Driving Nirvana

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Picture this: it’s 1961 and you’re a wealthy Californian. The sun is shining as you round another breathtaking corner on the Pacific Coast Highway in your shiny red 250 GT California. The fresh ocean air surrounds you, filling the cabin and your lungs. Dropping a gear, you hear the 3.0 litre V12 in front of you sing as you power through the bend. You’ve got 280 horsepower under your right foot, and miles of twisty roads ahead. Does life get any better?

That’s exactly the scene Ferrari’s American dealers had in mind when they asked Enzo to chop the roof off his 250 GT Berlinetta. They believed that California was the market for a beautiful, comfortable, fast convertible, and they were absolutely right.

The 250 GT California SWB came with the same race-derived Colombo V12 as the rest of Ferrari’s 250 Series. Handling was improved over its LWB older brother thanks to smaller dimensions. It featured aluminium body panels and four-wheel disc brakes courtesy of Dunlop. While designed to be an elegant convertible, the California still demonstrated Ferrari’s racing prowess. Privateers would cruise to the racetrack in comfort, go out and embarrass purpose built racecars, and then cruise home again in the evening. The 250 GT California is the embodiment of speed, luxury, and grace that Ferrari is known for.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, April 20th 2016.

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Driving Nirvana

The Swiss Army Knife Given Wheels

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Think of the Unimog as the Swiss army knife of wheeled vehicles. Its name comes from the German ‘UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät’ (Gerät means device). Short of flying, the Unimog can do anything. Albert Freidrich built his first prototype in 1946 and it was so perfect for its many jobs that the basic concept remains unchanged to this day. Freidrich designed his Unimog primarily for farm work, but gave it four equally sized wheels so that it could also be operated safely at highway speeds, unlike other tractors. Daimler-Benz took over production in 1951, and by 1966 100,000 units had been produced.

The Unimog, being the perfect all-terrain farm vehicle, was designed to go places that others couldn’t. It has extremely high ground clearance thanks to portal gears in its wheel hubs. This setup allows its transmission, differentials, and axles to be situated well above the centre point of each wheel. It also boasts very little body overhang so it can climb and descend extremely steep grades with ease. It has four (or six) wheel drive and a range of torquey diesel engines to move itself about. It can be optioned with take-offs at the front and rear to power saws, grain elevators, snow blowers, and just about anything else requiring power and lacking infrastructure. It also comes with mounting points and hydraulic connectors front and rear for attaching crane arms and scoops.

As you might expect with a vehicle as brilliantly versatile as the Unimog, it’s used by militaries and private enterprises all over the world. Unimogs can be found fighting fires, plowing fields, and working on construction sites. They’re used as snowplows/blowers and emergency response vehicles in places where there aren’t any roads. They pull railway cars, airliners, and just about anything else heavy that needs to get from A to B. The world’s militaries use them as transport, ambulances, and mobile command centers. They’re also mobile generators for powered equipment where there isn’t any power. On top of all that they race in the Dakar rally. The Unimog might be the greatest land-based vehicle humanity has ever produced.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, April 13th 2016.

The Swiss Army Knife Given Wheels

The Mazda 787B is a Japanese Banshee

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The 787B was Mazdaspeed’s weapon in the World Sportscar Championship’s Group C, as well as the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship. Designed by Nigel Stroud with a carbon-kevlar monocoque built in the UK, the car was Anglo-Japanese teamwork at its finest. To this day it’s the only Japanese car to take overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, achieved with a screaming rotary engine that produced 900 horsepower or 700 in race trim for the best possible reliability. Its engine is also unique amongst Le Mans winners as the FIA outlawed rotaries at the end of the 1991 season.
Despite lacking the outright lap time pace of its competition the 787B was very a reliable car. Due to this reliability, Mazdaspeed arrived at Le Mans quietly optimistic about their chances.

In addition to being reliable the 787B enjoyed better fuel economy than the offerings from Porsche, Jaguar, and Mercedes. Team principal Takayoshi Ohashi abandoned his usual conservative strategy and instructed his drivers to race as if they were in a short sprint race. Mazdaspeed meant business at Le Mans 1991.

The #55 787B driven by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler, and Bertrand Gachot started from 19th position and moved through the field as rival cars retired with mechanical problems. With six hours remaining and the #55 car in second place, the leading Mercedes C11 was forced into the pits with reliability issues. Johnny Herbert was driving at the time, and at the last pit stop demanded that he be allowed to stay in the driver’s seat. He completed the final 40 minute stint and brought home victory for Mazda. After his final pit stop, Herbert had taken off without having his drink bottle refilled. As a result, he was so dehydrated by the end of the race that he had to be helped out of the car and missed the podium because he was receiving medical attention. Gachot and Weidler were more than happy to celebrate in his stead. The #55 787B was immediately retired from racing and shipped back to Japan to be displayed at the Mazda museum in Hiroshima, where it lives to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, April 7th 2016.

The Mazda 787B is a Japanese Banshee