Having enjoyed my first visit to the Breakfast Club meetings that were instituted at Lord Pembroke’s stately home of Wilton House, in the country town of Wilton, just outside Salisbury, in May, it should surprise no-one that it did not take long for me to make a return visit. For sure, Wilton is not exactly on my doorstep, but in fact it lies only just over 50 miles from home, which makes it barely any further away than the Haynes Museum and Prescott, and nearer than Shelsley Walsh or the Coventry Transport Museum, all places that also host regular Breakfast Club meetings. Indeed, the journey there early on a Sunday morning, down the A36 from Bath is unlikely to be notable for the traffic to baulk one’s progress, and that was the case for this event. Unlike some of the other Breakfast Clubs, the Wilton Wake Up meetings have a declared theme for each, with all vehicles that “comply” being invited to park in the courtyard reached through the main gates of the house, or, once that is filled, in the area immediately outside the gates, with any non-compliant cars parking in the main car park a couple of hundred yards away. Looking round this area is just as likely to yield interesting vehicles as the main part of the meet, as you might expect. Theme for the third of the 2016 Wake Up events, timed for late June, was “Roof Down Rendezvous”. I am sure that when the organisers selected their program for 2016, they figured that the end of June was as good as time as any to expect a dry and sunny morning, though of course nothing is ever guaranteed in the UK where the weather is concerned. Certainly the forecast for the morning for this event was far from promising, and I feared that this could deter many from bringing their cars out. Although it did rain later in the day, the weather gods were kind an waited til after the Wake Up had finished, and when I arrived at Wilton House shortly after 8am, the event was already packed. The courtyard area was full, and so was most of the space in front of the main gates, so the organisers were kept busy trying to find parking spots as more and more cars arrived. This was certainly a far busier Wake Up than the last one I attended, with lots of cars to see, of which the ones depicted here were the ones that attracted my camera.
I could hear several attendees making the error of calling this splendid car a Cobra. It is not, though of course the Cobra was created from this vehicle, when Carrol Shelby replaced the rather staid engines which AC had been using with something far more potent and upgraded the rest of the mechanicals as he saw fit. It is indeed an Ace. AC came back to the market after the Second World War with the staid 2-Litre range of cars in 1947, but it was with the Ace sports car of 1953 that the company really made its reputation in the post war years. Casting around for a replacement for the ageing 2-Litre, AC took up a design by John Tojeiro that used a light ladder type tubular frame, all independent transverse leaf spring suspension, and an open two seater alloy body made using English wheeling machines, possibly inspired by the Ferrari Barchetta of the day.Early cars used AC’s elderly 100 bhp two-litre overhead cam straight-six engine (first seen soon after the end of the First World War), which, according to a 1954 road test by Motor magazine, gave a top speed of 103 mph and 0–60 mph in 11.4 seconds and a fuel consumption of 25.2 mpg. It was hardly a sporting engine, however,and it was felt that something more modern and powerful was required to put the modern chassis to good use. Joining the Ace in 1954 was the Aceca hard top coupé, which had an early form of hatchback rear door but used the same basic timber framed alloy body. From 1956, there was the option of Bristol Cars’ two-litre 120 bhp straight-six with 3 downdraught carburettors and slick four-speed gearbox. Top speed leapt to 116 mph with 0–60 mph in the nine second bracket. Overdrive was available from 1956 and front disc brakes were an option from 1957, although they were later standardised. In 1961 a new 2.6-litre straight-six ‘Ruddspeed’ option was available, adapted by Ken Rudd from the unit used in the Ford Zephyr. It used three Weber or SU carburettors and either a ‘Mays’ or an iron cast head. This setup boosted the car’s performance further, with some versions tuned to 170 bhp, providing a top speed of 130 mph and 0–60 mph in 8.1 seconds. However, it was not long before Carroll Shelby drew AC’s attention to the Cobra, so only 37 of the 2.6 models were made. These Ford engined models had a smaller grille which was carried over to the Cobra.
The Cobra remains a very popular choice among those who like a raw sports car, and there are still companies producing replica versions of the original machine, a design which has already celebrated its 50th birthday. Genuine Cobras from the first half of the 1960s are rare, and very valuable, these days, but there has been a more or less constant production of replica and continuation series cars ever since, and so there are quite a lot of cars on our roads now of the familiar Cobra shape, and all of them capable of making a lot of noise. There were at least three of them here, in 427 guise, and despite the fact that they are quite a common sight at events like this, they are still crowd pullers, especially when the owner gets in and fires the engine up.
There was a nice example of the 105 Series Alfa Spider 2000 Veloce in Series 2 guise here. This is the only version which was officially sold new in the UK, and even then only for a brief period, even though the 105 Series car had a production run of almost 30 years. The Series 2 was first seen in 1970, and it marked the first significant change to the exterior styling, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, which gave the car better aerodynamics as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top.The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced.
Second open Alfa here was a Brera Spider, the model produced as a follow on to the 916 series GTV and Spider cars. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.
Alpina do not make their own versions of every BMW in the current range, concentrating on the core 3,4,5, 6 and 7 series cars, but they have applied their magic to some of the open-topped sports roadsters over the years and there was an example of one of these here, a 3.4S Roadster. This version of the E85 Z4 came out at the 2003 Frankfurt Show bearing the name Roadster S. Based on the 3 litre Z4, it used an Alpina tuned version of the older N52 engine to give 300 bhp which was coupled to a 6 speed auto box. Alpina modified the suspension and made minor tweaks to the exterior as well as applying their usual changes to the interior.
Looking completely at home in a setting like this was this Alvis TD21 Convertible. The TD21 was conceived in 1956 and was quite a departure from the lovely, but rather “post-war” TC21. However, on its arrival in dealer’s showrooms, it quickly set about changing established views of the Alvis. Following the loss of coachbuilders Mulliner and Tickford (who were now tied to other companies), Alvis turned to the Swiss coachbuilder, Graber whose tradition of producing sleek, modern and very elegant saloons and dropheads proved a good fit in terms of the way Alvis saw their future. Graber first presented this new style to the Alvis board in late 1957 who were very impressed with the Swiss company’s flowing design and commissioned the body to be built on the new TD chassis. To ease logistical problems, Park Ward of London, built the Graber designed bodies in the UK. The Alvis Three Litre TD21 Series I was produced between the end of 1958 and April 1962, and was powered by the TC’s 2993 cc engine, uprated by 15bhp to 115 as a result of an improved cylinder head design and an increased compression ratio. A new four-speed gearbox from the Austin-Healey 100 was incorporated, while the suspension remained similar to the cars predecessor, independent at the front using coil springs and leaf springs at the rear, but the track was increased slightly and a front anti-roll bar added. From 1959 the all drum brake set up was changed to discs at the front retaining drums at the rear. In April 1962, the car was upgraded with four wheel Dunlop disc brakes in place of the disc/drum combination, aluminium doors, a five-speed ZF gearbox and pretty recessed spotlights either side of the grille, these improvements coming together to create the TD21 Series II. Thecar would be updated in 1963 to create the TE21, with its distinctive dual headlights proving a recognition point, and the later TF21, continuing in production until 1967 at which point Alvis ceased car manufacture.
No debate about “roof down” or not with this one, as it does not have a roof! This is an Ariel Atom, the popular track day car which was first seen in public at the British International Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham in October 1996, the result of a student project by Coventry University transport design student, Niki Smart. Known then as the LSC (Lightweight Sports Car), it was developed at the university in 1996 with input and funding from various automotive industry members, including British Steel and TWR. Ariel Motor Company boss Simon Saunders was a senior lecturer whose responsibility for the project was primarily as financial manager and design critic for Smart, whom he described as “The best all-round design student I’ve ever seen.” Since then, an operation was created in Crewkerne, Somerset, and around 100 cars a year are produced there. Each one is made by a single person, who undertakes everything from assembly to final road test before putting his name on the finished product. There have been 7 distinct models, with a wide variety of different engines ranging from a 2 litre Honda VTEC unit in naturally aspirate and supercharged guise, to the ultimate, the 500, with a 3 litre V8 that generates 500 bhp. Visually, the cars look similar at a quick glance, and it takes a real marque expert (which I am not!), to tell them apart.
Manufactured by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the first Aston-Martins rapidly established a reputation for high performance and sporting prowess in the years immediately following The Great War. Unfortunately, the management’s concentration on motor sport, while accruing invaluable publicity, distracted it from the business of manufacturing cars for sale, the result being just 50-or-so sold by 1925 when the company underwent the first of what would be many changes of ownership. The foundations were laid for the commencement of proper series production with the formation of Aston Martin Motors Ltd in 1926 under the stewardship of Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli and William Renwick. Bertelli was an experienced automobile engineer, having designed cars for Enfield & Allday, and an engine of his design – an overhead-camshaft four-cylinder of 1,492cc – powered the new 11.9hp Aston. Built at the firm’s new Feltham works, the first ‘new generation’ Aston Martins were displayed at the 1927 London Motor Show at Olympia. Like his predecessors, ‘Bert’ Bertelli understood the effect of competition success on Aston Martin sales and sanctioned the construction of two works racers for the 1928 season. Based on the 1½-litre road car, the duo featured dry-sump lubrication – a feature that would stand them in good stead in long distance sports car events – and this was carried over to the International sports model, newly introduced for 1929. Built in two wheelbase lengths (8′ 6″ and 9′ 10″) the International was manufactured between 1929 and 1932, mostly with bodies by Augustus’s brother Enrico ‘Harry’ Bertelli. The ‘Le Mans’ label was first applied to the competition version of the (1st Series) International following Aston’s class win and 5th place overall in the 1931 Le Mans race. This conceit was fully justified when the model placed 5th and 7th in the 1932 race and collected the Rudge-Whitworth Biennial Cup. It may, in fact, be the first car named after the Le Mans Race, although many others have since followed Aston Martin’s example. The early 1930s was a period of economic recession and with sales of expensive quality cars falling off, some serious rethinking had to be done at Feltham. The prudent decision was taken to redesign the International chassis using proprietary components to reduce cost. A Laycock gearbox was adopted, mounted in unit with the engine, and the worm rear axle, which had never been completely satisfactory, was replaced by an ENV spiral bevel. There was a redesigned chassis frame and many other modifications resulting in what was virtually a new car, although it carried the same coachwork and was sold as the ‘New International’. The original line-up of what would become known as the ‘2nd Series’ did not last long, the New International and two-seater Le Mans disappearing from the range before the end of 1932. That year’s Motor Show had ushered in the more familiar Le Mans 2/4-seater, which was also available on the long chassis as the Le Mans Special four-seater. Introduced in 1934, the replacement Mark II model, which is what was to be seen here, sported a new, stronger chassis and a revised engine with counter-balanced crankshaft. Short (8′ 7″) and long (10′) wheelbase versions were built, the latter available with stylish four-seater sports saloon coachwork by Enrico Bertelli. Priced at £700, it was the most expensive model in the range. This is a Series 3 car and it dates from 1934.
Open-topped Audi models are popular for those buying new and nearly new cars, so no surprise to find a number of them were, with both an A5 Cabrio and a TT Roadster on display in the courtyard.
I’ve not been able to find out very much about this rather splendid Austin. I do know (thanks, Google), it dates from 1928, and it has a 2 seat Tourer body. That leads me to suspect that it is simply called a Twelve Tourer. Austin introduced the Twelve in 1921, as the second of Herbert Austin’s post World War I models and was in many ways a scaled-down version of his Austin Twenty, introduced in 1919. The slower than expected sales of the Twenty brought about a divergence from his intended one-model policy, which had led to the company being in receivership for six months. The number Twelve refers to its fiscal horse power (12.8) rather than its bhp which was 20 and later 27. The long stroke engines encouraged by the tax regime, 72 x 102 later 72 x 114.5, had much greater low speed torque than the bhp rating suggests. Initially available as a tourer, by 1922 three body styles were offered, these being the four-seat tourer, the two/four-seater (both costing £ 550) and the coupé at £675. The car enjoyed success throughout the vintage era with annual sales peaking at 14,000 in 1927. While the mechanical specification changed little (the engine increased from 1661 cc to 1861 cc in 1926), many body styles were offered with saloons becoming more popular as the twenties drew to a close. After the early thirties the car was referred to by the public as the Heavy Twelve to distinguish it from the other, newer, 12HP cars in the Austin catalogue Light Twelve-Four, Light Twelve-Six etc. and received some updating. The artillery style wheels were replaced by wire wheels in 1933 and coil ignition replaced the magneto in 1935. The gearbox was provided with synchromesh between its top two ratios in 1934. The factory catalogued body range was steadily updated with the last of the no longer fashionable Weymann style fabric covered cars in 1931 and no open tourers after 1934. The car continued in the Austin catalogue and as a Taxi option until 1939. The last cars were produced for the War Department in 1940.
Three examples of the “Big Healey” were on show. Donald Healey had been producing a range of expensive sports cars from the 1940s, cars such as the Silverstone, the Abbott and the Farnham. For the 1952 London Motor Show, he produced a new design, which was called the Healey Hundred, based on Austin A90 mechanicals, which he intended to produce in-house at his small car company in Warwick. It was one of the stars of the 1952 Show, and it so impressed Leonard Lord, the Managing Director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. that Lord struck a deal with Healey on the spot, to build it in quantity. Bodies made by Jensen Motors would be given Austin mechanical components at Austin’s Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100, in reference to the fact that the car had a top speed of 100 mph. Production got under way in 1953, with Austin-Healey 100s being finished at Austin’s Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich—in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports. By early 1956, production was running at 200 cars a month, 150 of which were being sold in California. Between 1953 and 1956, 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced, the vast majority of them, as was the case for most cars in this post war era, going for export. The car was replaced by an updated model in 1956, called the 100-6. It had a longer wheelbase, redesigned bodywork with an oval shaped grille, a fixed windscreen and two occasional seats added (which in 1958 became an option with the introduction of the two-seat BN6 produced in parallel with the 2+2 BN4), and the engine was replaced by one based on the six-cylinder BMC C-Series engine. In 1959, the engine capacity was increased from 2.6 to 2.9 litres and the car renamed the Austin-Healey 3000. Both 2-seat and 2+2 variants were offered. It continued in this form until production ceased in late 1967. The Big Healey, as the car became known after the 1958 launch of the much smaller Austin-Healey Sprite, is a popular classic now. You come across the 3000 models more frequently than the 100s, as they accounted for more than 60% of all Big Healey production and indeed all the cars here were 3000 models.
Joining the Big Healeys was an example of its baby brother, the car which acquired the nickname of “Frog eyed” Sprite in the UK. Announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation on 20 May 1958, just before that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, the new Sprite was intended to be a low-cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”, yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. Designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, with production being undertaken at the MG factory at Abingdon, it first went on sale at a price of £669, using a tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down. It was produced for a little over 3 years before being replaced by a Mark 2 version, which was then joined by a badge-engineered MG version, the Midget, reviving a model name used by MG from the late 1920s through to the mid 1950s. Enthusiasts often refer to Sprites and the later Midgets collectively as “Spridgets.” The first Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. But cost cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature. The body was styled by Gerry Coker, with subsequent alterations by Les Ireland following Coker’s emigration to the US in 1957. The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport. The problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during prototype build, however during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet (hood) and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. The 43 bhp, 948 cc OHV engine was derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburettors which gave it 43 hp at 5200 rpm and 52 lb/ft at 3300 rpm. When tested by “The Motor” magazine in 1958. It had a top speed of 82.9 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 20.5 seconds. Fuel consumption of 43 mpg was recorded. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners, but which resulted in a large space available to store soft baggage. The BMC Competition Department entered Austin Healey Sprites in major international races and rallies, their first major success coming when John Sprinzel and Willy Cave won their class on the 1958 Alpine Rally. Private competitors also competed with much success in Sprites. Because of its affordability and practicality, the Austin Healey Sprite was developed into a formidable competition car, assuming many variants by John Sprinzel, Speedwell and WSM. The Sebring Sprite became the most iconic of the racing breed of Austin Healey Sprites. Many owners use their Austin Healey Sprites in competition today, fifty years after its introduction. 48,987 “frogeye” Sprites were made and the car remains popular to this day.
BMW have been offering their own open-topped versions of the 3 series since the E30 generation, and they have proved very popular. Two examples of the model were here, an E36 and the current car, now badged with 4 series labelling and seen in M4 guise.
First of the Z cars was the Z1 the very striking sports car that was produced only for a short period between 1989 and 1991. The first example of the Z1 was released by BMW to the press in 1986 and later officially presented at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show. Initial demand was so fierce that BMW had 5,000 orders before production began. The Z1 was designed over a three-year period by an in-house division of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH. The development of the Z1 is attributed to Ulrich Bez and his team at BMW Technik GmbH (Harm Lagaay, Alexander Pregl, Rudolf Müller, Lutz Janssen, Wolf-Henryk Menke, Dieter Schaffner, Klaus Faust, Sabine Zemelka, Patrick Ayoub and Stephan Stark). Control of the project was turned over to. Klaus Faust when Bez left for Porsche in October 1988. The BMW Z1 was used to develop and debut several technologies. Z1 designer Harm Lagaay mentioned that Z1 production helped generate patents for BMW’s high-intensity discharge lamp, integrated roll-bar, door mechanism, and underbody tray. Both the engine and the five-speed manual transmission were sourced from the E30 325i. The 2.5 litre 12-valve SOHC straight-six engine sits tilted 20 degrees to the right to accommodate the low bonnet line. The engine produces 168 hp at 5,800 rpm and 164 lb·ft of torque in its original form. The rear suspension, called the Z Axle, was specially designed for the Z1 and this was one of the first BMWs to feature a multi-link design. In the 1990s, the Z Axle would be used on a variety of BMW Group vehicles, including the E36, 3 series, and the R40 Rover 75.The chassis was specially designed for the Z1 and featured a number of innovative features: removable body panels, continuously zinc welded seams, a composite undertray, and the unusual dropped doors. Parts of the car (including the engine, gearbox, and front suspension) were borrowed from the BMW E30 325i and 325Ix, but most of the Z1’s components are unique to the model, and that had the consequence of making it expensive. The body was made from plastic and could be removed completely from the chassis. The side panels and doors are made of General Electric’s XENOY thermoplastic. The hood, trunk, and roof cover are GRP components made by Seger + Hoffman AG. The car is painted in a special flexible lacquer finish developed jointly by AKZO Coatings and BMW Technik GmbH. During the Z1s launch, BMW suggested that owners purchase an additional set of body panels and change the colour of the car from time to time. The car could actually be driven with all of the panels completely removed, similar to the Pontiac Fiero. BMW noted that the body could be completely replaced in 40 minutes, although Z1 owners have reported that this may be optimistic. The entire vehicle was designed with aerodynamics in mind. Specifically, the entire undertray is completely flat and the exhaust and rear valance were designed as integral aerodynamic components to decrease turbulence and rear lift. The front end reportedly induces a high-pressure zone just forward of the front wheels to increase front-wheel traction. The Z1 has a drag coefficient of 0.36 Cd with the top up or 0.43 Cd with it down. The doors retract vertically down into the car’s body instead of swinging outward or upward. The Kaiser Darrin was the first car to have retractable doors; they slid forward into the front wings. The inspiration for these doors came from more traditional roadsters which often feature removable metal or cloth doors. Because removable doors did not fit within BMW’s design goals, the retractable doors were installed instead. The body with its high sills, offers crash protection independent of the doors, the vehicle may be legally and safely driven with the doors up or down, although this is not legal in the U.S. The windows may be operated independently of the doors, although they do retract automatically if the door is lowered. Both the window and door are driven by electric motors through toothed rubber belts and may be moved manually in an emergency. It took a while to get the Z1 into production, by which time demand had dropped considerably, perhaps due to reduced demand from speculators. In the end, BMW only produced 8,000 Z1 models. 6,443 of these were sold in BMW’s native German market. The country to receive the second-greatest number of Z1s, Italy, received less than 7% of the total sold domestically. BMW was reportedly unable to build more than 10 to 20 Z1 vehicles each day. None were initially sold in North America, although examples have been independently imported since the car’s launch. More than half of all Z1 vehicles (specifically, 4,091) were produced for the 1990 model year. Seventy-eight Z1 vehicles were reportedly used as test mules, although most were later sold without a warranty and, presumably, at a lower price. The Z1 was available in six exterior colours and four interior colours. Most (6,177) were red, black, or green with a dark grey interior. Light yellow exterior (fun-gelb in German or fun yellow in English, with 33 examples made and cars with a red interior (38 examples made) are the rarest Z1 colours. The colours swimming pool blue and oh-so-orange were reserved for the car’s designers, Bez and Lagaay. Reportedly, some 1,101 Z1 vehicles were delivered without a factory radio installed. In these vehicles, BMWS AG installed an aftermarket Sony radio in its place. None of the Z1 vehicles were sold with air conditioning. The vehicle’s dashboard is very small and there was no room for both heat and cooling units. Some Z1 vehicles were converted using BMW E30 parts to have air conditioning, but reportedly the heater elements had to be removed. Although prices did drop from the new car cost of around £40,000, these have never been cheap cars to buy, and these days values are increasing again.
It was a few years before the next Z model BMW would appear, but when it did, it was clear that BMW’s ambitions for the car were for far greater volume than the Z1 was ever going to achieve. This was intended to be the marque’s first “affordable” open two seater sports car, as well as being the first BMW model to be manufactured in the United States. In E number speak, it was coded the E36/7, for the roadster variant which was first to market, being introduced in 1995, and E36/8 refers to the coupe variant which was released in 1999. The Z, as used for the earlier Z1, and later Z4 and Z8 models stands for Zukunft, which is German for “future”. The BMW Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America on June 12, 1995 and made a short appearance in the James Bond film GoldenEye on November 17, 1995. Karen Sortito was responsible for the campaign, and sales of the Z3 spiked as the film sat at number one at the Box Office. In the 1996 production run, more than 15,000 roadsters were sold by the time the car was introduced. Initially it was offered with a 1.9 litre 4 cylinder engine, though a 2.8 litre V6 unit soon joined it. Additional engine choices came along during the model’s lifetime, of which the one which got the enthusiasts most interested was when the 3.2 litre unit from the M3 was squeezed under the bonnet to create a car which was officially known as the M Roadster, though many refer to it as the Z3M. There were some visual differences as well, including a more aerodynamic front bumper with no fog lights, a rear bumper designed to fit quad exhausts, temperature and oil gauges in the centre console, an M sports steering wheel and gear lever, M seats and 17-inch M wheels. Outside mirrors also have a more aerodynamic design. The front gills on Z3M models are different as well, with a chrome strip running through them. Z3M models did not share cosmetic changes from the facelift, but they had and bigger brakes. In 2000, the S52 engine replaced the S50 and this was updated again with the S54 engine installed in the 2001 and 2002 model year vehicles. The Coupe version, an example of which was parked up outside the main gate was mechanically the same as the Roadster and was added to the range in mid 1999. This model was fearsomely expensive when new and hence sold in tiny quantities. BMW did in due course offer the Coupe body, with its unusual breadvan styling with less powerful engines, but only the 6 cylinder units. A facelift for the range was introduced in 2000, and the Z3 ended production in 2002 when it was replaced by the BMW Z4.
There was an example of the Z4 here, as well.
Caterham have been producing their versions of the legendary Lotus Seven for over 40 years now, and with the build of a few hundred a year, that means that there are something like 20,000 examples out there. Popular as affordable track and fun cars, they certainly qualify for a “roof down” event, as although there is a roof, erecting it is far from simple, and so you only ever see them in this state when the weather is truly dire. There were three different examples here.
Also represented by three cars was Chevrolet’s Corvette, but in this case, that meant three different models, from the C4, C5 and C6 generation of the longest lived of America’s sports cars.
There was a nice collection of open=topped Ferrari models here, all of them V8 cars, with just a couple of models missing in a progression that ranged from the mid 80s to the present day. The two cars unrepresented were the 348 Spider and the 360 Spider, both of which are quite commonly encountered, making their absence all the more conspicuous. However, the 5 cars which were here were equally glorious. Oldest of them was a 328 GTS. Introduced at the 1985 Frankfurt Show alongside the Mondial 3.2 series, the Ferrari 328 GTB and GTS (Type F106) were the successors to the Ferrari 308 GTB and GTS which had first been seen in October 1975. While mechanically still based on the 308 GTB and GTS respectively, small modifications were made to the body style and engine, most notably an increase in engine displacement to 3185 cc for increased power and torque output. As had been the case for a generation of the smaller Ferraris, the model name referred to the total cubic capacity of the engine, 3.2 litres, and 8 for the number of cylinders. Essentially the new model was a revised and updated version of the 308 GTS, which had survived for eight years without any radical change to the overall shape, albeit with various changes to the 3-litre engine. The 328 model presented a softening of the wedge profile of its predecessor, with a redesigned nose that had a more rounded shape, which was complemented by similar treatment to the tail valance panel. The revised nose and tail sections featured body colour bumpers integral with the valance panels, which reflected the work done concurrently to present the Mondial 3.2 models, with which they also shared a similar radiator grille and front light assembly layout. Thus all the eight-cylinder cars in the range shared fairly unified front and rear aspects, providing a homogeneous family image. The exhaust air louvres behind the retractable headlight pods on the 308 series disappeared, coupled with an increase in the size of the front lid radiator exhaust air louvre, which had been introduced on the 308 Quattrovalvole models, whilst a new style and position of exterior door catch was also provided. The interior trim also had a thorough overhaul, with new designs for the seat panel upholstery and stitching, revised door panels and pulls, together with more modern switchgear, which complemented the external updating details. Optional equipment available was air conditioning, metallic paint, Pirelli P7 tyres, a leather dashboard, leather headlining to the removable roof panel plus rear window surround, and a rear aerofoil (standard on Japanese market models). In the middle of 1988 ABS brakes were made available as an option, which necessitated a redesign of the suspension geometry to provide negative offset. This in turn meant that the road wheel design was changed to accommodate this feature. The original flat spoke “star” wheels became a convex design, in the style as fitted to the 3.2 Mondial models, whether ABS was fitted or not. The main European market 328 GTS models had a tubular chassis with a factory type reference F 106 MS 100. Disc brakes, with independent suspension via wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers, were provided all round, with front and rear anti roll bars. There were various world market models, each having slight differences, with right and left hand drive available. The V8 engine was essentially of the same design as that used in the 308 Quattrovalvole model, with an increase in capacity to 3185 cc. The engine retained the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system of its predecessor, but was fitted with a Marelli MED 806 A electronic ignition system, to produce a claimed power output of 270 bhp at 7000 rpm. As with the preceding 308 models the engine was mounted in unit with the all synchromesh five-speed manual transmission assembly, which was below, and to the rear of the engine’s sump. The 328 GTS continued in production for four years, until replaced by the 348 ts model in the autumn of 1989, during which time 6068 examples were produced in the chassis number range of 59301 to 83136, the GTS production outnumbering the GTB (1344 produced) version almost five to one.
Stung by the criticism of the 348, Ferrari undertook a comprehensive revision, creating the F355 model which they launched in May 1994. An evolution of the Ferrari 348, just about everything was changed, and improved. Design emphasis for the F355 was placed on significantly improved performance, but driveability across a wider range of speeds and in different environments such as low-speed city traffic was also addressed, as the Honda NS-X had proved that you could make a supercar that could be lived with every day. Apart from the displacement increase from 3.4 to 3.5 litres, the major difference between the V8 engine in the 348 and F355 was the introduction of a 5-valve cylinder head. This new head design allowed for better intake permeability and resulted in an engine that was considerably more powerful, producing 375 hp. The longitudinal 90° V8 engine was bored 2mm over the 348’s engine, resulting in the small increase in displacement. The F355 had a Motronic system controlling the electronic fuel injection and ignition systems, with a single spark plug per cylinder, resulting in an unusual 5 valves per cylinder configuration. This was reflected in the name, which did not follow the formula from the previous decades of engine capacity in litres followed by number of cylinders such as the 246 = 2.4 litres and 6 cylinders and the 308 of 3.0 litres and 8 cylinders. For the F355, Ferrari used engine capacity followed by the number of valves per cylinder (355 = 3.5 litres engine capacity and 5 valves per cylinder) to bring the performance advances introduced by a 5 valve per cylinder configuration into the forefront. 5. The frame was a steel monocoque with tubular steel rear sub-frame with front and rear suspensions using independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs over gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers with electronic control servos and anti-roll bars. The car allows selection between two damper settings, “Comfort” and “Sport”. Ferrari fitted all road-going F355 models with Pirelli tyres, 225/40ZR 18 in front and 265/40 ZR 18 in the rear. Although the F355 was equipped with power-assisted steering (intended to improve low-speed driveability relative to the outgoing 348), this could optionally be replaced with a manual steering rack setup by special order. Aerodynamic designs for the car included over 1,300 hours of wind tunnel analysis. The car incorporates a Nolder profile on the upper portion of the tail, and a fairing on the underbody that generates downforce when the car is at speed. These changes not only made the car faster but also much better to drive, restoring Ferrari to the top of the tree among its rivals. At launch, two models were available: the coupe Berlinetta and the targa topped GTS, which was identical to the Berlinetta apart from the fact that the removable “targa-style” hard top roof could be stored behind the seats. The F355 would prove to be last in the series of mid-engined Ferraris with the Flying Buttress rear window, a lineage going back to the 1965 Dino 206 GT, unveiled at the Paris Auto Show. The Spider (convertible) version came later in the year. In 1997 the Formula One style paddle gear shift electrohydraulic manual transmission was introduced with the Ferrari 355 F1 adding £6,000 to the dealer asking price. This system promised faster gearchanges and allowed the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel, It proved to be very popular and was the beginning of the end for the manual-transmission Ferrari. Ferrari produced 4,871 road-going Berlinetta models, of which 3,829 were 6-speed and 1,042 were F1 transmissions. The Spider proved to be the second-most popular F355 model, with a total production of 3,717 units, of which 2,664 were produced with the 6-speed transmission and another 1,053 produced with the F1 transmission. A total of 2,577 GTS models were produced, with 2,048 delivered with the 6-speed transmission and another 529 with the F1 transmission. This was the last GTS targa style model produced by Ferrari. This made a total production run of 11,273 units making the F355 the most-produced Ferrari at the time, though this sales record would be surpassed by the next generation 360 and later, the F430.
There were no 360 Modena models here, but the successor was present, the F430. This car debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from its predecessor, the Ferrari 360, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 465 N·m (343 lb/ft) of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and callipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.
Follow on model was the 458 Spider. An all new design, the 458 Italia was first officially unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Once more, Ferrari advised that the model incorporated technologies developed from the company’s experience in Formula 1.The body computer system was developed by Magneti Marelli Automotive Lighting. The 458 came with a 4,499 cc V8 engine of the “Ferrari/Maserati” F136 engine family, producing 570 PS ( 562 hp) at 9,000 rpm and 540 N·m (398 lb/ft) at 6,000 rpm with 80% torque available at 3,250 rpm. The engine featured direct fuel injection, a first for Ferrari mid-engine setups in its road cars. The only transmission available was a dual-clutch 7-speed Getrag gearbox, in a different state of tune shared with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. There was no traditional manual option, making this the fourth road-car after the Enzo, Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia not to be offered with Ferrari’s classic gated manual. The car’s suspension featured double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, coupled with E-Diff and F1-Trac traction control systems, designed to improve the car’s cornering and longitudinal acceleration by 32% when compared with its predecessors. The brakes included a prefill function whereby the pistons in the calipers move the pads into contact with the discs on lift off to minimise delay in the brakes being applied. This combined with the ABS and standard Carbon Ceramic brakes caused a reduction in stopping distance from 100–0 km/h (62-0 mph) to 32.5 metres. Ferrari’s official 0–100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time was quoted as 2.9–3.0 seconds with a top speed of 340 km/h (210 mph). In keeping with Ferrari tradition the body was designed by Pininfarina under the leadership of Donato Coco, the Ferrari design director. The interior design of Ferrari 458 Italia was designed by Bertrand Rapatel, a French automobile designer. The car’s exterior styling and features were designed for aerodynamic efficiency, producing a downforce of 140 kg (309 lb) at 200 km/h. In particular, the front grille features deformable winglets that lower at high speeds, in order to offer reduced drag. The car’s interior was designed using input from former Ferrari Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher; in a layout common to racing cars, the new steering wheel incorporates many controls normally located on the dashboard or on stalks, such as turning signals or high beams. At launch the car was widely praised as being pretty much near perfect in every regard. It did lack a fresh air version, though, but that was addressed with the launch of the 458 Spider at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. This convertible variant of the 458 Italia featured an aluminium retractable hardtop which, according to Ferrari, weighs 25 kilograms (55 lb) less than a soft roof such as the one found on the Ferrari F430 Spider, and can be opened in 14 seconds The engine cover was redesigned to accommodate the retractable roof system. It had the same 0–100 km/h time as the hard-top but a lower top speed of 199 mph. It quickly became the better seller of the two versions.
Final Ferrari here was a 458 Speciale A, the open topped version of the Speciale that followed the Coupe model. Launched at the 2014 Paris Show, just 458 of the 458 Speciale A (for Aperta) were built, making it a very rare car. The mechanical changes to this car are the same as with the Coupe model, and that goes for the styling alterations as well, with the major difference being that, as this is an open car, with a removable roof, you no longer get the glass engine cover. Weighing 50 kg more than the closed car, the quoted performance figures for the two models were the same. Inside. the Speciale A gets blue carbonfibre – exclusive to this model – on the dash, moulded door panels and central tunnel, as well as the newly designed seats in Alcantara with contrasting stitching and 3D technical fabric. A special plaque in the cockpit commemorates the three international ‘best performance engine’ awards the V8 has won. The Speciale cars followed a long line of specially engineered cars added to complement the “regular” V8 models that started with the 100 units of the 348 Speciale produced in 1992, and followed up by the 360 Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia and the 16M. In essence they are all about adding power and shedding weight. In simplistic terms, the road to the Speciale can be summed up in four words: more power, less weight. There are other, more detailed changes, too, obviously, but those are the cornerstones around which everything else is shaped. The normally aspirated, flat-plane crank V8 retains its 4497cc swept capacity but receives new cam geometry with higher valve lift, shorter inlet manifolds and different pistons providing a higher compression ratio. Internal friction is reduced, through the use of uprated materials and the upshot is 597bhp (up from 562bhp) generated at the engine’s 9000rpm limit. Torque is the same, at 398lb ft, still delivered at 6000rpm. The engine is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox whose upshifts, we were told at the launch of such gearboxes, are all but instant. That’s still true, but Ferrari has improved the response time to a pull on the lever and made the engine rev-match more quickly on downshifts to reduce the time that those take. The engine’s changes shave 8kg from the car’s overall weight – the exhaust is all aluminium and the intake is carbonfibre. Those 8kg form part of a claimed 90kg total saving at 1395kg now, versus 1485kg for a 458 Italia. Of this 90kg, 12kg is contributed by lighter, forged wheels, 13kg comes from bodywork and window changes (lighter glass all round and Lexan for the engine cover), and 20kg comes from the cabin. There are two flaps on the Speciale’s front valance, one either side of the prancing horse badge in its centre. Below 106mph these flaps remain closed, which diverts air towards the radiators. Above that speed, the radiators get quite enough cool air, thanks very much, so the flaps open, which reduces drag. Then, above 137mph, they move again, lowering to shift downforce to the rear of the car, in turn adjusting the balance 20 per cent rearward in order to promote high-speed cornering stability. At the rear, meanwhile, there is a new diffuser (the exhausts have been rerouted to make the most of its central section). Movable flaps in the diffuser adjust, but this time they are dependent not only on speed but also on steering angle and throttle or brake position. When lowered, the flaps stall the path of air into the diffuser and improve the Cd by 0.03. When raised, the diffuser adds downforce as it should. Bodywork changes, though, also bring some aerodynamic improvements, you’ll not be surprised to hear, with lessons applied from the LaFerrari and FXX programmes. In the front valance and under the rear diffuser, there are flaps that open at speed to reduce drag and improve downforce. Finally, there are new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres in a unique compound – rather a sticky one, we suspect – plus new calibration for the adaptive dampers. The carbon-ceramic brake discs also use a new compound. Needless to say, the 499 Coupe and 458 Aperta models sold out very quickly.
One of my favourites of the morning was this fabulous Dino Spider. The Dino road cars came to be because of Enzo Ferrari’s need to homologate a V6 engine for Formula 2 racing cars. In 1965 the Commission Sportive Internationale de la FIA had drawn up new rules, to be enacted for the 1967 season. F2 engines were required to have no more than six cylinders, and to be derived from a production engine, from a road car homologated in the GT class and produced in at least 500 examples within 12 months. Since a small manufacturer like Ferrari did not possess the production capacity to reach such quotas, an agreement was signed with Fiat and made public on 1 March 1965: Fiat would produce the 500 engines needed for the homologation, to be installed in a yet unspecified GT car. The Fiat Dino was introduced as a 2-seater Spider at the Turin Motor Show in October 1966; a 2+2 Coupé version, built on a 270 mm (10.6 in) longer wheelbase, bowed a few months later at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1967. The two bodies showed very different lines, as they had been designed and were manufactured for Fiat by two different coachbuilders: the Spider by Pininfarina, and the Coupé by Bertone—where it had been sketched out by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Curiously the Spider type approval identified it as a 2+1 seater. The Spider had poorer interior trim than the Coupé, below par for its class: the dashboard was covered in vinyl, the metal-spoke steering wheel had a plastic rim, and the interior switchgear was derived from cheaper Fiat models. After a few months this issue was addressed, and Spiders produced after February 1967 had a wood-rimmed steering wheel as well as a wood trim on the dashboard like the sister Coupé car had since the beginning. Option lists for both models were limited to radio, metallic paint, leather upholstery, and for the Spider a vinyl-covered hardtop with roll-bar style stainless steel trim. The car was offered with an all-aluminium DOHC 2.0 litre V6, coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission. The same 2.0-litre engine was used in mid-engined, Ferrari-built Dino 206 GT, which was introduced in pre-production form at the 1967 Turin Motor Show and went on sale in 1968. Fiat quoted 160 PS (118 kW; 158 hp) for the Fiat Dino, while in 1967 Ferrari—presenting the first prototype of the Dino 206 GT—claimed 180 hp despite both engines were made by Fiat workers in Turin on the same production line, without any discrimination as to their destination. Jean-Pierre Gabriel in “Les Ferraris de Turin” notes that, “La declaration de Ferrari ne reposait sur aucun fondament technique”—Ferrari’s statement had no technical basis. The real reason for this difference was a mistake in between quotes made in SAE and BHP power output. In 1969, both Ferrari and Fiat introduced new 2.4-litre Dino models. The Fiat Dino 2400 premiered in October 1969 at the Turin Motor show; besides the larger engine, another notable improvements was independent rear suspension. The V6 now put out 180 PS, and used a cast iron instead of the previous light alloy engine block; the same engine was installed on the Dino 246 GT, Ferrari’s evolution of the 206. Whereas the original Dino was equipped with a rigid axle suspended by leaf springs and 4 shock absorbers, 2.4-litre cars used a coil-sprung independent rear suspension with 2 shock absorbers derived from the Fiat 130. Rather than engine power and absolute speed, the most important consequence of the larger displacement was a marked increase in torque, available at lower engine speeds; the Dino 2400 had much better pickup, and it was found more usable, even in city traffic. Other modifications went on to improve the car’s drivability and safety: larger diameter clutch, new dogleg ZF gearbox with revised gear ratios, wider section 205/70VR -14 tyres, and up-sized brake discs and callipers. Cosmetic changes were comparatively minor. Both models were now badged “Dino 2400”. On the coupé the previous silver honeycomb grille with the round Fiat logo on its centre had been replaced by a new black grille and a bonnet badge. A host of details were changed from chrome to matte black, namely part of the wheels, the vents on the front wings and the cabin ventilation outlets—the latter moved from next the side windows to the rear window. At the rear there were different tail lights. The spider also sported a new grille with two horizontal chrome bars, 5-bolts instead of knock-off wheels, as well as a new bumpers with rubber strips. Inside only the coupé received an entirely redesigned dashboard and new cloth seats, with optional leather seat upholstery; front seat headrests were standard on the coupé and optional on the spider. Spider and coupé bodies were produced respectively by Pininfarina and Bertone. 2.0-litre and early 2.4-litre cars were assembled by Fiat in Rivalta di Torino. Starting from December 1969 the Fiat Dino was assembled in Maranello on Ferrari’s production line, alongside the 246 GT. Between 1966 and 1969 there were 3,670 2.0-litre coupés and 1,163 2.0-litre spiders made; with only 420 built, the 2400 Spider is the rarest of the Fiat’s Dinos. Of the total 7,803 Fiat Dino produced, 74% were the popular coupés and only 26% were spiders. Spiders are worth big money now – good ones are over £100k – which means that the car is way beyond my means, but every time I see one, I go weak at the knees. To my eyes, it is one of the best looking cars ever made.
Right hand drive versions of the Mustang have finally gone on sale in the UK, and the cars are starting to appear on our roads and at events. There were not any of them here., but there was a much earlier model, dating from the late 90s, a GT Convertible.
There were two Ginetta cars here, from the small British firm which many thought had gone for good when they stopped making cars like the G33 in the early 1990s, but which in fact is still producing cars, primarily for racing. As well as the G33, there was a more recent G27 Series 3.
One of the later cars to arrive was this glorious XK140 Drophead Coupe. Rather than be banished to a corner of the site, it was ushered into the main courtyard and given a star position right in the middle where everyone could enjoy it, and that felt quite right and proper. Whilst it probably was some way off being the most valuable car on show, many would tell you that it was one of the most elegant, and I would not disagree with them. The XK140 was the successor to the XK120, with a number of useful changes and upgrades over the earlier car which included more interior space, improved brakes, rack and pinion steering, increased suspension travel, and telescopic shock absorbers instead of the older lever arm design. The XK140 was introduced in late 1954 and sold as a 1955 model. Exterior changes that distinguished it from the XK120 included more substantial front and rear bumpers with overriders, and flashing turn signals (operated by a switch on the dash) above the front bumper. The grille remained the same size but became a one-piece cast unit with fewer, and broader, vertical bar, making it easy to tell an XK140 apart from an XK120. The Jaguar badge was incorporated into the grille surround. A chrome trim strip ran along the centre of the bonnet and boot lid. An emblem on the boot lid contained the words “Winner Le Mans 1951–3”. The interior was made more comfortable for taller drivers by moving the engine, firewall and dash forward to give 3 inches more legroom. Two 6-volt batteries, one in each front wing were fitted to the Fixed Head Coupe, but Drop Heads and the Open Two Seater had a single 12-volt battery. This was installed in the front wing on the passenger side (e.g. In the left wing on right hand drive cars and in the right wing on left hand drive). The XK140 was powered by the Jaguar XK engine with the Special Equipment modifications from the XK120, which raised the specified power by 10 bhp to 190 bhp gross at 5500 rpm, as standard. The C-Type cylinder head, carried over from the XK120 catalogue, and producing 210 bhp ross at 5750 rpm, was optional equipment. When fitted with the C-type head, 2-inch sand-cast H8 carburettors, heavier torsion bars and twin exhaust pipes, the car was designated XK140 SE in the UK and XK140 MC in North America. In 1956 the XK140 became the first Jaguar sports car to be offered with automatic transmission. As with the XK120, wire wheels and dual exhausts were options, and most XK140s imported into the United States had wire wheels. Cars with the standard disc wheels had spats (fender skirts) over the rear wheel opening. When leaving the factory it originally fitted either 6.00 × 16 inch crossply tyres or you could specify 185VR16 Pirelli Cinturato CA67 as a radial option on either 16 × 5K½ solid wheels or 16 × 5K (special equipment) wire wheels. The Roadster (designated OTS – Open Two Seater – in America) had a light canvas top that folded out of sight behind the seats. The interior was trimmed in leather and leatherette, including the dash. Like the XK120 Roadster, the XK140 version had removable canvas and plastic side curtains on light alloy barchetta-type doors, and a tonneau cover. The door tops and scuttle panel were cut back by two inches compared to the XK120, to allow a more modern positioning of the steering wheel. The angle of the front face of the doors (A-Post) was changed from 45 degrees to 90 degrees, to make access easier. The Drophead Coupé (DHC) had a bulkier lined canvas top that lowered onto the body behind the seats, a fixed windscreen integral with the body (the Roadster’s screen was removable), wind-up side windows, and a small rear seat. It also had a walnut-veneered dashboard and door cappings. The Fixed Head Coupé (FHC) shared the DHC’s interior trim and rear seat. The prototype Fixed Head Coupe retained the XK120 Fixed Head roof-profile, with the front wings and doors the same as the Drophead. In production, the roof was lengthened with the screen being placed further forward, shorter front wings, and longer doors. This resulted in more interior space, and more legroom. The XK140 was replaced by the XK150 in March 1957.
Replacement for the XK models, which have reached the XK150 from 1957, came in 1961 with the E Type, and it stunned the world at its premier at the 1961 Geneva Show. Considered by many to be Sir William Lyons’ greatest achievement, not only did the car have stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous styling, but it had explosive performance (even if the 150 mph that was achieved in The Autocar’s Road Test is now known to have been with a little “help”), but it was the price that amazed people more than anything else. Whilst out of reach for most people, who could barely afford any new car, it was massively cheaper than contemporary Aston Martins and Ferraris, its market rivals. It was not perfect, though, and over the coming years, Jaguar made constant improvements. A 2+2 model joined the initial range of Roadster and Coupe, and more powerful and larger engines came when the 3.8 litre was enlarged to 4.2 litres, before more significant styling changes came with the 1967 Series 2 and the 1971 Series 3, where new front end treatments and lights were a consequence of legislative demands of the E Type’s most important market, America. There were examples of both the Series 1.5 Open and the later Series 3 Roadster models here.
The E Type’s replacement, the XJ-S marked a distinct shift from sports car to Grand Tourer, a direction that Jaguar would continue to take for three successive generations, and exemplified by this XK8 Convertible. Development of the car began in 1992, with design work having starting earlier, in late 1991. By October 1992 a design was chosen and later frozen for production in 1993. Prototypes were built from December 1993 after the X100 was given formal approval and design patents were filed in June 1994. Development concluded in 1996, at which point the car was launched. The first-generation XK series shares its platform with the Aston Martin DB7, and both cars are derived from the Jaguar XJS, though the platform has been extensively changed. One of the revisions is the use of the second generation of Jaguar’s independent rear suspension unit, taken from the XJ40. The XK8 was available in coupé or convertible body styles and with the then new 4.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. In 1998 the XKR was introduced with a supercharged version of the engine. 2003 the engines were replaced by the 4.2-litre AJ34 engines in both the normally aspirated and supercharged versions. Equipment levels were generous and there was a high standard of fit and finish. Both models came with all-leather interior, burl walnut trim, and side airbags. Jeremy Clarkson, during a Top Gear test-drive, likened the interior of the original XK8 to sitting inside Blenheim Palace. The model ran for 10 years before being replaced by the X150 model XK .
Another late arrival was this F Type Project Seven. This one was parked up outside the main gate, a position from which it attracted lots of attention. I’ve seen a few of these cars now, but never before in red, which is indeed one of the factory options. The project Seven was first shown in the summer of 2013, more of an indication of what could be done with the new F Type rather than as something which was going to be produced, but such was the clamour from enthusiasts that Jaguar decided to build a limited run of them, and even at a starting price of £130,000, there were more people who wanted to buy one than cars that Jaguar planned to make, with the car selling out before it officially went on sale. Just 250 will be built, 80 available to buyers in the UK, 50 in Germany and the balance to the Americans, who, it would seem, have been getting their cars first. The Seven in the name refers to Jaguar’s seven Le Mans wins (two of them with the help of Ecurie Ecosse, of course). Visually, it is easy to recognise from a standard F Type, with its abbreviated screen, its new front bumper, many aero mods (carbonfibre splitter, blade-like side skirts, rear diffuser and deck-mounted rear wing) and its nose stripes and racing roundels. The owner explained that he is not allowed to put a number on the roundel for road use, and he is also agonising over whether to put on a front number plate, as it would spoil the looks of the car. The Project 7 starts as a standard V8 drophead, with its 5.0-litre supercharged engine modified to produce 567bhp, which is 25bhp more than an F-Type R Coupé and 516lb ft of torque (15lb ft more). Proportionally speaking, these aren’t huge increases, but they’re delivered via unique throttle maps that let you feel the extra energy from around 2500rpm and these figures do make this the most powerful Jaguar ever made. Combine this with the benefits of a 45kg weight reduction (35kg of this comes from that rather ungainly “get you home” hood and the seats have race-bred carbonfibre shells) and you get an F-Type capable of the 0-60mph sprint in 3.8sec. The top speed is electronically limited to 186mph or 300km/h, as with other F-Types. With the exhaust butterflies open (there’s a special console switch), the car emits a superb growl-bark that turns into a magnificent crackle on the overrun. It’s the one thing that makes you want to slow down, though we did not get the real benefit of this as the car was driven, carefully around the rough and cobbled surfaces of the Square. A lot of the engineering effort spend on developing the car was in rebalancing the suspension and aerodynamics for high-speed duty. Font negative camber was increased from 0.5 to 1.5deg, to encourage the front wheels to dig in, and rear torque vectoring – differential braking of the rear wheels – is there to make the car turn easily. The car’s rear-biased aerodynamic downforce was addressed by fitting side skirts and a large front splitter, while slightly reducing the effectiveness (and drag) of the bootlid wing. Project Seven is fitted with all the top-end running gear: eight-speed Quickshift transmission, electronic differential, carbon-ceramic brakes, unique-tune adaptive dampers and its own special settings for engine management and chassis stability control. The Project 7 also has unique springs and anti-roll bars, the most prominent feature being front springs that are a stonking 80% stiffer, to cope with the potential force generated by the brakes and withstand turn-in loads at high speed on the soft standard Continental Force tyres. Engineers also moved the Sport and standard suspension settings further apart, to provide good options for short and long-distance use. The modifications are apparently most obvious on track, and Jaguar SVO reckon most owners will take their cars there as part of the limited mileage that they will probably cover in an average year.
Oldest of the Lotus models on show was an Elan Drophead, the guise in which the car was introduced in 1962, although an optional hardtop was offered in 1963 and then a coupé version was made available in 1965. The two-seat Lotus Elan replaced the elegant, but unreliable and expensive to produce Lotus Elite. It was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body. At 1,600 lb (726 kg), the Elan embodied the Colin Chapman minimum weight design philosophy. Initial versions of the Elan were also available as a kit to be assembled by the customer. The Elan was technologically advanced with a DOHC 1557 cc engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and 4-wheel independent suspension. Gordon Murray, who designed the spectacular McLaren F1 supercar, reportedly said that his only disappointment with the McLaren F1 was that he couldn’t give it the perfect steering of the Lotus Elan. This generation of the two-seater Elan was famously driven by the character Emma Peel on the 1960s British television series The Avengers. The “Lotus TwinCam” engine was based on Ford Kent Pre-Crossflow 4-cylinder 1498 cc engine, with a Harry Mundy-designed 2 valve alloy chain-driven twin-cam head. The rights to this design was later purchased by Ford, who renamed it to “Lotus-Ford Twin Cam”. It would go on to be used in a number of Ford and Lotus production and racing models.
Having been in production for 20 years now, there are lots of Lotus Elise cars on our roads, with a bewildering array of different versions having been offered, especially in the longer-lived S2 guise. The Elise is notable as it marked a return to the core values of simplicity and light-weight which were cornerstones of Colin Chapman’s philosophy when he founded the marque in 1955. The first generation Elise was produced for just over 4 years, with the replacement Series 2 arriving in October 2000. It came about as the Series 1 could not be produced beyond the 2000 model production year due to new European crash sustainability regulations. Lacking the funding to produce a replacement, Lotus needed a development partner to take a share of investment required for the new car. General Motors offered to fund the project, in return for a badged and GM-engined version of the car for their European brands, Opel and Vauxhall. The result was therefore two cars, which although looking quite different, shared much under the skin: a Series 2 Elise and the Vauxhall VX220 and Opel Speedster duo. The Series 2 Elise was a redesigned Series 1 using a slightly modified version of the Series 1 chassis to meet the new regulations, and the same K-series engine with a brand new Lotus-developed ECU. The design of the body paid homage to the earlier M250 concept, and was the first Lotus to be designed by computer. Both the Series 2 Elise and the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 were built on the same production line, in a new facility at Hethel. Both cars shared many parts, including the chassis, although they had different drive-trains and power-plants. The VX220 carried the Lotus internal model identification Lotus 116, with the code name Skipton for the launch 2.2 normally aspirated version and Tornado for the 2 litre Turbo which came out in 2004. Fitted with 17 inch over the Elise’s 16 inch front wheels, the Vauxhall/Opel version ceased production in late 2005 and was replaced by the Opel GT for February 2007, with no RHD version for the United Kingdom. The Elise lived on. and indeed is still in production now, some 15 years later, though there have been countless different versions produced in that time. Whilst the first of the Series 2 cars came with the Rover K-Series engine, and that included the 111S model which had the VVC engine technology producing 160 hp, a change came about in 2005 when Lotus started to use Toyota engines. This was initially due to Lotus’ plans to introduce the Elise to the US market, meaning that an engine was needed which would comply with US emissions regulations. The selected 1.8 litre (and later 1.6 litre) Toyota units did, and the K-series did not. that MG-Rover went out of business in 2005 and engine production ceased confirmed the need for the change. Since then, Lotus have offered us track focused Elise models like the 135R and Sport 190, with 135 bhp and 192 bhp respectively, as well as the 111R, the Sport Racer, the Elise S and Elise R. In 2008 an even more potent SC model, with 218 bhp thanks to a non-intercooled supercharger was added to the range. In February 2010, Lotus unveiled a facelifted version of the second generation Elise. The new headlights are now single units; triangular in shape they are somewhat larger than the earlier lights. The cheapest version in Europe now has a 1.6 litre engine to comply with Euro 5 emissions, with the same power output as the earlier 1.8 136bhp car. Lotus has been through some difficult times in recent years, but things are looking more optimistic again, with production numbers having risen significantly in the last couple of years, after a period when next to no cars were made. The Elise is still very much part of the range, with the very latest of a long line of different models making its debut at the 2016 Geneva Show. Seen here were an early S1 car and an S2 111S dating from late 2009.
One of the wilder machines of the morning was this Marcos LM400. Marcos had been producing updated versions of their classic model that originated in the 1960s throughout the late 1980s, with names such as Mantara, Mantula and Martina and they found a certain niche appeal, which generated funds to allow the marque to expand. Accordingly, at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1993 came an announcement that the Marcos marque would return to Le Mans. No doubt eponymous founder Jem Marsh had harboured this desire for some time, but Dave Lewis, the Thames Valley co-ordinator of the Club Marcos International, must be credited with re-awakening it in the factory and their backer, Computacenter. He had approached the factory with the idea a year earlier, and they agreed to build a car, if he could find a backer. He was unable to, but the factory were cheered by the interest and the LM400, 500 and 600 are the result of that. To enter GT racing, the Marcos factory were obliged to offer a certain number of cars similar to the race cars to the public as road cars. The Mantara was not quite suitable for a race car and so the sleeker LM500 was designed and built. The first car was an outrageous yellow convertible which did the rounds of the motoring press, complete with electronic instrumentation, but most LMs were actually sold with more traditional wood, Wilton and Connolly interiors. The LM400 and 500s were essentially the same, just having the 3.9 litre and 5.0 litre Rover V8s. The LM600 is the 1995 Chevrolet Corvette powered race car, (were any actually sold as road cars?) and had even more radically altered bodywork. Whilst the LMs are undoubtedly not cheap cars, they probably are still the cheapest way to drive a car which raced at Le Mans.
Britain’s rival to the Ferrari 458 and new 488 is the McLaren 650S and there were a couple of Spider versions of this car here.
Four different open-topped Mercedes were to be found on show. Two were the relative baby in the range, the SLK, seen in 2nd and 3rd generations, and two were the larger SL models in R129 SL500 and current R231 SL63 AMG guises.
Oldest MG here was a PA model, dating from 1934. The PA succeeded the J series of cars and were produced from 1934 to 1936. This 2-door sports car was powered by an updated version of the overhead camshaft, crossflow engine, used in the 1928 Morris Minor and Wolseley 10 and previously fitted in the J-type Midget of 1932 to 1934, driving the rear wheels through a four-speed non-synchromesh gearbox. The chassis was a strengthened and slightly longer version of that used in the J-type with suspension by half-elliptic springs all round with rigid front and rear axles. Steering was initially by a Marles Weller and later a Bishop Cam system. The two-seat car had a wheelbase of 87 inches (2210 mm) and a track of 42 inches (1067 mm). Most cars were open two seaters, but streamlined Airline coupé bodies were also made. The P-type was also available as a four-seater, a car that suffered from a lack of power and poor rear ground clearance. Whereas J, K and L-type MGs differentiated between versions with the use of numbers, with 1 indicating a four-seater (i.e., J1) and 2 a two-seater (i.e., J2), this was not the case with the P-type (or its six-cylinder sister, the N-type Magnette), and there is no clue to the type in the name. The first version, the PA used an 847 cc engine similar to the one on the J-Type, but now with a 3-bearing crankshaft, larger camshaft and twin SU carburettors. It produced 36 bhp at 5,500 rpm. In 1935, a PA open two-seater cost £222. Around 2,000 PAs were made, and it is one of those which is seen here. In late 1936 the PA was replaced by the PB, which had a larger 939cc 43bhp engine and which is distinguished by a grille of vertical slats as opposed to the honeycomb pattern of the PA. 526 examples of the PB were made.
The first of the T series cars were produced, in what now would seem like relatively small quantities, before the War, but the model really took off post war, proving particularly popular with the Americans, where GIs wanted a British Sports car back home following their military service. There were examples of the three post war generations of T here, with the oldest being a couple of MG TCs, the first postwar MG and launched in 1945. It was quite similar to the pre-war TB, sharing the same 1,250 cc pushrod-OHV engine with a slightly higher compression ratio of 7.4:1 giving 54.5 bhp at 5200 rpm. The makers also provided several alternative stages of tuning for “specific purposes”. It was exported to the United States, even though only ever built in right-hand drive. The export version had slightly smaller US specification sealed-beam headlights and larger twin rear lights, as well as turn signals and chrome-plated front and rear bumpers. The body of the TC was approximately 4 inches wider than the TB measured at the rear of the doors to give more cockpit space. The overall car width remained the same resulting in narrower running boards with two tread strips as opposed to the previous three. The tachometer was directly in front of the driver, while the speedometer was on the other side of the dash in front of the passenger. 10,001 TCs were produced, from September 1945 (chassis number TC0251) to Nov. 1949 (chassis number TC10251), more than any previous MG model. It cost £527 on the home market in 1947.
The 1950 TD combined the TC’s drivetrain, a modified hypoid-geared rear axle, the MG Y-type chassis, a familiar T-type style body and independent suspension using coil springs from the MG Y-type saloon. A 1950 road-test report described as “most striking” the resulting “transformation … in the comfort of riding”. Also lifted from the company’s successful 1¼-litre YA saloon for the TD was the (still highly geared) rack and pinion steering. In addition the TD featured smaller 15-inch disc type road wheels, a left-hand drive option and standard equipment bumpers and over-riders. The car was also 5 inches wider with a track of 50 inches. For the driver the “all-weather protection” was good by the standards of the time. For night driving, instrument illumination was “effective but not dazzling, by a pale green lighting effect”. There was still no fuel gauge, but the 12 gallon tank capacity gave a range between refuelling stops of about 300 miles and a green light on the facia flashed a “warning” when the fuel level was down to about 2½ gallons. In 1950 the TD MkII Competition Model was introduced, produced alongside the standard car, with a more highly tuned engine using an 8.1:1 compression ratio giving 57 bhp at 5,500 rpm. The higher compression ratio engine was offered with export markets in mind, and would not have been suitable for the UK, where thanks to the continued operation of wartime fuel restrictions, buyers were still limited to 72 octane “Pool petrol”. The TD MkII also featured twin fuel pumps, additional Andrex dampers, and a higher ratio rear-axle. Nearly 30,000 TDs had been produced, including about 1700 Mk II models, when the series ended in 1953 with all but 1656 exported, 23,488 of them to the US alone.
Final version of the popular T Series sports car was the TF, launched on the 15 October 1953. Although it looked quite a bit different, this was really just a facelifted TD, fitted with the TD Mark II engine, headlights faired into the wings, a sloping radiator grille concealing a separate radiator, and a new pressurised cooling system along with a simulated external radiator cap. This XPAG engine’s compression ratio had been increased to 8.1:1 and extra-large valves with stronger valve springs and larger carburettors increased output to 57.5 bhp at 5,500 rpm. In mid-1954 the engine capacity was increased by 17 per cent to 1466 cc and designated XPEG. The bore was increased to 72 mm and compression raised to 8.3:1 giving 63 bhp t 5,000 rpm and a 17 per cent increase in torque. The car was now designated TF1500, and externally distinguished by a cream background enamel nameplate on both sides of the bonnet, placed just to the rear of the forward bonnet-release buttons. Production ended at chassis number TF10100 on 4 April 1955 after 9,602 TFs had been manufactured, including two prototypes and 3,400 TF1500s. The TF was superceded by the MGA. A number of replica models have been built in more recent years, with the Naylor of the mid 1980s being perhaps the best known.
As one of Britain’s most popular classic cars, it was no surprise to find a rubber bumpered MGB Roadster here. Indeed, the only surprise is perhaps that there were not rather more examples of this evergreen sports car on display. Launched in October 1962, this car was produced for the next 18 years and it went on to become Britain’s best selling sports car and these days it has to be one of the most popular classics there is. When first announced, the MGB was an innovative, modern design, with a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series, though components such as the brakes and suspension were developments of the earlier 1955 MGA and the B-Series engine had its origins back in 1947. The lightweight design reduced manufacturing costs while adding to overall vehicle strength, and with a 95hp 3-bearing 1798cc engine under the bonnet, performance was quite respectable with a 0–60 mph time of just over 11 seconds. The car was rather more civilised than its predecessor, with wind-up windows now fitted as standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. The roadster was the first of the MGB range to be produced. The body was a pure two-seater but a small rear seat was a rare option at one point. By making better use of space the MGB was able to offer more passenger and luggage accommodation than the earlier MGA while being 3 inches shorter overall. The suspension was also softer, giving a smoother ride, and the larger engine gave a slightly higher top speed. The four-speed gearbox was an uprated version of the one used in the MGA with an optional (electrically activated) overdrive transmission. A five-bearing engine was introduced in 1964 and a number of other modifications crept into the specification. In late 1967, sufficient changes were introduced for the factory to define a Mark II model. Alterations included synchromesh on all 4 gears with revised ratios, an optional Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, a new rear axle, and an alternator in place of the dynamo with a change to a negative earth system. To accommodate the new gearboxes there were significant changes to the sheet metal in the floorpan, and a new flat-topped transmission tunnel. US market cars got a new safety padded dashboard, but the steel item continued for the rest of the world. Rostyle wheels were introduced to replace the previous pressed steel versions in 1969 and reclining seats were standardised. 1970 also saw a new front grille, recessed, in black aluminium. The more traditional-looking polished grille returned in 1973 with a black “honeycomb” insert. Further changes in 1972 were to the interior with a new fascia. To meet impact regulations, in late 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with new, steel-reinforced black rubber bumpers, the one at the front incorporating the grille area as well, giving a major restyling to the B’s nose, and a matching rear bumper completed the change. New US headlight height regulations also meant that the headlamps were now too low. Rather than redesign the front of the car, British Leyland raised the car’s suspension by 1-inch. This, in combination with the new, far heavier bumpers resulted in significantly poorer handling. For the 1975 model year only, the front anti-roll bar was deleted as a cost-saving measure (though still available as an option). The damage done by the British Leyland response to US legislation was partially alleviated by revisions to the suspension geometry in 1977, when a rear anti-roll bar was made standard equipment on all models. US emissions regulations also reduced horsepower. In March 1979 British Leyland started the production of black painted limited edition MGB roadsters for the US market, meant for a total of 500 examples. Due to a high demand of the limited edition model, production ended with 6682 examples. The United Kingdom received bronze painted roadsters and a silver GT model limited editions. The production run of homemarket limited edition MGBs was split between 421 roadsters and 579 GTs. Meanwhile, the fixed-roof MGB GT had been introduced in October 1965, and production continued until 1980, although export to the US ceased in 1974. The MGB GT sported a ground-breaking greenhouse designed by Pininfarina and launched the sporty “hatchback” style. By combining the sloping rear window with the rear deck lid, the B GT offered the utility of a station wagon while retaining the style and shape of a coupe. This new configuration was a 2+2 design with a right-angled rear bench seat and far more luggage space than in the roadster. Relatively few components differed, although the MGB GT did receive different suspension springs and anti-roll bars and a different windscreen which was more easily and inexpensively serviceable. Although acceleration of the GT was slightly slower than that of the roadster, owing to its increased weight, top speed improved by 5 mph to 105 mph because of better aerodynamics. 523,826 examples of the MGB of all model types were built, and although many of these were initially sold new in North America, a lot have been repatriated here. There were several Roadsters and MGB GT models here.
As well as the MGB, there was an example of its larger-engined brother, the MGC, seen in Roadster guise. The MGC was produced as a sort of replacement for the Big Healey, though apart from sharing that car’s 3 litre straight six C Series engine, the reality is that the car was quite different and generally appealed to a different sort of customer. Or, if you look at the sales figures, you could say that it did not really appeal to anyone much, as the car struggled to find favour and buyers when new. More of a lazy grand tourer than an out and out sports car, the handling characteristics were less pleasing than in the B as the heavy engine up front did the car no favours. The market now, finally, takes a different view, though and if you want an MGC, in Roadster or the MGC GT form seen here, you will have to dig surprisingly deeply into your pocket.
One of the most popular open-topped cars available new is the MINI, so it was not a surprise to find a Cooper S Cabrio in the display as well as one of the two seater Roadsters.
Showing how little the Morgan has changed in appearance over the years, the Plus 4 model seen here is actually one dating from the 1960s and with it was a more recent Plus 8
As well as the regular Boxster, there was an example of the Boxster Spyder here.
Needless to say there were plenty of Porsche 911 models here, with examples of the different generations ranging from one of the early Cabrio cars from the mid 80s, a Turbo from the late 80s as well as a Targa and a 993
Along with the similar Coupé, the Smart Roadster was introduced in 2003, based on a stretched platform of the Fortwo with a full length of 3427 mm. The two variants were meant to be reminiscent of the British roadster of yore, such as the Triumph Spitfire or the MG B. Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupé came with a removable Targa roof or an electrical softtop. The Roadster was powered by 61 or 82 PS versions of the turbocharged 698cc 3-cylinder Suprex engine in the rear, whilst the Roadster Coupé only had the more powerful 82 PS engine. A steering wheel with Formula 1-style gear paddles, to control the semi-automatic sequential transmission, was optional. Weighing as little as 790 kg (the Roadster was meant to provide the emotion of driving a sports car at an affordable cost; still, its price was not very far from that of a Mazda MX-5. Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupé were available in Brabus-tuned versions with power increased to 101 PS. The Brabus versions had a different twin sports exhaust, lower suspension, polished six-spoke aluminium alloy Monoblock VI 17″ wheels, front spoiler, side skirts and radiator grille. Exclusive Brabus (Xclusive) interior includes leather trimmed dashboard, alloy-effect accent parts, instrument graphics, leather/aluminium gearknob with Brabus labelled starter button, aluminium handbrake handle (which fouls the central armrest), aluminium pedals and Brabus labeled floor mats. The Brabus version also features stronger clamping of the clutch plates and a faster gearchange. The Monoblock wheels are known to be very soft and as a result are very easy to buckle. The lacquer on these wheels is also very poor, and corrosion can occur very early in the life of the wheel. Despite a projected break even of only 8-10,000 units per year, first year sales almost doubled this estimate. However, some Smart Roadsters leaked and production ceased due to the warranty work and other costs reaching an average of €3000 per vehicle. While a critical success, the Smart Roadster was, due to these costs, an economic failure for the company. 43,091 Roadsters were built.
I have noticed that the MR2 Owners Clubs are version specific, so it is quite common to get a large number of one generation MR2 and none of the other two at all, and that was the case here, with an array of the third and final iteration of Toyota’s mid-engined two seater sports car here, parked up under the trees in front of the main entrance.
One of the first cars to catch up my eye as I passed through the gates of the courtyard was this Mimosa painted Stag. Not only is this – in my opinion – an elegant looking car, but this shade of bright yellow, which was offered on a number of Triumph products in the early to mid 70s, particularly suits the lines of this model, which was envisioned as a luxury sports car, to compete directly with the superlative Mercedes-Benz SL. It started as a styling experiment, cut and shaped from a 1963–4 Triumph 2000 pre-production saloon, which had also been styled by Michelotti, and loaned to him by Harry Webster, Director of Engineering at Triumph. Their agreement was that if Webster liked the design, Triumph could use the prototype as the basis of a new Triumph model. Harry Webster, who was a long time friend of Giovanni Michelotti, whom he called “Micho”, loved the design and took the prototype back to England. The end result, a two-door drop head (convertible), had little in common with the styling of its progenitor 2000, but retained the suspension and drive line. Triumph liked the Michelotti design so much that they propagated the styling lines of the Stag into the new Mark 2 2000/2500 saloon and estate. The initial Stag design was based around the saloon’s 2.5-litre six cylinder engine, but Harry Webster intended the Stag, large saloons and estate cars to use a new Triumph-designed overhead cam 2.5-litre fuel injected V8. Under the direction of Harry Webster’s successor, Spen King in 1968, the new Triumph OHC 2.5 PI V8 was enlarged to 2997 cc to increase torque. To meet emission standards in the USA, a key target market, the troublesome mechanical fuel injection was dropped in favour of dual Zenith-Stromberg 175 CDSE carburettors. A key aim of Triumph’s engineering strategy at the time was to create a family of engines of different size around a common crankshaft. This would enable the production of power plants of capacity between 1.5 and 4 litres, sharing many parts, and hence offering economies of manufacturing scale and of mechanic training. A number of iterations of this design went into production, notably a slant four-cylinder engine used in the later Triumph Dolomite and Triumph TR7, and a variant manufactured by StanPart that was initially used in the Saab 99. The Stag’s V8 was the first of these engines into production. Sometimes described as two four-cylinder engines Siamesed together, it is more correct to say that the later four-cylinder versions were half a Stag engine. It has sometimes been alleged that Triumph were instructed to use the proven all-aluminium Rover V8, originally designed by Buick, but claimed that it would not fit. Although there was a factory attempt by Triumph to fit a Rover engine, which was pronounced unsuccessful, the decision to go with the Triumph V8 was probably driven more by the wider engineering strategy and by the fact that the Buick’s different weight and torque characteristics would have entailed substantial re-engineering of the Stag when it was almost ready to go on sale. Furthermore Rover, also owned by British Leyland, could not necessarily have supplied the numbers of V8 engines to match the anticipated production of the Stag anyway. As in the Triumph 2000 model line, unitary construction was employed, as was fully independent suspension – MacPherson struts in front, semi-trailing arms at the rear. Braking was by front disc and rear drum brakes, while steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. Although other bodystyles were envisaged, these never made production, so all Stags were four-seater convertible coupés. For structural rigidity – and to meet new American rollover standards of the time – the Stag required a B-pillar “roll bar” hoop connected to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. A removable hardtop was a popular factory option for the early Stags, and was later supplied as a standard fitment. The car was launched one year late in 1970, to a warm welcome at the various international auto shows. Sadly, it rapidly acquired a reputation for mechanical unreliability, usually in the form of overheating. These problems arose from a variety of causes, all of which are now well understood, and for which solutions have been identified, but at the time, they really hurt the reputation and hence sales of the car. They ranged from late changes to the engine which gave rise to design features that were questionable from an engineering perspective, the choice of materials which necessitated the use of antifreeze all year round, the engine’s use of long, simplex roller link chains, which would first stretch and then often fail inside fewer than 25,000 miles; the arrangement of the cylinder head fixing studs, half of which were vertical and the other half at an angle causing sideways forces which caused premature failure of the cylinder head gaskets. and poor quality production from a plant troubled with industrial unrest and poor quality control. At the time, British Leyland never provided a budget sufficient to correct the few design shortcomings of the Triumph 3.0 litre OHC V8, and the dealers did not help matters. The Stag was always a relatively rare car. British Leyland had around 2,500 UK dealers when the Stag was on sale and a total of around 19,000 were sold in the UK. Thus the average dealer sold only seven or eight Stags during the car’s whole production run, or roughly one car per year. This meant that few dealers saw defective Stags often enough to recognise and diagnose the cause of the various problems. Many owners simply replaced the engine altogether, often with the Rover V8, Ford Essex V6, or even the Triumph 6-cylinder engine around which the car was originally designed. Perhaps thanks to such a reputation for its unreliable engine, only 25,877 cars were produced between 1970 and 1977. Of this number, 6780 were export models, of which 2871 went to the United States. The majority of cars were fitted with a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic transmission. The other choice was a derivative of the ancient Triumph TR2 gearbox which had been modified and improved over the years for use in the TR series of sports cars. Other than the choice of transmissions there were very few factory-installed options. On early cars buyers could choose to have the car fitted with just the soft-top, just the hard-top (with the hood storage compartment empty) or with both. Later cars were supplied with both roofs. Three wheel styles were offered. The standard fitments were steel wheels with Rostyle “tin-plate” trims. Five-spoke alloy wheels were an option, as were a set of traditional steel spoke wheels with “knock-off”‘ hubcaps. The latter were more commonly found on Stags sold in North America on Federal Specification vehicles. Electric windows, power steering and power-assisted brakes were standard. Options included air conditioning, a luggage rack, uprated Koni shock absorbers, floor mats and Lucas Square Eight fog lamps, and a range of aftermarket products, most of which were dealer installed as optional accessories could also be fitted. Rather unusually for a 4-seat touring car, the accessory list included a sump protector plate that was never produced. This was probably included as a slightly “gimmicky” tribute to Triumph’s rallying successes. Nowadays, the Stag is seen in a very different light, with lots of very enthusiastic and knowledgeable owners who enjoy the good points of this attractive looking car and who revel in the fact that the market has not yet boosted prices into the unaffordable category, as one day will surely happen.
Also in Mimosa was one of a trio of TR6 sports cars. The other two, which arrived together and parked up together were in the rather more sober colour of white. By the mid 1960s, money was tight, so when it came to replacing the TR4 and TR5 models, Triumph were forced into trying to minimise the costs of the redesign, which meant that they kept the central section of the old car, but came up with new bodywork with the front and back ends were squared off, reportedly based on a consultancy contract involving Karmann. The resulting design, which did look modern when it was unveiled in January 1969 has what is referred to as a Kamm tail, which was very common during 1970s era of cars and a feature on most Triumphs of the era. All TR6 models featured inline six-cylinder engines. For the US market the engine was carburetted, as had been the case for the US-only TR250 engine. Like the TR5, the TR6 was fuel-injected for other world markets including the United Kingdom, hence the TR6PI (petrol-injection) designation. The Lucas mechanical fuel injection system helped the home-market TR6 produce 150 bhp at model introduction. Later, the non-US TR6 variant was detuned to 125 bhp for it to be easier to drive, while the US variant continued to be carburetted with a mere 104 hp. Sadly, the Lucas injection system proved somewhat troublesome, somewhat denting the appeal of the car. The TR6 featured a four-speed manual transmission. An optional overdrive unit was a desirable feature because it gave drivers close gearing for aggressive driving with an electrically switched overdrive which could operate on second, third, and fourth gears on early models and third and fourth on later models because of constant gearbox failures in second at high revs. Both provided “long legs” for open motorways. TR6 also featured semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension, rack and pinion steering, 15-inch wheels and tyres, pile carpet on floors and boot, bucket seats, and a full complement of instrumentation. Braking was accomplished by disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. A factory steel hardtop was optional, requiring two people to fit it. TR6 construction was fundamentally old-fashioned: the body was bolted onto a frame instead of the two being integrated into a unibody structure; the TR6 dashboard was wooden (plywood with veneer). Other factory options included a rear anti-roll bar and a limited-slip differential. Some say that the car is one of Leyland’s best achievements, but a number of issues were present and remain because of poor design. As well as the fuel injection problems, other issues include a low level radiator top-up bottle and a poor hand-brake. As is the case with other cars of the era, the TR6 can suffer from rust issues, although surviving examples tend to be well-cared for. The TR6 can be prone to overheating. Many owners fit an aftermarket electric radiator fan to supplement or replace the original engine-driven fan. Also the Leyland factory option of an oil cooler existed. Despite the reliability woes, the car proved popular, selling in greater quantity than any previous TR, with 94,619 of them produced before production ended in mid 1976. Of these, 86,249 were exported and only 8,370 were sold in the UK. A significant number have since been re-imported, as there are nearly 3000 of these much loved classics on the road and a further 1300 on SORN, helped by the fact that parts and services to support ownership of a TR6 are readily available and a number of classic car owners’ clubs cater for the model.
Also seen here was one of those precursor models, a TR5. This car replaced the TR4 and was built for a 13-month period between August 1967 and September 1968. Visually identical to the Michelotti styled TR4, the TR5 hid the main differences under the body, the most significant of which was the 2.5-litre straight-6 fuel-injected engine, developing around 145 hp, and which was carried forward to the TR6. At the time, fuel injection (or PI petrol injection, as it was sometimes then called) was uncommon in road cars. Triumph claimed in their sales brochure that it was the “First British production sports car with petrol injection”. Sadly, it was also somewhat troublesome, with mechanical issues a common occurrence. A carburetted version of the TR5 named Triumph TR250 was manufactured during the same period, to be sold in place of the fuel injected car on the North American market. A few of these have now been brought over to the UK and indeed there were both TR250 and TR5 cars here. The Triumph TR250, built during the same period for the North American market, was nearly identical to the TR5. But, because of price pressures and emission regulations the TR250 was fitted with twin Zenith-Stromberg carburettors rather than the Lucas fuel injection system. The reasons for this difference came down to price pressures of the American market, and tighter emissions regulations. The TR250’s straight-six engine delivered 111 bhp, 39 bhp less than the TR5; 0–60 mph acceleration took 10.6 seconds. Standard equipment on both models included front disc brakes, independent rear suspension, rack and pinion steering and a four speed gearbox. Optional extras included overdrive and wire wheels. Both the TR5 and the TR250 were available with the “Surrey Top” hard top system: a weather protection system with rigid rear section including the rear window and removable fabric section over the driver and passenger’s heads.
Unless you happened to have seen this car before, you would be very unlikely to guess what it was. The answer is that it is a Triumph Special, built on the chassis of a Spitfire, but bearing absolutely no resemblance at all to the donor car. It was quite a crowd puller.
Sole TVR in the main display was a V8S, the ultimate version of the TVR S Series which was announced at the 1986 British International Motor Show, initially as a concept. Due to a massive positive response, the car went into production in less than 12 months, with 250 pre-manufacture orders. This was Peter Wheeler’s first major development since buying the company from Martin Lilley, and the turning point in TVR’s fortunes, which had struggled with the “Wedge” based cars that had been introduced in 1980 to replace the long running M Series models. With styling which looked more like these popular M Series cars, the first S Series cars used Ford’s Cologne V6 in 2.8 litre 160 hp and for the later S2 to S4 had the later 2.9 litre 170 hp unit. TVR made frequent updates to the cars, moving from those retrospectively called the S1 to S2 and later S3 and S4 in short succession. The S3 and S4 received longer doors, although some late S2’s were also thus equipped. Vehicle models ending with “C” were used to denote vehicles which were fitted with a catalytic converter. Only the S3 and S4 were fitted with catalysts. The Cat was only introduced to the UK in August 1992, at “K” registration, but catalysed cars were produced before that, intended for export to markets with tighter emissions standards. Just as they had done with the “wedges”, TVR found more excitement by putting the Rover V8 engine under the bonnet of the car in lieu of the Ford unit, though the two models were offered in parallel. The V8S used a 4.0 litre fuel-injected Rover V8 engine, with gas-flowed cylinder heads, higher lift camshaft, compression ratio upped to 10:5:1, revised manifold, new chip for the engine management system and a limited slip differential. The result was 240 bhp at 5250 rpm and 270 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm. The V8S had a number of cosmetic differences over the V6. The bonnet had a large hump – created to house the Italian specification supercharger but carried over to all V8S models. The V8S had a small vent facing the windscreen, whereas S1 to S3 models face forward. Very late S3 and S4 models had no hump at all. As with all TVR’s there is no specific point in time when they changed styles, probably when they ran out! The suspension track was slightly wider on the V8S achieved with revised wishbones at the front and revised trailing arms at the rear. Disc brakes are fitted all round. The standard specification of the V8S included ½ hide leather interior, walnut trim, mohair hood, OZ alloy wheels, driving lamps, electric windows and door mirrors. 0-60 mph could be achieved in 4.9 seconds and 0-100 mph in 12.9 seconds. It was faster than an Aston Martin Virage, a Ferrari Testarossa, Lotus Esprit Turbo SE and Porsche Carrera 2 the supercars of the early 1990s. Between 1986 and 1994 2,604 S Series cars were made; 410 of these were of the V8S variety.
One of the real head-turners was this brown-hued Ultima which was parked near the main gate and next to an array of other exotic machinery. Although the model has been in low volume “production” for many years now, there are still plenty of people who do not know what the car is, and the fact that there are no badges on it, and now no tax disc, means that there are no clues even when you see it in person. The Ultima is manufactured by Ultima Sports Ltd of Hinckley in Leicestershire, and is generally described by commentators as a supercar. It is available both in kit form and as a “turnkey” (i.e. assembled by the factory) vehicle. The design is a mid engined, rear wheel drive layout, with a tubular steel space frame chassis and GRP bodywork. Both close coupe and convertible versions have been made. The latter is called the Ultima Can-Am. Kit builders are free to source and fit a variety of engines and transmissions but the Chevrolet small block V8 supplied by American Speed mated to either a Porsche or Getrag transaxle is the factory recommended standard, and this configuration is fitted to all turnkey cars.
You probably would never guess, unless you knew but the VX220 and its Opel Speedster alter ego share much under the skin with the Lotus Elise, and indeed the cars were built for General Motors, by Lotus at Hethel. Quite unlike any Vauxhall that had ever come before it, the VX220 was the result of a deal between GM and Lotus, struck to generate enough funding for the latter to be able to develop a replacement for their Elise model, something forced on them owing to changes in European crash safety regulations for the 2000 model year. Lotus agreed to develop and produce a 2 seater sports car for GM, on the new Series 2 Elise chassis, with the a concept version of the proposed GM model being shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999. Although the body styling was different, clearly the economies would only work if as much else could be shared, and that presented a challenge as it was planned to use a 1.8-litre Toyota engine, similar to that found in the Toyota Celica, in the second generation Elise, whereas the GM cars clearly had to use a GM engine, namely the 2.2-litre GM Ecotec engine from the Astra. As neither engine had been used in the original Elise, which had been fitted with a 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine, this simply became one of the many design challenges .In order to accommodate the production of the new cars, Lotus expanded its Hethel factory to a capacity of 10,000 cars, with around 3,500 slots allocated to Speedster production. Production of the Speedster commenced in 2000. The car was hailed by the motoring press as a great drivers’ car and won several accolades, including Top Gear’s Car of the Year in 2003. The lesser naturally aspirated 2.2 version was considered easier to drive than the potent Turbo model, and some journalists suggested that the Opel/Vauxhall car was better value for money than the Lotus, among them one Jeremy Clarkson in his 2003 DVD Shoot Out. However, the market did not really agree, and sales were limited. The car was deleted in 2005, with no successor.
Final car in what may be deemed to be themed display was a first generation Volvo C70 Cabrio. The open topped car debuted in 1997, a year after the unveiling of the C70 Coupe at the 1996 Paris Motor Show,.The C70 broke Volvo’s decades-long styling tradition of boxy, rectilinear designs and was Volvo’s first luxury coupe since the 780. According to Peter Horbury, Volvo’s design chief from 1991 to 2002, with the C70, Volvo threw away the box, but “kept the toy inside! Our vision was to design a convertible that would meet the needs of a family of four looking for comfortable blue-sky motoring in a vehicle also providing stylish looks, performance and faultless driving and road-holding.” In a development program of 30 months and working with a Volvo 850-derived platform, Britain’s TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) co-designed the car’s basic design and suspension tuning with Volvo. Manufacture of the C70 was a joint venture until the two companies experienced disputes that threatened to interrupt production; TWR did not contribute to the second generation C70. The open topped car, Volvo’s first modern convertible, was manufactured in Uddevalla, Sweden on a separate assembly line from the 70-series sedan and estate. The four-seater convertible featured an electrically heated glass rear window, automatic (pop-up) rollover hoops system ROPS, seat belt pre-tensioners, boron steel reinforced A-pillars, front and side airbags, and a safety cage — a horseshoe-like structure around the passenger compartment. The cloth convertible top, initially available in four colours, was fully automatic, operated by a single, dashboard-mounted button. The top stored automatically under an integral rigid tonneau cover in a system pioneered in modern convertibles with the fourth generation Mercedes SL. Engine choices were a 2.0 (sold mostly in Italy), a low-pressure 2.4 litre turbo and high-pressure 2.0 and 2.3 litre 5-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engines and manual and automatic transmissions. Of the 72,000 first generation C70s produced worldwide only 603 had the 2.3 litre engine with high pressure turbo (T5) and the M56 5-speed manual transmission. I had one of these cars – briefly in 2003. A significant number of the C70s were the convertible model.
IN THE CAR PARK
As mentioned in the preamble, any cars that are deemed non-theme, or indeed simply as overflow when the rest of the venue is full, which was the case for a while until the early arrivers started to head off, are asked to park in the main visitor car park. As I had come in a car with a fixed roof, this was where I started out, and I made a couple of trips back during the morning to see what else was parked up, and as you can see in the ensuing part of this report, there was plenty of interest here, too.
First car to attract my notice on parking up was this 595 Turismo. The plate was not one that I recognise from Abarth Owners Club meetings, and I did not see anyone at the car during the morning, so remain unsure to whom it belongs. Presumably a local enthusiast.
There was another Cobra replica here.
As well as the Roadster in the main display, there was another model here in the car park, a an E39 based B10 3.3S. This is the later version of the E39 6 cylinder 5 series based Alpina models. The first car was launched at the March 1997 Geneva Show, and produced for just 2 years before being replaced by this 3.3 litre version. It had an engine based on BMW’s 6 cylinder 2.8 litre unit, but enlarged to 3.2 litres, with lightweight Mahle pistons, modified cylinder head and combustion chamber, and a revised Siemens engine management system, all of which combined to give it an output of 260 bhp, making it almost as fast as the BMW 540i of the day. a car whose price it undercut. It was only offered with a 5 speed manual gearbox. Other Alpina changes included revised suspension, and the usual Alpina touches to the inside, A Touring version was also available. The later 3.3 model had 280 bhp from a 3.3 litre engine and the option of a Switchtronic automatic gearbox. There were also 340 bhp V8 and with the D10, diesel power E39-based models.
Among other BMW models here was an example of the latest Z4.
Filling the gap in the timeline of V8 engined Ferrari models was this 360 Modena, but as it was a Coupe and not a Spider, it had presumably been banished to the main car park.
There was a vast collection of MX5s, all parked together in one block, with examples of all four generations from the early NA cars to the latest and current ND models, to be seen here.
Two AMG Mercedes models caught my eye and they illustrate very graphically how Mercedes is shifting its image from maker of very solid and conservatively-styled cars such as the E63 model, to the brash, garish and way-over-the-top A45, a point emphasised by the visual extras which had been specified on this model. Some will love it, of course, but others will run almost as fast as an AMG can accelerate straight to their nearest Audi showroom, for something that is more restrained.
There were two examples of the Cayman GT4 here. One was in the main car park and a second was parked up outside the main gate, where I guess, its interest-creating potential was deemed to outweigh the fact that it is clearly not theme-compliant. The Cayman GT4, much rumoured for some time, was officially launched at the 2015 Geneva Show, positioned to sit between the Cayman GTS and the 911 GT3. By the time of the official unveiling, the car was supposedly sold out many times over, though more recently it has become apparent that at least some Porsche dealers have been holding onto cars claiming that the first purchaser changed their mind, and then offering them to those who did not get one of the allocation a year ago, at vastly inflated prices. If true, this is very sharp practice indeed, but seems to be the sort to tricks that are becoming increasingly common as enthusiasts are being fleeced in the name of extra profit. For a starting price of around £65,000 in the UK, the lucky customer would get a car which used used a stiffened and strengthened Cayman bodyshell as a starting point, but lowered by 30mm . Porsche say that in fitting as many GT parts as possible, they did not make it out of a Cayman GTS, but rather they produced an entry-level mid-engined GT3 car. That sounds like PR spin to me, as of course the car does use an awful lot of parts from the regular Cayman. However, plenty is changed, too. There is a reworked version of the Carrera S’s 3.8-litre flat six engine, producing 380bhp at 7400rpm and 310lb ft at 4750-6000rpm, hooked up to a modified version of the Cayman GTS’s six-speed manual gearbox. A PDK dual-clutch automatic was considered but rejected, meaning the Cayman GT4 is manual only. This is enough to mean that the 0-62mph sprint takes 4.4sec and the top speed is 183mph, with combined fuel economy of 27.4mpg and CO2 emissions rated at 238g/km. The front axle and suspension are borrowed from the 911 GT3 and the rear axle and forged aluminium double wishbone suspension are completely new. Dampers are taken from the 911 GT3. The electric steering system from the 911 GT3 does make it onto the Cayman GT4 but is given new software. Stopping power is provided by standard steel brakes, or optional carbon-ceramics from the 911 GT3. The forged 20in alloy wheels were new and are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The rear 295/30 ZR20 tyres are bespoke, but the front 245/35 ZR20s were borrowed from the 911 GT3 as they were “a perfect match”. design-wise, the goal was to create a “zero lift car”, but thanks to the extensive aerodynamic and cooling package on the car – which includes a front splitter, a larger front grille and increased frontal air intakes, side air intakes, not one but two rear spoilers and a fully functional diffuser – the Cayman GT4 produces as much downforce at speed (100kg) as the 911 GT3. Every single part on the Cayman GT4 has a functional use. Other design features include “cool” black glass on the front and rear lights, blackened twin central exhausts and quality stitching on the twin lightweight bucket seats, taken from the 918 Spyder, as small details adding to that ‘want factor’.Despite all the extra equipment, the Cayman GT4 weighs no more than a Cayman GTS, tipping the scales at 1340kg dry. You could delete items such as the sat-nav and air-con to save weight, but few customers did, just as with the 911 GT3 RS were just 2% of buyers deleted the air-con. Inside, the steering wheel was new. The sports seats were trimmed in both leather and Alcantara. Standard equipment included bi-xenon headlights, a sports exhaust system, a Sport Chrono Package with dynamic engine mounts, the Porsche Torque Vectoring system, a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear and the Porsche Stability Management system. On the options list were items such as carbonfibre-reinforced, plastic-backed seats for the two-seat interior. These weigh just 15kg each and were inspired by the 918 Spyder. A customised version of the Sport Chrono Package was offered, as is a Club Sport Package. With production limited – each Porsche Centre in the UK was allocated just 10 cars – the car sold out long before any reviews were published, but when they came, it was quite clear that Porsche had produced an absolutely cracking car. Anyone who managed to get one, and UK deliveries were a long time coming, was very lucky indeed.
The only notable 911 in this part of the event was a 996 Turbo.
Making an appearance for at least the second consecutive month was this car, a Porsche 912, 4 cylinder cheaper brother to the better known 911. Concerned that the considerable price increase of a Type 911 with “flat” six-cylinder powerplant over the Type 356 would cost the company sales and narrow brand appeal, in 1963 Porsche executives decided to introduce a new four-cylinder entry-level model. In 1963, Porsche assigned Dan Schwartz, later Chief Departmental Manager for Development, Mechanics, a project to oversee design and construction of a new horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine for the car which was code-named 902, utilising components from the new 901 six-cylinder engine, that would produce higher performance than their 356SC engine, and be less costly and complex than their Carrera 2 engine. Another option explored by Claus von Rücker was to increase displacement of the 356 Type 616 engine to 1.8 litres, add Kugelfischer fuel injection, and modify both valve and cooling systems. Considering performance, cost, and scheduling, Porsche discontinued both of these design projects, and instead developed a third option, to tailor the 1.6 litre Type 616 engine to the 902. Before 911 production commenced in 1964, the Porsche Vehicle Research Department had set aside chassis numbers 13328, 13329, 13330, 13352, and 13386 through 13397 for research testing of the 902; research vehicle Serial Number 13394 is the oldest 902 known to exist today. In production form, the Type 912 combined a 911 chassis / bodyshell with the 1.6 litre four-cylinder, push-rod Type 616/36 engine, based upon the Type 616/16 engine used in the Type 356SC of 1964-1965. With a lower compression ratio and new Solex carburetors, the Type 616/36 engine produced five less horsepower than the 616/16, but delivered about the same maximum torque at 3,500 rpm versus 4,200 rpm for the 616/16. Compared to the 911, the resulting production Type 912 vehicle demonstrated superior weight distribution, handling, and range. To bring 912 pricing close to the 356, Porsche also deleted some features standard on the 911. As production of the 356 model concluded in 1965, on April 5, 1965 Porsche officially began production of the 912 coupé. Styling, performance, quality construction, reliability, and price made the 912 a very attractive buy to both new and old customers, and it substantially outsold the 911 during the first few years of production. Porsche produced nearly 30,000 912 coupé units and about 2500 912 Targa body style units (Porsche’s patented variation of a cabriolet) during a five-year manufacturing run. Production of the Targa, complete with removable roof and heavy transparent plastic rear windows openable with a zipper (later called ‘Version I’ by Porsche and the ‘soft-window Targa’ by enthusiasts), commenced in December 1966 as a 1967 model. In January 1968, Porsche also made available a Targa ‘Version II’ option (‘hard window Targa’) with fixed glass rear window, transforming the Targa into a coupé with removable roof. The Type 912 was also made in a special version for the German autobahn police (polizei); the 100,000th Porsche car was a 912 Targa for the police of Baden-Württemberg, the home state of Porsche. In the April 1967 edition, the Porsche factory’s Christophorus Magazine noted: “On 21 December 1966, Porsche celebrated a particularly proud anniversary. The 100,000th Porsche, a 912 Targa outfitted for the police, was delivered.” Porsche executives decided that after the 1969 model year, continuation of 912 production would not be viable, due to both internal and external factors. First, production facilities used for the 912 were reallocated to a new 914-6, a six-cylinder high performance version of the 914 Porsche-Volkswagen joint effort vehicle. Second, the 911 platform had returned to Porsche’s traditional three performance-level ladder, including a most powerful 911S, a fuel-injected 911E, and a base model 911T, with pricing largely in line with market expectations. Third, more stringent United States engine emission control regulations also had a bearing on the decision; Ferry Porsche stated “It would have taken some trouble to prepare the 912 for the new exhaust rules, and with the arrival of the 914 we would have had three different engines to keep current. That was too many.” Porsche had constructed more than 32,000 of the Type 912 from April 1965 to July 1969. For the 1970 model year the four-cylinder 914 superseded the 912 as Porsche’s entry-level model, which Porsche had thought would be less expensive for them to manufacture and sell than the 912. In practice, a deterioration in relationships between Porsche and Volkswagen – who had designed and planned to manufacture the 914 – severely curtailed the intended cost reduction, and 914 production was discontinued in early 1976. After a six-year absence, the 912 was re-introduced to North America as the 1976 model year 912E (internal factory designation 923) which shared the “G-Series” bodywork with the 911S. The 912E was powered by an 86 bhp 2.0 litre Volkswagen air-cooled engine, refined with a new Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system. The 912E occupied the entry-level position left vacant by the discontinuation of the 914, while the new 924 – another Porsche-Volkswagen joint effort vehicle and the 914’s official replacement – was being finalised and put into production. During the production run of May 1975 to July 1976, Porsche manufactured nearly 2,100 of the 912E, targeted at the United States market.
Qualifying from a theme point of view, but presumably, having arrived when the event was full, was this example of the TVR Griffith, the first of the modern generation TVRs. First seen as a concept at the 1990 British Motor Show, it wowed the crowds sufficiently that unlike the Show Cars of precediing years, may of which were never seen again, Peter Wheeler and his small team in Blackpool immediately set about preparing it for production. It took until mid 1992 before they were ready. Like its forerunner namesakes, the Griffith 200 and Griffith 400, the modern Griffith was a lightweight (1048 kg) fibreglass-bodied, 2-door, 2-seat sports car with a V8 engine. Originally, it used a 4.0 litre 240 hp Rover V8 engine, but that could be optionally increased to a 4.3 litre 280 hp unit, with a further option of big-valve cylinder heads. In 1993, a TVR-developed 5.0 litre 340 hp version of the Rover V8 became available. All versions of the Griffith used the Lucas 14CUX engine management system and had a five-speed manual transmission. The car spawned a cheaper, and bigger-selling relative, the Chimaera, which was launched in 1993. 602 were sold in the first year and then around 250 cars a year were bought throughout the 90s, but demand started to wane, so iIn 2000, TVR announced that the Griffith production was going to end. A limited edition run of 100 Special Edition (SE) cars were built to mark the end of production. Although still very similar to the previous Griffith 500 model, the SE had a hybrid interior using the Chimaera dashboard and Cerbera seats. Noticeably, the rear lights were different along with different door mirrors, higher powered headlights and clear indicator lenses. Some also came with 16-inch wheels. Each car came with a numbered plaque in the glove box including the build number and a Special Edition Badge on its boot. All cars also had a unique signature in the boot under the carpet. The SEs were built between 2000 and 2002, with the last registered in 2003. A register of the last 100 SEs can be found at TVR Griffith 500 SE Register. These days, the Griffith remains a much loved classic and to celebrate the car, the owners have a meet called “The Griff Growl.”
Final car to be seen was something of a rarity, a Mark 2 Cavalier Convertible, which was was launched in 1985. It was based on the 2-door saloon which was only available for a short time in the UK and was not very successful. The conversion of the Convertible was carried out by Hammond & Thiede. The car only came with the 1.8 injected petrol engine. Standard equipment included electrical operated and heated door mirrors, electric boot release. Optional equipment included a 3 speed automatic gear box, electric front windows, power steering, drivers seat height adjust and two-coat metallic paint. An equivalent open topped Opel Ascona was also offered. Production continued up till the introduction of the Mk3 Cavalier in October 1988.
This was the third Wake Up of 2016, and the number of people attending shows that although these events are only in their second season, there are plenty who are happy to get out of bed early on a Sunday and head to this little known town in Dorset. There are three more scheduled for the next three months, each taking place on the last Sunday of the month. Sadly my diary looks like it is already committed to be elsewhere on each occasion, so I will miss out, but for those who are interested, the remaining events are based around “Supercar meets Superbike” on the 24th July, “The Comfy Choice” for Grand Routier & luxury cars on 28th August and finally on 25th September, ” X-Box and Supertouring”. Well worth a morning out for those who can make it.