Friday, 28 May 2010

Radford de Ville

Harold Radford spotted an opportunity in 1963. While rich folk like opulent and luxurious cars, a lot of them live in cities. And not all of them want Rolls Royces. The obvious solution, then, was to retrim the Mini in a manner that befitted the cash-rich classes.
The Mini de Ville was available in three spec levels: de Luxe, Bel Air and Grand Luxe, each offering various degrees of customisation. Leather seats, electric windows, shag-pile carpets, posh walnut trim, Speedwell-tuned engines - the sky was the limit.
In '65, the de Ville GT was added to the line-up, providing one of the most noteworthy and downright useful alterations on offer - a hatchback conversion.

The ultimate evolution of the de Ville came in 1967, when the hatchback at the rear was complemented by stacked headlights at the front, sourced from the Facel Vega. With a full-length Webasto sunroof, magnesium alloys, twin fuel tanks and a top speed of 110mph, it offered a truly upper-class package... but at a price. At the time, a new Mini Cooper S cost £850. The Radford de Ville mkIII? A cool £2500.

Keiichi Tsuchiya

Keiichi Tsuchiya is something of a living legend. Known as 'Dorikin' ('Drift King'), he's credited with popularising drifting in its modern sense. Famed for touge racing - the Japanese art of racing up serpentine mountain passes - he also brought a smokey sideways angle to regular circuit racing. His CV lists Japanese Formula Three, Touring Cars, Supertouring, Le Mans and NASCAR among others - a diverse roster that proves his near-superhuman talents.
What he's arguably best known for these days is his mastery of the Hachi-Roku - the AE86 Toyota Corolla. Here he is making it all look rather effortless:

His catchphrase? 'I drift not because it is a quicker way around a corner, but the most exciting way.'

Thursday, 27 May 2010


The M3's come a long way from the four-banger featherweight it was in the eighties. The new GTS is the fastest, most powerful M3 ever, with its muscular 4.4-litre V8 producing an entertaining 450bhp. It costs around £103,000, which is quite a lot for a 3-series... so what, aside from groundshaking performance figures, are you getting for your money?

Well, you gt a full factory-installed rollcage for starters. You get functional aerodynamic addenda, artfully crafted in carbon-fibre. The interior is stripped out and fitted with race buckets and six-point harnesses. It weighs 350lb less than the standard M3, and gets to 62mph half a second quicker (in 4.4s). The windows are lightweight plastic and the exhaust is titanium. And just so everyone knows you're serious, it's an eyewatering shade of orange.

Sounds pretty good too, doesn't it?

Brabus Stealth 65

Brabus have been tweaking Mercedes-Benzes since 1977, and have an impressive CV to prove it: the Bullit, the Black Baron, the Rocket - in terms of extracting ludicrous horsepower and orbit-altering torque from Stuttgart's finest, they knock Lorinser and Carlsson into a cocked hat.

The aforementioned Brabus creations had very low production runs (one-offs with a few duplicates, almost), and the latest in a long and distinguished line of unique-ish models is the new Stealth 65. The SL65's already quite astonishing 6.0-litre AMG biturbo V12 receives fettled turbos and four intercoolers, a remapped ECU and custom exhaust. This equates to 820bhp and 1050lb.ft of torque. Which is just silly.
The owner, of course, lives in Dubai.

Unfortunately, the only sound available seems to be two seconds of exhaust blip in this video. Still, here you go...

Volkswagen Polo Sprint

A simple(ish) but effective formula, this: take one '83 Polo breadvan. Rip out the engine. Rip out the back seats. Where the back seats were, install a 1.9 litre engine from a Transporter. Strap on a G-Lader supercharger. Grin broadly.

It was a bit more complicated than that, obviously, and never made it into any kind of official production, even for motorsport. Still, with 156bhp and around 65% of the weight over the rear wheels, it was apparently a bit of a handful...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

DeTomaso Pantera

The DeTomaso Pantera is a supercar curio that enjoyed an impressive production run, from 1971-91, fusing Italian design with Detroit muscle. (Well, kind of Italian design - Tom Tjaarda, who penned the shape, was actually American. But still, the car was Modenese.) Powered by Ford's 351 (5.8-litre) Cleveland engine, it produced 330bhp and a hell of a noise.

The benefit of owning one today over, say, a Ferrari 308 or a Maserati Bora is that the engines are far less costly to maintain, tune or replace. Although that's not to say Panteras are cheap or lack cachet - Elvis Presley owned one (kudos indeed), and a good one today can cost you upwards of £60k.

Everything you really need to know about the Pantera can be learned from this video. Turn your speakers up.

The Stars Come Out At Night

It's an elegant thing, the Aston Martin Rapide.

THE STARS COME OUT AT NIGHT from tim hahne on Vimeo.

Muscular autotesting

...well, not quite. But it's gratifying to see a selection of classic muscle cars doing what they're often criticised for being not very good at - going round corners.

Pics from Speedhunters' coverage of the Goodguys OC Get Together.

007's Aston Martin DB5

James Bond has driven a number of interesting vehicles over the years - Galaxie 500, Alfa GTV6, Esprit Turbo, Routemaster bus - but the DB5 is generally the one that springs to mind as the archetypal 007 car.

So, beyond the timelessly beautiful coachwork and 4.0-litre straight-six, what extras did James get that weren't available to the average mid-sixties punter?
For starters, there was the ejector seat. Controlled by a knob atop the gear lever, it fired the occupant of the passenger seat out of the roof. Handy if you have a passenger who won't stop fiddling with the radio, but embarrassing if you accidentally launch Moneypenny into a hedge on the way to the office.
Twin machine guns appeared from behind the sidelights, creating some confusion about how the lights themselves worked. (And where the guns retracted to.) A bulletproof shield raised at the rear, in case you were being followed by an angry person in a DB5 of identical spec - hey, you never know - although it didn't do the obvious thing of blocking the tyres. Still, they wouldn't be following you for long once you'd deployed the oil spray thingy.
Handily, the wheel-spinners extended outwards and cut to shreds any irritant that may have been alongside you - Bond demonstrated its effectiveness on a naughty Mustang, although you could also use it for trimming an unruly verge.

The most useful addition by far is the revolving number plate. A simple but effective means of foxing ANPR cameras, that.

This car is actually one of four James Bond DB5s. It's a little complex, but here's the story in a nutshell:

The car in these pics is body no. DB5/2008/R, one of a pair bought by Eon along with DB5/2017/R . They were both kitted out with all the extras, but were show cars rather than being used in any actual films.
The show cars travelled around the States on a promo tour - there was also an effects car and a road car.

The effects car - no. DP/216/1 - was the one with all the gizmos that was filmed in close-up detail shots for Goldfinger. It was apparently stolen from a Florida warehouse in the nineties and nobody seems to know where it is now. This was the car originally registered BMT 216A, the famous Bond number plate that reappeared in Goldeneye.
This car - a protoype (hence the DP chassis number) that was road-tested by various mags and journos before being prepped for filming - cost £25k to build, at a time when a new DB5 was £5k-ish. It was only ever on loan, and once returned to Aston was converted back to standard spec. It was then sold onto an unwitting punter under reg. no. 6633 PP, while BMT 216A was transferred to the other show car (i.e. not the one pictured above).

The fourth car? That was originally registered FMP 7B, having BMT 216A fitted for filming. It was the road car that Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger and Thunderball, which had no gadgets fitted. However, all of the gizmos were fitted to it retrospectively prior to it being sold to an American named Jerry Lee, who's owned it since 1969.

So there you go.

Red Bull on the beach

Makes you wonder why the F1 calendar doesn't include more non-tarmac events...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Russian street racing

Street racing isn't always a good idea. Sometimes stuff like this happens.

Monday, 24 May 2010

J.D. Classics

Who'd have thought that petrolhead mecca could be found in Essex?

J.D. Classics, based in Maldon, have a team of 35 specialists who can do pretty much anything to your classic, and to an astonishing standard. Anything from a lick of paint to a body-off restoration, a spot of carb balancing or a full-on engine rebuild can all be done in-house. If you don't have your own car to start with, they also have a sublime showroom of achingly beautiful, pristine cars available to buy. They're so proud of their work (and rightly so), that the public are welcome to stroll around the workshops and see what they're up to. The diversity of the cars, the quality of the work, the friendly atmosphere - it's mesmerising.

They specialise in Jaguar but, as these pictures demonstrate, they can turn their expert hands to anything worthwhile and interesting. (More photos here.)

Geely Panda stunt driving

How do you make an ugly, low-rent Chinese hatchback look cool and exciting? With some extravagant stunt driving, of course!

Stanceworks E36

Remember Mike Burroughs? He's been working on something new...

This E36 may appear to belong to the increasing trend of 'stance at any cost' (i.e. 'let's make it as low as possible, and driveability can go hang'), but it is, in fact, a very serious and well thought out machine.
Power comes from an E46 M3 unit with some spectacularly enormous trumpets. Stance is taken care of by specially developed AST suspension that effectively keeps the car unbelievably close to the ground while still offering exemplary handling. And just to irritate the hardcore BMW fans, the wheels are Mercedes AMG Aeros. Cheeky.

You can see from this video that it sounds glorious, goes well and seems to handle without jarring. You also get to see a group of men sitting at a picnic bench in a river, which you don't see every day.