Archive for May, 2014


Steve McQueen , the ‘King of Cool’ to a couple of generations fettles his Jaguar XKSS on the set of ‘Wanted : Dead or Alive’…

McQueens movie exploits included such classics as ‘The Magnificent Seven’, ’The Great Escape’, ’The Thomas Crown Affair’, ’Papillon’, and in an automotive sense ‘Bullitt’ and the iconic racing movie ‘Le Mans’, ‘up there’ with ‘Grand Prix’ and now ‘Rush’ perhaps as THE racing movie.

‘Wanted : Dead or Alive’ ran as a tele-series in the US from 1958 to 1961 McQueen playing the role of bounty hunter Josh Randall, it essentially made his career, he was the first TV star to cross over to equivalent movie success.

He was a car, ‘bike and motor racing fanatic  competing early in his career until the studios said ‘its racing or us, your choice!’.

Amongst the cars he owned were Cooper T62 Formula Junior, Lotus 11 Le Mans, Austin Healey (Sebring) Sprite, Porsche 1600 Super, AC Cobra and perhaps most famously the Porsche 908 he placed second in the 1970 Sebring 12 Hour race, one of the Blue Riband endurance events then as now.

revvie and steve

Revvie and McQueen being interviewed by Chris Economaki at the end of Sebring 1970. Revson looks fresh enough to do another race! Revson on the cusp of greatness at the time. (Dave Friedman)

Sebring 12 Hour ’70…

In those days Grand Prix Drivers also competed in the World Endurance Championship, McQueens  co-driver Peter Revson, a Lola Can Am racer in 1970 ,and later a Grand Prix winner with Mclaren drove the greater number of laps but McQueen  who raced in a plaster cast as a consequence of a broken ankle in a motorbike accident several weeks before was no slouch in a field which included Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx ,Pedro Rodriguez, Jo Siffert and many more. The race was won by Andretti, Ignazio Giunti and Nino Vaccarella in a works Ferrari 512S.

Steve in pits

McQueens own company ,Solar Productions, made ‘Le Mans’ , ‘his cars owned cv’ therefore includes the cars used in making the film ; Ferrari 512S, Porsche 917, LolaT70, Ford GT40, Chevron B16 and so on…some of the best sports cars of all time.


The Jaguar XKSS is the roadgoing variant of Jaguars ‘50s endurance winner the XK’D’ Type which won Le Mans 3 years on the trot , 1955-57. McQueens car is chassis number # 713, construction of the cars ending with the awful fire which all but destroyed Jags’ Browns Lane, Coventry factory in February 1957. 16 were built and later that year 2 more D Types were converted to full XKSS specs, but retaining their XKD chassis plates.

The division between the seats of the ‘D’ were cut away, headrest removed, and a windscreen fitted. The spartan interior was trimmed, a ‘pack rack’ mounted on the boot, hood and sidescreens fabricated.

Most of the cars went to the ‘States and all retained their D Type mechanical specifications making them amongst the fastest road cars of their day…3.4 litre DOHC straight 6, 3 X 45 DCO3 Webers , 4 speed box, independent front suspension, live rear axle, Dunlop disk brakes, circa 250 BHP and good for between 124 and 166 miles per hour dependent upon the final drive ratio specified.

The automotive tastes and talent of the ‘King of Cool’ were great, McQueen died of cancer, aged 50 on November 7 1980

D Type cutout

Jaguar ‘XKSS’ Cutaway drawing ‘The Autocar’ magazine


Mc Queen D Type

Checkout this YouTube footage of  the ex McQueen XKSS # 713 in Jay Leno’s hands…

Photo Credits…

Photos ‘Pinterest’ unattributed, ‘The Autocar’ cutaway, ‘Profile Publications’, Dave Friedman

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The John Wyer Engineering Porsche 917K of Siffert/Redman/Kinnunen (DNF) passes the Solar Productions Porsche 908/2 of McQueen/Revson

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Ronnie Peterson, ’70 Belgian GP, non-classified with too few laps. Pedro Rodriguez won the closely contested race in his BRM P153 by a second from Chris Amon’s March 701 Ford. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

Ronnie Peterson and Colin Crabbe…

This superb shot is of Ronnie Peterson at La Source hairpin, Spa 1970 aboard privateer Colin Crabbe’s ‘Antique Automobiles’ March 701 Ford.

In the good ‘ole days one could, if one had the ‘readies’, buy a car, pay the entry fees and race in Grands’ Prix.

Perhaps the greatest in ‘modern times’ was Rob Walkers Team (he of the whisky company) which scored the first championship victories for Cooper and Lotus (in Stirling Moss’ hands) and the last victory for a privateer team when Jo Siffert triumphed in Walkers Lotus 49 in the 1968 British GP.

Since the early 1980’s the FIA have mandated that F1 entrants own the intellectual rights to the chassis they enter, in essence meaning the entrant builds the car and races it ending the long tradition of private entrants buying and racing cars built by others in the sports highest echelons.

Crabbe’s ‘Antique Automobile’ business entered Vic Elford in a Mclaren M7 in 1969. March’s Max Moseley offered Crabbe/Peterson a 701, all Colin needed to provide were the engine and ‘box both of which he happened to have from the previous years campaign with Elford. And the ‘readies’ of course which he was confident of securing through trade support.

Peterson jumped from the F3 ruck in ‘69 winning the European F3 Championship including the Monaco F3 race in a Tecno. At the end of the the year he raced the very first March, the 693 F3 car which James Hunt also raced that winter.

ronniw monaco 69

Ronnie on his way to winning the ‘XI Grand Prix de Monaco-F3’ 1969. Car is a Tecno 69 Ford, he won from Reine Wisell Chevron B15 Ford and Jean-Pierre Jabouille Alpine A360 Renault. The field also included future F1 drivers Schenken, Depailler, Jaussaud, Ganley and Beuttler. (unattributed)

The Birth of March…

Due to unusual circumstances March’s first year in the sport resulted in them supplying customer F1 ‘701’ cars to the reigning world champion Team Tyrrell who were unable to run Matras’ with a Ford Cosworth engine as they had in the previous 2 years. The French concern wanted their own V12 to be used exclusively in their cars.

Jackie Stewart tested the MS120 but was convinced the DFV remained the superior engine, Lotus and Brabham were not prepared to sell Tyrrell cars so off to Bicester Ken went; no pressure on designer Robin Herd in designing a car for the reigning world champ!

Matra never won a GP with their own V12 engined car, despite going very close with their single car Chris Amon entries in 1971/72, that  Matra honor going later to Ligier with Jacques Laffite’s first GP win in Sweden ‘77.

That Tyrrell couldn’t buy a competitive car was the reason he became a manufacturer rather than a privateer, he set designer Derek Gardner to work on the first Tyrrell which appeared in late 1970.

But I digress. March also sold a ‘privateer’ 701 driven occasionally by Mario Andretti in addition to the March ‘works cars’ for Chris Amon and Jo Siffert, a remarkable roll call of drivers in a constructors first year, not the full list either!

Aussie rival, friend and ’72 Ferrari 312P sports car teammate Tim Schenken nicknamed Peterson ‘Mad Ronald’, observing up close one of the sports ‘automotive acrobats’ sublime car control, tail out ‘balls to the wall’ style in the mould of Nuvolari, Rindt and Gilles Villeneuve.

The 701 was not the ‘cream of the 1970 crop’ but it was good enough to win the Spanish GP in Stewart’s hands.


Peterson at Monaco 1970, Q12 and 7th place a mighty fine GP debut. March 701 Ford. Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 49C Ford won a famous last lap victory after pressuring Jack Brabham into an error in his BT33 Ford. (The Cahier Archive)

Ronnie did well in his car ‘701-08’ justifying March’s faith in him and the rest , as they say, is history, Petersen won 9 Grands Prix for Lotus as well as March’s only factory team win, their ‘prodigal son’ returned in mid 1976 frustrated by the uncompetitiveness of his Lotus 76 and took the Italian GP in a March 761 Ford.

Peterson, racing a Lotus 78 was an innocent victim of an accident at the start of the 1978 Italian Grand Prix and died of his injuries the following day.


Ronnie Peterson , March 701 Ford ,US GP, Watkins Glen ’70. 11th in the race won by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 72, his first GP win. (unattributed)

march cutaway 701

March 701-08 cutaway drawing. Aluminium monocoque chassis, Ford DFV 3 litre V8, Hewland DG300 gearbox, classic and very effective ‘British F1 Kit Car’ of the period. Car first raced at Monaco in May 1970. 11 March 701 chassis’ built.

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, The Cahier Archive,

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No ‘Tom Toms’ in those days! Superb PR shot shows the beautiful lines to great effect…

Not too many of the 1400 cars didn’t end up in the US , the cars of Sophia Loren & Pablo Picasso exceptions.

The road going variant of Rudi Uhlenhauts ’52 Le Mans winning 300SL was the most advanced road car of its day ; space frame chassis, the gull-wing doors necessary to clear the frame side members, front and rear independent rear suspension and dry-sumped, fuel injected 240 BHP 3 litre straight 6 cylinder engine made it the fastest road going car of its day as well…and one of the sexiest.

A bit like Sophia Loren really.


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Factory SLR build shot shows off the cars spaceframe chassis, engine, front and rear suspension and big drum brakes to good effect (unattributed)




Cutaway Shin Yoshikawa, Vic Berris





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Col Goldie , Winton, Benalla, Victoria , Australia late ’70s

‘Endeavour Cup’ 1975…

One of the stranger PR exercises in 1975 was Alfa Romeo Australia’s entry of a ‘motor-show car’ in the Australian Sports Car Championship.

The one race event was run at Phillip Island in November ’75. The ‘Endeavour Cup’ ,run over 30 laps or 143 km and attracted a strong field of 40 ‘Group A’ or Can Am type open sports cars, Production Sports , and Clubman cars .Elfins Garrie Cooper built a new car , the MS7 Repco, powered by one of his F5000 Repco Holden engines, using all the experience gained in running these 5 litre cars since ’71, the Elfin would be Alfa’s major competitor.

Tipo 33/3 ‘75080-005’ Coupe…

The superb looking Alfa Tipo 33/3 had been on the show circuit for some years including appearances at the Melbourne Motor Show early in the year. Alfa’s Tipo 33 in various forms was Alfa Romeos entry in the World Sports Car Championship or Championship of Makes for over 10 years Alfa winning the Championship in 1975 & 1977.

Vaccarella Enna

Originally built in 1969, and believed to be chassis # ‘75080-005’ ,the car was raced at Enna & Hockenheim that year…the rest is a bit uncertain, but at some point a 4 litre DOHC 4 valve V8 engine replaced the 3 litre originally fitted to the car .The 4 litre engine was developed for the Can Am series, a car ‘75080-023’ raced without success in 1970/1.   Similarly the curvaceous original nose was replaced by one to later ’71 spec , the car a contrast visually with Coopers Elfin styled aerodynamically along the lines of the Can Am Posche 917/30.

33 front

The Race…

The Alfa created a lot of interest but it wasn’t race prepared , was fitted with a very tall set of unsuitable gear ratios and smoked its way around the ‘Island for 3 days , Fred Gibson doing a great job of bringing the gorgeous , misfiring car home in 3rd place.

Fred was in Alfas touring car squad at the time running 2000 GTV ‘s , but his pedigree included both potent Brabham BT16 Tasman single seater and a 5 litre Elfin 400/R&T Chev sports car. His considerable engineering prowess and mechanical sympathy brought the car home and gave we spectators the chance to see the fabulous car race in Australia for its one & only appearance .A lesser driver would not have been able to stroke the thing home.

Garrie Cooper ran away with the event, his sprint car far quicker, than the heavy endurance racer, ‘un-prepared’ as it was.

Fred finished 3rd with Henry Michell 2nd in the Elfin 360 Repco in which he had won the ASSC the year before.

The shrill note of the 2.5 Litre Repco ‘Tasman’ V8’s , and muscular note of the Alfa, also running a single plane crankshaft , in marker contrast to the ‘basso-profundo’ bellow of the Chev & Repco Holden V8’s…that long straight and open nature of Phillip Island was an aural as well as a visual feast in those unmuffled days!


Lap 1 , Coopers Elfin MS7 Repco, from Keith Pooles Gardos McLaren M8 Chev, Jim Phillips Rennmax Repco, Henry Michell Elfin 360 Repco…5th car back on the inside Fred Gibson in the Alfa T33/3

I was there for the weekend which also featured the final round of the Australian Formula 2 Championship, Geoff Brabham won that race and title in a Birrana 274 and went off to Europe that summer for a season of F3 and fame and fortune…

The ordinary black & white shots were the best I could manage with my little ‘Olympus Trip 35’ but show the cars lines well. Call it Alfas 917 or 512S in looks without quite the success rate!


The 33/3 was sold to Melbourne Alfista Ern Stock for a nominal sum and the cost of outstanding Customs duties …it was just an old racing car after all!

Stock was more of an ‘old car guy’ than a racer, the car appearing at an AROCA club day at Winton driven by Col Goldie once , and doing a few laps of a Canberra Motel Carpark at an Alfesta in the early ’80’s , poor old ‘pollies’ had not had such excitement since the Petrov Affair ! Eventually the car was Hoovered up by an American dealer as cars of its ilk became ‘Automotive Monets’.

Only Alfa would have done the nutty thing they did, but god bless ’em for doing so , the car was worth travelling a long way to see, and hear!

And it only ran in Australia,  just once!

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Fred Gibson , Phillip Island ’75


Fred Gibson Phillip Island ’75’

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Butt shot Phillip Island ’75

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T33/3 cutaway…Spider not Coupe but indicative otherwise


Retirement in the US…

Photo Credits…

Autopix, Alfa Bulletin Board, Pinterest,