MMR Blog

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