THE CAR THAT NOBODY WAS ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT FOR DECADES

Of the many stories my dad told me about his chases for collectible cars in the 70s and 80s of the last century, one stands out because I was never allowed to talk about it until now.

In the July 2016 issue of the magazine The Automobile (Volume 34, number 5) author Rutger Booy reveals the story of the ‘Secret SS1’, breaking decades of silence and telling the intriguing tale of an SS Jaguar that has been hidden in The Netherlands since the late 1950s.

This car will be one of the preservation treasures shown at the Concours Paleis Het Loo next weekend in Apeldoorn, so if you want to see this unique car in real, then come to Apeldoorn. Or buy yourself a copy of The Automobile.

It was in 1974, while renovating an old town house, that my dad, then still a student, invited a tiler for a beer after having completed his work. Getting to talk about cars, the man told him that he knew of a Jaguar SS100 somewhere… Continue reading

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THE ANTI BARN FIND RANT – PART 2

This is not to say genuine discoveries cannot be made, we know of many many cars that disappeared, and periodically they reappear, for example Wayne Carini’s Stutz discovery. But look at what he did with the car, replaced a few key components, took it to Pebble Beach and kept it. (It should be noted that even that Stutz was known to people, but the owner had held off selling) Those of us who live in rural areas see many old neglected barns with potential treasures inside, but the car magazines and auction companies are not talking about this.

Going back to the Baillon Ferrari, or indeed any of the cars from that collection, those that can be restored should be. The Ferrari has many incorrect later modifications, the engine and chassis should be completely restored mechanically, replacing old fuel lines and wiring etc. At Retromobile this year a restoration shop proudly displayed a Baillon Talbot they are rebuilding. This will show us… Continue reading

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THE ANTI BARN FIND RANT – PART 1

More and more we see cars being presented in scruffy, patinated condition. Whether because they were dragged out of cold storage that way or ‘restored’ that way. Regardless of the authenticity of the condition, these cars are being made ever more popular and more valuable, largely as a result of the auction companies selling them and the automotive press looking for the next big find.

This push for what I call authentic decay is reaching extreme levels. Case in point, the new owner of the Baillon/Delon Ferrari does not allow it to be driven more than 35 mph to keep the dust from flying off. Dust that accumulated in a Paris garage, not on the estate. The dent in the boot lid is from someone storing magazines, not from an incident during a… Continue reading

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FROM BIEN HOA TO BALD MOUNTAIN – PART 4

Other gear came in from Bart Loyens, the Amsterdam stockist, including a correct steering wheel and the lovely Marchal headlamps. “New” brake drums came variously from a friend in Massachusetts and another in Colorado. The latter wouldn’t release his pair until I had arranged for another set for his car to be shipped from England. All this took a bit of doing, but it was fun, also.

The main problem now was that the Bugatti never seemed to get finished, so I finally persuaded Russ Sceli to take it on as one of his projects for 1971. In the fifties, Russ had operated one of the first foreign car dealer-ships in Hartford, and had restored several Bugattis of his own before retiring to the quiet of his hilltop retreat in Canton, Connecticut. Here, he would take on one car at a time in his meticulous garage–! was glad to have the T-40 in his care. Russ took everything apart, and… Continue reading

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In Piazzo san Marco, with a happy driver

 

 

FROM BIEN HOA TO BALD MOUNTAIN – PART 3

While the Jean Comte crew were working away on the body proper, I busied myself trying to learn what a correct T-40 Bugatti really looked like, what sort of instruments were needed, and a million other essential details. Letters went out to various information sources in England and America, and bit by bit some information came back. A brand new Rene Thomas steering wheel turned up in a local Chinese general store; the Jean Comte machine shop was making up carefully copied parts from unsalvageable originals; and when I heard there was a group of vintage enthusiasts in Singapore, I hied myself down there for a look. It was great fun, and I met some wonderful people who were enormously helpful. I even found two Bugattis in my prowling, but they were the property of a terribly keen Chinese race driver and, at that time, were not for sale􀀕 This man’s house was crammed from floor to ceiling with the most amazing collection of parts I had ever seen, and before leaving… Continue reading

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In Saigon, after the restoration

FROM BIEN HOA TO BALD MOUNTAIN – PART 1

Stopping my Bugatti in a public place these days frequently brings forth the awful probe, “what’s it worth?” I never know quite how to reply, and usually try to duck the question. It’s not because I’m particularly shy; rather, I am ever appalled by what the traders and general inflation have done to vintage car values. You see, it gives me no real pleasure to know that my car is supposed to be too valuable to use on public roads, run in competitive events, or be parked in front of the IGA–all of which I very much like to do. I prefer to remember that I got the Bugatti for $150, and this is the story of how that came to pass.

In 1956 I was assigned to the American Embassy in Saigon, which, during my tour of duty there, was a pleasant and peaceful city. Soon after my arrival, I met David Mize. David had preceded me by about a year, during which he had managed to find not one but two Bugattis… Continue reading

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As found on a side street in Vietnam

 

THE HAUNTED SALOON-PART 1

I have always had a soft spot for rusty old saloons. Over the years I have collected several neglected MG VA saloons, put them back on the road and I was usually able to find a new owner who shared my feelings and wanted to care for it.

It is through this weakness that I came accross MG saloon with chassisnumber VA 0251, languishing in a barn in Suffolk. From then on I noticed a certain atmosphere around these, untill then unwanted, MG saloons. In a funny way I felt when there was an interesting history associated with the car.

It was the basis for my interest in the history of MG VA’s. Through VA 0251 I was pulled into the mysterious world of the past and from then on I sometimes started to see a kind of aureole around old VA saloons.

One splendid example of this happened during the SVW… Continue reading

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POTW – A TRUE HISPANO-SUIZA PALACE FIND!

Alwar 2, the long wheelbase Hispano-Suiza eight-liter (H6C, chassis 11744), showing pure Indian Royal history. This pic of the ceremonial 1926 Hispano was taken around 1994 in the courtyard of one of the Alwar palaces. As you can see, by this time it was bereaved of its wheels and all its typical Alwar ornaments. Behind languishes Alwar 1, the extended Lanchester chassis, with its unusual landau coach (the Lanchester is also mentioned in yesterday’s article ‘THE INDIAN LANCHESTER CAR HYPE’).

Today Alwar 2 still exists in this stunning unrestored condition at the palace of Alwar! Some people will spend a fortune to patinate their car to get this kind of patina!

Click here for more pics of Alwar 2, taken earlier in its life (before 1981) when still more complete!http://crankhandleblog.comSee more CHB pics by clicking this button! Instagram