Bring It On!

Octane magazine is full of reports on exciting and challenging events, well attended by many of you from the States. This year’s Tour Auto Lissac saw Danny Sullivan post a strong result with Chip Connor in the Porsche 911 RSR, but the event was won overall by Brits Sheldon and Stevens in a Lotus Elan. A pretty impressive result considering the big Ferrari, Cobra and Jaguar opposition but, as we now regularly observe, these diminutive Elans are indecently quick and no longer attract the disparaging remark: ‘Lots of Trouble Usually Serious’!

With the weather on the Tour Auto being typically iffy, we watched Martin Swig’s excellent California Mille with interest from across the pond. Meanwhile, Octane contributor, Sir Stirling (and Lady) Moss were in Seabrook near Houston enjoying the Keels & Wheels Concours and Auction at the beautiful Lakewood Yacht Club. The combination of beautiful cars with beautiful boats shows, as the saying goes, “racing a classic car is akin to sitting in the oven tearing up $50 notes.” Well, I therefore suppose that messing about in classic boats is akin to standing under a shower doing the same thing.

Sir Stirling then nipped across to Brescia in Italy for the start of the 2005 Mille Miglia. This was an emotional occasion for the old racer as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of his record win in 1955, at the wheel of the fearsome Mercedes-Benz SLR . This is the last time the famous Mercedes was to be driven at the Mille Miglia, and Stirling was met with rapturous applause as he drove the SLR over the starting ramp. He was asked to sign the car and he wrote on its flank: ‘We did it together. Many thanks and affection. Ciao, Stirling Moss.’

In preparation for the impending Monterey Week, the August issue of Octane features a number of special cars including last year’s Pebble Beach ‘Best of Show’ winner, the striking Horch 853. Delivered to RM Auto restorations in Ontario , Canada , the Horch was shabby but proved to be remarkably complete. RM used as much of the original coachwork and woodwork as possible and, 12,000 hours later, the magnificent Erdmann & Rossi coachbuilt car emerged an went on to win the top prize on the Pebble Beach lawns.

One of the highlights of the motoring year, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, was as impressive as ever. The theme was Racing Colours – National Pride and Culture, and this year’s featured marque, Honda, put on an incredible display of six Formula 1 racing cars. A huge steel structure in front of Goodwood House saw the cars balancing at the end of long counterweighted arms (see photo). The enormous crowd was treated to the impressive sight of hundreds of top class cars blasting up Lord March’s driveway. An additional attraction was the loose gravel special forest rally stage where Audi Quattros, Lancia Stratos and Mini-Coopers flew sideways through the trees at incredible speed. Inch perfect driving skill is required here.

The Cartier Style et Luxe Concours at the Festival drew in elegantly attired socialites where the celebrity panel of judges were seduced by David Sydorick’s gorgeous Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. “I love its subtleties, and from end to end its vocabulary of form is wonderful,” said Ed Welburn, GM’s vice president of Design. The Hon. Michael Kadorie’s exquisite Bugatti Type 57S was a favourite but was just beaten to a class win by Frans van Haren’s more flamboyant Gangloff-bodied Type 57C.

The Bonhams auction held at the Festival of Speed realised £1.3 million ($2.2 million) for a very original 1933 Bugatti Type 59 in need of some remedial work to make it race ready. The 1929 WB ‘Bummer’ Scott Le Mans-spec Bentley sold for £397,000 ($662,990) and the Delage three-litre racer made £331,500 ($553,605) contributing to an overall total of more that £4 million ($.6.7 million). So prices in Britain remain strong at the top end for the very best and desirable historic cars.

As Pebble Beach beckons, the August issue of Octane magazine features the curious Ferrari Breadvan, built by Count Volpi when Enzo Ferrari refused to sell him a 250 GTO. Based on the preceding 250 SWB, designed by Piero Drogo and engineered by Giotto Bizzarini, the Breadvan went on to prove to be an extraordinary weapon in Ferrari’s fractious history.

As you read this, the three Alfa Romeo Berlina Aerodinamica Technica or BAT cars are on the high seas, en route from Britain to appear as a special display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Assembled and restored by Englishman Paul Osborn, these outlandish creations have not been seen together since 1989. Over the last seven years, Osborn has returned the BAT cars to as near original condition as possible and the results are impressive. Watch for them at Pebble as they are worth a really close inspection. See you on the 18th fairway…

–Robert Coucher, editor

Octane magazine