1963 Ferrari 330 America Berlinetta

 

1963 Ferrari 330 America Berlinetta

Ferrari’s first true production four-seater car was the highly successful 250 GTE 2+2. it was launched in 1960 in spectacular fashion. By having the clerk of the course at the Le Mans 24 hour race drive it. A race where Ferrari took six of the top seven places. The car took the excellent handling and balance of the 2 seater while combining it with a beautifully proportions four seat design by Pininfarina.

In 1963, towards the end of the 3 year production of the 250 GTE, Ferrari produced a revised and upgraded model powered by a new four litre Colombo 60-degree V-12 engine. Ferrari named the engine the ‘330’ in accordance with their naming regime, Ferrari’s engines were named after the displacement of a single cylinder. The engine had significantly improved combustion chambers in order to get better cooling and improved breathing and wider spaced bores producing a conservative 300 brake horse power. ‘Big engined’ Ferrari road cars traditionally formed part of the America/Superamerica series. In accordance with this the car was named the 330 America and was aimed squarely at the American market. The new car shared the chassis from the late 250 GTE Series lll and was pretty much identical in outwards appearance other than, on some examples as with this car, it carried the legend ‘America’ on the boot.

Ferrari had produced four-seater cars before the 250 GTE in the 1950s with the Ghia Touring and Vignale, all of which had 2 + 2 options. However the designs had been a compromise as the original chassis had not been designed to carry passengers and, as a result, weren’t entirely successful. With a close collaboration between Ferrari and Pininfarina over the design of the 250 GTE such accusations couldn’t be levelled at Marinello’s first series production four-seater.

With a 2,600mm wheelbase, the multi tubular chassis shared similarities with the, Pininfarina designed, 250 GT ‘notch back’ Coupe. It was 200mm longer than the contemporary 250 GT SWB. Despite widening the rear track by 38mm in order to make room for two rear seats. And bumping the engine forward by 200mm Pininfarina managed to retain their customary classical proportions to the body-shell. The car benefited from modern disc brakes all around as well as a manual four-speed overdrive gearbox, independent front suspension and a live rear axle. With a top speed in excess of 150mph the 330 America was a full 10mph faster than its predecessor.

Having seen three different series, with a changed dashboard layout in the series ll and new front and rear lights in the series lll, the 250 GTE ceased production in 1963 with Ferrari having produced 950 cars. The 330 America was an interim model that Ferrari produced while making ready their new 250 GTE replacement the 330 GT. As a result only 50 330 Americas were built before the announcement of the 330 GT in January 1964.

This makes the 330 America an extremely rare car. Rarer in fact than most production Ferraris of the period. Combining that rarity with the fact that it’s a very driver friendly GT car, which is powered by a V12 makes the collectibility of the 330 America extremely high. This car selling at Bonhams Monaco sale for €375,000 ($462,000)

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1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta by Carrozzeria Touring

1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta by Carrozzeria Touring

In the twenties and thirties, Alfa Romeo was equivalent to today’s Ferrari. Funded by the state, they were directed to build great racing machines, the cars they built were the best in the world.
From the companies founding Alpha Romeo had employed thousands of highly skilled workers, despite making excellently engineered cars they only produced a few expensive models rather than mass producing cheaper ones. As a business model this was fatally floored and the company inevitably hit financial difficulties. The then Facist Italian government bailed the company out and effectively took control. However rather than instructing the company to produce large runs of affordable cars, in order to get it back on its feet financially, they instructed Alfa Romeo to produce racing machines and bespoke vehicles for the wealthy. This was aimed at showing Italy’s technological prowess. As a result Alfa Romeo became a national emblem for the country, much like Ferrari is today.

In a time when many manufacturers, rather than designing their sports cars from scratch, would attempt to modify large idiosyncratic cars into pseudo – sports cars; Alfa Romeo were producing beautifully crafted lightweight works of art, designed from the ground up. In doing so they were to lead the world and show how cars would be designed and built in the future. Alfa produced almost all the parts in-house at the factory in Milan in their Fabrication shop, pattern works , foundry and machine shop. Each part was made by craftsman who took great pride in the part they were tasked with creating and the whole production was over-scene by legendary chief engineer Vittorio Jano, who was later to move on to Ferrari. There was constant testing, evaluating and improving, making the cars meet continually evolving standards. In fact one could say that these really were the first super cars, Alfa’s focus was on performance and handling and then wrapping the whole package up in the most beautiful contemporary design and best quality materials. This ethos of form and function from conception to execution is something that Enzo Ferrari was to take with him when he left Alfa Romeo to found his own company.

The 6C 1500 debuted in 1925 at the Milan auto show and set a new standard for lightweight, high performance road cars, causing Alfa’s reputation to soar. Other cars of the time were much heavier and used huge engines in order to get decent performance. The Alfa’s lightweight body meant that the 6C could easily keep up with contemporary sporty cars while using a much smaller 1500cc engine. In 1929 the 6C 1750 was introduced followed in 1934 by the 6C 2300 fitted with an engine with twice the displacement of the 1750 taking the cars performance to another level.

In 1939 the 6C 2500 was introduced and continued production, in small numbers, throughout the war and on until 1953. The car was designed to carry multiple passengers and their luggage in a reliable and comfortable car that provided excellent performance with grand touring coachwork. in order to achieve this the inline six cylinder engine, which could trace its routes back to earlier models had the cylinder bore increased by 2mm and an improved cylinder head was fitted, giving better aspiration and increased compression. This resulted in the engine producing 95hp. It was fitted with independent front suspension and torsion bar sprung independent rear suspension for superior handling, road holding and comfort. Large drum brakes were fitted with aluminium cooling fins shrunk around cast iron drums, these were very effective for the period.
Although the car can trace its routes back to pre war race machines it is often thought of as a “bridge to post World War 2 production”

The car shown here was made in 1939 and is one of only 13 produced by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, the best known and most prolific coach builder for Alfa during the period and now a world famous name. The late 30’s saw substantial evolution in aerodynamics and Touring of Milan was a leader in the new technology. They developed their designs in their own wind tunnel and tried a number of approaches. The car was built using Tourings ‘Superleggera’ (Super lightweight) construction system. Patented in 1936 at the time this was a state of the art method of construction. The system involves a framework of slim steel tubes that form the structure of the body, over which are laid the alloy panels of the car’s skin. The advantages of the construction method include the touted lightness as well as providing the designers with tremendous flexibility in fashioning highly original body shapes.

Benito Mussolini loved the car so much that he commissioned one for his mistress, Clara Petacci and they used it for many of their tête-à-têtes. He was later to find it didn’t make for a very inconspicuous getaway vehicle. At the end of the war with the allies moving in he made a break for Switzerland with a view to flying from there to Spain. He disguised himself as a German and drove in the back of a german truck while Clara drove convoy in her 6C. They didn’t make it and were stopped by communist partisans near Lake Como, later to be shot and have their bodes hung from the roof of an Esso gas station in Milan.

I photographed this car for RM auctions on the shortest day of the year. I had scouted for locations the day before as I knew I wouldn’t have too much time with the car. The car was kept at the Candy Store a garage / club for enthusiast owners in the heart of Burlingame and close to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I arrived mid afternoon as arranged We moved the car outside and went to lock up the garage, before heading of to take the photos but the lock was broken. We had no option but to wait for a lock smith arrive. By the time we finally got the car to the location it was beginning to get dark, so I had to work fast. The light at dusk over the San Francisco bay however is lovely. So I’d say that things worked out just about perfectly and, as a bonus, I got to spend some extra time at the Candy Store checking out the collection of beautiful cars!

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Hyundai Veloster

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1956 Porsche 354A 1600 Speedster

1956 Porsche 356A 1600 Speedster

In 1954, New York car importer Max Hoffman imported 15 special 356A Porsche roadsters to the USA. The cars, with basic specifications to keep the price low, captured the public imagination and a classic was born.

The original Porsche 356 was designed by Ferdinand Ferry-Porsche in 1948 and was based on the Volkswagen platform designed by his father, the founder of the company. It was the very first production Porsche and although the timeless body design, penned by Erwin Komenda, was an original, the mechanics were derived from the Volkswagen Beetle. The car was rear-wheel drive and contained a rear mounted four-cylinder, air-cooled, flat-four, 1131cc engine. The model was lightweight, simple and competitive. A works car went on to win the 1100cc class at Le Mans in 1951.

Launched in the USA in 1954 and in Europe in the summer of 1955, the 356A was a thorough update to the 356 line.  Offered as both a coupe and cabriolet, it included the option of a more powerful 1600cc engine with a higher compression, taking advantage of the new higher octane fuels. During extensive testing, many changes were made to the suspension and driveline mounting. The springs were softened and stiffer shocks and dampers fitted. Wheels, designed to take advantage of new tire compounds becoming available, were reduced to a 15-inch diameter but had a wider tread that reduced air pressures.

The car’s exterior followed the Porsche design mantra of stepwise evolution – a mantra still followed today – greatly resembling the previous version but for some key changes. The car featured a lower floor, a curved glass windshield replacing the split-screen and, following the line of the new windshield, a flat face dashboard with padding on top. There was space for a radio and a lockable glove box as well as new gauges, a headlight flasher, automatic interior lighting and self-canceling signal switches.

In 1954, Max Hoffman, Porsche’s only distributor in the country,  was anxious to have the cheapest Porsche on display in his showrooms. In order to keep prices low, Hoffman recommended to Porsche that an open-top, stripped down, racier version of the car would sell well in the USA. Porsche took note and the 356A Speedster was born.

Stripped of many of the 356A’s extra features, the Speedster was fitted with tiny side screens rather than roll-up glass windows. It had a minimal top, non-reclining bucket seats, and a lightweight dashboard with revised gauges and no glove box. The raked windshield, which could be removed for weekend racing, was cut down in height. The Speedster was also given a curved top and aluminum side spear making the car look sleeker.

By advocating these changes to allow competitive pricing for his American clients, Max Hoffman succeeded not only in making the car more affordable to the average buyer, but in making the Speedster lighter and simpler. This in turn created a vehicle that was more responsive and fun to drive. Originally sold at $2,450, the car was an instant success, attracting 4,243 buyers between 1955 and 1959.

The earlier Speedster is referred to as the Pre-A or Type0 model. Over a thousand were made before being superseded in October 1955 by the 356A Type1 Speedster. The latter would remain in production until being replaced by the Type2 model in August 1957. Approximately 1,850 Type1 356A Speedsters were produced.

The Speedster pictured is near flawless. Originally Imported in 1954 by Max Hoffman, this car was purchased in Chicago and the first owner kept it for 13 years. The second owner bought the vehicle, which by then needed a new transmission, in 1967, and used it as a weekend car for the next 45 years. In 1998 an ex-Porsche Research & Development mechanic, with over 40 years experience working with Porsches, stripped the car down and completely rebuilt it. The result is a perfect restoration.

The later Type2 Speedster received a few minor changes. These later models can be differentiated by their more rounded wheel arches, a slight change to the engine lid, the number plate being illuminated from below and new teardrop-shaped rear lights. Also the gold-plated badge on the dashboard read “1950-1957”, rather than “1950-1956”.

In August 1958, the Speedster was replaced by the Convertible D. More luxurious than the Speedster, the Convertible D reflected Porsche’s focus on premium models. Costing $3,695 it was far more expensive. With a taller windshield, roll-up windows, and reclining seats it was certainly more comfortable and well equipped but had lost some of the magic that made the original Speedster such a success.

356s suffering from rust can be difficult to restore due to their monocoque construction. Thankfully a large percentage of the cars were sold in dry southern California. Of all generations of the 356, the 356A Speedster is considered the most coveted body amongst today’s collectors. Due to its advancements over the comparatively primitive 356, as well as its sleeker, more “vintage” lines, the A is revered among Porsche enthusiasts.

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