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automotive mix ... for road + track.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Cooper T51

Cooper T51

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper, and his small-scale team, took the prevailing motorsport wisdom of the time - and trashed it. Well, turned it on its head, at any rate! In 1959, it was given that a racing car's engine sat at the front. Cooper - and his équipe - questioned that established practice. In so doing, they revolutionised race-car design. The T51 would be rear-engined - with all of the technical turnarounds that entailed. They were to be well worth the effort, however. 'Black Jack' Brabham took the '59 drivers' title, in the T51.

The 'Cooper-Climax' car sowed the rear-engined seeds, in '58. It won two GPs, early in the season. Notwithstanding that, the car was taken less than seriously. Its success was put down to its squat dimensions. It was only quick at 'twisty' circuits, it was said. And it was true that the Cooper was down on power, compared to the competition. But there was a reason for that. Its motor was an F2 unit - enlarged to 2.2 litres. The front-engined brigade were using 2.5-litre motors. In F1, small fractions make a big difference!

Happily, the T51 was fitted with the full 2.5-litre powerplant. Cooper's engine supplier - Coventry Climax - had increased the stroke. The Cooper now kicked out 230bhp. That was still less than its rivals - but its handling advantage was enough to see them off. The rear-engined set-up had knock-on effects. With no prop-shaft now needed, the driver sat lower - with all of the streamlining benefits that brought. And when it came to weight-saving, there was more than just junking the prop-shaft. With engine and final drive directly linked, their structural surrounds could be less robust. And the T51's mass was more centrally-aligned - making it more manoeuvrable. Tyre wear, in turn, improved. As for the T51's driving roster - it was impressive, to say the least. As well as Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren were on call. Both the Monaco and British GPs duly fell to the Cooper - en route to the World Championship, at the first time of asking. That was testament to the impact the T51 made. Cooper had re-written the F1 tech spec in ways which would never be reversed.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Ford Capri

Ford Capri

The Ford Capri was the European sibling to the mighty Mustang - a massive seller in the US. In essence, the Capri was a standard 4-seater GT. There would be many a variation on the theme, though ... enough to give a spare-parts dealer nightmares. The Capri was manufactured in GB and West Germany. The first model came with the same 1.3-litre in-line four engine as the Ford Escort. In the UK, there were 1.6- and 2.0-litre V4 options. Add to that a 3.0-litre V6. Germany weighed in with 1.7- and 2.3-litre versions. Capri stock-taking was already starting to get complicated. And that was before the cornucopia of trim options kicked in!

The entry-level Capri was the L. The XL was mid-range. At the top of the heap were the GT, and luxury GXL models. The body shell - and struts, with beam rear axle - were interchangeable. There were more parts choices when it came to the 4-speed gearbox. Bigger engines had auto transmission as an option. All Capris had disc brakes up front - and drums at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering, too, was standard ... oh, except for some of the 3.0-litre models, which were power-assisted. Whew!

Capris were campaigned as 'tin-top' racers - with much success. In their wake trailed a series of souped-up roadsters. The RS2600 Mk1 was a German 'homologation special'. It came with a fuel-injected 150bhp V6 ... courtesy of Harry Weslake. In 1973, the British-built 3100 appeared - another homologation special. With its Weber carburettor - and over-bored V6 - it made 148bhp. These 'performance car' Capris featured fat alloys, and quarter bumpers. The 3100 sported a duck-tail spoiler. Most sought-after of all was the Capri 280 Brooklands LE. Ironically, it was one of the German-built cars! But, with its swish leather seats - and British racing green paint - it was a fine finale to the Ford Capri story.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Italdesign Aztec

Italdesign Aztec

The Italdesign Aztec was two cars for the price of one! Well, not two cars, as such - but two cockpits. Driving responsibilities could be switched between the 'driver' and 'passenger'. Of course, the whole point of concept cars is to put reality on hold. The Aztec's designers never envisaged it going into production. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas!

Giorgetto Giugiaro was the Aztec's chief designer. Typically, his work was far from flamboyant. He had penned many a family runabout. Maybe it was just time for him to let his hair down! At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. Slick and sophisticated - and with a silvery sheen - it was nothing if not striking. The Aztec's rear was seriously high-tech! Around the wheel arches were 'service centre' panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, inbuilt hydraulic jack controls, and engine fluid monitors. More down-to-earth were a torch and fire extinguisher. Oh, and a petrol cap. The Aztec's interior was cutting edge, too. Cockpits communication was via headsets.

The Aztec's engine was a 5-cylinder Audi unit - turbo-charged, and transversely mounted. Transmission was Quattro 4-wheel drive. A dual-canopy body allowed easy access. The Aztec first appeared at the Turin Motor Show, Italy - in '88. There it was espied by those Japanese businessmen. They thought there might be a market for the car back home. Having bought the rights to the Aztec, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas were duly built. The bodies were made in Italy - before being shipped to Germany. There they were handed over to tuners Mayer MTM - who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they reached Japan. The transportation costs were included in the price tag. The Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. But each car sold came with an added extra. Stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro signed them all personally. He was indeed proud of his Italdesign Aztec!

Monday, 15 October 2018

BMW K1

BMW K1

Back in the day, it might have been said that BMW motorbikes bordered on the staid. If so, that all changed with the K1. Flair and panache dripped off it. The K1 looked the business - and BMW did plenty of it, as a result!

In terms of engineering, the K1 was top-drawer. Then again, BMW know no other way! Suspension was set up per the 'Paralever' system - designed to cater to shaft-drive power trains. The 'K-series' engine featured four horizontally-opposed cylinders. It was fuel-injected, too. The result was 100bhp. And a top speed of 145mph.

The K1 was stylistically stunning. Paint and bodywork blended into a cool mix. 'Cool' had not been a word over-associated with the BMW brand ... at least, not so far as motorcycles were concerned! The K1, though, was a harbinger of things to come, in that regard. BMW would go on to produce some of the best-looking bikes on the planet. And - it went without saying - always with a touch of class!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Renault Etoile Filante

Renault Etoile Filante

You might think there would not be a lot to connect the Renault Dauphine 'runabout', and a turbine-powered land speed record car. Part of the reason for the record attempt, though, was to boost sales of the new Renault roadster. Renault recruited race car designer Albert Lory to the Etoile Filante - or 'Shooting Star' - project. He duly incorporated a space-frame chassis, plastic bodywork, massive disc brakes, and torsion bar suspension into the car.

But, the Etoile Filante's pièce de résistance came courtesy of Turboméca - the French aero engine manufacturer. They supplied the car's gas turbine motor. It was dubbed the 'Turmo 1'. It was a thirsty bit of kit - needing three fuel tanks to feed it! One of them - forged from synthetic rubber - was placed in the car's nose. Located fractionally fore of the cockpit, it was hardly the safest arrangement! The plucky pilot was test driver Jean Hebert. Putting all 'inflammatory' thoughts out of his mind, he drove the Etoile Filante to 191.2mph. That was enough to topple Rover's turbine-powered tally - and set a new record.

The Etoile Filante was a product of 'space mania', which was sweeping Fifties culture. In the USA, especially, anything which smacked of 'rocket-ships' was a surefire hit. Fittingly, then, the Etoile Filante's record-breaking run took place at Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. Renault had pushed the envelope, technically. More than a mere marketing stunt, the Etoile Filante taught lessons that would be applied to real-world roadsters. Straight-line stuff it may have been, but there was much for Renault to learn - about acceleration, road-holding and braking. There is no surer test of a car's stability, than a stab at a world land speed record! The Etoile Filante made 270bhp - which had to be safely transferred to the salt flats. Clearly, the car was up to the job - as its successful run showed. The pride of Paris at the time, the Renault Etoile Filante was a fine example of French forward thinking ... in every sense!

Cooper T51

The Cooper T51 is one of the most radical racing cars ever built. John Cooper, and his small-scale team, took the prevailing moto...