Thursday, 29 January 2015

'70 Challenger T/A

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The fuel filler on this 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A is one of my all-time favourite car details. American cars of the period operated on a strict system of model-years, everything had a built-in obsolescence so that customers would buy the new model in the following year, nothing was ever fresh for long – and the T/A was only sold in 1970, so this is a rare beast indeed. But I love that manufacturers still found the time to bother to make the details look so pretty.
That shade of paint is called Plum Crazy, which is very cool – paint codes were more fun back then; you could spec the Challenger in colours like Top Banana, Go Mango, Sub-Lime, Panther Pink… And I just like the fact that the car’s a bit wet. I saw it on the concours lawn at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, on what turned out to be a scorcher of a day. But my schoolboy eagerness meant that I was there first thing in the morning, before too many people arrived, to kick through the dewdrops and have the Challenger to myself for a short while. Bliss.

Click here for more pics from the 2014 FoS.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Victor 101

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The third-generation Vauxhall Victor, the FC-series, was marketed and badged as the '101' as it supposedly boasted 101 improvements over its FB predecessor. It was bursting with options too - you could plump for bench or separate front seats, column-shift or floor-shift for the gearbox... and it also had such American-influenced styling cues as indicators within the bumpers and a radio sunk into the metal dash. Looks a little like a shrunken fourth-gen Lincoln Continental too, doesn't it? If you squint?

No, just me? OK. I really love the styling of the thing though, it's got just the right amount of chrome, the perfect ratio of curves to angles, rakish overhangs - sure, this one's a little rusty, but that does lend it a certain careworn charm. Patina, in the true sense. 

Spotted at the 2014 Goodwood Revival - click here for more photos.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 Shooting Brake

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Shooting Brake' is a very grand term for an estate car, isn't it? It evokes images of the coachbuilt specials of yore - the Jaguar XJ-S-based Lynx Eventer, the Aston Martin DB4 & DB5 Shooting Brakes, sporty coupés that were re-hammered into estates to make them more practical for grouse shoots and what-have-you. And it does make sense in the context of the CLS.
You see, while the CLS may appear to some to be a luxury four-door saloon, it is styled and positioned as a coupé - albeit quite a big one. So the act of expanding the rear glasshouse and bolting on a tailgate wouldn't be done justice by merely referring to it as a 'CLS estate' - 'Shooting Brake' is far more appropriate for the model's ethos.

This one's quite a cheeky one too: the example SuckSqueezeBangBlow tested was the CLS 350 BlueTEC AMG-Line. What that means, in essence, is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel offering 258bhp, a nine-speed autobox, 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, 19" AMG alloys, vast brakes, AMG sport seats, clever LED lights, and self-levelling air suspension. Given the hugeness of the spec list - and, er, the car itself - it seems remarkably reasonable at £51,765.
It's an entertaining thing to drive, too - burying the throttle when the traffic lights turn green causes the tail to wiggle and squirm, before the electronics rein in the mischief and set about firing you toward the horizon as efficiently as they can manage. This sort of casual-yet-strict parenting characterises the car as a whole; try to get the tail out on a greasy roundabout, for example, and it'll j-u-s-t let you oversteer for a second or two before giving you a stern look and a slap on the wrist, the chassis straightening everything up and pretending nothing happened. It just stops short of spitting on a handkerchief and wiping the jam off your chin, you scruffy little urchin. Stop messing about. Stand up straight. Honestly.

The CLS Shooting Brake is like a mischievous young dad - aware of the necessities of practicality that come with family life and doing everything possible to make it all run smoothly, and yet eager to be a little bit naughty when nobody's looking. The thing brims with potential: sure, you'll spend 95% of your time in the car being a grown-up, carting kids and hedge-clippings about, but for that other 5%, the cheeky grin emerges and everything gets a bit sideways. Just for a moment, but it's enough.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Art Morrison '59 Corvette

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

It's a '59, Jim, but not as we know it...
The Corvette is an iconic entity, and for many it's the original first-gen model that's the purest of the breed, with its saucy scallops, twin-halfmoon dash and lashings of chrome. It has to be said, though, that the world has moved on somewhat in terms of handling finesse since the 1950s, and that's why Art Morrison offer a rather more advanced chassis for the early 'Vette; it features adjustable coilovers and anti-roll bars, powered rack-and-pinion steering, a four-linked rear with 9" axle, and various other tricks. So the old girl can have the go to match the show.

This also creates rather a natty canvas for custom work, naturally. The '59 model you see here complements its Art Morrison chassis with a 400bhp Chevy LS2 V8, a Tremec 6-speed manual 'box, and 14" brakes with Wilwood six-pots - as well as a custom-trimmed interior in leather and suede, custom digital gauges, and an artfully shaved engine bay. Pretty neat, huh?
And the price of all of this retro-futurist splendour? Why, £140k to you, old fruit...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - click here for more photos.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lancia Delta S4 Stradale

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The S4 Stradale is one of those obscure homologation specials whose name is whispered in hushed reverence. Everyone knows the poster-boy specials from the Group B era - the RS200, the 6R4, the 205 T16 - but the road-going version of the Delta S4 is such a rare sight that very few people have ever actually seen one. Just 200 were built (er, supposedly; some suggest that the figure was closer to 65) to meet homologation regs, of which around 45 remain - the rest having been crashed or converted into full-bore competition cars. They offered 250bhp in road tune from the innovatively twincharged (that is, both turbocharged and supercharged) 1.8-litre 4-pot, and featured a luxuriously trimmed interior compared to their gravel-spitting rally counterparts.

This particular S4 has been subject to a sympathetic restoration, is producing a healthy 300bhp, and will amuse your bank manager to the tune of £240,000. Look out for a feature on it by yours truly in a forthcoming issue of Retro Cars magazine...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - click here for more photos.

Monday, 12 January 2015

London Classic Car Show 2015

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The inaugural London Classic Car Show filled a substantial hall at the ExCel exhibition centre with high-end, iconic motor cars from a broad spread of eras. Competing with the Autosport show at the NEC was always going to be tricky, but the first LCCS more than held its own, and has hopefully paved the way for even bigger and brighter shows in future years. With more of a luxury focus than, for example, November's Classic Motor Show, it offered top-flight fare from such exhibitors as Joe Macari, CMC and Nicholas Mee, while the 'Grand Avenue' that ran the length of the hall offered spectators the chance to see the likes of Miuras, Quattros, Range Rovers and classic F1 cars in action (albeit at a necessarily sedate pace). And the 60th anniversary of the Citroën DS was well represented too - arguably the highlight of the parade!
In addition, James May had set up a 'cars that changed the world' sort of affair that mixed the usual suspects with some offbeat choices, while James Martin's motoring café was stuffed full of Minis. There was an exhibition of Le Mans legends, and a career-spanning celebration of Adrian Newey's designs. Something for everyone there, then.

Keep an eye on SSBB for some more in-depth looks at various cars from the show in the near future. In the meantime, here are some photos. (And there's more here.)