Tuesday, 31 January 2012

'56 Chrysler 300B

Another masterpiece from Troy Trepanier's Rad Rides, this project started life as 1956 Chrysler 300B - one of just 1,102 built. This may irritate the purists, but you could argue that this is one of the greatest Chryslers ever created; the fit and finish is, as with all Trepanier's work, of a flawlessly high quality (in another league to fifties Chrysler fitment and materials), turning a sizeable sedan into an über-luxury hot rod.
Underneath, it features Dodge Viper suspension, Baer brakes and Dayton wheels, while under the hood is a 358ci twin-turbo NASCAR V8 - so the power is monstrous. But, as with all Rad Rides, the interior is the pièce de résistance; enlarge the photos and you'll see that the craftsmanship is exquisite.
More here and here.

Matra Laser

The Matra Laser is the archetypal 1970s concept car: wedge-shaped styling, unorthodox door hinges, non-round steering wheel, improbable seats... the retro-futuristic Michelotti design is something that you could imagine the likes of Lamborghini might seriously have considered for production.
The Laser was mid-engined, although powered by Ford's 1700cc V4 unit (as found in the Corsair), which perhaps didn't back up the performance promises made by the silhouette. But ignore the uninspiring engine and out-of-place gauges on the dash - focus on the mad four-piece seats, the Quartic steering wheel that predated anything BL did, the wraparound rear lights, the vast glasshouse... this one-off 1971 prototype proved that the French were as capable as any of displaying flair and surprising design. Bear in mind that this was the era of the Renault 4 and the Citroën H-van: the Matra Laser must have looked like some kind of terrifying spaceship.
Click here for more.

Chopped Mini

A number of elements lifted from different scenes make this Mini unusual. There's a bit of lowrider in there, with the chrome wires and the air-ride controls mounted in the first aid kit. There's a touch of rat, with the patinated bonnet and the interior trim made of hessian sacking. Some traditional, old-school Mini tuning is in evidence with the detailed A-series in the engine bay, and the rally arches. The exterior nods to the nineties with the frenched lights, yet is brought bang up to date with the offbeat satin brown paint. And, of course, there's the roof chop. It's hard enough to fold a grown-up into a Mini as it is... a roof chop shows you're serious.
Pic source.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Opel Monza GSE

The Opel Monza GSE has a digital dash. Everything else is a bonus.

Another pristine offering from 4Star Classics, the GSE represents a muscular, luxurious underdog of the mid-eighties. There's a 3.0-litre, 180bhp, fuel-injected straight-six up front and an LSD at the rear; such swanky features as Recaro seats, headlamp wipers and, er, cassette holders mark it out as an item of quality, but it's that digi-dash that really makes it worth every penny of the £7k asking price.
Oh, and there are only 27 manual Monza GSEs left in the UK - if you're in a position to, I suggest snapping this up while you can...

Vader's Volvo

How do you reverse the staid, sensible image of a '78 Volvo? How about making it look like Darth Vader's helmet...?
A massive turbocharged twin-cam couldn't hurt either, and you can't get a lot more outrageous than a perspex floor to show off your diff location. Click here for more.

Concours RS2000

The concours pursuit is one of ritual, fastidiousness and extraordinary attention to detail. Everything on the car that's original must be saved and preserved; if it requires restoration, it must be to factory specs and with original materials. If parts require replacement or manufacture, again, they must be precisely as they would have left the factory. Concours isn't just about making sure all your screwheads point the right way and tweezering dirt out of your tyres - it's about making the car like it was brand new. And this includes foibles too; if the factory were known for leaving a bit of overspray on the boot floor, that's what the concours builder must replicate. Making it better than new isn't the point.

Of course, this can easily turn into a dangerous obsession. While you're hunting down the original seamstress who worked in the textile factory in 1976 to see if she'll run up a fresh batch of beta cloth seat trim, your wife could leave you without you realising. And then all you're left with is a car that's too perfect to drive for fear of getting it dirty.
Thankfully, not all concours builders go to these extremes. The grafter behind this mkII Escort has a sense of proportion - his RS2000 is just as the good Ford intended (including a rare shade of brown that not a lot of people would be bold enough to retain these days), but he also drives it all over the country to shows, using it as it should be used. Good on him.
Via Classic Ford.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The unusual Minis of Castagna Milano

Thought the Rolls-Royce Goodwood Mini was posh? Wait till you see what Castagna Milano have been up to...
Established as an atelier in 1849, Castagna Milano pride themselves on quality of craftsmanship, and insist that their unique creations are 'fuoriserie', not prototypes: quality one-offs for discerning clientele, for whom money is no object as the art endures way beyond the cost.
They create all kinds of fascinating pieces, from blank-sheet designs to modified Bentleys, but it's their recent range of custom Minis that's caught SuckSqueezeBangBlow's eye.

This first one is the Mini WoodyTender - a maritime-inspired open tourer for the Riviera playboy. It features marine leather and teak panelling. Can easily be operated in deck shoes or with a Ralph Lauren sweater knotted about the shoulders.

This is the Mini WoodyClubman. Perfect for carting your kids around the family estate. Maybe a bit plush for bringing the dog, though.

And here's the Mini CrossUp. Vastly extended to create a utilitarian drop-gate pick-up bed for hauling your fancy wines back from the vineyard, but with an interior trimmed so opulently that you'll almost forget you're carrying a load.

There are many other Minis in the portfolio, and they're doing a lot of characterful work with Fiat 500s too - click here to see more.

1955-57 Gaylord

So, this car is a Gaylord. Stop sniggering at the back.

In a quest for 'the ultimate sports car', Ed and Jim Gaylord commissioned Brooks Stevens to build them a prototype for the 1955 Paris Auto Salon, bearing their name. Which wasn't as funny then. Sporting the chrome, fins and scallops of the cutting-edge American cars of the period, it had an opening rear deck into which the chain-driven retractable hard-top would retreat. Under the bonnet was a 331ci Chrysler Hemi with GM Hydra-Matic transmission, all based on a chrome-moly tube chassis of Jim Gaylord's design.
The pictures you see here are of a second 1957 prototype, showing a slight stylistic evolution from the original but remaining basically similar. Its most notable feature is the aforementioned retracting roof, which prompted Alfred P. Sloan, then GM Chairman, to say to his engineers: 'You bastards told me this couldn't be done. So how did these idiots do it?'

The fact that you've probably never heard of the Gaylord is unsurprising. The aspirations for 'a Cobra class performer and a Rolls-Royce class tourer' were ambitious but not unrealistic, but it came at a time when the American auto industry was just too brutal to allow independent pioneering enthusiasts to flourish. Impressive and potentially brilliant as it was, the Big Three just couldn't allow it to happen.
You can learn more here.