Page 1

Square -bird story MORE SEATS MORE PROFITS

SHOCKING PATINA 1949 ELECTRIC MERCURY

K C I U B T S E B EVER?

PERSONAL LUXURY SPECIAL

1965 RIVIERA

PLUSH PONTIAC 1964 GRAND PRIX

CAR OF THE YEAR FINALS


Ben Klemenzson

Viewpoint

COOKING UP A FEAST!

Image: Jonny Fleetwood

S

ometimes it feels to me that planning and putting a magazine together is a bit like baking a cake. You have to get all the right ingredients in the right measures to ensure you produce something that will be enjoyable and pleasing to most people. It’s a bit of a fine art, but one that’s important to get right; too much of one thing and you end up upsetting one group of people; too much of another and you end up upsetting others. It’s for that reason we undertake regular reader surveys (to date, the magazine’s owners for the last nine years have carried out three surveys, that’s one every three years) to make sure we’re getting the balance of content right. The satisfying results, from my perspective at least, are that it appears we are giving readers what they want in terms of content, although you are still saying you’d like to see more affordable cars featured and more buying guides. Of course, we don’t just rely on surveys for feedback; often readers get in touch with the magazine directly and that’s something I encourage and appreciate. Our letters pages are an interesting forum for comments, criticism and suggestions. Last month, a long-term reader raised the issue of show coverage, or more specifically there being too much of it… and this month, another reader believes there aren’t

enough modern cars being featured. I’d be interested to hear what you think. In the meantime, I hope this, as with other editions of Classic American, carries the right balance of features and content that you enjoy. This month is a Personal Luxury Special issue; it’s an automotive segment unique to the American car market and also unique to a particular era as well. While Ford may have pioneered it with the Thunderbird and really cashed in by adding an extra row of seats to the Thunderbird in ’58, it was GM that really excelled in creating the ultimate Personal Luxury car with its Riviera. Featured here is one of the nicest ones we’ve come across in the UK. Lastly, we take a look at the grand finals of the Footman James and Kingstown Shipping Car of the Year competition; all the cars taking part were truly amazing, but who won? Find out on pages 6 and 65… All that remains is for me to wish readers, subscribers and advertisers a happy new year!

Ben Klemenzson, editor bklemenzson@mortons.co.uk


23 on page 60

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JANUARY 2019 REGULARS

News A&M News Here to Obscurity Muscle Car Files Across the Pond Letters Subscribe! Scale Autos Behind the Wheel Reviews Events Discoveries Service Directory Drive Buy Private Classifieds

06 12 14 16 18 20 60 62 93 99 100 102 106 110 112

F E AT U R E S 23 30 39 45 52

The Personal Luxury Story 1965 Buick Riviera Pontiac Grand Prix Ford Squarebird 1972 Ford Thunderbird

EVENTS 65

39

NEC Show

WORKSHOP 75

Project Beauty Pala

AMERICAN & MODIFIED 82

1949 Mercury EV

W W W. C L A S S I C - A M E R I C A N . C O M are -bird Squa sstory MORE SEATS MORE PROFITS

SHOCKING PATINA

333 January 2 019

1949 ELECTRIC MERCURY

BEST BUICK ? EVER E

PERSONAL LUXURY SPECIA AL

Independent publisher since 1885

1965 RIVIERA

PLUSH PONTIAC

CAR OF THE YEAR FINALS

The Professional Publishers Association

1964 GRAND PRIX

Member

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Classic American

News

GM ANNOUNCES SOME MAJOR RESTRUCTURING

Classic American’s man in America, Huw Evans, reports on the latest challenges facing America’s biggest car company… On November 26, General Motors announced a major corporate restructuring which included eliminating 15% of its workforce as well as closing five manufacturing facilities – three vehicle assembly plants in North America, as well as two powertrain plants, plus two assembly operations in other parts of the world. In a statement, GM said the measures being taken are expected to increase annual adjusted automotive free cash flow by $6 billion by year-end 2020 on a runrate basis. Prior to the announcement, it had been rumoured that GM’s Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada was likely to be closed, not helped by the shifting of Camaro production to Lansing, Michigan, back in 2016. That being said, Oshawa is one of the most modern and flexible plants that GM operates, capable of producing cars and trucks on the same assembly lines, as well as having received numerous awards.

Detroit-Hamtramck, the only GM manufacturing facility located within Detroit proper, is also closing, which has drawn a great deal of criticism. The Hamtramck plant has never been far from controversy – indeed, before it opened in 1985, it required the razing of more than 1000 homes, leading local residents to stage a protest and mount legal challenges. It all came to nought, however, despite going all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. The houses and even a church were demolished to make way for the 365-acre site. Now, with Hamtramck’s closure, more than 1500 jobs are slated to go, creating a great deal of anger once more. Another plant that’s scheduled to close is Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, which has long been a bastion for GM’s small car production. This means that three staple products that these facilities produce, namely the Chevy Impala, Chevy Volt and Chevy Cruze, are also headed

Better times: former President Barack Obama drives a Chevy Volt off the Hamtramck assembly line in 2011.

for the automotive tar pits. GM, meanwhile, says it will concentrate its efforts on profitable truck and SUV lines, as well as accelerating development on its autonomous and electric vehicle projects. Industry analysts say that with the announcement, GM CEO Mary Barra is simply responding to changes in the automotive marketplace, namely declining global sales and a belief that ride sharing will gain greater

prominence in the coming years as domestic passenger car demand has continued to freefall in North America. Nevertheless, there are a great many in North America who feel they have been betrayed by the closures, especially in the wake of Republican tax reforms that saw large corporations like GM receive significant tax breaks, plus the legacy of the automotive bailouts in 2008-09.

FOOTMAN JAMES & KINGSTOWN SHIPPING CAR OF THE YEAR

ANNOUNCED!

The winning car was Gary Sanders’ 1957 Dodge Custom Royal, one of seven finalists selected at heats held in 2018. The news was revealed at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham, where Gary accepted

6 classic-american.com

the trophy from representatives of sponsors Footman James and Kingstown Shipping, and Classic American editor Ben Klemenzson. There’s a full report on the show and the Car of the Year finals starting on page 65.

Show stopper: with the gleaming Dodge are (from left) Julia Attwood, Gary Sanders, Ben Klemenzson and James Hadley.


Mustang #2 is almost as famous as #1.

CALLING NUMBER TWO! The well-known number two Mustang coupe is to be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson at Scottsdale in January, this time without a reserve. This car is the very first Ford Pilot Plant/pre-production Mustang hardtop and was hand-assembled at the Ford Pilot Plant. It is one of three Thrifty: 170cu in straight-six. known existing Pilot Plant Mustangs to survive. This very special Mustang has been restored others. The binders also include the to factory new specifications, with vast provenance documentation all major components having confirming the entire history of matching numbers. the car, and complete restoration The car’s very basic specification documentation in photograph, includes the 170cu in six-cylinder 35mm slide and video formats. engine mated to a three-speed A letter from Ford Motor manual transmission. Included with Company confirming this Mustang the first Ford Mustang hardtop is as the first Mustang hardtop built is a set of two binders containing also included. Among its film and TV ownership and condition affidavits appearances, this Mustang was used from all previous owners, along with by 20th Century Fox Pictures in video photos, statements and signatures shoots with Matt Damon (starring from high-profile originators of the as Carroll Shelby) and Christian Bale Mustang, including Lee Iacocca, in the upcoming full-length feature Hal Sperlich, Don Frey, Gale film Ford v. Ferrari (the true story Halderman and of the battle between the two marques to win Le Mans in 1966), scheduled to open in the summer of 2019. This hardtop is being sold after 20 years of ownership by a nationally known Mustang historian and author. For more details or to register to bid, go to: www. barrett-jackson.com Inside is a symphony in blue.

Movie star: Mustang has rubbed shoulders with top names.

classic-american.com 7


Classic American

News

SEMA Sensations Our man in Detroit, Huw Evans, takes a look at some of the big reveals at this year’s SEMA show…

THE BOSS RETURNS At this year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Oklahoma-based Classic Recreations announced that it will be offering a ‘new’ Boss Mustang in either 302 or 429 form. Built using genuine 1969-70 Ford fastback bodies or a reproduction shell, these, not surprisingly, incorporate a range of modern touches and are conceived as ‘continuation cars’ – not full-on restomods nor classic reproduction – and have been conceived with the blessing of Ford Motor Company.

Headlining of course is the new Boss 429, which uses a genuine 385-series Ford big-block, V8-based crate engine, punched out to 546 cubic inches. Said to be rated at 815 horsepower, it’s teamed with a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox and sports modern suspension with tubular control arms and coilover shocks, plus large Wilwood brakes and modern rolling stock. The Boss 302 version will be offered with either a modern 32-valve Coyote 5.0 crate engine or a stroked 363 small-block V8

New Boss 429.

based on the 302. There’s also a continuation Mach 1 on offer, which can be equipped with any drivetrain offered by Classic Recreations, ranging from a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo four, to an original FE-series big-block V8.

Classic Recreations will build you one of its continuation Boss Nines for $209,000 – which, when you consider that original factory stock examples frequently fetch $300,000 or more, is a relative bargain.

Footman James to sponsor The Car Years TV show Classic vehicle insurance specialist Footman James is to sponsor a new classic car show hosted by Vicki ButlerHenderson and Alex Riley. Launching in 2019, The Car Years will be sponsored by the Classic American advertiser, and more information will soon be available as to when, and on which channel, it will appear. A fresh take on the classic car scene, the premise is simple. Every episode will focus on a specific year of motoring. Vicki and Alex will both choose their favourite car of that year and then work to convince the expert panel of

8 classic-american.com

judges which is best. At the end of each show, one will be crowned the car of its year. Presenters Vicki and Alex are both excited by the possibilities the Footman Jamesbacked show allows. “I’m thrilled to be part of this beautifully shot series that allows us to tell the stories behind some of the best known and interesting cars ever made,” said Vicki. Co-presenter Alex added: “This show is a rare thing – it’s all about the cars. We’re not telling people how to be a dealer or a restorer and we’re not just larking about, instead

we’re championing great cars and telling the fascinating stories behind them.” The presenters will have to win over the three judges, each of whom double up as expert commentators to tell the stories and backgrounds behind the cars. Famous faces include Chris Routledge, managing director of leading auction house Coys; Quentin Willson, presenter and journalist; and Richard Porter, exTop Gear and current The Grand Tour script editor. The production is led by Tas Brooker and Jim Wiseman, who previously produced

Vicki Butler-Henderson and Alex Riley will present a new classic car show called The Car Years. Keep checking the CA website to find out more.

Wheeler Dealers and Top Gear respectively. Keep checking the CA website for the date, time and channel of the

first episode of The Car Years, in which you’ll see a 1964 Porsche 911 take on a 1964 Ford Mustang.


COPO Camaro celebrates 50 years

Chevrolet chose this year’s SEMA Show to officially celebrate 50 years of its legendary COPO Camaro. A 2019 anniversary COPO Camaro race car was unveiled, sporting Anniversary Blue paint and special graphics – features to be offered as part of an anniversary package on the COPO Camaro in 2019. Additionally, buyers will be able to order a 50th anniversary engine package which adds an orange painted engine block, black high-rise intake manifold and chrome valve covers. This engine package will be offered on both supercharged and naturally aspirated versions of the

LSX-based 427 cubic-inch smallblock. For 2019, the Chevy Camaro COPO programme will also offer LSX-based 350 supercharged and 302 cubic inch engines. History will repeat itself as only 69 COPO Camaros will be built for 2019 – the same number as the original ZL1 Camaro which debuted 50 years ago. In addition to the 50th anniversary COPO, GM also chose the SEMA Show to unveil an electrified COPO concept car that uses an electric motor in place of a small-block V8, delivering the equivalent of more than 700hp and 600ft-lb of torque.

50th anniversary COPO Camaro.

Mopar unveils ‘Hellephant’ 426 FCA’s Mopar division made a big splash at SEMA this year by unveiling its new ‘Hellephant’ – a 426 cubic inch supercharged version of its crate Hemi engine. Rated at a staggering 1000 horsepower and 950ftlb of torque, the engine was showcased in the 1968 Dodge ‘Super Charger’ – a restomod concept at SEMA. The Hellephant – the name is an amalgamation of Hellcat and Elephant (the original nickname for the 1960s Hemi) is able to achieve the ‘magic’ 1000hp mark via a beefed-up aluminium block that sports a 4.125 inch bore and 4.0-inch stroke, plus custom pistons, a high-lift camshaft and a high-efficiency supercharger. The motor is based on the engines used in the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak race vehicles

that dominated the 2018 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class, but has been configured for street use via close collaboration with Mopar and engineers from the motorsports world. The complete engine assembly includes a water pump, flywheel, front sump oil pan, supercharger with throttle body, fuel injectors and coil packs. The first-ever 1000 horsepower crate engine assembly offered by an OEM can be paired with the Hellephant 426 Supercharged Mopar Crate Hemi Engine Kit for relatively simple plug-and-play by experienced installers. The engine assembly and kit are designed for installation on pre-1976 street and off-road vehicles. The Hellephant 426 Supercharged Mopar Crate Hemi will be available in the first quarter of 2019.

Mopar ‘Hellephant’ and Hellcat.

classic-american.com 9


Classic American

News

David Pearson 1934-2018

NASCAR’s Silver Fox dies aged 83 David Pearson, one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, has died. Nicknamed the ‘Silver Fox’, Pearson’s stock car racing career spanned three decades and over 100 victories – he retired second only to Richard Petty in wins. Born David Gene Pearson on December 22, 1934, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pearson hid his modified 1940 Ford from his mother while secretly racing on local dirt tracks. His first win in 1952 earned him $30 and the victories kept coming. His NASCAR career began in 1960 and he ended the season with the Rookie of the Year award, campaigning a Chevrolet his friends and his father had helped prepare and pay for. Switching to a Pontiac in 1961, he drove Dodges for Owens Racing (run by legendary driver Cotton Owens) from 1963, then moved to the factory Holman-Moody Ford team. Pearson ended the ‘60s having won the 1966, 1968, and 1969 championships. In 1969 alone, he scored 38 podiums from 53 races for Holman-Moody. Pearson’s teammate for the 1969 Daytona 500, Mario Andretti, rated

him one of the best he’d raced against. Andretti recalled: “The longest battle I had was with him. It was around mid-race and we were going back and forth, and I could almost see him laughing as we passed and re-passed each other lap after lap. I loved his demeanour, he was not one to boast or seek the limelight. Maybe he flew under the radar compared to some others, but he spoke very loud when he was behind the wheel.” Nobody made winning at Darlington look so easy – stories of Pearson smoking during races are often embellished but contain much truth. There was a cigarette lighter on the dashboard he used during caution flags. Pearson won 105 races out of the 574 in which he competed, a record 10 of those at Darlington Raceway in his home state of South Carolina. That was bettered only by the 200 wins in 1184 races by Richard Petty. “I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was, the answer has always been David Pearson,” stated Petty. “David and I raced together throughout our careers; it wasn’t a

Pearson with his winning Mercury at Daytona in 1976.

rivalry, but more mutual respect. He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it.” Pearson had 113 poles to Petty’s 123, but demonstrated great skill for playing the long game; conserving the car and its tyres. Races often became a battle against Petty: they finished first/second on 63 occasions, Pearson getting 33 to 30. “The only consolation of having ‘Little David’ grow large in your mirror during the closing stages,” Petty once explained, “was that it likely meant you were running at the front…” Moving to Wood Brothers for six partial seasons from 1973 to

1978, Pearson scored 37 wins and 35 second or third places from 107 races entered. The 1974 season saw him finish third in points, despite competing in only 19 of the 30 races. This degree of consistency was rare in any driver. Other Pearson career feats include 11consecutive poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Pearson was forced to retire from racing with recurring back spasms in 1986, aged 51. He had planned to return in 1989 but severe neck and back pain prevented it. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. He suffered a stroke in 2014 and died on November 12, 2018 after a long illness. MR

1961 with a Pontiac.

Pearson made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to Paul Bussey! Classic American would like to congratulate long-time contributor Paul Bussey and his wife Elaine, who tied the knot in Hayling Island recently. We wish them all the happiness in the world and lots of Classic American good karma!

10 classic-american.com

Togetherness: Paul and Elaine.

Pearson in the number 6 Dodge chats to another legendery driver Cotton Owens.


Keith Harman drums up all the news, views and latest stuff on the hot rod and custom scene…

MISSING HISTORY News came last month of a heinous crime at Santa Pod, when it was discovered that the chassis of the iconic ‘Stardust’ Funny Car had been stolen from SPR’s storage facility. Due to be shipped to Sweden for a full restoration, it is not known exactly when it was taken, but it was sometime between July and November. The car was originally built by Don Shumacher, who raced it successfully in the early Seventies Stateside, who then sold it to Santa Pod in 1973. It’s unbelievable to think someone within the sport was involved, but the thieves obviously knew

what they wanted, as other expensive machinery was ignored and just the frame stolen. Keith Bartlett, Santa Pod’s owner, has offered a

£5000 reward for information leading to its return. Let’s just pray this story has a happy ending and the famous chassis is found intact.

Safety fast! The Vintage Hot Rod Association has announced some big but unavoidable changes for the 2019 Pendine event for racers regarding safety regulations for the faster cars. These have been brought about mainly by the IOPD (International Organisation of Professional Drivers) in light of cars becoming faster at Pendine in recent years, so a review was deemed necessary. From now on, all cars capable of more than 90mph must have a roll bar fitted plus a harness and wrist restraints. Cars running over 100mph must be fitted with a roll cage and five-point harness (crossed at the rear), plus wrist restraints. The only cars exempted from these rules must conform to the MSA’s historic classification regarding major components being manufactured before

12 classic-american.com

December 31, 1961. Full rules and details of the exemption criteria are available on the VHRA website, though obviously, members have already been made aware of the changes. Most of these new regulations mainly affect the cars running in the later overhead valve classes, plus some of the quicker flathead-powered roadsters, while most other classes generally run sub-90mph

times and so are unaffected. We’ve already heard of some members who have decided that the changes are a step too far in terms of having to modify their otherwise road-driven cars, and will sadly be retiring from beach racing. All agree though, that the opportunity to race the beach has been awesome fun over the last few years, and we’re sure there will still be plenty of action to watch at Pendine in 2019.

Classics destroyed We’re sure everyone has seen the recent news reports of the devastating forest fires in Northern California, and has every sympathy for those that have lost everything. For us car freaks though, there is the added sadness of seeing and recognising the rarity of some of the burned-out classics seen among the ashes. Down in Ventura County nearer LA, similar fires also destroyed the 30-car collection belonging to Gary and Diane Cerveny, including some highly desirable cars and, in particular, the unique Norman Timbs Special. This swoopy roadster was conceived and hand-built in the late Forties by engineer Norman Timbs, and it was featured on the cover of Motor Trend in 1949. Lost for many years, it was found and restored a few years ago and debuted at Pebble Beach in 2012. Powered by a Buick straight eight, its styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but imagine what a sensation it would have been back in 1948 when it was built. Its fiery final demise marks a sad day for US automotive history.

MEANWHILE, THIS HEAT WILL BRING SOME GOOD NEWS! While hot rod shop open days and events are popular in the US, we don’t hear of many over here except, that is, for the Chilli Night at Valley Gas Speed Shop. Held on and off for several years now, we’ve managed to make it to most, if not all of them and it’s always a good night. Next year marks the return of the Chilli Night down at the Valley Gas workshops in Andover, Hampshire. Due to its popularity in recent years, owners Jimmy and Ellie Hibberd have decide this year to make it an all-ticket event, and as ever, the proceeds of the event will go to charity. The evening will feature live music, DJs, and burlesque show as usual, as well as Jimmy’s famous chilli! The date for the event is April 20, which is also Easter Saturday. Although announced online late last month, there may still be tickets available. Ring Valley Gas on 01264 353646 for more information.


Richard Heseltine

Kugel in car, Eames outside.

From

here to

obscurity

Autolite Lead Wedge

Richard Heseltine excavates another amazing piece of automotive exotica from the vaults, this time one that made use of electrical power to produce some very impressive land speed record results at the end of the Sixties…

I

t was built by a roll-call of hot rodding legends, styled by a design deity and bankrolled by Ford at the height of its Total Performance programme. The otherworldly-looking creation pictured here also established a land speed record. So why isn’t it recalled with awe? The reason could be because it wasn’t powered by an internal combustion engine. There were no V8s here, nor jet propulsion for that matter. In their place was a decidedly unsexy bank of batteries.

Kugel ‘wedged’ into the Lead Wedge!

14 classic-american.com

The appropriately-named Lead on driving the car on Wedge was a promotional exercise, the hallowed salt flats. one that was dreamed up in 1968 However, his paymasters to showcase the Blue Oval’s Autolite thought otherwise. They division, which it had recently vetoed this so Jerry Kugel acquired. Responsibility for creating was installed in his place. this improbable device fell to the He was the perfect department’s head, Danny Eames, a substitute. A serial car man steeped in high-performance builder, and friend and cars having been involved in former employee of record-breaking attempts since the speed king Ak Miller, mid-Thirties when he was still a Kugel was also a ballsy teenager. Together with Jerry Eisert driver. He steered the car Racing Enterprises, he fashioned a to 141mph overall, and single-seater with a wedge-shaped recorded a two-way average Motor Trend January 1969. glassfibre body which was penned of 138.862mph. As for by Larry Shinoda. payment, he didn’t receive Power came from 20 Autolite high-performance a cent from Ford. Instead, he was given – at his batteries and a modified General Electric industrial request – a demon SOHC big-block Ford V8 which motor, similar to those found in forklift trucks. The had been built for an aborted land speed record car had a wheelbase of 1674mm (66in), while project involving Mario Andretti. the body was barely 1117mm (44in) wide. At its After the Autolite team’s success, Eames said highest point, it sat just 813mm (32in) off the with typical understatement: “We could go a lot deck and there was barely 51mm (2in) of ground faster if we used some of the new exotic batteries clearance. The Autolite streamliner weighed in at being developed today, but Autolite has this new 925kg (2040lb), minus driver. automobile battery that we think is pretty good. So often on this page, cars are obscure for good We wanted some publicity that would let everyone reason: they’re duds, failures and flops. The Lead know about it, so we built this streamliner. It’s as Wedge was anything but, as it realised its singular simple as that.” The car even made it on to the mission. In November ’68, the Autolite crew cover of Motor Trend magazine’s January 1969 headed to Bonneville with only one thing in mind – edition, but it never turned a wheel in anger again. bagging a record. The Lead Wedge still exists, and most recently Eames, a driver with umpteen speed records was on display in the fabulous Indianapolis Motor under his belt in addition to wins in stock car Speedway Museum. ★ racing, had initially planned Richard Heseltine’s weird and wonderful American cars from the past.


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Classic American January 2019  

Sometimes it feels to me that planning and putting a magazine together is a bit like baking a cake. You have to get all the right ingredient...

Classic American January 2019  

Sometimes it feels to me that planning and putting a magazine together is a bit like baking a cake. You have to get all the right ingredient...