Saturday, December 01, 2007

Landcrab Lurking

Austin 1800
Originally uploaded by retromotoring
Spotted not far from me at all, this Austin 1800 is slowly returning back to nature. It's in a field absolutely chock-full of interesting old cars that are all rotting away, when I can I'll be back for more pics!

Monday, November 26, 2007


“It’ll go to nine thousand”, he says, as the needle on the rev counter rises. The car squats down and the push from the back get stronger as the engine clears its throat and breathes deeply. The noise gets louder, the pitch rises. The needle on the rev counter sweeps round, past six, seven, then eight, and keeps going… As nine approaches it feels as though it’ll just keep on revving upward forever, but mercy is granted as third is slotted through the chunky rose-jointed gear linkage and the revs drop, for it to all happen again. It’s completely addictive and if it were mine I’d be reaching for that nine every chance I could.

Hillman Imp

But sadly it’s not mine. This Hillman Imp belongs to Paul Harrison, and he’s planning on taking it hill climbing next year. It’s full of stripped-out competitive intent and it’s a great road weapon too.

Hillman Imp

That screaming power is provided by a 930cc motor, built by Paul himself using a Talbot Sunbeam B1 block, R21 full-race camshaft, Stage 6 big valve cylinder head, Cosworth lightweight steel tappets, double valve springs, ARP big end bolts, tuftrided crank, lightened and balanced conrods - everything you need for a really hot Imp motor. It’s kept cool by a Metro GTi 16v radiator and fan up front. To make sure it stops as well as it goes Paul has fitted Ford Fiesta front disc brakes with adjustable bias via a dash-mounted knob.

Hillman Imp

It was built from a clean, rust free and very straight ’66 shell. No welding was needed at all and any body restoration/repair required was minimal. The bonnet and bootlid have been replaced with fibreglass ones and the bumpers removed to help the power-to-weight ratio. The two tone paintwork is period-classic and looks superb, the blue being BL Pageant Blue from the 70s, and those gorgeous 6x13” Superlite wheels suit the car perfectly. The interior is race-car spartan - a painted metal roof, no carpets, no soundproofing and ally sheeting for door panels. There’s a full and substantial roll cage in there but that’s pretty much it apart from the bucket race seats and harnesses which keep you firmly located, and the minimal dashboard dominated by that rev counter with the magic nine on it.

Hillman Imp

The ride is surprisingly supple for a road racer, I kept bracing myself for the shock every time we went over speed humps or holes in the road but the car seemed to swallow them with ease. The Monte Carlo springs and Spax dampers might be a touch soft for competition reckons Paul, but they’re a great compromise for road use.

Hillman Imp

So what’s next? Fully mapped ignition and fuelling is in the pipeline, using throttle bodies and a Megasquirt ECU. That should smooth out the power delivery and make it a whole lot more tractable around town. One thing is for sure, this Imp is a little gem and it’ll be a joy to watch it screaming up hills in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New in the store: Chrysler

Some new Chrysler related magnets went in the store this evening. They are:

The Rapier Fastback:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Imp:

The Hunter:

And the Sceptre:

There are other related items in store too, have a look to see what's there right now!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"The most exciting piece of British styling since the war"

Wow. Quite a bold claim for a new car eh? But according to the brochure, that's exactly what The Daily Express newspaper said about this:

The Austin Princess 2. Exciting, apparently.

Yes. The Austin Princess. And here's the proof:


Now, see, whilst I am sure I can reel a list off of british motors that are better looking and all that, they may have had a point about it being "exciting". Back on March 26th 1975 when the original Princess was launched there wasn't really anything quite like it in the same market sector. Look at the shape, ignoring all the usual "it's BL so it must be bad" prejudices. It's crisp, clean and wedgey. There's minimal fussiness - no chrome at all on the grille (I'll ignore the badge-engineered Wolseley and other variants) and that rising waistline gives a really dynamic feel.

Harris Mann got it right. If it had been launched as an Alfa, it'd have been much more widely applauded. Give it two doors, a lower stance and some more aggressive touches and it's better balanced than the GTV6, for example.

Shame about the engines though eh? Wonder if a V6 out of an 800 would fit in there...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spotted: Bricklin SV-1

If you were going to set up building sports cars, what do you reckon your priorities would be? Sleek, swoopy styling? For sure. Big power and neck-snapping acceleration? Definitely.

But what about safety? Well, sure, it's important obviously, but if you want a safe car you'll buy a Volvo, right? And Volvo haven't made any swoopy, quick sports cars. The 480 and P1800ES do NOT count.

Malcolm Bricklin saw this gap in the sports car market in 1974 when he launched the Bricklin SV-1 (SV standing for "Safety Vehicle"). He set up as the importer of Subarus into the USA, and when he sold his share the money was put into his sports car project. It was manufactured in Canada and wasn't a great success, build quality problems and supply difficulties causing trouble for the fledgling company, and when sales ceased in 1976 just 2800 or so had been built.

I've never seen one, I barely know anything about them. But whilst visiting family last week in Pennsylvania, USA, imagine my surprise when I saw my first one, just parked up:


It looked fabulous from a distance, but get close up and the gullwing doors have an atrocious fit, shutlines are massive and uneven, and there's a distinct kit-car air to the whole vehicle.

Still cool though. Interestingly, Malcolm Bricklin was born in Philadelphia, not far at all from where I spotted his creation. If I'd known that at the time, I'd have waited around to see who the owner was, I'll never know who it could have been...

Plug: RNJ Motorsport

A deserving mention here for RNJ Motorsport. Rob of RNJ specialises in aircooled Volkswagen performance tuning, vehicle restoration and rebuilds. He also deals with just about every other retro marque and model too. You can visit his web page here.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Rob competes in the Aldon Hillclimb championship with his 1303 Beetle, and his engine preparation skills have been put to good use in the VW Samba of Abigail Tether, currently running low 17-second quarter miles in the VW Drag Racing Club Championship.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Wörthersee 2007 - Ich war dabei!

Wow! What an incredible week we had in Austria. Just over 20 hours there, solid driving (apart from letting the train do the work for the trip through the Channel Tunnel) in a VW Multivan down to Pörtschach across the lake from Reifnitz, then a whole week of enjoying thousands upon thousands of the coolest watercooled VWs and Audis on the planet. Absolute heaven! We had a few days of rain, nothing to stop the fun, and a good amount of scorching hot sun at just the right time.

I've got over 1200 of our photos online: Click to see the gallery!

Unlike previous visits, there wasn't one single car that stood above all the rest for me, the standard was so incredibly high that it was all a bit much to take in! Some favourites though:



I loved the colour, very distinctive, and the pinstriping was superb. Looked perfect on those big wheels too.

Lots of originality there, the TT is such a fantastic shape anyway, but the satin paint and wheel choice works amazingly well. Not many people would think about whitewalls on a modern coupe!


Mmmm. Big Ron's Mk1 Golf VR6 on throttle bodies. Utterly magnificent.

Old-skool Audi cool!

Even Volkswagen themselves got in on the act with an absolute show-stopper, the Golf W12 650, shown to the world for the first time on their stand at the event. It's all over the internet at the moment, so you'll probably know about it already, but it looked sensational in the metal. Such a shame there aren't any plans for production!



Who will be the first to take that as inspiration to build a W12 Mk1 Golf, I wonder?

It's an event that you'll never forget, we're all booked for 2008, can't wait!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Big Bang 2007

More pics from Santa Pod! This time it's the Big Bang VW extravaganza...

Click for the full gallery...




Sunday, April 15, 2007

Oulton Park: Old Photos

I love Oulton Park, even though I haven't been for ages. It's my local circuit, and it's a great place to spend a summers day. I've got a big box full of old photos from the late 1980s and early 1990s that I'm slowly scanning in, they'll go into this set here. Hope you like them! If you have any information about any of the cars, please let me know!

Chevron B8

March 721


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Easter Thunderball 2007 Pics

Click to see the full set...

Four days of some mighty fine drag racing, lots of laughs and fantastic weather. Absolutely perfect!



Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Secret lives of Suburbia

So here's a brochure for the Austin Maxi, one of the definitive cars of 1970s suburban Britain:

Inside, apart from all the expected pictures of gear knobs and steering wheels, are a number of "lifestyle" shots, designed to show you (the unimaginative punter) what a successful and desirable family lifestyle you could lead if only you owned one of these Issigonis master-hatches.

Here's Mrs Maxi, with the kids:

And here's one of the mini-Maxis, with their pet pooch:

I am assuming it's Mr Maxi taking the photographs, as he is nowhere to be seen throughout.

Hang on a minute, as we turn toward the back of the brochure, who's this?

That's not Mrs Maxi! She's dressed in a much more provocative manner than 'er indoors. And why is the seat folded back like that?

The final picture:

Definitely the work of Mr Maxi, there's his camera and his car magazine. But what's the other magazine?

And there it is, slap-bang in the middle of a staid British brochure for a staid British suburban family hatchback. A copy of "Club International" magazine, adult reading for the "discerning" connoisseur.

The press department at British Leyland were obviously keen to show that there was a lot more to the Maxi than there may appear at first sight...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Retro-rides Show 2007

The Retro Rides Show '07 will be taking place at Mallory Park Circuit in Leicestershire on th 11th and 12th of August 2007, with camping available on 10th.

From stock to modified, show car to race car, the full range of retro machinery will be at the show. It is all about cars, cars and more cars.

Features of the show include :

A large section of the circuit will be used as a sprint track for RWYB action and display cars

Large show and shine and club display area

A targetted trade area

Guest and demo cars

Model display and Radio controlled car areas

Evenings entertainment will include :

Guest speakers and a large bar with motorsports DVDs played throughout.

This is the ultimate petrolheads weekend, so do you want to be a part of it?

Visit the site here : http://www.retro-rides-show.com/
Sign up to the news letter to get discount ticket offers and more information on the event as its released.

Come here to see the latest news and discuss meet ups, show cruises and get a feel for the event :

We look forward to seeing you drive through the gate and welcoming you to the Retro Rides Show.

RR07 Team.

Banded Wheels 101 and Metro Madness

There's a great thread on Retro-rides all about the process of banding your own wheels. Click to read.

I want some!

Yes, that's a beige Austin Metro. Read all about Slater's turbocharged monster Metro project here!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Ultimate Mk1 Golf? I think so!

There are many people in the retro-car world that not only have a single, defining vision of an amazing auto-creation but also have the motivation and skills to build it too. Leaf through old CCC Magazines, Hot Car, Retro Cars or PPCs, and you'll find page after page of bizarre hybrid creations. V8 Fiat Pandas, Jag V12 engined Capris, all manner of weird and wonderful. Some are truly inspired, many are utterly awful.

Franco Sbarro, however, takes this to a whole different plane. He's been building some of the maddest, most eccentric and remarkably original cars in Switzerland since 1971. Many of them have been destined for oil-sheiks and wealthy eccentrics, some are one-off concepts to demonstrate some radical new thinking, or simply create a stir.

My favourite of all is the Sbarro Golf Turbo. I first saw it in a book when I was maybe 13 years old and it utterly captivated me, and it still stands today as an incredible creation.

Click the image below for a large-size readable copy of an article taken from CAR magazine in 1980.

How cool is that? 3.3 litres of aircooled flat-6 Porsche power, all wrapped in a very subtle Mk1 Golf bodyshell. And of course, that hinged floor - a trick he used again in later creations.

If I win the lottery, I'm getting on an aeroplane and heading straight to his front door, where I shall remain until he promises to build me a replica. Not an exact replica though, those 911s produce a heck of a lot more power and torque these days...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Vauxhall Black Prince

I found this old advert in a 1972 copy of Autocar Magazine, and was intrigued:

dw_black_prince (by retromotoring)

So I posted it up on Retro-Rides, and AlistairK came up with plenty of information about it:

The Black Prince was built for Vauxhall by Gordon Keeble sports cars on a new FD Venotra body in 1971 as a proof of concept. It used a 327 Chevy corvette engine (near enough 5.3 litres) 4 barrel carb high comp etc as used in the Corvette really. This was backed with a ZF 5 speed gearbox, the same type as fitted to certain Aston Martins apparently. A different final drive and limited slip diff was used, although in the stock Ventora case. A bunch of special features were added, including a Sony 4 band radio which was removable from the dash and usable as a portable radio, aux dials, Lucas Square 8 fog lights, a matt black bonnet, dash mounted ice detector, map lights and some other goodies. The Vauxhall "Griffin" badges were replaced with Gordon Keeble's tortoise logo.

Rumour has it that they also built one with an automatic trans. This comes from a contemporary road test which claims that Gordon Keeble had an auto one under constrution at the time the magazine tested the manual one. However no other reliable source claims a second car was built. I knew a guy at Vauxhall who worked there at the time claimed the second car was called The Black Princess.

I doubt Vauxhall ever intended these cars for production as why do a trial V8 car in a model which by then was already scheduled to be dropped in favour of the FE range launched in February 1972?

Vauxhall did do a V8 FE (6 or 8 were built) these were badged up as Viscounts and were killed off by the fuel crisis. They used a 4.4 Holden supplied V8 and that's the reason Big Bertha was built, originally it was intended to race that to promote the FE Viscount...

As for the Black Prince FD. It was broken up in about 1989 by a guy who wanted to use the running gear in a Cobra kit car.

Shame. He'd had it running on the road before and I spoke to the guy's nephew who remembers it doing big ol' wheelspins up the road with smoke coming off both back tyres the length of the street. I think he was the guy who bought it off the advert I assume is in this thread (pics not working for me) or maybe it was his dad who'd bought it - I forget.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A rare sight

Bertone / Fiat Strada (Ritmo) Cabriolet Press Photo (by retromotoring)

A Fiat Strada Cabrio so close to water! It's a first generation prototype one too, the production car was built from '83 to '85 and was based on the facelifted second-gen model.

Visit my shop!

Click for my eBay shop!

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's A Mystery

Have a look at these pictures, scanned from a 1970s UK Fiat brochure for the 124 Saloon, Estate, Special and Special T models.

The 124 was a European Car Of The Year award winner, spawned beautiful coupe and gorgeous spyder derivatives, and lived on in four different countries after its death (as the Zsiguli/Lada in Russia, Premier 118E in India, SEAT 124 in Spain, and the Murat 124 in Bulgaria).

But what really intrigued me about those photos when I first saw the brochure was the number plate on each of the cars.

U - Reg?

If you're outside of the UK, or not familiar with our plate system, that probably doesn't mean anything. Between 1963 and 1983 we used the letter at the end to denote the year of the car (from August to July, the letter changing on August 1st from 1967 onward). So, a plate ending in "G" denoted a car sold between August 1968 and July 1969, for example.

However, some of the letters weren't used for various reasons. "Q" plates are used where the age of the vehicle cannot be determined and "O" wasn't used because it's easily confused with zero, for example. Similarly, "U" plates were never issued either.

So why are those cars driving around on "U" plates? They appear to be UK specification cars, and they are definitely driving around the streets of London. I initially wondered if it was some kind of error by whoever made the plates. The cars may have been photographed in the July, say, (when the cars should have been on "T" plates perhaps) but the brochure published after the changeover so the following year letters used to keep the photos contemporary, but the plate maker not knowing that it should have been "V" not "U". Illegal, but understandable.

The thing is though, the Fiat 124 was sold in the UK between 1966 and 1974, meaning that the last ones sold would have worn either "M" or "N" plates, considerably earlier than the 1978-1980 "T" to "V" plates.

Weird, eh? Maybe it's just me that notices and wonders about these things.

I sent a few e-mails to the FIAT UK press office about the mystery of the "U" plates, but unsurprisingly nobody seemed to either know or care much about the photos in a brochure published thirty years ago.

Anybody any ideas or theories? Let me know!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Photo Gallery: The BMC/BL Annual Rally and Spares Day 2006

Some photographs from what looks like a great event! I'm going to have to get myself there for the 2007 one. I didn't take these pictures, they were supplied by Andy "Orange Rat" Hunt, a Metro owning retro-car fan.

Austin Allegro Rally CarAustin A95 CountrymanMG Maestro Turbo

Click to see the gallery.