Friday, 24 April 2015

Nothelle-Kamei Audi Coupé

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This retro Audi race car is a bona fide 1980s original, dating back to the '81 Group 2 season. It's been fully restored in Belgium by Johan Aerts, who's faithfully retained its period features; the 240bhp five-cylinder motor (originally built by Henri Lotterer), the chunky arches and split-rims, even that old-school steering wheel. One or two concessions have been made to modern safety - the Hans-compatible Recaro seat, for example - as this is no museum piece or show pony: Aerts revived it to race. It's competed in numerous classic events, including BRAVO (Belgian Racing Automotive Vintage Organisation) races - fittingly at the hands of André Lotterer, Henri's son - and you see it here lurking in the paddocks and pouncing up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It's even had the bonnet freshly autographed by Rolf Nothelle himself - clearly impressed with the restoration. As well he should be, it looks glorious.

Click here for more snaps from the 2014 FoS.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Gundam 1200R

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Severn Valley Motorsport are a force to be reckoned with in the world of Nissan GT-R tuning. They're among the most respected outfits in the world for tweaking these technologically astounding beasts, and their achievements just keep getting more and more eye-watering. Take this angry blue monster, for example...
Named after a Japanese anime series about giant robots, Gundam is a keen showcase of just how extreme SVM can make an R35. It features unique cams, valvetrain and exhaust, sodding great pistons, turbos that are both vast and bespoke, a weapons-grade gearbox, carbon-steel brakes, KW coilovers, and all manner of other treats - you can see the full spec here. The upshot of all of this is a top speed of 238mph, which is frankly absurd. As you can see, there are stickers in the side windows proudly proclaiming that it's the world's fastest R35 GT-R.
Although, actually, one of Gundam's sister cars, Mad Medusa, has since cracked 239mph. SVM are just unstoppable. Who knows how big a hole they'll rip in the space-time continuum next?

Spotted at the 2014 Players Classic - click here for more photos.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Custom '63 Thunderbird

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Ford Thunderbird was a brilliantly forward-thinking concept. Launched in 1955, it repackaged the de rigueur formula of two-seater/V8/convertible as a 'personal car' rather than an overt sporting model like the Corvette. As such, it offered GT-like handling and luxurious appointments along with robust firepower; too small to be a luxury car, too big and loose to be a sports car, it was a trailblazer of a new niche genre that paved the way for the Lincoln Continental, Chrysler New Yorker and Cadillac Eldorado.
By the time it had reached its third evolutionary generation, built from 1961-3, the Thunderbird had become a larger four-seater with a face like an angry shark. It was an Indy 500 pace car and a key player in JFK's motorcades - a very visible and thus very popular model. The only engine option was the 390ci (6.4-litre) FE-series V8, although in '63 you could bolster it with the 'tri-power' upgrade, with three two-barrel carbs on a higher-compression engine. The third-gen T-Bird was big, brash, swanky and opulent; dripping in chrome and very much of its era.

I can't tell you much about this particular one, other than that it's jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Although you'd probably deduced that yourself. It's a 1963 model, customised in California, running air-ride to provide that ground-bothering stance. Its acid green paintwork makes it look like it was deposited in the Cali desert by a passing UFO, and it's pretty much the epitome of custom T-Bird perfection. Throw a bit of subtle lace paint on the roof and some super-faint ghosted scallops on the sides and drop it off at my place...

Spotted at Wheels Day 2015 - more photos here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Naked 300SL

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The W198-generation Mercedes-Benz 300SL has become an icon of car design thanks to its timelessly elegant simplicity. In either Gullwing or drop-top form, its slinky curves speak of boulevard cruising, Alpine blasts, and a keenness for lounging outside luxury hotels.
But, much like an iceberg or a mallard, there's far more going on beneath the surface than you might ever expect. Strip away those shimmering panels and you find a frantic spider's web of dinky aluminium tubes; a mind-bogglingly complex and intricate spaceframe that earns the car the 'L' in its name due to its gentleness on the scales, while also offering the stiffness and strength to justify the 'S'.

With the guts exposed, you can see how the venerable 3.0-litre straight-six is canted over by 45 degrees to fit under the low bonnet, the rear end is sprung laterally as well as independently, and the fuel tank is huge. The tangle of pipes was slightly reworked for the Roadster that replaced the Gullwing, allowing for conventionally opening doors (the reason for the roof-hinged doors in the first place being that the spaceframe was too high at the sides for ordinary doors - an issue that was engineered out at this stage of evolution, at the price of adding a little weight), but it was no less impressive. The next time you see a 300SL in the metal, use your X-ray vision to reveal the skeleton, it'll totally change your perspective.

...and, of course, here's what the old girl looks like when she's put her clothes back on:

Thursday, 16 April 2015

'53 Porsche 356 Pre-A

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The 356 is Porsche genesis - the marque's first full-production model. The 356A of 1955 was given the designation 'Type 1' by the factory, and this evolved over the years into the 356B of 1959, with various technological and styling upgrades, 1964's 356C, which had disc brakes all round and was knocking on the door of 100bhp, with the very last models trundling off the line in early '66. But it's the earliest cars, retrospectively dubbed 'Pre-A' models, that are arguably the most sought-after - the pre-1955 cars are simple, elegant, and ineffably chic.
They're not all mothballed away in sterile collections either. This particular Pre-A, a 1953 car, is a three-times Tour Auto winner, race-prepped to proper FIA specs. Period delights abound, such as the leather boot and bonnet straps, round chrome light bezels and wide-five wheels - and that ultra-low ride height isn't a concession to watercooled VeeDub fashion. That's motorsport low, that is.

Spotted at 73MM - more photos here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

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.