While the 60th Anniversary of Volga GAZ-21 that took place on July 1, 2016 had been an interesting car show in its own right, it was almost overshadowed by the terrific event which took place the next day, when the motorcade of the 6th Peking to Paris Motor Challenge arrived at the city’s Victory Park, on the right bank of Volga river. No sane CC lover could miss such an opportunity to see over 100 classics built from 1915 to 1975 within one day !
The first car to arrive was this elegant Al Capone era black sedan with a crew from Switzerland (Manuel Dubs / Robi Huber) – and at first no one could figure out what the heck it is.
The grille badge with “Rockne – Made in U.S.A.” inscription was of little help in the identification (the best guess was – a custom car built by some American coach-builder).
Later on, some Googling revealed that Rockne was Studebaker’s entry-level brand, produced for two years only (1932-33), and the car was a 1932 Rockne Six 75. And an export right-hand drive version, it seems ! How many of these still exist ? How many are still capable of traveling all the way from Beijing to Paris ?..
Unfortunately, it seems that the car has some problems with camber. Which hasn’t prevented it from coming all the way from Beijing !
The Rockne was closely followed by this 1925 Bentley 3-4½, which was almost impossible to take a good picture of because of the crowd it gathered…
…and this 1929 Chrysler 75 Roadster from New Zealand (Bruce Washington / Harry Washington).
Bull skull and horns included !
As the 1967 Aston Martin DB6 (James Alexandroff / David Jones, GB) struggled with choosing the right way to go, the public attention was arrested by another exotic beast…
…The Beast, as they call it – a 1917 American LaFrance Tourer, making its way through the crowd with the roar of the monstrous 14,5 liter inline-six (Ingo Strolz / Werner Gassner, Austria). Incredibly smooth running for such a displacement, by the way.
Mercedes-Benz 250 SL “Pagoda” (Isobel Mathew / Nicola Mathew, GB), so called because of its distinctive concave roof. People asked as if it was bent in a rollover.
Chevies were arriving in the order of seniority: 1939, 1940 and 1941 model years, all in one body style. The ’41 won my personal Concours d’Elegance that day.
Some of the cars bore the scars left by road accidents, like this 1939 Plymouth (Antonio Viana-Baptista / Joao Baptista, Portugalia).
1930 Chrysler 70 Roadster (Chris Dillier / Joe Dillier, Switzerland).
1941 Buick Eight Convertible (Jan Vyskocil / Rene Kuhni, Switzerland). The straight eight seemed to be out of tune, the whole car shook and trembled at idle.
1938 Ford Coupe (John Whitelock / Dyl Thomas, GB).
1939 Dodge Business Coupe (Colin Weekley / James Weekley, GB). Teardrop shaped headlights should’ve been in vogue in the late 30s – only to be forgotten several years later.
1973 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2000 Super Berlina (Francesco Guasti / Alessandro Guasti, Italy). This car looks like a strange crossbreed between a Lada and a Moskvitch to me, but of course that’s subjective. And for sure neither Lada, nor Moskvitch ever had a 2 liter DOHC engine from factory.
1969 Ford Escort Mk I (Simon Spinks / Jim Grayson, GB). A replica of the car that won the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally. Unfortunately, the replica of another London-Mexico Rally participant, a blue Moskvitch-412, which took the Bronze medal in its class in the previous Motor Challenge, didn’t take part in the event – its crew only joined the rally for a short duration hors concours near Altai.
This red 1939 Chevy Master Coupe (Bruce Power / Jill Robilliard, Australia) at first joined the “welcoming party” of Ladas, Moskvitches and Volgas from the local classic car club, probably by mistake.
1938 British Ford V8 model 62 (Nigel Lee / Richard Turner, GB). Looks much more conservative than its American coeval.
Datsun 240Z (Chris Bury / Tjerk Bury, USA).
Various green Bentleys (sorry, I’m not much into prewar British sports cars).
1933 Rolls Royce Phantom II (Hok Kiang Sia / Eric Kuan Rong Sia, Malaysia).
1968 Ford Mustang Fastback (Peter Weigelt / Beat Hirs, Switzerland)…
…and other American ponies…
…including this 1968 AMC AMX (Jim Valentine / Jonathan Lodge, GB).
1941 Ford Super Deluxe (Barry Shelton / Marti Shelton, Australia).
Another 1939 Chevy (Mike Butler / Georgie Machell, GB)…
…and a 1940 Ford V8 Deluxe (Jan Pettersson / Jonas Kohlscheen, Sweden).
These two cars evoke an interesting comparison: a short, but relatively powerful V8 engine that could be placed completely behind the front axle without sacrificing the interior space allowed Ford to maintain the simple dependent front suspension with transverse leaf spring well into 1940s, while GM and Chrysler had to use independent suspensions with their much longer inline-six engines which had to be located further towards the front, above the front suspension beam. From the visual point, the cars look almost identical – the Ford’s massive “beak” is for the most part empty inside, with enough room for a second engine between the cooling fan and the bumper. Space efficiency was obviously not a priority back then.
1930 Ford model A (Rod Wade / Austen Ritchie, Australia). It seems that the original wire wheels gave way to those borrowed from a Lada Niva, with the same 5×5.5″ lug pattern (GAZ didn’t change it since the times of GAZ-A, the same pattern was used on all GAZ cars and UAZ light trucks until mid-1990s). God bless interchangeability !
A very rare 4-door 1955 Lancia Aurelia B12 Berline, only circa 13,000 made in 1950-56 (Bryon Fusini / Stephen Waudby, USA).
1971 Holden HQ Monaro LS (Jan Sinclair / Anne Sinclair, Australia). Looks very much like its American counterparts built by General Motors, but on a smaller scale.
Perhaps the rarest among the post-war cars present at the show was this aluminum-bodied Bristol 403 – one of less than 300 built (Paul Hickman / Sebastian Gross, Australia).
Polished aluminum definitely fits Bristol’s history as an aircraft builder, but the “kidney” grille also tells us that there was a BMW behind this model.
Teardrop-shaped tail calls for aircraft analogies as well.
It is almost impossible to believe that this low, sleek 1966 VW Karmann-Ghia (Patrick Sommer / Christine Sommer, Belgium) is built on a mundane VW Beetle chassis.
1927 Nash Roadster (Lloyd Reddington / Treacy Reddington, Canada).
After the short stay at the Victory Park, the participants of the Motor Challenge proceeded to the Lower part of the city, on the opposite bank of the river. On Lenin square near the Nizhny Novgorod Fair they could take some rest and make the necessary repairs. In Part II will will follow them.
P.S.: in addition to my own photographs, I used some photos taken by my friend Iliya Panov, you can see him on the first photo of the Ford Escort.