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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: car

Mercedes Benz SL-X

Classic Velocity

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There are a lot of great-looking cars that never made it to production throughout the history of the automobile. The Mercedes Benz SL-X is one of the best looking in our opinion. It is a stunning vehicle now, as it was then. It is the result of an effort in 1965 by designers Paul Bracq and Georgio Batistella to develop a sports coupe at the top of the Mercedes range. It was a low and sleek mid-engined coupe with bulging side scoops, bulging fenders, pop up headlights, and massive hood vents. The cockpit enclosure had a generous greenhouse, and gullwing doors. In case you were inclined to mistake it for an Italian supercar, for which you might be forgiven, it was silver and there was a giant three-pointed star on the nose. The view from the rear is equally voluptuous, with angled rear pillars on the greenhouse, and an implied diffuser. This might have been an image-changing car for Mercedes who at the time had largely conceded the supercar space to others. It was never equipped with an engine, but Mercedes had a few good candidates at the time in six cylinder and eight cylinder guise. Ultimately, the prototype never went any further and we (and when I say we, I mean very well heeled sports car enthusiasts) were all denied a production version.

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However, the vehicle did become the basis for another prototype in the form of the C101 (which was forced to become the C-111 due to Peugeot’s patent on model numbers with a zero in the middle). The C111 was unveiled at the Geneva show in 1969, but it was also never to see production. In this case, it was intended to be a test platform for a host of ideas and technology that Mercedes was experimenting with at the time.

Photos by Ronan Glon

Photos by Ronan Glon

Proof of Passion

Classic Velocity

It is a rare fan of vintage iron, that does not also possess a few other items which indicate that they are a fan. Who do you know that is a fan of a marque and yet does not have a t-shirt or a key fob, or a baseball cap? It is almost required. And for the serious fan, books and wall art and more logo wear and a scale replica, are likely to be owned. However, at the level we are calling passion, the items and accessories lean to the more obscure. At this level, money is not the key criteria. With enough money, you could purchase a Mercedes dealership, but it would not necessarily prove passion for the marque. Rarity is more of a key criteria. There are other key criteria as well. The extent to which your passion has invaded other areas of your life, for instance. In true Classic Velocity fashion then, here are three levels of passion.

LEVEL 1 - Unique items in a space you control.

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Exhibit A is this paper towel dispenser. Somebody went to a great deal of trouble to transform this utilitarian item, into something worthy of a Porsche garage. There are extra bonus points here, because as you can see if you look carefully at the lower right of the picture, there is a routine paper towel dispenser close by. So the Porsche dispenser is essentially now just a ceremonial piece of artwork. After all, it just would not do to have greasy finger prints on such a piece. It certainly satisfies this level to have an item that you cannot necessarily purchase, and one that took time and effort to create.


LEVEL 2 - Spillage into other areas of life.

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Exhibit B1 is the VW Bus Birdhouse. It is nicely adorned with a flower motif suitable for your garden. It is a fine example of your passion extending to unrelated areas of your life. The birdhouse has a thoughtful drainage hole, and a keyring on the roof so that it can be hung. Lastly, it is a Bay window camper model, so it is entirely appropriate for a residence. Nicely done.

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Exhibit B2 is this Audi Birthday Cake. Besides the obvious artistry, and good taste (you see what we did there) of the item, it says that friends and family obviously recognize your passion and decide that there is nothing better for your annual celebration of time on the planet, than to incorporate your favorite marque.


LEVEL 3 - Personal commitment.

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Exhibit C are these tattoos. You just can’t get much more passionate than a permanent modification to your person. Assuming this did not happen after a wild night in Vegas of which you have no recollection, this is the ultimate way to say I identify with this marque. The BMW ripped skin tattoo earns extra bonus points, as it implies that your passion goes much more than skin deep. When people are arguing about how much they love their marque, you display either of these and end the argument.

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Mid America 02 Fest 2019

Classic Velocity

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For 19 years, the Mid America 02 Fest has taken place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with a brief departure to Hermann Missouri some time ago. For the last 10 years, we have made plans to attend. We even got underway once, but was derailed and had to turn back. Part of the challenge is the logistics of getting to and from the event in a time window. It is a 2 day drive in the 02, and the event is 2 days (3 if you count the arrival evening festivities) so 6 days total. So it was a grand achievement to finally make it to the event. It was achieved partly by a combination of towing, and an all nighter to get back. 

Eureka Springs is a Mecca for car clubs and motorcyclists. It is in northwest Arkansas in the heat of the Ozark mountains. The roads and the vistas are spectacular and very reminiscent of the smoky mountains. Curves and switchbacks and sweepers and elevation changes every few hundred yards. The area is referred to as the Pig Trail, or the Tail of the Pig, or various other pork-related names. Call it what you will, but put it on your list of places to go in your more sporting car, or on your bike. But just like Tail of the Dragon and  WV 50 and Beartooth pass, you want to sample them when it is not prime time! We did.

A lovely drive allowed us to exercise the cars a bit and to sample roads that are all the stuff of movies. Narrow ribbons of unbroken undulating serpentine asphalt twisting off into the distance making you press the right pedal and smile even more broadly in anticipation. But you better pay attention to the more immediate future as well. Runoff is taken literally here. You could plunge a long way off the side of a mountain, or a short way into a deep drainage ditch. Either will ruin your day, and we were regaled over lunch with stories of a Ferrari that was a recent reminder. Big power can be a liability here. It is more Monaco than Monza. Which makes it perfect for a good handling, good power to weight car like the 02. We are happy to report that the big group returned unscathed. 

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Planned Tech sessions enlightened the group, while informal tech sessions broke out spontaneously all over the host hotel parking lot. It seems inevitable that 02 owners want to share a unique or just a well done solution to the challenges of maintaining 40 to 50 year old vehicles. And then there are the upgrades. Engine swaps were fairly common among the group, turbo flares, euro bumpers on squarelight cars, adjustable coilovers, and various schemes for getting fuel into the engine. Several of us had a spirited…uuhhmmm….discussion (yes, that’s it, discussion) on the merits and demerits of the 38/38 single carb setup. The opinions ranged from :

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“Just run a GARDEN hose from your gas tank to the intake, same effect!”

And yes, they were shouting, to

“This is a sublime setup for the well-informed once you get jetting set. Much better than twin DCOEs, and you can get decent mileage if you control your right foot”

As we continued over dinner, we discovered that there is nothing like alcohol to enrich (pun intended) a spirited debate, and launch it into other combustible (pun intended) areas such as oil and tires. Of course, it was all among friends, and a good time was had by all. We missed the last bit of the rally, as we faced a long drive back to meet a prior committment. As a complete bonus though, we won a door prize! What better way to cap off a great weekend.

When last did you see 4 Bauers parked together? Pretty cool. 

When last did you see 4 Bauers parked together? Pretty cool. 

No Dough 2019

Classic Velocity

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It has been mentioned before on these pages, that behind many of the events that we have witnessed and enjoyed, is a person with a vision of seeing others have a good time around vintage machines. Whether it is a Ride (see Classic RS Rally) or a museum (see The Moto Museum), or some other event, we are always surprised and appreciative of the mountain of work that it takes to help people enjoy themselves. And so it is with Bill Dwyer. The story goes that Bill was disenchanted with a prior show that was short on substance but long on ticket prices. He set out to prove that you could have a great quality event without charging attendees very much. 8 years later, the show continues to expand, and most of it is free !! You heard correctly, F R E E.

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There is a host campground, and although you are not compelled to stay there, the main events are all within walking distance. There is a Thursday open house with a local air-cooled parts warehouse. Free. There is a beach event where you have to pay $20 (charged by the city to anyone, not a fee from the event) for beach access, but we got a free t-shirt and sun screen from the VW crew as compensation. There is a Bulli-Brigade event simultaneously at a public beach. Free. There is a Bay Window Rally at the main campground. Free. There is a Saturday night pre-show party at Guiseppe’s Pizza complete with DJ. Free, but you buy your own food if you want. The event has grown too large for this venue, and probably needs to move. And then there is the big show on Sunday. Free.  

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The show on Sunday is the crown jewel. The location is picturesque, as VWs of all kinds ring the municipal lake. In Port Orange. There is a swap meet area, a new vendor area, and the DJ returns to entertain the crowd. But the stars are the continuous circle of vehicles lining both sides of the ring road. It is whiplash city for fans of air-cooled Vdubs. We had a recent post on the Platform as Canvas, and this event personifies the concept. No two vehicles are alike, there are no real rules for what can be done, and everyone is ok with everything. 

To say that Bill Dwyer has succeeded in the quest to provide great quality and substance for little or no money, is an understatement. My guess is that T-shirt sales, the only obvious attempt to recoup some costs, are all the more robust because of the format. It is almost your duty to purchase one. We did. 

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Platform As Canvas

Classic Velocity

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Somehow, the cars of mid-20th-century Germany lend themselves more than the products of any other nation, to become platforms for Art. Why? I do not know, but there are few production cars from France or Italy, or England, or Japan, or America, that have found themselves used so much as a conceptual or a literal canvas. Contrast this with the Janis Joplin Porsche 356, the Andy Warhol BMW M1, or the political-environmental-philosophical platform (wanted or not) that is the VW Bus. This is an ongoing tradition with Porsche RSR Pink Pig, with Audi commissioning an RS4 art car back in 2007, Opel Adam art cars, and even a Mercedes Benz Metris van!. While BMW deserves credit for the long-running official commissioning of art cars, all other German manufacturers seem to have embraced the concept. And long before the manufacturers, people were doing the same as an expression of their individuality, or as experimentation with a new mobile medium, the car. For a country so well known for its engineering prowess, it is an interesting contrast.

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Few would argue, though that as a platform for art, the VW Beetle is king. Perhaps because it is ubiquitous with over 21 million sold. The Toyota Corolla has sold twice as many, but it is not known as a platform for art.. Perhaps it is because the Beetle is universally understood and transcends languages and continents. Perhaps because it makes everyone smile. Perhaps because they are as cheap and available as actual canvas. Perhaps because from the beginning, they were the basis for many different manifestations.

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Almost all of the VW air-cooled vehicles came from the Beetle. The Bus is famously a lengthened and reinforced Beetle chassis. The Thing, the Fastback, the Notch, the Ghia, the Fridolin, etc were really all modified re-bodied Beetles. Then there are the variations made by VW and other manufacturers. The Amelia Island Concours recently had a class just for this category. It featured versions by Rometsch, Dannenhauer and Stauss, and Hebmuller. What was not featured, was a Porsche 356, which is perhaps the most obvious variant, owing to their common designer, Ferdinand Porsche. Then there are the later variations on the platform like the Puma and the Beach Buggy, and inumerable kit cars. The list goes on.

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But back to art. Commercial art has long taken notice of the Beetle as well. It is often turned into a mouse or a Bug or spider by exterminators, or into a taxi, or a unique delivery vehicle of some kind. It gets used positively and negatively to depict a slower pace, or hippies, or simplicity, or a bygone era. The headlights get eyelashes, the bumper becomes an accentuated smile, or the whole thing becomes a Transformer. I won’t even delve into the many applications of the Beetle that Hollywood has found, except for one word. Herbie.

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For the more commonly used canvas, you need go no further than your regional VW show. You will still see variations you have not seen before. In a field of dozens or hundreds of cars, few if any will have an identical twin. Structure, drivetrain, paint, interior, and wheels, seem to create an infinite number of permutations. You laugh and grimmace and admire and stare slack-jawed at the pieces in this outdoor gallery. It is truly an art show with the VW as the canvas. The people’s choice award is as much about artistry as it is about anything else.

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The Beetle is a universal canvas in the way that a BMW 3.0CS could never be. You can probably find a disintegrating one to use as sculpture somewhere near you. You can use just the shape, or a rear decklid, or a fender, or a hubcap, and everyone will know what you mean. It works as a stick cartoon, and as a fine art oil painting. It can evoke an era, or it can evoke a whole drag-racing class. Usually in art, you want to stay away from an icon, but in this case, a new VW Beetle based car could be driving around your town, or screaming down your local drag strip tomorrow. And a new VW Beetle art car could easily be in the world’s finest museums that same day.

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Sebring Vintage Classic 2019

Classic Velocity

Who can pass up a weekend of vintage racing at a historic track? Not the Classic Velocity crew. The weekend is organized by SVRA, whose motto is “Some people collect art, we race it”. And that motto was in full bloom in early March as competitors and fans converged on the heart of Florida. Perhaps it is the venue, or perhaps the entry fees, but this particular event tends to have more fly-and-drive participants and more expensive cars. There were a lot of “race management” outfits in the paddock, and fewer DIY solo competitors. However, this in turn resulted in more high-end and historic art that was raced. Porsche was by far the most popular marque, but Ferrari and Aston Martin were also well represented.

 As always, it is the people that make these events so enjoyable. I had a chance to speak with the owner of the lovely 914 pictured here. The owner did all of the work himself other than paint, trailered it from Phoenix, ran it, wrenched it, and still had time to tell me all about it and swap 914 stories. Commendable indeed. At the other end of the spectrum, I got to spend some quality time with one of the Audi suspension technicians for the WEC LMP car of Tom Kristiensen and Alan McNish. I got up close and personal with the car and changes they had to make to the suspension for the relatively bumpy Sebring circuit. Suffice it to say that there was not a lot of suspension travel on those cars, and not much seat padding either!! It gives you new appreciation for what it must be like to do a multi-hour stint in a car like that. Oh, and the rear suspension arms cost more than the 914 ! 

There was also a car show sponsored by Hagerty which included an eclectic mix of vehicles from an Austin A35 to a VW Westfalia, to a Ferrari to a Pontiac Grand Safari (one of the largest of the behemoth station wagons of the 1970s).  There were enough items of interest to keep any gearhead engaged over a few days, and the access and approachability of those in the paddock made this a special event. 

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Bitter SC

Classic Velocity

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The Bitter SC was the successor to the Bitter CD chronicled here before (see Sweet Bitter). It entered the market in 1979, even as CDs were still available. Although it was based on the largest of the Opel platforms, the styling was very Italian, and it could almost be mistaken for the Ferrari 412. This was not a bad thing, as it is clearly a handsome coupe. Much of the car was built in Italy, first at OCRA, and then at Maggiore, but eventually by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria. All cars then came back to Schwein, Germany for final assembly or for inspection. The car was powered by a 3.0 or a 3.9 liter inline 6 cylinder., and produced 180hp. or 210hp respectively. It used Bosch fuel injection. Weighing 3500lbs, they used that power to propel the car to an 8.3 second 0-60 time.

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Bitter went to great effort to create a premium car, with a luxurious interior including leather and woodgrain. A sedan, and a cabriolet were added in 1981. Just 488 were built, and only a handful came to the US, where they were carried by a few Buick dealers due to a deal with GM. That placement did not help, and US sales were tepid. However, demand was outstripping supply elsewhere, hence the move to Austria for much of the manufacturing. In an interesting twist, Bitter had difficulties with US emissions despite using a US vendor to handle that area. They eventually used a Porsche catalytic converter to solve their issues! They were also up against the rise of the BMW sedan, and other premium offerings. Lastly, the idea of a rebodied car was now primarily the domain of the supercar. No matter how nice it looked, and no matter how well executed, a rebodied Opel was going to be a challenge. Today, the SC from this period remains popular, and the wedge styling has stood the test of time.

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BMW 700RS

Classic Velocity

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If this seems like a good model name for a motorcycle, you are partially right. The BMW 700 was a very important vehicle for the company and we have previously covered it (see BMW 700). In that article, we pointed out that it was a successful combination of a car’s body wrapped around a motorcycle engine. We also mentioned that it enjoyed some racing success with the GT and RS models.

The 700RS was built specifically for hillclimbs, and featured an aluminum space frame chassis bearing little resemblance to the production 700 that shared part of its name. In true testament to the racing ethos of the time, it retained the 697cc motorcycle engine but managed to produce 70 hp from that unit. With a curb weight of just 1213 lbs, it had 100 hp per liter of displacement, and 127 hp per ton. Amazing numbers at the time, and very much aligned with racers like Lotus. It also handled very well given that it was mid-engined, and low and sleek.

The 700RS went on to numerous victories in the early 1960s, piloted by such racing luminaries as Alex Von Falkenhausen, and Hans Stuck. 

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January Janus

Classic Velocity

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The late 1940s and the early 1950s represent one of those periods where the automobile and the motorcycle world were experimenting with hybrids. In this case, a hybrid is referring to a machine which was in part motorcycle, and in part car. A car was a relatively expensive item to purchase, and motorcycles were still mainstream reliable transportation in Europe. Manufacturers understandably wanted to find a combination of these two that would produce an inexpensive reliable machine which would protect the driver and occupants from the weather. One manifestation of that combination was the micro car, and we have covered a few variations of that in this blog such as the Messerschmidt (see The Other Microcar) and the BMW 700 (see Heart of a Bike, Body of a Car).

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One particularly interesting variation was The Zundapp Janus. It was produced in 1957 and 1958, and was the only car ever produced by Zundapp which of course specialized in motorcycles (see Volksmotorrader and The Green Elephant). The Janus got its name from the Roman god who also gave us the month of January. The distinguishing feature of Janus was that he was two-faced and could look backwards and forwards at the same time. The Zundapp Janus was similarly almost symmetrical front to back, and were it not for brake lights and turn signals in the back versus the headlights up front, you might have trouble distinguishing which way the vehicle was going from a side profile. This extended to the seating in the car with one bench seat facing forward and the other bench seat facing backwards. Both seats folded down to form a flat head when needed. A clamshell door opened either end of the vehicle further adding to the symmetry.

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The car was powered by a single cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine of only 245 cc. It was positioned in the center of the vehicle between the two seats, and would only propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 50 mph. Zundapp did also produce more powerful versions with 400 cc 2 cylinder two-stroke motors and eventually 500 and 600 cc versions. Some 6900 examples of the Janus were built in all. The short life of the Janus was due to three main factors. First, it was rust prone primarily due to water leaking around the symmetrical quarter windows on the car. Second, it was expensive compared to the BMW Isetta, and other competitors in the Microcar space. Lastly, it was slow compared to competitors and it was probably a terrifying view out the back window as vehicles rapidly approached ! Production ended in 1958 and Zundapp returned to its motorcycle roots. Of course, the Janus has returned for a curtain call with the character Professor Zundapp in the movie Cars...

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Sebring Historics 2018

Classic Velocity

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The local BMW club, FSCBMWCCA, organized an outing to the Sebring Historics, and we tagged along. Sebring is a historic track with a rich legacy. The Historics event is an opportunity for historic and vintage sports cars to enjoy a race weekend in the central Florida “fall” weather. This translated into foggy mornings with sunny days with highs in the low 80s. The event also features a vintage aircraft fly-in with most from the WWII era.  The display area for these machines was interesting by itself. Radial aircraft engines in particular are fascinating for their simplicity and reliability. And that brings us back to endurance racing where both of those virtues can help you to emerge victorious. 

The racing portion of this event is organized by Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR).  In the sprint races, a couple of Porsche 914/6 cars dominated group 2 and 3 with  a BMW E36 sandwiched in between. A Porsche 911 RSR was on the podium in group 5 and 7, and there was a Classic RS race. A couple of 2002s were sprinkled among the field, but none managed to run at the front. The highlight is the Classic 12 hour, and a pair of Lola’s finished 1-2. The entire field was interesting with Ginettas and GT40s and Elans and longhood 911s and Cobras battling it out. 

Like all historic events, the pits provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with some very cool machinery. Owners, drivers, and mechanics are all very tolerant of onlookers and questions. We had a great conversation around a BMW M Coupe, and got to climb inside an RSR. Very cool. Back at the club corral, there were some interesting machines as well. Not one, but two Z8s graced us with their presence, along with a couple of nice original M5s and an M2. Cool people, cool cars, cool competition. Not a bad way to bring in December. 

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Petersen Porsche

Classic Velocity

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The Petersen Museum is routinely regarded as one of the world’s best.  From the building itself, now with an artistic exoskeleton, to the contents, it sets high expectations. We have visited before (see A Visit to the Petersen), but it has been a while. The Petersen is large enough to have multiple exhibits going on within its walls at any given time. It keeps it fresh for return visitors, and they have a ridiculous inventory of vehicles to rotate through and to borrow. This is, after all, Southern California, and Hollywood is a stone’s throw away. This visit was special because the museum was running a Porsche exhibit. Dubbed “The Porsche Effect”, the exhibit chronicles the history of Porsche from beginning to modern times. This is a challenge that the Porsche Museum struggles with, so the Petersen had to have an interesting approach. 

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That approach was centered around a strategic sampling of machines, augmented by some storytelling posters and placards. If you are a stickler for chronology, you could proceed in a roughly anti-clockwise direction on the first floor. If not, you could just move easily from perfect examples to prototypes that never saw production, to race cars. This show could fill the entire Museum, but it was all housed in a portion of the first floor. Despite this, it did a good job of creating a journey. An entire wall was dedicated to the memorable and iconic race cars from the 550 to LMP. A 356A started the road car story, but along the way you got to see a 904, the early 911, the 914, a slant nose, a 4 door 928 birthday gift to Ferdinand, a Ruf right in the lobby, and the last of the air-cooled 993. And, in the style of the Petersen, you could get right up close with all of the cars.

This alone would have been worth the price of admission, but there are two more floors of the Petersen filled with interesting vehicles.....

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OCTO Pomona 2018

Classic Velocity

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As a blog dedicated to Classic German machines on two wheels and four, there are certain events that are legendary and represent the high point of the year. Regardless of where you are geographically, the Orange County Transporter Organization event twice a year is in that category if you own a 1967 and earlier VW Bus. California is a Mecca for Aircooled Vdubs in general, and buses in particular (with all due respect to the Pacific Northwest, New England, and Florida). The OCTO event was happening before Buses were cool again, and persists regardless of auction prices and celebrity collectors. It is rain or shine, and this year, in a freak of Southern California nature, it rained! Even with the weather as a factor,  this event dwarfs gatherings of Splitty buses elsewhere in the country. Almost all are driven to the event. Almost all are driven regularly. Many are daily drivers. 
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Every configuration was represented at the show. Kombis, Deluxe in 13 15 21 and 23 window versions, single and double cabs, panel vans, Campers with all configurations of tops, and even a fire truck.  No two buses alike, just like the owners. The swap meet was the area most impacted by the weather, as few wanted their oxidized parts further oxidized. Which brings us to patina. Patina is in. There were a lot of buses with engine, suspension, and brakes up to relatively modern standards, but with the body in various states of decay. That decay was often clear coated to preserve it, or in some cases, an aging process was used to create the decay or the appearance of decay. Logo panel vans were similarly treated to reveal an old logo, or create one that looks period correct. Some real artistry was on display along with a good deal of time, effort, and money. 

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The following day was the Pomona Swap Meet. Although there is a swap portion which is all VW, this event is huge, and the show field isy acres of vintage iron from low rider 50s Cadillacs to Audi Foxes, to Delorean Back-To-The-Future replicas, to a wild shorty Beetle. Everything at this show was cool even if not always your particular cup of tea. The wild and wacky share space with the concours queens. There are plenty of YouTube videos that can help you grasp this better than words. What they can’t help you to appreciate is the vibe in the air. It is a giant cars-n-coffee meets carnival meets swap meet. It is sensory overload. If your car is “special”, and by that we mean special as in concours level or special in modifications, or special in patina, or special in paint, or special as in custom, or special as in weird, this is the place to be. There were plenty of “regular” examples present, but this event is much more spectacle than it is subtle appreciation society. Make sure you have good lubrication for your human neck bearing, as it will be swiveling a lot. The best part is that this show happens 6 or 7 times a year! I am told by devoted attendees that every show is just as crazy and vibrant as this one. 

Between the two events, we laughed, we wept, we coveted, we scratched our heads, we were shocked and awed, we stood slack-jawed, we marveled at craftsmanship, and we expanded our understanding of what is possible, and we gained a greater appreciation for the sheer diversity of thoughts on the automobile as an art canvas. With two events like these (and there were many other events in South/Central California that weekend), and good weather year round (except Saturday ;-), you can understand how many consider this to be one of the global centers of car culture.

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Yes, your eyes do not deceive you....

Dakar Rally Record Setter

Classic Velocity

One of our favorite cars of all time is the Porsche 959 Rally Car (see Porsche 959 Paris Dakar). Partly because it is so far from the intent of the production car, partly because it is a rally car, and partly because it looks great in Rothmans livery. Even the replicas are cool and expensive. Porsche was always pretty good at keeping track of its race cars, so we guess it just waited for a special occasion to let one of these machines change hands. And this is why the Porsche 70th Anniversary auction included one of the 1985  Paris Dakar cars, and then it sold for $5,945,000 ! And this was not a winning car, just one of 3 that all retired with issues. There are four more of the seven produced in the Porsche Museum. We were narrowly outbid, but maybe next time ;-)

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Cuban Cars

Classic Velocity

Friend of the blog Ed Solomon snapped a bunch of great pictures while on a tour of Cuba. A few of the German ones are pictured here along with others. All had great exteriors and interiors, but had surprising engine bays equipped with small transplants, displaying the ingenuity (or is that enginuity) needed to keep these cars on the road...

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Brought to you by MOTOCRON : Record, Monitor, Analyze, Report, on activities for all of your vehicles.

New is Old....Again

Classic Velocity

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It's official, we have run out of ideas. Electric cars, not new. Medicinal herbs, not new. Organic food, not new. Driverless cars, not new. Faded jeans, not new. And there is such an absence of new ideas in entertainment, that sequels, remakes, and recycling are the norm. For our more relevant space of vintage iron, there is also a movement these days to make new stuff old, and to keep old stuff…..well….old. This too is not new, as the rat rods of the mid 20th century had the same ethos. Take something old, and make it serviceable (or high performance), but leave the aesthetic looking like it was when found (or abandoned). There have even been schools within the movement that have taken something in good cosmetic shape, and distressed them, aged them, or otherwise altered them in order to look like a barn find. The spectrum is broad, so we thought that in true Classic Velocity style, we would categorize them. We did a related post on how close you are to being a purist a few years ago (see Tiers of Authenticity), so you can check that out as well.

  1. Preservation. This school is pretty straightforward. You alter nothing (or the minimum possible) to make the vehicle operate as it did when it last operated.

    1. There is even a market for non-operating preservation, where even the cobwebs remain undisturbed.

  2. Practication. You take an original vehicle as found, and make it practical to operate on a limited basis. This might involve more modern non-period-correct tires, corrosion inhibitor applied to the undercarriage, an LED bulb or two to replace the stock 1157, etc. The vehicle is not modified in any way, and the cosmetic patina is natural and continuing to evolve.

  3. Performication. Not to be confused with per-fornication. Different blog for that. This school might do any needed metalwork and then preserve the resulting aesthetic with a clear coat of the patina, so that it will not evolve further. There may be more extensive less visible structural work, suspension upgrades, engine upgrades, brake upgrades, etc to make the vehicle competent with, or superior to, today's vehicles.

    1. The closer you get it to looking like category one or two, the more impressive it is.

    2. The better the performance, the more impressive it is.

  4. Oldification. This school takes something new and typically high performance, and makes it look old aesthetically. We are not talking here about the many retro and homage vehicles produced by manufacturers.

    1. We are talking about putting a modified early 911 body on a modern 911 chassis and drive train, or putting a new BMW 1200 (now 1250) motor in a modified R60/2 chassis, or somehow using a current Mustang platform for a Model A hotrod, or a Hayabusa engine in your Isetta. 

    2. There are some pretty expensive paint jobs and interiors out there that look like they are old, distressed, corroded, sun bleached. Aircooled Vdubs (which are already old) have members of this school. A variation are motorcycle tanks with faux bullet holes painted oxidation red, and aged brown leather seats.

    3. Technically you could consider Chip Foose, Kindig-It, and their ilk to be a variation on this theme. We could also argue though, that they represent the opposite, Newification.

So where do you fall on the spectrum? Did we miss a category? Best comment wins a Motocron subscription.

Limerock 2018

Classic Velocity

The annual pilgrimage to Limerock Motorsports Park is always great for vintage racing, and a lovely drive through bucolic northwestern Connecticut. This year, Bugatti was the featured marque, and it was unique to see so many in one place.

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A Brace of Bugattis….

A Brace of Bugattis….

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Photos courtesy of Edwin Solomon.

Down the Lane

Classic Velocity

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Nashville, Tenessee naturally brings to mind Country Music and the Grand Ole Opry, Whiskey, and the smoky mountains. A great automotive museum ? Not so much. Which is why the Lane Motor Museum is such a surprising discovery. Not that it is unknown in museum circles, as it is another of those Family-owned marvels that we the public benefit from immensely, and which are fairly well known among gearheads regionally. The museum is a 501c3 established by Jeff Lane in 2002 around his personal collection. Now there are three aspects of the Lane Museum that make it particularly attractive to Classic Velocity. First, it specializes in European vehicles. Second, every vehicle is a running, driving specimen that gets some usage. This is no small feat, as you will see. There is a real mix of near showroom cars, and many with a healthy patina. Third, the museum is housed in a 132,000 ft2 former Sunbeam Bakery complete with brick walls and maple floors. It compliments the collection and vice versa.

If there is a theme for the museum, it is probably "interesting cars" as our basement tour guide described it. The main floor is 40,000 ft2 of those cars along with a history of the bicycle exhibit, which was interesting in its own right. The vehicles (they include a smattering of motorcycles and scooters) are roughly, but not entirely, grouped by the region of Europe. Scandinavia included Volvos and Saabs. A highlight of this area was a Saab 92 from 1950 which only came in aircraft green because that paint was surplus from the war. Next on my circumnavigation of the floor was an impressive collection of micro cars which crossed all geographic boundaries. Well known Isetta, and Messerschmidt shared space with a Zundapp Janus, a Heinkel and a Hoffman. Hondas and Berkeleys and Subarus were intertwined. The French and the Italians were not to be outdone with entries from Renault (a dauphine Henney electric car from 1959!), Citroen, Fiat, and a delightful Vespa. DAF, Daihatsu, and an American Davis were also included. A well executed Tata Nano from India was also present. A truly "interesting" group.

Back to the regions, Italy blurred into France which was dominated by Citroen, but had an iconic Renault 5 Turbo. At this point I need to jump back over to a small group of race cars to highlight the bright orange Citroen DS Ice Racer, complete with snorkel and studded tires. Enough said. The next section was dedicated to Tatra from the Czech Republic, so technically it was regional. However, there were about a dozen Tatras on display, and more in the basement. They are a theme of this museum, and run from a 1925 car to  a 1994 truck. Interesting design, interesting engineering, interesting history. Eastern Europe continued with a Polish FSO, Skodas, and then into Russia via Zil and ZAZ. 

I left Germany for last, given the focus of this blog. This was a great opportunity to see vehicles in person that have been covered on these pages, from marques which went away decades ago, and are not normally seen even at vintage events. Perhaps my favorite was back in the race car section where there was a 1 of 1 Shirdlu powered by a BMW 700 engine. Minimalist at 1000 lbs and top speed of 127 mph. Designed and built by 3 Californians. The collection included a couple of Hanomags, a Hansa, a few Lloyds, a Steyr, several DKWs (including a lovely Monza), a Wartburg, several NSUs, a Goliath, and more.  Incredible, and knowing that all of them were or soon would be running driving examples made it all the more impressive.

If you are anywhere near Nashville, you owe the Lane Motor Museum a visit, but pay the extra for the basement tour. It is well worth it.

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Motocron - The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log

Classic Velocity

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Like many of you who have more than one vehicle to keep track of, the Classic Velocity garage used a combination of paper folders, a whiteboard, some yellow pad pages, and even a spreadsheet at one point. However, as the vehicle count grows, or as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult and inconvenient to find information by rifling through thick folders. And sometimes, the answer is in a folder that you have since archived or given to the new owner. Even if you only own 1 or 2 vehicles, and do none of your own work, you would probably like to keep track of  what was done when, how many miles/hours you traveled, what events you participated in, and be able to recall details and photos anyplace, anytime.

The Classic Velocity Vehicle Log (CVVL)  is an app that keeps track of all of the activities and costs (at whatever level of detail you choose to track them) over time associated with all of your vehicles. It will even let you go back in time and paint a complete picture of vehicles you already own. It lets you track todo items and deadlines. It lets you It adds even greater value by providing a series of reports on activity, costs, mileage/hours, and locations, to help you easily search and find answers. Reports can be filtered by vehicle, timeframe, type of activity, etc, and viewed in a variety of formats.  Lastly it lets you do this wherever and whenever you want on whatever device you want. $10 per year gets you unlimited entries for up to 10 vehicles.

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Use code CVVLAUNCH at checkout for a discount and help the Log to fund the Blog!

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Simeone Revisited

Classic Velocity

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The Simeone Foundation Museum is not one of those that has an entirely new collection periodically. It focuses on a core group of sports cars with fenders that are rare and famous. Just about every vehicle in the main exhibit hall is a multi-million dollar vehicle. They do host some special events such as the vintage motorcycle event, that happen during the course of the year, and which bring in other vehicles (see Simeone Motorcycles). On this visit I simply returned to revisit the collection itself. You can read the original post for background, but for newer readers, it is a great venue that presents the cars in context via grand period settings. A board racer on a section of Brooklands track, or a Mille Miglia winner going through a quintessential Italian village, or a series of Le Mans competitors along a recreated pit lane complete with refueling rigs! It is this kind of atmosphere that resulted in the facility winning museum of the year once in 2011, and then for the second time in 2017 from the International Historic Motoring Awards.

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it is very hard to declare the “star” of the Simeone collection. The museum has many cars which are one of six or one of three or one of one. The Shelby Daytona Coupe would have to be on the short list, but so would the Porsche 917 and the Mille Miglia winning Bugatti. All of the cars run from time to time in the rear parking lot, so you can see and hear them in action. Many also participate in events around the world. If I were a retired high performance sports car, I think this is the life I would want. 

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On this particular visit though, a surprise was in store. The museum was almost empty but for a few staff, and as I wandered toward the back, the Mercedes SSK was sitting outside alone! In a nanosecond, I was circling it in a way that would not normally be possible. Up close, it is a magnificent giant of a car, and you can readily see why it spawned an entire replica industry. Great performance, a great body, and a great interior. 

 

The Cult Turns 50

Classic Velocity

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In the course of the average human life, you don't get to celebrate too many 50 year anniversaries that happened entirely on your watch. Even fewer for products that you still use and enjoy! A few years back, the Porsche 911 celebrated 50 years, and since the model is still in production, it allowed for a grand time-lapse of evolution, memories, and memorabilia.  In 2018, the BMW 2002 celebrates 50 years of production. Two German icons, two vehicles that have fortunately inhabited the garage, and two vey different automobiles. The 02 is a very different celebration, as the last ones left the factory in 1976! They justifiably get labeled as a "cult car", and there is a famous book on the car with that title. Inevitably the factory and a variety of organizations throw grand birthday parties, and this year was no different. The best way to celebrate a big birthday is with a group of passionate fans of this single model. As David E Davis famously said in his 1968 review, "Now turn your hymnals to Number 2002 and we'll sing two choruses of Whispering Bomb . .."

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So where to find a group of passionate fans ? Hhhhmmmm.....Well there are probably a few hiding in your general region, but it just happens that a group of said fans have been heading to North Carolina, USA every year for over a decade. Scott Sturdy has given us rabid fans a great excuse to drive first to his vineyard when the group was small, and then to Winston-Salem which the group also outgrew, and now to Asheville. It is no longer just an 02 event, but it started that way, and the 2002 remains the core of the event. This gathering and the cars have been featured on these pages many times (see Proper Procrastination and Of Propellers And Cobblestones), but this time is a bit special. 

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At the front end of the event, the BMW CCA Foundation hosted a special sold out open house at their facility in Greer, SC near the US manufacturing facility. It was a celebration of the 2002 with cars, memorabilia, speakers, and merchandise. Effectively, the facility became a BMW 2002 museum for the day. Among the many special cars including a Bauer and a Cabriolet, was a better-than-factory Ceylon car. They should have put it on a rotisserie so that you could marvel at the underside as much as the top side. An immersive sensory overdose for the 02 addict, complete with music from 1968 into the early 1970s. I hate to keep using the drug analogy, but we are talking 1968.....The written word (at least our written words) simply cannot do justice to such an event. It is like writing about Woodstock. Imagine getting to attend a private Jimi Hendriks concert for about 200 people. Then imagine that the attendees included rabid fan friends of yours going back a decade or two. Now imagine that you are perfectly sober for the whole thing and can remember it!  

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But wait, there's more. That evening, the entire host hotel parking lot was turned into a BMW pre-show that went on well into the night. I think the only non-BMW in the parking lot was the hotel shuttle. On behalf of the entire BMW 2002 community, I apologize to any guests that were not part of this event. On the other hand, you will have stories for your grand children! 

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But wait, there's much more. The official show is always the next day, Saturday, now at a picturesque park in Hot Springs, NC. As always, 02s have a field unto themselves, this year including a few lovely Neue Klasse cars, and several of the immediate precursor to the 2002, the 1600. It is in this setting that you could readily appreciate the many individualized creations that make up the community. It is nothing if not diverse. The foundation event was the curated version, but the park was a canvas for everybody. The album will do the talking here, but suffice it to say that just about every color and variation was present in treatments from mild to wild. And almost all driven to the event from far away. Oh yeah, there were other cool BMWs there as always, but this one was about the icon. The cult car. 

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As a true driver's sedan, you can pay no greater tribute than to drive these cars., and after a great long weekend, they were driven back home hundreds of miles away. A fitting 50th birthday party if ever there was one. 

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