Photo Album: 1966 Ferrari Dino 206 SP

February 6, 2012

The Ferrari Dino 206 SP of 1966 was one of only 18 built, largely due to financial constraints of the time. Ferrari needed to build 50 for FIA Group 4 racing homologation purposes but with the little Dino-powered 206 S falling short of the production mark, it was later designated the 206 ‘SP’ – the SP standing for ‘Sports Prototype’.

Essentially a scaled-down/shortened version of its V12’d 330P big-brother, the little Dino-powered (V6) 206 was just as beautiful yet weighed a scant 580kg allowing its 215 bhp 2.0L V6 to propel itself and driver along at a rather brisk pace.

-Blake J.
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Spotlight: The Exquisite Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

January 26, 2012

In the oft-worshipped halls of exotic Italian sportscars of yore, the Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 ‘Stradale’ is the stuff of dreams for petrolheads the world over. Yet, it didn’t exactly start out that way when it was first introduced at the Sport Car Show at Monza, Italy in September of 1967…

Essentially a road-legal version of Alfa’s Tipo 33 mid-engined racecar, the limited-run Stradale cost the equivalent of $17,000 when it was summoned upon the gazing eyes of the motoring world in ’67. That was astronomical money back then and as a result, Alfa struggled to find buyers for their luxuriously appointed, mid-engined Supercar that was carefully built by hand alongside their racing cars.

Churning out high-volume numbers of the Stradale was never going to be an issue so each Stradale was built-up over relaxed periods of time and therefore received evolutionary modifications and upgrades with each one produced. Subsequently, no two Stradales are alike, with earlier examples exhibiting twin-headlamps and later Stradales featuring vents behind the front and rear wheels to enable increased cooling capablities of the brakes.

Power for the Stradale came from Alfa’s first-ever V8 – A mildly-detuned version of their racecar’s 2-litre, all-aluminium, naturally-aspirated, dry-sumped, twin overhead camshaft engine that produced 230 bhp (it was capable of 270 bhp but ‘safely’ reigned-in for road-going purposes) and enabled the sprint to 60 in just 5.5 seconds and a top-speed of over 260 km/h. Rifling through the gears was a 6-speed Colotti gearbox and handling was aided by double wishbones all around. Stopping power was handled by Girling disc brakes on all four corners and helped along by the scant 700 kg curb weight of the entire rolling chassis. Accelerative prowess was a definite given with those numbers…

Franco Scaglione was a former employee at Bertone by the time he designed this evocative aluminium body for the Stradale – surely one of the most beautifully exotic, elegant, balanced and sexy designs to ever clothe a car. The signature (and rather clever) door-design being just one feature of the Stradale alongside many other design cues that permeate Italian flair and beauty like only the best of the best from the era.

With the Stradale struggling to find owners of the mere 18 examples created between late ’67 and March of 1969, five of them were eventually given to coach-builders Giugiaro/Italdesign, Pininfarina and Bertone to use as Stradale-based showcar concepts – the first one emerging from Bertone with their highly-influential, wedge-shaped ‘Carabo’ concept of ’68 (and the later Stradale-based ‘Navajo’ concept shown in ’76) followed by the ‘Iguana’ concept of ’69 from Giugiaro/Italdesign and two later Pininfarina-designed offerings. All five of those concepts survive to this day in the respective museums of their creators along with only 3 known road-going versions left in the wild- rare indeed.

What was considered a complete sales-failure at the time, it is now viewed as one of the most-cherished and adored pieces of Italian automotive creations. Its stunning lines and ferociously-lunged engine providing worldwide fanfare and adoration for this exquisitely created and rarest of Supercars from the 1960s.

-Blake J.
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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.
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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.
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The Legendary Monza High-Speed Oval: Then and Now

December 30, 2011

Very few racetracks invoke genuine fear within racecar drivers and the high-speed Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit (located near the town of Monza, Italy) is one such track with a lucrative history of legendary speeds and spectacular crashes resulting in many high-profile and unfortunate deaths. From its inception in 1922, 9 drivers and 27 spectators lost their lives within the first 10 years of its existence – the sheer number of crashes alone, was extraordinary.

The high speeds attained on the original design of the track (with little to zero run-off area, mind) pushed both car and driver to the limits of their capabilities, with any major mechanical (or driver) failure linking with road-holding manageability often resulting in a life-threatening crash of an extremely violent nature. Over the decades though, safety concerns were addressed and many revisions to the circuit were added and improved upon with various chicanes and extended run-off areas being added.

Monza - then

After extensive damage to the track occured during World War II, the Monza circuit was repaired for the 1948 season and then revamped, yet again, in 1954 – this time with a newly-built, steeply-banked 2.64 mile re-introduction of a section of the original oval track that was used from 1922 to 1933. The ‘new’ high-speed oval section was incorporated into the existing circuit design and saw truly incredible speeds… along with growing concerns.

Various manufacturers (and drivers) deemed the new banking section unsafe, especially as the tires used in the day simply weren’t capable of providing adequate enough performance to withstand such conditions and were usually prone to disintegrating along the bumpy, rough surface of the oval. The controversial banked oval-section only saw F1 action in 1955, 1956, 1960 and 1961 along with various other races such as the ’57/’58 ‘Race Of Two Worlds’ series – a race-series utilising the oval circuit alone and saw pole-position speeds of 177 mph… Astonishing when you consider the pole-position speed for the Indy 500 in the same year was 144 mph.

Start of the 1958 'Race of Two Worlds'

The end for the oval came in 1961 after the horrific crash and subsequent death of Wolfgang von Trips along with 15 spectators when Trips’ Ferrari collided with Jim Clark’s Lotus and hurled the car airborne into the crowd. Although the crash happened just prior to the Parabolica curve section (and nowhere near the oval itself), it was enough of a shock and blow to the circuit owners who then took precautions of further reducing speeds on the legendary track and eliminating competitive F1 usage of the high-speed banked oval section outright.

Sections of the oval were altered throughout the 1960’s and remained in use (albeit, in a slightly neutered/shortened/chicaned state) until 1969, yet the original high-speed circuit was captured on film one last time in the 1966 film ‘Grand Prix’….

The famously daunting (and slowly disintegrating) oval section barely escaped complete destruction in the 1990s and (thankfully) remains a cherished, historical view of a dangerously frightening time in motor racing negotiated by incredibly brave drivers achieving speeds that must have been beyond the realms of ‘unbelievably scary’.

-Blake J.
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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.

Enjoy.

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. 
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Spotlight: Alfa Romeo 164 Procar

November 30, 2011

By the time of the late ’80s, Formula 1 had become a raging sea of Turbo-powered monsters that were engineered to produce exaspirating performance figures. It was a tumultuous period for both the FIA and the teams involved, eventually resulting in the outright banning of the mega-horsepowered formula for the 1989 season. Yet, Bernie Ecclestone had an intriguing idea up his sleeve to re-ignite race fans – an F1-powered Procar series for the ’88-’89 season.

A fantastic (though mightily expensive) idea was born – one that allowed the manufacturers to showcase their latest F1 technology within a bespoke race series where the cars were near-identical to their regular production versions. A ‘silhouette’ racing formula that would have seen top drivers competing in relatively stock-looking production cars heavily modified under the skin. The proposed power and weight limitations were exciting as well, dictating a 750 kg minimum and a 3.5L engine that could have up to 12 cylinders.

Alfa Romeo, now under Fiat management, was keen to provide their proposed version of a Procar for they had been planning an eventual return to the F1 stage for several years already. Since 1986, development of a 3.5L V10 F1 engine was evolving for the Ligier team but after relations fell through, Alfa was left with a 610 bhp V10 engine with nothing to slot it in.

One of only 15 V10 engines Alfa Romeo ever produced

When the Procar idea was laid out, Alfa collaborated with Brabham towards the challenge of producing an F1-style chassis that could accomodate a carbon-fibre saloon-car outer shell. The timing was also impecable for the Alfa marketing legions as it coincided the Procar debut with the launch of their brand new 164 Saloon, gorgeously designed by Pininfarina.

By the Fall of 1988, Alfa’s newly successful partnership with Brabham for the project would produce two fully-built Procars (of shocking similarity to the production counterpart) and 15 V10 engines – Alfa looked primed and ready for a triumphant return. Testing of the 164 Procar produced impressive results as well – Top speed was 211 mph (faster than F1 cars) and the standing quarter-mile was achieved in 9.7 seconds.

In light of these figures, Alfa decided to enlist Riccardo Patrese to show-off their new Procar creation (video below) to the public during practice sessions at Monza prior to the Italian Grand Prix. Riccardo hit 207 mph on the long finish-line straight in the slippery-bodied 164 Saloon and easily whet the crowd’s appetite for more Procar action in the future.

Yet, as is the case with most great ideas, this seemingly brilliant one from Mr. Ecclestone would be put to rest by a lack of available funds (and subsequent interest) from all the other major manufacturers. And Alfa Romeo simply could not afford a lone, one-make series a-la BMW in the late ’70s with their M1 Procar. Sadly, the F1-rivalling Procar idea was canned and the 164 Saloon Procar was eventually utilised as a research-vehicle towards their later DTM efforts.

The proposed Procar race series of the late ’80s remains one of those undeniable could-have-been/should-have-been paths for Motorsport to have undertaken. It would have been absolutely spectacular in many ways yet, most importantly, forever memorable.

-Blake J.
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A.I. Lunchbreak: Datsun 510 BRE Racing – Against All Odds

November 17, 2011

Watch as BRE Racing’s John Morton does battle in his Datsun 510 against Alfa Romeos, Volvos, Fiats and BMWs during the SCCA Trans Am Challenge. A great period-era short film on this up-and-coming team featuring candid Morton footage, brilliant in-car/raw-sound clips and lots and lots of 4-wheel drifting and sliding…

John Morton and his excellent BRE Racing Datsun 510

I’m going to try my absolute best at keeping the words to a minimum here as this video is a bit lengthy at over 26 minutes long… but oh-so worth your time.

Enjoy.

-Blake J.
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Onboard Videos: Porsche’s Legendary 917, 936 and 956

November 1, 2011

Riding on the shoulders of yesterday’s Ultimate 911 article, here we present you with a trio of scintilating onboard videos riding along with Porsche Motorsport’s various leviathans from the past.

Porsche 917

First up is the legendary 917/30 that managed to capture Porsche’s first-ever outright wins at Le Mans in 1970 and ’71 (amongst many many other wins). It featured an air-cooled (air-cooled!) Flat-12 engine ranging from 4.5 to 5.0 litres in size that delivered around 620 bhp. Later turbo’d 917 variants saw insane outputs of up to 1100 bhp and tuned to upwards of 1500 bhp in hair-on-fire qualifying-spec. Here we have the affable Derek Bell inviting you onboard for a rather detailed, personal view.

Porsche 936

Another Motorsport legend from the Porsche garages here. With a chassis based on the incredible 917, The 936 featured a (once again air-cooled) 2.2L single turbo-charged Flat-6 that churned out 540 bhp. In the 6 years that Porsche entered the 936 into competitive realms from ’76 – ’81, it came away with 3 outright Le Mans wins (’76, ’77 and ’81). Take an onboard blast around Le Mans in 1977 here with Jurgen Barth behind the wheel of his Martini Racing-sponsored Porsche 936.

Porsche 956

The 956 continued on with the successes trail-blazed by the former 936 and featured the same engine (though enlarged) to a 2.6L turbocharged Flat-6 that mustered up 635 bhp. It too entered Le Mans in 1982 and won the race outright (actually, Porsche placed 1-2-3 that year). Mostly remembered for having set the Nurburgring fastest lap record via Stefan Bellof in qualifying for the 1983 1000 KM of Nurburgring race, his time remains an outright lap-record (6 min 11.13 sec) that stands to this very day.

The speeds (and blurred sights) achieved down the Mulsanne Straight in this video are truly bonkers… There is also an ‘In Car 956′ video/DVD that Duke Video made available a few years back that I would heavily recommend…! I own a copy – it’s amazing..!

-Blake J.
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The Nurburgring: When It Truly Was A ‘Green Hell’

October 26, 2011

The legendary Nurburgring is without a doubt the most strenuously demanding, psychologically challenging, beautifully designed and dangerously captivating race track the world has ever seen – not to mention the longest in length as well.

Nothing but hedgerows, ditches and trees to cushion your crash back then...

Nowadays, the Nurburgring plays host to a vast assemblage of events, ranging from many various one-make race series to annual long-distance race events, public days, press days, private days, etc. etc… and now there’s even a Shopping Mall and a mini roller-coaster… but let’s not address those recent ‘developments’ per se.

...and the odd fence

It was 3-time F1 World Champion, Sir Jackie Stewart, that famously coined the term ‘The Green Hell’ upon the then-14.2 mile (now 12.9 mile) main course circuit back in the 1960’s. Looking at these vintage colour photos (and video below) before the safety concerns (and barriers) of later years existed, one could easily see how the slightest of mistakes could potentially cost you your life.

When it was basically a stretch of tarmac scything through the Eiffel Mountains

Can you imagine what it must have been like to hit speeds upwards of 150+ mph back when it looked like this…?!

24-hour races, when it was foggy or rainy, must have been terrifying

An excellent vintage 3-D map to give an idea of the constant elevation changes

Here’s a great video from 1967 offering a greatly detailed and onboard view of the grass-lined circuit from an F1 driver’s perspective…

-Blake J.
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