Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Chapron DS 19 'Le Paris'

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Henri Chapron was a prolific Citroën fiddler, his coachbuilt DS variants in particular being widely celebrated for their elegance and attention to detail. His 'Décapotable' soft-top conversions, of which the Chapron atelier hand-built 389, were so coveted that Citroën started producing their own 'usine' (i.e. 'factory') convertibles, with around 1,365 being sold. They're all very sought-after today, and command eye-watering sums.
Chapron wasn't just keen on slicing the roofs of DSs and affixing custom rag-tops though - he worked on four-door SMs, 'Presidential' limousines based on DSs and SMs... and there was this, the 'Le Paris' coupé. This little poppet built on the jewel-like splendour of the original Chapron DS cabriolets, the 'La Croisette' models (complete with tell-tale vertical chrome strip to cover the join where the rear door shut would be), and reimagined the concept as a dashing hardtop coupé. This particular one sports the mechanicals from the DS 19, which means a 1,911cc engine carried over from the Traction Avant, as well as having the gearbox mounted ahead of the engine with the diff in between, effectively making it front-mid-engined. Chapron built just nine of these, and this is one of only three that remain. Sensational, isn't it?
You can learn more about the various Chapron DSs here.

Spotted at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed - more photos here.

Monday, 29 June 2015


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Being the featured marque at the Goodwood Festival of Speed clearly excited Mazda somewhat, and they brought a delicious smörgåsbord of rotary-toting 757s, 767s and 787s with them to titillate the crowds. (Although, sadly, one of them ended up the wrong shape. Don't worry though, it's not terminal.)
And in addition to all of that screaming Le Mans mayhem, they also wheeled this out, the IMSA RX-7 GTO. This is a creation of sublime muscularity: it's packing a production RX-7 motor, along with another one bolted on for good measure to create a stonking four-rotor unit.
The GTO took pole position at Daytona on its first ever outing, posted some impressive results through the 1990 season, then totally dominated in 1991. That quad-triangle motor kicks out a nice round 600bhp which, in a car weighing just 1,020kg, rather explains how it was so devastating. And you may have noticed how it looks a little beefier than the road car's slender profile? That's because it's been amplified, as if photocopied at 120%; the body is an RX-7-alike carbon-composite silhouette, stretched over the broad spaceframe like cling-film over a chicken carcass. Everything about it is brawny and fat, yet at the same time pared back and focused. A magnificent slice of race history.

More from the 2015 FoS here.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Datsun 260Z V8

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The 260Z was an evolutionary stepping-stone for Datsun. The 240Z had been launched back in 1970, winning hearts with its eager performance, race-bred pedigree and slinky, long-nosed looks that were clearly lifted wholesale from the Jaguar E-Type. 1974's update, the 260Z, offered much the same as that popular base, with the engine stroked from 2.4- to 2.6-litres (hence the respective names). It also offered a number of refinements - redesigned chassis rails, a rear anti-roll bar, a more logical layout for the dash controls - but the difference was really all about the engine.
That, however, doesn't matter all that much with this pretty white one, as the engine is long gone. In its place we find a 302 V8, the 4.9-litre Ford motor (that Ford liked to call the five-point-oh...), often found making shouty noises in Mustangs. It's a boisterous choice, and is probably a lot of fun. Looks very much at home in that bay too, doesn't it?

Spotted at the 2015 Players Classic - more photos here.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Baby Blue Golf

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This MkI ticks a lot of boxes. The engine bay has been shaved and smoothed to the nth degree; the twin-carbed motor is fastidiously chromed and colour-coded, the wiring tucked out of sight, with every seam, hole and ridge smoothed, filled, and polished like crazy. The effort under the bonnet alone is astounding, and this level of detail carries on throughout the car - the colour-coded BBS splits, the spot-on stance, the tweed-trimmed low-back seats, the neatly integrated gauges, it's all very thoughtfully done. Not shouty or ostentatious, but more detail emerges every time you look.
The retro VW scene is increasingly competitive and flooded with quality builds, it's hard to create a unique car that stands out amongst the masses. This Golf demonstrates that you don't need to do something shocking to be noticed - you just need to do things right.

Spotted at the 2015 Retro Show - more photos here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

RWD Fiesta Supersport

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This little pocket-rocket has been on the scene for some years now, with Ford superhero Chris Todd at the wheel. At twenty paces it simply appears to be a beautifully finished MkI Fiesta Supersport - the 1.3-litre sporting testbed that prepared the UK market for the forthcoming XR2. But almost immediately, little details start to bubble through into your consciousness; that nose-down raked stance, the fact that the rear wheels are much bigger and wider than the fronts... and hang on - it's got wheelie bars on the back! What steaming madness is this?
The answer is that Chris has stuffed a turbo'd Subaru flat-four into the back, driving those vast rear wheels. It's engineered for the strip, and it lays down some pretty devastating times - see here and here, for example. Those wheelie bars are needed to stop the damn thing flipping over. It's utterly, utterly bonkers. And it's also rather wonderful to see something so focused that's also so well finished. This is truly one of the leading lights of the UK classic Ford scene.

Spotted at the 2015 Retro Show - more photos here.

Monday, 22 June 2015


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The nineteen-eighties were a boom-time for pricey, flashy motors – the clichés of city boys in red braces and 930 Turbos rang true, although they didn’t all fancy widowmaker sports cars; those who wanted the proles to spy their Omega Seamasters as they cruised past had a posh new range of Mercedes Sonderklasse models to choose from. The W126 built on the luxurious reputation of its W116 predecessor, bulked itself up as if it had been photocopied at 120%, and set about showing the world exactly how money talked.
An interesting point to consider is the involvement of AMG in these swanky luxo-barges. The development and launch of the W126 all occurred some time before Mercedes-Benz (or rather, DaimlerChrysler) took a controlling interest in AMG in 1990; before that, AMG Motorenbau und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH had operated as its own independent entity – an engineering firm specialising in tuning Mercedes-Benz products, although they did dabble in other brands too (AMG Mitsubishi Galant, anyone?). The first commercially available, official AMG Mercedes was the C36 in 1993. So unlike today, when it’s possible to walk into a Mercedes-Benz showroom and choose from a variety of official AMG models, it was more the case that an AMG W126 was a bespoke affair, looked on kindly by M-B but by no means officially sanctioned. They were hugely popular though, with AMG offering tuning options and body kits for all W126s – saloons, coupés, even limousines – as well as an ostentatious wide-body kit for the coupé. And of course, there was their celebrated 6.0-litre DOHC V8 to whet the appetites of the high net worth speedfreaks.

So, what do those crazy badges mean? Well, that’s a sort of in-joke for Mercedes-Benz aficionados. In period, companies such as Trasco, Chameleon and Robert Jankel Design would modify W126s for discerning customers, basing the nomenclature on the principle that ‘a 1000SEL is twice as good as a 500SEL’. There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding what a 1000 or 1001 is because it’s an ethereal concept; if it’s modified and opulent, you can call it a 1000 if you so wish… and if you want to go further beyond that, why not spec yourself a 5000SEL, or even a 10000? The width of the bootlid is the limit, really.

This particular example, luxuriating in the concours arena of the Retro Show at Santa Pod, is displaying many of the swanky trappings of the era; things that today we'd pigeonhole as 'VIP-style': split-rims with gold bolts, gold-plated badges, full-width interior curtains - this is a car for oil barons and despots. Aviator shades, linen suits and Cuban cigars are all essential. This car doesn't just own the road, it has little interest in anything else on it. It's a scary, scary thing.

More photos from the 2015 Retro Show here.