MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: Heading Off to Judging School

Posted on June 11, 2013 Comments (1)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Finally, an official assignment! I’m about to hop a flight to Boston when the email comes through. Peter has asked me to write about the JCNA (Jaguar Clubs of North America) judges’ certification course I am off to take. Jeez, I’m thinking, why on earth would anyone want to read about that?

Under the bonnet at Boca.

Under the bonnet at Boca.

It seems like only yesterday I was happily tootling off to my very first JCNA-sanctioned concours, in scenic Sturbridge, Massachusetts. As the cliché reads, that was the first day of the rest of my life ... my motorsporting life, that is. Totally clueless as to what to expect, I had my car professionally detailed the day before so it would sparkle. I figured that would do it. Ha! When I drove into the mega parking lot adjacent to the event, a plethora of Jaguars were there, and their owners were on high alert, spritzing and polishing. The early morning trek out of Boston had kicked up a lot of dirt, leaving my $250 detail job worthless. There I was, without so much as a paper towel or a drop of Windex. Everyone else had Q-tips and tongue depressors for cleaning wheel crevices, plus a trunk full of detailer sprays, waxing compounds, and special-looking yellow towels to wipe it all off. I was sunk!

I must have looked dumbfounded … actually paralyzed. Since the car stuck out like a sore thumb, in that red I’ve already written about, I couldn’t be missed. To my amusement, men started coming up asking if I needed help. I know what you’re thinking! But seriously, they directed me to the secret car wash area behind the hotel and then generously offered coveted cleaning supplies and those lint-free yellow towels.

After much primping and polishing, the XKR makes its debut.

After much primping and polishing, the XKR makes its debut.

Suffice to say I went home with an award, third place in my class. I was happy enough. What I didn’t realize, my Type A personality, suppressed the last couple of years, was about to kick in. Over the ensuing 12 months I diligently went through my car’s score sheet, paying whatever it took to make everything wrong, right. Fast forward to the next year’s concours award ceremony—third place again! What’s up with this, I thought? Well, not only was I correcting, but so was everyone else! That’s when it struck me: a concours hits your core, taking pride in one’s car to make it as perfect as one is able… factory perfect, as they say.

I’m sure it was obvious to the members of my Jaguar Club (JANE) that this gal was genuinely becoming interested in cars. Peter Bourassa had just penned The Making of a Car Lady, my personal 365-day plan of motorsports adventures, and I was already in auto-overload implementing it. Aldo Cipriano, JANE’s Chief Judge at the time, was starting to drop subtle hints about my becoming a lady judge. The next spring I flew up to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the JCNA Annual General Meeting. While attending the session on judging E-Types I had an epiphany… I love this stuff!

Conferring at Concorso Italiano. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Conferring at Concorso Italiano. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Judge Sir Sterling Moss at Pebble.

Judge Sir Sterling Moss at Pebble.

Now three years into judging, I’m obsessed with learning and humbled by the cadre of fellow concours judges I am privileged to judge alongside. Concours judges bring to the field years of classic car experience, whether through a background in restoration, specific marque certification, as a collector, or as a classic car broker. Others are motorsports historians, museum curators, and even racing legends. Still a neophyte in the motorsports world, I am fortunate to be coming up the ranks with mentoring and experience in both French style and JCNA-based judging. It is safe to say, while French judging a concours, a Jaguar entrant will boast to me how relieved they are not to be judged by JCNA standards. I just smile.

Serious business. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Serious business. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

So when Peter said write about “Miss Sandy goes to Jag School,” I started to reflect over the big picture of concours judging. I’m realizing that no matter which type of judging style, entrants have the responsibility to be advocates for their cars.

Judging the Maharaja Rolls Royce. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Judging the Maharaja Rolls Royce. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

The proof is in the pudding!

The proof is in the pudding!

Restored to high standards and making its show debut, the 1936 Lancia Astura at Pebble Beach in 2012. Photo by Ruben Verdes

Restored to high standards and making its show debut, the 1936 Lancia Astura at Pebble Beach in 2012. Photo by Ruben Verdes

What does that mean exactly? I doubt anyone would head off to a job interview without a resume or looking halfway decent. The same goes for your car! At Jag School, we learn that each car has only 15 minutes to shine. Without laying a finger on the car, judges work in teams, scouring every inch, looking for a composite score or ranking based on major areas—interior, exterior, operation verification (do lights, horns, and signals work)—not to mention, does the car start, and engine compartment for certain divisions of judging. Judging goes beyond “fit and finish” to include authenticity of the model or correctness for the period. If in doubt, it’s the owner’s responsibility to show documentation as to a point in question.

In French judging we are also looking at provenance—what historically makes this car special. I was on a judging team looking at a car whose rallying history set it apart, compensating for its rather rough-around-the-edges appearance. Prototypes, limited survivors, celebrity-owned, phenomenal race history, anything significant boosts a car’s uniqueness and award potential. A car entered in a Concours d’Elegance or local car show means to me that the owner has done whatever he or she can to make their car look its best. Entering just to win an award may not do the car justice, especially if it’s still midway through cleanup or restoration.

Speaking of restoration, Tom duPont’s statement I referred to in my last assignment about vetting a car before purchasing, includes restoration work. Not all restorers are the same. It’s no fun as a judge having to lower a car’s award placement due to a poor, yet pricey restoration. Spending money doesn’t necessarily guarantee a winner. Detailing a car, or at least washing it, goes a long way on the judging field!

This year’s Jag School, presented by our Chief Judge Jim Sambold for the Jaguar Association of New England, was outstanding. Accompanying Jim’s powerpoint on the fine details of judging was a video featuring Gary Hagopian going over every inch of an XK140 for judging specifications.

About to become, the Best of Show, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo. Photo by Ruben Verdes

About to become, the Best of Show, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo. Photo by Ruben Verdes

Stunning, the SS100 accepts its award at Amelia.

Stunning, the SS100 accepts its award at Amelia.

Will the winner please drive forward.

Will the winner please drive forward.

Who would have guessed 60, or even 80, years ago that judges would be pouring over what we now call classic cars to give them awards and trophies. I’m sure early manufacturers were just happy all the parts fit together!


A Wolf’s Tale

Posted on June 6, 2013 Comments (0)

Annett Wolf is a remarkable lady with a remarkable story. In her youth she dined with Fangio in Portugal, Von Trips kissed her hand at Le Mans and she became a lifelong devotee of motor racing. While enjoying a successful career in the arts, Ms. Wolf is primarily a communicator and an international award winning director of film and television.

Annett Wolf

Today, from her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she operates her production company Wise Wolf Productions and a foundation that raises awareness of the perils faced by the wildlife of the Canadian Arctic. Now, the lady wishes to combine her passion for motor sports in a feature film to be entitled So It Was. Read more about her and her unique project.

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Sandy on Assignment: Formula 1 in Monaco

Posted on May 30, 2013 Comments (7)

…Looking Through the Spyglass

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

So what is it about Formula 1 in Monaco that makes it so special? Unlike all the other races I’ve attended, which I can still count on two hands, Monaco is about being right there... 60 feet above the first turn out of the start. At first I was shattered that I wouldn’t be seeing the pits or mingling with the drivers. But to be hovering above the cars was spectacular.

Perched above the streets of Monaco.

Perched above the streets of Monaco.

First turn out the start then up and around.

First turn out the start then up and around.

What mattered most was that my very first foray into F1 would be Monaco. The uniqueness of this Grand Prix venue is racing a street course… that narrowly winds through one of the most breathtaking coastal cities in the world… and of course watching the elite of the elite… drivers and cars. Although I arrived in France on Wednesday, my real adventure started Thursday after a short train ride from Nice into Monaco. If you’re doing Monaco for the very first time or your tenth, do it with a group that knows what they’re doing and can provide you with a seamless experience and no hassles. Otherwise, stay home and watch the races on television! Tours F1 was my choice after meeting Paul and Biffy Wuori last September during the British Invasion in Stowe, VT. Check out Paul’s story about his early days with Bruce McLaren in MMR’s articles. F1 was still an unknown to me, but after meeting Paul, I had a connection and began reading all I could about McLaren’s remarkable, yet short, life.

My logistic tips for this race and venue are few, but essential. Take the only direct flight to Nice from the States, out of JFK, and do whatever it takes to sleep through to the next day’s early morning arrival. Plan to arrive on Wednesday, which affords you the opportunity to watch the two F1 practice sessions on Thursday and the third practice as well as Qualifying on Saturday. Thursday and Saturday are also filled with all the practice and qualifying sessions for the Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup and Formula Renault 3.5 which start off Sundays races at 9:45 am. Besides getting your fix of racing, arriving early also gives you Friday as a catch-up day to sightsee, unless you’re a die-hard GP2 fan.

There is much to see in Nice.

There is much to see in Nice.

Maneuvering within the train or bus systems is relatively easy so traveling to Antibes, Eze or Cannes is also doable on this free day. I took it easy and strolled the streets of Nice. Staying in either Nice or Monaco is your call. Keep everything in perspective. Like most race weekends, no matter where they are in the world, costs are way out of whack. Plan for your own convenience. Taking the train or a taxi out of Nice just depends upon your personal choice on race days. I did both. An unbelievable treat is dinner at Le Chantecler, the Hotel Negresco’s Michelin 2 star restaurant along the water in Nice. With the dollar still in the pits, my shopping remained strictly motorsports related, so I wasn’t tempted by the plethora of trendy boutiques, everywhere! People watching is free, so enjoy the many cafes… you can’t go wrong with the food in France!

The best viewing for this event is from terraces on residential or hotel balconies lining the street course in Monaco. Although the harbor is dotted with yachts of all sizes, be careful what you wish for when it comes to actually seeing the race. I had just purchased high power binoculars so I could spy. The crowds on these vessels didn’t appear to be actually watching the races… and they did not have nearly the perspective as seen from above or from strategically staged grandstands.

There were around 14 of us staying in a boutique hotel off rue Grimaldi in Nice. All fantastic people and over the top race fans! We met up with others, including Paul and Biffy, who were staying in Monaco, to bring the group up to around 30, the perfect number to enjoy the wrap around 5th floor terraces of the apartment where we were to watch the races... and dine on delectable fare. Outside, on the streets, were stands of official and non-official team-specific clothes and ‘stuff.’ Not much different than any other race venue. The best buy, was a pair of 10 euro headphones that fit nicely over ear plugs!

Lotus started the Crash Fest before Sunday!

Lotus started the “Crash Fest” before Sunday!

So how would I describe the 71th Grand Prix De Monaco? A Crash Fest was pretty much the consensus. Somewhat unusual, Sunday’s race was stretched out beyond the scheduled two hours to accommodate two safety-car-led recoveries and one red call, following the three major incidents of the day. The first two crashes Sunday, starting with Massa in the Ferrari were most likely driver error… the third, more of a victim of circumstances.

Massa is the first crash Sunday, a repeat of Saturday.

Massa is the first crash Sunday, a repeat of Saturday.

Being checked out.

Being checked out.

The cars are lifted off the course.

The cars are lifted off the course.

Maneuvering and passing on this track can often result in overly optimist moves. With the low rear view visibility of the F1 car, there just isn’t anywhere to go, on the 40’ wide track, which narrows around the corners! From my line of vision, I was able to capture images of these first two crashes, adding to quite a few taken during Thursday’s and Saturday’s Crash Festivals. The drivers look at turn one, St. Devote, as very bumpy under braking. With the walls on the left coming into the track, plus the propensity to take too much kerb on the inside, cars were ending up into the wall in front of me!

The start around the first corner.

The start around the first corner.

Around the hairpin and back at me, with the Mercedes still in front.

Around the hairpin and back at me, with the Mercedes still in front.

From my vantage point, I could see the cars maneuvering down and out of pit lane, around the first corner (St. Devote) and up the first steep, somewhat bumpy straightaway to the Massenet corner then on to the Casino. There was a short distance hidden from sight, yet clearly visible on the big screen monitor right in front of us. Suddenly the cars appeared again, descending the fastest part of the road at 280km/h then looping around a corner to maneuver a sharp hairpin turn to avoid flying into the water… and back directly facing me down the straightaway and along the stretch in front of the yachts. Another two turns (Virage de la Rascasse and Virage Antony Noghes) and the 3km340meter course starts all over again working off the total 78 lap countdown.

The intimacy of the street course and viewing vantage, plus the in-car footage on the big screen made me feel like I was right there with each driver. I was tipped off Thursday on how to recognize drivers on the same team. In the case of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Team, Rosberg’s top light would be black and Hamilton’s neon yellow…. a helpful hint that held true for team driver order. It almost looked like the second team car was protecting the first, especially in the case of the Mercedes and Red Bull teams. Knowing this made watching even more of a thrill. Of course, it didn’t take long for the order to be broken!

Victory to Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes.

Victory to Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes.

Watching the victory had to be on the huge screen for this venue, but it still was exciting to zoom in with my camera to see the smiles of the top three drivers, watch the champagne pop and hear the German national anthem.

Following the race, several of us headed off to the Columbia Hotel in Monaco to celebrate. Paul ran into old McLaren friends. Since I had been sent off to the races with a McLaren t-shirt from my local Tampa Bay dealership, I followed Button and Perez pretty closely. I passed the shirt on to Paul who will do his best to get autographs in Montreal!

My summer vacation started in Monaco with Formula 1 and will continue on to the 24 hours of LeMans in three weeks. In reality, this year’s LeMans adventure started two years ago when the tears rolled down my cheeks as I belted out our American national anthem and proudly waved my little American flags. The Corvette had won its GT class.

On Saturday and again on Sunday, in Monaco, I got to meet the driver who had won that 2011 race at LeMans in the Corvette… Olivier Beretta. We were watching the races from his 98-year-old grandmother’s apartment. It just so happened that I had the pictures of Olivier’s victory celebration on the podium right there with me on my laptop! Fast forward to 2013. Olivier will be racing the Ferrari factory car at the 24 and, again, I will be there cheering, this time knowing him and his family. I will also be cheering on the American Viper team and our MMR favorite, American Tommy (TK) Kendall. You know I will also be cheering the Porsches, especially if Americans, Patrick Long and Spencer Pompelli are driving again.

The world of motorsports is simply magical... for me.


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Ignition

Posted on May 30, 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 fifteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Leaving Well Enough Alone… Almost

Ignition

According to my 1978 Ferrari 308 Instruction Book (Owner’s Manual) 308s came with either a standard point set ignition system or ignition with magnetic impulses. Both by Magneti Marelli.

Fortunately for me, we have the single distributor electronic system and it has been flawless. As mentioned elsewhere, I’m sure, I bought the car in the dark in Chicago and drove it home to Boston. When I first brought the car to John Tirell at IFS I asked John for a quick assessment and he told me several important and distressing things. First the car had been hit on the right front and left rear and the engine had been rebuilt. The only thing that had been upgraded was the stereo system. So he went through it, changed all the fluids, put new tires on it, checked every important component and updated what he could. I thought the car ran well when I bought it but it felt bulletproof when he was through. We used factory parts where we had no choice but we used an aftermarket oil filter and John made up a set of wires using Taylor Spiro PRO 8MM Silicone and the Ferrari resistors. Except for a few resistor failures along the way, some of which I caused through careless engine washing, the system has performed perfectly… for well over 100K miles!

308 ignition

308 ignition

At the same time John was doing all this for my car, he was also upgrading his personal GT4 for track use. Among the many things he did to improve that car, he also installed a high performance Electromotive ignition system. That car was strong and is legendary in the Northeast among Ferrari owners who did track at the time. If you are looking for someone to hotrod your 308 for street or track, he’s your guy.


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Lights

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (2)

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 fourteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Let there be lights!

While driving in F1 for Lotus, Ronnie Peterson was famous for being able to take a car straight off the trailer and go fast. Upon returning to the pits the engineers would ask what they needed to do to make the car faster. He would reply: nothing, it’s fine the way it is. His teammate Mario Andretti was the opposite, his background in dirt cars and ovals made him a master at tuning suspension systems to get the most out of his cars. And he did. But he was not perceptibly quicker than Peterson. Peterson was just plain quick and he adapted his driving to whatever the car would do.

To a far lesser extent, many of us are the same. As our vehicles age and wear, they change. And we change right along with them. I remember sharing a car in a 4-hour endurance race once. We set a target time and as brake and clutch problems beset the car, we would slow down and then after a number of laps, we would be turning the target times again. We adjusted and drove differently to achieve our goal.

I bought the WASRED 308 in Chicago and drove it to Boston. When I first turned on the headlights, I thought the low beams were horrible. So I drove on the high beams and since no one asked me to dim I just always drove it that way. Once home, I tried to adjust them, but to little avail.

I have mentioned elsewhere that the car had once suffered a serious front end accident and was rather ham handedly repaired. This past winter I decided that I would upgrade my forward lighting and add auxiliary lighting. The MMR Goods and Services Directory lists a number of suppliers and in my pilgrimage to good lighting I interacted with many of them.

I began with Daniel Stern. He emailed a long and detailed response to my query and was quite familiar with my issues. I had Hella lights and Osram 100/80 watt. He supplied me a well written treatise on the subject of auxiliary lighting specifically for my car. He recommended Cibie headlamps with Narva 100/90 bulbs and suggested that since the original bulbs were 60/55s, upgrades in the wiring and relays were recommended to protect the switchgear. Communication between us was interrupted for a while and I was then helped by Dave Heupchen, an old rally driver who races Volvos. I think I got to him through Dimebank Garage. Finally, Gunther Hansele of Aardvark International was the most helpful and reliable resource. Like many other pockets of specialty vintage parts, the masters of it are slightly off the beaten track and one needs to adjust to their way or little is accomplished.

When it came to auxiliary driving lamps, I chose the Cibie Airport series 35 (H2 – 55 watt bulb) rectangular lamps. These have a clear white lens and they most resembled those fitted to the Ferrari 288 GTO.

That decided, we began our work. My mentor on this project was once again Spencer Guder of Spencer Restoration in Canterbury, CT. I felt the headlamps needed changing because the outside surfaces were pitted. Spencer suggested that the interior surfaces might also be dirty, as these were not sealed beams. When I ran a clean cloth around the interiors I was surprised at how much dirt came off. Before disassembling the old units, we made indications on the back of the garage door showing where the existing Hellas had been focused. The passenger side light, the corner of the car that had been damaged, shone across into the oncoming lane. That explained why oncoming traffic was at times annoyed. Before he could install the new lights he had to straighten out the brackets holding the light assembly and without taking the whole front end apart he was limited in what he could accomplish. But he is patient, resourceful, and diligent and he managed to get it straightened out so it would work properly.

The Airport Series 35s were fitted with a harness and relays which Spencer made up. A control switch which illuminated when the lights were in use was fitted under the dash on the driver’s side. Not an ideal location as it turns out. At some point they were briefly on and, (I think I have mentioned that I am not particularly observant) I never noticed. The lights melted the clever black/silver Cibie covers. I promptly made them completely black with the use of a Sharpie.

The important point here is that once we had the whole set-up completed, adjusted the headlights properly, and measured them against the previous markings on the wall, it was time for a test. Unfortunately it was late and I was leaving the next day for the 17 States in 20 Days and One Pair of Underwear Tour so testing was postponed.

On the first day of the tour I left Philadelphia after dinner enroute to Pittsburgh via the Turnpike. An ideal opportunity to test the lights. First I was thrilled by how well the standard light worked. “Brilliant” was the right word. The moment of truth for the auxiliary lights came on a long stretch of straight road. While more than adequate, the difference between them and my high beams was marginal. At the next stop I adjusted them to aim a little higher. By doing this, I gained a fuller view and a gain in distance.

Low

Low

High

High

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary Higher

High Auxiliary Higher

Here is what I draw from this. I was upgrading a 1978 system which had already been upgraded at least 18 years earlier and poorly adjusted. Forward lighting has made quantum leaps since the car was initially built and dramatically more in the intervening years since it had been upgraded. The original car would have benefitted greatly from the addition of the 55W Airport lights. Today’s equipment doesn’t need that help. When weighed, the inconvenience of having to remove the auxiliary light covers before use vs. an actual need for the lighting they rendered diminished them to a form of entertainment. Another toy with a switch. But they do look cool, in a 1960s way.

Dark in the dark