MMR Blog

My Word: Tread Lightly

Posted on October 22, 2014 Comments (1)

The Great Divide Expedition

Recently I wrote in these environs about Range Rover’s Great Divide Expedition reenactment. The original was 25 years ago and involved a Bill Baker inspired event for motoring journalists taking part in a criss-crossing trip down the spine of the Continental Divide in Colorado.

There were several waves of us taking part in different sections of the route laid out by off-road expert Tom Collins, a.k.a. T.C. He’s still working for Land Rover and furthering that company’s programs of using their capable vehicles to open up back-country adventures for owners and prospective buyers.

Welcome to Tin Cup

On the original Great Divide trip in 1989 I was in the wave that crossed what is called variously St. Elmo or Tin Cup Pass depending on the direction you are headed. The story is just a click away here if you missed what I wrote about my family’s personal connection to the ghost town of Tin Cup (or Tincup) in Colorado. I had not known at the time I sent Peter the story whether or not the reenactment leg I was on in 2014 would include that Taylor Park town.

As it turned out it did not. Our group began in Denver, crawled over the rockiness of Red Cone Pass and the 13,188-foot Mosquito Pass and thence to Aspen with an intervening overnight in Breckenridge. (My story about the trip will be in AutoWeek soon. A link will be provided here.)

Red Cone Pass

Off Road Quad

Why no Tin Cup? The Land Rover instructors, one to each of the posh 2014 Range Rovers in which we drove the splendor of Colorado’s above-timber-line trails, told us that some of the old route for the Great Divide was now unusable. On one section a tunnel had collapsed, on others overuse by the new mosquitos of the off-road—the 4x4 ATVs variously called quads or side-by-sides—have altered some roads through overuse making them more trouble than they are worth.

These ATVs are small, capable and relatively inexpensive. They have made the back-country more accessible to more people, which cannot be bad unto itself. However a goodly number of the newcomers either never heard of “Tread Lightly” or have no respect for the program that Land Rover has championed with the Forest Service for a quarter century.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly is a general agreement that vehicles will stay on the existing roads and trails, not enlarging them or—heaven forfend—not ignoring them and striking off across virgin country. And that visitors will leave nothing behind and take only pictures with them. It’s a kindness attitude toward the environment that enough of the new folk either can’t do or won’t try. And, truth be told, the large-huge-wheeled, knobby tired, short-wheel-based, powerful machines just naturally have a different effect on the surface of the earth than an SUV.

In my AutoWeek story I likened the antagonistic mix of users of old roads and trails to that which arose some seasons ago on the ski slopes. Mogul fields were made unusable to the users of long skis when a new lot on short skis took to skiing them. It’s not the intent that changes the terrain, just the way the beast is built. Short-ski skiers recut the moguls and long-ski skiers were out of luck.

Anyway, Land Rover saw fit to eliminate the Tin Cup part of the route which came after the section I was scheduled for anyway. I was told that Tin Cup is as heavily trafficked as Times Square on summer weekends these days. ATVs are everywhere and there is even a traffic light.

Nonetheless my interest in seeing the spot again has been stirred. I want to go back and see for myself. That will not be possible this fall because snow—already fallen in some serious amounts—can make the interesting routes impassible. But there’s another reason: I go in this week for some more reworking of my aging suspension system. Winter looms too large and so I’m thinking early summer of 2015 when the old roads start browning and creeks a-gurgling and the sun climbs higher in the sky.

Log House Tin Cup

The thought struck me, maybe some of you guys with under-exercised SUVS or who haven’t seen Colorado at its height might like to join me/us. Say start here in Santa Fe or maybe Denver or the Springs and join up en route. I’ll get suggestions for likely passes from T.C. at Land Rover. He has at least a nodding acquaintance with every important rock in the Rockies. We’ll find some good passages and we’ll advance on Tin Cup. We’ll find Uncle Will’s log house and my Great Grandmother’s grave and see what ghost towns look like when engines have awakened them.

If you have any interest in such a plan, send me an email. Subject: Tin Cup Trek. We’ll keep you informed. Maybe something will come of it. Anyway we’ve got more ideas on trips—some more for sportive cars—you might like to try. We’ll keep you up on those as well. (One particularly will blow your mind.)

Cars are meant to be driven; hills are meant to be climbed; local cafes are meant to be tried. And I suspect there’s something special beyond that next bend.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 17, 2014 Comments (0)

MG Grill

I was recently perusing a very old (1930s?) magazine in which a sports car was defined as “a small, two passenger car intended for short spirited rides”. One of the first cars I owned in the sixties was a 1957 MGA. It was a small sports car. Years later, I remember sitting on the false grid of a Ferrari track event and in front of me was a Ferrari F355. I remember thinking how much higher, wider and fatter it was than my “little” 308.

Black Ferrari 308

A recent article in Automobile Magazine compared a Bentley Continental with a New Ferrari FF. I was struck by how big these 2+2 Touring Cars appeared. The Bentley is 189 inches long, the FF is 193, and my 308 is 172. The MG was a mere 155 inches long. The Bentley is 55 inches high, the Ferrari is 54, and the 308 is 44. Strangely, the MGA was 50 inches high. So the MGA was “little” compared to the “308” and the 308 is “little” compared to the FF. A Ford GT 40 is 183 inches long and, of course, 40 inches tall.

Ford GT 40


Marshall Buck brings us the second installment of his construction of the miniature Ferrari 250 SWB.

Marshall Buck brings us the second installment of his construction of the miniature Ferrari 250 SWB.


Michael Furman’s photograph of the 1916 Simplex-Crane headlight.

This week we feature Michael Furman’s image of the 1916 Simplex-Crane headlight.


F1

Sochi F! Track

Sochi Sucks! Designer Hermann Tilke has done it again! Though his name was never mentioned (I wonder why?), the longish track is simply more of the same. This event was a triple threat come true. The track is boring, the race was boring (and Alonso agrees) and the coverage was abysmal. Our sympathies to the talking trio who sit in Connecticut trying to make an entertaining contribution without any control of the broadcast feed or the ability to review images.

Having said that, their consistent braying “the drivers love it!” about absolutely every venue sounds like a directive from F1 management. They and F1 appear to have forgotten who it is that they are meant to be entertaining.

On the Pricing Bubble!

Alain de Cadenet

Last week’s article by Winston Goodfellow drew many comments from our readers. It brought to mind a recent article in Classic & Sports Car’s 2014 Market Review. Alain de Cadenet, who writes a great monthly column sponsored by Credit Suisse entitled de Cad’s Heroes, explored an aspect of collecting vintage cars which we think you might appreciate. Our thanks to him for permission to reprint his thoughts here.

That’s it for this week.

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Car stuff can be very funny. For your enjoyment:


Exciting Times

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Alain de Cadenet

By Alain de Cadenet


The Bubble has not burst. Far from it; in fact, every report I see enhances the onwards and upwards market trend. For years, the auction houses have led the exhilarating charge to produce fresh values that range from the expected to the outrageous. The only bargains now seem to be cheaper cars needing work that buyers can do themselves; thereby making serious saving.

Mercedes

When Bonhams sold the exquisitely engineered 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, it provided a boost for important GP machines ranging from pre-WW2 Alfa-Romeos, Talbot-Lagos, and Maseratis to 1960s and 70s F1 kit. Record prices appear to pervade confidence to similar genres of cars and that must surely be mirroring the commodity market? Either way, the auction houses have ramped up their businesses as demand increases and specialist publications have become invaluable to buyers in determining how prices have panned out as well as offering opinions, suggestions, and an insight into just how much knowledge is needed to bid assuredly.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Such is the influence of auction prices that the biggest groans come from dealers who have difficulty obtaining stock. Owners are reluctant to dispose of something just in case it goes up dramatically in price. Who can blame them? Personally, on the premise that he wouldn’t risk his own capital on a dicey machine, I have always thought that a vehicle that was actually owned by a reputable dealer was a better bet than something that was merely on sale or return. Good logic? Depends on the dealer.

About 45 years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who’d worked out that the sum total of really special, worthwhile vintage, veteran, and classic cars was only something around 3,000. That’s counting just the best of everything and what went into the mix is pure conjecture. Just think about that, though perhaps there aren’t that many totally delicious cars to be had. Remove cars held in trusts, museums, and the like and, even though there is more machinery to be considered from 1969, there will never be enough good stuff to go around.

Ferrari F1 Goodwood

With cheap money abounding, surely you should buy whatever you can get your hands on because this hobby/sport/market is not going to go away in the foreseeable future. By doing so you not only satisfy your cravings, but also provide ample fodder to set up a regime to help keep yourself sane in today’s ever changing world.

After all, old vehicles keep you busy. Research, study, and investigation all lead to what the quintessence of this celebration of artifacts is all about. They stop you playing Sudoku and Candy Crush and teach you about chassis manufacture, castings, machining, brakes, gearboxes, camshafts, bodywork, wheels, tyres, race history, vin numbers, registration numbers, and whatever else it takes to be an expert in your field.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

What’s on offer is wonderful therapy. It is the way knowledge is gained and one of the reasons why demand is so high. Next time you go anywhere the cognoscenti are gathering (Goodwood, for example), just ask them how much fun they are having and you’ll know why prices are on the up.

You’ll notice I have talked only about prices. A price is someone else’s idea of what something is worth and value is a different thing altogether. It is derived from your own feel for the item based on experience, knowledge, and discipline. Your dad’s old car will be more valuable to you than anyone else. So will the car that you always wanted but couldn't afford. Likewise, if you don’t want to wait for years for your favorite to be restored, the ready-to-go 100 pointer may be more valuable to you.

Either way, whatever is going on out there is fueling exciting times in every way in the old vehicle world. That’s why there is no need to worry.


F1: Sochi Sucks

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Sochi Sucks! Mickey Mouse Track Designer, Hermann Tilke, has done it again! His name is anathema to enthusiasts and was never mentioned. This was a triple threat come true. The track is boring, the race was boring (Alonso agrees) and the coverage was abysmal.

Hermann Tilke

Our sympathies to the talking trio who sit in Connecticut trying to make an entertaining contribution without any control of the broadcast feed or the ability to review images.

Having said that, their consistent braying “the drivers love it” about absolutely every venue sounds like a directive from F1 management. They and F1 appear to have forgotten who it is they are supposed to be entertaining.

Will Buxton

Kudos to Will Buxton for consistently asking the tough questions, also for his forthright statement to Alonso about the race: “It wasn’t a classic.”

Bravo also to NBCSN for highlighting the issues brought on by Russia’s recent actions in the Crimea, the Ukraine, and the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane. Their showing of the portion of the “Team Principals” Press conference in which Red Bull’s Christian Horner’s gutless response to the question of why F1 was even there, made very clear the teams’ principles.

$150M for five years is clearly the guiding one. 

Christian Horner

From the post race podium interviewer we learned that Hamilton “is a real fan of Russian racing”, “has been back in Moscow”, is “impressed with the ski resorts” and in his own words “(Russia) Is not far from where I live and I will be hopping over for some holidays for sure.”

F1 didn’t do itself any favors today. Lewis Hamilton will not get any Christmas cards from Holland and NBCSN made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Unfortunately, this overshadows Mercedes’ remarkable accomplishment. On this day they secure the F1 Manufacturers World Championship for the first time in the modern F1 era. Congratulations to them.

Ross Brawn

The genesis of this accomplishment is also interesting and historically significant: In an interview after the race, Paddy Lowe, Director (Technical) of Mercedes reminded all that the winning car was developed last year under the guidance of then manager Ross Brawn. The Mercedes Team was previously the Brawn F1 Team and Brawn actually bought the Team from Honda, purportedly for $1.00, when Honda pulled out of F1. The package he got included a car which Honda had developed for 2009 that was as significantly ahead of the competition in that year as Mercedes is of its competitors now. That car carried Jenson Button and Brawn their only championship.

Honda Team logo

Ironically, Honda is coming back to F1 in 2015 as an engine supplier to compete against its former, albeit significantly changed, team. F1 is a small world.


Models, Chapter 1: Who Knew

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (0)

By Marshall Buck

Who knew…? I certainly didn’t have a clue where my hobby would eventually take me. When I first started building model cars on the side (in the 1970s) I was doing so just to supplement some of the money I was spending on my model addiction; I had no intention of doing this as full time work, nor of honing my skills to the level they are at today. It just happened over time - many years, which were fraught with blood, sweat and tears. It’s a long story, but suffice to say, I do realize that I am very fortunate to have been able to turn my hobby into a full time business, though this road, which I partially chose, has at times been equivalent to everything from a rough goat path to the autobahn. I am truly passionate about automobiles, and my work, which is the only reason I am still at it. There are certainly easier ways to earn a living, and at times the position of Assistant French-Fry Manager at the local McDonald’s has looked pretty damn good.

Several years ago in California, at Automobilia Monterey, I was displaying my wares including my partially completed scratch-built model of the one-off Ferrari 375 MM “Rossellini” (yes the same car that won Pebble Beach Best of Show this year). During Automobilia, I was approached about making a scratch built model of a Ferrari 250 SWB by the owner of one. His steed happened to be a spectacular alloy bodied SWB S/N 1905GT, which he also happened to have driven over to the show! We went outside and I briefly looked at the car. We discussed how I work, what he wanted, and agreed on this commission. Later in the week my wife and I went over to his home, well… one of his homes, where this car and a few others were, which was a necessary trip in order to gather more detailed information, photos, and notes.

When I take on a commission for a scratch built model I always have to see the real car in person. But since this commission came about suddenly I did my preliminary work a little differently than usual. Normally, prior to seeing the car in person, I always gather some photos and information to help me prepare, so that I can make many of my own drawings before I travel to see the car which is when I will later fill in my drawings with numerous dimensions, and take many photos… anywhere from several hundred to a couple of thousand. The information required all depends on what I may already have, the level of detail required for the build, and the car itself. This also directly applies to the making of the “patterns” or “master models” for all of my CMA Models limited edition production runs. The patterns are made from scratch, but the engineering and some processes vary since we obviously make more than one of each for the limited editions. I put an extensive amount of my time and money into thorough research for my editions just the same as I do for my scratch built models.

Challenges, best laid plans, nothing goes exactly according to plan, it looked good in theory, blah, blah, blah… I’m sure most of you are familiar with the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That is sometimes how I feel with my automotive knowledge. I know of an extensive amount of automobiles from obscure to common, their various manufacturers, and countless bits of minutia that I probably can’t trade for a cup of coffee. I know a lot about Ferrari, and so many of its one-offs and production variants made since the beginning; HOWEVER, that amount of knowledge occasionally backfires. It sometimes makes me a little too complacent. Sooo, in the department of “nothing goes according to plan” … I can report that all the Gremlins there are still gainfully employed. Stay with me here.

I’ve had access to quite a few SWBs over many years, and in the early 1990s, my biz produced a 1:24th scale limited edition production run of a Ferrari 250 SWB, which was a great model for the time, and now, maybe just a very good model. Made two versions, race and road. We produced models of a late series SWB, specifically S/N 2735GT. Much to my chagrin, and in addition to all the countless known detail differences listed by the many experts; I came to find that there is also quite a difference in body work between what I refer to as early and late series cars, which is NOT written about. Much more so than I have found listed in any books. There is a substantial difference in the arc/top sweep of front and rear fenders, as well as grill shape and opening size. Roof line varies as well and not just in regard to the early “cut corners” a top, the backs of the door windows. The SWB I was commissioned to make in 1:12 scale is an early series car.

I used to make all of my bodies completely by hand cutting, milling, carving, shaping a material called RenShape. This was arduous to say the least, and always nerve-racking. These days, my work is a mixture of old world craftsmanship with some modern technology thrown in, but still heavy on making the vast majority of parts by hand, one at a time, piece by piece, and on and on. Now, in the case of the bodies, I create most of them by working with a brilliant CAD modeler where we use my drawings, measurements, and photos to create a virtual 3D body, which is far less stressful than my traditional method, but still takes a huge amount of time and hands on. We go back and forth for a few months with renderings sent to me, which I adjust until we get something that is about 95% to where I need it to be. This type of work with a computer can only take you so far. The rest is done by hand. However, I did not work with my CAD modeler on this model, nor did I carve the body from RenShape. Please read on.

Regardless of which way one chooses to work, you must still have a good eye for the shapes, details, and so on, which I do have; otherwise you will still get garbage, which is close to what you get when using another process such as 3D scanning and increasing the size of the part from what was scanned. Any flaws in the original get amplified in whatever is made larger. I had a small body 3D scanned to make a big one. Don’t ask me why; it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

My on the job training continues. It looked good in theory. You really can’t do it all with a computer and it is always best to fully study something before jumping in. In my rush to get going on this SWB, and in order to save myself some time, and make things a bit easier for myself (Ha!!), and also justify my adding a full chassis/frame which I normally don’t do, I decided to have a 1:18 body 3D scanned and enlarged to 1:12 scale. Long story short, 3D scanning is best left to reducing an item in size, not enlarging it. Prepping the smaller body and correcting some of its flaws took more time than expected, as did the scanning, which also cost more money than expected, and then aside from time needed to correct various amplified imperfections, I discovered how very, very different the bodies are of early vs. late series cars. After I grabbed the closest case of Pinot Noir I could find, I sat down, made my list, and arranged to see another early series SWB near to me, from which I could gather the missing needed dimensions and information. Then I reshaped, by hand, the entire body from nose to tail.

Early stage of adding material to tops of fenders. Strips in place on front tops are guides for material to be added. And you thought I was joking about the wine?

Early stage of adding material to tops of fenders. Strips in place on front tops are guides for material to be added. And you thought I was joking about the wine?

Material added to tops of front fenders.

Material added to tops of front fenders.

Rear fender tops to be reshaped, and you'll see that wheel opening has also been revised, which I had to do to all four wheel openings.

Rear fender tops to be reshaped, and you'll see that wheel opening has also been revised, which I had to do to all four wheel openings.

I had my master body molded and cast for strength and back up. On the left is the revised grill opening, and on the right is what I started with. Still more work to do.

I had my master body molded and cast for strength and back up. On the left is the revised grill opening, and on the right is what I started with. Still more work to do.

Signal light bulges from later style are now removed and filled in, and front duct vents penciled in ready to be cut out.

Signal light bulges from later style are now removed and filled in, and front duct vents penciled in ready to be cut out.

The reshaped body ready for primer to check overall shape, and any areas needing more adjustment.

The reshaped body ready for primer to check overall shape, and any areas needing more adjustment.

Of course there is always more shaping to do that shows up after priming the body; mostly the fender tops. All the little dots are primer spotted in to fill numerous dimples/air holes in the body filler. The body gets primed again for a final check, then polished, then sent out for a mold and a few castings to be made.

Of course there is always more shaping to do that shows up after priming the body; mostly the fender tops. All the little dots are primer spotted in to fill numerous dimples/air holes in the body filler. The body gets primed again for a final check, then polished, then sent out for a mold and a few castings to be made.