Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B 'Don Lee Special'

Photos - Mark Saunders; words - Daniel Bevis

There are special racing cars and there are special racing cars, and this is most certainly the latter. The first of thirteen P3s built by Alfa Romeo, the Don Lee Special is dripping in heritage and race provenance. Look at the stats: 1st place at Monaco, 1934; 1st in the Mille Miglia, 1935; 1st in class at the Corso dello Stelvio, 1934; 4th in the Mille Miglia, 1936... the list goes on and on. Indeed, it was winning Grands Prix right from the start of its racing career in 1932.

So why 'Don Lee Special'? Well, this Tipo B, chassis no.50007, began by making quite a name for itself on the GP circuit in the 1932/3 seasons. It joined the Alfa Romeo works team, run by Scuderia Ferrari, in 1934; after copious successes in Europe, the late thirties saw it move to America, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and appearing at the 1940 New York World's Fair. Post-war, it was entered in the 1946/7 Indy 500 under the name 'Don Lee Special' because, well, American race team owner Don Lee had bought it by that point.
Key to the P3 Tipo B's success was its twin-supercharged straight-eight, providing around 200bhp and a top speed of 140mph+; it was the power-to-weight ratio that made it really quick, its weight of 772kg meaning an impressive 246bhp/ton. It had a cleverly designed chassis and drivetrain too - power was delivered via individual driveshafts to the rear wheels, allowing an even torque split; it also meant that the driver could sit low between them, thus lowering the centre of gravity and improving handling. The chassis used aircraft-grade duralumin alloys, the engine had lightweight alloy heads - this was, in all respects, a very advanced car for its day. No wonder it wiped the floor with all competitors.

Today, the car remains unrestored in its Don Lee livery. The man in question was the most successful Cadillac dealer on the US's west coast, and is perhaps a weirdly fitting character to commemorate along the car's flanks: he may not have been involved in the Italian racer's salad days, but he certainly threw it onto the world stage after WWII.
As you can see from these photos, the Alfa bears the proud scars of eighty-one years of hard racing. And it's far from over yet...

Click here for more photos

Monday, 29 July 2013

Pure Hell

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

A 'Fuel-Altered' dragster must be a challenging thing to drive up the historic Goodwood hillclimb: a machine designed for driving very quickly for a quarter of a mile over a flat straight line, having to weave and snake steeply through the trees... nevertheless, the old girl handled it with aplomb. If in doubt, deafen everyone nearby - that's the Pure Hell way.

Pure Hell was built by Rich Guasco, who owns and runs it to this day. Sitting atop a custom 92" chassis is a chopped-about Austin Bantam body, with the eyecatchingly lurid whole originally powered back in 1964 by a small-block Chevy V8. After a fairly catastrophic crash it was rebuilt with a Chrysler Hemi; like many cars of this ilk, it served as a test-bed for the development of various drivetrain and chassis set-ups, so it's down to the keen-eyed enthusiasts of the vintage drag scene to identify which bits appeared in which years... however, the car in its current form was rejuvenated in 1994 as a sort of optimised, modern iteration of the classic Pure Hell concept. And you can take it from me, the sound it makes transcends mere decibels - Pure Hell, as befits its name, penetrates your very soul when the throttle opens, forcing race fuel into your eyes, tyresmoke up your nose, and the sensation of something way beyond your earthly concept of 'loud' squarely through your ears and into the centre of your brain. It's a cerebral, multi-sensory assault. Which is exactly what Guasco was going for.

Spotted at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos

Friday, 26 July 2013

Devastated 007 DBS

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

No, this isn't some new crash-look fad on the modifying scene. What you're looking at here is James Bond's Aston Martin DBS, which famously broke the world record for the number of barrel-rolls in an air-cannon assisted crash (a very specific record, that), flipping over seven times. Click here to see the full drama of the Casino Royale chase.

The car is, in fact, not a DBS - it's a DB9 dressed up to look like one (at the time of filming no DBSs actually existed, the model hadn't been launched yet), as well as being heavily reinforced to withstand the repeated impact. The stunt was roughed out and mapped by the crew at Dunsfold Aerodrome - home to BBC Top Gear, of course - and then filmed at Millbrook Proving Ground, a facility that replicates various different types of road and terrain. The chosen section of Millbrook mimics the winding, undulating roads of Montenegro, and a special ramp was fitted to give the car a bit of lift into the roll. It's too planted and well-engineered to crash properly, you see - with such a low centre of gravity, it's hard to get them airborne! Peace of mind for Aston owners, there...
At the exact moment that the car hit the ramp, travelling at approximately 75mph, the driver activated the air-cannon, which used pressurised nitrogen to fire a steel ram out of the car's floor and force it upwards. The results are what you see before you: one very mangled but somehow majestic DBS-alike.

Spotted at Aston Martin's Centenary event in Kensington Gardens - click here for more photos

London-Sydney 911T

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

What do you get if you cross a roof-rack with a cow-catcher? Er, this.

The Porsche 911 has enjoyed many disparate uses over the last half-century - race track dominator, status symbol, forced-induction pioneer, Filofax holder - but perhaps the most eyecatching is its success in international rallying. The idea of taking a 21st-century sports car, jacking up the suspension and bouncing it through some forests might seem absurd (imagine if Lotus suggested it for the Exige, or Chevrolet for the Corvette, or even if the 911 was launched as an all-new model today), but back in the sixties it was all part of the motorsport package. It was clearly a good idea too, 911s were extremely successful.
This particular one, a 1967 T - not a '66 as the signs state - was used on some pretty extreme terrain. The unmissable scaffolding exoskeleton sort of gives that away. It was officially campaigned by Porsche in the Acropolis Rally as well as the Nürburgring 84hr Marathon and the Spa 24hrs (a diverse skillset for one car!), before being sold in 1968 to Edgar Herrmann for competition in the Safari Rally; it was subsequently returned to Porsche for preparation of the London-Sydney Rally, and this is the spec you see it in now.

The unique features of this 911 are manifold and intriguing. That front cage, designed to deflect kangaroos and so forth, acts as a clamshell, hinging forward to allow access to the front compartment. The car wears sturdy steel wheels rather than lightweight mags - better for thudding over rocks without shattering - and flexible hoses on either side of the roof allow the attachment of diverter pipes to the upswept exhausts so the Porsche can drive through rivers. The frankly overloaded roofrack carries a full set of spare wheels and three 20-litre fuel containers, one of which can also double up as a spare oil tank, with hoses that attach to the engine's oil inlet system; another of the fuel cans can be used as a spare fuel tank using a similar setup. All very ingenious.
The car also carries a full tool-kit, hacksaw, a two-man wood saw and an axe, as well as a winch and cable. The spare fuel pump, coil, battery and switch box are all fastened next to their working counterparts, largely because the car was running out of space!

It's amazing that the 911 was able to travel with any pace at all while carrying all of that weight, but Herrmann and Schuller took the 'best private entry' prize, coming 15th overall. (The sister car, driven by Zasada and Wachowski, came 4th.)
The car had a long and, as you might imagine, diverse career in later years, before being restored to its London-Sydney attire in the late eighties. You can read more here.

Snapped at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos

Thursday, 25 July 2013

DB4GT Zagato

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

Zagato's sylph-like remodelling of the Aston Martin DB4GT brought forth arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever created. From its Frenched-in tail-lights to the subtly stretched mouth, every inch of it exudes class and delicacy, while somehow pulling off the neat trick of being muscular and aggressive at the same time.

Debuting at the 1960 London Motor Show, the Zagato DB4 was basically a DB4GT underneath (that is, a sporty reworking of the DB4, with a 3.7-litre straight-six with twin spark plugs, two distributors, and three twin-choke Weber carbs), but lightened, honed and optimised for competition. The fact that its aluminium curves were jaw-droppingly gorgeous was seemingly a secondary issue. Just nineteen DB4GT Zagatos were built - as well as seventy-five standard DB4GTs, and one Bertone special called the 'Jet' - and their value today is, well, stratospheric. Think six figures.

This California-registered example was on display at Aston Martin's recent centenary event in Kensington Gardens - for more photos, click here.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

FoS 2013 - Through a Lens

Photos - Mark Saunders; words - Daniel Bevis

You've undoubtedly noticed the strong content bias toward the Goodwood Festival of Speed on SuckSqueezeBangBlow of late - only natural really, it's a pivotal UK motoring event with myriad tales to tell. I'll continue to post up highlights of various cars from the FoS in the coming days/weeks/whatever, but I thought it was time to give you a break from my ham-fisted snapping and allow you to enjoy some rather more beautiful photography.
These pictures are a selection of those taken by Mark Saunders - somebody you'll be seeing a lot more of around here from now on. His unique eye for detail allows his photos to tell expansive stories all of their own; from Stirling Moss's hard-earned laughter lines to the wacky Golden Submarine's outlandish teardrop, the triumphant wave of Peter Fonda to the majestic rump of the Pikes Peak 208 T16, there's plenty to enjoy here.

You can follow Mark on Instagram (and you should); his site is here, where he'll be sharing more of this set of Goodwood photos in the future.