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Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Mako Shark Meets A Real Mako Shark In Atlanta

By Miguel Caparros 
Oceans & Autos Classic Car Show. Maintaining the aquarium is a very expensive proposition, specially the largest aquarium that is located 200 miles from the ocean. The 2nd annual fund raiser was slightly smaller than the first but more than made up with quality. Rick Fairbanks organizer of the event was successful in getting Chevrolet to send one of their most famous show cars out of their collection, The Corvette Mako Shark. There is much bad information on the net about who designed the 1963 Sting Ray. Let us put it to rest here! Peter Brock was the designer of the 1957 Sting Ray, that is right, 1957.  He was the youngest designer at GM at the time. Bill Mitchell, Vice President of GM styling and Larry Shinoda mentored the youngster, but it was Peter who designed the iconic shape of the Corvette.  Installed on the chassis of the SS XP64 Corvette Endurance racer of 1956, Yes Matilda that is correct, Chevrolet wanted to race directly against the Europeans at Sebring. The car was never sorted out and it broke after 23 laps of the 1957 Running of the 12 hours of Sebring. Right at about the same time GM management thought it would be a good thing to ban the Corporation from racing. So Bill Mitchel who was an accomplished amateur racer snag the SS Chassis, and in secret put the young Peter Brock to create and build a revolutionary body for the finest GM technology hidden under what would become the shape of the 1963 Sting Ray. Now I will get off my Peter Brock Pulpit (your welcomed Peter). Yes Larry Shinoda gets credit for the Mako Shark show car. Based on a 1961 Corvette it definitely created a stir about what the next Corvette would look like.  By the time the time the Mako Shark hit the show circuit the production designs for the Sting Ray were already done. Where the Sting Ray race car was just that, the Mako Shark was actually something people could touch and feel and it had an actual interior. The original incarnation of the Mako Shark was all silver and had a clear twin bubble top, one of Bill Mitchell's favorite elements that he considered the future. Bill Mitchell wanted to freshen up the Mako Shark for 1967 and as the story goes, He ordered the paint department to paint the car to match the Marlin hanging on his office door. The rejuvenated Mako Shark and the Mako II gave hints of the upcoming release of the 1968 Corvette.
One of the rare cars that made its appearance at the Aquarium is one that is near to my heart as my father had the identical car new in 1955. Studebaker emerged from WWII and was not able to get up and running and share in the post war boom. Although ahead of GM, Ford and Chrysler in producing modern trend setting designs and beating every one of its competitors to produce the first Modern over head valve V8, Studebaker faced a price war between GM and Ford with the highest cost in the industry. The Studebaker brand goes all the way back to 1852 and was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, the military and the famous Conestoga wagon that settled the west. They first produced electric cars in 1902 and then gas powered in 1904. By the time 1955 came about Studebaker was in financial trouble, The Raymond Lowey designed cars of 1953 were low aerodynamic and looked way into the future of the automobile. But they faced a price disadvantage due to the fore mentioned price war. The President line was Studebaker's top of the line and the Speedsters was the trend leader that created a personal luxury American sports coupe. With unique trim and sports car like turned metal dash, the Speedster came fully equip with almost every "option" installed. It looked like a factory built custom car that sat lower and looked wider than its competitors offerring.
Although by 1955 Buick, Olds and Ford had V8's of over 300 cubic inches the Studebaker 232 V8combined with lighter weight and superior aerodynamics could more than keep up on the street and run away and hide in the open road. The Speedster was a one year only model and only 2,215 cars were built. Yet what this car did was set the sporty direction that Studebaker would take, first with the Hawk series and then with the Avanti and the Lark Daytona all who were derivatives of the speedster.
My connection with the speedster goes back to 1955 when my father was replacing his 1951 Fordyllac which had become a bit long in the tooth and was no competition for the factory supported teams from Buick and Mercury in the over the road races such as the Carrera Panamericana. Even giving away 100 cubic inches of engine displacement to its rivals, my father and Studebaker figured that the lighter weight, lower center of gravity and the ability to push less air at speed would be enough to make the Speedster competitive. Almost! Even with factory support it is difficult to beat the odds of superior numbers. Where there was one Studebaker there were 5 factory Buick's and an equal number of Mercury's. Dads Speedster led in many stages and was always a contender but the nature of road racing over secondary and dirt roads means things do break and tires do go flat. The Carrera was cancelled in 1955 but the races went on in other parts of Central America and the Caribbean and specifically in Cuba. in an era where the top speed of most fast cars barely went 120 miles per hour, in one stage the Speedster was clocked at 163 MPH. In today's recreation of the Carrera the stock car of choice is the Studebaker Coupe of 1953-1955, real Speedsters are too rare and expensive.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Very Famous Maserati And A Golden Shifter.

 Photos and Videos by Miguel Caparros
Click Here For The Video                                            
In the 50's the great Formula 1 constructors would derive their two seat Sports Cars directly from the Formula 1 cars. The 300S was based on the 250F that had a very long career from 1954 to 1960. Only 26 250F's were built, most of them were raced by privateers. The 300S began in 1955 and 28 examples were built through 1958.  It is amazing the performance extracted from these cars that had Dual Over Head Camshaft Hemi head and only 3 liters, or 183 cubic inches. Power output varied from 245 to close to 300 horsepower from the 6 cylinder engine.  I had both the good and bad fortune of having a few Maserati's over the years. Maserati marched to a different drummer and like many they had good times and really bad times. I also was exposed to their construction techniques when I owned a Stangelini Formula Junior that was basically a 3/4 scale version of the 250F and it was to date the most successful Formula Jr car of all time. The 300S sports car was not always the fastest but it proved to be reliable enough to win more than its share of races against the Mercedes 300SL and the Ferrari 250 V12 Monza. It was a glorious time when the drivers were fat and the tires were skinny, and there was a direct connection from the factory race cars to the ones that were driven on the street. The 300s also begat a 350S with a monstrous V12 engine and my favorite of all the 450S with a 4.5 liter V8 that had a sound that is unforgettable.

By Miguel Caparros.                                                      Click Here For The Video
By 1970 the Oldsmobile 442 and its other Muscle car cousins had come under fire from the insurance industry due to the popularity of the cars and in my opinion greed. The companies all banded together in the era of the 55 mile per hour national speed limit to make sure that the young and the young at heart would pay through the nose if they bought any thing that did not weigh 4,600 lbs and have 4 doors. Models like the 442, GTO, Z28, Mustang GT, Turino and Road Runner, all fell under scrutiny, if it had a V8 bigger than a 350 they would get hit with a big insurance premium. Very flawed thinking. The Ralley 350 was Oldsmobile's answer to sell a sporty car on keep it out of the high premiums. Ignoring the reality that in less than 3 hours that 350 could be lifted out and a 455 monster be dropped in and there was no way that the average insurance adjuster could tell a high output 455 from a milk jug. Those that would rather keep the engine in the car that it came with, found out that you can get loads of power from any 350. I was very guilty just like most young men that grew up in the 60's and 70's of burning up 30 cents a gallon of Sunoco 260 to blast down the street, stupid laws or insurance companies be dammed. If the insurance companies had truly cared for their customers safety, and even today, taken a pro active role in training drivers and creating a teared licensing system we would have saved many more lives than ridiculous speed limits, driving around with the shop teacher was a total waste of time. Not that I have an opinion on this.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 1951 Fordyllac

By Miguel Caparros.

In early in 1951 my father bought a 51 Ford Convertible. His plan was to exploit a hole in the Over The Road Racing Rules that did not forbid engine swaps. Dad somehow acquired a brand new 1951 Cadillac Overhead Valve V8 of 330 cubic inches, the "Hemi" of its time. He apparently had the engine before the car and his shop balance and blueprint the engine. In the process he discovered a Californian named ED Iskenderian who was working some magics with cams to find more power. The 51 went directly from the port of Havana to the shop where the 85 horsepower flathead was replaced by the 300 horsepower Cadillac V8. The Fordyllac was born. Speaking of being born, in November of 51 that was the car that took me and my mom, in a hurry, to the hospital when it was time for me to join this world. Mother was not much of one for speed, as a matter of fact she was terrified riding in a car. The ride to the hospital is a story I heard 10,000 times if I heard it once.

The Fordyllac became a legend! Due to the long time it takes rules to be changed Dad figured there was nothing that could catch it for the first year. The light weight of the Ford combined with the Cady Muscle also caused a few expected and unexpected issues. The Ford overdrive 3 speed was not quite up to the torque of the big V8. The Crafty Cuban mechanics at the shop somehow created a LaSalle 3 speed overdrive transmission and history has lost what overdrive unit they used. Next thing to get attention was the differential that was twisting axles and shredding gears, a Cady diff was made the appropriate size to fit in the Ford. Brakes were also an issue and the correction for this was to fit the brakes from a Lincoln limo. All these niggling breakdowns were keeping the Fordyllac out of the Victory Circle. For 1952 the rules were re-interpreted to eliminate convertibles from competition. Much to the competitors chagrin the first race in 1952 the 51 Fordyllac made its appearance with a coupe hard top properly welded in place. The Fordyllac went on to a few wins but at this point the factory teams were getting up to speed and getting very hard to beat. In 1954 the old Fordyllac was being left in the dust of the Buicks so for 55 the Ford got a new home and we acquired a new Studebaker Speedster, smaller engine trade for better aerodynamics. Stay tuned for that story.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Varsity, !964 Mustang Introduction And A1968 Datsun Road Test

Stories, videos and photos by Miguel Caparros.

An Automotive tradition in Atlanta is the cruise in the 1st Thursday of every month. The Varsity down town cruise in has been going on since the 70's. It is hard to imagine Thursday nights with out the thousands that flock to the Iconic anchor of the Varsity empire that is billed as the worlds largest drive in with out what is with out question is one othe the largest gathering of cars in Atlanta. I have never been able to put an actual number on the crowd, the fluidity of the event makes it very difficult. Some visitors have their spots that they have been at for two generations and others just float in and out but many stay past the departure time of 9pm. One interesting thing I noticed when I first attended 4 years ago was the diversity of the people and the wide range of the ages. 

1965 Ford Mustang GT Fastback. 
In 1964 I was the luckiest kid in the world. I lived a few subway stops form the New York Worlds Fair. Dad took the whole family on opening day and I was presented with a golden ticket. I could get in to the Fair for the next two years any time I wanted!  And you know I did!  The first day was very special as it was the Introduction of the Ford Mustang.  The Ford Pavilion is the first place we went. Since we were there early the line to ride in a new Mustang was not very long, I picked a red convertible for us to sit in for the ride inside the Ford pavilion.  The following April I would meet Carol Shelby at the New York International Car Show, he gave me a poster of the GT350. Four years later I would own one of Mr Shelby's creations. Thirty years later I would be working for him. I guess you could say the Mustang was an important part of my life.  Where the GT 350 was very good for what it was intended it was not the best street car in the world, Hair trigger clutch, a very stiff suspension and lots of noise are not acceptable in a daily driver, unless you happen to be a teen ager, or race car driver or both! The Mustang Fastback presented in this video is in my opinion the best compromise of  Style and Performance as any car of the period. This GT even came with the milder of the two 4 barrel V8 with a rated 225 HP. The optional engine was a solid lifter High Performance unit that was rated at 271 HP and was the basis for the GT350 engine that put out 306 HP. The GT was a dream to drive, Smooth, a transmission that was a smooth to shift, the clutch was firm and did not need the strength of The Governator to push the pedal down. The suspension was firm without being jarring. If you wanted to abuse your self you could order it with out power steering, something I would never suggest as the manual steering is not only slow but very heavy at low speeds. The GT350 came without power steering and a very fast ratio that made it almost impossible to steer at anything below 25 MPH, I remember the GT350 it came with an ad for Weider muscle building system.  Today the GT is a wonderful collector car that can be driven any where.  The closing credit Photo is the roof of the New York Pavilion at the Worlds Fair. You may remember it from the movie Men in Black, the flying saucers! This was the roof of the building that connected the two buildings supporting the saucers. Much to my mothers horror I laid down on the floor and took the photo on that first day. 

In the early to mid 60's Datsun was the one on the move in the US market while Toyota was still sleeping.  Datsun was taking on the British car industry head on as it recuperated from WWII. Datsun was one of the companies that benefited from the leadership of  W. Edwards Deming, he was chosen by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) a title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II.
I remember the first time I saw an SPL 311 and my reaction to it. The quality of build seemed much better than the MG, Triumph or Alfa Romeo, given the fact that much of the technology was under license from US and  Great Britain.  As great as the quality of the mechanical aspects were concerned, the quality of the interior vinyl and plastics left much to be desire.  In spite of that, they slowly chipped away at the established manufacturers with a product of superior 

mechanical quality and value for the money spent. The SPL 311 line finished in 1970 with the Datsun 2000, A car that had to be taken very seriously as a performance sports car. It was the follow up that put the final nail in the coffin of the British dominance, the 240Z, Fairlady.
Driving impression of the Datsun 1600 from 1968.  First thing I noticed was the size of the car, it felt bigger than an MG Midget but smaller than the MGB. The controls and switch gear had a quality feel to it and the standard Am Fm radio was completely integrated into the dash. Also well integrated was the heating and ventilation levers and switches and they had a light feel as opposed to some of the British cars that felt as if you were trying to move a rail road track change lever with a tooth pick.

One stab of the gas pedal and a light pull of the choke and the car started right up and the choke was not needed after a few seconds and the engine settled to a smooth idle.  The clutch was unusually light as was the shift the lever. As I took off I could immediately sense that although the steering was light it did not have the precision of the British rack and pinion and the ride motion was both soft and choppy at the same time. Getting on the power made me smile as the little 1600 had power equal to if not better than the 1800 in the MGB. But it was the great feel of the gearbox that got my attention. Both precise in movement and light in feel.  Taking it through my favorite set of twisties in Coral Gables It felt good but not as well planted as an MGB or my own Alfa. But there was no question in my mind that Datsun had a winner here, specially when you take into consideration the price. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Road Racing Harley

By Miguel Caparros

Vintage motorcycle racing is not something I generally follow. Last Saturday when I went to the HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing) event at Road Atlanta, I went with the hope of taking some up close video of some vintage race cars. I am a motorcyclist, a former motorcycle racer and I do pay some attention to the motorcycle industry. I was not prepared to see some 75 race bikes from many different eras, a surprising number much newer than what I raced. After getting over the feeling of being "vintage" I dove into shooting video of these mobile works of art. Everything from 125cc 2 stroke light weight Can Am's to some fairly recent Italian and Japanese bikes. All the people in the paddock were very engaging, willing to share information and history on their machines. It seems that initially the paddock spaces were broken up by makes, as the transport and caretakers seem to specialize in one brand or another. I did come across a very eclectic collection that was highlighted by the only Harley Davidson Motorcycle on the track. I took quite a bit of up close video of the XRTT, I had not paid close attention to this bike and briefly spoke to the owner Greg Craft. He was off to a riders meeting and I had to shoot more video.
A quick email to Greg and my confusion was cleared. Here is the explanation in his own words.
            The XRTT you are writing about is a 1970 replica based on a 1994 Harley Evo. These were the bikes I watched and read about as a kid back in the 70's, made famous by riders like Cal Rayborn ,Mert Lawwill, Renzo Pasolini and Mark Brelsford. I built the bike as a tribute to these men and their crews.  The bike started out as a 883 sportster. The engine has gone through a complete performance build featuring twin plug heads and displacement increased to 1321 cc capped off with an S&S carb , supertrapp exhaust and chain drive final. The airtech body work is pulled from original-style molds. The bike was recently wrapped in white and red vinyl for my sponsor Hawk performance brakes which manufactures a wide variety of  high performance pads including a complete line for American motorcycles. All of the fabrication and  factory racing paint ,which is still there under the wrap,was done by me. the build took approx 4 months to complete and was finished in the spring of 2008."

By the time I came on to the superbike scene, these bikes were already a legend in the mid 80's and every so often at a club race you could hear the thunder of the Harley over the buzz of the 4 cylinder bikes and the totally different sound from the other twins out there, the Ducati's. Most of the XRTT bikes ended up on the flat dirt tracks where they have dominated for so long. I would be very surprised if there were even 25 original road race XRTT's in existence. I heard of one that recently sold for $175,000. So a tribute bike is fine in my book, specially when it was done with the care that is obvious on this bike. Great job Greg !

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Awesome Can Am " I Knew My Limitations"

 By Miguel Caparros
You can safely say that I was really influenced in my life by the Can Am cars of the mid 60's to the early 70's. These were the ultimate race cars, 1300 lbs of weight, big block V8's with 600 Horsepower. Formula 1 seemed wimpy by comparison to the Canadian American series. This was perhaps the most innovative time in the evolution of the ultimate race car. some of the Men and their cars involved were; Jim Hall and his Chaparral, Colin Chapman and the Lotus cars, A.J. Foyt and the Coyote, Eric Broadley of Lola and there were more. All of it fueled by major corporations that saw the worth of getting their name out on the fastest billboards anywhere.  Here Is a slide show.      Here is the video!

Lotus 19
Rarely such a few production of cars have effected racing as deeply as Lotus Cars.  The Lotus 19 two seat sports racer was developed in 1960 from  the Formula 1 single seat Lotus 18.  Widening the cockpit to adda second seat, and a refinement of the body envelope shape from the previous sports racer along with the Lotus magic to make a super light car that was a success the first time out. The light fiberglass body and the magic of the tube frame created a very light 1,000 lbs and powered by a Coventry Climax 2.5 liter 250 hp 4 cylinder engine. The light weight, powerful engine and then state of the art aerodynamics this little car could go. As boys become men the need for more power arises. It was not long that the quest for more power and the appearance of  the all aluminum Buick V8 the light engine was soon drafted into sports car racing.Dan Gurney had great success driving the Arciero Brothers Climax powered Lotus 19. Gurney was also forging a relationship with a transplanted Texan, Carol Shelby. Gurney requested that lotus build for him a 19 that had thicker tubing to withstand the 400 horsepower King Cobra Ford 289. Lotus built this one car and it was labeled the 19B. A worthwhile trade of 240 lbs created a much faster and safer car. This would be the only Lotus factory built V8 car.It almost seems that at one point or another the 16 4 cylinder cars were converted to V8 power.  Well almost all, one was re-powered with a Ferrari 3 liter V12. If 400 horsepower is good 500 is better. in 1964, Alan Green Chevrolet of Seattle built what may have been the ultimate Lotus 19, using a 377 cubic inch Chevrolet, Built by Traco. Driven by Jerry Grant during 1964 the car achieved an unofficial to speed of 224 mph with use of some experimental spoilers and ground effects. Today there are more Lotus 19's than the 17 originally built. Check out the  video here!

Friday, August 12, 2011

John Cuda's Addiction And Sensible Hot Rod S

Story By John Cuda
One sweltering hot summer night when I was 9 years old I was playing on the living room floor with my hotwheels cars.I had a large wall built with a stack of cars and I was ramming my favorite black chevy van with flames painted on the side into the wall of cars to see how many I could knock over each time. After about the 90th pass through the stack of cars I heard a loud pop outside that sounded like a firecracker.

I immediately jumped up and ran out the door thinking my neighbors just scored another garbage bag full of fireworks from their Uncle that owns a fireworks distributor in Ohio. I was not so lucky.

I heard one more "crack" and noticed this car rumbling down the hill towards our culdesac slowly with it's headlights off. It stopped again, I heard another "crack" and saw a flash. I immediately thought that someone was throwing firecrackers at the neighbors houses just to start trouble as usual so I stood there with my chest pumped up on my front stoop ready for anything with my black, flamed hotwheels van in hand.

The car then parked in front of my next door neighbors house, but this time I was able to see more of what was going on due to the streetlight between our houses. Someone inside this car was leaning out of the passenger window and was shooting a small caliber rifle into my neighbors houses. After two more shots, they slowly pulled in front of my house and aimed the gun at me...and being the crazy, fearless wild child weathered by four older Brothers I started yelling every obscenity I knew and I tightened my grip and took that black flamed weapon that previously crashed through giant barriers of matchbox and hotwheels cars repeatedly and threw that thing as hard as I could right handed and side armed at the face of the guy holding that rifle. Just then time seemed to go in slow motion as the black flamed van left my hand.

I saw the passenger duck as the van slammed into the roof of the car just missing his head as it bounced hard up into the air, and then he aimed the rifle at me and fired immediately.I actually felt the bullet whiz past my ear and it got lodged in the brick fascia of my house we later found out.

Just then the driver stepped on the gas pedal and I heard the most devastating, awe inspiring, bloodcurdling, and scary sound I have ever heard in my life. Tires were spinning and white smoke billowed, but all I could hear was the sound of this engine under the hood of this half orange, half primered beast of a machine.
All the fear of the gun and my involvement suddenly vanished and turned into a scary, jealous type envy that made me wish I was the one stepping on that gas pedal. As I was standing there in awe I finally noticed my Mother shaking me like Ralphie from a Christmas story after he pounded the snot out of Scut Farkas."Johnny, Johnny, are you okay?" "Yeah, Mom, I'm fine."

Shortly afterwards the cops showed up and took mine and all the other neighbor's statements about the events of the night.As it turns out the punks shot at a cops house up the road and just missed hitting his sleeping baby Daughter's bassinette by inches.

I was proud to mention my award winning side arm throw that almost took the face right off of the gunman, but for some reason the officer told me that I did a bad thing.I had a real hard time understanding that because I was not afraid of those punks.My brothers were harder to deal with than those goofballs.

I ended up testifying against three hoodlums in the courtroom, they seemed to have hired the dirtiest lawyer on the face of the planet. For some reason I did not understand, they got off scott free. From the the courtroom testimony I was able to find out that that car they were driving was a 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner with a 426 Hemi and a four speed as the pictures and courtroom comments revealed.

The lawyer basically had to pry the picture out of my hand when I was asked if this was the car they were driving. I stared and had a half cocked smile on my face as I muttered out the word "yesssss", and later my Mom said I looked just like I did that night when she was shaking me.

Since that night I have been branded, bitten by the Mopar bug to the core and have owned and lost some really good creations from Ma Mopar over the years and currently have a sick creation of my own that really makes the purists cringe.
Those local punks with the rifle have been in trouble with the law many times since this incident including busting a neighbors nose to the other side of his face with a giant crescent wrench after following orders from his delusional Dad but through the power of facebook it seems they have all settled down for the most part as of late.
By Miguel Caparros  See The Video
When I first saw this car my reaction was, what a sensible car! It is big but not huge, it will seat six in comfort it has a great stance and presence. It has all the mechanical upgrades that make it a great driver, I could even live with the color. The only thing I would change would be the Instruments.
A new body style in 1941, it had to do service until 1949. It took GM a year longer than Ford to come out with their first post war designs. These cars were Americas work horse. Very few of the 1941 production survive and they even made a few during the war as military vehicles. The Fleetmaster was a special model. The regular sedan had a much taller window treatment Making the Fleetmaster and the Coupe Stylemasters look like they had a chopped top. Today Chevy fans are digging some of these cars out of chicken coops and making some very nice Rest Rods and great long distance cruising. Please note a special option on the rear bumper, a center bumper guard or override. The interesting aspect of this extra guard was that they had to design it to fold down to clear the opening of the trunk.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

DeTomaso Mangusta

by Miguel Caparros
The Classics DeTomaso Mangusta 1967-1971 See the Video
The DeTomaso Mangusta was the predecessor to the now very famous Pantera of 1971. Although the cars are very similar, the Mangusta and the Pantera shared very few parts. DeTomaso had figured out early on that there was no way his small company could tool up to build exclusive engines and transmissions for his car lines. He instead decided to explore the limits of design and engineering that were to bold for Ferrari and Maserati who were the established exotic car manufacturers and at this point conservative in design and innovation. Innovation can sometimes lead to great success or to disaster, DeTomaso was chastised for the handling of his cars as was Lamborghini's first mid engine car the Miura. A few exotic tuners and I were able to tame the snap over steer problems with slight geometry changes to the suspension and by increasing the the rear tire foot print of these cars.

DeTomaso had decided to get a major automotive manufacturer to supply him with a light weight v8 to take his creations out of the realm of the limited production Four cylinder cars he had been building to becoming a manufacturer of thousands of high performance cars instead of hundreds.

The Shelby connection. In 1964/65 Shelby was looking for a replacement for his mid engine sports racing car, the King Cobra. Perhaps a relationship forged during their professional racing days from when both DeTomaso and Shelby were racing drivers led Shelby to consider using a version of the backbone chassis of DeTomaso's light weight Vallenlunga sports car. The relationship led to Shelby supplying DeTomaso with his high performance version 289 cid engine from Ford. The Shelby version of the 289 as used in the Cobras put out a very strong 306 horsepower. With additional Shelby modifications the 289 could put out as much as 400 hp.This power plant made the Mangusta a very serious performance car. The US version came with the 225 hp engine, and I am certain that the these engines were either modified or replaced with the more powerful versions by their owners. I can not find any facts as to how many cars were delivered with the 289 or the 302 cid engine. Just over 400 Mangusta's were produced and it is said that fewer than 200 survive today 
Check out additional related links for this story.
The Mangusta body was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro while he worked for Ghia.
Shelby's focus was drawn away from DeTomaso when Ford asked Shelby to take over the Ford GT 40 development.
Argentine born Alejandro DeTomaso Founder of DeTomasa Automobili SpA Modena Italy. Designer and manufacturer of sports and luxury cars from 1959 to present. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Fishy Story Or How Plymouth Got The Jump And Lost The Race To Ford.

By Miguel Caparros
The 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang was the first Pony Car. Chrysler Plymouth did their best to try to steal the thunder of the April New York Worlds Fair Introduction, by releasing the Plymouth Valiant Barracuda on April first, two weeks before the opening of the Fair. Chrysler did a great job incorporating the large glass fast back onto the mundane Plymouth economy car and actually created a niche for the car.  It was not until 1965 with the introduction of the "S" package that the Barracuda was actually taken seriously as a performance car. Plymouth was ahead of the curve in SCCA Road Racing and the Barracuda was always in the running in the early Trans Am Series.
It was not until the 1967 introduction of the second generation A body Barracuda that the car was taken seriously by the enthusiast. With a truly fresh design and the addition of a coupe and convertible to the fastback, sales were brisk but nothing in comparison to the Mustang and the Camaro Firebird duo from GM. For such a low production numbers, Chrysler gave its buyers every thing from the legendary 225 six to the ground pounding 2 four barrel 426 Hemi V8.
In my opinion the best balanced of all the "Cudas" was the1968-69 340 powered fastback. Find a nice one of those with the S package, a "6 pack" intake and carburetors, some modern tires and suspension and you would have a butt kicking very usable street, track and show car. Although the 3rd generation of cars with the big block power are very celebrated today. The second generation A bodied cars were the most graceful with well designed lines with little or no gimmicks.

1970 saw the introduction of the 3rd generation Barracuda along with its brother for Dodge, the Challenger. By far the most aggressively designed of all the pony cars, they were also the biggest. The need for space for the big block motors led Chrysler to build their new Pony cars on the "E" platform shared with the full size Belvedere and Coronet. In racing Dodge and Plymouth Super Bird aero cars were the cars to beat in NASCAR and on the drag strip that duty fell to the Cuda, and Challenger. In 1970 the hottest racing series was not NASCAR, it was the SCCA's Trans Am Series. With the win on Sunday Sell on Monday mind set all the manufacturers had official and un-official road race teams. The crowds were huge with some venues having as many as 70,000 attendees. The #48  Plymouth Cuda AAR (All American Racing) with Dan Gurney, Sweede Savage and Sam Posey. A friend of mine bought the ex Dan Gurney/Sweede Savage car and I had the opportunity to flog this car at Infineon Raceway (formerly known as Sears Point, California) My first reaction was, "my god, this thing is huge" and that it was. It felt wider than any thing I ever drove on  road course and only exceeded when I drove Ken Epsman's 1963, Mercury Marauder with no power steering. Check out Sam Posey's Road & Track article of his reunion with the sister to the car I drove and his original 1970 race car.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A 4th Of July To Remember

When I first decided to write a weekly digest, fears ran through me wondering if I could write some thing new every week. The answer is yes and no. The no part, is that my adventures are part of my history so I may have told or written parts of it at other times. The yes part is, there are still years of adventures to share and more to come that I have yet to live through..
Today being the 4th of July I searched for the most memorable 4th of July adventure I had. Living in the San Francisco bay area we found ourselves torn on where we would go to watch the fireworks. The weather and the fog would dictate our choice. One wonderful thing about living in a great metropolitan area that is surrounded by hills (mountains in most places) and unpopulated open spaces in the way of regional and state parks is that on a clear evening you can see most of the cities of the bay from overlooks in the hills above Berkeley and Oakland. Our favorite point is just above the Berkeley Science building on Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The Boulevard runs on the ridge at an average altitude of 1,500 feet above the bay. Grizzly peak itself is at 1,770 feet of elevation sitting on the peak is a 200 ft antenna. Since there is very limited parking on the road, people park at the science buildings lot then hike up about a mile to the choice viewing spot know as the wall, right bellow the peak and the antenna. This also happens to be the choice spot where the local cafe racers gather each day to see the sun drop behind the golden gate.

On the 4th , sunset is at 8:35, Fire works shows generally begin at 9:00 when the sky is almost dark. This evening, the customary fog was being held out in the ocean by a warm breeze blowing out from the Sacramento Delta. It was warmer than usual on the bay and the breeze was giving a clear view past the golden gate. I was looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge 10 miles away, as the last rays of the sun dropped off the horizon, just then I saw a spec go under the bridge. I though it was small aircraft but could not be sure. No one in their right mind would fly under the Golden Gate, your privilege to fly could be suspended until icebergs fill the bay.

The bulk of the crowd had settled in by 8:45, bellow the sounds of fire crackers, bottle rockets and whistlers were finding their way up to our perch. My eyes are always scanning, searching for movement, it has become a normal part of my awareness. I once again saw some movement on the bay that captured my attention. In the low light I thought I saw an aircraft go past Alcatraz at wave top level heading south towards the Bay Bridge near the San Francisco side. I was now transfixed on following the shadowy character that was purposely flying dangerously low to stay below air traffic and the military radar. His small slow speed might look at marine radar as a fast moving speed boat as he went under the bay bridge. I lost him behind the spans and I suspected that he made a left turn heading east and hiding his radar signature by the reflections that the metal of the bridge provide to marine radar.

It was now 5 minutes to 9, the fire works promoters seem to always set off a couple of flash bangs to notify to the crowd that the show will shortly begin, they also do it to get a reading on wind. Each of the 7 major shows that were within sight signaled that they were ready. My mind was trying to calculate where the phantom plane went. I did not see it turn to go south through the bay so I assumed that he was heading east hugging the Bay Bridge as he had to cross right in front of the the still active Alameda Naval Air Station just 3 miles south of the bridge. Sure enough I caught a glimpse of his shadow as he had to gain some altitude when he reached land and had to clear the ports giant container cranes and a couple of 10 story buildings. This pilot really knew the terrain as I doubt that even if he had radar he would not dare turn it on for fear of being blown out of the sky by an F16. I was able to follow his progress as his profile would sometimes be visible by the shadows outlined from the street lights of Clairemont Avenue.

At this point it was quite dark, it was one of those nights when the moon was only showing a slight sliver. Karyn was the only other person aware of the mysterious flier. She is every bit as perceptive and maybe more. I have always assumed, and right fully so that she sees and is aware of everything more so than most people. Our children were not to thrilled on having two parents with this ability. As the plane got to the intersection of Clairemont and Ashby. I asked Karyn if we had enough insurance in the event that he crashed into our shop. From this point it is all tight twisty canyons and I was certain that we would shortly see the fireball caused by his crash. The fire works are now going in earnest. Looking down at fireworks from a distance is a totally different way to see these shows. The bangs are not as loud and are out of sync with the display. Since we could see clearly 3 separate shows it was like people at a tennis match, Oakland to the left San Francisco straight ahead and Richmond to the right. Our heads were turning to follow the action and the oohs and aahs.

I gave up following the planes progress and got into the wonderful vista in front of us and snuggled with the most wonderful woman in the world. Just then a flash bang from behind and above us was startling. But it was not as nearly as startling at seeing a Cesna 150 rising 35 feet in front of you out of the canyon clawing at gravity as the plane rose straight up. I hoped he wold have his accident on the other side of the peak.. He flew straight up to a stall, nosed over and came swooping down close enough we could feel the prop and wing blast as he descended back down into the blackness of the woods in the canyon below. He banked to the left and repeated his performance at another gathering of people about 200 feet south of us. He continued doing his flying ballet to the fireworks in the distance and the cheers of the crowds for 15 minutes. He departed as he came in.

Ignorance is bliss, the crowd was loving the up close and personal Aerobatic display. In hindsight I was able to appreciate it, at the time the worst scene scenario was unfolding in my mind and I was powerless in being able to do anything about it. All ended well, thousands of people had a show and a 4th of July to remember forever, Karyn and I got another great adventure and story to tell. No one knew who the crazy but extremely talented pilot was, I had a very short list of who I thought it could have been

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Testosterone Running Poor Decisions

by Miguel Caparros
Testosterone running poor decisions has been the undoing of many men and women. Poor judgement in the effort to show off, rears its ugly head. At some point it happens to us all, it is part of what makes us tick and also so dangerous. My earliest memory of testosterone experience was when I was maybe 5, I really wanted to ride my big sisters 26 inch bicycle. She asked me to watch it while she visited a friend. The temptation was too great. I hopped on pushed off and took off on the downhill run on the sidewalk. As momentum turned into speed  I was in ecstasy with the resulting increase, fear gave way to the accomplishment that I was riding a BIG bike! As gravity accelerated the bike, I had to face the reality of figuring out how to stop. I was too small to activate the brakes.  Nearing our house and quickly reaching the end of the sidewalk I chose to run into a hedge as a way to stop. It did not do the bike much good, broke the fork and bent the front tire, I sustained minor scrapes and scratches and had to face the wrath of my 13 year old sister who on one hand wanted to kill me on the other she was worried that I was seriously hurt. I was not and Federico, our handy man had her bike fixed as good as new in a couple of days. This adventure eventually led to me to be a professional risk taker. I have spent a lifetime on the edge and perhaps that may be the reason that the survivor in me figured out early on were the limits are. But most of all, the need to show off always was balanced by the need to do no harm to others. I have done a thousand burn outs at the drag strip, never once on the street or a parking lot full of people, NEVER. I have raced on the streets, but always in a controlled environment. The consequences to innocents in my mind, has always overruled the need to just show off. I am guilty of trying to set land speed records at 3 am, again with the though of doing no harm.