Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

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The original Mille Miglia is one of motorsport’s legendary races, run at a time when health and safety came second to excitement. The thousand mile race over open public roads was conceived by an Italian Count in protest of the Italian Grand Prix being moved from his hometown of Brescia to Monza. The track was set as a lap of Italy from Brescia to Rome and back, and entry was restricted to unmodified production cars. Out of 77 starters only 51 made it to the finish line of the very first Mille Miglia. The race cemented the legendary status of marques such as Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Alfa Romeo, regularly attracting 5 million spectators along its route. Who wouldn’t want to see beautiful cars tear by on open beautiful roads?

Unlike modern rallies, the Mille Miglia sent the slowest cars out onto the course before the more powerful factory-backed competitors. Each car was given a number based on the time at which it started the race, so Sterling Moss’s legendary #722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR set off at 7.22 am. He and navigator Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson set the absolute record for the thousand mile lap with a time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds. Their average speed over that time was an eye-watering 97.9 mph/157.6 km/h. The race was held twice in its original format after that record-setting run, but the time was never beaten.

While probably for the best, it’s a shame that there aren’t many races left that match the drama and danger of the Mille Miglia. Holding it on public roads was divine madness. One year, German driver Hans Herrmann at the wheel of a low-slung Porsche 550 Spyder saw the gates of a railway crossing begin to lower as he approached. Tapping the back of his navigator’s helmet to tell him to duck, he floored the nimble little Porsche and flew under the barrier just before the train passed. That was the kind of race that the Mille Miglia was. Unfortunately, you’re only lucky so many times. At the 1957 running Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, desperate to win, waited too long to change tyres on his 4.2 litre Ferrari. He lost control and crashed, killing himself, his navigator, and nine spectators. Five of those were children. The race was subsequently banned, and is now held as a timed rally at legal speeds open to pre-1957 cars which attended or raced in the original Mille Miglia.

Posted @Whippstagram on Intsagram, Wednesday June 29th 2016

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

Winged Warriors

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Like all of humanity’s best creations, the Dodge Charger Daytona was born out of a lust for going faster. These ‘Aero Warriors’ as they were known, came out of Ford and Chrysler battling for NASCAR supremacy in the late 1960s. First came the ‘69 Ford Torino Talladega, a fastback with a slightly smoothed and rounded nose for better aerodynamic performance. Mopar’s retaliation shot was the ‘69 Charger Daytona, equipped with a fully closed nose cone and a massive wing over the rear axle. The body was smoothed to be as slippery as possible and covers were added over recessed windows and the a-pillars to make them flush with the rest of the bodywork.

At the heart of the Daytona’s aerodynamic bodywork sat a 440 cubic inch Magnum V8, motivating it to become the very first NASCAR competitor to crack 200 mph, achieved at Talladega Superspeedway. For the 1970 championship year the design returned as the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, complete with a horn that went ‘meep meep’. The fun couldn’t last though. The Aero Warriors were too fast, and NASCAR changed the rules to outlaw the design for the 1971 season.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram Wednesday June 22nd.

Winged Warriors

Drunk on Horsepower

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Spen King designed the original Range Rover with cloth seats and an interior that could be cleaned out with a garden hose. He stated that the now iconic looks of the first Range Rover used up about 0.1% of the total development time, hastily sketched to produce a shape for his clever off-road wizardry to sit inside. A lovable old curmudgeon, King was furious when his creation became a leather-clad luxury vehicle and stated that using one in town was pompous and completely stupid. Safe to say he probably wouldn’t like the bonkers Range Rover Sport SVR with its racing seats and Nurburgring-honed handling.

Let’s not mince words; the SVR is a ridiculous proposition. A 5400 lb performance SUV. A speed machine whose pilot sits five feet off the floor. A company renowned for class and elegance building a body-kitted, monstrously shouty beast. 4 (4!) mpg around a racetrack. Yet the more I read about the SVR the more it grows on me. If you can suspend rational thought long enough it starts to seem like a good idea. Not a good idea like sensible investment, but a good idea like doing something dangerous that scares and thrills you and makes you feel alive.

The impressive thing about the SVR is despite all its performance bits and bobs it still provides Land Rover’s exemplary off-road capabilities. The only different between the SVR and its Sport Supercharged sibling in that respect is a diminished approach angle thanks to its front bumper. Its 550 horsepower, 502 ft/lb supercharged V8 shoots it to 60 mph in 4.5 ear rending seconds. Yes, it’s unnecessary, but its competition from M, AMG, and SRT have proven that there is a market for obscenely powerful pseudo-offroaders. Let the loud times roll.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram Wednesday June 15th 2016.

Drunk on Horsepower

King of Imprezas: 22B

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Often referred to as the holy grail of Imprezas, the 22B is a very special car. Created to celebrate both Subaru’s 40th anniversary and their 3rd consecutive WRC Championship, it’s a rare beast. Just 400 were built for the Japanese market and all were sold within (at conservative estimates) 24 hours. Another 24 were built for export markets (Europe and Australia, sorry America) and were so valuable that rally legend Colin McRae had to pay for his even after bringing Subaru their third consecutive WRC title.

The 22B was the closest that mere mortals could come to driving the unstoppable cars that McRae and Richard Burns piloted to WRC glory. 22Bs came with engines enlarged to 2.2 litres, widened (and now likely irreplaceable) body kits, a massive adjustable wing, Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs. Under the skin a whole host of rally magic was at work to make the 22B rocket ship on 4 wheels whatever the road surface. Subaru rated the cars at 276 horsepower, but there was speculation that this was a little modest. Japanese manufacturers at the time had a voluntary agreement not to produce cars in excess of 280 horsepower. The 2.2 litre turbocharged four in the 22B actually made around 300.

When I asked a friend of mine who really knows his Subarus how much a 22B would cost today, he laughed and stated simply: ‘You can’t find them’. You’ll likely never see a 22B grace the pages of Autotrader, as the ones that do come up for sale easily command auction prices. Costing three times as much as the next Impreza down the food chain when it was released, Subaru knew what they were on to. Boxer Prince Naseem Hamed’s 2500 mile example recently went to auction and brought £73,000, or about $108,000. Finding a 22B is one thing, affording one is another altogether.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram Wednesday June 8th 2016.

King of Imprezas: 22B

The E-Type Jag is a Design Legend

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When the E-Type Jag went on sale in 1961 Enzo Ferrari called it ‘the most beautiful car ever made’. The Museum of Modern Art agreed, and exhibited an E-Type as part of a six car show of sublime design. (Watch this space for more on those cars) Jag’s designers certainly earned their paycheques on this one.

The Series I was a masterpiece with the legs to match its looks. For the money, it couldn’t be touched. The E was based on the tubular chassis with monocoque principle that had made the D-Type such a formidable racer. Powered by Jaguar’s venerated straight six XK motor, it was capable of 150 mph in a straight line. That’s what journalists reported anyway, as Jaguar engineers fettled the engines of press cars, raised the rev limiters and sent them out on racing tyres. Still, four wheel disc brakes and independent suspension made the E-Type an unbeatable performance car for its price.

The E-Type went through 3 series during its production-span, culminating with the 5.3 l V12 powered Series 3. The car became an icon of the 60s for its simple, beautiful cool and its spirit of having fun and living fast. It’s design still wins awards to this day. Makes you wonder which cars of today will age so gracefully.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram.

The E-Type Jag is a Design Legend

The Jewels of Monaco

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The Monaco Grand Prix is the race that best embodies the glamour, danger and money of Formula One. Each year the tiny principality in the South of France plays host to one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing, with cars tearing past multimillion dollar yachts atop the glittering Mediterranean Sea in Port Hercule. Drivers vie for space on a track carved from public roads that’s altogether too small for them. The many elevation changes and light-dark-light tunnel never fail to throw a spanner into carefully laid race strategies.

The Circuit de Monaco first played host to a race in 1929, long before the advent of Formula One as we know it today. Early supporters/competitors included Louis Chiron and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild with Chiron being the only native of Monaco to win the race. The 1929 running was won by William Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti Type 35B. The race has been part of the F1 world championship since 1955, but had no crash barriers whatsoever until 1969. That quirk lead both Alberto Ascari and Paul Hawkins to take unplanned swims in the Mediterranean. During the 1960s Graham Hill became known as Mr Monaco thanks to his 5 victories at the race. That record stood until Ayrton Senna reached 6, with five of those coming consecutively. Michael Schumacher matched Hill, but unsurprisingly nobody has matched Senna.

People say that were it not a beloved jewel of a race, Monaco would never be allowed to be added to the roster of modern, purpose built racetracks in the Formula 1 season. It’s too dangerous. It’s too much work to shut down public streets. That’s one of the things that makes it so special. Take the playthings of the fabulously wealthy and race them through the streets of one of the ritziest places in the world, past the casino and the harbour where the rich come to play. This is where Formula 1 belongs.

The Jewels of Monaco

Bugatti Chiron: The Difficult Second Album

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The Chiron is Bugatti’s difficult second album. Think back to the Veyron. People went wild. The world had never seen a production car with 1000 horsepower. It was a marvel of engineering. It was the darling of the motoring press, because nothing like it had come before. It was ‘Armstrong walks on the moon’ wrapped sumptuous Corinthian leather. Fast forward 11 years, and the media hype surrounding the Chiron more often than not features words like ‘status symbol’ and ‘respek generator’. Being clever, rather than building an even bigger sledgehammer, is what matters now. We have the P1, the LaFerrari, and the 918 to thank for that.

Of course, the Chiron is still an astonishing achievement. The words ‘8.0 litre quad-turbocharged W16’ justify most of it. It has 1500 horsepower, 1180 ft/lb of torque, and will hit 62 mph in about 2.5 seconds. Bugatti says it’s got a top speed of 261 mph, but they’ve given it a speedo that goes up to 310 mph/500 kph just in case. Maybe there’ll be a tailwind. It’s a portly beast, weighing in at 4400 lbs, but this was never a car built to handle. It’s a car built to be more powerful than anything else in the history of four wheels, and at that it succeeds easily.

Yes, it’s amazing, and yes, they’ll all sell out immediately. If you’ve got the money to spend and you want the most powerful, most luxurious, and most ostentatious land missile money can buy, I hope you enjoy your Chiron. We could all drive around in sensible cars because they’re reliable, and because it’s a good idea, but people spend more money than they should and risk breakdowns because the rewards of driving a car you love are so great. The Chiron is that times $2.6 million minus the breakdowns. Whether it’ll enjoy the same place as the Veyron in automotive history remains to be seen.

Bugatti Chiron: The Difficult Second Album