All posts by Larry Edsall

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State Univeristy.

Mr. 25%’s ‘Beatles’ Bentley up for auction at Coys sale

Photo courtesy of Coys
Photo courtesy of Coys

The Beatles had just flown back to England after their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. Their flight into Heathrow airport landed at 7 a.m. U.K. time, and yet some 10,000 fans were there to celebrate Beatlemania’s success overseas.

Oh, that’s 10,000 fans and a film crew from the Pathe News, which was there to interview the Fab Four.

One of the first questions was how the Beatles were going to spend the money they’d brought back from America.

In unison, John, Paul, George and Ringo answered: “What money?”

“Doesn’t he (the band’s manager Brian Epstein) give any to you?” came the question as the camera rolled.

Have you seen that car of his?”

— George Harrison

 

“No, no,” said George, laughing, “Have you see that car of his?”

“That car” was parked just outside Heathrow’s VIP suite. It was a new Bentley S3 that had been purchased by the man known as “Mr. 25%,” which was Epstein’s cut of the band’s gross earnings. The car had been ordered late in 1963 and was picked up by Epstein’s valet while Epstein was in the U.S. with the Beatles.

Still wearing its original AJB400B license plates, Epstein’s Bentley will be among the cars up for auction March 11 at Coys Spring Classic sale in London.

Epstein kept the car until October 1965. Now, after 25 years of possession by its current owner, it is being offered up for auction with its original registration and a thick file of his historical documents, which detail such things as its repainting, the overhaul of its engine, and the conversion of its radio to receive FM signals.

 

Hooves? No, Clydesdales had four wheels (and other things we learned reading McFarland books)

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

Think “Clydesdale” and the images that probably come to mind are those strong and majestic horses in the Budweiser beer commercials. But did you know that a couple of decades before the Anheuser-Busch brewery trotted out its now iconic horse-drawn wagons in 1933, the Clydesdale was the emblem of a car company?

Well, not exactly a car company, but the Clydesdale Motor Truck Company?

I’d never heard of Clydesdale trucks, let alone their “Driver Under the Hood” engine governor system or their pioneering work in diesel technology, until receiving notice of a new book, The Clydesdale Motor Truck Company An Illustrated History, 1917-1939, from what has become my favorite book publisher, and if you really like classic cars, should become yours as well: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Based in Jefferson, a small Blue Ridge town in northwestern North Carolina near the state’s borders with Tennessee and Virginia, McFarland was founded in 1979 by Robert McFarland Franklin to publish library-oriented reference books and “scholarly monographs on a variety of subjects,” according to the company’s website. McFarland publishes about 400 books a year, several of them on automotive history.

I’ve read more than two dozen of McFarland’s automotive books and have seven more on my “yet to read” stack (see photo).

Among those I’ve yet to read is one of McFarland’s newest, Tiffany Willey Middleton and James M. Semon’s book on Clydesdale.  Although, I have peeked into the book enough to learn that while the Clydesdale Motor Truck Co. used the big work horse as its emblem, the company’s name really traces to Clyde, Ohio, where it was founded and where Middleton was born.

Semon, whose specialty is the history of railroads, also is from Ohio.

McFarland books not only are well-written histories — often with appendices, vehicle specifications, chapter notes, bibliographies and complete indexes – but they are wonderfully illustrated histories as well, though by their nature most of the photographs are black and white.

I’ve also thumbed through American Automobiles of the Brass Era: Essential Specifications of 4,000+ Gasoline Powered Passenger Cars, 1906-1915, with a Statistical and Historical Overview, by Robert D. Dluhy. While short on words and pictures, it’s chock full of charts and statistical tables.

For example, a 1907 American Napier 18/20hp Nike Runabout sat two, had a four-cylinder engine with a 3.5-inch bore, 4-inch stroke, displaced 153.9 cubic inches, produced 18 horsepower, had a 90-inch wheelbase, was steered from the right-seat position, was priced at $2,250, rode on 32 x 3.5-inch tires, and weighed 1,500 pounds.

And there is similar information for more than 4,000 such vehicles from that period.

In that pile of books I’ve yet to read, you might notice Gold Thunder, Autobiography of a NASCAR Champion, by Rex White as told to Anne B. Jones. While I haven’t read it, I have read several other McFarland books on motorsports, including a couple of early accounts about NASCAR, a book on American sports car racing in the 1950s, a history of the auto races held in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park from 1908-1911, and the amazing biography of Joan Newton Cuneo, the Lyn St. James or Danica Patrick of her era, which was 1905-1915.

I also made mention of McFarland publishing scholarly books. The Corvette in Literature and Culture: Symbolic Dimensions of America’s Sports Car actually started out as author Jerry W. Passon’s Ph.D. dissertation at Southern Illinois University.

As I said before, if you’re into classic cars and their specifications and corporate histories, or into the early history of auto racing, McFarland probably should be your favorite publisher as well.

To learn more about McFarland and its books, visit the www.mcfarlandbooks.com website.

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Reading this could win you a free classic car book

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Did you know that the names of nine Spanish cities — Cordoba, Granada, Ibiza, Leon, Malaga, Marbella, Rondo, Seville and Toledo — have been appropriated by automakers for their own vehicles?

You no doubt know that England’s national racing color was green and Italy’s was red. You even may know that Spain’s was red with a yellow hood. But did you know the national racing color assigned to Jordan was brown, or that Egypt’s color was purple?

Neither did I until I spent a dollar Sunday to buy a copy of Chapman’s Car Compendium: The Essential Book of Car Facts and Trivia. When British auto writer Giles Chapman wrote his book in 2007, it cost $21.95 to buy a copy.

Seven years later, it carried a $2 sticker at the 58th annual VNSA (now known as the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association but originally the Visiting Nurse Service Auxiliary association) Used Book Sale in the huge Exhibit Hall at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

There are somewhere around half-a-million books available at the sale, and all of them have been separated into one of 27 categories to make finding what you want that much easier. I usually go to the sale Sunday after church, partly because the church I attend is 25 blocks east of downtown Phoenix and the fairgrounds is 19 blocks west of downtown, partly because on Sunday almost all the books are half price.

In addition to Chapman’s book of car facts, I bought a copy of Cars of the World in Color, by J.D. Scheel, translated by D. Cook-Radmore and illustrated by Verner Hancke.

I paid a whole $1.50 for this book but, after all, it is a first edition, begins with a 35-page historical survey of automotive history, has color illustrations of everything from an 1875 Markus to a 1962 Pontiac Tempest, and concludes with 10 gorgeous illustrations of famous auto races.

And even though I already have a copy, I also bought Driven: The American Four-Wheels Love Affair, because it was written (in 1977) by my former publisher and AutoWeek mentor Leon Mandel.

I also bought a book on the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, three books on baseball (including a collection of baseball stories by Zane Grey, the minor-league player turned Western novelist) and, as a gift for one of my daughters and her daughter, Clues for Real Life: The Classic Wit & Wisdom of Nancy Drew.

And for those eight books and the hours of enlightenment and entertainment they’ll provide, I spent a grand total of $7.50.

Actually, though, I’ll be spending a little more than that. As I mentioned, I already have a copy of Leon’s book, Driven. So here’s what I’m going to do: Use the comments section (Share your thoughts) below to share the title of your favorite automotive book and I’ll enter your name into a drawing. If you win, you’ll get my “barn-found” copy of Leon’s book.

Sneak peek: Sedona screening previews automotive film festival planned for 2015

Illustration courtesy Reels and Wheels Fest
Illustration courtesy Reels and Wheels Fest

At 1 p.m. Saturday, February 22, amid the red-rock splendor of one of Arizona’s primary tourist attractions, the 20th annual Sedona Film Festival will screen the movie 1, a documentary about Grand Prix racing and the drivers’ push to make the sport less dangerous for its heroes.

But the showing of the movie, and the presence in Sedona of director Paul Crowder for a post-screening question-and-answer session at the Sedona Performing Arts Center, is just a preview, as they say at the movies, of what’s coming in 2015.

The plan for the 21st Sedona Film Festival is to devote the first weekend of the event to the theme “Reels and Wheels: An Automobile Film Experience.”

Not only will auto-themed movies be shown inside the various Sedona theaters, but plans are being made for a drive-in style evening so members of car clubs and others can display their classic and custom cars and then sit back for an old-fashioned, 1950s-style evening of watching a movie under the stars.

Officials of the Sedona festival are working with the organizers of the Automotive Film & Arts Festival, which staged its inaugural event last summer on the Monterey Peninsula in northern California.

The plan, according to a statement by the auto film group, will be to “to bring automotive enthusiasts and film-lovers together to explore the world of automobiles through film, interactive displays, celebrity and driver meet-and-greets and a pavilion displaying famous movie cars.”

The 21st Sedona Film Festival is scheduled for February 19-March 1, 2015.

More details will be posted on the www.reelsandwheelsfest.com website.

Here’s the link to the trailer for 1: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2518788/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

 

Eye candy: Headlamps

In Cars: 1886-1930, the first book in the encyclopedic three-volume Cars of the Century collection,  G.N. Georgano, automotive historian (and former schoolmaster and from 1976-81 the head librarian at the National Motor Museum of Britain), writes, “The only form of lighting available on the earliest cars was the candle lamp, inherited from the horse-drawn carriage.

“It was barely adequate to render the car or carriage visible by others,” he continues, adding in wonderful understatement, “but was quite useless as illumination to show the driver where he was going.”

By 1900, Georgano notes, acetylene headlamps were available. The gas to be  burned to produce illumination to light the way was produced by dripping water  onto calcium carbide, sometimes within the lamps, which by necessity became quite large, or, preferably, within a device mounted on one of the car’s running boards.

Though homes began to benefit from electric lights in the 1880s, they proved difficult to use on carriage or car, in part because of the problem of generating sufficient electricity and in part because early light bulbs couldn’t tolerate the vibrations of rough road surfaces.

General Motors engineer Charles Kettering’s invention of the self-starter (based on the electric motor he had used to power office adding machines in his previous job) has been well documented. But Georgano notes that not only did Cadillac replace the crank with self-starting technology for the 1912 model year, it coupled that innovation with electrical lighting systems for its cars.

Not only do headlamps light the way for a driver to travel at night, they serve as the eyes of what designers call the “face” of car.

In this latest edition of “Eye candy,” we take a close look at the eyes of some classic cars.

 

 

McCormick ready for 56th Palm Springs auction

Photos courtesy McCormick Classic Car Auction
Photos courtesy McCormick Classic Car Auction

Keith McCormick was little more than a youngster back in his native England when he began restoring cars at his parents’ home.

“When I got married, we married young and now its 48 years later,” he said of his marriage to Delsey. “We had zero money. The first car we restored as a couple was a Ford Thames van. We paid five pounds for it. We sold it for 25 pounds. There was no looking back from there.”

Well, except the day the police arrived.

“I was selling cars from my home,” McCormick said. “The police posted a notice about misuse of the premise, so we rented a little gas-station forecourt and sold three cars the first weekend.”DSC_5882

Eventually, the McCormicks’ owned five car dealerships, which they sold so they could move to Palm Springs, Calif., in 1981, where they planned to enjoy an early retirement.

But the cost of living in California consumed their savings. McCormick bought a gas station and started selling cars again. He also helped launch the Palm Springs vintage races, which brought motorsports celebrities Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant to town.

“That gave me name recognition so I could do a car auction,” McCormick said.

Not only did he have name recognition, but he was encouraged by part-time Palm Springs resident and television star Telly Savalas.

We have created a village-type auction atmosphere here,”

— Keith McCormick

 

McCormick staged his first classic car auction in 1985. February 21-22, he’ll stage his 56th. The location is The Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs.

McCormick and his family — Delsey, their son Jason and daughter-in-law Julie —  a few employees that have sort of become family not only do auctions twice a year in Palm Springs, but also have a classic car dealership.

“Palm Springs has a village-type downtown and we have created a village-type auction atmosphere here,” McCormick said. “We get 20,000 people to the events and we know most of them and what they bought and when they bought it.”

McCormick said he has no interest in doing auctions in other locations. “I’m just a homebody with a wife, kids and grandkids. Everybody gets involved in the business. And we’ve made money along the way. But money is not the big factor in life. Family and being happy is more important.”

McCormick’s auctions feature 540 cars — that’s all there’s room for at the casino — but each event actually can claim closer to 600 sales. That’s because cars that arrive early go to the consignment showroom, where pre-auction sales often take place, thereby opening room for additional cars at the actual auction.LOT 201 1993 VECTOR W8

Speaking of the cars available at the auction, McCormick said they’ll range from MGBs to one of the 17 Vectors (see photo) .

“They’ve sold from $400,000 to $1 million,” he said of the Vector, which he added was the first car to reach 242 miles per  hour on the Salt Flats at Bonneville. “Our’s has done 2,000 miles and belongs to a Hollywood-type whose name we cannot divulge.”

To see the online auction catalog, visit www.classic-carauction.com.

Mullin museum to unveil recreation of advanced 1930s Bugatti airplane

Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum
Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum

Classic car enthusiasts know the name Bugatti from the amazing racing and road cars created by Ettore Bugatti and his son, Jean. But did you know that the Bugattis were a family with artistic skills through several generations, creating everything from paintings to sculptures, furniture to cars, and even an ahead-of-its-time airplane?

On March 25, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif., opens an exhibition, “Art of Bugatti,” that will feature the work not only of Ettore and Jean, but of  Ettore’s father, Carlo, a famous 19th century furniture designer, and of Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt, who was known for his paintings, especially of animals.

In addition to creating some of the world’s fastest racing cars, Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis dMonge designed an amazingly technologically advanced airplane in the late 1930s. Their 100P, the prototype was built between 1937 and 1940, had forward-pitched wings, a “zero-drag” cooling system and even “computer-directed” analog flight controls, all pre-dating the development of the Allied forces’ best World War II fighters.

Bugatti 100P - rear overhead view
Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum

Power came from a pair of 450-horsepower engines. The 100P could reach speeds of 500 miles per hour, a speed previously achieved only with twice the horsepower. The aircraft also was compact, with a wingspan of less than 27 feet and an overall length of less than 25 1/2 feet.

Work on the plane halted in June, 1940, and the 100P was taken from Paris at night and hidden in a barn to prevent its discovery by the German military. The original prototype survived the war, but was not in good enough condition to fly.

In 2009, retired U.S. fighter pilot Scotty Wilson, engineer John Lawson and business development specialist Simon Birney began work under the banner of Le Reve Bleu (The Blue Dream) to recreate the airplane using the same plans (at least those that survived), materials and processes used by Bugatti and de Monge.

The completed aircraft will be shown for the first time at the Mullin as part of the Art of Bugatti exhibition.

This incredible piece of engineering and design will receive the broad recognition it deserves, 77 years later.”

— Scotty Wilson

 

“We’ve searched for years to gather the best examples of the Bugatti family’s work and couldn’t be more thrilled to host the 100P at our museum,” Peter Mullin, museum founder, said in a news release.“Bugatti has always been known for their remarkable automobiles, but the 100P is one of the missing pieces that truly shows the breadth and depth of the family’s work.”

Mullin’s museum and his personal car collection focus on Art Deco designs. His 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne won best-in-show honors at Pebble Beach in 2011.

“For the first time, this incredible piece of engineering and design will receive the broad recognition it deserves, 77 years later,” said Wilson.

Plans call for the recreated 100P to make its first flight after its display at the museum.

Update: First Corvette emerges from sinkhole, starts and is driven away

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Editor’s note: Here’s the latest from the National Corvette Museum, where eight cars were swallowed recently by a sinkhole:

Construction personnel, media, museum visitors and staff cheered as the first of eight damaged Corvettes, the 2009 “Blue Devil” ZR1, emerged from the depths of the sinkhole this morning. Not only was the car recovered, but it started after only a few tries and drove some 20 feet to the doorway of the Skydome. Continue reading

New magazine focuses on concours, coachbuilt classics

Mascot COVER PR copy

For 10 or maybe it’s been a dozen years, Jim Pixley Jr. has driven to Amelia Island from his home in Atlanta to attend the annual concours d’elegance, the annual gathering of gorgeous classic cars in an island setting on Florida’s northeastern coast. Afterward, he drives home and then searches the newsstand for a magazine that shows the same sort of cars he’s just seen.

Continue reading

Artcurial’s French-record sale boosts Retromobile auction total to $80.5 million

1931 Bentley and other cars await their trip across the block | Photos courtesy Artcurial
1931 Bentley and other cars await their trip across the block | Photos courtesy Artcurial

Artcurial Paris 2014 at a glance

Total sales$33.78 million
Catalog191 vehicles
Sell-through rate85 percent
High sale$3.44 million
1953 Ferrari 166MM
Next 9 price range$1.01 million to $2.95 million
Next auctionJuly 5, Le Mans, France

For the third year in succession, Artcurial Motorcars has established a record for the largest classic car auction held in France with its two-day sale during Retromobile, which posted $33.78 million in business.

“We are absolutely delighted with the results of this year’s Retromobile sale,” said Matthieu Lamoure, managing director of Artcurial Motorcars. “Interest was strong across the full range of motor cars on offer and the atmosphere in the sales room was fantastic. It was wonderful to present these cars to a room buzzing with excitement and packed with so many true enthusiasts.

“The results speak for themselves and our close-knit team, with a shared passion for collectors’ cars, gives Artcurial Motorcars a very special character.

“Selling the Ferrari 166MM the following day the day after the car crossed the block) has been the icing on the cake!”

For the first time, Artcurial’s Retromobile auction spanned two days, the second called “Solo Alfa” and devoted to 44 Alfa Romeos.

The 166MM highlighted by Lamoure is a 1953 166MM originally built with a Vignale body, but that was switched out in 1954 for one-off Oblin coachwork. The car, with an extensive racing history highlighted by victory in the Liege-Rome-Liege road race in 1953 and a runner-up finish in the Grand Prix at Spa in 1955, was restored to its appearance at the 1955 Brussels Motor Show.

The Ferrari didn’t quite reach its reserve price in bidding during its appearance on the block. However, consignor and bidder agreed to a price — $3.44 million — the following day, making the 166MM the top sale of the Artcurial auction and the second most costly car (after a 1955 Jaguar D-type at RM) during any of the three auctions during Retromobile, Europe’s mid-winter celebration of classic cars.

'65 Alfa TZ brings $1.289 million at Solo Alfa sale
’65 Alfa TZ brings $1.289 million at Solo Alfa sale

From the mid-1970s until 2001, Artcurial was an art gallery that was part of the L’Oreal (cosmetics) group’s holdings. After the gallery closed, catalog publisher Nicholas Orlowski, with investment from French aircraft and technology company Dassault, bought the gallery and with auctioneers Francis Briest, Herve Poulain and Remy Le Fur, turned it into an auction company selling not only art but objects from wine to watches and from comic strips to classic cars. In 2002, Artcurial moved into the Hotel Marcel Dassault, just off the famed Champs Elysses.

Combined with the RM and Bonhams auctions earlier in the week, the Artcurial sale boosted the Retromobile totals to more than $80.5 million.

The top sale completed on the block at Artcurial was $3.44 million for a 1931 Bentley 8-litre Sportsman coupe with coachwork by Gurney-Nutting. Talk about a long run of awards, the car won the best coachwork trophy from the Royal Auto Club in 1932 and also best-of-show at the Louis Vuitt0n concours in 1999.

In addition to the top-10 sales, all of which exceeded $1 million, highlights of the auction included the sales of:

  • An unrestored 1937 Delahaye 135 Coupe des Alpes cabriolet with Chapron coachwork ($128,888) that had been owned by the same family since 1961;
  • A 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Mulliner-bodied cabriolet ($386,065) formerly owned by French film star Brigitte Bardot;
  • A black-with-yellow-flames 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air coupe ($65,953) formerly owned by Ringo Starr;
  • One of seven 1975 Citroen SM Mylord convertibles by Chapron ($739,958);
  • A barn-found 1941 Pierre Faure electric car ($69,170, which was more than double its pre-auction estimate);
  • A collection of archival material from acclaimed car designer Tom Tjaarda ($17,465).

Top-1o sales | Artcurial Paris (prices include commission)

  1. 1953 Ferrari 166MM by Oblin, $3,441,225
  2. 1931 Bentley 8-litre Sportsman coupe by Gurney-Nutting, $2,955,945
  3. 1924 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A cabriolet by Ramseier, $1,737,076
  4. 1934 Hispano-Suiza J12 Type 68 by Vanvooren, $1,520,940
  5. 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, $1,241,540
  6. 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ coupe, $1,289,366
  7. 1933 Delage D8 S cabriolet by Pourtout, $1,281,647
  8. 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS, $1,213,719
  9. 1969 Lamborghini Miura S, $1,088,669
  10. 1969 Maserati Ghibli Spyder 4.9-litre, $1,011,477