Wednesday, 16 April 2014

'66 Cooper S

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Here's a Mini I'd love to know more about - from the outside, it appears to be perfect in all respects... I wonder what's going on under the bonnet?
As you can see, it's a 1966 Cooper S with Minilites and sticky tyres, and the period-appropriate (and oh-so-cool) leather bonnet strap. It's clearly been contemporised inside to make it fit for purpose in a modern context, with that purposeful rollcage and huggy Sparco bucket, but the coolest thing of all is those side-stripes. Aren't they magnificent?
It's difficult for Minis to stand out in an increasingly homogenised modifying world, but this little '66 pulls off the look-at-me trick spectacularly. Wonderful little thing.

Spotted in the car park at 72MM - click here for more photos.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Millecinquecento Abarth

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This might not necessarily be the first car that pops into your mind when you think of Abarth-tweaked Fiats...
The 1500 (Millecinquecento) was a rather sensible offering from Fiat in the 1960s, aimed to appeal to small families and sales reps - an Italian alternative to the Ford Cortina, if you will. It was a solid and dependable thing, and sold rather well in period. But of course, there was always an enthusiasm for go-faster parts across the spectrum, and Fiat and Abarth were keenly intertwined at this stage - and so it was that the tuner began to offer kits of upgrade parts to owners, in order for them to craft their own Abarth 1500s.

The car you see here is owned by Guy Harman, and may be familiar to some from its various competitive outings at Goodwood. It's a 1962 model that had enjoyed a lot of competition use in Denmark before being imported to the UK in 2012; it was taken in its road-rally state to renowned retro fettlers CCK Historic in order to freshen things up. They made it fully FIA-compliant before turning their experienced hands to optimising the handling - lowering the suspension and playing with the spring rates, tweaking the camber, banding the 4"-wide steel rims to a more helpful 6"... they also threw in an LSD and a fuel cell (with super-cool filler poking through the bootlid), and gorgeously handpainted the Abarth emblems on the wings. Pretty snazzy, huh? And a wonderful car for making enthusiasts scratch their heads and say 'Er, it's an Abarth, but... um...'

Spotted at 72MM - click here for more photos.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lotus XI GT Breadvan

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Built with loving care. Treat like a virgin!!' So says the handwritten note on the dash of this obscure and unusual little race poppet.
The art of the breadvan is something that's eddied around motorsport history over the years, polarising opinions along the way. They operate from a position of pure function - the Ferrari 250 GT Drogo, for example, could never be viewed as anything like as beautiful as the 250 GT SWB upon which it was based, and yet exists within a unique microcosm of intrigue and awe. And the Sunbeam Tiger Le Mans: while not strictly a breadvan shape, its extended rear and Kamm tail make the thing look rather ungainly next to the sylph-like base car. But it's all about lap times.

And what we see here, a breadvan reworking of Lotus' teeny-tiny XI, is one of the most obscure of all. Entirely absent from the racing world for the last half-century, it popped up competition-ready at Goodwood's 72nd Members' Meeting. Interestingly, it originally came about because racing driver Graham Capel wanted to emulate the success of the aforementioned Drogo, turning the diminutive XI into a lightweight shooting brake. It was reasonably successful, but after its last race at Goodwood in 1964 it was converted back to a standard body. Thankfully its current owners - Twyman Racing - were fastidious in their research into the car's history, and have fully restored its unusual junk-in-the-trunk form, complete with period Plumstead Racing livery. Looks pretty natty, doesn't it?
It kicked no small amount of luxurious arse in the Moss Trophy at 72MM too - belying the humble nature of its Coventry Climax engine, it bested all of the Ferraris and, after an hour of racing, crossed the finish line in second place just half a second after the winning Aston Martin DB4 GT. A thoroughly impressive little machine.

Click here for more photos from 72MM.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Citroën BX 4TC

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Citroën BX is a modern marvel. (Well, I say 'modern' - it was in production from 1982-94 - all about perspective, innit?) It took the pillowy, cushiony ride of the DS/CX's mould-breaking hydropneumatic suspension and combined it with some magnificently angular design, with creases so sharp you could juice a lemon on them. And while those in the know may remind you that the silhouette is technically a Volvo in spirit - Bertone designed the Tundra in '79, but Volvo didn't want it after all - you can't argue that the entire bonkers whole isn't unquestionably Citroën through and through.

...and in 1986, they decided to turn it into a Group B monster. Well, what could possibly go wrong? Renault had successfully achieved the same with the 5 Turbo, and Peugeot were taking all kinds of scalps with their 205 T16. So, with tongues poking out of the corners of mouths, Citroën set about reworking the BX into the 4TC.
The rules of multiplication for turbocharged engines (a factor of 1.4, with an overall ceiling of 3.0-litres) saw the 2,155cc engine downsleeved to 2,141.5cc, and the unit was mounted longitudinally rather than transversely, leading to a cartoonishly long nose. The hydropneumatics comprised the unique setup of the SM and, thanks to homologation rules, they had to build 200 streetable versions too.
OK, the 4TC wasn't very successful. It managed a sixth place finish on the 1986 Swedish Rally, but the model only actually competed in three events before Group B was cancelled. The rumour is that Citroën were a bit embarrassed by the 4TC, and sought to recover and destroy as many of them as possible. Whether or not that's true, it's pretty unusual to see one these days.

This one was growling menacingly at the Goodwood 72MM event - click here for more photos.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Studebaker Lark Daytona 500

Words & pictures - Daniel Bevis

The Studebaker Lark was, for the most part, rather a staid and functional thing. Its inception was led by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation's financial woes, and the decision to move out of the full-size car market and into the compact sector - this was the model that the company pinned every last hope on. To keep costs low, they actually reworked a full-size platform to make the Lark, reducing overhangs at both ends and slightly shortening the wheelbase. So it was comparatively small (in the context of Detroit's land-barges, at least), but could still take six people plus luggage. And it stayed in production over three evolutions from 1959-66, although that was the point at which the company finally folded.

They weren't all staid and functional though - just look at this aggressive thing! Racing at Goodwood's 72nd Members' Meeting, this is a Lark Daytona 500. As you can see, it's pure thunderous mayhem - sodding great V8, buckets, harnesses & cage, and I love the little hook the snap-off steering wheel hangs from - but in addition to that, it's jaw-droppingly gorgeous. So, so beautiful... and that's not often something you can say about a Studebaker.

Click here for more 72MM photos.

Friday, 4 April 2014

#Project87 - Helix clutch

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Another month, another treat for the SuckSqueezeBangBlow 205 GTI - aka Retro Cars magazine's #Project87. This time it was back at Toulmin Motors in Windsor - specialists in retro & custom cars and thoroughly nice chaps - for a new clutch. The item in question came courtesy of Helix, who provided an uprated performance road clutch complete with heavy duty cover and release bearing. You can read all about the adventure in the next issue of Retro Cars...