Sunday, May 28, 2017

Monaco GP, 1929 Images and Results

By Mario30095 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
diagram of Monaco Course, 1950

Williams crossing Finish Line

William Grover Williams

112United Kingdom William Grover-WilliamsBugatti T35B1003:56:11.05
218Romania Georges BourianoBugatti T35C100+ 1:17.88
334Germany Rudolf CaracciolaMercedes-Benz SSK100+ 2:22.615
414France Georges PhilippeBugatti T35C99+ 1 Lap6
528France René DreyfusBugatti T37A97+ 3 Laps12
64France Philippe ÉtancelinBugatti T35C96+ 4 Laps1
730Switzerland Mario LeporiBugatti T35C94+ 6 Laps13
832France Michel DoréCorre La Licorne89+ 11 Laps14
924France Louis RigalAlfa Romeo 6C87+ 13 Laps10
Ret22France Raoul de RovinDelage 15S880Accident9
Ret16Italy Goffredo ZehenderAlfa Romeo 6C55Mechanical7
Ret6France Christian DauvergneBugatti T35C46Mechanical2
Ret10Italy Guglielmo SandriMaserati 8C41Mechanical4
Ret36France Albert PerrotAlfa Romeo 6C18Wheel detached16
Ret26Italy Diego de SterlichMaserati 8C16Mechanical11
Ret8France Marcel LehouxBugatti T35C7Transmission3

William Grover Williams, a largely Forgotten Grand Prix Hero

1929 Williams at Monaco GP

Formula One: Uncovering the mystery of William Grover-Williams International man of mystery? 

Richard Bath discovers that the first winner of the Monaco GP was an amazing man who went on to be a spy and met a grim end – or did he? WHEN you watch the Monaco Grand Prix,  spare a thought for an obscure figure called William Grover-Williams, the most remarkable Formula One driver you’ve probably never heard of. And if you are aware of the Englishman, then the chances are that all you’ll know of him is that he won the first Monaco Grand Prix, back in 1929. Yet there is so much more to this man of mystery who enthralled his contemporaries and who remains an enigma to this day. A brilliant yet aloof motorsport figure in the Roaring Twenties and the depression era, during the Second World War he became a spy and Resistance fighter who ran a network of agents in Paris, helped by two fellow racing drivers. He remains a fêted French hero – and a controversial figure about whom the real truth may never be known. The son of a French mother and well-to-do English horse breeder Frederick Grover, who had moved to Paris at the turn of the century, Willy Grover grew up in Monte Carlo, where his 15th birthday present was an Indian motorcycle, and where he learnt to drive in his sister’s boyfriend’s Rolls-Royce. Mechanically gifted and obsessed with speed, he was soon winning motorbike races and rallies, lying about his age and competing as “W Williams” so that his mother wouldn’t find out. He was also becoming wealthy. Not only was he winning prize money but, when he fell in love with Yvonne Aubicq, the beautiful mistress of celebrated Irish artist Sir William Orpen, for whom Grover worked as a chauffeur in Paris, Orpen gave their marriage his blessing, plus a large house and his open-top Rolls-Royce. Grover was also gaining fame as a driver, especially after the 1927 French GP, when he pushed world champion Robert Benoist all the way in an underpowered Talbot. The following year he won the French GP at Montlhéry after talking his friend Ettore Bugatti into selling him a second-hand Bugatti at a knockdown price. Grover and Yvonne were an impossibly glamorous pair. They would race their powerful his-and-hers Hispano-Suiza cars around Monte Carlo at breakneck speed and dance endlessly at its best clubs, while Willy was a champion tennis player and golfer. The other drivers were captivated. “Some said he was a wealthy sportsman because he drove a magnificent town car,” said F1 driver and rival René Dreyfus. “Others thought he was one of the livery men who hired his car and his services as a chauffeur to wealthy clients. No one knew for sure.” His fame hit new heights in 1929 when he won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix. The race, the brainchild of cigarette baron Anthony Noghès and supported by Prince Louis II and the leading Monégasque driver Louis Chiron, was a remarkable event. There had been races in Tripoli, Antibes, Cannes and Algeria but Monaco was different, not least because the winner collected 100,000 Francs, a small fortune. Despite being drawn on the second row of the grid in the ballot, Grover-Williams, in his Bugatti, dominated the race, averaging over 80kph and finishing the 100 laps in a little under four hours, over a minute ahead of Frenchman Georges Bouriano and red-hot German favourite Rudolf Caracciola in his 7.1-litre Mercedes. Although he stopped racing in 1936 having won six grands prix, Grover was already rich. He had a house in Paris and a villa in the fashionable Riviera resort of La Baule and topped up his income by teaching new Bugatti owners how to handle their powerful cars. All of that was to change in 1939 when war broke out. Despite being born and raised in France, Willy answered England’s call and enlisted as a driver. In 1940, Willy, driving for a British general, smoothly effected a hair-raising escape via Brittany after they got cut off from Dunkirk. Combined with his fluent French, it marked him out and, after an intensive Special Operations Executive training course, on 31 May, 1942 the 36-year-old, code-named Vladimir, was dropped into France to try to establish a new Resistance network ahead of D-Day after the Germans had smashed the previous one in late 1941. On landing, the first people he contacted were his wife and his old friend and rival Robert Benoist, who had been a pilot in the First World War. They also enlisted another F1 driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille. Their aim was to recruit, equip and train an underground army ahead of the expected invasion. After performing many low-level acts of sabotage, particularly at the Citroën factory, Grover and Benoist were eventually caught when they were betrayed by Benoist’s brother Maurice. Benoist effected a remarkable exit from a car filled with four Gestapo men by flinging himself and one guard out of the moving car, then escaped from a flat surrounded by eight more Gestapo pursuers before eventually making it back to Britain. Grover was not so fortunate. Tortured and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, he was systematically beaten and starved, and his wife was later told that he had been executed by firing squad alongside legendary British agent Francis Suttill just weeks before the end of the war. Nor did Benoist or Wimille meet happy ends. Benoist returned to France twice before being captured in Paris in June 1944 and executed in Buchenwald. Wimille survived the war but died in a ball of flame during a practice run for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix. Yet there are many who believe that Grover survived. One rumour had a mysterious man signing autographs at race meetings as “Williams”, another insisted he lived on as a grocer in Surrey. Recently released government documents report that, in 1947, a man named Grover-Williams was relocated to the USA by MI6 officers in Berlin, which would fit with the testimony of SS officer Kurt Eccarius, who insisted that Grover-Williams was taken to Berlin in January 1945 and then to Rawicz prison camp in Poland just before it was overrun by the Red Army. Some historians have speculated that he was used by MI6 from 1945 to 1947, pointing to a photograph of Sachenhausen apparently annotated in his handwriting. MI6 says it knows what happened to him but refuses to provide any more detail. Beatrice van Lith, Robert Benoist’s granddaughter, is convinced that Grover-Williams survived. Her research revealed that, in 1948, a man named Georges Tambal – who shared Willy’s birthday, had a gift for mechanics and who bore marks of severe beatings on his head – moved in with Willy’s wife Yvonne at her Evreux home, where locals said they lived like man and wife. Tambal said he’d come from America via Uganda, two places where Willy had family ties (he picked up two giraffes on the way, which he sold to a local zoo). Finally, when the mayor of Evreux asked Tambal to sign the register at the town hall, as required by law, he got a visit from the Gendarmerie ordering him to waive the requirement. If Tambal was Willy, then his death would have been unusually poignant. Moving to Agen on Yvonne’s death in 1973, he died ten years later when he was knocked off his bike – by a German tourist driving a Mercedes.

Read more at:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cars & Coffee at Austin Landing, Springboro (Dayton) Ohio, May 27

An overast morning;  I got there a bit late to the new venue.  Actually, liked the Greene parking garage better, for what reason I do not know. Here are a couple of photos of the cars I found interesting.

Unlike the Friday night cruise-in in Beavercreek Ohio, this one attracts lots of young people. Cars are generally newer as well.

An interesting 1970 Datsun -- very original interior. Note the two mirrors on the fenders!

First time I have seen a Japanese flag at this or nay other show.  Two decades ago, this flag would probably have been burned in a GM town!

A superb BMW 3.0 CSI. Near perfect, beautiful exterior and interior.

Quite the BMW 3.0 CSI interior. Note the period Becker Europa Radio.

a 1968 Porsche 912 set up for Rallying

Detroit Iron, finally! Interior from a 1957 DeSoto Fireflyte.  The "Forward Look." Note auto transmission push buttons on left side. And the Benrus clock in the steering hub!

Rear of 1957 DeSoto. Note dual radio antennas, bumper exhausts. 

Cars & Parts Swap Meet, Springfield, Ohio, May 26, 2017

Hi folks -- went to the event on Friday, May 26, with the idea of avoiding bad weather on Saturday and Sunday.  I didn't buy a thing this time around, as I just didn't find anything that I needed or wanted.  Below are a few  photos:

Parking was tight!  And I could not avoid the mud.

It was busy for a Friday.

This was the most unusual car that I found.  The interior suggested it was a "Jag." But it has a BMW grill and then very wide fenders.

I think a 1948 or 9 Oldsmobile. Note the split windshield. A nice, clean car.

a great project car, quite original.

a customized 1950 Chevrolet

Friday, May 26, 2017

Porsche 1st Qualifying: 24 Hour Race at the Nurburgring

Six teams tackle the Nürburgring 24-hour race with the Porsche 911 GT3 R, an event which is expected to attract more than 200,000 spectators. Prior to the 24-hour marathon in the “Green Hell”, the first two VLN races and the qualifying race on the Nürburgring offered competitors the possibility to reach the Top 30 Qualifying. This session will be held on Friday, 26 May, from 19.50 hours to determine the top grid spots for the Eifel marathon. Five Porsche teams have already qualified for this and hence used the first qualifying session to primarily find the right tyre combinations and to work on a suitable vehicle setup. The focus at the second qualifying on Friday morning will also be on finding the best setup for the race.
Comments on the 1st qualifying
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT cars: “We treated this evening’s qualifying as if it was just another practice session. We already have five cars qualified for the Top 30, so our focus now is to find the right tyre combination and to work out the right setup. It was important to let all the pilots drive once again in the dark, which is certainly a challenge on the Nordschleife. But for this year we’ve again optimised our lights. We’ll see the real results in the Top 30 Qualifying.”
Richard Lietz, 911 GT3 R (911), Manthey Racing: “Like many of the other teams who are already confirmed for the Top 30 shootout, we used the qualifying to find the best possible race setup.”
Drivers 911 GT3 R #44, Falken Motorsports Jörg Bergmeister: “We’re already in the Top 30 Qualifying and therefore we’re concentrating on finding a good balance for the race. The racetrack is considerably warmer than we’ve experienced here before during the preparation phase, hence the car responds a little differently. The atmosphere amongst the spectators seems to be great. You notice from the cockpit that some people have already lit campfires.”
Dirk Werner: “I found the first qualifying session very interesting because I’ve only contested the qualifying race on the Nordschleife this year. I first have to find my rhythm, also because I’ve not driven the Porsche 911 GT3 R a lot. But it was great fun. To drive on the Nordschleife in beautiful weather at night is always a great experience and a challenge. The car feels great and I’m very much looking forward to contesting the race with our team.”
Michael Christensen, 911 GT3 R (31), Frikadelli Racing Team: “That was a good qualifying. We tried out a couple of things, first and foremost the tyres for the cooler evening temperatures. We managed to put in a couple of decent laps and we want to learn as much as possible in the lead-up to the race.”
Mathieu Jaminet 911 GT3 R (12), Manthey Racing: “We tried out a new set of tyres over two laps and I clocked a fast time in the second lap despite the heavy traffic out on the track. The car ran well. We managed to work on the setup and we’re feeling confident for tomorrow.”
Sven Müller 911 GT3 R (59), Manthey Racing: “Driving here at the Nürburgring 24-hour race is something very special. You notice subconsciously that there’s a lot more happening around the racetrack compared to other circuits. We’re already in the Top 30 Qualifying and so we were able to work on the final setup for the car. It was important for me to turn a couple of laps in the dark, because I haven’t done that before on the Nürburgring
The second qualifying session is held on Friday, 26 May, from 9:30 to 11:30 hrs. The Top 30 Qualifying follows on Friday evening from 19:50 to 20:30 hrs.
RTL Nitro broadcasts the Top 30 Qualifying live from 19:25 to 21:10 hrs. The entire race will be televised live starting from 15.00 hrs on Saturday, 27 May. The Eifel classic can also be watched on the Internet under the link:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1917: The Beginnings of the Jordan Motor Car Company

I just became acquainted with the magazine Automobile Topics.  This periodical contains many advertisements reflective of the WWI period and one that really struck me was a 4 page statement that announced the start-up of the Jordan Automobile Company. Jordan, as many auto historians know, pioneered modern advertising, particularly with the copy and image from the ad "Somewhere West of Laramie." Ned Jordan was the master of advertising, getting his start at NCR in Dayton before moving on to other endeavors. Note this ad reveals Jordan's focus on women as key to the purchase of an automobile; of color, an aspect fully developed in low priced cars in the early 1920s with the discovery of DUCO and pyroxylin paints; and of interior details, such as the texture of leather and fabrics. The Jordan was a fully assembled car, using parts made by many suppliers.  

Note on the first page Jordan's understanding of the motor vehicle as a statement of individuality, and how the car expresses individual tastes and status. And color -- how colors remind us of nature, as in the case of green, and sunrise and sunset, as with reds.

 Note on page two Jordan's understanding of the rakish line of a car, and how important lines are in terms of making an impression on a would-be customer. And then there are dimensions, how a woman does not want to sit in a seat where her knees are up. For a man, the control of a car is important, and thus the tilt of the steering wheel, instrumentation and controls, must be just right.

Branding is important to the Jordan -- its suppliers in effect determine the quality of the product, along with a final chassis design that emphasizes balance.  Comparison with an imaginary "other car,"  possessing less features closes the deal.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Another Auto History Legend: the closed car of the 1920s

Historical "facts" are often passed on from generation to generation in automotive history.  Take my narrative on the coming of closed car bodies in the 1920s, from chapter 5 of my The Automobile and American Life:

Almost immediately after World War I, public demand increased dramatically for a closed car that would no longer be a seasonal pleasure vehicle, but rather all-weather transportation. The few closed body cars built before WWI were extremely expensive and the work of custom coach builders. This rise in demand during the 1920s, coupled with a remarkable number of concurrent technical innovations in plate glass and steel manufacture, resulted in a revolution in production methods, productivity and economies of scale. William J. Abernathy has carefully characterized the transformation that took place on the shop floor and assembly line, the first fruits of which occurred when in 1921 Hudson first mass-produced a closed car. The transition away from rag tops (the word convertible was first used in 1927 and officially added to the Society of Automotive Engineers lexicon in 1928) was rapid and contributed to a venerable prodigy of production by the end of the 1920s, as depicted in Table 4.
Table 4. Transition from Open to Closed Cars
Open Cars (%)
Closed Cars (%)
Source:  John Gunnell, Convertibles: The Complete Story (Blue Ridge Summit, PA: 1984), 129.

            Significant improvements in the quality of sheet steel were certainly part of this story, but so too were developments in welding technology, the development of sound deadening materials, and construction of the single unit body. All of these innovations and far more were pioneered by the Budd Manufacturing Company. Typical of the Budd All-Steel ads of the mid-1920s was one that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1926, with the headline “Put the Protection of All-Steel Between You and the Risks of the Road.”43 Like the safety inherent in a home, the steel body protected its occupants, especially women and children. The ad continued, “Self preservation is the first law on Nature. Today, with 19,000,000 cars crowding the highways . . . With the need for safer motoring more urgent than ever before . . . America is turning to the All-Steel Body. It is the greatest protection ever devised to prevent injury in the case of accident. See that your next car is so equipped!”  A second 1926 Budd ad, like the first mentioned, depicted a closed car traveling down a busy city street but in its own clear lane, separated on both sides by huge sheets of steel that prevented the masses of cars on each side from touching the car and harming its occupants. The headline for this ad read in part, “The protection which it [the all-steel body] brings to you and to your families is priceless – yet the cars which have it cost no more than those which do not.”44 Clearly, the message was that Budd-engineered closed body cars were worth the money spent.

Note the second sentence, underlined italicized and in red. Then check out this ad in a 1917 issue of Auto Topics:

Note that my highlighted sentence is inconsistent with above image!  A good reason for the appearance of the 2nd edition of my The Automobile and American Life, slated for the second half of 2017!