MMR Blog

Iconic XKE Reborn as Eagle E-Type Speedster

Posted on August 4, 2011 Comments (1)

If we all list our five favorite sports cars, somewhere in everyone’s list is the Jaguar XKE. As a design, it was revolutionary, simple, clean and exquisite.

Eagle E-Type Speedster

Eagle E-Type Speedster

As a car, it had its flaws.

For some, the seats were thin and uncomfortable, the wipers worked perfectly on the right hand side, the British side, not so well on the left. The US lights sucked. The maintenance schedule for servicing the 28 greasing points was an onerous “every 1,000 miles”. Rust.

The list of little things goes on. In fairness, with time, Jaguar addressed most of the issues, but by then it wasn’t the same car.

Fast Forward to 2011 and a small company in Britain called Eagle E-Types has introduced a brand new Lightweight E-Type Speedster. Same iconic body style but with current state of the art parts throughout. Handmade and perhaps even more stunning, reportedly for an equally staggering 600,000 Euros.

Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type

Despite raves about the current offering, Jaguar has never mass produced a more desirable car than the XKE. They own the name and the design, they have the engineering and the parts, they have a dealer network to sell and service it.

Why don’t they build a new first series XKE?

What do you think? And what do you think it should cost?


The Real Power of Ferrari

Posted on April 25, 2011 Comments (0)

Ste. Justine I

Ferrari is the ‘complete’ package—power, sound and a look that says you have arrived even before you have left. This is the mystique of Ferrari. Even those who don’t understand cars are somehow captivated by its presence, especially young children.

Ste. Justine

In 1996, at the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, in exchange for a favor from the City of Montreal, an arrangement was made for a group of Ferraris to make a brief appearance at Ste. Justine’s, a children’s hospital which primarily serves the French population in the City.

We were staying outside of town, and we were meant to be at the hospital at 10:00 AM on the Friday before the Grand Prix race. Our mission was explained at dinner on Thursday evening, and, out of a possible 26 cars, we had 10 volunteers. On a gray and drizzling Friday morning, we had four, a black 308, a red Mondial, a yellow Testa Rossa and a red F-40.

We arrived 15 minutes late and were instructed to drive around the block and come into the hospital courtyard through the supply entrance. It was drizzling when we turned into the paved courtyard, an enclosed square space surrounded by the hospital on two sides and high brick walls. Imagine the noise four Ferraris made in that enclosure and then imagine our surprise when we rolled into this space to the cheering sounds of scores of children sitting up in beds lined against all four walls. Windows were open in the hospital and children were hanging out of every one and cheering our arrival. Our contact, the hospital’s public relations lady, greeted us and advised us that the children had been waiting for half an hour. When it began to rain, the children refused to be moved, so the staff covered their rolling beds with blankets and clear sheets of plastic. During the next 90 minutes, we raced our engines and let each child capable of doing so sit in each car and honk its horn. Each child was given a Ferrari pin and a Ferrari decal.

We were told later that those children never stopped talking about the Ferrari visit. And four grown men discovered a dimension of Ferrari power they would never have dreamed existed. Pity anyone who missed the opportunity.


Driving a Ferrari 308 to Amelia

Posted on March 29, 2011 Comments (0)

For the past several years I have taken a week in March to attend the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Located just below the Georgia border, Amelia Island quietly manages to accommodate the quaint little working class town of Fernandina Beach, the expensive Ritz hotel and condo apartment complex and a variety of developments and golf courses in between.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

But for one weekend in March, it kicks off the North American Concours season and is inundated by enthusiasts in search of fond memories at a reasonable price.

My company, MMRsite.com, is a website catering to the needs of motorsports enthusiasts, and this is an opportunity to meet our website suppliers and our customer base. My goal is to take a lot of still pictures, and, if possible, shoot video interviews with car owners and motorsports celebrities for our MMRsite on YouTube.

What makes Amelia really special for me is that I drive there and back in my 1978 Ferrari 308. For those not familiar enough with Ferraris to distinguish one from another, this is the Magnum PI TV model. However, mine is black, not red. And it is not driven by Tom Selleck, much to the apparent disappointment of the myriads of drivers who scoot up to its trunk in traffic and then risk their lives and mine to pass it and see if Tom really is driving. Their visible disappointment is matched by mine. For different reasons, we both wish I were Tom Selleck.

As mentioned, I normally spend a week on the 2,500 mile trip and that generally includes a nice three-day period, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, during which I attend the Concours and do little driving.

This year things were different. On the Monday before the Wednesday I was scheduled to leave, I pulled a muscle in my back, a not uncommon occurrence from which I generally recover within one week.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

Day 1: Thursday

Heavily laden with Advil, inside and out, I departed Thursday at mid-morning, in trifling rain, to meet friends for dinner in Baltimore, just 400 or so miles down I-95.

A quick note here about 33-year old Ferrari 308’s. They are 3-liter, 8-cylinder (hence 3.0-8) “sports cars” designed to deliver short bursts of noisy adrenalin to driver and passenger alike. Ferrari also built 12-cylinder models that are iconic “touring cars.” These were designed for comfortable and stylish long distance travel, generally with “madame.” It didn’t take “madame” long to discern the difference, and thus I travel solo.

Fifty miles down the road the rain intensified. Rain poses three problems, the first is that while some new cars with removable “Targa” type roof panels may leak, old cars with such tops ALL leak. At speeds under 50 MPH, intermittent spitting emanates from where the window meets the aforementioned removable top and the windshield frame. That is just several inches above eye level and, with uncanny accuracy, this spray manages to consistently hit me in the face. Next, the windshield wiper mechanism works whimsically at best and sometimes not at all. And then the windshield sometimes fogs up. In the rain, in heavy thruway traffic, this is all quite thrilling and one easily maintains a state of heightened awareness.

I arrived in Baltimore sodden, partially deafened by the exhaust noise and only one hour late. After a highly pleasurable dinner with gracious and entertaining friends, I hit the pillow well contented and relieved that a difficult first day was done. The gentling properties of red wine in quantity should never be underestimated.

Day 1 notes: Rain; 22 MPG; Gas in MA: $3.71; Gas in NY: $4.07. Total gas cost: $70.79. Road food consumption: 4 Advil; 3 Nature Valley bars; 2 Diet Cokes; 1 decaf coffee.

Day 2: Friday

Friday dawned bright and clear, two more Advil, a Nature Valley bar, and I was on the road by 7:00 AM well prepared for a feisty 800 mile drive. I encountered no problems leaving the Baltimore area and heartily endorse the Maryland rest stops. They are recipients of this the 2011 BBI95 Award. Best Bathrooms on I-95 award. Trust me, while judging process is daunting, the competition is hardly fierce.

Soon came Washington, our nation’s capital. If you think the Congress is gridlocked, just step outside. Construction and accidents caused a forty-mile stretch to take well over two hours to traverse. In one case, a bread van crashed into a cement highway divider. How often do you see that?! A CRASHED BREAD VAN!?

I-95 through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina is purgatory. Local radio is simply depressing. Fortunately I have a stack of CD’s and an aftermarket radio/CD player that can drown out road and engine noise. At the cost of your hearing of course. There are no state-sponsored rest stops here and some roadside service vendors see hygiene as an option sacrificed to the Recession Gods. Stops for food, fuel and personal relief become adventures; some more pleasant than others. Over time I have learned to eat Nature Valley bars and drink some form of bottled caffeine. Having said all that about the highway institutions, let me also say that driving the Ferrari off the highway introduces one to the very nicest of local people. They are curious and polite and really seem to get a kick out of seeing a Ferrari. It is almost embarrassing. A lesson learned: Never judge locals by their radio stations or their nearby public restrooms.

The highway speed limits are at times as high as 70 MPH, and, as best I can judge from the information supplied by timing roadside mileage markers, we are averaging about 75 MPH. My Italian Ferrari speedometer indicates we are doing 90 MPH. Ah those Italians! So optimistic!

By the time I hit Georgia it has been dark for a while, and the highway is poorly lit. I keep remembering that song, “A Rainy Night in Georgia.”  I don’t remember the words, but I do remember that it isn’t a song people sing at birthday parties.  And, even though I finally found the Chocolate & Oats versions, I am fed up with Nature Valley bars!

Eight hundred plus miles in a noisy sports car singing along to Peter, Paul and Mary can make a man think strange thoughts. At 9:30 PM, PP&M, strange thoughts and I have all arrived at Amelia Island.

As I turn off the pop-up headlights, I notice that one doesn’t go all the way down. That has been happening for some time now, and I must attend to it. At some point in the night, it closes all the way down. Always does. BTW, no more back pain. Only slightly deaf. Seems a fair trade.

Checking in at the Days Inn: $149.95 per night. This is probably three times the normal rate. Pity.

I drive in to Fernandina Beach for dinner at a little Italian restaurant where I have eaten on previous trips. Once again, they surprise me with the quality and pricing of their food and wine. On the way back to the hotel I stop by a coin car wash and put a half-pound of quarters into the machine. The Ferrari looks much better clean. We both drift off to a well-earned rest.

Day’s total: 843 miles; 8 Nature Valley bars. Total gas cost: $159.38.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

Days 3 and 4: Saturday and Sunday

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is anchored at The Ritz Hotel. It’s a huge complex built on a beach and a golf course with a number of beach-front, 20-stories high condo apartments, some of which can be rented for the week. It is a lovely setting and well suited to the event activities. Saturday is given over to auctions and Concours sponsored lectures in various hotel ballrooms.  Outside, manufacturers of all the high -end cars have their wares on display and are allowing prospective customers to try them out. Driving the Ferrari 308 in this crowd is like showing up at Prince William’s wedding with a blow-up doll. No one wants to look you in the eye. Makes you long for the folks of rural Georgia where a Ferrari means something. Once away from the site of the Concours, the Ferrari again is something special. People stop to look closely at it wherever it is parked, and everyone has questions about it.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

Sunday is the day of the Concours. I am on the field at 6:30 AM to catch the early morning light on the arriving cars. As for the Concours, once again I am amazed at how “right” the judges are. The two winning Duesenbergs are truly deserving. See our report elsewhere on the Concours.

It has been a long, busy and very satisfying day. I finish shooting the winners by 5:30 PM and am on the road by 6:00. Dinner will be by Nature Valley and caffeinated liquid. Once on I-95, I realize that the end of the Amelia Concours coincides with the end of Bike Week in Daytona, which is about 90 miles further down I-95. The Concours traffic is swelled by bikers towing their Harley-laden trailers back up north. Oh joy! They travel at a quicker pace and while the forward part of their rigs appear stable, the back end of the trailer is often swaying back and forth a good 15 inches. Negotiating a pass in a small black car can be daunting. We are all travelling at over 80 MPH (100 MPH on the Ferrari speedometer) and there is no need for caffeine here.

In Georgia I pull off for gas at an exit that promises a BP station. The BP is closed, and the one across the road has no indentifying oil company signs. I have no choice. One look and you know that you wouldn’t want to ask for the bathroom here. The pump cuts off at $50. Trusting souls. That is just over 13 gallons and good enough for me. The Ferrari only holds 18 gallons.  I am good to go. “A Rainy Night in Georgia.”

At midnight I stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the odometer says I have gone another 300 miles since I left Amelia Island.

Summary: A full and satisfying day. Note to self: The Ferrari headlights need adjustment. I have been meaning to do that since I bought the car 16 years ago.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

Day 5: Monday

As I am checking the engine oil level, I break the rear deck lift mechanism. My fault. In some ways this car is so tough and in some ways it is so fragile. There is one constant in owning a Ferrari—it never is boring. My black horse and I leave Fayetteville, North Carolina at 9:00 AM, and we are in NYC at 6:00 PM for dinner. It was a relatively fast and light traffic drive. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Somewhere between the entrance to the Holland Tunnel to New York City and home I am in for two more surprises. First, on exiting the Tunnel, I look for the exit that will take me to West Street and the West Side Highway. The 150 yards from the Tunnel exit and the side street is a virtual minefield of unavoidable of deep potholes and hump-back mounds. The car bottoms twice, and a front wheel hits a hole so hard I am convinced it will be torn off. The misery I wished on the Commissioner of Roads for the City of New York cannot be printed. At best he can’t have children.

Driving a 308 to Amelia

After a two-hour respite for dinner in Manhattan, I happily climb back into the Ferrari for the final drive to Boston. Gas in the City is difficult to find, and I make it to the first Connecticut service area on I-95. As I am fueling the car, I spot the pricing. My hand involuntarily releases the filler nozzle—$4.27 per gallon! That is my second surprise! I put enough in to get us home and do just that. I arrive at 11:00 PM having driven over 800 miles again. I am tired, and the ringing in my ears will stay with me for several days, but, none-the-less, I am well pleased. My back has healed, I know all the words to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and the 33-year old Ferrari with well over 120K on the clock has once again delivered fun, reliability and relative comfort. Not to mention Ferrari style.

Total (Ferrari Speedo) mileage: 2,508 miles Fuel costs: $492.84 Nature Valley bars: 18.

The Compleat Man's Kit:

  • 1 1978 Ferrari 308. Well used.
  • 1 Video camera and tripod.
  • 1 Digital still camera—still better than its operator.
  • 1 Wine cooler bag: 4 reds, 2 whites, all excellent (within their price range).
  • 1 Personal luggage and French leather tuxedo carrier: prepare for anything—expect the best.
  • 1 Backpack containing: Computer, 18 Nature Valley bars and 6 cokes. Breakfast of Champions!

Day 5: Monday (image # 037)

 

As I am checking the engine oil level, I break the rear deck lift mechanism. My fault. In some ways this car is so tough and in some ways it is so fragile. There is one constant in owning a Ferrari--it never is boring.  My black horse and I leave Fayetteville, North Carolina at 9:00 AM, and we are in NYC at 6:00 PM for dinner. It was a relatively fast and light traffic drive. Sometimes you just get lucky.

 

Somewhere between the entrance to the Holland Tunnel to New York City and home I am in for two more surprises. First, on exiting the Tunnel, I look for the exit that will take me to West Street and the West Side Highway. The 150 yards from the Tunnel exit and the side street is a virtual minefield of unavoidable of deep potholes and hump-back mounds. The car bottoms twice, and a front wheel hits a hole so hard I am convinced it will be torn off. The misery I wished on the Commissioner of Roads for the City of New York cannot be printed. At best he can’t have children.

 

After a two-hour respite for dinner in Manhattan, I happily climb back into the Ferrari for the final drive to Boston. Gas in the City is difficult to find, and I make it to the first Connecticut service area on I-95. As I am fueling the car, I spot the pricing. My hand involuntarily releases the filler nozzle--$4.27 per gallon! That is my second surprise! I put enough in to get us home and do just that. I arrive at 11:00 PM having driven over 800 miles again. I am tired, and the ringing in my ears will stay with me for several days, but, none-the-less, I am well pleased. My back has healed, I know all the words to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and the 33-year old Ferrari with well over 120K on the clock has once again has delivered fun, reliability and relative comfort. Not to mention Ferrari style.

 

Total (Ferrari Speedo) mileage: 2,508 miles; Fuel costs: $492.84; Nature Valley bars: 18.   (IMAGE 6026)


What Are They Thinking?

Posted on September 30, 2010 Comments (0)

That story follows. Recently, I received correspondence challenging my assumptions from a man who has attended the LeMans 24 Hours eighteen times and has a different view. If you have a thought on the subject, chime in.

The 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. Long considered the premier long distance race, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, run by the Automobile Club du Ouest (ACO) can also be the most frustrating race in which to participate. Over the years, the rules set out by the ACO have often been subject to different interpretation and capricious application by its officials. The stories of past manufacturer battles with the organizers are legend.

To the French, Le Mans represents an opportunity for French cars and or/drivers to win for the "Glory of France". The French Peugeot team is a legitimate contender and historically the ACO have not been above "setting" or "interpreting" rules to help the home teams.

This year, the German Audi won their tenth overall victory in an exciting race that saw French Peugeot finish 13 seconds behind after 24 hours of racing. Yet despite the closeness of the racing in the LMP (Le Mans Prototype) classes, because LMP cars are so physically similar, many feel they lack the appeal of the familiar GT class. The two GT classes for "production" cars featured familiar names such as Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, Aston Martin and others.

Corvette won in both the GTE Pro and the GTE Am classes. A wonderful result achieved against stiff competition.

Originally, LeMans was all about factories bringing their modified street cars to LeMans in order to win and thereby sell more cars. When specially built LeMans cars began winning against the street production cars, a second class was developed for low production, purported "prototypes", of cars to come. Once beautiful expressions of the pure racing cars, the science of aerodynamics has determined the similar missile shapes which all prototypes now share, and which some find less than attractive.

Obliged to chose, racing fans would probably prefer the familiar GT cars over the Prototypes. None-the-less, the Protypes are exciting to watch and do have a fan following so they race on in a world-wide series of endurance events for their type of car. It should be noted that the French don't have a competitive GT car.

The 8.5 mile Le Mans circuit is occupied by four different driver/car classes. 56 cars begin the race. The largest group of which, GTE -Am (Amateur) for Production based GT cars (18) is the slowest. The second largest class (17) is LMP-1 or Le Mans Prototype driven by the best long distance drivers in the world. This is the fastest class. LMP-1 cars qualified at 3 minutes, 25.7 seconds per lap. The final qualifier, in a GT car was 46.8 seconds slower. This is a massive difference.

For years it has been argued that the reason for many of the crashes at Le Mans is the speed differential between the "prototype" and the "production" cars. Only 27 cars were listed as finishers and the GTE-Am car was lapped 53 times by the winning LMP-1 car. Yet the winning car's real rival was never lapped and was only 13 seconds behind it.

85% of a LeMans lap is taken at full throttle and in each of the accidents that spectacularly destroyed the Audi LMP-1 cars, a GTE was involved. GTE cars are not slow, but the closing speed differential on the straights can easily be as much as 80 MPH!

Into this consistent maelstrom, the ACO, has created a new class; The GTE-Am class for "amateurs".

While amateurs, those racing in this class were certainly "qualified" and experienced drivers. An American Team driving a Ford GT III actually finished third (a podium placement) in the GTE-Am class. Driven by well known amateur David Murray and by the husband and wife team of Andrea and David Robertson, they are to be commended.

However, despite their prior experience, the physics remain and they were driving in a dangerous situation for which they could never have prepared to the same extent that professionals prepare. The two GTE's that crashed with Audis were driven by professionals and in at least one case, were not responsible for the accident.

Racing was not ever meant to be a totally safe endeavor. Those participating know that. However, the responsibility of the governing bodies and race organizers is to provide a set a rules and an environment where competition can take place in as fair and safe a manner as possible. In not addressing these issues today, the ACO do a great disservice to the sport. What do they need to have happen before they act? In the wrong political atmosphere, a catastrophic crash involving spectators could result in either dramatic changes to the track, and therefore the essence of the race, or its complete cancellation. Either of which would be a huge loss to motorsports.

At LeMans, in 2011, Audi driver Alan McNish made a mistake. He, the other competitors involved and the photographers nearby were exceptionally fortunate. Continued good luck to all.


In Praise of Older Cars!

Posted on July 8, 2010 Comments (0)

Two weeks ago, on a very cool New England evening, I had dinner with a new friend who has a collection of sixties era sports cars. Which, I asked him, did you drive tonight?

Amelia Island Christian Delbert Photography

He told me had his older Ferrari coupe parked in the lot. Nice, I said, don’t you have a modern car? No, he said, I have a modern truck for winter transportation.

I know him to be a collector of Fifties and Sixties sport cars but I was curious. Why not a modern sports car? Because, he replied, they are very complex and when you begin to have problems, they are very expensive to repair. Besides, he said, I don’t think they have an upside. In twenty years time the cars I now have will still be repairable. And I can do much of the work myself with the tools I currently own.

Manufacturers are obligated by law to supply parts for ten years from the date of manufacture. In order to protect their dealer service network, some manufacturers are known to make computer diagnostic programs difficult for the aftermarket to access. But after ten years, the dealer who can no longer get factory components, even with access to the computer diagnostics, is also shut out of the business. Where does that leave the car owner? Manufacturers will not let their customers down simply because the law says they can. That’s not good business and it is reasonable to expect that they will supply parts for a longer period. That is good business as anyone, with an old Ferrari can testify. But the parts won’t be inexpensive and at some point they could run out. When that happens, the traditional secondary source, the aftermarket, may not be able to supply.

My friend’s point here is not that computer equipped cars are bad, quite the contrary. We could never enjoy the power or convenience and safety features we have in our cars today without them. But for the most part, electronic components are not repairable. The factories fight to make their parts proprietary; that allows them to control price and availability. Aftermarket manufactures are loathe to reverse engineer and hi-end car computer for a comparatively low volume application. So, if your are considering the purchase of an eleven year old supercar you must ask yourself a few basic questions about who will repair it and where they will find electronic parts.

What are your thoughts?

Peter