Category Archive 'Automobiles'
13 Feb 2020

First They Coming For Your Guns…

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Then they mean to take away your car, Jack Baruth predicts.

I’d be willing to bet that very few of you know who Richard Aborn is. He was the president of Handgun Control, Inc., in 1993 when the Brady Bill was passed. Prior to the bill’s passage, the NRA and others said that it would be the “camel’s nose under the tent” of firearms legislation. This is a reference to an old saying that you can’t just let the camel’s nose into a tent—you end up letting the whole camel in, whether you want to or not.

Anyway, when the Brady Bill was passed, Mr. Aborn grabbed a reporter and said, “[The bill’s detractors were] right all along in fearing the waiting period was a camel’s nose under the tent. Brady has now passed and it is time to reveal the rest of the camel!” At the time, I thought that was a little, ahem, bold of the man to say. Regardless of how you feel about gun control, you can probably agree with me that you shouldn’t spike the football before the referee puts his hands up. But Mr. Aborn no doubt figured he was on the right side of history in this matter.

Across the Atlantic, the legislators both elected and unelected believe themselves to be on the right side of history when it comes to the privately-owned internal-combustion vehicle—more specifically, when it comes to the demise of same. The UK just announced that it would ban the sale of gas or diesel cars by 2035, “or earlier, if possible.” When Neil Peart wrote Red Barchetta, that date was a robust 60 years away. Now it’s closer in our windshield than the introduction of the second-generation Toyota Prius is in our rearview mirror, so to speak.

This astounding regulatory decision, made by people who can’t gauge the UK’s relative impact on the climate vis-a-vis China—or maybe they just read 1984 as an instruction manual, not a warning—sickens me. There’s only one thing to be said in its defense: at least it’s kind of fair. Contrast it to the Europeans, who are doing something even nastier: their 2021 emissions standards require a fleet average of 58 mpg or thereabouts. You couldn’t do that with an all-Prius fleet. Heck, not even the Plymouth Horizon Miser could hit that mark.

What the EU expects the automakers to do is simple: continue making Ferraris, AMG Benzes, and whatnot for the super-rich while forcing everyone else into an electric vehicle. So while British showrooms will force the same misery on everyone, kind of like the way everyone in London had to hide in the same shelters during the Blitz, the Europeans will make sure that the most privileged among us get to keep doing what they want while the average man or woman in the street gets stuck with a glorified golf cart.

(If you like, and if it fits your political worldview, you’re also free to see this as a way to make the dirty plutocrats subsidize clean electric transportation for the proletariat through extra markup on their G-wagens or Range Rovers or whatever. There’s room for all views here, except perhaps for those held by the people who weld enormous scrap-sheet metal fenders on old 911s for no reason.)

The delight with which the politicians are rolling out these regulations would make Richard Aborn blush.

RTWT

01 Jan 2020

Just In Case You Win the Irish Sweepstakes

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Ferrari Monza SP1

Motortrend describes Ferrari’s latest: a one-seater and a two-seater with no windshield!

Barchetta means “boat [tail]” in Italian, but Ferrari is using the term to mean a vehicle without a traditional windscreen. Both versions of the Monza come with a Virtual Windscreen, a carbon-fiber hoop in front of the driver that diverts air up and over one’s head. You’ll probably want to wear a helmet anyhow, but luckily a custom fit one by Berluti comes with the car. You get a pretty nifty driving suit by Loro Piana, too.

Ferrari’s design team looked to the past—specifically the 166 MM and the 750 Monza—for inspiration. But they did not want to go retro. All they wanted to take from the old cars was purity of line, harmony of shape, and the “Symbiosis between driver and car.”

Are They Fast?

Uh, yeah! Under the long hood sits a modified version of the screaming 6.5-liter V-12 from the 812 Superfast. In the Monza it makes 809 horsepower, up by 30 from 789 hp. The gains are mostly achieved via variable-length intake ducts. Torque stays steady at 530 lb-ft. The chassis is in fact the aluminum undercarriage from the 812. The body, however, is mostly carbon-fiber pieces with bits of Kevlar tossed in here and there. Ferrari says it’s 15 percent lighter than aluminum panels.

Ferrari says 0-62 mph happens in 2.9 seconds and 0-124 mph comes in 7.9 seconds. Top speed is faster than 186 mph. Probably much faster.

Why Two Versions?

If you like driving around with your friend, you’re going to want to opt for the Monza SP2, as it has two seats. Happiest by yourself? Opt for the monoposto, the single-seater SP1, as there is literally no passenger seat. I’m not even sure the door opens (it probably does), but the space where the passenger seat would sit is encased by a tonneau cover. This is the one I would get. The SP1 is lighter than SP2 (Ferrari is claiming a “dry weight” of 3,306 pounds for the one-seater and 3,351 pounds for the duoposto. Also, “dry weight” is Italian for hahahahaha!!).

How Many Are They Building?

Great question. Less than 500 between the two models, and they will let customer demand determine the mix. If everyone listens to me, there will be no SP2s built save for the black one they showed. However, I’d imagine most customers are going to be a touch more mature and opt for the second seat. What a pity. Only time will tell.

How Much?

Ferrari won’t say officially until the Paris Motor Show, but I think $2 million a pop is a pretty safe bet. A bargain, too, when compared to a limited edition like, say, the F60 America, which went for $2.5 million and was essentially just an F12 with the roof hacked off. Though Ferrari did only build 10. But hey, back to the Monzas. You get a free leather-wrapped carbon-fiber helmet plus other clothing! Not the worst deal ever.

RTWT You want to see more photos.

I wouldn’t buy one. No standard transmission. I don’t care if a computer can do it better. I still want to shift for myself.

01 Jan 2020

1930s Design

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1937 Reo Speedwagon Fuel Tanker Truck.

09 Oct 2019

“Jeep in a Crate” — A Persistent Urban Legend

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Somebody posted the above photograph in the Vintage Firearms Discussion Group on Facebook (the link probably won’t work if you aren’t a member), and a lengthy argument ensued. I’m afraid the skeptics won.

WWII Jeep Parts debunks the legend:

“Cheap Army Surplus Jeeps! You can buy a brand new jeep in a crate for $50!” Ads with headlines like this ran for decades in the back of Boy’s Life, Popular Mechanics, and several other magazines I used to read as a kid in the 1960’s (and those ads probably ran in the 1940’s and 1950’s as well). The ads promised to tell you how to buy Willys MB and Ford GPW jeeps and other government surplus for extremely low prices. They charged a fee for sending you this information. You mailed in your payment and waited for the postman to deliver the pamphlet that would divulge the secrets of buying tools, equipment, jeeps, trucks, etc. etc. on the cheap for “your fun and profit”.

RTWT

09 Sep 2019

Remembering Françoise Sagan, 1935-2004, II

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Here she is, aged 19 or 20, wearing a leopardskin coat and at the wheel of her XK-140 Jaguar, dark circles under her eyes.

Frédéric Brun, in the French magazine Les Grands Ducs, wrote a very nice tribute to Sagan’s passion for automotive speed.

Bonjour Vitesse

Just as death is immobility, movement is life. That was the implicit motto of the turbulent Françoise Sagan who demonstrated, by making her life a fashion statement in spite of herself, that a life of speed is the best life.

Hers was an amusing life, in any event, that is certain. Contrary to what the dictionaries of literature still say, Françoise Sagan was not born in Cajarc under the name of Quoirez, but rather at the age of eighteen in the office of the publisher René Julliard. She stole out of Proust her pseudonym and purloined from a verse of Eluard the title of her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse.

Sagan wrote in an individual way, reminding the reader of La Fontaine, but she conjugated existence in the plural. Pleasures rather than pleasure, problems to drive away boredom, men and women instead of one man, ultimately living a life with which she took liberties with personal liberty as her pretext, incapable of counting the consequences of her actions. She lived as a wonderful and carefree butterfly,infatuated with intensity and speed. She proclaimed: “Anyone has never loved speed, has never loved life, has never loved anyone.”

Sports cars were a devouring passion for the literary youth of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in search of something new, greedy for sensation, thirsty for discovery. The automobile is freedom, Sagan remarked. She commented: “In fact the automobile, one’s automobile, will give its tamer and its slave the paradoxical sensation of being finally free.”

More than a pleasure, the automobile was after the war an intercession between man and divinity. As we can only access God through the Saints, we can only know speed by propelling ourselves from the interior of a sports car. In the landscape of a France slowly starting its march of progress, Sagan’s Jaguar XK140 was capable of more than 150 km / h (140 miles per hour, hence its name) was a sports car delivering unheard-of power and unprecedented sensations. To drive it was to belong to the aristocracy. At the wheel of a competition Gordini 24S, rougher than any luxury grand touring toy, she earned even the respect of gentlemen drivers and motorsport enthusiasts, and her signature driving stripes. Barefoot driving stories do not really fit the Sagan legend, and were just publicity. No one drives a heavy Jaguar XK barefoot on the hot aluminum pedals and sticky rubber. It was the journalist Paul Giannoli who unshod Sagan forever to spice up his article on the frail young bourgeois girl becoming a part of her virile machine.

As the oil lamp symbolizes the victory of knowledge over obscurantism, the speeding automobile embodies the triumph of technology over time. Milan Kundera observed: “Speed ​​is the form of ecstasy that the technical revolution has given to man.” A form of ecstasy manifest in the words of Fillipo Tomaso Marinetti (Le Figaro, February 20, 1909), author of the Manifesto of Futurism, who affirmed that “the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.”

Fascination with it begins when the person or the object embodies his time, as Roland Barthes demonstrated in his Mythologies (1957). Françoise Sagan and her taste for speed illustrate the point. She sets the tone, as Marie Dominique Lelièvre aptly remarked: “Sagan’s tastes are in tune with the collective imagination of her time. She both anticipates and accompanies its changes. She is its dynamic in person. With her royalties, Françoise bought a car: a sports car, symbolic of her energetic metabolism. Françoise spoke quickly, ate quickly, became successful quickly, and thought even faster. Her fast cars, her risk taking fanfared her fame. Inseparable from her legend, her car is the attribute of her glory, the materialization of her triumphs.”

Sagan lined up a series of fast cars in her garage throughout her life, from the first the Jaguar XK140, bought with the royalties from Bonjour Tristesse, to the long, marron glacé-colored Mercedes SL of her last few years. “Just touched-by-age enough to be elegant” was how Sagan herself described her famous Gordini 24S eight-cylinder, a racing car prototype that was victorious in the hands of Jean Behra at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1953. It also had belonged to a certain André Guelfi, also known in his own “milieu” as “Dédé la Sardine.” … Sagan purchased the car from the wizard Amedeo Gordini to help pay his bills. There was also the Aston Martin DB2/4 made famous in her accident, and the Ferrari 250 GT California of 1966, with its V12 capable of 280 km/h (173.9 mph) she bought herself to celebrate the success of her novel La Chamade. Her father, Pierre Quoirez, gave her the taste of beautiful mechanics. He was a friend of the engineer and automotive designer Jean-Albert Grégoire, an industrialist, and a knowledgeable amateur who competed himself in the 1926 Paris-Nice in a 2-litre Sizaire. Jacques Quoirez, Françoise’s brother, was not to be outdone either and possessed notably a rare Lamborghini Flying Star in the sixties.

To understand her craze for speed, it must be understood as a way to propel oneself out of oneself, to relieve a metaphysical need to surpass oneself, or to escape from one’s self using speed as a pain reliever. Sagan remarks on this in her fond memoir: “It also removes sorrow. One may be mad for love and in vain, but one is less so at 200 miles per hour. One consoles oneself for one’s earthly situation by physically overcoming the attraction of the earth. “The frenzy of speed is a manifestation of the spirit of revolt, a phase of conflict between inertia and movement. The inertia of habits, the human condition, and social conventions work in vain against speed. Hence our reaction and our tumult of excitement and impatience. …

[Some obscure and typically pretentious French references deliberately omitted.]

But it is necessary to control this energy offered by the mechanical power. Six months after the brutal death of James Dean, Françoise Sagan navigated between life and death at Corbeil hospital. It was an auto accident, again. Sagan thus became a product of her own legend. The newspapers saved their headlines, France held its breath. She was given Extreme Unction and kept anesthetized. In the end, she did survive, but remained handicapped.

Enzo Ferrari recounts in his memoir, “My Terrible Joys,” that he had arranged with the novelist to come to Maranello to take delivery of her Italian racing car. The accident occurred on April 13, 1957 at 2:15 pm in Milly-la-Forêt. Françoise Sagan was planning to have to lunch Jules Dassin and Melina Mercouri at the mill Coudray, which she had rented from Christian Dior to enjoy the quiet of the countryside and to write. Her guests were late and she went to meet them in her powerful and luxurious convertible Aston Martin DB2/4. Travelling with her, in a different car, were her friends: Voldemar Lestienne, Veronique Campion, Bernard Frank, and his brother, Jacques. Both cars raced with bravado. Sagan did not take the road into account and accelerated to high speed. At more than 175 km/h, on the small country road, skidding was inevitable. She braked, the wheels locked, her cabriolet skidded and turned over twice, trapping under under two tons of metal the frail young woman.

“We are trained by these little accidents,” Françoise Sagan wrote later in “With Fondest Regards” (1984). “One remembers the distraction, the absence, one remembers everything except the main thing which is the precise opposite, the sudden, unsuspected and irresistible encounter of body and spirit, the contact of a living being with the brief lightning flash of ​​its own existence.

“It’s a precise, exhilarating and almost serene pleasure to go too fast, past the safe limits of the car and of the road itself, past its handling capabilities, beyond one’s own reflexes perhaps. And let’s also say that it is not precisely a kind of wager with oneself that we are talking about, nor an imbecile challenge to one’s own talent, it’s not a competition with oneself, it’s is not a victory over a personal handicap, it is rather a sort of jaunty bet between chance and oneself.” Sagan concluded: “As soon as danger joins the game, speed adds to the happiness of living, just as the vague threat of death is attendant to the happiness of living. That’s all I think is true, finally: speed is neither a sign, nor a proof, nor a provocation, nor a challenge, but an impulse of happiness.”

06 Aug 2019

Like a Celibate Writing About Sex

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Nathan Heller

Leave it to the New Yorker to assign appraisal of some automotive-think books to a Jewish nerd who doesn’t know how to drive and who is afraid of cars.

Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?

For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.

According to Heller, the triumph of the internal combustion engine was just another expression of toxic masculinity. He looks forward approvingly, from his Blue perspective, to a future of self-driving cars. No more autonomy. No more individualism. What could be more Blue State? What could be better?

You kind of wonder if the New Yorker would have given John Ruskin space for a column on making love to a woman or assigned Helen Keller to review Impressionist paintings.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Brooklyn!

03 Aug 2019

Cisitalia MM

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1947 Cisitalia 202 MM Nuvolari Spider.

Wikipedia:

Since the 202 never made large scale production and all the cars were handmade, the small talented group at Cisitalia, including Carlo Abarth, Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi, made several variants of the 202. Of the more important versions, the SMM Nuvolari Spider was built and named after a class victory at the 1947 Mille Miglia by famed driver Tazio Nuvolari. It is easily identified by its large rear fins, twin windscreens and usual Italian red paint scheme.

In total, around 200 cars were made which made a large impact on the later marques, including Abarth’s later range of cars.

15 Jul 2019

At Goodwood Festival of Speed: 1927 Bugatti Type 35B

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A Type 35B won the 1929 race at Le Mans. Wikipedia.

29 May 2019

Why New Cars Cost Too Much and Suck

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1939 Lincoln Zephyr front end.

Jeffrey Tucker explains that, after Big Government got done ruining the gas can, it went after automobile design.

Your car looks like a box. So does every other car. It’s boring, even shocking when you consider how awesome cars used to look. What’s gone wrong? And to what extent has the design mess contributed to the decline of American auto manufacturing?

A recent letter to the Wall Street Journal comes close but misses the point. “Blame the Death of Design for U.S. Autos’ Decline” reads his headline. Speaking of Cadillacs and their declining sales, he writes: “The 1957 coupe looked like nothing else on wheels then, and it’s still stunning six decades later. The [new] XT6 and boxes of different sizes, identified with variations of letters and numbers, are the problem. A distinctive, prestigious and beautiful vehicle is the solution.”

This seems right. You drive around today and can barely distinguish one wheeled box from another. We look through websites at concept cars and wonder why they never seem to exist. And whatever happened to the Golden Age of design?

The problem with the letter is that it only scratches the surface. The real problem is more fundamental. Designers did not somehow lose imagination over the last 25 years. The designs of new cars are boring because regulations forced this result. …

[I]’s not a choice. No manufacturer can make a car like this anymore. Step back from the situation and think about it. In the 1930s, phones were awful, and you were lucky to have one at all. No one today would give up a smartphone for one of those old things. Same with shoes, computers, televisions, ovens, and so much more. No one wants to go back.
We Want Old!

With cars, it’s a different matter. Our sense of nostalgia is growing, not receding. But we don’t even have the choice to go back. There will be no more pretty cars made and sold in the United States. The government and its tens of thousands of micromanaging regulations on motor vehicles will not allow it. …

It hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a bit at a time, taking place over four decades in the name of safety and the environment. The whole thing began in 1966 with creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of others. Every regulator wanted a piece of the car.

Each new regulation seems like it makes sense in some way. Who doesn’t want to be safer and who doesn’t want to save gas?

But these mandates are imposed without any real sense of the cost and benefits, and they come about without a thought as to what they do to the design of a car. And once the regs appear on the books, they never go away. They are stickier than code on a patented piece of software.
The Rise of the Boxes

As the years marched on, the homogenization process rolled forward, with each generation of cars looking ever more like each other. You can even trace the problem by looking through the history of the Mazda Miata: this slick two-seater roaster eventually became a shrunken version of all the other cars on the road: swollen nose, rear, and beltline.

Try as they might, manufacturers have a terrible time distinguishing their cars from each other’s. Car homogenization has become something of an Internet meme. It turns out that all new cars more or less look alike. I had begun to notice this over the years and I thought I was just imagining things. But people playing with Photoshop have found that you can mix and match car grills and make a BMW look just like a Kia and a Hyundai look just like a Honda. It’s all one car.

Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.

And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyperregulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.”

You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations — really a massive central plan — dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.

RTWT

In Washington, there are very big buildings with tens of thousands of employees sitting around all day with nothing to do but write new regulations. And there are lobbyists for auto companies offering suggested regs, intentionally designed to build deep moats around their businesses and to nobble the competition. Then come the insurance company bean-counters, determined to reduce their companies’ liabilities at any cost to your convenience or choice. You may get killed by defective air bag, but the statistics show that overall they save insurance companies money. And, after them, come the crazies and crackpots determined to save the trees and polar bears by taking away the internal combustion engine, one nut or bolt at a time.

08 May 2019

Save Our Freedom to Drive!

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Prices will be going on on pre-emissions Beetles and people will be reprinting the old John Muir Fix-That-VW-Yourself Guide.

Our Corporate Overlords are rapidly developing driverless cars, and advanced thinkers are already talking about banning driving a car yourself altogether.

The New Yorker recently reported that a new group has been created specifically to defend the Freedom to Drive.

Safety has long been a central argument for the adoption of driverless cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ninety-four per cent of serious crashes are due to human error, and some thirty-five thousand Americans die in traffic-related accidents each year. Autonomous-vehicle makers claim that, by seeing more and responding faster than human drivers can, their cars will save thousands of lives. According to this logic, not adopting autonomous-vehicle technology would be irresponsible—even unethical. “People may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous,” Elon Musk said, at a technology conference, in 2015. (“To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be,” he elaborated later, on Twitter. “Hopefully, that is obvious. However, when self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter. Hopefully not.”)

Perhaps it was inevitable that a nascent right-to-drive movement would spring up in America, where—as fervent gun-rights advocates and anti-vaccinators have shown—we seem intent on preserving freedom of choice even if it kills us. “People outside the United States look at it with bewilderment,” Toby Walsh, an Australian artificial-intelligence researcher, told me. In his book “Machines That Think: The Future of Artificial Intelligence,” from 2018, Walsh predicts that, by 2050, autonomous vehicles will be so safe that we won’t be allowed to drive our own cars. Unlike Roy, he believes that we will neither notice nor care. In Walsh’s view, a constitutional amendment protecting the right to drive would be as misguided as the Second Amendment. “We will look back on this time in fifty years and think it was the Wild West,” he went on. “The only challenge is, how do we get to zero road deaths? We’re only going to get there by removing the human.”

[Meredith] Broussard [a former software developer who is now a professor of data journalism at New York University, and author of the recent book, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World”] has a term for the insistence that computers can do everything better than humans can: technochauvinism. “Most of the autonomous-vehicle manufacturers are technochauvinists,” she said. “The big spike in distracted-driving traffic accidents and fatalities in the past several years has been from people texting and driving. The argument that the cars themselves are the problem is not really looking at the correct issue. We would be substantially safer if we put cell-phone-jamming devices in cars. And we already have that technology.” Like Roy, she strongly disputes both the imminence and the safety of driverless technology. “There comes a point at which you have to divorce fantasy from reality, and the reality is that autonomous vehicles are two-ton killing machines. They do not work as well as advocates would have you believe.”

Rather than create a constitutional amendment, Broussard argues that drivers should resist laws that would take away their existing rights. Although steering wheels are legally mandatory, the SELF DRIVE Act, which passed the House in 2017, would allow autonomous-vehicle companies to request exemptions from tens of thousands of other regulations. (The Act died in the Senate, but driverless-car companies are urging Congress to take it up again this year.) According to Broussard, the best way to protect the right to drive may be simply to defeat laws that would legalize autonomous vehicles. “We can challenge the notion that autonomous vehicles are inevitable,” she said. “They are not even legal right now.”

RTWT

Those driverless cars will all be equipped with Internet connections telling the companies that built them and the government exactly where you are and allowing either to disable your vehicle at will. You will need Big Brother’s permission to go anywhere.

Automobiles are already far too loaded with safety features; stripped of conveniences like spare tires, dip sticks, and vent windows; and calculatingly contrived to deny their owners the ability to make repairs themselves.

Our freedom of choice has been incrementally removed year by year. Next they will taking away our Freedom to Drive altogether.

Join the HDA:

18 Mar 2019

Peugot 402 Darl’mat Coupe 1936

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Wikipedia:

Émile Darl’mat (1892–1970) was the creator and owner of a Peugeot distributor with a car body business established at the rue de l’Université in Paris in 1923. In the 1930s the firm gained prominence as a low volume manufacturer of Peugeot-based sports cars. Business was interrupted by the Second World War, but at least one prototype was kept hidden throughout the period and directly after the war Darl’mat returned to the construction of special bodied Peugeots, although in the impoverished condition of post-war France business never returned to the volumes achieved during the 1930s.

The best remembered of the Darl’mats is a sports car based on the Peugeot 302: the engine was taken from the 402. Several Peugeot-Darl’mat 402 “spécial sport” models raced at Le Mans with success in 1937 and 1938. The cars were built in very limited numbers and three models – a roadster, a coupe, and a drop-head coupe – were offered.

11 Dec 2018

Bring Back Motorcycle Fenders!

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“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.”

-– Enzo Ferrari

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