Friday, 31 May 2013

Ferrari Dino 308 GT4

The 308 GT4 was a groundbreaking model for Ferrari. Introduced in 1973, it was the company's first production car to feature a mid-mounted V8, and it also managed to fit an extra set of seats ahead of the engine, making it an eminently desirable 2+2. (Although rear passengers really had to be children, or people without legs. OK, it was basically just a nicely upholstered bench to keep your jacket on.) The model originally carried 'Dino' badging, as you see on this example, which was used at the time to differentiate 'lesser' Ferraris from their full-blown V12 siblings.
It was also an angular thing, offering a stark contrast to the previous Dino - the 246GT had a curvaceous, voluptuous silhouette - and was Ferrari's first model to wear Bertone bodywork. It was badged as a Ferrari from 1976, so the one you see here is kind of a mongrel in that it's wearing both the cavallino rampante and the sub-brand names. It's actually a 1979 car, and is raced by its owner Nick Whittaker in the Pirelli Ferrari Formula Classic series. And doesn't it look beautiful, resting in the dappled light beneath the trees in the Motorsport at the Palace paddock?

World Cup Escort - FTW 48H

FTW, indeed. (Little pop culture reference, there...)
This Escort, FTW 48H, is no retro-fitted rally replica - it's a hardened survivor from competitions of yore. One of seven Escorts to compete in the Daily Mirror World Cup Rally of 1970 (yes, the London-Mexico event that spawned the subsequent Escort Mexico variant), the car was campaigned by Sobieslaw Zasada and Mark Wachowski; due to time and personnel constraints, it was one of the three cars that weren't prepared by the works team at Boreham, instead being put together offsite using Boreham-supplied parts.
The Escort finished eighth overall, proving that the cars' inherent ruggedness went hand-in-hand with sizzling performance and bulletproof reliability to conquer some pretty harrowing terrain - indeed, other Escorts came first and third. And fifth, and sixth...

SuckSqueezeBangBlow spotted this rally legend at Motorsport at the Palace, looking pristine and workshop-fresh. To be honest, it would probably be preferable to see it covered in dust and stonechips and bits of splattered wildlife, but at least it's all period-correct! There's a wealth of '70s detail to enjoy too - the unusual tail-lights, the rollcage that triangulates to the suspension turrets from outside the roof, the three fillers for the various fuel tanks, the vast cow-catcher on the nose. A wonderful period piece, and still brimming with eager potential after forty-three years.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Motorsport at the Palace 2013

London may have been cold, wet and horrible last week, and it's certainly cold, wet and horrible now, but the car nerds of the capital were granted a bank holiday reprieve: for the third year in a row, Motorsport at the Palace was bathed in glorious sunshine.
It was also resplendent in the hard-fought glory of the very extremes of internal combustion, with a great number of focused, serious race cars in attendance. You get eased into the experience, descending the historic steps and onto the green where an eclectic selection of classic and modern cars reside, but it's when you step into the dappled light beneath the trees and into the paddock that the true majesty of the event reveals itself. MATP competitors take their job very seriously.
There's an almost Goodwood-esque vibe to the occasion, with drivers and mechanics lounging in the sunshine as the public poke around their cars, but as the visors come down and race-faces are adopted, the atmosphere changes from picnic calm to trackday tension. Horsepower gallops through Crystal Palace in short but blistering bursts of air-ripping fury. Tyres squeal. Exhausts bark. And then, as soon as it began, the noise dissipates and calm returns to the leafy glade. What a thoroughly civilised way to spend a bank holiday weekend.

Keep an eye on SuckSqueezeBangBlow in the coming days for a closer look at some of the cars in attendance. You can see the full set of photos here.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Renault Twin'Run

This is what happens when you distil the vintage ethos of the mid-engined 5 Turbo, squeeze it into a sub-Twingo package, then refract the results through an ultra-modern, videogame-esque filter. Renault really are brilliantly bonkers, aren't they?
The Twin’Run concept is a full-on race car, featuring a tubular chassis and a mid-mounted 320bhp V6, like you'd find in a Mégane Trophy car. It sends those rampant horses through the rear wheels in a hellstorm of tyre-atomising carnage, offering the sort of barking snap-oversteer lunacy so beloved of oddball short-wheelbase Renaults of yore (ref. the aforementioned 5 Turbo, and the widowmaker Clio V6). A SADEV six-speed sequential gearbox and LSD do their level best to keep eveything honest, as does the unique Öhlins suspension, but there's only so much you can do to tether a whirlwind...
The bodywork is a combination of composite glass-polyester and carbon-fibre, while the spartan interior features Sparco buckets, harnesses, an LCD screen for gauges and readouts, and not a lot else. And as you might imagine, a little 950kg poppet with this much power going through the rear wheels is a bit of a handful - you can see from the video below just how frisky it is. Coolest car of 2013 so far? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt.
Oh, and those super-thin LED quad spotlights are magnificent.

Audi R8 V10 Plus

Audi don't need to advertise the R8. It's a supercar, it sells itself - the sort of moneyed types that can afford such an extravagance are unlikely to be swayed either way by a 60-second TV spot. So what we're seeing here is an exercise in flexing the muscles of a brand halo effect: to mark the release of the R8 V10 Plus, Audi have lifted the car's skirts so that you can see the naughty gubbins beneath, strapped it to a rolling road and made some creamy, woofling noise. This way, every prospective A3 TDI buyer can say 'yeah, I'm buying into a bit of that'. That's marketing for you.


Custom Cedric V8

This isn't just another 'bagged retro Nissan. This is a precision-engineered masterpiece.
It's a 330-series Nissan Cedric, running a 4.1-litre V8 with hand-crafted throttle-bodies. The live-axle rear end has been junked in favour of a bespoke, CAD-designed setup of mechanical trickery machined from billet aluminium. The car rides so low thanks to a unique inboard airbag setup, and everything underneath has been engineered to allow the car to run that low in day-to-day use, right down to the custom ovalised exhausts. This is, in short, the world's greatest Cedric. And that's not hyperbole, that's fact.
You can learn about the build here and here, and see more photos here and here.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Police TR4

You may have heard about the Dubai police and their recent PR push to say 'ooh, we've got loads of supercars, you can't speed here, we'll easily catch you...' - all very silly of course; do they actually have an Aventador, a W12 Conti GT, an FF, an SLS AMG and, somewhat astonishingly, a One-77 on the beat? Well, no, it's just a very visible way of highlighting their crackdown on speeders.
But that sort of nonsense doesn't impress us, does it? If you want a bobby in a sports car, you simply have to cast your mind back to 1962, when the Southend-on-Sea County Borough Constabulary ordered a brand new Triumph TR4, modified it to police spec, and actually put it to use on the streets. None of this fancy showboating, they bought a sports car because they wanted to chase people in it.
The TR4 went out on two crim-hunting shifts a day, every day, clocking up about 1,000 miles a week. It had airhorns and a Winkworth bell, as well as a windscreen-mounted, hand-operated lamp. Officers would generally drive it with the roof down, helmets held on with chin-straps...
The TR4 has been fully restored and will be up for auction by Historics at Brooklands on June 1st. Forget your swanky Gulf State trinkets - here's an offbeat cop car that's seen some real action!
Click here for more.