Friday, 27 January 2017

Meyrignac Coupé

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Among the myriad delights of the Cartier Style & Luxe concours lawn at last year's Goodwood Festival of Speed nestled a gaggle of swoopy, curvaceous Alpines of various provenance. Their number included the lesser-spotted Willys Interlagos (an A108 built under licence in Brazil), and that in itself would normally be a show-stopper... were it not for the presence of an angular hunk o' cheese parked nearby, confounding passers-by with its lashings of what-the-hell-is-that-ness.

What it is, in fact, is the Meyrignac Coupé: a prototype that popped up at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, designed and built by Parisian whippersnapper Denis Meyrignac and based on the Alpine A110 1600S Berlinette. It was an inventive and exciting thing that, like so many aspects of French culture, was ultimately quashed by relentless bureaucracy. The authorities demanded that the Coupé be subjected to expensive emissions type-approval (and bear in mind that it was running an already-approved Renault motor...), all of which led the exasperated Meyrignac to park it in a corner of the garage and leave it to rot. Fortunately for the car, however, Meyrignac went on to work on a freelance basis for the Renault Formula 1 team before moving to auto design studio SERA, so his creds were strong; when Renault Classic learned that he still had the prototype, they offered to restore it for the Goodwood concours. Which was nice. Looks pretty sharp, doesn't it?

More pics from the 2016 FoS here.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

XK120 Supersonic

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The aero-inspired Ghia Supersonic of the early 1950s is arguably one of the most beautiful car designs of all time. While it's usually associated with Italian cars, however, you may be intrigued to note that this one is actually a Jaguar XK120 underneath.
Originally penned by Ghia designer Giovanni Savonuzzi, the first Supersonic clothed an Alfa Romeo 1900, tuned by Conrero and entered into the 1953 Mille Miglia. (Imagine that today - a coachbuilt sports car being commissioned for racing rather than concours trophies...) Subsequent Supersonics can generally be found hiding the guts of a Fiat 8V beneath their slinky curves, although one was based on an Aston Martin, and three upon Jaguar underpinnings.

This car began life as a left-hand-drive DHC, delivered to the Delecroix dealership in Paris, who shipped it over to Ghia along with another XK120 for rakish new bodywork, commissioned by Delecroix customer Monsieur Malpelli. This car is the only one of the XK120 Supersonics to sport a Conrero cylinder head and triple Weber carbs, affording it the gruffness of 220bhp.
Exhibited at motor shows in Paris and London, this car then hit the concours scene, until Malpelli's unpaid bills caught up with him and Delecroix reclaimed the two cars for themselves. In the following decades this one passed through a variety of collectors' hands, before landing with its current owner in 2015. It's got the original tan leather, the original matching-numbers engine, and the original frisson of debonair boulevardier chic. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Spotted at the 2016 Windsor Concours - more pics here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Wizard Roadster

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The cult of the Wizard Roadster is mired in secrecy and half-truths; ownership of one isn't just about drop-top aircooled whimsy, it's an exercise in clandestine sleuthing if you're keen to know the provenance of the thing.
The concept was originally devised in the US; these conversions were available via the small ads in the back of hot rod magazines, and the legend goes that three kits were purchased (one of each popular style; the roadster, the van, and the 'Windjammer' T-Bar semi-hardtop) by Pete & Mart's Custom Supplies of Harlow, Essex, in the early 1980s. UK company Wizard of Rods then - allegedly - used said moulds as the basis for their products. The 1984 Wizard brochure described how the kit would 'transform a stock Beetle into an exciting soft-top fun vehicle,' the fibreglass bonding task being 'something like two weekends' work'. As was the nature of the home-taping nineteen-eighties, these copied designs were variously ripped off by other kit car firms and what-have-you, selling for knock-down prices. So today it's quite hard to know whether a Beetle Roadster is an old-school US build, or a 'genuine' UK Wizard, or a period knock-off, or something that's been crafted since.

For the sake of simplicity, however, let's just call this particular shiny example a Wizard. I can't give you any details as to its provenance, but I'd love to know more about it - the VW-Porsche 914 badges and auto shifter suggest that something entertaining's going on with the running gear, the interior is beautifully trimmed, the custom dash is a real eye-catcher, and the staggered tyre profiles on those Empi five-spokes gives it a delicious rake. Splendid little thing.

Spotted at the Goodwood Breakfast Club - more pics here.