Thursday, 5 March 2015

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione is such a sublimely peachy thing to behold that if you're thinking of taking a scalpel to those gorgeous curves, you'd better have a pretty bloody good reason for doing so. Thankfully, the Disco Volante is as good a reason as you're likely to find...

Emulating its iconic 1952 namesake, this rebodied special recalls the halcyon days of manufacturers commissioning a coachbuilder to make the bodywork of a new road/race car as sensually shocking and streamlined as possible. And, like the original, it's the penmanship and sturdy aluminium-hammering of Carrozzeria Touring that have spirited this glorious concept into reality. It bears the trademark Superleggera badges, and retains all of the 8C magic under the skin - so that's a Ferrari-built 4.7-litre V8 with 450bhp, automated manual 'box, a top speed of 181mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.2s.
Beautiful details abound, from the illuminated logos in the seatbacks to the coachline that swoops from the grille, up across the wheelarch and along to the door handle. The pinched tail looks like it's puckering for a kiss (although, being a tail, a crueller man than I may say it's puckering for something else...), and the lollipop tail-lights are wonderfully cartoonish.
A joy to behold, this, and a rare beast too. Nice work, Touring. You're welcome to chop up the odd 8C for this kind of caper.

Click here for more photos from the 2013 St. James's Concours.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Police SD1 3500SE

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Old-school traffic officers - and I've asked a few - loved the SD1. Sure, they all have fond memories of the Capri, but it's the brawny rumble of the V8 Rover that always gets them all misty-eyed with nostalgia.

It wasn't just the drivers who loved them either - the beancounters were so enamoured with the SD1's mixture of reliability, practicality and pace that when production ceased, various police forces stockpiled Rovers for future use throughout the eighties.
The one you see here is a 1983 traffic car which now lives in the Met Police's heritage collection; it was the support car on the infamous 'liver run' - the dash from Stansted Airport to a Kensington hospital to deliver a liver to a transplant patient. Scroll down to the bottom of this post, you'll see the London section of the chase with the camera mounted on board this very car. (Or click here for the whole thing.)

...and click here for more pictures of the Met's heritage collection.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Driven: Austin Allegro

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Never meet your heroes.' That's what people always tell you. So it stands to reason that you should always meet those for whom you have utter contempt - or, even worse, a shrugging sense of indifference. That makes sense, doesn't it?
And so it is that SuckSqueezeBangBlow finds itself behind the wheel of the asthmatically sighing Austin Allegro - a 1.1-litre Allegro 3, no less, with a whopping 45bhp. Forty-five. Phew. The skin on your rice pudding is far from safe here.

I'm driving it alongside Not2Grand's Chris Pollitt, on the basis that spending too much time driving the thing solo might result in a terminal case of glumness. We've borrowed it from the cheery chaps at Great Escape Cars; their fleet is packed full of desirable classics (y'know, E-Types, Interceptors, that sort of caper) and the poor little Allegro probably gets overlooked. Understandable, of course - Graham at Great Escape assures us that the wobbly Austin is presented in deliberately, er, 'pre-loved' form because 'the idea of a restored Allegro seems oxymoronic'. Fair enough. So you can spot quite a few different shades of white scattered about the bodywork, along with a liberal sprinkling of flaky brown oxidation, and a drizzled jus of parking knocks. It's not a cherished classic. It's just an old car.

There's a hell of a lot of brown going on inside too. It quickly earns itself the nickname 'Brown Fury', for obvious reasons, while Chris points out that 'there are things in the world that are less brown because this exists'. Nevertheless, it's actually in pretty good nick in there. Clean and tidy, uncluttered, honest. Oh, and BROWN. Very, very brown.
...and to drive? Well, er... *shrug*
Yeah, it's what you'd expect it to be. It takes quite some time to wind up any sort of speed above walking pace, although you wouldn't really want to as the brakes don't do anything. And that's not carefree hyperbole, I mean they literally do nothing at all. You can stand on the middle pedal with both feet and Brown Fury just keeps rolling inexorably onward, plodding remorsefully into the trauma of the next bend in the road. You need to send a polite letter to the brakes a few days in advance in order to allow the request sufficient time to pass through the British Leyland admin system and set about actually stopping the car. Some considered planning ahead is required.

Interestingly, it is possible to wind the Allegro up to over 70mph, if you have a long enough road, a nice downhill slope, and a following wind. But I wouldn't recommend it, because if you have a Pollitt in your passenger seat as you're doing so, you'll find that the interior is becoming rather more brown. And that's the last thing you need in there. Besides, as well as planning ahead with your braking, you also need to be giving some thought to the steering. There might be a corner coming up and, although this later car eschews the fabled Quartic rim for a regular circular steering wheel, it doesn't actually do very much. Sure, it sort of suggests to the car that a particular change in compass points might be favourable, but if you really want to get the door handles scraping on the floor you'd better shift your weight around and do some leaning yourself.

I'm being very cruel, of course. Yes, the Allegro is rubbish, but it's so poor that it's actually kind of charming. When you indicate, for example, the ticker sounds so s-l-o-w that it feels as if the beleaguered car has given up on life; 'Yes, we can turn I suppose. But what's the point? What's the point of doing anything? Are we nearly there yet? I need a lie down. I'm so sorry. OK, we can turn here if you like. I really am sorry.'
The whole car shudders and oozes with this apologetic sense of defeat, and that's actually what makes it rather fun. It could be that we're caught up in the timeworn notion that the adventure is found in the journey rather than the destination, and by that token we might as well be in any car, but an hour and a half with a good mate in some pretty countryside really endears us to this embarrassing little poppet. Yes, people are genuinely pointing at us and laughing, but we feel like we're in on the joke. And we're certainly having more fun than the dreary folk in every anonymous Corsa that overtakes us in a flurry of irritation and marginally superior acceleration.

So yes - don't meet your heroes, but do have a pop at Brown Fury. That's the helpful lesson here.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Dauer EB110 Super Sport

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Blah blah Veyron blah. The connoisseur's Bugatti is unquestionably the EB110 of the early 1990s. Named to celebrate what would have been Ettore Bugatti's 110th birthday - the 1991 launch date, by a clever bit of planning - this was an almost unbelievably ambitious supercar. The money poured into development was staggering, with a new factory built to produce the EB110 (architecturally intelligent, to maximise natural light and thus stimulate the thought processes of the people inside) while the machine itself was an exercise in bespoke engineering and unique detail. The carbon-fibre chassis was built by Aérospatiale, the French state-owned aerospace company, and the 3.5-litre V12 produced its howling peak of 560bhp thanks to no less than four turbos. This is a car that emerged almost a quarter of a century ago, yet happily boasts thoroughly modern performance figures: try 0-62mph in 4.2s and a top whack of 213mph for size.

In 1992, the EB110 Super Sport arrived. As well as being more powerful, the SS was lighter, shaving a whole second off the 0-62mph time and increasing top speed to 216mph. And it's that model that we're looking at here... kind of. But not really.

You see, this hugely expensive venture was rather less than a fairytale. Bugatti were struggling financially, and by 1995 they were facing bankruptcy - thanks in no small part to the development of the mooted EB112 four-door as well as an overly ambitious plan to buy Lotus. The remaining five half-finished EB110s were snapped up by Dauer Sportwagen (previously well known for their work with Porsche 962s among much else), and so the very latest EB110s were built by this world-class engineering and racing outfit rather than at the fabled Bugatti factory. Dauer EB110s weighed 1,480kg - a whopping 400kg less than Bugatti EB110s - and the engine was rated at a monstrous 865bhp. Top speed increased to 230mph.
Dauer themselves went bankrupt in 2008, and these later EBs are commanding astonishing figures now; the one you're looking at here was recently sold by Joe Macari for £795,000. Still, it's cheaper than a Veyron...

More photos from Joe Macari here.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ferrari F12 TRS

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Ferrari love to build one-off specials. It helps to tie their contemporary models into a long and distinguished tradition of coachbuilding, exemplary client relations, and just creating beautiful things for the sake of it. And so it was that in June of last year they debuted the F12 TRS at the Ferrari Cavalcade in Sicily.
Based on the already astonishing F12berlinetta - a car that offers innovative aero and 730bhp - the TRS exists to fulfil the whims of a customer who envisaged the F12 as a racy barchetta. The Ferrari Styling Centre, headed by Flavio Manzoni, took the 1957 250 Testa Rossa as inspiration (hence the TRS moniker), and the V12's red heads are clearly visible through the bonnet in tribute. It's stripped out to be racier than the production model, which means no stereo, no glovebox, minimal aircon, no window controls... it's basically just a taut mass of carbon-fibre and Alcantara wrapped around a sodding great engine. And it looks pretty fabulous, doesn't it?

Spotted at Salon Privé 2014 - click here for more photos.