Inside West Coast Customs

The polar vortex is over and the Amelia Island Concours is coming!

02/23/2014

Here on the upper East Coast we are rather sick of that whole winter thing.  Polar Vortex and ice and snow and sleet and school closings are hopefully on the wain.  Its time to look forward to sunny skies and beautiful cars for the automotive enthusiasts among us.

So that brings us to the 2014 edition of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.  This concours is held on the luscious grounds of the Ritz Carlton.  300 of the world's finest automobiles, motorcycles and race cars will grace the greens of the impecable golf course, a virtual feast for the eyes.

Every year Bill Warner and his vast crew of volunteers and veterans have chosen some of the most incredible pieces of transportation.  You'll find everything from $50 million dollar Ferraris to incredible Duesenburgs and grand classics to cars that you never knew existed.

Some of the featured classes and cars from this year are: General Lyon's Duesenberg which is a 1930 Model J Speedster featuring a dissapearing  convetible top.  Ralph Marano is a highly regarded Packard collector and he is bringing all ten of his Packard concept cars from the 50's. You'll be able to see the re-debut of the Chrylser La Contesse Concept car.  The Stirling Moss 450S Le Mans Coupe will be one of the featured cars helping to celebrate  the Maserati centenary.  A set of BMW "Batmobiles" will be on the greens, representing the German's 180mph winged monsters from the 70's.  The BMW's represent one of the unique features of the Amelia Island Concours, that is Bill Warner's love of race cars.

So as a teaser, let's take a look at some previous entrants to the Amelia Island Concours.

Grey wolf javalin lr kcv

Here we see old meets new.  The "Grey Wolf" meets the Sunoco Javalin race car from the Trans Am series.

  Ai08 d2 tflyer 0909 lr kcv

2008 saw the greatest gathering of Thomas Flyers that anyone in the last 50 years could remember.  Above we see the actual Thomas Flyer that won in the famous 1908 New York to Paris race. 

The National Automobile Museum in Reno Nevada, loaned the world famous Thomas Flyer for the 100th anniversary of its epic 22,000 mile race.  George Schuster, the only member of the US team to drive the entire route, assisted Bill Harrah restore the car to its original trim as it entered Paris 26 days in front of the next competitor.

Aic13 Lamboghini Muira  012

The Lamborghini Muira Roadster in a rare appearance at the Amelia Island Concours last year.  Photo courtesy of Brett Lemoine.

This is the only Roadster created and built by the factory, making it very special indeed.  It was named the ZN75.

Malcolm 240 experimental kcv

Here is Malcolm Pray and his beloved 1939 Delahaye Type 135 M next to the predecessor to the Ferrari GTO.  Its the 1962 Ferrari 250 Experimental chassis 2643GT.

Unfortunately we lost Malcolm Pray in 2013.  He was a main stay at so many concours events.  He will be missed.  This years judges sheets (which I designed) are a tribute to his many contributions to the field.

  Moal carini lr kcv

 You just never know what is going to come around the corner.  Here we see Wayne Carini from Velocity's Chasing Classic Cars driving one of the Moal Couchbuilders Torpedo.

A great place to hang out is right in front of the Ritz, especially during Saturday.  All sorts of cars are loading up and tooling around.  Then you walk in and see the RM Auction as well as some of the great seminars and take advantage of the exotic test drives.

Yes, the Amelia Island Concours should be on every car lovers bucket list.  Come for the weather and stay for the cars!

Racing at leMans - amazing machines they are

11/24/2013

Racing At leMans - Amazing Machines They Are

Ken Visser

karmakvisser@yahoo.com

kenneth_visser@discovery.com

I started to do some research on a blog about the Porsche 917, one of the most successful and dominant race cars in history.  As I was going thru my photos, I came upon quite a few examples of successful leMans racers and have decided to pursue that storyline.

leMans, one of the toughest races on the planet.  24 hours of straight up racing on a mix of public and racing circuit roads.  Participants have to balance fuel, brakes, mechanical durabilty, tires as well as fatigue.  In 2010 the winning Audi covered 3,360 miles on the Circuit de la Sarthe.  

We are talking 6 times longer than the Indy 500 and 18 times longer that a Formula One Grand Prix race. Heck, from New York to LA its 2,792 miles!  Can you imaging running at top speed on the Mulsanne Straight at 3 am, checking your mirrors for a prototype approaching at 200 plus MPH, flashing its lights?  And I thought the DC Beltway was stressful during a Friday night rush hour...

To make matters even more tense, the race takes place in June with soaring temperatures and the ever present threat of rain.  Race cars don’t use air conditioning so the interior temperatures can get excruciating,  This is why you see roadsters competing, like our 59 Aston Martin DBR1 from the Simeone Museum.  Let's take a look.

Rhc13 58 aston Martin dbr1 075 sm

1958 Aston Martin DBR1 chassis 3 as presented by the Simeone Museum at the 2013 Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance

This spectacularly shaped 58 Aston Martin DBR1 has been lovingly maintained by the esteemed Dr Fred Simeone, an avid and astute collector of amazing historic competitive automobiles.  His collection is housed in the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum near the Philadelphia airport.  

Aston Martin won the World Championship and a win at leMans with a small team of 4 DBR1 race cars.  Caroll Shelby helped win at leMans in 59, turning out to be one of his last outings as a race car driver due to a heart condition.

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Muscle Car Memories

10/26/2013

Muscle Car Memories

By Ken Visser

I grew into automotive consciousness in the mid 70’s.  As a 12 yr old I would seek out interesting cars.  My first real photoshoot took two years to lock down since he was in a 66 427 cobra, I on a Schwinn.  And the die was cast,  I am a car nut.  I drew them, I photographed them, I chased them.

My friends and selected schoolmates had muscle cars in high school.  The lucky kids had Trans Ams and GTO’s and Camaros.  I had my Schwinn Super le Tour.  So the muscle car thing is embedded in my memory banks.  The sounds of an American V8 rumbling past the Wyomissing pool, nothing like it, never forget it.

I graduated high school in 1980 so it was the end of a decade of muscle car atrophy.  The oil embargo changed the way people felt about big horsepower.  The Mustang and the Corvette had been emasculated.  My tastes were focused on European stuff.  (For an interesting debate on the origin of the muscle car, check out this article by John Aible.)

I eventually came back to muscle cars by hanging out with my hot rod buddies at the Church of the Holy Donut in Burtonsville, MD.  That V8 sound rumbled back into my heart.  Here are some samples of good ol’ American Muscle. 

Bpfc09 66 shelby gt350 003 sm
A 1966 Shelby GT-350 photographed at the Eastern Concours of the United States.

By 1966, Caroll Shelby had accomplished more then most.  He had won the 1959 24 hours of leMans in an Aston Martin.  A heart condition took him from behind the wheel and towards the creation of the Cobra.  From there he was plucked to make the Mustang sexy for Ford.  The 65 Shelby was raw, fun and fast.  For 1966 the GT-350 lost the Mustang moniker and gained back some refinements like an optional back fold down back seat.

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The most expensive car in the world, crazy eh?

10/03/2013

The Most Expensive Car in the World

by Ken Visser

 

It is simply astounding, just how much some cars have increased in value.  There seems that there is no shortage of gazilliares that are willing to bet big on a finite amount of specialized cars.  And why not?  They perform better then the stock market, as long as you pick the right ones.   

One name dominates the auction market, (both financially and speed wise) Ferrari. Certain vintage Ferraris have been increasing 15% in value yearly, for the past 30 years.  Let's see any stock that can match that!  

The GTO is the king of this particular hill. They were built in very small numbers, 36 to be exact.   I leave it to others to debate whether the 330 LM's should also be counted as GTO's.

The GTO's are the last in the line of cars that you could drive to LeMans, win, then drive home (Maybe second to last, you could include the 275 in this rare club as well.  Nuts, third to last, include the Daytona Competizion.  You get the point.).  It might not have been ultra comfortable, but… what a car! 

And now a Ferrari 250 GTO has been reported to have sold for an astounding 52 million dollars!

Aic12 62 Ferrari 250 gto 3387gt 023 sm
Originally designed as the natural evolution of the 250 SWB (Short Wheel Base) the GTO kept the same dimensions with a surprising adherence to tradition. Using a live rear axle was a typical Ferrari pragmatic engineering, it works, it's reliable, let's use it.  Let the other guys prove that independant suspension is the way to go.  

And history proved this decision right, Ferrari took the International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 62, 63 and 64!

 

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Racing Porsches

08/25/2013

Racing Porsches

by Ken Visser

With Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans series about to start, I thought we would take a look at some special Porsches. As we will see, racing improves the breed.  (Continued below)

Ai07 mm porsche 55 0007 lr kcv
I photographed this 1953 Porsche 550 Coupe at the Amelia Island Concours in 2007.

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