Tuesday, 27 January 2015

GAZ Volga M21

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Unquestionably the most endearing thing about the Goodwood Revival is the sheer amount of effort that some people put in. CCK Historic's GAZ Volga may have been an also-ran in the St. Mary's Trophy, but the '58 bruiser was a highlight of the show for many thanks to the theatricality of it all. Every time the car passed the pit wall (with either Tom Chilton or Roger Wills at the wheel), the crew saluted in unison, resplendent in period Soviet uniforms and serious expressions.
Back in the paddock, the mechanics' overalls bore the hammer and sickle, and the car itself was adorned with Leninist propaganda and even a kalashnikov. And you really can't argue with KGB number plates...

Sadly, the values of modern Russia appear to be almost as despotic as the USSR days that this endeavour sought to lampoon, so the magazine feature I'd lined up for this car has necessarily fallen through. But here are a few photos for you to enjoy - and you can see more from the 2014 Revival here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 Shooting Brake

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Shooting Brake' is a very grand term for an estate car, isn't it? It evokes images of the coachbuilt specials of yore - the Jaguar XJ-S-based Lynx Eventer, the Aston Martin DB4 & DB5 Shooting Brakes, sporty coupés that were re-hammered into estates to make them more practical for grouse shoots and what-have-you. And it does make sense in the context of the CLS.
You see, while the CLS may appear to some to be a luxury four-door saloon, it is styled and positioned as a coupé - albeit quite a big one. So the act of expanding the rear glasshouse and bolting on a tailgate wouldn't be done justice by merely referring to it as a 'CLS estate' - 'Shooting Brake' is far more appropriate for the model's ethos.

This one's quite a cheeky one too: the example SuckSqueezeBangBlow tested was the CLS 350 BlueTEC AMG-Line. What that means, in essence, is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel offering 258bhp, a nine-speed autobox, 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, 19" AMG alloys, vast brakes, AMG sport seats, clever LED lights, and self-levelling air suspension. Given the hugeness of the spec list - and, er, the car itself - it seems remarkably reasonable at £51,765.
It's an entertaining thing to drive, too - burying the throttle when the traffic lights turn green causes the tail to wiggle and squirm, before the electronics rein in the mischief and set about firing you toward the horizon as efficiently as they can manage. This sort of casual-yet-strict parenting characterises the car as a whole; try to get the tail out on a greasy roundabout, for example, and it'll j-u-s-t let you oversteer for a second or two before giving you a stern look and a slap on the wrist, the chassis straightening everything up and pretending nothing happened. It just stops short of spitting on a handkerchief and wiping the jam off your chin, you scruffy little urchin. Stop messing about. Stand up straight. Honestly.

The CLS Shooting Brake is like a mischievous young dad - aware of the necessities of practicality that come with family life and doing everything possible to make it all run smoothly, and yet eager to be a little bit naughty when nobody's looking. The thing brims with potential: sure, you'll spend 95% of your time in the car being a grown-up, carting kids and hedge-clippings about, but for that other 5%, the cheeky grin emerges and everything gets a bit sideways. Just for a moment, but it's enough.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Alfaholics GTA-R

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Alfaholics are well known in classic tuning circles as being the lads for the job if you've got a ropey old Alfa that needs spannering into something magical. These guys are seriously good - click here and see all of the sublime Italian poppets they've crafted in the past, and here to see what's currently going through the workshop. What they don't know about Alfa Romeos really isn't worth knowing.

This car, SBP 699E, is one of their better-known builds; it was originally put together ten years ago, although it's so fresh-looking you'd never guess - surprising, given that it's no pampered trailer queen. It may be a poster boy for the company's efforts, but this doesn't manifest itself in polishing and kid gloves - it gets given hell on track on a regular basis, which is just what GTAs were built for.
The donor for the build back in 2005 was a one-owner, 200,000 mile 1967 1300 GT Junior, which was stripped back to first principles and built up into their now-celebrated GTA-R spec. It's been evolving ever since, and currently features a 216bhp Twin Spark twin-cam, bespoke adjustable dampers, 1967 homologation GTA rear arches, a pretty aggressive LSD, custom 7x15" recreation GTA wheels, 300mm discs with 6-pot calipers, Alfaholics' own front geometry kit... they take it to the Nürburgring a lot, where it's usually causing trouble for 996 Carreras and E46 M3s. It's become a legend within classic Alfa circles, and it's showing no sign of slowing down or retiring gracefully. Long may that continue.

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - click here for more photos.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Art Morrison '59 Corvette

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

It's a '59, Jim, but not as we know it...
The Corvette is an iconic entity, and for many it's the original first-gen model that's the purest of the breed, with its saucy scallops, twin-halfmoon dash and lashings of chrome. It has to be said, though, that the world has moved on somewhat in terms of handling finesse since the 1950s, and that's why Art Morrison offer a rather more advanced chassis for the early 'Vette; it features adjustable coilovers and anti-roll bars, powered rack-and-pinion steering, a four-linked rear with 9" axle, and various other tricks. So the old girl can have the go to match the show.

This also creates rather a natty canvas for custom work, naturally. The '59 model you see here complements its Art Morrison chassis with a 400bhp Chevy LS2 V8, a Tremec 6-speed manual 'box, and 14" brakes with Wilwood six-pots - as well as a custom-trimmed interior in leather and suede, custom digital gauges, and an artfully shaved engine bay. Pretty neat, huh?
And the price of all of this retro-futurist splendour? Why, £140k to you, old fruit...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - click here for more photos.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lancia Delta S4 Stradale

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The S4 Stradale is one of those obscure homologation specials whose name is whispered in hushed reverence. Everyone knows the poster-boy specials from the Group B era - the RS200, the 6R4, the 205 T16 - but the road-going version of the Delta S4 is such a rare sight that very few people have ever actually seen one. Just 200 were built (er, supposedly; some suggest that the figure was closer to 65) to meet homologation regs, of which around 45 remain - the rest having been crashed or converted into full-bore competition cars. They offered 250bhp in road tune from the innovatively twincharged (that is, both turbocharged and supercharged) 1.8-litre 4-pot, and featured a luxuriously trimmed interior compared to their gravel-spitting rally counterparts.

This particular S4 has been subject to a sympathetic restoration, is producing a healthy 300bhp, and will amuse your bank manager to the tune of £240,000. Look out for a feature on it by yours truly in a forthcoming issue of Retro Cars magazine...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - click here for more photos.