Car Show Classics: Tales of the Extraordinary from Motorclassica

1923 Delage CO2 Hispano Suiza Special

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.

Hispano Suiza V8 – That’s not a big block, this is a big block

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.

1923 Delage CO2 Hispano Suiza Special rear

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!

1923 Delage CO2 Hispano Suiza Special interior

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.

1975 Ferrari 410 GTC speciale overhead

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.

1975 Ferrari 410 GTC speciale side

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.

1975 Ferrari 410 GTC speciale

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.

1957 Mercedes Benz 220SL rear

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.

1957 Mercedes Benz 220SL interior

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.

1929 Cadillac 341B

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.

1936 Daimler limousine

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.

1932 Delage D8S side

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.

1932 Delage D8S rear

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.

1934 Parsons Phillips Ford special rear

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!

1939 BWA special

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.

1927 Bugatti Holden

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.

1935 Kleinig Hudson special

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.

1952 Aston Martin DB2 Mk2 low

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.

1952 Aston Martin DB2 Mk2 engine bay

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.

Bluebird Land Speed Record Parade

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?