attacking the more than 1 km run. As the starter’s flag dropped the cars took off gingerly at first, more aggressively as the runs continued. Morgans in force, MGA’s, Jaguars, all getting a feel for the wet surface. Hay bales intermittently lined the road with a hay bale chicane at the end of the start straight. Several cars just blew through that chicane overestimating the braking ability of their cars in the rain. I think the rain slowed everyone down so that the chicane was not needed today.
The Brack Classic Hill Climb at Inglis Falls is in the style the Goodwood classic Hill Climb and is hopefully the first of many to come. It is coupled with the Cobble beach concours d’elegance and hosted by Bill Brack, 3 time Canadian car racing champion. There was a parade of vintage cars into Owen Sound on Friday September 16th and the weather was perfect.
We will look forward to seeing this event again and cross our fingers for better weather next year.
A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to spend some time with a special car that had just been restored by our friends at Legendary Motorcar, a 1966 Ford GT40 Mk1 road car.
Not just any GT40 (as if there were such a thing), chassis number P/1028 has a unique Canadian history. The first road car delivered to North America, P/1028 did a short stint as a test car in Michigan before being put into service as a PR vehicle. You know, the vehicles that are sent out to auto journalists to flog. It also found its way onto the pages of Mechanix Illustrated and Playboy.
The car was sent north, to the care of Comstock Racing Team Manager Paul Cooke, where it was to be used to build buzz for the team’s P/1037. Cooke, who was on hand when the freshly restored car was unveiled at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, says that P/1038 lived in his Toronto garage during that time. It was his job to ensure that the car was visible at events all over, so Cooke drove it to media events, restaurants and the like during the week. Come race weekends, Cooke and the GT40 would arrive at host tracks a few days early in order for the local press to have a go at the exotic machine.
Shelby specialist Peter Klutt, owner of Canadian restoration house Legendary Motorcar, says that he actually wasn’t aware of the P/1028’s Canadian connection when the car was acquired. It wasn’t until the restoration began that the early history became apparent.
Not only was P/1038 the first North American road car, but it was the only one to be fitted with a full host of creature comforts like air conditioning and leather trim, making it truly a one of a kind car.
When the time came to send the car back to Ford, Cooke requested first right of refusal should the car ever go up for sale. That time came later, when Cook says he was deeply involved with a team that was racing McLaren cars in the Can-Am series. The asking price was around $2,500 at the time, which Cooke felt was a bit too steep to justify the purchase, so he let it go.
Last night at the Mecum Auction in Monterey, P/1028 sold for a whopping $4.4 Million.
Talk about the one that got away!
Mecum Auctions lot description
GT40 no. P/1028
Built at the Ford Advanced Vehicles factory in Slough, Buckinghamshire, England, P/1028 was the first road car delivered to North America. When P/1028 landed at the Ford Division headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, it was briefly used as a test and evaluation car on Ford’s test track. Shortly after, it served as Ford North America’s official Promotional GT40.
In many ways, these early road cars were production racing coupes slightly converted for the street, but they still carried many of their competition features, including only driver-side seat support, two fuel pressure gauges, battery-mount brackets in passenger foot well, lighter fiberglass, etc. At the same time, they developed P/1028 to be as comfortable and luxurious as possible to show the U.S. market, and it is the only GT40 outfitted this way. Fully optioned and fitted with leather upholstery and trim, padded dash, air conditioning, centered rearview mirror, heated windscreen and luggage boxes. In addition, the build sheet noted “undersealed chassis” and a “High Performance” 289 with a single Holley 4-barrel carburetor and Sunbeam Tiger air cleaner and rated at a healthy 335 HP. Using the same ZF 5-speed gearbox as the race GT40s, the road cars employed special exhaust silencers, softer brake pads and shock absorbers that were 25-percent softer than the race units. Making these road cars much more suitable for the street, still, the road coupes were capable of astounding performance, very similar to the production racing coupes.
Before P/1028 left Ford to go on its promotional tour, a series of photos were taken at Ford’s styling studio dated 3/9/1966 showing just more than 1,000 miles on the odometer. The first stop on the promotional tour was to the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. It was paraded around the event all weekend and was parked in the pit lane prior to the race, for spectators to get a closer look. After Sebring, the GT40 traveled through the United States to dealerships, car shows and exhibits. In the July edition of “Playboy” magazine, P/1028 appeared in a four-page spread discussing the car. Its next magazine appearance was in “Mechanix Illustrated,” September 1966, where Tom McCahill tested the GT40 at Ford’s test track in Dearborn.
After six months of traveling around the United States, P/1028 was sent to Comstock Racing in Toronto, Canada to continue its promotional outings in Canada. Comstock Racing was Canada’s most successful racing team and had a great relationship with Ford and Shelby. On one occasion, Ken Miles was loaned to Comstock to race the group’s 289 Cobra at Mosport. P/1028 followed around Comstock’s Racing Coupe P/1037, and the rest of the Comstock racing team for the remainder of the 1966 season, traveling to tracks like St. Jovite, Mosport, Westwood, Watkins Glen and more. There is film of Eppie Wietzes driving P/1028 around St. Jovite during the Can-Am weekend, where it was used as the pace car.
After the 1966 season ended in Canada, P/1028 was shipped to Kar-Kraft, painted blue and was used as a Ford VIP car for Ford Executive Fran Hernandez. Sometime in 1967, P/1028 was finally sold to its first owner David Tallaksen a former 12 Hours of Sebring class winner. By 1969, the GT40 made its way to Monterey Historics founder Steve Earle and was featured in “Sports Car Graphic” magazine. After spending time with another California owner, P/1028 was purchased by the Schroeder family of Burbank in 1975. During their stewardship, the car was relatively frequently shared with the public. It was repainted in the famous Blue-and-Orange Gulf livery for a Gulf television ad in 1981 and was then displayed at the Justice Brothers Racing Car Museum in Duarte, California. It was exhibited at the 2003 Monterey Historic Races marking Ford’s Centennial.
After nearly 40 years of ownership, P/1028 was sold and a complete ground-up restoration was started. After completely disassembling the car, everyone was happy to find an extremely original car, the way an approximate 11,000 original mile car with an undersealed chassis should be. The original metallichrome silver paint was found under the Gulf, and dark blue layers of paint, almost all of the hard-to-find original pieces that came off the car for the Gulf commercial came with the car in boxes, and as Ronnie Spain states, “it is impossible to get a cleaner bill of health than this as far as originality of a GT40 chassis is concerned.” With the help of Ronnie Spain, Mark Allen, Jay Cushman and Graham Endeacott, Legendary Motorcar was able to finish P/1028 to an extremely high level of detail, sourcing as many original parts, pieces and material as possible. Today, P/1028 looks the exact same way it rolled down to the pits in Sebring 50 years ago. Between the historical significance, originality and quality of restoration, P/1028 is certainly one of the most important road-going GT40s in existence, and it is publicly for sale for the first time in its life.
The subject seldom is raised here, but when we’re not test driving new cars, what exactly do we here at The Garage actually drive? Well, for me, the latest addition is the 1981 Fiat 124 Spider seen above. Ok, you might be thinking that’s a slightly unusual choice, how did I come to arrive at this decision? Have I yearned for one for years? Did I spend months researching and shopping until I found the right one? No, of course not. This is a journey that started 25 years ago.
Yes readers, that is me at age 18 with my 1986 Alfa Romeo Spyder. Ah, to be young and own a car like that! I loved that car, and I have many memories I still cherish today. Then one cruel winter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania while I was in college we were hit with a terrible blizzard. When I was finally able to get to my car, I started her up, and within a couple minutes the parking lot was filled with smoke. It had gotten so cold the engine block cracked, and that was the end of my time with my beloved Alfa Romeo.
A few years had passed. I graduated, got a job, bought a house, got married. I had some extra money, and I wanted to buy a classic sports car. My first thought was a Fiat X1/9. Designed by Bertone, the X1/9 was a wedge-shaped, mid engine, targa topped sports car, and it was affordable. When I was a kid, my cousin had one, and I thought it was one cool ride. My wife shot that idea down, and we ended up getting an MG Midget. Still a fun car, but my appetite for an Italian sports car had not been quenched.
Time continued marching on. After a few years, the MG was sold to make room for another dream car of mine, a Porsche 911 (still have it!). We had a child, and sadly, a divorce. After the dust had settled, I had a realization. There’s no one to tell me I can’t buy a car if I want it! (This is either very good or potentially very bad, depending how you look at it).
I was looking for inexpensive transportation, but it had to be something interesting and a little quirky. Did I want another Saab? Something luxurious like a Volvo S80? Could I find an Audi Coupe GT? Another Alfa Romeo? On the other side of town at a shop that mostly works on Saabs and Volvos sat this little Fiat. I had stopped to look at it awhile ago just to eyeball it.
After Christmas, I decided I owed myself a nice present, so I returned to have another look, drove her, and bought her on the spot. Yes, I finally got my wish of once again owning a little Italian sports car, but I tend to get emotional about certain cars, and I couldn’t stand the thought of this pretty car languishing on a lot somewhere. She needed to be rescued, and after seeing her sit, it became clear that person was going to be me.
So, what’s s the story of the Fiat 124 Spider? Introduced at the 1966 Turin Auto Show, the Spider followed the recipe of most affordable sports cars of its day-take the chassis and running gear of your low cost volume car (in this case the Fiat 124 sedan) and bolt on an attractive body and off you go. MG and Triumph had been doing this for years, and while they looked dainty and oh so British, well, Fiat did it their way, because, well, they’re Italian. Famed design house Pininfarina was hired to not only design the car’s gorgeous lines, but also to build the car as well. If the 124 Spider looks like a miniature Ferrari 275 GTS, well, the resemblance is intentional. However, this car was more than just a pretty face. With four wheel disc brakes, a five-speed manual and an aluminum twin cam engine designed by ex-Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi. Nothing exotic about that today, but in 1966, that was exceptional. The British roadsters the Fiat would compete against packed all the innovation of a farm tractor in comparison.
The 124 Spider would go on to live a long, successful run. Fiat even took the Spider rallying, and was pretty successful at it. Like its competition though, once it came out, the car more or less ran the course of its life unchanged. The only noticeable changes were to keep up with tightening US safety and emission regulations. We all know how this story ends. Fed up with rust issues and temperamental electronics, American buyers revolted, and Fiat threw up their arms and left in 1982. But, since Pininfarina was building the car, they took over sales, support and marketing in America until 1985. Why did they stop? Well, they needed to retool the factory for the next car they were contracted to build called the Cadillac Allante.
After such a long production run with few changes, there are still two camps of what the ‘preferred’ Spider is. One prefers the earlier cars, with no smog equipment and thin, elegant bumpers. Few will argue the post-1975 cars, with its larger bumpers and increased ride height was an improvement, the other camp will contest the ’81-’82 cars offer the best drivability thanks to Bosch electronic fuel injection.
Which brings me back to my ’81 Spider. Yes, she’s a little rough around the edges. Yes, there is rust (in 1979, Fiat switched to cheaper Soviet steel which did not help). The all original interior is pretty tired. The fuel pump quit days after I bought her, and after being replaced, was sent back to the shop due to a bad ground in the fuel tank. And even with a new wiper motor, it continues to be a struggle to have cooperating windshield wipers. The ergonomics are a complete joke, and at night the headlights have all the luminescence of your grandmother’s 40 year old Radio Shack flashlight.
But that’s life with a 35 year old Italian sports car. And last week, Connecticut’s weather finally decided to embrace spring. Down went the top in one fell swoop. The Spider is actually a roomy, comfortable car to ride in as long as you’re ok with the classic Italian arms out, knees up driving position. The 5-speed is a joy to shift. The revvy twin cam happily pulls right up to redline, and oh, only the Italians can make an engine sound that good. Cruising the back roads in an old Fiat Spider is good enough to forgive a multitude of sins.
It was that moment, with a grin that could not be wiped off my face, that I fully appreciated my twenty two year drought without an Italian sports car was over. It is an experience that is difficult to summarize; it must be experienced to be appreciated. This journey is just beginning, and the work that needs to be done to bring her back to glory will go slowly, but for now, my intent is to simply enjoy her, which was the Spider’s original purpose since 1966.
Celebrating its 20th year, the 2015 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance once again set up circles of gorgeous cars and motorcycles in the Connecticut town’s Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Held over two days – American cars on Saturday and International cars on Sunday – the family-friendly drew crowds keen on looking over the now-classic BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and so many other marques. The Grand Marshal for 2015 was none other than James Glickenhaus, familiar to car people and Concours attendees as a frequent exhibitor of cars from his collection and as the owner of the singular Pininfarina-designed P4/5.
This year, severe thunderstorms threatened the Sunday show, and the parade of cars was moved up an hour in a bid to beat the rain. The rain won the race however and a downpour caused delays, but the majority of the stalwart New Englanders stuck it out and stayed for the eventual passing of the storm.
With a little bit of everything, over the two days the featured automobiles range from the year 1896 to present-day super cars. One wonderful aspect of the Greenwich Concours is the collection of curious and quirky cars that participate annually. There is always at least one Eastern Bloc automobile entered; previous years have included a Russian Volga, Lada, and even an East German Trabant. This year’s Cold War entry was just as fascinating – a 1985 Zil 41045. Part of the Kremlin fleet this plush, armored, and oh-so-80’s stretch limo was decked out with fancy carpeting, leather seats, sirens, and a car phone. Behold the Car of The Party. (h/t to Serge A. for that phrase.)
Several other cars of note include the 1964 Nissan Cedric, and – yes, this splendid Datsun 280Z is certainly Concours-worthy.
Ever hear of a Puma? It’s a Brazilian car, this one a 90 hp GTS Spider from 1980.
Every car on the lawn in Greenwich has a story, and Steve McQueen’s custom 450 hp 4×4 Dune Buggy “Baja Boot” led the parade of cars.
The People’s Choice Award was won by the 1954 MG TF Roadster owned by Keith & Brenda Murphy, and Best In Show was won by Andrew Benenson’s 1951 Cisitalia 202C Cabriolet.
After spending a year in rehab following a devastating car accident, Jessi Lang takes the bull by the horns so to speak with her first automotive assignment. As part of Motor Trend’s lead up to the Monterey Historics, Lang had the opportunity to take a couple of hot laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a full on ’69 Camaro Z/28 from the glory days of the Trans Am series. Sadly, a couple was all she got in, as the beast clocked in at 113 db, which is above the sound limits at the track.
Even though my Dad raced an AMX and not a Camaro, I am oh so jealous!
Source: Motor Trend via Youtube
There was a time when a classic car auction catalog was just that, a book. Maybe in colour, maybe just ink on newsprint. Thankfully, the internet has changed that and auction houses can now create actual content which engages viewers. Not only does this content enlighten prospective buyers, but it allows the auction house to truly showcase what makes a car special.
Some, like the car in the video below are just so much more special than others.
Canadian auction giant RM Auctions will be selling this classic Ferrari, once owned by the king of cool, Steve McQueen, on Saturday at Monterey. It is expected to fetch somewhere between eight to twelve million bucks.
The short film includes commentary by some of the guys who cared for the car during its time with the actor, and offers a bit of a glimpse into the man himself.
Source RM Auctions via Youtube
Fifty years ago today, a guy they used to call The Floridian, set off down the 1/4 mile strip at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey. When he tripped the finish lights, Don Garlits became the first man to hit 200 MPH in the quarter. Fifty years ago! 201.34 MPH in Swamp Rat VI.
That record was not without controversy however, as Chris “The Greek” Karamesines, reportedly topped out at 204.54 in Illinois on April 4, 1960.
Garlits was and remains no stranger to breaking records, having been the first to break 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270. Now, at 84 years young, Garlits is working to be the first to break 200 in an electric dragster.
The latest episode of driver/car feature videos from VARAC focuses on my good friend Emily Atkins and her brother Andrew as they share stories about how they got involved in racing. The partners in Big Brother Little Sister Racing also talk about their machines, a wicked Mustang and a classic Porsche 911.
The highlight for me is the recreation of the classic 911 racing pose, with one front wheel in the air as Emily attacks Mosport’s iconic turn 5.