Category Archive 'Automobiles'
02 Jun 2023

Driving Frazier Nashes at Goodwood!


Personally, I think Frazier Nashes rank very high among the coolest British sports car marques of all time. Think of it: chain drives!


Take note, Buchananites. These guys have all got stickers on their vintage cars expressing support for Ukraine!

26 Mar 2023

When Cadillac Was Cadillac

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01 Mar 2023

El Milagro [The Miracle]

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Nice story from Facebook.

It’s the Untold story of how a Mexican mechanic saved Ferrari.

In 1950, the Pan American Race emerged. One of the most demanding endurance races in history that tested the best cars and the most experienced and daring drivers of the time.

Umberto Maglioli in his Ferrari 375 Plus was leading the fourth and final stage of the race. Shortly before finishing stage four, his car began to fail. His Ferrari 375 Plus had an oil leak through a hole in the carter*.

In the middle of nowhere and without a spare part for this vital part of the car, hopes of finishing the race were practically nil.

On the fifth leg of the race and when the car was practically about to stop working, Umberto Maglioli made a stop in the middle of the road when he saw a small workshop called “El Milagro”.

Maglioli was received by Renato Martinez who was the owner and sole mechanic of the workshop in the middle of nowhere. Renato Martinez confirmed to Maglioli that it was in fact an oil leak in the crankcase and that he had a “creative” solution to repair it in moments. At least to be able to finish their journey.

Renato Martinez caught a bucket and a big bar of soap. He also took three small bottles of Coca-Cola and gave them to Maglioli saying, “While you drink this Coke I will repair your car.”

An Unbeliever Maglioli could only sit, drink the coke and wait for a miracle. Meanwhile, Renato Martinez dismantled the Ferrari and using the bar of soap began to gradually rub the carter with it. By friction the soap melted and created a paste that sealed the leak hole. Soap “cuts” the oil and adheres to the metal in the crankcase and when solidified it became hard as a rock.

Amazed, Maglioli thanked Renato and pulled out of Ferrari a small Roliflex camera which he used to capture that miraculous moment. Workshop “El Milagro” and Renato next to the Ferrari 375 Plus under repair were immortalized.

Umberto Maglioli in his Ferrari 375 Plus, finished the fifth stage of the race in first place and changed Ferrari history forever.

While Ferrari was a well-known car in Europe, it wasn’t in America and the brand was far from being an economically viable business. Ferrari desperately needed to prove to America that their cars were superior, fast and reliable. Winning the race would bring them recognition and with its sales in the United States, which would help them save the brand from bankruptcy.

Some time later, Renato Martinez received by mail the printed photograph Maglioli had taken of that moment. The photograph was signed:

“To my friend Renato M. From Umberto Maglioli. ”

The photograph came along with a letter thanking Renato and said: “Renato, The Mexican Miracle that helped Ferrari.”

That letter was signed by a man named Enzo Ferrari.

* “carter,” Limey for the oil sump.

06 Jul 2022

If You Ever Owned a Sports Car…


When your gas gauge doesn’t work, you do this.

21 May 2022

New Automobile Auction Record: $142 Million Mercedes-Benz

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The legendary 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé.

The gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL is obviously one of the most strikingly handsome cars of all time and its performance was spectacular for the time.

They were very expensive when new and surviving examples are scarce. Consequently, one gull-wing sold for $4.2 million at auction.

I had not been aware that there nine SLR “racing” versions that came with a larger 300 liter version of the 8-cylinder engine that was winning Formula One races at the time. And, on top of which, two of the nine were “Uhlenhaut Coupé” prototypes, never offered for sale.

When one of the two was offered at auction, it was “sold” but on the condition that it remains in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The new owner only gets to borrow it now and then.


Mercedes-Benz AG just knocked Gruppo Ferrari SpA off the blue-chip car collector throne.

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé sold for €135 million ($142 million) in a secret auction in Germany on May 5, Mercedes-Benz Chairman Ola Källenius has confirmed. While higher-priced deals may have taken place privately, the sale by the car company crushed the previous public record of $48.4 million paid in 2018 for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO at an RM Sotheby’s auction.

“We [wanted], with one single act, to demonstrate the power of the Mercedes brand,” Källenius says during an interview on May 18 near Monte Carlo. The arrow-shaped silver coupe, one of only two produced, was never privately owned until the sale.

“That car is 100% worth what it sold for—and some people would tell you even that number was low,” says Stephen Serio, an automotive broker who sources rare cars for ultra high-net-worth clients. “Nobody ever thought Mercedes would sell it.”

Källenius declines to name the winner of the auction, which included roughly a dozen invited bidders at Mercedes’s museum and archive in Stuttgart, Germany. Multiple Swiss-Italian, English, and American longtime Mercedes-Benz collectors had been floated as possible buyers for what would be any collector’s Moby-Dick of a car. But he says he was very pleased with the result, a sum that put the brand “on a different planet” from competitor Ferrari.

The value of the SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé derives from its extraordinary rarity and its significance to the origin story of the Mercedes brand. A descendant of the so-called Silver Arrow cars that dominated car racing in the 1930s, the front-engined 300 SLR was closely based on the eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz W196 Formula One car driven by Argentine star Juan Manuel Fangio to win world championships in 1954 and 1955. But it had an even bigger, 3.0-liter engine and the moniker “SLR,” which came from the German term sport leicht rennen (sport light racing).

Of the nine 300 SLR cars manufactured, two were special SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé” prototypes named after Rudolf Uhlenhaut, Mercedes’s test department head. He drove one as a company car; Mercedes-Benz squirreled the second away in the company vault.

“The reason for a high price would simply be that they are never sold,” said Karl Ludvigsen, the author of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix W196 : Spectacular Silver Arrows, 1954-1955, in a Hagerty report about the vehicle. He characterized the auction as a “huge sensation.”

The car will remain on display with the second SLR coupe at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, Källenius says, which was a condition of the sale. The new owner will be able to drive it occasionally, a spokesperson confirms.


Ferrari must be seething with rage. it will be interesting to see what the boys in Modena put up for sale in response.

07 Mar 2021

A Silver Arrow

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24 Nov 2020

Leyat Hélica

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This showed up on Facebook this morning.

Wikipedia tells us:

Marcel Leyat was a French automobile manufacturer, born in Die, established by Marcel Leyat in 1919 in Paris. The automobiles were built on the Quai de Grenelle.

The first model was called Hélica, also known as ‘The plane without wings’. The passengers sat behind each other as in an aircraft. The vehicle was steered using the rear wheels and the car was not powered by an engine turning the wheels, but by a giant propeller powered by an 8 bhp (6.0 kW) Scorpion engine. The entire body of the vehicle was made of plywood, and weighed just 250 kg (550 lb), which made it dangerously fast.

In 1927, A Hélica reached the speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) at the Montlhéry circuit. Leyat continued to experiment with his Helica. He tried using propellers with two and four blades. Between 1919 and 1925, Leyat managed to sell 30 vehicles.


New Atlas:

Leyat was a biplane designer before World War 1 broke out, but turned his hand to automobile designs, feeling that the aviation world had a thing or two to teach car designers.

First off, he saw early car designs as far too heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, problems that the aviation world had been working hard to solve. Secondly, he felt that driven wheels were another power-sapping exercise in needless complexity, requiring transmissions and clutches and drive shafts and differentials and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

Aircraft, on the other hand, were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight from the get go, and a propeller could mount more or less directly to the engine’s crankshaft. So why not a wingless airplane for the road? These were early days for the automotive industry, and all sorts of different technologies were being thrown at the wall to see which would stick and which would slide.

Horsepower was a fairly scarce resource back in 1913 when Leyat built his first Helica, which used an 18-horsepower, 1,000cc Harley-Davidson v-twin engine in a lightweight plywood body that weighed just 550 lb (250 kg). His goal was to extract motion from that power in the most efficient way possible. In that respect, he did pretty well; a subsequent Helica recorded a top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) in 1927, a terrifying speed for the time.

In other respects, Leyat’s propeller car, and several other designs not dissimilar to it, were a roundly awful idea from the beginning, because, well, they had great big propellers on the front of them. While this example is wire mesh shielded, that doesn’t appear to have been a feature of the original designs, so errant pedestrians and wayward pigeons alike could end up getting fed through a several thousand-rpm blender, showering driver and passenger with an exuberance of gore.

What’s more, the spinning mass of the wooden prop could turn into a highly energetic constellation of airborne shrapnel in the event of a rear-ender. When it wasn’t exploding in an accident, it was making one more likely by obscuring the driver’s view and blowing wind directly into his face at high speed. And if that weren’t enough, Leyat had also taken an aircraft-inspired approach to the steering, eschewing the complexities of a steering rack for a very simple, cable-operated rear wheel steering system that threw the back end out sideways to turn the car.

The resulting vehicle looks, shall we say, rather exciting to drive, and thanks to the contemporary footage below assembled by Diagonal View, we can get an idea of how it handled. In even a slow-speed u-turn, the inside rear wheel lifts merrily off the ground, its front wheels wobble around like pin-fixed discs on a toy car, and the whole contraption does little to make us think propeller cars were ever the automobiles of the future.

21 Sep 2020

Lament for the Manual Transmission

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Alfa Romeo 1750 stick shift.

David L. Scott, in the Wall Street Journal, sees the grim approach of the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.

The manual transmission is already missing from most hypercars, and the rising generations of wussies does not know how to drive stick. The era of driving as fun and adventure is rapidly drawing to a close.

[T]he end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults don’t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they aren’t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know it’s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.

But there is more bad news. In the future, cars won’t only be automatics; it appears they’ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.

Despite impressive improvements in vehicle technology, my devotion for manually shifting gears, listening to the rumble of the exhaust, and maintaining a tight grip on the steering wheel through a sharp curve remains undiminished. Gripping the shifter knob allows a driver to become part of the vehicle rather than someone who is little more than a passenger. Manually accelerating through the gears and downshifting into a curve are two of motoring’s most satisfying experiences.

The sound, feel and thrill of driving are to be relished, not relegated to the trash heap and memories along with carburetors, fender skirts, steel wheels and hubcaps. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in a sports car with a manual transmission and you too will become a believer.


HT: William Laffer.

06 Sep 2020

A Car You’ll Never Own

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Jalopnik reports: Some unidentified gazillionaire ordered himself a special custom one-of-a-kind automobile from Aston Martin. It’s a V-12 with a manual transmission. Right on!

Features include:

Naturally aspirated 7.3-liter V12 from the One-77, tuned by Cosworth to a claimed 836 brake horsepower and 599 lb-ft of torque.

Six-speed manual transmission made by Graziano (The UK division of axle authority Dana) with a “bespoke motorsports clutch” that would probably cost more to replace than I’ve spent on car maintenance in my life so far.

380mm front, 360mm rear Brembo CMM-R carbon ceramic brakes.

Inboard springs and dampers from the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan.

Worked on by the team bringing the Valkyrie hypercar to life.
Finished in “Pentland Green” and satin carbon fiber with a Forest Green interior sewn by fancy leather outfit Conker Bridge of Weir which used cashmere on the headliner.

Also: The solid walnut(!) dashboard is Crown cut, whatever that means, and matches the wood shift knob.

Special bespoke clutch ?!

Cashmere headliner ?!

Pretty cool.


16 May 2020

Citroën 2CV Passing Ferraris


The Goodwood Collection offers the above video of a little old Citroën 2CV, its standard smaller-than-your-lawnmower’s engine replaced by a Suzuki GRX-1100R motorcycle engine, successfully passing Ferraris on the track.

A ride in a normal 2CV might send you to sleep, with its overheating engine, slow pace and rocking motion akin to a lazy sloop on the Mediterranean Sea. Not this one, however. This rather special deux chevaux is a track-worthy hot-lap machine, thanks to the Suzuki GSX-1100R powertrain hiding under the bonnet.

Join it at the Circuit Paul Ricard as it takes on the bigger boys – Porsches, Ferraris, Lotus and so on – during the ‘Dix mille tours de Peter Auto’ at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.

Despite having the aerodynamic qualities of a brick, the potent 2CV proves a lightweight weapon, passing a far, far more capable Ferrari 458 Italia twice on the French circuit before being overtaken again on the straights.

This has to be the most unlikely yet exciting hot lap we’ve seen for a while, and the perfect antidote to the enduring monotony of another day in lockdown. It’s also a perfect example of it’s not what you drive but how you drive it.

08 May 2020

Quentin Tarantino and Blue Karmann Ghias

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Quentin Tarantino makes prominent use of a blue Karmann Ghia in two movies.

My college best friend had a white Karmann Ghia that he called “Leopold.” Ghias were, I suppose, slightly cooler than the ordinary VW bug that most of us owned back when we were young, but most of us thought they were funny looking and, most importantly, no faster than any ordinary beetle.

I had been watching “Once Upon a time… in Hollywood” (2019) on cable, and I remembered that Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) had been driving the same bloody blue Karmann Ghia in Mexico on her way to the final showdown in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004). So, I asked myself: Why in hell does Quentin Tarantino think that Ghias are cool, and what is it with that blue color?

I decided to search the Internet, and I found the answer: his dad owned one and he fixated on blue Ghias as a child! My father had a copper-colored 1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air, but I only thought it was cool back then. I wouldn’t take a free one today.

The cars in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” come close to stealing the show. Given that the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt — both grizzled and a bit beaten up but all the more handsome for it — that’s saying a lot. …

there’s the blue, beaten-up 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, which belongs to Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Booth (Pitt).

Oh, that Karmann Ghia. It’s lovely. I read that to help it perform in the movie as Tarantino wanted it to, he had its VW engine replaced with a pumped-up Subaru engine. The result, strange to say, is exactly what Tarantino’s films are like: cult cars souped up with new engines.

They’re exercises, in other words, in having it both ways: nostalgic and up-with-the-times; viscerally violent and glibly cartoonish; knowing and innocent. Tarantino’s casting of the Karmann Ghia expresses this duality in more ways than one.

I should stress at this point that I am in no way a “car guy.” I own a Honda CRV, and I can never remember where they’ve hidden the lever that opens the hood. But I do love beautiful cars, and whenever I see a Karmann Ghia, whether in a film or in real life, my heart breaks into a canter.

Yes, Porsches are gorgeous. Citroens are cool. And the great Italian sports cars are obviously unsurpassable. But Karmann Ghias — an unlikely combination of German (Volkswagen) mechanicals and Italian design — are simply the most beautiful cars ever built.

I know, I know, beauty is subjective. (Although it’s not so hard to find agreement on the proposition that Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are good-looking.) But that’s precisely the point: A Karmann Ghia’s attractiveness is not absolute in any Platonic, archetypal way, like a Porsche or a Ferrari. Karmann Ghias are real. They’re invitations to fandom. They’re approachable. They’re affordable. And their shape is — to a degree that’s almost sublime — just right.

So yes, if I were Quentin Tarantino, setting my film in 1969, with his moviemaking budget, I, too, would be looking for just about any excuse to film a scene with a Karmann Ghia. I might even build my whole movie around it.

There was a moment when I thought that’s exactly what he had done. In one of the film’s indelible sequences, Pitt bids farewell to DiCaprio, hops into his Karmann Ghia, and drives home. Suddenly, it’s as if he were in a different movie, playing a bank robber with the cops in hot pursuit.

He’s not. They’re not. The whole sequence feels gloriously pointless, and — in classic Tarantino style — quite a few seconds longer than it needs to be. But the pointlessness is exactly what makes it so wonderful.

You could argue that the scene helps “develop” Booth’s character. You would dutifully point out that when acting as Dalton’s chauffeur, buddy and life coach, Booth drives his Coupe de Ville sedately, whereas when he is in his own car — the Karmann Ghia — he expresses his true calling as a stunt double: He appears to become a reckless lunatic, but he is actually very much in control. Both sides of his character get to shine in the film’s denouement.

But honestly, who cares about that? The real reason — the deeper reason — for the extended Karmann Ghia scene is the same as the reason Tarantino made homages to hard-boiled crime novels (“Pulp Fiction”) and to blaxploitation films (“Jackie Brown”); a revenge fantasy about Nazis (“Inglourious Basterds”); and a vampire Western (“From Dusk Till Dawn”). It’s the same as the reason he chose to cast the likes of John Travolta, Pam Grier and Christopher Walken in leading roles. It’s because he is a fan.

Tarantino’s main talent is and always has been the exuberant expression of fandom. He is a sort of hyperactive curator of personal pop obsessions. He’s just like you and me in this sense, only more so.

He tells stories, yes. But original plotting is not where his energies go. His real talent is to bring the irrational wildness of fandom to stories and subjects that in other hands feel exhausted, cliched, or just dated.

Tarantino’s fandom is so uninhibited, it’s infectious. Spotting the references to his various obsessions is part of what makes his films so fun. But he is generous on this score: If you get his allusions, great. If you don’t, he’ll make sure you have a good time anyway. …

Tarantino is happy for you to know that his father owned a blue Karmann Ghia. But the mental connection he would probably prefer you didn’t make when you see “Once Upon a Time” is between the Karmann Ghia and a trauma experienced 15 years ago by Uma Thurman — a trauma for which Tarantino last year publicly acknowledged responsibility.

In the final stages of shooting “Kill Bill: Volume 2,” Tarantino had asked Thurman, the film’s lead, to drive a blue Karmann Ghia down a sandy road at a speed with which she was uncomfortable. She had been told the car was not operating correctly after its manual transmission was changed to automatic. She asked Tarantino to get a stunt double to do it instead.

Tarantino insisted she drive, and the upshot was awful. The Karmann Ghia, with Thurman at the wheel, plowed into a tree. Thurman, who is convinced she could have been killed, has since described the incident as “negligent to the point of criminality.” She forgave Tarantino (he describes the incident as the biggest regret of his life). But Thurman maintained that the alleged attempt by Harvey Weinstein, Lawrence Bender, and E. Bennett Walsh to cover it up was “unforgivable.”


And, how do you like this? Quentin couldn’t actually put up with a true Ghia’s anemic power, and had the original VW engine replaced with a modern Subaru boxer engine that puts out at least four times the power of the stock German 1500 air cooled flat-four.

13 Apr 2020

“35 Most Beautiful Cars Ever Made”


Certainly not the most beautiful, but a Corvette I’d never seen. They only made 3600 of them that year. Very nice for a Corvette.

I hate clickbait format sites like this one. But I will admit this one is almost worth all the trouble and delays of wading through page after page, accidentally hitting an ad link ever now and then.

Obviously not all the most beautiful cars ever made. (How in hell did that Citroen get in there?) Far too short of pre-WWII cars, needs a lot more British cars and more of the very old Alfas. You could make Bugattis half the list. But, still, worth a look.

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