MMR Blog

Buell is Back!

Posted on June 1, 2011 Comments (0)

The Erik Buell story is fairly short: Motorcycle racer finds success as a bike builder.

Eric Buell Racing 1125R DSB

Eric Buell Racing 1125R DSB

Adapts engines from a different style bike to his purposes and grows a successful business. Engine maker buys him out and retains him to run their new division. Hard times hit and the engine maker shutters his business. Racer goes back to the drawing board and tries again. This time he has more capital and a reputation for having built a winner.

Erik Buell is a charismatic character. He is intelligent, articulate and passionate about motorcycles and motorcycle design. Listening to him speak you quickly realize that he is a visionary with definite ideas. Patience doesn't appear to be a virtue he possesses in abundance.

Eric Buell Racing 1190RR

Eric Buell Racing 1190RR

Now he has a clean sheet of paper and some jingle in his jeans. Erik Buell Racing is building high end track bikes. The time will come when he is building street bikes again and this time the power will be better suited to his designs. Possibly with a forward looking company like Bombardier. We can't wait.

Check out his bikes!


Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

Posted on May 31, 2011 Comments (0)

A warm May morning in the rolling hills of Maryland. This is Hunt Valley and horse country. That seems fitting, since we are driving our black Ferrari to a meeting with its kin.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

The prancing black horse on a field of yellow will be rampant today at the 4th Annual Tom Yang Ferrari Festival. Yang (pronounced "Young") is a Ferrari specialist in training. He is apprenticed to highly regarded Francois Sicard in Connecticut. If this all seems like a page from Oliver Twist, visit Tom's site to learn more. You will learn that he is a charming and articulate man with an interesting mission in his life.

The location of this year's event is an industrial complex in Reisterstown which is home to Radcliffe Motorcars and its owner and organizer of the event, Richard Garre. Together with his wife and Tom, Richard has organized just the sort of gathering you want to be a part of in springtime. Beautiful cars, interesting people, knowledgeable vendors and good food. All low cost and low key.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

The Spring get-together initially featured only vintage V-12's. As the new title suggests, it now has expanded to include all things European with a heavy accent on vintage Italian automobiles. Many such Ferraris made the trip, and the fine display of de Tomassos and Alfas was a bonus. An additional pleasant surprise was the presence in the same complex of Treasured Motorcars. This company services and restores all European models but focuses primarily on British cars. Both are well turned out shops, and the addition of a different selection of cars strengthened the experience.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

We urge you to visit Radcliffe Motorcars for more pictures and information about this very pleasing event and the nice people who organize it. Perhaps next year you will join us on the voyage down or meet us there.


The VSCCA Hunnewell Hillclimb

Posted on May 27, 2011 Comments (0)

Of the surviving forms of competitive motorsports, "hill climbing" may be the only one that hasn't changed dramatically—except for Pike's Peak of course. It has a responsibility to be at the leading edge of the go-over-the-edge-and-die hill climbs worldwide.

Riley
Photo by Ed Hyman ©AutoPhotos 2011

Professional drivers and factory teams run powerful cars for the dubious honor of making it to the top without falling off. Any comparison to the Wellesley event is laughable.

The Hunnewell Hillclimb in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is Grant Wood at speed! Cars that would have difficulty keeping up in the passing lane of an interstate are positively on the edge of perdition on a thin strip of twisty and mildly inclined tarmac flanked by mature trees. For 364 days a year this is not a road, it is a driveway! One Saturday per year, the hilltop inhabitants graciously surrender their access road to the VSCCA. They also give them an adequate parking/paddock area and permission to flog their pre-war treasures up their hill. But what great fun! A throwback to the 50's, only not quite so serious, this is the essence of a motorsports club event. It has all the hallmarks of a classic meet. Like people enjoying like cars.

Lagonda
Photo by Ed Hyman ©AutoPhotos 2011

Most postwar sports cars were comparatively small both in overall size and in engine displacement. A bird’s eye view of the paddock would show about forty older cars, not all competitors, on a hill top area dotted here and there with trees and surrounded by a low stone wall. The competition cars, mostly British; some factory racing Rileys here, a cluster of MG TD’s there, and a rare six-cylinder MG, set about in haphazard fashion in the shadow of a huge Lagonda that competed at LeMans. With unstated acceptance it was the jewel of the paddock. The paddock is lined with visiting XK-120, -140 and -150 Jags, Ferraris, and a stunning and rare Morretti. The pace of the day is leisurely. Peace is interrupted every five minutes or so by the frantic activity of a noisy competitor buzzing up the hill to the relative quiet of the paddock.

Serious car people turn up for this far-from-serious people event where everyone is a winner.


The Simeone Museum: First Visit

Posted on May 26, 2011 Comments (0)

My driving companion Sam Hallowell and I left his home in Providence, Rhode Island, in the early morning hours, and except for a stop for coffee and fuel, we drove the “WASRED Express” directly to The Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. We were en route to the Vintage Ferrari Festival in the Baltimore area.

Alfa Romeo Monza

We arrived as final preparations were being made for Brian Redman to address the Jaguar faithful that evening. They will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Jaguar XKE’s introduction. As you might imagine, Brian’s plane had just landed and things were hectic. In the middle of this, we arrived unannounced at the museum and something happened, which I was told is not unusual here; people stopped what they were doing and greeted us with warmth, grace and cordiality. Apologies were made that they could not accompany us but we were given the run of the museum and invited to stop and chat after we visited the exhibits.

The museum itself appeared to be a work in progress. The collection was unexpectedly impressive. By that, I mean that much of the joy of the exhibits had the “WOW! I never expected to see that here!” element to it. That came from the shock of seeing important cars that leap from magazine page memories to immediate reality. Upon reflection, the common thread appeared to be exactly that; important cars with interesting stories from all eras.

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

While some cars were perfect, some were not. My favorite example was a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, the first and only American built car to win the Manufacturer’s World Championship for Grand Touring cars. It looked somewhat forlorn. Sitting on a sandy display patch before a tarp on which a mountain scene had been painted, it seemed to say: “This, Bonneville, was not my most glorious experience.” If you can find a copy of Peter Brock’s excellent book The Cobra Daytona Coupe you will know that Brock designed these cars and fought to bring them to life and race them. They were spectacular racers and then, like all race cars of that period, they were, for myriad reasons, ot longer competitive and put out behind the shop where they would be out of the way and might be used as part sources. This particular car had a brief but successful post-racing adventure on the Bonneville salt-flats where it set a world 24-hour distance record. It was then dragged home and once again relegated to the group “out back”. The car now sits among other autos of accomplishment and, though battered, is at home. The Shelby Cobra Daytona is a testament to the capabilities of American hot-rodders and engineers who accomplish great feats with simple tools. It is, after all, just a small block pushrod engine in a clever, yet simple chassis. And it is a winner.

NART Ferrari 250 LM

You could write something like this about almost every car in The Simeone Museum.

At the end of our tour, Harry Hurst, author of the book “Glory Days of Racing”, introduced us to Dr. Fred Simeone, a most gracious host. “Dr. Fred” is the consummate collector. His energy and fascination with the history and the details of his charges is what makes this wonderful exhibit possible.

Our two hour tour was hardly enough to do the collection justice, and because the cars aren’t the only winners in this building, we will return. We urge you to visit The Simeone Museum in person or online at: www.simeonefoundation.org.


From Ugly Duckling to Somewhat Attractive Swan

Posted on May 23, 2011 Comments (1)

Several posts ago we said some “less than pleasing” things about the new McLaren MP4-12 street car.

McLaren MP4-12C

In summary, we said that while it may be technically brilliant, it was terribly plain and had a stupid name. In an effort to help, we re-christened it the “Britannia”. We thought that even though that wouldn’t make it any prettier, it might sound less like they forgot to name it and are still using the engineering code number.

The recently revealed MP4-12C version is almost double the cost of the street car, far more attractive and with a limited production run of 20, it is also quite exclusive. Labeling it a “gentleman racer” rather than a “factory racer” puts less pressure on the factory to re-produce the highly successful racing introduction of the McLaren F1.

McLaren MP4-12C

At just a hair over a half a million (US) dollars, the car is being first marketed in Europe and then Asia and Australia. We can understand why Europe should be first, after all that is where they are made and offering them to immediate neighbors is good politics. America should have been the next logical market. McLaren instead are going next to Asia and then Australia? How far down in the pecking order have we fallen and why? We can all guess, but it would be nice to hear it from them.