Thursday, 30 July 2015

Singer 911 3.8

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Goodwood Festival of Speed's concours lawn was abuzz with excitement over the Singer 911 Targa, but it wasn't the only Singer on show. While the grey 4.0 languished in the sun on the manicured grass, a racy mustard yellow 3.8 was making a nuisance of itself up Lord March's driveway...
Rather excitingly, the yellow Singer is their first bona fide build for the UK; the cars are referred to by their ultimate customer destination (the Targa, for example, is the Montreal car), and this yellow 3.8 is due to walk amongst us, for which we may all be thankful. It's right-hand drive, which makes sense, and has been built with a focus on light weight. There's a bespoke 3.8-litre Cosworth motor out back, and a leather-weave interior that fuses the quest for lightness with Singer's over-arching obsession with making all of the minute details as gorgeous as they can be. It's also packing a 6-speed manual 'box, integrated roll bar, adjustable Öhlins suspension, external fuel and oil cap fillers (the former in the centre of the bonnet), track seats and vast brakes fit for motorsport. It's exquisite - of course it is, it's a Singer - but it's been built to be used, and used hard. And there's something very satisfying about that.

Spotted at the 2015 FoS - more photos here. (And there are more [and rather better] photos of the 3.8 on Singer's site here.)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

X1/9 Prototipo

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This boisterous X1/9 is a corking tribute to an also-ran of the 1970s rally scene. The nature of prototypes, of course, is that they’re experimental, transitory things, not built for the ages but simply to test the water for various ideas and processes – and as such, it’s hard to say exactly how many Abarth X1/9 Prototipo rally cars were built by the celebrated tuner on the jazzy little Fiat platform. The common assumption is that it was around five(ish, maybe), so it’s probably high time that someone took it upon themselves to build another one.
The prototypes ran 1840cc twin-cams with twin 44IDF Webers, offering over 200bhp in a package that weighed just 750kg. Each had a special nose with Fiat 126 lights replacing the pop-ups and, most fun of all, a sodding great periscope at the back. It's a beguiling whisper of Abarth ephemera, and you can read more of the model's history here.
Oh, and this one bears a striking resemblance to another that I wrote a feature on in Retro Cars a few months ago...

Spotted at the Retro Show - more photos here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Vanguard Vignale

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Standard Vanguard is an unlikely base for a race car. The first generation dates back to 1947, offering Americanised styling pinched from Plymouth, an engine that was markedly similar to the unit Standard were supplying for Ferguson tractors, and a general feeling of chunky dependability and family-friendly sturdiness. The Phase II Vanguard arrived in 1953, updating the formula with a notchback shape and a few chassis tweaks, although the tractor engine remained. The Phase III that followed in 1955, however, did shake up the model somewhat; the separate chassis was gone, with a new monocoque construction being augmented by less weight, independent front suspension, and the option of a four-on-the-floor 'box. It still had that same agricultural motor though, albeit tweaked here and there, with a raised compression ratio dialled in to work with the better quality of fuel that was available.
The model you're looking at here is the 1958 facelift of the Phase III, the Vanguard Vignale. You can probably guess why it's called that... the Italian coachbuilders reworked the Vanguard to a Michelotti-penned design, featuring deeper windows and crisper, more modern looks, while such racy features as a heater and windscreen washers were available. (Ooh!) And yet, even so, that tractor engine lumbered on...

Interestingly, though, that doesn't seem to matter. As this car proves, you can have a lot of fun by stripping out the interior and the soundproofing, bolting in a rollcage and bucket seat, and slapping on some race numbers. The engine is pretty much stock here, but the Vanguard Vignale makes for an entertaining steer in sprint events, with Duckspeed taking it all over the country to compete in timed competitions. The most endearing element of the car is that it's far from perfect; it's been owned by the same chap since the 1970s and he's been competing in it for a long time - each dent, scuff and scrape has been annotated with marker pen as a reminder. It's an unusual choice but it works, it looks great, and it acts as a rolling history record. Rather charming, isn't it?

Spotted at MATP 2015 - more photos here.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Group 5 Renault 17

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Renault 17 and its twin, the 15, were effectively coupé variants of the funky 12 saloon. The main differences between the two lay in their headlights and side windows; the 15 had rectangular lamps and big windows, whereas the racier 17 had quad lights and jazzily curtailed glass complemented by huge triangular faux-vent things. The 1970s were weird, weren't they?
Renault took the platform eagerly into motorsport too, ever enthusiastic to get their hands dirty and chase a few chequered flags. The 17, prepared to Group 5 specs, competed in rallies from 1972-75, becoming he first Renault model to win a round of the World Rally Championship. The factory built fourteen cars like this in all, and the one you see here is the final and most successful one. Its 1.8-litre engine produces an effervescent 185bhp and, thanks to extensive use of aluminium, the Group 5 17 only weighs 820kg, so the performance is just as edgy as you'd hope for. And it looks magnificent too, doesn't it? Now part of Renault's Heritage collection, it's concours-pristine in its period livery, with those wide arch extensions and oh-so-retro Gotti split-rims. A rather obscure and very cool slice of French motorsport history.

Spotted at the 2015 FoS - more pics here.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Aston Martin Vulcan

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

People often say that all modern Aston Martins look broadly similar. Fair? Possibly. But this is Aston Martin's riposte, the Vulcan, and it's frankly bloody terrifying.
It's got a naturally-aspirated 7.0-litre V12 that imbues it with a shouty 800bhp, mounted in the front because that's the AM way and they don't need to do mid-engined supercars. (Well, apart from the DP-100, but that only exists in a nebulous fashion.) It's the lowest car they've ever built, at just 1186mm tall, and it wears its keenness for juicy aero proudly on its sleeve; a rear spoiler that doubles as a breakfast bar and a diffuser that could be used for handy bedroom storage, coupled with a front splitter that would take great pleasure in separating you from your feet, all topped off by a disgruntled squint that serves as a constant reminder that the Vulcan is really pissed off with you.

They're only building 24 of them, all of course pre-sold at the bargainous price of £1.5m apiece. This is the way to silence the critics - yes, the V8/DB9/Vanquish/Virage/et al may be the money-spinning volume-sellers (in sports/supercar terms, at least) that share a similar silhouette, but Aston Martin are more than happy to expend some real effort into aspirational exclusivity. First the One-77, then the CC100, now this. So, what next?

Spotted at the 2015 FoS - more pics here.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Spruce Deluxe

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The 105E Anglia is, in stock form, a sort of modifying Meccano set. It's got all the right ingredients for tweaking into awesomeness - little chrome fins, retro-futurist reverse-rake chic, a natty assortment of colours, a big wide mouth like a disgruntled fish - and it's easy to make them look super-cool with a few well-chosen tweaks. Look at this little poppet, for example: the '67 Deluxe's retro Spruce Green paint works beautifully against the chrome, so that's been retained. It's augmented by a healthy dose of lowering, some nicely polished Minilites (or similar) with a fat slug of dish, and some race roundels to act as a statement of intent. It sits right, it's slathered in period features (check out the the raised-letter number plates!), and it looks like whatever's under the bonnet should provide a decent bit of poke. So... hot crossflow? Old-school pre-crossflow? Unexpected Pinto? Place bets now...

Spotted at the 2015 Bromley Pageant - more pics here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Mexipreza': the name immediately tells you what's going on - half Mexico, half Impreza. The shell of the former stuffed with the running gear of the latter, you can see the beefy flat-four with its factory top-mount intercooler lurking beneath the bonnet, the wide track and the five-stud hubs, the giveaway bean-can exhaust offering a stylistic teaser... there's a general sense that the classic two-door profile's been stre-e-etched over the Subaru guts, and that must add up to a whole lot of fun.
This is a car that we need to keep an eye out for - it looks fresh on the scene, and will no doubt be making a big splash before too long.
(Oh, and if you want to see some build photos, take a peep here!)

Spotted at the 2015 Retro Show - more photos here.