When you really think about it, cars are very strange things. To most people these hunks of metal and rubber are seldom more than a tool used for transportation, but here at Speedhunters we could never view them in such simple terms. I’m not quite sure when my curiosity about the car turned from a simple sense of wonder to a life altering obsession, but I can say that I don’t think it will ever go away.
In fact it’s quite difficult for me to wrap my brain around how “ordinary” people can not have the same emotional attachment to cars. I tried long and hard to think about why it is that I don’t view the car like a camera or computer or other devices I get along well with but view merely as tools. Eventually I realized that the answer is quite simple.
The car is perhaps the only tool I can think of that really gives back. Every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you pour into the car they are capable of giving back. If you respect the car it will fulfill your wildest dreams, but if you overstep its limits it won’t hesitate to push back.
In recent years this seems to be one trait of the automobile that the car makers are trying to eliminate. Rod talked about what “soul” really is, and how it applies to a car after having driven the McLaren MP4-12C. While I’m not so inclined to refer to a car’s aura as “soul”, I certainly agree that there is more going on than a bunch of lifeless pieces bolted together.
Perhaps “character” is a more vague yet accurate description for the phenomenon, and when it comes to character, the cars on display at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion had it in spades. While carburetors, bias ply tires and drum brakes do not necessary give something a soul, they certainly do add character.
Of course character is also a byproduct of age and experience, and this is true of both people and cars. Strangely as you age and gain character you become increasingly interested in the past, at least such is the case for me. Suddenly things you never found particularly exciting are worth a further look.
It’s a trait that separates the human species from basically every other known life form, the ability to look into the past in an attempt to improve the future. For any petrol head, this means getting up close and personal with some vintage rolling stock and really taking a good look at all the bits.
While historic events are largely occupied by older enthusiasts who are reliving the glory days, I truly think that they offer much more to a younger generation unfamiliar with the cars. It is only by retracing the footsteps that one can fully appreciate where the car is today. For example one look under the skin of the 962 shows a design that appears quite crude compared to the likes of a current prototype like the Audi R18 E-Tron.
On a much smaller scale it’s even fun just to look at how particular components have evolved, like the turbocharger or the wheel. Take for example this set of SSRs I found bolted to a prototype. They’re clearly designed for performance, and probably look great to any JDM enthusiast, but you have to admit they look ancient compared to today’s current Super GT 1-piece forged crop.
And so it was with some of these thoughts bouncing around in my subconscious that I navigated the paddock looking for patterns and evolution. One car that has an obvious traceable lineage is Porsche, and in terms of purchasable cars it all started with the 356. This is a car I used to find ugly, but over the last couple of years I’ve fallen in love with them.
I like them in all forms: beat up originals, fully factory restored jobs and even outlaw racer style. This Panamericana style is a pretty popular choice amongst those who actually track these little cars and there were a few at Monterey last weekend, with this being my favorite. I tripped out when I saw the Latin-flavor added to the hood straps. Clever.
Other brands, like BMW, have come a very long way in the evolution of body shape. In fact, had it not been for the logo on the hood and the extremely oblong kidney grills, I would have had no idea I was looking at a 328 from 1939. I’m not a BMW buff by any means, but I would presume that given the date, this was probably one of their first attempts at making automobiles rather than airplanes.
It’s certainly a far cry from today’s 3-series, but in a class where it was the sole competitor with fenders it looked decidedly advanced. You never realize what you’ve got until it’s gone, and I find fenders have gone largely unappreciated. I mean, without fenders than can be no gap to close up, and thus (gasp) no stance!
Over the course of the weekend I got a new fixation on the Trans-Am cars of the late sixties and seventies. To me this was really the golden age for the American car industry when classics like the Camaro and Mustang were born. Seeing them in full racing trim makes them even more appealing.
Many of these cars were in immaculate condition too, in some cases they were fresh off a restoration. I don’t know enough about the mustang to tell if this 302 has been relocated or not, but I can tell you that appears to be some pretty trick suspension.
While the Mustang is certainly a beautiful car, I’ve always been more of a Camaro fan. I can’t really explain it, other than the fact that I think it just looks downright badass. I’ve already gone over why I like these cars before, so I won’t bore you to death again, but I will say that there were some mouthwatering examples at Monterey.
Being that these are mostly authentic vintage race cars, they have interiors and cages to match. They’re bare bones but incredible to behold. When I peeked inside some of these cars I couldn’t help but think of the movie Death Proof.
While I believe that automotive design has largely improved over the years, there are certain stunning examples of how powerful a few simple curves can be. This Ferrari 250 GT Lusso had a profound effect on me last weekend, and although it wasn’t the only one there, this livery really exposed to lines of the car.
Every time I encountered it I stopped in my tracks and my jaw hit the floor. It’s incredible how tin can have such an emotional foothold on the human brain. I mean am I crazy or is that not one of the most beautiful things you’ve seen all day? Hell, all week.
While the engine wasn’t quite as well kept as the exterior, I can appreciate the fact that it gets used. Even still there’s something sexy, in a I’m-not-even-trying-and-I’m-still-hot way, about the Webers jetting out of the V12.
Occasionally I would come across a car that I had absolutely no clue about and couldn’t recognize or define in any manner. I never thought I would say that about a Ford Mustang, that is until I stumbled upon this virtually unidentifiable 1970 model. The body work is unbelievably aggressive and makes other silhouette cars of the era look like a joke.
Under the hood is a Boss 302 which has been sandwiched between the complicated tubular chassis. Even looking back at the photos now it’s an astonishing piece of engineering. I mean look at how the headers have to built and removed/installed; it’s crazy. I think I might have to try to line up a feature on this bad boy…
The cabin is full of more custom racing awesomeness and at this point I began to wonder how much of the car aside from the roof, if any, is actually a Mustang. The rawness of the interior gives some indication at how serious of a machine this is, but if that’s not enough to do the trick let me just say it was out lapping most of the Kremer K3s…
A BMW 3.0 CSL, Jagermeister livery and gold BBS mesh all equate to a crapload of “likes” in today’s social networking society, but when you combine all three you get business as usual in the seventies. Obviously when I saw this car on track it beckoned me in for a better look and I couldn’t resist its call.
And was I ever glad I when I got closer, this is about as sterile as it gets when talking about classic engine bays.
It’s great seeing innovation popping up on cars like this adjustable upper shock mount on the CSL. Without cutting edge racing technology paving the way back in they day, you wouldn’t have similar items on your 240SX as we speak. Respect.
One car I was really looking forward to seeing last weekend was the Ford GT40, a machine that I had never seen outside of a photograph. I don’t think I need to explain why this car is importance, but even if you aren’t aware of the significance of the GT40 you likely recognize its body shape from which the Ford GT stole its looks.
Unfortunately every time I took a stroll through the paddock, both of the examples present were either completely closed up or completely surrounded by spectators. This made shooting details all but impossible and the best I managed to get was this shot showing some of the front end. Despite this, you can still see why this car was so successful as the suspension design doesn’t seem too far off from today’s cars.
Since two of the Speedhunters are S30 owners and I’m sure many of you readers are big fans of the Z car, I figured I’d close out with a pair of devastatingly handsome Fairladys. The first being this well known car originally owned by Bob Sharp, a man synonymous with racing Datsuns in the states.
This example was extremely well kept and if it wasn’t restored I’d say it was in unbelievably immaculate condition. The owner seemed to take a lot pride of in the condition of the car as I frequently saw him cleaning it the moment which it returned to the pits. It was an amazing car no doubt, but I think there was one that was a pinch more interesting…
Yep, that just happened. When I first stumbled upon this car I had to stop and think whether I was in Japan or California. Then when I realized I was still in Monterey I thought “hmm maybe it’s a Japanese car” and went in to check…
Nope, this is good old LHD ‘merican stuff here. As it turns out this very 240Z won the IMSA GTU class back in 1976 and I didn’t realize it until I was doing some more research on the car that Mike Garrett actually did a spotlight on it when he toured Canepa late last year.
Great minds think alike I suppose. Seriously though, this is the stuff that the original bosozoku are trying to imitate, the only thing missing is a ridiculous exhaust and I could easily see this thing wailing on the expressway. The color combination and shaping of the livery is spot on.
While I expected to run across lots of strange, cool and obscene cars last weekend, this was definitely something that caught me by surprise. To that effect I think it’s the unexpected that makes historic events, and life, so much fun. I used to think that these were weekends designed for stuffy old people and that I would have nothing to relate to, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you share that viewpoint do yourself a favor and attend one, you can thank me later.
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
photo by Sean Klingelhoefer
I am glad you like my 1970 Datsun 240Z above. I love it.
I was just a spectator last year at the race and decided that it looked like a lot more fun to be more involved. So I went to race school, got my license, got a coach, bought the Z and started logging seat time at any track I could find. Sears Point, Thunderhill and Laguna Seca to name a few. One year later I am on the track in in the race. They placed me starting at 24th out of 42 cars and I finished at 17th. No too bad for a rookie.
I have a great management company in the Canepa team. I have a great coach in Ken Dobson. I have a great new engine thanks to the Ed Pink team. Most importantly, I have a great car.
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Life is good!
So other people are starting to come to the same conclusion that I came up with several years ago. 60s vintaged Ferraris look best in Grigio or Aregento;.......not rosso corsa.
"and thus (gasp) no stance!" ha ha ha. I hate 'stanced' cars, but i love cars with great stance... go figure it out.
"Yep, that just happened" ha ha again.
i beleave a car can have both an aura and soul, the aura of a car comes from its moments and the way it does things, think "a meaning without words" and this is always influenced by the driver. a cars soul is independent of the driver, its the way it speaks the way it barks or even the way "it pushes back" it doesn't change with the driver, it is forever. a soul can be warped put never truly changed. at least not 100%.
if any of you ever get the chance, i highly highly recommend watching Wangan Midnight, the anime. and even Initial D, they both use aura and soul. wangan midnight for soul and initial d for aura.
The Trans Ams are what made me love this track even more. Nothing like hearing those V8's scream through the main straight, then hearing the echo in the valley, or seeing them scrape going through the corkscrew. The ALMS event they hold here is another good one!
The rothmans 956 has a huge single turbo? :o I thought the 2..7 litre flat sixes engines used twins instead. Im curious to know why this one is using a large single one.
Monterey & The Goodwood Festival Of Speed ....... always bring out the best. The Jagermeister CSL & the Bob Sharp Z are 2 die 4. Great shots Sean!
How could you use the word stance in an article like this?! Lol. Also, it's no surprise that that Mustang goes faster than Kremer 935s nowadays, seeing as an original Kremer is worth several times what that Mustang is worth. The same reason that Arrows win all the historic F1 races whilst McLarens and Ferraris are nowhere to be seen.
The GT40 and the story behind it is enough to try to attend this event. I ve always wanted to see it(gt40) person.
That Bob Sharp S30 is favorite race car in terms of livery. The way they shaped the fenders, painted the body and application of the sponsor decals really worked well and all without changing that unmistakable Z body. If i ever get the chance and have the means to, I would buy it in heartbeat. Just have to beat that Adam Carolla guy thats buying up all the nice Datsuns haha. I know he tried to get that yellow and orange #47 up there.
I would love to see more pictures of the little bmw 700 sport right next to the csl. Thank you for the pictures, bummed I wasn't able to make it this year.
Glad to hear there was someone else who thought that Ferrari 250 GT was one of the most captivating cars there! I could've stood there all day looking at that car. Great coverage, Sean!
@David Martin Hey David! That's great to hear, I'm a strong believer that cars, particularly those designed for racing, should be driven. It's great to hear that you got motivated and out there on the track, and my god what a beautiful car to do it in! Hopefully we'll cross paths in the future!
@ThomasMottPrinciottaI To be honest I'm not a big fan of red as a color in general, let alone on cars.
@eggwhite I was... I have an uncanny ability to wear Dodgers hats when I'm up north and Giants hats back home... No matter where I am people want to stab me lol.
@MrCool00236 I think when you guys dissect the cars essence/soul/aura it makes you sound like a bunch of pansies.
@Bathsalt Barry Yep all of those are great things indeed, I think the scraping sound going through the corkscrew is the most interesting thing about the corner. And I agree I've been to ALMS events here in the past and they are great, I think six hours is the perfect length for a race - it's long enough to sort out the good from the bad but it's not an entire day to slave away and regret later lol.
I've seen both single and twin turbo setups on these cars, although I'm not entirely sure what versions got which setup and why. Perhaps Rod or Jonathan might know more...
@Bradders Ya the stance thing was a joke ;) I know sarcasm doesn't travel so well over the internet. I also realize that many of the cars aren't being flogged, but I believe Canepa was beating the crap out of his Kremer. Regardless the drivers are all amateurs anyway, but the Mustang was definitely not a slouch.
@Bradders do you mean because the expensive cars aren't driven as fast, in order to avoid damage?
@hanablemoore Ya, one of these days I need to do a feature shoot with a GT40... drool...
@grandtouring Ya I think Adam Corolla and the owner of the #47 are likely friends based upon the fact that A) they're both from LA and B) they were pitted next to each other (Corolla brought out his 510).
@AceAndrew Ya that car was cool. I didn't even notice it when I was standing there, it wasn't until it was on track later that I realized it. Sometimes it's easy to get blind sided at an event with so much awesome going on.
@ylee AFAIK the blue one is a 280 and the orange one is a 240.
@sean klingelhoefer Hahah yes it is a perfect amount of time. The last time I went, it was cloudy but you know how Monterey is, so when it cleared up I got soooo sunburned. Now I never go with out some sunscreen to carry around haha
It seems strange to me that they'd use a single turbo setup for endurance racing. It seems quite bizarre to see as well.@sean klingelhoefer
i still chose to use soul and aura, as much of a pansy as i may sound using it. and just to make clear im not trying to argue or anything everyone is entitled to there own opinion. but things can be made which serve another purpose better than the original intended one. and i think cars fall somewhere in this mix, not to everyone but to us, well me anyway.
ace andrew, not to cause offense or anything, but it sounds to me that youv lost your passion for cars. try looking back to how you used to see cars. it may sound really corny but i think of cars as a type of companion but closer to a pet, which is a companion to. you need to feed them, take care of them, clean up after them, you dont have to love them but i think you should, i do anyway(not like that) but just like a pet these "lifeless pieces of metal" give back, and change. and really are something to feel passionate about. i hope you can find you passion again.
my definition or idea of aura and soul dont reach religious roots or come in exactly the same as we normally see them, allow me to explain in my own thoughts:
the soul of a car comes from its engine, its the way it breaths, the way it makes its self pronounced. if i use a car like the rx7 for example, it has the rotary engine and is a very unique car with it, the cars personality is that of what acquired from the rotary engine. i can replace the rotary with a piston engine making the same power and weighing the same, but the cars personalty would change dramatically. iv in essence riped its soul out and replaced it with another. both breath the same air and consume the same gas but have very different personality, it can be said for any engine swap or modification to power train related components, that is to say to that if i took all of the rotary powertrain and put them in a mustang they would feel different too. its how the body warps the soul to its image. aura is much more complex but easy to explain it comes through in the way a car takes what you throw at it, the way it handles your movements, of course there is more than one type of aura which makes it complicated, theres the cars own aura, the drivers aura, and the the aura of both the car and the driver together. the cars aura can be noticed when your just looking at the car, not thinking or knowing the driver just the car, its that feeling you get from it, like the really tight feeling you get looking at a car you know is absolutely amazing. or when you meet a great driver, and im not talking about joe who fully stops for the stop sign every time, but the ones that make the seemingly impossible driving possible. the feeling you get from them that just tells you there good. and then theres the car and the driver and im sure we all know this one, or do we? its the way you can tell the difference between the levels of the cars on the track, even if the going the same speed and following the same line. you know ones different in a way thats not just skill of performance its like the way they move.(if you can make sense of that)
well thats the way i see it anyway.
@AceAndrew @ClaytonPayton @MrCool00236 Hence why I said "character" and also why I said it is obtained with age. I'm sure that these cars were designed by people who had exactly the intents you speak of, but with age and hindsight we can now observe what they have become. I agree though, nine times out of ten I sound like a pansy.
@ClaytonPayton @MrCool00236 When I was fortunate enough to be an automotive designer I too thought in terms of "soul""aura" and other artsy-fartsy words. But now as a mechanical engineer, these cars were built to be blunt-instruments of speed and nothing more. In their day they were raced hard and put away wet, in this day and age photographers/journalists/designers/enthusiasts have romanticized about the "golden-era cars" with personalities, etc. Ask any of the original builders behind these cars what they think about the "soul" of their cars are and you'll be laughed at.
Perhaps what I'm explaining is only the natural thing to happen when something becomes a "classic" and takes on an air of something more than what it was built for (but my point being that the "aura" was never intended by the originators/creators).