by Dr. Iain Corness
What price the odds on Renault?
The Renault F1 team have decided to take
the choice of special testing on Friday mornings at the GP
circuits before the qualifying sessions on the Saturdays. This
option was open to all teams, and they had to choose whether
they wanted this extra practice, or being allowed almost
unlimited testing during the year. At this stage, Minardi is
another team to swap unlimited testing (but not at the circuit
for the GP that weekend) for the extra testing at the circuit
on the race weekend Friday. Team boss Flavio Briatore has
publicly said that Renault are not in the position to fight
for the championship this year, and fourth is the best that
they can hope for, so the extra kilometres on race weekend in
front of the fans suits them better. And gives the sponsors
more exposure too.
Briatore and Trulli
With Toyota also stating that they have
their corporate eye on 4th as well, after Ferrari, BMW
Williams and Mercedes McLaren, it could be interesting. Throw
in Sauber which has been testing very well, with new (re)signing
Heinz-Harald Frentzen setting some very respectable times so
far and the wild card Jaguar team as well and there could be
some interest down the ranks again.
Last week I asked about the XK 120 Jaguar
and what speed did it do? A works prepared XK 120 officially
recorded 132.6 miles per hour on the Jabbeke Road record strip
in Belgium. This was a left hand drive version too. An
unofficial speed was previously set by Motor magazine in the
UK at 125 mph.
So to this week and still sticking with
Jaguar, what happened to the XK 100?
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Restoring a Ferrari. A 50 year
The Tifosi of today, who cheer for Mrs.
Schumacherís big boy, and who lust after the latest
road-going Ferrariís should spare a moment for the people
who have helped make Ferrari the icon it is today. These
include not only the late energetic Enzo Ferrari, but also a
couple of guys I call Gino and Nino and a lanky Aussie by the
name of Ray Helm and his Ferrari 195.
What has to be remembered, is that without
a history, marques like Ferrari would not be revered as they
are today. Without history, the Ferrari F50 would just be
another supercar like the Pagani Zonda C12S. ďWhatís a
Pagani?Ē I hear you ask. Thank you, I rest my case. (For
those who really want to know, the Pagani Zonda is a road
going sports coupe with an AMG Benz V12 in the rear producing
about 550 BHP and does 185 MPH.)
Some of the cars that gave Ferrari its
mystique were the 195 Inters, produced between 1950 and 1951.
They did not make many of them and the factory concurrently
built 166ís and 212ís. All used the same basic chassis,
the main difference being the engine capacity (the model
number is derived from the swept volume of one cylinder). The
number of ďtrueĒ 195ís (as opposed to 166ís that were
bored out) is thought to be 27, but even the factory is not
sure. In a letter to a previous owner of Rayís 195 the
factory admitted, ďWe are not in a position to know exactly
how many cars of this type were manufactured, but we can
assume they were very few.Ē Who said the Italians werenít
capable of understatement!
Now Rayís example has not only a 195
engine, but a special high performance one, a Ferrari 212
close ratio gearbox and twin leaf suspension at the rear,
prompting the question as to whether this was the result of
earlier restoration, bastardisation or was it delivered like
This is where Gino and Nino come in (with
apologies to all my Italian friends). In those days, the main
thrust of the factory was towards the race cars, so it is not
too difficult to imagine the following conversation in one
corner of the workshop. ďHey Gino, we gotta no gearbox for
da 195 for a da Swiss agente.Ē ďNo problemo, Nino, usa da
one for da 212 we gotta spare from lasta week.Ē ďBene,
bene, Gino, you are one smarta bastardo. I bolta in da twin
leaf suspensione too and she fitta bloody lovely now.Ē
You see, they built a road car with what
was kicking about, and the cars left as rolling chassis to go
to the various body builders in Europe. In Ray Helmís case,
this was to a company called Ghia-Aigle, who were the Swiss
Ferrari agents. This company made three bodies, two of which
followed the Vignale-Michelotti design, but even they were
slightly different. Chassis number 0195EL is one of that pair,
and is the one I have personally driven. Ray Helmís
masterpiece of restoration - that took two and a half years.
One of the reasons that restoring an old
Ferrari can be such a time consuming process is that you
cannot get a workshop manual for one of these beasts. Remember
that Gino and Nino made the car up as they went along, and the
bodies were totally independent from the Ferrari factory. So
in answer as to where you go to find new tail light lenses,
the answer is that you have to make them yourself from resin,
using the original ones as moulds! Thatís just what my mate
Ray had to do.
He did manage to glean a bit of the carís
early history, it was manufactured in December 1951 and bought
by Roberto Bellorini, a Swiss engineer working in Lausanne. It
was originally delivered in a two-tone grey from the Swiss
agents. In 1955 it was bought by Hans Wirth, later to become
the European GT champion, but he only kept it for a few months
and it went to America. It was purchased by an American
collector, Mark Dees in 1971 and at some stage in the US it
had been involved in a fairly extensive accident, and Dees had
stripped it for restoration, but apparently had given up and
sold the remains to Ray Helm in Australia in 1985.
It was with that background that Ray began
the Herculean task. So many traps for young players became
evident. When they put the grille together and then tried
fitting it into the bodyshell, it just didnít fit. Was the
grille wrong, or was it the aperture? The final answer was
that the American panel shop got it wrong, the grille was OK.
I must admit it was a bit of a buzz being
asked to drive the Ferrari. It was certainly no modern sports
car when I got my bum in it in 1990. Noise levels were high,
the thin wood rimmed large diameter steering wheel felt
antiquated, and the twin leaf rear-end made the car very
skittish in the tail on anything other than perfect surfaces.
I take my hat off to the drivers in the early 50ís who raced
these cars in the Mille Miglia, for example.
The non-synchro box took some getting used
to as well. It is all very fine banging the stick through with
impunity, but when the car is not yours and is the concourse
winner and valued at over 1 million Aussie dollars, you tend
to be a tad cautious! Suffice to say, I enjoyed the
opportunity of driving another small piece of history. They
donít often come your way.
Lekky bikes again
After having a taste for electric bicycles
last year (and for three months the year before, to be
truthful) I came to the conclusion that I missed having one of
these jiggers at the office. So many times I just needed to
pop up the road, to carry out a delivery (not the maternity
variety) and even the family Mira was too hard to park. That
left me the choice of song taew or motorcycle. Both decidedly
risky and patently environmentally unfriendly. Lekky bikes
just made so much sense.
The stumbling block for me was just the
cost (ah, that Scottish heritage again). Sure, the super
mountain bike, with one million gears and twin disc brake job
was fantastic and worth every baht of the price, but I
didnít really want to spend way over 20,000 baht just to go
to the shopping centre and pick up some headache pills. This
is where my live-wire mate Paul Markham from Eco-Brandís
Electric Bicycle Centre came in again, with a low cost
alternative, called the Power Assist System bicycles.
These are different from the electric bikes
I rode last year in that you donít sit on them, twist the
throttle and away you go. In the PAS bikes, there is no
throttle as the electric motor is not independent from your
pedalling - it just assists you with the job in hand. In
actual fact, this is much better from the medical point of
view, in that you, the cyclist, have to actually turn the
pedals to get the motor to click in, so you are getting some
exercise. All very good for the environment, and your ticker!
And you can go for up to 40 kays before the battery needs a
recharge, but Iím sure Iíd find a 7-11 long before then!
These PAS bicycles are manufactured in
Japan and Paul re-fits them for local use, with straight
handlebars and a removable gents crossbar, although you can
also get them in standard guise with the Japanese curved
good doctor on a Honda Raccoon
I tried one of them out, a Honda Racoon,
and it was just the ticket! I liked the ticket price too at
just over 9,000 baht, complete with battery and charger. So
now I am running backwards and forwards again to carry out any
messages and deliveries. I am getting daily exercise and after
the low purchase price it is costing me nothing to run while
boosting my fitness levels. Itís no racer, but the most
practical town shopping transport I know of. And itís kinda
cute too! Actually this is the second Honda bike I have owned
- the last one was a 1972 Honda 250 cc Elsinore Moto-X racer
that I had for 25 years. I hope the Racoon gives me just as
good service! Iíll let you know.
Last week I said letís go across the pond
to the UK and specifically Jaguar, even though it is now owned
by FoMoCo. The XK 120, a classic, was the result of a cock-up
by the bodywork company that had been assigned to build the Mk
VII Jaguar sedans. They were unable to deliver on time for the
1948 London MoShow, and the boss of Jaguar, Sir William Lyons,
said that if nothing else, the new chassis would go on
display. To make an impact, he designed a spectacular 2 seater
bodywork to go on the chassis. This was called the XK 120. Now
I am coming to the question - I asked how did they pick on
that designation for the 2 seater Jaguar? A clue - there was
one reason for the XK part and another for the 120 bit. This
was easy, the experimental engines were designated XA, XB, XC
etc and the one in the final mock-up was the XK version. The
120 came from the estimated top speed of the car - 120 mph.
So to this week. Another easy one and
letís stick with the XK 120 Jaguar. What speed did it do?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
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The car (and bike) enthusiasts will be
meeting again this Monday night (10th) at Shenanigans Pub at 7
p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like minded souls
which meets on the second Monday of every month to discuss
their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. It is
free to join and I suggest that you bring along magazines or
photographs so that the group can get involved in the
discussion. Generally we have something to eat while we are
there and wash it down with something amber, hence the name,
Natter, Nosh and Noggin. Just ask any of the lovely
Shenanigans girls where Dr. Iain and the group are and they
will point us out and give you a push.
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