We recently reported on the collector car community being called to action. Well, the calls continue:
There has been some fine print in the Kansas regulations regarding vintage vehicles that states that any modifications made to a vehicle more than 35 years old can violate the owner’s right to an antique license plate.
“The vast majority of people have no idea, like myself, that technically with my vehicles I am in violation of the law,” Kansas state Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston, recently told NBC television affiliate KSNW. Owens, who according to the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper, owns a 1927 Ford Model A, added that enforcement of the modification violation “has been stepped up” in the past year.
How strict has that enforcement been? People have had their antique tags confiscated for such things as putting aftermarket wheels on their vehicles.
One example reported by the television station: The owner of a 1967 Pontiac Firebird was stopped by a highway patrol officer for having the wrong wheels and tires on his car.
“You cannot have aftermarket tires and wheels on your vehicle with that classic tag,” the Firebird’s owner was told as he was tickets and his tags were impounded.
Rep. Owens is among those supporting House Bill 2528, which was introduced in January and which last week left the Committee on Transportation with a recommendation that it be passed by the full legislature.
The new bill would change language in the law to accept a vehicle as antique based on age, not on specific equipment installed since it was purchased.
“I had one one of my constituents say why are you wasting your time on this when we have a life amendment or we have this vote to make?” Owens told the TV station. “It doesn’t work that way. It’s not that we just sit here waiting on the big votes. There are so many things and to a number of people this is a big issue.”
Meanwhile, on a national scale, SEMA has scheduled its annual Washington Rally, officials it’s “Salute to the American Automotive Performance & Motorsports Industry,” for May 13.
The event is open to SEMA members and includes legislative briefings, face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and a luncheon on Capitol Hill, as well as visits to various Washington, D.C. attractions.
One issue certain to be discussed is the RPM Act that would overturn the EPA ruling that vehicles produced for street use cannot be converting for purposes of motorsports competition.
“Converting street vehicles into dedicated race vehicles is an American tradition dating back decades and has negligible environmental impact.,” SEMA notes, adding, “While California is known for having the strictest emissions laws, the state exempts racing vehicles from regulation.”
A variety of artists have lent their style to various vehicles, especially BMWs, and now Rolls-Royce has added acclaimed South African artist Ester Mahlangu to the group. “The Mahlangu Phantom” is a new Rolls-Royce Phantom with commissioned artwork, inside and out, by Mahlangu.
The new Phantom includes a panel on the dashboard that the automaker calls “The Gallery” and which can be personalized by vehicle owners. Or in the case of the Mahlangu Phantom, by a renowned artist.
Mahlangu, 84, is from the Ndebele people. She started painting when she was 10 years old and her art reflects her culture and its fondness for color and geometric design. She was commissioned by BMW to do the first African art car in 1991. The car was displayed in Europe, England and Washington, D.C. Since then, her art has been acquired by many collections.
“The Gallery is a unique environment for patrons of our marque to express personal and often highly creative artworks and we are indeed honored to showcase Dr. Mahlangu’s work in this Phantom’s serene interior,” said Cesar Habib, regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Middle East and Africa.
“With the goal of preserving her cultural heritage, Mahlangu founded an art school at her home in the Mpumalanga province where she mentors young artists in the traditional style of Ndebele design,” Rolls-Royce said in unveiling the art car.
“A portion of the proceeds from the sale of ‘The Mahlangu Phantom’ will be donated to the school and will be used to support a retrospective exhibition that will narrate her fascinating life story and celebrate her invaluable contribution to contemporary African art.”
Marty Vieau admits he is obsessed with excellence. He even describes his life’s mission as “I will never settle for anything less than excellence. In job, in hobby or home life.”
So, it is probably fitting that Vieau is the guy who uncovered a long lost factory custom Ford Fairlane that many assumed had been destroyed years ago, and not only did he find the car, he took on the challenge of restoring it, one tiny detail at a time.
Vieau’s day job is overseeing a no-excuses quality control program. But away from work, he has a special love for Ford Fairlanes and acts as technical advisor for the Fairlane Club of America. Nearly 20 years ago, he received an inquiry letter from someone in Ohio claiming to own a 1966 Ford Fairlane (dubbed GT-X a Go Go) that reportedly was part of Ford’s Custom Car Caravan in the mid-1960s.
He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what he thought simply did not exist and made the drive to Ohoi from his home in Minnesota. He found the unusual prototype, somewhat worse for wear but still sporting many of the one-off components used to create the car.
The Fairlane was built by Ford to get some hype going for the restyled mid-size that found itself competing with Pontiac GTOs and Chevy Chevelles for street supremacy and sales. The Ford Custom Car Caravan began in 1963 when Jacques Passino, heavily involved in Ford’s racing efforts, thought it prudent to create a group of vehicles in partnership with model maker AMT and to tour the country and show off performance to a growing crowd of racing enthusiasts. AMT was offering kits with customized versions of the Ford vehicles on its boxes.
The custom Fairlane didn’t come along until around 1965 when planning began in tandem with the car’s restyling. Once production began in 1965, Ford pulled a 2-door hardtop off the line and took it to the prototype division where the magic began.
Power was the first order of business and a 427cid side-oiler, medium-riser V8 was put under the hood and was mated to Ford’s C6 automatic and a 9-inch rear hauling 4:11 gears. How’s that for a show car!
At the prototype division the car was outfitted with numerous parts that normally might see duty only on test vehicles. Some of these parts were installed to upgrade and improve performance of suspension, cooling, fuel delivery, exhaust and brakes. Engineers carefully documented these components and marked and tagged them when they were installed, an effort that paid dividends many years later when Vieau got his hands on the car for its eventual restoration.
Once the Fairlane finished its time at the prototype shop, it was shipped off to renowned customizer Gene Winfield in Phoenix, where he had been hired to manage AMT’s Speed and Custom Division Shop. AMT had been building specialty cars for movies and television and Winfield had been involved in many of those projects.
Ford’s Custom Car Caravan was offering various customizers the opportunity to handle creative transformations of Ford offerings to be used on the annual tours, so it was natural Winfield would get the opportunity to take on one of the Ford models.
Vieau was awed by how complete the custom Fairlane was when he first inspected it. True to form for most any customizer, Winfield shaved off door handles and superfluous trim, replacing much of the trim with handmade moldings. Door operators became semi-hidden push buttons, front and rear bumpers were reshaped and tucked closer to the body, and a set of Hurst custom wheels were refinished with paint to match the blue accent striping that adorned the car’s hood and rear deck.
Headlights and taillights were given a contemporary “french” effect, dropping the lights and lenses into the smoothed body. Vieau discovered during the restoration that Winfield had carefully filled and smoothed every seam on the Fairlane, including under the hood. He noted that every curve and contour was meticulously crafted so nothing was out of proportion.
The car’s front end has a handmade grille and fill panel in addition to the headlight cavities that envelope the single lamps and small chromed grilles immediately below. The taillights are handled the same way with the light units dropped into the sheetmetal.
On the hood, Winfield created two bulbous vents accented with chrome inserts that make a striking impression. When you first see the car in person, your reaction is, “What’s under those scoops?”
The candy pearl-white paint is contrasted with metal flake blue stripes, a color that is carried over into the interior. But another of the most interesting elements is the side trim/exhaust which runs from the trailing edge of the front fender to a wide exhaust opening just forward of the rear wheel well. The car was outfitted with a dual system that could be switched from a more standard muffler and pipe combination to open exhaust which exited out of those broad side openings.
Exterior appointments were finished with the custom Hurst wheels and red line tires, but the creative touches didn’t stop there. As each door is opened, the door jams show off custom chromed covers, shaped to fit the door edge and the body jam. The step trim follows the same multi-bar treatment as the side moldings and, of course, there are no signs of seams where you would expect to see them.
The interior is simple. Door panels, seat covers, steering wheel and dash all use a what might be considered a gaudy metal flake blue Naugahyde material, but somehow it works for this show car that is meant to grab attention. The seating treatment, buckets front and back, have sculptured seats and backs using rows of chrome buttons for emphasis. The dash gets the color treatment, but for the most part looks pretty much as it came from the factory, which, by the way, is where you get to peer at the odometer and see those 3,003 original miles.
The miles beg the question… did anyone ever take this beast out to bang the gears just once or maybe take on a stoplight foe or two? We’ll probably never know.
As the restoration progressed, Vieau contacted Winfield, who wanted to offer the ultimate service for a restoration this special. He would be the guy to handle the repaint. So, the grand master and creator of this masterpiece was brought in to provide the coup de gras, a careful replication of the pearl finish and a thumbs up approval of the finished project.
Vieau spent countless hours tracking down missing or non-repairable bits and pieces that, in many cases, were marked and tagged with color codes and numbers. Fortunately, the car had not experienced so much weathering that the marks were completely wiped away and he meticulously brought each of them back into view. It’s fascinating, particularly for anyone hung up on details to see how carefully this restoration was approached.
The car had its first and only public viewing at the 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, Illinois, garnering a hallowed spot right inside the front entry so the thousands of spectators that show up for that event would see this rarity right away.
And after those decades of working to bring the Fairlane GT-X a Go Go back to life, where has it landed?
Marty Vieau decided the car needed to be in a collection and consigned it to Barrett-Jackson’s 2020 Scottsdale auction, where it sold to a winning bid of $236,500. A tidy sum, but also an extremely rare piece of Ford muscle car history now carefully and obsessively preserved.
For a dozen years, Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing has showcased a new Mercedes-inspired speed boat at the Miami International Boat Show. This year, with the 59-foot Tirranna AMG Edition boat comes the matching Mercedes-AMG G 63 Cigarette Edition SUV.
“Despite its 59′ length and 14′ beam, the Tirranna AMG Edition is extremely agile and optimized for high performance,” Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing said in their news release.
“When designing their new performance flagship, the Cigarette Racing Team engineers focused their attention on every detail, for example by utilizing lightweight construction in key locations: Its raked hardtop is made completely of carbon fiber, reducing the vertical center of gravity for better handling, while carbon fiber also features throughout its superstructure, with carbon-capped stringers and a carbon-fiber transom.
“The hull and deck are vacuum infused using a highly optimized composite laminate schedule with PVC coring. The instrument panel is a nano-coated solid surface that is anti-reflective and heat-resistant, which also features titanium fasteners.”
“Mercedes-AMG stands for Performance Luxury. The Tirranna AMG Edition is the perfect transfer of this principle to a boat: Its dynamic and at the same time deeply sensual proportions embody athletic beauty,” according to Gorden Wagener, chief designer for Daimler AG.
The boat carries 6 supercharged, 4.6-liter Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines, each rated at 450 horsepower. With 2,700 total horsepower, the 59-foot boat can reach a speed of 80 mph.
The boat is large enough to carry as many as 26 people and has a cabin with a California king-sized bed.
The one-off G 63 SUV has a 577-horsepower 4.0-liter biturbo V8, features dark chrome grille and other exterior accents, and rides on 22-inch forged wheels. The interior features macchiato beige and dark blue two-tone exclusive nappa leather upholstery that matches the color scheme of the boat.
The Miami boat show runs through February 17 at the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin.
Even among non-car enthusiasts, the Mercedes-Benz logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. It’s elegant yet simple, consisting of a three-pointed star within a circle. But how did it come to be?
The origins of the Mercedes-Benz logo actually date back to 1909, which predates the formation of the company by 16 years. Back then, the companies that would eventually merge to make Mercedes-Benz — Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) and Benz & Cie. — were still two independent entities.
At the time, DMG was being run by Paul and Adolf Daimler, the sons of company founder Gottlieb Daimler. The brothers decided that their company needed a new logo and settled upon a symbol used by their late father, who died in 1900.
During his time as technical director of the Deutz gas engine factory, Gottlieb Daimler used a three-pointed star to mark the family home on a postcard. The three-pointed star was also a fitting symbol for Daimler since the company’s engines were used in land, sea and aeronautical applications.
The brothers officially registered the symbol on June 24, 1909, with the German Imperial Patent Office, and were granted a trademark for the three-pointed star on February 9, 1911.
Meanwhile, Benz & Cie. was
working on a new logo of its own that featured the word “Benz” surrounded by a
laurel wreath that was a nod to the company’s racing success. The symbol was
filed with the German government on August 6, 1909, and was granted trademark
protection on October 10, 1910.
Several years later in 1925, DMG and Benz & Cie. agreed to merge their automotive businesses along with their logos, creating Daimler-Benz AG and the circle-encrusted star that first appeared on a road car in 1926 and is still used by Mercedes-Benz to this day.
Although the Mercedes-Benz logo has
changed little over the last 9-decades, its placement has. The three-pointed
star was originally fixed at the top of a car’s radiator, forming a prominent
hood ornament. But in the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz decided to fit its racing cars
with a flat version of the logo to improve aerodynamics.
In 1952, the 300 SL sports car became the first road-going Mercedes-Benz to feature a central star in the middle of its radiator rather than on top of it. And it’s because of that first SL that sporty Mercedes-AMG products wear a grille-mounted logo instead of the hood-mounted symbol used on most Mercedes-Benz road cars.
This article was originally published by Motor Authority, an editorial partner of ClassicCars.com.
As Mazda celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding, here are a few tidbits from the Japanese automaker’s history:
• It started as a Hiroshima cork manufacturer until it was taken over in 1921 by industrialist Jujiro Matsuda, who transformed Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. into a machine tool producer.
• Its first vehicle was not an automobile but a three-wheeled motorcycle/truck named Mazda-Go that went into production in 1931 and continued throughout the 1930s.
• As the Second World War ended, manufacturing resumed in Hiroshima only a few months after the atomic bombing.
• Its first passenger car, the tiny R360, debuted in 1960.
• Mazda became a major manufacturer of rotary-engine vehicles after it signed a licensing deal in 1961 with NSU of Germany for the Felix Wankel design, and then succeeded in ironing out the engine’s flaws to power thousands of cars and pickup trucks, culminating in the popular RX-7 and RX-8 sports coupes and convertibles.
• The MX-5 Miata, introduced in 1989, has become by far the best-selling two-seat sports car in history, surpassing the one million mark worldwide.
• Mazda became the first Asian brand to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1991, and the RX-7 is the winningest GT car in the history of IMSA racing.
The century mark was celebrated at company headquarters on Thursday.
“Mazda originated as a company producing cork and then took the path to manufacturing automobiles,” president and chief executive Akira Marumoto told the crowd at the centennial celebration. “Now, our cars have found friends with many customers from over 130 countries and regions.”
The automaker will
continue its centennial observance throughout 2020, next with a display at the
Geneva Motor Show in March.
Automakers boast of their vehicles’ lap times around the Nurburgring or over a 1-mile straightaway, and recently of the range of their electric-powered fleet. But Mercedes-Benz is claiming an automotive record of another sort as a pair of its Unimog U 5023 off-road vehicles have claimed driving at a height of nearly 21,962 feet.
The mission was to install four emergency radio units at various high-altitude camps on Ojos de Salado, the world’s tallest active volcano, which is located in Chile. The radios were needed so the camps could communicate for safety and scientific research.
Ojos de Salado reaches to a height of 6893 meters (22,614.8 feet) and is part of the notorious string of active volcanos known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.
“After the expedition team made it to the Amistad high-altitude camp at 6,100 m with the two Unimog U 5023 and had completed the installation of the fourth emergency radio unit there, the team set about achieving another milestone,” Mercedes-Benz noted in its announcement, “breaking the altitude record for wheeled vehicles.
“This was achieved by one of the two Unimog trucks at an altitude of 6,694 m. Never before had vehicles climbed to such heights anywhere around the world.”
The 10-person expedition was supported by Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks, which provided the pair of extreme off-road vehicles. The trucks were equipped with special tires, winches and even special bodies with variable center of gravity-balancing technology developed at the Unimog Museum, by Unimog body supplier AS Soder and by engineers from the Unimog development team.
Leading the expedition was Matthias Jeschke, owner of Extrem Events, who had set the previous high-altitude driving record in 2014 using Mercedes-Benz Zetros.
The Mercedes news release quotes Jeschke for praising the way the Unimogs “mastered” the extremely steep and rocky passages thanks to a combination of the best, reliable technology, a balanced center of gravity and amazing tire technology to bring the materials and equipment to these enormous heights.”
Mercedes launched the Unimog model 70 years ago as a vehicle designed for all climates and all places.
You don’t have to own or even ride motorcycles to appreciate them, and especially those of an older vintage, as mechanical marvels or for their amazing sculptural designs.
And if we revere the pioneers of the automobile, what sort of pedestal should we reserve for those who first challenged what passed as roadways on two wheels, and totally exposed to the elements, or for those who raced around high-banked, wood-plank board tracks on machines that had engines and handle bars but no brakes and pretty much no cushioning suspension either.
These are thoughts that came to mind this week as I wandered among the vehicles on the docket for two major vintage and collector motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, a one-day sale by Bonhams and a nearly week-long parade across the auction block by Mecum.
In both cases, you could buy or sell — and the auction houses were delighted if that’s what you were doing. Or, like me, you could simply enjoy what felt like visiting a couple of marvelous if temporary motorcycle museums.
Exposed mechanical bits
Automobiles hide their mechanical parts beneath bodywork made of steel, aluminum or composites ranging from fiberglass to carbon fiber. For the most part, and for most of the parts, motorcycles expose their mechanical bits for all to see and enjoy.
Fuel tanks as works of art
Lit from within, there are few transportation items more artistically beautiful than the globes that once topped the fuel pumps at gas stations. But the logo designs on motorcycle fuel tanks have to be considered works of art in their own right.
Motorcycles allow us to enjoy gauges and even fenders for their beautiful design, and then, of course, there are the external ribs of the Steib sidecar.
It took years before NASCAR would admit that a black man, Wendell Scott, had actually won a stock car race. But there was no overlooking the impact Willie T. Ribbs had on motorsports a few decades later, and Ribbs’ career is now featured in a new film by Adam Carolla’s Chassy Media.
Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story is available for purchase and downloading from the chassy.com website.
Ribbs was the first African-American driver to win a Trans-Am race, to test a Formula One car and to race in the Indianapolis 500.
“Willy T. Ribbs was the Jackie Robinson of auto racing who shattered the color-barrier in the all-white sport,” Chassy Media said in its news release.
“Willy was referred to as ‘Uppity’ behind his back by mechanics and other racers. He overcame death-threats, unwarranted suspensions and engine sabotage to go after his dream. Ultimately, Willy beat the haters and became the first Black driver to win a Trans-Am race, test a Formula One car, and race in the Indy 500.”
“Willy T. Ribbs is an extraordinary racer who overcame adversity throughout his career,” the release quotes co-directors Carolla and Nate Adams, whose previous work includes The 24 Hour War and Shelby American: The Carroll Shelby Story.
“Willy’s determined spirit and desire to prove his naysayers wrong serves as a beacon of light and hope that one should never give up on their dreams and to continue to fight regardless of what others think.”
The documentary film includes racing footage and interviews with Ribbs, Paul Newman, Bernie Ecclestone, Dan Gurney, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr., Robby Unser, David Hobbs, Caitlyn Jenner, Wally Dallenbach Jr., and Humpy Wheeler.
Here’s the link to the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKwfDjfO9Pw&t=2s
A 1960 Lotus 19 Monte Carlo (chassis 953) that was driven in competition by Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss, will be offered for bidding February 22-23 at Silverstone Auctions’ Race Retro sale in Stoneleigh Park in Kenilworth, England.
The two-seat sports racer is being offered to a new owner for the first time in 57 years, Silverstone Auctions said. Lotus founder colin Chapman nicknamed the car the Monte Carlo following Moss’s victory at Monaco in 1960.
Moss did most of the test driving during development of the Lotus 19 in 1960, and he was in the car for its debut, winning a race at Kariskoga, Sweden. In 1963, the car would be the last Moss would drive as a professional racer.
In 1962, Hill won six of seven starts he made in the car, and he finished second in the other. His fast-lap of the Snetteron circuit was the first time a sports racer averaged more than 100 mph on that track.
Maston Gregory drove the car to victory in the Players 200 at Mosport Park in Canada that same season. The car also was driven by Olivier Gendebien, who took it to class victories in 1961 at Riverside and Laguna Seca.
When Clark’s assigned car wasn’t ready for a 1964 race at Oulton Park, he was offered the 953 and drove it to victory.
Racer Harry O’Brien bought the car at the end of the 1964 season and crashed into a bank at Silverstone in 1965. The car went into O’Brien’s garage but was damaged in a fire in 1966. O’Brien planned to do a restoration but the car sat for 30 years before it was sold to Kelvin Jones, who had it restored in preparation for the Madgwick Cup race at the Goodwood Revival.
Silverstone Auctions notes that the car did not compete in that race and three years later was sold again, this time to Lotus specialist Paul Matty, who commissioned Andrew Tart to complete the car’s restoration. The car was sold in 2017 to the consignor, who had Tart install a fresh Coventry-Climax engine so it would be ready for vintage racing.
The car is finished in UDT-Laystall Racing Green and will be sold with FIA paperwork making it eligible for top-level vintage racing.