Car Show Classics: Motorclassica 2017 – Extraordinary Vintage Machinery

Seeing as Don Andreina has posted a lot of the special cars that were at this year’s Motorclassica show, but with respect he only scratched the surface.  I realise that vintage cars are not CC’s core focus, but there were some pretty interesting cars from the era at the show that I wanted to share such as this 1914 Delage grand prix car that has had its survival helped by some ultra-modern technology.

There were four Type S Delages built for the 1914 French Grand Prix, with double overhead cams, desmodromic valves and a five-speed gearbox so the simple external appearance is deceiving.  However the performance at the GP at Lyon was disappointing with the only finishing car in 8th place.  World War 1 intervened within the month, before they could be developed further and thus the cars were sold into the United States the following year; one was raced by Barney Oldfield.  This car came to Australia in 1922 and competed for many years in the hands of several owners, and is the only one known to have survived.

Photo from the ABC News report linked in the text

While the car was restored by its current owners in the late 1970s, more recently the block cracked on an event.  As you can imagine a new engine block for a hundred year-old grand prix car is not something you will find on a shelf and casting a new one would be an enormous task.  This is where modern technology in the form of digital scanning and 3D printing came into play.  The block was scanned and “repaired” digitally, before the sand moulds were 3D-printed.  The block was then cast and machined using traditional methods.  The story can be read here, there is also a video.  It still wasn’t easy, but a lot easier and cheaper than traditional pattern-making.

This 1920 Model T speedster is very impressive, having existed in this form for at least 40 years.  It has been restored a few years back after being imported from California, and does not contain any parts newer than 1926 (presumably including reproductions).

From the large, centrally-mounted spotlight to the Bibendum radiator mascot there are a lot of fascinating details.  For example can anyone give insight into the headlight lenses?

The 1924 Lancia Trikappa that was on the Tourclassica run preceding the show bears exploration.  The Trikappa was introduced just before the seminal Lambda, but was much more traditional having a conventional chassis (133″ wheelbase).  Just 847 were built in roughly three years, and 20 were brought to Australia including two in service with Victoria Police.

The Trikappa’s engine was the first of Lancia’s trademark narrow-angle vee engines, here a 4.6L V8 (280 ci) that made 98 bhp – enough to push the large, heavy car to a top speed of around 80 mph with a 4-speed gearbox.  There are just 14° between the banks which are covered by a single cylinder head.  I should mention that the 110th anniversary of Lancia is the reason there will be a few cars from that marque featured.

This is one of the last, sold new in Australia in 1925, and its early history is unknown prior to it being unearthed on a rural property in the 1960s.  The current owner bought it in 2004 and restored it in time for the 100th anniversary of Lancia when it took part in the Lancia Rally in Turin.  Since restoration was done it has been driven more than 85,000 km, or 53,000 miles – looking at the driving position you have to admire the dedication!

What body builders were doing with sedans in the early years is pretty interesting.  This 1924 Rolls-Royce has a convertible roof, but solid windows so represents something of a transition.  You can see the suicide-hinged driver’s door window, so lets’ take a closer look.

Firstly note the polished aluminium that surrounds the cabin, giving a nautical feel to the car.  The side windows look like they can be lifted out, and perhaps the windscreen can be removed too.  The upper half of the windscreen opens just in case the side windows don’t scoop enough air in!  Actually I don’t imagine you could drive the car like this as the wind would catch the window and blow it backwards.

This 1926 Cadillac 314 has a similar-looking body to the Rolls Royce shown on Tourclassica with a sloping windscreen which makes quite a contrast to the standard bolt-upright type of production bodies that would remain for a good few years yet.  This body was built by Fleetwood rather than Brewster, but obviously then as now trends spread across the industry.  This is one of 15 different body styles offered by Fleetwood.

A unique idea though was the retractable windscreen!  Looking closely you can see how the glass is not mounted in a conventional rubber, but is able to slide down under the cowl.  The sun visor disguises its lower top edge.

At the rear, the origin of the name ‘trunk’ can be seen.  Incidentally, the term ‘boot’ used in other countries comes from a storage compartment on a horse-drawn carriage.  The twin exhausts are because the car has a 5.1-litre V8 engine, which sends 87 bhp through a 3-speed gearbox.  Another neat original feature is an onboard air compressor.

There is the phenomenon of vintage cars losing their sedan bodies when being restored, although this 1927 Delage DM lost its original sedan body before it was rediscovered a long time before eventually being restored.  This 4-door boat-tail body is unusual and quite beautiful, but comparing it to an actual period body it is perhaps too stylish.  Perhaps I can explain it by saying it was clearly built as a one-off rather than something that would be offered as an available style.  Does that make sense?

The engine has so many details that illustrate how cars like this pushed the state of the art at the time.  Look at the spacing of the six cylinders’ exhaust ports, or the water pump in front of a housing that I can’t guess the purpose of, then the same shaft drives a generator or dynamo and then through to the distributor.  The steering box is different from those I’ve seen, and above that I can only guess is the horn?

This 1924 Delage DISS incredibly retains its original body!  From this angle it has fewer styling flourishes than the previous one, while sharing many elements such as the timber upper deck that extends in front of the windscreen.

From the rear you can see that it doesn’t have straight boards of wood but rather a mirrored timber with a much more unusual grain.  A really beautiful car.

This 1927 Lancia Lambda Ballon sedan is interesting because it is a removable sedan roof added on top of the standard open Lambda tourer body, just like a Bronco or early 4Runner!  The separation of painted body with leather-covered upper is quite distinct.  Note it would not have been vinyl in those years!

A fairly unusual Lambda is this 1927 roadster.  The Lambda really is an extraordinary car, and because of Turin’s location between plains and mountains the gearing is such that they do well in hills but can also cruise at 100km/h – very impressive for a 1920’s car.

This 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sports is a proper (or even super!) sports car though, being directly related to the racing cars that did very well in several forms of the sport in the way that was possible back then – both grand prix and sports car events depending if you removed the lights and mud guards.  The body on this car was built by Zagato.

Getting more extreme, this 1934 MG Q-Type is a genuinely proper racing car that was in the auction held at the show.  The supercharger is mounted ahead of the radiator under a neat cover with the MG badge acting as the air intake.  The engine has just 746cc, but could do over 120 mph at Brooklands!  This car was sold new in Australia and has had a number of notable owners and drivers.  Its value was estimated at AUD$400-440k, but it did not sell.

Another car that was on the Tourclassica run, a 1937 Hudson Terraplane Touring Coupe.  The shape of the body is very similar to the Holden “sloper” body as fitted to the different GM brands.  I can’t be sure Holden were involved, but it is entirely possible given import laws effectively prohibited bringing in fully-built cars.

The front end is less beautiful, with a funny grille treatment that tries to hide its full width by painting the sides while the centre is chrome.  But what a marvellous restoration!

I mentioned in a comment on Don’s post that I missed getting photos of quite a few cars at the show, but I did get one of the overall winner, a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost with a fantastic dual-cowl body.


Next time, some of the cars from the club display – here is a preview.


Further Reading:

Carshow Classics: Highlights From MotorClassica 2017