Chapman's Trophys

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Although predominately a blog for German Marques, there are certain British brands that have always had a strong appeal. Regular readers will be aware of a love for the Norton brand, and when it comes to cars, there has always been an unfulfilled desire to own a Lotus. Somewhere deep in the subconscious is a sense that Colin Chapman's mantra of "Simplify, and then add lightness", is a fundamental principle of goodness that goes beyond automotive applications. Anything that is a manifestation of that principle is of interest. So when the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania announced a Lotus exhibit, it was a must see event.

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Chapman was a designer, an engineer, and a racer. Businessman, not so much. His wife put up the £25 Sterling to start Lotus in 1952. Selling parts and ideas and cars, was a way to finance the research and development conducted in his laboratory, which was the race track. The road cars were celebrated for their handling and performance. They were also criticized for their compromises to get there. These were machines for sporting drivers who were not concerned about creature comforts. Looking at the numbers on a spec sheet would mislead one into thinking that they were underpowered. They were not. And as a bonus, they were capable of being readily upgraded just by introducing more power. Brilliant.

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The exhibit featured a range of cars from early to late, and from race cars to road cars. It was great to see one of the famous "backbone" frames with everything attached except the body. It gives you a real appreciation for the design. The open wheel cars are some of my favorite race cars of all time, and are perhaps the ultimate expression of simplicity. Plus, they look stunning in the classic green and yellow livery. The most elemental road car is the Lotus 7. It is really an open wheel car with fenders and a license plate. There is a reason that it has spawned innumerable imitators and can still be purchased today. The Elans and Elites are more refined, if you dare use that word in connection with an early Lotus. The Europas and Esprits were much more sophisticated and had supercar looks and appeal. And who does not love the black and gold liveried John Player Specials ?

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The exhibit helped to articulate the amazing impact that Chapman and Lotus had on the history of Grand Prix racing, and on sports cars over many decades. Each of the cars on display was a prized trophy earned by Colin Chapman. However, my favorite trophy of the exhibit was the Lotus Cortina. It has been a dream car since childhood, and remains one today. There is something about that sedan in white with a green wedge stripe. And as a young boy, the sound of the Lotus twin cam engine with dual webers, left an indelible imprint. 

Posted on January 25, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, Motor Sports, car.

Stoye

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Walter Stoye founded the company that bears his name in Liepzig in 1925. The primary focus was sidecars, but the company did also produce trailers and even custom motorcycles. The first sidecars were well made and luxurious. They featured suspension and were trimmed with leather and chrome. Along with these, Stoye produced motorcycle utility trailers and commercial sidecars. These proved popular with small vendors and tradesmen. 

Following the war, Stoye found itself in the East German sector, and became the choice of sidecar for EMW and MZ. They became known for their distinctive and stylish nose,  which tapered to a vertical point. The company was nationalized in the early 1970s, and continued to produce new and classic sidecars for decades and are still in business today. You can find Stoye sidecars on many vintage german motorcycles and on machines from British to American.

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Posted on January 18, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, motorcycle.

Alpina

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Although Alpina was not founded until the 1960s, its roots go back to Typewriters and industrial equipment just like many other German manufacturers. in 1965 Burkard Bovenseipen started a tuning company for BMW cars which were now equipped with Weber carburetors. It was conveniently located in Bavaria, first in Kaufbeuren at the old Alpina typewriter factory, and then in Buchloe. 

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It did not take long for Alpina to prove that it could produce cars with superior performance and reliability. Their work on the BMW 1500 was universally praised and caused BMW itself to offer Alpina engines under factory warranty. In 1968, Alpina entered competition in the Super Touring category. In 1970, they won the European Touring Car Championship, the German Championship, and the 24 hours of Spa Francorchamps. The following year, to remain dominant, they worked with BMW to create the legendary 3.0 CSL lightweight coupe. More success follows in the early 1970s including another European Touring Car victory in 1973.

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Off the track, Alpina added distinctive styling cues and luxury appointments to the well-developed performance package. In the mid 1970s, they also began to build a dealer network in Germany, and the first dealers abroad are established in England and Switzerland. In the late 1970s, the German TUV approved Alpina as a distinct manufacturer. There has been a long list of impressive Alpina models over time based on BMW 3, 5, and 7 series platforms, and Alpina continues as a manufacturer today.

Posted on January 11, 2015 and filed under car, Classic Vehicles.

Goebel

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Karl Goebel began as a producer of bicycle frames in 1937 in Bielefeld. It was bad timing as World War II broke out a few years later and the factory was eventually destroyed. They produced motorcycles for the first time in 1951 beginning with the Standard 50. Improvements followed as 50cc and 48cc motors from Ilo and Fichtel&Sachs were paired with strong frames to create well received machines in the marketplace. One of their best selling models was the GS4 Sport, but they also did well with models like the Piccolo, and the Avus. Goebel was one of the most prevalent marques to use the "semi- circular" frame which connected the front fork, the main backbone spar, the engine mount, and the swingarm mount, via a single length of tubular steel.

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Among other business deals, Goebel acquired the floundering Meister (see Remembering Meister), but decided not to continue that brand. Ironically, Goebel survived the tough economic times early on and stayed in business producing mopeds until 1984 when it declared bankruptcy.

Posted on January 3, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Classic Vehicles.

Porsche HLS

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A great story about a Porsche which never made it. This was an engineering project to create a racing coupe with a "folding" roof.  We think it bears some resemblance to a Saab Sonnett when viewed from the front, but was based around the 911 and probably had influence from the 904. That makes it strange as the beautiful 904 was in production around this time, and the folding roof idea seems like pure novelty. The Swiss Porsche Diba based on the 911 platform came later, but also has a lot of similarities. See the original story at the link below.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/classic-cars/news/a24466/not-even-google-has-heard-of-this-porsche-911-hls/ 

Posted on December 28, 2014 and filed under Classic Vehicles, car.

Classicus Recyclus

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On the first day of Classicus my true love gave to me, a bone stock E30 M3.

On the second day of Classicus my true love gave to me, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the third day of Classicus my true love gave to me. three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the fourth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the fifth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the sixth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the seventh day of Classicus my true love gave to me. seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the eigth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. eight Rennsports racing, seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the ninth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. nine knees a draggin, eight Rennsports racing, seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the tenth day of Classicus my true love gave to me. ten Porsches playing, nine knees a draggin, eight Rennsports racing, seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the eleventh day of Classicus my true love gave to me. eleven alpine tour days, ten Porsches playing, nine knees a draggin, eight Rennsports racing, seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

On the twelfth day of Classicus my true love gave to me, twelve Samba buses, eleven alpine tour days, ten Porsches playing, nine knees a draggin, eight Rennsports racing, seven slingers slinging, six pistons pumping, FIVE LIGHTWEIGHT RIMS, four weber carbs, three willing friends, two Gerbing gloves, and a bone stock E30 M3.

Posted on December 25, 2014 and filed under car, motorcycle, Commentary.

NY IMS 2014

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Manhattan, NYC. The Holiday Season. Motorcycles. Not a bad combination. With dates shifted around, the New York show is now in mid December. Manhattan is already a cool place to visit around the Holidays, so adding a motorcycle show makes it even better. The International Motorcycle Show (IMS) is usually a welcome winter break, since vintage iron is just a small piece of it, but it is always fun to see the latest and greatest.

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As you might expect, the NY show has more of an urban theme. It has a stunt show, some crazy street machines, external body armor, etc. However, it also has all of the major manufacturers, and some minor ones as well. Lots of them feel that vintage and retro sell, so there was actually some interesting stuff for the crew to look at and discuss. Some of the new retro machines customized to look 60 years old actually look good. Triumph, Ducati, and BMW had nice machines on display. There were many cafe racers around as well.

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We finally got to see a Motus in the flesh. It is a nice looking machine with quality components. The engine is of course the star as it is half a V8. Another interesting vendor was Motopeds, who had some interesting small bore machines. Polaris brought its new Slingshot 3 wheeler. KTM had the much anticipated 390 Duke. There was the normal array of accessory vendors, and Moto clothing. The show continues to be a good way to indulge your love of things on two wheels at a time of year when riding them is more limited. 

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Posted on December 20, 2014 and filed under Events, motorcycle, Automotive Industry.

The Pre-Hibernation Ritual

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Right before animals in the wild go into hibernation, there is a heightened period of activity for preparation. There is a flurry of gathering of nuts, and collecting of items needed to make it through the long winter nap. This preparation is essential to surviving the winter, and must be approached with a sense of purpose and determination. It must also take advantage of any leeway that Mother Nature may offer via an Indian summer, or a mild day as winter prepares its' onslaught. And so it was that there was a gathering of nuts today, as temperatures hovered a full 10 degrees above freezing, and fine machines needed to get the fluids circulating perhaps for the last time this season.

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The usual suspects descended upon the unsuspecting folks of an otherwise peaceful hamlet, and invaded their Eating hall. There was much recounting of halcyon days, tales of daring, epic battles, heroic conquests, and even some truth thrown in for good measure. The Earl of Bruce provided a fermented concoction brought back by the people of Nog when they returned from failing to conquer Jamaica. Only a few Noggins made it back, but they managed to capture something called Rum Creme, which they incorporated as an improvement over regular Egg Nog. However, their inability to hold their liquor was legendary, and Nog civilization was soon destroyed. But I digress....

Once they had their fill, they took their leave of the hall to the great delight of the fine people of the hamlet. Mothers clutched their children and averted their eyes (ok, that might have been due to one of the invaders smelling like burned castrol with a faint bouquet of carbon monoxide, but still..). Elders wished they were going off to battle with them. Outside stood their mighty steeds.

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Alfa Romeo Berlina

Porsche 911T Targa

MGB

Ferrari 400i

Porsche 911 SC

BMW 2002 tii

Porsche 911 SC Targa

Mercedes SL Kompressor

And they roared off into the distance, ensuring that butterflies and jets were operable over their entire range, and that suspension components were supple and responsive. They made a great and mighty sound throughout the countryside, and may have startled a few poor Lexuses on their way to brunch. By and by, they paused at the estate of the Van Sants, who provide stables and winter lodging for strange flying machines. Before the Van Sants could be insulted by a random remark from young Arthur, they fled into the countryside and continued in spirited fashion for hours more.

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Miracles were witnessed as the Alfa started twice, and the MGB once. Some continued to more eating and drinking. Some went to adorn their caves with decorations of the season. Some went to tend to their steeds. Regardless, they now feared no hibernation, for their parts were well lubricated. In the words of the ancient philosopher, Rustophiles, "Tis a better beast that emerges in the spring, that was flogged in the fall".

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Posted on December 14, 2014 and filed under car, Rides and Drives.

Zundapp K800

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The early 1930s found Zundapp struggling at just 5% of the market share and with little in the way of exciting products. Their engineering prowess was well established however, as Zundapp collaborated with Ferdinand Porsche on some volkswagen designs that would later influence the Beetle. The answer to the product dilemma was the K series. This was an all new platform that would serve for models from 200cc up to 800cc. The K series was launched in 1933, and the K800 was the flagship model.

K stood for Kardanantrieb which basically described the drive train. It was a Cardan shaft drive, which was mated to a four speed hand-shift gearbox. The gearbox was in turn mated to a horizontally opposed four cyliner engine that generated about 27hp initially. The first K800 measured 797cc in displacement which grew to 804cc by 1938. The drive train is attributed to engineer/designer Richard Kuchen. The K series included a number of novel ideas at the time including enclosed shaft drive, a unique "strainer" oil filtration system, enclosed crankcase, etc. Front suspension was a girder fork with a single spring, while the rear was rigid without suspension.

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The bikes were beautiful in their design. Pressed steel frames were similar to the BMWs of that era, but the lines and the finishes for both frame and engine were an elegant and complementary combination. This is particularly true of the interface between the fuel tank and the frame, but it also extended to the two-tone fishtail exhaust, and the "ears" for the headlight bucket. Even the vents/intakes for the engine complemented the design. Floor boards were provided for both rider and passenger. In the end, the K series had the desired effect, boosting Zundapp's market share to 18% by 1939. The basic configuration would inspire that of Honda's Goldwing 40 years later. It was also a platform which generated some memorable machines at the time besides the K800 (see The Green Elephant) Having seen one up close at the Barber Museum, you can see why it is considered one of the great designs of the last century.

Posted on December 7, 2014 and filed under Classic Vehicles, motorcycle.