MMR Blog

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 22, 2014 Comments (2)

In the opinion of some, there may be a better concours than Pebble Beach, and there may be a better racetrack for vintage racing than Laguna Seca. There may be a better celebration of Italian cars than Concorso Italiano and there may even be a better street show and setting than Ocean Drive in Carmel, but all believe there is nowhere else in the car world where they all come together as well as at Monterey Week.

This week we have a wonderful American car story by Denise McCluggage, who judged at Pebble Beach last weekend, and an image (below) from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361.

Image from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361

We hope Porsche fans took advantage of the individually signed Porsche poster we offered in last week’s MMR Newsletter. There are very few left and the offer goes out next week to the 12,000 subscribers of Sports Car Market.

Racing

F1 returns this weekend for the Spa-Belgium GP, one of the best on the F1 Calendar. While little testing is done during this period, look for the teams to be much closer in speed at Spa.

The Milwaukee Mile:

Will Power for Team Penske

Before sports car road racing came to places like Pebble Beach and Watkins Glen, there was already a rich history of oval track racing on wooden boards and dirt flat tracks. Founded in 1903, the famous mile was paved in 1954. Front engine roadsters with skinny tires put on a far different show than the modern Indy cars with high down force and fat tires. There really was only one line around here and Will Power took pole and that line to lead most of the race. That single lane limited the passing opportunities and, though a good race, it was not judged to be an exciting one. On camera, the grandstand appeared sparsely populated but organizers announced that attendance was 30K, 2K more than last year.

IndyCar has two races with 200 points left to hand out to the winners; Will Power of Team Penske has a 39 point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves. Stay tuned to your sets for the next two weeks as the battle continues. (Check our MMR Calendar for details.)

Concours

Monterey: Lamborghini wins!

This has been a huge year for Lamborghini in America. Continuing their tradition of unpronounceable model names the Huracan (hoor-a-can) made its North American debut at Amelia and was an instant hit. Two months later Bonhams sold a vintage Countach (Kun ta) for over a million dollars at Greenwich. Gooding sold one for almost $2M and a 400GT for almost $900K. Plus another Lamborghini 400GT won best of Show at the Concorso Italiano. Word on the street is that a Huracan sold today will be delivered in 12 months. Lamborghini is doing well.

Over the next few weeks we will share stories and images of our Monterey adventure.

Pebble Beach

Ferrari wins!

John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968.

Maserati was the featured marque but John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968. It was commissioned by Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and was Scaglietti’s first for Ferrari. The car is a fitting winner as no other car on the field matched it for the combination of style and story. At the time Roberto Rossellini owned it, he was married and involved in a notorious affair with actress Ingrid Bergman. Legend has it that the two were driving along the Italian coast and stopped the car to walk on the beach. Upon their return they found a lovely fresh fish, wrapped in newspaper, had been left on the passenger seat with a note thanking them for leaving such beautiful car for them to view.

Twenty Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa’s made for a rather spectacular presentation. All but one had been restored.

Concorso Italiano

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess.

Amidst a sea of red 308-355-360-430-458 and other Ferraris, some rarer pearls do appear. This is a joyous show populated mostly by Ferrari Club of America member cars. The invited designer was Zagato and they displayed a gaggle of Zagato designed cars. The most sought after car of the weekend was the new Alfa 4C. While, like many others, we applaud, nay celebrate, Alfa’s return, we cannot say that we are impressed much by the Lotus derived styling. Here is an image of a Zagato TZ3 Stradale Alfa that really did impress.

Alfa

Also an Intermeccanica Italia with a 351 Ford engine that reminds us all of the glorious ISO-Bizzarini, Apollo, deTomaso era of Italian chassis-American engine cars are also appreciating.

Intermeccanica Italia

The winning car, deservedly, in the heart of Ferrari country, was a lovely Lamborghini 400GT.

Lamborghini 400GT

See you next week.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Serial Collecting

Posted on August 21, 2014 Comments (1)

by Denise McCluggage

It seemed to Joe Marchetti it was about time to get the Breadvan back. Joe, who died way too early at 68 in 2002, ran the Como Inn—a huge Chicago eatery—as well as more intimate restaurants. He also set up some terrific car events at Elkhart Lake because he probably liked cars as much as food and he knew how to celebrate both.

Como Inn Restaurant

As for the Breadvan, it was a Kamm-backed special Ferrari based on a 250 SWB Ferrari and was a GTO beater in some circumstances. Joe ha­­d maybe owned it a couple of times by then because that’s the way people collected cars in those days; they’d have a handful of interesting cars at any one time and sell them to each other for a few years while they experienced other fare. They’d buy them and drive them until someone else expressed an interest in them or they had a yearning for one they’d owned back when and want another go at it and let the word out.

Ferrari Breadvan

It was a sensible way to experience an assortment of entertaining vehicles and I was fascinated to hear Joe tell about the time when such serial collecting was the way to go. Amassing more permanent collections required more space to keep the cars, more commitment for long-term care and certainly tied up more money. Serial collection done in the pass-it-on mode also offered more flexibility and variety in rolling stock. A good thing for people who liked to experience what they owned, not just list it to impress others.

But the change in collector style inevitably came. When Joe went looking for the Breadvan he’d discovered what seemed like downright treachery. The latest owner instead of enquiring around to see who might want it next had quietly sold it for a goodly sum to a Japanese collector who in turn had swept it off to his home country. The unlikelihood of it ever returning to the US darkened the sky.

The Japanese, heady with a booming economy, were buying everything then—ski areas, Rockefeller Plaza. But those more fixed-in-place purchases didn’t bother car people as much as the portable collectibles did. Cars just disappeared into ship holds without a beep. Prices soared. And that ended the friendly turns-taking approach to collecting. The temptation to literally sell out was hard to resist. Money doesn’t talk; it sidles up to whisper sweet everythings in your ear.

Actually, many of the cars swallowed by Japan at that time found their way back to the US as fortunes changed and the Japanese economy weakened. But I don’t think Joe ever had another crack at the Breadvan before his untimely death.

Not that I had started out in these ramblings to write about the Breadvan and Joe Marchetti’s serial ownership of some appealing Italian machinery. What I had intended to do was write about how you could tell the year that bidders at car auctions had been in high school by the cars they bid on. But did anything up to now even hint I was heading there? No.

But starting now I’ll write about Muscle Cars and how popular they suddenly were on the auction circuit, lighting up the eyes of ball-cap wearers in easy-seat jeans and marking up record prices. And how I never liked the damned things. As a driver I had grown fond of brakes with stopping power. And I admired cars that took to cornering with a pleasing kinesthetic feedback. I found Muscle Cars awkward. Even brutish. You might say their power was a guy thing but I thought it simply loutish.

Yes, going fast in a straight line has its appeal but that quickly fades when you get used to the speed and fast doesn’t feel fast anymore. Phil Hill called that becoming “velocitized” in stories he told me about the Mexican Road Race and how he relied on his tach when going through villages so he knew his actual speed and not how fast he felt he was going. That kept him out of village plazas at the end of long black skid marks. He did go off the road rather dramatically once but everyone was exiting there because on-lookers had taken to removing signs from the highway, especially those warning of sudden road changes. He soon learned to use the size of a collected crowd (and its visible anticipation) at any given spot along the road as an indication of the risk involved. As good a marker as sign posts with sharply bent arrows or exclamation marks.

I think I’m meandering again so let me say that I’ve always preferred “quick” to “fast.” Quick is an esthetic without numbers. You’re not fooled by it, just pleased. Fast can suck you into trouble and wrap you around trees. Quick works with you if you let it. And it has that collected canter feel. Quick is rarely a characteristic of anything called “Muscle”.

When muscle cars at auction started pulling such large numbers some participants in Keith Martin’s client sessions at the auctions started asking questions. Will this surge in prices for these cars hold up? Keith is my favorite expert on values of collector cars. He’s been putting out “Sport’s Car Market” magazine since it was a typed newsletter. He knows the field and I admire his integrity. Living up to that he told his group a simple “no”. He said that the blossoming of muscle car values was the product of guys who cherished the cars when they first appeared and the guys were in high school. They craved them but couldn’t buy them. Now they’re older and richer and can pay anything to realize their high school dreams. And do.

As powerful as such whims can be (especially when you can now afford to be the coolest guy ever if you were still in high school) such whims are not makers of sustainable value. And that’s what Keith in effect told his students. The boom won’t last. But that’s not at all what the auction guys—rubbing palms together—wanted known. Hey, moneeee is involved here. The auction guys, making a lot are ready to make more.

Someone overheard Keith’s questioning the endurance of the muscle car’s popularity and told the auction guys. The auction guys then ordered Keith to leave the building. (Yep. Leave.) And in effect “shut up”. And that after all the good he had done for what is known as “the collector-car hobby”. Thank you from the auction houses. Greed is a powerful whatever.

But all that was several years ago. Both Keith and the auction guys may be okay again. I don’t know. But Keith was right about muscle cars and their bubble of extreme popularity. Didn’t last. Golly, what power high school wields, even in memory.

But what got me thinking about muscle cars in the first place is their return – not as vintage cars but new ones. Will the return bring on a new boom in auction prices when today’s high school kids get rich and nostalgic down the line? No. Because cars don’t seem to matter as much to today’s high school kids. Or the kids today have the ability to get what they want at the time they want it and thus forget the forgettable. It’s only our unresolved yearning that power memories.

Anyway, the new muscle cars are certainly better cars than the old ones. But then all cars are better in that they stop better, take corners more neatly and still go as fast in a straight line as the current culture allows. Old or new muscle cars, I still don’t like them much. Most are still more crude than I like a car to be. Except for one instance which I’ll be getting to after circling the barn another time. A well-mannered but manifestly muscular Muscle Car.

Shoot, I might as well jump right in: 2015 Chrysler Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Hellcat

I’ll let you Google it and note all that appeals to you. Basics: It’s fired by a Hemi 6.2 liter V8 and Chrysler says it is the most powerful production car ever. Doubt them if you like but it does have this: 707 (707!) HP and 650 pound-feet of torque. You can have a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. And a lot of clever engineering.

I find all that quite amusing because what I said to the Chrysler people was “What a sweet car!” And I meant it. Never thought ‘til later they might be insulted that their hairy new beast, their halo car, should be called “sweet”.

I like the 707 HP. It says “flight” right off the bat and it does move instantly and rapidly. I’m more an admirer of torque than horsepower (and why don’t they simply list power-to-weight ratio?). This Challenger has the ability to wreathe the departure zone in billows of smoke and shorten your tire life if you wish, but there are controls that allow you to simply reduce the world as seen in your rear-view mirror at an impressive pace without a lot of showing off.

I put that in the sweet column.

It also is simply a handsome vehicle. Inside and out. Simple. Larger than I like but it is a Challenger and needs some presence for those with memories. Actually it drives small. Neat turning circle which matters to me. (I’m a fan of four-wheel steering, you know.) This is not a show-off hey-watch-me car. It simply performs. Results without visible effort. Now, by damn that is Sweet!

The Challenger comes it two lesser levels of performance but for highway dot to dotting quite adequate. For similar duties the Hellcat can be a slit-eyed pussy too at a sun-bathed purr. That’s another sweet attribute. You rumble when you want. Blast when you wish. The capability is there but you summon it quietly as desired or needed. That’s a trait I found “sweet” in two other vehicles—the GT-R (hoping the Infiniti Eau Rouge follows) and the 1001 HP version of the Bugatti Veyron. Ultra capable non show-off cars.

So that’s my view of muscle cars. Come to think of it there was one I rather liked in that original go-round of the breed—a Barracuda. I can claim a little consistency here. But I’m not sure what all this has to do with Joe Marchetti and his Breadvan.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 15, 2014 Comments (0)

Porsche 917

This is our final issue before Monterey and it turns out to be heavily weighted to Porsche. In Monterey, we will attend the introduction of two new Michael Furman books, Bespoke Mascots and Porsche Unexpected. We will report on both these books shortly. 

Michael Furman image from the Simeone Foundation’s The Spirit of Competition and is their 1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

Meanwhile our Michael Furman image this week is from the Simeone Foundation’s The Spirit of Competition and is their 1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Stare intently at those exhausts and you can just hear that 2L V8 engine screaming around the Targa.

This week’s The Weekly Leek is a dramatic and amazing revelation from Germany’s Porsche marketing.

Speaking of Porsche, This week’s MMR Goods and Services Directory offering is UNBELIEVABLE! Don’t wait on this one because there are not many left and we think it is the most important Porsche Racing piece we have ever offered.

Tony Stewart

Our Racing essay this week is about the Tony Stewart incident at Canandaigua and the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen.

If you are at Monterey say Hi (508-932-7362). If not, have a great weekend and remember that IndyCar are at Milwaukee this weekend.

Peter Bourassa


Racing

Posted on August 13, 2014 Comments (2)

There is an argument to be made that racing is all about the first and last three laps of any race and that the remainder is just driving. Sometimes, even hardcore enthusiasts will agree, it is not even that.

Watkins Glen International

NASCAR’s annual pilgrimage to upstate New York’s Watkins Glen is the exception. Perhaps because it is so different from the ovals on which they normally run, each team deals with unfamiliar factors differently. Set-up, brakes, transmissions, tire pressures, tire wear, fuel consumption, and sometimes drivers, are all different. And if the quality of the racing is measured by its entertainment factor, take away the hype of Indy and Daytona, the glamour of Monaco and the technology of Le Mans, and this is the best pure race on the planet.

And lest any feel that the driving is only the best of NASCAR, consider that while experienced road course racers are always brought in, Jeff Gordon has won four times, as has Tony Stewart, Mark Martin three, and Kyle Busch has won it twice. My point is that these guys are very good and the cars they are racing allow them to lean on or rub against each other and that makes for an excellent show.

dtm racing alfa

Just to give this a broader perspective, we tend to think of European racing as Formula 1 and the Le Mans fast plastic prototype cars. But, Europeans have a huge appetite for “touring” car racing, as they call it, and several series exist in which factory prepared cars rub against each other rather strenuously on road courses across Europe. It is not rare to find former F1 drivers out there banging around with the best of them. The Australian V8 Supercar series is a cross between NASCAR and Europe and from time to time we hear of them testing the waters with their series on American road courses. If they could be like the Watkins Glen event they would be successful.

Joey Hand race car

Speaking of Tony Stewart; the incident at Canandaigua on Friday night will not go away quickly and may have much greater consequences than ever imagined. At this point, commenting on the incident itself is not in order. It is fair to say that if the other driver involved had not been a famous NASCAR driver, this would not have garnered so much attention. But either way, a young man is dead and that in itself is extremely sad.

Sprint Cars Dirt Track Racing

By way of background, it should be noted that Stewart is but one of many NASCAR drivers who dirt track. They do it because that is often where they began racing and because it is fun. Dirt tracks are simple and devoid of the regulations and hoopla that surrounds other forms of racing and these guys love that. I was at a small track on a weeknight in Connecticut several years ago and Carl Edwards, a NASCAR star even then, flew himself in to drive someone else’s Super Modified car. Al Unser Sr. was there talking to the racers and fans and wandering among the cars. This is grassroots racing in America and nobody, promoters, track owners, or drivers make a ton of money at it.

An unanticipated consequence of the incident has already begun to surface and here Stewart, the driver who loves dirt tracking, may be instrumental in bringing about safety measures and track design changes that will greatly alter the sport he loves. Ironically, Stewart is also the owner of Eldora Speedway, one of the more fabled dirt tracks in America; close scrutiny of the sport brought on by this issue may well affect how his and other such tracks deal with safety and emergencies.

Either way, these incidents give an uninformed public a less than positive view of our sport as a whole.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 8, 2014 Comments (0)

Monterey Draws Nigh

Monterey

This week’s eye candy is from Monterey’s Concorso Italiano in 2010. As I look back at them I am not certain I actually took these pictures. One clue is that I appear in one of them. If these images look familiar to you, dear reader, please drop me a note and we will happily give you full credit anon. 

An 11-minute Alfa video feast from Pebble Beach Concourse (turn the sound way up), was shot by Bill Leatherman for MMR in 2010. They are Grand! And the final minute is worth the wait.

Michael Furman Photography - Porsche 356 dashboard

Michael Furman’s image this week is of a Porsche 356 dashboard.

The Weekly Leek: European Correspondent Oofy Prosser Reveals Stunning News from Ferrari’s Past!

Evans Coolant

Evans Coolant

Last week’s Goods & Services directory link to Evans Coolant drew an interesting response from MMR Newsletter reader John Gallagher and it is reprinted in part here. Your thoughts on this topic, particularly if you have specific knowledge or experience with the subject, are welcomed.

Strategy, the Intellectual Aspect of Racing

It is generally recognized that while most top race drivers, with some notable exceptions, are equally gifted regarding the physical parts of driving, not all are good strategists and few, if any, are when beginning their careers. The concept of saving fuel or tires or, the engine itself, is not natural to people who simply want to go fast. In my sports car racing days when races were 20 laps, at most, my sponsor’s strategy was simple. “Go fast” he would say, but quite intensely, and that seemed uncomplicated and plenty good enough direction for me. It also occurred to me that as a strategy, it was probably universal among my competitors and not likely to provide me much of an edge.

Scott Dixon

Last Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was a race determined by strategy. Last place starter Scott Dixon was the first finisher. And that happened for three reasons: one, he had a fast car; two, he is a very good driver who knows better than most how to go fast and save fuel; and three, someone in the pits put the first two together and figured out a fueling strategy that allowed him to continue on the track while others were refueling and then stretch what little fuel he had to the end. Actually, the end plus 300 yards, which is as far as he got before running out of fuel. This was a great race on a beautiful road (not street) course, with people sitting on the grass of the hills overlooking the circuit. Perfect. The competition was good and the race entertaining.

But the winning was the result of racecraft, something we referred to last week in relation to F1. There was a time when racecraft in IndyCar appeared to be owned only by the Penske squad. That stemmed from Roger’s early racing years when his interpretation of rules often gave his cars, particularly in Trans-Am, an unfair advantage. Truth is that his real advantage was his ability to interpret the rules, prepare meticulously, demand excellence from all around him, including suppliers, and seemingly always have top drivers who followed orders. Plus the simple fact that he was and is basically smarter and more experienced than most of his competitors.

Chip Ganassi Team Racing

That sounds like a simple strategy but many of Penske’s competitors didn’t or couldn’t employ it and he won. Not that he wouldn’t take advantage of the rules if he could, but in today’s spec engines and chassis racing series, there are fewer opportunities. He doesn’t go through the we learned a lot today stuff. He learned it a long time ago and prepared for it yesterday. 

Michael Andretti

Chip Ganassi and Michael Andretti have learned how to be the same way and the Penske advantage has been somewhat neutered.

The sports cars from the Tudor United series are at Road America this weekend. Locally, the BMW people take over the lawn at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline.

Peter Bourassa

Monterey Field

Monterey

Monterey

Monterey

Monterey