REMEMBER TO 'CLICK' ON ANY OF THE PHOTOS TO ENJOY THEM IN A MUCH-LARGER FORMAT. Doug Magnon is president of the California Chapter of the Maserati Club and was responsible for the many Maseratis which came out to the first Desert Classic Concours. Maserati was also the event's featured marque. In the photo, Magnon is shown picking up his MC12 Stradale at the Maserati factory during MASER MIGLIA 9 in 2006, a Maserati tribute to the infamous Mille Miglia, literally, the "1,000 mile" race which used to race the length of Italy over the course of several days. The original race was an event which galvanized all of Europe as well as racing fans around the world. More on this incredible car below....
Roger Clements of Perris, CA, displayed this very rare and very original 1954 Lincoln Capri which campaigned in the "Carrera Panamericana Mexico" races in the mid-1950s. Walt Faulkner drove this car; our friend, the late Bill Stroppe, who worked on all of Ford's race cars in the '50s, '60s and '70s, was one of the engineers who dreamed-up this radical race car and built it. Two cooling fans for the rear drum brakes and an early air-operated jack system for pit stops were among the many "first-evers" on the car. The event itself was the precursor to the Baja 500, Baja 1000 and too many more major off-road events to mention in this space.
Ak Millar was one of the founders of the National Hot Rod Association, and he raced this Oldsmobile V8-powered race car in drag races, road races, off-road races ... you name the event, and if it was in Southern California or Mexico, Millar was there, racing this car. And he not only raced it, he'd built it, too. Kat Lotz brought the car to the Desert Classic, from its full-time home at the "NHRA Wally Parks Motorsports Museum" at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, CA ... Just a few hundred yards from the world-famous "Parker Avenue" 1/4-mile dragstrip where the NHRA has opened and closed their racing season for over 50 years.
This is race car technology, circa early 1950s. Look closely, and you'll see a belt from the driver's harness system, extra gauges in and on top of the center console and even what appears to be a "dead pedal" on the passenger's side, which would be used to brace themselves against what was, essentially, a race through the deserts of Baja California. And all the racing was done without the benefit of modern suspension technology, power steering or power disc brakes or air conditioning ... all of which are available to racers in some series (NASCAR, for example) in their cockpit "offices" today.
A rear 3/4 view of Ak Millar's Carrera Panamericana Mexico race car. Oldsmobile V8 power is found under the hood. Note the spare tire mounted atop what ordinarily would be the car's trunk; this car was built from the ground-up by Millar and his team. The trunk holds an early version of a fuel cell. It's amazing when you consider that this race car, cobbled together from various parts bins and parts fabricated just for one-time use on the racer, competed successfully in so many different arenas.
Southern California's Johnny Morton drove this Datsun Z-car racer in road racing events all over the USA. The car was prepared and serviced by 'BRE', which stands for 'Brock Racing Enterprises', a team headed-up by racer/engineer Pete Brock. Though the car looks somewhat 'stock' in this photo, the car was factory-sponsored and uses the latest racing technologies which were available at the time.
This 1955 D-type Jaguar took first place in the "European Sports Racing, 1946-1974" category at the first-time Desert Classic. Between 1954 and 1957, Jaguar built several versions of their D-type race car, which has a 3.8 liter Inline-6 cylinder engine. Perhaps the most important breakthrough used on these factory-built racers was the first-time use of a monococque chassis, borrowed directly from aircraft technology. After Jaguar left racing for a short period, several of the D-type race cars were modified for street use by adding an extra seat, another door, a full-width windshield and a primitive folding top. These cars were sold as the Jaguar XKSS. A February, 1957 fire at Jag's famed Brown's Lane plant destroyed 9 of 25 XKSS models which were approaching completion for customers. In all, it's thought that 18 factory race cars, 53 customer racers and 16 XKSS street versions were produced in total. Excellent examples of D-type racers and XKSS models can be worth several hundred thousand dollars.
Roger Millbanks of Denver, Colorado, owns this 1947 Ferrari, said to be the "First Ferrari". Its appearance at the Desert Classic was said to be the car's first-ever showing on the west coast. The car's chassis number is #01C. Between 1947 and 1950 it had several different engines and bodies, and photos of the car with Grand Prix ace Tazio Nuvolari sitting at the wheel also lend credence to its historic past. The aluminum body has been restored by Italian craftspeople who, according to the event's souvenir program, regularly work for the Ferrari factory. The fenders and headlights can be removed to put the car into its racing configuration. Interestingly, the car did not win any awards at the event.
This grand old Roller won third place in the European Classic, 1925-1941 category. Noe the opening windshield, huge headlamps, striking grille and the famous "Spirit of Ecstasy" sculpture on top of the grille. This 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental certainly made a "statement," and a very loud one, about its owner. All that brightwork made for a car which you could "hear" coming from several blocks away.
Back end of the car which took third-place honors in a European classic class. Rolls-Royce's use of names such as "Phantom", "Ghost", "Wraith" and other similar titles refers to the silence of its engines, and it was stated in advertising for the car (and the ads were only in the best of taste, naturally) that one could not hear a Rolls engine doing its job from even a foot, or less, away. One Rolls-Royce point of trivia: Until recently, the size of parking spaces in London were sized so that a Rolls-Royce could easily fit into any of them. Those spots today could hold, probably, three Minis.
The new Maserati coupe, called GranTurismo, we first saw this past October at the TOKYO MOTOR SHOW, and have featured on our 'CAR NUT TV' show and this website, has a very aggressive 'snout' for its front end, and strong but lightweight wheels. I'm still not in favor of the "portholes" on the car's front side panels; they make it look like a very pricey, and small, Buick! In just a few days, at the Geneva Auto Show, Maserati is slated to introduce a new variant on the GranTurismo, GranTurismo S.
The factory states thusly, on the new S model: "Two main novelties are at the heart of the new Maserati: The 440 horsepower V8 4.7 Liter engine and the electro-actuated gearbox with fast MC-Shift arranged in the transaxle layout typical of high-performance sports cars that represents the technological DNA of all Maseratis. The GranTurismo S makes use of the high-performance brake system developed in collaboration with Brembo and introduced for the first time in the automotive field on the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S. The system features front brake discs made with dual-cast technology — a dual casting of cast iron and aluminum, paired with aluminum mono-bloc 6-piston brake calipers, ensuring optimized braking performance."
Sometimes the factory can say it best ...
First place in the 'American Classic' category at the Desert Classic was this 1932 Lincoln with a Waterhouse body and coachwork. Many people born after the days of these types of great American cars don't realize that they were often painted in colors as bright and even 'wild' as today. Most folks see these cars only in the context of old black and white movies and photos; the reality was quite a bit different (on a similar note, the same is true for many ancient structures, such as the Greek Parthenon and Roman Coliseum --- The paint wore off hundreds or even thousands of years ago, but they were brightly-painted edifices, in their time. Bright colors were also used on Hindu, Buddhist and other important structures throughout Asia; many have been re-painted to show their original glory, and the same is true of many Native American paintings found throughout the country's southwest.)
This 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition won its Best in Class and ultimately was judged Best in Show, and was also the People's Choice winner. The French car has magnificent, swooping lines, almost a trademark of many French autos of the time. It's a coupe, and the doors are of the "suicide" type. The car's wire wheels are of the type best kept clean with a toothbrush and dental floss --- and don't laugh; that's exactly how classic vehicle owners deal with their very expensive wire wheels.
Here's a rear shot of the 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition, winner of Best in Show, People's Choice and its class, which was 'European Classic, 1925-1941'. These cars are highly desired by collectors, and they bring top dollar at the respectable classic car auctions around the world; in the case of this Delahaye, the price might range between $200,000 and $500,000 depending on, as they say, "market conditions". As the American economy slows and the value of the dollar drops worldwide, the collector car market is also being effected, with lower prices being a benefit to many would-be collectors who have been priced out of the market for the past 10 to 20 years, when both the dot.com and real estate industries both went sky-high.
Here are two award-winners from the Desert Classic: In the "American Classic, 1946-1974" class, the 1954 Chevrolet Corvette took second place, bested by a quite rare 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury Max Wedge Convertible, a local Palm Springs car which the owner says is the only red/white car built (and, yes, it's for sale). That Max Wedge engine in the Fury is a 426cid/415hp powerplant, certainly fitting the basic "muscle car" definition of a"bigger engine in a smaller car", and surely could put that much older Corvette to shame, at least on a dragstrip --- The 'Vette might take the checkered flag on a road course. It's outfitted with its stock 235 cubic inch Inline-6 cylinder which produced either 150 or 155 horsepower, depending on when the car was actually built (late year models had a camshaft change which increased the horsepower by 5). Believe it or not, Corvettes for that year, the second year of production, were built at St. Louis, MO, and GM expected to sell 10,00 of them that year, but slow sales meant production of only 3,640 cars and final sales of 1954 models of just about 600 units. Price? In 1954, $2,774. The Plymouth is worth about $25,000 today.
Palm Springs chef and restaurateur Bernard Dervieux, whose popular Cuistot eatery hosted many of the cars and their drivers in a "Tour Classique" held the day before the Concours, cooked-up a winner with one of the three cars he brought to the Desert Classic. Though the Allard (l) dominates the photo, the smaller blue car to the right, was Dervieux's prize-winner, placing second in the "European Sports Racing, 1946-1974" category. The car is a Deutsch Bonnet (the last names of the founding partners of the company), known popularly as a "DB". The company was in business since just before WWII to 1961, when the partners had an acrimonious and very public split which involved Renault. The lightweight and aerodynamic cars had great success in European endurance racing, especially at the world-famous "24 Hours of LeMans". DBs have a small but loyal following worldwide. Its engines were made by another French car company with a deep history in that country's automotive culture, Panhard.
The Allard, on the other hand, was a big, heavy car and used brute force to speed many of them to wins in various racing classes and series around the world from 1936 through 1966, and about 1,900 of the cars were produced; the company was always located in London, though at several different locations in that city. Many Allards overcame their inherent weight and size problems by shoe-horning the biggest V8 they could find, often an engine made by Cadillac, into the car. Allards continue to be popular through the many "vintage racing" events around the globe. Carroll Shelby raced an Allard in the 1950s, and no doubt is where he "invented" the idea for his Cobra --- Wherein he dropped the biggest Ford V8 he could find into a small and lightweight chassis and body, made by the UK's AC.
In addition to his French Deutsch Bonnet and English Allard, Bernard Dervieux also brought his made-in-the-USA Kurtis to the Desert Classic. Frank Kurtis was an American race car designer who designed and built midget cars, quarter-midgets, sports cars, sprint cars, Indy cars, and Formula 1 cars with great success. He built as many as 120 Indianapolis 500 cars, including five winners; this was at a time when the vast majority of Indy cars were built in Southern California. Kurtis started Kurtis-Kraft when he built his own midget car chassis in the late 1930s. He built some very low fiberglass-bodied two-seaters under his own name in Glendale, California between 1949 and 1955. Ford engines and running gear were used. About 36 cars had been made when he sold the license to 'Madman' Muntz, who built the Muntz Jet (which is a whole other story, one we don't have room for here --- But check this website often, because not only did I meet Earl Muntz, I did a lengthy interview with him; Muntz invented the large-screen projection TV, the tape cassette, along with partner Bill Lear, and crazy late-night TV advertising). In 1954 and 1955, road versions of Kurtis' Indianapolis racers were offered, of which this car is one. A Kurtis was on the first cover of HOT ROD magazine when it changed from a mimeographed hand-out to a true magazine format; this car might be that very Kurtis. The Kurtis expertise with fiberglass lasted at least through one more generation: Arlen Kurtis, Frank's son, was a very successful racing and pleasure boat builder, and eventually moved the family company to Bakersfield, California. The company also did various contract and military work for the US government, as have many of the "hot rodders" in SOuthern California, right up to this day. Their maverick spirit and amazing skills with metals and plastics of all types have made them quite valuable to the nation, more than the public would ever know. Let's just say that these car-makers are people to be appreciated for many reasons, including many you'd never guess.
The Goggomobil was a microcar produced in the Bavarian (now German) town of Dingolfing after WW II by Hans Glas. It's a great example of what people can do when they are short on material and money, but not on brain-power. Postwar cars like Goggomobil, BMW's Isetta and the bubble car produced by Messerschmitt were all tiny contraptions which now all have a large following and many very active clubs around the world. They are appreciated today as much for their original design as for their special flavor; to a generation born after WW II, they said, simply, "Fun!" As for the Goggomobils, there was a conventional-looking four passenger two-door sedan and a very sleek sports coupé. The air-cooled engine was originally 250cc but was increased to 395cc and produced a throbbing 20 horsepower. It had an electric pre-selective transmission and a manual clutch, quite advanced features for the time, and especially for the price. The engine was behind the rear wheels which lent to sporty handling, much-appreciated by Europeans, where horsepower is the necessary "ticket" to enter the American marketplace. Goggomobil produced cars from 1955 to 1969. Glas also produced the highly rated Goggomobil motor scooter. Between 1957 and 1961 some 700 sports cars called Goggomobil Dart were produced under license by Buckle Motors in Sydney, Australia. The car in these photos taken at the Desert Classic is one of those rare "Dart" models. Obviously, the car needs much work, but the 'fun' quotient can't be denied.
It should come as no surprise that the fellow who brought this Goggomobil Dart to the Desert Classic also brought a wonderfully-restored BMW Isetta. Both cars were important to post-war Europeans, not only for their low prices and high reliability, but especially for their "fun factor". What a great name for a car! Goggomobil Dart models were built under license to the Goggomobil parent company in Germany by a company in Sydney, Australia. Only about 700 of them were ever built, so they do have some inherent value because they are so rare. If fiberglass sporty cars built in Australia ever have a huge leap in value, then the owner of this Goggomobil Dart will be in fine shape --- Better shape than this car at the Desert Classic. New or young car collectors --- Cars like this Goggomobil are a great place to start your collection.
The fiberglass-bodied Goggomobil Darts were made in Australia under license to the German "home" company. Developed after WW II, when Europe was in desperate need of efficient personal transportation other than trains, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles and cycle sidecars, many cars like Goggomobil, that is, inexpensive, small, efficient and with good handling above all, sprung up on the continent's highways. Most of them failed for as many reasons as there were car companies at the time, but a few managed to find a niche with the public. Note the right-hand drive configuration on this Aussie-built Goggomobil Dart.
Aston Martin DB6 models were built between 1965 and 1970, replacing the DB5. The 5 models are more valuable than the 6, one reasong being that the DB5 was the last street car Aston Martin produced using what the Italians termed the 'superleggera', or 'super light' tube-frame construction method. Perhaps the infamous Maserati Tipo 63 race car known as the "Birdcage" was the ultimate expression of superleggera car-building. The DB6 was the first Aston Martin built using the more-common body-on-frame method of building. And as if to forever remind DB6 owners of Aston Martin's abandoning of the superleggera method, the DB6 was certainly no lightweight at over 3,400 pounds, and was equipped with a 4.0 liter straight-six engine producing a claimed 325 horsepower.
But how does one follow a legend? The poor DB6 will never be able to top the DB5. Author Ian Fleming gave his James Bond hero a DB Mark III in his seventh Bond novel, Goldfinger. A long association between 007 and the marque began on screen with the silver DB5 that appears in Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965).
The company's name is derived from the Aston Clinton hill climb in the UK, and one of the company's founders, Lionel Martin. From 1994 until 2007 Aston Martin was part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group. In March, 2007, it was purchased for $848 million by two Kuwaiti investment companies in a deal led by David Richards of Prodrive, a private firm which builds race cars to order in several series, including World Rally, Formula 1 and LeMans Racing. Ford retained a $77 million stake in Aston Martin, setting the total value of the company at about $925 million.
Chef Bernard Dervieux's Deutsch Bonnet, which took second-place honors in its European Sports Racing class, needed a little coaxing (and a shot or three from an aerosol can of an ether-like spray) but rewarded the efforts with a resounding burble ... in French, but of course! The flat-twin air-cooled engine, less than 1 liter in size, was made by Panhard, one of France's oldest engine- and car-making firms.
Bernard Dervieux happily shows the traditional "loving cup" awarded for his rare French 'Deutsch Bonnet', which captured second-place in the "European Sports Racing, 1946-1974" class. Powered by an under-1 Liter flat-twin air-cooled engine made by Panhard, the small, light and aerodynamic cars were successful racing against the world's major automakers in many European endurance events, including the "24 Hours of LeMans". How did car-builders make their cars 'slick' without the use of high-priced wind tunnels? They borrowed from airplane technology; and anyway, even without a wind tunnel, a five-year-old kid can tell you that what looks cool will usually go fast.
Between 1955 and 1962, BMW produced some 160,000 Isetta models (the name means "Little ISO", having to do with its Italian origins). Only 32 of the bubble-window convertible models were built, with perhaps just 4 in existence in the US, including the one shown in these photos taken at the inaugural Desert Classic. Powered by a .3 Liter single-cylinder air-cooled engine, a modified version of a BMW 250cc four-stroke motorcycle engine, the Isetta has a four-speed transmission and a chain drive to the rear wheels (which are placed so closely together they appear to many people as just one wheel). The owner of this car, the same fellow from Upland, California, who brought the Goggomobil Dart to the Concours, told us that he has been offered $100,000 for this Isetta. He may seem a glutton for punishment to some, but he has great automotive restoration skills.
BMW's Isetta has one door --- and it's in the front! The entire front end of the car opens to allow folks in and out; the steering mechanism is specially-designed to handle what appears to be mis-use, but it holds together very well and the entire car needs very little regular maintenance. Isetta was born into a post-WW II world where small, inexpensive, efficient and reliable were all critically-important traits, and cars like the Isetta met those goals in novel ways, many of which appear to us today to be "fun" ways. The same man who owns the Goggomobil seeen in these photos also owns (and fully-restored) this very rare and unique Isetta. These cars, known generically as "bubble cars", added a much-needed and highly-appreciated note of levity to a very tough post-war world.
One of 50 built by the Maserati (Ferrari) factory, and one of only 10 in the United States, Ray Magnon of Riverside, California, displayed this Maserati MC12. Built in 2004 and 2005, the street cars were built for homologation requirements, in order to allow Maserati to run a competition variant of the car in the FIA GT Championship, one of the major European-based racing series. The track car is called the "MC12 Versione Competizione", the street version is dubbed the "Maserati MC12 Stradale". Each of them were pre-sold for Euro600,000, about USD$911,557 using the current exchange rate. The car is built on the Ferrari Enzo chassis, but the car itself is much larger than the Enzo; MC12 weighs-in at just under 3,000 pounds. The engine is a 6.0 Liter V12 producing 630 horsepower. Its transmission is the Maserati version of the Ferrari semi-automatic, called "Maserati Cambiocorsa". Magnon's son, Doug, is president of the California Chapter of the Maserati Club, and he arranged for the many Maseratis which attended the Desert Classic; indeed, Maserati was the featured marque.
Another view of this tremendous car. Hard to believe that street-able versions were sold, as were these racing-only cars. The car's light weight and aerodynamic shape is a direct result of the work of its designer, Malcolm Sayer, who joined Jaguar following a WW II stint with the Bristol Aeroplane Company. A dry sump lubrication system, which does away with a convention oil pan on the bottom of the engine block, allows the car's engine, and, thus, the rest of the car, to sit much closer to the ground thank it would without using this method of keeping its lifeblood, oil, pumping throughout the engine.
Note the full complement of gauges in the D-type's interior. The three-spoke wood steering wheel was one of the most dangerous aspects of the car for any driver. Further to the left of the driver is the car's key-type ignition, but not many cars of the era had a petcock within the driver's reach to turn the fuel flow on or off as does this D-type. Also visible under the tarp to driver's left is part of a rudimentary "cage" safety system; in those days, they called them "Petty bars", at least in NASCAR, because of efforts by Lee Petty and his son, Richard, to improve driver safety by having a full roll cage in a race car. We won't say much about what appear to be classic British "Lucas" gauges ... Except to repeat just one old joke --- That a Lucas headlamp switch has three positions: Dim, flicker and off.
This 1955 D-type Jaguar took first place in the "European Sports Racing, 1946-1974" category at the first-time Desert Classic. After almost 40 years of photographing cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, airplanes and just about any other vehicle someone could name, we know that a truly timeless design will look good from any and every angle, especially, with cars, its rear 3/4-view. Like a Porsche 911, this Jaguar D-type looks good and shoots good from any and every angle. And while it is about 50 years old, it not only looks contemporary, it appears downright futuristic, even in 2008.
Event organizer Paul Merrigan stands with Ken and Ann Smith of La Jolla, CA, and the winner of "Best of Show" and the "People's Choice Award," a 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition. The twin wins were a rare and pleasant agreement between the event's judges and jus' plain ol' show-goers (like us). In addition to the show's award plaque, the Best of Show winner also received a limited edition print from artist Nicholas Watts of the winning Bugatti Tipo 35 in the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix, signed by Watts and the late racer and NYC restaurateur Renee Dreyfus (founder, in 1952, of Le Chanteclair), who won the Monaco Grand Prix that year.