Saturday, May 06, 2017

the strange cars of Nubar Gulbenkian, his taxis and Rolls Royces (thanks Dave!)

He had two Austin FX4 London taxis re-bodied for him in true brougham style, upright at the back with gold plated carriage lamps and an open chauffeur’s compartment. They were fitted with Rolls Royce engines.

They were built by FLM Panelcraft in Battersea, and at least one had wickerwork covered side panels.

Gulbenkian is supposed to have said two things about these conversions. First, that ‘it will turn on a sixpence – whatever that is’ and second to the effect that he liked his driver to be exposed to the elements since he never felt totally dry unless he could see someone who was totally wet.

“I wanted my taxi dolled-up, more comfortable inside and more distinguished outside, without losing its mobility. People recognize it. After a party or an opening they come and tell me where it is and I don’t have to wait.”

Nubar Gulbekian, one of the richest men in the world in his day. An Armenian business magnate born in the Ottoman empire, he was smuggled out to escape the genocide when only weeks old, in a Gladstone suitcase.

Nubar Sarkis Gulbenkian (1896-1972) was a British industrialist, philanthropist, bon vivant, oil tycoon, socialite, commercial attache to the Iranian Embassy (1926-51, 1955-56), he was one of the world's wealthiest men. He wore a monocle with aplomb, and a fresh orchid every day - custom-dyed if nature did not already provide a color suitable to the occasion. He held an Iranian, Turkish, and British citizenship.

 Son of multimillionaire financier Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, nicknamed “Mr. Five Percent” because that was his usual cut on Middle Eastern oil and who owned possibly the world’s greatest art collection.

His father created a utopian foundation with 450 million dollars, his family got a five percent cut of the crude oil pumped from Iraq. While filling out a market research form one day, Gulbenkian answered the question "Position in life." with "Enviable!"

He was married three times, "I've had good wives, as wives go, and as wives go, two of them went". In 1922, he married Herminia Fejo. In 1928, he married Dora Freeland (aka Doré Plowden) in London.

 He courted Marie Berthe Edmée de Ayala, daughter of the French champagne tycoon Louis d'Ayala, for 14 years before they married in 1948.

Gulbenkian began as an unpaid worker for his father, who was as noted for his miserly tendencies as his son would be for his spending, but later sued his father for $10 million, bizarrely after a refusal by the company to allow him $4.50 for a lunch of chicken in tarragon jelly.

It derived from Nubar’s taste for fine food – in this instance, a lunch of chicken in tarragon jelly with asparagus tips. When he was working for his father, Nubar had the meal sent into his office and allowed it to be paid for out of petty cash. His father was furious. Overreacting in turn to his father’s anger, Nubar took him to court to claim his share of the profits of a Gulbenkian subsidiary in Canada. By the time the argument was settled, the court costs amounted to $84,000, which the elder Gulbenkian paid. “That,” says Nubar, “was surely the most expensive chicken in history.”

Although he ultimately inherited $2.5 million from his father, as well as more in a settlement from the Foundation, Gulbenkian also became independently wealthy through his own oil dealings. He was initially the protégé of Henri Deterding at Royal Dutch Shell

Nubar was interviewed in Life magazine in Oct 1965

His autobiography, Portrait In Oil, in which he discusses not only his finances but his voracious appetite for preferred pleasures like foxhunting, riding, food, drink, the odes of Horace, and driving, which he took up shortly after his 65th birthday.

A genial man with the sexual mores of a Turkish pasha and the impeccable manners of an Oxford gentleman, Gulbenkian wrote an elegantly self-mocking, vastly entertaining book.

Early in life he approached the subject of women with gusto, although there is no evidence that he ever approached it with the same enthusiasm as his father. That august gentleman, on advice of physician, had a mistress no older than 18, which he changed every year, until he was 80.

Portrait in Oil: The Autobiography of Nubar Gulbenkian

Nubar Gulbenkian's very unique 1947 Silver Wraith was the result of car production almost ceasing during World War II so Gulbenkian suggested to Hooper to build a car as though the war had never happened. It would show just what car design WOULD have evolved to, and was dubbed ‘Pantechnicon’

Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith by Hooper for Nubar Gulbenkian
 Perspex Roof 1956
 Intended for use in the South of France, this car has a transparent Perspex roof with an electrically operated fabric inner blind to keep the interior cool. The interior woodwork and dashboard are trimmed in leather. It has a speedometer fitted in the rear passenger compartment, air conditioning, electric windows.

He eventually sold the car, and it had a brief appearance as a movie prop in the 1964 French motion picture, Les Félins (released in the USA as Joy House and the UK as The Love Cage) which starred Hanoi Jane Fonda and Alain Delon.

in 1968 a nightclub owner in Nice France bought the car and parked it inside the club, so patrons could sit in it and order drinks.

Years pass and a French employee of a British used Rolls dealer steps into the nightclub, sees the car and bells go off in his head. He knows a bespoke Rolls when he sees one. He buys it, but there is this problem, the door that it came into the club has been walled up. No problem, a sledgehammer is proffered, the wall is broken down and the car liberated.

it went to auction with Bonhams in 2008

Louman’s 1936 Mercedes 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 32 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall.

The butcher’s car’ became famous in the 1980s, after it had been found behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall in north-western Birmingham.

Arthur Dawson, the butcher, bought the car from his uncle, drove it for 2 years and then put it in storage for 32 years. He didn’t want to sell his roadster and several friends of his had been trying to buy the car for years without success.

After numerous failed attempts the first flipper called an antiques-dealer for help. The dealer finally convinced Dawson to sell and he made a handsome profit!

It was taken by the first flipper to a Christie’s auction at Beaulieu in 1988 where the unrestored roadster – which was complete and in its original barn find condition – sold for an astonishing record amount of 1,585,000 Pound sterling (3.6 million euros)! At the time it was the most expensive Mercedes–Benz that had ever been auctioned and the second most valuable car in the world.

Friedrich Geiger drew the lines of the Spezial Roadster, and in the fifties Geiger designed the legendary 300SL ‘Gullwing’.

As far as is known ‘the butcher’s car’ is one of only 2 right-hand drive ‘Spezial Roadsters’. The only other right-hand drive ‘Spezial Roadster’ was at the 1935 Olympia Motor Show in London.

Swedish collector Hans Thulin was the 2nd flipper, and had it restored in Germany, then Thulin sold the roadster to a Japanese flipper who appreciated the value by showing the ‘Spezial Roadster’ at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1994 and winning best in class,,500k/Interesting

Friday, May 05, 2017

1924 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A Imperial Landaulet, discovered in the basement of the Isotta-Fraschini storage warehouse. Made and used as a factory demonstration and chauffeurs training car

According to the Societa Isotta Fraschini, it is the earliest known example of the company’s most famous and prestigious model, the Tipo 8A, and may well have been the first built.

 It was bodied by Cesare Sala of Milan, one of Italy’s premiere coachbuilders and one with a very close relationship to Isotta Fraschini, as Oreste Fraschini, a member of the founding family, occupied a seat on Sala’s board.

Subsequently, around 1926, solid side-mount covers and special interior woodwork were fitted by Carrozzeria Riva, whose secondary coach tag is found directly under Sala’s on the body. This is believed to have been the only Isotta Fraschini that had two different Classic Era coachbuilders involved in its construction.

As these cars were frequently driven by chauffeurs, Isotta Fraschini held training sessions for future drivers and used this particular chassis as the sample and training vehicle. Isotta Fraschini afterward put the nearly new automobile into storage at a warehouse, offsite of the factory, thus saving it from destruction when the Works was obliterated during World War II.

The car is still, for all intents and purposes, “new”—the only Isotta Fraschini that has remained that way since the Classic Era. It was bought by the company that purchased all the Isotta Fraschini assets in 1993, then bought by a car flipper, who sold it at auction with RM Sothebys this spring

The tires had been replaced about 35 years ago (while it sat in storage) and two of the originals were placed in the side cowl spare tire holders

interesting paint job

I've never seen this before, a burnout on a trailer, while being towed. Must be those mad men in Australia!

inside an intake

Teach them well, and let them show the way

Ed Roth art I haven't seen before

Vin Diesel is helping Dodge sell cars... looks a hell of a lot more effective than Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials

Three new commercials have been released where Vin Diesel talks about “The Brotherhood of Muscle,” a club for “everyone the world deems too wild and restless.”

First time I've seen a vintage Scat Pack membership newsletter (they were quarterly)

With muscle car mania near its peak, Chrysler Corporation, inaugurated the Scat Pack for Dodge, which was successful enough to be copied as the Rapid Transit System for Plymouth. The Scat Pack did not change the cars (aside from a twin “bumblebee” stripe that could be deleted by the buyer, and a decal inset and emblem on the Super Bee), but gathered up the most musclebound Dodges in one group.

(Mark Donaldson indicated that the Dodge marketers may have gotten the idea from existing slang — an article in Hot Rod quoted one of the original Ramchargers as saying the “scat pack” originated with earlier Plymouths and Dodges.) When the program officially launched to the public in 1968, the Scat Pack held the Charger R/T, Coronet R/T, Dart GTS, Swinger 340, and Super Bee. The program included print ads, brochures, a national club, decals, and wearables.

Scat Pack cars all had to meet the requirement of being faster than a 14.99 second quarter mile.

In 1970, the Scat Pack cars were listed as Dart Swinger 340, Coronet Super Bee, Challenger and Charger R/T, and Charger Daytona — a car that was not actually built. In 1971, the Charger Super Bee replaced the Coronet version, and the 340 Demon was added to the list; that was the last year of the promotion.

When nearly 100,000 Chargers were sold, Plymouth realized that Dodge was onto something and did the same thing - gathering up a series of cars into a “club.” The Rapid Transit System was presumably based on the R/T (Road and Track) title, though perhaps it was simply a clever bit of wordplay.

In 1970, Dodge created a Scat Pack Club, complete with a newsletter. They also made the Direct Connection parts catalog available to members at no cost, and set up “Scat Packages” of Mopar parts.

 These included the
Showboat (dressup kit),
Read-Out (gauges),
Kruncher (drag/strip),
Bee-Liever (manifold, carb, cam, headers),
and Top Eliminator (Six-Pack setup, electronic ignition - yes, in 1970 - electric fuel pump and cool can.)

 People joining the Club got the catalog, wallet card, jacket patch, bumper sticker, 40 page guide to auto racing, the monthly Dodge Performance News, and the quarterly Dodge Scat News. The total cost was a stunningly low $3 per year

If you're into Mopars, you've probably heard of Passon Performance, as they are one of the best transmission companies for the 4 spd muscle car era 833. But here is what started that company

Jamie's dad bought this 426 wedge Satellite in 1964, and drag raced it. Then kids came along and it was put into his parents barn around 1971.

Around 1990, his kids decided to revive the cool old car for his birthday, and that experience led one of his sons to get into cars, and now he owns Passon Performance.

Read the whole story (might need a kleenex) of how the boys worked their butts off to free up the seized engine, and just in time for the birthday reveal. They've kept the car in the family of course.

The Arizona Concours will be no more. It was terrific during it's 4 year run though

Without an outside source of money though, aka corporate support, some things like concours can't pay their own bills.

That's just business. To put on a show costs, and some shows don't make much money, like local amateur theater.

Now, that's sorta sad that it is shut down, but... cheer up a bit. It raised over $300,000 for Make A Wish in Arizona. That's mighty good work right there.

So, applause and compliments to Bob Golfen, Kevin Cornish, and the Arizona Concours people, the participating car owners, and the Biltmore hotel location. It was a damn good show, and will be missed

Rudge & Co anno 1878

circa 1900 diner in Philly, the oldest one I've come across

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hand lettering the city bus, 1934

The most difficult item to assemble at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame wasn't one of the mesmerizing touchscreens and interactive displays, but Junior Johnson's rebuilt moonshine still from yesteryear.

The problem was only solved with the help of an expert. A call was placed and Johnson, one of NASCAR's pioneers and a member of this month's first Hall of Fame class, gathered his tools, drove into town and did the job himself.

"That's like Babe Ruth designing, building and installing one of the first exhibits in Cooperstown," NASCAR Hall of Fame director Winston Kelley said

Johnson's still, celebrating the birth of the sport by bootleggers such as himself outrunning the police in souped-up cars, is one of the featured items at the new 195 million dollar NASCAR Hall of Fame museum.

this Olds is possibly the oldest original existing Nascar racecar.. .. maybe not. The winner of the 1st Nascar race was a 39 Ford, so, I think this proves you can't believe every claim every car owner makes

How about the hood pins and hinges holding the front of the hood down?

Ford is ready to go racing

Ford GT drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, and Billy Johnson made a pit stop at the Ford Performance Racing School in Tooele, Utah before the IMSA and FIA WEC races at Circuit of The Americas and Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.

a cautionary true story about driving from one side of the continent to another... the things that went wrong are various and astounding.... here's Peter and his 1966 Volvo story

in a group of 27 Volvos, he went through the Amazon jungle enroute to the Brazil Olympics.

"After a warm welcome at the Dutch Embassy in Paramaribo 27 classic Volvo’s and 4 Toyota Landcruisers started this 7000 kilometre rally on the 12th of July.

The 2nd 300 km of endless washboard road across the savanna type terrain to the border of Brazil wreaked havoc on our cars. The constant vibration cracked one of the brake lines of our red Volvo Amazon.

We decided to continue the last 30 km to reach Brazil with only our handbrake.

Sadly this was not our last mechanical breakdown for that day; after only 5 km we lost ignition. After 3 hours of waiting in the blistering sun, eaten alive by a whole array of bugs, the mechanic team finally caught up with us, and concluded that they had to tow us.

Towing a car with no brakes on an unpaved road cost us 5 towlines.

On our way to Manaus our car took a hard hit when we were unable to evade one of the many big holes in the road. This resulted in the entire engine block moving forward in its rubber mounts and boring a foot wide hole in the radiator.

(in a group of over 2 dozen cars, of the same manufacturer, which was an organized and planned event with about a year of prep... why not get everyone to drive the same car model year so spare parts are interchangeable and EVERYONE can use the same supply of the spares? Too obvious? Just me?) (I'll be damned if I will ever drive around the jungle with dozens of people, no two having interchangeable parts, but everyone drives a VW for example, hell no. Everyone drives a mid 60s bug, or everyone drives some other thing that is known around the world for being made by the millions, with spare parts cheap and easy to find in every country) 

Enroute to Chapada dos Guimares we suffered another mechanical breakdown. This time it was our fourth gear that broke. We had no other option than to finish the day in third gear."

Why use a Volvo Amazon? It's got a proven track record:

Not only did an Amazon win the Shell 4000 twice, in 1964 and 1965, it also lays claim to three class wins, a second overall finish, a third overall finish and two fourth overall finishes.

On top of that, the Volvo 122’s other race or championship wins include Swedish Saloon Car Championship (1960, 1961),
Swedish Ice Championship (1961),
German Touring Car Championship (1961),
European Rally Championship (1963),
European Ladies Championship (1963),
RAC European Touring Car Championship (1965),
Acropolis Rally (1965), Syd Rally Sweden (1965)
and the New Caledonia Safari Rally (1967).  has a full list of all the Amazon’s other many podiums and class wins.

Does the car cleaning world need more companies making spray on cleaners? Probably not. So, why has Jay Leno, who doesn't need more publicity, or fortune, gone into business selling washes and waxes?

According to the FAQ, it's all made in the USA, because Jay is tired of searching for the right combo of products to clean his collection and the cars he enters into concours trophy contests. 

Nissan hired a movie director for its new ad, "Return of the Snowmen" by French director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who recently worked on Snow White and the Huntsman

Mopar Magnum 500s decoded