MMR Blog

A message from Duarte
at The Old Garage, Cascais

Posted on November 29, 2012 Comments (2)

We received this message and photo from Duarte at The Old Garage:

Plymouth Explorer 1954

I am sending you a picture I believe is rather interesting. The photo was taken in 1954 when the brand new Plymouth Explorer/Ghia was delivered to the lady standing in front of the car, a gift from her husband. They were parents of my friend’s wife.

As this is a one-off car, it is the very same one, in the other photo, taken a few months ago at Amelia Island in the USA.

Small world...

All the best
Duarte

And the same car at Amelia this year:

Plymouth Ghia

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The Story behind the Hotchkiss

Posted on November 28, 2012 Comments (0)

My uncle lived in Paris. He kept this car until 1952 when a Chrysler, driven by a Belgian, hit him head on. The Hotchkiss came out the winner.

Jean Delbert and the Hotchkiss

He replaced it with a 1950 "Hotchkiss-Gregoire". It also was produced with an alloy chassis and body. With independent suspension on all four wheels and a 2 liter water-cooled flat four engine ahead of the front axle, it was fast. It had a top speed of 94 mph (151 km/h). But the car was too expensive and only 250 examples were made.

His next car was a Jaguar 3.8 saloon which tended to overheat in Paris traffic and melt its battery. His final car was an Alfa Romeo 1750 which he really loved. RIP. He died at the age of 69 of lung cancer. I remember him well as an "almost" great pianist, a very good tennis player, and a so-so lawyer with a great sense of humor. Also, because he felt it was an affront to his manhood, he never wanted to be passed by another car! That made for some thrilling rides.

Christian Delbert
View Christian's photographs.

Tags: Hotchkiss

John Fitch Memorials

Posted on November 21, 2012 Comments (2)

John Fitch Lakeville, CT -- The funeral mass for racing icon John Cooper Fitch will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 1 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lime Rock, Connecticut. The church is located at 484 Lime Rock Road.

Fitch, who helped build the track at Lime Rock Park in 1957, died here on October 31 at the age of 95. Born in Indianapolis August 4, 1917, Fitch's stepfather was the president of the Stutz Motor Car Co. An Army Air Corps. enlistee, he shot down the first jet fighter, a German Me-262, with his P-51 Mustang. He was later shot down himself and spent the last three months of WWII as a POW.

But it was on the ground, in the motorsports arena, where he would claim his fame. He began racing an MG TC on the East Coast, moving up to a Cadillac-powered Allard, with which he won the 1951 Argentine Grand Prix. As the SCCA's first national champion, he was hired by Briggs Cunningham to race his eponymous Chrysler-powered car to a win at the Sebring 12-hour race in 1953. Recruited by Mercedes-Benz, he was paired with Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss on the German team. He was about to take over for teammate Pierre Levegh, in the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race, when Levegh's fatal crash killed more than 80 spectators.

Following Mercedes' subsequent withdrawal from racing, Fitch helped develop Chevrolet's Corvette into a racing contender, culminating in a GT-class win for Cunningham and Corvette at Le Mans in 1960, the first for an American car. Fitch raced competitively until 1966.

In 2005 at the age of 88, Fitch attempted to set a speed record in a modified Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe, but engine problems kept him short of the 170mph goal.

His engineering background and racing experiences led him to invent safety barriers, including the ubiquitous Fitch Inertial Barrier, those sand-filled yellow plastic barrels now standard safety devices on highways across the U.S.

Fitch's wife Elizabeth died in 2009. He's survived by sons Stephen, John and Christopher and six grandchildren.

For more information on the services, or driving directions, visit: trinitylimerock.org or call 860-435-2627.


From the Larz Anderson Auto Museum news bulletin:

Remembering John Fitch

Come Celebrate the Life of this American Legend of Motorsports
with Members of the Museum Community.

Thursday December 6th
Doors open at 7pm | Presentation at 7:30pm
Admission is $20
Light refreshments

Register Now

John Fitch

John Fitch

John Fitch lived through flying a P-51 fighter plane in World War II and a post-war career in automobile racing to die peacefully in his bed at age 95 at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday October 31, 2012.

Mr. Fitch was a lion in the automotive world, recognized for his on-track performances during his racing career that saw him score wins in races such as the 1951 Argentine Grand Prix, the 1955 Mille Miglia (production car class) and the Dunrod Tourist Trophy and Sebring endurance race. He is also known for his contributions to highway safety. An engineering graduate of Lehigh University, he developed the portable impact-absorbing barriers used on race tracks and highways.

He advocated for increased safety on race tracks and was a consultant to numerous research and governmental organizations on the subject of vehicle handling and dynamics.

Gullwing at Twilight - Chris Szwedo 

John Fitch and Chris Szwedo

Chris Szwedo has over 25 years of experience in creating special interest, corporate, and broadcast documentaries.  He has traveled extensively and produced films on multiple issues for clients in the art world, energy, auto sports history, nature, and business.

He has produced two films in the motor sports genre-the cult classic and public television-aired "Lime Rock Park: The Secret Valley of Racing", of which AUTOWEEK Magazine labeled a passionate work of great significance.  Chris went on to produce "A Gullwing at Twilight: The Bonneville Ride of John Fitch" for the PBS HD Channel, culminating in the prestigious Dean Batchelor Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, presented by the Los Angeles based Motor Press Guild, an organization of leading US automotive writers and photographers.

Chris was co-nominated in 2009 for a national EMMY Award for cinematography in the natural history category for NATURE/PBS. Other projects include exhibition films for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's  exhibition "SPEED, STYLE, & BEAUTY, The Cars of Ralph Lauren.  Additionally he has created videos for the personal and private Auto Museum of Ralph Lauren, and contributed new recordings for The Art of The Automobile, a 2011 special exhibition at The Louvre (Les Arts Decoratif) in Paris, as well as promotional and educational outreach films for The Mingei International Museum, Balboa Park San Diego 2012.

He is currently working on this third broadcast documentary on the life and work of LIFE Magazine photographer Rowland Scherman.

Don Klein

John Fitch and Don Klein

When Don Klein sold his Manhattan-based ad agency in 1998, it left him free to pursue his true passion: CARS!

That led to his accepting the position of Editor-in-Chief of Mercedes Momentum, MBUSA's customer magazine, a post he held for eight years before turning freelance. Don is a frequent contributor to magazines such as Autoweek and Sports Car Market.  This month he became a regular columnist for Car and Driver.

It was during his tenure at Momentum that Don met John.  In 2005, they collaborated to write the book Racing With Mercedes, and that led to their great friendship which included traveling around the world together for John's many speaking engagements.   "We were definitely an odd couple," says Don, "but somehow it worked and we remained close friends to the end."  Don will deliver the eulogy at John's memorial service at Trinity Church in Lime Rock, CT.

Tags: John Fitch


For Immediate Release: Pebble Beach Star Draws Funds to McPherson College Auto Restoration Program

Posted on November 14, 2012 Comments (0)

Restoration Specialist Paul Russell and Company Bring out Best of Show

(November 3, 2012) – Essex, MA – Paul Russell and Company, the automotive restoration and preservation specialists of this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best of Show Winner, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo Roadster, brought the Mercedes star back east November 3rd to an eager crowd of enthusiasts, raising funds for McPherson College’s Automotive Restoration Program, the country’s only four-year Bachelor of Arts program devoted to the craft. The event raised nearly $60,000, from over 200 avid auto enthusiasts, sponsors, and supporters who were treated to a first-hand explanation of the custom coachbuilder’s art from the restoration team, several of whom are McPherson College Graduates.

“We are thrilled to champion the Automotive Restoration Program at McPherson College, and to have Program graduates involved in a restoration project of this magnitude— an exquisite example of the coachbuilt era motorcar,” Paul Russell, a long-time Educational Advisory Board Member of the school, and event host said.

Partner sponsor Mercedes-Benz USA was on hand with a new LeMans Red SLS coupe looking every bit as classy as its 85-year old predecessor, showing the marque truly does withstand the test of time! They joined nearly a dozen other sponsors of the event from the historic, collector and vintage automotive industries, many of whom share a long-time interest and involvement with the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program.

“We’re proud to provide scholarship opportunities, to join in these fund raisers, and promote the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program,” Mike Kunz, of Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California and fellow Educational Advisory Board Member at McPherson College said. “We also enjoy the first-hand benefit of employing the graduates of the Program, with one of our youngest employees becoming a specialist on our oldest model—the very car that launched the automotive age— the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen!” 

Hagerty Insurance, specialty auto insurers were on-board and on-hand to enjoy the presentation and shop tour. “It is important for all of us to support institutions like McPherson College so future generations learn how to properly restore classic cars. McPherson sets the standard and their graduates can be found at some of the world's leading restoration shops and winning prestigious awards at events around the country,” McKeel Hagerty, President and CEO said.

Panther City Classic Autos, Jay Leno, BASF Glasurit, Gooding & Company, Premier Financial Services, Intercity Lines, Griot’s Garage, Michael Furman Automotive Photographer, and Motorsport Marketing Resources were all key sponsors, helping with everything from donations to in-kind assistance to make the event a success.

The restoration team took attendees through the meticulous processes they used to bring the 1928 Mercedes-Benz up to the exacting Pebble Beach standards. Processes, such as researching and recreating the lizard skin upholstery were accomplished with utmost deliberative care, and over 1500 hours were spent on this endeavor alone! Chris Andrews, son of the vehicle’s owners, Paul and Judy Andrews of Fort Worth, TX, was closely involved in monitoring the progress through the nearly two-year long project, emphasizing the roadworthiness of the finished product, in addition to its Pebble Beach Concours preparation. Their Panther City Classic Autos are also among the event supporters.

“I’m proud to be part of this team,” McPherson Graduate, Stacy Puckett, the Resource Manager at Paul Russell and Company said. “Preserving the history of these important early motorcars so future generations can enjoy and learn from them is a pretty awesome job.”

Amanda Gutierrez, McPherson College vice president for automotive restoration, said they were pleased to have so many restoration alumni involved with the Best of Show winner and appreciate all the efforts of Paul Russell and Company to organize this benefit.

“At McPherson College, we teach students the skills, historical background and global perspective they need to develop into world-class restorers—like those at Paul Russell and Company,” she said. “We are so proud of our alumni success and their passion and professionalism. Our thanks go to Paul Russell for seeing the value of McPherson College.”

To get involved with supporting the McPherson Program contact Gutierrez or visit them online.

For Information Contact: Maria Writesel – (617) 962-6856 or Maria@success-communications.com

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About McPherson College
McPherson College, located in central Kansas, is a four-year private liberal arts college offering more than 20 bachelors of arts and pre-professional programs. The college offers a unique four-year program of authentic automotive restoration, the only institution of higher education to offer a bachelor's degree in the craft. The program teaches expertise in hands-on skills, discipline in historical research and the well-rounded life of a liberal arts education. Throughout the curriculum, students are given the “Freedom to Jump”— to explore their ideas, to learn through doing and to make a difference in the world. McPherson College, associated with the Church of the Brethren, is committed to the ideals of scholarship, participation, and service—developing whole persons, prepared for fulfilling life vocations.

About Paul Russell and Company
Paul Russell and Company offers restoration, preservation, maintenance, sales, and brokerage services for the classic European sports, touring, and racing models from the prewar era through the 1960s. Since 1978, Paul’s personal passion has been to honor and preserve the original designers’ construction details and techniques to the extent that the next generation of restorers is able to see the car as it was originally conceived and built. This attention to detail has resulted in over 30 Best of Show honors, plus numerous other awards and recognitions. For more information please visit www.PaulRussell.com, or contact Janet Oliver (janet@paulrussell.com), 978.768.6919.

About Hagerty
As the global leader in classic car and boat insurance, Hagerty offers specialty insurance for a wide range of collectible vehicles, as well as roadside assistance and a variety of hobby information resources for people who are passionate about classics. Hagerty publishes Hagerty Classic Cars—the largest circulated collector car magazine—and the Hagerty Price Guide—a classic car-focused valuation resource. In addition, the company proactively supports the hobby through the Collector’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the hobby through grants and scholarships to educational institutions (including McPherson College); by founding the Historic Vehicle Association, the North American Affiliate of FIVA; and through Operation Ignite, Hagerty’s youth advocacy program, designed to connect kids with classic cars. Visit: www.hagerty.com for more information.

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