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The Lancia Aurelia mystery (UPDATED)

Is it a Lancia Aurelia?
Sebastien Simons contacted us with an intriguing photograph attached to his message. His question is simple: what's the car? To be a bit more precise we quote his exact message: "I found this picture in a cd with Lancia Aurelia documentation. The radiator grille, although very short, seems to be Lancia. But the car seems too big to be an Aprilia. However, I have never seen a body like this on an Aurelia. So what is it? An unknown Aurelia? A rebodied Astura? Or something completely different?" It's a good question. We would not want to rule out the Aurelia designation, though.

When the succesful B20 Coupe became a bit too ordinary for the grandest of tourists, the answer lay, of course, in special coachbuilding. Lancia offered rolling chassis’ under the B52 and B53 name to allow the various coachbuilders to experiment. These chassis' all had an even longer wheelbase then the B10 saloons. With 2910 millimetres they would have suited presidential limousine coachwork, but most were turned into glamorous coupés and convertibles and commissioned through carrozzeria’s in Italy and Switzerland: Bertone, Ghia, Pininfarina, Vignale, Michelotti, Worblaufen and Beutler to be precise. This one, however, is not in our books either. But we're sure some of you will recognize it!

UPDATE: And you did! Steve Bousfield had all sorts of ideas but it wasn't until he contacted master mystery motor man 'Paul Jaray' who recognized it immediately as a Lancia after all. Steve: "He posts that it is a 1948 Lancia Aprilia by Boneschi and is known as the Pin Up Cab. He also has a photo of a slightly different variant of the car."

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

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Back to back: Mini Estate or Vauxhall Estate?

Back to back: Mini Estate or Vauxhall Estate?
We quite like extremes, here at PostWarClassics, so when we pick out two classic cars from Brightwells massive Leominster sale tomorrow (full catalogue here), we looked at these two lovely estates, which are miles apart although not so much for their prizes. The 1967 Vauxhall Cresta is estimated at £3,500 - £4,500; the 1975 Mini Clubman Estate at £4,500 - £5,500. So which is the most desirable of the two?

The Mini, in cheerful ‘Citron’ is described by the seller as ‘If some cars can be described as sweeties then this one is a Sherbert Lemon.’ It is a one-owner car and according to Brightwells the Citron paint colour was chosen with a reason: ‘The vendor bought the car new and chose the colour – Citron - for a reason: she and her husband were keen hill walkers in Northumberland and the bright yellow meant that they would be able to find the car easily if the weather closed in. You could say it stands out in a cloud.’

You certainly would! It’s got under 56,000 miles on the clock and was resprayed once 15 years ago. The little estate comes with its original 998cc engine plus full service history and just three non-standard features: a brake servo, halogen headlights and a bonnet lock. Is there anyone who will not like this lovely little estate?

‘Little’ is certainly not the description that can be given to the almost 5 metres long Vauxhall in this article. It is lovely though, in blueish grey. It’s rare, too. According to the DVLA database there are just another four Crestas of the PB type on UK roads nowadays, which means the chances of parking it anywhere near a sister model are virtually extinct. These estate versions were built by Martin Walter of Dormobile-fame in very, very small numbers, and reputedly one went to Buckingham Palace causing some troubles. The car was ordered by Her Majesty the Queen in the dark Imperial Green always used by her for her personal vehicles. However, it was delivered in dark purple because the Queen and another customer had been mixed up in the factory: the rock band Queen…

This one has not such a distinguished history, but the total mileage of only 48,409 is certainly special and believed to be genuine, too. It needs some work, but blimey: when will you find another?

(Words editor, pictures Brightwells)

 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

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The 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos: progress!

The 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos: progress!
You may remember that, last December, after a very long and at some points nerve wrecking search, I was finally able to buy the 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos. I found the car in Portugal and brought it over to my home, with the plan to fully restore it to the state it was in when it raced at Le Mans.

But with no mechanicals whatsoever (apart from the body shell, only the 80-litres petrol tank and pedal box survive) I had to make a plan to see how to turn it into a proper car again. This Mini Marcos came with some ultra rare parts when it was raced, and I want all of the right stuff back on it. So where to start? Well, I got a lead to a man in southern France – José Albertini - who owned my car in 1970 and who still may have one of the two original radiators it used at Le Mans. I phoned him up, hoping he still had it, and was pleasantly surprised. He was surprised, too, to learn I actually found the car. He told me that until recently, he had more of the car’s original parts, among them the wheels. However, he’d sold all of his stock to a Mini specialist about a year ago.

That’s how I got in touch with Philippe Quirière, who runs Mini World Center in Serres-Castet. He took a deep dive in the stock he’d taken over from José Albertini and came out with some remarkable finds. Not the radiator – I found out later that it ended up in Italy - but the original magnesium wheels used at the 24 hours race! Two sets, as seen on many historic photographs. He also came up with the car’s original gearbox with 3 synchros, Cooper ‘S’ straight cut gears and very, very, long end drive! For the engine we are now going to use a ’66 1275 Cooper ‘S’ block that is believed to have ran under a thousand kilometres from new. The crank comes directly from BMC’s Special Tuning department and has never seen use.

But I also needed a partner to do the body, and found that in Seventies Car Restoration in West Yorkshire. The shell needs quite a lot of work as it’s been modified at several points with the moulded-in roll bar and double skinned floors cut out. The chaps at Seventies Car Restoration are well-experienced in this kind of work. This summer they removed the many layers of paint one by one, by hand, revealing more of the car’s history. It looks now as you can see it on the pictures above and below. Oh - we not only perfectly located the racing roundels on doors and rear, but also the original start numbers ‘50’ that were painted on all those years ago!

Meanwhile, I continued researching the car’s chequered past and had many people sending me photographs, some of them taken by amateurs. But best of all was to get in touch with the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the 24 hours of Le Mans race since human memory. They have their own Heritage department, which includes an archive spanning historic files on just about all of the cars that ever made it to the endurance race. Now, they do not send over their material to everyone and to say they take things seriously, certainly is no exaggeration. First, I had to prove my car was the actual number 50 at Le Mans in '66 and so I sent all of the possible evidence that I had over to an ACO jury. When the head of their Heritage department contacted me six longs weeks later with the now classic words ‘It's good’ there’s no doubt that this made my day! This means I now have copies of all the official documents, from the very first application form to all the records taken when they checked, verified, measured and weighed the car prior to the race. It's all dated and full of technical detail and it’s a gold mine for the restoration.

(Words and pictures Jeroen Booij)

  

Monday, 25 September 2017

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The future of 1976. In 1956. A musical


We've seen an awful lot of images and film footage here on PostWarClassic, but a musical? This has to be the first and since it is Sunday, we dared sharing it here with you. It was produced by General Motors for the 1956 Motorama auto show. It's called 'Key to the Future' and as of the fashion of the day, it is an almost sedatingly naive future vision set in the far-off future of 1976. Interestingly, it predicted self-driving cars through an 'electronic control strip'. The star car is the Firebird II, which ticks all the boxes for 1950s future visions with huge fin tails and jet-like openings. Enjoy this short musical and feel free to add your opinion below.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

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