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Autamobile News & Reviews

Saturday October 22, 2016
By Wesley Wren - Autoweek
In 1952, the Denver Sports Car Cub hosted a hill climb up the Leavenworth Mountain in Georgetown, Colorado. It wasn't long before local hot-rodders caught wind of the action and showed up to the event in 1953. It ran one more year, 1954, before the Colorado governor did the smart thing and shut down racing on public roads.

While we bet there were a few rogue races up the hill afterward, it stayed officially banned until Nick's Hot Rod Garage of Englewood, CO, brought the event back to life in 2013. Celebrating some 60 years of Colorado hot-rodding, Mike "Nick" Nicholas managed to revive the event in style.

Since the inaugural event, the Hot Rod Hill Climb has grown too big for little Georgetown and has moved to Central City, CO, in order to better accommodate the growing crowds. Much like the hyper-authentic racing machines that you might find storming beaches at The Race of Gentlemen, the hot rods running the hill look ripped straight out of 1954. While you might see a few stray overhead valve-powered cars in town, the majority sport flathead Ford power - in both I4 and V8 configurations.

If you missed this year’s Hill Climb, or you were there and want to bask in the memories, check out our massive gallery above. You also might want to let your boss know you’re going to be in Colorado next September. After you see what you missed, you won’t want to miss it again.

The dates for next year’s running haven’t been announced yet, but you can keep an eye on the Hill Climb’s website - it’ll likely have the date posted well before next year.


By Graham Kozak - Autoweek
Talbot Lago wasn't the first European automaker to pin hope of survival on the American market (and it may not be the last), but its bid to sell its pricey French-built luxury sports tourers in the land of mass-produced Fords and Chevys represents a particularly precipitous fall from grace. Talbot Lago's postwar cars, powered by coarse engines scaled down to dodge punitive displacement-based taxation, are certainly different beasts than the Figoni et Falaschi-bodied masterworks it was known for before World War II swept across Europe.

Talbot Lago wasn't alone in its attempts to recalibrate for a radically changed world. The Great Depression wiped out a good chunk of the world's ultra-high-end automakers, and World War II very nearly finished the job French companies like Delahaye, Bugatti and Talbot Lago would hold on, but only for a few years. Delahaye cashed out in 1954, and Bugatti in 1963 few, if any, of their postwar offerings matched their earlier works in splendor (or collectability). Opinion is mixed on whether anything these companies produced after 1945 is worthy of the nameplates they wear. (We consider them noble, if doomed, efforts.)

But on to the car featured here. In an attempt to gain footing overseas, this Talbot Lago model got an export-ready V8 powerplant (courtesy of BMW - apparently necessity speeds the mending of wartime wounds) along with its export-ready name: the America.

It wasn't exactly a smash-hit. In fact, this 1959 Talbot Lago America, serial No. 15005, was the last car the automaker ever built. It's not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think "Talbot Lago," but it's an interesting car in its own right, even without its end-of-the-line notoriety.


By Jay Ramey - Autoweek
George Barris remains the first name in Hollywood car customizers, having created everything from the Batmobile to KITT from "Knight Rider." His custom work for TV shows led to special projects for celebrities for their own personal use, including a Pontiac station wagon for John Wayne.

But when it comes to Ford cars, Barris' best known work is the duo of 1966 Mustangs created for Sonny and Cher as gifts.

The two 289-cid Mustangs optioned with three-speed automatic transmissions were originally plucked from the assembly line and sent straight to Barris' shop. The "King of Kustomizers" created new front fascias for the cars, also swapping in Ford Thunderbird taillights and reworking the interiors with appropriately '60s colors and materials. The changes to the exterior are more extensive few people notice the shaved-off door handles - as the wild colors dominate the designs.

Barris painted Sonny's car in Murano gold pearl, while Cher's new ride received a hot-pink pearl paint job. Had Xzibit been around in the 1960s, we're sure he and the guys from West Coast Customs would have approved.

The two just sold at Barrett-Jackson's Las Vegas auction, with Sonny's Mustang fetching $71,500, while Cher's brought an even $55,000. The two cars have been to high-profile auctions before and were offered with extensive memorabilia, both coming from the Tammy Allen collection. The two were sold as a pair, so they won't be parting company anytime soon, and we have a feeling that we'll see them at auction again sometime in the next 10 years.


By Wesley Wren - Autoweek

This latest look at the heavily camouflaged Corvette ZR1 shows that convertible and coupe models will both get massive wings, but the convertible's wing will sit closer to the decklid. We can only assume the different wing placement on the convertible is to help the driver see something besides a wing in the rear-view mirror.

With the mid-engine Corvette inching closer to the streets, the front-engine 'Vette's days seemed numbered. If that actually turns out to be the case, and the mid-engine Corvette doesn’t get shelved again, the seventh-generation Corvette ZR1 will be a fitting farewell to the Corvette's winning original formula.

We don’t know what is going on under the Corvette ZR1’s hood, but we imagine it’ll be at least as powerful as the 650 hp 6.2-liter V8 used in the current king Corvette - the Z06. If we look at the previous generation of Corvette, we can see the ZR1 was substantially more powerful than the then-naturally-aspirated Z06. The C6 Z06 ‘Vette was no dog with its 505 hp 7.0-liter V8, but the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the ZR1 made 638 hp.

What we do know is that wing makes the Corvette ZR1 look like it means business.

Hat tip to for originally posting the video.


By Jake Lingeman - Autoweek
As safe and cozy as our garages might be for our prized possessions, if you really want to keep something safe, warm and dry, it goes in your house, especially if your garage is in the path of a storm like Hurricane Matthew.

Instagram user Jalilsup knows this - so he went all out and somehow squeezed his E30 M3 into his moderately sized living room, right behind the couch. Those double front doors in the picture made this possible - another reason to have a car that’s less than 72 inches wide.

For breakfast it looks like the duo had Cheerios, and word has it the car stayed safe from the storm and has now been pulled back out to the garage. But maybe, just maybe, Jalil found a new forever home for his M3, and the garage can be used for activities like ping-pong.


By Wesley Wren - Autoweek
Ken Block's 845-hp all-wheel-drive 1965 Ford Mustang coupe debuted at the 2014 SEMA Show and was slapped with the name Hoonicorn. Shortly after SEMA, Block dropped the seventh installment of his "Gymkhana" series, which featured the Hoonicorn ripping around Los Angeles and doing donuts underneath hopping lowriders. Currently, the video has over 38 million views on YouTube the car is so popular that it, along with Block, appeared on the latest season of the BBC show “Top Gear” tearing up the streets of England.

With this year's SEMA show just around the corner, Block shed light on a new version of the Hoonicorn Mustang - this time with two turbochargers feeding the methanol-drinking 6.7-liter Roush Yates Racing V8. With all the changes made ahead of the SEMA Show, the Hoonicorn now makes a ground-pounding 1,400 hp.

The Hoonicorn V2 will naturally star in a “future video project” - something that sounds a lot like the 10th "Gymkhana" video. After his hopes of shooting a video in Australia were dashed for "Gymkhana 9," we can’t even imagine where Block will film the next tire-slaying and internet-breaking video.

Block debuted the car in a Facebook livestream, which was captured and can be seen below if you missed it.


By Mark Vaughn - Autoweek
Porsche won its first Le Mans in 1951. Sure, it was a class win in the 1,100cc class, but it was the start of something big.

Porsche would go on to take the overall win at Le Mans 18 times, with many more class victories as the years went on, truly one of the greatest dynasties in motorsports history. But it all started with little car No. 46, a Gmund Porsche with ungainly wheel spats, three windshield wipers and about 46 hp. It wasn’t a particularly attractive car, at least not compared to the powerfully beautiful 550s, 911s, 906s, 910s, 908s, 917s, 956s and 962s that would come later. But it was the first, and therefore it's historically significant.

The question for many years was, where did it go?

“The history had been unknown as to which car was the winning car at Le Mans,” said Porsche restoration specialist Rod Emory. “And so after the cars came to the States … this particular car ... I’ll just start from the beginning.”

Yes, back in 1948-49, Porsche was building the earliest of 356s, called Gmund Porsches after the town in Austria where they were being hammered together. They might have made 50 of those cars and things were looking good for the tiny sports-car maker. They had just moved the operation back to Stuttgart when …

“… in 1950 Porsche was at the Paris auto show and they were asked by the organizers of the 24 hours of Le Mans to show up at the 1951 race with an entry in the 1,100cc class,” said Emory, who, 66 years later, would find himself centrally involved in that venture.

Engineers took four of the Gmund SL bodies left over from the Austrian werks and started testing them to see what parts and tweaks might work as a race car. They put louvered quarter windows in the cars, fender skirts on the fenders and flat bottoms underneath to increase the aerodynamic efficiency they added a special 1,100cc engine and lightened them up as much as possible, installing special fuel tanks with the gas filler poking through the hood. One of those four test-race cars crashed during that development period. Of the three remaining, they brought the two best cars to Le Mans with Nos. 46 and 47 painted on them. No. 47 crashed in practice, which left them with just one car for the 24-hour race, No. 46

“So they start the race, and the car ends up winning the 1,100cc class and also beating all of the 1,500cc cars and it finished 20th overall,” said Emory. “So that’s a pretty significant victory for a car company that shows up for the first time at Le Mans with a little 1,100cc car.”

After Le Mans Porsche wanted to continue to publicize their sports cars, so they entered two of the race cars in the Liege-Rome-Liege rally and then in the Montlhery speed trials, where they set a number of records. From there, Porsche converted the cars back to street use and sold them to American importer Max Hoffman in New York. At that point exactly which car was the No. 46 Le Mans winner was a little unclear.

“There were VIN numbers, but they weren’t documented,” said Emory. “As we look into the history, one went to Mexico to race La Carrera Panamericana one stayed on the East Coast and then John von Neumann, the Porsche dealer here in Southern California, bought chassis No. 63.”

Von Neumann raced that car at road courses at Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Golden Gate Park.

“Then, because at that time there were privateer Glockler Porsches coming out and talk that there were going to be convertible Porsches coming to the scene, von Neumann took the car and had the roof cut off.”

That was in 1952. After von Neumann, there were a couple other owners of the now-roadster before a racer named Chuck Forge bought the car in 1957 and raced it until 2010 - an incredible run of 53 years of the same guy racing the same car. What a life that must have been!

When Mr. Forge passed away in 2010 after that fabulous life, the car was offered for sale to “a select group of potential buyers.” Emory and his friend and client Cameron Healey went after the car. The pair had collaborated on a number of Porsches over the years, Emory as the builder/restorer and Healey as the owner/driver. (Healey has excellent taste in Porsches, by the way. His collection includes: three 908s two Porsche-powered Coopers, aka Poopers a 911 RSR a 911 RS a ’64 911 and a ’53 Cabriolet. His daily driver? A 10-year-old diesel Beetle, which he runs on his own mix of biodiesel. We love this guy.)

But buying the Forge Porsche was a bit of a gamble, since at that point it wasn’t at all clear which of the four Gmund racers this one was.

“We had limited information leading up to it, but I had a strong hunch, myself and Cameron, that this was the Le Mans-winning car.”

So Healey bought it and they started digging through archives, libraries and press reports to see if Emory’s hunch was right. It was through all that research that Emory and Healey noticed a few subtle distinguishing characteristics that No. 46 had that the three other cars didn’t.

“One being the door handle pocket on the car,” Emory said. “The other cars had this little teardrop door pocket, No. 46 had a big wide-open door handle pocket. Tracking the historical photographs of the car, we were able to see that this car traveled all the way through with that big door handle pocket. It also had a greater peak at the top of the windshield. So if you look at this photo (he showed us a photo) you can see that that has more of a peak than those two cars. So there were a couple of key physical characteristics that pointed to this being the Le Mans-winning car.”

Two divots in the hood that showed up in photos throughout the car’s life also helped ID No. 46.

So they were certain they had the car. The question then became what to do with it.

“We said, ‘If we could prove definitively beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was the Le Mans-winning car, then we would restore it back to its configuration,” said Emory. “But if it wasn’t, then we would retain the history of the car as the John von Neumann roadster, because you want the car to ultimately live on in the future at its prime, at its most significant point in history.”

And since that point was Le Mans ’51, they had to put the roof back on. You can’t get a Gmund roof in the Whitney catalog.

“So what we did, we used 3-D scan technology,” said Emory. “I scanned any cars that I could get my hands on then we took that information, because now we’re starting with that car, and we took the data, compiled it and then I was able to get enough information that we comfortably created the lines that we needed to build the roof and to rebuild the body so that we could build it back to how it ran Le Mans.”

And when it ran at Le Mans it was not exactly perfect. So neither are the lines on the restoration.

“It’s not overrestored, it’s got weird gaps, funky-fitting doors, the numbers are painted by hand with brush strokes because we did it exactly to how it was built,” said Emory. “These were hand-built cars with character.”

Emory made big wooden bucks based on the 3-D scans, and on those bucks he power-hammered out and English-wheeled the roof and other big parts.

When the metal was done, they showed it at Rennsport Reunion with no paint, just the bare metal. When the rest of the work was finished, they showed it at Pebble. They will show it at other appropriate venues, too. What are the plans for the car now?

“Just to share it with the world at the appropriate venues and tell its story,” said Healey. “It’s fun bringing it out for the world and watching people’s responses to it.”

So keep an eye out for No. 46. And look at that door handle pocket.


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