As hinted last time there were some amazing cars at Motorclassica. I don’t think anyone would guess that the clue was a 1923 Delage CO2, but quite an unusual example as it has been fitted with an 18.5 litre (approx 1150ci) Hispano Suiza aeroplane engine as used in WWI fighter planes.
This is a 1921 engine so it would have 300hp – presumably at quite a low rpm. The engine had overhead cams driven by shafts which was reasonably typical in those years for high-performance engines. The car still has its original chassis, axles, and gearbox but the drum brakes have been upgraded to hydraulic.
As you expect the performance is very impressive, with over 120mph having been achieved; the gearing could see over 140 mph if you were brave or insane enough. Despite the 1.96:1 final drive ratio and narrow tires the car has recorded a 13-second quarter mile run. It is also described as being docile in city traffic but I think the most impressive aspect is that these things are actually known – it does get driven!
Apart from the huge engine the rest of the car is exquisitely executed, from the ostrich-hide seats to the machine-turned dash, aero bodywork and the fishtail exhaust tip. Just incredible. As an aside, I saw this car back in 2006 doing demonstration runs at an historic racing meet when the interior was ‘plain’ black leather. The engine was reported to make 500 hp at 2,000 rpm.
Just as impressive was this car from the auction field. It doesn’t look exactly like anything else I’ve seen, I would describe it is part 275 GTB, part Intermecchanica. That is for good reason, because while it is actually a Ferrari it did not emerge from Maranello this way.
The car started with a 400 chassis and a 5 litre V12. The body was built by Ferrari restorer David Levy in Sydney over the course of 20 years, and is all steel with the exception of the aluminium bonnet – or aluminum hood if that makes things easier. It originally had dual bulges in the hood to fit the six downdraught throttle bodies (he rebuilt the engine with high compression, custom cams and EFI), but he reworked the intake to allow a smooth hood.
What can’t have been easy is fabricating all of the necessary trim from scratch as well, such as casting and polishing the headlight surrounds and moulding the headlight covers in perspex. He also designed and cast a set of alloy wheels to fit under the narrower bodyshell on the wide 400 chassis prior to replacing them with the current wire wheels. Unfortunately the car was for sale because David Levy has succumbed to cancer.
One I mentioned in an earlier post was this Mercedes-Benz 220SL, a car I paid little attention to at first glance because while the 190SL is a very pretty car it is not really a car that I like and is on the underpowered side. But as the name of the car suggests this isn’t an ordinary 190SL but rather a 1957 prototype that has the 1.9L four cylinder replaced by a 2.2L six cylinder and the only right-hand drive example of just four cars built for evaluation.
Details like the cut-down screen and deleted bumpers give a racy air, while the interior is fantastic, so long as you can get on board with the tartan seat fabric that is. I am not so sure about the roll hoops and tonneau cover though. The car originally went to Macau (near Hong Kong) before it came to Australia in 1960, before the current owner found it advertised as a run-down 190SL in 1974. It was not until the restoration where unusual things were found and after checking with the factory they car’s identity was established. As it is the only car known to have survived Mercedes have made it known they would like it should it be sold in the future.
Another car with a story is this 1929 Cadillac 341B, which was owned by Sid Siedlecky who ran up to 15 cars driving tourists around the Blue Mountains west of Sydney (see the “Blackheath Tourist Car Service” signwriting on the door). It is an extremely picturesque area but learning the original 1860s railway to cross the mountains used zig-zag switchback sections and 8 miles of 1 in 42 grade to ascend and descend will give an idea of how rugged it gets in places – and how handy it would have been that the 1929 Cadillac was the first car to have a synchromesh gearbox behind its 341 ci V8! The car has been stored for many years but was recently put back on the road.
This 1936 Daimler limousine is the only car to have carried two British kings; King Edward VIII and King George VI. Its owner has had the car for approximately 50 years, bringing the car back from England with him after studying medicine there.
A more elegant car is this 1932 Delage D8S, this time without a gigantic engine inside. The car was originally bought by an Australian and had a body built in Melbourne by Martin and King, before the owner took it back to tour around Europe before bringing the car back to Australia after WWII. It was taken off the road and dismantled in the 1960s for a restoration that never materialised, before being restored by HVR with a beautiful replica of a one-off 1931 body built by Vince Panozzo of the Automotive Centre of Excellence in the Docklands of Melbourne.
I expect the original body was a sedan so in a sense it is a shame that it joins the legions of vintage sedans that don’t have their history valued, but of course the impeccable new body is a thing of beauty and there is no guarantee that the original body still existed.
There were several 1940s/50s era race cars on display, typically home or self-built machines. The complexity and standard of bodywork, chassis and running gear vary, but many have Ford mechanicals for obvious reasons, or various English makes. The first one is based on a 1934 Ford and still has the cut-down grille, plus a nice copper exhaust running uninterrupted into megaphone tips – I bet it sounds awesome!
This one has a 1500cc supercharged Lea Francis engine, built in 1939 on a custom chassis with Lancia Lambda front end, brakes and gearbox. After the war it was fitted with a sports racer body, then later the current single seater, and raced in two Australian Grand Prix (pre-F1 days). The BWA badge on the front allegedly stands for ‘bloody work of art’! This car is a regular at historic race meetings.
Later on Holdens became common source of running gear, to the degree that this Bugatti has a Holden engine, with triple SU carbs! It may seem like sacrilege but when an engine blew or it had been sitting for years and original parts no longer exist, what else are you going to do? The current owners appreciate the car’s history and decided to keep it how it had spent most of its life. This car is also a regular at historic race meetings.
One of the most famous cars of the period is the 1935 Kleinig Hudson, built on an MG Magna chassis with a 273ci Hudson straight eight. It was quite successful, winning 18 of 22 hillclimbs entered over a 14 year period, 4 championships and running in 7 Australian Grand Prix, competing against grand prix cars imported from Europe. But it is most famous for having the engine failure at Bathurst in 1939 that gave the name to Conrod Straight.
I should acknowledge the car that ended up winning the best of show prize, a 1952 Aston Martin DB2 SE. The car had just completed a very extensive 3-year restoration at Marque Restorations in Adelaide, and both Don and I were very impressed.
Interestingly as well as going to such detail as putting the correct label on the fan belt plus a spare in a recreated cardboard sleeve, the team also fitted a collapsible steering column and door intrusion bars – quite sensible additions that are completely hidden from view and food for thought for any restoration of an old car.
To finish things in a more fitting CC fashion here is a pretty cool photo of Sir Donald Campbell parading down King William Street in the middle of Adelaide after breaking the world land speed record in the jet-powered Bluebird on 17 July 1964 at a two-way average speed of 403.10 mph on Lake Eyre, 400 miles north of Adelaide. The Bristol-Siddeley Proteus jet engine produced over 4,100 hp – so much that full power could not be used below 200 mph despite the car having four-wheel drive. I imagine the cars in the picture will prove a challenge for our North American readers, can you name any beside the VW, Falcon and 1960 Ford (?) truck?
What a great collection of cars.
How I’d love the opportunity to drive some, or all.
Wow–looks like a great show! I particularly like the Delages and the Aston-Martin, but that Ferrari is quite interesting too. What an enormous engine in that first one…wow.
In the bluebird photo, could the light blue car ahead of the Ford truck be a Humber Super Snipe?
Yesiree! Super Snipe it is.
Spot on Chris!
Beautiful cars. Is the Delage engine swap a modern installation?
And now for an off-topic ramble: At first view of the Aston Martin, I thought, “Lesney”. I’ve still got the childhood Matchbox Aston in that exact shade of green. Of course, the wheels aren’t wires, but rather the standard silver plastic they used on all their models (with oddly truck-like castellated perimeters on the tires). because of the manufacturing process, Matchbox models had a “good side” and a “bad side”. One had a nice rounded head on the axles, and the other was stuck with a squeezed and nipped shank (which a kid would imagine could be used to knock out a racing competitor, ala “Ben Hur”.
I’ll take the Delage with the SPAD XIII engine, please!
In chasing this a bit, the 300hp Hisso engine would likely be the 8F (or the subsequent 8Fa or 8Fb – also known as the HS Type 42, which had a 5.3:1 compression ration and was a direct-drive powerplant). The SPAD XIII used the earlier reduction-geared 8Be engine rated at 220hp.
The 8Fb powered the Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 single-seat biplane fighter, first delivered in 1922. The Delage in this case was Gustav Delage, no relation to Louis Delage of the motor car company (which made munitions during the Great War). Gustav also designed the famed Nieuport 11 of the Layfayette Escadrille – the first aircraft flown in combat by Americans who joined up with the French Foriegn Legion before America entered the war.
What an incredible collection. The only ones among them that I have seen even in photos are the Ferrari 275 and the Aston Martin DB2 (the Bugatti, being Holden-powered, I am not counting). If I ever make it back to Australia, I will have to schedule it around a Motorclassica!
Concluding with Donald Campbell’s Bluebird was a great way to bring the story full circle, because my first thought while reading about the 1923 Delage with its Hispano-Suiza airplane engine was that it was like a 1920s version of a jet-powered Bonnevile land speed record competitor.
Fantastic cars, great one-of-a kind vehicles and stories. A wonderful morning’s entertainment.
Any pictures of the engine in the yellow Ferrari?
It seems that cars are like the people you meet here: everyone has a story on how they got here.
The bonnet stayed closed, but I found one on the auction website. Robert note the Ferrari is not a 275, but a one-off built probably on a 400 chassis (it was not explicitly stated) with perhaps a 512 engine.
on that note, some guy in Australia put a Rolls Royce Merlin in a 55 Chevy. you can see it on YouTube.
That was Rod Hadfield that is probably the most outlandish car he has built in 40 years of hot rodding – not by as large a margin as you might think! I saw it 10 years ago before he took it to the US, just after he had loaded it onto his truck so I didn’t get to see it run unfortunately.
FB Holden FJ Holden, VW EIP Vauxhall Hi line MK2 Zephyr early Falcon, Leyland 20 van EH Holden and yes thats a Super Snipe or Snipe, Lots of CCs,
Just some useless trivia, Wolseley built Hispano aero engines under licence during WW1 and copied the bevel gear OHC setup and used it on their cars untill 1953 when BMC dictated they use generic BMC engines.
If there is a God he has a Hispano Suiza in his garage.
Well, maybe not God, but I remember hearing in an early Ken Burns biography “Empire of the Air” that Edwin Armstrong, early radio pioneer, owned a Hispano Suiza back when he was courting NBC’s David Sarnoff’s secretary whom he later married (back when he was flush with money before the long contested patent litigation on amplification with Lee Deforest made him so depressed that he committed suicide)…a story I’d not heard previously. I’m guessing those cars were rare even back when they were new (in the 1920’s?).
I’ve had the privilage of an afternoon’s outing in sunny Surrey, UK, in my wife’s friend’s 1936 Lagonda a few years ago. I enjoyed a very distinctive hairy chest experience. No seat belts, no doors, no roof, no nothing to hang on to in the corners. Coming to a roundabout, a VW obviously had right of way but Johathan, the owner, laughed like a drain and confidently informed me that there was no way he would be able to stop in time.
He was right. Add no brakes to the above description. The lady driver of the VW was slack jawed, bright eyed and grinning like a small child at the sight of us and only too happy to allow an 18′ lorry right of way. Indeed, everyone we passed on the road was smiling at the car and other vehicles were slowing down in awe and respect.
It was a V12, owned by his late father for many years and then passed on to his son. The present owner took it to Switzerland back in 2007 for a Lagonda meet, driving all the way there in three days; in rain and shine. They arrived dirty and exhausted, wearing workmen’s boiler suits whilst everybody else had immaculately polished cars and expensive period costumes. The car returned about 8mpg on the trip; comsumption similar to throwing pound notes out of the window every few kilometres.
An exquisite piece of British machinery I would die to own and an experience I will never forget.
Add no windows to the above!
What a fantastic experience!
Speaking of brakes, I saw some Model T’s on the weekend and one had been converted to rear disc brakes. Still no brakes at all on the front wheels though!
That Hispano engine at 1150ci,
more capacity than two Detroit big blocks,
what a beautiful noise it would make
How does the expression go?
“One drives a Ford, one is driven in a Rolls-Royce, but one only gives one’s mistress a Delage”
If I had a mistress, to heck with her, I’d give her a Ford, I’d keep the Delage for ME!