I never thought I’d hear of a longer case of original ownership of a classic automobile, but Curmudgeonly & Skeptical reports on one which puts Alan Clark’s Jag 120 in the shade.
Mr. Allen Swift (Springfield , MA.) received this 1928 Rolls-Royce Picadilly P1 Roadster from his father, brand new – as a graduation gift in 1928. He drove it up until his death last year…..at the age of 102. He was the oldest living owner of a car [bought] new. ...
He donated it to a Springfield museum after his death. It has 170,000 miles on it, still runs like a Swiss watch, dead silent at any speed and is in perfect cosmetic condition. (82 years) That’s approximately 2000 miles per year.
Charles Lane was moved by a bad commuting experience to reflect on the insanity of governmental efforts to promote less efficient and impractical automotive technologies in the name of environmentalism.
Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address. ...
This subsidized market niche is just one well-publicized malfunction away from disaster. Perhaps a Volt battery will overheat and burst into flames, as some computer batteries have been known to do. Or maybe a Leaf driver will suffer frostbite while stuck in the next blizzard. Let’s just hope one of his neighbors pulls over to help him out.
Modern efforts by government to promote the use and adoption of inefficient and uneconomic technologies by cash subsidies in pursuit of newer, tidier means of doing things we can do perfectly well and much more cheaply already resemble the obsessive efforts of pre-modern European princes to create gold by funding alchemical experiments. Throwing money in the direction of superstition does not actually create new industries and technologies. It just wastes money.
UPI reports that another great European nanny state measure is on the way.
[S]tart-stop systems that turn off a car when it is idling and reignite the engine when the driver releases the brake will be coming to the United States and Canada in the next five years, The Detroit News reported.
The technology is widespread in Europe and will be embraced in North America as a tool to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy and emissions requirements, auto experts say.
“Engineers kill for one-tenth of a mile per gallon,” Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. said. “In city driving, it would make a huge impact.”
Estimates vary, but the consensus is shutting off the engine at a stop can improve fuel economy as much as 15 percent.
Consumer acceptance could be a challenge.
“It is a strange sensation because the engine suddenly turns off,” said analyst Stephanie Brinley of EMC Strategic Communications in Troy, Mich. “It is quick and seamless, but you can tell it happens.”
Half of the new cars in Europe will have start-stop technology in 2012, and North America will reach that figure in 2016, said Frank Frister, product manager with Bosch North America, one of the companies developing stop-start systems.
There you’ll be stopped at the light, and in front of you will be one of those holier-than-thous who has taken care to equip himself with the latest earth-saving technology.
The light changes, the complex electronic system stutters, and the democrat in the Prius fiddles with his ignition trying to get his engine restarted as seconds tick by and your blood pressure rises.
Next year, if you have somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 to spend on your next car, Mercedes will be importing to the United States the spiritual successor to the legendary 1950s 300SL. It will even have gull-wing doors, and just watch what it can do.
Base price: $143,800, Price, as tested: $172,905, ouch!
The Wall Street Journal recently began adding automobile reviews by Dan Neil to its weekend edition. Neil is not only a hard-core enthusiast, he writes like P.J. O’Rourke after six cups of Jamaica Blue Mountain sweetened with Cardhu.
Screaming into a top-down tornado at 130 mph in the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, I am reminded—as I’m sure most people are—of Thomas Aquinas.
To wit: When is a thing perfect, complete, finished—when does Porsche drop the paint brush and walk away from the canvas? When will one more stroke diminish the whole?
The medieval philosopher, riffing on Aristotle, argued that a thing is perfect when it lacks nothing (the Greek “teleos,” or completeness, approximates the Latin “perfectio”) and that it ultimately attains its purpose.
Well, man, if this car isn’t there I’ll eat my skullcap. Let’s count it out: 500 hp; 0-60 mph in a forebrain-flattening 3.3 seconds; top speed of 194 mph; a nice even 1 g of lateral grip; all-wheel drive. Throw in a great canvas top and 24 miles per gallon fuel efficiency, and an exhaust note that sounds like the Kraken gargling 50-year-old Glenfiddich, and it begins to appear as if the long history of the Porsche 911 has to come to some sort of immense, satisfying conclusion. I mean, even if you regard this thing as merely a bald-spot delivery system for rich dudes, it does that mission so exceeding well. Aren’t we flirting with the best of all possible sports cars here?
Yes, obviously, a car could always be better. The Turbo Cab could cost $19.95, come with 73 virgins, use the owner’s smugness as a propellent. From its lethal-looking dual exhaust pipes, the Turbo Cab might emit only rainbows and unicorns.
Comedian Penn Jillette neither understands nor appreciate cars generally. He especially cannot see the point of Hummers. But he is smart enough to recognize that the other fellow’s right to do things or own things we don’t see the point of is important.
Hummers are stupid and wasteful and if they go away because no one wants to buy one, that’ll be just a little sad. It’s always a little sad to lose some stupid. I love people doing stupid things that I’d never do—different stupid things than all the stupid things I do. It reminds me that although all over the world we humans have so much in common, so much love, and need, and desire, and compassion and loneliness, some of us still want to do things that the rest of us think are bug-nutty. Some of us want to drive a Hummer, some of us want to eat sheep’s heart, liver and lungs simmered in an animal’s stomach for three hours, some us want to play poker with professionals and some of us want a Broadway musical based on the music of ABBA. I love people doing things I can’t understand. It’s heartbreaking to me when people stop doing things that I can’t see any reason for them to be doing in the first place. I like people watching curling while eating pork rinds.
But if any part of the Hummer going belly-up are those government rules we’re putting in on miles per gallon, or us taking over of GM, then I’m not just sad, I’m also angry. Lack of freedom can be measured directly by lack of stupid. Freedom means freedom to be stupid. We never need freedom to do the smart thing. You don’t need any freedom to go with majority opinion. There was no freedom required to drive a Prius before the recall. We don’t need freedom to recycle, reuse and reduce. We don’t need freedom to listen to classic rock, classic classical, classic anything or Terry Gross. We exercise our freedom to its fullest when we are at our stupidest. ...
Our government declaring that we need alternative energy sources, and betting our money on who might get a smart idea, is not going to give smart people smart ideas. It’s really easy to see stupid all around us, but I don’t think we want to be too quick to stop it. We need to protect other people’s stupid to save freedom for all of us.
Yeah, Adrien Brody and Carrot Top wasted gallons of gas driving their stupid cars. I can feel smug about my Mini Cooper’s sexy 37/28/32 MPG measurements. But I don’t think we should be too quick to feel happy about the stupid Hummers going away. We’re all making bad choices all the time, and most of mine are way stupider than driving a Hummer. I love my freedom of stupid. I bumped into Adrien one time and had a great talk with him, we got along great. I know Carrot Top well enough to call him “Scott.” I know that they’re both a lot thinner than me. They’re both in a lot better shape. They eat better than me, and they can do a lot more push-ups and sit-ups. They can run farther and faster than me. So, in the near future, with us all being involved in each other’s health care, Adrien and Scott might make up for their wasted gas mileage paying for my high-blood-pressure meds. If we’re all getting together to stop the stupidity of driving a Hummer, will we have to stop the stupidity of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and pie? Freedom is freedom to be stupid.
Alan Clark, 1928-1999, eldest son of the art historian Kenneth, Lord Clark of Saltwood, had a significant political career, rising to the post of Minister of Trade under Margaret Thatcher. He was also a novelist and a historian, and his diaries are ranked high by admirers of that particularly English genre.
Clark was, in his private life, an automotive enthusiast and a life-long collector and seller of automobiles. Clark was once admonished by the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Commons for using the British Parliament’s parking to house some of his stock.
It is nice having private means. Alan Clark was able to purchase a Jaguar XK-120 from City Motors in Oxford in 1950, when he was an undergraduate; and he enjoyed boasting fifty years later of being probably the only person extant still possessing his own teeth and hair and the 120 Jaguar he had purchased new.
I was recently reading Backfire 2001, a posthumous collection of Clark’s automotive articles, and thought I ought to share a couple of gems.
The great thing about any engine made by Rolls-Royce is that unless you actually put a hole in the crankcase (quite difficult) they will always keep running—for a bit.
I well recall a fine summer afternoon at Saltwood when we had just induced the engine of a magnificent Phantom II tourer, bought very cheaply, to tick over after thirty years in storage. The great creature stood on the lawn, puffing gently, while dives cooed. Idyllic, really.
Then, one of my sons, idly scratching with a screwdriver at he flaking paint on the cylinder head below the header tank inlet, caused a jet of water to spurt out with great force. Water was distributed generously over the entire engine bay from huge fan blades, rotating at 450 rpm. The coil and distributor began to malfunction and the plug leads shorted. Yet thanks to a mouthful of chewing gim and a tiny squirt of aerosol matt black, the car was sold four days later.
Caveat emptor, old boy. About a year later I saw the car in a showroom, looking magnificent, and offered at exactly ten times what I had sold it for. I doubt the head had been changed and, anyway, would the new owner ever have noticed? Once ‘restoration’ passes a certain point people seldom drive the cars, except for that tiny distance—which chewing gum on a crack will usually cover—from the trailer to the judging line-up at a concours.
Do you also find, in July and August, the pedals get very hot? It’s heat transference, of course. But not a very good sign even if, like me, you enjoy driving in bare feet. Not long ago at some posh dinner I sat next to a very beautiful woman who inflicted on me one of the best motoring put downs I have ever suffered…
She told me how in her youth she had loved, best of anything at all, a Bentley 4 1/2 litre. Bought from Jack Bond for £130 during the Suez War forty years ago. It had been ‘cut’ and lowered [suspension-wise—JDZ], and would do the ton [100 mph—JDZ].
Patronizingly, I asked if she had ever mastered changing gear without the clutch…
‘Without the clutch? One summer was so hot that I drove the whole way from Falmouth to Anglesea (a beautiful route of 170 miles across the Welsh Marches) without touching the pedals, and kept my feet cool by hanging them over the side.’
Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen made some indiscreet comments in a recent interview with Lawrence Ulrich that the media has been tsk tsk’ing over.
(Nysschen) dismissed (the Chevrolet Volt) plug-in hybrid as “a car for idiots,” saying that few consumers will be willing to pay $40,000—the Volt’s estimated base price—for a car that competes against $25,000 sedans and conventional hybrids. Nor, he noted, is the Volt a luxury car whose green-technology costs will be excused because it also delivers prestige or performance.
“No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla,” he said. “So there are not enough idiots who will buy it.”
He did add that plug-in hybrids are good in concept and hold advantages over diesels in stop-and-go driving. But for the moment, de Nysschen noted, electric vehicles (EVs) are more about making a statement.
“They’re for the intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they are,” he said.
It sounds amazing. In Golden, Colorado, the owner of a 1985 Maserati Biturbo actually traded in his exotic Italian grand touring sedan, with an odometer reading of only 18,480 miles, for $3500 from Barack Obama as down payment on a new Subaru.
The Maserati is doomed. Its engine’s crankcase will be filled with sodium silicate in a government stimulus program resembling those of the Great Depression in which farmers were paid to shoot pigs or plow under wheat, then the whole car will be crushed into a cube of metal.
In this case, maybe Obama should just save a few quarts of good sodium silicate. That Maserati already wouldn’t run.
A man in Colorado was so frustrated with his car breaking down, he decided to capitalize on the “Cash For Clunkers” program. That’s nothing unusual — except his car was a rare Maserati.
The 1985 Maserati BiTurbo has 18,480 miles on the odometer and its interior is nearly new. Yet the owner said he couldn’t drive the car more than 10 minutes without having to call his mechanic.
The Maserati, like all “Cash for Clunker” trade-ins, will soon be crushed. The man said the engine frequently had problems and he’s been trying to the Maserati for months. By trading it in, the owner got $3,500 of government money, roughly the same as he was trying to sell the car for privately.
That Colorado owner’s experience was apparently pretty typical. The Maserati Biturbo made Time Magazine’s 50 Worst Cars of All Time:
“Biturbo” is, of course, Italian for “expensive junk.” At least, it is now, after Maserati tried to pass off this bitter heartbreak-on-wheels as a proper grand touring sedan. The Biturbo was the product of a desperate, under-funded company circling the drain of bankruptcy, and it shows. Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus. The collected service advisories would look like the Gutenberg Bible.
Your tax dollars at work. Nobody would buy this dog, but Barack Obama did, using your money to do it.
2008 Rocky Mountain Concours d’Elegance, Category:Prewar – Best in Class: 1920 Bugatti Type 13, Ron Hetherington, Centennial, Colorado
Noah Joseph at Autoblog reports on the recovery of a treasure from an Italian Lake 80 years later.
The Bugatti Type 13 – Ettore Bugatti’s first automobile to speak of – was a revolutionary design for its time and went on to claim innumerable race victories and put the fledgling company on the map until the outbreak of the First World War put everything on hold in Europe. When the war was over, Europe began the task of rebuilding itself and racing resumed. ...
In 1921, Bugatti redesigned the engine with one of the first four-valve heads in the industry and fielded a team at the Brescia Grand Prix, where it swept the competition by claiming first, second, third and fourth places. A public looking for something to celebrate was enamored, so Bugatti gave the Type 13 the Brescia nameplate and began selling customer versions.
Four years later, a Swiss dealer placed an order for three Bugatti Brescias, and while the first two were paid up in full, the third customer somehow failed to pay the applicable duties to import the car and it was subsequently abandoned in Lake Maggiore in northern Italy along the Swiss border. There it sank deeper and deeper for decades before being discovered by divers in the 1960’s.
Since then, the Brescia remained a sunken treasure until this past Sunday when a diving crew raised the long-lost Bugatti out of the lake. The car had been sitting on the lake bed for so long that once brought back onto dry land, one of the tires burst with a startling bang. The car will now undergo a full restoration and will be auctioned off to benefit the Damiano Tamagni Foundation, which works to prevent youth violence.