MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance

Posted on March 27, 2013 Comments (1)

Where the people are Best in Show

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Heading off for my third year at Amelia, I was hoping to finally click with this event, since it is one of the top Concours in the whole wide world. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what the weekend would bring.

The beauty of Amelia is also it’s downside—everything in close proximity and easily accessible. It can become a blur. I mapped out my adventures beforehand embracing what makes Amelia so unique… the people.

My Best in Show, Concours de Sport… A World Class Car Guy

My Best in Show, Concours de Sport… A World Class Car Guy

Yes, it is about the cars, but this year the people were my Best in Show. Behind every car is a story – about a racecar driver, collector, designer, or manufacturer. Someone who had chosen to design it, save it, or restore it. Someone who had used his or her gifts and talent to make that particular car special.

Hagertys’ Junior Judge admires the 1913  Peugeot Boat-tailed ‘skiff.’

Hagertys’ Junior Judge admires the 1913  Peugeot Boat-tailed ‘skiff.’

First off, if you think this Concours is beyond your reach for whatever reason, it’s not. All it takes is pre-planning, which means now, for 2014. Get a group of friends together, go online and find a condo to rent, preferably near the beach, and you’re set. Major hotel chains may already be booked.

When ticket sales open, jump without hesitation. Buy a ticket to every seminar. For $25–30 each, you get to see and hear legends share their fantastic and funny stories. Consider purchasing a coveted Porsche Driving Experience Road Tour ticket for two, which equates to $100 per person, for a full day’s activities, lunch and thrill of a lifetime. Plan to attend the free, duPont Registry Cars and Coffee, Saturday at 9AM, on the same 18th fairway as Sunday’s Concours.

My Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance…The Savvy Car Girl, RM’s youngest bidder

My Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance…The Savvy Car Girl, RM’s youngest bidder

NO SALE  $1.3M bid wasn’t enough to buy the 1970 Porsche 908/3.

NO SALE  $1.3M bid wasn’t enough to buy the 1970 Porsche 908/3.

Rare 1938 H.R.G Airline Coupe Prototype sold for $253,000

Rare 1938 H.R.G Airline Coupe Prototype sold for $253,000

Go to the Ritz and have lunch by the pool and drinks on the veranda. It costs less than you think. Purchase one $75-80 general admission for two, including catalogues to RM and Gooding auctions, but do not raise your hand unless you want to part with your money. Watch the people, especially Max Girardo, RM’s auctioneer—he’s worth the price of admission. I was taken with an adorable little girl and her parents. Minutes later, little Lockland raised her hand to become the days youngest RM bidder and buyer, taking home the 1941 BMW 327 Sport Cabriolet for a mere $247,500. Now that’s a car girl!  

Now for my adventures…

Keep in mind; my mission was to make this weekend click, so I was game to try some new experiences. I had purchased a rather pricey Rolls- Royce Wine Maker’s dinner ticket, month’s prior. Ironically, the RR dinner turned into a dinner honoring the Guardians of Porsche. To know me is to know my dream car is a Porsche. So there I was, about to sit at a table with total strangers, yet beaming because I was in a room filled with Porsche People, all celebrating the 50th birthday of the 911.

I introduced myself and found everyone to be genuinely friendly at our table. On my right, two couples had just completed the four-day tour around Florida as Amelia Island Concours entrants. On my left was an empty seat to this sold out dinner, then an extremely gracious and engaging couple. I was my usual chatty self, asking about their tie into the motorsports world. James, the husband, said he had a race team that raced a hybrid. Something about the fastest Ferrari and Pininfarina and the Nurburgring, a bit much to digest instantly and I couldn’t quite wrap my arms around a hybrid racing. I chatted with all the guests for a few minutes, then like a lightning bolt, it hit me. A race team, that’s very special. I was still hung up on the hybrid concept, since all I could picture was a Toyota Prius. James offered to write down the name of the car so I could look it up later. During dinner his wife Meg and I shared great conversations. Every course seemed to come with dessert—a picture of one of James cars passed to me on his iPhone.

I spied Vic Elford and his lovely wife Anita and went over to say “Hi.” During the PowerPoint presentation, pictures of Porsche legends, all in attendance that evening, were flashed on the screen. Also on the screen was a striking individual I had never heard of before, Magnus Walker from L.A. After dinner, and the four wine-pairings, I mustered up the nerve to walk over and introduce myself to Patrick Long. There was no doubt, Amelia was going to click this year, and it was only Thursday!

1967 GT 40 MkIV, The Automotive Heritage Award Winner

1967 GT 40 MkIV, The Automotive Heritage Award Winner

When I got back to the MMR condo that evening, Peter and I shared what we had done for dinner. I dug up the paper with the name of the owner and car I needed to research. Peter stared at me in disbelief and calmly said, “You had dinner with whom? Do you know who he is?” Thank goodness for Google. One site noted James Glickenhaus as the most interesting car guy in the world! Also, courtesy of Google, I know exactly what the P 4/5 Competizione is and the history behind the 1967 GT40 Mk IV entered in Sunday’s Concours and its tie to Bruce McLaren. And it was still only Thursday, at Amelia!

Friday morning at 7am, in the dark, I was at the Fernandina Beach Airport with 99 other cars ready for the all day Porsche Driving Experience and Road Tour to begin. Due to a snag in logistics, I was without a navigator. Not a good thing to happen for a road tour. An announcement was made and another navigator-less participant surfaced, Chris Nast, whose cute business card read, “Auto Sommeliers.” For the next 7 hours, we had a blast.

First stop, the St. John River Ferry to transport us over the river. On land again, we headed off to the Mayport Naval Station where the Porsche Sports Driving School instructors and new Porsche 911s and Boxsters would test our autocross skills. I was first in line. It all went too quickly. I got back in line for seconds. I hopped in again, buckled up and looked over to the instructor in the passenger’s seat. It was Geoffrey Lowdermilk, my instructor from the Porsche School in Leeds, Alabama. “Show me what I taught you,” was all he had to say and we were off!

Magnus Walker and Karen Caid rode with both drivers for hot laps!

Magnus Walker and Karen Caid rode with both drivers for hot laps!

Chris and Sandy ready for their hot laps!

Chris and Sandy ready for their hot laps!

Back in our car, Chris and I headed to another section of the naval base for hot laps with a racecar driver. We had our pick of two, Hurley Haywood or Patrick Long! Can you feel my excitement? I’ve done hot laps before. The biggest challenge is climbing into the car. We put on helmets and waited in line. We had a plan; Chris would pick Hurley and I, Patrick. Who should be in front of us, Magnus Walker. He was so gracious letting me take his picture and even handing me his business card. Another thank you to Goggle… tells his amazing story.

A spin with Patrick Long!

A spin with Patrick Long!

When we reached our respective cars a little voice inside my head said, “Get into the car gracefully,” and I did. Patrick remembered me, I think, or at least I wanted to believe, and we were off. I asked if he handled these corners like he would at LeMans. “Not as fast”, he replied. My response, “See you at LeMans.”

A conversation starter, the XK140

Another conversation starter, the XK140

Saturday morning was a huge success for the first annual duPont Registry Cars and Coffee sponsored by Hancock Insurance at Amelia. Again, the camaraderie was unbelievable. Standing in front of an XK120 I overhead two men talking about Buddy Polumbo. I couldn’t help but chime in.

Another tip about enjoying Amelia is to reach out and meet new people. Fascinating enthusiasts are everywhere and eager to chat. Peter graciously brought me along to share the company of Denise McCluggage, known to all as the First Lady of sports car racing. Not only are her stories amazing, her sense of humor shines through. Her take on growing old gracefully was priceless. “I’m going for preservation class, not a full restoration”, she joked.

The Chairman’s Choice Award and Most Historically Significant Race Car Driven by Sam Posey, the 1971 Ferrari 512 M

The Chairman’s Choice Award and Most Historically Significant Race Car Driven by Sam Posey,
the 1971 Ferrari 512 M

Everyone who attends a Concours picks his or her own favorites. For me, it’s often the marque or a special owner. Others seek out the unique or nostalgic favorites. My marque is Jaguar so my antennae are always searching for Jags. On Sunday, I spied a beautiful SS100 being awarded the Most Historically Significant Jaguar. A stunning XK120 OTS received the Most Outstanding Jaguar. At the Jaguar pavilion I spotted racecar legend Davey Jones talking up the latest Jaguar models and sharing stories from his racing days.

Prinz Heinrich Benz Racing Touring Cars, the 1908, No.46 and 1911, No. 38

Prinz Heinrich Benz Racing Touring Cars, the 1908, No.46 and 1911, No. 38

You may remember my adventures at Retromobile, where I was taken with one of the Prinz Heinrich racecars, the green number 38. Here it was on display at Amelia, next to its mate, the number 46 white Benz, both newly restored and together for the very first time in public in the United States. Also seen in Paris at the Artcurial auction, was a Messerschmitt. Another and supposedly only one in the United States popped up at Amelia. My comment, “Oh no, not another Messerschmitt!”

American Classic (Pre 1930) awardee, the 1929 Rolls-Royce Springfield Phantom I Roadster by Murphy

American Classic (Pre 1930) awardee, the 1929 Rolls-Royce Springfield Phantom I Roadster
by Murphy

Hugh Ruthven II was showing his Formula Junior car, a 1959 Bandini, and quite the crowd pleaser. Also on the field was Bob Matteucci, again with an award winning Rolls-Royce, his beautiful yellow 1929 Springfield Phantom I Roadster by Murphy. The Duesenbergs came in a variety of colors. The silver 1936 SJN took top honors, yet Steve Wolf’s red, 1932 Duesenberg really must have been the Duesy of its day.

The covers didn’t even have to come off the cars on the field, for me to get excited over the GT40s! During the Ford GT40 seminar on Saturday morning, I learned how the victory champagne tradition came to be. Started by Dan Gurney spontaneously, after his 1967 win at Le Mans, Sam Posey and Bill Warner kept that tradition alive for Amelia, toasting this year’s Concours winners.

Amelia more than clicked for me this year. I was touched, moved, and inspired. I want to learn more about the cars. I want to keep following my dreams, like the racecar drivers. But most of all, I want to continue to embrace this wonderful world of motorsports because it’s all about the people, and they are precious. 

Seminars at Amelia

Posted on March 19, 2013 Comments (0)

Part of the Amelia joy has to be the multiple seminars. This year’s Corvette, Porsche, and the feature GT40 seminars were all outstanding.

The Corvette seminar celebrated the 50th ground breaking design of the 63 Corvette Split-Window Stingray. In context, before its advent, the 61/62 Jaguar XKE had taken all the air out of the room. Corvette’s exciting new design offered new technical and design features that got Corvette back in the game. Members of the original design team dominated the panel and happily described the evolution of the new model. On the field, significant iterations of it were also celebrated.

Bill Warner, Peter Brock, Ed Welburn at Corvette Seminar, Amelia 2013

Bill Warner, Peter Brock, Ed Welburn at the Corvette Seminar, Amelia 2013

Ed Welburn, International Director of Design at GM introduced the C7 and shared the thinking behind the design. The significant question from the audience related to its most controversial aspect, the seeming design steal from the Camaro back end. Welburn explained that this was Corvette’s response to the fact that its sales were dropping, as its base was aging, and that it needed to find a way of appealing to a younger demographic. In surveys, the new Corvette’s edgier design was apparently very popular with younger buyers. (See our article on the C7 Corvette for our take on the new car and GM’s dilemma.)

The Porsche seminar was another genuflection to the brilliance of the 911 by the people most closely identified with its success. This rear view tribute to a long in the tooth design ignores the elephant in the room. More and more, the street is saying the Cayman is a far better car.

The Porsche Seminar, Amelia 2013

The GT40 seminar was billed as the top event and it didn’t disappoint. The beloved native hero, Dan Gurney was the unquestionable crowd favorite. Age and his recent accident made his accession to the speaker’s platform painful to watch. Once in place however, his cogent observations and pithy comments put lie to the thought that Dan Gurney is mentally less than he ever was.

GT40s at Amelia 2013

To me, one of the more interesting interchanges was cleverly engineered by moderator Tim Considine. After several less than positive comments about absent fellow driver Jacky Ickx, the moderator asked Gulf/ Wyer Team Manager and Engineer, John Horsman, who he believed was the best driver he ever managed and Horsman replied, without hesitation, Jacky Ickx. Putting point to his comment he cited the numbers at the end of the first lap of a rainy GT race at Spa when Ickx established a 38-second lead on the second place car. An incredible feat! When you think of that in terms of distance it is unbelievable.

The GT40 Seminar, Amelia 2013

The GT40, like all success stories had many fathers. Primarily, Wyer, Shelby and Holman-Moody.

Representatives from each team were on the podium and their stories of corporate infighting, conflicting instructions and the struggle at the highest levels of Ford management made for fascinating listening. If you haven’t yet, you must read John Horsman’s Racing in the Rain, recently reprinted by Bull Publishing with a new soft cover, it is not available on Amazon and sells for $29.95 from Bull Publishing. It is the GT40 book to own! Read about it in our Racemaker Book Reviews.

C7 Corvette

Posted on March 19, 2013 Comments (4)

Corvette is in a tough spot. They are like the 35-year-old woman on Craig’s List who is looking for a long term relationship. And she only ever gets two responses. One from a 20-year-old who knows she is too expensive to maintain and has too much “experience” for him and the other from the 60-year-old who wants someone a little slower and more comfortable.

The C7 is that woman. To drive that thing to 50% of its potential, you have to have more experience than any 20-30 year old, and, the 60 year old is too smart to try. Up until the C3s, the mission was simple. Go fast, go loud, and keep it affordable enough for college kids. When the horsepower edict came down and gutted the C3 they lost most of the kids and they never got them back.

The market today is the kids that never left and the ones that missed out on the 67 Big Blocks. Sadly, for Corvette, two things are happening to them, the first is that “the kids” are living longer but still dying, and the fact that Corvette’s ever stiffening chassis and boy racer suspension mean they can’t take a trip unless they tow their dialysis machine along behind them. They are plain uncomfortable.

C7 Corvette

Message from your old guys: Honda once built a 50cc racing motorcycle with 10 speeds. A 4-mph breeze or a 1-degree incline forced the rider to drop a gear to maintain speed. That is because it only had 50cc and no torque. Your Corvette has 450 lbs. of torque. Put all the gears you want in an automatic transmission but please explain to me why anyone needs a seven speed shifter? Most of us can’t remember that high and we know what gear we are in by the sound of the engine. We think four gears are just fine and a fifth should be an optional switch on the dash. Read overdrive.

Thanks for the decent interior. (What happened? Did your bean counter die?) How about finding a suspension engineer that is 60 or over, has a bad back and thinks the Nurburgring was written by Wagner. Then have him dial in a setting on the suspension that corresponds to his needs and you have it. Want a clue? Drive a 550 Maranello and then lift the Corvette chassis two inches so that I don’t have to fall out to get out.

Get rid of the Camaro back end, it looks like a Dinky toy. Go back to the C-5 rear and get rid of those stupid floor heater grates on the tops of the fenders or at least paint them the body color. Jesus! Now detune it a tad and slap a decal on it somewhere that says GT, because that is what I want! A powerful, comfortable and sharp lookin’ Grand Touring car.

And get rid of the T-Top. That went out with high-button shoes. The pricing is fine. I have the money.

C7 Corvette

Message from the younger guys you don’t have: This is our first sports car. We don’t have a lot of money and all this car says is “my Dad has a lot of money, please punish me”. So how about something that is simple to run and drive, goes like hell and makes a great sound. Like… say… a C-1 with a slightly stiffer chassis and an edgy body style, a four speed transmission with no switch on the dash and offered as ragtop only.

Confine all the electrics to the engine. We can roll up the windows ourselves. Give us a 250HP V8 and a straight axle for hopping around and sell it to us for $30-35K. We’ll fix it ourselves. Our dads did.

Tags: Corvette, C7

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Vinyl Top Begone!

Posted on March 19, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the sixth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

This isn’t really an update. This is more like a cosmetic facelift.

I confess, despite owning a 308 GTS, the GTB is really my favorite 308. I think the line is better unbroken by the black vinyl square in the middle of the Targa top. But the black vinyl top does go well with slatted rear quarter windows. Of course, it isn’t quite as noticeable on a black car, but it is still there. And it is only there to protect the top from being scratched when it is stowed behind the seats.

308 with clear coat panel

Eight years ago when we repainted the car, I recalled seeing a black 308 in Montreal with a roof panel that was denuded of its vinyl and I really liked it. So we stripped off the vinyl, filled in the surface to the best of our ability and voila. Is it wavy? Yes. Is it prone to scratching? Yes. Does it look better? I think so. Now if I can just get a set of GTB rear quarter window setups, I’ll have the best of both worlds; the clean look of the GTB and a removable Targa top. Have whoever does the work ladle on the clear because you will be buffing it out often.

GTB top with GTS rear quarters

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Driver Ergonomics

Posted on March 15, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the fifth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

At a certain age, comfort in a car is a luxury. A little further down the road, it becomes a necessity. While hardly what passes today for a luxury car, a 308 is surprisingly comfortable. This is primarily due to the ride itself and the way the car handles bumps and other road surface irregularities. The current style of sports car chassis and suspension accent chassis rigidity and cornering performance over the softer suspension of years past.

Having said that, to be comfortable ergonomically, the designer assumes that the driver is 5'8" tall and has an offset spine that happily accommodates the six inch right offset of the clutch-brake-gas pedal cluster in the footwell. The seat and steering wheel are perfectly aligned with the chassis. In the driver’s seated position, hands on the wheel, the left side foot rest is exactly where you might expect the clutch pedal to be. The six inch shift to the right is necessitated by the intrusion of the left front wheel well into the driver’s foot well. One could assume that on long trips this could be a pain in the back and one would be correct.

Upgrading a Ferrari 308 GTS

That is an issue we cannot do a thing about. Taller drivers will be pleased to learn however that the seat pushes back far enough to comfortably accommodate the outstretched legs of a six footer. At that point however, ones arms are outstretched and the leverage to turn large tires at slow speed is severely compromised. Operation of the foot pedals is not an issue once you adapt to the offset.

What to do about the ”too far” steering wheel? One thing I noticed immediately is that while the wheel is too far away from my shoulders, it is also too close to the dash binnacle. John Tirrell, of Independent Ferrari Service in South Easton, MA installed a solution that benefitted both of us. By adding a two piece quick release hub between the steering wheel and the steering shaft platform you add about 1.5 inches. Unfortunately the horn wiring does not go through the style of hub I chose, so we installed a new horn button under the dash. The amazing thing is how often you remove the steering wheel to do even the simplest chores around the driver’s area.

There are several types of quick release systems available and l am using the Elliptical Quick Release unit by OMP. I tried the Snap Off system. I couldn’t get the steering wheel to line up properly when the wheel was at top dead center. It was only off 3/8 of an inch but it drove me nuts.

Pricing goes from $40 to $440 dollars so you will need to do your own due diligence on this part.

Below are images of the two parts: one on the shaft and the other that attached to the wheel. Also a side view of the complete unit installed that gives you some idea of the space between the top of the wheel and the gauge binnacle.

308 Steering wheel quick release component

308 Steering wheel quick release component

Steering hub

Steering hub

Attached hub component

Attached hub component

Installed quick release

Installed quick release

All race supply houses have these units. Suppliers may be found in our Goods and Services Directory under Parts and Accessories: Safety Equipment.