AMG Puts the Hammer Down

When it comes down to it, the only nation on earth that can hold a candle to the US in muscle car building is Germany. Oh, and Australia. Let’s talk about Germany though. The Germans, and AMG especially, understand the magic of a car with a massive V8, enough torque to vaporize the rear tires, and a mean street presence. More often than not, this is exactly what AMG does, and is exactly what they did with the 1987 300E ‘Hammer.’ 

The Hammer comes from the days before AMG was acquired by Mercedes, and was so good that it prompted Merc and Porsche to collaborate on the 500E as a response. AMG took a stock 300E, threw out the straight 6 and gave it the full hot rod treatment. It was lowered and had its fenders rolled. An aero package was added to lower its drag coefficient. Big fat tires were installed to maintain some semblance of control and at the heart of it all sat a 5.6 litre V8 bored out to 6.0 litres and making 375 horsepower. Top speed was 178 mph. 

This was an amazing car in 1987. It’s still got very respectable performance figures today at almost 30 years old. The fly in the ointment? When new the 300E Hammer cost the equivalent of $320,000 in today’s money. Pricey, yes, but worth it purely for the idea of a four door Mercedes that could run with the likes of Testarossas and 911 Turbos.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday September 14th 2016.

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AMG Puts the Hammer Down

Dance Around the Rulebook

The Tyrrell P34 is undoubtedly one of the most unique and recognisable Formula 1 cars of all time. Its six-wheeled design, penned by Derek Gardner, aimed to skirt the rules that limited how wide front wings could be. In order to leave room for all the needed components (suspension, steering, the driver’s legs) the front wheels would sit well outside the edges of the front wing. To remedy this problem, Gardner devised his six-wheeled layout. By using 10 inch front wheels and tires he could fit everything neatly inside and under the confines of the front wing, reducing drag for higher straight line speed and providing the rear wing with cleaner air for cornering downforce. The problem with using smaller front wheels was the decreased contact patch which made cornering very difficult. So he just added another set, and connected them to the first.

When the car was unveiled in 1975 it was kept under a sheet with hoops to mimic the silhouette of normally sized front wheels. Imagine the surprise when that sheet came off! It’s clever aerodynamics and 3.0 litre Cosworth V8 made it quite a competitive car during the 1976 season, with its crowning moment coming as a 1-2 finish at the ‘76 Swedish Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter remains the only driver to have won an F1 race in a six-wheeled car, despite the fact that he hated the thing and referred to it as ‘a piece of junk’.

Changes to the car for the 1977 season meant that it was no longer very competitive and the idea was eventually scrapped. However, it’s worth mentioning that Tyrrell wasn’t the only team to toy with the idea of a six-wheeled F1 car. Williams and March Engineering developed prototypes with four rear wheels on two rear axles, while Ferrari built a version of their 312 T with four rear wheels on one axle. That’s right, a Ferrari F1 car with duallies. It was tested by Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, with the latter crashing it at Fiorano and burning it to the ground.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday September 7th 2016.

Dance Around the Rulebook

RTR for America

At 6’2” and weighing 215 lbs, Vaughn Gittin Jr. is not your average snake-hipped racing driver. It stands to reason, then, that his Formula D competition car would be larger than average too. Welcome to the Ford Mustang RTR.

When you think of the insane level of precision needed to go sideways at 100 mph+ without stuffing it into a wall, you think small, light sports cars from Japan. Not this time. Carbon fibre body panels and lightweight components keep the burly American under 2800 lbs with perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

Motivating that mass is a 436 cu.in. Ford Racing/Roush Yates V8 engine, which produces over 900 horsepower. Vaughn claims that this is a 9 second car at a drag strip. Too bad it almost never travels in a straight line!

This isn’t one of those ‘Made in England’ Ken Block Fiestas either. The competition Mustang RTR was built in Charlotte, North Carolina and is Stars and Stripes through and through. It’s one of the most recognisable cars in drifting, and has helped Vaughn to become one of the most successful American drifters ever.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday August 31st 2016.

RTR for America

Berlinette Bébé

“Our French friends had the idea to wrap two lying men with fiberglass and put them on wheels. The skin consisted solely of blue paint, and they were so light, the wind had already dented them.” So starts the @petrolicious video on the Alpine Renault A110 ‘Berlinette’, the very first World Rally Championship winning car. 

Alpine began as a standalone manufacturer and tuner of Renaults, with company founder Jean Rédélé successfully campaigning his Renault-based creations in races around Europe. As with AMG and Mercedes, the larger company took interest in Alpine’s success and bought the smaller out to provide Jean with more money to do his thing. The A110 was produced and updated between 1961 and 1976, and its rear-mounted engine never exceeded 1.8 l. It featured a steel chassis with a fiberglass body on top, and was licensed for production around the world. In Brazil it was sold by Willys (yes that Willys) as the Interlagos, and was built in Bulgaria under the very sexy name ‘Bulgaralpine’. 

Through the early 1970’s the Berlinette was an extremely successful rally car, but by 1974 the Lancia Stratos (the first car designed from the ground up for rally racing) had joined the fray and the Berlinette, along with many of its pre-1974 peers, was in decline. Engine and suspension updates failed to produce any meaningful increases in performance or points, and the A110 was retired from active racing duty. Its elegant styling make it a crowd favourite at historic rallies around the world to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday July 27th 2016.

Berlinette Bébé

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