Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Minisprint

Minisprint (by retromotoring)

Minisprint (by retromotoring)

Back in the 1960s the Mini was king. They were everywhere and dominated just about every motor sport they were entered into. The neat way in which the front and rear drivetrain/suspension assemblies were self-contained in a pair of subframes lead to many different variants on the original theme and numerous kit-car derivatives.

One of the most interesting has to be the Minisprint. Geoff Thomas and Neville Trickett met by chance at a race meeting at Castle Combe in 1965 and the project took off from there. It was realised that by reducing the frontal area of the Mini there would be both weight loss and aerodynamic gain, leading to a more competitive car.

Rather than simply treat the basic Mini to a roof chop, the body work was also "sectioned", a horizontal slice taken out of the metalwork to further lower the stance. This was quite a tricky task, as it required extensive reworking of the metal and attention to the doors, bonnet and boot lid. The external seams and gutters were also removed, further smoothing out the shape.

The project wasn't intended to be a one-off, and both race car and road versions were developed. Initial interest was strong, and the car looked fantastic - at first glance just like a regular Mini but with clearly different proportions.

Mini Sprint Advert (by retromotoring)

Minisprint Traveller advert (by retromotoring)

The Minisprint wasn't a race circuit success as by 1966, the year after the initial meeting of the two creators, just about every saloon car class had regulations dictating that the silhouette of the car had to remain similar to that of a standard production example - something that the Minisprint could not comply with. Plenty of road cars were sold though, and after some 85 Minisprints were built the project was sold to Stewart and Ardern - the world's largest distributors of Morris Cars at the time. The S&A Mini Sprint was first shown at the Racing Car Show, London Olympia, in 1967.

Mini Sprint advert (by retromotoring)

Thomas and Trickett moved on to other projects, Trickett created several kit car designs amongst other things, and Thomas went on to build up Rob Walker Garages, including the Formula 1 racing team, winners of the British Grand Prix in 1968.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fiat 850 Vanessa (Ghia)

From CAR Magazine, January 1967 - Turin Motor Show report

Fiat 850 Vanessa (Ghia) (by retromotoring)

Model-girls all fell for the exquisite Vanessa in palest mauve: a light-hearted Ghia exercise aimed at sugar-daddies with Christmas in mind. Exquisite workmanship made sense of a whole host of faintly frivolous but by no means ridiculous ideas, including a baby seat that folded down from the rear backrest with a separate side entrance (useful for shopping, too) alongside, separate front seats with decorous swivelling cushions and elegantly articulated safety backrests, a host of padded drawers and cubicles for makeup, umbrellas, handbag and the like, and a commodious carpet-lined boot in the front. We like the way Giugiaro had taken emphasis right away from the mechanicals, giving the machine an entirely feminine and yet self-respecting air, specifying Idromatic two-pedal drive, hiding the unassuming powerplant under a plain hatch in the tail, chucking out all the instruments and replacing them with inconspicuous coloured lights (including the speedo, which simply lit up little numbers half-buried in plush) and capping it all with a concealed fire extinguisher which would also pump up a flat tyre.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Panoramic Progress

The "panorama" roof is very fashionable in the new car world at the moment. Manufacturers such as Vauxhall/Opel, Mercedes Benz, Citro├źn and Ford all offer models in their current ranges with windscreens that extend back into the roof, to create the impression of a bigger and brighter cabin space and an added sense of inclusion with the surrounding environment.

As is so often the case, there is very little that is truly new under the sun. The Messerschmitt KR200 for example went a whole lot further than the current crop by making the entire roof section out of Plexiglass, and they were by no means the only car manufacturer to do this nor were they the first.

P8150068 (by retromotoring)

This Belgian Minerva Coupe dates back to 1932 and the roof treatment isn't too different in concept to those of today:

1932 Coupe Minverva 32 CV (by retromotoring)

1932 Coupe Minverva 32 CV (by retromotoring)

However if you want a similar experience from an ordinary classic car you really only have the option of an aftermarket sunroof which just isn't the same. Glass ones are too small to let any useful light through or offer a decent view, steel or fabric/Webasto-types have to be open to allow any light in at all. That's fine in the summer but not too enticing in the rain and cold of winter.

An interesting alternative back in the 1960s was this, the Skyscanner roof:

Austin Mini Skyscanner advert (by retromotoring)

Easily fitted and designed to fit "all popular makes of car", they certainly look as though they'd offer an experience similar to those in new cars. Whilst nowadays we have the technology to deal with excessive glasshouse-heat in summer with various coatings and treatments, back then a sliding cover blind did just fine - although I can't imagine it did wonders for the headroom.

I wonder how many were sold, and how many yellowy-scratched survivors there are today?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Classic Motor Show at the NEC

A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a wet and windy November Saturday - indoors surrounded by classic cars and enthusiasts. A quite impressive array of cars were on show of all ages, from the tiny Peel P50 (as seen on BBC's Top Gear programme) to some real exotica from Ferrari, Maserati and a Bugatti Veyron. There was plenty to see in the autojumble/trade areas too although luckily my wallet managed to escape the visit intact.

Click for the picture gallery.

Some of the highlights for me included this lovely Saab 99 Turbo, complete with retro-70s velour interior:

Saab 99 Turbo (by retromotoring)

Saab 99 Turbo (by retromotoring)

This Citroen Projet-L CX Prototype, which owes much to the Pininfarina Aerodynamica concept and looked quite like a wedge Austin Princess from some angles:

Citroen Prototype (by retromotoring)

This very rare Ford Granada 2-Door Saloon:

Ford Granada (by retromotoring)

Ford Granada (by retromotoring)

And my favourite car of the show, this Pro-Street Rover P4 which was absolutely beautifully built by Burnham Autos and featured Small Block Chevy power under the bonnet :

Rover P4 Pro-Street V8 (by retromotoring)

Rover P4 Pro-Street V8 (by retromotoring)

Rover P4 Pro-Street V8 (by retromotoring)

Rover P4 Pro-Street V8 (by retromotoring)

There are plenty of other highlights in the photo gallery.

I'll definitely be back for the 2010 show!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

VW Golf Oettinger 16s

As the hot hatchback arms-race began to really get going in the early 1980s the leader of the pack, the Mk1 Golf GTI, had already been around for a few years and the competition was catching up. The Mk1 Astra/Kadett D GTE, Ford Escort XR3/XR3i and various others were making significant inroads into the VW share of the market.

More power was clearly needed, but the enlarged 1800cc engine couldn't come soon enough for VW France and the factory 16 valve head was years away. So with assistance and support from the Wolfsburg factory the tuning company Oettinger was called on to develop more power for the 1600 unit. Turbocharging the Mk1 Golf GTI had caused problems for those that had already tried it, and a bigger capacity block wasn't viable.

The solution came in the form of a 16 valve twin-cam cylinder head and uprated engine components to match. With the various improvements the engine was good for 136bhp (a similar figure to VWs own 1800cc 16v engine in the Mk2 Golf) and a rapid 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds.

P3080371 (by retromotoring)

P3080374 (by retromotoring)

P3080372 (by retromotoring)

Bodywork came in either dark grey or white, with a BBS bodykit and ATS Alloy wheels. "16s" badging was a further clue to those left trailing in its wake - the "S" being short for "Soupapes", the French word for Valves. Lots of other interior and mechanical detail changes helped to lift the 16s above the regular GTI model.

DSCN0202 (by retromotoring)

Between 1200 and 2000 cars were built, sold in France and Switzerland as official VW products with the full factory warranty. They are a real rarity today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Porsche 911 S Stainless Steel Car

F. Porsche KG, Stuttgart, 1967.

Stainless Steel Porsche 911 (by retromotoring)

Stainless Steel Porsche 911 (by retromotoring)

Stainless Steel Porsche 911 (by retromotoring)

Stainless Steel Porsche 911 (by retromotoring)

Stainless Steel Porsche 911 (by retromotoring)

This Porsche 911 S served as a test model for the use and processing of non-corroding steels in automotive manufacturing.

The body parts are made of cold-rolled sheet steel shaped by machine and in part by hand. The individual parts are welded. The body was not painted, but only ground and brushed. During its 7 years of operation, the car was driven 150,000km. The material passed all tests.

(text from the Deutsches Museum verkehrszentrum).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unipart Instrument Mounting Console

A very generous recent donation to the Retro-Motoring archives, courtesy of William "RaggedyRacing" Ball.

Unipart Instrument Mounting Console (by retromotoring)

A lovely retro-period auxiliary instrument cluster, complete with the original box and stick-on metal-effect surround for the dials. Part number GAE130. Fantastic!

Unipart Instrument Mounting Console (by retromotoring)

Unipart Instrument Mounting Console (by retromotoring)

Cheers Bill!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Archives

A few shots of my magazine archives. Stacks and stacks of magazines from about 1950 to the present day. Almost every issue of CAR and CCC, hundreds of Autocar and Motor, Hot Car, Custom Car, Street Machine, What Car?, Performance Car and many many others.

P9130004 (by retromotoring)

P9130009 (by retromotoring)

P9130013 (by retromotoring)

P9130018 (by retromotoring)

P9130003 (by retromotoring)

P9130019 (by retromotoring)

I am slowly getting them organised into binders as funds allow!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Opel Kadett GTE

The Kadett D (and equivalent Mk1 Vauxhall Astra) was a major shift from GM Europe's previous small family car, the Kadett C/Chevette. Front wheel drive and angular styling echoed that of Giugiaro's Mk1 Golf 5 years earlier.

Opel dipped a toe into the lucrative image-making "Hot Hatch" market with the SR model but although well received and sharply styled it didn't really have the power and performance to compete with the rival Escort XR3i and the Golf GTI or offerings from many other manufacturers.

That changed with the introduction of the GTE model. The 1800cc engine finally gave the Kadett/Astra the power it needed (0-60 in 8.5 seconds, almost equal to the 1800cc Mk1 Golf GTI), and the aggressive body kit consisting of spoilers and side skirts looked the part (especially in white with colour-keyed alloy wheels and bumpers) and gave massive road presence.

Vauxhall Mk1 Astra GTE Advert (by retromotoring)

The GTE didn't last long, it was introduced towards the end of the production run for the car, shortly replaced by the radical aero-shape of the Kadett E/Mk2 Astra.

I spotted this one near to Imst, Austria. The extra stripes and bodykit really complete the back-to-the-1980s look!

Opel Kadett GTE (by retromotoring)

Opel Kadett GTE (by retromotoring)

Opel Kadett GTE (by retromotoring)

Opel Kadett GTE (by retromotoring)

Opel Kadett GTE (by retromotoring)

1936 Steyr Type 50 "Baby"

The Steyr Type 50, known as "Steyr Baby", was very much the Austrian "People's Car".

Working at the Steyr factories, Karl Jenschke designed the car in 1934. The appearance was similar to the subsequent "Volkswagen" (despite rumours Porsche was not involved in any way) but the car was based on an independent concept with a 4-cylinder front boxer engine, water cooling, rear wheel drive and a lightweight body reminiscent of the Chrysler Airflow. The car offered seats for four people and was shorter than the Volkswagen. Hydraulic brakes and a sliding metal sun roof were notable features. With a top speed of 90Km/h it had a high cruising speed in relation to other contemporary cars. The high price of 4500 Austrian Schilling, however, wasn't cheap although around 13,000 were sold.

From the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum.

P8260411 (by retromotoring)

P8260409 (by retromotoring)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alfa GTV For Sale

Spotted in deepest Bavaria. Very tempting, it's a good job I'm skint!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ford Taunus

P8190001, originally uploaded by retromotoring.

Spotted recently.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Audi Museum, Ingolstadt

104 pictures from my trip there in 2008 are here!

P8120110 (by retromotoring)

P8120211 (by retromotoring)

P8120207 (by retromotoring)

P8120170 (by retromotoring)