Category Archive 'Automobiles'
19 Mar 2018

1938 Phantom Corsair


1938 Phantom Corsair — The Phantom Corsair is a prototype automobile built in 1938. It is a six-passenger 2-door sedan that was designed by Rust Heinz of the H. J. Heinz family and Maurice Schwartz of the Bohman & Schwartz coachbuilding company in Pasadena, California.

Rust Heinz planned to put the Phantom Corsair, which cost approximately $24,000 to produce in 1938 (equivalent to about $370,000 in 2010), into limited production at an estimated selling price of $12,500. However, Heinz’s death in a car accident in July 1939 ended those plans, leaving the prototype Corsair as the only one ever built.

The Phantom Corsair now resides in the National Automobile Museum (also known as The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

The automobile was featured as the “Flying Wombat” in the David O. Selznick film The Young in Heart (1938), starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paulette Goddard, and Billie Burke.

The Corsair was also featured in a segment of the Popular Science film series in 1938.

The car is one of the rare vehicles that is unlockable during free roam in the 2002 video game Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

The Corsair is one of the 15 rare drivable vehicles featured in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.

11 Mar 2018

F*** Safety

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Henry Racette is not one of those swaddled, buckled-up-for-safety types, begging for the Government to take away his guns and drive his car for him.

There’s talk – silly, absurd talk – of banning the private ownership of cars. Molon labe, baby! You can have my Yukon, my three-ton id, when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And you can forget the self-driving nonsense, too: up here where I live, you can’t see the lines on the road four months out of the year on account of the blowing snow. Good luck dealing with that, Google.

Ayn Rand, in one of her two major works of fiction (I’m going to go with Atlas Shrugged, but someone correct me if I’m wrong – it’s been almost 40 years since I read it) has her heroine wax rhapsodic (as if there’s any other way to wax) about the act of smoking. Dagney (or possibly Dominique) marvels at the flame held in obeisance inches from her, the spark of destruction so casually lashed into service for the pleasure of mankind. Never having been a smoker, and coming of age as I did during the first great anti-smoking crusades of the ’70s, I admit that the imagery was less compelling for me than it might have been for someone of my parents’ generation. But Dagney’s ruminations have remained with me, an oddly vivid example of our peculiar attraction to dangerous things – and to mastering them.

I like guns. I didn’t always: when I was a child, I was indifferent to them. Then I became a man, a lover of liberty, and an enthusiastic critic of the insipid and emasculating idea that safety comes first. Lots of things are ultimately more important than safety. Being able to credibly say “thus far, and no farther” is one of them; merely reaffirming that we have the right, the moral right and the legal right, to say that is another.

Safety is important, don’t get me wrong. But of all the parameters that define the human experience, safety isn’t the one we should seek to maximize. John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the most comprehensively evil song ever written, is an ode to safety above all else, the pathetic celebration of the apathy-induced coma. I’m glad Lennon never became a US citizen.

Living as an adult male – as opposed to an androgynous, pajama-clad, cocoa-sipping man-child – means spending years, decades even, standing precariously close to the edge of doing something stupid. (The life of a young man is a race between the rising arc of sensibility and the statistical certainty that, if we’re only given enough time, we’ll have our “hold my beer” moment and, if we’re lucky, the ER visit that goes with it.) That sometimes leads to tragedy, but most often to maturity, and there’s no path from baby to man that doesn’t, at least occasionally, tread close to a dangerous edge.

The best things in life are dangerous: freedom, love, faith, women, sex. Children – those raw nerves we thrust out into the world. Cars. Guns. Saying what you think.


04 Feb 2018

Uma Is an Awful Driver

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Maureen Dowd serves up Uma Thurman’s #MeToo testimonial.

We learn from all this that Uma is a true New Yorker, unable to drive, and scared out of her wits at the prospect of managing Maxwell Smart’s joke sports car, the Kharmann Ghia! Watch Uma go all over the road before she crashes it.

Uma plays a superwoman assassin in “Kill Bill,” but, alas! we learn here that she’s a hypochondriac (“my permanently damaged neck and my screwed-up knees.”) and a whiner. (“As she sits by the fire on a second night when we talk until 3 a.m., tears begin to fall down her cheeks. She brushes them away.”)

Maureen Dowd clearly sat up and listened to Uma’s BS until 4 A.M. You know what that means don’t you?

05 Jan 2018


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Austro Daimler ADS R “Sascha” (1922)

Year of production: 1922
Engine: four-cylinder
Displacement: 1,089 cc
Power output: 45 HP (33 kW)
Top speed: 144 km/h (89 mph)

Porsche’s great tradition in the Targa Florio road race started with the “Sascha” for Austro-Daimler. The high-performance compact car, intended as the forerunner of a four-seater production model, scooped first and second places in its engine size category at the very first attempt in 1922. The manoeuvrability and efficient use of fuel by this light vehicle, which weighed only 598 kilograms, were the key to its success. The car named after the man who provided the project’s financial backing – the factory owner Alexander “Sascha”, Count Kolowrat – went on to record 43 competition wins. Ferdinand Porsche, too, was passionate about motor racing because it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate the fitness of his designs in extreme conditions. He pursued and established one particular principle with the “Sascha”: an excellent power-to-weight ratio as a key attribute of all Porsche sports cars. This means the ratio between the vehicle’s weight and its engine output in kilowatts.

01 Jan 2018

Big Brother Is Coming For Your Car

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In National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke notes that driverless cars are right around the corner, and any day now the busybodies, the improvers, reformers, and holier-than-thous are going to begun to demand that we all turn in our driver’s licenses and car keys and use only safer, robotic self-driving cars controlled by a grand central intelligence, designed and supervised by scientific experts. If they succeed in getting their way, Americans are going to be a lot less free.

[E]veryone will suffer from the catastrophic loss of privacy. Any network of self-driving cars would, by definition, necessitate total and unceasing tracking of their occupants. I may know how to get to the local liquor store without a map, but my car most certainly does not. To make it there in a driverless model, I’d first have to tell it where I was going, and then it would have to ask the Internet, and the satellites, and, probably, my credit card. To the existing framework we would thus be adding a planet-wrapping exoskeleton with a perfect digital memory. The car, far from serving as a liberator, would become a telescreen on wheels — an FBI-approved bug, to be slipped beneath the chassis in plain sight of the surveilled. At a stroke, my autonomy would be gone. Without permission from the Web, I would be lost in space. A mere server glitch could render me immobile. The government, should it so choose, could stop me dead in my tracks. Yet again, I would be handing over my self-reliance to the government and to the corporations, and asking, plaintively, “Please sir, may I move?”

I refuse. …

he coming debate over driving is not really about driving at all, but about movement, autonomy, and reliance upon one’s self. Which is to say that the root question is whether free people are to be permitted to move themselves around without needing somebody else to agree to the transaction, or whether the government may interpose itself. This, naturally, is a perennial inquiry, not a contingent one. It would have been as pertinent in 1790 if there had been an anti-horse movement, and it will be necessary when the car has been replaced with the jetpack, or the rotocopter, or whatever is coming our way. May I move myself, or may I not?


12 Jun 2017

“Most Frightening” Crash Jeremy Clarkson Has Ever Seen

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Yahoo News:

Former Top Gear host Richard Hammond has escaped serious injury after a crash in Switzerland.

Mr Hammond was attending a car race when his vehicle, a Rimac electric supercar believed to be worth £2 million, left the road and mounted a grassy verge.

“It was the biggest crash I’ve ever seen and the most frightening ,” Jeremy Clarkson tweeted on Saturday afternoon. “But incredibly, and thankfully, Richard seems to be mostly OK.”

The Grand Tour tweeted: “Richard Hammond was involved in a serious crash after completing the Hemburg Hill Climb in Switzerland in a Rimac Concept One, an electric super car built in Croatia, during filming for The Grand Tour Season 2 on Amazon Prime, but very fortunately suffered no serious injury.

30 May 2017

No More New Cars!

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My solution: a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. I’ve mounted a 1930s Alvis Hare mascot on the hood.

Eric Peters warns that buying your next car new could be a terrible mistake.

t’s a great time to buy a used car as far as the deal you’ll get.

It’s a smart move, because of the hassle you’ll avoid.

Maybe not right away but down the road — probably just after the warranty coverage expires.

What’s happened is we’ve crossed a kind of engineering Rubicon. It has happened over the past two or three years — and there is probably no turning back, not unless regulatory reasonableness returns — and that doesn’t look likely. If anything, it is likely to become less and less reasonable.

The car companies have had to resort to design and engineering measures just as desperate and extreme as the financial measures to which they are resorting to fluff up sales. But in the case of the design and engineering measures, it is to placate federal regulatory ayatollahs, who continue to demand, among other things, that new vehicles achieve ever-higher fuel economy — and lower “greenhouse emissions” — irrespective of the cost involved.

It is why, next year, BMW will append a four-cylinder/hybrid drivetrain to all 5 Series sedans — and eliminate the six-cylinder/non-hybrid versions.

It is why every new-design car has a direct injected (DXI or GDI) engine rather than a port fuel injected engine. Automatic Stop/Start systems are pretty much standard equipment, which you can’t cross off the options list.

The latest automatic transmissions have eight — or even ten — speeds. Turbochargers, sometimes two of them, are the new In Thing.

Bodies are being made from aluminum rather than steel.

And, of course, there is “autonomous” driving technology — cars that semi-steer and park themselves, accelerate and brake on their own.

None of these things materially improves the performance — or even the economy — of the vehicle in a way that’s meaningful to the owner.

A car with DI and an eight-speed transmission might give you a 3-4 MPG uptick on paper vs. the same basic vehicle without these technologies.

That’s not nothing, of course.

But it doesn’t cost nothing, either.

Not much is said about the fact that the car costs more to buy because it has these technologies. You “save on gas” — by spending more on the car. The same logic used to peddle hybrids.

It’s interesting that this other side of the equation is almost never discussed and that the ayatollahs who smite us with their regulatory fatwas — so seemingly concerned about how much we’re spending on gas — never seem much concerned about how much we’re spending to cover the cost of their fatwas.

Up front — and down the road.

These turbocharged, direct-injected, stop-starting cars — with their eight and nine and ten speed transmissions and aluminum bodies — deliver the goods (MPGs) when new. Enough so that the car companies achieve “compliance” with whatever the latest federal fatwas are, at any rate.

But what happens as they get old?

I’ve written before about what’s already happening. About relatively young cars — less than ten years old, sometimes — becoming economically unfixable (that is, not worth fixing) when, for instance, the uber-elaborate transmission fails.

You have an otherwise sound car: an engine that will probably run reliably for another 100,000 miles, an un-rusty body and paint that still looks great. The overall car’s not a junker — but the transmission is junk. So you have it towed to the shop, expecting to get the tranny (not Caitlyn) rebuilt. And the guy tells you they don’t do that anymore. Rebuild — or repair.

They replace.

You must buy a new (or “remanufactured”) transmission, because they’ve become too complicated and time-consuming to deal with on a work bench. You are faced with spending $5,000 on a replacement transmission for a car that’s worth $8,000.


Older cars made with economically sane five and six-speed transmissions remain economically repairable. But they do not make them new anymore. Not many, anyhow.

And not for much longer.

It is not just that, either.

Last week, I reviewed the last of the Mohicans — as far as full-size trucks. The 2017 Toyota Tundra. It is the only current-year, full-size truck you can still buy that does not have a direct-injected engine. This means it will never have a carbon-fouling problem — as Ford and others who have added DI to their engines, to squeeze out an MPG or three more, to please Uncle, have regularly been having.

Actually, it’s you — if you own one of these DI’d rigs — who will have the problem.

And be paying to un-crud your direct-injected engine, which may involve partial disassembly of the engine. This is not like changing the oil. Nor will it cost you $19.99, either.

Ford’s solution to the DI blues? It will be adding a separate port fuel injection circuit to its direct-injected engines next year. So, the vehicles will have two fuel injection systems. You’ve just double your odds of having a fuel system problem at some point.

The point here is it’s not just one thing; it is a synergistic multiplicity of things that are bringing into actuality the Planned Obsolescence people used to grumble about — but which was mostly not the case. Until just the past several years, most cars were usually economically repairable well into their senior years. It made sense to put, say, $2,000 for a rebuilt (four or five-speed) automatic into a car worth $8,000.

But with all the complex, fragile, non-serviceable, and hugely expensive-to-replace-when-it-fails stuff they are grafting onto cars to make them Uncle friendly, they become not worth fixing long before the cars themselves have reached their liver-spotted years.

The truth is that probably every car made since about 2015 is a Latter Day Throw-Away. It will run beautifully for about ten years. Just a bit longer than those $500/month payments we were making.


I reached the same conclusion after buying my last BMW. It came with no dipstick. (You get to rely on the computer, which is useless and wrong anytime your battery is low, the temperature is too cold, the wiring gets wet, &c., &c.) It also came with no spare tire. Instead, we got run-flat tires which set off flat-tire warnings all the time on dirt roads, which had terrible traction on wet roads, and which were good for 10K miles. I’m used to getting 50K miles on normal Michelins.

There is, each year, more and more expensive crap built into automobiles, and fewer and fewer choices left to the unlucky car owner. I never wanted seat belts to begin with, let alone air bags.

Personally, I intend to go even farther back into automotive history than the author advises. My next car is going to have no computer at all, but will have a distributor and carburetors, and be much easier to work on.

19 Jan 2017

British Sports Cars

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Old Joke:

Why do the British drink warm beer?

Because Lucas made the refrigerators.

12 Sep 2016

He Rarely Drives His 933



Jack Baruth, in Road and Track, describes the mixed joys and sorrows of owning a dramatically appreciating, while simultaneously aging and decaying, Porsche.

Thanks to the lovable bigotry of the PCA crowd and the lamentable cupidity of Porsche itself, my raggedy used Porsche is no longer quite so pathetic. It’s now worth maybe twice what I paid for it. Might be worth more than the original sticker. I should have bought a Turbo instead of a Carrera. I coulda had one for fifty grand in 2002. It would fetch three times that much now. I should have bought a second 993 instead of a 2004 Boxster S. Would have cost me half as much and it would be worth four times as much now.

Like Townes said, it don’t pay to think too much on things you leave behind. But the skyrocketing value of my 993 has changed the way I treat the car. My old plan was to drive it into the ground and buy another one. Now my plan is to preserve the vehicle for my son. He can sell it in eleven years and go to Yale, or go BASE-jumping in Bali. Maybe both. …

I could sell it now. Put the money into some sort of index fund for my kid. Buy him fifty Krugerrands in a sealed tube, a talisman against the famine times. Surely it will never be worth more than it is now. Yet I don’t think I could sell it at any price. I feel like Ahab, striking my chest and claiming that my old Porsche will fetch a great premium here! And my ribcage rings most vast, but hollow. It’s just a car. Just a thing.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

11 Aug 2016

Elvis’s 1958 BMW 507 Restored

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Elvis Presley’s 1958 BMW 507 Restored

Road & Track 2014:

Only 253 examples of the BMW 507 were ever made, and Elvis Presley owned two of them. The first, a white ’58 roadster, he famously gifted to his Fun in Acalpulco co-star Ursula Andress; the other, a ’58, has been in storage for over 40 years. Now, BMW Classic has obtained Elvis’s “lost” sports car and will give it a full restoration.

This Bimmer’s circuitous history begins in March 1958, when the US Army officially inducted its most famous Korean War draftee. While assigned to the Third Armored Division, Elvis met hillclimb ace Hans Stuck, who was racing a 1957 BMW 507 at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in southern France. Presley was smitten with the 150-hp droptop. After having its 3.2-liter V8 rebuilt and a new four-speed manual gearbox installed, he leased it that December.

The car was originally Feather White, but the King quickly tired of female fans scrawling their phone numbers in lipstick across its hood and fenders. To solve the problem, he had the car re-sprayed in Porsche Red.

When he completed his tour of duty in the spring of 1960, Elvis returned home without his BMW, but by way of a different owner, the car was brought to New York soon afterward. It was used for drag racing in Alabama (fitted with a blown Chevy V8, Borg-Warner four-speed, and beefy rear axle) before being sold several times, eventually winding up in the possession of BMW Classic.


Design Boom 2016:

In the spring of 2014 the automobile was shipped to Germany in a container, together with the spare parts. The first stop in Munich was the BMW Museum where the roadster was presented to an admiring audience in the special exhibition ‘Elvis’ BMW 507 – lost and found’. work then began on restoration in the workshop the classic divison. the vehicle was completely dismantled, a process which in this special case took an entire week, rather than the two days that had been originally planned. Initially, the aluminium body was separated from the floor assembly made of sheet steel. The paint was then removed from the floor assembly in an acid bath and from the body in an alkaline bath. The engine had already been removed and the remnants of the interior that remained had been set aside.

Many of the components had to be remanufactured from scratch because the stocks of original parts for the ‘507’ are so rare. Traditional craftsmanship in the style of the 1950s was melded with high-tech production procedures of the modern world. The instrument panel was newly cast on the basis of the original. The leather upholstery was created to precisely match the pattern shown in old photographs and catalogues. When the seats were reconstructed, it proved possible to use the original steel subframe for the seats after all the rust had carefully been removed. A rubberized coconut mat was then drawn over the steel springs. This natural material was already being used in the 1950s for series production of the ‘507’, alongside the overlaid felt and linen layers to make the seats as comfortable as possible. Window winders and door handles were remanufactured in an advanced, modern 3D printing process based on the original dimensions. After producing a digital data set by three- dimensional scan of the original part, a facsimile was generated with the help of additive manufacturing and mirror finished afterwards. By contrast, the rubber seal for the tank cover was reproduced in a conventional manufacturing procedure.

The engine for Elvis’ car was completely rebuilt from spare parts. The 3.2 litre v8 engine was reconditioned precisely in conformity with the original specifications of the ‘507’, but it was not given an engine number on account of the unavoidable but otherwise unusual use of old and new components. The front frame carrier, which had been cut down at an early stage, also had to be reproduced in its original geometry and integrated in the floor assembly. The wooden nailing strip for fixing the soft top in place was also reproduced using materials and processing methods in keeping with the 1950s.

Maximum authenticity was also the objective in painting the vehicle. The BMW is now resplendent once again in feather white. the primer coat, the filler and the top coat were not applied by the methods that are commonplace today. Rather, they were implemented in a procedure that corresponds to the technology in use some 60 years ago. This enabled the excessive colour brilliance to be avoided which is considered desirable nowadays but is inappropriate for classic cars.

03 Jul 2016

Golden Arrow

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Golden Arrow Land Speed Racer, 925 hp, 11 March 1929 set a record of 231.45 mph.










22 Feb 2016

Triumph TR2


Your typical Triumph sports car driver with his typical date.

Back in the early 1970s, I had a classic 1959 Triumph TR3A. It was a very cool car, and though I have owned faster and more sophisticated cars since, I’ve never owned any I enjoyed more.

Old Cars Weekly, this week, did a tribute to my old car’s immediate predecessor, the TR2, built from 1953 to 1955.

Sir John Black, who headed Triumph, decided he needed a sports car. He tried and failed to buy Morgan, so he created his own sports car and exhibited it at the 1952 London Motor Show. This car — known as the 20TS — generated interest, though it was gawky, underpowered and had a weak suspension. The next year’s TR2 roadster was different — it was a real sports car designed by Walter Belgrove with a sunken “small-mouth” grille, cut-down doors and a 2.0-liter, 90-hp version of the Vanguard engine that was good for 100 mph.

TR meant “Triumph” and the company’s advertising department promised “more performance per dollar than any other car in the world.” Triumph claimed 0-to-50-mph acceleration in 7.5 seconds. “You’re as young as you feel at the wheel of a T.R.2,” the early ads said. “The car that let’s you drive, and doesn’t drive you!”


The Triumph TR2 roadster carried an East Coast Port-of-Entry price of $2,448 and weighed just 1,960 lbs. Its 1991-cc pushrod engine featured three main bearings, solid valve lifters, an 8.5:1 compression ratio and twin S.U. carburetors. The Vanguard four-speed gearbox was linked to a 3.7:1 rear axle.

The TR2 could go from 0-to-60 mph in 11.9 to 13.7 seconds and flash through the standing-start quarter-mile in 19.6 seconds at 70 mph. Fitted with an optional overdrive and a belly pan (or “undershield” in British terminology); one Triumph hit 124.095 mph on the world-famous Jabbeke Highway in Belgium.

Read the whole thing.


14 Feb 2016

1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti Sets New Auction Record for a Racing Car

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1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti Spider


A 1957 Ferrari driven by the great British motor racers of the 1950s broke the record for the world’s most expensive racing car sold at auction after fetching just over €32 million ($35.7 — £24.7 million) on Friday.

Despite the stratospheric price at the Artcurial auction in Paris, the buyer cannot use the vehicle on the roads as it was designed purely for racing.

Only four Ferrari 335 S Spider Scagliettis were ever produced, and this one had been in the hands of a private French collector for more than 40 years – hence the feverish excitement at the Rétromobile classic car show in Paris, where the auction took place.



Chassis 0674 left Enzo Ferrari’s Maranello workshop in 1957 and in March of that year was entered in the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. It was driven by Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant in the endurance race and finished sixth. In May, Ferrari brought the car back to Italy and entered it in the 1,600 km Mille Miglia with Wolfgang von Trips at the wheel. It was one of four cars Ferrari entered in the race and it finished second behind Piero Taruffi and his Ferrari 315 S.

Following the 1957 Mille Miglia, which turned out to be the last-ever edition of the road race after 12 people were killed, the car was returned to the Maranello factory and upgraded to ‘335 S’ spec. This entailed boring out the 3.8-liter V12 to 4.1-liters, which boosted output from 360 horsepower to 400 and raised the top-speed to 186 mph (300 km/h).

Following the modifications the car was entered in the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans where it was raced by F1 champion Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso. It was unfortunately retired in the fifth hour due mechanical problems, but not before it took the lead ahead of the Maserati and Jaguars and set the first lap record at Le Sarthe with an average speed of over 200 km/h (203.015 km/h).

Following its Le Mans showing the car finished fourth in the Swedish Grand Prix, second in the Venezuela Grand Prix and helped Ferrari win the World Constructors’ Title. In 1958 it was piloted to victory in the Cuba Grand Prix by Masten Gregory and Stirling Moss and was also raced in various American races by Gaston Andrey and Lance Reventlow.

The car has sat in Bardinon’s collection since 1970.


10 Feb 2016

“An Early 911”



Andreas Trauttmansdorff made a 1:01 video tribute to the early version of the Porsche 911. Go here, click VIDEO, then click MOTOR SPORT, then select AN EARLY 911. (no embed available and the Vimeo connection doesn’t link).

We had a 1973 911T long, long ago. Those early 911s were fast and very cool, but they did oversteer. As Top Gear’s Richard Hammond once remarked:

In the ’70s and ’80s, the 911 was the Grim Reaper’s company car. Huge crowds would gather at roundabouts to watch fat stockbrokers climb trees in their Porsches.

Our ownership of that 911 came abruptly to an end due to that oversteer feature at a sharp curve in Katonah, N.Y. with Karen at the wheel. The 911 went right into a road sign and a grassy bank. Karen survived with only a black eye, which I assured everyone I had given her for demo-ing that Porsche.

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