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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Category: car

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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Don Garlits Museum

Classic Velocity

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Your eyes do not deceive you. You may be asking, what could the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing possibly have to do with a blog about classic and vintage German vehicles, and why is a Karmann Ghia the lead photo? Good questions, I am glad you asked. 

First, it has been our experience that museums in general often have surprising content despite their main theme. In fact, we have yet to visit a car or motorcycle museum that did not have some unusual items related in some way to this blog. Check out this link to museum posts, and you will see what we mean. Second, it is a museum about cars going fast, so there is an automatic interest. With that said, we did not have very high expectations about this unplanned stop. Going as fast as possible in a very short straight line, is not exactly where our motorsports interests lie. It is the conceptual and philosophical opposite of the Dakar, Formula 1, Moto GP, and World Rally. However, it is serious business, the speeds are ludicrous, it is dangerous, and the machines are incredible manifestations of brute force.

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The main theme of the museum is to provide a chronicle of the life and times of Don Garlits, who is probably the most famous drag racer period. From the late 1950s into the 1980s, he created and refined the most dominant machines in the sport. He started with a repair and service shop in Tampa, FL but soon started to build hot rods and that naturally lead to faster quarter mile machines and drag cars. "Big Daddy" as he came to be known, and his "Swamp Rat" machines as they came to be known has a long and colorful history, and his personal and political views have often been controversial. Like all forms of Motorsport, the early days had crude machines and astounding levels of risk. Steel frames from 2 street cars welded together to create length, highly volatile fuel mixtures running through rubber hoses secured by hose clamps, an exposed engine 12 inches from your face, overalls and goggles for safety gear, etc. Garlits began in those days and moved with the sport into the modern era.  However, he paid a price in losing half of his foot in an accident where his transmission exploded and cut the car in half. He went rear-engined after that and continued to race!

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The dragsters are the most ungainly looking masters of speed. They have massive engines originally in front of and now behind the driver. They have a 25ft wheelbase. Today they are estimated to generate north of 10,000 hp in top fuel form. In order to put that power down to the ground, the massive 3ft wide slicks run at 5-7psi !!  The top fuel runs are over in 3.7 seconds or less, but the driver is subject to 5.5g at the peak, 4g sustained, and speeds exceed 330mph !! Fan, or not, you have to respect the engineering and marvel at the spectacle that such numbers represent.  

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Tucked into one small area amidst two buildings of pure Americana, are a Volkswagen Beetle, a beetle chassis cutaway, and a pristine 1974 Karmann Ghia. The Beetle is one that Garlits restored, but the 1974 Ghia was purchased from a bank auction of a new car dealership, driven for 27 dealer test miles, and has never been titled ! Arguably, the best example in the world, located in a museum dedicated to the exact opposite of an under-powered non-american street legal air-cooled basic transport. Who would have guessed?

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A Bavarian Shoe

Classic Velocity

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Even from the official launch, the E36/8 has produced polarizing reactions. Love it or hate it. It is hard to believe that these cars are now 20 years old and already considered a classic, but there it is. At the time, the swoopy styling quickly gave rise to knicknames like the bread van, and then the clown shoe. Not flattering. However, just like the BMW GS, 2000 CS, and many other BMWs over time, this was an example of the engineers winning over the accountants and the sales people. The legend maintains (with plenty of evidence to back it up), that a group of engineers led by Burkhard Göschel, worked after hours an on weekends to turn the Z3 platform into a vehicle which would realize its full potential. They toiled away into the night, and developed a car with more than 3 times the torsional rigidity of the roadster, and with the M3 engine shoe-horned into the engine bay. They then asked BMW for permission to produce it. The answer was yes, with two big caveats: First, in order to control costs, it would have to share as much as possible with existing cars. Second, it could not outperform the mighty M3. 

The engineers were thankful, and with a wink and a nod, went off to figure out production. The result is a true driver's car worthy of the purist M label. The wink was that it did in fact outperform the M3 due to a superior power to weight ratio, and so gearing was altered to slow it down a bit. The nod was that from the nose to the A pillar, it shared sheet metal with the Z3, so costs were saved. Mission accomplished. The result is patently unique, and for some people, beautiful in its own way. Rear wheel drive, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, top speed electronically limited to 155 mph, and a beast not easily tamed. Three engines were used over the short 4 year production life, eventually producing 321 hp and 253 ft/lbs of torque from a 3,130 lb car. The design of tokyo-born Joji Nagashima is officially designated a "shooting-brake", although it can also be considered a hatchback. Almost immediately upon production, the M Coupe began to rack up both design and performance awards and accolades. Road & Track, Automobile, Car & Driver, Top Gear, etc. All placed it in the top 5 or top 10 M cars of all time. All acknowledged a future icon. 

As is often the case however, sales were not as kind. While the regular Z3 enjoyed robust sales, the M Coupe struggled. It was already aimed at a narrow slice of the market, and the styling was enough to further limit appeal. 6,318 M coupes were produced over the 4 year production span from 1998 to 2002, with 2,870 of those being the US market version. It was replaced by a much less polarizing, and less insane, Z4 M Coupe. Regardless of how you view these cars, they represent perhaps the last time in modern times that the engineers at BMW were left in charge. As a driving enthusiast, however that happened, I am very glad it did.

  • ECE S50 (LHD): 2,178 built from 04/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S50 (RHD): 821 built from 08/98 thru 06/2000
  • NA S52 (LHD): 2,180 built from 07/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S54 (LHD): 281 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • ECE S54 (RHD): 168 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • NA S54 (LHD): 690 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
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Framo 2-3-4 Wheels

Classic Velocity

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Innovation in frames and platforms was the norm in the early days of the internal combustion engine, and many companies were simply trying to find the most efficient means to accomplish a task. One such company was Framo, founded in 1923, the same year as BMW. Although founded in Saxony, Germany, it was started by Dane Jorgen Rasmussen, who also founded DKW. The main idea was to use Framo to produce components for DKW motorcycles. After 3 years, that lead to the production of a commercial motorcycle-based vehicle, Basically, it was a trike with a cargo platform. This TV300 model emerged as a Framo vehicle in 1927. Variations for Framo included a single wheel at the front driven by an engine directly above it, a single wheel at the rear, enclosed cockpits, and open trikes with a covered rear. In other words, many permutations and configurations were tried.  Three-wheeled experiments in turn lead to the 4-wheeled Piccolo and Stromer models in the 1930s. All models were powered by 200cc-600cc 2 stroke motorcycle engines. Sales were simply ok in many instances, and weak in others, with no real sales successes.

Postwar, the factory was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Production resumed however in 1949 with what was essentially a pre-war model. Although there were further attempts at passenger vehicles, commercial applications were the only consistent sales. Even this was not to last very long, as the company became VEB Barkas and then concentrated on compact passenger vans. But that is a story for another time....

East African Coronation Safari 1953-1954

Classic Velocity

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With the Dakar underway, long distance endurance rallies are on the mind. Going back in time, these rallies were really extended reliability trials. If you finished on Sunday (winning was even better), it went right onto a poster for the sales department to use on Monday. Even today, I wonder how many manufacturers would send a bone stock production sedan vehicle off to race across sub Saharan Africa, wth just a couple of tires and a gas can strapped on the back. But I digress.....

The East African Coronation Safari was first run in 1953 crossing Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. It was initially held to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, since She was in Kenya and became Queen, when King George died. It became widely regarded as the toughest Rally on the circuit, if not in the world. 3000 miles, punishing terrain, and unpredictable weather, all combined to cement the reputation of this Rally. However the first two instances of this Rally really set the stage. The initial rally had three starting points, although the majority started in Nairobi. It wound its way around Lake Victoria. Performance on the cars was required to be showroom, meaning no mods. Four classes were determined based on vehicle price. There were only 57 entrants for the first Rally, including DKW, Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Tatar, and Volkswagen. There were only 27 finishers, with the top spot (least penalties) going to the split-window Volkswagen Beetle of Alan Dix and Johnny Larsen. In 1954, Volkswagen triumphed again but this time at the famous hands of Vic Preston and D P Marwaha. Average speed decreased due to the increase in mandatory rest stops and control points. The following year, the Rally adopted FIA rules and an RAC permit was required, effectively ending the initial minimal regulations approach. 

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On Receiving Gifts II

Classic Velocity

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 A bit of recycling here from 2012, but it became relevant once again due to this quote we stumbled across this holiday season in Santa Fe, NM. "Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.”

The car sat under a tree, wedged in between a rusted out Plymouth Valiant and a tractor-trailer that was being used as storage. It was covered in that grayish greenish brown mix of pollen and dirt that renders all of the glass opaque. It also made it hard to tell exactly what color the car was. The final top had split in several places due to the ravages of sun and rain and tree sap. The engine compartment had more acorns and leaves than the tree under which it rested. The tires were remarkably round and still held some amount of air, but were dry and cracked on the side walls. The driver's seat was shot, and someone had cut the dash for a more modern stereo. The chrome was mysteriously pitted in random places as if to emulate some strange rash. It was a mess, and I had to have it. I mean, who would let such an icon just sit outside and deteriorate? This was a not inexpensive sportscar that was desired, acquired, and pampered at some point. Now it was just another case where eminent domain should apply (see The Theory of Eminent Domain)

I had stopped by a few weeks earlier and left a note, but no call. This time, I caught the shop owner, Steve. It was a typical case of a customer who had brought the car in for some repairs, and found that those repairs were going to be more expensive and extensive than he bargained for. The car sat. Steve vowed to contact the owner that night, and I left once again. Two days later I got a call. Yes it was for sale, but for more than it was worth. Today it would sound ridiculously cheap, but at that time, things were different. We haggled a bit, but the owner was sticking to his guns. I wondered if he had seen the car recently. No deal.

A few days later, I was about to call and up the offer, such was my craving. Before I had a chance, the owner called and accepted my initial slightly low offer. He had been to see the car and was surprised at the condition. He told me that Steve had promised to keep it inside, finish the work, etc, etc. I was at his place with the money the next day, even though it would take a few weeks to pick up the car. Then, with title in hand, I returned to the shop and took a more complete inventory. A lot of work, but doable. It even turned over with the battery from the shop, although it did not fire. I hauled my gift home and began the discovery process.

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Three weeks and an awful lot of work, diagnostics, and a few parts were required in order to get the car running. That first time it fired and ran was a gift worthy of a sacred garage celebration. Too bad nobody was around to see it. It became a rolling restoration, although I hesitate to use the word restoration as the intent was to make it a driver. The body and interior cleaned up remarkably well, and over the years, the ailments have been mostly addressed, while delivering the gifts of wrenching and the parts hunt, and the community of like-minded madmen. The stock 2.2 litre flat six engine has been solidly reliable and has taken the car on many trips and many hundreds of miles with nothing but oil changes and tuneups along the way. It has gone around the track at LimeRock and Watkins Glen. It has toured New England in the fall with a rebuilt targa top stowed in the trunk. It has attended many a club event with two small children in the back. It has given the gift of joy and laughter.

And more than a decade later, on the way to a breakfast one weekend, the car delivered more gifts. While I was getting gas, a woman smiled and said "That's a lovely car" as she walked inside to get coffee. On the way out she asked what year it was and we chatted for a minute. She never stopped smiling. A few minutes later, the car flew down a lonely section of interstate at 120mph. The speedo wavered back and forth between 120 and 125 as I kept going. The car always begins to feel good above 80mph, and it sees triple digits on occasion, but it is not usually up in the 120mph area. We were only there for about a minute, but the car did not feel strained, and I had more tach to go. I was not far away from the top speed of the car when new, and this car is 43 years old. Stock points and ignition, stock Zenith carbs, stock motor, stock wheels, stock steering wheel. I never stopped smiling, and I am pleased in this Holiday season to once again receive a gift from a vehicle which keeps on giving.