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vendredi 31 août 2012
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jeudi 30 août 2012
• 440 bhp at 6,800 rpm, 289 cu in OHV V-8 engine, four 48 IDA Weber carburetors
• ZF 5DS25/1 five-speed manual gearbox
• Independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, • • Independent rear suspension with trailing arms, unequal-length A-arms, and Koni adjustable shock absorbers
• Four-wheel stage II Girling ventilated disc brakes. Wheelbase: 95"
• Debut win at Spa 1967 with Jacky Ickx and the “Flying Dentist,” Dr. Dick Thompson
• Extraordinary racing history; ex-David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Mike Hailwood, and Paul Hawkins
• The first win for the famed Gulf/Wyer Partnership
• Only Gulf team car to win both as a Mirage (’67 Spa) and a GT40 (’68 Monza)
• First of three lightweight production GT40s; one of two surviving
• Early use of carbon fiber-reinforced bodywork
• Famous Gulf camera car used in the epic Steve McQueen film, Le Mans.
• Distinguished provenance, including Sir Anthony Bamford, Harley Cluxton, and others
• Complete with original 1967 Mirage bodywork
• Countless books, models, awards, and event participations
In March 2013, it will be 50 years since Ford instituted the GT40 program. The purposeful mid-engine sports coupe is the finest Anglo-American supercar of the last century, with four straight victories at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race between 1966 and ’69. In 1966 alone, it finished 1-2-3 against Ferrari, in one of the most memorable photo finishes in the race’s distinguished history, cementing the car’s place in motorsports history and on the postered walls of teenaged bedrooms the world over.
Its genesis alone is the stuff of legends and the subject of countless books, summarized most succinctly as a failed buy-out of Ferrari by Henry Ford II.
Blank checks were signed in Detroit, engineering and racing heavyweights were hired, and Lolas were modified and readied for testing. GT/101, the first prototype, was assembled in March 1964, in time for testing and the imminent Ford-Ferrari battle at Le Mans in the summer. Undaunted by a lack of wins, Ford regrouped for 1965 with Carroll Shelby — already a veteran with his Cobras—taking over the GT40 MK II program.
He delivered a win at Daytona with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in GT/103 and a Second Place at Sebring with Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren in the same car. Shelby also ran the first MK II at Le Mans in June of ’65. Meanwhile, John Wyer continued development of the customer 289 GT40 racing cars.
This stunning GT40, chassis P/1074, is very well-documented in GT40 history. It began life as Mirage M.10003, and in its debut at Spa, in May 1967, the legendary endurance racer Jacky Ickx and Dr. Dick Thompson, finished First Overall. This was also the first win for any car under the fabled powder blue (1125) and marigold (1456) Gulf livery. Such an accomplishment on its own would be sufficient to impress any enthusiast, but it marks only the beginning of P/1074’s storied history. It should be noted that Ickx was only in his early-twenties at the time, had just made his first Grand Prix start the same year, and was on the cusp of beginning one of the great careers in motorsports that, to date, includes an extraordinary six wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 25 podium finishes in Formula One, factory racing for Porsche, and everything in between, not to mention winning the Paris-Dakar Rally and even piloting the famous Ferrari 512S for the Steve McQueen film Le Mans.
This particular car DNF’d later that year at Le Mans and Brands Hatch, and then won at Karlskoga and finished Second at Skarpnack, before finishing with a convincing win at Montlhery. Quite the stunning debut for this exceptional racing car!
Following the FIA’s regulation change for the 1968 season, which reduced prototype engine size to three-liters and five-liters for production (Group 4) sports cars, with a limited build of 25 examples, Mirage M.10003 was taken back to J.W.A. in England for its conversion into a Group 4 GT40. The conversion was completed on February 23, 1968, whereupon it became GT40 P/1074, but has since remained complete with its original Mirage bodywork and could easily be returned to that configuration.
It was the first (by serial number) of three lightweight racing GT40’s built for the J.W.A./Gulf team. Its chassis retained the unique Mirage straight substructure forward of the windscreen. Specific to the car were Stage II ventilated disc brakes, a lightweight frame, and a lightened roof.
The body was described as “super lightweight with carbon filament aluminum, fully-vented spare wheel cover, extra wide rear wheel arches, double engine coolers, with the rear panel vented for brake air exit.” The carbon fiber-reinforced bodywork used on the Mirage M1s, now P/1074, P/1075, and P/1076, are reputed to be among the first, if not the very first, uses of carbon fiber panels in race car fabrication.
Currently, P/1074 is fitted with an original, period correct GT40 Ford 289 cubic inch V-8 with Gurney-Weslake cylinder heads, four Weber twin-choke carburetors, and a 351 oil pump with an Aviaid oil pan. During its active career, P/1074 (M.10003) was powered by four other V-8 Ford push-rod engines, including a 289, a 302 (1074), a 305, and a 351 (M.10003). It was painted in powder blue Gulf livery, with a distinctive, constant-width, marigold (orange) center stripe, which instantly identified it as J.W.A’s number two car. On several occasions, it was raced with triangular nose-mounted canard fins to improve downforce. From the outset, 8.5-inch front and 11.0-inch rear BRM Mirage wheels were fitted.
Soon after conversion to a GT40, driven by endurance racing greats David Hobbs and Paul Hawkins, P/1074 raced at Daytona (February 3, 1968), where it was a DNF. This record would soon improve. On March 3, 1968, with the same drivers, it finished 28th at Sebring, then ran at the Le Mans Trials with Jacky Ickx, where it set a 3 minute 35.4-second lap record. Driven again by Hawkins and Hobbs, P/1074 won at the Monza 1000 Kilometre on April 25, 1968. On May 19, 1968, competing at the Nürburgring, David Hobbs and Brian Redman finished in Sixth Place. Hawkins and Hobbs teamed up in P/1074 at Watkins Glen to finish Second. This was the first race that P/1074 was fitted with the larger 302 cubic inch V-8 engine. It DNF’d at Le Mans (September 8, 1968), which was the last race of the season that year, again with Hawkins and Hobbs driving.
In October 1968, P/1074 was loaned to Ecurie Fracorchamps and to a Belgian racer, Jean (Beurlys) Blaton, as a replacement for his P/1079, which had been crashed at Le Mans earlier that year. Beurlys and DeFierlant ran the car at Montlhery on October 13th, achieving an Eighth Place finish. Early in 1969, J.W.A acquired P/1074 again, and in its only race that year, David Hobbs and Mike Hailwood finished Fifth at the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in April, still running the 302 V-8.
This car’s life was about to change dramatically. In 1970, David Brown, of Tampa, Florida, purchased P/1074 and P/1076 from J.W.A. He in turn leased P/1074 to Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions, of North Hollywood, California, in May of that year. Under the care of J.W.A, it was to be used as a mobile camera car for McQueen’s epic production of the movie Le Mans. Steve McQueen had insisted that the cars be filmed at speed. This necessitated that the camera car be capable of very high performance and keeping up with the “star” cars.
For filming purposes, the entire roof section was removed, which left P/1074 with a windscreen that was just a few inches high. It is believed that this operation rendered the doors inoperable. Period photographs of the car show the doors securely taped shut. At the same time, the car’s fully-vented spare tire cover was removed and replaced with the less aerodynamically-efficient “twin nostril” unit from a road-going Mk III GT40.
The modified GT40 was tested at the Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) in Surrey England. The radical changes to P/1074 resulted in a race car with adversely impacted aerodynamics and, in the words of Jonathan Williams, “diabolical” handling. During a test, P/1074 ran over a section of tank tread, which punctured one of its racing tires, precipitating an off-road excursion that dented the belly pan in a few places. Its driver, John Horsman, author of Racing in the Rain, and the film’s director, who was accompanying him as a passenger, were unharmed.
P/1074 was employed as a camera car at the start of the 1970 Le Mans 24-Hour race, where its former driver, Jacky Ickx, was coincidentally also in attendance, racing a Ferrari 512S, no less! Its spare tire cover was removed, and a pair of movie cameras were mounted securely in the spare tire well. Several runs were made up and down the pit lanes prior to the race. It’s uncertain as to whether the car actually ran during the race. A gyroscopically-stabilized, compressed air-powered, 180 degree rotating Arriflex camera was mounted on the rear deck, where it could be remotely-controlled by a dashboard-mounted TV screen. A 35 mm manually-rotated camera was securely mounted above the passenger side door. Its operation required intrepid cameraman Alex Barbey to crouch alongside it in a small rotating seat.
But the combination of these heavy cameras, along with the car’s substantially reduced aerodynamics and now less rigid chassis, meant the car was very hard to control at the 150 mph speeds the filming required. At this time, Dutch skid-pad expert Rob Slotemaker replaced a probably very relieved Jonathan Williams as P/1074’s driver. The much-modified GT40 “roadster” was used in its altered configuration for some five months, until the filming of Le Mans was completed. It was still finished in powder blue and marigold.
After the film wrapped production, Harley E. Cluxton III (then of Glenview, Illinois) bought P/1074 from Mr. Brown. He tested the car at the Glenview Naval Air Station and said that crossing the runway arresting cables at speed was what he could only describe as “interesting.” P/1074 was sold to noted collector Sir Anthony Bamford (Staffordshire, England) in 1972. It was subsequently reconstructed by Willie Green, of Derby, England, who did the rework using a new roof structure obtained from Abbey Panels Ltd. The cut-down doors were replaced with early GT40 units, which meant the car was now equipped with early type “rocker” door handles instead of the sliding levers that are found on later J.W.A. racers.
Other body modifications performed at this time included new rear bodywork, fabricated from a “standard” GT40 production unit with widened wheel flares, so the transom lacked the additional outlet vents found on Gulf GT40s, and the rear wheel arches did not have carbon fiber reinforcement. Finally, the number plate location had to be modified to clear the exhaust pipes when the rear section was opened. Willie Green raced the reconstituted P/1074 at several UK racing events. Subsequent ownership history is well-documented and includes Mr. Cluxton’s re-acquisition of the car in 1983, prior to another restoration.
The peripatetic P/1074 was present at the GT40 25th Anniversary Reunion at Watkins Glen in September 1989 and at the 30th Anniversary Reunion in July, 1994. It has appeared in numerous books, on the “Competition Ford GT40” poster, and it’s been replicated in several models, both as the topless Le Mans camera car and in “conventional” Le Mans racing configuration. The current owner bought P/1074, and sent it to Harley Cluxton for a complete restoration in 2002, where it received a straight nose stripe and a fully vented nose cover. The doors were replaced with units featuring the later rocker style handles (as the car’s original sliding lever handles). The infamous cut-down tail section, which was removed when the car was reconstructed, reportedly survives in France. P/1074 has since been fastidiously maintained by its current owner.
In 2003, Jackie Oliver drove P/1074 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Again in 2004, this well-known and highly-respected GT40 reappeared at Goodwood fitted with nose canard fins and an adjustable height rear spoiler. In 2009, it was driven by its original driver, David Hobbs, at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Class.
• • •
mercredi 29 août 2012
Wordless Wednesday Again
• • •
mardi 28 août 2012
The car sold at the RM Monterey, California Auction on 18 August, 2012 for $341,000.
• Model 1807
•160 bhp, 356 cu in L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission with electric overdrive, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.
• Wheelbase: 138"
• Approximately 11 or 12 originally built, with 9 known survivors
With the demise of Packard's Twelve in 1939, the 180 now took pride of place as the company's top-line car for 1940. Despite the fact that its high-volume, medium-price “Junior” cars saved the company during the 1930s, Packard’s “Senior” models, especially the 180, still set the standard, both within the company and for the American fine-car industry. However, in several ways, 1940 and 1941 marked the curtain call for Packard's “Senior” models, and similarly, the glorious coachbuilt era was drawing to a close. Most of the greatest names in the field had ceased to exist by the late-1930s, but one of the few exceptions was Howard “Dutch” Darrin, whose European-influenced design sensibilities begat some of the Classic Era’s finest automobiles.
In particular, Darrin’s favorite body style was the Convertible Victoria, and he excelled in its execution with an uncanny blend of elegance, formality, and sportiness. Soon after returning to America in 1937 and logically settling in Hollywood, Darrin worked his magic on a European-themed 1937 Ford Phaeton for Warner Brothers’ actor Dick Powell, followed by a similar design on a Packard 120 chassis for RKO actor Chester Morris. A few more cars followed in 1937, as Darrin established himself in Hollywood, and approximately 22 custom Darrins were built in 1938 and 1939 for such “A-List” actors and musicians as Errol Flynn, drummer Gene Krupa, Al Jolson, and Carole Lombard for Clark Gable.
For 1940, 30 cars were produced in all by Darrin, mostly comprising two-door convertibles, plus a number of convertible sedans, with estimates placing build numbers of the latter body style at just 11 or 12. While the two-door cars were indeed handsome, the rare four-door convertible sedans were particularly attractive, with their bodylines perfectly proportioned by virtue of an additional 11-inches of wheelbase, which also made possible a longer hood. Priced from $6,300, the Darrin Convertible Sedan was the most expensive Packard offered for 1940.
Eventually, by mid-1940, Darrin’s custom work on Packard chassis caught the attention of Packard President Alvan Macauley via dealer Earle C. Anthony. A deal was struck for Packard to market the cars as part of its model line, and a factory was established at the Auburn Automobile plant in Connersville, Indiana to build them in 1941 and 1942, just prior to the cessation of civilian automobile production with the onset of America’s full-scale entry into WWII.
This Packard Super Eight Darrin Convertible Sedan from 1940 is the last in the series of Darrin four-door convertible sedans commissioned by Packard. According to the best information available among marque experts, it is one of the nine documented examples remaining today.
Howard A. “Dutch” Darrin (1897-1982). Darrin was a multi-talented athlete, inventor and entrepreneur from Cranford, New Jersey.
Darrin enrolled in the Aviation Division of the U.S. Signal Corps with the entry of the U.S. into World War I, and after a few short weeks of training was dispatched to France where he served for the next two years.
After his discharge in 1919, Darrin used some money he had saved to help found Aero Limited, one of the nation’s first scheduled airline carriers. Using surplus Curtis HS-2L sea planes, Darrin and his partners offered air mail and passenger service between Atlantic City, New Jersey, Nassau (Bahamas) and three Florida cities, Palm Beach, Miami and Key West. The airline was successful until four of their pilots perished when the plane ferrying them between Palm Beach and Miami crashed at sea. Darrin and his partners sold the entire operation to another operator and Dutch returned to New York in 1921 and tried his hand at selling stocks, bonds and enjoyed luxury cars.
Darrin was introduced to Thomas L. Hibbard. Hibbard was impressed by the Darrin’s impeccable taste and intuition for all things esthetic and the pair soon became friends.
The pair sailed for Paris in the spring of 1923, and after surveying the wealth of business opportunities available they decided to stay in Europe to form a partnership to sell luxury motorcars in Paris. Hibbard & Darrin, opened a design office in Paris and designed bodies to be built in Brussels, and then offered them to wealthy Europeans in their Paris showroom.
The Depression hit Hibbard & Darrin hard and the firm closed. In late 1931, Darrin met J. Fernandez, a wealthy Argentinian-born Parisian banker and furniture maker, at one of the many Concours d' Elegance held in and around Paris. Fernandez had a large shop in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-sur-Seine near Long-champs where he manufactured custom built furniture and the occasional auto body for the local Isotta-Fraschini distributor and other Parisian distributors.
In early 1932 Darrin became partners with Fernandez The partners went under the name carrosserie Fernandez et Darrin and from 1932-1937 built custom coachwork on the following chassis: Bentley, Bugatti, Buick, Delage, Delahaye, Duesenberg, Hispano-Suiza, Isotta-Fraschini, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Panhard, Renault, Rolls-Royce and Voisin.
Fernandez’s factory included a beautiful 12’x 30’ marble showroom plus a main showroom on Avenue des Champs-Elysées, near the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, just across from Kellner et Cie, and just down the street from Hibbard & Darrin.
In 1934 the partners relocated their Avenue des Champs-Elysees showroom to Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, an elegant street of high-end shops just off des Champs-Elysees near la Place Vendôme, in order to be closer to their clients favored hotels which included the InterContinental le Grand, le Meurice and Hôtel Ritz.
One of the firm’s most well-known creations was a 1933 Duesenberg convertible created for the screen goddess, Greta Garbo. It included torpedo-shaped running boards made from mahogany and chrome, a built-in trunk with fitted Louis Vuiton luggage and an interior trimmed in chrome-finished leather.
Other noteworthy Fernandez & Darrin customers included the movie star Lili Damita and a seemingly endless list of millionaires such as Count Armand de la Rochefoucauld, Lady Davis (Wife of Mortimer B. Davis, Montreal) and Madame Badollet (wife of the Parisian watchmaker). While working with Fernandez, Darrin also designed a sedanca de ville for Lord Mountbatten’s Rolls-Royce Phantom II that was constructed by Barker as it would have been unfathomable for a member of the Windsor family to have a body built outside the country.
Although Fernandez & Darrin produced as many as 300 bodies during their seven-year life span, very few survive. Like their antecedent, Hibbard & Darrin and the American firms of Holbrook and Willoughby, the majority of Fernandez & Darrin’s clients commissioned chauffeur-driven town cars and limousines, bodies that were frequently discarded in favor of open body styles when surviving chassis were restored in the second half of the twentieth century.
According to the Washington Post (Jul 21, 1935 issue), twenty-five thousand Americans were engaged in professional activities in Paris in the boom years of 1927 and 1928, but by 1935 that colony has dwindled to a mere 7,000. The deteriorating situation in Germany, combined with the fact that many of Fernandez & Darrin’s customers were of Jewish decent, began to put a severe damper on their business, so Darrin made the prudent decision to move to Hollywood midway through 1937.
Darrin was not without friends in the movie making capital of the world, and chief among them was Hollywood mogul, Darryl F. Zanuck. Darrin had met him on one of the film executive’s trips to Paris, and the two avid polo players became good friends. By 1937, the former Warner Bros, executive had become vice-president of Twentieth Century Fox Studios and was in a good position to introduce his old friend Dutch to Hollywood’s celebrities.
Once he got to Hollywood, Darrin wasted no time, and started making the rounds of the Hollywood nightspots and restaurants where he was introduced as Howard Darrin of Paris. Darrin became friends with Los Angeles restaurateur and Jensen importer Percy Morgan, who offered to help finance his new business.
Darrin had the ability to turn off and on an authentic-sounding French accent if the situation warranted. Consequently many of his Hollywood customers were convinced he had spent his entire life on the Continent, unaware of the fact he had been born and raised in New Jersey. Darrin jokingly attributed a large part of his success on his suave ‘Darrin of Paris’ persona, rationalizing that it was a more useful sales tool than portfolios of his previous work.
Darrin’s first customer was Dick Powell, one of Warner Bros. top stars, who commissioned Darrin to customize his 1937 Ford sport phaeton. The resulting European looking roadster was built under the direction of Crown Coach’s Charles Rotzenberger at Crown’s East Los Angles factory as Darrin hadn’t yet hired any staff nor found a suitable location for business.
Darrin’s next customer was RKO leading man Chester Morris, who ordered a roadster very similar to Powell’s Ford although he wanted it built on the new Packard One-Twenty chassis. Darrin had outworn his welcome at Crown Coach, and moved operations to A1 Auto Body, a small Los Angeles collision shop and auto re-builder. Morris’ car became the prototype Packard-Darrin.
Next, Darrin moved operations into a former bottle factory at 8660 W. Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood.
Soon after Dick Powell’s Ford was completed he ordered a Packard One-Twenty roadster for his wife actress Joan Blondell. The vehicle was mentioned by gossip columnist May Mann in a December 20, 1937 story in the Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner.
“Special Car BuiltBy early 1938 the former Sunset Blvd. bottle factory had been transformed into “Darrin of Paris”.
“Dick Powell is having a special cut-down car built – so he says –for Joan Blondell’s Christmas present. But on examination the car is entirely un-feminine – and one suspects that Mr. Powell will do most of the driving. It is a two bucket seat affair on a 120-inch Packard chassis. Howard Darrin, of Paris, designed it and has been hard at work on it for six months.”
Only sixteen Packard-Darrins were built by Darrin in California, fourteen Victorias, one four-door sedan and one sedanca coupe. Twelve of the fourteen Victorias were built on the One-Twenty chassis, two on the Super-Eight. Over half of the cars were sold to well-known celebrities who included Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Chester Morris, Al Jolson, Rosalind Russell, Ruby Keeler (Mrs. Al Jolson), Preston Foster, Ann Sheridan, Constance Bennett and Gene Krupa.
Although the Packard-Darrin’s looked custom built, they actually used quite a few stock Packard parts as the donor cars were off the lot Packard one-twenty business coupes purchased from a dealer in Texas for $1,100. A completed Packard-Darrin wholesaled to regional Packard dealers for around $3,200-$3,300. When they finally got up to speed, Darrin’s crew could turn a stock Packard coupe into a Packard Darrin in two weeks time.
When the coupes arrived at Darrin of Paris, the tops were cut off, the doors removed, the cowl, windshield and both running boards discarded. The rear fenders were removed, slightly modified and reattached so that they slanted slightly forward. The front fenders were also patched so that no traces of the running boards remained.
The rear package shelf and deck panel were removed and an ash frame was inserted to support the convertible top mechanism, then new sheet-metal was welded in place to cover the bracing. A six inch sill was also welded below the door openings to strengthen the body.
A San Francisco foundry supplied Darrin with cast aluminum window frames and three-piece cowls which gave the car a distinctive appearance. Cut-down door frames were fabricated which were then covered in doors skins fabricated by California Metal Shaping. The new cowl necessitated lengthening the hood by nine inches, and the radiator shell and hood were sectioned by three giving the car a long and low European stance. As profits accrued, Darrin was able to purchase a used power hammer, and all sheet metal work was built in the Wilshire Blvd, factory thereafter.
The seats were re-mounted on substantially shortened seat frames and recovered in leather in order to match the padded dash which was continued onto the tops of the doors. During inclement weather, the occupants were protected by a lightweight fabric top which was raised using an awkward convertible top mechanism that resided behind the occasional rear seat.
The Packard-Darrins built for Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Rosalind Russell utilized the chrome-finished hides that debuted on Greta Garbo’s Fernandez & Darrin-bodied Duesenberg. The swept-down doors, called the “Darrin Dip” in the trade, were the car’s most eye-catching feature. The car’s dash utilized the aircraft style crash pads Darrin had developed in France, which was another one of the vehicle’s strong selling points. Retail prices ranged from $4200-$5200 per vehicle, roughly three times the price of a standard, and more structurally sound, Packard 120 Convertible.
The first two examples, built at A1 Auto Body and sold to Chester Morris and Clark Gable, were structurally different from the remaining fourteen cars built at the Sunset Blvd. plant. They both included running boards and a standard coachbuilt cowl assembly (ash framed, aluminum covered) as the thee-piece aluminum cowl had not yet been developed
When production was shifted to the Auburn plant in Connersville, Indiana, the body was further strengthened and the bottom of the doors extended to meet the makeshift rocker panels. Other improvements included heavier body mounts and a front-end kit that provided additional bracing between the front fender brackets, frame and radiator support.
One Darrin of Paris employee who would go on to bigger things was Art M. Fitzpatrick. Fresh from a stint working at Briggs under John Tjaarda, Fitzpatrick was hired by Darrin in 1938 to serve as the firm’s in-house artist and delineator. Fitzpatrick (or Fitz to his friends) is credited with designing the striking and seldom-seen Packard-Darrin convertible sedans and 4-door hardtops that were built in Connersville. When the Darrin operations were taken over by Packard, Fitzpatrick went to work for Werner Gubitz, the automaker’s styling chief and had a hand in the design of the 1942 Packard Clipper.
Fitz also ran errands for his boss, and once drove a Packard-Darrin all the way to Detroit for exhibition at a Detroit Packard dealer council meeting at the Packard Proving Grounds. In his Automobile Quarterly article, ‘My American Safari’, Darrin recalled the event:
“He and a friend drove day and night to get there in time. They ran into a drunken driver who smashed one whole side of the car.”
The car was still drivable, so the pair continued on to the Proving Grounds and parked it against a wall with the unaltered side facing out. The vehicle was a major topic of discussion at the event although it further alienated Darrin with Packard management.
At that time Clark Gable was Hollywood’s number one star and he’d just been chosen to star in ‘Gone With the Wind’. Anything associated with the star was news and United Press’ Hollywood correspondent, Frederick C. Othman, wrote the following column on November 16, 1938.
With the Hollywood Reporter - Frederick C. Othman – UP Hollywood Correspondent
“Hollywood – The automobile shows may be full streamlined chariots, but mostly they look like 1922 models in comparison to the Darrin Eight, A Hollywood motor car so ultra-ultra that Clark Gable made the serious mistake of buying one.
“There wasn’t anything wrong with the car, except that it looked like something from Mars, with yellow leather upholstery, a hood nearly seven feet long and gadgets which did everything except freeze ice cubes. It was such an automobile as nobody, anywhere, ever saw before.
“And when the folks began seeing this vision of steel and cast aluminum, with Clark Gable, himself in person, behind the wheel, they couldn’t restrain themselves. Lady motorists formed parades behind Gable’s car; lady pedestrians climbed into it at every stoplight. Gable stood that for a month, and then sold his super-super-super eight at a tremendous loss. He now drives an $800 coupe, painted black.
“The Darrin factory is on Sunset Boulevard, near the Trocadero, and it usually has one display one or two automobiles so long, so low and so magnificent that they almost resemble trans-Atlantic ocean liners on wheels.
“We dropped in today, not to buy, but to learn from Howard Darrin something of the business of manufacturing automobiles deluxe for perhaps the flossiest trade in the world.
“Darrin used to manufacture custom bodies in Paris for Rolls-Royce automobiles during the lush twenties. He exported most of them to America, for such customers as Norma Shearer, Dietrich, Jack Warner and others in the big money.
“’And then came 1929 and the custom body business simply disappeared,’ Darrin said. ‘Nobody in America even thought of importing a foreign car anymore. I grubbed for a living in the hope the business would revive, but it didn’t so I decided it would probably be a good stunt to go to Hollywood, my best market, and designing cars there on the spot and to order. It was a good stunt too. In the six months I’ve sold 15 automobiles, for $3,000 and up, mostly up.’
“Darrin buys the chassis of a medium-priced straight eight, as built in Detroit; then he installs upon it his stream-lined bodies. He makes them largely of solid aluminum castings, instead of sheet metal, and he equips the bodies as if they were being made for the Maharajah of Indore.
“’And why not?’ he asked. ‘I charge enough. I ought to make them good.’
“The buttons on the dash are real ivory; the leather in the deeply-tufted upholstery costs 60 cents a square foot; the doors carry extra hinges so his movie actor customers can sit on them, if they feel like it.
“Sit in a Darrin sports roadster and you sit on the floor. You really don’t need spy glasses to see the radiator but they would help. Owners of such elegant hacks include Dick Powell, Chester Morris, Al Jolson, Mrs. Jack Oakie and other movie luminaries.
“’Best thing about the business’ Darrin said, ‘is the fact that as soon as these customers began having their pictures taken in my cars, I started getting orders from all over. I have sold cars in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans and I‘ve even got an offer to design them for one of the big Detroit factories.’
“We wanted to know about Gable and Darrin smiled wryly.
“’I feel sorry for the poor guy’ he said. ‘Gable is a nut about automobiles. He lives ‘em. Then when he got one of mine, he didn’t dare drive down the street in it. It was tough, particularly after he’d spent week in the shop, watching it being built, like a man with a new house.’
“’First time he came in he brought Carole Lombard with him. And all my workmen started banging their thumbs with hammers and tripping over the floor and getting no work done at all. I had to ask Gable please not to bring Miss Lombard with him anymore.’”
With the free nationwide publicity and mounting interest from Packard dealers, it came as no surprise to Darrin that Packard President Alvan Macauley scheduled a visit to the Darrin of Paris shops on a subsequent visit to California Packard distributor, Earl C. Anthony in early 1939.
Macauley had been well-briefed and queried whether the Darrin’s body met with Packard’s stringent standards. Darrin got up on the cowl of an adjacent Packard-Darrin and began to jump up and down, creating no serious damage. Darrin recalled the event in Automobile Quarterly: "I asked if he thought it was strong enough. That was how I got Packard to approve the Darrin Victoria for production."
Over the objections of his body engineers, Macauley green-lit the Packard-Darrin for inclusion in Packard’s 1940 catalog providing that Darrin agreed to build it using Packard’s Super-Eight chassis.
Darrin had nothing to lose and everything to gain and signed an agreement whereby Packard would handle the distribution and manufacturing of the vehicle and in return Darrin would receive a flat fee for every vehicle sold. Darrin agreed to help advertise the vehicle and to oversee its production in Connersville.
Three models were to be produced, the already popular convertible Victoria, the limited production convertible sedan and the very exclusive four-door sports sedan. All three models were included in Packard’s 1940 model year catalog and Packard started running a series of print advertisements for the vehicle in Fortune and the Saturday Evening Post to create interest in the showroom.
The largest problem facing Darrin and Packard, was where to build the vehicles. Briggs Manufacturing, Packard’s main body supplier, had no interest in the project as they were all booked up for the foreseeable future. A current Darrin of Paris employee named Harry Fels had formerly worked for Auburn Automobile Co. at their Central Manufacturing body division in Connersville, Indiana and suggested that Darrin give Auburn’s President Roy Faulkner a call.
By that time, Auburn had already filed for bankruptcy, and was desperate for business, particularly when a financially responsible Detroit automaker was paying the bills. Darrin’s wooden body dies were shipped to Connersville at the end of July and on August 1, 1939, operations concluded at Darrin of Paris’ Sunset Blvd. shops.
Production of the first Packard-Darrin’s commenced at Central Manufacturing in early September. It wasn’t a huge contract, but every little bit helped, and Central’s workers were happy to work on something other than kitchen cabinets and refrigerators.
As Darrin had vested interest in promoting the sales of the Packard-Darrins, both he and his creations maintained a high profile back home in Los Angeles:
“One of the stunts we did was to leave one of the cars in front of Romanoff's where many of the Hollywood personalities had lunch. We'd bribe the doorman to keep an empty space right by the door, so anyone alighting couldn't help but notice it. We also got a lot of free publicity, and made a little side money by renting our cars to the studios for movies."
During 1940, Packard’s Custom Super Eight One-Eighty came in eleven variations on a variety of wheelbases, 127”, 138” and 148”. Six different custom bodies were available, three from Darrin, and three from Rollson.
The model 1806 Super Eight Convertible Victoria by Darrin sold for $4750, the Sport Sedan for $6100 and the Convertible Sedan for $6300. A budget-priced $3800 Darrin was made available later in the year that was built on the less-expensive one-twenty chassis.
As part of his agreement with Packard, Darrin was asked to contribute designs proposals for upcoming Packards, and was involved in the design that would finally emerge in 1942 as the Packard Clipper, although he never received official credit (or payment) for it.
Packard dealers who were fortunate enough to secure a Darrin for their showroom reported traffic increases of up to 300% and were more than happy to keep a Darrin on display for the required 30 days stipulated in the sales contract, regardless of whether it was sold or not.
In his Automobile Quarterly article Darrin recalled: “I figured I'd hit the big time. Packard was the most prestigious luxury car manufacturer in the country, and they would certainly take every Darrin I could hand them.”
Unfortunately for Darrin, Central Manufacturing was awarded a huge contract to build military Jeep tubs (bodies) in May of 1941, and production of the low-volume Packard-Darrins became a low priority. Darrin recalled: “We were soon hopelessly backlogged and I went to Detroit looking for more production facilities."
Sales of Detroit’s automobiles were at an all-time high, and nobody was willing to take such a low-volume enterprise. The logical choice would have been the Henney Motor Car Company, but they were backlogged with orders for their popular Henney-Packard professional cars. Luckily another pro-car builder located in Cincinnati, was looking for additional projects.
Production of the all-new 1941 Packard Series 1906 Darrin Convertible Victoria commenced at the Cincinnati, Ohio plant of the Sayers and Scovill Company that summer. Darrin recalled:
”Their directors were all on hand to watch the first 1941 Packard Darrin come off the line-followed closely by a hearse! It was quite a sight."
The cars built in Cincinnati differed from the Connersville cars in a number of areas. Most noticeable was the introduction of the 19th series Packard front end styling in which the headlights were finally built into the redesigned front fenders, instead of residing in the pods used on the 1940 edition. Additional items included redesigned rear fenders and the introduction of distinctive chrome moldings that now resided on the trailing end of the front and rear fenders. Structurally the bodies were more structurally sound and the formerly rear-hinged doors were now attached at their leading edge with only the lower hinge remaining visible.
Based on published accounts, total production of all Packard-Darrins, including all body variations, totaled 114. Most historians agree that sixteen Convertible Victorias were built in Hollywood. In Connersville, the commonly quoted totals are two 4-door sport sedans, five 4-door convertible sedans and forty convertible Victorias – plus the single Coupe deVille show car. The number of Darrins constructed in Cincinnati was about the same; thirty-five on the 1941 Packard Series 1906 chassis and fifteen on the 1942 Packard Series 2006 chassis, all Convertible Victorias, all built on the Super Eight chassis. Except for slight variations in trim (fendertop parking lights added in 1941, bilateral lower grilles in 1942), the vehicles produced in Indiana and Ohio were identical.
The introduction of the 1942 Clipper and the US involvement in World War II doomed the Packard-Darrin project, and Howard Darrin joined the war effort in an aeronautical capacity.
These Packards represent an elegance and grace that the post war Packards, particularly the ungainly "upside down bathtub" 22nd and 23rd Series Packards of 1948-1950, never equalled. They were truly the end of an era.
lundi 27 août 2012
More photos of the 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Aero Coupe shown in Weekend Reflections.
Clic sur l'image pour l'agrandir
Go HERE for more information about the Lalique Crystal radiator caps.
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dimanche 26 août 2012
samedi 25 août 2012
Sold at the RM Auction in Monterey, California, 17-18 August for $473,000
That's a 1940 Packard Darrin Super Eight in the background with a wheel of another 1940 Packard Darrin reflecting in the radiator shell of the Rolls-Royce.
See all the other contributors to James' Weekend Reflections
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vendredi 24 août 2012
Eyes familiar with the San Francisco skyline will spot the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts to the left of and behind Alcatraz.
This guy gets it!
jeudi 23 août 2012
Clic sur les images pour les agrandir
(Above) The hood is slightly ajar, it had been open to show off the engine.
Note the McQueen papers on the plush seats. The upholstery is original. Hudsons were fast, comfortable, solid cars that offered excellent handling qualities.
Pictured here is the 1953 Hudson Hornet formerly owned by the late actor Steve McQueen.
Some highlights of this car are:
• Model 7C. 170 hp, 308 cu in valve-in-block “flathead” straight six cylinder engine
• Dual Carter single-barrel carburetors (Twin-H Power)
• Hydramatic automatic transmission
• Wheelbase: 124"
The car was in Steve McQueen's possession at the time of his passing in 1980. Aside from an engine rebuild and a very high quality repaint when the car was in McQueen's possession the car is very original, preserved, and unrestored - including the interior. The car was sold by McQueen's estate in 1984 and this owner held it until the auction at Monterey, California last weekend. «Louis» is happy he was able to see this fine automobile.
Steve McQueen, at one time the world’s highest paid, most popular actor, amateur motor racing driver, skilled motorcyclist, hands-on automotive enthusiast, sex symbol, and pop culture icon of intergalactic proportion, needs little introduction here or anywhere else. McQueen’s classic films that included automobiles, motorcycles, or motorsport as central plot elements include, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Reivers, Le Mans, and The Hunter. McQueen wasn’t so much a car collector, in the traditional sense, as he was an enthusiastic gatherer of great motorized hardware and ephemera. He had the financial wherewithal to afford nearly any car or bike he wanted and had great taste and feel for cars. Throughout his life, he acquired, drove, and raced dozens of fabulous cars and hundreds of interesting motorcycles, among them, numerous Porsches, at least three Ferraris, a one-of-sixteen Jaguar XKSS, an ex-military half-track, and two Hudsons, one of which is on offer here.
The Hudson Hornet is likely the most famous of the historically significant “step down” Hudson model designs. The car’s chassis architecture, and the way the body was mounted on it, meant that entering passengers stepped down modestly into the interior of the car, and this also allowed for a lower center of gravity, which improved roadholding. This is one of the reasons the Hornet was such a successful race car, especially in the relatively new venue of NASCAR “stock car” racing. Hudson stuck with its tough, well-proven flathead six, souping it up from its original rating of 140 horsepower to 170 horsepower by virtue of “Twin H-Power,” which employed a higher compression ratio, and the factory installation of dual Carter carburetors. This combination in race trim yielded well over 200 horsepower.
McQueen purchased this Hudson Hornet 7C Sedan in the mid-1970s, and it was registered into his name in August, 1977. It was offered at the RM Monterey Auction with several certificates of ownership and title documents, as well as the actual blue and yellow California license plates the car wore during its tenure in McQueen's collection. This Twin H-Power Hudson was in his ownership and possession at the time of his passing on November 7, 1980. Subsequent to McQueen’s passing, an estate sale was held in November, 1984, and the Hornet was sold into private ownership, which included a numbered certificate of authenticity signed by McQueen’s daughter, Terry, and son, Chad. That document, along with the aforementioned titles, registrations, license plates, and service and maintenance documentation since 1976, were included with the sale of the car. It sold for $61,600.
In 1948, Hudson launched their "step-down" bodies, which lasted through the 1954 model year. In time all US automakers would embrace Hudson's unitized body concept as a means of building bodies. Automotive writer and authority Richard Langworth wrote that the step-down models "..(were) one of greatest" autos of the era".
In 1951, Hudson picked up the "Hornet" name for the top-of-the-line car and "Wasp" for the lower-priced model. The names were a tip of Hudson's hat to the famous U.S. Navy aircraft carriers of the same names in World War II.
All Hornets (51-53) were powered by Hudson's high-compression straight-six "H-145" engine. In 1952 the "Twin-H Power" option became available. A L-head design, at 308 cu in, it was the largest displacement six-cylinder engine in the world at the time. It had a two-barrel carburetor and produced 145 hp at 3800 rpm and 275 lb·ft of torque. The engine was capable of far more power in the hands of precision tuners, including Marshall Teague, who claimed he could get 112 miles per hour (180.2 km/h) from an AAA- or NASCAR-certified stock Hornet, as well as Hudson engineers who developed "severe usage" options (thinly disguised racing parts). The combination of the Hudson engine with overall road-ability of the Hornets, plus the fact these cars were over-engineered and over-built, made them unbeatable in competition on the dirt and the very few paved tracks of the 1950s.
Hudson's strong, light-weight bodies, combined with its high-torque inline six-cylinder engine technology made the company's 1951–54 Hornet an auto racing champion, dominating NASCAR in 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954. Some NASCAR records set by Hudson in the 1950s still stand even today. Later, these cars met with some success in drag racing, where their high power-to-weight ratio worked to their advantage. Hudsons enjoyed success both in National Hot Rod Association trials and local dirt track events well into the 1960s.
Hudson was founded by Roy Chapin, Sr. with much of the capital supplied by Joseph L. Hudson, founder of Hudson's Department Store in Detroit and who gave permission for the company to be named after him. A total of eight Detroit businessmen including Chapin and Hudson formed the company on February 20, 1909, to produce an automobile which would sell for less than $1,000. Roy D. Chapin, Sr. had worked with Ransom E. Olds, who founded Oldsmobile. Chapin's son, Roy Jr., succeeded George Romney as president of American Motors Corp. in the 1960s when Romney, father of current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left the company to run for Governor of Michigan. As «Louis» has previously recounted to you, Nash and Hudson merged in 1954 to form American Motors. The original plan called for Packard and Studebaker to become part of American Motors, but, as you have read here, Romney killed that plan. A further twist to the tale is that Hudson Department Stores merged with the Dayton Department Stores in Minneapolis, forming Dayton-Hudson, which in turn spawned Target.
mercredi 22 août 2012
mardi 21 août 2012
«Louis'» designs for Packard are admittedly derivative rather than original. The shape of the Riviera clearly dictated the then 16 year-old «Louis'» idea for his Packard Twelve. He saw the Riviera's front as being easily adapted to an update of the Packard Predictor-inspired front end he used on his Packard design in 1960. As on the design for 1960, the front turn signals would be housed in pontoons that mimicked the classic Packard radiator shell. This cue, in turn, was reminiscent of the way the headlights on the '34 Packard Twelves mimicked the radiator grill shape.
The roofline of the Riviera was similar to the roofline of the 1962 Hawk, so «Louis» used his roofline idea from 1962 on his 1963 design. In turn, this roof could easily be a modern interpretation of the classic lines of the 1934 Victoria.
Familiar Packard design cues appeared on this car as they had on «Louis'» two earlier designs: the cormorant hood ornament and the sweep spear on the side.
In the case of the 1962 design, «Louis» was trying to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible to make the car inexpensive to produce and, hopefully, give the Packard name a toe-hold back in the market. In 1963, he had no such illusions and this car, despite it being heavily derivative of the beautiful Riviera, would have been a completely new car. Thus, «Louis» imagined a new overhead camshaft, overhead valve V-12 that would have the same cubic inch displacement of the 1934 engine. The classic-era Packard Twelves were of an undersquare design that produced gobs of torque at relatively low engine rpms. «Louis'» idea for 1963 would flip the dimensions of the cylinders so that the engine was oversquare and thus producing more horsepower at higher rpms and proportionately less torque. Like the V-12 of the 1930s, «Louis'» new Packard Twelve engine block would be finished in a green enamel.
As was the case with «Louis'» Hawk-based Caribbean design, the deck lid of this new Packard Twelve would have been trimmed with the "circle-V" emblem and Packard crest that Richard Teague introduced on the '55 and '56 Packards. «Louis» saw the shape of the rear deck on the Riviera as being an adaptation of the '34 design.
For many Packard aficionados, the 1934 Packard Twelve Victoria is the epitome of the classic-era Packards. It was for «Louis» in 1963, and remains so today.
Packard Aviation and Marine Engines
Seldom remembered today is that Packard built engines both for marine and aviation uses. The Packard-built Merlin V-12 powered the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (Kittyhawk) fighter. The Packard-Merlin V-12 found its most famous application in the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang fighter, where it vastly improved that aircraft's performance at altitude, transforming the Mustang into an outstanding fighter with the range and performance to escort heavy bombers over the European continent. By 1944, P-51B, P-51C and P-51D Packard-Merlin Mustangs were able to escort Allied heavy bombers in daylight all the way to Berlin and yet were still capable of combating German fighters attempting to intercept the bombers. By late 1944, the Allies had won air supremacy over the whole of Germany, and Germany's defeat in World War II began to appear inevitable.
Packard V-12s also powered the fabulous U.S. Navy Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats in World War II. The PT boats were fitted with four of these engines.