Video Tribute: Carroll Shelby and the Cobra

May 15, 2012
As most of you will have probably heard or read by now, we lost an American automotive legend last week – Carroll Shelby passed away resulting in complications from pneumonia… He was 89.

Carroll in the original AC Cobra – the 1962 CSX2000

Responsible for developing the mighty AC Cobra (great feature in last month’s Octane magazine), the Shelby line of high performance Mustangs and lest we forget his heavy involvement with bringing the Ford GT40 to fruition where it swept the limelight away from Ferrari in ’66 by winning Le Mans 1, 2, 3… It subsequently won Le Mans every year to ’69.

The GT40 that crossed the line in 1st place at the legendary 1966 Le Mans

The video below comes courtesy of a ‘Behind The Headlights’ feature/documentary that originally aired on the Speed Channel. At just over 43 minutes in length (edited w/out those annoying US commercials) it comes as an intriguing testament to the die-hard mentality and perseverence of Carroll and all the talented ‘blue collar’ engineers that developed and assisted with the birth of the Cobra from its original, humble British roots to the flame-spitting, Le Mans-entered Daytona Cobra Coupe…
Enjoy… ;)
Rest in peace Carroll…
Also, for those wishing to own a Carroll Shelby-approved ‘continuation’ of the original Cobra Coupe (amongst other ’60s Ford/Chevy Motorsport icons), you simply can’t go wrong in checking yourself into one of the incredibly beautiful (and detail-ridden) examples built by South African-based Superformance. Some tasty examples of their stunning recreations below…

The Superformance Corvette Grand Sport Roadster

Their Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe…

And their exquisite GT40 recreation…

Blake J.

Le Mans 1961: A Short Film By Triumph

March 20, 2012

One for the Vintage Racing/Le Mans enthusiasts – A fantastically intimate and detailed 34-min short-film of the 1961 race as captured by a film crew commissioned by the British Triumph Works team… Amazing to be reminded of how only 2 drivers per team split the entire 24 hours of driving between them back then.

Brilliant stuff…. enjoy..!

-Blake J.

Photo Album: 1969 Lola Chevrolet T70GT mk3B

February 21, 2012

Today’s photo album focuses on the Lola Chevrolet T70GT mk3B of 1969 that competed directly with the Group-4 Ford GT40s and Porsche 917s of the day, amongst others. Power came from a mid-mounted, naturally-aspirated, cast-iron/aluminium-alloy head 5L Chevrolet V8 drinking fuel through 4 Weber carburettors and producing 450 bhp with the aid of a Hewland LG600 5 speed manual.

The chassis featured an aluminium riveted and bonded monocoque and the body itself was fibreglass. Double wishbones, an anti-roll bar and coil springs over Koni adjustable shocks handled the suspension duties while Girling ventilated discs on all 4 corners took care of stopping its lightweight 800 kg mass.

The Lola raced in various endurance events such as Le Mans but was most notably effective on sprint events such as the highly-missed Can-Am series held in America. This pictured example is the ex-Sid Taylor car that dominated the endurance racing scenes in 1969-70…

Excellent onboard video from the 2011 Spa-francorchamps Classic…

And another vid of it clearing its mighty lungs – what a beast…!

-Blake J.

Photo Album: Essential Porsche 917K Wallpapers + Bonus!

January 16, 2012

There are few factory-derived racecars as tauntingly beautiful and purposely outlandish as the legendary Porsche 917K series. There’s just something about its purity of voilent speed and devilishly analogue nature that *pings* directly at the petrolheaded soul and has you searching for a YouTube fix at 2am…

The Porsche 917 was originally designed as a ‘long-tale’ (917LH) but seeing as how this initial version produced rather sketchy handling at high speeds, a shorter-tailed version (the 917K) was developed to cure the high-speed instabilities at the cost of a slightly lower top speed. Based on the Porsche 908, the 917 was conceived in an alarmingly short time of just 10 months (at great expense to Porsche) and made its debut win at the 1970 Le Mans – the first-ever overall win for Porsche. It followed this win up with a 2nd overall Le Mans win in ’71.

Power came from the monstrous Type 912 air-cooled flat-12 engine that ranged in size from 4.5, 4.9 and 5.0 litres producing upwards of 620 bhp. The dash to 60 would arrive in 2.3 seconds and 125 mph would be achived in a barely-believable 5.3 seconds… (!)

In the sorely-missed original Can-Am series (’66-’74) an insane turbocharged version dubbed the Porsche 917/30 produced well over 1,100 bhp and as much as 1,580 bhp when in qualifying tune… again, (!)

As an added little bonus, here we have a chart documenting every single 917 chassis ever made…

-Blake J.

Legends: The Porsche 550 RS Spyder

January 11, 2012
  The Porsche 550 Spyder of the 1950’s. Rarely has a purpose-built sportscar rendered so much international acclaim and praise for its ‘Giant killing’ abilities alongside outright victories of some of the most demanding and challenging races (most notably its win in the 1956 Targa Floria) of the era from which it was conceived. But that it was also remembered as being a poster-child for a high-profile (and seemingly, cursed) city-to-city ‘Speed Kills’ campaign in the USA (after movie-star James Dean’s death in his ‘Little Bastard’ 550 Spyder) only further serves to inflitrate the mysterious and legendary effects that the 550 had on not only the racing scene and the general public, but also on the future of Porsche as a marque that had undeniably made its mark on the sportscar scene.
  Only 90 examples were made between October 1952 and June 1956 with the first four cars going to Porsche KG for testing and racing. The first 2 two examples bore removeable hardtops to aid in aerodynamics whilst racing against the other Motorsport leviathans of the time – namely the Jaguar D-types and Mercedes 300 SLRs – and upon the first race of the 1953 season at the Nurburgring (in appalling conditions), the 550 won outright in its very first race. A month later at Le Mans, both cars were entered and won their 1500cc class, ending up 15th overall.
  All 550s were built by hand and saw them borrowing parts from its 356 predecessor and Volkswagen during its build-evolution. Subsequently, each 550 made over the years received gradual improvements and upgrades along the way. Power for those first handful of cars originally came from the 356’s 1500 Super engine that was good for up-to 100 bhp, but eventually the reliably robust type-547 1498cc 4-cam engine, built by Ernst Fuhrmann, would come to readily power the 596 kg lightweight 550 with its larger bore and shorter stroke.
  Eventually, after a couple of years spent refining both the body and the mechanics of the 550, work was commissioned in 1955 to coachbuilder Wendler of Reutlingen, Germany to build 69 road-going examples for privateers, 33 of which would be bound for the USA. The 550 Spyder (renamed from ‘550 1500/RS’ to ‘550 Spyder’ by an American, for the American market) would continue on with racing success at the hands of such legendary drivers as Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann and Richard von Frankenberg to name but a few, claiming multiple victories with the 550 during their racing careers.
  The 550 represented Porsche’s proper entry into the world of International Motorsport and was responsible for the introduction of the ‘RS’ Renn Sport (‘motorsport’ in German) moniker that has been attached to every road-going, limited ‘Hot’ Porsche ever since. Yet most importantly, the success of the 550 resulted in the furthering of Porsche’s Motorsport division throughout the 1960’s and onwards which, as we know, laid the foundations for such incredibe creations such as the 917 and 956 racecars of later years. No surprise then that 550 Spyders exchange hands nowadays in the $1-million+ arena… A true legend, it will always be.
-Blake J.

Photo Album: A Pair of Iconic Porsche 917s

December 28, 2011

It’s the usual end-of-year crawl within the motoring industry – not a lot ‘breaking news’ out there per se. Plus, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all running on the exhaust-fumes from the busy Holidays… So then, what better time than now to simply feast your eyes upon these excellent high-res photos capturing two of the most-iconic Porsche race cars of all time – The Gulf and Martini-liveried 917s.


I'd be smiling as well...

This wouldn’t feel complete unless I included a favorite movie-still from Steve McQueen’s ‘Le Mans’ film…

-Blake J.

Photos of the Day: Ferrari at Le Mans – 1969 (+video)

December 13, 2011

The 1969 Le Mans 24HR race was the stuff of legends. Before the race even started, many had bagged Porsche to win outright victories with its impressive (yet controversial) fleet of 908 and 917 long-tails. Ford had already performed a hat-trick at Le Mans with their 3rd victory in-a-row from the previous year’s 1968 race, so Porsche (along with Matra and to some extent, Ferrari) were adament in knocking Ford off of the top-spot for outright victories in 1969.

Ferrari entered two 312P Berlinettas (essentially F1 cars dressed-up in different bodies) driven by Perdo Rodriguez/David Piper (#18) and Chris Amon/Peter Schetty (#19) but unfortunately both failed to finish the race – the Amon/Schetty car being forced to retire on the very first lap after John Woolfe crashed his Porsche 917 (sadly, killing him) which subsequently dislodged its fuel-tank, of which the Ferrari drove straight over top of and exploded in the process.

The race came down to the final laps with Jacky Ickx (in the same Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 from the year before) doing lap-after-lap battle with Hans Herrmann in his Porsche 908, both of them exchanging the lead position on each lap. At the final turn, Jacky was able to take advantage of the Porsche’s ailing brakes and out-breaked Hans in his 908, coming out ahead in the final turn and winning Le Mans 1969 by mere seconds.

I’ve always loved the fact that Jacky Ickx made a subtle statement against the traditional sprint-to-your-car-and-get-in-and-go start of the Le Mans by merely strolling over to the GT40 when the flag dropped. He then calmly got in, buckled himself up and casually drove off… and, of course, in last place.

Ickx winning by mere seconds...

*** There’s a great DVD out there from Duke called ‘Le Mans 1969 – La Ronde Infernale’ that I highly recommend for your motoring DVD library, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the uploaded YouTube version of it… Enjoy.

Part 1:

 Part 2:

Part 3: 

Part 4:

-Blake J.

POTD/Spotlight: Alfa Romeo TZ (Zagato)

November 25, 2011

Our Spotlight/Pic-of-the-day comes courtesy of this gorgeous 1964 Alfa Romeo TZ (Tubolare Zagato) Racecar that was developed and built jointly by Zagato and Auto Delta (Alfa Romeo’s Competition Department). The TZ was a purpose-built racecar that utilised a tubular spaceframe chassis clothed in lightweight, all-aluminium body panels that assisted in keeping the overall weight down to a scant 660 kg – That’s nearly half the weight of a Mazda MX-5…

Freshly restored in 2010 and recently sold for $830,000.00

With such feathery weight to propel the TZ, ample power delivery was relied upon a throaty, twin-spark 1.6L inline-4 cyl. engine that chucked out a healthy 160 bhp and enabled the TZ to reach 135 mph. Independent suspension and disc brakes also aided in stability during the varying styles of races it entered throughout its competition-based life.

Le Mans 1964 with the other competing Alfas awaiting the start

This exact TZ (pictured) was the 2nd of the non-prototypes to be built. Completed on April 2 1964, just 24 days later it was entered into the Targa Floria where it finished an impressive 3rd overall. Two months later it saw action in the Le Mans 24 Hours where it finished 15th overall – not too shabby for a 4-cyl Alfa Romeo.

At Le Mans - 1964

From there it was raced throughout the late-’60s until 1967 when its owner, Giancarlo Sala, decided that even more weight could be shed from its shell in the quest for greater performance. How he went about doing this though, remains a questionable (yet characteristic) note on the ‘add lightness’ scale.

Action-shot from the Le Mans 24 Hours - 1964

After watching bare aluminium Porsches compete (and win) at the Nurburgring, Sala decided to completely strip this very TZ of its paint, both inside and out, exposing it right down to the bare aluminium. He even sanded down the aluminium itself to reduce the thickness in his quest for lessened weight. He probably shaved off a few kilos by doing this. Amazingly, the TZ pictured here remained in its bare-aluminium shell until July 2010 when it was completely restored back to its original Le Mans livery/colours.

Sala at the 1969 Targa Florio with the bare-aluminium TZ

In July 2010, the car won 1st-Place honours at the Le Mans Heritage Club Concours. On May 21st of this year it was auctioned off by RM Auctions at Villa d’Este for an astronomical 627,400.000 Euros ($830,110.000)

At the 1964 Le Mans - post-race cool down

Nice, sweet-sounding onboard footage captured here just after its complete restoration…

-Blake J.

Reborn and Remembered: Jaguar D-Type ‘Long-Nose’ (video and photos)

November 21, 2011

When Jaguar pulled out of competitive racing at the end of 1955 (following the horrific 1955 Le Mans accident), it was left to the factory-blessed Ecurie Ecosse team to carry on with the Jaguar name within Motorsport realms…and carry on it did, as the short-lived Jaguar D-Type (introduced in 1954) was to dominate (and win) nearly every race it entered and subsequently become one of the great motorsport icons.

The D-Type captured outright victories at Le Mans from 1955 to 1957, with near misses in ’54 and ’58. On fast-flowing circuits the D-Type reigned supreme and took on all other comers with utmost ease. Here’s a video from 1956 featuring onboard footage and ‘live-mic’d’ commentary from Mike Hawthorn as he does a relatively slow lap of the Le Mans road-circuit whilst commuters and cyclists go on about their day…

Following on from where the C-Type left off, the D-Type was an aesthetic tour-de-force lavished with a truly impressive technical pedigree. The basic outline was penned by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer (who later aided in designing the legendary E-Type) and featured a (at the time) radical chassis layout: a stress-bearing monocoque with two bulkheads joined together by longitudinal tunnels, all beautifully wrapped in a riveted aluminium outer-skin not unlike that of an aircraft’s fuselage.

For 1955, great care was given to reduce drag and assist with airflow underneath the car as it topped 180 mph along the legendary Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. The body was lengthened (known as the ‘long-nose’ version of ’55) and the driver gained a fin directly behind him to aid in stabillity. The D-Type also boasted disc brakes on all 4 corners at a time when all other competitors were using drums to halt the forces of nature.

Back in the Summer, the Harvington Motor Company had been entrusted by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust to complete an engine rebuild on this classic D-Type from 1956 (driven by Hawthorn in the above video) in time for the Mille Miglia Classic. Since then, the D-Type has remained within the safe hands of the Jaguar Heritage fleet and only comes out on special occasions or if you have the required funds and acceptable reasoning to do so…

Engine removed for rebuild

This past weekend a good friend of mine in the UK – with amazing automotive ‘connections’ it should be noted – wrote to me detailing his epic drive behind the wheel of this very D-Type that was driven by Mike Hawthorn at the 1956 Le Mans where it placed 6th overall. Estimated to be worth in the region of $7-$11 million dollars, I am without words and beyond the realms of petrolheaded jealousy to describe my friend’s drive in this iconic D-Type from Jaguar’s past… It must have been absolutely incredible.

Here’s a video of those first few carefully-driven miles immediately following the engine rebuild by Harvington Motor Company…

-Blake J.

Bentley: VW’s ‘hand-me-down’ Motorsport Brand…?

November 8, 2011

Bentley to enter the Paris-Dakar Rally – Sounds a bit daft, doesn’t it…? Like your Auntie dropping the knitting-sticks and taking up Bull-riding full-time… But in the case of Bentley’s situational outlook on parent-company VW’s radar, it doesn’t seem all that unlikely nor out-of-place. A few key (and historical) points to take into consideration:

1. Bentley is developing a new, gargantuan W12-motored 4×4 SUV based on a shared Audi/Porsche/VW platform that will see it rise to the cream of the price-crop when it’s unveiled in 2015 – and so it should be… It’s a Bentley for heaven’s sake. Yet, with all of this platform and technology sharing within the many halls of Poppa Veedub, a full-force rally attack utlising the Bentley badge could be considered perfect timing considering….

Coming soon..! A Bentley doing this...!

2. VW is re-focusing its sights on the WRC Rally stages now with a bespoke VW Polo to tackle it with. This means, in all likelihood, that the Touareg they’ve been successfully campaigning (and winning) with over the last few years or so (in the Dakar, etc) might be retired. In its place could be the new/next Bentley SUV which, as mentioned, will be based on a VW/Audi/Porsche platform yet badged as a Bentley… see how this is all working out…? Because…

3. Bentley has been here before… not long ago. Remember the 2003 Le Mans win with (from-out-of-nowhere) Bentley taking the chequered flag in the menacing British-racing-green Speed 8..? Said racecar was actually based rather extensively on the dominating Audi R8 race car… adorned with Bentley badges.

The 2003 Le Mans Winning Bentley... based on the *ahem* ...Audi R8

There we go – Brand engineering and exercising done with ease…!

Yet it does make one wonder how longtime Bentley employees and life-long devotees feel about the Bentley brand/name/heritage being utilised as a marketing exercise to prop-up and re-glitz the technologies and motorsport know-how that their parent company has already adopted and achieved prior successes with…? I’d feel like the middle/bottom kid in the family that eventually receives hand-me-downs from the siblings – it all works, but it was never really yours to begin with.

-Blake J.


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