• PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD: THE RICHARD PETTY CONNECTION!

    Our man on the track, Stephen Cox, talks with Richard Petty about his connection to the winged Superbird.

    It has been claimed that Plymouth’s legendary winged ‘70 Superbird was the brainchild of NASCAR champion Richard Petty. The rumor has been around for decades but I’ve never found anyone with first-hand knowledge who could absolutely confirm or deny that the car’s origins truly began with The King of Stock Car Racing.

    But opportunity knocked a couple of weeks ago when Petty was in attendance at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL, which I co-host for NBCSN. I found him relaxing backstage late in the show and hollered, “Hey, King!” Although I don’t know him well, he looked up with his trademark smile and immediately held out his hand.

    I asked him point blank whether he was responsible for the development of the Plymouth Superbird. Petty paused and laid the back of his hand across his brow. “Well, let me get the dates right.”

    “We knew in 1968 that Dodge was building a wing car. So I went to Plymouth and asked if they were gonna build one and they said, ‘No.’ I told them that I’d like them to work on one and they said, ‘No, you’re winning all the races anyway.’”

    True, Petty had been dominant, winning 27 of 49 Grand National races en route to the championship in 1968. Rather than cough up the additional funds to stay current in NASCAR’s burgeoning aero wars, Plymouth was content to let Petty struggle against increasing odds.

    Undeterred, Petty tried another angle. He asked if he could stay within the Chrysler family and simply move over to Dodge and drive the new Charger Daytona winged car for the 1969 season. Plymouth flatly refused.

    “So I said, ‘Either build me a wing car or I’m walking across the street,’” Petty continued. “They said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’ So I did.”

    That same afternoon Richard Petty personally walked into Ford Motor Company’s front office. Ford executives took no risks, signing Petty to a one-year contract on the spot. Petty finished second in the points chase while winning ten races for Ford in 1969. It was enough. He didn’t have to return to Detroit to beg Plymouth for a winged car. This time, they came to him.

    “The head man from Plymouth came walking into my shop,” Petty continued. “He said, ‘What do we need to do to get you back? I said, ‘Give me what I’ve been asking for.’”

    Plymouth pledged to have a new winged car completed for Petty in time for the 1970 NASCAR season. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, they chose to use a modified version of the wildly successful Dodge Charger Daytona platform. Under NASCAR’s homologation rules, a limited number of Superbird street cars were built and sold through Plymouth’s dealership network.

    Behind the wheel of the car built specifically for him, Richard Petty and his Plymouth Superbird won 18 of the 40 races in which they competed in 1970, led nearly half of all laps and won nine pole positions. Despite being produced for only one model year, the road-going version of the Superbird became a legend in the annals of musclecar history.

    Today, a concours-ready Plymouth Superbird will routinely draw bids from $100,000 to $300,000 at auction. They remain among the most collectible musclecars ever built.

    “So there you go,” Petty told me with a smile. “That’s how it happened.”

     

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  • SVRA HEACOCK CLASSIC: THE GOLD STANDARD!

    Mike Matune goes trackside at VIR to bring us highlights of the Gold Cup historic races.

    The SVRA wrapped up part of its season at the Heacock Class “Gold Cup historic races at VIRginia International Raceway. Optimum weather and VIR’s lush surroundings welcomed a bevy of seasoned racers. Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of some great big-bore historic racecars. Olthoff Racing (www.olthoffracing.com) of NC showed up with three Superformance GT40s, top, including those of Harry McPherson (#2) and Jeff McKee.

    Curt Vogt brought his ‘70 Mustang, above. While it is a genuine Boss 302, it has no race history and is prepared to the current vintage rulebook as opposed to period standards. The engine puts out close to 600 horsepower and Vogt used every one of them as he manhandled the beast around VIR, frequently testing the limits of the track’s “friction circle”.

    Michael Lange’s Ford GT was built by Matech in Switzerland for GT3 competition in Europe. It served as an interesting contrast to the 1960s era technology of the Superformance cars. The car has approximately 500 horsepower from a Ford DOHC V8 backed by a Hewland sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps overall weight to about 2,300 pounds, allowing “adequate” performance. A surprising feature of the car is air conditioning!

    Tommy Riggins originally built this Falcon for the updated Trans-Am series. It never turned a wheel there and ended up competing in SCCA GT1. It features a fiberglass silhouette body favoring the 1963 Falcon (if you squint) on a modern tubular frame with tubular A-arms up front and a Ford nine-inch rear end suspended with a three-link system. Power comes from a 358-inch Rousch-Yates Ford V-8. Doug Richmond bought the car and freshened it for the vintage racing wars. VIR was its second outing under his ownership.

    It is hard to fault the lines on the Lola T70, Eric Broadley’s early attempt at a Group 7 racecar. Tom Shelton’s example was originally sold by the late Carl Haas, Lola’s U.S. importer to a privateer. It was campaigned in the USRRC and Can-Am with very modest success. As an early Mark I model, it had a narrow body updated to its present wide-body to accommodate hefty racing rubber during its extensive restoration.

    Dave Robert’s ‘56 Corvette could was converted into a racecar by Chicago area Motor Sport Research in the early 1960s. It would live a life over time involving multiple owners and drivers, each attaining some level of success. When technology eventually caught up with it, it became a vintage racer and continued its winning ways. Roberts has recently returned the car to its original configuration to best celebrate its historic significance.

    Ken Mennella is a long time vintage competitor in his “tribute” ‘63 Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Equipped with a 600 horsepower, 400-inch Chevy small-block and TexRacing Super T-10 transmission, the car has been wining in SVRA Groups 5 & 10 for more than ten years. His car is a faithful reproduction of what was envisioned as an American car to beat Shelby’s Cobra and the fastest European racing cars. Its promise was short lived when GM enforced its anti-racing position.

    Externally Robert Gee’s ‘69 Corvette has all the pieces associated with the L88 endurance racing package – fender flares, fixed headlights under clear plastic covers and a vented and bubbled hood. It’s small-block powered and prepared to B/Production vintage standards with original brakes and stamped steel a-arms.

    Bob Lima’s big-block powered Corvette was formerly raced by Dick Kantrud. Like Gee’s car, it features styling cues from the famed Corvette endurance racers of the late-1960s,-early 1970s. Power comes from a big block Chevy with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a plethora of racing hardware. The raised headlights with clear covers reduced weight and complexity by eliminating the retracting mechanism. They also allowed improved airflow.

    Corvette racecars come in all forms from nearly showroom stock to purpose-built racers like Jeff Bernatovich’s entry. Originally built by Irv Hoerr, it combines a tube frame and look-alike fiberglass body panels, sharing precious little with its production counterparts. Some racers like this approach because instead of removing extraneous street components and beefing up cars that were never intended to withstand racetrack punishment, they are starting with a clean slate and incorporating only that what they need for speed and safety.

     

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  • ST. MICHAELS CONCOURS: SHOWTIME ON CHESAPEAKE BAY!

    Mike Matune brings us highlights from one of the top East Coast Concours.

    As the show season winds down, we always look forward to the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance for one last hurrah. To celebrate its tenth year on the Concours calendar, it returned to the campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This location allowed the showcasing of stunning wooden boats and outstanding automobiles, delivering pure sensory overload. Making its debut at St. Michaels was the North Collection’s ‘33 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. Under its flaming Italian Racing Red paint is body done in the style of Touring, build by Pettenella.

    Robert Tattersall freely admits the lovely lady, right, featured on the hood of his ‘48 Triumph TRA 2000 is the most frequently photographed element of his car! It’s something of a shame as the car has many other notable features. Among them a “dickey” or rumble seat with a pop-up windshield.

    Tattersall’s Triumph, below, showcases some of the details that make it an excellent addition to the show field: period blanket and picnic basket. One could almost see Yogi Bear running off with the basket!

     

    Karen & John Gerhard’s ‘66 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta was made for, and feels most comfortable on, the open road. When introduced at the 1964 Paris Auto Show, it marked a move by Ferrari to produce a more user-friendly version of its front-engined, closed sports car. But that move didn’t come at any reduction in performance. A Colombo designed 3.3-liter 280 horsepower V12 powered a new 275 chassis with four-wheel independent suspension.

    Here is an early example of American Muscle, Peter Stiffel’s ‘11 Mercer Raceabout. It utilized a minimalist approach to lower weight and high performance. Nothing was included that didn’t serve the singular purpose of providing its driver with a thrilling adventure.

    Max Hoffman, the legendary auto importer of the 1950s, gave us several important marques and models, among them the BMW 507 roadster. Impeccably styled by noted industrial designer Albrecht Goertz, it features a V-8 of just over three liters backed by a four-speed transmission. They became the darlings of the rich and famous in their day. Thomas Pesikey owns this beautiful, Rudge wheel equipped example.

    Paul & Linda Gould’s ‘35 Bugatti Type 57 Grand Raid Roadster was one of those cars you had to observe from every angle to drink in just how striking it is. This one is one of only two that were completed with bodies built by the Swiss firm, Worblaufen. This rear angle gives you a good idea of how all the elements of design combine into one very cohesive shape.

    Alvis is one of those British manufacturers that has disappeared. But before they went, they produced some very well styled cars like James Sprague’s ‘64 TE21 Drophead Coupe with coachwork by Park Ward. Actor Tony Curtis originally owned Sprague’s car. He had it fitted with power steering and brakes, automatic transmission and air conditioning.

    In a car that bore his name, E. L. Cord combined cutting edge engineering with equally impressive styling. FWD drive and a monocoque chassis rested under a rakish body with hideaway headlights and a “coffin” nose. Thomas Haines’s ‘36 Cord 810 Convertible Phaeton takes it all a step further with an open car still allowing for all weather protection.

    Barbara and Al Mason are frequent Concours competitors with their brilliant orange ‘28 Auburn 8-115 Speedster. At St. Michaels they came away with a double victory, earning not only People’s Choice, but also taking Best in Show. An impressive “Double” to say the least!

    Here is proof of the old adage about “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Bill Alley’s Waverly four-passenger Brougham is an electric car built in 1911. Originating in the period when the automobile was beginning to replace horse drawn conveyances, its appointments are more in keeping with an aristocrat’s carriage than what we would expect in an automobile. The interior looks like the drawing room in a fine home.

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  • Bugatti Veyron 16.4 vs Rimac Concept_One

    Watch petrolhead peer Lord Pembroke’s Bugatti Veyron and Mate Rimac’s Concept_One go head-to-head on track.

    Lord Pembroke can’t resist a challenge, so when the chance came to pitch his pride and joy against the latest technological tour de force from Croatia – the Rimac Concept_One electric supercar – he didn’t have to think twice.

    The founder of the Wilton Classic & Supercar show – which relaunches this year as the UK’s most prestigious and exclusive annual supercar and classics gathering – swapped cars with Rimac’s official test driver, Miroslav Zrncevic.

    “Looking forward to the technologies driving future performance will be one of the most fascinating elements of the new Wilton Classic & Supercar event,” says Lord Pembroke, “and we wanted to get to know our new friends at Rimac – builders of the world’s fastest accelerating supercar – as part of that journey of discovery.

    “It’s fair to say the Wilton team returned from Croatia having been blown away by the technology built into the Concept_One, and awed by the single-minded dedication of the man behind it. Now we can’t wait to share some of that Rimac magic at our new event on June 3-4.”

     

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  • CADILLAC RACING: BACK ON TRACK!

    Cadillac’s all-new Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar will compete in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series, Prototype (P) class.

    The Cadillac DPi-V.R will first be driven competitively at the 2017 IMSA season opener – the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29, 2017. Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing teams will field it. IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the fastest and most technologically advanced sports car racing series in North America.

    “Cadillac is proud to return to the pinnacle of prototype racing in North America after a 14-year absence,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac. “Cadillac’s V-Performance production models – the ATS-V and CTS-V – are transforming our brand’s product substance, earning a place among the world’s elite high-performance marques. The Cadillac DPi-V.R further strengthens our V-Performance portfolio, placing Cadillac into the highest series of sports car racing in North America.”

    The DPi-V.R has been designed to contribute to the functional performance of the prototype using elements gleaned from the current lineup of Cadillac V-Performance models, especially the CTS-V. The racecar is equipped with the new Rear Camera Mirror, first seen on the Cadillac CT6 Sedan and available on the 2017 Cadillac CTS, XT5 and Escalade.

    “The DPi-V.R racecar was an exciting new canvas for the Cadillac design and sculpting team,” said Andrew Smith, Global Cadillac Design executive director. “The studio embraced the opportunity to interpret the Cadillac form language, line work and graphic signature for this premier prototype racing application.”

    Design details giving the DPi-V.R car its distinctive Cadillac appearance and presence include the vertical lighting signature; the sheer, sculptural quality of the body and bold bodyside feature line. Plus, V-Performance wheels, Brembo brakes, V-Performance emblems, and a canopy graphic inspired by the Cadillac “daylight opening.” Even subtle cues such as the cooling vents and the air intake were designed in the studio, the latter in the trapezoidal shape of the Cadillac crest.

    A, race-prepped, naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that shares architecture with Gen III Cadillac CTS-V (640 horsepower) and Gen V Cadillac Escalade (420 horsepower) engines, powers the DPi-V.R. The engine produces approximately 600 horsepower when tuned for racing as defined by IMSA-mandated air restrictors, with a maximum allowable rpm of 7,600. The engine transfers power to the rear wheels through an X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission.

    Cadillac and its designers collaborated with key partners including chassis builder Dallara, teams from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing and ECR Engines to prepare the 6.2-liter V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R over the past year.

     

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