Friday, February 12, 2016

Join Me In The Wayback Machine (Jaguar XK-E)

It's hard to overstate the impact that the Jaguar XK-E made on sports car buffs when it was introduced in 1961.  This is from its Wikipedia page:

At a time when most cars had drum brakes, live rear axles, and mediocre performance, the E-Type sprang on the scene with 150 mph and a sub-7 second 0-60 time, monocoque construction, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, independent front and rear suspension, and unrivaled looks.[3]

Starting with the XK-120 in 1948, Jaguar had a reputation of value for money.  But Jags got heavier and more refined (and less track-worthy) in the 1950's.  And Jag went from cutting-edge technology to also-ran.  Little did the public know that, when the factory LeMans effort was shut down, William Lyons green-lighted a study of turning the D-Type into a road car.  The engineers figured out how to do the D-Type's aluminum monocoque in steel, and it was a rigid chassis for the times.

Which brings us to value for money.  These figures are from memory, and thus unreliable in preciseness.  But I'm fairly confident of my orders-of-magnitude.  The XK-E sold for about $6000 in 1961.  A Ferrari 250 GT cost twice that; the 250 GT SWB even more.  An MGA cost about $2500 (the MGB was two years away).  This was a bit more than a basic Chevy or Ford.  A Fiat 1500 roadster was about $3000.  An Alfa Giulietta was a bit over $4000.  Porsche 356's ranged from $4500 to $5000 (the 911 was 3 years away, and would cost as much or more as an XK-E when it arrived).

The Chevy Corvette, perhaps the XK-E's closest competitor, started north of $3500.  But by the time you checked the boxes to get the good stuff, it was over $5000.  And for 85% of the cost of an XK-E, you still got a stick axle and drum brakes.  Is it any wonder there was a long waiting list for an XK-E, even in the States?  (The initial production run was for export only.)

It was a engineering tour de force in 1961, at any price point.  At half the price and 90% of the pace of a Ferrari, it was brilliant.  And drop-dead gorgeous.  We all said so.  Today, we geezers tend to lump the XK-E in with 250 GT's and Corvette Stingrays (IRS, disc brakes) and Porsche 911's into a Golden Age.  But back then, for a few years, the XK-E was King of the Mountain.

I've not driven an XK-E, but had a long ride in a well-driven Series 1 car in 1974.  By the standards of the day, it was a sports car.  It was marketed as such and raced, including at the international level.  But it's not a sporty car.  That hood is every bit at long as it looks: visibility could be better.  Without power steering, parking and low-speed maneuvers are a chore.  With a 4-speed box and long diff gear, it doesn't scoot away from rest.  It shone as a road car--a GT--which was its intended use.

XK-E independent rear suspension, inboard disc brakes, and subframe restored by Sport & Specialty of Durand, IL.  The
availability of this state-of-the-art unit in a production car was a "first" in 1961.  It is the go-to assembly even now for
people building hot rods and custom cars with IRS.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

1969 Porsche 917 PA (1:18 Model)

Above and below: exposure increased in these pics to present better online.  As far as I can tell, the actual white and blue
are perfect.  Rear deck is not removable.  Actual car is in the Collier/Revs Institute Museum in Naples. FL.

Above: closeup of mirrors and struts supporting the "dive planes."
Below: closeup of the power train / rear part of the frame.

Manufacturer information for those interested.

This is the best 1:18 scale scale die-cast model of a Porsche 917 K that I've found.  C.M.C. is my benchmark, but doesn't make a 917.  Normally I don't have a problem with Autoart (and I have their 917 LH Martini & Rossi).  But the rear frame detail of Autoart's 917 K doesn't satisfy me.

The underside of the Spark model could be better, but there is nothing to complain about as the model rests on its wheels.  The detail is so good, and so delicate, that I got a plastic display case for it.  It's expensive.  But I doubt my own ability to improve on it (with limited and rusty skills) enough that the unbuilt Tamiya 1:24 scale plastic kit will remain, for now, in its box on my closet shelf.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Purdy Car

At Torrey Pines, 1954.

Before he was a factory shoe, and the go-to test driver for the Ford GT 40 racing program, and Carroll Shelby's Cobra team, and a hot-shot Porsche 550 Sypder driver, tearing up the small-bore modified classes on the West Coast--

Ken Miles designed, built, and raced two MG specials with huge success.  This the second one, the lovely "Flying Shingle."