Thursday, October 1, 2015

The 1935 Jean Bugatti Faux Cabriolet

I've touched on the tragedy of Jean Bugatti before, the scion of the Bugatti dynasty, who met a tragic fate testing out their latest Grand Prix racer on what they thought was a closed-off road.

His legacy as a designer is breathtaking. He also grew up on the factory floor, and often tuned and altered the race cars that his father's company produced. But he was always as concerned about the styling panache and the creature comforts of the Bugatti vehicle, knowing that his customer didn't just want to go fast, but to look good doing it.

Here are a couple of vintage, and rare, shots of the roll-down feature on a Jean Bugatti original, from a 1935 French auto magazine, and a nice color publicity shot from the time.  Enjoy the genius of elegant simplicity, by Jean.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back From Vacation: The Salem Speed Shop

The best way to end my hiatus from the electronic world is to reach back to the Golden Age of hot-rodding, with one of the last of the original pioneers, Glen Volz.
 Glen founded his high-performance shop in 1950, and has lived through and participated in the hot rod racing business permutations since. From Bonneville to the drag strip to SCCA, Glen has had a hand in it all. His building is just like he is; outwardly a little worn, a bit old-fashioned, but the insides are filled with rare power and singular knowledge. 

Glen Volz and his 1950's era louver punch.

Built in the 1890's, used today.

 There have been other, in-depth features on Glen, like this one
but he has so many tales from his history, that everyone hears something new. I asked him about Harry Eyerly and his Bugatti rod, and he recounted the times that Harry pulled up to his shop and took him out for spins, or the time he was driving to Bend, when a Jaguar XK-120 passed him going the other way. Glen pulled a u-turn in his Ford hot rod, mashed it to the floor, but couldn't catch the Jag. A few years later, he had the chance to take Harry's Jag out for a test, and when he stepped on the gas... he was underwhelmed. He couldn't believe that this model British roadster had outrun his Ford, until he realized that the Jaguar beneath him hadn't stopped accelerating. The top end of that car was far beyond the capabilities of his low-geared, high compression flathead.

Here's a few more shots of his equipment (much of it vintage Army surplus).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The 1952 Muntz Jet, Customized By Joe Bailon

Band leader Freddie Martin bought a rare Muntz Jet back in 1952, and was more than happy with the style and performance. But a few years later, with the power revolution, he felt he and his car were being left behind. So he enlisted legendary customizer Joe Bailon to give his drop-top a facelift and power boost.

Joe added a tooth grill, played with the lines, and of course, swapped the engine by dropping in a new 1955 Cadillac powerplant, and the results speak for themselves. It's no longer a rare bird; it's a one-of-a-kind, with modern specs and classic styling!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Phil Clark: 1960, Before The 1964 Ford Mustang

Before legendary designer Phil Clark sketched the famous "Running Horse" Mustang logo, before he had a hand in designing the original Mustang concept, he was a recent Pasadena Art School putting together his first major project, an aluminum sports car that seems to have gone unfinished. Here's a rare shot of that project from 1960, for sale. I wonder where it's at now?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Daring Elgin Car Leap of 1920: The First Mad Max Fury Road Stunt

On a warm Summer day, a crowd gathered to watch an unprecedented event. Daredevil Chas. J. Wilson of Chicago, was about to launch an Elgin Six phaeton over a creek bed, just outside the town of Elgin, Illinois.

The planks and sides of the local bridge had been removed, leaving just steel girders, and a gap of 27 feet across, with a 14 foot drop to the riverbed below. A silent film crew was on hand to record either triumph or tragedy.

As the cameraman cranked his film, Mr. Wilson gave himself a running start, and sped towards the divide. The crowd gasped as his little convertible sped up to 55 miles an hour, hit the ramp and flew through the air "like a torpedo", until, with the bouncy spring of a jackrabbit, it landed 58 FEET from where he launched, without showing the worse for wear.

It's said Charles simply got back on the road, and made it back to Chicago without any repairs or missing parts. And maybe someday, in a newly-discovered old silent serial, we'll see that scene, the predecessor to Mad Max, a hundred years ago!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

1906 Broadway Play "BEDFORD'S HOPE" Features A Race Between A Car And A Train

   In January of 1906, the latest technological wonder, the automobile, took on the stalwart symbol of transport, the train.
   Bedford's Hope was an old-fashioned melodrama with a new-fangled twist; instead of racing against time to save the damsel/home/ investment on foot or by horse, an automobile was integrated into the action, leading to a climactic race with everything on the line. Guess who won? Hint: The bad guys were on the train.
   Here's a local review from when the Broadway production went on the road to Fort Wayne, Indiana...

 Bedford's Hope Opens a Three Days' Engagement. No theatergoer can fail to be much entertained by the Play, "Bedford's Hope," which opened a three days' engagement at the Majestic theater last evening.; While the play hovers pretty closely about the melodramatic much of the time, and is certainly a thriller. It Is not an impossible play or a "blood and thunder" mixture. To the contrary, it's wholesome, exciting and interesting. The company is a fine one and the stage setting is unusual and a wonderful demonstration of stage mechanism. The race between an automobile and a locomotive in the third act has the chariot race in "Ben Hur" smashed to smithereens. One did not have to make heavy demands on his imagination to see the locomotive and the automobile move, neither did the wheels of the big engine seen in the distance, stand still. They moved. So did the automobile, clear across the stage with its excited occupants, who were riding to reach a certain bank and stop payment on a paper before the holder of that paper, who was on the train, could get there. There is considerable preliminary to the race, such as the cutting of telephone and telegraph wires to hinder the movements of the brother and sister, who finally win the race. There are two love threads binding the story together and considerable comedy. Character parts are particularly well acted. E. M. Kimball and Harry B. Robinson in the roles of Judge Fair and Long Pete made the fun of the play. George Staley, as William Bedford; owner of the old Pard Mine and fine, honest man; Walter Law,  his son, Harry Grifflth with a hidden past, and his, son, Abe, ably taken by Ogden Wright, each and all contribute greatly to the success of the play by their sterling acting. Emma Butler is easy and natural as Mrs. Merley, and Mary Servoss handles the part of Alice Bedford pleasingly"