Top 50 Autos sold/ offered so far this year (#21 – 30)
#21 – Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans Tourer 1932 #2211065 US$3.9 mil. +
The Ex-Works Le Mans 24-Hour race, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin/Earl Howe, Italo Balbo, Johnny Wakefield
1932 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Spyder Lungo
Coachwork by in the style of Carrozzeria Touring
Registration no. BXV 506
Chassis no. 2211065
Engine no. 2211065
Sold for £2,689,500 inc. premium
Just picture that scene in the gathering dusk of a balmy Italian evening. Reflections of the setting sun rippling towards you over that shapely, pent-roofed bonnet, the warm, slightly oil-scented air wafting up from the pedal box and gearbox housing down in the driver’s footwell…and all the time that characteristic, unforgettable, head-turning bark, and strum, and thunder of the supercharged straight-8 cylinder Alfa Romeo engine…molto fortissimo personified.
Few great classic sports cars can match the intense sensory overload provided by the supreme Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 in raucous action. Add the historic importance and cachet of the Le Mans 24-Hours race, of Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and of Francis, Earl Howe and then of Marshal Italo Balbo and as the cherry on the cake add the connoisseurial ownership of the late George Daniels and it becomes patently obvious that ‘065’ offered here is a thoroughbred sports car of great stature.
The history of this magnificent Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 has been exhaustively researched by respected marque authority Simon Moore, and is as described in his wonderful three-volume bible, ‘The Legendary 2.3’ (Parkside Publications, Seattle, 2000).
This particular car was first registered by the Alfa Romeo company on June 3, 1932, bearing the Milan plate ‘MI 40780’. Sixteen days later it became the third of Alfa Romeo’s 1932 works-entered Le Mans 24-Hour cars, being co-driven in the French endurance classic by the intensely competitive and capable British aristocrats Sir Henry Birkin, and Earl Howe, carrying the race number 9.
Amongst those three 1932 factory 8Cs for Le Mans it was fitted with regulation racing bodywork by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, but featured a different windscreen and more robust front wing stays compared to its sister cars. Amongst the 25 starters in that Depression-era 24-Hour race, Birkin and Howe in ‘065’ now offered here led for a period before being forced to retire. Reason for retirement was given at the time and repeated in ‘Tim’ Birkin’s autobiography ‘Full Throttle’ (G.T. Foulis, London, 1932) – as a blown head gasket, but there was also a contemporary story that it had split its fuel tank. In fact, the contemporary Birkin equipe mechanic Lofty England assured Alfa specialist Simon Moore that the engine had thrown a rod “comprehensively”… Today, the engine retains much period originality, with many components stamped ’65’, although we understand the head is a Jim Stokes replacement.
Spare-time TT racing motorcyclist ‘Lofty’ had of course been a youthful mechanic with Birkin & Couper Ltd’s ‘Blower’ Bentley programme 1930-31and had remained with Birkin for the new season of 1932 after the ‘Blower’ sports car programme had been consigned to history, and only the Brooklands Single-Seater also offered today from the Daniels Collection remained an active Dorothy Paget entry for Sir Henry.
But after Bentley’s endurance racing withdrawal in 1931, he and Earl Howe had joined forces to drive Alfa Romeo 8Cs in competition. Sharing Howe’s 8C-2300 the pair had achieved their dearly-held joint ambition of winning the Le Mans 24-Hour race. In his own 8C-2300 Birkin then won that same season’s 3rd Irish Grand Prix, in Phoenix Park, Dublin, but crashed in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards, in Ulster, and failed to finish in the Brooklands 500-Mile race.
Now ‘065’ as the damaged Birkin/Howe 1932 Le Mans car was taken straight to England for repair, the work being carried out in the old ‘Blower’ Bentley works at Welwyn, funded for Birkin by the Hon. Dorothy Paget. The car was then run in that year’s RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards, Ulster, on August 20, being driven by Earl Howe as race number ‘2’. The TT still required riding mechanics and Howe’s was the faithful ‘Tommy’ Thomas, his longtime personal mechanic.
This Alfa Romeo went particularly well and Earl Howe was actually the fastest finisher, completing his assigned 30-lap distance, 659.7kms, 410 miles, in 5 hours 9 minutes 56 seconds. He was actually the fastest finisher in the entire race, but on the RAC handicap system was placed 4th overall. Just behind him, in fifth place overall, came ‘Tim’ Birkin in his sister 8C-2300, chassis ‘063’.
After what might be interpreted, then, as this ‘moral victory’ in the 1932 Ards TT, this ex-Birkin/ Howe car was then returned to Alfa Romeo in Italy, and no doubt its British Custom bond was then retrieved. On September 27, 1932, it was then sold to Giuseppe Campari for 90,000 Lire. Simon Moore believes that it formed part of his remuneration deal as an Alfa Romeo works-backed driver and Italian celebrity.
It appears that Campari consigned the car to the Farina coachbuilding company of Turin to be rebodied from its Carrozzeria Touring-made racing-regulation style, to become a road-useable Drophead Coupe.
At this point Marshal Italo Balbo enters ‘065’s story. Born in Ferrara on June 6, 1896, this imposing figure had risen to national Italian prominence as a youthful leader of the Camicie Nere, or CCNN, ‘Black Shirt’ Fascist movement. He had been politically active at only 14 years of age when he participated in Ricciotto Garibaldi’s revolt in Albania, Ricciotti being the son of Giuseppe Garibaldi, co-founder of the unified Italian nation.
Balbo protested against initial Italian neutrality in World War 1, and once, in 1915, Italy had entered the conflict as an ally of Great Britain and France he served in the Army Alpini (Mountain) ‘Val Fella’ Battalion before volunteering for flying training on October 16, 1917. Within days Austro-Hungarian and German forces broke through the Italian Caporetto front and Balbo was re-assigned to the Alpini, leading an assault platoon of the ‘Pieve di Cadore’ battalion. Capitano Balbo ended the War with two silver medals and one bronze for courage under fire.
He then completed degrees in Law and Social Sciences in Florence and pursued his political ambitions, joining the new Partito Nazionale Fascista, or PNF, in 1921 and becoming the Ferrara region’s most prominent Fascisto. Aged only 26 he then became the youngest of the quadrumvirs, the four principal thinkers behind the March on Rome that catapulted Fascist leader Benito Mussolini to power in 1922.
On 6 November 1926, though only peripherally experienced in aviation, Balbo was appointed Italy’s Secretary of State for Air. After rushed flying instruction he set about rebuilding the Regia Aeronautica Italiana Royal Italian Air Force as a major arm. On August 19, 1928, he was made General of the Air Force and on September 12, 1929, Minister of the Air Force.
Italian interest in aviation had never been higher. Balbo set out to enhance national prestige globally by projecting Italian air power through spectacular long-distance flights with mass formations.
He personally led two trans-Atlantic flights, the first in December-January 1930-31 with twelve Savoia-Marchetti S55 flying boats from Orbetello, Italy, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the second in July-August 1933 commanding an air armada of twenty-four flying boats on a round-trip flight from Rome to the Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago, Illinois, USA. They landed on Lake Michigan near Burnham Park, and Chicago renamed Seventh Street ‘Balbo Drive’ and staged a parade in his honour.
The stylish, Van Dyke-bearded Balbo who always courted personal publicity and promotion assumed A-grade celebrity status in the United States, President Roosevelt presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Sioux Indian nation adopted him under the honorary title of ‘Chief Flying Eagle’. To an ecstatic largely Italian-American crowd in New York’s Madison Square Gardens he declared “Be proud you are Italians. Mussolini has ended the era of humiliations.” Home in Italy, he was promoted to the newly-created rank of Maresciallo dell’Aria – Marshal of the Air Force.
He assumed such national popularity yet proved so independently minded, always having his own agenda that Mussolini and those closest to him came to regard Balbo as a political threat. In 1933, amongst great fanfare, he was created Governor-General of the Italian colony of Tripolitania modern Libya which he then ran as virtually his personal fiefdom until his death in 1940. His political rivals in Rome deemed him too prominent to eliminate, but best sidelined on the other side of the Mediterranean. There he presided over every aspect of colonial life, including the reconstruction of Tripoli’s Mellaha motor racing circuit into one of the world’s most modern, and over the superfast Tripoli Grand Prix races run there from 1933-1940 just before Italy entered World War 2 as part of the Fascist Axis with Nazi Germany.
Italo Balbo had also launched road construction projects like the Via Balbia to attract Italian immigrants to Africa Settentrionale Italiana (ASI), and attempted to convert Muslims to Fascism. In 1938, he became the only member of Italy’s Fascist regime to express robust opposition to new anti-Jewish racial laws, and in 1939 he visited Rome to express his displeasure at Mussolini’s support for Hitler. Again he was the only prominent Fascist to express such public criticism, arguing instead that Italy should side with Great Britain. When rebuffed, Balbo exploded: “You will all wind up shining the Germans’ shoes!”.
Mussolini’s Italy declared war on Great Britain and France on June 10, 1940, and Balbo as military Commander-in-Chief North Africa became responsible for planning the invasion of Egypt. Just 18 days later, on June 28, 1940, Balbo
was flying in one of a pair of trimotor Savoia-Marchetti SM79 transport/bombers to Tobruk’s T2 aerodrome on a morale-raising mission to inspect troops. His aircraft apparently approached from seaward shortly after a raid on T2 by RAF Bristol Blenheim twin-engined bombers. That raid had destroyed a Fiat CR42 fighter on the ground, damaged several others – plus several CR32s and Ro37s, killed six airmen and wounded three pilots. The garrison’s blood was up – and when the Governor-General’s SM79 appeared, kiting in over Tobruk harbor to land, it was greeted by a hail of anti-aircraft fire from both land batteries and the guns of the Italian Navy cruiser San Giorgio. It was shot down, and all on board killed.
RAF Air Chief Marshal Longmore later wrote: “…as a mark of respect I had a suitably worded note dropped over the frontier by an aircraft on reconnaissance. In due course a reply was dropped by an Italian machine from my Italian opposite number expressing ‘Deep thanks for your message of sympathy’. Perhaps it was just as well this colourful personality did not live to see the humiliation of his country in defeat…”.
Italo Balbo’s remains were buried outside Tripoli on July 4, 1940, and in 1970 were repatriated to Italy and buried Orbetello, from where he had departed on his startling successful trans-Atlantic flights in the 1930s.
When this remarkable figure had bought Alfa Romeo 8C ‘065 ‘- now offered here on January 12, 1933 , his second trans-Atlantic Raid had been in the planning, and he was about to achieve the height of his influence and fame as not only an Italian but international celebrity.
The rebodied Alfa Romeo was evidently sold to him as new (!) although its price was a concessionary 70,000 Lire. His functionaries had the car Rome-registered for him as ‘ROMA 33975’ and he kept it for two years. It is unclear whether the car was kept in Italy for Balbo’s return visits there or whether it accompanied him to Tripolitania, but we understand that it was used after the successful conclusion of the 24-aircraft trans-Atlantic flight in August 1933, touring Italian towns and villages as a propaganda exercise. It was chauffeur driven while Balbo and two other prominent officers from his flight would sit in the back on its furled hood, greeting the adoring crowds.
Eventually, on February 12, 1935, it was sold to broker Marcello Venturi of Rome, who passed it on that same day to Domenico Ferlengo of Milan for 24,000 Lire. On February 16 it was re-registered for him with the Milanese serial ‘MI 9126’.
By June 1, 1935, the car had arrived in the UK, being registered on that day as ‘BXV 506’. Simon Moore’s comprehensive researches identify it as being most probably being the Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 bought by Johnny Wakefield, the enthusiastic private owner-driver who had gone to Italy to buy himself a racing Maserati 4CM Vetturetta. While there he was also offered an ‘ex-Balbo Drophead Coupe’ which he thought was cheap, thanks partly to the Pound being very strong against the Lire. So he bought it, and brought it back with him to England.
Johnny Wakefield found that the car in its quite floridly rebodied form had too much weight on the back, and too low a final-drive ratio, which would have been entirely consistent with it having been set-up for low-speed processional work as already described. He consequently soon sold the car to dealer Guy Griffiths with whom he shared a paddock shed at the Brooklands Motor Course.
At some stage the car was repainted silver and black but precisely where it spent the next few years, and the Second World War, remains unclear. A new logbook was then issued for it in June 1947, in the name of contemporary owner Dr Thomas Cricklow of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
In 1951 it was sold on to Kenneth Speakman of Ramsgate, Kent, and he re-sold it via dealers Johnson and Brown to a Dr Philip Robertson of Birkenhead, Cheshire, who then ran it from June 1954 to March 1956.
The ageing Alfa Romeo was then taken off the road. It passed to Jack Frazer of Cullybackey, County Antrim, in Ulster, and eventually – in October 1968 – it was bought by Michael Johnson, who together with his father Dermot rebuilt it into 1972. Ownership was transferred to Ann Johnson – Michael Johnson’s wife – on January 22, 1969. The car was not re-licensed for road use until August 1974…and the Johnsons retained it for many years until it was auctioned under Malcolm Barber’s gavel at Sotheby’s in December 1985. The successful bidder was then Pierre Chillet from near Lyon, France.
In early 1991 the car was advertised in Hemmings by a dealer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, but Simon Moore characterises the offer as a hoax. Late in 1995 this ex-Le Mans, ex-Birkin, ex-Howe, ex-Balbo, ex-Wakefield Alfa Romeo was acquired by well-known Alfa Romeo enthusiast Keith Duly, and it was then advertised for sale in 1996 by London dealer Gregor Fisken.
It was at this time when George Daniels intended to retire – he was beginning to feel tired of an evening but otherwise felt in good health – and spend more time motoring. So it was all the more surprising that a heart condition necessitated a double by-pass operation on his 70th birthday.
Having sold his ex-Birkin team ‘Blower’ Bentley, George Daniels was, as he recalled: “… looking for something a bit lighter as the Le Mans Bentley was a bit of a handful on tight corners and I saw Fisken was selling Birkin’s 1932 Alfa Romeo. I wanted that Birkin car, we reached an agreement, and I have since found it a wonderful car for racing, lightweight, very fast, 130mph and it fulfills all my needs for a sports racing car…”.
Upon acquisition Daniels commissioned noted specialists Rod Jolley Coachbuilding Limited of Hampshire, UK, to rebody from Drophead Coupe form back into the Birkin Le Mans and TT racing body style in which it is presented for sale today. At the same time, the rest of the car was totally stripped down and rebuilt, with the engine entrusted to Jim Stokes. The car was completed in time for the 1998 Manx Classic and managed two firsts and a second in class.
This splendidly presented Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 is offered together with a comprehensive file and having recently emerged from fettling by noted Alfa Romeo specialists Jim Stokes Workshop. It should also be noted that the original Pinin Farina body is offered with the car.
Slide in behind that thin-rimmed steering wheel, sight down the long arrow-straight bonnet and engage the starter. The supreme motoring experience beckons…
Pretty damn awesome, this car has he history, and despite being rebodied is worth every penncy (cent, lira, peso)
#22 – Ford GT40 Mk 2 1965 #106 – Not stated, US$4.0 mil. would be my best estimate
Ford GT 40 MK II 7 Liter prototype, Chassis Nr. GT 106
During the test program with the already ultra fast small block GT 40, Ford decided to build, as a second generation GT 40, two 7 litre prototypes which would go even faster.The order to build this cars, GT 106 and GT 107, with the 427 CID engines was given to Kar Kraft, a company belonging to Ford.
Work started in July 1964 on GT 106 and was completed by May 1965.
GT 106 and GT 107 where 2 out of the 4 prototype chassis build out of thinner sheet metal -22 gauges instead of 24-gauges in an attempt to reduce weight.
These second generation MK II GT 40 were basically completely different cars. To cope with all the extra power of the big engine, a new 4- speed manual transmission including differential got developed by Kar Kraft, many chassis alterations had to be made to allow the big engine.
After extensive testing with GT 106 by Tom Payne and Ken Miles on Ford’s Romeo proving ground, reaching more then 210 Miles and further test’s on the Riverside track, the car returned to Kar Kraft. The car was completely stripped, rebuilt and prepared to be send to Le Mans for the 24 hour Race together with GT 107 and several other 289 GT 40`s.
The decision to take the 7 litre cars to Le Mans, which was only 4 weeks away, was taken after this impressive tests and the Le Mans Race would be the ultimate test. For the cars the time for preparation was so short that the cars where airlifted for all transports.
In Le Mans, the 7 litre GT 106 was driven by Bruce Mc Laren and Ken Miles. The car made the fastest lap in the race with a top speed of 342 kmh, was leading the race until the first fuel stop, regained the lead until it troped out after 4 hours with gear box problems. The sister car GT 107 driven by Phil Hill and Cris Amon droped out after seven hours with gear box problems as well.
Never the less the overvelming speed convinced the Ford management that the 7 litre car would be the future and so the MK II was born. The impressive victories proved it and the MK II became an Icon.
10. 07.1991 FIA (FICHE D’INDENTITE POUR VOITURE ANCIENNE) have been granted. With the assistance of Brian Wingfield GT 106 was raced in many historic races all over the world, like Silverstone, Tour de France, Nürburgring with invitations to Aida Japan, Laguna Seca (Pebble Beach) USA. In several races the car finished first in front of a bunch of Ferrari
In 2008 new, current FIA papers where issued, the car had a new complete overhaul, including engine, gea rbox, brakes, suspenions, new FIA requested rubber tanks. Wiht the car there are several boxis of spare parts, gear ratios, spezial tools and two extra sets of wheels.
GT 106 is again ready for Racing and winning.
Possibly crashed and destroyed in period, if so did enough remain for this to still be GT/106 ?. Provenance issues would keep price realistic.
#23 – Ferrari 250 SWB 1961 #2563GT, unsure but Approximately US$3.0 mil. – 4.0 mil.
Demetriadi 1961 > Daniel Siebenmann, Switzerland 1962 > Gaskin, USA 1960’s > Murtha 1977 > Charles Gnaediger, Switzerland 1980 > Karl Foitek 1981 > 1986 asking $25,000 > Richard Gent 1988 paid $200,000 > Jean – Pierre Slavic, Switzerland 1998 > via Gregor Fisken 2002 > Stanislas de Sadeleer, Belguim 2002 > Traber 2005 > Cars International 2008 asking ?? > Dick Lovett 2012 asking
Good Street 250GT Short Wheelbase
#24 – Maybach SW38 Spohn Roadster 1938 #20555 US$3.0 mil.
1938 Maybach SW38 Roadster
With Disappearing Top Coachwork by Spohn
Chassis no. 2055, Engine no. 11164
Black with Red Interior
Until their recent reinstatement, Maybach was a relatively obscure company, despite its illustrious and important history. Their history goes back to before the invention of the automobile, when Wilhlem Maybach had worked closely with Gottlieb Daimler during the development of the very first automobile. Maybach`s concentration was always on engines, and his own inventions included the honeycomb radiator and the atomizing carburetor. During World War I, his engine expertise was employed in a number of aircraft engines, and it was on the basis provided by these engines that the first automobile engines were developed after the war. His original intention had been to produce only engines for automobiles, but upon discovering that most companies preferred to use engines of their own (and usually inferior) design, he switched to the manufacture of complete cars. These cars were typically Teutonic in construction and execution, and truly represented the pinnacle of engineering and quality. Indeed, no more expensive automobile could be purchased when these cars were new. The cars were truly built to last a lifetime, and featured innovative technological features that were implemented in a breathtaking and beautifully detailed fashion. From the latches on the luggage compartment, to the engine turned aluminum accents in the engine compartment, everything about this car speaks to the craftsmanship and fanatical detail that was applied to what is surely among the finest cars ever made. Even the splash guards inside the rear fender wells are beautifully wrought engine-turned aluminum.
This particular car is one of just two disappearing top SW38 roadsters with coachwork by Spohn. This was the most sporting bodywork available on their most sporting chassis, and in conjunction with an aircraft-derived twin carburetor six-cylinder engine, the SW38 was capable of remarkable performance, including a 95mph top speed. This car is supremely elegant, striking, and well-proportioned, and has received a high quality restoration done some years ago. The car comes with a remarkable sheaf of records dating from the 1950`s and 1960`s, mostly in German, in addition to magazine articles and some stamps that depict the full line of Maybach automobiles. The car was confiscated during World War II by the Nazis and was thought to have been lost, until it turned up at the Maybach factory in 1956. It was imported to the United States in 1958 by a Mercedes-Benz collector, and was subsequently kept by a woman in Southern California for many years, and occasionally shown locally. It was restored approximately fifteen years ago by Mike Fennel Restorations, and was in Japan for a few years after that before returning to the United States.
This is car is cosmetically beautiful with superb quality paintwork over well-prepared panels with excellent fit and gaps. The paintwork shows some light wear and blemishes from age, rather than from use. The brightwork is a mixture of polished and chromed pieces and is excellent throughout and of very high quality. The glass and lights are excellent, and the net result is a car with tremendous presence.
The interior is in similarly nice condition, with an extremely high quality feel and just a few small blemishes. The seat leather is slightly patinated, while the remaining leather on the dashboard and seats is excellent and appears nearly new. The fixtures and gauges are all excellent and of breathtaking quality and feel, as befits the car`s very high initial price. The carpeting is nearly unworn, and the woodwork is excellent with very high luster and no cracks. The door jambs are beautifully detailed and are finished entirely with engine-turned aluminum.
The cylinder head cover and various other engine parts are also finished with engine-turned aluminum, and contribute to the awe-inspiring engine compartment. The engine bay is completely detailed, beautifully finished, and remains extremely clean.
The car is running and driving example. It starts easily and operates predictably. As a factor of their value, cars of this genre see little use in today`s motoring world. This example is no exception, and will likely require light restoration of the brake hydraulics before setting off on a long distance tour.
This is an unparalleled opportunity to acquire an exceptionally unique and elite piece of international automotive history. A fully acknowledged car by the Maybach owner`s community, its history is undoubted. A comparable car in many ways to the Mercedes-Benz 500/540 Special Roadsters, this matching numbers Maybach SW38 Roadster will appeal to seasoned collectors with an eye for an exceedingly rare car which represents the finest form of style and craftsmanship of its era.
Like a Spezial Roadster Merc. only about $7 mil cheaper. Good buying for one of the most desirable cars ever made.
#25 – Hispano – Suiza J12 1933 Labourdette DHC, offered, My best guess would be USD $3 mil.
Status: For Sale Build Year: 1933 Colour: Black
Reg No: USJ 267 Engine No: – Chassis No: 14001
History and assessment from Jules Heumann – Hispano Suiza Society
Henri Moreall, Chef de Garage for Hispano Suiza, in the Hispano department established to service Hispano cars had his head mechanic, Louis Rossigniell assemble this car in 1949 from parts left in inventory after World War II. Louis who told me the story, was my friend and died about ten years ago. There was an original 14001 which was the factory J12 trial car and it is conceivable, though not verified, that perhaps this was the chassis used for the car in question. It is also possible that the original 14001 had disappeared and the number 14001 was convenient to use for a spare chassis, I do not know.
The car was assembled to the order of Prince Poniatowski who was a senior Vice President of Hispano Suiza. When the President of the Company, Maurice Heurteux, found out what had happened he was furious and caused Moreau to leave the company and set up a separate business to service Hispano cars. Moreau was able, however, to purchase for a token amount all of the factory automobile spares; what is left of this hoard remains today in France.
At that time Hispano Suiza had needed extra warehouse space and by coincidence had rented the old Labourdette factory. Still working there as warehousemen were several of the old Labourdette employees. It was they who built the body for 14001 and it was a very simple affair, resembling greatly the typical British sports cars of the era such as an Aston Martin. It had two very small doors and a rudimentary windshield. The fenders were quite simple in design and I do not believe there was a canvas top.
I do not know where the car spent most of its life but it was eventually purchased by Dr. Irvin Ginsburg of Buffalo, New York, who had substantial modifications performed on the car. There was a complete mechanical rebuild, followed by many modifications to the body. The doors were redesigned and enlarged as well as being hinged on the other edge. A new windshield was fitted and the rear area was made into a rear seat accessible through the new doors. A top was fabricated and installed and both the front and rear fenders underwent total redesign. The rear end of the car was remodelled.
My own conclusions about this car are that it is definitely an Hispano Suiza J12, assembled from authentic Hispano parts,not assembled by the factory but assembled 12 years after the factory had ceased production. This is a cloud which will persist about this car but, as far as I am concerned, it is a real Hispano, one that you can be proud to own
An amazing Hispano, worth every cent for what must be one of the ULTIMATE Grand Routiers
#26 – Ford GT40 1965 #1003 – Asking ??, My Guess $3 mil. USD
Built to take on the might of Ferrari, the Ford GT40 was one of those rare racing cars that not only successfully challenged the opposition but also comprehensively defeated it, winning Le Mans four successive times from 1966 to 1969.
In the hands of future Formula One constructor Guy Ligier, GT40 P/1003 was the first GT40 to claim a victory in Europe. It ran under the Ford France banner for Ligier through the 1965 and 1966 seasons before passing on to Jean-Michel Giorgi, who continued to race it as a Ford France car. During that time GT40 P/1003 was only ever out-performed by another GT40 on four occasions!
In Ligier’s hands it debuted at the 1965 Nurburgring 1000 Km’s, co-driven by Le Mans winner Maurice Trintignant. Ligier then gave the GT40 that historic first European win at Magny-Cours and followed it up with another victory in the Trophee du Cognac. There were class wins on the Chamrousse and Mont-Dore hillclimbs, with further competition that season at the Ollon-Villars mountain hillclimb and one final victory at Albi.
The following season Ligier, with close friend Jo Schlesser, took the class win and fifth overall at the Nurburgring 1000kms, before 1003 was bought for the 1967 season by the aforementioned Giorgi.
Giorgi continued where Ligier had left off. With Henri Greder co-driving, he and 1003 took an incredible class win in the Targa Florio, finishing an almost-as-astounding fifth overall. Exactly two weeks later, with the same driver pairing, the GT40 repeated its class win at the Nurburgring 1000kms, coming home seventh overall this time.
The Reims 12 Hours followed one month later, then another class win at Magny-Cours. 1003 ran what would prove to be its last race as a Ford France car in October 1967 at the Paris 1000kms at Montlhery.
Having had just one British owner for over 30 years, GT40 P/1003 ranks as one of the most original in existence. It signifies a momentous chapter in the motor sport history of both the Ford Motor Company and that of France, making it one of the most important GT40’s in the world.
Great car with a good history, a very desirable GT40
#27 – Ferrari 206SP 1964 #0834 – SOLD for undisclosed sum, My Guess $3 mil. USD
Scuderia Ferrari 1000km Monza 1965 Baghetti/ Biscaldi Ret., 1000km Nurburgring 1965 Bandini/ Vaccarella 4th, 24h Le Mans 1966 Giancarlo Baghetti/ Casoni Ret. > uprated 2.0 litre engine fitted running more radical cam-timing + Lucas fuel injection > 65 – Barchetta 206 P – no roof at all > 65 – Ludovico Scarfiotti won the European Mountain Championship > Venturi Italy 1966 Targa Florio 1966 Venturi/ Williams 4th > 67 – Leandro Terra, I alias “Cinno” Targa 1969 Terra/ Barbuscia 26th, Targa 1970 Terra/ Barbuscia Ret. > 97/oct – SMC > 97/oct – Andrew Fisher, Palm Beach, FL, USA > 98/may – Carlos Monteverde, UK (in exchange for Dino 008 & $? via SMC) > 99/mar – Harry Leventis, UK > via. Fiskens etc. > Austria 2012
Great car with the best history of the 166P/206P/206SP models, and looks fabulous.
#28 – Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet A 1936 #130945 Est. EURo 2 mil. + SOLD
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen
Chassis No. 130945
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of €2.324.000
180 bhp, 5,401 cc, OHV supercharged straight eight-cylinder, four-speed manual transmission with pre-select on 3rd and 4th gear, independent front suspension by unequal length wishbones and coil springs, rear swing axles with trailing arms and coil springs, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 129.5″
• One of a limited few transitional 500 K-540 K Sport Cabriolet A models
• One hundred-point restoration; Pebble Beach award; Best of Show at Forest Grove
• Two Monte Carlo Historic Rally entries
• Prominently featured in Jan Melin’s definitive book, Mercedes-Benz 8: The Supercharged 8-Cylinder Cars of the 1930s
• Inspection by experts from Mercedes-Benz Classic Germany
If W.O. Bentley’s 4½-Litre Le Mans winner formed the definitive shape of the 1920s sports car, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K defined the 1930s. Its presence is still vaguely shocking on first encounter, but it is so unapologetically grand that the shape is utterly iconic.
It is hard now to imagine the mechanical world into which the 380/500/540 K Mercedes-Benz roadster landed, except perhaps to point out that the majority of European cars could manage two-thirds of its 106-mph top speed at best (and at about 10 percent of the cost, admittedly) and only one percent of its style.
Development of the 540 K
The 540 K’s story really starts in 1932, with the 3.8-litre Mercedes-Benz 380, which already had the look and the supercharger. However, it was handicapped by all-up weight of 5,000 lbs. and a meager 120 bhp. This was addressed at the 1933 Berlin Motor Show when the 500 K (Kompressor means supercharger in German, hence the “K”) was launched, the eight-cylinder motor having been enlarged to five litres and delivering 160 bhp.
Instrumental in development was Dr Hans Nibel, who was the chief engineer for Benz before the merger with Daimler and who succeeded Ferdinand Porsche on his departure in January 1929. Nibel had cut his teeth on the enormous Blitzen Benz racers before WWI, and he and Hans Wagner cooperated on the independent suspension of the new 380. His last contribution would be the supercharged 500 K engine, as he died of a stroke soon after in 1934.
Nibel also strove to establish the Mercedes-Benz in-house coachworks, which would become known simply as ‘Sindelfingen’, for the town in Germany.
The 380/500 K/540 K employed a massive chassis with huge side-members. Front suspension was by unequal length wishbones with coil springs, whilst the rear involved swing axles and double coil springs on each side. The engine was cast as a monobloc, with head and block together, and the four-speed transmission was semi-automatic, with pre-select between 3rd and 4th gear. The supercharger was engaged when the accelerator was pressed to the floor, producing an extra 65 bhp and a most satisfying howl.
However, the 500 K made its mark in competition early on in the 1934 Deutschland Fahrt (Tour of Germany). Covering 1,364 miles through Germany, the factory 500 Ks and private entries dominated the field of 190 cars.
The “look” had been accomplished, with the V-shaped grille moved back from the front bumper, bracketed by trumpet horns and spotlights. With twin exhaust pipes projecting from the side of the hood, the engine was edging towards mid-location and the cockpit set back almost at the rear wheels, but the 500 K still needed more power. The result was the 540 K of 1936.
Whilst small numbers were bodied by custom coach builders like Saoutchik in Paris, Erdmann & Rossi in Berlin and even Carlton in England, the definitive style was set by Hermann Ahrens at the company’s subsidiary coachworks at Sindelfingen.
Chassis no. 130945
This car represents an important transition in the evolution of the supercharged eight-cylinder cars that came out of the Stuttgart factory. From the 380 to 540 K, Mercedes-Benz practiced what may be referred to as “running changes” – when a viable engineering development came along, it was incorporated into the next car built.
It represents one of the earliest road going uses of the new 5.4-litre motor. According to information provided by Mercedes-Benz Classic Germany, the car belongs to Series 29 08, in which the first 5.4-litre motors were utilised. The coachwork, meanwhile, is of series 820600, for which ten bodies were built, five with five-litre motors and another five with 5.4-litre motors. Chassis 130945 is therefore a very transitional model with a sleek, low-beltline body and the newly introduced 540 K motor.
Consequently, the evolution of the name 540 K Sport Cabriolet came into being, separating them from the other cars labelled Cabriolet A. It is one of the earliest 540 Ks and one of six “in transition” Cabriolet models. As a result, it has the horizontal hood louvers of the 540 K but both spares are on the boot, instead of one being recessed like the 1937 540 K Spezial Roadster. It also has an exceptionally low windshield and the long open wings typically seen on the Spezial Roadsters.
S/n 130945 was delivered on 18 October 1936 to Maria Leyder of Stuttgart. After World War II, the car eventually made its way to the United States and into the ownership of Don Rounds of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 1970, Rounds sold the car to Lowel Ledford, who kept the car for 15 years, performing its first restoration prior to its acquisition by noted collector and dealer Don Williams in 1985.
Subsequent owners have included such prominent figures as Japanese collector Nachiro Ishikawa, who kept the car in California, where he had some fettling done by noted Mercedes-Benz specialist Scott Grundfor. He subsequently ran it twice in the Monte Carlo Historic Rally, covering 2,000 miles with first place finishes in 1991 and 1994. Shortly thereafter, he sold the 540 K to noted Mercedes-Benz expert and MBCA member Thomas Taffet, along with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS Prototype Roadster. In fact, during the same period, the car was featured in a seven-page spread in The Star magazine for an article written by author and automobile authority Dennis Adler. Furthermore, the car is prominently featured in the second edition of Jan Melin’s definitive book on these cars (page 219).
In 1994, Taffet commissioned a sympathetic restoration and had the car repainted and reupholstered, changing its colour from red to black with a black leather interior–a stunning combination. A full mechanical rebuild was performed, including the original Rootes-type supercharger. Chassis, suspension, steering and braking systems were restored as well. The result earned a class-win at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1996.
Some 12 years after its initial restoration, Taffet engaged a second restoration of his car, with absolutely no expense spared. Determined to achieve 100-point status, he completely disassembled and stripped the car. Over a two year period, he methodically rebuilt and restored every part of his coveted Mercedes-Benz. Finished in flawless black with claret accents and matching black cloth top, the car evokes a look of elegance second to none.
The interior was done in black leather with contrasting red piping. The centre dash is mother-of-pearl with ivory gauge faces and switches surrounded by polished wood–certainly one of its most attractive features.
Given these restorations, the Mercedes-Benz has won numerous awards in serious concours competition. It was first shown in 1996 at the Forest Grove, Oregon Concours, where it took “Best of Show”, prior to being judged at Pebble Beach with 100 points that same year. Thereafter, the car was on display at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California. Earlier this year, and following its most recent restoration, it was presented at Donald Trump’s concours event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Presented along with some of the world’s greatest cars, it was honoured with a trophy for the Most Elegant Car.
In 2011, the car was personally inspected by two veteran experts from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre in Germany, with extremely positive results. In their expert opinion, the car retains its important original components, namely the correct engine (number 150945), which is original to the chassis. The transmission is conclusively original to this car as well. Furthermore, the body’s originality was confirmed by multiple discoveries of the correct number 820609 in both wooden and metal locations. As for the ancillary items, including the supercharger, steering box and rear axle, these were also of the correct type and series.
This Sport Cabriolet A is an excellent example of one of the most significant Mercedes-Benz automobiles ever built, and its configuration is extremely rare. The exceptionally low windshield and setback radiator give the body a very sporting look whilst the twin rear spares lend the design a European flair, particularly when compared to the more conventional Cabriolet A body configuration with its higher beltline.
This important car is a contender for inclusion in any serious collection of pre-war European classics, where its style and universal appeal will be appreciated as much as its mechanical specifications, startling acceleration and exceptional handling.
Wonderfully stylish 1930’s grand routier.
#29 – Porsche 911 RSR Turbo Racer 1974 #911 460 9016 (R9) SOLD US$2.95 mil.
1974 Porsche RSR Carrera Turbo 2.14
CHASSIS NO. 911 460 9016 (R9)
■The Second of Only Four Martini Works Turbo 2.14 Models Built
■Used for Extensive Testing and Development Work
■Participant in the 1974 World Sports Car Championship Season
■Top Ten Finishes at Nürburgring and Österreichring
■Well-Documented History and Provenance
■Wonderfully Preserved, As-Raced Condition
■Offered with Original Factory Paperwork
■One of the Most Important 911s in Existence
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2,142 CC SOHC Flat 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
Single KKK Turbocharger
Estimated 450 HP at 8,000 RPM
5-Speed Type 915 Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Ventilated Disc Brakes
4-Wheel Independent Double Wishbone Suspension with Coil-Over Shock Absorbers and Anti-Roll BarsThe RSR Turbo 2.14
At the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1973, Porsche unveiled a special 911 concept car that changed the course of sports car history. With RSR fender flares, a large rear wing and the word “Turbo” emblazoned over the rear haunches, the new Porsche offered an exciting new glimpse at the future of the 911 series.
A month later, Porsche announced that they would cease factory-backed racing activities for 1974, allowing private entrants to represent the marque with the Group 4 RSR. However, in cooperation with Martini & Rossi, Porsche entered a turbocharged Carrera in the Group 5 category for the Manufacturer’s Championship, just as had been done with the prototype RSR 3.0 models of 1973.
At the time of the announcement, Porsche had little more than a concept for a turbocharged racing Carrera, yet the idea was appealing for several reasons. Not only would a Turbo Carrera expand on the technical expertise gained during the final years of the 917 program, it would set the stage for the production Porsche Turbo that was being developed for the 1975 model year. Furthermore, the promise of a “silhouette formula” in the near future made a Group 5 Turbo Carrera an ideal platform for experimentation.
Over the winter of 1973–1974, Porsche began work on their latest racing 911 using a standard RSR as the foundation.
To comply with the Group 5 regulations that limited capacity to three litres, a 2.14-liter engine was developed with a magnesium alloy crankcase, polished-titanium connecting rods, enlarged oil-pumps, dual ignition, Bosch mechanical injection and sodium-cooled valves. At the rear of the engine, a single KKK turbocharger was mounted in the manner of the 917 Can-Am cars. This potent engine was mated to the five-speed RSR transaxle with an 80% locking differential and special half-shafts for increased strength.
Like the engine, the chassis was a vast departure from the production 911 and Porsche implemented the best RSR and 917 components. The standard torsion bar suspension was replaced with progressive-rate titanium coil springs, Bilstein shock absorbers, anti-roll bars and boxed-aluminum trailing arms. The result was a suspension assembly 66 lbs. lighter than those of the RSR 3.0. To this sturdy foundation, Porsche equipped the Turbo Carrera with RSR-type brakes and massive rear wheels for additional grip.
Again, using the RSR as the basic foundation, the bodywork made extensive use of fiberglass, with lightweight plastic forming the front fenders, rear aprons and all door and deck lids. Similarly, the interior was stripped of all unnecessary details and outfitted with an aluminum roll cage, boost gauge, boost knob and full-race controls. At the rear, a substantial rear wing was fashioned to both increase downforce and provide a more discreet inlet for the intercooler. In an attempt to maintain a visual relationship with the production 911 , the large rear wing was painted black to downplay its size.
After extensive testing, the RSR Turbo 2.14 made its competition debut at the Monza 1000 Kilometers finishing 5th overall and proved extremely successful at the 1974 24 Hours of Le Mans finishing 2nd overall behind a Matra sports prototype. Throughout the 1974 season, the Turbo Carrera continued to be tested and improved, eventually leading to the introduction of the 935 in 1976.
Presented here is the second of the four Carrera RSR Turbo 2.14s purpose built for the 1974 Group 5 Championship. Constructed at the development center in Weissach during the Winter months of 1973–1974, chassis 911 460 9016 was given the internal designation R9.
According to letters from the Porsche factory, R9 was “handmade in long duration” and used for testing and development in January 1974 at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the South of France.
Following substantial revisions at Weissach, R9 and another RSR Carrera Turbo premiered as factory entries at the Le Mans trials beginning on March 23, 1974. Finished in the classic Martini & Rossi livery – silver metallic striped in red and blue – R9 wore race number 1 and was driven by works drivers Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Müller.
Although the new cars experienced the expected difficulties, Helmuth Koinigg’s Turbo Carrera turned a lap time of three minutes and 55 seconds – 11 seconds faster than the best lap recorded by an RSR 3.0 the previous year. During the Le Mans four-hour race – run in two separate heats – Lennep and Müller showed great promise driving R9, although the car failed to finish either heat. In race one, the Porsche ran out of gas on the final lap and, in race two, the
turbocharger gave up.
Following the Le Mans tests, Porsche made the intercooler part of the Turbo Carrera’s standard equipment and revised the intake manifold to improve air distribution. In April and May, R9 served as a training car for the Monza 1000 Kilometers and Spa 1000 Kilometers before making its competition debut at the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometers on May 19th.
With Schurti and Koinigg at the wheel, R9 completed 30 laps and finished 7th overall while the sister car, driven by Lennep and Müller, finished 6th overall. Notably, the best result for a normally aspirated Carrera RSR was 12th overall.
After gearbox trouble prevented a finish at the Imola 1000 Kilometers, Lennep and Müller drove R9 to an impressive 6th place overall at the Österreichring 1000 Kilometers in Austria. A testament to the outright speed of the Turbo Carrera, only the Matra-Simca, Alfa Romeo and Gulf-Mirage sports racing prototypes finished ahead of R9.
At the end of the 1974 season, R9 was reconditioned at the Porsche factory and sold to Dr. William Jackson of Denver, Colorado, for 77,700 DM. A well-known and respected enthusiast, Dr. Jackson was one of the earliest and most discerning collectors of Porsche racing cars. Over the years, Dr. Jackson owned some of the most important examples of the marque, including 550 and RS Spyders, two America Roadsters, an Abarth Carrera, a 904 and a 911 R.
On August 25, 1975, Porsche corresponded with Denver collector Grady Clay regarding Dr. Jackson’s purchase of the Martini Turbo Carrera, acknowledging receipt of the 25,000 DM deposit. Significantly, the letter details the Turbo Carrera’s history and states that R9 covered 5,500 km throughout its various training and racing sessions.
In February 1976, Porsche issued the Importer’s and Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin and the former Martini Racing Team Porsche arrived at its new home in the US. For the next three decades, the RSR Turbo 2.14 remained a fixture in Dr. Jackson’s collection. Fortunately, the Porsche saw very little, if any, use during that period, thereby preserving the car in outstanding, as-delivered condition.
In October 1999, Dr. Jackson finally sold the works Porsche to classic car dealership Heritage Classics in Los Angeles, California. It wasn’t long before Matthew Drendel discovered the car’s whereabouts and, in Fall 2003, R9 found a new home in the Drendel Family Collection.
Over the past nine years, the RSR Turbo 2.14 has been selectively displayed in concours events – Rennsport Reunion and the 100 Motor Cars of Radnor Hunt – and was featured in Porsche’s “Family Tree” commercial, which was produced for the introduction of the Panamera.
Unlike the vast majority of racing sports cars, the Martini & Rossi works Porsche remains in exceptionally original, unrestored condition, essentially untouched in every significant way. Upon inspection, one finds traces of each and every modification made by the engineers at Weissach, fascinating evidence of experimentation. Whereas most 911-based racing cars were built to strict specifications, this car played a unique role, serving as Porsche’s test-bed while attempting to build the first turbocharged 911s.
Beyond its own special qualities, R9 is offered with a remarkable file that contains original letters and invoices from Porsche as well as the original Importer’s and Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin. Such important artifacts are rarely seen and support the unique history of this magnificent motor car.
If only for its status as one of, if not the very first purpose-built 911 Turbo, R9 is among the most historically and technologically significant Porsches in existence. It is the origin of one of the greatest racing programs in history and, as such, embodies the spirit of competition. Its marvelous unrestored state, impressive racing history, iconic Martini & Rossi livery and unquestioned provenance are qualities that place this car in an extremely rarified category of competition cars.
An irreplaceable piece of motor sports history, this RSR Turbo 2.14 is a Porsche of immense appeal and importance.
Wonderful, and very usable piece of Porsche history, very powerful looking beast of a car.
#30 – Itala GP 1908 #871 Est. US$2.3 mil. + SOLD US$2.7 mil.
1908 Itala Grand Prix Car
Registration no. LD 2301
Chassis no. 871
Engine no. 871
Sold for £1,737,500 inc. premium
Here we are delighted to offer nothing less than one of the most iconic road-useable racing cars ever to grace the British register. It is by any standard one of the best loved vehicles within the entire British treasury of Veteran, Edwardian, Vintage and Classic cars.
It has been a mainstay of the United Kingdom’s ‘old car’ movement for over 100 years, and it was one of the iconic motor cars around which – in 1935 – the Vintage Sports Car Club was founded.
The 1908 Grand Prix Itala as offered here, known for most of its long life by the affectionate nickname ‘Floretta’, is a big, buxom, muscular, Italian diva. As such she not only has a racing record extending from her debut at the highest purebred level to the present day, but she has also been used for many thousands of spectacular motoring on the public road.
The car is offered here as used by George Daniels himself in such memorable events as the Grand Prix de l’ACF centenary 1908-2008, at Dieppe, and as the very embodiment of the Vintage Sports Car Club’s founding spirit…
George Daniels is thought to have been only the sixth principal owner. From its earliest days as a factory Grand Prix car with Itala SA Fabbrica Automobili, Turin, Italy – through the hands of R. Wil-de-Gose in whose hands ‘Floretta’ raced at Brooklands – the car passed obscurely into the hands of the proprietor of the Schole Inn at Diss in Norfolk, from him to RAF pilot John Pole, thence – around 1937 – to Cecil ‘Sam’ Clutton and his associates Peter Robertson-Rodger and Dr Bob Ewen. ‘Sam’ Clutton later shared the car with like-minded enthusiast and fellow VSCC luminary Jack Williamson until, after more than 50 years of ‘Sam’s stewardship ‘Floretta’ passed into George Daniels’ connoisseur care.
Prominent pioneer motoring historian Kent Karslake was a great friend not only of ‘Sam’ Clutton but also of ‘Pom’; Laurence Pomeroy, celebrated Technical Editor of ‘The Motor’ magazine. In his wonderful book ‘From Veteran to Vintage’ (Temple Press, London, 1956), Kent Karslake wrote: “The demise of the giant racer might well have resulted in their disappearance from the face of the earth, but posterity is in fact singularly fortunate… One of the 1908 Grand Prix Italas was probably saved from destruction by being fitted while it was yet young with a touring body, and has never been entirely neglected. Of recent years it passed into the hands of Mr. Cecil Clutton and the late Dr. G.A. Ewen who, in a long series of speed events, have shown a skill and sympathy in handling it…”
He continued: “It is with the Itala that I myself have had the closest contact, and it has been a contact fit to grace a motoring lifetime. Like the FIATs they used the short stroke of 160mm with the maximum permitted bore of 155mm, which gave them a capacity of 12,076cc and perhaps in consequence they were less powerful than the 14-litre Bayard-Clements and the victorious 13-litre Mercedes….
“The Itala…”, he wrote”…has a starting handle which is a masterpiece of artistic solidity. The grip is amply large enough for two hands, if two hands are needed on it; but in practice they seldom if ever are. The engine, like most of its size and period, is fitted with a sliding camshaft which can be used to reduce compression for starting purposes, and with this in operation, the big engine can be turned with comparative ease.
“As is perhaps still generally known, a 4-cylinder engine, once the initial impulse has been given to it, very nearly swings itself, the release of the compression in one cylinder carrying the engine over the compression in another. All that is required by the operator is not muscular strength but a certain knack in starting the process.
“Once this has been applied to the Itala, one can go on swinging it as easily as if its capacity were 1,200 rather than 12,000 cc; and if your appearance is as feeble as the author’s, one can watch delightedly out of the tail of one’s eye, while thus engaged, strong men who are not in on the secret visibly blenching and wondering when you are going to burst. Unfortunately, there is seldom any opportunity for the performance to be prolonged; after a few turns the giant engine usually bursts into life with a shattering roar, so startling even when expected that it requires great presence of mind to remember to slide the camshaft back onto full compression.”
Kent Karslake first had the opportunity to drive the great car in 1948, in Dunkirk. He recalled: “I have no hesitation in saying…that the Itala is not only one of the most exciting cars that it has been my lot to drive, but also one of the least alarming. How big a car feels to its driver appears to bear no relation to its actual size, and, from the point of view of tractability and accurate placing on the road, this is a Gargantuan that feels like something out of Lilliput.
“The steering is of thoroughbred precision, with no trace of undue heaviness in spite of the fact that the wheel only needs one complete turn from lock to lock.
“The gear lever is pushed or pulled, rather than flicked, in its gate, as if to indicate that there is something pretty solid in the way of pinions on the other end of the mechanism, but it moves with complete smoothness, and the gears change with unfailing ease and silence for any operator versed in the first principles of sliding-pinion gearboxes”.
He then warned: “Yet there is one insidious peril in the driving of the car. There is, it must be remembered, 100hp available to the driver, delivered at only 1,800rpm, which means that when the engine is exerting a really tremendous urge, it sounds and feels as if it was doing next to no hard work at all. The effect of this on the driver, at least until he is accustomed to it, is an intoxicating sense of power without responsibility. He is tempted to feel that he can do no wrong and, as he sweeps along with this huge surge of power, obedient to the lightest whim of his right toe, to throw back his head, and fill the astonished air with echoing peals of Homeric laughter.
“I have sat beside Mr Clutton as he drove it mile after mile at 85mph, aimed with the precision of a cannonball at that point on the horizon where a long straight French road met the sky…”
Yes – this extraordinarily imposing 1908 Grand Prix Itala plainly embodies everything about which Mr Toad might have gasped, “Oh bliss – oh joy – Ooh Poop-Poop!…”
The Itala company was founded in 1904 by Matteo Ceirano and Guido Bigio with backing from a Genoese financial group. Initially it mimicked trendsetting Mercedes designs, featuring advanced shaft – rather than chain – drive to a live rear axle.
Matteo Ceirano was keen upon promoting his marque’s prowess through competition. ‘Floretta’ offered here was one of only three 1908 Grand Prix cars custom-designed under the direction of Alberto Balloco, chief engineer 1905-1919. In 1906 works driver Alessandro Cagno won the first Targa Florio in Sicily with a 7.4-litre 35/45hp model, while sister Italas finished second, fourth and fifth. Prince Scipione Borghese then chose the same Itala model to achieve his now legendary victory in the 1907 Peking-to-Paris epic.
But the French Grand Prix, more properly the Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France, was by far the most important race of that era. Just after the 1907 event, an International Conference in Ostend discussed a new ‘Formula’ – or set of technical racing regulations – for 1908. With racing rules varying between nations, manufacturers had to construct different cars for each one.
Against this background, for 1908 a unified racing Formula was agreed. Minimum weight was to be 1,100kg – 2,425lbs – while engine bore diameter was fixed at a maximum 155mm for 4-cylinder engines and 127mm for 6-cylinder units. The Automobile Club de France further announced that in 1908 its Grand Prix would be run over the same Seine Inferieur circuit outside Dieppe as in 1907 (when Felice Nazzaro and FIAT had won for Italy).
The 1908 Grand Prix de l’ACF then received entries from no fewer than 17 manufacturers; Brasier, Bayard-Clement, Lorraine-Dietrich, Mors, Motobloc, Panhard-Levassor, Porthos and Renault from France – Benz, Mercedes and Opel from Germany – Austin and Weigel from Great Britain – plus Thomas from the USA and Germain from Belgium, while FIAT and Itala joined in from Italy…
Itala’s number one driver, Alessandro Cagno, was sometime chauffeur to Queen Margherita. His experienced French team-mate Henri Fournier was not only Itala’s French concessionaire, having already won the 1901 Paris-Berlin city-to-city race. A third GP Itala was to be handled by the less well-known Giovanni Piacenza. The Torinese team based themselves at Martin-Eglise on the Dieppe circuit. The competing cars were due to start the great race at one-minute intervals, the first setting off at 6.01 am under overcast skies and with a strong onshore wind.
Cagno was accompanied by riding mechanic Moriondo – Fournier by Ayana and Piacenza by Craviolo. Cagno’s car, race number ’12’ was the first Itala starter, at 6.12am, followed by Fournier – ’29’ – at 6.29, and finally Piacenza – ’45’ – at 6.45. Away they rumbled on the first of the ten long 79.988km – 49.71-mile – laps.
Nazzaro’s FIAT took the lead on lap 2, while the unfortunate Piacenza retired his Itala with gearbox trouble. The big leading FIATS of Louis Wagner and Nazzaro then both retired. After five laps – 385kms, 248.55 miles – Christian Lautenschlager was leading for Mercedes, with the delayed Italas of Cagno 26th and Fournier 29th. While Lautenschlager’s ultimately winning Mercedes lapped in 38mins 42secs, Cagno’s best for Itala was a very quick 39:26 on his first lap, while Henri Fournier’s was timed at 39mins 55secs, and his seventh at 39:10 after lengthy early delay. After eight hours – and 769.880kms, 478.48 miles – of punishing Grand Prix road racing, Cagno’s Itala finished 11th and Fournier’s 20th.
These GP Italas were entered in the great race as having 4-cylinder engines with cylinders cast in two blocks of two cylinders each, bore 154.8mm x stroke 160mm, displacing 12,045cc. Wheelbase was listed as 2.92 metres, maximum track 1.40 metres. However, ‘Floretta’ today has a 3.05-metre – 118.3-inch – wheelbase. In fact a Bonhams analysis of 1908 Grand Prix paddock photography now suggests that while Cagno and Fournier drove matching short-wheelbase Italas at Dieppe, Piacenza’s works car was visibly longer. Although ‘Floretta’ has been described repeatedly over many decades as having been Cagno’s car, this evidence suggests she was more probably Piacenza’s. Further evidence supporting this assertion is that Piacenza’s is recorded as also having been the heaviest of the 1908 Grand Prix team cars, scaling 27cwt 3qr 15lbs against the winning Mercedes’ 22cwt 4lbs. This would be consistent with the perceived extra chassis length.
Laurence Pomeroy wrote in his seminal two-volume treatise ‘The Grand Prix Car’ (Temple Press, London, 1953) “The car constructed by the Itala company for this race can be considered typical of design practice at this time. It embraced a live rear axle, a feature which was perhaps something of an advance, but, on the other hand, retained side exhaust and overhead inlet valves and low tension ignition at a period when overhead valve engines with high tension ignition were by no means unknown.”
He emphasised that an Itala completed the first 48-mile lap only 57 secs behind the eventual winner, Lautenschlager’s Mercedes. He added that in 1940 at Brooklands the same model covered a flying quarter-mile at 85mph and a standing quarter mile in 20 secs. That car was not in the best of tune, and it is fair to assume that in original condition it could have achieved 95-100mph flat-out.
‘Pom’ went on to comment upon the car’s relatively majestic size, adding “…it is worth emphasizing that there was very little wasted space. It is indeed notable that the bonnet fits so closely around the engine that the overhead valve gear projects above the level of the radiator and had to be covered by a protuberant cowling”.
In describing this Itala’s massive 4-cylinder engine, ‘Pom’ wrote: The designer chose the maximum permitted bore and cautiously approached the problem of raising the piston speed above the 1500rpm which was the then existing standard. Given the opportunity of unlimited stroke, he decided to fix the figure at 160mm, which permitted a maximum engine speed of 1,800rpm with a piston speed of 1,700 feet per minute. At this speed the car was theoretically capable of 113mph so there was a reasonable balance between the factors of bhp, rpm and reliability.
“The cylinders were formed in pairs from iron castings, the water jacket extending about one-third of the way down the bore. The exhaust valves were situated in laterally located pockets at the near side of the engine, the inlet valves being mounted above them in detachable cages. The exhaust valves, therefore, were operated directly from a side-mounted camshaft and the inlet valves through push rods and rockers… The crankshaft ran in a similar type of bearing was approximately 55mm diameter, and innocent of counterbalancing…” he added, with a smile.
In conclusion, ‘Pom’ added: “The 1908 Grand Prix Itala was somewhat overweight and under-powered by comparison with the best designs of the time and for this reason had no great success in Grand Prix racing. It has, however, in later years proved to be an outstandingly reliable design, two cars participating in racing at Brooklands until1914, one in 1910 averaging 97.5mph for 19½ miles and lapping at 101.8mph. This car survived and continues in competition use today…”
After the Grand Prix at Dieppe, these Itala team cars were shipped to Savannah, Georgia, for the American Grand Prize road race. Cagno progressed from tenth place on the opening lap to fourth by lap 3. But he was then forced to retire, while Fournier finished eighth, and the unfortunate Piacenza crashed his entry.
But on home soil in the Coppa Florio race – at Bologna – Cagno’s Itala finished third at 66.4mph, despite breaking its spring hangers and then having its radiator burst on the final lap. Fournier was blinded by Cagno’s dust and left the road, while Piacenza again failed.
Within a year, in 1909, R. Wil-de-Gose, AMI Mech E (later general manager of The Crescent Cinema in Pontefract, Yorkshire), appeared at Brooklands in what became ‘Floretta’ now offered here. He immediately lapped the Outer Circuit at 93.22mph. Back there in 1910, Wil-de-Gose’s ‘Sixty Itala’ lapped at 100.36mph, and soon after at 101.80mph! It is significant that Lord Vernon, in the ex-Fry, ex-Tate 1908 Mercedes lapped at 101.59mph – almost matching the outright speed of the Italian-made Grand Prix car now offered here…but not quite.
It appears that the car was owned during this period by a Mr H.T.I. Young of Lambourn, Berkshire At least two alternative racing body shapes appeared on the car, one with pointed ‘draught-includer’ nose at Brooklands, and another with beetle-back tail at Saltburn Sands in Yorkshire, before – presumably late – in 1910 the car was rebodied by Vincent’s of Reading into four-seat form for high-performance road use. Its original artillery-style wooden-spoked wheels had been replaced by wire wheels as still used today, and even in Brooklands form the car was UK road registered ‘LD 2301’.
The car survived World War 1 and the 1920s in relative obscurity until on Sunday, May 17,1936 the infant Vintage Sports Car Club ran a speed trial at Aston Clinton, in which the Edwardian class was won by John Pole – then a serving Royal Air Force officer – driving the “12-litre 1908 Grand Prix Itala”.
In a highly entertaining ‘Cars I Have Owned’ article published in ‘Motor Sport’ magazine, December 1960, John Pole wrote: “In 1927 I stopped for lunch one day at the Scole Inn at Diss, on the Norwich-London road. After lunch I happened to wander round the back of the inn…and I saw a gigantic old touring car filling a shed, and covered with crates, bottles, chicken much, dead weeds – everything.
“The proprietor of the inn told me it was a 1908 racing Itala, given to him by a friend, driven up from London in 1920 and never used since.
“In 1936 an interest in old cars had started, and I remembered the Itala. I went to Scole one Sunday morning and sure enough the car was still there in the same old shed and looking dirtier and vaster than ever. I bought it for £25, and a week later I went with two friends and a 30cwt Morris truck with tools and equipment to bring the car away, under its own power if possible.
“It took us three days to make it drivable. A lot of wiring and water tubing had to be replaced and the old tyres cut off the rims. The low-tension ignition system was a mystery to me, as was the petrol feed which appeared to be maintained by pressure from the exhaust pipe.
“However, we got petrol to the carburettor, and I then thought we had better tow the car around for a few miles in gear to free everything up before trying to start the engine. We had a solid tow bar on the Morris, and this was hitched on and the Itala towed out on to the main London road in neutral.
“When we were in position, I put it in second gear and with the clutch out we started rolling. At about ten miles an hour I cautiously let the clutch in.
“There was a shuddering, convulsive earthquake beneath me as four ancient pistons started to sweep twelve litres of cobwebs and dead spiders out into the silencer. And then, without a trace of warning, the great engine burst into life with a shattering roar. The hand throttle had been left half open and the Itala surged forward against the solid tow bar before I had a chance to depress the clutch, which anyway nearly required two feet to it.
“It was too much for the poor 30cwt Morris. The kick in the pants from the Itala sprung the chassis and the bottom fell out of the cast aluminium gearbox. My own exultation was something I’ll never forget. We had not put the bonnet on, and clouds of dust and dirt swept over me as I kept the engine revving. The tow bar was unhitched and I drove the car back into the yard. The next morning a ceremonial farewell drive was arranged, and all the Scole Inn staff; chambermaids, waiters, the cook, everybody, climbed onto the car and I drove them up the main London-Norwich road about a mile and then back. There were about twenty people clinging on somehow and amidst the screams of the females we probably did about 70 or 80mph. Nothing and nobody was licensed or insured and nobody fell off and got killed”.
Having revived this imposing Grand Prix car, John Pole quite quickly sold it on to vintage motoring enthusiast Cecil ‘Sam’ Clutton. In 1937 the Itala’s co-owner Peter Robertson-Rodger drove it in a three-lap VSCC demonstration at the opening Crystal Palace race meeting, with ‘Bunty’ Scott-Moncrieff in the Itala’s passenger seat. The Littlestone Speed Trials on a building estate near New Romney, Kent, saw Clive Windsor-Richards driving, and later that year at Croydon’s Autodrome Driving School course Cecil ‘Sam’ Clutton handled the great car, placing third in class. ‘Sam’ won the three-lap ‘Pre-War Car’ handicap race at Crystal Palace in April, 1939, and on August 26 – barely a week before World War 2 erupted – he posted second-fastest time in class at Prescott hill-climb, 64.03sec to the winner Anthony Heal’s Fiat on 62.13.
Days later, the VSCC sent a six-page newsletter to its 300-odd members, which began “This Tedious War: The Club will be put to bed, with its bank balance, for the duration. Current subscriptions will continue to be current, until the next event after the outbreak of peace…”. The notice ended: “If any of us are (a) alive, and or (b) solvent at the end of it all, we must then decide how best to pick up the threads of civilization (i.e. motoring) again…”.
This great Itala was about to endure the second global war within its long lifetime. Competition motoring within Britain was still almost out of the question when the VSCC’s AGM was held at the Punch House, Piccadilly Circus, London on January 17,1947. Membership had risen to 660 and R. Wil-de-Gose of Itala Brooklands fame had donated the ‘1908 Grand Prix Itala Cup’ to be awarded annually in a race for Vintage cars.
On June 22,1947, the Club’s Madresfield Park rally in Worcestershire saw Dr Gerald Ewen sharing an award in the Clutton Itala and as Peter Hull recalled in his ‘History of the Vintage Sports Car Club’ (1964) “On the way back to London the Itala was passed for what was believed to be the very first time in its life; but as this was by Landon’s Alfa this was felt to be no serious disgrace…”.
Meanwhile, in early March that year a small VSCC party had braved the snow to take a selection of interesting cars up to Cambridge for examination by members of the University Automobile Club. ‘Bob’ Ewen brought the Itala while ‘Sam’ drove his Type 49 Bugatti. They found that the CUAC were negotiating to run a second circuit-race meeting on Gransden Lodge aerodrome. The VSCC members offered to help so the two clubs could run the event as a joint meeting. On July 13, 1947, after seemingly endless problems, the event went ahead, and the Edwardian race saw ‘Bob’ Ewen timed at 63.51mph for one of the three laps it survived, after which its radiator boiled dry and the footbrake caught fire…
As 1948 marked the 40th anniversary of the Itala’s racing debut at Dieppe, ‘Sam’ Clutton took the great car to Reims-Gueux, to witness that year’s Grand Prix de l’ACF. He recalled: “When we were within 40 miles of Reims the twisting of the chassis had sprung a leak somewhere near the top of the Itala’s petrol tank. No one imagined that (it) could reach Reims until late in the evening. Clutton was accompanied by fellow enthusiast/historian Kent Karslake who set off to man the pump pressurizing the punctured tank.
“His only relief could be when the engine was switched off and the car coasted in neutral down long gradients, otherwise he had to pump without cessation in order to maintain air pressure in the tank. To minimize his efforts a cruising speed of 85mph and upwards was maintained for those last 30 miles into Reims, and the Bugatti Black Bess and Vauxhall were soon caught and passed. As we came into the city itself Karslake continued pumping with one hand, whilst with the other he searched feverishly in the Guide Michelin for the whereabouts of the Lion d’Or, where we were to stay. With an expiring cough, the Itala rolled up to the front door of the hotel, its last drop of petrol exhausted – not to mention Karslake…”.
Charging back to catch the ferry in Dunkirk , ‘Sam’ misjudged a corner and careered “…down a railway track. The Itala soon crashed to rest, but it was found that the flywheel was jammed between a sleeper and some point-operating mechanism, so the efforts to move the car only resulted in a shower of sparks being generated by friction between the flywheel and the rail…
“At the same moment it was observed that an almost equally un-illuminated locomotive was rapidly bearing down upon the outfit.
“Clutton accordingly hastened to alight from the Itala and ran to make a speech to the engine driver, which had the effect of bringing the juggernaut to rest before the ultimate disaster occurred. After a great deal of pushing and shouting, and after the engine driver had with difficulty been restrained from executing his desire to push the Itala off the rail with his locomotive, a causeway was finally built up and the Itala was pushed to safety.”
With only three big-end bearings and bottom gear by this time stripped, Bob Ewen nursed the great car onto the cross-Channel ferry with only 15 minutes to spare before departure. On board it was found that during this epic drive both the spare wheels had fallen off the car, and one road wheel had a slow puncture. ‘Sam’ began to pump it up whereupon the tyre detonated violently, ending up completely flat and with a 12-inch split in both inner tube and outer casing. Eventually landed back in England, ‘Floretta’ finally limped under her own power into the Ewen garage at Richmond, successfully completing what had been a dramatic 40th birthday outing…
Dr Ewen’s patients could never be quite sure which car he might use on his rounds, and it was not unknown for a deafening rumble to herald his arrival outside a patient’s house in ‘Floretta’…
The great Itala continued to compete in race, sprint and hill-climb meetings throughout the remainder of the 1940s, and on through the 1950s-60s-70s-80s -90s into the 21st centruy… In 1949 a VSCC Bulletin described how “…when taking off, the Itala arches its back to such an extent that the doors invariably fly open, and as most of the driver’s seat departs with the door this could be very embarrassing if the doors were not invariably lashed together when racing”.
By 1950 Bob Ewen could win the Edwardian class at Prescott with a time of 57.16secs, while in the 1952 Pomeroy Trophy event – which became an annual highlight of VSCC competition, the Itala’s fuel consumption was checked at an amazing 16.7 miles per gallon. Dr Ewen also won in the Club’s Silverstone race meeting that May, while the Wil-de-Gose-donated Itala Trophy race had become a major feature of VSCC meetings.
Dr Ewen passed away prematurely in December 1953, and for decades thereafter ‘Sam’ Clutton shared the Itala with fellow enthusiast Jack Williamson, who expertly maintained ‘Floretta’s ageing mechanicals. In 1978, the great car’s 70th birthday coincided with 50 years of Mr Clutton’s ownership.
Amazingly unscathed Italian Grand Prix car from 1908. Ready to go, but maybe a display in a museum would be best