Monday, 25 April 2016

BTCC Volvo 850

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Stance. Fitment. Call it what you will, that implacable notion of wheel-positioning perfection that today's scene kids are perennially chasing is something that was actually nailed by Volvo back in the mid-1990s.

A pair of stickered-up 850 estates hit the BTCC series in 1994, which made for a fairly bullish entry into the series. The brand had form with European Touring Car racing back when the 240 Turbo was pounding the circuits, but their entry into the BTCC neatly leveraged the common perception of being a bit, well, mumsy, by throwing the estate cars back into the world's face. The model was repurposed, refocused, and did a lot to make people re-evaulate just what Volvo were all about. It's perhaps hard to imagine today that the idea of a performance Volvo was an inconceivable notion for many, but in such a beige environment the 850 BTCC cars really were a game-changer.

Volvo were, of course, very aware of the staid image, and delighted in installing a stuffed collie dog in the boot during parade laps. They were lapping up the attention, and while it may not have been a hugely successful race car (it never finished higher than 5th place in its debut season), the 850 estate certainly served as a gold-standard PR exercise. TWR's development was constant and fastidious, however, and Rickard Rydell took 3rd place in the championship in the following season, and again in 1996 - but for these years the team wasn't running an estate car. Those successes came courtesy of the car you see here, the 850 saloon.

And yes, the aesthetic is very much dominated by those massive wheels tucked deep inside the arches. But this isn't the product of a measured and fashionable effort to get the thing sitting improbably low on the showground - this is pure race car function. Which is, naturally, very cool indeed. Check it out, scenesters - you're lusting after a nineties Volvo.

Spotted at 74MM - more pics here.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Gitanes Capri

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Is there a more apposite fusion of symbols of the 1970s than a V6-powered Ford Capri and a packet of strong French fags...?
This glorious specimen of a free-leetah was prepared by the fastidious and near-superhuman Ric Wood, and driven at Goodwood's 74th Members' Meeting by BTCC star Adam Morgan. It's wearing its correct period Gitanes colours with pride, and never looked any less than utterly delicious all weekend. Makes you want to leap inside, hang a Feu Orange from the mirror, make un-PC comments about 'bits of skirt', and get amongst some mischief, doesn't it?

More from 74MM here.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mini Cooper(ish)

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The Mini Cooper is, it goes without saying, a timeless and appreciating classic. They're appreciating like crazy in fact, so much so that it would be an act of sheer madness for a company like Great Escape Cars to put one on their hire fleet and allow the general populus to muck about with it. Wouldn't it...?

Well, yes, of course it would. So they haven't. What they've done instead is to restore a classic Mini from the ground up and infuse a little Cooper flavour into the mix. Clever, eh? All the fun, none of the sleepless nights. So what we have here is a proper old-school Mini that's been torn back to first principles and fully rebuilt, finished in the classic combo of Old English White with a black roof. It's got racy Cobra buckets and red carpets for that retro sixties go-go flair, and there's all sorts that's fit-for-purpose when it comes to mischief-making - the Italian Job spotlights, the Cherry Bomb exhaust, the front tyres with the soft grippy sections on the edges... built for fun, this.
Sorry, I know I pandered to the Mini cliché and mentioned The Italian Job there. I sort of had to. There's a 'Croker & Bridger' sticker in the back window, you see. And having driven the thing, you really do feel like one of Charlie Croker's getaway drivers, ready to splash across a weir or barrel-roll through a sewage pipe. It's a darty, precise little thing, tight as a drum and eager for rev-happy thrills. Just, er, don't actually drive it through a weir. The guys will get really cross.

Effusive thanks to Great Escape Cars - check 'em out here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Seventies Wedges

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

All the coolest cars were wedge-shaped in the 1970s. If your angles weren't acute then you were just being obtuse.
So here, for no other reason than that they're both frickin' supercool, are two iconic silhouettes of the mid-late seventies; the Lamborghini Countach and the Lotus Esprit. Which one would you take home? Italian flair or British espionage chic? It's a tough call...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - more pics here.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Snapper Showcase - Chris Frosin

Chris is a photographer I've worked with on countless magazine shoots over the years. He's got a strong background in sports photography (humans doing sport, that is, rather than motorsport), but his fledgling steps into automotive photography a few years ago set him on a rollercoaster of personal development; by putting the hours in on a relentless quest for technical betterment, he's now one of the stand-out snappers of his era and genre.
He's given me some pictures to share with you here of a low-drag E-Type he shot recently at Brands Hatch. Much to enjoy there, and you can see more of his work here:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Nissan-engined Sierra

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Probably the best thing about this Sierra is the fact that its appearance at Wheels Day sparked an all-day marathon of passers-by saying 'Oh, that's so wrong'. Which is presumably just what its owner was hoping for.
People get inordinately worked up over engine swaps, particularly swaps from other marques, and it was genuinely amusing to observe the Ford faithful frothing at the mouth at the notion of somebody having the temerity to install a Nissan CA18 motor into one of their beloved jellymoulds. As you can see, of course, the owner has been fiendishly clever about all this; he hasn't just thrown in a JDM engine to annoy people, the whole thing's properly built throughout. You can see from the effort that's gone into the details - the vast Wilwood brakes, the lightweight Team Dynamics wheels with sticky Toyos, the hardcore rollcage, the plastic windows, this is a car built for high-octane mischief. The fact that it really irritates people is merely a fringe benefit. Haters gon' hate, etc.

More pics from Wheels Day here.