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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.