Automobilia Posts

Auto-Archives Car of the Month — 1959 MG EX186 Prototype LeMans Car

Like the majority of British automobile producers, the MG Car Company developed experimental models which often, but occasionally not, became production models. The founder of MG Cars, Cecil Kimber, realized at an early time, that properly set up and successful experimental cars could provide a great deal of free advertising, and he was happy to supply factory assistance to any MG speed or endurance record attempt. Between 1929 and 1959 MG established 43 international class speed records with factory-supported EX vehicles, and several EX cars were the precursors of well-known production models.

From the very beginning, the EX designation was used for prototype MG projects and cars, but the first of the EX line to be revealed to the public as a prospective ‘record-breaker’ was EX120. It evolved from a collaboration with Captain George Eyston who attempted to establish the first 100mph speed for Class H cars (750cc) cars, using the diminutive 1929 MG Midget. His MG broke six international records on the way to becoming the first 750cc car to go 100 miles in one hour. Designed with the express purpose of smashing every Class H record, and completed late in 1931, the evolution of EX120 was EX127. In its illustrious career EX127 car set numerous records, and was the first car in its class to surpass 120mph.

 

EX186 is pushed out of the Abingdon factory for a first test run

 

The next car for Captain Eyston was the legendary EX135, based on a K3 chassis with both racing and record breaking bodies and built to assault Class G (1100cc) records. The original streamlined body was painted in cream and chocolate stripes, and earned the nickname “Humbug”. In 1934 it re-wrote the record books for its class, and two years later broke both Class G and F records by becoming the first 1100cc car to exceed 200mph. Following World War II, EX135 re-surfaced in a number of different configurations and took many class records before, in 1951, and sporting a TD engine, the car ran on the Utah salt flats to take more records in Class F. In its long career, and wearing an assortment of bodies and engines, the venerable EX135 broke the world record ten times in eight different classes, a tribute to both the builders and the driver. The next significant creation, EX179 was based on an MGA chassis and closely resembled EX135. With it, Eyston and Ken Miles took seven Class F and 25 American records. Using the Wolseley Twin-cam engine, the car took nine Class G records. The final record breaker from MG was EX181, a mid-engine car nicknamed the “Roaring Raindrop” for its unique streamlined body shape. In 1957, with Stirling Moss at the wheel, this model took the Class F record at 245.6mph. Two years later Phil Hill drove the car to an amazing 254.9mph. This was the end of factory supported MG speed cars except one you may never have heard of before today!

Whetted by a three-car entry in the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race where the brand new MGA EX182, had finished 12th overall and 5th in class, Managing Director of MG John Thornley and Chief Designer Syd Enever laid plans to develop an MGA-based ‘prototype’ for the express purpose of winning the 1961 LeMans 24-hour race outright. They intended to utilize the then-new dual-overhead cam version of BMC B-Series engine, but recognizing that the engine wouldn’t give them a performance edge, (other cars would have more power), they planned to compensate with a specially built, lightweight, and extremely aerodynamic aluminum body. ‘EX186’ is the racecar that resulted from these plans. The car was built and test driven on the road, and by all accounts its performance was impressive, but sadly the Le Mans MG project was cancelled before EX186 was ever raced.

It was normal MG practice to destroy racing prototypes after retiring them, but in 1960 John Thornley managed to dispatch EX186 to US dealer Kjell Qvale, invoiced as “auto parts.” Qvale kept EX186 stored until 1966, after which it was sold and driven on public roads for about a year until its engine required overhaul. At that time, overhaul costs were prohibitive and the car was removed from service, parted from its engine, and stored in a barn on a walnut farm in Red Bluff, CA. Luckily, most of the car including the hand-built aluminum body and unique DeDion rear suspension survived virtually intact and, in 1982, having seen it advertised in Road & Track magazine, MG enthusiasts Joe and Cathy Gunderson and Steve Willis of Denver, Colorado, purchased the car. Since then, they have carefully and painstakingly restored it to the virtually original specification you see here. Tracking down missing original parts such as the gearbox has been one of the special challenges of the unique 30+ year restoration of EX186 which was on display at the Hagerty offices in Golden, Colorado.

 

 

 

Daytona 500 Collectibles Gear Up For Race Season

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

“Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” became the unofficial slogan of NASCAR back when the word “stock” actually meant the race car had some connection to the regular street version. With the Daytona 500 kicking off the Winston Cup… I mean Nextel… er, Monster Energy Drink Cup, this weekend, we decided to look at some promotions related to the race.

Now some of you kids might be too young to realize this, but the retired Hudson Hornet played by Paul Newman was not just a character in a Pixar movie. Hudson was the cool car to own back in the early ’50s, with its sleek shape and low roofline. Their early success on the track made its way into advertising (just barely, anyway), but it wasn’t enough to save the marque. They merged with Nash-Kelvinator and eventually became part of American Motors.

hudson hornet daytona 500

In fact, a lot of the early racing oriented advertising in the 1950s was subtle. If you didn’t read the text, you would have no idea that the Chrysler 300 was the car of choice for MOPAR drivers.

daytona 500 chrysler

In the early 1960s, auto manufacturers were facing pressure from Congress and various safety groups to be more responsible with their marketing and image building. By 1963, all American car companies formed a “gentleman’s agreement” that they would stop engineering and promotion of any cars specifically for racing. As such, there aren’t a lot of ads from that era from car companies themselves.

davey allison daytona 500

The sponsors and parts suppliers proudly touted their efforts, however, which is why you see mostly ads like these from Carter Carburetor and  Sun Electric Tachometer during that time. By the end of the decade, government pressure was off, car companies were back in the race, and ads revved up again.

sun tachometers daytona 500

Take a look at these next two ads for the Dodge Charger. One is the Charger R/T, the other the Charger 500, as in  “Daytona 500.” The most obvious difference is the 500’s smooth fascia with the headlights out front instead of in deep recess. Remember when stock cars were basically stripped and hopped up a bit for racing? This was the beginning of the era in which auto manufacturers started to make unique modifications for aerodynamics purposes. To keep things fair, NASCAR imposed rules regarding minimum production numbers for cars if they were to be allowed on the track. So Chrysler had to make a certain number of cars with this aero change in order to race it. Since companies often produced only the bare minimum number of these cars, such “homologation specials” are often very rare as street cars.

daytona 500 dodge chargers

The peak of this trend came in the “winged warriors” era when the Dodge Charger morphed into the Daytona and the Plymouth Roadrunner became the Superbird. Both cars wore long nosecones and tall rear wings, legal because Chrysler made the minimum required street cars with those options. Sales were miserable at the time, but now you’re looking at six figures to even get a beater ‘Bird. At least there are tons of miniature models to choose from, including this groovy Richard Petty kit from Jo-Han.

jo han superbird petty daytona 500

The mid 1980s were the last hurrah for race cars that could be called “stock” with a straight face. Even though the body work used much of the original sheet metal, and some drive train components were factory spec, the cars were sharing fewer and fewer parts with their street counterparts. The black number 3 car in this ad for Winston cigarettes (That’s Dale Earnhardt’s car, of course) was one of the last homologation cars, with a special nose and fastback rear window. By the 1990s, not even the lugnuts were the same as production cars. Tobacco advertising was getting pinched as well… in a few years, Winston would surrender the keys to sponsoring the series.

daytona 500 winston cup

Still, the image of racing was a powerful selling point, even it had become just a marketing gimmick by then. In reality, Chevrolet had as much to do with Jeff Gordon winning a race as DuPont (He won the 500 three times, by the way). . Ads geared to sell you a car just like the one on the track pretty much disappeared. Merchandising, especially model cars, was revving into high gear by then.

daytona 500 jeff gordon

Daytona 500 related advertising took a grim turn in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt died on the final turn of the final lap of the race. Oreo had been running a promotion offering a limited edition 1/64 model of the Intimidator’s car with proof of purchase and a few bucks. After the crash, they sent letters to anyone who had requested the model, stating that there would be a delay, but that they would still honor the deal. The model is somewhat rare, but the letter makes it a more valuable, albeit more sad collectible.

earnhardt oreo daytona 500

What are your favorite Daytona collectibles? Let us know in the comments!

The Citroen Centipede: Adventures in Weird Test Cars

Altaya Citroen Centipede

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

When Citroen first unveiled the DS in 1955, the design was impossible to ignore. The shape was beyond the scope of anything ever seen before, with its low slung, swoopy lines. Toss in the adjustable hydraulic suspension, and the future was right there on display. Not everyone loved the design, of course, but indifference was impossible. Spoiler alert: history has judged this design kindly, with the DS universally regarded as the perfect blend of the strange and the beautiful.

Toss in a shooting break version as well as a limited production coachbuilt convertible, and you had a useful variety body types for this strange contraption.

citroentail

But there was at least one company that couldn’t leave the DS alone and made a few alterations. Meet the Michelin Milles Pattes Tyre Tester. Mille Pattes, French for “centipede” was not the official name of the car… er truck. It was officially called the “Poids Lourd Rapide Break.” Built from a stretched, widened DS wagon, Michelin debuted this monster in 1972.

Altaya Citroen Centipede

The 1/43 scale Citroen Centipede model by Altaya captures all the weird quirks of the exterior style: The wideset fenders, the broadened rear tailgate. Unfortunately, the doors don’t open, so there is no peek at the driver’s seat or the testing equipment. Some engine detail visible through the back window, but it would be really nice to get closer to it, as there are a pair of Chevy big block engines mounted side by side back there to power the rear axle, supplanting the front-mid-engine/front wheel drive layout of a standard DS.

Altaya Citroen Centipede

Making up for that lack of detail is a very delicate antenna and mirrors, which are offset at an angle that only adds to the bizarre nature of this car. Also, the combination of gloss and matte paint surfaces is quite striking. Small painted details like the hood latches and the correct license plate are nice touches too.

Quiz time… how many wheels does this thing have? Yeah, it’s a trick question. Each side of the car has five tires, so you’re guessing ten? When you flip the Mille Pattes over on its side, you see one more tire. The larger tire in the middle is the truck tire being tested, making it look a lot like a Kenner SSP car.

This beast was retired years ago from official testing duty, but happily, it splits time between the Michelin Museum in France and the occasional promotional appearance. And perhaps on your shelf if you like strangely beautiful French cars.

Altaya Citroen Centipede

Collect A Nice Tax-Deduction By Donating To Auto-Archives

auto archives library

As the end of the year rolls around, you might be looking for some last minute tax deductions. At the same time, you might be looking to thin out some of your automobila literature collection. If so, think about donating to Auto-Archives, in Denver, Colorado.

auto archives library“Our mission of is to preserve and document the rich history of the automobile, and provide both a physical and virtual resource for the study of the past, present, and future of the automobile, in all its forms,” said William Taylor, President of Auto-Archives. “We hope to inspire, enable and support the advancement of automotive studies for people interested in an industry that has, in the past one hundred years, changed the habits of modern society.”

Like many traditional libraries, Auto-Archives is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means if you donate an item to them, you can declare it as a tax write-off in the US. Ron Ruelle, Social Media Guy at hobbyDB, recently donated a large collection of magazines to the archives. He gave them copies of all 102 issues of “Chevelle World” magazine, a publication he worked for from 1995 to 2012. “When I was Art Director of Chevelle World, I needed to keep a complete archive of back issues handy for reference,” said Ron. “It was a great magazine, but I thought, ‘hey, they can put these to even better use.’”

chevelle world magazine

The physical archive of all their literature will reside at their library location, while a digital database will be hosted at hobbyDB. Eventually, this partnership will mean the addition of millions of entries to the database. Combining the actual collection and the digital reference will result in any automobile enthusiast’s dream.

Besides books about anything auto-related, they’re also looking for factory brochures, manuals, event programs, and back issues of car magazines. “Ideally we want to have at least two copies of everything,” said William. “One in very nice condition for preservation, and one for visitors to browse.” Eventually, everything in the library will also be digitized for anyone to browse or read on hobbyDB.

auto archives library

 

Items in the Auto-Archives collection are either owned by Auto-Archives or on permanent loan. All photographic images in the archive are held under license with full copyright agreement from the copyright holder.

Auto-Archives has limited funds available to purchase collections for the archive, so they depend on donations from automobile collectors and enthusiasts throughout the world to grow the Archive. If you have any automotive related materials, or know of any individuals or companies that may have items that they would like to donate, please contact them. If you know of any collections or photographic archives that may be available for purchase. Period photographs are the most accurate record of vintage automobile and racing history, and, if properly archived, provide the most valuable part of any library. You can help preserve this area of automotive history that is all too often lost forever. And visit the wish list to see some specific items they’re looking for.

All donations of either automotive related items, or cash, are of course tax deductible with the US IRS. To learn how you can donate your automotive literature to Auto-Archives, you can visit their website. You’ll find lists of what they currently own, specific items they are looking for, and more.

Coterie Press Signs On With hobbyDB

Coterie Press

Specialist automotive publisher Coterie Press is hobbyDB’s latest partner, bringing its archives and information to the database.

Even if you’re not yet familiar with Coterie Press, you’ll definitely know all about the subjects of its books. Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren and other prominent European marques, all with a strong racing heritage are all covered extensively. Lotus is a particular favorite, with individual titles covering the cars, the racing wins, the advertisements, the collectibles, and of course, the people behind the brand started by Colin Chapman in 1948.

Coterie Press

“Coterie Press was established in 1996,” said William Taylor, one of the company founders. “After four years of research trying to find an example of every Lotus to photograph, we released our first title The Lotus Book in 1998. It came out just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration of Lotus Cars at their factory in the UK, and more than fifteen years on, it is still recognized as the most authoritative book in existence on Lotus cars.”

Coterie’s latest book, Pit & Paddock (due for publication in October) offers a behind the scenes look into the world of European auto racing in the late 1960s and early ’70s. It features the work of legendary motorsports photographer Peter Darley who chronicled this incredible golden period of motor sport. Dan Gurney, Sir Jackie Stewart and Lord March, the force behind the Goodwood phenomenon, also contributed their own amazing insights.

Pit and Paddock

Coterie Press books are known for their clean design, smart modern layout, beautiful photography and knowledgeable text with clear, concise and well-researched historical facts. “Our mission is to produce the highest quality automotive books. Books that inform, educate and enthuse car people the world over.” William told us. “Attention to detail and the very highest production standards are the key to the Coterie philosophy.”

In addition to welcoming Coterie’s archives to hobbyDB, we’re also very pleased to announce that they will also be selling on hobbyDB. The posters, prints, DVDs and other memorabilia in the new Coterie store all match the same extraordinary quality of its books. 

William Taylor

Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton was at Magny-Cours to help author William Taylor launch the Coterie Press book McLaren the Cars at the French GP.

Of course, like everything else on hobbyDB, all Coterie’s information is automatically linked to every relevant subject in our catalog, so you’ll find Coterie products on all sorts of pages; drivers, model cars and other memorabilia types.

Tom Walker Racing