Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mercedes-Benz Electric Delivery Vehicles -- the 1972 LE 306

The Mercedes-Benz LE 306 premiered in 1972. It was trialled, among other places, at the Olympic Games in Munich. Yet its output, range and energy costs meant it was not yet ready for everyday use.

Stuttgart. The good message was clear: "Mercedes-Benz – eco-friendly thanks to electric drive" was written on the side of the Mercedes-Benz LE 306. The electrically powered light van celebrated its premiere 45 years ago on 13 and 14 March 1972 in Brussels, where it was unveiled to experts at the "Electric Vehicle Study Days" symposium of the International Union of Producers and Distributors of Electrical Energy UNIPEDE (Union Internationale des Producteurs et Distributeurs d’Énergie Électrique). In summer of the same year, the LE 306 then came to the attention of the world public at the 1972 Olympic Games, at which a fleet of the experimental vehicles was in use. A short while later, there was even a large-scale trial with a total of 58 vehicles. This involved cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and the Society for Electric Road Traffic (GES), which was founded in the early 1970s by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG in Essen (RWE).
The companies Kiepe (electronic controller) and Varta (battery) were industrial partners in the development of the LE 306. The base vehicle for the LE 306 was the standard-production van available from the Stuttgart-based brand with either a petrol engine (L 207 and L 307,  52 kW/70 hp) or a diesel engine (L 206 D and L 306 D, 44 kW/60 hp). Following the takeover of Hanomag-Henschel by the then Daimler-Benz AG, Mercedes-Benz added this light van to its own model range. Its successor was the entirely in-house developed T 1 or TN van, which was unveiled in 1977 and was also known under the name "Bremen van".
The LE 306 was powered by an externally excited DC shunt motor with 35 to 56 kW output. This, in turn, drew its energy from a battery weighing 860 kilograms with a voltage of 144 V and a capacity of 22 kilowatt-hours. This was enough to allow the light van with a payload of one tonne to be driven between 50 and 100 kilometres at speeds of up to 80 km/h.
To extend the range to a practical area of use, the engineers devised an exchange system for the energy storage unit: the "slide-through horizontal exchange technique" made it possible for the battery to be replaced in just a few minutes. "At the charging station, the discharged battery is pulled out from the side, while a new one is simultaneously slid in from the other side. It all takes no longer than a normal fuel stop," stated a Mercedes-Benz brochure on LE 306 from 1974.
During breaks in operation, the battery could also be charged with mains power while still in the vehicle. In addition, the motor acted as a generator during braking, the kinetic energy being converted to electric energy, which was then stored in the battery. The same efficient principle of energy recovery is used in present-day hybrid and electric vehicles.
Long tradition of electric traction
Forty-five years ago, the LE 306 was a milestone set by Mercedes-Benz on the road to the electric vehicles of today. This seems to have been sensed by the trade magazine "Lastauto Omnibus" in its issue No. 4 of 1972, which reported on the prototype unveiled in Brussels: "There is little to distinguish the electrically driven Mercedes van from vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. It is easier to operate than a vehicle with an automatic transmission."
The magazine was still critical about the range and cost of the batteries. "In our opinion, the success of the electric powertrain will hinge on the development of new energy storage units," it concluded in 1972. Admittedly, the lead batteries employed in the LE 306 were still closely related to electric storage devices of the kind that had been used some 70 years previously in electric vehicles at the start of the 20th century.
From 1906 to 1912, the Austrian Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) manufactured Mércèdes Électrique electric vehicles with battery-electric wheel hub motors (from 1909, the same model was also produced by DMG in Berlin-Marienfelde). These were available in numerous body variants from cars to variously sized commercial vehicles to fire trucks. At the same time, Mércedès Mixte hybrid models were also in production. Both technologies were resurrected by Mercedes-Benz researchers around 1970. As early as 1969, for example, the company unveiled the OE 302 hybrid omnibus at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main.
After the LE 306, Mercedes-Benz further developed the electric drive in various vehicle types, which regularly included vans: the T 1 served as a basis for the 307 E postal van (1980) with 1.45 tonnes payload and a range of 70 kilometres as well as the 308 E municipal vehicle (1988). Having been tested in a field trial on the Baltic island of Rügen with a variety of battery systems (sodium-nickel chloride, sodium-sulphur, nickel-cadmium), the MB 100 E (1992) was available from 1994 with lead gel batteries.
The range of Mercedes-Benz electric delivery vans increased with every stage of development: the Sprinter 308 E (1995) achieved a range of around 100 kilometres with a so-called zebra high-energy battery, while the Vito 108 E (1996) could travel as far as 150 kilometres with a sodium-nickel chloride battery weighing 420 kilograms. Although the contemporary automotive market is not yet ready for the large-scale use of such vehicles, the continuous research and development work of the Stuttgart-based brand brings the concept of locally zero-emission vans closer to everyday use with each new vehicle design: the Vito E-CELL with lithium-ion battery (2010), the new EQ product brand and the connected, all-electric "Vision Van". Unveiled in 2016, this concept vehicle showcases ideas for the development of future generations of vans from Mercedes-Benz

Monday, February 27, 2017

Nearly 400,000 automotive patents, dating from 1790, donated to the Gilmore Car Museum’s Research Library

1947 Tucker

Hickory Corners, MI - 
The most comprehensive assemblage of automotive related patents in existence, both foreign and domestic and dating back to 1790, has been transferred to the Gilmore Car Museum’s Research Library near Kalamazoo, MI.
The unique collection consists of almost 1,400 archival boxes containing more than 396,000 patents, representing some of the automobile industry's most important historical documents.

Kettering University of Flint, MI is the former General Motors Institute and held the extensive Patent Collection since 2001.  The University was established in 1919 as The School of Automobile Trades offering co-op educational programs to train engineering and management personnel in the auto industry. Through the following decades and name changes Kettering has become a global leader in engineering, mathematics, business and science education, and was recently ranked nationally in the top ten for its Mechanical Engineering program.

“The University wished to donate the Patent Collection to an institution where its value would be best appreciated and utilized,” explained Barbara Fronczak, Consultant for Archives of Kettering University.  “This value lies in its unprecedented assistance to historians, researchers, automotive restorers and collectors as well as authors and other interested parties.” 

In just the past five years the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI has experienced unmatched growth within the museum field. In 2016, it celebrated its 50th anniversary recognized as the largest automotive museum in North America. The expansive Automotive Patent Collection is now secured in the Museum’s state-of-the-art climate-controlled archive facility.

The Patent Collection contains paper duplicates of automotive-related patents, both American and foreign, from 1790 to 1999 as well as a comprehensive searchable database. The gathering of these patents was originally started in 1911 by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA), though the collection was later given to the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE), being the older, more expansive, and larger organization.

In 1905 several automobile manufacturers, parts suppliers and inventors created the SAE to help promote business and raise public awareness of this new form of transportation. The trade group also helped its members with patent protection, common technical issues, and the development of engineering standards.

Andrew Riker, an early pioneer of electric vehicles, served as president while Henry Ford, having started Ford Motor Company just two years prior, served as the society's first vice-president. The initial membership of the SAE tallied 30 engineers, including such noteworthy innovators as Thomas Edison, Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright.  Today, the SAE has more than 128,000 members, with over a quarter from outside of North America.

“This Automotive Patent Collection is an amazing treasure trove of incredible history,” stated Richard Bowman, Director of the Gilmore Car Museum Research Library and Archives.  “Patents represent the progression of an idea to finished product and, ultimately, to an industry–the entire evolution of the automotive industry is here.”

The earliest patent represented in the collection is from 1790 and is the third patent issued by the then new Federal Patent Office. It was issued to Oliver Evans of Philadelphia, PA for an automated flour mill and was signed by founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 

Considered by many as early America’s most prolific and influential inventors, Oliver Evans helped shape the young nation’s manufacturing. During the American Revolution and the period immediately following, he developed an automated production line used for milling flour and created the first high-pressure steam engine. 

In 1804, when ridiculed for his experimental amphibious vehicle because it moved too slowly on land, Evans proposed a $3000 wager that he could produce a steam carriage that could outpace the swiftest horse his opponents could find. While his critics were ultimately silenced, Evans eventually decided the idea of a steam carriage would not yet be profitable. He continued with innovations in automation, materials handling and steam power.

This historic collection holds numerous patents for upgrades and advancements for various forms of autos, including vehicles such as a 1906 model by Henry Ford and another from 1947 with a turning “cyclops” headlight held by Preston Tucker. Some patents in the collection seem decades ahead of their time, like the 1910 Rhodes Pathfinder that provided audible turn-by-turn directions akin to today’s GPS. Others seem more whimsical or just plain odd by today’s standards—such as the 1921 under-the-seat “cooking stove” that was heated by engine exhaust or an under-the-dash record player (albeit skip prone) offered as an option by Chrysler in 1956 and ’57.

One of the most revolutionary automotive patents is perhaps the electric starter in 1911 that ended the requirement of hand-cranking to start an auto. Issued to inventor Charles Kettering, founder of the Research and Development Team at General Motors—and for whom the University is named—the electric starter changed the auto industry when it became standard on Cadillacs in 1912. Today the Gilmore Car Museum owns and displays one such model: the 1,380-mile unrestored 1912 Cadillac originally owned by the Fisher family, suppliers of automobile bodies to Cadillac, and later the exclusive body supplier for General Motors.   

“We are highly honored that the Gilmore Car Museum has been selected as the repository for this incredible Automotive Patent Collection–the only comprehensive collection of exclusively automotive patents in existence,” Chris Shires, Executive Director of the Museum stated in a recent press release.

The non-lending Research Library and Archives of the Gilmore Car Museum is open to the public during normal weekday Museum hours. In addition to the Patent Collection, it holds nearly 250,000 automotive ads, artwork, brochures, repair manuals, books and early trade publications, as well as special collections dedicated to Cadillac, Checker, Franklin, Pontiac and Tucker.

The Museum is located midway between Chicago and Detroit in the heart of West Michigan, just a short drive from Kalamazoo. To learn more about the Museum visit GilmoreCarMuseum.org or call the Museum at 269-671-5089.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

African Americans and Auto Racing: Dayton's Charlie Black -- from Tom Archdeacon and the Dayton Daily News

Tom Archdeacon is one of America's best sportswriters.  His niche is in finding local "gems." This article appeared in the DDN, February 26,2017.

The late Charlie Black (in plaid jacket) was owner and builder of the No. 11 Mickey Mouse roadster race car, seen here readying for a race at Mount Lawn Speedway near New Castle, Indiana, with Jo Jo Degromes at wheel. CONTRIBUTED

It began as a shortcut from his house on Wisconsin Boulevard in West Dayton to Burkham Park, but often it ended up with a detour to Krug Street.
That’s where he found lessons about the realities of the world and the power dreams could take on when they added horsepower, a Mickey Mouse paint job and unwavering passion.

“When I was maybe 8 or 9, I could walk over there on my own from our house,” Steve Ross said. “I’d cut through the B&O freight yard, and I’d come out at the railroad tracks on South Broadway. Then I’d just slip around the corner to Mr. Charlie Black’s garage.
“It was a big block place with a flat roof, and it was huge. You coulda parked a school bus in there. Outside were all the people’s cars that would be worked on, but inside, off to one side, was his race car.
“He had those old jalopy cars (Model A roadsters), and later he had modifieds, and because he could tell I was really interested in them, he used to let me sit in ’em.
“I’d sit there and listen to the fellas talk — bench racing, they called it — and they’d go on and on about racing.”
It was another world for a young black kid in the late 1950s and early ’60s. It was the same for Charlie’s granddaughter, JoAnn Jackson (now Williams), and, before that, neighborhood kids who were a little older, like Jerome Johnson and Kenny Richardson, both of whom also visited the garage on Broadway before it moved to Krug.
There was no one like Mr. Charlie Black in Dayton, especially no black man.
He built his own race cars, maintained them and campaigned them from the late 1940s through the 1960s at tracks throughout southwest Ohio and into Indiana and especially around the Dayton area, from the old dirt oval at the Argonne Forest Speedway to the track at Frankie’s Forest Park Amusement Park off North Main and later the high-banked Dayton Speedway.
And he did so at a time when black drivers not only were mostly prohibited from competing alongside whites on tracks, but when owners, mechanics and crew members of color often were kept out of the pits. And if black race fans showed up at a track, they likely would be relegated to some out-of-the-way stands, segregated from whites.
Yet Charlie Black’s cars were well-known by all.
“His car was No. 11, and he always had Mickey Mouse painted on one side of the car and Minnie Mouse on the other,” laughed the 76-year-old Johnson, a University of Dayton-educated engineer who worked at the Mound Lab before retirement.
“The kids just loved that car,” added Richardson, also 76, and a well-known area musician who teamed with Connie Lawson and toured the world as Connie and Kenny. “Everybody knew those cars.”
Many folks didn’t know they were built and run by a black man because Black was forced to use white drivers — guys like Hank Naylor and Al Meager — if he wanted to compete against cars piloted by whites.
While she said her granddad’s cars often did well, JoAnn — who parlayed degrees from Central State and UD into a more than 40-year career as a middle and elementary school math teacher in Trotwood and Dayton — said Richardson told her how “sometimes white guys tried to run into the car on purpose. And that didn’t surprise me. Racism was a lot of places back then.”
Ross, a former Chaminade Julienne High School and college football player who taught autistic kids, coached locally and raced as a young man, agreed with JoAnn:
“Back before the 1960s, the AAA (American Automobile Association) was the sanctioning body of stock car races, and it banned black folks from driving.”
That led to the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes races that, under the auspices of the Colored Speedway Association, were run all over the country, including Dayton.
Yet even when blacks got the OK to run, trouble could come crashing in.
The dashing Charlie Wiggins — known as “The Negro Speed King” for his domination in the Gold and Glory races of the late 1920s — was set for a pre-qualifying run at the Kentucky Speedway in Louisville in 1928 when a mob of white fans burst through the fences to protest a black man running at what they considered a “whites only” track.
Police held the mob back, but race officials called in the Kentucky militia to arrest Wiggins “for his own safety” and hold him in a jail cell until he could slip out of town at nightfall.
Later Wendell Scott, a black man from Virginia, found fame on the NASCAR Grand National (later known as Winston Cup) circuit. He ran 495 races, had 147 top-10 finishes and had one win — at a 100-mile race in Jacksonville on Dec. 1, 1964.
But as soon as he took the checkered flag, NASCAR officials announced there had been a scoring error and gave a white driver the victory.
“Everybody knew I’d won, but the promoter and the NASCAR people didn’t want me kissing the beauty queen and being up there on the victory stand,” he once told me.
Today things are better, and Lewis Hamilton, a British driver who is black, is a three-time Formula One world champion. And yet sometimes things don’t change.
When the F1 series came to Barcelona’s Montmeló track in 2008, fans of a popular Spanish driver wore blackface, Afro wigs and T-shirts that said “Hamilton’s Family” as they spewed taunts and profanity.
All this makes what Charlie Black did 50, 60 and almost 70 years ago all the more impressive.
“Back then, looking through the eyes of a young kid like me and seeing a black man doing everything you want to do when you get grown — ’cept I wanted to drive, too — well, it kind of validated my inner drives and my dreams,” said the now 64-year-old Ross. “That dude was a trendsetter. He was the first black man I knew in racing, and he showed me that I really could do what I wanted to do one day.
“I could go to his garage and experience racing. In there I could touch it and feel it and see it and sit in it.
“That place was magical.”
 Mechanical brain’
Black was born in 1900 and raised on Tibbetts Avenue in Springfield, JoAnn said.
She doesn’t believe he had any extensive schooling when it came to cars, but when she discussed the matter the other afternoon with her godmother, 91-year-old Virginia Taylor, who grew up in Springfield, too, they came to the conclusion he “had a mechanical brain.”
“Oh, I remember him well,” Taylor laughed. “I was just a young girl, but everybody knew Charlie Black. He always drove a Cadillac, and it had two horns on it. As he came down the street, he’d blow ’em: ‘Ooo-owoo! ... Ooo-owoo!’ Mother would go to the door and say, ‘Here comes that Charlie Black!’”
Black married twice and had four children, Charles II, Marjorie, Anna — who was JoAnn’s mother — and Mary (Goins), who is 93, lives in Cleveland and is the only one of the four still living. Of the seven grandkids, JoAnn was the only one who lived in Dayton, and she became her granddad’s pal.
“He had one (dolly) that he’d put a towel on, and he’d say, ‘You lay on this one,’” she remembered. “He’d get on the wooden one, and then we’d both slide under the cars so he could work.
“When they’d come to get his race car to go to the track, he’d say, ‘OK, help Grandpa push it up on the trailer.’ I was just a little girl, but I wanted to help.”
Over the years, once the car left the garage, it might head to any one of numerous regional tracks from New Bremen and Eldora to, in the early years, the tight-paved oval at Mount Lawn Speedway near New Castle, Indiana, a prime stop on the old Mutual Racing Association roadster circuit of the late 1940s.
When the cars returned home, the repair work would begin along with the race talk.
That’s where Ross said he first learned of Wendell Scott and soon was so enamored that he began to clip out every mention of him he found in newspapers and magazines and pasted them in a scrapbook.
After starring at CJ in football and getting some college interest, Ross announced to his parents he instead planned to go racing after graduation.
They put their foot down, and that’s when he found an unexpected compromise. He got an offer from Bethune-Cook-man, an HBCU that happens to be in Daytona Beach, Florida, home of the Daytona 500.
He went down, wrangled a side job from a white radio station to spin records for a black audience on Saturday mornings and managed to get a press pass to cover the
500. As soon as he got in the Speedway, he beelined for Scott, they hit it off, and over the years — although Ross would end up back at Ball State and then Central State — the two stayed friends.
“Charlie Black and Wendell Scott became the two biggest influences in my racing,” Ross said.
Ross eventually began racing at Queen City Speedway in West Chester, but the aging Black never had a chance to see him compete before he died in 1986.
“I really regret that,” Ross said. “I wanted him to be proud of me.”
Going places
As she sat in her North Dayton home the other day, JoAnn held up a photo of one of her grandfather’s modified cars:
“This is the car I knew. I’d sit in it and go, ‘rrrrrr ... rrrrrr ... rrrrrr.’ And I remember my grandfather telling me, ‘One day Grandpa’s gonna get his baby a race car!’
“And I said, ‘I don’t want no race car, Grandpa. I want a baby doll!’”
And while she never did take him up on his offer, JoAnn did get something out of all that time in her granddad’s garage.
“Changing a tire was simple for me,” she said. “Working the jack, shoot, that was no problem. And I could check the radiator fluid and slide under there and change the oil.”
She started to laugh: “Well, at least I used to. If I did now, I’d be stuck under the car.”
Kenny Richardson learned a thing or two at that garage as well: “When I started riding bicycles, I’d take them to Charlie, and he’d help me fix ’em.”
But when it came to discovering the bigger world beyond West Dayton, he did it not through horsepower but with the Hammond organ he played.
He and Connie knew each other since second grade, both had attended Roosevelt High. They formed a duo and, as they once told me, their big break came when they were playing “between the bumps and the grinds” at the Pink Pussycat strip club south of town.
They signed with an agent they met there and soon were on a six-month tour of Asia. Two years later, in 1973, they were playing in New Zealand, Thailand and the Fiji Islands.
In over 20 years on the road, they played all across the U.S. — and the Miami Valley — and shared the stage with the likes of Little Richard, Joe Tex, Bobby “Blue” Bland and The Fifth Dimension.
While Kenny is now at the Maria Joseph Nursing and Rehabilitation Center recovering from a broken hip, the warmth and laughter that came as he talked about Charlie Black’s garage seemed to be good medicine for him.
Jerome Johnson, who gravitated to the garage after his father died when he was 10, had a similar response, and Steve Ross said he still feels the influence of Charlie Black.
Along with Virgil Oatts, Ross has been a guiding force in the Spirit 4 Racing youth program that was launched here over a year ago and has provided on-track instruction and go-kart competition while also using racing in the classroom to teach mathematics, science, engineering and the arts.
And that brings us to one last remembrance by JoAnn:
“I can remember the men bringing the car back to Grandpa after they’d gone racing, and when they backed it into the garage, they said, ‘Here, Charlie, we got this for you.’ It was the money they’d won. He took it and pulled off $3 and gave it to me.
“I was like, ‘Hot diggity! Hot diggity dog!’”
Like Steve Ross said, there was some magic in that garage.
Contact this reporter at email Tom.Archdeacon@coxinc.com.

Friday, February 24, 2017

For Love of a Porsche 356 A

Text first published in the magazine "Porsche Klassik 10".
Text by Jean Viljoen // Photos by Frederik Dulay

Porsche 356 A 1600 Super
Engine: Four-cylinder flat engine
Displacement: 1582 cm3
Bore x stroke: 82.5 x 74 mm
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Max. power: 75 hp at 5000 rpm
Max. torque: 117 Nm at 3700 rpm
Power transmission: 4-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive
Weight empty: 885 kg
Length/width/height: 3950/1670/1310 mm
Wheelbase: 2100 mm
Vmax: 175 km/h
0–100 km/h: approx. 15 s
On the way to my interview with Andrew Gunn, I experience for the first time what a heaven on earth Andrew has made for himself here. We are driving up a steep mountain road, between lush, green grass and apple blossom. It is the first spring day in South Africa. In the valley below, the sun is getting stronger, warming the land. But on the road leading us upwards, we are driving straight into the low-hanging clouds which hide the mountain above. As we pass the large, cast-iron gates of the Iona vineyard in thick fog, you could almost imagine we were in the Scottish Highlands. 
Andrew Gunn is a winemaker, art collector and Porsche lover. I am meeting him in the middle of what he loves – surrounded by his family, a farm that touches the sky, and beautiful works of art in simple surroundings. As I get to know Andrew better, I gain an insight into the valuable experiences of his life, shaped by hard work, staying power and the rewards of a daring balancing act. The tasting room of the Iona Wine Farm where we are sitting is a beautiful place full of cheerful calm, with terracotta tiles and daylight filling the room. On one side, we can see the vineyards disappearing down the mountainside. My gaze falls as if through a frame on the proud sculpture of a one-man band. Pieces from Andrew’s collection of contemporary art decorate the walls of the tasting room. And at the end of the room, in weak sunlight, stands Andrew’s first love: a 1958 Porsche 356A in Silver Metallic (paint code 5606) with the number plate CEO 356.

Andrew’s love affair with the 356 A began in 1969

The car has been beautifully restored, but the mud in the wheel housings indicates that we are not dealing with a museum piece here. This car is driven. Andrew’s love affair with the 356A began in 1969. When he was studying civil engineering at university, Andrew fell in love with the beautiful lines of the 356. Although there were only a handful of Porsches in South Africa at that time, Andrew was able to raise the purchase price for a used 356A through his holiday job. The sum of 675 South African rand (340 British pounds at the time) sufficed to switch the ownership and the nineteen-year-old civil engineering student was the proud owner of one of the most beautiful German cars of all time. But the naysayers predicted that Andrew would not complete his studies – young men, Porsche and the responsibilities of a university degree, they didn’t fit together. And they were right. Andrew broke off his studies; he felt he would be better supported in a job than at the university. But five years later he returned and completed his degree. Despite Porsche.

Andrew Gunn has invested a lot of time in his first Porsche

In the early 1970s, open-top British sportscars were enjoying great popularity. It was the heyday of the Austin, the MG, the Triumph and the Alfa Romeo. When he came across a stunning Austin-Healey 3000, the young Andrew could not resist the temptation of open-air driving, the carefree lifestyle and the fantastic sound of the three-litre machine. However, he could not keep both cars. So he sold the 356, but always wished himself back with this very Porsche. After he had returned to university and completed his course of study, Andrew was determined to find his first love again. It was still in the possession of the person he had sold it to, but it was in a woeful state. It looked as if someone had painted the body with a paintbrush and, following a major engine failure, a VW engine had been installed. The original handsome upholstery had been replaced with red fur covers. The sight was enough to break Andrew’s heart. But although the owner was quite obviously unfit for this car, he did not want to sell it back to Andrew. He, however, did not give up – and finally succeeded: The owner was persuaded to allow Andrew to restore car to its original condition and for that to become co-owner.

It all looks like a little piece of heaven

As Andrew tells the astonishing story of this early phase of his time as holder of the vehicle, the sun breaks through the clouds. Now the gorgeous curves of the 356 A shine in the bright daylight. To me, it all looks like a little piece of heaven. We are sitting within touching distance of one of the most legendary vehicles in automotive history, while looking out over the gentle hills of Andrew’s vineyard, surrounded by unique contemporary artworks from his collection. The sculpture of the one-man band, which overlooks the expanses of Andrew’s farm, illustrates just how this exceptional man has orchestrated his existence and has found the perfect balance and the perfect rhythm both in life and in nature. But Andrew is also someone who beats the drum and sets the tempo. In the years following his first car purchases, many a Porsche passed over Andrew’s driveway – from a 356 B to a 1600 Super Speedster, to the lightweight RS models of the 80s and 90s. Although he does not see himself as a collector, in the 1980s and 1990s he owned some of the rarest Porsches in South Africa. With his preference for racing vehicles, Andrew also became a well-respected driver on the South African motor racing scene. During these years, he was the president of the South African Porsche Club.
After a highly successful career as a civil engineer, in 1997 Andrew decided on a change of pace and to take his life in a new direction. He had always had a love of nature, and so he took the leap into farming in the Western Cape. With hard work and staying power, Andrew brought new life to a run-down apple orchard and built up one of the most prestigious vineyards in South Africa. It is thanks to the altitude, the soil and the cool weather that Andrew is able to harvest unique grapes in his much cooler vineyards high in the mountains of Elgin. It is hardly surprising that the red cuvée has been given the name “One Man Band”. The label bears an artistic representation of the sculpture that watches over Andrew’s wine farm – a symbol of the perfect balance to be found in the fruits of his labour. 

Photo albums documenting Andrew’s love affairs with Porsche

At the beginning of this year, Andrew took delivery of a 991 GT3 RS, the newest incarnation from Porsche of a legend that saw the light of day in 1948. Andrew's eyes start to light up when he talks about spending time behind the wheel of the GT3 RS. As if transported back in time to the age of 19, he relives his early memories of the 356 A. He raves about the precision of the steering and the chassis as if we were back in 1969 and a young Andrew was sitting behind the wheel of the “A”. The 991 with a strength of 500 hp bears the number plate CEO 911, but it is quite clear that the emotions it evokes can never reach the levels of the “Lady” CEO 356. His first great love basks in the light of the sun a metre away from us as we look through the pages of the photo albums documenting Andrew’s love affairs with Porsche over the past 47 years.
One particular chapter is recalled by two or three newer photos in one of the albums. They show a Becker radio, Andrew and his friend Arthur. The question mark in my mind gets even bigger when, on seeing the picture, Andrew gives a big laugh and starts telling a little story. The Becker Safari radio is a gift from a good friend, fellow farmer and Porsche collector Arthur Pillman, the first Porsche owner in South Africa. Many years ago when Arthur resigned from his job, his boss at the time predicted that his farm would have no success. But it turned out not to be so, and his former boss’s parting shot became a distant memory. Several years later, when the importer Lindsay Saker received a licence to sell Porsches in South Africa, Arthur was already in possession of a Porsche which he had imported from Switzerland some time before.
Lindsay Saker asked Arthur if the company could use his car for the grand launch. And so Arthur lent the car to Saker. At the event, he happened to meet his former boss. The latter proudly revealed to him that he was going to buy this new car and become the first Porsche owner in South Africa. Arthur explained to him that this was unfortunately impossible, as the car already belonged to him. A story like that, you couldn’t make it up. Arthur became a good friend of Andrew’s, and for his 50th birthday gave him the Becker Safari radio from his first Porsche. It serves as a reminder of the importance of believing in yourself.

The curvaceous 356 will always remain Andrew’s first love

Andrew snaps the album shut. It has got late. For him one thing is clear: The 991 will probably soon give way to a new love, one with a bit more horsepower and other modern benefits. But the curvaceous 356 will always remain Andrew’s first love. And nothing will ever change that. It is as beautiful and timeless as the other artworks that Andrew surrounds himself with, and ages like the wine that he grows. Separation? Never again!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

40 Years Later: The Mercedes-Benz C 123 Series Coupes

The cutting-edge technology and elegance so characteristic of Mercedes-Benz have always been expressed in a very special way in coupés. The three 230 C, 280 C and 280 CE models, presented by Mercedes-Benz 40 years ago in March 1977 at the Geneva Motor Show, linked into this tradition. Today the model series C 123 is embedded in the history of the E-Class Coupés. The latest example of this is the model unveiled in January 2017 at the Detroit Motor Show, the new E-Class Coupé: It interprets its history in a highly contemporary fashion and with special sporty elegance.
Stuttgart. The attractive coupés in the model series C 123 1977 enriched the model portfolio of Mercedes-Benz in 1977. They were premiered a good year after the saloons (W 123). "The three new models are a successful refinement of the mid-series models 200 D to 280 E which have been so successful over the last year, without relinquishing their modern and well-honed engineering", reads the text in the Mercedes-Benz press kit dated March 1977. It continues: "The coupés presented in Geneva are aimed at automotive enthusiasts who value optical individuality and visible verve in their vehicle."
Today these statements are as current as back then. For the coupés from model series C 123 are among the popular young classics from Mercedes-Benz. This is why they are also part of the fixed offer from ALL TIME STARS, the vehicle trade section of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Of course the museum can only make this offering available to brand enthusiasts when the market releases a vehicle. For anyone who owns one of the now rare coupés is never keen to give it up.
Despite a close visual kinship to the saloons, the coupés are autonomous creations. Their body is 4 centimetres lower and 8.5 centimetres shorter. Then there is the modified silhouette: "The unmistakeable character of the three models is down to the more steeply raked front and rear window plus the fully retractable side windows which are not separated by a centre post", is how the description in the press kit went 40 years ago. "The result for the observer is a long and more dynamic-looking profile. For the occupants this means outstanding visibility not hindered by a thing."
Some body details corresponded to the superior design on the 280 and 280 E saloons: all three coupé models had rectangular broad-band headlamps, chromed air inlet grilles in front of the windscreen and chrome trim beneath the rear lamps. As of the facelift in September 1982 the air inlet grilles were in black.
An important technical improvement compared with the direct predecessors of the "Stroke Eight" model series (W 114) was the even more stable safety passenger cell with a stiffer roof frame structure, high-strength roof pillar and reinforced doors. The energy absorption of the front and rear crumple zone was significantly increased through the controlled deformation capability of the front end and rear area. A further safety innovation came in August 1980: Introduced as a world first in 1978 in the S-Class of model series 116, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) was available on request for all models in model series 123. From January 1982 a further optional extra followed in the form of the driver's airbag.
Proven engines from the saloons
The engines in models 230 C (2.3-litre displacement, 4 cylinders, 80 kW/109 hp), 280 C and 280 CE (both 2.8-litre displacement and 6 cylinders,  115 kW/156 hp and  130 kW/177 hp) exactly correspond to the version used in the respective saloon. In September 1977 the diesel variant 300 CD (5 cylinders,  59 kW/80 hp) joined them, and was only intended for export to North America. The aim of this model was to cut "fleet consumption", the average consumption of all Mercedes-Benz models offered in the USA, and thus to correspond to the consumption limit values. In August 1981 the 300 CD was replaced by the 300 CD turbodiesel (92 kW/125 hp), reserved, as before, for export to North America. A year earlier the carburettor models 230 C and 280 C for all markets had already been taken out of the range.New at the time was the 230 CE with mechanically controlled petrol injection and  100 kW/136 hp, which consumed less fuel with 25 percent more output.
Quite apart from the technical details, a Mercedes-Benz coupé impresses above all with its high aesthetic appeal and elegance. How did the 1983 flyer describe the 230 CE and 280 CE models? "The body shape of the Mercedes coupé displays timeless sporty elegance. No frills, no short-term fashions. Its flowing line catches the eye and yet is integrated into the car's overall look with the utmost harmony and effortlessness." The quotation sums up a fundamental factor in the success of the coupés in model series 123.
The production of the "123 Coupés" ended in August 1985 after a good eight years and a total of 99,884 units, 15,509 of which had a diesel engine. The rarest variant was the 280 C with 3704 vehicles produced.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Esso 67-X: A Rare Canadian Car

An article by Dale Johnson, 

"Esso gave out four Oldsmobile Toronados customized by George Barris in 1967; now, one will be on display in Victoria." in "Driving,"http://driving.ca/auto-news/news/celebrating-the-sesquicentennial-with-a-rare-67-x-centennial-car.

One of the rarest cars in Canada — created for the Centennial in 1967 — is being put on a rare public showing at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria this week to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.

The car is an Esso 67-X — one of four that were created by legendary Hollywood car customizer George Barris, who also built the Batmobile and dozens of other cars for TV shows and movies.
This is one of only three 67-Xs that are known to still exist. Trevor Weflen of Victoria bought this car on eBay in 2011 from a car dealership in St. Louis, Missouri.
“I think the 67-X is an important part of Canadian history,” Weflen says. “They were built just for Canada and caused quite a sensation when they came out.”

This particular 67-X was won by Walter Scales of Okanagan Landing, B.C. It was later owned by Frank Baker of Vancouver, who put it on display in front of his Attic restaurant for most of the 1970s. It’s believed it then had a few owners in the U.S., until appearing on eBay.
Imperial Oil in Canada hired Barris to create what would be considered the ultimate family travel vehicle. During the Centennial year, Canada hosted the world’s fair, Expo 67 in Montreal, and many Canadians took to the roads to travel there. Esso stations gave away instant prize cards for colour TVs and cameras, and by collecting five different safety tips on contest cards, customers could enter their name in a draw for one of the four 67-X cars.
“This vehicle is a flashback memory of Canada’s 100th birthday, half a century ago,” explains Lorne Hammond, Curator of Human History at the Royal BC Museum.
“We are a provincial museum but we are also proudly part of Canada’s story. This is just one of several tributes connecting our province with events across Canada in 1967 and today in 2017,” Hammond adds.
The 67-X will be on display at the Royal BC Museum from Feb. 14 to March 13.
To create the 67-X, George Barris took a new Oldsmobile Toronado — Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year in 1966 — cut it in half, and added in a new section that stretched the wheelbase from 3,022 millimetres to 3,403 mm. The overall length was increased from 5,816 mm to 6,121 mm.
The original sheet metal was removed from the front and back, and fibreglass panels were added to give the 67-X its distinctive style. Interior features included a front passenger seat that could be swiveled around to face the back seat, a built-in cooler, two radios with headphones and a pop-up table in the rear passenger compartment.
Barris built these four cars for Esso dealers to give away as prizes during the Centennial summer of 1967. The prize also included free gas, oil, repairs and insurance for one year. 

Weflen remembers when the 67-X came out. “I was in the Air Force in Winnipeg. I remember seeing the brochures and the ads, and thought: ‘Man, that would be nice.’ ”
After eight years in the military, he returned to his home in Saskatoon and opened a custom car shop. He later got into the discount gas business, and then launched the Great Canadian Oil Change, which now has more than 70 locations.
But he couldn’t forget about the 67-X.
“I always thought they were a neat car. I had never seen a real one, but always in the back of my mind I thought it would be a nice car to have. I always wondered: ‘where did those cars go?’ and ‘why don’t we ever hear anything about them?’ Then I found this car.”
Weflen was looking for something to add to his car collection, which includes a 1934 Dodge, a 1956 Ford half-ton truck, a 1958 Edsel Bermuda station wagon, a 1967 Jaguar Mark II and a 1960 Dodge Polara D-500.
Weflen says his 67-X gets more attention than any of his other vehicles because it’s so rare.
“People always want to know what it is. There have been more than a few times when I’ve been driving and somebody will roll their window down and shout ‘What kind of car is it?’ ”
Very often car collectors want their treasures hidden away from public view — but Weflen is pleased to show off his 67-X at the Royal BC Museum.
“This way people get to see it. I think people will find the 67-X very interesting — and its role in Canadian history. It was built to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday and now that we’re at the 150th, here’s something to show that was done just for Canada,” he says. 

And the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria is very pleased to display the 67-X in its main foyer during the early part of Canada’s Sesquicentennial year. As Hammond says, “The idea of ‘win this car and explore Canada’ is an idea I love. It’s a wild, innovative machine if you love automobile design, and it is also the intangible idea that four Canadians hoped to win and did win one of these cars. It’s simply a fun way to enjoy our Canadian story looking back to 1967, to today and to the idea of what will the future bring.”