Friday, 21 February 2014

Alfa GTV 1750

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Spotted in the car park at the Goodwood Revival, this shimmering Biancospino 105-series Alfa is pretty much flawless. There's a later 2000 GTV twin-cam under the bonnet (running twin 45 Webers, natch), while the combination of rollcage, four-point harnesses and Konis accentuates the GTV's old-school motorsport ethos. And the perfection of the finish is worn with pride - you should see the basket-case state it was in when the owner found it!
You can read the full story in the new issue of Retro Cars magazine, on the shelves today...

Click here for more from the 2013 Revival.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

450 SLC: The Sentient Benz

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Once upon a time, three friends of mine – who, for the purposes of this tale, we shall call Will, Barrie and Baston (because, er, those are their names) - set up an unofficial little business buying and selling cars from auctions. Nothing too ostentatious, a rusty Sierra here and a sleepy Fiesta there, just what little they could afford with their spare pennies, which then got a good clean and sold on eBay for profit. The margins were small, so it was a reasonably successful little sideline.

One day they found themselves at an auction in Enfield, face to face with the most beautiful car they’d ever seen. It was a 1973 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC in full diplomatic spec: black leather with cream piping, fully loaded with every gizmo available in the early seventies and, of course, that juicy 4.5-litre V8. It smelt just like a classic luxury car should, all supple hide and gently patinated walnut. It was on offer with no reserve and nobody was bidding. They couldn’t resist. They snapped it up at an embarrassingly low price.

Unfortunately, after rather a lot of time spent quietly gazing at the slumbering behemoth, they couldn't bring themselves to sell it. It was just too pretty.

It lived in Barrie’s parents' garage for a few months, occasionally being admired and stroked, but largely just sitting there on its own in the dark. Then we moved it to my old garage for a while. Then it was stored in Will’s parents' garage for a few more months, whiling away the days gathering dust and giving the cat somewhere classy to sit.

Eventually it was decided that the best thing to do, sad though it would be, was to bite the bullet and say goodbye to the old girl. After all, everyone was out of pocket and no-one was actually driving the thing. It was just sitting there, expectant and forbidding, like some neglected, bitter fairytale monarch.

So, Will and I dragged the car out of the garage, gave it the cleaning of its life, then (after a good ten minutes of trying to stop the wayward washer jets from squirting [the reservoir tank is surprisingly large]) took it out for a spin down some country lanes.

It's the closest I've ever come to dying in a car.

As we wound through the country lanes outside Faversham, the throttle unexpectedly jammed itself wide open. 250-odd Teutonic horses rapidly smeared the hedgerows into blurred green spectra. The aged, ineffectual brakes were doing little to slow progress and, horror of horrors, the autobox was somehow stuck in Drive as well. The key couldn't turn in the ignition. It seemed like there was no way to stop the car, bouncing off the rev limiter and screaming at vastly illegal speeds down worryingly narrow lanes. On a straight stretch of road, Will took off his seatbelt and dove headfirst into the footwell, returning moments later with the accelerator pedal in his hand and a look of utter bafflement on his face. He looked as if he’d had an idea but wasn’t sure what it was, and had been thwarted before finding out.
With a Herculean effort, between us we forced the gearlever into neutral and coasted to a halt, the engine still energetically redlining. Then, in a scene straight from a dodgy b-movie, it slipped itself back into Drive and we pelted down the road again, leaving the longest number-eleven skidmarks you've ever seen.
And then it ran out of fuel.
We gradually rolled to a standstill, coming to rest just before the trees that otherwise would probably have impaled us.

This story is true. And entirely inconsequential.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Ford Heritage Collection

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

SuckSqueezeBangBlow spent some time with Ford's Heritage Collection last week, shooting a couple of features for Retro Ford magazine (details forthcoming when they hit the shelves). The collection is petrolhead mecca for any Blue Oval fan, featuring all manner of significant models from the marque's history. There's a handful of Model Ts, a 4x4 mkI Capri, the ill-fated GT70 project, the last Capri off the line (and the last Cortina too), the brilliantly unhinged Supervan 3, Colin McRae's rally Transit, an Escort Cosworth fresh from the Rally de Portugal, the winning London-Mexico Escort from 1970 along with its 1995 recreation, and much more besides. Imagine a room full of every Ford you've ever dreamed of, all pristine and in perfect working order thanks to a team of dyed-in-the-wool Ford enthusiasts who keep everything ticking over. That's what you're looking at here. Magical.

Click here for more.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Astra BiTurbo

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Vauxhall's Astra BiTurbo is a sort of sensible-trousers warm hatch for people who want a VXR but have been forced by circumstance to be a bit sensible. So it has a diesel engine - although it is quite a perky one!
SuckSqueezeBangBlow tested it recently for GoCompare - you can read all about it here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Benetton B190

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

It's hard to believe that the Benetton B190 first appeared a quarter of a century ago. While it may look a little dated next to a current F1 car (particularly in terms of where the driver's legs are), it was incredibly advanced for its time: the carbon-fibre monocoque housed the cutting-edge Ford/Cosworth HBA4 engine, a 3.5-litre V8, while the aerodynamics were as advanced as the leading teams' efforts. Indeed, Nelson Piquet was able to keep the B190 right at the front of the field with the McLaren, Ferrari and Williams cars, taking victory in the final two races of the 1990 season in Japan and Australia.
With the development of Formula One being what it is, the B190 was replaced in 1991 by the B190B, then the B191, so this car's victories are very much anchored in their time; nowadays it exists as a reminder of early-nineties F1, touring the show circuit and running in track displays. Is there any livery that shouts '1990s' more loudly?

Spotted by SuckSqueezeBangBlow at the 2012 Chelsea Auto Legends press day - click here for more photos.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Avions Voisin C6 Laboratoire

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Gabriel Voisin was, to say the least, an innovator - a man keen to apply aerospace tech to road cars, and we can see this all over the C6 Laboratoire. Wheel discs, flat-bottomed steering-wheel, swoopy aerodynamics - much of it is commonplace in various forms of motorsport today, and yet this car first turned a wheel in anger back in 1923.
The C6 has an aluminium-blocked 2.0-litre, six-cylinder engine offering 75bhp. The propeller you see on the nose harnesses kinetic energy to turn the coolant circulation pump, although this system wasn't always enough to allow the C6 to actually finish races; in its debut Grand Prix in 1923, four C6s started but just one finished, in fifth place. However, being the first Grand Prix car to feature lightweight monocoque construction, it certainly set a precedent for innovation. Just, er, not in terms of weird propeller set-ups.

This C6 ran up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013 - click here for more photos.