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Friday, 16 November 2018

BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL

The 'L' in CSL stands for Lightweight - and BMW invested much time and money in making it so. The rationale behind the CSL was to homologate BMW's 6-cylinder coupé, for European Touring Car Group 2 racing. The list of the car's light components was a long one! There were skinny body panels, a fibreglass back bumper, and racing latches on the bonnet. In addition, the CSL had Plexiglas side-windows, and alloy-skinned opening panels. Interior trim, too, was grist to the weight-saving mill. And under-body rust protection, and sound muffling - or the lack of them - all contributed to the super-svelte package. In the end, 400lb was shaved off the base model. As it turned out, the CSL's top speed was not much changed - remaining at 135mph. Acceleration, however, was vastly improved.

To cope with all this hard-won 'grunt', BMW stiffened the suspension. Bilstein gas shock absorbers incorporated state-of-the-art progressive-rate springs. Wheels were chunky Alpina 7″ alloys. Chrome wheel-arch extensions were added, to keep things street-legal. The first CSLs came with a 2,958cc engine - normally-aspirated, and producing 180bhp. In '72, BMW took the bore out to 3,003cc - qualifying the coupé to compete in the 3-litre Group 2 series. In the process, output was upped to 200bhp. Bosch electronic injection was also fitted - in place of the twin Zenith carburettors.

Thus far, the CSLs had all been left-hand drive cars. But '72 saw a right-hand drive CSL released in the UK. Known as the 'RHD City package', the car had 'boy racer' performance, as well as comfort in abundance. In this case, BMW restored most of the weight-saving features they had previously so painstakingly removed! But that was not enough for all British buyers! There were those who complained that the Scheel bucket seats were difficult to climb into. And the CSL's lightweight alloy panels - more prone, as they were, to accident damage - were not to every Brit's taste. Nor, indeed, was the price tag - more than both an Aston Martin or Jensen. Just 1,095 cars were built. Ultimately, though, the BMW 3.0 CSL was an 'homologation special'. And CSL coupés would go on to have great success at race-tracks around the world.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Lamborghini 350GT

Lamborghini 350GT

The 350GT was Lamborghini's first production car - way back in March '64. Coachbuilders Touring - of Milan, Italy - were tasked with styling the car. Their work was based on the 350GTV prototype. Touring's bodywork was composed of alloy panels. They were hung on a Superleggera steel frame. The 350GT's light body was key to its top speed of 152mph. The solid round-tube chassis was held up by coil spring and tubular wishbone suspension. Girling disc brakes stopped the plot.

Gian Paulo Dallara and Giotto Bizzarini engineered the 350GT. Power was supplied by the trusty Lamborghini V12. The crankshaft of the quad-cam 60° motor was machined from a single billet. Complete with side-draught carburettors - to allow for a low bonnet line - that made for 280bhp. Capacity was 3,464cc. The 5-speed transmission - and steering box - were by ZF. The rear differential was by Salisbury. Fast, smooth and tractable, the 350GT handled well, to boot. Both in terms of form and function, then, that first Lamborghini production run was off to a flyer!

Inside, the 350GT was a blend of user-friendly luxury. There was, for example, a synchro-mesh reverse gear. Just 143 350GTs were built. From the start, then, exclusivity was part of the package! While in many ways different from the Lamborghini supercars of today, that first 350GT had all the allure and panache that were to become so synonymous with the marque.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Ferrari F50

Ferrari F50

There was only one car with which Ferrari were going to top their F40 - the F50! In fact, it was less of a flat-out racer than its predecessor - providing its passengers with more by way of comfort. That said, the F50 was still far from luxurious. Especially, for a car that retailed at £330,000. But, the leather-covered carbon-fibre seats, at least, were a nod in that direction. And, at the front, the spring/damper set-up was transverse - rather than longitudinal - to allow for extra leg-room. The F50 gave a smooth ride - given its performance prowess, and the 'firmness' of its computerised damping system. The V12 engine - and 6-speed 'box - delivered usable power. And the combination of titanium uprights, magnesium wheels and all-metal ball joints produced ultra-precise steering.

With a top speed of 202mph - and lightning-quick reflexes - the F50 was, in effect, a race/road hybrid. Its 5-litre motor, for example, made a heady 521bhp! The 5-valves-per-cylinder V12 had its roots in 1990's Ferrari 641/2 F1 car. Peak revs for the road-going unit, though, were 8,500rpm - rather less than the 14,000 of the GP racer. But, with chain drive spinning its quad overhead camshafts - the F1 car used gears - the noise from the road car was still ear-splitting! Just 349 F50s were built. 'Health and safety' may have thought that a good thing!

So, the F50 was technically awesome. But, of course, a true supercar needed styling to match. Up to the plate stepped Pininfarina. The esteemed Italian design house unveiled a visual feast of tastefully-placed lines. Ducting was particularly delicious. Cowled projector headlights lit up the F50's front-end. Inside, the LCD instrument panel was straight out of F1. The F50 was even fitted with a 'black box' flight recorder, for goodness' sake! For sure, it was track day-inclined ... brakes and suspension were both race-derived. But, give it a road with enough scope - and the Ferrari F50 could unleash a lifetime of thrills in a single drive.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40

The F40 was christened in honour of forty years of the Ferrari marque. It was boss Enzo Ferrari's brainchild ... but even he had to get board approval! Once given, the F40 project was passed to stylists Pininfarina. It took only a year for the F40 to go from concept to production. It helped that it was based on the Ferrari 288 GTO. In theory, the F40 was a roadster. It required little modification, though, to go racing. In large part, that was down to its weight - or lack of it. For a car that cost $275,000, there was a noticeable lack of creature comforts. The cabin verged on the spartan!

The F40's low weight was due to the composite materials used in its bodywork. They were 20% lighter than their metallic equivalents. That - plus the absence of interior décor - meant the F40 tipped the scales at just 2,425lb. When that was combined with the 288 GTO V8 motor, the results were explosive! The 3-litre twin-turbocharged engine was fitted with sequential ignition and fuel injection. There were silver/cadmium con-rod bushes - and nicasil-coated liners. That all added up to 478bhp. If needed, another 200bhp came courtesy of 'competition mode'.

The F40 topped out at 201mph. 0-60 arrived in 3.9s. At the time of its release - in 1987 - that made it the fastest road car Ferrari had yet produced. It remained in production until 1992. Even the standard version featured a raft of competition parts. It had Group C brakes, 3-piece wheels, and removable rear bodywork. Oh, and soft fuel cells. The Ferrari F40's racing pedigree could not have been clearer!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo

There were just 504 of the Iso Grifo built - in ten years. We are talking exclusive! But then, it was styled by Bertone. The 'Grifo' was based on the Rivolta GT car. Ex-Ferrari engineer Bizzarrini shortened the chassis - for added agility. It was then passed on to Bertone. After that, Iso started to think of it a potential rival to Ferrari!

Time to add some speed to the mix! Enter the Chevrolet Corvette. Well, its engine, at any rate. The iconic American V8 imparted some serious 'grunt' to proceedings. That did not please the European purists. But for those content with beautiful bodywork - plus supercar oomph - things were gelling nicely! The top-spec Grifo came with the 7-litre version of the Chevy V8. With a fair wind, that made it good for 170mph. It hit 70 in first gear! The V8 unleashed 390bhp. And all the while, Bizzarrini's reduced wheelbase was helping transmit that power to the tarmac. The full complement of brake discs was wisely provided.

By now, the Grifo was going head to head with the Ferrari Daytona, and Maserati Ghibli. For a firm the size of Iso, that was some achievement! Sadly, financial woes were set to plague it, in later years. Iso finally succumbed to the fuel crisis, in '74. But by then - in the form of the Grifo - they had produced a thoroughbred sports car of the highest order.

BMW 3.0 CSL

The 'L' in CSL stands for Lightweight - and BMW invested much time and money in making it so. The rationale behind the CS...